Body, brain and mind in human disturbance

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Blog Post 3 – 25th February 2021

The causes and cures of emotional distress in counselling clients

Authors: Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne

Copyright (c) 2021

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brick-man-image2Long before the emergence of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – and its original form was Rational Therapy, which appeared in 1954-ish – there was an appreciation that a human being was a whole body-brain-mind (although this was undermined significantly by Rene Descartes’s ‘cogito, ergo sum’).  The Freudians were frustrated because so much of our “emotional wiring” is below the level of conscious awareness.  They thought they could develop a science for “externalizing the unconscious” – but we believe that the bulk of our non-narrativized experience from childhood onwards is not just “below the level of conscious awareness”, but also “permanently beyond Direct Conscious Inspection”. We can infer it, but we can never know it directly!

(See our book, Models of Mind for Counsellors.***)

Later, the behaviourists argued that because we cannot see inside the “so-called mind”, we should keep our focus upon observable behaviour – and this approach gave rise to a few different forms of behaviour therapy. 

Then, the “cognitive turn” – driven by the development of computer technology, during WWII, plus research by Jean Piaget with children undertaking IQ tests – persuaded some psychologists in America that what goes on inside of the brain-mind is “cognitions” (which Albert Ellis translated into “self-talk” and “irrational beliefs”; and Tim Beck followed up with “Negative Automatic Thoughts”).

Front cover3 of reissued REBT bookAlthough Dr Albert Ellis and Dr Tim Beck argued that our emotional distress is caused by our own thoughts and beliefs, in E-CENT counselling we argue that emotional disturbances are multi-causal phenomena.  Some of the causal factors determining our emotional state include the quality and quantity of our sleep; diet and exercise; gut bacteria; self-talk (or self-story), environmental restimulation of feelings from the past, relaxation, meditation, current relationships, historic relationships, and general environmental stressors, etc.  Here is a brief insight into the gut-brain-emotion axis, from Celeste McGovern:

“Anyone who has ever felt nauseous or lost their appetite because of grief, fear or shock, knows that stress has an impact on the gut.  It has been more than a decade since animal studies began making the correlation between stress and changes in gut microbes.  The connection between stress, depression and anxiety is well established, and dozens of studies are now looking at how these conditions affect bugs in the gut.  The big questions – such as which comes first, the microbe shift or the depression – have yet to be answered. Because it’s a two-way street, though, it looks as if correcting the gut microbiome (or gut bacteria population, variety and balance JWB) could be a new way to treat depression”.  (Footnote: Dinan, T.G. and Cryan, J.F. 2013, Sept; 25(9): Pages 713-719: Melancholic microbes: a link between gut microbiota and depression?  Available online).

Quotation from: Celeste McGovern (2017) Bugs in the system. What Doctors Don’t Tell You, Jan 2017, Pages 28-36).

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Comment: Our way of understanding this new research is this: Food is probably going to prove to be one of the best medicines for emotional distress (all other things being equal – including adequate sleep, stress level, current relationships, historic relationships, regular physical exercise, and so on.  [Holistic. Holistic. Holistic!])  And supplementation with friendly gut bacteria, combined with eating the right kinds of foods will prove to be important.  Big Pharma’s drugs for emotional distress have proved to be a social disaster!

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Front cover, Lifestyle Counselling, 2020Our approach to counselling focuses on the whole person: body-brain-mind-environment. 

We care about your feelings and your difficulties. 

We care about your relationships and goals in life.

We link those concerns to your approach to exercise, relaxation, life balance, and various other factors.  For example, we do not overlook your philosophy of life.

Last year we posted this statement…

“Anybody can read philosophy uncritically, and believe what they read.  But we must develop the ability to critically evaluate what we read.  For example:

– Epictetus (a former Roman slave) wrote (in the Enchiridion) that people are not upset by their experiences of life, but rather by their evaluations of those experiences,

– However, the contrary view was expressed by Epicurus (a Greek philosopher), who taught us that ’the cry of the flesh’ to be free from hunger, cold and thirst, is far louder than our weak, little mental evaluations of hunger, cold and thirst!”

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We continue to develop our ideas about the body-brain-mind of the counselling client, and most of our publications on this subject can be found here, on The ABC Bookstore Online.***

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Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim and Renata

Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne, practitioners of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)

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

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