Conditioned Reflex Therapy stands out with its vibrant and audacious approach. It's not a book filled with vague, wishy-washy language and complicated sentences; it's a bold and unequivocal statement. Salter's work is characterized by its clarity and wisdom, and it's poised to take on the world. It's no surprise that this book sparked the flame that eventually became behaviour therapy.
While rooted in Pavlovian principles, it surprisingly retains its relevance in the modern context. It introduces concepts that foreshadow ideas like interoceptive exposure, the abandonment of fruitless control agendas, and the encouragement of unfiltered emotional expression. Salter's brilliance lies in his intuitive understanding of what truly drives human beings, and his unwavering commitment to pursue that path.
This book isn't just a relic of historical interest; it has the potential to reshape the approaches of behavioural and cognitive therapists. If they embrace its spirit, it could embolden them to be more authentic and true to themselves in their therapeutic practices, ultimately benefiting their clients and the field of psychology as a whole.
For me personally, I embarked on a journey that spanned philosophy and psychology, delving deeply into spirituality, experiencing an awakening, and immersing myself in a spiritual path. I spent years in India within an ashram environment and another decade in a yoga foundation ashram in the United States. I explored the esoteric dimensions of non-dual tantric yoga, kundalini, and various other profound practices. Many of my peers in this journey are renowned figures in the realm of non-dual philosophy, and I even had the privilege of studying under a revered meditation master.
However, even with this rich background, I find that Salter's work bridges critical gaps that exist both in Eastern philosophy and contemporary psychotherapy. It revolves around the idea of reclaiming our innate reflexes, undoing the constraints imposed by societal conditioning. This perspective is provocative, as Salter boldly suggests that society is, in fact, a sworn enemy of mental well-being.
He argues that when we're born, we're naturally outgoing, direct, and uncomplicated emotionally. But as we undergo societal training and control, we lose touch with these unfiltered emotional responses. This leads to the hesitation and inhibition that permeate our lives. The impact isn't limited to our minds; it extends to our very souls, chaining and stifling our natural impulses and expressions. Salter raises a fundamental question: What if we were to express our genuine emotions moment to moment? Would it disrupt society, or would it, in fact, lead to a more mentally healthy and vibrant world?
Salter's discourse identifies society's role in inducing emotional constipation, making us prisoners of our suppressed feelings and instincts. His work serves as a call to break free from these societal chains and reconnect with our authentic selves.