New Writing on E-CENT Counselling

Models of Mind and Behaviour for Counsellor and Psychotherapists

by Dr Jim Byrne, October 2016 – Updated on 30th April 2020

A counsellor reflects upon models of mind

Integrating the psychological models of Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis

Front cover
Cover design by Will Sutton

Prices from: £5.99 (Kindle) and £14.99 GBP (Paperback)

This book explores some significant ways of thinking about the nature of the human brain-mind. Every counsellor needs to think long and hard about their perceptions of their clients.  Are they based on ‘common sense’, or have they been subjected to the discipline of considering the theories of great minds that preceded us, like Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis. (Ellis, of course, oversimplified the SOR model of mind into the simple ABC model, but he is still important because of his impact on the whole CBT theory, which currently dominates the field of counselling and therapy in the US, UK and elsewhere).  The author provides a stimulating review of several theories of mind.

Paperback and eBook versions available

Learn more.***

~~~

Blog Post No.112

Thursday 27th November 2014 – Posted here on 4th April 2020

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A counsellor blogs about Freud, Oliver James and John Bowlby…

  1. Introduction

I sometimes wonder why I bother to slog away trying to clarify the theory of counselling and therapy.  It seems that, as fast as I can clarify things, there are other writers in the field muddying the waters.  Here’s one example:

  1. Finished with Freud…

I was recently relieved to be ‘finished with Freud’ – in the sense that, in Annex B6 to Appendix B – of my new writing on E-CENT – I established to my own satisfaction that Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus complex was invalid, being unfounded on any empirical evidence.

I had previously shown how Freud had successfully updated Plato’s tripartite model of the human mind in a way which was more scientific and more satisfactory, in its outlines.

However, even in this connection, Freud made some pretty serious errors:

  1. He failed to spot (what Klein later spotted) – that the super-ego (or over-I) begins to develop the moment the mother and new-born baby begin to interact. That the superego is a general conscience (and not just a sexual one!), plus a general set of cultural rules;
  2. He assumed the super-ego ‘arrives’ at the point where the boy (not the girl!) realizes that he cannot defeat his father and make off with his mother, and so he develops a guilt complex about his sexuality, and suppresses it from that point onwards until puberty! (Pure fiction-writing on Freud’s part!)
  3. He asserted (in Freud, 1926) that all neurosis arises from conflicts between the ‘id’ (or physical baby/person and/or their appetites and drives), on the one hand, and the ego (or ‘outer crust of their id, which deals with the external environment’), on the other. In other words, people are not (according to Freud) upset by what happens to them, but rather by their phantasies about what they think might, should or could happen to them (and then, exclusively in the sexual domain!).

But there is an enormous amount of evidence that people are more upset in more upsetting environments, and less upset in less upsetting environments: (Sources)[1].  So, in that sense, Freud’s theory is nonsense at its core – quite apart from his narrowing of all disturbance down to ‘sexual phantasies’.

So for all of these reasons, I was finished with Freud, and all set to move on to review Jung and Adler, to see which aspects of their models of mind might help to refine the CENT model of mind.

However…

  1. Along came Oliver James

Earlier today, having spent yesterday doing a blog on Daniel O’Beeve’s revised Chapter 1 of his childhood memoir, I decided to look for some nice, new quotes to put on the homepage of this website, to stimulate the minds of our visitors.

Dr Oliver James – whose views I normally find acceptable – is one psychologist I have quoted extensively on the homepage, and his 2002 book – They F*** You Up: How to survive family life – was lying around on my desk; so I decided to dip into it to see what quotable quotes I might stumble across.  Unfortunately, this is what I found:

“It has become clear that Sigmund Freud was wrong about several important things, like the exaggerated significance he attached to the supposed sexual attraction of small children to their parents (known as the Oedipus complex).  However, recent studies have begun to show that in most fundamentals he was right.  They prove that he was right in asserting that we have an unconscious, and that it governs much of our thought, feeling and behaviour.  He was right to state that we repress into this unconscious what we cannot bear, and that much of our mental life is devoted to elaborate defensive activity designed to keep it there.  He was right when he said that our inner lives are immensely complex, with conflicting wishes and paradoxical impulses coexisting and fighting for expression.  But his single most important discovery to have been confirmed by the evidence of the last forty years is the sheer extent to which our childhood scripts govern the way in which we interpret the adult present”. (James, 2002, pages 81-82).

This statement obscures the fact that, throughout most of his career, Freud was an ‘id psychologist’ – emphasizing the biological urges of the child/individual as the prime mover of their personality and character.  Towards the end of his life, it seems he began to recognize that the ego was important, and was often split.  But it had to await the arrival of Dr Eric Berne to develop that idea into the Parent-Adult-Child model of Transactional Analysis.

And the concept of ‘childhood scripts’, which Dr James mentioned above, was “…first developed by Eric Berne and his co-workers, notably Claude Steiner, in the mid-1960s” – and not by Sigmund Freud! (Source of quote: Stewart and Joines, 1987)[2].

What literature sources does Oliver James cite for the claims made above?  If you turn to page 320, you will find this: Referring back to page 81-82, “…the assertions in this paragraph are supported by a review of this evidence in an edition of The Psychologist devoted to it, (published in) 2000, Vol.13, and the comprehensive review by Westen, 1998[3].

I checked online for a copy of The Psychologist, 2000, Vol.13, but could not find it.  I will have to order it through the inter-library loan service.  At the same time, I will order a copy of Westen (1998).  And then I will analyze and critically review them both, in the light of Oliver James’ claims above.  And I am now (necessarily) somewhat suspicious of (or at least questioning about) some of the other claims by Dr James which I have previously taken at face value!  (See how messy this is?!)

  1. In the meantime…

Until I’ve had a chance to review those two documents, I intend to hold to the following positions:

  1. Freud’s approach to psychological science is inferior to Dr John Bowlby’s, because Bowlby had empathy for the suffering of the child at the hands of an insensitive culture – parents, teachers, hospitals, courts, and the law. Because of Bowlby’s emphasis upon the environment, and how it could help or hinder the child’s emotional development – and the importance of a sensitive, caring, supportive relationship with the main carer (normally mother), British society was transformed, from the late 1950s onwards, into a more child-friendly place.
  2. For his humanitarian contribution to the wellbeing of children – and we are all children before we are adults – Bowlby was ostracized by the followers of Freud! Shame! Ostracized for decades.  Melanie Klein, who was (mainly) a staunch supporter of the Freudian position (in so far as she understood it) – and who was Bowlby’s supervisor – refused to allow Bowlby to talk to the mother of a three year old child he was seeing for psychoanalysis.  Her reasoning was this: the child is upset by its own phantasies; and the only available cure is “analysis of the transference”.  In the Freudian view, there is nothing to be gained from talking to his mother, or changing any aspect of his social environment!  Madness!  Insensitive, uncaring madness, created by Freud, and carried on by such ‘brave anti-Freudians’ as Dr Albert Ellis!
  3. While Oliver James seems to be representing himself as a Freudian, we should note that he is no such thing. In his excellent work on Selfish Capitalism (in his book, Affluenza), James shows how people are (negatively or positively) affected by their social environment. Freud denied that people were affected by their social environments.  He asserted, from 1897 onwards, that people became neurotic because of their childhood phantasies about wanting to have sexual contact with members of their own families.  (‘Wish fulfilments’! Madness!)  More specifically, Freud saw conflict between the id and ego as the cause of neurosis, thus excluding the external environment from any culpability.
  4. Oliver James is not a Freudian – and his definition of Freudianism does not correspond to the main theories of Freud, as asserted and practiced by Freud during his own lifetime!
  5. Oliver James has more in common with John Bowlby than he has with Freud, but he apparently does not know this! (Freud was a pseudo-scientist, aping the biologists to try to curry favour with the scientific establishment –hence the central importance of the psychosexual stages of development – a biological line of determinants of human behaviour! Bowlby was in fact more scientific, because he based his views of childhood emotional development and attachment upon the real scientific experiments of Harry Harlow, we worked with baby monkeys – subjected to maternal deprivation – to see if they would choose a ‘wire mother’ with milk-filled teats, or a warm, cuddly mother-substitute with no milk.  No contest!  The baby monkeys demonstrated over and over again that they were attracted to warmth and security, and not just to milk.  And who was it who asserted that “the only thing babies want from their mothers is milk!”  Sigmund Freud!)

~~~

  1. Postscript

How could Oliver James be so unaware that his actual thinking and feeling about human development comes from Harlow/Bowlby and the Object Relations School?  How could he be deluded into thinking it comes from Sigmund Freud?  Is this just sloppy thinking?  And, if so, how widespread is it?

See my book on A Counsellor Reflects upon Models of Mind.***

~~~

That’s all for now!

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Director of Publishing

The Institute for E-CENT

~~~

[1] Wilkinson, R.G. and Pickett, K.E. (2010) The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone.  London: Penguin.

James, O. (2007) Affluenza: How to be successful and stay sane.  London: Vermillion.

Smail, D. (1993) The Origins of Unhappiness – A New Understanding of Personal Distress. London: Constable.

[2] Stewart, I. and Joines. V. (1987) TA Today: A new introduction to Transactional Analysis.  Nottingham: Life Space Publishing.

[3] Westen, D. (1998) The scientific legacy of Sigmund Freud: Towards a scientifically informed psychological science. Psychological Bulletin, 124, Pages 333-371.

~~~

Here is an extract from Plato’s Tripartite model:

Plato’s Tripartite Model of Mind

Plato’s tripartite model of the mind, or soul, is essentially quite simple.  He sees the mind as being split between competing powers, like a charioteer striving to control two conflicted horses. The charioteer is the reasoning faculty in the individual.  The more materialistic ‘horse’ is an expression of our most basic appetites, or our appetitive self.  The third element is a bit more complex.

In two of Plato’s dialogues, in which he features Socrates engaging in conversations with interested others, Plato mentions a model of the human ‘soul’ (or mind).  In this model, the mind is assumed to be split three ways; and is normally referred to as a ‘she’.  In the introduction to the Phaedrus dialogue, Plato writes:

“The soul is immortal, for she is the course of all motion both in herself and in others.  Of her true and divine form it would (take) long to tell, but she may be described in a figure as a composite being made up of a charioteer and a pair of winged steeds.  The steeds of the gods are immortal, but ours are one mortal and the other immortal…” Page 765 Plato (1999)[1].

On page 767, Plato is involved in an argument about whether a non-lover is better than a lover – where ‘lover’ means an older man lusting after a younger man (or boy). He begins by distinguishing between lovers on the basis that their approach to seeking love will be determined by the god that they follow:

“The manner in which they take love is as follows:

“I told you about the charioteer and two steeds, the one a noble animal who is guided by word and admonition only, the other an ill-looking villain who will hardly yield to blow or spur.  Together all three, who are a figure of the soul, approach the vision of love.  And now a conflict begins.  The ill-conditioner steed rushes on to enjoy, but the charioteer, who beholds the beloved with awe, falls back in adoration”.

Plato’s story is long and involved, but, reading between the lines, and reading from several sources, over a number of years, I have reduced his story of the horses and the charioteer to a simple formula.  This is how it goes: Imagine a charioteer (Reason) who has two horses as his sources of pulling power, and they often wish to pull in conflicting directions. The function of the charioteer is to control and regulate the two horses.  The first horse (Spirit or wilfulness) is represented as being black (and sometimes as a tiny image of a lion); and the second horse (Appetite or desire) is represented as being white (and sometimes as a tiny beast).  The charioteer (Reason – represented by a tiny human form) is assumed to have the best chance of being in control if s/he can form an alliance with spirit/will against appetite. (Plato 1999; and Plato 2007)[2].

The use of reason

It is fairly obvious that we humans need to use our capacity to reason, using logical consequences, in order to control our appetites and desires.  Imagine a person who could not control their appetites for food, alcohol, sex and money.  Imagine a person who had an overwhelming desire for revenge against anybody who slighted them in the least.  Their lives would be brief and messy.  And a community of such individuals could not come into substantial existence, as it would self-destruct very quickly as it began to emerge.

How we learn to perform this task – of getting reason (our charioteer) in control of our horses (or appetites and spirit/passion) is probably one of the most important aspects of the enquiry that was begun by Plato.

In the Republic, Part V, Section 2[3], Plato presents a less allegorical description of his model of the human mind.  This is how it goes, as summarized by the editor (Melissa Lane) or translator (Desmond Lee), at the start of the section:

“Plato starts by reasserting the parallel between state (society) and individual; ‘since the qualities of a community are those of the component individuals, we may expect to find three corresponding elements in the individual soul. These will be found in every soul… (Cornford, page126)[4]…” – developed to different degrees.

Plato warns that his presentation will not involve much philosophical precision.  He then “…proceeds to examine the conflict of motives in the individual, and concludes that we cannot, without contradiction, assume the existence of less than three types of motive or impulse in the mind.

“First there is reason, the faculty that calculates and decides;

“Second there is desire or appetite, in the sense of bare physical or instinctive craving.

“There is also a third type of motive, covering … such characteristics as pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, indignation, which are often found in conflict with unthinking impulse”. (Pages 139-140 of Plato, 2007)[5].

… End of extract…

~~~

And here is an extract from Freud’s tripartite model, beginning with his exploration of the concept of ‘the unconscious’:

Introducing the ‘unconscious mind’

In Freud (1926), Sigmund Freud outlines the basic model of mind developed in psychoanalysis; and I had hoped to use this chapter (of his book) as a basis for reviewing his id/ego/superego model.  However, in passing he mentions ‘the unconscious’, and so I thought I’d better get the concept out of the way before moving on to the three core elements of the psyche.

Based upon years of earlier research on the mind, we in E-CENT had already concluded that the counselling client is a non-conscious processor of information.  This is how our position is expressed in the paper on What is E-CENT ?***

“Eleventh (Principle): E-CENT sees humans as primary non-conscious beings, who operate tacitly, automatically, from layers of cumulative, interpretative experience, stored in the form of schemas and stories, in long-term memory, and permanently beyond direct conscious inspection. At least 95% of all of our daily actions are executed non-consciously and automatically. So change is not easy; delusion is our normal state (i.e. our perceptions of ourselves, others and the world are false to facts); and we project our own ‘stories’ onto our environments, and judge them accordingly. To wake up to a more accurate understanding of life – with our adult-functioning in the driving seat – is not easy, but it is possible.”

But in this work – new thinking on E-CENT theory – we want to go ‘back to basics’ and rebuild our models from the bottom up.

Four arguments for the existence of the unconscious

I have found three references to ways in which we might infer the existence of a non-conscious part of our mind in Freud (1926).  I also recall reading of a fourth clue, but cannot find it in Freud (1926).

Let me deal with that fourth point first.

Argument 1: Basically, somewhere, Freud argues that the phenomenon of post-hypnotic suggestion is proof of the existence of a non-conscious component of the human mind.  This is so because the hypnotic subject is ‘put under’, and given a suggestion that, at a predetermined point after regaining consciousness, he or she will engage in some quite specific action which makes no sense other than as a predetermined response to a (now) non-conscious suggestion.  Because this phenomenon has been widely practiced and witnessed by many audiences, it does seem to be credible evidence for non-conscious processing of instructions/agreements/actions.

Then, in Freud (1926), Freud presents three additional indicators of the existence of what he calls ‘the unconscious’ and which I call ‘the non-conscious mind’, or, more precisely, the ‘non-conscious aspect or component of mind’.  (And when we think of the conscious and non-conscious components of mind, it is important to note that the conscious component is miniscule – being able to process just a small number of concepts per unit of time – while the non-conscious component appears to be vast, accounting for all of our habitual skills and behaviours).

Argument 2: His first reference is to the idea that “… there are … things that one would not care to admit to oneself: things that one likes to conceal from oneself and which for that reason one breaks off short and drives out of one’s thoughts if, in spite of everything, they turn up”. (Page 11). From this he concludes that: “It looks as though (a person’s) own self were no longer the unity which he had always considered it to be, as though there were something else as well in him that could confront that self.  He may become obscurely aware of a contrast between a self and a mental life in the wider sense…” (Page 11).

Argument 3: Freud’s second reference is to the way in which dreams (which occur when we are no longer conscious) point to some deep, non-conscious processing of images, thoughts and feelings: A non-conscious domain of the mind. (Freud, 1926; Page 15).

Argument 4: His third point about the ‘unconscious’ (which appears on page 19 of Freud, 1926) is this: “The idlest self-observation shows that ideas may occur to us which cannot have come about without preparation.  But you experience nothing of these preliminaries of your thought, though they too must certainly have been of a mental nature; all that enters your consciousness is the ready-made results.  Occasionally you can make these preparatory thought-structures conscious in retrospect, as though in a reconstruction”.

~~~

Let us begin with Argument 4:  This proposition by Sigmund Freud has been explored, by Maier (1931), and I made use of Maier’s results in both my Doctoral thesis, and in some of my papers on the development of human personality, and also in my book about the childhood of Dr Albert Ellis.  But let us begin with a review of how the world responded to Freud’s theory of the unconscious:

When Freud proposed the “unconscious mind”, he was derided by philosophers, who considered any mental processing to be necessarily conscious.  (Freud, 1995).  However, there is much modern evidence for the existence of non-conscious information processing, as an essential explanation for human functioning.  (Cf: Bargh and Chartrand, 1999; Gladwell, 2008; Gray, 2003[9]; Maier, 1931[10]; and Haidt, 2006[11]).  I explored that evidence in my doctoral thesis, and summarized much of the results in Byrne (2009e[12]).  Here is a brief extract from that paper:

“…humans are both conscious agents and non-conscious automata.  Not either/or.  Both/and.  At this point in time, it is the proportions of each that matters most to me.  Gray (2003: 66) argues that we are not able to be more conscious of our environmental stimuli because of the small bandwidth of conscious processing of the data of our senses.

“This (bandwidth) is much too narrow to be able to register the information we routinely receive and act on.  As organisms active in the world, we process perhaps 14 million bits of information per second.  The bandwidth of consciousness is around eighteen bits.  This means we have conscious access to about a millionth of the information we daily use to survive”.

That is a startling statistic.  So my research respondents – and my E-CENT therapy clients – probably have access to about one millionth of the data they routinely process in order to orient and move themselves through their daily environmental challenges.  Not all of this is in principle ‘knowable’ of course, such as how do I beat my own heart?  How am I digesting my food right now?  How much do I need to adjust my blood pressure and body temperature?  And so on.  But Bargh and Chartrand (1999: 464) quote Tice and Baumeister as saying that consciousness “…plays a causal role (in guiding our behaviour) only 5% or so of the time”.  (And Tice and Baumeister were trying to defend consciousness.)

~~~

… More…

A counsellor reflects upon models of mind

Integrating the psychological models of Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis

Front cover
Cover design by Will Sutton

Prices from: £5.99 (Kindle) and £14.99 GBP (Paperback)

This book explores some significant ways of thinking about the nature of the human brain-mind. Every counsellor needs to think long and hard about their perceptions of their clients.  Are they based on ‘common sense’, or have they been subjected to the discipline of considering the theories of great minds that preceded us, like Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis. (Ellis, of course, oversimplified the SOR model of mind into the simple ABC model, but he is still important because of his impact on the whole CBT theory, which currently dominates the field of counselling and therapy in the US, UK and elsewhere).  The author provides a stimulating review of several theories of mind.

Paperback and eBook versions available

Learn more.***

~~~

[1] Plato (1999) PhaedrusIn: The Essential Plato. (Translated by Benjamin Jowett; with an introduction by Alain De Botton).  Book-of-the-Month Club.

[2] Plato (1999) Phaedrus. (References to the charioteer and the horses: pages 767-768, and 815-817).  And:

Plato (2007) The Republic.  Second edition.  Translated by Desmond Lee, with an introduction by Melissa Lane.  London: Penguin Books.

[3] Plato (2007) The Republic.  Second edition.  Translated by Desmond Lee, with an introduction by Melissa Lane.  London: Penguin Books.

[4] The Republic of Plato / translated with introduction and notes by Francis Macdonald Cornford Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941.

[5] Plato (2007) The Republic.  Second edition.  Translated by Desmond Lee, with an introduction by Melissa Lane.  London: Penguin Books.