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What is The Five Level Model of Neurosis

What is The Five Level Model of Neurosis

The circle in the middle represents the core self, the real authentic person, before he or she developed layers of defences for self-protection, like an onion has layers. The task of therapy is to remove the layers, like peeling that onion, but,  of  course,  slowly,  gradually, carefully. Those defences were developed out of necessity, even for survival, so they need to be acknowledged for their original usefulness and respectfully laid to rest when their obsolescence is finally realised.

a) The outer layer Рcalled the clich̩-layer, consists of socially accepted behaviour, meaningless small talk, clich̩d greetings, e.g.,

“Hello, how are you?”

“Fine”  (though your heart is breaking!)

Some families only communicate at this level.

b) The role-layer – We act as if we are only whatever our role is,  g., helpless victims or born losers, a powerful boss, a devoted parent, a hard-working provider, the trouble-maker, the diplomat. So, if the role is taken away through bereavement, redundancy, divorce, children growing up and moving away, many people feel a loss of identity, because the real self is so buried; fortunately it is retrievable.

c) The impasse-layer – In therapy, there comes a point when a client feels ‘stuck’, resistant, very anxious, confused, uneasy, uncomfortable. It is an important stage in therapy, because the client is close to catharsis.

Novice  therapists  often  feel  helpless  and  frustrated  at  this point, particularly where they see therapy as a mainly cognitive activity. Experienced therapists will welcome it and actively work towards it. In this layer, we begin to experience two aspects of ourselves locked in conflict, the healthy part which wants to complete the unfinished business, and the less healthy part that wants to avoid the suffering (anything for a quiet life).

d) The implosive-layer/death-layer – is the paralysis of opposing forces.  We pull ourselves together, contract our muscles, implode, because we dare not let go, in case something awful happens, like going berserk. If a client can tolerate this awful feeling, ‘stay with it’, he/she will eventually explode.

e) This is the catharsis, to the explosive or authentic-layer.

There are four types of explosion:          i) Anger,    ii) Grief,    iii) Orgasm,    iv) Joy

So the person reaches his or her true self, an authentic person, feeling what he or she really feels and expressing it fully.



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