INTERVIEW: Delving into the subconscious mind

Amani Al Qasas, Tuesday 26 Apr 2022

Ahram Online talked to world renowned psychotherapist Dr. Stephen Paul Adler about Freud and Milton Ericson’s schools in dealing with the unconscious mind.

Amani Al Qasas interviews Dr. Stephen Paul Adler
Amani Al Qasas interviews Dr. Stephen Paul Adler


About 55 years were spent by Adler studying psychotherapy and all therapeutic schools since the emergence of Freud and onward.

He was able to integrate this with all spiritual schools in the world after he delved into its sciences to become the most famous American doctor in using various psychological treatment techniques to face any crisis that a patient is unable to deal with.

Adler specialised in treating groups that suffered from wars, famines, or major crises, so he became an ambassador for the World Health Organisation in India and Guatemala and worked diligently in most African and American countries.

Then he established an institute for psychotherapy and trained its practitioners in Brazil.

He also discovered that dealing with the subconscious mind is the most important way to transform a person’s feelings and behaviours towards any major crisis.

A person’s conscious mind represents only 3% of his memory, feelings, and awareness of himself, and if we can change the image in the subconscious mind through a different view of the event or the crisis, we can change how we deal with it psychologically and mentally.

Adler decided to celebrate his 80th birthday in Egypt — the land of civilisations —and meet a group of psychotherapists and other practitioners for several weeks.

Ahram Online met him to discuss his psychological healing mechanisms.

You specialised in treatment using the Milton Erickson method, and you even teach it around the world to psychotherapists, what is the difference between this treatment technique and others?

I have studied and treated in all ways the schools of psychological science, including schools affiliated with scientific doctrines or religious and spiritual methods, but there is a big difference in all treatment techniques and the way of working to modify the perceptions of the subconscious.

For example, the school of Freud — which is the most famous in the field — considers the subconscious mind to be the centre of instincts, desires, and evils that, if released, could be destructive.

Psychotherapy in the manner of Milton Erickson respects what a person knows about himself, but they search deeper to open the way for the subconscious mind and allow the person to see and deal with what he hides from everyone and even from himself.

The subconscious mind of any person represents more than 95% of his consciousness, although what appears to us is less than 5% of the known conscious mind.

It is possible to know the reason for a patient’s suffering, but every human being is special and unique, and their pain is not similar to others, even if the problem carries the same scientific or medical name.

For example, no depression patient exacts the same depression as the other, and only the subconscious of a person has the key to how to heal well.

What distinguishes the Ericson method is that it does not depend on the diagnosis. The diagnosis is rather considered a box that confines people in a framework that may not be correct.  The subconscious mind is connected to the divine light through the spirit inside us and connected to the cosmic awareness and the spirit of the greatest creator. Everything will be fine only if we communicate with it.

How do we communicate with the subconscious mind to achieve these results?

This is done in many ways, including telling stories in a certain method.

It stops using the conscious mind and allows us to use certain phrases that carry wisdom needed on a person’s journey.

Here, the subconscious mind is of great help and actually helps this person by remembering a similar situation he went through or a way he misses in life or a need he lacks, all of which could be the cause of his problem, and by satisfying these needs, treatment takes place.

To reach that, we must have complete confidence in our subconscious mind.

 Another way is to develop the ability to imagine and visualise the solution.

For example, I might ask the patient: “Imagine with me what are the solutions to your problem?” Our goal here is not to plunge into the crisis or change the person’s painful past, but rather help him connect with himself and the true inner state while creating a new view of his future.

‘Tolerance’ is a resonant word used by many therapists, psychologists, and even life coaches, as if it is an (easy practice) for a person to forgive anyone who has hurt him, especially if he is from his close circle, a father, a mother, or a husband, until we reach the most difficult, which is forgiving oneself. Tell us more about the process in light of new therapy methods?

Tolerance with oneself and others has specific rules, the first of which is to express anger clearly through speech or writing with everything or anyone that has harmed oneself.

Feelings must be unloaded first, and by unloading that angry charge, we find that there is a major shift in the strength of feelings, and therefore we can then modify the idea by accepting the difficult behaviour of the other party or the self at another time with other experiences, other possibilities, and other circumstances, the combination of which led to the person behaving in an incorrect way.

Closing the door of self-blame and guilt and appreciating everything that a person has gone through in his life is the real key to tolerance with everything after that.

A mother, for example, has provided everything she can do according to her awareness and circumstances and what she was exposed to as a person before she was a mother.

Therefore, it must be taken into account that she is not necessarily a person capable of being a good mother or educated in the principles of psychological dealing with her children or others.

She did what she knew and could do, in that light, she can be understood and forgiven, and this applies to many others in one’s inner circle of friends and family.

There are many psychological and health problems that occur if this is not understood and treated.

Emotional eating is a problem that most people in the world cannot overcome and affects their health and psychological state before the shape of their bodies, and millions of people pursue diets or drugs that often fail to solve the issue. Is there any way to solve the root cause of this problem?

A person should ask themselves: “What am I trying to compensate for with food that is full of carbohydrates or sugars? Is it hunger for love? For companionship and partnership? Is it for tenderness and attention?

When a person realises that their extreme hunger for a certain feeling will not be satisfied with a piece of chocolate or a huge amount of pasta or pizza, their view of the sea of food in which they drown themselves will change, and they will realise that what it does only compensates or distracts temporarily, thus one starts to address what they really need.

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