Fictionalized autobiography of childhood trauma and adult damage

Blog Post: 16th August 2020

E-CENT Institute Blog

By Dr Jim Byrne

Books about childhood trauma – how to recover – how I recovered – and a fictionalized autobiography of childhood/manhood

Including a FREE eBook about the life of an emotionally abused boy, and his struggle to become a loving man

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Jim and the Buddha, 2I am aware of the principle of ‘concentration of power’ on our top priorities, which was popularized in the 1980s, by Dr Charles R. Hobbs, and re-presented in recent times by Garry Keller and Jay Papasan, in their book, ‘The One Thing’.  We are more likely to be successful if we focus on just a few important priorities.

Nevertheless, I have been switching back and forth between three books on Childhood Development, Trauma, and Recovery, for the past couple of months or more.

The three books in question are as follows:

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Recovery from Childhood Trauma:

How I healed my heart and mind – and how you can heal yourself

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Front cover,1Many people struggle with emotional distress, just below the level of conscious awareness, which mars their life chances, and limits their capacity for happy relationships. Much of this distress could and should be classified as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); or emotional distress which follows on from a traumatic experience, which is too stressful (at the time of occurrence) to be processed into a coherent story.  And even more should be defined as Complex-PTSD, arising out of protracted child abuse in early childhood.

The author describes the main traumatic experiences that occurred in his childhood, which hung like a dark cloud over his emotional and relational life, up to the age of almost forty years or so.  He also describes the various therapeutic processes that he used to try to process his undigested childhood pain.  Chief among those strategies were the writing of his Story of Origins and his Story of Relationship, both of which are reproduced in this book, along with analysis and commentary. He also includes guidelines for the reader to do their own writing therapy on their own childhood trauma, which will greatly improve the quality of their emotional and relational lives.  And he emphasizes the importance of exercise and other body-based healing approaches. His hope is that the reader will use this book to become happier and healthier, and more at ease in their own skin; with a better prospect of moving forward into a more enjoyable future life.

For more information, please click this link.***

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Transforming Traumatic Dragons:

How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Revised, expanded and updated: June 2020

Front cover 2, Dragons Trauma book June 2020From Ancient Athens to Vietnam and Zambia, individual lives have been ruined by stress, strain, abuse and neglect. Madness, serious unhappiness and unworkable lives were most often the result.

Many common problems with physical and mental health are a result of childhood trauma, and/or being an adult who is abused by another adult.

Early childhood trauma (like physical and emotional abuse, and neglect), and other forms of prolonged trauma (like domestic abuse), affect the very structure of the human brain, and the behaviour of stress hormones in the body.

But the good news is this: It is possible to recover from all forms of trauma, given the right kind of approach. And this book offers you just such an approach to self-healing.

Dr Byrne discusses the following topics: What is trauma?  What is post-traumatic stress disorder?  What is Complex-PTSD?  How widespread is Complex-PTSD?  What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?  What are some solutions to Childhood Developmental Trauma or Complex-PTSD? The meaning and importance of the concept of Traumatic Dragons.

This book contains a comprehensive self-therapy program, to help you to heal your own traumatic wounds, from prolonged childhood abuse or neglect, or other forms of prolonged traumatic experiences.

If you are suffering from the aftermath of prolonged traumatic experiences, this book will be a great help to you. If you work slowly and methodologically through the program of self-healing, described in this book, you will gain by the calming down of your body, brain and mind; and the emergence of a sense of happiness and inner peace.

For more information, please click this link: Transforming Traumatic Dragons

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But the third book – next – is the one I have chosen to prioritize, and it is now available on Amazon stores around the world.  This is it:

 

The Broken Chain Conundrum: A very peculiar life story

Volume 1 of the life of Daniel O’Beeve

By Jim Byrne

Front cover, Broken Chain, 1 The latest book by Jim Byrne is now available on Amazon book stores around the world.

The story of Daniel’s life is designed to inform, entertain, and stretch your head and heart!

It is currently available as a free eBook for a little while! Don’t miss this window of opportunity.

And please let me know what you think.

Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling…

For more information about this fictionalized autobiography, please go to The Broken Chain Conundrum…***

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This is how I announced that book on LinkedIn today:

Childhood trauma and abuse: For the next 5 days, beginning on Sunday 16th August, this book will be available for FREE as a Kindle eBook. The author explores problems of attachment theory, affect regulation, personality adaptations, and childhood trauma – all in the context of a fictionalized autobiography which examines three different perspectives on the nature-nurture debate. Dr Jim Byrne has combined his experience of 22 years of dealing with clients with childhood abuse and neglect, and his hobby of reading psychological thrillers, to create a unique book…  Get your copy for FREE…  Here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08FRPSSGV

Please take a look and see what you think. Do you think this fictionalized autobiography helps to expand or deepen your understanding of complex childhood trauma; or to deepen your empathy for victims of child abuse?

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That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

Emotive-cognitive-embodied therapy versus REBT/CBT

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Blog post: 15th June 2020

Distinguishing Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) from REBT/CBT

By Dr Jim Byrne

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Preamble

Jim and the Buddha, 2The most fundamental difference between E-CENT theory and REBT/CBT theory is their models of human disturbance.

Albert Ellis, the creator of REBT, and the grandfather of general CBT, rejected the simple Stimulus-Organism-Response (SOR) model of neobehaviourism, and Freud’s It/Ego/Superego, and substituted his own simple ABC model.

The simple SOR model assumed that, every time a stimulus impacted an organism, an adaptive response, based upon prior conditioning, was emitted or produced.  If a person saw something which had previously frightened them, then they would respond with fear. But if the same stimulus had previously angered them, then they would respond with anger.

Human-emotionThe simple ABC model dumped the role of experience, conditioning, and habit formation, and replaced those experiential psychological processes with a single concept: Beliefs! 

I have produced an extensive critique of the ABC model of REBT, in my main book on REBT, which is A Major Critique of REBT’. What follows is a brief extract from Chapter 2 of that book:

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Introduction

The ABC model oversimplifiesLet us now take a look at the ABC model of REBT – which is the core model that not only determines the shape of each intervention by an REBT therapist, but which also structures the entire 45 minutes of time spent with each client.

To repeat what was said above, the ABC model is normally presented like this:

# The ‘A’ stands for an Activating event, or stimulus, which results in some kind of response from an individual.

# The ‘B’ stands for the Belief system of the individual (which includes distinctions to do with whether the individual is:

(a): Being (1) ‘demanding’; versus (2) merely ‘preferring’ something;

(b): Expressing (1) ‘awfulizing’ (which means [in REBT – but not in the Oxford English Dictionary] describing something as totally bad); versus (2) merely saying something is some small degree of badness;

(c): Implying (1) that they ‘cannot stand’ something at all; versus (2) the idea that it is merely difficult to stand it; or:

(d): Engaging in (1) condemning or damning of self, others or the world; versus (2) merely being critical of their own behaviour, the behaviour of others, and/or some features of the world/reality).

# The ‘C’ stands for the Consequent emotions (and/or behaviours) that are assumed to arise out of the interaction of the ‘A’ multiplied by the ‘B’ above.  At least, that is a form of the ABC model, which arose at some point in the evolution of the theory.  This interactional model is expressed by Windy Dryden (1999) like this: “…the C’s (consequences – JB) … follow from irrational beliefs (iB’s – JB) about negative A’s (or negative activating events – JB)…”. (Pages 7-8)[1].

But this is a construction which is honoured more in the breach than in the observance by Albert Ellis (and perhaps many other therapists as well).  Throughout the whole of his career, as illustrated below, Albert Ellis tended to imply that no Activating event (A) could cause a client to feel anything (at point C) – unless they were hit by a brick or a baseball bat.  This is an implicit denial of the strength, power and aversive influence of all activating events (A’s), leaving the B (or irrational beliefs) to largely (or almost exclusively) account for the client’s disturbance.  And the way Ellis normally expresses this construction, when under pressure to adhere to the interactional model, is this: “Although A’s often seem to directly ‘cause’ or contribute to C’s, this is rarely true, because B’s normally serve as important mediators between A’s and C’s, and therefore (the B’s) more directly ‘cause’ or ‘create’ C’s…”[2].  Thus Ellis hangs on to the idea that the client’s beliefs (B) are the real culprit – while seeming to accept the interaction of the A’s and B’s.  For Ellis, it is a sine qua non (or an essential condition) of human disturbance that clients, in fact, disturb themselves! (What a gift he handed to the immoral forces of the world! The exploiters, abusers and oppressors!)

In Ellis’s own words: “When I started to get disillusioned with psychoanalysis I reread philosophy and was reminded of the constructivist notion that Epictetus had proposed 2,000 years ago: ‘People are disturbed not by events that happen to them, but by their view of them’.” (Quoted in Epstein, R. [2001])[3].

Albert Ellis blames the client for upsetsFrom this position, Ellis often takes the view that people upset themselves.  Nobody does it to them.  “How can anybody make you feel anything?” he will demand to know.

But he is not always consistent.  Sometimes he will say it slightly differently, like this:

“People don’t just get upset. They contribute to their upsetness”, which sounds more like the ‘interactional model’ – which says, A (or activating event) multiplied by B (or the person’s belief) equals C (or their consequent emotional response). But then he adds his escape hatch: “They always have the power to think, and to think about their thinking, and to think about thinking about their thinking, which the goddamn dolphin, as far as we know, can’t do.” (Quote from Epstein, 2001).

In other words, although they ‘only contribute’ to their upsetness, about some Activating event; nevertheless, since they have the power to think their way out of their upsetness, they are obviously still upsetting themselves (with their ‘goddamned irrational beliefs’) if they continue to be upset!  QED!

Albert Ellis absolves external pressures from human disturbance

Here is yet another Ellis formulation: “People condition themselves to feel disturbed, rather than being conditioned by external sources.” (Ellis, 1979)[4].  (Remember, in Chapter 1 above, I mentioned that Ellis acknowledged internal and external conditioning.  Now he dumps the external conditioning completely.  Such inconsistencies are a hallmark of Albert Ellis’s reasoning!  He clearly does not have a consistent model of the human brain-mind-environment complexity in his mind, at least not available to his conscious inspection!)

And, finally, here is a summary of Ellis’s view from Corey, (2001):

“…human beings are largely responsible for creating their own emotional reactions and disturbances.  Showing people how they can change their irrational beliefs that directly ‘cause’ their disturbed emotional consequences is the heart of REBT (Ellis, 1998[5], 1999[6]; Ellis and Dryden, 1997[7]; Ellis, Gordon, Neenan and Palmer, 1997[8]; Ellis and Harper, 1997[9])”.  (From Corey, 2001, page 300)[10].

Albert Ellis's false view of human disturbance

As I will demonstrate below, Albert Ellis has created a completely false view of human perceiving-feeling-thinking processes, by substituting an extreme Stoical philosophical proposition (which is false to facts) for any and all modern psychologies (with the possible exception of Adlerian therapy, which claims that our emotional reactions and lifestyle are ‘cognitively created’. See Corey, 2001, page 298).

This view (from Ellis and Epictetus) contradicts the modern neuroscience and interpersonal neuropsychology perspectives, which show emotion as innate, and underpinning all emotive-cognitive processes. (Siegel 2015; Panksepp, 1998; Hill 2015).

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For more of my critique of REBT, please see:

  1. A Major Critique of REBT: Revealing the many errors in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

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  1. Discounting Our Bodies: A brief, critical review of REBT’s flaws. (If you want to know the essence of our critique of REBT, but you don’t want to have to read 500+ pages, then this 150 page summary should appeal to you).

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  1. The Amoralism of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT): The mishandling of self-acceptance and unfairness issues by Albert Ellis

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  1. Albert Ellis and the Unhappy Golfer: A critique of the simplistic ABC model of REBT

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A more comprehensive model of human disturbance

By contrast with the simplistic ABC model of REBT/CBT, we in E-CENT counselling theory have created a much more realistic, Holistic Stimulus-Organism-Response model.

The first step in creating this model involved “adding back the body” to our models of human disturbance.  In the ABC model of REBT/CBT, there is no body.  A person is just “a belief-machine”.

But in reality, our emotions are housed in our physical bodies/ brains/ minds; and socialized into our bodies/ brains/ minds.

Over time, I refined this body-brain-mind model of human disturbance, and this is how I wrote about it in our book on Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person:

8.3(b): Elucidation

The elucidation stage of E-CENT counsellingThere are a number of models that I use for the purpose of elucidating the client’s concerns, dilemmas, goals, etc.

Chief among them is our own holistic version of the Stimulus-Organism-Response (or Holistic-SOR) model.

The original SOR model (created by the neo-behaviourists) suggested that, when an animal (or human) notices a stimulus (S), it outputs a response (R), because of the way the organism (O) processes the stimulus.

Figure 8.1: The classic S>O>R model:

the simple SOR model

That original SOR model of neo-behaviourism was dumped by Dr Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), and replaced by the simple ABC model, in which the client is assumed to be always and only upset because of their ‘irrational beliefs’.  (And Freud’s ‘ABCs’ were no better, in that he implied that when something happens [let’s call it an ‘A’, or activating event], the client responds with their own phantasy [let’s call it a ‘B’, or belief], which upsets them [at point C – consequence]: though Freud did not use that ‘ABC’ lettering system)

Aaron Tim Beck (despite being a medical doctor, and theoretically aware of the importance of the human body) also adopted this simple ABC model. (Beck 1976).

So one of the main contributions of E-CENT counselling has been ‘adding back the body’ to the client; and accepting that the client’s body-mind-environment-whole is implicated in all of their emotional and behavioural states.

In the process we developed a more holistic version of the Stimulus-Organism- Response model. (See Figure 8.2 below)

In the simple, classical SOR model, an incoming stimulus (S) – (which is a sensed experience) – impacts upon the nervous system of the organism (O) – (or person, in our case) – causing a reactive response (R) to be outputted (or generated), to cope with the stimulus (or incoming experience).

In the early stages of our explorations, after looking at Freud and Ellis – on the ABC model and the Experience-Phantasy-Neurosis model – we turned our attention to the Parent-Adult-Child (PAC) model of TA, plus this simple, classic SOR model.

But then we began to ask ourselves what factors are most likely to affect the capacity for a human organism to be able to handle difficult incoming stimuli, or activating events.  We came up with an extensive list, which includes:

Diet: (meaning balanced, healthy, or otherwise).  (Does the individual/ organism have enough blood-glucose to be able to process the incoming stimulus, physically and mentally?)

Exercise: (meaning regular physical exercise designed to reduce stress, versus a sedentary lifestyle)[11]

Self-talk, scripts, frames and schemas: (Including conscious and/or non-conscious stories and narratives/ thinking-feeling states/ self-signalling/ attitudinizing / framing, etc.  Plus other culturally shaped beliefs and attitudes, expectations, prophesies, etc.  Plus non-narrativized experiences stored in the form of schemas and frames, etc.)

Relaxation: (or release from muscle tension and anxiety, versus tension and anxiety);

Family history: (including attachment styles [secure or insecure]; childhood trauma; and personality adaptations, etc.);

Emotional needs: (including deficits and/or satisfactions);

Character and temperament: (as in Myers-Briggs or Keirsey-Bates)[12];

Environmental stressors: (including home environment, work situation, economic circumstances, and so on);

Sleep pattern; and the balance between work, rest and play.

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By keeping our focus on the fact that the client is a complex, socialized body-brain-mind; steeped in storied- (or narrativized-) experiences (plus non-storied experiences) of concrete experiences in a concrete world; and living in a complex relationship to an external social environment – which is often hostile and unsupportive, resulting in stress-induced over-arousal of the entire body-brain-mind – we never fall into the trap of foolishly asking the client: “What do you think you are telling yourself in order to cause your own problem?” 

And we do not foolishly tell the client that the thoughts which (in reality, very often) follow on from their emotional experiences are causing those emotional experiences!

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We focus on the client’s story and the client’s physical existence, both with roughly equal, but variable, emphasis.  Sometimes the story needs most attention, and sometimes the state of the body-brain-mind, in terms of diet, exercise, etc., is more important.

Traditional medical doctors were guilty of separating the body from the mind, and trying to treat the body as a ‘faulty machine’ – which was in line with Newtonian mechanics of the nineteenth century, which lasted well into the twentieth century and beyond.

Sigmund Freud, as a trained neurologist and MD, came out of that tradition and began the process of moving towards some kind of appreciation of the mind.

However, many generations of counsellors and psychotherapists have gone too far in this direction, and forgot all about the body.

Some modern medical doctors are beginning to realize their original error.

Here’s how Dr Ron Anderson, Chairman of the Board of the Texas Department of Health, describes his aim for all the doctors he influences:

 

“I try to have people understand wholeness if I can, because if you don’t understand the mind/body connection, you start off on the wrong premise. 

You also have to understand the person within their family and community because this is where people live”.[13] 

 

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Using the Holistic SOR model

Figure 8.2 below shows how we present the holistic SOR model for our clients.

Holistic-SOR-Model

Figure 8.2: The E-CENT holistic SOR model

As indicated in Figure 8.2, E-CENT theory takes a holistic view of the client as a social-body-mind, with a habit-based character and temperament, living in a particular social and physical environment, with stressors and supports.

The client has a personal history which is unique to them; plus some social shaping that extends to their family, and some to their community; some to their nation/ race/ gender, etc.

This illustration should be read as follows: Column 1 – ‘S’ = (or equals) a stimulus, which, when experienced by an O = Organism (in our case a human), may activate or interact with any of the factors listed in column 2; and this will produce an R = Response, as shown in column 3.

To be more precise: The holistic SOR model states that a client (a person) responds at point ‘R’, to a (negative or positive) stimulus at point ‘S’, on the basis of the current state of their social-body-mind.

How well rested are they?

How high or low is their blood-sugar level (which is related to diet)?

How well connected are they to significant others (which is a measure of social support)?

How much conflict do they have at home or at work?

What other pressures are bearing down upon them (e.g. from their socio-economic circumstances; physical health; home/ housing; work/ income; security/ insecurity; etc.)

And how emotionally intelligent are they? (Emotional intelligence is, of course, learned, and can be re-learned!)

Within the Holistic-SOR model (in Figure 8.2 above), in the middle column, what we are aiming to do is to construct a balance sheet (in our heads) of the pressures bearing down on the client (person), and the coping resources that they have for dealing with those pressures.

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So this is a historical-social-stress model. It is not a purely ‘cognitive distortion’ model; nor a purely ‘biological/ sexual urges’ model; nor a purely ‘prizing and listening’ model.

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For more insights into this whole body-brain-mind approach to emotive-cognitive- embodied therapy, please take a look at the page of information about Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the whole Person.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes.

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

Fellow of the International Society of Professional Counsellors (FISPC)

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

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The Institute for E-CENT Counselling

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ABC Bookstore Online

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Endnotes

[1] Dryden, W. (1999) Rational Emotive Behavioural Counselling in Action.  Second edition.  London: Sage Publications.

[2] Ellis, A. and Dryden, W. (1999) The Practice of REBT.  Second edition.  London: Free Association Books. Page 9.

[3] Epstein, R. (2001) The Prince of Reason: An interview with Albert Ellis, developer of rational emotive behaviour therapy. Online blog article and interview. Psychology Today online blog article https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200101/the-prince-reason

[4] Ellis, A. (1979). Rejoinder: Elegant and inelegant RET. In A. Ellis & J.M. Whiteley (eds.). Theoretical and empirical foundations of rational-emotive therapy (pp. 240–271). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

[5] Ellis, A. (1998) How to Control your Anxiety before it Controls You.  Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group.

[6] Ellis, A. (1999) How to make yourself happy and remarkably less disturbable.  San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact.

[7] Ellis, A. and Dryden, W. (1997) The Practice of Rational Emotive Therapy (Revised edition).  New York: Springer.

[8] Ellis, A., Gordon, J., Neenan, M., and Palmer, S. (1997) Stress Counselling.  London: Cassell.

[9] Ellis, A. and Harper, R. (1997) A Guide to Rational Living.  Third Edition. Hollywood, CA: Wilshire.

[10] Corey, G. (2001) Theory and Practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Sixth Edition.  Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

[11] The British National Health Service (NHS) supports the view that exercise is good for mood disorders, like anxiety and depression.  Here’s their comment specifically on depression:

“Exercise for depression

“Being depressed can leave you feeling low in energy, which might put you off being more active.

“Regular exercise can boost your mood if you have depression, and it’s especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.

‘Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it,’ says Dr Alan Cohen, a GP with a special interest in mental health. ‘Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.’

“How often do you need to exercise?

“To stay healthy, adults should do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week.”  In E-CENT we recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking every day, minimum. Source:   http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/ exercise- for- depression.aspx) Accessed: 23rd February 2016.

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[12] Keirsey, D. and Bates, M. (1984) Please Understand Me: Character and temperament types. Fifth edition. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company.

[13] ‘The healing environment’: An interview with Dr Ron Anderson, in Bill Moyers’ (1995) book: Healing and The Mind.  New York: Doubleday. Page 25.

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Can counsellors become truly holistic and polymathic?

Dr Jim’s Blog Post

22nd April 2020

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Can counsellors become truly holistic – truly polymathic – or are they permanently stuck in the ruts created by Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers?  

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Introduction

Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow, by Bern Schwartz - NPG P1256In 1959, Charles Percy Snow declared that there was a serious gulf of incomprehension between scientists and humanists; and this has only got worse over the years. On January 11th, 2020, writing in The Lancet Correspondence section – Michael Araki declared that, “We have been in the age of the two cultures for too long – the losses, as Snow foreshadowed 60 years ago, are taking their toll. To face today’s daunting problems, our institutions must go beyond their old, crippling strategies, and design novel structures that leverage the power of polymathy. By allowing polymathic thinking to flourish, society will be in a much better position to reach the innovation required to tackle our most pressing challenges”. (Page 114).

CAuses of emotional disturbanceAnd the problems that I am most concerned with have to do with the fact that, while economic policy and environmental stresses and strains (as well as lifestyle factors) affect mental health, happiness and emotional well-being, most counsellors and psychotherapists are still ignoring those aspects of their client’s situation; and focussing on such narrow issues as: “What are you telling yourself?” and “How did your mother treat you?” – to the exclusion of diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, housing conditions, economic circumstances, current relationships, personality adaptations, and a whole host of stressors coming from growing inequality and insecurity of employment.

Some of those factors are beyond the control of the counsellor and the client; but the lifestyle factors can, to at least some extent, be brought under the control of the client, if the counsellor would only address their importance.

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Adding back the body to the disembodied mind

Body-mindsAs early as 1948, Merleau-Ponty was drawing attention to the disastrous way in which the followers of Descartes (rather than Descartes himself) had misled us into dumping the body, and focusing exclusively on the mind (as if it was not a function of a body-brain, linked to an inescapable space-time environment).

This is what he wrote on that subject:

“We are once more learning to see the world around us, the same world which had turned away from in the conviction that our senses had nothing worthwhile to tell us, sure as we were that only strictly objective knowledge was worth holding onto.  We are rediscovering our interest in the space in which we are situated. Though we see it only from a limited perspective – our perspective – this space is nevertheless where we reside and we relate to it through our bodies”. (Page 53, The World of Perception, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1948; republished in London in 2008 by Routledge.

But there is very little evidence today that most counsellors and therapists have discovered “an interest in the space in which we are situated”. (Gestalt therapists are the obvious exception!)

The frequently overlooked fact is this: We relate to the world in which we live, through our bodies; or, as we say in E-CENT; we relate to our social and physical environment through our body-brain-mind (as sustained or undermined by our diet, exercise, sleep, self-talk, relaxation, and our historic and current relationships; the state of the economy and society in which we live; and so on).

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Emotions are embodied realities, with positive functions

We have, yesterday, released our latest book, which is built upon our comprehensive, polymathic approach to human biology and culture.  The subject is how to control your anxiety; but it is a far cry from the trite ‘ABC’s of anxiety’ promoted by the CBT/REBT community.  Here is how we announced it:

Foreword

By Dr Jim Byrne

Preamble

Front cover 2Many people live lives which are tied up in knots of worry, anxiety, fear, apprehension and dread.  They can hardly remember what it was like to feel relaxed, happy and at ease.  This book will teach you how to cut through these kinds of emotional knots, from various angles, one at a time, to produce a state of greatly improved relaxation and ease.

This book will show you how to tackle one thing at a time; one aspect of your anxiety problem(s) at a time; so you do not become overloaded or overwhelmed.

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We have all heard of a ‘Gordian knot’, which is a very difficult or intractable problem.  Many of our problems consist of getting ourselves tied up in knots, trying to avoid the unavoidable difficulties of life.  We also tend to tie ourselves in knots trying to avoid the necessity to take responsibility for our own lives. And we weave some knotty, tangled webs when we fail to be scrupulously honest with ourselves.  (But, of course, our early childhood, which is normally something of a nightmare, tends to throw us into a tangle of knots, which are not of our own making!)

And all of this tangling and knotting goes on as we sleepwalk through our lives.  The important thing is to wake up, and to address the knots in our emotions, and to begin to untangle them, one by one.

Most people would agree that anxiety is a state of feeling fear, fright, alarm, or intense worry[1].  It is an intense emotion, which pains us in a way which is comparable to a physical pain.  It is not easy to ignore or brush off.  It can tighten our breathing, and make us tremble and become clammy. We often feel we are out of control, and in great danger.

Get your paperback copy today, from one of the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon US and worldwide Amazon UK and Ireland
   
Amazon Canada Amazon France
   
Amazon Germany Amazon Italy
   
Amazon Spain Amazon Japan
   

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Or you can buy a Kindle eBook version of this book from one of the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon.com, US+ Amazon UK + Ireland Amazon Germany
 
Amazon Spain Amazon Italy Amazon Nether-lands
 
Amazon Japan Amazon Brazil Amazon Canada
 
Amazon Mexico Amazon Australia Amazon India

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We go on to elaborate as follows:

Anxiety is not a disease; not a mental illness. Anxiety – at its best – is part of our normal, innate, mental signalling system which tells us what is happening to us, and what to do about it.  That is to say, it is part of our emotional wiring. Our emotional intelligence.  (For an official definition of anxiety, please see this endnote)[2]. But – at its worst – anxiety, in the body-brain-mind of an individual human being, often proves to be a complex knot of non-conscious self-mismanagement!

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245

Trying to get rid of anxiety with drugs is like hanging two overcoats and a duvet over your burglar alarm bell when it goes off.  The burglar alarm is designed to give you helpful information, which you can then use to guide your action. Should you check to see if a burglar has got into your house? Or call the police? Or realize that you’ve mismanaged your alarm system, producing a false alarm, and that you should therefore switch it off?

Getting rid of the alarm signal, by dampening it down, defeats the whole object of having it in the first place!

Once you understand anxiety correctly, it becomes as useful as a burglar alarm; and you can learn how to manage it correctly.  (It’s just the exaggerated knotting of strands of anxiety, worry and stress that you need to cut through!)

When you buy a burglar alarm, it comes with a little Instruction Book about how to set it; calibrate it; monitor it; reset it; and switch it on and off.

cropped-e-cent-logo-1-red-lineYou should have got just such an Instruction Book about your anxiety alarm, from your parents, when you were very young – and some people did.  But if your alarm goes off at all times of day and night, in unhelpful ways, then I guess you were one of the unlucky ones who did not get your Instruction Book.  This current book contains your Instruction Book, plus lots of other backup information, which will help to make you the master of your anxiety, instead of its quaking slave.

Don’t let your burglar alarm make your life a misery. Learn how to use it properly!  (Learn how to cut the inappropriately alarming connections that do not serve you well).

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You can read some more on this subject here: https://abc-bookstore.com/how-to-reduce-and-control-your-anxiety/

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Jim and the Buddha, 2That’s all for now.

Sincere best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Joint Director, the Institute for E-CENT

Joint Director, the ABC Bookstore Online UK.

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Lifestyle self-management: Diet, exercise, sleep

E-CENT Blog Post

14th September 2018

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

Dr Jim’s Blog: Mental health is not just about childhood experiences;

Or about current stressors; or badly managed thoughts…

Mental health is related to diet and nutrition, inner dialogue, physical exercise, re-framing of experience, and sleep science…

Introduction

Revised-front-coverIn science as well as popular culture, the body and mind have long been pulled apart, and treated as separate entities.  And when they are treated as being connected – as in the modern psychiatric theory of ‘brain chemistry imbalances’ causing negative moods and emotions, the ‘brain chemistry’ in question is taken to be unrelated to how you use your body; what you eat; how well you sleep.  It is assumed to be ‘special brain chemistry’ – separate and apart from Lifestyle Factors – which can only be fixed by consuming dangerous drugs!

If you are interested in the impact of lifestyle practices on mental health and emotional states, then you will enjoy our page of information about how all of the ideas above are presented in our book about Lifestyle Counselling.  We see this as the core of most holistic healing practices of the future.

The way ahead

Body-brain-mindIn the immediate future, lifestyle counselling practice will be a novel service offering for counselling and psychotherapy clients who have realized that:

# the body and mind are intimately connected;

# that the body-mind is an open system, permeated by a whole range of lifestyle factors which can be managed well, or mismanaged,

# which results in excellent or poor mental health, physical health, and personal happiness.

In the pages of our popular book on lifestyle counselling, we have presented:

– a summary of our previous book about the impact of diet and exercise on mental health and emotional well-being;

– a chapter which integrates psychological theories of emotion with physical sources of distress – for the emotions of anger, anxiety and depression – and recommends treatment strategies;

– a chapter on the negative effects of sleep insufficiency on our thinking, feeling and behaviour;

– a chapter on how to re-frame any problem, using our Six Windows Model (which includes some perspectives from moderate Buddhism and moderate Stoicism) – but excludes the extreme forms of those philosophies of life!);

The SOR Model, Fig 1

  • a chapter on how to divine and assess the counselling client’s multiple sources of emotional disturbance, using our Holistic-SOR Model;

– and a chapter on how to set about teaching lifestyle change to counselling and therapy clients.

For a page of information about this book’s contents, including extracts, and the contents pages and index pages, please click the following link: *Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person… by Jim Byrne***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

E-CENT Institute

Email: dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org

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Counselling tasks and relationships…

Blog Post No.132

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

Updated on 9th May 2020

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Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2015-2020

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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.

Revised-front-coverEmotive-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:

Forms of Feeling By Robert F. 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).

Image result for cover of attachment in psychotherapyAs 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:

ABC Bookstore Maximal Charles 2019“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.

See more on our ABC Bookstore.***

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.

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  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.

See more on our ABC Bookstore.***

Picture 1 of 1E-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!

See more on our ABC Bookstore.***

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  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]

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See more on our ABC Bookstore.***

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.

Picture 1 of 1As 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.

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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?

See more on our ABC Bookstore.***

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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.***

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

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I hope you find this blog post helpful.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

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[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

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