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Evolution and therapy - a new paradigm

As Kuhn observed all sciences experience oscillating progression marked with an occasional paradigm shift. This occurs when procedures that developed out of accepted truths and principles are rapidly replaced. And this is what has happened to much of scientific psychology with the advent of the evolutionary approach to psychological study. Prior to evolutionary psychology the field has been divided by overlapping subdisciplines, schools of thought, styles of research, and charismatic leaders. This vast diversity of specialty areas within one science has led to a both a wide range of research topics, generally a good thing, and a obscuring as to what the common denominator of the topics are. Indeed, asking a psychologist the very fundamental question: “what is psychology” will either lead her to be perplexed or give the one of the formulaic answers found in most introductory psychology textbooks. Biologist and geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky said: “nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.” His insight was cogent; it also established a guiding and coalescing principle for the life sciences. Of course, biology is predicated on chemistry, physics, but for it to discover now directions and comprehensive explanations, it needs the principles of natural selection.

Without the canons that natural selection provide, the life sciences would essentially be descriptive. For a science to explain, make hypotheses and predictions, an underlying premise is fundamental. This is found in the synthesis between the work of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel. They synthesis of their work illuminated the path for all future work in the study of life on this planet. It provided the answer to the questions about why things are the way they are, not merely descriptions of how they are. In its simplest form reproduction, especially sexual reproduction invariably leads to errors. In rare and opportune situations these errors are advantageous. These errors have no path, bias, or purpose. They are copying or combination errors that lead to offspring that are different from their progenitors. In most cases they do no harm are lost to reproductive posterity. In others they lead to unviable offspring. But when they offer even the slightest advantage, those that possess them will have an advantage when confronting the adversities of life and will consequently have a better chance at reproduction. Life that has a better chance at reproduction will invariably exploit this advantage and thereby pass these “errors” along with greater alacrity then their peers. A critical, often misunderstood, point that is critical to evolutionary psychology is these advantageous errors are neither good nor bad, they mere help reproduction. Darwin poignantly observed that when observed through the lens of human morality, traits that aid survival can be cruel or ugly. To be clear the processes that resulted in your existence and the existence of all living things, operated without direction, goals, or morality. Indeed, the term evolution is misleading as it implies an unfolding or a developmental trajectory. The fact that Darwin never used the word in his seminal work was very likely deliberate.

In RE/CBT the most effective interventions used to help people with sexual problems are those that identify beliefs, personal philosophies, and perceptions about love and intimacy that lead to distress or conflict. Consequently, the first step in counseling an individual for sexual problems is to explore his or her viewpoints and consequent emotions that arise before sexual encounters or in response to sexual problems. Specifically each person experiencing sexual distress needs to be helped to find any rigidity of thinking, demandingness, and damning nature of their beliefs. In short, their irrational beliefs need to be illuminated. Importantly, sexual problems commonly yield more intense irrational thinking than many other therapeutic issues. Very few sources of adversity are coupled with the stigma and shame that accompany sexual dysfunction. Consequently beliefs related to self-downing, awfulizing, and demandingness will be particularly salient. This is an essential reason that REBT is the approach I strongly advocate and apply. A key reason for this choice is t the fact that no treatment has been shown to be more effective. Furthermore, REBT has a compelling face validity that clients readily accept and can learn to apply.