Chapter 6 of Holistic Counselling in Practice.

Blog Post No.144

By Dr Jim Byrne

Update on Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)

Understanding and managing human emotions

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 23rd May 2016

Introduction

Human-emotionI have just finished proof-reading Chapter 6 of my new book, on Holistic Counselling in Practice.

This is how it begins:

Chapter 5. Understanding and managing human emotions

5.1: Introduction

Because counsellors and psycho-therapists deal with their clients’ emotions – (as well as their behaviours, goals, relationships; plus their environmental stressors, and so on) – every system of counselling and therapy has to have a theory of emotion.  This, however, is a significant problem, for three reasons:

  1. Firstly: Human emotion is hugely complex. For example, Stephen Pinker, in his book on how the mind works, draws attention to a quotation from G.K. Chesterton about the unutterable complexity of human emotional tones and moods and shades, which begins like this: “Man knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless than the colours of an autumn forest”. (Page 367)[1]. Therefore, at the very least, we should show some humility in developing our systemic models of such complexity.
  2. Secondly: As one psychotherapist has pointed out: “The terms ‘feeling’ and ‘emotion’, and ‘affect’ are used in many different senses in psychology. A review of more than twenty theories of emotion reveals a plethora of widely diverging technical definitions. These vary with the technique of investigation, the general theoretical framework, and the value-judgements of the psychologist.  Often, they are so diverse as to defy comparison let alone synthesis”.[2]  So we are not going to arrive at a universal definition of emotion in this book; though we have to come to some working hypotheses, in the form of practical conclusions, which allow us to understand and help our clients.
  3. Third: There is a good deal of confusion regarding whether emotions are innate, or socially imposed or coinstructed; and whether they exist ‘inside the client’ or ‘outside’ in social relationships.

…End of extract.

~~~ Fouor-part-modelIn the course of writing this chapter, I have reviewed the major schools of thought about human emotion, from the time of the Buddha, Plato, the Roman Stoics, and upwards through Darwin, and the behaviourists, neo-behaviourists, cognitivists, the neuroscience of emotion, the affect regulation revolution, interpersonal neurobiology, and so on.  In the end, after a lot of refinement, I present some guidelines on how to manage anger, anxiety and depression in a wholly new, holistic manner, involving management of the body-brain-mind-environment-whole which is the counselling client.

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This book is taking longer to proof read than I had expected.  I have two more substantial chapters to proof, and then the Conclusion; and then several appendices.

And then I want to construct an index, to make the book maximally user-friendly.

So, please watch this space for updates.***

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Email: dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629 (inside UK) – 44 1422 843 629 (outside)

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[1] Pinker, S. (2015) How the Mind Works.  London: Penguin Random House.

[2] Hobson, R.F. (1985) Forms of Feeling: The heart of psychotherapy. London: Routledge. Page 88.

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Holistic Counselling Book

My Book on E-CENT Counselling

Book-cover-frontUpdate – 10th May 2016

For the past couple of days I have been in possession of the printer’s proofs of my book on Holistic Counselling.  I intended to quickly check for layout and spelling issues, but have got bogged down in editing and rewriting some bits to make them even better.

I am about halfway through the proofing process, and so I hope to get the book to press very soon.

Watch this space!

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Managing anger

Blog Post No.140

By Dr Jim Byrne

Written on 30th January 2016.  Posted here on 6th may 2016

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Anger management appendix: The Emotional Revolution digested…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2016

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Prelude

MensGroup1.JPGI have wanted to write a blog for several days now, but I find it hard to free up the time.  Therefore, in this blog, I am going to take some short-cuts by updating you regarding some of the things I’ve been writing about.

Recent writing work

Today, I have managed to write an appendix on Anger Management, which begins like this:

Appendix D – How to control your anger

A holistic approach – by Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2016.

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Introduction

AppendixDnewbook.JPGIn this appendix, I will outline the four main processes that we recommend in E-CENT counselling for anger management control.  Briefly, these are: better management of (1) your diet, (2) physical exercise, (3) self-talk (or inner dialogue), and (4) relaxation/meditation.  But you will also need to work on (5) your relationships and (6) your communication skills.

In this appendix I will outline seven relatively simple and easy activities you can undertake, beginning today, to get your anger under control.  But first, you need to have a good understanding of the nature of anger.

Understanding anger

Anger is one of our basic emotions.  It’s innate.  It was selected by nature for its survival value.  We would not survive for long without an innate sense of angering in response to abuse or neglect.  We also would not survive for long if we did not quickly learn how to moderate our anger as young children.  My anger is a two-edged sword.  It can help to protect me, and it can attract hostile reactions from others.

My basic emotion of anger is elaborated into a higher cognitive emotion through modelling by my mother and father and significant others in the first few years of my life. And through my successful and unsuccessful experiences of engaging in conflict with others.

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Unhealthy-anger.JPGHealthy anger is present-time defence of your legitimate rights in the face of inappropriate behaviour by another person. Healthy or reasonable anger is the fuel that drives our assertive behaviours.  It pushes us to engage in constructive conflict, when that is necessary!

To ask for what you want, which is legitimately yours to request, requires a certain level of ‘fire in your belly’.  If you lack that fire (that reasonable level of anger), then you will tend to ‘wimp-out’, to act passively and let other people control you or intimidate you or deny you your reasonable share of the social stage.
Unhealthy or unreasonable anger is an over-reaction to a frustrating or insulting stimulus from another person or external force. Unhealthy or unreasonable anger leads to aggressive actions and destructive conflict.

As one author wrote about unhealthy anger:

“A psychotherapist once told me when he was training that, previously, he had been sure that all his angry feelings were brought forth by the person in front of him, but as he learnt more about the psyche (or mind) in general – and his own in particular – he changed from pointing the finger and saying, ‘You, you, you’; instead the finger went round in a circle until he was pointing at himself, and saying far more quietly, ‘Me, me, me’.  As I have said, self-observation is the very opposite of self-indulgence.  It makes self-responsibility possible”.

Philippa Perry, How to Stay Sane. Page 22.

~~~

What you need to realize is that you most likely have a dominant mood or background emotional state, which has been with you since early childhood, arising out of your relationships with mother, father and others.  This dominant mood may tend towards irritability, sadness, or fearfulness and worry; or some mixture or blending of all three of those basic moods.  Those individuals who have the biggest problems with anger outbursts and uncontrollable, aggressive anger tend to be those whose background moods are predominantly irritable.  On the other hand, individuals who have engaged in long-suffering of abuse or neglect, because of their fearful worrisome personalities, may eventually collect enough ‘brown stamps’ from social insults and frustrations to ‘allow them’ (or to give themselves permission) to flip over into payback mode with occasional angry outbursts.

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…end of extract.

~~~

So, that is the first two pages of a sixteen page appendix on Anger Management. I wrote that appendix to expand upon what I had written in Chapter 5 of my latest book on E-CENT counselling.  This is how Chapter 5 begins:

Chapter 5. Understanding and managing human emotions

5.1: Introduction

Theory-of-emotion.JPGBecause counsellors and psychotherapists deal with their clients’ emotions – (as well as their behaviours, goals, relationships and environmental stressors) – every system of counselling and therapy has to have a theory of emotion.  This, however, is problematical.

As one psychotherapist has pointed out: “The terms ‘feeling’ and ‘emotion’, and ‘affect’ are used in many different senses in psychology.  A review of more than twenty theories of emotion reveals a plethora of widely diverging technical definitions.  These vary with the technique of investigation, the general theoretical framework, and the value-judgements of the psychologist.  Often, they are so diverse as to defy comparison let alone synthesis”.

Since there is no universal agreement regarding the nature of human emotions in counselling and therapy, we, in E-CENT counselling, have to account for our own theory of emotion: to justify it, as well as defining and elaborating its elements.

5.2: Buddhism and Stoicism on emotion

E-CENT counselling has been influenced by Buddhist ideas and Stoic ideas, including some of their ideas about human emotions –  (in addition to attachment theory, neuroscience, affective neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology, and other disciplines – including Rational therapy, Transactional analysis, Moral philosophy, and so on).  With regard to Buddhism, it seems from The Dhammapada , that the Buddha taught that all human disturbance arises out of desire; and this idea is shared with Stoicism.

In E-CENT theory we have taken some of these ideas as points of departure, but we have also found serious flaws in both of those theories.

For examples:

  1. Regarding Buddhist theory: The opening lines of the Dhammapada are as follows:

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind”. (Page 1)  .

In my view, it would be more accurate to say:

(1) “What we are today comes from our thoughts (and feelings) about our experiences…”

So, we are not talking about disembodied thoughts, devoid of a stimulus in an external reality.  And we are not talking about beings that can think independently of their basic emotional wiring! People are emotionally wired up by their earliest relationships, and they live in the real world of good and bad experiences!

(2) “…and our present thoughts (Plus our feelings and actions, including eating, sleeping, relaxing, exercising, etc.) build our life of tomorrow…”

Thoughts-not-determinant.JPGSo our thoughts (about our experiences) do not act alone; they are not the sole determinant of our lives.

(3) “…our life is the creation of our mind” (Our mind Plus our relationships, plus our experiences; plus our diet, exercise, stressors – including economic and political circumstances, family life, and on and on).

So the Buddha can easily mislead the unwary; as the unwary were misled by Albert Elis and Aaron Beck – who downplayed the role of the environment in human experience; and Ellis downplayed the role of early childhood in shaping the later life of the social-individual. Those theorists also overlooked the importance of our eating of unhealthy diets; or our failure to exercise our bodies – all of which impacts our emotional states).

To serve our clients well, counsellors and psychotherapists need to be critical thinkers; to be awake; to be well informed (meaning widely read, and subject to multiple influences); and to think for ourselves.

…end of extract. Read more here.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com and dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org

01422 843 629 (UK) – 44 1422 843 629 (outside UK)

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On the problems of changing our habits

Dr Jim’s Blog: On the problems of changing our habits. Why we resist positive change

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 3rd May 2016

Background

According to Julia Cameron, and Dr James Pennebaker, there are great cognitive and emotional gains to be made from spending a few minutes each morning writing out our stream of consciousness – our thoughts, feelings, reflections, plans for the day, worries and goals and so on.

Many years ago, Renata and I discovered this process, and we both decided to try it out.  We found it very helpful in being more creative; more on top of our daily lives; and we believe it does promote physical and emotional wellbeing.

But over the years, Renata has kept up the practice – ‘religiously’.  But with me, it has come and gone.  And when I am not in the habit of writing my Daily Pages every morning, my mind becomes silted, and clogged up with undigested bits and bats, and I fail to resolve perfectly resolvable worries or strains for days and weeks at a time. Then I go back to writing my Daily Pages.

Recent resolve

I recently resolved to make the Daily Pages a daily habit for the rest of my life, because of the obvious advantages. On 20th April I constructed a list of the Benefits of writing my Daily Pages – three pages of stream of consciousness – and the Costs of not writing those pages.

I reviewed those lists on 20th April. I then wrote three pages reflective thoughts.

I forgot to review them on 21st – and also failed to write my pages on that day!

I resumed reviewing the Benefits and Costs on 22nd April, and I have kept it up since then – right up to this morning!

However: I almost forgot to write my Daily Pages this morning, so keen was I to get on with checking online developments on various websites; and updating my page about the launch of my Holistic Counselling book.***

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Book-cover-frontThen I wrote four lines of my pages, and went back online!  Why?  Do I have a self-sabotaging part of myself that wants to fail?  Wants to disrupt my 30 day experiment?

I certainly hope not.

So now I have to get back into the groove.

Here’s the drill:

Today is the 12th consecutive day of writing my Daily Pages, and the 13th day in the current series.

I will now review the Benefits of writing Daily Pages, and the Costs of not writing them, from my typed list:

Done √

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Reflections on this experience

It is really hard to learn new ideas, and to change old habits.  We have to review them over and over and over again.  This most likely results from what I call ‘frozen schemas’: packets of knowledge or information from the past which are resistant to change.  The best illustration I can think of is the resistance of a racist’s schemas for race-related information.  No amount of positive information about a minority ethnic person seems to dissolve the prejudices of a racist. A similar phenomenon is found with nationalism, tribalism, sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, etc.So if we want to change and grow, we have to keep reviewing our habitual behaviours (which reveal [by implication or inference] our habitual thoughts-feelings-attitudes). Then we have to work very hard, and intelligently, to change those behaviours-thoughts-feelings-attitudes.

How we are wired up

Our socially and emotionally significant thoughts-feelings-attitudes, are most likely memorized and stored in – or managed from – our left and right orbitofrontal cortices (OFCs).  (Damasio, 1998 – Descartes Error; and Hill, 2015 – Affect Regulation).

When we try to rethink our social-emotional situations, we most likely activate schemas (or ‘control patterns’) in our left frontal lobe and the upper region of our left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which were originally shaped by our social experiences; and those social experiences were at least partly linguistic, or were derived from language-based communications; or were understood by us in an (at least) partially language-based way.

An illustration of this left OFC type of schema, or frame, would be this: Watching [as a child] how my mother deals with my father, verbally and non-verbally; and how he responds, verbally and non-verbally.  Listening to her words, and relating them to earlier words of hers; earlier actions of hers; including how she thinks-feels-acts in relation to me.  But my right OFC would be offering up strong feeling states about what I am seeing; feelings that come from the past about my mother and father; how they both related to each other in the past; how each of them related to me in the past; and those right OFC feeling states would be completely non-verbal, but nevertheless drivers of my thinking-feeling-action potential in the present moment.  And the struggle between the (strong) right OFC (representing the habitual ways of the past) and the (weaker) left OFC (representing my desire for change today) is probably normally loaded in favour of the emotional-rigidity of the right.

Further reflection

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245When I decided to construct a list of the Benefits of writing my daily pages, every day, I was using the language and logic based functions of my left frontal lobe.  When I sit down each morning, and review those lists of Benefits and Costs, I am operating from my wilful, intentional, left frontal lobe, and the upper region of my left OFC.  And slowly, slowly, the upper region of my left OFC is influencing the lower, more emotional region of my left OFC.

But (I infer) there is some kind of resistance in the lower regions of my left OFC, and perhaps in my right OFC, to keeping up this practice of writing my Daily Pages.  Hence my strange behaviour this morning, of going online, and working at busy stuff, instead of writing my pages.

However, since I cannot see inside my own brain-mind, in order to corroborate any of these conclusions, I must also ask: Is there any other possible explanation for my strange (apparently self-sabotaging) behaviour this morning, after 12 days of success?

And I have to admit that there is:

  1. Firstly, I skipped taking my multivitamins and minerals before coming to my office this morning to write my pages; and although we should get most of our vitamins from our food, there is little doubt that everything that I put into my stomach has some effect on my total body-mind functioning! (See my new book on Holistic Counselling in Practice.***)
  2. I did not have to get up early this morning, and so I started writing my pages at least three hours later today than on the previous 12 days; hence it is obvious that my blood-sugar level must be very much lower today than it has been on previous days; and my blood sugar level is important to my brain-mind functioning. (See my new book on Holistic Counselling in Practice.***)

So, I will check again tomorrow, earlier in the day, and with my vitamins and minerals in my stomach, and more stable blood sugar levels, to see how easy or how difficult it is to write my Daily Pages.

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Why am I writing this?

MensGroup2Because I want you to understand how hard it is – how difficult – to change any human behaviour.  I want you to understand just how intentional and determined you have to be if you want to change yourself and your life!  The right limbic system, the right OFC, and the lower regions of the left OFC will all resist the brave and determined actions of your left frontal lobe and the upper region of your left OFC!

You can change your habits, but it will take a lot of effort.  And it will involve your whole body-mind.  Get some support in this process from somebody who understands the process!

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Executive Director

The Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)

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