Understanding and resolving childhood developmental trauma and other traumas

Blog Post – 13th October 2021

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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How to resolve childhood developmental trauma and other undigested traumas: A low-cost, self-help approach

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Traumatic Dragons dBook cover, 2Two days ago, I published a low cost eBook about my system of self-help therapy for childhood developmental trauma, which can also be used with later-developing traumas. This books represents the culmination of many years of research, application, and writing.

I have spent almost twenty-five years working with counselling clients with some degree of trauma, from childhood or later periods of their lives. Some of those traumas were mild to moderate, bout some were much more serious.

I also had to resolve my own developmental trauma, resulting from my highly dysfunctional family of origin.

Here is a quick insight into the approach I have developed:

baby child close up crying

Trauma does not just affect our consciousness; our memories; our minds. Modern neuroscience, since the 1990’s, has revealed to us just how much the brains of traumatized individuals are changed (for the worst) by their horrible experiences.  Trauma leaves its imprint on our brain, our mind and our body. And these imprints affect how we think, feel and behave in later life, even decades after the traumatic experience. Trauma changes our perceptions, and our capacity to think/feel. But even when we begin to think/ feel about our traumatic experience – and to create a helpful story of what happened – we are still left with the imprints in our bodies: the automatic physical and hormonal responses to present-time reminders of the trauma inflicted on us back there; back then.  The ‘there and then’ is always with us, in our bodies, here and now: unless and until we process those physical and hormonal responses. To quote Van der Kolk again: “For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed, and to live in the reality of the present”. (Page 21).

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The insights and techniques that this book reveals

Jim and the Buddha, 2Out of all of my experience, research and clinical application, I gradually evolved three processes for resolving problems of undigested traumatic experiences:

Here are some insights into the range of subjects addressed in this low-cost eBook:

Chapter 2 defines and describes the kinds of ‘emotional dragons’ produced by childhood trauma.

Chapter 3 contains six case studies of individuals who were traumatized, and how they began to tackle their recovery.

Chapter 4(A) explores the science of sleep, and what that tells us about how to support your own mental and physical health; and how to process traumatic memories.

Chapter 4(B) introduces you to some helpful ideas about the use of physical exercise for the reduction of emotional hyper- or hypo-arousal. (Hyper arousal [or over-arousal] includes anger and anxiety; while hypo-arousal [or under-arousal] includes depression, inappropriate guilt and inappropriate shame; plus shut-down, dissociation, fainting/freezing, etc. [We also acknowledge that the more intense forms of hypo-arousal are best helped by interpersonal contact with a reassuring person!])

Chapter 5 presents some educational guidelines on the subject of the kinds of foods to eat, and the kinds of foods to avoid, for good physical and mental health.

Chapter 6 shows you how to ‘re-frame’ (or re-think and re-feel) your less-than-traumatic emotional disturbances, so they can be digested and have their ‘sting’ removed. This is a form of preparation, or self-training, for the more difficult later stages of facing up to medium range traumatic memories; and then, and only then, to your worst traumatic dragons.

Traumatic Dragons dBook cover, 2Chapter 7 teaches you how to breathe in order to calm your overly-aroused autonomic (or automatic) nervous system; to switch on, or increase the power of, your rest-and-digest response (which switches off, or reduces, your fight-or-flight response).

Chapter 8 is a gentle introduction to the habit of keeping a daily journal – (or at least three times weekly journal). You will need this habit and skill when you get to the Interoceptive Windows Model, in Chapter 12.

Chapter 9 introduces you to a very powerful process – which is simple and easy to do – which will teach you how to remove tension from your muscles, and that will reduce some aspects of your body-memory of trauma.

Chapter 10 explores a useful concept, which is how to ‘complete’ an undigested experience from the past; why you should do that in order to make it ‘disappear’; and it also includes ten exercises to help you to complete some of your old, less-intense traumatic experiences.

Chapter 11 shows you how to do Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of trauma.

Chapter 12 deals with your most intense traumatic memories. Here we begin with the problem that many of our childhood traumas are not available to our conscious mind.  Amnesia is a common problem with trauma survivors. So we have to try to ‘surface them’ (or ‘dig them up’) – over a prolonged period of time; between months and years – using forms of association of ideas, images, and physical sensations.  This process is tackled in your journal, and combined with therapeutic breathing exercises and physical movement.

Traumatic Dragons dBook cover, 2Chapter 13 introduces you to:

– Some helpful ideas about how to write therapeutic stories about various aspects of your childhood, which are likely to surface;

– Or how to access some additional traumatic memories.

– And this is combined with some processes that will help you to digest those memories.

Chapter 14 introduces you to Mindful Meditation, which has also been shown to help to reduce the symptoms of trauma.

In Chapter 15 we pull all of the ideas in this book into a brief conclusion.

Then there is a series of appendices, as follows:

Appendix A provides you with a scale for assessing just how bad any particular problem is; which will help you when you are working through Chapter 6, in which you will be introduced to the process of reframing surface level problems, (which are not particularly traumatic or overly-upsetting).

Appendix B will help you to deepen your understanding of the nature of human emotions in general; and how to better manage your own emotions, using a whole body-brain-mind approach.

Appendix C deals with how to communicate assertively – and to maintain reasonable personal boundaries – which is designed to help to correct some developmental deficits.

Traumatic Dragons dBook cover, 2Appendix D aims to help you to learn how to reduce and control one of your depowering ‘sub-personalities’: your Bad Inner Critic.

Appendix E is an introduction to the Polyvagal theory, which helps us to improve our understanding of how the ‘freeze response’, or dissociation, or shutting down, is related to the fight-or-flight response; and how the social-engagement system can bring us out of shut-down.

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This book could save you the hard labour of reading all of those books and papers that I have studied over a 25-year period!

To see the book on Amazon, please go to Amazon eBook on Trauma.***

But for more information about this book, please go to ABC Bookstore: Traumatic Dragons book.***

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I hope you find this information interesting and helpful.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

Principal Director of the E-CENT Institute

E-CENT logo 1 red line

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Childhood trauma and adult trauma therapy

Blog post:

Monday 13th September 2021

Dr Jim Byrne

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The stored experiences of trauma in the human body-brain-mind; and how to dig them up and process them

Introduction

1, A New Dragons Trauma book coverMost people are unaware of the trauma they carry in their body-brain-mind. Why? Because our earliest experiences seem to us to be “normal”, no matter how awful or ghastly they may objectively be.  We think of our parents as normal; and ourselves as normal; and the experiences we have (including abuse and neglect), as normal.

So we cannot construct a narrative of trauma; because we lack any significant distinctions that we could use for that purpose.

To discover our own trauma, we have first to be reflected back to ourselves by somebody who came from a “more truly normal” background – or somebody who has healed their body-brain-mind of their traumatic experiences.

The world needs more “mirrors” of this kind. Some of the outstanding “mirrors of trauma” in the world today include: Bessel van der Kolk; Allan Schore; Judith Herman. But my all-time hero in this field was, of course John Bowlby.  And let us not forget that he was castigated and outlawed by the British psychoanalytic movement for decades before attachment theory began to make breakthroughs because of its usefulness in the field of developmental psychology.

Today, are stand on the threshold of a more humane world; if only the “mirrors of trauma” can keep on shining; and are not “blacked out” by the forces of evil on this fragile, endangered planet.

My experience

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleOver a period of almost 25 years, I have “picked up the pieces” of some horrible childhood histories.

I have a special capacity – skill, ability – to deal with these problems, most likely because I came from a traumatizing background, and I’ve spent many years resolving my own developmental trauma (using a wide range of therapeutic strategies; and fortuitous relationships), and learning to live a full and happy life.

The outcome

Now I have written up the kinds of processes that I have used with my own clients over those years, in a form which is usable by self-help enthusiasts. And it could also be a good learning resource for new counsellors and psychotherapists who are moving into the field of trauma work.

These processes can be summarized in three forms – which are addressed once the reader has achieved some degree of safety and security in their life.  Those forms are:

– Re-framing (re-interpreting, or re-storying) of traumatic experiences (starting with low level upsets; and proceeding upwards with caution);

– Confronting and completing (in body-mind forms) medium range traumatic experiences;

– And, finally, digesting higher intensity traumatic symptoms; through processes including: writing therapy, combined with re-framing and completion; and with bodily sensations and breath-work; and several other whole body-brain-mind strategies.

Some key outcomes achieved

1, A New Dragons Trauma book coverThe benefits to be derived from this kind of work are enormous:

Sleep is improved; digestion and breathing become normal; anxiety and depression are cleared up; social relationships become less stressful; physical and mental health improve; and so on.

To find out more about this revolutionary new psychotherapeutic strategy, please take a look at: How to Resolve Childhood Developmental Trauma.

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Best wishes,

Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Autobiographical and social-psychological investigation of childhood trauma

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Blog post 2 – 6th August 2021

The archaeology of childhood traumatic stories – An auto-ethnographical approach

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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My own trauma journey

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleLong before I got down to writing about the trauma problems of other people, I had to work on my own childhood trauma damage.  One of the ways that I did that was to write my own autobiographical stories about my origins and my ‘relationships’.  Beginning with my story of origins, and moving on to my story of relationship problems, I eventually found my way into attachment theory and the work of Dr Allan Schore on the traumatizing effects of serious disruptions to early attachment bonds between mother and baby.

One of the main ways I did this work was to create an ‘alter ego’ – who I called Daniel O’Beeve.  I then put Daniel into those situations through which I have lived, and which I could dredge up from my memory banks; and I observed how he got on – from the ‘outside’ – (objectification!).  I then retrieved a lot of my old traumatic nightmares, and rewrote them in a literary style.

And then I created a set of ‘alien psychologists’ who could observe Daniel’s journey, through a “wormhole in space-time”, and to make comments about how to understand what is going on in his life, in a way that Daniel and I could never have commented! (Clearly this has to be called “a fictionalized autobiographical story”; and none of the characters in this story should be confused with any real individual, living or dead!)

I published all of that work in a book called Metal Dog – Long Road Home. And this is the Amazon books description of that book:

Book description

We are unaware of our childhood traumasDaniel O’Beeve was a victim of childhood developmental trauma, before anybody had even thought to conceive of such a concept.  He was a victim of abuse and neglect long before anybody gave a damn about the emotional welfare of children.

Daniel’s parents were both born into highly dysfunctional families; poor rural families that lived from hand to mouth; families who had been trained by the priests to “beat the fear of God” into their children.

Daniel’s parents did not love each other.  They had an arranged marriage, and never learned to even like each other.

When Daniel was just eighteen months old, his father lost his farm and had to move to Dublin city, to eke out an existence as a gardener. Daniel was born into this mess. Unloved and unloving; beaten and emotionally abused; he grew up with very low emotional intelligence; no capacity to make contact with another human being; and a fear of everything that moved suddenly or rapidly.

He was then thrown into a city school at the age of four years, into a playground in which he was the only “culchie” (or hill billy) – in a sea of “city slickers” (called “Jackeens” by Daniel’s parents) – and this was against a backdrop of dreadful (‘racist’) antipathy between the Dublin and rural cultures in general. 

In ten years of public schooling, Daniel did not make a single friend.

With no map of healthy human love, or workable human relations, he entered the world of work at the age of fourteen, like a drunk thrown out of a pub, late at night, in total darkness, mind reeling, and feelings jangled; and from this point forward he has to try to make sense of life; to make sense of relationships with girls; and to make some kind of life for himself.

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleFor more, please go to Metal Dog – Long Road Home.

This is where I reveal some of the ways in which my childhood trauma affected my difficulties with trying to “got off” with a girl or woman, in a way that might possibly work. For more, please go to Metal Dog – Long Road Home.

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That’s all for now. One day I will write up the precise methodology used in this work; but until then, try this outcome or product of my work.  It contains rich clues to the ways in which a child can be damaged by our current family and community structures. And it is rich in psychological insights.

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Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

The Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy

ABC Bookstore Online UK

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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Childhood developmental trauma and autobiographical writing

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Blog Post D3: Theory of trauma and childhood brain development

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

1st July 2021

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Daniel O’Beeve’s Development Trauma, and the long road to recovery

A case study in recovery from childhood trauma

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2021

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Introduction

brick-man-image2Traumatic experience in childhood is very real. The idea that children forget their serious adversities, and are unharmed by them, is false.  The very fact of being traumatized in early childhood – by parental neglect, aggression, abandonment, or even serious communication mis-attunement – leaves its mark on the right hemisphere of the child’s brain, in the form of deficits in the development of their social and emotional intelligence. (Dr Allan Schore, 2015)[1], [2].

It takes a long time, and a lot of effort, to undo the damage of early childhood trauma; and most people never succeed in doing the work that is needed to get them onto a normal road of development and reasonable adult functioning.

One of the best ways to work on early childhood trauma is to write your own autobiography (Goswami, 2020[3]) – preferably in a somewhat fictionalized form, to allow some distance from the pain, so that it can be digested without re-traumatizing yourself.

One of the ways that I have processed my own childhood trauma is to write the fictionalized autobiography of my alter ego, Daniel O’Beeve.

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Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleDaniel O’Beeve was traumatized by parents who knew nothing about love. Parents who did not love each other, and saw their children as burdens; who had to have the fear of God beaten into them. Parents who lost their farm and had to move to the city to eke out a living on poverty wages, living among people who considered them second class citizens.

Trauma was piled on trauma when he was emotionally abandoned by his mother at the age of eighteen months; and again when he went to school and found he was an alien, unwelcome by his city-born peers. Furthermore, he had had his ‘fierceness switch’ turned off by his brutalizing parents, and so he could not defend himself physically.

Eighteen years later he managed to stumble into psychoanalysis, and related therapies, which patched him up for a return to the odyssey of trying to find out who he was, and where he might belong.

For more, please go to Daniel O’Beeve’s autobiography.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Director of Publishing

The Institute for E-CENT

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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[1] Schore, A.N. (2015) Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. London: Routledge.

[2] Van der Kolk, B., Mark Greenberg, Helene Boyd, John Krystal, (1985) ‘Inescapable shock, neurotransmitters, and addiction to trauma: Toward a psychobiology of post-traumatic stress’. Biological Psychiatry, Vol.20, Issue 3, 1985, Pages 314-325,

[3] Goswami, U. (2020). ‘How to heal through life writing: Learning to write about trauma helps you to process the painful experience, and gives you the life skills to overcome it’. Psyche/Aeon Magazine. Online: https://psyche.co/guides/to-start-to-heal-from-trauma-in-your-life-write-about-it

Emotive-cognitive-embodied research and development

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ecent logo

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Holistic Counselling and Psychotherapy

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

This institute was created by Dr Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne in 2007. In the succeeding thirteen years, we have produced more than twenty 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 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’. (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].)

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Let us now begin from the simple SOR model, and build up a statement of our more refined thinking.

At its simplest, the SOR model looks like this:

Good and evil are alive and well

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Blog Post D2: Theory of trauma impacts on self-criticism

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

26th June 2021

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The Good and Bad Inner Critic

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2021

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Introduction

Today, I completed Appendix D to my newly updated and expanded book on trauma recovery***, and it struck me just how far I have actually come since the heady (but simplistic) days of attributing the emotional upsets of counselling clients to their “belief systems”.

In Appendix D, I write about the client’s emotions, and various ways of processing their emotional problems through their visual and kinaesthetic channels; and then I move on to look in detail at their “feelings/attitudes/values/beliefs” about themselves – which cannot be boiled down to “mere cognitions”!

So instead of a “mere” belief system, it seems humans have an integrated ‘apparatus’ for perceiving-feeling-thinking, all in one “grasp” of the brain-mind.

Appendix D begins like this:

Preamble

Trauma victims are often very harsh in their judgements of themselves.  They take this harshness over from their abusers or victimizers.

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We each have a legitimate (Good) Inner Critic (or conscience, super-ego, or Parent ego state) which helps us to stay on the moral and legal straight and narrow path through life.

But we each also have an illegitimate, unjustified, and damaging (Bad) Inner Critic, which is based on an excessively harsh conscience; or self-hatred; internalized from others.

I call the legitimate (Good) Inner Critic your “Good Wolf” state, after the traditional view of the Native American Cherokee people.  They believed that we each have a war going on inside of us, between two Wolves; a Good Wolf and a Bad Wolf; and that the Wolf that wins is the one we feed.  So we need to make sure we feed our moral, loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, but also self-assertive Good Wolf; and to starve our immoral, hateful, hurtful and aggressive Bad Wolf.  (This has echoes of the European Christian view of the inner states of (1) sin [the Devil], and (2) the state of grace [or the indwelling Holy Spirit]. It also has echoes of Sigmund Freud’s distinction between the inner urges he called Thanatos [the Death urge] and Eros [the Love/Life urge]).

So our ‘Inner Critic’ ranges from moderate and moral – (which is the Good Wolf state) – to harsh and immoral (which is the Bad Wold state).

Therefore, our Inner Critic can be justified or unjustified.  (The only cases where it is justified all have to do with legitimate transgressions of moral rules or justified laws (or health and safety issues).

The inner critic is not justified in criticizing harshly your efficiency or effectiveness, or general judgements in life.

It also is not justified in blaming you for being victimized; or describing you as worthless or ugly, etc.

When we harshly criticize ourselves, and put ourselves down – especially when the criticism is unjustified, exaggerated or inappropriate – this damages our sense of self-esteem and self-confidence; and makes us miserably unhappy.

… End of extract. …

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Later in Appendix D I present a table in which I list the features of the client’s “Bad Inner Critic”; their “Good Inner Critic (or conscience); and their “Inner Coach/Mentor”.

This goes way beyond the amoralism of Albert Ellis, Fritz Perls, Carl Rogers and so many other of the post-war theorists of counselling psychology.

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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Covid panic is politically induced

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Anti-Anxiety Alert: Please share this with everybody you love. 

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance:

Fear Is Contagious and Used to Control You

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

  • June 18, 2021

Story at-a-glance

  • In a newly released book, members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour, a subcommittee that advises the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies in the U.K., admit government is using fear to control and manipulate the population
  • SPI-B, which advocated for the use of fear messaging, now says it was unethical, totalitarian and a regrettable mistake
  • Aside from the barrage of bad-news-only data — which was heavily manipulated in a variety of ways — fear and anxiety are also generated by keeping you confused
  • Giving out contradictory recommendations is being done on purpose, to keep you psychologically vulnerable. By layering confusion and uncertainty on top of fear, you can bring an individual to a state in which they can no longer think rationally. Once driven into an illogical state, you are easily manipulated
  • Government’s reliance on behavioural psychology didn’t just happen as a result of the pandemic. These tactics have been used for years, and are increasing

Governments are using fear to control and manipulate their citizens. That has now been admitted by members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B), a subcommittee that advises the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in the U.K. And they should know, because they advocated for it, and now say it was a regrettable mistake. As reported by The Telegraph, May 14, 2021:1

“Scientists on a committee that encouraged the use of fear to control people’s behaviour during the COVID pandemic have admitted its work was ‘unethical’ and ‘totalitarian.’ Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) expressed regret about the tactics in a new book about the role of psychology in the Government’s COVID-19 response.

SPI-B warned in March last year that ministers needed to increase ‘the perceived level of personal threat’ from COVID-19 because ‘a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened.’

Gavin Morgan, a psychologist on the team, said: ‘Clearly, using fear as a means of control is not ethical. Using fear smacks of totalitarianism. It’s not an ethical stance for any modern government. By nature I am an optimistic person, but all this has given me a more pessimistic view of people.’”

Psychological Warfare Is Real

The Telegraph quotes several of the SPI-B members, all of whom are also quoted in the newly released book, “A State of Fear: How the UK Government Weaponised Fear During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” written by Laura Dodsworth:2

“One SPI-B scientist told Ms Dodsworth: ‘In March [2020] the Government was very worried about compliance and they thought people wouldn’t want to be locked down. There were discussions about fear being needed to encourage compliance, and decisions were made about how to ramp up the fear. The way we have used fear is dystopian.

The use of fear has definitely been ethically questionable. It’s been like a weird experiment. Ultimately, it backfired because people became too scared’ …

One warned that ‘people use the pandemic to grab power and drive through things that wouldn’t happen otherwise … We have to be very careful about the authoritarianism that is creeping in’ …

Another member of SPI-B said they were ‘stunned by the weaponization of behavioural psychology’ during the pandemic, and that ‘psychologists didn’t seem to notice when it stopped being altruistic and became manipulative. They have too much power and it intoxicates them.’

Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the COVID Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said: ‘If it is true that the state took the decision to terrify the public to get compliance with rules, that raises extremely serious questions about the type of society we want to become. If we’re being really honest, do I fear that government policy today is playing into the roots of totalitarianism? Yes, of course it is.’”

The Manufacture of Fear

For nearly a year and a half, governments around the world, with few exceptions, have fed their citizens a steady diet of frightening news. For months on end, you couldn’t turn on the television without facing a tickertape detailing the number of hospitalizations and deaths.

Even when it became clear that people weren’t really dying in excessive numbers, the mainstream media fed us continuous updates on the growing number of “cases,” without ever putting such figures into context or explaining that the vast majority were false positives.

People don’t enjoy being hoodwinked and they don’t want to live in a state of fear. We maybe need to be a bit bolder about standing up more quickly when something is not right. ~ Laura Dodsworth

Information that would have balanced out the bad news — such as recovery rates and just how many so-called “cases” actually weren’t, because they never had a single symptom — were censored and suppressed.

They also refused to put any of the data into context, such as reviewing whether the death toll actually differed significantly from previous years. Instead, each new case was treated as an emergency and a sign of catastrophic doom.

Fear Is Contagious

Fear has long been the tool of tyrants. It’s profoundly effective, in part because it spreads from person to person, just like a virus. The contagion of fear is the topic of the Nova “Gross Science” video above, originally aired in mid-February 2017. Among animals, emotional distress responses are telegraphed through pheromones emitted through various bodily secretions such as sweat and saliva.

As explained in the video, when encountering what is perceived as a serious threat, animals with strong social structures, such as bees and ants, will release alarm pheromone. The scent attracts other members of the hive or colony to collectively address the threat.

Humans appear to have a very similar capability. When scared or stressed, humans produce chemosignals, and while you may not consciously recognize the smell of fear or stress, it can have a subconscious impact, making you feel afraid or stressed too.

Humans also tend to mimic the feelings of those around us, and this is yet another way through which an emotion can spread like wildfire through a community or an entire nation — for better or worse. Behavioural psychologists refer to this as “emotional contagion,” and it works both positive and negative emotions.

For example, if you’re greeted by a smile when meeting someone, you’re likely to smile back, mimicking their facial expression and behaviour. If someone looks at you with an angry scowl, you’re likely to suddenly feel angry too, even if you weren’t before and have no subjective reason to — other than that someone looked at you the “wrong” way.

However, while both positive and negative emotions are contagious, certain emotions spread faster and easier than others. Research cited in the Nova report found that “high arousal” emotions such as awe (high-arousal positive emotion) and anger or anxiety (high-arousal negative emotion) are more “viral” than low-arousal emotions such as happiness or sadness.

The Nova report also points out that researchers have been mining Twitter and other social media data to better understand how emotions are spread, and the types of messages that spread the fastest. However, they ignored the primary culprits, Google and Facebook both of which steal your private data and use it to manipulate your behaviour.

At the time, in 2017, they said this information was being harvested and used to develop ways to avoid public messaging that might incite mass panic. But the COVID-19 pandemic suggests the complete opposite. Clearly, behavioural experts have been busy developing ways to generate maximum fear, anxiety and panic.

How to Inoculate Yourself Against Negative Contagion

At the end of the report, Nova cites research detailing three effective ways to “immunize” yourself against negative emotional contagions.

  1. Distract yourself from the source of the negative contagion — In the case of pandemic fearporn, that might entail not reading or listening to mainstream media news that for the past year have proven themselves incapable of levelheadedness.
  2. Project your own positive emotions back at the source of the negative contagion — If talking to someone who is fearful, they might end up “catching” your optimism rather than the other way around.
  3. Speak up — If someone is unwittingly spreading “negative vibes,” telling them so might help them realize what they’re doing. (This won’t work if the source is knowingly and purposely spreading fear or anxiety though.)

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Source: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2021/06/18/fear-contagious.aspx?

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Books about trauma and emotional intelligence

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Blog Post No.2 – 27th February 2021

Emotional Intelligence and Trauma Recovery – Books update

By Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2021

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Preamble

The thinkerEarlier today, I posted a blog to the ABC Bookstore Online, which provides some updated information about two of my current books in progress.  Later it occurred to me that followers of the E-CENT Institute might also be interested in this information.  This is the basic message:

I have now resumed my work on my main Trauma Book – (Transforming Traumatic Dragons: How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach); and yesterday I wrote the intro to one of my appendices for that book.  Here is an extract from that appendix:

Appendix L: Some insights into the Polyvagal Theory of Dr Stephen Porges

By Jim Byrne, Updated 26th February 2021

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Introduction

brick-man-headIn this appendix, I want to introduce a brief set of insights into the Polyvagal theory, which is central to Dr Bessel van der Kolk’s approach to Developmental Trauma Therapy[1]. The Polyvagal theory and Dr Van der Kolk’s approach to trauma have both influenced my own system of Interoceptive Processing of Intense Traumas.

The Polyvagal theory explains the ways in which the vagus nerve participates in the calming of bodily arousal, and also in face to face interpersonal communication as a form of affect (or emotion) regulation.

The bottom line of the Polyvagal system can be summarized like this: The autonomic nervous system has three levels of hierarchy:

– 1. Social engagement and connection, which regulates our levels of arousal to produce a sense of safety and protection. This operates through the ventral vagal complex (VVC), which regulates facial communication and tone of voice, heart rate, breathing, etc., (and which is highly developed in humans).

– 2. Nervous arousal (as in fight or flight), which is a survival-enhancing response to signs of threat or danger. This level is controlled by the limbic system, including the amygdala and hippocampus, and the hormonal system. (This system is found in all mammals, including humans).

– 3. Immobilization, or freeze/faint/closedown. This is also a survival-enhancing response of signs of extreme threat or danger, where the fight or flight response is not able to help. It is controlled by the dorsal vagal complex (DVC) which links to the heart and lungs, and also to the guts), The DVC is rooted in the reptilian brain (or brain stem, in humans).

Body-brain-mindThe signals which trigger us into one or other of the three states described (in para 1, 2 and 3) above are not noticed consciously.  Rather, they are sensed through a process which Stephen Porges labelled as ‘neuroception’, which means “detection without awareness”. (See Dana 2018)[2].

Level 1 of this system – (social engagement and connection) – facilitates a process of co-regulation of emotions, whereby, when I encounter you, I help to set the level of arousal of your autonomic nervous system (by seeming to be, or seeming not to be, trustworthy [and encouraging you to feel safe or unsafe with me]). And you regulate the level of my autonomic nervous system by the way your nonverbal signals, of face and voice, strike me: (Do you seem safe and trustworthy, or not?!)

But let us back up a little.

Let us begin with the human brain as a whole, and its many connections to parts of the body. …”

…End of extract.

For more, please click this link: Transforming Traumatic Dragons: How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach***

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Recently I swerved away from that book, and began working on a new book…

A new book on Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence book temp coverI had become distracted from working on the trauma book (above) – which I am co-authoring with Renata Taylor-Byrne – because I wanted to begin work on my new book on Emotional Intelligence.  Here’s an extract from the Introduction to that new book:

Introduction

The first and most important aspect of emotional intelligence is self-understanding.  To “know thyself” is an important goal; and to examine the kind of life you are leading – and the kind of like you really want – that it just as important.

Let me begin, here in this Introduction, to clarify some of the insights I’ve had over the years about the nature of a human individual, and how we are ‘wired up’.

Firstly, if you want to understand yourself fully, it would help if you knew how stressed your mother was when you were in her womb, because that is where the basic wiring of your brain began to be laid down.

But more importantly than that, it would help if you knew how securely attached your mother had been to her own mother when she was a baby, because she is most likely to have passed on to you the same kind of (secure or insecure) attachment style that she got from her mother.

The first five or six years of your life would have laid down some fundamentals of your personality, including the creation (in your own mind) of a life script, encouraged by your parents, siblings, neighbours, teachers, other relatives, etc.  And that life script tells you (from subconscious levels of mind) what is going to happen to someone like you, as you progress through your life.  (Don’t worry. You can rewrite this script, and I will show you how in Appendix A of this book).

When you were born, you were essentially a little body, with a set of basic emotions (or ‘affects’), mostly a capacity to perceive and evaluate pleasure and pain; ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sensations.  Those innate affects or simple emotions are then socialized into a set of ‘higher cognitive emotions’ by your daily encounters with your mother (or main carer), you father (in most cases), your other relatives, peers (as you begin to move around and begin to go to kindergarten or pre-school, etc.)  From the beginning…”

…End of extract.

For more, please click this link: How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence***

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drjim-counsellor9So now I have resumed working on the Transforming Dragons book, and hope to have it on sale by Easter.  I hope you find this information helpful.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

The Institute for E-CENT

ABC Bookstore Online

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Dr Jim’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Division

Email: Dr Jim’s Counselling Division

Telephone: 44 1422 843 629

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[1] Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Viking.

[2] Dana, D. (2018) The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation. London: W. W. Norton & Company

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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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Thinking about thinking and feelings

Blog Post

Let’s talk about the concept of Thinking!

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

13th January 2021

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Introduction

This is my belated New Year gift to you!

For years I’ve been strongly attracted to particular subjects. In particular:

– 1. Thinking… (more effectively, or creatively, or intelligently, etc.)…

– 2. Wisdom… (As in Eastern wisdom; De Bono’s book of wisdom; how to live well)…

– 3. Wealth creation… (Not considered in this blog post…)

– 4. Personal and professional success, leading to happiness…

The thinkerIn the bookshops of the world, these four subjects tend to be filed under Self-help; Psychology; Mind, Body, Spirit; or Smart Thinking; in the main.

But it is in the area of counselling and psychotherapy that subjects 1 and 2 (thinking and wisdom) now interest me the most. This is partly because of the recent ascendency of Cognitive Therapy and Rational Therapy (CBT/REBT); and their subsequently being leap-frogged by Affect Regulation Theory; Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB); and Polyvagal Theory.

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Regarding the concept of thinking

Edward de BonoDr Edward de Bono (who has four doctoral degrees) once wrote that, We learn what to think long before we learn how to think.[1]

My original response to that statement was to lament the fact that I was not taught how to think when I was a child (or when I was any age, for that matter!)

My second response was this: If we assume De Bono is correct about this, than we have to acknowledge that this situation has both negative and positive consequences.  The negative consequence would be that we have missed out on the development of a skill; but a more importance consequence is this: We learn to be moral beings long before we are consulted about whether to be good or evil!

My third response arose when I read a book chapter on the teaching of critical thinking skills in secondary schools, in a book on Educational Research[2].  The point that stood out in that particular chapter was this: Secondary school pupils have proved quite skillful at piggy-backing immoral conclusions on the back of a critical thinking argument.  (Some therapists have also done this.  for example, Dr Albert Ellis’s famous [though spurious] arguments to the effect that there are no valid moral arguments (just preferences); and that therefore “life does not have to be fair”, and “nobody should be blamed for anything!”).

And my eventual response today is this: Dr (x4) Edward De Bono learned his language from his parents; who learned their language from their parents; and all the way back to the plains of the Serengeti – (if indeed that is where we began!)  The language Little Edward learned from his parents included the concept of “thinking”.  In his work on the idea of thinking, and “thinking as a skill set”, he failed to stop and ask himself: “Is ‘thinking’ a valid concept?  To what does it refer? How do we know that anybody engages in something called ‘thinking’, as distinct from ‘Perceiving-Feeling-Thinking’?

Ernst von glasersfeld, radical constructivismI got this idea, of the integrated nature of perceiving-feeling-thinking from Ernst von Glasersfeld[3], who argued that, rather than engaging in logical reasoning, children (in schools) engage in ‘perfinking’ (which is shorthand for perceiving-feeling-thinking).

Even Albert Ellis – who eventually evolved the most simplistic model of the human mind and behaviour in the history of psychotherapy (the simple ABC model) – started out, in 1954-62 with an understanding that we humans have interactional processes called thinking, feeling and behaviour, and that they each influence each other reciprocally.  However, because Ellis would not focus on the ontogeny of an individual child – but preferred to infer psychological processes from adult functioning, and ancient philosophy – he failed to note that this is not a chicken and egg situation (in which we can never determine which came first). When we focus on the ontogeny of an individual baby, and follow its childhood development, we know for sure that affects and emotions are primary, and what we call thinking/reasoning comes much later, and is aided and supported by feeling states!

The Emotive-Cognitive-Embodied approach

Front cover, Lifestyle Counselling, 2020In my approach to counselling and therapy, summarized in my book, Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person***, I agree with Allan Schore, as summarized by Daniel Hill (2015), the limbic system (or emotional centres of the mid-brain) is placed at the centre of a network, and integrates: the body; the upper brain; and the sensed social environment.

Siegel’s (2015) argument is that the baby’s ‘primary feelings’ – (which can be expressed by us as ‘this is good’; ‘this is bad’; or ‘this feels good’; ‘this feels bad’) – are elaborated over time into (categorical) emotions (of anger, sadness, joy, fear, etc.).

Furthermore, babies need external regulation (soothing), and it’s the quality, quantity and timeliness of that soothing that shapes the baby’s dominant mood and habitual emotional profile. (Siegel, 2015, page 183).

As we grow and develop, interact with our care-givers, learn to read their nonverbal emotional states, and increasingly acquire language, we also evolve/ acquire higher cognitive emotions (like guilt, shame, pride, love, embarrassment, elevation, envy, and jealousy, etc.): and the flow of basic emotions, and socially-shaped emotions, is what creates meaning in our lives, and allows us to appraise our situations in life. According to Siegel (2015): Emotions do not follow from thinking.  Thinking (or, preferably, reasoning, in conscious language) follows from socialized-emotion.  Attention and perception are also modulated by emotion. Emotions are basic to who we are and who we become.  And the central features of emotion are (non-conscious) appraisal and (non-conscious) arousal.  (Siegel, 2015. Pages 184-185).

Our ability to manage our emotions, to “regulate our affects”, is a function of our history of attachment with our primary carers and subsequent significant others. (Bowlby, 1988/2005; Schore, 2015; Siegel, 2015; Wallin, 2007[4]).

The E-CENT perspective

brick-man-headIn E-CENT theory, we see that slightly differently.  Firstly, innate feelings precede, and are the foundation for, subsequent socialized perfinking (perceiving-feeling-thinking).  What we call ‘thinking’ never was a separate function of the brain-mind.  It is one of our delusions (Gray, 2003) that we are thinking beings; that we think; that we have thoughts; that we can reason, separately and apart from feelings and automatic perceptions!

To an E-CENT counsellor, a client has two major aspects:

First, s/he is:

(1) A physical/cultural organism, with all of his/her cumulative, interpretive (perfinked) experiences, stored in long-term memory, below the level of conscious awareness, and permanently beyond conscious inspection: (Byrne 2009b).  But the client is also:

(2) A subjective, felt-being, and feeling-being, a virtual self which feels like a concrete reality in the world.  (Erwin, 1997)[5].

I do not think it ethical – or perfink it to be ethical – that we relate to the client exclusively on the basis of aspect (1) above.  We must always recognize aspect (2) as the dominant reality for the client; while aspect (1) is the dominant reality for science.

But although E-CENT counsellors use science to find our way through the swamp of social and individual psychology, we are not primarily scientists.

We are primarily healers and feeling – perfinking – beings.  We not only show our clients cognitive empathy (like all other systems of counselling and therapy) but also emotive empathy. We feel for the client; and with the client: (as do ‘affect regulation’ therapists – Hill, 2015).

And our obvious pain upon learning of the client’s suffering is part of what heals them!  (Because they ‘feel felt’!)

We do not overly emphasize the client’s so-called thinking, though we do engage in talk therapy, but a form of talk therapy which recognizes that the client is a body-brain-mind who engages in perceiving-feeling-thinking.

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I hope you found this little reflection exercise to be stimulating and helpful.

Best wishes,

Jim

Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

The ABC Bookstore Online

The E-CENT Institute

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

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Email: Dr Jim’s Email Address***

Telephone: 01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

Or: 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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Footnotes

[1] De Bono, E. (1995) Teach Yourself to Think.  London: Viking/ Penguin.

[2] Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2007) Research Methods in Education.  Sixth edition.  London: Routledge – Taylor & Francis Group.

[3] Glasersfeld, E. von (1989) ‘Learning as a constructive activity’. In Murphy, P. and Moon, B. (eds) Developments in Learning and Assessment.  London: Hodder and Stoughton.

[4] Wallin, D.A. (2007) Attachment in Psychotherapy.  New York: Guildford Press.

[5] Erwin, E. (1997) Philosophy and Psychotherapy: Razing the troubles of the brain, London, Sage.

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Byrne, J.W. (2020) Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching of the Whole Person (2): Or how to incorporate nutrition insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy. Updated and Expanded Edition.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.