Guerrilla Psychology and Liberation Therapy:
The idea for guerrilla recovery comes from a series of papers presented at several conferences focusing on trauma-induced dissociation. They are foundational papers tracing the development of an ontological therapy (Smith and Jones, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 1993) designed for the effective treatment of people who are neophobically perseverating in a familiar cycle of trauma and shock characteristic of people who live in what R. D. Laing called a state of primary ontological insecurity.
Laing's description of ontological insecurity as a progressive loss of relatedness to the self and others ending in chaotic nonentity parallels a description of a descent into compensatory shock following the maximal arousal of the sympathetic nervous system by pain. People who experience violence as children in the nuclear family, as in an alcoholic home, are trapped in the most exquisite and despairing double-bind one can endure — they are dependent on people who have caused them to lose a sense of security at a primitive level. Children who are abused by their caregivers are driven out of the most precious home they will ever have — their bodies.
The purpose of ontological therapy is to assist traumatized people in going back home: to reinhabit their physical being from which they were driven by thoughtless acts of violence perpetrated by people who were violated themselves as sacrifices on the altar of cultural insanity that we erect when we forget we are connected to one another by our common humanity. When we are dissociated from ourselves by trauma, we see the world in Buber's alienating categories of them and us. When we are able to work back through the divisive consequences of trauma and reconnect the numbed body with the dissociated lexicon of brutality, we emerge as a fully feeling being capable of making rational choices, which brings a sense of primary ontological security and the possibility of relating to others in an open, satisfying way.
The papers contain the basic elements of therapy needed to re-establish fundamental security in hurt and frightened people. The ideas have been wrested from many theories of psychology advanced by people such as Freud, Reich, Fenichel, Horney, Sullivan, Fromm, Laing, May, Rogers, Szasz, Ellis, and numerous others who served as guerrilla psychologists as they struggled to find the truth about human behavior in the face of cultural opposition. These theorists sought to liberate human beings from the prison of what Sartre called being-for-others, a dynamic that begins in childhood as young children seek to meet the conditional, contingent, survival demands made by irrational adult authorities acting as agents for a dominant social ethic, formed early in our history as a species, as our ancestors made driven, misguided attempts to become and remain ontologically secure.
The practice of ontological therapy rests on the empirical methodology of sanity given to us by such theorists as Pavlov, Watson, Skinner, and Wolpe.
The papers were written by and with the support of people who themselves were seeking a way to become ontologically secure. The papers in order are titled (click for pdf):
"Post-traumatic Stress and the Loss of Ontological Security: Overcoming Trauma-induced Neophobia in Adult Children of Alcoholics"