Emotive-cognitive-embodied research and development

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ecent logo

Holistic Counselling and Psychotherapy – Clinical Research and Development

Promoting awareness of ‘individual humans’ as Socialized-Body-Brain-Mind-Environment-Complexities

Directors: Dr Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne

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Research – Development – Publications

Coaching – Counselling – Psychotherapy

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Our aims and concerns

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245This institute was created by Dr Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne in 2007. In the succeeding fifteen years, we have produced more than twenty five books which resulted from our research and development work on models of mind (or body-brain-mind) and approaches to counselling, coaching and psychotherapy. Our major concerns are:

– The development of a comprehensive model of the so-called individual (who is really a social-individual) which will serve to optimize counselling, coaching and psychotherapy; and to inform a whole body-mind approach to health coaching. (See Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, which explores the roles of diet, exercise and sleep in the maintenance of good physical and mental health; plus a review of our Windows Model for reframing experiences.  See also our new book [2020] on the connection between physical tension and emotional and behavioural problems).

– The recognition of the body and innate emotions (or affects) as the fundamental foundation of the socialised-individual: (Schore, 1994/2003; 2003a, and 2003b, in the Endnotes, below).

– The importance of attachment styles and personality adaptations to the social-emotional competence of socialized individuals: (Wallin, 2007 [in the Endnotes, below]; and Joines and Stewart, 2002[1]).

– The importance of coming to understand the nature of the human brain-mind of the socialized individual, by building a model upwards from the earliest days of babyhood: See Models of Mind for Counsellors; and A Major Critique of REBT)[2].

– And promoting awareness of the importance to the creation and maintenance of physical and mental health of the following factors:

# Diet/nutrition: (Taylor-Byrne and Byrne, 2017)[3].

# Physical exercise: (Taylor-Byrne and Byrne, 2017).

# Quality and quantity of regular sleep: (Taylor-Byrne, 2019)[4].

# Relaxation to overcome illness-inducing physical tension: (Taylor-Byrne, 2020)[5].

# Life-history (especially early childhood): (Byrne, 2018[6], and Byrne, various[7]).

# And philosophy of life (especially resilience promoting philosophies like Moderate Zen Buddhism, and Moderate Stoicism (but not Extreme Stoicism [or REBT]!)[8]

All of those factors (and more) are important in determining the ability of the organism (or person) to manage environmental stimuli, and especially environmental stressors; and in regulating their affects or emotions.

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The Holistic SOR Model

In the first few years of our existence, we developed and refined the Holistic SOR Model.

Holistic-SOR-Model

While the simple SOR model was created by an American psychologist, in the functionalist tradition – Robert Woodworth – in 1918 (or earlier – See Woodworth, 1929[9]); our model straddles most of the major schools of psychology and related subjects; including physiological psychology; nutritional science and nutritional psychiatry; sleep science; health coaching; scientific relaxation; attachment theory; personality adaptations theory; affect regulation theory; sports psychology; developmental psychology; neuroscience; and many others.

However, we do agree with Woodworth (1929) that the state of the organism – (or body-brain-mind of the socialized individual) – determines a person’s response to any particular stimulus.

But we then move way beyond Woodworth (1929) by clarifying the fact that there are a multitude of factors that affect the state of the organism, and not just ‘beliefs’, ‘thoughts’, or ‘lusting after mother’, or ‘schedules of reinforcement’. (And there is no point trying to psychoanalyze [or CBT-er-ize] a person who is chronically sleep-deprived, and lacking in sufficient glucose to fuel reasonable mental functioning! [Taylor-Byrne and Byrne, 2017; and Taylor-Byrne, 2019, in the endnotes, below].)

Postscript on 10th December 2022:

I am currently reading Leonard Mlodinow’s book, Emotional, and I picked up on the point that he makes about “core affect”. The suggestion is that we are always in a feeling/emoting state, positive or negative, and specific (anxious, joyful, angry, etc.), which is labelled as “core affect”, or our ongoing emotional processing state. This concept, according to Mlodinow, is not yet well understood by scientists, but there is widespread agreement that it is a reality that needs to be engaged with. This is compatible with the Holistic SOR Model, introduced above.

And it shatters the GABCDE model of REBT, which is also at the core of most forms of CBT. How does it do that?

Well, in Albert Ellis’s formulation of his expanded ABC’s of human disturbance, he eventually posited that we are Goal seekers (G) who run into Adversities (A), which triggers our Belief system (B), which causes a consequent outputting of emotion and behaviour.  But if the organism is already driven by “core affect” during it’s Goal seeking behaviour, its response to the Adversity can be accounted for by its current “core affect”, and does not need the extra “explanation” of “triggering a belief system”.

For a more detailed critique of the simplistic ABC’s of REBT, please see this book: A Major Critique of REBT)[2].

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Let us now begin – on the following page – to build up a statement of our more refined thinking.

At its simplest, the SOR model looks like this – For more, please click this link***:

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Or take a look at this:

My fictionalized autobiographical story of my journey from loveless detachment to loving-kindness and happy marriage

Kindle coverBy Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, December 2022

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On the page indicated in the link below, I want to present the words I used to introduce my new book on my long and difficult journey from maternal deprivation, through relative autistic dissociation, to reasonable emotional intelligence, and delightful loving-kindness and happy marriage. Please take a look and see what you think!

Go to: https://ecent-institute.org/fictionalized-autobiography-as-personal-therapy/

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Postscript about the importance of critical thinking and polymathic counselling theory

By Jim Byrne, 6th December 2022

“The unexamined life is not worth living”. (Plato)

“The truth will set you free!” (Bible, John 8:32.)

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Of course, it’s very hard work examining your life, and so most people never do it.

And finding out what is “true” is not easy. My own view is this: The truth is assumed to be equivalent to “what is factual”.

However, “Facts are records of events, which are no better and no worse than the person or device recording them”. (Novak and Godwin, 1984: Learning How to Learn.)

And I agree with the social constructionists[1], that the “truth” exists by social agreement, and that “there is no God’s eye-view from nowhere”.

The problem with current approaches to counselling and psychotherapy training, and counselling psychology training, is that in most cases, the counsellor begins their career by sitting in a classroom, in a university or further education college, where they are told what to believe – and (to a lesser extent!)  why to believe it – about the nature of humans, and of disturbed clients in particular.

Why is this a problem? Because most people do not have a developed sense of “critical reflection”, and tend to be gullible, and to believe what they are told; whether what they are told is a person-centred theory; or a cognitive- behavioural theory; or a psycho-dynamic theory. Unless they are critical thinkers, with a sense that “the levers of control are internal” – which is Julian Rotter’s “internal locus of control” – they are most likely to become enrolled in those ideological stances which are heavily pushed by external authorities and forces.

(Is it not outrageous to make such a claim about mature student counsellors? I think not, for the following reason [among several others!]: When I was studying for my doctorate in counselling, at the University of Manchester, UK, the director of studies was Dr William West. William several times made this statement: “There is research evidence to suggest that many or perhaps most counsellors do not read whole articles in their professional journals. They mostly just skim read the Abstracts”.

And what is wrong with that? Well, if they only read the abstracts, they have to either take the author’s conclusions at “face value” [as an act of faith!] or to reject them for some emotional reason! [I have searched online for a reference for William’s claim, but could not find one; so at this point in time, it is just my recollection of his claim!)

If William’s claim is true, regarding the practices of many counsellors (though not most; and certainly not all!) then it is a significant problem, because of the point made in the following extract from Wheeler and Elliott, 2008[i].

CPR on counsellors needing to be voractious readers

And here’s the online source for that article:

Wheeler and Elliott 2008 Reference

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Let me expand on that observation of mine, above, (that most people do not engage in critical reflection, but instead get enrolled into particular ideological beliefs, which they find (emotionally) persuasive. (Please note that this is – at this point in time – simply an observation of mine; an assertion of mine!)

Let me try to persuade you of this point. (Honest declaration of my intention!)

When I was a little boy, I was persuaded that Jesus Christ was God; that God came out of the womb of a virgin; that both Jesus and Mary ended up in Heaven (wherever that is!) – one by “ascending” – (Jesus went “up” on his own) – and one by “assumption” – Mary was “taken up”, not under her own steam. (If you told me, today, that “Mary is a universal archetype”, I would find that more credible!)

Of course, I am not taking an atheistic stance here. For me, the concept of God is co-terminus with the concept of nature. (That is to say, for me God is Nature ‘Naturing’; not nature natured! My own spiritual practice includes nightly Zen Meditation; frequent Chi Kung (as moving meditation); and subscription to Moderate Buddhist philosophy. (I could never be an Extreme Buddhist, just as I have abandoned Extreme Stoicism. “Moderation in all things. The middle way”).

When I was eighteen years old I moved from Catholic Ireland to “secular-democratic” England, where I was told (directly and indirectly) that this was the “best of all possible worlds”. (“You’ve never had it so good”! [Statement by the prime minister of that time, Alec Douglas-Home]). And so my Irish Catholicism quickly fell away, to be replaced by liberal values (“live and let live”). Which lasted until I was twenty-two years of age, when I stumbled into a Marxist group, and I was told about – and read about – the “fact” that “…the history of all hitherto society was a history of class struggle”; and not only was Britain not a “liberal democracy”, but it was one of the earliest capitalist societies, made up of wage slaves and capitalist exploiters.

And this (Marxist theory) was my belief system up to the age of 29 years, when I fell out of the Marxist group, in which my first wife had been having an affair with a “comrade” for about two years (during which time she was trying to have a baby with me!); and when we finally split, she was in fact eight months pregnant – which emotional mess almost tipped me “over the edge”. (I still think there is a good deal of truth in elements of the Marxist theory; but it has too many flaws to be able to fly, considering the failure of anybody anywhere to establish a substantial socialist society. And the major problem of the permanent need for state repression of greed and other capitalistic tendencies, which come out of the human soul – from the Bad Wolf side! [Capitalism did not fall from the skies. It is a very human – greedy human – tendency. It is neurotic, and anti-social, but also ubiquitous).

Anyway, I dropped politics (in 1976), and took up playing the guitar, especially the songs of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and I believed every line they wrote. And I felt every barb they felt; every wound they endured. (This was a step up for me, as I had been largely unaware of my feelings up to that point, and had no stories [poems or songs] to help me to process any emotional pain I might have endured!)

And then I went to Bangladesh. This proved to be a relatively moderate Muslim society, because it was “too far from Mecca” to be as rigid as the Saudis or the Pakistanis. I “went native”, spoke the best Bengali I could, and dressed like a Bangladeshi peasant, with a beard down to my diaphragm, and hair halfway down my back. I was not persuaded to become a Muslim, but I was somewhat influenced by some of the general values of that society. And (at the weekends; when I was not in the village, but back i the city of Dacca then [Dhaka today]) I mostly mixed with Ivy League Americans, and was somewhat influenced by their middle class values.

Then I moved to Thailand, cut my hair shorter because the urban Thais did not like ‘hippies’), shortened my beard, and began wearing French and Italian styled safari suits, and western shoes – as opposed to cheap, open sandals – (to fit in with the sharp fashions of Bangkok). And I became quite ambitious for wealth, which was in the air in Bangkok – though not at all in the Northeast Region, where I sometimes worked.

(In all of these descriptions of my behaviour, I emphasize the way in which I tended to be shaped by the external social environment. But I should also include the fact that, from time to time, rarely, but dramatically, I was able to break with the external pressures, and to “be me”. To be authentic. And even my migrations from one social environment to another may have been a non-consciously driven search for the environment which would “bring out the real me – or the best me”!?!)

Then I returned to the UK, from Thailand, and responded to the political environment by becoming a little bit of a political opponent of Thatcherism; and influenced by books to believe that Carl Rogers’ theory of the person was “right” and “good”; that Eric Berne had a “grand theory” in Transactional Analysis; and that “personal development” was not only possible, but also highly desirable.

But this time I was different. As I returned to the UK, I felt powerful forces trying to oblige me to squeeze myself back into a tiny. ‘low status’ box. But I had tasted freedom; and love; and professional success; and professional respect for my work. (I had experienced self-efficacy!) I had published two books and a highly regarded report whilst working overseas. (Actually, two of my reports attracted strong critical acclaim among my professional peers and senior colleagues!) And I (like the famous [or infamous] lady) was “not for turning”. I refused to shrink myself to fit the dominant ideology of the UK.

I spent the next 12-13 years trying to develop myself and my career, and I made a lot of progress – against terrible odds! I completed a lot of personal development work, attending courses, and reading widely; and undertaking personal therapy. I also trained myself to be highly creative.

And I worked hard to build a career – (making it to Deputy Chief Executive of an educational charity in Bradford) – but it all began to fall apart in 1992/3, when I was just 46 years young. In that year, 1992-93, I hit a major career crisis (due to cuts in government funding), and was facing financial and career ruin (whilst completing my masters degree). This caused me to turn to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) for “salvation”. Somebody persuaded me to try it.  I was immediately converted, and believed Albert Ellis when he said, or wrote, that people are not upset by what happens to them, but rather by the “irrational beliefs” they hold; that there are only FOUR such irrational beliefs; and that if I got rid of those four irrational beliefs, then I would never feel overly upset about anything. (This was like returning to the dogmatic beliefs of the Irish Catholic Church! It was comforting, and it was a way of detaching from my own feelings!)

And I rolled with that philosophy of life, from 1992 until 2007. It helped me to cope with the ego pain of losing my “grand career” (and my huge office!) – and the anxiety of my future financial difficulties – by turning me into an Extreme Stoic. A human who can behave like a lump of wood!

Then, in 1998, I set myself up as a Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist, in private practice, and began to teach my clients how to be an Extreme Stoic – or “chips off the Old (Wooden) Block!” 🙂

In the period 2005-2007, I got some good glimpses inside the Albert Ellis Institute in New York City, during the time that Ellis was ousted by his lieutenants, and I started a campaign to have him reinstated – and in the process I came to realize that some of the most irrational individuals I had ever met were running that “institution”. (Most of us who opposed the way it was run were also, I believe, acting irrationally, on the basis of our emotional resistance to reality, rather than on the basis of evidence)!

That experience woke me up for the first time in my life. At the age of 61 years young!

This time it was even more different than returning to the UK.

In all of my other transitions, I had been acting as if I believed in the External Locus of Control perspective – that the environment is stronger and more powerful than the desires and attitudes of the socialized individual). Somehow, in Bangladesh or Thailand, I had shifted from believing that I was controlled externally, to believing that I could take control of the reins of my life. (One of the most profound contributions to that change was probably reading a book entitled: “If there’s a problem here, I’m responsible”! Another was being loved by somebody who could wake me up to the power of love. Plus my success as a creative worker).

But my newly developed internal locus of control could not help with the problem of “cutting away” from Albert Ellis. Why not?

This time I was trapped, because I had developed an emotional attachment to Albert Ellis. Even when I realized that he had made some very serious errors in the development of his theory of REBT, I could not just walk away. I had internalized him, like my Good Dad. (My own father had been cold and distant, and often violent and frightening!) And thus I spent about six years “saying goodbye” to the then deceased Ellis (who died in 24th July 2007).

I had to write a lot of analytical papers in order to understand what was wrong with REBT. I had to do a monumental amount of critical reflection upon the writings of Albert Ellis. And I wrote six or seven annual letters to the deceased Ellis – who still lived in my mind – trying to clarify the problems I’d identified in REBT, and also trying to process my feelings about him!

I eventually published that collection of papers in this book:

A Major Critique of REBT:

Revealing the many errors in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Front cover3 of reissued REBT bookJim Byrne spent about twenty-five years as an acolyte of Albert Ellis’ system of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT); and about fifteen years as a Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist. During that time, he was at least as dogmatic as Dr Albert Ellis in asserting the value and virtues of REBT for sanity and happiness.

However, in the period 2005-2007, he witness at first hand the limitations of this form of “Amoral and Extreme Stoicism”, when it failed to maintain the sanity and happiness of the denizens of 45 East 65th Street, New York City; where a civil war was fought out by the declining Ellis and the rising stars of highly-irrational REBT!

There was a need to clarify the bottom line of Dr Byrne’s critique of REBT, and that has been done in a 22 page Preface to this reissued, 2019 edition of his major critique.

Also, we have added a reference to the research which shows that emotional pain and physical pain are both mediated and processed through significantly overlapping neural networks, which contradicts Dr Ellis’s claim that nobody could hurt you, except with a baseball bat.

Available in paperback and low-cost Kindle eBook formats.

Learn more.***

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I could not have conducted this major critique of REBT if I had not studied critical thinking skills as part of my doctoral research journey. What I discovered during my research was that, although every doctoral candidate is obliged to include an ethical assessment of their research, in their doctoral research proposal, none of the doctoral candidates to whom I spoke, and interviewed, had a strong grip on how to conduct such an assessment. That is to say, they all “felt” their research proposals were ethical, but they did not know how to substantiate that claim using reasoned argument. And the people who vetted their research proposals did not detect that these proposals did not contain reasoned arguments regarding the ethics of the research proposed.

My doctoral research was about just how to do that kind of “reasoning about ethical issues”.

(It seems that almost all of the medical doctors, or physicians, in the western world have been afflicted by this blindness to the unethical nature of some proposals to impose certain experimental medical procedures upon whole populations, without the need to get their fully informed consent. In recent years governments have engaged in fear-mongering to encourage frightened citizens to accept experimental medical interventions. This raises issues about External Locus of Control – in those doctors and citizens – and the lack of critical reflection skills in whole populations! And abuse of power, and violation of ethical standards. by bought and paid for politicians, who should be serving their citizenry, but are actually serving anybody who will bung them a few quid! Or line their nest after they leave office! [But enough about politics!))

So I had moved into a new space in my life; one in which I no longer allowed myself to be enrolled unthinkingly into any ideology, but instead, I always critically evaluate any argument – or implicit argument – that I come across.

That critical thinking approach led me to develop, with the support of Renata Taylor-Byrne, my wife and life partner, Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) – which aims to be the most comprehensive, virtually polymathic system of counselling and therapy.  See the web page entitled What is E-CENT, on this site.***

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In the next piece that I will write in this thread, I want to take a look at the work of Dr Allan Schore, and to show that he can be just as misleading as Dr Albert Ellis, to the unwary reader of his amazing research findings. (Dr Schore has done a massive amount of good for the counselling and therapy profession – and especially for the psychoanalytically oriented schools. But in the process, he [accidentally] smuggled a whopping over-generalization into his published writings, which can only be detected by the highly discerning critical reflectors who read his work!)

I will then move on to the ways in which “specialists” in general tend to distort reality, by inadvertently persuading their readers that their “limited conclusions” are in some senses “unlimited”. That their findings are the be-all and end-all of the subject (in our case, the subject of optimizing human functioning in the real, social world).

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Endnotes

[1] “Social constructionism is a general term sometimes applied to theories that emphasize the socially created nature of social life. Of course, in one sense all sociologists would argue this, so the term can easily become devoid of meaning. More specifically, however, the emphasis on social constructionism is usually traced back at least to the work of William Isaac Thomas and the Chicago sociologists, as well as the phenomenological sociologists and philosophers such as Alfred Schutz. Such approaches emphasize the idea that society is actively and creatively produced by human beings. They portray the world as made or invented—rather than merely given or taken for granted. Social worlds are interpretive nets woven by individuals and groups.

“The term formally entered the sociological vocabulary through Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann ‘s The Social Construction of Reality (1966), which attempts an innovative synthesis of the ideas of Émile Durkheim and George Herbert Mead. For Berger and Luckmann, the basic features of social order are captured in the principle that ‘Society is a human product. Society is an objective reality. Man is a social product’.”

Source: Oxford Reference: Online here: https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100515181

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[i] Wheeler, Sue, and Elliott, Robert. (2008). ‘What do counsellors and psychotherapists need to know about research?’ Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, Vol.8, pp133-135. Online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232989556_What_do_counsellors_and_psychotherapists_need_to_know_about_research. Accessed on 6th December 2022.