In Part One we discussed two essential ingredients used in many psychoheresies that are essential in inner healing. They are the unconscious and the past. The use of both are unbiblical and should be avoided by believers because they function contrary to God’s Word. In this part we discuss two other elements of many psychoheresies that are an integral part of inner healing. They are the use of memory and emotions. These are common activities of the mind. However, joined to the activities having to do with the unconscious and the past in the way they are generally used in inner healing, they contradict the clear teachings of Scripture and are heretical wherever they are taught and practiced.
The healing of memories is a central function of inner healers and many psychotherapists. Typically the “healers” look for memories reaching back as far as the early post-natal period, but some attempt to deal with what they imagine to be memories from the pre-natal period, as dealt with in Part One. Dr. Jane Gumprecht, in her book Abusing Memory: The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford, quotes Sanford’s own description of her theory behind the healing of memories:
Something is troubling the deep mind. . . some old unpleasant memory…. What are these “roots of bitterness” and how can they be drawn out of us? … We are apt to drag chains fastened upon our souls so long ago that we do not even know what they are … burdens put upon our souls when we were too little to be responsible?… Yet there is hope, because God is involved with time … seeing our need He incarnated Himself and became man, thus entering into the collective unconscious of the race…. Jesus is our time-traveler … out of timelessness into our time, on purpose to transcend time in each of us, entering the subconscious and finding His way through past years to every buried memory in order to touch it with His healing power and set us free. I ask Jesus to enter into him, and go back through time and heal the memories of fear and resentment—even those he had forgotten… then I ask Jesus to walk into the past—back though their memories … and set them free.1
As mentioned in Part One, we are to remember the works of God both individually and corporately. God provided not only His written word to remind the Israelites of His glory and His gracious acts of mercy, but He instituted feasts to help them remember the exodus and other significant events that demonstrated His great love for them and also their own sinfulness. The Israelites sinned when they forgot God’s great mercies and His written law. Therefore the psalm writer says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Many times Jesus urged his listeners to remember what God had done and what He had said. Jesus instructed His followers to celebrate communion in remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11:24). Therefore memory is important in relation to God, what He has done for the believer and what He has said in His Word.
The Bible gives no instructions to search for forgotten circumstances (memories) in one’s past in order to be healed. The Bible instructs the believer to count that past self (called the “old man”) dead and to live the new life in Christ Jesus: “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). Therefore, the practice of recovering memories in inner healing is in direct disobedience to the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life.
The inner healers and many psychotherapists rely on the accuracy of memory in dealing with the past. The healee is directed to remember early life experiences in order to begin the process of healing.
In Part One we revealed that John and Paula Sandford claim “that a baby within the womb already knows, experiences, tastes and feels everything which is going on around him.”2 The Sandfords give more credence to prenatal, postnatal, and early life memories than science permits. Mark L. Howe, an expert in the field of early life memories, says that memories before the age of two years are unlikely to “survive intact into adulthood.” Howe concludes: “For now, it is safe to say that we do not remember being born or our in utero experiences. We do, however, have excellent imaginations, ones that can not only create ‘memories’ but also affect the memories we do carry with us from childhood.”3
In Freudian psychoanalysis the process of getting to the unconscious and past is through the portal of free association, which heavily involves past memories and particularly early life memories, as the patient reports whatever comes to mind while in the presence of the analyst. Theophostic Prayer Ministry, which is a combination of inner healing and various psychotherapies known and practiced by Ed Smith, its originator, utilizes a form of free association, which he calls “drifting.” Regardless of the change in name from free association to drifting, it is relatively the same activity with the same associated problems with memory.4 It is axiomatic that the further one goes back in memory, the more unreliable the result.
Since memory is so essential in this process, it is important to ask, “How good is memory?” Dr. Carol Tavris has said, “Memory is in a word lousy. It is a traitor at worst, a mischief-maker at best. It gives us vivid recollections of events that could never have happened, and it obscures critical details of events that did.”5
The brain does not operate like a computer. Nevertheless, counselor, pastor Dr. Cecil Osborne says:
Everything that has ever happened to us is inscribed somewhere in the memory bank. Though the event may have transpired many years ago, the memory is lodged somewhere in those fifteen billion cells in the brain. Time does not diminish them in the slightest. The fact that most of the traumas of childhood are “forgotten” does not mean that they are doing no damage. Deep in the unconscious mind they can become festering pools of pain, producing anxiety, tension, character distortion, obsessive-compulsive behavior, alcoholism, drug addiction, difficulty in giving or receiving love, impaired relationships and, in time, actual physical symptoms of a hundred different varieties.6
In his book Remembering and Forgetting: Inquiries into the Nature of Memory, Edmund Bolles says, “The human brain is the most complicated structure in the known universe.”7 He also says, “Remembering is a creative, constructive process. There is no storehouse of information about the past anywhere in our brain.”8
As an example of how memory works, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget describes a clear memory from his own early childhood:
I can still see, most clearly, the following scene, in which I believed until I was about fifteen. I was sitting in my pram, which my nurse was pushing in the Champs Elysées, when a man tried to kidnap me. I was held in by the strap fastened round me while my nurse bravely tried to stand between me and the thief. She received various scratches, and I can still see vaguely those on her face. Then a crowd gathered, a policeman with a short cloak and a white baton came up, and the man took to his heels. I can still see the whole scene, and can even place it near the tube station. When I was about fifteen, my parents received a letter from my former nurse saying that she had been converted to the Salvation Army. She wanted to confess her past faults, and in particular to return the watch she had been given as a reward on this occasion. She had made up the whole story, faking the scratches. I, therefore, must have heard, as a child, the account of this story, which my parents believed, and projected into the past in the form of a visual memory.9
Memories are created out of images, overheard conversations, dreams, suggestions, and imagination as well as out of actual events. And they change over time. Even as we remember we tend to fill in the gaps. Therefore, each time a memory is recalled it is also recreated with the emotions accompanying the recall and with the imagination which fills in the gaps.
False memories abound in inner healing. In 1989, we wrote the following:
Across America parents are receiving phone calls and correspondence that plunge them into a nightmare of accusations of abuse and incest. These are not parents of young children or teenagers. They are parents of grown children who throughout their lives had had no recollection of being sexually molested by their mother or father. Now, seemingly out of the blue, their bizarre stories are stunning their parents. These adult children, usually daughters, now claim to remember precise details of one of their parents sexually abusing them. Where do they get such ideas? Where do those sordid memories come from? What brings them to the surface? Inner healing and other forms of regressive-type therapy lurk behind this surge of family horror stories.
Since we wrote that in 1989 there has been a surge of sexual abuse and satanic ritual abuse accusations by adult children towards their parents, primarily based upon early life memory reconstruction. These can occur quite easily during inner healing.
The intense use of emotions is an essential ingredient in inner healing. Remove emotions and you’ll disable the movement. The Freudian concept involved is that of abreaction, which is “the discharge of tension by reliving by words, feelings, and actions a traumatic experience (the original cause of the tension).”10 It is a type of catharsis.A whole movement to express emotions is built upon this one Freudian concept. Others took the Freudian idea and postulated that lurking within each one of us are emotions that need to come out if we are to feel better. These groups became known as “ventilationists.”
There is no biblical basis for emotional expression as manipulated by inner healers and some psychotherapists. If you only deal with one human emotion, anger, you will find prohibitions against its use, not permission for its use in the way the inner healers use it. We call it unrighteous anger.
In the past, self-control was encouraged and was the model for behavior. Now we have moved from a society of self-restraint to one of self-expression. Leonard Berkowitz, who has extensively studied violence and aggression, disagrees with the idea that it is desirable to let out one’s aggressive feelings. “Those therapists that encourage such active expression of negative emotions … [and] stimulate and reward aggression heighten the likelihood of subsequent violence.”
Hydraulic Model: Tavris discusses the hydraulic model of emotions. The model says simply that if emotional energy is blocked in one place it must be released elsewhere. She says:
Today the hydraulic model of energy has been scientifically discredited, but this has not stopped some therapeutic circles from expanding the “reservoir” idea to contain all the emotions—jealousy, grief, resentment, as well as rage. These therapists still argue that any feeling that is “dammed up” is dangerously likely to “spill over” and possibly “flood” the system.11
Catharsis, in spite of its seeming temporary relief, has never been proved to be a panacea for problems.
“Talking out an emotion does not reduce it; it rehearses it.” Tavris says, “Talking can freeze a hostile disposition.”12 She says, “The psychological rationales for ventilating anger do not stand up under experimental scrutiny. The weight of the evidence indicates precisely the opposite; expressing anger makes you angrier, solidifies an angry attitude, and establishes a hostile habit.”13 To put it simply, “anger, over ventilated, perpetuates anger.”14 “Sometimes the best you can do about anger is nothing at all.”15
Well why do adults in general, Christians included, follow such false teaching? It is because they honestly believe (never mind scientific proof to the contrary) that catharsis is good. They have bought the psychological notion of expression over our tradition of suppression (not repression).
Cognitive Dissonance: What happens when people have experiences and how do these experiences shape their theology? Leon Festinger has developed a theory called cognitive dissonance. The theory is simply this: because people cannot live in a state of conflict (dissonance) between a belief (a cognitive idea) and a behavior or an emotional experience, something has to give. And, very simply, according to Festinger, what gives is usually the belief. The brain needs to maintain consistency for behavior and it will generally do so by conforming its belief to its behavior or emotional experience.
Example One: Consider the happily married Christian man who believes in fidelity. An office party comes along and after a little too much to drink he drives a woman office coworker home and commits adultery. His behavior is at odds with his belief about marriage. So, what happens? According to this theory he will often change his original belief (fidelity) to conform to his behavior (adultery).
Example Two: Someone is invited to attend a meeting in which emotional experiences are promoted and practiced. He has great doubts, but goes because a friend has invited him. During the meeting he hears teachings supporting the emotional activities and sees others participating. In the midst of all the hype he ends up becoming emotionally and experientially involved. As soon as he crosses the line from hesitation to participation he becomes ensnared in the emotions and experiences. No more doubts, no more hesitation. He usually becomes both a participant and a promoter.
According to this theory such immersion and participation will change an individual’s beliefs. And that is precisely what happens in emotional experiences such as inner healing. One such example from a pastor follows:
During the course of her talk, [Roz] Rinker explained how the Holy Spirit could work through our prayers to reach back into past experiences and heal old emotional wounds. She invited us to test the validity of this claim for ourselves. Following her lead, we were instructed to allow our minds to be led by the Spirit to our childhood. As I did so, I began to visualize myself as a boy of eight. I was startled to see a very burdened child; in fact, I saw myself carrying a large bundle on my back. Apparently, the weight of this burden symbolized my past needs and worries.
We then were asked to envision a setting for this child. I immediately found him standing before a dark school ground at night. Fear began to creep into my meditation and I intuitively realized that all of these symbols were poignant descriptions of how my childhood experience felt to me.
Next she asked us to do a surprising thing. “Now see if you can imagine Jesus appearing,” she instructed. “Let Him walk toward you.”
Much to my amazement, I—an ordained Reformed Church clergyman with a doctorate in psychology—found this happening to me. An image of Jesus moved slowly toward me out of that dark playground. He began to extend His hands toward me in a loving, accepting manner.
“Now,” she said softly, “ask Him to touch you with His healing power.”
Before I could consciously respond to her direction, I saw Christ already moving through my imagination with a freedom that exceeded my direction. My meditation seemed to have taken on a life of its own. I no longer was creating the scene. The figure of Christ reached over and lifted the bundle from my back. And He did so with such forcefulness that I literally sprang from the pew.
I blinked my eyes and looked at the people who still were meditating. I was perplexed, confused. But then it occurred to me: Something in my past has just been healed. I feel released.
In the days that followed, I had a growing realization that something profound had transpired within me.16 (Italics in original.)
Remember that, according to the theory of cognitive dissonance, when a belief and a behavior are in conflict, either the belief or behavior usually changes; and, it is usually the belief that changes.
Notice the imagery in the above account. In Part Three (next issue) we discuss imagery, the fifth ingredient in the unbiblical stew called “inner healing.” Imagery is potentially the most dangerous of the five.
(PAL V15N2 * March-April)
1 Jane Gumprecht. Abusing Memory. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1997, p. 101.
2 John and Paula Sandford, “Healing the Prenatal Spirit,” sound recording.
3 Mark L. Howe, “Memories from the Cradle,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 622-65.
4 See “A Response to the Christian Research Institute’s Evaluation of Theophostic Prayer Ministry” by Martin Bobgan on the Psychoheresy Awareness Ministry web site: www.psychoheresy-aware.org.
5 Carol Tavris, “The Freedom to Change” Prime Time, October 1980, p. 28.
6 Cecil Osborne. The Art of Becoming a Whole Person. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1978, p. 175.
7 Edmund Bolles. Remembering and Forgetting: Inquiries into the Nature of Memory. New York: Walker and Company, 1988, p. 139.
8 Ibid., p. xi.
9 Jean Piaget, Plays, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood. New York: Norton, 1962).
10 J. P. Chaplin. Dictionary of Psychology, New Revised Edition. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1968, 1975, p. 2.
11 Carol Tavris, Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982, p. 38.
12 Ibid., p. 134.
13 Ibid., pp. 143, 144.
14 Ibid., p. 176.
15 Ibid., p. 223.
16 Robert L. Wise, “Healing of Memories: A Prayer Therapy for You?” Christian Life, July, 1984, pp. 63, 64)