This book deals with automatic responses such as pain, fear, anxiety, the symptoms of primary mental disorders, dreams, repression, hypnosis, laughter, tears, response to stage and screen plays, structural responses such as cerebral lateralization, and so forth. The reason why all those phenomena are studied together is that, according to the theory presented in this book, all such automatic responses have adaptive, self-protective functions that contribute to the realization of survival, and that most of them seek to protect not only all sorts of interests and the physical health of the person but also, and primarily, his or her mental health. In reality, this statement about the general function of automatic responses is almost a tautology, because they all are created by evolution, and evolution is directed to realize adaptation, success, and survival; moreover, proper mental functioning is necessary for realizing survival. Therefore the real problem is to understand the particular self-protective functions of particular automatisms and how they discharge those functions, not that they have such functions. Despite this fact, for example, the symptoms of primary mental disorders are considered by the authors of the DSM and by everyone else as harmful manifestations of unknown dysfunctions, and their self-protective functions are totally ignored. It is shown in this book that the harmfulness of symptoms is due to their side effects.
Mental disorders, dreams, and other automatic responses are insufficiently, or even not at all, understood, because (1) mental processes cannot be observed and are even unconscious to a great extent, (2) the experimental causation of mental disorders is ethically unfeasible, and (3) psychologists do not try to construct theories because they do not know how to do it and are also discouraged by the fact that Freud's theories turned out to be unscientific.
Newton explained the method that he used in constructing his theory of mechanics thus: "Propositions [that constitute the basic principles of theories] are deduced from the phenomena and made general through induction." He integrated such "propositions" with empirical and semi-empirical knowledge to explain and predict many mechanical phenomena and thus proved that his propositions were correct. This is the method used in this book to construct a theory of automatic responses and to test it.
A theory is empirically proved to be correct, or viable, by its usefulness in explaining, predicting, and controlling the phenomena in its field of validity. In this book, (a) the functions of several automatisms that are either discovered through research or are considered normal components of everyday behavior are explained on the basis of the theory, (b) the meanings and functions of about 500 symptoms and 200 dreams are likewise explained in detail, (c) the life experiences of those who produced them are predicted in general terms, (d) the particulars of those experiences are exposed, (e) the causal relations between those experiences and the resulting automatisms are explained, and (f) many examples of eliminating the symptoms and their harmful side consequences are presented, which constitute successful cases of psychotherapy. All these detailed explanations, predictions, and controls of particular phenomena constitute more than 2000 empirical proofs of the theory about the general function of automatisms. No other theory in the history of science has been put forth with so many empirical proofs. Future generations will have difficulty in understanding why the functions of automatic responses have not been understood earlier.