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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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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