Albert Ellis’s childhood shaped REBT

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Blog Post No.117

Posted on 13th March 2017 – (Originally posted on 5th February 2015).

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A counsellor blogs about John Reinhard’s misquoting of Dr Byrne’s book about the childhood of Albert Ellis…

Copyright ©Jim Byrne, 2015/2017

Introduction

It is not easy being me!

(It’s not easy being anybody – but I mostly know about me!)

rebt-whats-wrongI wrote a book on the childhood of Albert Ellis, with the intention of correcting the mistakes that persist in REBT (and presumably in derived forms of CBT), which arose out of the psychological trauma inflicted upon Little Albert Ellis by his neglectful parents.  My hope was that followers of REBT would take this critique seriously, and set about reforming REBT to make it less distorted by Ellis’s unresolved neuroses – mainly avoidance of emotion, and his (largely successful) attempts to suppress all thought of childhood trauma, in…

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Counselling tasks and relationships…

Blog Post No.132

Reposted on 1st June 2016 (Originally posted on Monday 12th October 2015)

Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2015

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A counsellor blogs about three processes commonly found in E-CENT counselling…

Introduction

Courage-and-counselling.JPGCounselling and therapy, with a good therapist, offers a wonderful chance to have a better, happier, more meaningful life.  But people pass by this opportunity all too easily, on the way to the pub; the cake shop; the sweet shop; or one thousand and one other distractions and diversions.

I have often discussed with Renata the barriers that people put in the way of doing their therapy – of cleaning up their childhood history – and of learning to relate in the present moment in a loving and enjoyable way.  Here is one of the biggest barriers to entering counselling and therapy, as outlined by M. Scott Peck[1]:

“Entering psychotherapy is an act of the greatest courage.  The primary reason people do not undergo psychotherapy is not that they lack the money but that they lack the courage.  This even includes many (counsellors/ psychotherapists and) psychiatrists themselves, who somehow never quite seem to find it convenient to enter their own therapy…”  In general, psychotherapy clients are much stronger and healthier than the average.

My aim in this blog post is to help you to get a flavour of what it would be like to engage in E-CENT counselling, coaching or psychotherapy.

Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT), and E-CENT counselling and coaching, do not follow a rigid session structure.  We tailor our guidance, support and teaching to the needs of the individual client.

We do have a range of classic models that we use, and an equally extensive range of guiding principles.  But it often happens that a particular format emerges in our sessions (say, somewhat more than fifty percent of the time); which has the following three major elements:

  1. Affirmation of the client’s perceptions and feelings

Counselling-empahty.JPGWhen a new client arrives with an emotionally disturbing problem, we do not try to talk the client out of their perceptions and feelings.  We take it as read that their reactions are proportionate to the problem as they see it.  We look at them and their problems with the eyes of emotional empathy and understanding.  We engage in non-possessive caring, like many client-centred counsellors do.  But we go further in affirming the client as an emotional being.  We follow the guidance of Dr Robert Hobson in that we speak to our clients in a ‘feeling language’.

“The language of the world of things is literal and discursive (or cool and logical) whereas person-talk calls for a ‘language of the heart’, which I term feeling-language.  In order to ‘disclose’ to someone what I mean … I would have to tell stories … first one story, then another story … until ‘the penny drops’.  … (This) calls for a language which is more akin to an art form…:  A language not of ‘facts’ but of feeling”.[2]

We seek to re-parent and befriend our clients, in a specific, professional way; again as influenced by Robert Hobson

“Ian Suttie … regarded psychotherapy as a quest for a ‘companionship’ with the client.  He drew attention to the embarrassed ‘taboo on tenderness’ which scares us all, especially ‘scientific’ psychotherapists.  There is no more effective barrier to treatment (in counselling and therapy).  Tenderness is akin to that of the loving relationship between the child and mother which is formed ‘with the intention of severance’.  The therapist needs to be a ‘mother’ (and a ‘father’), but s/he must move towards ‘friendship’, a more equal personal relationship”.  (Page 212).

By affirming our clients as they are, we create trust and hope and we often stimulate their capacity to love, which they apply in their relationships back home.  This is discussed by Hobson like this:

“The infant has potentialities to develop complex modes of experience and diverse patterns of behaviour.  These inborn tendencies need to be activated (made ‘actual’) by people and things in his environment.  Of crucial importance is the capacity to form rewarding attachments to particular persons, first to the mother and then to other people.  The success of psychotherapy, the well-being of any society, and perhaps the future of mankind, depends upon whether or not, and under what conditions, love can grow”. (Page 151).

As pointed out by Dr David Wallin, if this does not happen in the client’s actual childhood, then the develop insecure attachment style; but their brain-mind remains malleable, and they can get this missing ‘secure base’ in counselling and therapy relationships, during their adult lives:

“Very much as the original attachment relationship(s) (with mother and father) allowed the child to develop, it is ultimately the new relationship of attachment with the (counsellor) that allows the (client) to change. To paraphrase Bowlby (1988), such a relationship provides a secure base that enables the (client) to take the risk of feeling what s/he is not supposed to feel and knowing what s/he is not supposed to know”. (Wallin, page 3)[3].

E-CENT counselling and therapy provide a relationship within which to explore problems of personal relationships. Again, we have been influenced by the views of Robert Hobson:

“Problems in personal relationships cannot be solved by talking about them, by explaining them from outside.  They can only be explored and tackled effectively in the experience of being within a relationship”. (Hobson, Page 183). The counsellor’s role is to provide a ‘secure space’, and also to promote autonomy of the client.

So we work at developing our relationships with our clients; to become a secure base for them; to affirm them; and to help them to develop a secure attachment to us.  But at some point, sooner or later, we move on to exploring a range of ways of looking at the client’s problems.

~~~

  1. Exploring a range of different interpretations

Naive-realismFolk-psychology (or ‘common sense’) misleads counselling clients into thinking that ‘what they see is all there is’; and that they have the capacity to see ‘reality’ directly.  This is not how philosophers and psychologists understand the world.

I have written about this in the introduction to one of my articles on how to look at any problem from several different perspectives.  This is what I wrote: “We do not see with our eyes so much as with our brains.  Eyes are part of the machinery of perception, but the decisions (or judgement) about ‘what it is’ that we see are not made by our eyes.

Those decisions are made by our ‘stored experiences’ driving our ‘judgements’.  We do not see ‘external events’ so much with our eyes, then, as we see them through ‘frames of reference and interpretation’ which were created in the past, and which we now implement as habit-based stimulus-response pairings.  Or we could call these responses ‘pattern matching’ processes.  We non-consciously conclude: ‘I’ve seen this stimulus (or ‘external event’) before.  This (particular interpretation) is the sense I made of it last time.  So that is how I have to relate to it this time’.”[4]

So, when our clients come to see us, we know they will have their own interpretations of their experiences, and some of those interpretations will be unhelpful, and actually emotionally disturbing for them.

E-CENT counselling teaches that there are many helpful perspectives on life, some of which come from Buddhism and some from Stoic philosophyOne of those perspectives was popularized in the 1980s by M. Scott Peck.  This is it: “Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”. (Scott Peck, 1990, page 13).

So we teach that life is difficult, and that it has to be faced.  We try to help our clients to loosen their interpretations; to explore their stories; to create new narrative.  This can be seen to be a ‘playful’ process, as described by Robert Hobson, who writes that:

“Donald Winnicott speaks of (counselling and) psychotherapy as a means of bringing someone into a state of being able to play, when previously this had been impossible.  In play, there is a childlike (but yet also adult) dissolution, reconstruction, and re-organization of memories, experiences, and events”. (Hobson, page 243).

In the playfulness of exploring narratives of your earlier life, you may have the startling but gratifying experience of creating a new life for yourself (because it is newly interpreted).

But it is rare that you can do this without facing up to some buried pain from the past.  Some pain that hurts, but does not kill!

~~~

  1. Helping the client to digest previously undigested experiences

Deferred-workFreud knew that we need to put some problems on one side, when we are young, because we do not feel strong enough to process them.  But we need to return to those problems when we are older.  We have to eventually digest them, chew them up, so we can be rid of their negative effects on our non-conscious functioning in the here and now.

E-CENT counselling teaches that life is difficult, but that you have to face up to the difficulty – to both experience it and reframe it – in order to make it ‘go away’.  According to Scott Peck:  “What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one.  Problems, depending upon their nature, evoke in us frustration or grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger, or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair.  These are uncomfortable feelings, often very uncomfortable, often as painful as any kind of physical pain, sometimes equalling the very worst kind of physical pain.  Indeed, it is because of the pain that events or conflicts engender in us that we call them problems.  And since life poses an endless series of problems, life is always difficult and is full of pain as well as joy”.  (Page 14).

E-CENT counselling advocates ‘completing our experience’ of difficulties in our lives. The sooner we face up to the pain in our lives – the difficult parts, that involve some suffering – and process it, and digest it, the sooner we can get on with the pleasant and enjoyable parts:

In 2011, I wrote a paper on the importance of not just reframing your experience, so it look less threatening or frustrating or depressing; but also of completing your experience, by ‘allowing it to be’; ‘facing up to it’; ‘digesting it’; and feeling the pain.  This is how that paper began:

Preface

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life”.  Virginia Woolf

“Whatever you resist persists”.  Werner Erhard

The core of the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) is built around the concept of “reframing your experience” of life, so that it will show up in a more tolerable and bearable way than if you frame it illogically and unreasonably.  Normally the client knows what the problem is.  It is available to their conscious awareness.  And the E-CENT counsellor encourages them to look at it through a variety of ‘lenses’ or ‘windows’, so they can see it differently. (Byrne, 2009b).

On the other hand, sometimes a client may have a problem buried in their past, about which they know nothing, and this buried problem – this ‘denied pain’ – is the main driver of their current depression, anxiety, panic, or anger.  With these kinds of archaic problems of repression, we use techniques related to the concept of “digging up” and “completing” that archaic experience; of “digesting it”; so it can be filed away in an inactive file, in the background of their life, where it cannot cause them any more psychological problems.[5]

~~~

When we are vulnerable children, a certain amount of denial of pain is helpful for survival; but this strategy of denial has to be abandoned in adulthood, and we have to face up to the truth of where we began, and what we experienced, and how it hurt or harmed us at that time.  Only then can we burn it up in the glare of consciousness; and file it away in inactive files in long-term memory; where it will no longer bother us.

As M. Scott Peck argues: “…Let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity for suffering and the value thereof; the need to face problems directly and to experience the pain involved.  I have stated that discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. It will become clear that these tools are techniques of suffering, means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work them through and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process.  When we teach ourselves and our children discipline, we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow”. (Page 15).

When we try to resist unavoidable pain – necessary pain, such as the pain of an actual loss – we get stuck with it.  When we face up to it, and fully experience it – digest it – it can then dissolve and disappear over time.

~~~

So, it clearly takes courage to come to counselling and therapy.  It can be a bit like going to the dentist.  But you would not let your teeth rot to avoid the pain of the dental exam; so why let your heart and mind rot because of your fear of facing up to legitimate emotional grief, or hurt, or sadness?

~~~

If you are ready to do your therapy now, and you want to explore what Renata and I have to offer, then please take a look at:

Division 1: Jim’s counselling and psychotherapy services.***

Division 2: Renata’s coaching and counselling services.***

~~~

I hope you find this blog post helpful.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

~~~

 

[1] M. Scott Peck (1990) The Road Less Travelled: The new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth.  Pages 55-56. (112)

[2] Robert F. Hobson, Forms of Feeling: The heart of psychotherapy, Page 20. (25)

[3] Dr David Wallin, Attachment in Psychotherapy, 2007, page 3.

[4] Dr Jim Byrne, An Introduction to the Windows Model of E-CENT, http://www.abc-counselling.com/id174.html

[5] Dr Jim Byrne (2011) E-CENT Paper No.13: Completing your past experience of difficult events, perceptions, and painful emotions. http://www.abc-counselling.com/id356.html

~~~

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.

~~~

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)

~~~

[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.

~~~

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!

~~~

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

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

…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.***

~~~

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)

~~~

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.***

~~~

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 √

~~~

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!

~~~

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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Updates to the E-CENT Institute website

I have today made a few updates to this website.

Firstly, I have fixed a few problems with the E-CENT articles and papers page.

I have also fixed some problems with images.

This website is going through some teething problems at the moment, but thse should be fixed very soon.

I hope you enjoy the content.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne