Experiential Psychopathology - Dr John Howells

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IV - Vector Therapy

Definition of Vector Therapy

A vector denotes a quantity which has direction. Force, including emotional force, is a quantity with direction and therefore can be represented by a vector. Neurosis results from an experience, of short or long duration, whereby an individual’s psyche suffers damage by noxious, stressful, emotional forces, termed noci-vectors, coming from an emotional source – another person. They are in contrast to health giving, benevolent vectors.

A benevolent vector can be illustrated as follows: A young couple look with admiration at their room full of new furniture. The husband exclaims “I will always sit on this settee, dear”. Wife expresses surprise, “But why on the settee?” The husband replies “Because then I can always sit next to you, dear”. Those few words are a benevolent communication, a benevolent vector, which will cause the wife to glow with emotional and physical pleasure.

We meet the same couple some years later. One night, after intercourse, the wife turns to her husband and exclaims “You did not have a climax”. He replies “No. I am keeping that for someone else”. These few words are a noxious communication, a noxious vector. The wife is likely to respond with despair and could even be physically sick.

Often the individual in his daily life is beset by one or many of such noxious emotional forces, and frequently by a pattern of harmful forces. Clinical and experimental work support the belief that the most significant and most dramatic pattern of forces is that which occurs within the family. The time of greatest impact is in the years of personality development, infancy and childhood, when long-lasting damage can be affected and vulnerabilities to events in later life can be established.

Occasionally, the adverse set of forces arise outside the family – in surrogate families, institutions, schools, work situations or social milieu.

A neurosis can resolve spontaneously. If our formulation on psychopathology is correct, the spontaneous change happens because the adverse pattern of forces changes and the change produces an attenuation of the trauma; the degree of change reflects the degree of reduction in trauma. If we can identify ways by which the pattern spontaneously changes, then we should be able to direct the forces causing these changes to take place. Vector Therapy relies upon our capacity to change patterns of forces, not haphazardly, but in a systematic directed fashion.

Vector Therapy identifies the pattern of the vectors inside and outside a family and adjusts the pattern of the emotional forces within the life space to bring improvement to the individual or family within the life space. Vector Therapy improves on nature by directing rather than leaving to chance the re-patterning of fields of psychic forces. (Howells, 1963.)

Psychotherapy means treatment employing psychic, or emotional, influences. Thus Vector Therapy is a psychotherapeutic procedure. Thus Vector Therapy is a psychotherapeutic procedure. But the beneficial psychic influences operate outside the interview; the interview is employed to assess and guide the psychotherapy in progress outside the interview. Thus Vector Therapy is an extra-interview psychotherapy.

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