Mental Health Through Will-Training by Abraham A. Low


Mental Health Through Will-Training, written by Dr. Abraham A. Low and first published in 1950, synthesize effectively his self-help method regarding various ailments accompanied by mental, emotional and/or physical symptoms but all having the same origin, the poorly developed Will of the patients.

Recovery Inc. is a non-profit organization founded by the author with the purpose of treating a large number of patient in a decentralized way. Former patients take the place of group leaders where people narrate events or incidents that they need to work on and/or where they applied effectively (or not) Low's method. They then receive feedback both from the leader and other patients that helps them adjust their approach/mindset if necessary. Social events between members and their families are frequently (and spontaneously) organized and represents (according to Low) the clearest proof that his method works in restoring mental health and restore the patient's place within their community.

The author's method consists of a simple set of techniques and procedure based on a simple philosophy in order for it to be understood and used by any people in any circumstances (which is at the foundation of its self-help message). In Low's view of the world, the chain of cause and effects leading to the symptoms is the following. First we have information inputs through sensations and feelings. Those are considered pure as they do not carry any meaning of right or wrong, we have no direct control over them as they simply "are". Then we have thoughts and impulses that react to the information gathered by interpreting and/or acting on them.

Thoughts and muscles (which carry out our impulses) can be influenced and controlled, for better or for worst. In the case of poor mental health, we "taint" what was pure information with our egoism, egotism and egocentrism (dramatization, martyrdom, hopelessness, arrogance, etc). The information gathered are perceived as dangerous and create a state of fight-or-flight, thus shutting off any chance of a sensible interpretation of "what is". This deformed inner representation and/or inadequate behavior will then generate a new set of feelings and sensations that are often of the negative kind (or perceived that way) since they are based on an illusion of reality.

Symptoms are merely caused and amplified by this positive feedback loop, and often lingers days/weeks after the event ran its course. This feedback loop is what we commonly call "working yourself up" and is part of what Low calls "Temper" (think temper tantrum). When we are under a fit of temper, feelings and sensations become insincere and shallow, or even absent of our thinking process (i.e. rationalizing) thus refleting the false reality we created for ourselves (no information can be extracted from an illusion).

As described above, temper is in its essence narcissistic and therefore calls for a treatment that is based on a group-minded approach. Will needs an aim to express itself, and here the aim we are looking for is peace/fostering fellowship (both inside and outside). The group's need become the only relevant matter, not who is right or wrong. Ultimately, our thoughts and behaviors should reflect our Will and its various goals (long and short-term), thus demonstrating an integrated personality. The next logical step is to act our will at the right moment.

Low calls that "spotting" and should be done before or right at the beginning of a fit of temper. Since effective spotting is hard (especially for impulses since they require instant reactions) the author emphasize the need for repeated practice while expecting frequent failure and setbacks (especially at the beginning). With trial and error, the patient manages to delay the impulses more and more or identify each time earlier the advent of a temper. Here patience and humility are critical to a successful treatment and this needs a long term dedication. Ultimately, mental health should be one if not the most important long-term goal as all other group-minded goals are based on it (otherwise self-sabotage ensue and no progress is made). A whole section of the book is dedicated to the ways in which we sabotage ourselves.

Now on the transformative act itself, the book provides many examples depending on the kind of temper we develop, but the general advice would be :
1) To view the tainted feelings and sensations as non threatening (for the body, the mind, the ego, etc).
2) Will ourselves to endure the (now) mere discomfort they provoke.
3) Act toward peace, whatever it means in this specific context (e.g. drop an argument, carrying out some duty, stop a compulsive behavior, etc).

All in all, I believe we find embedded in Abraham Low's will-training concepts members of the forum know quite well : external considering, strategic enclosure, self-remembering, negative introject, etc. The practical aspect of Low's method may be of interest for those like me who struggle on applying the principles taught by the Cassiopaean's experiment (C's sessions + recommended book list + FOTCM + Forum) in their daily lives.

The last edition of the book is available for free on (registration needed to borrow the book).

Table of content
Preface to the 1997 Edition - 11
About Recovery, Inc - 15
A Concise Outline of Recovery's Self-Help Techniques - 21

Part I - Panel Discussions with Extensive Quotation of Examples Offered by Patients

1 Imagination, Temper and Symptomes - 33
2 Temper, Symptoms and Insight - 43
3 Temper, Sovereignty and Fellowship - 52
4 Muscles and Mental Health - 61
5 Realism, Romanticism, Intellectualism - 71
6 Exceptionality and Averageness; Sentimentalism and Realism - 80
7 Helplessness Is Not Hopelessness - 91
8 External and Internal Environment - 101
9 Feelings Are Not Facts - 111
10 Objectivity As Means for Terminating Panics - 120

Part II - Panel Discussions with Abbreviated Quotation of Examples Offered by Patients

11 The Will Says Yes or No - 133
12 Will, Beliefs and Muscles - 139
13 The Will to Bear Discomfort - 145
14 Realistic and Romantic Ambition - 150
15 Intellectual Validity and Romantic Vitality - 156
16 The Vanity of Knowing Better - 162
17 Temperament and Temper - 168
18 Temper Masquerading As "Feeling" - 174
19 Tantrums Have Much Force but Little Feeling - 180
20 Genuine Feeling and Sincere Thinking - 186
21 Group-mindedness and Self-Mindedness - 191
22 Subjective Wants and Objective Needs - 197
23 The Unconvincing Complaint - 203
24 Partial View and Total Viewpoint - 208
25 Business and Games; Effort and Comfort - 215
26 Interpretations and Conclusions - 221
27 Symptoms, Fellowship and Leadership - 228
28 Leadership Versus Information - 233
29 The Passion for Self-Distrust - 240
30 The Courage to Make Mistakes - 246
31 Predisposition, Partnership and Partisanship - 253

Part III - The Principal Methods of Sabotage

32 Sabotage Method No. 1: Literalness - 261
33 Sabotage Method No. 2: Ignoring or Discrediting the Initial Improvement - 270
34 Sabotage Method No. 3: Disparaging the Competence or Method of the Physician - 279
35 Sabotage Method No. 4: Challenging the Physician's Diagnosis: Outright Insistence on Change of Diagnosis - 287
36 Sabotage Method No. 5: Challenging the Physician's Diagnosis: Implied Insistence on Change of Diagnosis - 295
37 Discourse on Valuation
38 Sabotage Method No. 6: Failure to Practice "Spot Diagnosis" - 305
39 Sabotage Method No. 7: Failure to Spot Emotionalism - 312
40 Sabotage Method No. 8: Failure to Spot Sentimentalism - 317
41 Sabotage Method No. 9: Failure to Practice Muscle Control - 325

Part IV - Group Psychotherapy Interviews

42 The Myth of "Nervous Fatigue" - 337
43 Sabotaging Sleep - 347
44 Simplicity Versus Complexity in Combating Fears - 358
45 Vicious Cycle and Vitalizing Cycle - 368
46 Symptoms Must Be Attacked Where They Are Weakest - 376
47 Temper and Symptom-Passive Response and Active Reaction - 385
48 Intuitive Versus Discursive Thought in Temper - 391
49 The Patient Wants the Ends of Health, Not Its Means - 399
50 Mental Health Is Supreme Purpose, Not Subordinated Goal - 404
51 Spontaneity and Self-Consciousness - 410
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