couple relationships and abusive behaviour

Blog Post

8th December 2018

Dr Jim’s Blog: Couple relationships and the problem of abuse…


In this blog post, I want to present the core of a case study from my recent book on How to Build a Successful Relationship,  It involves a emotional abuse in a couple relationship.

Case study: Debby and Tom in conflict:

Unhappy coupleDebby D came to see me, in my office, on a cold, wet November morning. She looked undernourished, pale and sad.  She told me that her partner, Tom, had refused to come with her.

Indeed, he objected so much to the idea of couple’s therapy, and verbally abused her to such a degree, that she had promised not to proceed.

But she had come to see me anyway, because she was desperate.  She and Tom had been together for ten years, and there had been trouble from the start.  He treated her horribly; criticizing her approach to housekeeping, and her makeup.  He frightened her so much that she had started biting her nails.  Then she developed an obsessive-compulsive urge to scrub her hands until they bled.

I explored her history of relationships, working backwards from Tom, via two other serious relationships; and back to her relationship with her mother and father; and her parents’ relationship with each other.  Every single one of them had been abusive!

Debby wanted me to show her how to make Tom be more reasonable.  It took a few sessions for me to get to the point of using the ‘Best Friend Question’ with her:

Best Friend callout“Debby”, I said.  “Suppose your best friend had exactly the same problem.  She came from a disturbed family background; she had three difficult relationships, in which her partner was verbally abusive with her; what would you advise your best friend to do?”

“Kick him out!” said Debby, without a moment’s pause.

I then asked her: “If that seems to be the right solution for your best friend, is it also perhaps the solution for you and Tom?”

At this suggestion she shuddered: “But then I might lose him completely!” she protested.

“But what would be wrong with losing a partner who is abusive with you?” I asked.

“I don’t want to lose him”, protested Debby.  “I love him.  I just want him to change!”

I then tried to teach her the concept of ‘logical consequences’.

“Suppose I decided to steal food items from shops”, I began.  “What do you think would be the logical consequence?”

“You’d most likely get caught, eventually”, said Debby.

“And what is the logical consequence of getting caught?” I asked her.

“You would get a criminal record”, she suggested.

“And what if I got a criminal record, but I persisted in stealing food from shops.  What then would be the most likely logical consequence?” I asked her.

“You would most likely end up in prison”, she told me.

“Okay”, I said.  “I agree with your understanding of logical consequences in this case.  Now let us take another case”.

“Okay”, she agreed.

“Suppose a man got married to a woman, and then he began to be very critical of her housekeeping and her makeup.  What do you think the logical consequence would be?” I asked her.

“He would destroy the relationship!” she responded.

“And suppose he destroys the relationship, and his wife sticks around, and he keeps on being verbally abusive with her. What then would be the most likely logical consequence?”

“She would have to leave him”, suggested Debby.

“Okay”, I said. “If that is the logical consequence in a generic case of ‘a man and his wife’, surely that must also be the logical consequence in the case of Debby and Tom?” I asked her.

She looked defeated. She looked down at her hands.  “But I want to keep him!” she insisted.

Small 3D image of covers“Well, let me sum up the situation then”, I said.  “You and Tom are in an abusive relationship, at least on his side.  The logical consequence (or karmic debt) that Tom should earn is for you to leave him.  But you protect him from this karmic debt, by sticking around and internalizing his abuse; and transforming his karmic penalty into your own obsessive-compulsive suffering. And not just obsessive-compulsive suffering, but also sadness and depression, and a sense of despair, and self-hatred”.

Debby and I revisited this conversation several times, over a period of weeks…

…End of extract.

For more of this case study, please take a look at the information page about this book: Top Secrets for Building a Successful Relationship.***


That’s all for now.

Best wishes,


Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, ABC Coaching and Counselling Services, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8HJ


Telephone: (44) 01422 843 629


ABC Newsletter December 2018

The ABC Newsletter, 6th December 2018

Top Secrets for Building a Successful Relationship

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling



Dr Jim Byrne

It’s been some time since I sent out a newsletter about our writing and publishing activities at ABC Coaching and Counselling Services.  Renata is at an advanced stage in the writing of her book on Sleep Science and the benefits of adequate sleep.

And I have just published my new book on How to Build a Successful Relationship.  Here is a flavour of the content of that book.

What is love?

Happy couple

According to one popular view, to create love, you have to exert yourself in pursuit of the happiness of another person.  We show our love through appropriate actions.  And inappropriate actions tend to destroy love.

When we have worked successfully to create a loving relationship, we know intimately that love is sweeter than honey; warmer than the warmest blanket; and more sustaining than the most enjoyable food.  For more, please go to this web page:

The need for love

1, Kindle Cover, SuccesSful, RelationshipKINDLE30.11 (2)Love is actually an essential requirement for a fulfilling life.  It is not an optional extra.  Love is food for the soul, from the soul! Without it, we wither and die inside.  A loveless life is a curse; a strain; a barren journey through a valueless vacuum.

Love warms the coldest night, and brightens the dullest day.  It warms the heart, and drives the blues away.  Love makes us glad to be alive, and to be connected to the one we love. For more, please go to this web page:

Learning how to love

Loving-couple3But if you come from a family background in which love was in short supply, how do you then learn to love?  How can you succeed in becoming a loving partner in a loving relationship? The answer is to read this book, by Dr Jim Byrne, based on his experience of:

– Being a couple’s therapist for more than twenty years;

– Completing his own marriage guidance in 1984, and co-creating a thirty-four-year relationship of great happiness, love and joy with his wife, Renata; And:

– Studying love and relationship and communication skills for about thirty-five years.

For more, please go to this web page:

The content of this book

In this book, you will learn:

Small 3D image of covers– Some guidelines for building a successful relationship;

– Some insights into how to manage your emotions for more effective regulation of your side of a sex-love relationship;

– How to love, actively and sensitively; Plus:

– How to communicate about anything that comes up in your relationship.  Also:

– How to avoid getting into the wrong kind of relationship, or for the wrong reasons; And/or:

– How to avoid holding unrealistic expectations of a sex-love relationship. Plus:

– Insights into your conflict-management style, and how to improve it;

– Strategies for changing any of your unhelpful relationship habits.

You will also get: (1)
Jim and Renata

– A very interesting introduction to the theory that our marriage partnership is shaped, for better or worse, in our family of origin; and how to reshape your ‘route map’ for finding a suitable partner; Or:

–  How to change the way you relate to your current partner; Plus:

– Insights into how to manage boundaries in relationships; And:

– Some illuminating case studies of couple relationships that have gone wrong; and what you can learn from those mistakes.

For more, please go to this web page:


What you can gain from studying this book:

This book is packed with useful information, presented in a ‘training manual’ form. If you follow this study program, you will gain:

1, Kindle Cover, SuccesSful, RelationshipKINDLE30.11 (2)– A greater capacity to love;

– Skills to help you to communicate more effectively with your partner;

– Insights into your conflict management style, and how to change it;

– Helpful strategies for changing your relationship habits; And, ultimately:

– Greater happiness in love and relationship, resulting from the fact that the love you create will be returned by your partner; and you will have lots more peace and harmony in your family life.


This book is available in paperback and eBook formats, via Amazon. For more on how to get it, please go to this web page:


BlueLogo13CI hope you found this newsletter interesting.

Best wishes,


Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, Hebden Bridge


Telephone: 44 01422 843 629



Transformational writing for success and happiness

Blog Post No. 175

By Dr Jim Byrne

15th September 2018


Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018


Dr Jim’s Blog: Transformational Writing: How I wrote a new life for myself – and how much better I feel as a result…

Writing Theapy book coverI’ve been using ‘expressive’ or ‘therapeutic’ writing for many years: resulting in priceless personal and professional insights.  Most recently, I’ve been writing on a daily basis for many weeks now.  Before that time, I wrote in my journal perhaps 3 or 4 times per week, for many months.  And before that time, I wrote intermittently – sometimes being regular and frequent, and sometimes being more hit and miss.

But overall, I’ve had some significant degree of therapeutic writing in my life for many years now.

The benefits over the years have sometimes been obvious – as when a new creative idea comes out of my Morning Pages – gets developed in subsequent pages, over a period of days or weeks – perhaps writing for 30 minutes each day.  This process has resulted in many blog posts; web pages; articles; academic papers; books; as well as answers to difficult questions; and creative problem-solving solutions.

Most recently, I’ve had a breakthrough in getting an insight into a fundamental problem with my personality-structure:

My *DRIVERS* – (‘Be Perfect’; and ‘Hurry Up’!) –

resulting in  a new degree of *mastery* over those stressful drivers of my feelings and behaviours;

and a growing sense that, the more I slow down, and the less perfectionistic I am, the more productive, creative and happy I become!

To get to this point, all I had to do was to utilize a couple of the (more than 20) techniques that I wrote about in my book, *How to Write a New Life for Yourself*.

To read some more, please take a look at the information page, by clicking the following link: *How to Write a New Life for Yourself.***


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,



BlueLogo13CDr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 44 1422 843 629



Reintegrating the body, brain and mind in counselling and therapy

ABC Blog Post

15th September 2018

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018


Dr Jim’s Blog: Mental health is not just about childhood experiences;

Or 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…


Body-mindIn 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!

Front cover Lifestyle CounsellingIf 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.

In 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:

Diet,exercise book cover– 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!);

– 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***

And/or you could also look at our current range of six books on this area of counselling and therapy theory and practice: Books about E-CENT Counselling.***


BlueLogo13CThat’s all for now.

Best wishes,


Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 44 1422 843 629



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


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:


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

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.


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!

draft full cover 3 for selling page

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.


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)


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.”


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!

Better health, happiness and resilience


That’s all for now.

Best wishes,


BlueLogo13CRenata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services



[1]  Quotation by Dr Travis Bradberry and Dr Jean Greaves in an article entitled: ‘About Emotional Intelligence’ Available at:   Accessed 25/06/2018.

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