Dr Jim’s Blog Post
22nd April 2020
Can counsellors become truly holistic – truly polymathic – or are they permanently stuck in the ruts created by Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers?
In 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).
And 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.
Adding back the body to the disembodied mind
As 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).
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:
By Dr Jim Byrne
Many 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.
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. 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|
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|
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). 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!
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.
You 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).
You can read some more on this subject here: https://abc-bookstore.com/how-to-reduce-and-control-your-anxiety/
That’s all for now.
Sincere best wishes,
Dr Jim Byrne