Hype about antidepressants

Blog Post No. 163

By Dr Jim Byrne

27th February 2018

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog:

Regarding some announcements about depression and medication

Some research results that should be known by all counsellors and psychotherapists, as well as their clients

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

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Context

Moncrieff on antidepressants.JPGWe wanted to post a blog about the new hype about antidepressants, which has been generated by a new report, which will be mentioned below; and which has been wildly hyped in the British newspapers over the past few days.

Then the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, produced an article which we liked, and we posted a link to that article, on Facebook, as follows:

“Antidepressants are a family of drugs that are bad and dangerous to know – and now researchers have named Effexor (venlafaxine) as the baddest of the bad. Patients are much more likely to attempt suicide while taking Effexor than any of the other antidepressants, a new study has found.

“The news comes as no surprise to those who’ve already been exposed to the drug. It’s considered to be one of the most powerful antidepressants, and one of the hardest to tolerate. In fact, around 19 per cent of patients stop taking the drug early because they can’t stand the side effects, which include anxiety, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, high blood pressure and thyroid depression. One patient even reported a sudden change of hair colour.

“They are the lucky ones. Once over the initial hurdles of life-destroying side effects, withdrawal symptoms are so severe that it’s almost impossible to stop taking the drug.

Antidepressants are a family of drugs that are bad and dangerous to know – and now researchers have named Effexor (venlafaxine) as the baddest of the bad…
WDDTY.COM

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Some time later, there was a response.

A statement in defence of antidepressants!

A contact on a major social media platform posted this piece:

Unnamed Person: “…”  (The statement made by Unnamed Person has been removed, at their request, and is now replaced by a simple statement of the objections they made to my post above.) This was the substance of their objection:

1. It is ridiculous to post my post, because it is based on just ONE study!.

2. It seemed to Unnamed Person that there is a rigorous 6-year study of antidepressants and talking therapy which I should have posted alongside my post, for the sake of balance. And for the sake of acting responsibly.

I (Jim Byrne) responded like this:

Jim Byrne Hi Unnamed Person,
DrJimCounselling002Thanks for your message. So I looked up the study to which you refer, and this is what I found:

“The international study – an analysis pooling results of 522 trials covering 21 commonly-used antidepressants and almost 120,000 patients – found that all such drugs were more effective than placebos.” (Source, SBS News, Australia: https://www.sbs.com.au/…/antidepressants-really-do-work…).

What could possibly be wrong with the design of that study?

Well, look! They “…pooled the results of 522 studies…”.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, *how many* studies were *conducted* by drug companies, where they *refused* to release the results? It could be that they hide the almost half of studies which show *no benefit*, and publish the just over 50% that show *modest benefits*. (And they try very hard to *hide* the very widespread and *very serious* negative side effects of all of these ‘medicines’. (See this report in The Sydney Morning Herald – an equally well known Australian news outlet: https://www.smh.com.au/…/2008/03/02/1204402265828.html)

Here are some extracts from that Sydney Morning Herald source:

“The key issue is simple. In any situation, to make any kind of sensible decision about which treatment is best, a doctor must be able to take into account all of the available information. But drug companies have repeatedly been shown to bury unflattering data.”

“Sometimes they bury data that shows drugs to be actively harmful. This happened in the case of Vioxx and heart attacks, and SSRIs and suicidal thoughts. Such stories feel, intuitively, like cover-ups. But there are also more subtle issues at stake in the burying of results showing minimal efficacy, and these have only been revealed through the investigations of medical academics.”

“In January a paper in the New England Journal Of Medicine dug out a list of all trials on SSRIs that had ever been registered with the US Food and Drug Administration and then went to look for those same trials in the academic literature. There were 37 studies which were assessed by the regulator as positive and, with a single exception, every one of those positive trials was written up, proudly, and published in full.”

“But there were also 33 studies which had negative or iffy results and, of those, 22 were simply not published at all – they were buried – while 11 were written up and published in a way that portrayed them as having a positive outcome.”

I (Jim) then commented:

So, Unnamed Person, let me sum up. You cannot evaluate the effectiveness of drugs when the companies producing those drugs are allowed to selectively publish the results they want you to hear; and to hide the results they do not want you to hear.

And if some idiot, or charlatan, does a meta-analysis of the studies published by the drug companies, and their patsies, and says this proves those drugs are safe and effective, I have just one thing to say to them: This is not science! This is not good academic work! This is propaganda for the drug companies!

So, Unnamed Person. Who is being ridiculous? Think again about the flag you were flying under: “There is a *rigorous* 6-year study of antidepressants”. That flag is a pirate rag! There is no possibility of rigorous studies of all of the data on antidepressants so long as drug companies are allowed to hide bad data, and to publish what they choose to show us! 

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Unnamed Person‘s response

Later, Unnamed Person, got back to me:

Unnamed Person: OK – if you batter me about what has been omitted, what ignored, what privileged by Pharma, money generally, academic status, medical ranking… then who am i to make such a foolish, academically unfounded post? Goodness, i will not use the word rigorous again. I similarly hope that your posted promulgations are way beyond the deeply adulterated processes they used. Mea culpa – and i look forward to hearing more about external academic critiquing of your claims to efficacy as well.
Jim Byrne Hi Unnamed Person, I did not mean to batter your about. You came out batting for Big Pharma – without realizing that that was what you were doing. You thought you were citing irrefutable evidence of a high quality against my paltry single study. The point about my single study is that it adds a little to the body of knowledge we are building up about the effects of food on mood. People who eat junk foods, or a diet high in carbohydrate are likely to get inadequate amounts of the amino acid studied – argenine. As such, they may be vulnerable to major depression. They should be informed of that risk, and not told that they can eat any kind of diet they like – including high carbs, high sugar, and junk – and then Big Pharma will fix them up with ‘Medicine’. But most of the antidepressants being prescribed for depression should not be in use at all, because the *proportion* of patients who take them, who will develop serious side effects – like sexual dysfunction or suicidal ideation – is well above the 10% safety line – often as high as 40%, or 50% or more than 60%. It is *unethical* for physicians to cause so much predictable *harm*! But they continue to do it, and studies of the kind you cited earlier do help to keep their consciences quiet! PS: I did not mean to beat you up. But if you call my attempts to educate the public – about self-care – ‘ridiculous’, I guess I will normally come out fighting! 🙂
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Some thoughts from Mad in America
PS: Since Unnamed Person was interested in how well or how badly my position on antidepressants might be supported by scientific studies and expert support, I was pleased to see that Dr Joanna Moncrieff has published a piece on the latest hype in the Mad in America online blog – here: https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/02/challenging-new-hype-antidepressants/

Here is an extract from the opening of Dr Moncrieff’s piece:

Challenging the New Hype About Antidepressants

By

Joanna Moncrieff, MD

February 24, 2018

Joanna Moncrieff, MDThe extraordinary media hype over the latest meta-analysis of antidepressants puts the discussion of these drugs back years. Despite the fact that 9% of the UK population are taking antidepressants,1 and rates of prescribing have doubled over the last decade,2 the authors of the analysis are calling for yet more prescribing. John Geddes suggested in The Sun newspaper that only 1 in 6 people are receiving adequate treatment for depression in high income countries. In The Guardian he estimates that 1 million more people require treatment with antidepressants in the UK, but by my maths, if 9% are already taking them and they only represent 1 in 6 of those who need them, then 54% of the population should be taking them. I make that another 27 million people!

The coverage was almost universally uncritical, and said little about the terrible adverse effects that some people can suffer while taking antidepressants, or while trying to get off them. The Guardian even claimed that the new “groundbreaking” study will “put to rest doubts” about antidepressants.

But there is nothing ground-breaking about this latest meta-analysis. It simply repeats the errors of previous analyses. Although I have written about these many times before, I will quickly summarise relevant points.

The analysis consists of comparing ‘response’ rates between people on antidepressants and those on placebo. But ‘response’ is an artificial category that has been arbitrarily constructed out of the data actually collected, which consists of scores on depression rating scales, like the commonly used Hamilton rating Scale for Depression (HRSD). Analysing categories inflates differences.3 When the actual scores are compared, differences are trivial, amounting to around 2 points on the HRSD which has a maximum score of 54. These differences are unlikely to be clinically relevant, as I have explained before. Research comparing HRSD scores with scores on a global rating of improvement suggest that such a difference would not even be noticed, and you would need a difference of at least 8 points to register ‘mild improvement’.

Moreover, even these small differences are easily accounted for by the fact that antidepressants produce more or less subtle mental and physical alterations (e.g. nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness and emotional blunting) irrespective of whether or not they treat depression. These alterations enable participants to guess whether they have been allocated to antidepressant or placebo better than would be expected by chance.4 Participants receiving the active drugs may therefore experience amplified placebo effects by virtue of knowing they are taking an active drug rather than an inactive placebo. This may explain why antidepressants that cause the most noticeable alterations, such as amitriptyline, appeared to be the most effective in the recent analysis.

Antidepressant trials often include people who are already on antidepressants. Such people may experience withdrawal symptoms if they are randomised to placebo, which, given that almost no antidepressant trial pays the slightest attention to the problems of dependence on antidepressants, are highly likely to be classified as relapse.

The analysis only looks at data for eight weeks of treatment, whereas in real life people often take antidepressants for months or even years. Few randomised, placebo-controlled trials have investigated long-term effects, but ‘real world’ studies of people treated with antidepressants show that the proportion of people who stick to recommended treatment, recover and don’t relapse within a year is staggeringly low (108 out of the 3110 people who enrolled in the STAR-D study and satisfied inclusion criteria).5 Moreover, several studies have found that the outcomes of people treated with antidepressants are worse than the outcomes of people with depression who are not treated with antidepressants,67 even in one case after controlling for the severity of the depression (as far as possible).8 The huge increase in prescribing of antidepressants over the last three decades has been accompanied by a substantial rise in the numbers of people who are in receipt of long-term disability benefits due to depression and related disorders in the UK, and this is at a time when benefits for other disorders, like back pain, have been reducing.9

Calling for antidepressants to be more widely prescribed will do nothing to address the problem of depression and will only increase the harms these drugs produce. …

…For more, please click the link that follows: https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/02/challenging-new-hype-antidepressants/

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  1. Lewer D, O’Reilly C, Mojtabai R, Evans-Lacko S. Antidepressant use in 27 European countries: associations with sociodemographic, cultural and economic factors. Br J Psychiatry 2015 Sep;207(3):221-6.
  2. NHS Digital. Antidepressants were the area with largest increase in prescription items in 2016. Cited 2018 Feb 23; Available from: URL: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/article/7756/Antidepressants-were-the-area-with-largest-increase-in-prescription-items-in-2016
  3. Kirsch I, Moncrieff J. Clinical trials and the response rate illusion. Contemp Clin Trials2007;28:348-51.
  4. Fisher S, Greenberg RP. How sound is the double-blind design for evaluating psychotropic drugs? J Nerv Ment Dis1993 Jun;181(6):345-50.
  5. Pigott HE, Leventhal AM, Alter GS, Boren JJ. Efficacy and effectiveness of antidepressants: current status of research. Psychother Psychosom 2010;79(5):267-79.
  6. Ronalds C, Creed F, Stone K, Webb S, Tomenson B. Outcome of anxiety and depressive disorders in primary care. Br J Psychiatry1997 Nov;171:427-33.
  7. Dewa CS, Hoch JS, Lin E, Paterson M, Goering P. Pattern of antidepressant use and duration of depression-related absence from work. Br J Psychiatry2003 Dec;183:507-13.
  8. Brugha TS, Bebbington PE, MacCarthy B, Sturt E, Wykes T. Antidepressants may not assist recovery in practice: a naturalistic prospective survey. Acta Psychiatr Scand1992 Jul;86(1):5-11.
  9. Viola S, Moncrieff J. Claims for sickness and disability benefits owing to mental disorders in the UK: trends from 1995 to 2014. BJPsych Open 2016;2:18-24.
  10. Farnsworth KD, Dinsmore WW. Persistent sexual dysfunction in genitourinary medicine clinic attendees induced by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Int J STD AIDS2009 Jan;20(1):68-9.
  11. Sharma T, Guski LS, Freund N, Gotzsche PC. Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment: systematic review and meta-analyses based on clinical study reports. BMJ2016 Jan 27;352:i65.
  12. Fava GA, Gatti A, Belaise C, Guidi J, Offidani E. Withdrawal Symptoms after Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Discontinuation: A Systematic Review. Psychother Psychosom2015 Feb 21;84(2):72-81.
  13. Reefhuis J, Devine O, Friedman JM, Louik C, Honein MA. Specific SSRIs and birth defects: Bayesian analysis to interpret new data in the context of previous reports. BMJ2015;351:h3190.

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Anger, anxiety, depression, and nutrition and physical exercise, imagePostscript

In November 2017, we (Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne) published a book on How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical exercise.  There is a lot of evidence, and a growing evidence base, that the major mood disorders (which Big Pharma wants to treat with hard drugs with nasty side effects) can better be managed by healthy diet and regular physical exercise (and a good night’s sleep!)

Here is a brief extract from one of the main sections that deal with diet and depression:

(ii) Treating depression

There are many different views about how to treat depression, and here is a summary of some of the most recent explanations of what is happening to us when we are depressed.

Firstly, the views of Dr Kelly Brogan will be summarised, as she has a unique explanation, which she has described in her recent book, titled ‘A Mind of Your Own’ (2016)[i]. She is a practising psychiatrist in America, with training as a medical doctor, and a degree in cognitive neuroscience, including clinical training from the NYU School of Medicine. She uses holistic methods of treating her patients and describes her work as ‘lifestyle medicine’.  In this approach, she uses the techniques of meditation, nutrition and physical activity as crucial daily habits with which to treat her depressed patients (and this approach overlaps, but is not co-extensive with, the E-CENT approach [Byrne, 2016]).

Dr Brogan’s view is that depression is a symptom or sign:  “…that something is off-balance or ill in the body that needs to be remedied”.

She considers that mental illness symptoms aren’t entirely psychological or solely neurochemical. And she points out in her book that there is no single study which has produced evidence that depression is caused by a lack of chemical equilibrium in the brain.

She considers depression to be a grossly misidentified state and in particular for women who, in the US, are being medicated at the rate of one in seven. Also, one in four women in their 40’s and fifties use psychiatric drugs.

She states: “We owe most of our mental illnesses – including their kissing cousins such as chronic worry, fogginess and crankiness – to lifestyle factors and undiagnosed physiological conditions that develop in places far away from the brain, such as the gut and the thyroid”, and she goes on to state that:

“You might owe your gloominess and unremitting unease to an imbalance that is only indirectly related to your brain’s internal chemistry. Indeed, what you eat for breakfast … and how you deal with that high cholesterol and afternoon headache (think Lipitor[ii] and Advil[iii]) could have everything to do with the causes and symptoms of depression.”

Her opinion of the foolishness of applying chemical solutions to people’s problems is very clear. In her view: “… if you think a chemical pill can save, cure or ‘correct’ you, you’re dead wrong. That is about as misguided as taking aspirin for a nail stuck in your foot.”

Her approach is to get a medical and personal history of her clients, their manner of birth (natural or section), whether breast fed or not; and she orders lab tests to ascertain the whole picture of their biological make-up.

She focusses on the information from their cellular analysis and the workings of the immune system, and points out to the reader of her book that, over the last twenty years, medical research has identified the significant part that inflammation plays in the creation of mental illness.

She also focuses on the client’s lifestyle, dietary habits e.g. sugar consumption, the condition of their guts, and microbe balance (in their guts), hormone levels – e.g. thyroid and cortisol – and genetic variations in their DNA, which could affect their susceptibility to depression. And finally, their beliefs about their own health can also play a role, she says.

So Dr Kelly Brogan shares the same conviction as Dr Perlmutter (2015): that the state of our guts is a very important determinant of our emotional well-being.

Dr Perlmutter (2015) states: “Depression can no longer be viewed as a disorder rooted solely in the brain. Some of the studies have been downright eye-opening. For example when scientists give people with no signs of depression an infusion of a substance to trigger inflammation (in the body), classic depression symptoms develop almost instantly”. (Page 76)

Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. He is also president of the Perlmutter Health Centre in Naples, Florida. Dr Perlmutter considers that our mental health and physical wellness are totally affected by the internal systems of bacteria that operate in the gut.

But what exactly is going on in our guts? Apparently, we’ve all got millions of microbes in our body and most of them live in our digestive tract (10,000 species!). And each of the microbes have their own DNA, and that means that for every human gene in our body, there are at least 360 microbial genes. These organisms include fungi, bacteria and viruses.  In a healthy gut, most of these microorganisms are ‘friendly’, with a few ‘bad’ bacteria which are controlled by the ‘good’ stuff.

These tiny microbes: (1) strongly influence our immune system; (2) affect absorption of nutrients; (3) signal to us whether our stomach is empty or full; (4) and determine our level of inflammation and/or detoxification (which are directly related to disease and health).   They also affect our moods.

Apparently our guts contain 70-80% of our immune system, and so our gut bacteria participate in maintaining our immunity.

They can also keep cortisol and adrenaline in check. These are the two major hormones of the stress response, which can cause havoc in the body when they are continually triggered and flowing.

And our gut microbes influence whether we get any or all of the following conditions: Allergies, ADHD, asthma, dementia, cancer and diabetes, a good night’s sleep; or whether we quickly fall prey to disease-causing germs. And there is increasing evidence of a link to anxiety and depression.

Dr Perlmutter makes recommendations for changes in people’s diet which he says will:

(1) treat and prevent brain disorders;

(2) alleviate moodiness, anxiety and depression;

(3) bolster the immune system and reduce autoimmunity problems; and

(4) improve metabolic disorders, including diabetes and obesity, which are all linked to overall brain and body health.

He makes recommendations which are very practical, including…

…end of extract…

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Endnotes

[i] Brogan, K. (2016) A mind of your own: The truth about depression and how women can heal their bodies to reclaim their lives. London: Thorsons.

[ii] Lipitor is a drug commonly prescribed for reducing high cholesterol.

[iii] Advil (ibuprofen) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Ibuprofen works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body.

For more about this book, please go to: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical exercise.

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Lifestyle coaching on diet and exercise

Blog Post No. 161

By Dr Jim Byrne

2nd February 2018

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Walking the talk of the holistic self-care movement…

Managing my mind by the use of exercise, diet, meditation and self-talk…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

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Introduction

natajim-coaching-counselling2My wife, Renata Taylor-Byrne, sometimes reminds me of the important principle of ‘extreme self-care’.

I didn’t learn any such principle in my family of origin, where the main message was to ‘behave yourself’; and to uncritically go along with the dominant trend of social pressure!

Over the years, I have woken up to the problem of (physical and emotional) stress, and how unmanaged stress leads to all kinds of mental, emotional and physical health problems. Also, because I developed a problem with Candida Albicans overgrowth – a gut dysbiosis problem – decades ago, I had to become clear about the importance of managing my diet – especially the elimination of sugary foods and alcohol.

This morning

Michael-Tse-demonstrating-Chi-KungAt a certain point this morning, I found myself exercising, and wondering if this information would be helpful in motivating some of our website readers (meaning you!) to shift to following the principle of ‘extreme self-care’. So here I am, following up on that thought, as a contribution to your health and happiness.

I got up this morning, at the same time as Renata, and got some salad ingredients out of the fridge, and put them on one side to warm up to room temperature.  (While that was happening, I checked my emails and website traffic, and so on).

When the salad ingredients had warmed up enough, I chopped them up and put them into two bowls.  They consisted of:

Salad bowl 74 leaves of Romaine lettuce (chopped very small)

2 radishes

a quarter of a yellow pepper (diced)

a quarter of a red pepper (diced)

four inches of cucumber (halved and sliced)

a quarter of a red onion (diced)

8 green olives

2 black olives

2 ozs of petit poise

6 fine beans (chopped small)

2 tsps of Maca powder

2 desert spoons of flaxseed

2 desert spoons of mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds

8 whole almonds

2 ozs of pickled beetroot

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This meal was so much more exciting and enjoyable than a bowl of cereal, or a full ‘English’ (fried) breakfast; or waffles with maple syrup!  Truly enjoyable! However, it would not be a good idea to eat the same breakfast every day.  Varity is important for gut bacteria and the available range of nutrients!

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On my own bowl, I also added some fermented cucumber (instead of kimchi, which I had yesterday), and some Miso (the brown rice variety).

I then ate this as my breakfast, with a mug of green tea.

(In case I am beginning to sound like Saint Selfless, I had a cafetiere of exotic coffee while I was processing my emails!)

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Meditation and physical exercise

Sitting-meditationWhen we had finished breakfast, I read some brief quotes – about living in the moment, in the main – to set the mood for our Zen meditation, which we did for 30 minutes.  And then Renata led our Chi Kung (Chinese exercise) session, which lasted about 20 minutes.  Then we did a couple of minutes of the Plank (from Pilates) – for core strength – and then I did three sets of press-ups (30 presses in each set), and three sets of sit-backs (for 30 seconds in each set), for arm and stomach strength, and for hips and lower back.

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The sun was shining in the front and back of the room in which we meditated and exercised, and we had Mozart playing in the background for the exercise session.  Divine!

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At the end of this time, I was as relaxed, happy and de-stressed as a person could be, and all set for another session on the computer, working on promoting our book on diet and exercise.

Anger, anxiety, depression, and nutrition and physical exercise, imageThe book is called: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression using nutrition and physical exercise; and it is available at amazon, at the following links:

Diet and Exercise book at Amazon.com*** (North America)

Or:

Diet and Exercise book at Amazon.co.uk*** (UK and Ireland)

If you want to order the book from another Amazon outlet, then please go to the webpage listed below, and order it from one of the other links (in Europe, Australia, Canada, etc.), which are listed there.

Renata has just completed a little 2-minute video introduction to this book, here:

Please take a look and see what you think.

DrJimCounselling002If you would like some more information about the book (or to order it from a non-UK/US outlet), you can find a good introduction on our webpages. Just click the following link: Diet, Exercise and Mental Health.***

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That’s all for now.

I wish you a happy and healthy life, and the wisdom to engage in extreme self-care! J

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

01422 843 629

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

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Health, happiness and self-disciplined goals

Blog Post No. 157

23rd October 2017

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2017

Dr Jim’s Blog: Health and happiness are the most important goals in (a moral) life

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Introduction

It’s been quite a while since I posted a blog, because I’ve been extremely busy.  I am still very busy, finishing off the writing of a new book, but I thought it was about time I shared some ideas with the world.  The main theme of this blog is health and self-healing, using food and physical exercise.

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Writing about diet and exercise for mood control

Front cover, 8For the past few weeks, Renata and I have been writing our book which is titled, How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.  We have finished writing the five sections, and I am working on constructing a comprehensive index for the back of the book, to make it optimally user-friendly, as a resource.

Several days ago I constructed the index section on diet and nutrition, and type of diets.  And, by finishing time last Friday, 20th, I had just completed a section on Essential fatty acids (EFAs). And today, Monday 23rd, I will begin to work on the index entries for the section on physical exercise.

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Self-healing

Last Thursday, I turned my body, suddenly, while leaving my feet relatively stationary, and pulled a muscle in my back.  Did I run to the doctor?  No!  Did I get some ‘painkillers’ from the chemist?  No!

Why did I not go to the doctor?  Because the doctor would have simply recommended “painkillers”!

Why did I not buy my own painkillers from the chemist?  Because most of the painkillers used today are what are called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). And the problem with NSAIDs is that they cause ‘leaky gut syndrome’, which not only allows whole molecules of food to enter the bloodstream, and trigger various forms of inflammation in the body (paradox of paradoxes!), but they also compromise the blood/brain barrier, which can precipitate mood disturbances!

So, what did I do with my terrible back pain?  I got out my copy of ‘Body in Action’, by Sarah Key, and did five of her exercises for improving the functioning of the muscles and joints in the lower back.  (I’ve done this several times in the past, and I know it always works).

I did the exercises on Thursday and Friday, and by Saturday the back pain had gone – completely!

~~~

Sharpening the saw

Rest and recuperation are very important parts of my self-management of health program.  So, on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon, I had a siesta (of three hours each time).  I had been feeling tired because of overworking on the index of our new book on how to control anger, anxiety and depression, using diet and exercise systems.

CreasespaceCover8, diet-nutrition.jpg

I also had a restful evening with Renata, and I was in bed by 9.45pm.

By 5.45am today (Monday 23rd Oct) I was fully rested, and so I got up and made my breakfast.  A solid bowl of chunky salad.

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Food for health and mood control

Book-cover-frontI chopped up the following ingredients into small chunks, of perhaps 3 or 4 mm at the widest point:

3 oz of red cabbage; 6 oz of cucumber; 1 spring onion; 1 organic carrot; half an organic apple; and put them into a soup bowl.

(See the Appendix on Diet and Nutrition, in our book: Holistic Counselling in Practice.***)

Then, I added a teaspoon of Maca powder; a dessertspoon of ground flaxseed; two dessertspoon’s of mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, ???), ten almonds, three walnuts, four hazelnuts; ten blueberries; 2 ozs of cooked beetroot (diced); two small tomatoes (halved); and half a kiwi fruit (diced).

I then added some brown rice miso, and some sauerkraut.

After consuming that breakfast, I meditated for 30 minutes.

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Physical exercise for health and strength and mood control

Standing pose 2Let me now describe the exercises that I went on to do, after meditating:

Twenty minutes of Chi Kung exercises.

Followed by a couple of minutes of ‘The plank’ exercise, which is like ‘stationary press-ups’: https://youtu.be/kiA9j-dR0oM

Then I did my own press-ups and sit backs, for about 5 or 6 minutes.

I then moved on to do fifteen minutes of my old Judo Club calisthenics (or whole body warm up exercise), which combine strength training, stretching of muscles, and aerobic exercise, all in one.

Then ten minutes of Zhan Zhuang (pronounced Jam Jong, and meaning ‘Standing like a tree’).  These are body poses which work on our postural muscles, affecting strength and speed and balance. They create a calm and happy mental state.  And they also relax the body and establish whole-body connection.

powerspinFinally I did some strength training using the Powerspin rotator, to build arm, shoulder and upper body strength.

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Reflections

This is clearly a time-consuming start to the day, compared with a bowl of cornflakes, a cup of coffee, and a brisk scratching of the head!

So why do I do it?

Because, I value my health above all things.  Without my physical health, I am unlikely to be happy.  And I am unlikely to be emotionally stable.

The people who do the least exercise, and who eat the worst diets, have the worst physical and mental health outcomes. (I have not seen a general medical practitioner for more than twenty-five years! And I am not about to start now!)

Most people leave their health (physical and mental) to chance, and to the vague belief that there are people who can “fix them up” when they fall apart.  Sadly this myth is totally misleading.  Once you’ve ruined your health – from sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, and inadequate diet (such as one based on junk food, or an unbalanced diet, or too much alcohol [over the government limit], caffeine, sugary foods, gluten, and other toxic substances) – it is then ruined!  And a ruined body-brain is a burden to haul through life!

It takes self-discipline to get on a good diet, and to begin to do regular physical exercise, and to go to bed and have eight hours sleep, without mobile phones or laptops or tablets, and so on.  But the alternative to developing that self-discipline is a life ruined through serious illness, emotional distress, and early death.

Some people will argue with me, and insist that there are some things called “medicines” (and “surgeries”) which can be used to resuscitate their body-brain-mind once they have allowed it to fall into ill-health. The editors of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, strongly disagree with that fantasy!  See the article titled ‘Don’t trust me (I’m Big Pharma).***

~~~

POSTSCRIPT: Of course, it takes time to build up expertise in ‘extreme self-care’; and it’s a good idea to do that one step at a time.  Gradually, over a period of time, this will build up into significant changes, and huge improvements in health and happiness.  And you don’t ever have to adopt the kind of ‘monkish’ approach that suits me.  Some simple changes in what you eat, and how you exercise your body (brisk walking for 30 minutes per day is enough!), will make a huge difference over time.  You can find out more about how to begin these small, easy steps in our book: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.

honetpieIf you want me to help you to figure out how to live a happier, healthier, more emotionally buoyant life, then please contact me:

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

Telephone: 01422 843 629 (inside the UK)

or 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

~~~

I hope you have a very happy and healthy life!

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

Albert Ellis and REBT ten years later

Blog Post No. 156

21st July 2017 (Updated on 22nd April 2020)

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2017

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: The tenth anniversary of the death of Albert Ellis…

~~~

Introduction

Ellis-video-imageAlbert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), which is sometimes called Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (RE&CBT), died on 24th July 2007.  So we are very close to the tenth anniversary.

Since that event, Renata and I have posted something on each anniversary about Albert Ellis and REBT.  Initially, those posts were very positive about the man and his theory of therapy.  But as time passed, and we found more and more problems with the man (from his autobiography, All Out!) and from our reflective analyses of his theoretical propositions, our posts became more and more distant, and more and more critical.

Books about Ellis and REBT

Wounded psychotherapistIn 2013, I published a book on the childhood of Albert Ellis, which was an analysis of the ways in which he was mistreated and virtually abandoned at times by his parents, and the effect of these early negative experiences on his psychological development.  Here are the basic details:

A Wounded Psychotherapist: Albert Ellis’s childhood and the strengths and limitations of REBT, by Dr Jim Byrne

A critical review of the childhood of Albert Ellis and the impact of his suffering on the shape of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

‘A Wounded psychotherapist’ is a critical enquiry by Dr Jim Byrne.  It is an analysis of both the childhood of Dr Albert Ellis (the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy [REBT]), and how some of those childhood experiences most likely gave rise to certain features of his later philosophy of psychotherapy.  If you have ever wondered what the roots of REBT might have been, then this is the book for you.  it explores the childhood difficulties of Albert Ellis, and links those difficulties forward to the ways in which REBT was eventually shaped.  It also identified the strengths and weaknesses of REBT, and proposes an agenda for reform of this radical system of psychotherapy. Available now from Amazon, in two formats:

***This book is currently out of print.  I do intend to rewrite it, when I get the time, and to re-issue it.  In the meantime, here is a relevant extract, for your information:

~~~

The aim of this book

“I’ve become a sort of accidental advocate for attachment parenting, which is a style of parenting that basically is the way mammals parent and the way people have parented for pretty much all of human history, except perhaps the last 200 years or so”.  Mayim Bialik

Jim and the Buddha, 2In this book I want to pursue a thesis of my own: That Dr Albert Ellis was a ‘wounded soldier’ – or psychologically injured person – from a very young age; and that he brought some of his psycho-logical wounds into the process of developing his system of therapy.  I want to explore his childhood for the roots of those wounds, and to show how they then track through to the development of his mature philosophy some years later.  In the process, I hope to rescue what is good about his philosophy from what is clearly untenable in a moral world – or in a society which necessarily must strive to maintain some kind of legal and moral system of rules of social behaviour, if it is to survive.

The main resource that I will use to produce this book is Albert Ellis’s autobiography – All Out! An autobiography, by Albert Ellis with Debbie Joffe-Ellis. New York: Prometheus Books – which was published in 2010.  In addition, I will use the Sage Publications’ biography of Albert Ellis, by Yankura and Dryden (1994)[i].  Plus two or three online sources of information about Albert Ellis’s childhood; and any other sources of general psychological or philosophical thinking – such as attachment theory, or health studies – which throws any light on the subject under review; which is: the impact of childhood neglect on Albert Ellis’s later theories of human behaviour and his principles of emotional self-management.

~~~

The problem of the status of autobiographical narratives

Of course, an autobiography is just that: a story by the author about the author.  In Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT)[ii], because we explicitly deal with our clients’ narratives and stories, we have to have an understanding of the ‘status’ of autobiographical narratives – meaning ‘the truth’ (or ‘ontological status’), or veracity or accuracy of self-narratives.  This is explored in CENT Paper No.5[iii]: and a six page extract from that paper is attached as Appendix B, below.  It turns out that human memory (or rather, recall) is much more fragile and imperfect than most people imagine.  It also involves reconstructing memories, rather than playing them back like videos or audio recordings.  Human memory is also not like a photograph album.  Here is a metaphor which is closer to the truth:

“If any metaphor is going to capture memory, then it is more like a compost heap in a constant state of re-organization”.  (Hood, 2011, page 59).

I will now present a couple of indicative extracts from Appendix B.  They are meant to help the reader to make a personal judge-ment about the reliability of Albert Ellis’s memories of his own childhood.

The first one is based upon a description, (from Eysenck and Keane, 2000)[iv], of audio recorded conversations between President Richard Nixon and John Dean, which are contrasted with Dean’s recollection (before he was confronted with the taped evidence!)

“Our autobiographical memories are sometimes less truthful than has been suggested so far.  Dean’s memory for the conversations with the President gave Dean too active and significant a role.  It is as if Dean remembered the conversations as he wished them to have been.” (Cf: Chancellor, 2007[v]). “Perhaps people have a self-schema (or organized body of knowledge about themselves) that influences how they perceive and remember personal information.  Someone as ambitious and egotistical as Dean might have focussed mainly on those aspects of conversations in which he played a dominant role, and this selective attention may then have affected his later recall. As Haberlandt (1999, p.226)[vi] argued, ‘The auto-biographical narrative…does preserve essential events as they were experienced, but it is not a factual report; rather, the account seems to make a certain point, to unify events, or to justify them’.”

This shows clearly that autobiographical memory is unreliable.  (Because it is unreliable, we, in CENT, have developed a multi-stranded process for conducting an analysis of autobiographical narratives).[vii]

I discovered this problem of the unreliability of autobiographical memory when I was conducting my own doctoral research, back in 2004 or 2005; when I was proposing to interview doctoral students about their own memories of learning the subject of ‘research ethics’. The problem here was this: if human memory is as fragile as suggested above, then how can I trust the word of anybody, including research participants?  What follows is an expression of my attempt to move forward:

“…the premise upon which I have returned to ask questions of some postgraduate students and one tutor (is this): that their accounts will preserve some essential events as they were experienced by them, but they will not be giving me a factual report, in the sense in which ‘factual’ is used in the natural sciences.  However, even in the natural sciences, facts are records of events which are no better and no worse than the person or device registering the event. (Source: Novak and Gowin, 1984[viii]).  And inevitably, scientific facts are ‘transformed’ by a process of imperfect human interpretation.”

In CENT Paper No.5 (Byrne, 2009e), I then go on to talk about the autobiographical stories and narratives of my counselling clients:

“And this is also how I will understand my own narrative in CENT Paper No.4; and the stories that my CENT clients present to me.  They are stories that conform to the felt recollections and meaning-making activities of individuals who, as humans, have imperfect, mood dependent, recon-stitutive memory systems (Bartlett, 1932[ix]).”

And all of the above applies to the mood-dependent, recons-titutive reconstructions of Dr Albert Ellis’s story of his own life.  (See further detail in Appendix B).

~~~

Did young Albert develop an insecure attachment to his parents?

“Albert Ellis … had a very distant emotional relationship with his parents, and described his mother as a self-centred woman who struggled with bipolar disorder. After (his) raising his younger brother and sister and dealing with many personal health issues, Ellis left his family to study at the City University of New York”.  Good Therapy website[x]

Long before his autobiography appeared, in 2010, Dr Ellis had revealed certain facts (or claims) about his childhood – certainly as early as 1991[xi].  From memory they included the following points: That he had been a sickly boy, frequently hospitalized with nephritis, sometimes for months at a time[xii]; That he had grappled with serious problems of shyness and social anxiety; That his mother and father neglected him – rarely visiting him during his hospital stays; That his mother (who was an egotistical, manic-depressive and severe woman of German Jewish origin) would often be away playing cards with her friends, or visiting her temple, when he got home from school with his two younger siblings; That she was so neglectful that he had to acquire an alarm clock himself, when he was about eight years old, which he used to get himself and his siblings up in the morning (while she lay in bed); That he fed them and got them ready, and took them to school; That his father worked away from home most of each week, seeing his children only at the weekends (and then only briefly!) – and divorced Ellis’s mother when young Albert was just twelve years of age (and entering puberty!); That young Albert enjoyed school so much more than home life that he wished school would open at the weekends; And so on.

(Please note the lack of mother-bashing in the list of problems above.  I am saying that Albert Ellis was neglected by his parents – his mother and his father, in roughly equal proportions.  I do not go along with any residual tendency of attachment theorists to over-emphasize the role of the mother.  The father is equally important to the emotional development of the children. [See Macrae, 2013, in the Reference list near the end of this book])[xiii].

How severe was the degree of childhood neglect that Little Albert Ellis experienced?  According to Yankura and Dryden (1994):

“…Albert and siblings were exposed to a degree of parental neglect that, in this day and age, might have prompted a phone call to Child Protective Services by some concerned school teacher or neighbour…” (Page 3)[xiv].

What I intend to do in this book is to review the first 162 pages of Dr Ellis’s autobiography, to try to put some flesh on these bare bones of his childhood. Part of my argument will be that Little Albert was so neglected by his parents that he developed avoidant attachments to them, and that this predisposed him to a lifetime of insecure, unsatisfactory relationships with significant others.  Because this is central to my argument, I must now present some contextual material on the subject of attachment theory.

[i] Yankura, J. and Dryden, W. (1994) Albert Ellis.  London: Sage Publications.

[ii] See my CENT Paper No.2(a), which describes the theory of CENT, in Byrne (2009/2013), in the Reference list, above.

[iii] Byrne, J. (2009e) The status of autobiographical narratives and stories.  CENT Paper No.5.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (I-CENT).  Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id167.html

[iv] Eysenck, M.W. and Keane, M.T. (2000) Cognitive Psychology: A student’s Handbook. Fourth edition.  East Sussex: Psychology Press.

[v] Chancellor, A. (2007) It’s a strangely human foible – we all rewrite history to make our roles in it more interesting.  The Guardian, Friday April 6th 2007.  Available online:       http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329770492-103390,00.html

[vi] Haberlandt, K. (1999) Human Memory: Exploration and application.  Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

[vii] Byrne, J. (2009f) How to analyze autobiographical narratives in Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy.  CENT Paper No.6.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT. Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id173.html

[viii] Novak, J.D. and Gowin, B. (1984) Learning How to Learn.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[ix] Bartlett, F.C. (1932) Remembering. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[x] From: Good Therapy Org: Available online at: http://www.goodtherapy.org/famous-psychologists/albert-ellis.html

[xi] Ellis, A. (1991) My life in clinical psychology.  In C.E. Walker (ed): The History of Clinical Psychology in Autobiography, Vol.1.  Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

[xii] Ellis was hospitalized about eight times between the ages of five and seven years of age, once for about ten months!

[xiii] It seems to me that the reason early attachment theorists emphasized the role of the mother in establishing a secure base for the child was this: Capitalism promotes a ‘division of labour’ between men and women, making women responsible for reproduction and home life, and men for industrial and commercial work, business activities, etc.  But nature was not consulted about this deal; and children continue to need the loving attention of both of their parents, and are disadvantaged if they do not get it. (See Macrae, 2013, in the Reference list).

[xiv] Yankura, J. and Dryden, W. (1994) Albert Ellis.  London: Sage Publications.

~~~

honetpieHowever, in that book, I was still very soft on some of Ellis’s major errors, such as his false definition of ‘awfulizing’, and his mistaken assumption that, just because ‘demandingness’ is often a ‘sufficient condition’ for human disturbance, therefore it is also a ‘necessary condition’, which, the Buddha’s followers would argue, it is not.  Any significant degree of desiring that the present be different from how it is, could, in theory, cause significant levels of negative affect.

Also, when I wrote about the childhood of Ellis, I had not yet developed my understanding of him as an Extreme Stoic – that is to say, somebody who exaggerates the degree to which a human being can live their life as if they were a lump of wood!

This was corrected in my current critique of REBT, which is described below.

~~~

Tenth Anniversary of the Death of Albert Ellis:

On this anniversary, I have today posted some feedback from Dr Meredith Nisbet of my book on the childhood of Albert Ellis.  This is what she wrote:

Book Review – by Dr Meredith Nisbet:

“I learned so much about human nature reading your book (Jim) about (Albert) Ellis. I also learned from your book about Jim Byrne. The similarities are obvious. The differences are where most of the learning comes. You overcame your childhood experiences; he lived with his experiences, but the differences were that he needed help to conquer his experiences, but he never was able to “normalize” as you did. I’d like to hear your comments on what made the difference for you  – something within you or the people who helped you? Was his problem something he missed or didn’t think he needed? I think it was more the latter. What do you think?”

To see my response to her questions, please go here: https://abc-counselling.org/albert-ellis-a-wounded-psychotherapist/

~~~

Since 2013, my thinking about Albert Ellis and REBT has moved on again, into a more detailed critique of the foundational ideas underpinning his basic conclusions about human disturbance.  This work of mine is described in my latest boon on Ellis and REBT:

A Major Critique of REBT:

Revealing the many errors in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Front cover3 of reissued REBT book

Also, we have added a reference to the research which shows that emotional pain and physical pain are both mediated and processed through significantly overlapping neural networks, which contradicts Dr Ellis’s claim that nobody could hurt you, except by hitting you with a baseball bat or a brick.

This is a comprehensive, scientific and philosophical  critique of the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, as developed by Dr Albert Ellis; including the dismantling of the philosophical foundations of the ABC model; and a decimating critique of the concept of unconditional self-acceptance. Almost nothing is left of REBT when the dust settles, apart from the system called Rational Emotive Imagery, which Dr Ellis borrowed from Maxi Maultsby.

Available in paperback and eBook formats.

Learn more.***

Price: £23.58 GBP (Paperback) and £6.99 GBP (Kindle eBook).

~~~

Front cover3 of reissued REBT book

Albert Ellis was a man of his time, which was a long time ago.  He modelled his philosophy of psychotherapy[y on the idealistic notions of a Roman slave, instead of on modern theories of social psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and so on. He grossly oversimplified the nature of human disturbance; blamed the client for ‘choosing’ to upset themselves; and denied the value of moral language.

We no longer need to reflect upon the contribution of Dr Ellis.  It was very small.

His contribution is evaluated in the book above: A Major Critique of REBT.

~~~

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

 

Creative writing and the therapeutic journey

Blog Post No. 155

18th July 2017 – Updated on 22nd January 2019

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2018-2019

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Recent books

If you have come to this page looking for recent books by Dr Jim Byrne (with Renata Taylor-Byrne), then here is the list of the latest books: on Lifestyle Counselling; Writing Therapy; and Diet and Exercise linked to emotional functioning; plus building successful couple relationships.

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Book Descriptions:

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: 

Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy

Front cover Lifestyle Counselling

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available at Amazon outlets.***

The contents

In this book, you will find a very clear, brief, easy to read introduction to a novel approach to ‘counselling the whole person’. This emotive-cognitive approach does not restrict itself to mental processes.  We go beyond what the client is ‘telling themselves’, or ‘signalling themselves’; or what went wrong in their family of origin. We also include how well they manage their body-brain-mind in terms of diet, exercise, sleep, and emotional self-management (including self-talk, or inner dialogue). And we propose that it is better for counsellors and therapists to operate in a primarily right-brain modality, and to use the left-brain, cognitive processes, secondarily.

The most important, and novel, chapters in this book are as follows:

Chapter 4, which summarizes our research on the impact of diet/nutrition and physical exercise on mental health and emotional well-being.

Chapter 5, which reviews the science of sleep hygiene, plus common sense insights, and presents a range of lifestyle changes to promote healthy sleep, and thus to improve mental and emotional well-being.

Chapter 9, which explains how to incorporate the learning from chapters 4 and 5 into any system of talk therapy or counselling.

There is also a chapter (8) on counselling individuals using our Emotive-Cognitive approach, in which there is a section (8.3(b)) on using the Holistic SOR model to explore many aspects of the lifestyle of the client.

For more information, please click the following link: Lifestyle Counselling book.***

~~~

How to Write A New Life for Yourself:

Narrative therapy and the writing solution

Writing Theapy book cover

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available as a paperback at Amazon outlets.***

~~~

In this book, we set out to show you how you can quickly and easily process your current psychological problems, and improve your emotional intelligence, by writing about your current and historic difficulties.  (Chapter 8 contains a detailed introduction to the subject of how to understand and manage your emotions).

This approach to writing about your emotional difficulties in order to resolve them has a long and noble tradition.  Many nineteenth century poets were seeking to heal broken hearts or resolve personal dissatisfactions by the use of their poetry writing activities; and many novels are clearly forms of catharsis (or release of pent up emotions) by the author.

But not all writing is equally helpful, therapeutically speaking.  If the writing is too negative; or too pessimistic; or simply makes the reader feel raw and vulnerable, then it is not going to have a positive effect.  Later we will show you how to tackle therapeutic writing, (within the two main disciplines of writing therapy – [the scientific and the humanistic]), in order to make it maximally effective.

For more information, please click the following link: Write a New Life for Yourself.***

~~~

How to control your anger, anxiety and depression,

Using nutrition and physical exercise

Front cover design 4

By Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications.

Available at Amazon outlets.***

1. Introduction

What we eat has a very powerful effect on our bodies and minds. And knowing and understanding how our body-mind reacts to the substances we feed ourselves is a crucial part of self-care.

For instance: depression can be caused by psychological reactions to losses and failures.  But it can also be caused by certain kinds of body-brain chemistry problems, some of which can begin in the guts, and be related to bad diet, and lack of physical exercise.  For example:

“If you are depressed while you suffer from regular yeast infections (like Candida Albicans), or athlete’s foot, or have taken antibiotics recently, there is a connection. Our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract and our mental well-being is dependent on healthy intestines. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses from autism to ADHD can be caused by an imbalance of gut microbes like fungi, and ‘bad’ bacteria”.  (Source: Michael Edwards (2014))[i].

And when we take antibiotics, we kill off all of our friendly bacteria, and often what grows back first is the unfriendly stuff, like Candida Albicans, which can then cause depression, anxiety and other symptoms, as listed above.

Also, we can really benefit from knowing some of the latest ideas about where – (in our diets) – our depression, anxiety and anger can originate from; as provided by specialists who have devoted their lives to years of investigation into the workings of the human body and mind (or body-mind).

[i] Edwards, M. (2014) ‘The candida depression connection – How yeast leads to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental disorders’. Available online at:                https://www.naturalnews.com/047184_ candida_ depression_gut_microbes.html#

For more information, please click the following link: Diet, exercise and mental health.***

~~~

Top secrets for

Building a Successful Relationship: 

Volume 1 – A blueprint and toolbox for couples and counsellors: C101

By Dr Jim Byrne

With Renata Taylor-Byrne BSc (Hons) Psychol 1543762369 (1905x1383)

The full paperback cover, by Charles Saul

~~~

On this web site, you will find enough information about our new book on couple relationships to inform your decision about buying it.  We have posted the full Preface; plus the full set of (revised) Contents pages; plus a brief extract from each of the main chapters (1-13).

Pre-publication review

“I have recently finished reading Dr Jim Byrne’s immensely useful book (about love and relationship skills).  This book is full of cutting edge thinking and priceless wisdom about couple relationships; which inspires us to believe that we can undoubtedly shape and improve our most important relationships.  The approach is comprehensive (despite being Volume 1 of 3), covering as it does: the nature of love and relationships; common myths about love and relationships (which tend to lead young people astray); some illuminating case studies of couple relationships that have gone wrong; and very helpful chapters on communication skills, conflict styles, and assertive approaches to relationship; plus a very interesting introduction to the theory that our marriage partnership is shaped, for better or worse, in our family of origin. I particularly liked the chapters on how to manage boundaries in relationships; and how to change your relationship habits. I can highly recommend this ‘must read’ book to couples and counsellors alike”.

Dr Nazir Hussain

Positive Psychology and Integrative Counselling Services, Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

September 2018

~~~

Here’s a quick preview of part of the contents of Chapter 1:

This book has been designed to be helpful to two main audiences:

1. Anybody who is curious about how to build and maintain a happy, successful couple relationship, like a marriage or civil partnership (civil agreement), or simple cohabitation; and:

2. Any professional who works with individuals and couples who show up with problems of marital or couple conflict, breakdowns of communication, or unhappiness with the couple bond.

For more information about this book, please go to Top Secrets for Building a Successful Relationship.***

~~~

Recent publications

Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons:

How to process old traumas, and eliminate undigested pain from your past experience

~~~

Holistic Counselling in Practice:

An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy

~~~

Daniel O’Beeve’s Amazing Journey: From traumatic origins to transcendent love

The memoir of Daniel O’Beeve: a strong-willed seeker after personal liberation: 1945-1985

~~~

Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

~~~

Introduction to first draft of this blog post

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

In my 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: which include 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 seems to not be ready for our insights!

~~~

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 REBT 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 rich are enriched and the poor are squashed!  That squashing process hurts, 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 well-being:

While psychotherapists like Albert Ellis tended to emphasize 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 emphasize 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).

~~~

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.***

Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

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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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Hebden Bridge Counselling Books

Hebden Bridge Counsellor Writes and Publishes Books

Updated on 11th August 2020

honetpieWe live in an era of information overload, so much so that you could live next door to a published author and not know about it!

You might we interested in what they wrote and published, if only you could find out that their work exists.

For this reason, I have decided to draw attention to the fact that I am a Hebden Bridge based counsellor/psychotherapist who also writes and edits and publishes books, such as the following:

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Books-on-counsellingI hope you find this information interesting and helpful.  I am also happy to advise aspiring authors of similar books regarding the writing and editing processes involved, and the process of publication.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: drjwbyrne@gmail.com

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Albert Ellis’s childhood shaped REBT

Blog Post No.117

Posted on 13th March 2017 – (Originally posted on 5th February 2015).

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A counsellor blogs about John Reinhard’s misquoting of Dr Byrne’s book about the childhood of Albert Ellis…

Copyright ©Jim Byrne, 2015/2017

Introduction

Isn’t it annoying when readers of your work completely misrepresent what you said!

This happened to me in the case of a book I wrote about Dr Albert Ellis, which was slated by an Ellis fanatic.

rebt-whats-wrongI wrote a book on the childhood of Albert Ellis (currently out of print), with the intention of correcting the mistakes that persist in REBT (and presumably in derived-forms of CBT), which arose out of the psychological trauma inflicted upon Little Albert Ellis by his seriously neglectful parents.  My hope was that followers of REBT would take this critique seriously, and set about reforming REBT to make it less distorted by Ellis’s unresolved neuroses – mainly his avoidance of emotion (in the form of his Extreme Stoicism), and his (largely successful) attempts to suppress all thought of childhood trauma, in himself or anybody else.

In three earlier posts, I have addressed some of the ways in which one of Ellis’s followers – one John Reinhard – has failed to engage with my critique.

Today I went back to see how selectively Reinhard had dealt with my criticism of the inadequacies of REBT therapists when it comes to the question of empathy for the client.

I was appalled at how little attention he’s paid to my actual arguments.  Here is the whole of the relevant section of my book.

  • Tell me if you consider that I have said “REBT therapists skip all forms of empathy”.
  • Tell me if I’ve in any way misrepresented the actual position that Ellisian REBTers take on the subject of empathy in psychotherapy.

Here is the foreword of that book:

Foreword

“If it was never possible for us to relive on a conscious level the rejection we experienced in our own childhood and to work it through, then we in turn will pass this rejection on to our children”.  Dr Alice Miller[1]

Wounded-psychotherapist-ellisThis book represents an attempt to deconstruct Dr Albert Ellis’s story of his childhood, with a view to rescuing ‘Little Albert’, who has been ignored and discounted by Older Albert, just as he was ignored and discounted by his own parents.  It also seeks to evaluate his theory of therapy (REBT), and to try to identify links between his major childhood experiences and his adult theories of human behaviour.

Why do I want to do this?  What is my goal?

I am doing this because, as it stands, Albert Ellis’s system of therapy – called Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) – and those therapies which have been inspired by him, which includes most of the cognitive behavioural therapies – ignores the childhood pain of counselling and therapy clients; and recommends that they “forget the god-awful past”.  In the process, those rational counsellors and therapists unknowingly promote an unnecessarily callous attitude towards client suffering, and an indifference towards childhood suffering in general.

On the other hand, I suffered emotionally as a child, and only managed to recover from that seriously damaging experience by processing it – making it conscious; feeling the previously denied or repressed feelings; and moving on.[2] I resolutely refused to try to “forget the god-awful past” – partly because it’s actually the non-remembered bits that do the most harm; and we have to remember them first, process them, and file them away, before we can healthily forget them!

Cognitive empathy versus emotional empathy

I am not saying that REBT/CBT therapists show no empathy for their clients whatsoever: they do.  But their empathy seems to be mainly ‘cognitive’ – or cool ‘understanding’ – instead of also including some ‘felt affinity’ with the suffering client.  (Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and Janet Wolfe is the main one I have seen on video, warmly empathizing with a client who she judged to be “in need of tender loving care [TLC])”. That felt sense of affinity with the client – when it occurs – is experienced by the client as both caring for them, and also legitimating their sense of having been wronged or short-changed by life.  An REBT /CBT therapist might be concerned that this kind of emotional affinity could encourage the client to ‘catastrophize’ about their childhood suffering, but this is not a necessary outcome from emotional empathy.

For example, in both the therapy work of Milton Erickson[3] and the coaching work of Stephen Covey[4], the emphasis is on, firstly, understanding and empathizing with the client – and showing a sense of fellow feeling; and then, secondarily, trying to show the client some potentially better ways of thinking-feeling-acting in their problem situation.  Why does the REBT/CBT therapist have to urgently skip that first essential step?  Why not bide their time until the client feels understood, before presenting their proposed solutions and improved ways of thinking, feeling and acting?

And even in the case of offering cognitive empathy, the REBT/ CBT therapist (who follows Ellis’s lead) is likely to only empathize with those aspects of life’s difficulties which are seen as ‘legitimate’.  And that tends to exclude childhood suffering.  (Albert Ellis has been shown – in some video clips of his therapy work – to empathize with people who feel guilt or shame, [presumably because he thinks nobody should ever have to feel guilt or shame – which I will show to be an unhelpful approach when it comes to moral issues].  But he does not empathize with:

(a) individuals who feel they need a loving partner, (presumably because he does not believe anybody needs to be loved);

(b) people who suffered in their childhood, (presumably because he believes they have a duty to ‘forget the god-awful past’ – like he did!)

(c) people who complain of being treated unfairly, (presumably because he foolishly thinks that this is always and only beyond the control of the client – which it [very often] most definitely is not!)

In this book, I am seeking to help children, and the inner child of adult clients, by promoting empathy for victims of childhood suffering. This empathic understanding is a necessary precedent to the process of completing those painful experiences, reframing them, and then letting them go[5].  In addition, I also want to rescue what is good about REBT, while dumping what is un-helpful.

It is my belief that Little Albert Ellis suffered enormously, but that Older Albert Ellis was in denial about that suffering.  As such, Older Albert was never able to become a self-actualized individual, in the fullest sense: especially in relation to his capacity to love and to relate warmly and intimately to others (although he began to make apparent improvements with Debbie Joffe-Ellis, after the age of 88 years!)  And as a therapist, he was unable to fully, emotionally, empathize with the childhood suffering of his clients.

If you think you ‘already know’ Albert Ellis and REBT, then prepare for a shock.  You are about to be introduced to their normally ignored ‘shadow sides’.

And if you think there is only one way to relate to Albert Ellis – to love him or hate him – prepare to be introduced to the ‘middle way’.

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End of extract… From The Childhood of Albert Ellis…***

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

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Here is a link to my major critique of REBT:

A Major Critique of REBT:

Revealing the many errors in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Front cover3 of reissued REBT book

Also, we have added a reference to the research which shows that emotional pain and physical pain are both mediated and processed through significantly overlapping neural networks, which contradicts Dr Ellis’s claim that nobody could hurt you, except by hitting you with a baseball bat or a brick.

This is a comprehensive, scientific and philosophical  critique of the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, as developed by Dr Albert Ellis; including the dismantling of the philosophical foundations of the ABC model; and a decimating critique of the concept of unconditional self-acceptance. Almost nothing is left of REBT when the dust settles, apart from the system called Rational Emotive Imagery, which Dr Ellis borrowed from Maxi Maultsby.

Available in paperback and eBook formats.

Learn more.***

Price: £23.58 GBP (Paperback) and £6.99 GBP (Kindle eBook).

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Footnotes

[1] Miller, A. (1983) For Your own Good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence.  London: Faber and Faber.  Pages 3-4.

[2] See my Story of Origins and my Story of Relationship – two ‘training analyses’ – here: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[3] See the book, My Voice will Go with You: The teaching tales of Milton H. Erickson.  Edited and with commentary by Sidney Rosen.  1982.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company.  Erickson is quoted as saying: “First you model the patient’s world” – which means understanding it – “Then you role-model the patient’s world” – meaning you provide a new and better model for the client to consider adopting.

[4] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  A book by Stephen Covey (1989), in which his fifth principle is: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.  An REBT therapist could apply this principle to first allow the client to have their thoughts and feelings; to accept them; validate them; and then to look at whether it might be better for the client if they were moderated or modified in some way.  But jumping to that second stage immediately is probably often felt to be insensitive and discounting by the client.

[5] Byrne, J. (2011a) Completing your experience of difficult events, perceptions and painful emotions.  E-CENT Paper No.13.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy.  Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance

Blog Post No. 38

14th September 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: A ‘Rave Review’ of Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance by Dr Angela Duckworth

Introduction      

In this blog I want to explain to you why I think this book – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth is a great book, and show you how her research can help us in our daily lives, as we try to achieve our goals.

angelas-pictureDr Angela Duckworth is an Associate Professor of psychology, at the University of Pennsylvania. When she was in her second year of graduate school, she started researching the achievements of highly effective people in different areas of life: business, the arts, journalism, medicine, athletics, the law, etc.

She wanted to know if there were any common features that successful people, at the top of these various fields, shared. And so she interviewed the leaders in these different occupations and discovered something which she found of great interest. There was a distinctive way of behaving that they all shared. When they faced failure, in one form or another, they just kept going!

She found that highly successful people were remarkably persevering. They were really hard-working and could bounce back after set-backs. And they knew where they were headed. They were passionate about what they were doing and this drove them on.

In her book she states:

“No matter what the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in 2 ways. Firstly, these exemplars were unusually hard-working and resilient. Secondly, they knew in a very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination – they had direction.”

grit-coverGradually, as the interviews with these highly successful people progressed, she was able to create a series of questions. These questions tried to gauge the extent of someone’s ability to keep going in the face of obstacles, and how passionate they were about their chosen activities.

With these questions, she created a questionnaire called the ‘Grit scale’, and she decided grit – meaning passion and perseverance – was the outstanding feature of the successful people she interviewed. In the scale, she has several questions about perseverance and also questions about passion.

She describes passion as: “…a compass – the thing that takes you some time to build and tinker with and finally get right, and that then guides you on your long and winding road to where, ultimately, you want to be”.

Angela Duckworth starts her book with a description of the training of new recruits to the United States Military Academy at West point. She describes highly capable and dedicated cadets, who, in order to be selected, have had to produce excellent high school grades and demonstrate top marks in physical fitness tests.

They have to undergo seven weeks of initial training, which is very rigorous and demanding, and hence is called “Beast Barracks”.

These cadet trainees had applied in their junior year in high school to join the West Point cadets, and although 14,000 apply, this number is cut down to 4,000 who then have to get nominated (by a member of Congress, or a senator, or the Vice-President of the United States). These 4,000 are then reduced because fewer than half will meet the strict academic and physical standards of West Point.

west-point-cadetsFrom this group of approximately 2,500, there is a final group selected of 1,200 who are enrolled and admitted into the academy.

What fascinated Angela Duckworth was the number of trainees who didn’t make it to the end of the training course and she wanted to find out why. During this 7 week training, (which is very strenuous, with no weekends off and no contact with friends and family), there is a drop-out rate of 1 in 5 cadets.

Why was this drop-out rate so high with young recruits who had worked for years to achieve their dream of becoming a West Point cadet for the United States Military?

To find an explanation, she used her own ‘Grit scale’, which I mentioned at the start of this blog, to see if the results achieved by cadets (prior to their training) gave a clue as to who would drop out of the 7 week training, and who would complete the training course successfully.

She administered the test in July 2004 to 1,218 West Point cadets and discovered something remarkable. What she did was to compare the scores on the ‘Grit scale’, which the cadets had achieved, and their ‘Whole candidate scores’.

These ‘Whole Candidate scores’ were the test and exam results that had been collated during the cadets’ lengthy admission process, starting from junior high school onwards. These scores showed the levels of academic ability, physical fitness, plus military fitness predictions.

When she compared the scores for the ‘Grit scale’ and ‘Whole candidate scores’, it became apparent to her that no matter how gifted a cadet was, this was no indication of their Grit level.

Here is a sample  of her Grit scale (all of which can be found on page 55 of her book):

Grit-scale.JPG

 

She saw this same pattern (of lack of correlation between talent and grit) repeated in the later scores when she gave the test again the following year. This was her conclusion, based on the results:

The only thing that could successfully predict that a cadet would get through the “Beast barracks” initial training programme was their scores on the ‘Grit scale’, and not their high school rank, or their academic ability, leadership experience, athletic ability or their ‘Whole candidate score’.

She continued her research into the power of grit in the sales profession, which can be a very strenuous training ground. As they try to sell their goods, salespeople constantly get rejection from other people, and have to manage their reactions to this, and keep motivated.

The ‘Grit scale’ predicted the people who stayed the course, in the sales industry. She states:

“No other commonly-measured personality trait – including extraversion, emotional stability and conscientiousness – was as effective as grit in predicting job retention”.

Grit-quote-3.JPGShe also used the test at the request of the Chicago Public Schools Services, and she discovered, through administering the Grit Scale to the students, that the level of grit of the students was a more revealing measure of whether they would graduate or not.

Their level of completion of academic work, or how much they liked school or felt secure in the school environment, was not as good an indicator as the Grit score.

 

She also completed 2 extensive samples of American adult students, and found that adults who were ‘gritty’ (meaning having high scores on the grit test) were more successful in their academic studies.

Angela Duckworth then initiated a collaboration with the US Army Special Operations Forces, known as the Green Berets. After a very difficult training period, (which included a boot camp, 4 weeks of infantry training, 3 weeks of airborne school, and 4 weeks of day and night land navigation) the recruits then do a Selection Course which she describes as, “Making Beast Barracks look like a summer vacation”.

On the selection course there are daytime and night time challenges, runs and marches, obstacle courses etc. And simply to be chosen for the selection course was an achievement in itself.

However 42% of the candidates that she observed, pulled out of the training of their own free will before the selection course had finished.

She found that a high score on the ‘Grit scale’ predicted who would make it through the Selection Course. So grit in candidates was the best predictor of future success – not talent.

She states: “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another”.

grit-versus-iq-scoreAfter a number of years teaching, Angela Duckworth could see very clearly that “talent was not destiny”, and she decided to leave teaching for psychology, as she wanted to get really clear about the role that effort made in achievement.

In her book she mentions that Darwin considered that the factors which make up achievement are hard work and enthusiasm, and that they were fundamentally of greater value than intellectual ability.

But she discovered from surveys conducted in America over many years, that, although many people state, and seem to believe, that hard work was more significant a characteristic than intelligence, in fact they actually believed the opposite.

People who were ‘naturally gifted’ were rated more highly than people who were very hard workers. She therefore considered that: “We have an ambivalence towards talent and effort”.

When people rate talent so highly, this means that other factors are considered much less valuable. And this further means that other abilities, including grit, are not valued (or are downgraded).

Angela Duckworth gives examples of the value of grit in two case studies, and I will summarise the example she gives of the progress of Scott Kaufman. Kaufman is a psychologist who now has three degrees and plays the cello for fun.

When he was young he was considered to be a slow learner. He suffered a lot from ear infections and this affected his ability to process information. He was put into special education classes (because of assumed low ability to learn) at school, and had to repeat third grade.

After a nerve-wracking interview with a school psychologist, who gave him lots of tests, he performed badly and was sent to a special education school for children with learning disabilities.

scott-calloutWhen he was fourteen one of the specialist teachers decided to ask Scott why he wasn’t in a more demanding class.

Scott told Angela Duckworth that up until that time, he’d always assumed that because he wasn’t talented, there wouldn’t be much that he could do with his life.

The fact that he met a teacher who believed in his potential was a huge revelation for Scott. At that time he found himself wondering, ”Who am I? Am I a learning disabled kid with no real future? Or maybe something else?”

So what he did then was to try to find the answer to those questions! He enrolled on as many demanding school activities as he could. He joined the choir, and the school musical, and the Latin class. He wasn’t the top in everything, but he learned in the classes.

What Scott learned”, said Angela Duckworth, “was that he wasn’t hopeless.”

As Scott’s grandfather had been a cellist in the Philadelphia orchestra for 50 years, he asked his grandfather if he would give him cello lessons. Scott started practising for 8 or 9 hours a day, not just because he really liked playing, but because:

“I was so driven to just show someone, anyone, that I was intellectually capable of anything. At this point I didn’t care what it was”. (Page 32)

He was so good on the cello that he managed to get a place in the High School orchestra. He then increased his practice even more, and by the end of his second year, he was the second-best cellist in the orchestra; and awards from the Music Department were given to him regularly.

Scott’s classwork marks improved and his enthusiasm and curiosity about new subjects expanded. But he was dogged by his low IQ scores from childhood.

grit-quote2This restriction continued until the day came when he decided to apply to the Carnegie Mellon University. He was fascinated by the concept of IQ and he wanted to study intelligence, so he applied for a cognitive science course.

In spite of the fact that he had very high grades for his work, and lots of achievements from his extracurricular activities, he was rejected. It was apparent to Scott that it had been the results from his SAT scores that had kept him from being offered a place.

However, he was very determined. “I had grit”, he said. “….I’m going to find a way to study what I want to study”. He applied for the Carnegie Mellon Opera programme of study. This was because they didn’t look very hard at SAT scores and focussed on musical aptitude and expression.

So in Scott’s first year he took a psychology course as an elective, and then added psychology as a minor. Then he transferred his major from Opera to Psychology. And then he graduated at the end of the degree course with a high scholastic distinction, in psychology!

Scott Kaufman then went on to earn several more degrees, and to work in an American university as a psychologist. Angela Duckworth shows empathy towards Scott for the following reason:

“Like Scott, I took an IQ test early in my schooling and was deemed insufficiently bright to benefit from gifted and talented classes. For whatever reason – maybe a teacher asked that I be retested – I was evaluated again the following year, and I made the cut. I guess you could say I was borderline gifted.”

She considers that  focussing on the amount of talent an individual has, is a distraction from something of equal value and she considers that “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”

Image resultShe quotes Nietzsche’s views on why societies place talent over the hard work ethic.

“Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius. For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.”

He wanted people to think of very high achievers as crafts(people).  He wrote this:

“Do not talk about giftedness, (or) inborn talents! One can name great (people) of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became geniuses…they all acquired the seriousness of the efficient crafts(person)  who first learns to construct the parts properly before they venture to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole”.

So what can we take away from Angela Duckworth’s investigation into the concept of ‘grit’? She concludes the book by explaining that you can grow your own grit – and she considers that there are two ways of doing it:

She suggests that you yourself can decide which interest you are going to put your precious time and energy into, link up your work with a wider purpose that benefits others, and learn the value of hope, when situations look bleak.

You can also give yourself daily challenges to develop your skill levels. She describes this as “Growing your grit from the inside out”.

mozarts-dadBut you can also grow your grit level “From the outside in”. This is done by having support from parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors and friends. They can make a great difference. Where would Mozart have been without his musical father?  And where would Bill Gates be without a wealthy lawyer father, and – from 1968 onwards, as an 8th grader – unlimited access to a computer terminal at his private school?  (So grit is very important, but so also is external support, and ‘door openers’ [or people who ‘allow you in’]).

Conclusion

How does knowing about the Grit Scale help us? It means that there is solid research that shows that talent can only take us so far. And there are things that are more important than talent as determinants of success.

With a great start in life, having supportive and encouraging parents, for example, we can develop our natural talents to a high level. But at some point, unless we develop gritty behaviours, we will not develop our talents fully.

The really good news is that if we practice these ‘Gritty behaviours’ shown on Angela’s scale, then we’ll  reap the rewards in terms of completing the courses of study we undertake; and achieving the necessary qualifications; so that we can create solid careers for ourselves.

Or, we can create a richer and more satisfying life for ourselves if we follow our interests with passion and perseverance, whether we earn a wage for it, or not.

Finally, in Angela Duckworth’s book, she describes the findings from journalist Hester Lacey’s interviews with very creative people. Each of them was asked, “What was your greatest disappointment?”

The responses she received to this question were almost always identical:

“Well – I don’t really think in terms of disappointment. I tend to think that everything that happens is something I can learn from. I tend to think, ‘Well, okay. That didn’t go so well, but I guess I will just carry on’.”

A pretty gritty response!

I strongly recommend Angela Duckworth’s TED talk,

 

and her book, which has lots more interesting things in it (including a generously-shared account by Angela of her own use of grit when a tutor for her degree course advised her to drop the cognitive psychology course she was studying because they didn’t think she was capable of passing it)!

But this is the longest blog I’ve written, and I didn’t want to include any more, as it would be straining your grit muscles too far.

In fact, if you’ve got this far – well done for sticking with my review! And if you do the grit test, it will give you valuable self-knowledge. If you share what you’ve learned about grit and the grit test with someone in your family or a good friend of yours, who may be struggling with a challenge they are facing at the moment, it can really be very helpful for them. The scale shows clearly how you can develop your grit muscles.

Best of luck! Hang in there!

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

 

References:

Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance. By Angela Duckworth (2016), London, Vermillion.

Outliers – The Story of Success. By Malcolm Gladwell (2008), London, Allen Lane.

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