Blog post – 10th March 2023
A Holistic Approach to Self-Management or Personal Development
By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling,
(And author of more than 25 books, mainly on self-help and counselling topics.)
I think this quotation is very sad, but probably mainly true:
“People settle for a level of despair they can tolerate and call it happiness”.
Believe it or not, there are some counsellors who will tell you that there are only four things you need to know in order to live a happy, undisturbed life. Four!
This is one example of the error of fragmenting human knowledge into “professions”. Or compartmentalizing knoweldge into discrete subjects and disciplines, instead of recognizing that the “polymathic approach” is more reliable, and less misleading. We live in a world in which knowledge has been fragmented, and parcelled out to groups of specialists, who build Chinese walls between fields of study.
(The “polymathic approach” is to maximize the number of disciplines, or schools of thought, that we read and study, and to balance the claims of one against the other. Or, to take a “coherentist approach” to knowledge, in which we see how well the claims of one author, school of thought, or discipline “fits” together with the other authors, schools of thought, and disciplines that we have studied!)
The fragmentaiton of knowledge results in body doctors who ignore the mind, and mind doctors who ignore the body; and body-mind doctors who ignore the social environment; and social psychologists who ignore the physical and economic environment. And so on.
Most specialists are bound to mislead us, by ignoring the “other 95%” of reality. So we have to be awake, and we have to learn to think critically. And we have to learn to take responsibility for finding our own little ways through this maze of misleading overspecialization.
The individual and the whole
Reality is always much more complex than any specialist will ever suspect. For example, compare the middle column of the table below, with the REBT claim that all we need in order to be happy, and to avoid overly upset emoitons is to know four “facts” of life. (Give up demanding; accept that you can stand any adversity; stop catastrophizing about life’s difficulties; and accept yourself and other people Unconditionally!)
Here are some ideas that I discuss in my main book on holistic counselling in practice.
Although each individual is actually a social animal, shaped and conditioned by their family of origin, schools, the mass media, and so on, we nevertheless can decide to take responsibility for managing ourselves and our lives. That is to say, if somebody, or something, wakes us up to the reality of a crossroads junction we are facing in our lives, we can take conscious responsibility for choosing the road we will follow. (If nobody or nothing wakes us up, we will continue to follow our non-conscious patterns and habits).
This process of waking up and taking responsibility means giving up operating ‘on automatic’ – giving up being a wholly non-conscious automaton. It is not perfectly effortless, this process of taking conscious control. Remember how difficult it was to change anything as a result of a New Year’s Resolution. And the changing of habits is not perfectly achievable. Remember how often your New Year’s Resolutions failed!
I have been working on my own self-management for more than thirty-five years, but I have not reached ‘the end of the line’ yet! Neither am I in line for a medal or cup for my achievements so far! I have changed some bad habits; formed some new, good habits; but I have to watch my behaviour daily, “as though I were a bandit lying in wait”, as Epictetus put it. (Epictetus, 1991).
Self-management means that I set goals for myself; I seek wisdom for myself; I try to guide my life by the best knowledge that I can find and/or generate. This is not an easy task, and in fact it is a lifelong journey of discovery, trial and error, progress and slipping back, and so on.
Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person.***
E-CENT advocates the use of some of the most helpful aspects of some of the most useful philosophies of life available to us: like moderate Stoicism, moderate Zen Buddhism, and some aspects of moral philosophy. These philosophies should ideally be combined with the best aspects of modern psychology; and the best of the self-improvement literature available in bookshops and on Amazon and other online bookstores.
Identifying self-management aims and goals
Most people have their self-management aims and goals back to front. Many people seem to go after wealth before health; and status before happiness; and career ‘successes’ before the sense of making a contribution, or finding their life’s work.
For more on this subject, please see my page of information about the Holistic Counselling book that I co-authored with Renata Taylor-Byrne, my lovely wife, here: Holistic Counselling book…***
Or take a look at this book: Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person.***
That’s all for now.
Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling
ABC Counselling and Pschotherapy