Lack of sleep can ruin your career and relationships

Blog Post No. 60

9th September 2018 (Updated on 4th January 2019)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne, 2018-2019

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Renata’s Coaching Blog: Why you must ‘safeguard your sleep’!

Does your job entail dealing with people all day long?  If so, then your sleep level really makes a difference – and here’s why:

Introduction

draft cover 2 for selling pageI continue to research and write my book – the working title of which is now:

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

By Renata Taylor-Byrne

do I think you should safeguard your sleep, in a culture which is increasingly sleep deprived?

Essentially, if you do not get enough high quality sleep, your physical and mental health will suffer; as will your quality of life, level of happiness, and relationships at home and at work.

In this blog, I want to explain the connection between sleep quality and quantity, on the one hand, and your level of emotional intelligence, on the other.

And I also want to explore the importance of emotional intelligence to your career success and self preservation.

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Sleep and interpersonal intelligence

A BlinkDeep, restful, and nourishing sleep is crucial for everyone who is working with people all day long.

You need to be able to face the working day with energy and stamina, and to have enough vitality to fuel your ability to read and understand the non-verbal and verbal messages you get from other people; and to be able to manage your interactions with those people constructively.

This kind of social/emotionally intelligent ability to read nonverbal communication is an extremely valuable set of skills in the workplace: whether dealing with customers/clients or colleagues

This vitally important skill set includes:

– understanding how the other person is feeling;

– having the ability to spot the beginnings of conflict situations;

– being able to restore calm; and:

– having the ability to negotiate with, and successfully handle, other people, so that they feel respected, listened to, and understood.

Draft Full cover 3 for selling page.JPG

Front line people skills

Mathew Walker, why we sleepThese skills are integral to the work of police officers, health care professionals, teachers, social workers, negotiators, sales people and many other professions who are on ‘the front line’ of dealing with the public.

Emotionally intelligent people-reading is also very important in our personal relationships: with family members; people who provide services to us; and relationships with work colleagues.

However, emotionally intelligent reading of the nonverbal signals given off by other people, and diplomatically responding to them, is not a fixed set of skills, that you learn once and for all, and can then deliver or utilise, whenever you like, under any kind of personal circumstance.  In fact, you need a great deal of energy and stamina to perform these tasks effectively.

The key elements fuelling this energy and stamina include what you eat, and how well rested you are.

The inside story

But we are not just interested in the feelings of other people, when we talk about being emotionally intelligent. We are also concerned with what’s happening inside you as you deal with people in the workplace? It’s very important for your health and well-being to be able to recognise and acknowledge your own emotions and feelings as well, and be able to accept them as they take place.

A Marabain chart

Then you need the skill of being able to constructively manage your feelings so that they are dealt with in a therapeutic and constructive way.

This range of skills, I have just described, make up the skills of emotional intelligence, and here is a definition from Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves:

“Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognise and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships”.[1]

There is growing research to support the belief that the most effective people in work and home relationships are those who are more emotionally intelligent.  And there is also evidence accumulating that those individuals who lack emotional intelligence, tend to get themselves into trouble in work, at home, and even in legal actions!

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The case of ‘who gets sued’

A, BradberryOne way to examine the value of emotional intelligence at work is to look at the likelihood of being sued for incompetence or malpractice if you are high or low on emotional intelligence.

Here’s an example of what happens when people don’t develop their emotional intelligence:

It comes from research conducted by Levinson, a medical researcher, into medical professionals (specifically surgeons,) and malpractice claims by their patients. When malpractice lawsuits are investigated, it has emerged that

– there are doctors who are error-prone, and who do not have legal claims or complaints made against them by their patients,

– but there are also highly competent doctors whose behaviour prompts patients to sue them frequently.

What is the difference between them?

Patients, according to Gladwell (2005)[2], don’t sue for inadequate treatment they have received. Instead, they sue because they have received inferior treatment, “…and something else happens to them”. (page 40)

The additional factor is the personal treatment the patients receive in their communications with their health professionals; which includes the health professional’s non-verbal manner with clients.

The research by Levinson

As part of her research investigations, Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between one group of surgeons and their patients. One sub-group of the surgeons had never been sued, and the other group had experienced having legal action taken against them at least twice.

She spotted these differences between the two groups when she examined the recorded conversations: the non-sued group spent more time (approximately three minutes longer) with each patient. They took care to outline what would happen while the patient was being examined, and they made it clear that there was space for any questions. They listened fully and attentively to the client, and engaged in humour and light-heartedness with them.

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draft cover 2 for selling pageSo the essential difference discovered between these two groups was how the patients were spoken to.

Then Nalini Ambady, a psychological researcher, did some more sophisticated research on the recordings of patient/doctor conversations, and focused in on the emotional tone of the conversations alone.

The outcome, which totally surprised the judges and Ambady herself, was that using these categories enabled a pattern to quickly become apparent: it was possible to predict which of the surgeons were the ones being sued, and which surgeons were not. The results were clear: a surgeon with a dominating voice was most likely to be in the sued group. And a more attentive, solicitous voice would mean that the doctor was in the non-sued group.

This outcome revealed the importance of tone of voice:

“The most corrosive tone of voice that a doctor can assume is a dominant tone”. (Page 43)

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What has sleep got to do with maintaining and developing emotional intelligence?

Experiments have shown that, without sufficient sleep, our ability to regulate (manage and control) our emotions is reduced. Lack of sleep affects our frontal lobes which are vital for managing our emotional reactions and keeping our feelings under control.

As well as tone of voice being a very powerful communicator which, if unregulated, can result in dire interpersonal results, there is also the importance of being able to read the facial expressions of others: When we sleep at night, the parts of our brain which assess non-verbal messages and facial expressions are rested and reinvigorated by rapid eye movement sleep (REM). This means that when our brains are refreshed the following day, we are able to see the subtle changes in micro momentary expressions and our ability to assess accurately the emotional states of the people around us is back to full strength.

Matthew Walker (2017) described an experiment which showed how lack of sleep affected this crucial skill. The experiment was as follows: participants came to his sleep laboratory and had a long, restful night’s sleep. Then the next morning they were shown a lot of pictures of one person’s face. The facial expressions in the pictures varied from very hostile and aggressive, through to less emotional, calm and friendly facial expressions.

There were distinct, yet small changes in the facial expressions of the person shown in the pictures, but the main feature of them was that there was this range of facial expressions from friendliness and warmth through to anger and strong dislike.

As the participants looked at the faces they had their brains scanned by a MRI machine (which uses radio waves and strong magnetic fields to create quite detailed pictures of the brain). The task they were given was to assess each picture in terms of its friendliness or hostility, or in other words, how threatening or welcoming the facial expressions were.

The second stage of the experiment involved the participants performing a similar facial expression assessment activity. This time they were sleep deprived, and significantly, weren’t allowed to have REM sleep.

Half of the participants had the full night’s sleep experience followed by the picture assessment, and then were sleep deprived the following night, and then performed the assessment procedure.

The other half of the group had the sleep deprivation condition first, and then assessed the pictures, followed by a full night’s sleep the following night, and did a visual assessment process afterwards. In each experimental condition, there were different individuals chosen to display the full range of emotional expressions, so the facial expressions had not been seen before in previous pictures.

Participants who had experienced a good night’s sleep with REM (rapid eye movement sleep) in it, had no difficulties in sorting out the different facial expressions from each other, from the range of friendly to menacing facial expressions. They performed this task inside the MRI scanner and their assessments were accurate.

There was a variation in the quality of the REM sleep, which the participants experienced. And those who had the superior quality of REM sleep showed that they were very well equipped to understand the messages from the pictures.

But the participants were then put in the second condition of the experiment: they were deprived of sleep (in particular, REM sleep) and then had to enter a MRI scanner and describe the emotions they could see on the pictures they were given, of the different facial expressions. And this time the participants found it much less easy to differentiate between the varieties of emotions shown on the collection of facial expressions.

Because of their lack of sleep (including REM sleep) they had lost the ability to quickly spot emotional states shown on someone’s face. They saw facial expressions of kindliness and welcome as hostile and menacing. Walker (2017) considers that the removal of REM sleep had affected the ability of the participants to assess others’ moods accurately:

“Reality and perceived reality were no longer the same in the “eyes” of the sleepless brain. By removing REM sleep we had quite literally removed participants’ level-headed ability to read the social world around them” (Page 217)

Why do we need REM (rapid eye movement) sleep?

REM sleep replenishes the brain’s ability to assess the level of seriousness of situations requiring emotional intelligence. It is crucial for those occupations that demand that workers perform their duties at night, to be aware of the importance of getting enough sleep prior to working, so that they get REM sleep.  This includes nurses, doctors and staff in the support services, the police and also other shift workers. For example, medical and nursing staff need their emotional intelligence to be at a high level to assess the level of pain that a person was experiencing, or their reactions to a new type of medication.

Here is an example of the effects of lack of sleep:The Daily Express of Tuesday June 26th, 2018, had as the main news item on its front cover: “Exhausted Doctors act like drunks” and described the effects of long hours of work and insufficient sleep:

“Tired and overworked doctors have an adverse effect on patient safety and the NHS must shift how it looks after the mental and physical health of its workforce”, was a comment made at the British Medical Association’s conference in Brighton. And the branches of the BMA in the City of London and Hackney division put forward a motion to the conference to consider:

“After twelve hour shifts doctors have been tested and behave as if they are drunk in terms of concentration and judgement. The doctors tested had no idea that their judgement was impaired.”

Conclusion

Lack of sleep can really affect our ability to assess situations around us accurately, and people who are working on the front line in the policing, security and health and caring services need to be well-rested as they perform their jobs, as the evidence shows. Their behaviour has a very powerful, knock-on effect on their clients and members of the public.

Nata-Lifestyle-coach8As I stated earlier,this applies to managers at every level: directors, company executives, university and college managers, social and health care managers, emergency service managers, police management, psychiatrists, supervisors, teachers, and parents; and many others. Because of this wear and tear, self-care is very important when managing people, as is the need to take care of the people being managed.

That’s why a decent night’s sleep is essential if you are working with people the following day, and want to be as well-prepared, and as capable as possible.

In addition to the importance of emotional intelligence in work, we must also take seriously the important effects of sleep deprivation, or sleep insufficiency upon relationships at home.  A lot of broken relationships could perhaps have been preserved and improved if the couple had taken sufficient care of their need for at least eight hours of good quality sleep each night!

draft cover for selling pageI hope you’ve found this blog interesting and helpful; and that you watch out for my book, which is coming soon. The title includes the words, “Safeguard your Sleep”, and  now you know some of the reasons why it’s very important to do that!

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

BlueLogo13CRenata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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[1]  Quotation by Dr Travis Bradberry and Dr Jean Greaves in an article entitled: ‘About Emotional Intelligence’ Available at: http://www.talentsmart.com/about/emotional-intelligence.php   Accessed 25/06/2018.

[2] Gladwell, M. (2005) Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. London: Penguin.

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Lifestyle factors complicate counselling and therapy assessments

Blog Post No. 174

By Dr Jim Byrne

8th September 2018

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Dr Jim’s Blog: “What’s wrong with my counselling client?” Lifestyle factors complicate counselling-psychological assessments…

 Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, September 2018

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Introduction

Emotions-and-survivalMany of the human tragedies that clients bring to our counselling and psychology consulting rooms have pure social-psychological roots. These include:

– childhood abuse or neglect;

– traumatic experiences later on;

– stress and strain of difficult lives;

– relationship problems;

– and the normal human responses to losses, failures, threats, dangers, frustrations and insults; and so on.

We also see our fair share of

– attachment problems;

– personality distortions (or mal-adaptations to parents and others);

– and retreats from an intolerable reality.

New complications

DrJimCounselling002But all of this is now complicated by the existence of

– widespread consumption of junk food;

– disruption of normal sleep patterns by economic stress and new technologies which destroy melatonin;

– plus adoration of sedentary lifestyles;

– and various other lifestyle factors that

# precipitate problems of anger, anxiety and/or depression, in their own right; or

# magnify emotional disturbances that have psychological roots.

Body-and-mind

Because of this changed reality, which has come upon us in the past couple of decades, in the main, we now need to be able to spot the contribution of lifestyle factors to emotional and behavioural disturbances which may or may not be otherwise psycho social in origin.

SOR-model3

Our solution

The Lifestyle Counselling Book

We have done a lot of research on the multiple sources of human disturbance; and compiled that in a book, titled Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy.

We have also written a page of information about these Lifestyle Counselling problems, abstracted from our book, which you can find by clicking the following link: https://abc-counselling.org/counselling-the-whole-person/

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This book, like all our other books, is available via Amazon outlets, all over the world, as both a high quality paperback and as a downloadable Kindle eBook.

A Kindle dBooks imagePS: If you want to see the kind of range of ideas that I write about, please go to Books about Emotive-Cognitive Therapy (E-CENT).***

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone: 44 1422 843 629

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diet and exercise links to mental health

Blog Post No. 173

By Dr Jim Byrne

8th September 2018

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Dr Jim’s Blog: Understanding the links between anger, anxiety and depression – on the one hand – and nutrition and physical activity – on the other…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, September 2018

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Introduction

drjim-counsellor9Renata and I did a lot of research and reflection on the subject of the impact of diet and exercise upon mental health and emotional wellbeing. Nata-Lifestyle-coach92

We did this work because we wanted to consolidate and expand our pre-existing level of understanding of the part that nutrition and exercise play in the emotional well-being of our coaching and counselling clients, so that we can help them as much as possible; and also to inform a wider audience of a range of helpful research studies.

Our overall aim is to put an end to the false assumption that the body and mind are separate entities, which can be treated in isolation from each other (by medicine, on the one hand, and by psychotherapy on the other).

The complexity of human body-minds

Human beings are very complex; indeed the most complex entities in the known universe.  But that does not mean we cannot hope to come to understand ourselves better than we currently do.

There are, for example, some identifiable factors which contribute to the makeup of human personality; and there is now a good deal of research which needs to be added to the psychological model of the human being.

Holistic SOR model

We can learn to better understand our body-brain-mind interactions with our social environments, and this can enable us to understand ourselves and our clients, and to help them, and ourselves, more effectively.

For examples:

– we are affected (emotionally and physically) by our diets;

– the amount of exercise we do;

– our self-talk (or ‘inner dialogue’);

– our sleep patterns;

– our family of origin;

– and all the patterns of behaviour we observed and experienced in our development;

– plus our current relationships, and environmental circumstances: e.g. our housing accommodation; the educational opportunities we had; our social class position; and our opportunities for employment (or earning a living).

Implications

Diet,exercise book coverSince expanding our understanding of this complexity of human functioning, we have developed new approaches to perceiving our clients; and assessing the complex nature of their presenting problems in the consulting room.

We have also produced a page of information on this research, and the book that resulted from it: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression: Using nutrition and physical activity.

You can find our page of information about this book and this research by clicking the following link: https://abc-counselling.org/diet-exercise-mental-health

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A Kindle dBooks imagePS: If you want to see the kind of range of ideas that I write about, please go to Books about Emotive-Cognitive Therapy (E-CENT).***

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone: 44 1422 843 629

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Writing therapy and business success

Blog Post No. 172

By Dr Jim Byrne

8th September 2018

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Dr Jim’s Blog: How to use Writing Therapy for business success

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, September 2018

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Introduction

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)Every day, I discover some new problem that I have to solve, for important, self-defined reasons.

No matter how many problems I solve, I still find new challenges to grapple with.

This is our human nature.  We are problem-finding and problem-solving creatures.  We move forward in life by wrestling with difficulties.

If we do not wrestle with difficulties, we get stuck at some unsatisfactory point along our path through life.

Navigating the turbulent seas of stressful life

Man-writing3My Writing Journal is my *anchor* and *compass* in the turbulent seas of life. At least when it comes to processing my negative experiences.

For example, yesterday I was feeling quite unhappy because one of my major goals was not being achieved to any significant degree. Nothing I did seemed to shift my unhappiness about that sense of stuckness.  To be clear, it was a goal about business success…

I had worked hard to define that goal, and to work out a detailed action plan.  But progress was so far below par that I felt greatly discouraged.

Writing Theapy book coverSo I sat at my desk with my journal, and reminded myself of the writing therapy processes that I have written about in my book, which are designed to help in this kind of situation. I used the section on self-management skills, and pretty soon I had identified something that I can do to maximize my chances of achieving the goal in question.

Pursuing business goals

On this particular occasion, I was concerned about a business goal, and so I made a commitment to write it in my journal every morning, and then to review progress against that goal, also in my journal, at the end of every day.

I was also remained of the very important principle that “success cannot be pursued”.  Success, like happiness, is something that happens as a by-product of following your conscience in doing your life’s work.   So I began to write about my life’s work, and how to pursue some elements of that today, and not how to translate that into material success!

As I wrote, the *writing therapy process* itself began to resolve things, and throw up new ideas.  I now have a daily strategy to follow which should take care of the problem for me; and if it does not; then I can go back to the ‘drawing board’ (or writing therapy journal) and do some more work on this problem.

Conclusion

My book on Writing Therapy teaches these points (among the more than 20 strategies I include); and also the principle that you have to “think on paper” – (or *perceive-feel-think* on paper) – otherwise you will get washed out into the turbulent sea by the stressful waves of life, and lose your connection to your anchor in life (which should be your life’s work, dictated by your conscience!).

Draft cover jimnearfinal (2)

For more on this approach to living consciously, please take a look at the page of information on the subject of *How to Write a New Life for Yourself*, by clicking this link: https://abc-counselling.org/how-to-write-a-new-life-for-yourself/

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A Kindle dBooks imagePS: If you want to see the kind of range of ideas that I write about, please go to Books about Emotive-Cognitive Therapy (E-CENT).***

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone: 44 1422 843 629

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Lifestyle counselling resources available in eBook format

Sunday 2nd September

Blog post

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Lifestyle counselling resources are now being made available in low-cost eBook format via Kindle

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Resources for counsellors and psychotherapists – and for self-help enthusiasts

The following resources are now available in low-cost, Kindle eBook format:

The Lifestyle Counselling Book

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy,

By Dr Jim Byrne with Renata Taylor-Byrne.

Available here: https://abc-counselling.org/counselling-the-whole-person/

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How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical exercise,

by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.

Available here: https://abc-counselling.org/diet-exercise-mental-health/

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Writing Theapy book coverHow to Write a New Life for Yourself,

by Dr Jim Byrne

(with Renata Taylor-Byrne).

Available here:

https://abc-counselling.org/how-to-write-a-new-life-for-yourself/

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These three books have proved very popular with counsellors and psychologists on LinkedIn, and they are selling in significant numbers.

DrJimCounselling002It seems there is an appetite for radical change abroad in the world of counselling and psychotherapy at the moment, and people are ready to explore new ideas.  In particular, the relationship between the body and mind (the body-mind connection); the problems of sedentary lifestyle and inadequate nutrition; plus inadequate sleep; and how to process our own experiences in a journal.

All of these developments are very encouraging for the future health of our counsellors and therapists, and for their clients!

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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 dot byrne at abc-counselling dot com

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Lifestyle counselling as extreme self-care

Blog Post No. 171

By Dr Jim Byrne

24th July 2018

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Dr Jim’s Blog: *Lifestyle Counsellors* are gurus of *Extreme Self-Care*

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Introduction

The Lifestyle Counselling Book
The Lifestyle Counselling Book

We live in very difficult times.  Stress levels in the Anglo-American world are the worst for many decades, resulting in an epidemic of emotional distress – manifesting as depression, anxiety, panic and anger outbursts.  Mental health is in crisis.  Physical health is in crisis. (See *The China Study*, by Campbell and Campbell, 2006). The so-called high-tech health systems of the Anglo-American world are failing to maintain the health of our nations.

Sitting on the periphery of this mess is the legion of counsellors and psychotherapists, who have to decide where to stand on these developments.  But there are really only two places to stand.  One involves covering your eyes with a blinder, and soldiering on pointlessly. And the other involves waking up and doing something about this mess.

When seekers after truth trek across the vast wildernesses of India, China and Japan; and find a guru – a teacher – to awaken them, the guru does not ask the seeker a set of diagnostic questions, and then look in a big, fat book for the answers.  No.  The guru is a *living example* of how to be awake.  They consult their *personal journey* to know the answer to the seeker’s questions about their own journey.

Learning by doing, and then teaching it!

In similar fashion, Lifestyle Counsellors do not look in a big fat book for the answers to their clients’ body-brain-mind-environment problems.  Instead, we use our own experience (which has to include a lot of just-in-time reading and habit-change), as practitioners of *Extreme Self-Care*, to advise and guide our seekers, or clients.  (We might refer a client for additional help from another type of therapist, who deals with diet, or exercise, of sleep, etc.  But we already know about diet, and exercise and sleep ourselves, because of the self-care journey upon which we have been engaged for years!)

A counsellor who eats junk food cannot teach their clients how to engage in extreme self-care; any more than a sleep-deprived counsellor can teach their clients about the importance of sleep; or a sedentary counsellor can teach the importance of physical activity.

The Lifestyle Counselling revolution is a revolution of self-care. And *extreme self-care* is the only hope we have of coping with the stresses and strains, and the health and happiness challenges, that we face in the modern American Empire.

Teaching by example

If you do not take control of your own physical and mental health, and your emotional wellbeing, how can you hope to help your clients to cope with the social and economic mess in which they currently live?

“Talking while Rome burns” is no longer an ethical option!

Do you believe in the importance of *extreme self-care*?  If you do, then you have to pursue it; and, if possible, teach it.  And you have to campaign for social policies which support extreme self-care for every citizen!

Our informational input on this subject

We have now produced a page of information about how to move beyond the Cartesian delusion of the separate mind, and into a new era of whole *Lifestyle Counselling*.  We see this as the core of most healing practices of the future.  (For more on this subject, take a look at our page: *Counselling the Whole Person, by Dr Jim Byrne*:  https://abc-counselling.org/counselling-the-whole-person/)

For some years to come, this form of Holistic/Integrative/Lifestyle counselling practice will be a novel service-offering for counsellors and clients who have realized that:

# the body and mind are interdependent and interactional;

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

# resulting in excellent or poor mental health, physical health, emotional wellbeing and personal happiness/unhappiness.

In the pages of our popular book, 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 science of sleep, and the effect of sleep insufficiency on our thinking, feeling and behaviour;

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

– a chapter on how to identify and assess the counselling client’s sources of emotional disturbance, using the Holistic-SOR Model;

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

For more on this subject, take a look at our page: *Counselling the Whole Person, by Dr Jim Byrne*:  https://abc-counselling.org/counselling-the-whole-person/

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If you want to know how to change any habit, in the areas of diet and exercise, etc; then you need to see our book on How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

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Freud, sex, literature, Descartes, and the body-brain-mind-environment-complexity

Blog Post No. 170

By Dr Jim Byrne

23rd July 2018

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Dr Jim’s Blog: Freud, sex, literature, Descartes, and the body-brain-mind-environment-complexity!

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Part Two: More on ‘What are the linkages between psychology and psychotherapy, on the one hand, and literature, on the other’?

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, July 2018

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Introduction

Books on emotional intelligence.JPGRecently, I’ve been blogging about some of the important linkages, or overlaps, between psychology, on the one hand, and literature, on the other.

For examples: I have written about:

(1) Some of the books that helped to grow my emotional intelligence; or to help me to ‘complete’ (or process) some early, traumatic experience;

(2) My own semi-autobiographical novel/story about the life of Daniel O’Beeve – and how this is legitimate psychotherapy for the reader, as well as the writer;

(3) How to “write a new life for yourself” – in the form of a new paperback book about a system of psychotherapy, which I have developed over a number of years.

(4) How psychological insights seep into literature; and how literature in turn influences, or humanizes, psychology and psychotherapy.

Today, I want to describe some experiences with literature that I’ve had over the past couple of days.

Visiting bookshops in Bradford

Julian Barnes, Through the WindowTwo days ago – on Saturday 21st July – Renata and I took some time out and went to Bradford for lunch, and to take a look around the shops, including two bookshops and the main DVD/movie outlet (HMV, in the new arcade).

In Waterstones’ bookshop, towards the end of our visit, I was looking for something which would help me to reflect some more upon the linkages between psychology and literature.

There was nothing of any relevance in the Psychology section.

Then I went looking for a Literature section.  The best I could find were two adjacent book cases, one on Poetry, and one on Drama.  (Bradford is not a particularly big city).

In the drama section, there were a few books on literature, including one by Julian Barnes: Through the Window – Seventeen essays (and one short story); London; Vintage Books; 2012.

The blurb on the back of this book suggested it was exactly what I was seeking.  It began like this: “Novels tell us the most truth about life…”

I bought it, and brought it home, and dived into the Preface, which describes ‘a Sempé cartoon’, which shows three sections of a bookshop.  On the left, the Philosophy section; on the right, the History section; and in the middle, a window that looks out at a man and a woman who are approaching each other from roughly the locations of those two sections, and who are inevitably (and accidentally) going to meet in front of the middle section, which is the Fiction section.

For Julian Barnes, this cartoon describes his own beliefs about the central role of fiction in our lives.

“Fiction, more than any other written form, explains and expands life”, he writes, with great assurance.  “Biology, of course, also explains life; so do biography and biochemistry and biophysics and biomechanics and biopsychology.  But all the biosciences yield no biofiction.  Novels tell us the most truth about life: what it is, how we live it, what it might be for, how we enjoy and value it, how it goes wrong, and how we lose it.  Novels speak to and from the mind, the heart, the eye, the genitals, the skin; the conscious and the subconscious.  What it is to be an individual, what it means to be part of a society. What it means to be alone.  …” Etcetera.

However, it could be objected that, while the various sciences instruct, and suggest what must be done and not done, the literary arts merely create visceral and emotive sensations, which must link up with our socialization in general – that is to say, our previous learning – to help us to decide what to do with this new literary information; these insights; or newly forming feelings and thoughts.

Indeed, it seems to me that if all we had was literature, then we would be “weaving without weft” – or trying to make a fabric without those long strings, from one end of the loom to the other, through which the shuttle passes.  We would be trying to make sense of fictions in the absence of the insights we gain from the various sciences, and the ruminations of the various philosophers.

However, the reverse is also true.  Without literature and art, the sciences would provide us with long strings of facts, set up on our mental looms, but with no means of weaving a living fabric of warmth and depth and emotional meaning.

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An example from fiction

John-Fowles-MantissaWhat I omitted from my story above is this: Before going to Waterstones’, we had visited the Oxfam shop, which has a vast floor dedicated to second-hand books, included the abandoned books of waves of undergraduates and postgraduates from the local universities: yards of books on Psychology, philosophy, health studies, and so on.  And then there’s History, and lots of novels – many of the pulp variety – and some classics.

During this visit, I did look at psychology, and health studies, and personal development; but I began by looking for a novel which might help me to elucidate some of the points I’ve been exploring in these blog posts.  And I did find one.

I found Mantissa, by John Fowles. This author’s name jumped out at me because I have read five of his nine books – but I had never come across Mantissa.

So I opened it, and what should leap off the page at me, but a quotation by René Descartes.  This had an electrifying effect upon me, because I have been arguing – in earlier blog posts in this series – that philosophies, like Descartes’ misleading ‘cogito’ (“I think therefore I am”), got into psychology; and that, whatever arises within, or gets into, psychology, inevitably finds its way into literature.  And here was a living proof of my assertions.  The particular quote from Descartes, promulgated by John Fowles, on page 5 of Mantissa, included the following conclusion:

“…this I, that is to say the soul by which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from the body, is even easier to know than the body, and furthermore would not stop being what it is, even if the body did not exist”.

We know from previous considerations of this ‘cogito’-philosophy of Descartes by generations of philosophers, that it is impossible to sustain his beliefs about the body-mind split.

But the more important consideration is this: Why is John Fowles beginning his novel with this quotation?

Is it his intention to argue that we are souls, separate and apart from our bodies?

Or is he going to try to undermine Descartes’ belief?

Part I (of IV) begins with the suggestion of ‘a consciousness’ surrounded by “a luminous and infinite haze”. And out of this connectivity comes an individual consciousness – a male person, in a bed, looking up at two women; one of whom claims to be his wife, and the other a doctor (of neurology); and the suggestion emerges of ‘loss of personal memory’.  The ‘wife’ departs, and a nurse arrives to join the doctor, and it unfolds that the treatment for this poor man (Mr Green’s) mental problem is a physical therapy.  (The theory, explicitly stated by the doctor, is that there is a link between the genitals and the personal sense of remembered self!)

At this point, we can say that Fowles seems to be setting out to refute Descartes view of a separation between mind and body, by treating memory loss via the genitals. (Crazy theory, I know!  But it proves to owe a lot to Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages of human development!)

Fowles’ intention to undermine Descartes seems likely, especially given that the doctor in this story is a neurologist: a specialist in understanding brain-mind functioning. Or the physical brain as the substrate of mind.

Mr Green proves to be resistant to the sexual activities to which he is subjected by the doctor and the nurse, until, at the start of Part II, it emerges that no such reality exists.  There are no physical bodies present! It is all going on in the mind of Mr Green – (who is obviously, ultimately, Mr Fowles!) – who is essentially writing (in his mind) some scenes of pornography.

This is an echo of one of Descartes’ meditations, in which he wonders if he might be just a brain suspended in a vat by an evil demon, and that his brain imagines that it is attached to a body in an external environment.  (I know!  Descartes was a nut!)

(But think about today’s counsellors and psychiatrists.  Most counsellors think of the client as a floating mind!  And most psychiatrists think of the mind-brain as a chemical unit separate and apart from the stresses and strains of its social environment, its philosophy of life, and its personal history of experience!)

Towards the end of Part IV, it becomes obvious that all of the action being described within this narrative, is not actual action, but narrative within narrative; with a magical edge, provide by the presence of the Greek goddess, Erato: (originally introduced as the doctor of neurology!); and the pornographic ravings of a juvenile author (Fowles!)

There is a nod backwards towards Freud in this book; not alone by reducing all human activity to a sexual nightmare; but also these nuggets:

“Now listen closely, Mr Green”. (This is said by the doctor of neurology; who we later learn is the goddess Erato!) “I will try to explain one last time.  Memory is strongly attached to ego”. (NB: Ego is the English-psychoanalyst rendering of Freud’s concept of ‘the I’.)  “Your ego has lost in a conflict with your super-ego”, – (Super-ego is the English-psychoanalyst rendering of Freud’s concept of ‘the Over-I’ [the first instantiation of which is every baby’s mother]).  – “which has decided to repress it – to censor it”. (The concept of repression comes from Freud!) “All nurse and I wish to do is to enlist the aid of the third component of your psyche, the id”. (‘The id’ is the English-psychoanalyst rendering of Freud’s concept of ‘the It’; the ‘thing’ that we are at birth! The ‘whole thing’, body-brain-and-embryonic-mind). “Your id” writes Fowles, through the ethereal person of the doctor/goddess, “is that flaccid member pressed against my posterior.  It is potentially your best friend. And mine as your doctor.  Do you understand what I am saying?” (Page 31 of Mantissa).

So, I think some of my points are being ‘firmed up’ here (if you will pardon my inability to refrain from making a pun at the expense of Fowles and Freud!)  In particular, I think it is safe to say that ideas pass freely between philosophy, psychology and literature.  Each feeds off the other. There are no impermeable boundaries between those domains of thought!

And we have to be awake to this reality for various reasons which I will look at later.  The most obvious one being that fictions find their way into philosophy; and philosophical fictions find their way into psychology; and fictitious aspects of psychology inform counselling and psychotherapy!  And round and round!

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Back to Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes © Alan Edwards
Julian Barnes

Earlier I quoted a very strong argument by Julian Barnes, from the Preface of his book, Through the Window; in which he said: “Novels tell us the most truth about life…”.

However, if you read your texts closely, you will often be rewarded with insights like this: Barnes was inconsistent.

Really? In what way?

Well, just 45 words after the end of his strong claims about novels telling the most truth, we read this statement; the final statement of the Preface:

“The best fiction rarely provides answers; but it does formulate the questions exceptionally well”. (Emphasis added, JWB).

So, if we put his two main ideas together, we get this:

Novels tell us the most truth, but not in the form of answers; only in the form of questions!

Does that make any sense?  No.

Why not?

Because the novel actually presents imaginary scenarios as history. Reading those scenarios – and taking them at face value – the reader finds that certain questions automatically form within their body-brain-mind, based on their socialization; their past experiences; and their current circumstances.

The author cannot control which questions will form in the mind of the reader.

But what is the value of the questions that are thus formed by fictional writing?

The value is huge!  Why?  Because questions are the first and most essential part of what some people call ‘thinking’, but which I call ‘overt, conscious perfinking’ – where ‘perfinking’ means perceiving- feeling- thinking, all in one grasp of the mind.

So, novels impact us, by bringing up new thoughts, and especially questions, which, if we pursue them, may produce dramatic answers that shunt us out of a current reality into a range of new possibilities! In this sense, novels are potentially hugely therapeutic!

For this reason, I recommend novels – the very best novels – my counselling clients; and to my supervisees – counsellors who need to keep growing their hearts and minds; and improving thereby their body-brain-mind-environment-complexity!

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How did the body get into the previous statement?

Heckler-Anatomy-of-change.jpgIt might have been difficult to answer the question – ‘What does the body have to do with reading and/or writing novels?’

Except, while I was scanning the pages of John Fowles’ Mantissa, Renata came over to me and showed me a book she had found: ‘The Anatomy of Change: A way to move through life’s transitions’. This book was written by Richard Strozzi Heckler (1993), a teacher of Aikido (which is a system of Japanese unarmed combat – which I studied briefly at the Dublin Judo Club, in 1991-’62). Heckler’s philosophy of life can be summed up like this:

Renata pointed me at a section on Living in the Body; in which Heckler describes how he was once hired by a juvenile detention centre, where he was to work with difficult juveniles who were violent offenders.  He worked with one, physically huge, and very angry young man who expressed the desire to kill somebody, because he was so angry. Heckler, intuitively, and pragmatically, told this youth that he could show him precisely how to kill somebody.  The youth was hooked, and they began to work on the Aikido pressure points.  But this youth’s physical energies prevented him easily learning what needed to be learned; and so Heckler began to work on his body, to get him to the state where he could master the Aikido pressure points that he wanted to learn. However, through the process of focusing his attention on his own body, and learning to release tensions, this youth lost his interest in killing anybody. He was beginning to live in his body; and he realized it was more interesting to find out about himself than to kill anybody.

Moving a muscle can change a thought, and/or an emotion.  Physical training is profoundly stress reducing.  It teaches physical self-confidence.  And, the softening of ‘body armouring’ can release the person’s feelings, intuitions, and compassion, and, according to Heckler, it can heal our physical and emotional wounds.  (That certainly lines up with my own experience at the Dublin Judo Club [which was actually called the Irish Judo Association at the point when I joined]).  Our experiences shape our body-brain-mind; and we can begin to loosen and reframe our most troubling experiences by working from the body-side of our body-brain-mind, or from the mind-side of our body-brain-mind.

Conclusion

honetpie
Dr Jim Byrne

Reading a novel on the way to and from your equivalent of the Judo Club will double your progress in healing your body-brain-mind; and seeing a good, wise, broadminded counsellor, at some point each week, will also help!

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PS: If you want to see the kind of range of ideas that I write about, please go to Books about Emotive-Cognitive Therapy (E-CENT).***

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

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