More from Abraham Low
by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
Previously I’ve written about Recovery International, founded by psychiatrist Abraham Low in the 1940s in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Low initiated a revolutionary brand of treatment that we now call cognitive therapy: by changing one’s thoughts, one could change troublesome feelings and through practice attain better mental health. Dr. Low used the word apprenticeship to denote the long-learning period needed to put his ideas into practice.
One of his most beloved books is Manage Your Fears, Manage Your Anger. This is a compendium of lectures he gave during the last two years of his life, recorded on tape and then transcribed. By reading them, one obtains not only an excellent overview of the Recovery method, but a glimpse into Dr. Low’s compassionate but directive style.
Following are passages that give a glimpse at Dr. Low’s personality and style.
From: “There Are Two Choices: Security and Insecurity”
“I will tell you again, at the risk of repeating myself unduly, there are only two things in this world to choose, provided you think of something personal, of something that is either good or bad to you. Among gloves in a department store you can have ten thousand choices, but that’s hardly much of a personal issue. Among any kind of merchandise that you want to purchase, there you have endless choices perhaps, but if you are involved in a situation which is strictly personal, there are naturally only two choices. And if your mind is open, then you don’t know which way you would choose. You will have to decide.”
Temper and Temperament
“And you know that I distinguish between angry temper and fearful temper and that’s all. So if you will understand that there is a certain thing in us that is ordinarily placid, calm, and restful, and that’s what we call our temperament. But if something happens on the outside or inside that disturbs the situation, then temperament is aroused. Then it develops feelings or sentiments, and the feelings and sentiments may be worked up into temper. And I will merely tell you, and the rest you can read up in the book, that temper is either fearful: then it is linked up to the belief that there is danger. Or it is angry: then it is linked up to the belief that somebody did wrong.”
Frustrations, Emergencies, and Beliefs
And you will now understand that if my patients are constantly or almost constantly frustrated, that’s average. Nobody can escape it. That’s the duration, the frequency of frustration, that everybody is subject to, as far as I know, because I know it from my own case. I presume there are not too many people in this world that relax better than I do. I doubt that. But the intensity of frustration, the severeness of frustration, can be held down. And I want to tell you something about the method with which frustrations can be held down to a low intensity, without raising their number and their duration.”
In addition to Amazon, order Dr. Low’s book here.