Creative writing and the therapeutic journey

Blog Post No. 155

18th July 2017

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2017

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: The art of writing; the frustrations of writing; complexity versus oversimplification; and the artist’s therapeutic journey…

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Introduction

Cover444It is now more than three months since my previous blog post was published.  The delay was down to how busy I’ve been, largely because of writing my latest book, which is now available at Amazon: Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes: The case against Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.***

My main role in life, as a doctor of counselling, is to see individual clients who have ‘problems of daily living’ which they cannot resolve on their own.  I help people with problems of anxiety, depression, anger, couple conflict, attachment problems, and other relationship problems.  Dr Jim’s Counselling Division.***

drjim-counsellor1However, I also write books, blogs and web pages; and articles or papers on counselling-related topics.  And I help individuals, from time to time, who are struggling with their creative or technical writing projects.  Sometimes I help individual writers to stay motivated, or to process their repeated rejection by an unreceptive and uncaring world.

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The frustrations of writing

It is far from easy being a creative writer.  Frustrations abound, from conception of a new and useful writing project; doing the research; writing early drafts; then polishing, editing and publishing; and then trying to sell the end product in a world which is awash with information overload.

An example of the frustrations of having produced a useful book, and then having it be ignored, is this:

Chill Out, coverOver the years of my professional career, I have found it stressful coping with the excessive demands of an exploitative social and economic environment; on top of the stresses caused by my own ambition; and the pressures of my own goals.  As a response to feelings of stress, I have studied the nature of stress; the causes and cures for stress; and the best strategies for staying on top of daily stress and strain.  And then, in 2003 (or earlier) I began to write about the nature of stress, and how to manage it, so it does not spoil our happiness and damage our physical health and emotional wellbeing.

In my new book on REBT, I wrote about that period like this:

“As early as August 2003 (and probably earlier), I was writing about the fact that stress was a multi-causal problem.  That idea contradicts the ABC theory, which asserts that all emotional distress (including the common manifestations of stress: anger, anxiety and depression) are caused exclusively by the client’s Beliefs (B’s).  Here is an example of my writing from August 2003:

“I have developed a stress management programme consisting of fifteen strategies which help you to work on your body, your emotions, your thinking, and your stress management skills. This programme allows you to develop a stress-free life.

8-physical-symptoms-of-stress

“You may also be affected by many life-change stressors, e.g. Moving house; death of your spouse or other loved one; divorce; marriage; redundancy; bullying at work; promotion; demotion; change of lifestyle; etc.

“Your stress level also depends upon such factors as your diet, exercise, what you tell yourself about your life pressures, and so on. (What you tell yourself about your pressures is called your “self-talk”).

“And a lot depends upon your sense of control. Can you control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you confident and assertive enough to at least try to control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you wise enough to learn how to stoically accept those things which you clearly cannot control? The more control you have, the less stress you feel, according to the Whitehall Studies, conducted by Michael Marmot, beginning in 1984.” (Original source in footnotes)[1].

However, the frustration was this: Although I had expertise about managing stress; and although I had packaged 15 different strategies for getting your stress under control, very few people bought my book!

And today, I believe, most people do not understand stress: How it destroys their happiness, damages their physical health, and causes all kinds of emotional problems.

Tough stuff! This is the lot of the creative writer.  The world most often seem to not to be ready for our insights!

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People love simplicity and side-tracks

While my stress book was not selling to any reasonable degree, the simple books about the ABC model of REBT, produced by Dr Albert Ellis, were selling much better.  Those books presented an exaggerated claim that they could help the reader to quickly and relatively effortlessly get rid of any problem, simply by changing their beliefs about the problems they encountered.

My new book demonstrates that there was never any solid evidence that this claim is true.  It also demonstrates that, in the process, the REBT/CBT model blames the client for their own upsets, thus excusing the harshness of current government policy in the US and the UK, where the riche are enriched and the poor are squashed!  That squashing process huts, and causes emotional distress and physical health problems.

Here is the evidence that it is not the individual’s beliefs, but the social environment that has the most impact on mental health and emotional wellbeing:

While psychotherapists like Albert Ellis tended to emphasise the role of the counselling client’s beliefs in the causation of anger, anxiety, depression, and so on, Oliver James, and his concept of ‘affluenza’, tends to emphasise living in a materialistic environment. As Dr James writes: “Nearly ten years ago, in my book Britain on the Couch, I pointed out that a twenty-five-year-old American is (depending on which studies you believe) between three and ten times more likely to be suffering depression today than in 1950. … In the case of British people, nearly one-quarter suffered from emotional distress … in the past twelve months, and there is strong evidence that a further one-quarter of us are on the verge thereof.  … (M)uch of this increase in angst occurred after the 1970s and in English-speaking nations”.  People’s beliefs have not changed so much over that time.  This is evidence of the social-economic impact of the post-Thatcher/Reagan neo-liberal economic policies!

Oliver James (2007) Affluenza: How to be successful and stay sane.  Page xvi-xvii. (63).

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The singer, not the song

Wounded psychotherapistIf you want to know where Albert Ellis’s cockeyed theory of human disturbance came from, you have to look beyond his theory books, and get into the foundations of his life, by reading his autobiography, and biographies about him.  That’s what I did in the end, in order to understand him and his theory of REBT.  In 2013, I did the research on his childhood, and wrote a book which showed that his childhood neglect by his parents was so extreme that he became an extreme Stoic, with an incapacity to experience or expose himself to love.  He developed an avoidant attachment style, and a disregard for emotion as a guide to action in the world.  He became a cold ‘reasoner’, whose reasoning was cockeyed because he was afraid to feel the sense of rejection that would have been appropriate to his childhood abandonment.  You can read about his sad journey in my book titled, A Wounded Psychotherapist: The childhood of Albert Ellis, and the limitations of REBT/CBT.***

front-cover2But that then brings us to who I am!  What is my song, and who is the singer anyway?  You can read about the journey that I’ve been on, from birth to the age of forty years – the key experiences that shaped me – and how I did my therapy in the end (which Ellis failed to do!)  You can find that story here: Metal Dog – Long Road Home: A mythical journey.***

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Conclusion

If you are a creative writer, and you want to write your own autobiography, or autobiographical novel, or you need support with any aspect of your creative writing process, then I can help you.

Coaching, counselling and therapy for writers.***

Or you could take a look at my current books in print.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

 

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

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[1] Source: My stress management page from 2003.  Still available online, at the Internet Archive WayBack Machine, here:           http://web.archive.org/web/20050829093647/http://rebt.cc:80/_wsn/page3.html

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