Psychology and literature, the connection

Blog Post No. 169

By Dr Jim Byrne

20th July 2018

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Dr Jim’s Blog: What are the linkages between psychology and psychotherapy, on the one hand, and literature, on the other…?

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, July 2018

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Introduction

Cover image of young O'BeeveI recently posted some comments on LinkedIn on the connections between psychology and literature, and the effects of literature upon my own therapeutic journey.

Sometimes my second thoughts are better than my first; and on this occasion I think there is certainly a need to clarify some of my positions:

Second thoughts

The good story, Kurtz and CoetzeeFirstly:  When I wrote that I had learned more from literature than I had ever learned from my academic studies, I think this was only true of my life in my twenties and up to the age of 33 years.

In my teens, I had looked at the tens of thousands of books that were stacked from floor to ceiling in some of the book shops along Aston Quay, in Dublin City, and I despaired of ever being able to read even a tiny fraction of that mountain of literary and pulp fiction wordage.  So I veered towards reading non-fiction for several years.  Indeed, in the main bookshop I used on the quays, I began to buy second-hand books that looked at psychology subjects, and I was very interested in hypnosis, and the inferiority complex.

From about the age of 22 years, I read a lot of economic and politics.

But, around that time, I did find some significant fiction books that had a huge effect upon my emotional development.  And, when I was 27 years old, i read Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot’.

Secondly: Beyond the age of 33 years, I began to take seriously the study of psychology, beginning with person-centred counselling; and then Transactional Analysis; and then Gestalt therapy. And eventually studied 13 different systems of counselling and psychotherapy.

Achieving-Emotional-LiteracyYears later I studied Claude Steiner’s ‘Achieving Emotional Literacy’, which I found to be very effective teaching of emotional intelligence, including the development of empathy.  However, nobody who has read any novels by Charles Dickens would try to deny that Dickens teaches empathy by evoking it, while Steiner teaches empathy by delineating it.

Carl Rogers’ writings call for empathy, but I learned how to feel it from reading Dickens, Donna Tartt, Ursula Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, and many others; including Dostoevsky and Graham Green.

Thirdly: Here is the bit that I missed in my earlier posts.  The discipline of ‘literature creation’ is always informed (in my view) by the leakage of psychological theory into the public domain.

How can I support this claim?

sigmund-freud7.jpgOne way to do so is to look at D. H. Lawrence’s novel, Sons and Lovers, which suggested that the main character had an ‘Oedipus complex’ about his mother.  I wrote about this in my own semi-autobiographical novel like this:

‘When Sigmund Freud saw the play, Oedipus Rex, in Vienna, in the late 1890’s, he found himself believing that he, personally, had lusted after his own mother.  He then subsequently inferred that this must be a universal law of sexual development, which applies to all sons – which it is not.

‘Because D.H. Lawrence adopted this idea of Freud’s, in his semi-autobiographical novel, Sons and Lovers, the idea has become generalized that young men commonly suffer from an Oedipus complex.  But Lawrence did not get this idea from reflecting upon his actual relationship with his mother.  He got it from his wife Frieda, who had got it from Otto Gross, “an early disciple of Freud’s”.[1]  And he misleadingly inserted it into the heads of his readers, thus distorting their understanding of the most fundamental relationship in human society.”

So let us wash this psychobabble out of English/Irish/World literature for all time.  A young boy is perfectly capable of pure feelings of love for his mother; and a mother is perfectly capable of feeling pure love for her son – provided she is emotionally well, with a secure attachment style.

~~~

In this case, the psychologist – Freud – misleads us, because he was influenced by his misreading of *Greek Literature* into believing in the universal lusting of sons for their mothers. (The Greek myth does not claim that this is a universal tendency, but that it was a most unfortunate accident which befell Oedipus,which was facilitated because he had been misled by his servants into thinking his mother was dead).

Donna_Tartt_The_GoldfinchOn the other hand, I got a much better sense of guidance on healthy love between a mother and her son from Donna Tartt’s novel, The Goldfinch.  And, again, I wrote about this in my own semi-autobiographical novel (or story), like this:

‘The most extreme pain arising out of my (Jim’s) sense of loss of a loving connection to my mother came when I was reading The Goldfinch, an extraordinary novel by Donna Tart, just a few months ago.  Theo Decker, the main character, is a twelve year old boy, who is in trouble at school, for being associated with another boy who was caught smoking.  Theo and his mother have been called in for a meeting with the school staff.  It’s raining heavily as they leave their apartment building, in Manhattan, so they take a cab, but have to abandon it near the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), because the cab seats smell foul.  Then, because it is still raining hard, and they are running early for their school appointment, they decide to shelter in the MOMA, and look at some of Theo’s mothers’ (and his) favourite paintings.

‘Throughout this process, Theo describes how handsome/ beautiful his mother looks; her fashion sense; her art appreciation; and how she speaks to him – and has often spoken to him – respectfully, playfully, joyfully, artfully, maternally but also increasingly as though he were an equal adult; or an increasingly equal person. And he describes all the wonderful moments of shared experience they have had.  I begin to get the feeling of an intense sense of love for his mother – which is reciprocated – and which has nothing in common with Freud’s ‘Oedipus Complex’ twaddle.

‘This is just plain ordinary liking and loving of a type which I never experienced with my mother – (and not even with Ramira, my first wife, who hurt me and insulted and offended me for the six years of our marriage). Theo Decker loves his mother, and she loves him; and that was like a blow to my solar plexus, which brought tears to my eyes: the realization that my mother never showed any such love for me; and often treated me worse than I would treat a stray dog!’

Fourth: I suspect that most of the influences of psychology that seep into literature, and from literature, into the public imagination, are more positive than negative. Perhaps it would be correct, and helpful, to say that literature popularizes and humanizes psychological theories, but we do need psychology as a discipline to inform all of us. Common sense cannot substitute for psychological research.  But we should never forget that psychology owes its origins to *philosophers* like Plato, Aristotle, Locke and Hume; as well as Freud and Klein; Skinner and Watson; Ellis and Beck; John Bowlby; and today, Allan Schore, Daniel Siegel, and many others.

And psychological theory is just that: theory, which has to be applied and revised; over and over and over again; from generation to generation; and to be reformed and rejigged to take account of insights coming from other disciplines; like sport psychology; nutritional psychiatry; neuroscience; sleep science; and on and on.

Fifth: I did not invent the idea that there is a link or affinity between psychotherapy and fictional literature.  Indeed, Arabella Kurtz (a British psychotherapist) and J.M. Coetzee (a South African novelist) co-authored a book of exchanges, titled “The Good Story: Exchanges on truth, fiction and psychotherapy”, London: Harvill Secker: 2015.  Here is the briefest of extracts, to make an important point:

Arabella Kurtz: “The stories we tell about our lives may not be an accurate reflection of what really happened, indeed they may be more remarkable for their inaccuracies than anything else …” This truth applies as much to the stories our clients tell us (counsellors) as it does to the stories we make up about who we are, and what we do with our clients in sessions.  “But they (these stories) are simply all we have to work with, or all that we know we have; and we can do a great deal with these stories, particularly if we take the view that there are truths, of the subjective or intersubjective kind, to be revealed in the manner of telling”. (Page 63).

I believe we are story-tellers in a sea of stories.  We benefit, as humans, by reading the stories of our fellow humans, and telling our own stories; and not just by reading the theories that come out of the psychology lab, or the ‘sanitized reports’ that some therapists produce as ‘clinical research’!

Common sense cannot substitute for psychology and psychotherapy research and development; but neither can third-person, passive voice reports of abstract numerical quantification substitute for stories that warm and move the human heart!

~~~

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

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

~~~

[1] Dr Howard J. Booth, School of English, University of Kent.  In the Introduction to D.H. Lawrence (1913/1999) Sons and Lovers. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics.  Pages XII-XIII.

Reading, writing, literature and self-healing

Blog Post No. 168

By Dr Jim Byrne

15th July 2018 (Updated on 15th March 2020)

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Dr Jim’s Blog: Literature, personal writing of fiction, and therapeutic healing of the heart and mind

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, July 2018

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Introduction

Call out about LiteratureIndividual Life is a gift, bestowed by Collective Life, upon fragments of Living Stuff.  Life is a rolling floor-show of life living itself!

We come into existence knowing nothing; and guessing what life might be about.  We stumble through childhood, suffering the blows of negative treatment, and savouring the kiss of good fortune.  We float into adolescence with the naiveté of a baby encountering its first crocodile! And, if we are fortunate, we encounter love in our late twenties, or our early thirties, and feel the full range of emotions: from ecstatic and sweet joy, to fearful and angry insecurity.

The Bamboo Paradox: The limits of human flexibility in a cruel world – and how to protect, defend and strengthen yourself

Finding the Golden Mean that leads to strength and viable flexibility, in order to be happy, healthy and realistically successful

A, Front cover-2By Dr Jim Byrne.

With contributed chapters by Renata Taylor-Byrne

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The Institute for E-CENT Publications: 2020

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Are human beings like bamboo?  Are we designed to withstand unlimited pressure, stress and strain? Is our destiny to be sacrificed on the altar of ‘flexible working arrangements’?

We live in a world in which there are dark forces that wish us to forget that we are fleshy bodies, with physical and mental needs; and physical and mental limitations; and to be willing to function like mere cogs in the wheels of somebody else’s financial or technological empire.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) has played into this narrative, and given it philosophical support, by promoting a form of Extreme Stoicism in the name of therapy and wisdom, which it patently is not. (General Cognitive Behaviour Therapy [CBT] also supports this agenda, but to a lesser degree, or in a less obvious way! And some forms of Extreme Buddhism also advocate ‘detachment’ from material concerns, such as the need for a balanced life!)

In this book, I review the research that we have done on the limits of human endurance, and the determinants of that endurance – as well as identifying a viable philosophy of life – which will help you to optimize your strength and flexibility, while at the same time taking care of your health and happiness.

If you want to take good care of yourself in the modern mad-market, you could benefit from studying this book. It will provide you with both a compass and a suit of armour which will support you with the challenges and battles you will inevitably face.

Click for more information.***

Paperback copy: £14.99 GBP***

Kindle eBook: £5.99 GBP.***

~~~

Often, we need to encounter the possibility of love in more than one relationship before we can make sense of this ennobling and devastating emotion.

We seek words for our experiences of love and hate, joy and devastation, only to fall back again and again into the void of unknowing: the wordless pit of unconsciousness.

If we are fortunate, we will discover some aspects of the great literature of those who traversed these trackless voids of human beginnings and developments before us; and we may feel in our hearts and guts the pains and pleasures, the defeats and victories, that those who went before us felt and described.

~~~

How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:

Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving

Front cover 1Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Conflict can happen in families at any time of year.  It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes.  However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.

But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society.  You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.

The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.

PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…

Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***

~~~

On being human

DrJimCounselling002The highest calling of a human being is to make sense of our own life, as moral beings, and to share that understanding with those who follow along behind us, so that they might avoid – or traverse more smoothly – the swamps and volcanoes that we had to endure.

Whether we are born in the smallest village in Ireland, or the largest suburb of the largest city in the United States of America; or somewhere in South America; or South Asia, or Central Africa; there is nothing to say that we may not have the latest parable of human suffering and divine love on the tip of our tongues!

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

Front Cover.3
Cover design by Will Sutton

Transcribed by Jim Byrne

It is rare that any of us gets a chance to peer inside the life of a troubled individual, from a dysfunctional family, and to have our lives enriched by their struggles for freedom and self-understanding.  Furthermore, their quest for love in a cold world can motivate us to keep trying to promote our own emotional liberation.

~~~

Available in Kindle eBook for £5.54 GBP

And in paperback for £27.38 GBP:

Learn more:

Daniel’s Amazing Journey.***

So speak to the world of your journey, that you might know where you have been; and that others might benefit from your journey!

~~~

Regarding literature

Donna_Tartt_The_GoldfinchThe reading of good quality literature – from any and every era of the novel and the stage play – is emotionally educating, and healing of traumatic past experiences.  You can recover from sadness and depression; anger towards the world; and defeatist timidity: Just by exposing your mind and heart to the stories of others who went before you.

The writing of semi-autobiographical stories – with some, little emotional distance from direct, personal experience – is a great way to indirectly digest past traumatic or difficult experiences.

A good semi-autobiographical story, built on fragments learned from the insights of generations of novelists and other authors, is a great way to pass on personal healing examples and therapeutic gifts.  And that is what I have tried to do in my story about Daniel O’Beeve.***

I would like to encourage readers to begin to write short pieces, stories – in semi-autobiographical form – about their own difficulties in the past.  It will help you enormously to grow your emotional literacy (or EQ).

Please take a look at my story if you need a template, or some guidance on how to fictionalise a life story.  Link to Daniel O’Beeve’s story.***

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PS: About an hour after I posted this blog, Daniel’s story became available on Amazon, here: Daniel O’Beeve’s story at Amazon.co.uk.***

For more links, please go here: https://abc-counselling.org/2018/07/15/reading-writing-literature-and-self-healing/

That’s all for the moment.

I hope you try this therapeutic writing approach, and gain enormously from using it!

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

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Domestic violence and fair negotiation

Blog Post No.150 (159)

By Dr Jim Byrne

Posted on 25th December 2017. (Previously posted on 27th December 2016 and 6th December 2015) – Updated on 31st March 2020

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Christmas conflict in families and couples

The importance of negotiation and fairness between marriage and cohabiting partners

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2015-2017

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Introduction

Domestic-violenceEvery Christmas, the incidence of domestic violence increases significantly, because of the stresses and strains of the Christmas and Winter Holiday madness, whipped up by marketing gurus, to promote sales of unnecessary ‘stuff’. But also because of the lack of commitment to equality in relationships (which most often involves male domination, except when it involves female domination!)

But the underlying weaknesses, which allows domestic violence to emerge, is cultural conditioning, or the lack thereof.  A fully functioning democratic and humanistic culture would outlaw any form of the use of violence to settle our differences, at home, at work or in international relations.

In this blog post, I set out to review two principles that are important to happy and healthy couple relationships.

Those two principles come from the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project[1].

However, because of pressure of time and space, I had to settle for reviewing just one principle this time. (I’ll review the second one next week!)

Duluth-equality-wheel002The principle that I am reviewing is one of eight from the Equality ‘wheel’, and this is it: The importance of negotiation and fairness between marriage and cohabiting partners.

I review this principle in the context of the fact that Dr Michael Edelstein, a former colleague from the world of Rational therapy (REBT) refuses to discuss fairness issues with his couples therapy clients because (he says) he cannot identify any objective criteria for judging what is fair and what is unfair. 

However, in the process of reviewing the principle of negotiation and fairness, below, I will outline some very obvious criteria for assessing the presence or absence of fairness in couple disputes.

~~~

How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:

Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving

Front cover 1Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Conflict can happen in families at any time of year.  It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes.  However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.

But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society.  You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.

The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.

PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…

Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***

~~~

~~~

Elaboration

Duluth-model-coursesJust over a year ago, I introduced the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, and I said I would return to that subject, and explore the two wheels which they use to teach the distinction between unhelpful and unjustifiable ‘Power and control’ approaches to couple relationships, on the one hand, and civilized and indispensable ‘Equality’ approaches, on the other hand.

Each wheel contains eight principles, and the Duluth project advocates the use of the eight ‘equality principles’, and rejects the use of any of the eight principles of ‘power and control’.  In brief, this means that the appropriate way for a couple to relate to each other is from a basis of equal status, and an immoral and illegal way to relate is through the abuse of power to control the other person.

It seemed to make most sense for me to tackle this distinction by reviewing pairs of principles, one from each wheel.  However, in practice I have found that, because of space constraints, I cannot review two principles in one blog post – so I will review one ‘equality’ principle this week, and one ‘power and control’ principle next week.

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Equality 1: The principle of negotiation and fairness

Michael-EdelsteinThis week I want to begin by reviewing the ‘equality principle’ of ‘negotiation and fairness’.

My way of going about this, to begin with, is to refer back to the debate I had, in 2010, with Dr Michael Edelstein, a former colleague of mine in the world of Rational therapy (REBT).  Michael is a clinical psychologist who lives in San Francisco, practices REBT, was born in Brooklyn, NY, completed his academic psychology training in New York City, attended the REBT Institute from its physical inception in 1965, associated with Albert Ellis beginning in 1963, authored three books on REBT, trains therapists in REBT, and so can be assumed to know his REBT very well.  (Michael is also known as ‘The 3 Minute Therapist’, whose website can be found at: http://www.threeminutetherapy.com/).

~~~

How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:

Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving

Front cover 1Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Conflict can happen in families at any time of year.  It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes.  However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.

But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society.  You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.

The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.

PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…

Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***

~~~

On the importance of fairness, justice and morality

At the time when I was preparing to post my paper on ‘Fairness, Justice and Morality’[2] (back in 2010), Michael wrote to me to say that:

“Everyone has their own subjective view about what is fair. My preferences and hedonic calculi differ from that of others. Since there’s no cosmic or absolute criterion for evaluating fairness, I have not come up with a useful way to view it. Consequently, I advise my clients to jettison the entire concept”.

I was pretty sure Michael was overlooking something here about fairness.  So I argued the point with him, but I could not persuade him to take the concept of fairness seriously.

Today I would argue my case differently.  This is what I would say:

There is a huge objective criterion of fairness which has been around since ancient Chinese civilization: the Golden Rule.  The Golden rule can be expressed like this: You morally must not treat another person less well than you would like them to treat you, if your roles were reversed.

And you must treat your marriage partner at least as well as you would like them to treat you in identical circumstances!

Contrary to Michael’s viewpoint, this principle is very easy to apply in situations of conflict with couples in therapy.  Each member of a couple either is, or is not, willing to treat their partner at least as well as they expect to be treated.

This couldn’t be clearer, and (in my opinion) the most likely potential explanations for Michael Edelstein’s inability to see this point, back in 2010, were: (1) that he was influenced by the amoral philosophy of Albert Ellis[3]; and/or (2) the nonsensical philosophy of Logical Positivism; and/or (3) the useless system of Act Utilitarianism (which is much less usable than Rule Utilitarianism); and/or (4) the ubiquitous philosophies of neo-liberalism and post-modern moral relativity! (Because of lack of space, I will have to defer further clarification of the distinction between Act and Rule Utilitarianism until next week).

The debate in 2010

Back to what I wrote to Michael in 2010:

“I’m pretty sure most people would agree on this principle of fairness, no matter how subjective the concept of fairness might seem to be in some other cases.  In other words, although we humans sometimes have problems defining what we mean by fairness, from case to case, we (reasonable people) nevertheless find the concept of fairness indispensable, and we more often than not do find ways to define it which are ‘socially agreed’ (by some group or community, some society or country, some continent, or some strata of some culture, etc.).  In negotiations between individuals, we often find that the idea of what is fair is ‘inter-subjective’ (meaning, shared between several individuals; or common to a whole group of people), and not just ‘merely subjective’ (meaning – when used pejoratively – locked in the mind of one isolated, unrepresentative individual).

~~~

At one point, Dr Edelstein got back to me to clarify that his problem with the principle of fairness was a practical one:  How can it be used in couples therapy with squabbling couples?  Surely this is not possible since there do not seem to be any objective criteria by which to define fairness.

Today, I want to test Michael’s perspective against one of the two wheels of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project[4].

~~~

How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:

Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving

Front cover 1Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Conflict can happen in families at any time of year.  It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes.  However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.

But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society.  You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.

The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.

PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…

Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***

~~~

Objective criteria in couple conflict

The equality wheel: The equality wheel is segmented into eight subdivisions, each containing one principle.  All eight principles are subsumed under two headings: either ‘Equality’ or ‘Power and control’.

In the remainder of this blog post, I will take a look at just one of the equality/non-violence principles: Negotiation and fairness.

Under this principle (which emphasizes the importance of negotiating outcomes, and doing so fairly), there are three ‘guidelines’, or ‘key points’, as follows:

# Seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict;

# Accepting change; and:

# Being willing to compromise.

My response to Michael would be that, in my relationship with my partner, I can demonstrate fairness by (1) negotiating satisfying resolutions to conflicts; (2) accepting that changes are inevitable, and showing that I am willing to change when (reasonably) necessary; and (3) being willing to compromise when we have conflicting goals or desires.

To apply the ‘principle of generosity’ to Michael Edelstein’s argument, let us focus on his alternative to using the concept of fairness.

“As far as I can tell in working with squabbling couples, both justifying their own position with what’s ‘fair’, I have not arrived at any objective criteria to settle the fairness argument. I tell them, ‘Discussing what is fair is a dead end and often toxic to relationships. Discuss what works for both of you, instead’.”

~~~

How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:

Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving

Front cover 1Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Conflict can happen in families at any time of year.  It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes.  However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.

But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society.  You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.

The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.

PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…

Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***

~~~

What could this mean to a couple: (‘What works for both of you’)?

Here are my attempted answers:

  1. If they have a ‘mutual problem’, as defined by Helen Hall Clinard[5], then nothing works for both of them; because what Partner 1 wants is the very opposite of what Partner 2 wants and vice versa; or, at the very least, the two goals are mutually exclusive! (So Michael could study Chapter 4 of Helen’s book, and introduce his couple clients to the process of ‘turning conflict into cooperation’. That would provide him with some practical approaches to building fairness in practice, based on objective criteria.

But there is an immediate, and, I suspect, an insurmountable problem here for Michael, because of his rigid conformity to Albert Ellis’s belief system.  Let me explain:

In the opening paragraph of Chapter 4, Helen Clinard writes this: “Sometimes it is not easy for a person who is causing you a problem to change in the way that you want.  People who work or live together often have conflicting needs”. (Page 109).

But according to (Extreme) REBT theory, people do not have any needs at all (in the interpersonal area)![6]  Apart from air, water and basic food, everything else is treated as a ‘want’ or a ‘desire’ in Extreme REBT.[7] In other words, for Albert Ellis and his extreme stoical followers, ‘need’ is a synonym for the dreaded words – ‘should’ and/or ‘must’ – which “have to be” totally outlawed (and replaced with mere preferences)!

  1. If any of Michael’s couples lack clarity about how to compromise, Michael could teach them how to do that. For example, he could teach them the example used in Getting to Yes, by Fisher and Ury[8] – about sharing an orange – not by arbitrarily cutting it down the middle, but by finding out ‘the reason’ each partner wants the orange, and (perhaps) discovering that one mainly wants the peel (to put in a cake mix) and the other mainly wants the fruit (to squeeze as juice). But, to go down this route, Michael would have to believe that people have rights and needs, and that does not seem to be part of his belief system.
  2. If Michael studied Fisher and Ury, he could then teach his couple clients their basis system, which is:

(a) Separate the people from the problem. (Michael is officially good at this, since REBT theory teaches clients to distinguish between their partner, on the one hand, and their partner’s behaviours on the other).

(b) Talk in terms of interests rather than positions. (This is harder for Michael, because he has been trained to fit the whole phenomenal world into just two boxes – [1] Reality [which Must exist exactly as it is], and [2] Your Preferences [which do not have to exist at all!] Can he make the challenging shift towards considering that clients have real-life interests, {arising out of felt needs} which harden into positions?])

(c) Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do. (This approach fits better into the Egan Model[9] than it would into Michael’s simple ABC model).

(d) Insist that the results be based on some objective standard. (Like the Golden Rule; or mutual influence.  But, would Michael be willing to use the Golden Rule?)

~~~

How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:

Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving

Front cover 1Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Conflict can happen in families at any time of year.  It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes.  However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.

But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society.  You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.

The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.

PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…

Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***

~~~

  1. Michael could also teach his couple clients the three ‘key points’ I extracted from the Equality wheel of the Duluth project, as follows:

# 1 Seek mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict;

# 2 Accept change; and:

# 3 Be willing to compromise.

He could cover #1 above with either the Golden Rule, or Helen Clinard’s Mutual Problem Solving process.  Point #3 is covered by Fisher and Ury’s negotiation process; and, again, by the Golden Rule. And point #2 is an expression of the Buddhist principle that “change is the law of life” (and the [moderate] Stoic principle of ‘accepting the things you cannot change’).  Point 2 is also subject to the principle (from Professor John Gottman) that we should “let our partner influence us” – and my refinement, which is this: “Let your partner influence you, up to, but not beyond, the degree to which they are willing to allow you to influence them”!

~~~

Moving on…

If a couple comes to see me, and Partner 1 says that Partner 2 is acting unfairly, I will explore that complaint in terms of how it fits within my understanding of how the Golden Rule – (of treating other people the way we would ideally like to be treated in our turn) – would apply to their situation. I would encourage the partners to compromise, and to seek mutually satisfying resolution to their conflict.

I will try to teach Partner 2 the costs (in the medium to longer term) of acting unfairly; of not compromising; and of not seeking mutually acceptable outcomes (on average). (The cost to the oppressive partner is the ultimate loss of the relationship. The second cost is gaining a reputation for oppressive behaviour and immoral and often illegal action against their partner).

I will teach each partner the absolute necessity to allow their partner to influence them (up to, but not exceeding approximately 50% of the time, on average), and to expect to be able to influence their partner (up to, but not exceeding, about 50% of the time, on average).

If the partners insist on bickering about the precise percentages that each of them gives, or takes, I will conclude one of two things:

  1. Either, one (or both) of them is stuck in exploitation mode; and they are not trusted by their partner; or:
  2. This is a ‘presenting problem’, and the ‘real problem’ is hidden; perhaps a deep, emerging incompatibility, or a serious lack of satisfaction with the love or sex or romance in the relationship. (When a couple is deeply satisfied with the level of love and passion and romance and comfort in their relationship, they both seem to be able to ‘cut their partner some slack’ in their partner’s areas of deficiency!)

~~~

How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:

Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving

Front cover 1Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Conflict can happen in families at any time of year.  It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes.  However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.

But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society.  You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.

The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.

PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…

Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***

~~~

My experience

DrJimCounselling002But eight or nine times out of ten, when I work with unfairness issues in couples’ therapy, I can help the couple to resolve their problems, by teaching them to operate from The Golden Rule. And by allowing their partner to influence them, on a completely egalitarian basis – give and take.  (“If I do this for you [today], what will you do for me [tomorrow]?”)

I teach them that playing ‘Top-Dog/Under-Dog’ will lead to the dissolution of their marriage or relationship, normally after a protracted period of completely avoidable misery! Or, sometimes, all of a sudden, and without any possibility of fixing it after the fact! (“You had your chance, mate!”)

~~~

Jim & Renata's logo
ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

That’s all for this week.

Part 2 will look at a power and control issue!

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

~~~

[1] Source: http://www.theduluthmodel.org/about/

[2] Byrne, J. (2010b) Fairness, Justice and Morality Issues in REBT and E-CENT. E-CENT Paper No.2(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Studies. Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id203.html

[3] Byrne, J. (2013) A Wounded Psychotherapist: Albert Ellis’s childhood, and the strengths and limitations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). Hebden Bridge: CreateSpace/I-CENT Publications.  For more information on this book, please go to http://www.abc-counselling.com/id432.html.

[4] See pages 244-245 of Manhood: An action plan for changing men’s lives, by Steve Biddulph: the 1994/98 edition.

[5] Clinard, H.H. (1985) Winning Ways to Succeed With people.  Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing.

[6] Miller, T. (1993) Self-Discipline and Emotional Control: How to stay calm and productive under pressure.  A CareerTrack audio program.

[7] Miller, T. (1983) So, You Secretly Suspect You’re Worthless, Well You’re Not A Shit and I Can Prove It.  New York: Lakeside Printing.

[8] Fisher and Ury (1990) Getting to Yes: negotiating agreement without giving in. London, Hutchinson Business.

[9] The Egan Model, developed by Gerard Egan, asks three core questions: (1) Where are you now?  (2) Where do you want to get to? And (3) What actions could you take to build a bridge from (1) to (2)?  For more information on this model, go here: http://www.gp-training.net/training/communication_skills/mentoring/egan.htm

The ABC model asks only (or mainly) this: “What are you telling yourself to make yourself so upset at point C (Consequence) about point A (the noxious stimulus, or Activating Event)?” For more on the ABC model, please go to http://www.abc-counselling.com/id126.html (In other words, for a classic REBT therapist, the client is NOT upset (by definition) by their partner’s unfairness (or any other feature of their partner’s way of being), but rather by their (the client’s) own beliefs about their partner’s behaviour! This is an expression of the extremist stoicism of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. (Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius also developed more moderate positions, such as the principle that its best to accept the things you cannot change, and only try to change the things you can.  But this would not apply to accepting domestic violence because you cannot change your partner.  It is better to get out, and stay out!).

~~~

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.

~~~

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.***

~~~

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

~~~

Love and acceptance: A counsellor’s reflections – Part 2

Blog Post No.88 

Posted on Tuesday 5th July 2016 – (Previously posted on Monday 9th June 2014)

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

The Counselling Blog – Part 2: You (morally) should not accept yourself unconditionally; but you (morally) must love yourself!

by Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Introduction

DrJim12.jpgOne of the main subjects upon which I write is the theory and practice of counselling and psychotherapy.  I try to explore models of mind, and approaches to counselling which are likely to be most helpful for clients.

Another of the subjects I have written extensively upon is split:

(a) What is wrong with certain aspects of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy; and:

(b) The essential elements of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy, which is my transcendence of Rational Therapy, by integrating REBT/CBT, Narrative theory, Attachment theory, Transactional Analysis, Moral philosophy, and various other philosophical and psychological components.

Arguments about acceptance and love

In Blog No.87, on 17th May 2014, I made the following statement:

In the past, I have written a good deal on the subject of the importance of morality in counselling and therapy.  See:

Byrne, J. (2011-2013) CENT Paper No.25: The Innate Good and Bad Aspects of all Human Beings (the Good and Bad Wolf states).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT Publications.  Available online: E-CENT articles and papers

LinkedIn-Logo.jpegI was shocked to read one post on LinkedIn, some weeks ago, in which a counsellor argued that, although he was obliged to act ethically within counselling sessions, he was free to act immorally outside of counselling sessions.

The reason I find this shocking is that we social animals depend upon widespread agreement about the standards of civilization, or moral behaviour, to which we will adhere with each other.  The Golden Rule, which has been around since ancient China at the very least, states that I must not treat you in ways that would be objectionable to me if you reciprocated.  Or, I must not harm you, because it would not be good to be harmed by you, and I logically must not be inconsistent in demanding that you not harm me, but at the same time be willing to harm you (or your interests).

I have written detailed critiques of the views of Dr Carl Rogers and Dr Albert Ellis, on the subject of morality. See:

Byrne, J. (2010) Fairness, Justice and Morality Issues in REBT and CENT. CENT Paper No.2(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT. Available online:E-CENT articles and papers.

A_Wounded_Psychother_Cover_for_Kindle.jpgAnd one of the ways in which Albert Ellis’s amorality took shape in the philosophy of counselling and psychotherapy was in his development – following Carl Rogers’ model – of Unconditional Self-Acceptance, and Unconditional Acceptance of Others (People).  If we advocate unconditional acceptance of others, and we mean it literally, we cannot object no matter how badly they mistreat us.  This ideology could threaten not just our comfort, dignity and wellbeing, but our very survival – and hence it cannot be accommodated within a real, living community: (as opposed to surviving inside the scattered brains of Rogers and Ellis!).  And again, I have written extensive critiques of Rogers and Ellis on the topic of Acceptance and Regard:

Byrne, J. (2010) Self-acceptance and other-acceptance in relation to competence and morality. CENT Paper No.2(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online: E-CENT articles and papers.”

 ~~~

In Blog Post No.67, I tried to illustrate how I love my clients, warmly and caringly, but that I do not “accept them UNCONDITIONALLY”.  I have my conditions.  I accept them so long as they are committed to being Good People – Moral People.  I do not engage in the madness of Albert Ellis who famously said: “Even if you go out and kill a few people – how could that make YOU bad?”.  Well I have shown how that would make you, or me, or anybody else bad, in my paper on going beyond REBT:

Byrne, J. (2009) Beyond REBT: The case for moving on.  CENT Paper No.1(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online: E-CENT articles and papers

In that paper I used a thought-experiment involving an occasionally murderous bank manager, and whether or not we would tolerate him killing one customer out of every ten!  Would we ‘unconditionally’ accept him?  Would we consider he was a ‘bad person’ if he killed ‘only’ 10% of his customers (and thus met Albert Ellis’s criterion of not “always and only being bad”)?

~~~

Critical-thinking-2.jpgWhen I posted a link to Blog Post No.87, on a LinkedIn Discussion Group, I got some feedback, which I want to acknowledge and deal with in this blog post:

Robin Rambally wrote:

“One cannot love without accepting oneself and if you do not accept yourself then it will be said ‘you have identity issues’. If I do not accept myself how can I encourage someone to be pleased with oneself? It will be morally wrong not to accept/ love oneself and try to help others to be accepting”.

This post serves as an illustration of a common problem – where the reader misses the point, because they dump some of my ‘qualifying’ words or phrases.  In this case, Robin dumps the word ‘unconditional’ from the phrase ‘unconditional acceptance’.

I have mounted a detailed critique of the concept of ‘unconditional acceptance’ of self and others; and Robin replies by ignoring the fact that I am talking about ‘unconditional’ acceptance.

I accept myself one-conditionally – and the one condition is that I work at being a moral person; or growing my Good Wolf side – my moral side.

I also accept you (other people) one-conditionally – and the one condition upon which I accept you is that you show by your words and deeds that you are committed to being moral beings; to growing your Good Wolf side, and shrinking your Bad Wolf side.

This is all discussed in detail in:

Byrne, J. (2010) Self-acceptance and other-acceptance in relation to competence and morality. CENT Paper No.2(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online: E-CENT articles and papers

~~~

Ana Baptista de Oliveira then made this comment:

“Well, this goes to the concept of person and ours acts. Are we only our acts… we tend to explain ourselves in a much more dispositional way. ‘I did this, wrongly, because of (something happened)’. I believe we truly love ourselves when we act in such a way we can, indeed, accept ourselves :)”

Again, Ana does not deal with the *qualifier*, UNCONDITIONAL.

To accept somebody UNCONDITIONALLY, means you accept them with no reservations whatsoever – whether they have come to rob you, kill you, rape your relatives, take your home; whatever!  That is what *Unconditional* means – and Ana and Robin just sidestep this ugly reality!

The second point about Ana’s post is this: She presents the Ellis’ creation: The distinction between a person and their acts or behaviours:

“…Are we only our acts” (she asks)… “…we tend to explain ourselves in a much more dispositional way. ‘I did this, wrongly, because of (something happened)’.”

We don’t have to be “only our acts” for our acts to define us.  Somewhere in the writings of Lao Tzu you will find the idea that our thoughts become our acts; our acts become our habits; and our habits become our character.  In this way our acts and our character are connected.  We cannot say – “I’m OK, even though I have maliciously killed a few people whose money I needed!”

But Albert Ellis has spread this madness – that we can accept ourselves unconditionally, no matter how immorally we behave; and he got it from Carl Rogers, explicitly or implicitly, as I show in one of my papers where Barry Stevens, a Rogers clone, rails against all forms of external law enforcement or moral rule making, because she madly believes we have an innate moral compass which needs no shaping by our external environment.  Madness of the first water, which fails to understand how “an individual” comes into existence.  See my paper on the social shaping of the ego:

Byrne, J. (2009) The ‘Individual’ and its Social Relationships – The CENT Perspective.  CENT Paper No.9.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online:E-CENT articles and papers.

~~~

Next, Fey Case-Leng, a trainee psychotherapist, takes me to task:

“If you truly unconditionally accept yourself as a person, then why would you have a need or desire to act in ways which could harm other people or their interests? What would your motivation be? As far as I can tell, people harm others out of their fear of being vulnerable. If you unconditionally accept yourself, then you will accept your vulnerability and the fear that comes with it. I guess, at this point, we could look at whether it is necessarily immoral to harm another person. For instance, what if you were so vulnerable that your life was at risk? That, however, would be a complicated discussion with many grey areas and would involve exploring the definition of harm.

“Of course, even if you unconditionally accept yourself (including your vulnerabilities), you may still harm someone by mistake. In such a case, I don’t think shame would be appropriate; only guilt. Personally, I don’t think that feeling guilt and having unconditional self-acceptance are mutually exclusive.”

There are essentially three points here, but I will only deal with the first one, as the second and third are academic points or pedantic nit picking:

Point 1: “If you truly unconditionally accept yourself as a person, then why would you have a need or desire to act in ways which could harm other people or their interests? What would your motivation be? As far as I can tell, people harm others out of their fear of being vulnerable. If you unconditionally accept yourself, then you will accept your vulnerability and the fear that comes with it.”

The first bit of this statement seems to me to be a piece of rhetoric:

“If you truly unconditionally accept yourself as a person, then

why would you have a need or desire to act in ways which could harm other people or their interests?

What would your motivation be?”

The problem with rhetoric is that it leaves the receiver in a kind of no-man’s-land, where they do not know how to respond.  Should they try to answer the question(s)?  Or should they try to show that it is really a statement (or statements)?

So this is how I am going to respond:

Dear Frey, Please clarify what you are saying here.

Are you saying that it is impossible for an evil person to unconditionally accept themselves, knowing themselves to be the perpetrator of evil acts?

(This is not a piece of rhetoric on my part.  I sincerely believe that it is perfectly possible for an evil person – a person who has grown their Bad Wolf to evil proportions – to fully and completely accept themselves unconditionally!)

Are you saying that you cannot think of a single motive which might cause a person, in the habit of unconditionally accepting themselves, to commit an evil act?

(Again, this is not a piece of rhetoric on my part, as I sincerely believe that a person’s accepting of themselves unconditionally cannot guarantee that they will not be motivated to act in an evil way – and a motive here could be personal gain, or revenge, for examples).

Please clarify your argument:  What are your premises, and what conclusions do you think flow logically from your premises?

~~~

PS: I love my clients, which – using M. Scot Peck’s definition – means: I extend myself in their service.

PPS: I have also been influenced by Dr John Bowlby to be sensitive and caring and responsive towards my clients.

PPPS: It would be “legs on a snake” to insist that I should go further and do all of that UNCONDITIONALLY!  REGARDLESS OF HOW WELL OR HOW BADLY THEY BEHAVE TOWARDS ME, THEMSELVES AND/OR THE WORLD!

~~~

Next week, I will continue with a second post by Robin Rambally.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

https://abc-counselling.org

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone:

01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

~~~

 

Counsellor’s diary: Distinguishing Realistic Love from Unrealistic forms of Acceptance…

Blog Post No.88 

Posted 2nd July 2016: (Originally posted on Thursday 22nd May 2014)

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

Counsellor’s diary: Distinguishing Realistic Love from Unrealistic forms of Acceptance…

~~~

Introduction

LinkedIn-Logo.jpegCounsellors and therapists must have some ideas regarding how to relate to their clients.  For example, do they respond from realistic forms of love; or from unrealistic forms of unconditional acceptance?

I have recently posted a link to blog post No.87 (below) on LinkedIn.  This produced a dozen critical responses, to which I must respond.  However, it is complicated, and time-consuming, so I am going to have to respond in at least two phases; or possibly three.  Here is the first one:

~~~

~~~

Temporary Response to contributors on the subject of Acceptance and Love:

Dr-Jims-office.jpgI awoke this morning thinking about the LinkedIn response to my post about ‘Conditional Love’ versus ‘Unconditional Acceptance’.

I want to do a good job of thinking about and responding to those individuals who took the time to post their view. This will take time to develop, and given my other commitments, I will probably have to develop it in stages.

In particular, I want to look at those statements which:

  1. Distinguish between ‘a person’, on the one hand, and ‘their behaviour’, on the other; and:
  2. Which talk about the ‘unconditional love’ of a mother for her children.

Albert_Ellis-7.jpgAnd there will be other points that also require a response.

In my full response, when I have had time to develop it, I will use, among other things, the following illustrations of my position:

  1. I originally (unthinkingly) subscribed to the approach of distinguishing between a person and their behaviour.
  2. I was introduced to this idea through studying the books and audio programs of Dr Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.
  3. My rejection of this position came out of the split in the Albert Ellis Institute in the period 2004-2007.
  4. When Albert Ellis – who developed the concept of Unconditional Self Acceptance and Unconditional Other Acceptance (meaning unconditional acceptance of other individuals) – was banned from practicing REBT at his own Institute, and subsequently removed from the board of his own Institute, he was unable to sustain his unconditional acceptance of his adversaries.  He famously said, about the titular leader of his opponents (Dr Michael Broder): “I want him dead, dead, dead!”  This is not the stuff of Unconditional Acceptance!  This is Conditional Acceptance!
  5. I was connected to Ellis’s inner circle at that time, and involved in his defence.  As a result, I got the insight that, right in the heart of his inner circle, the label used to describe his opponents was “The Bast***s”.  The inner circle amounted to a handful of individuals who, collectively, had about 100 years’ experience of advocating and teaching Unconditional Acceptance of Others! J (According to the theory of Unconditional Acceptance in REBT, that inner circle should have described Ellis’s opponents as “The group of individuals who often seem to act in Bast***ly Ways!” J
  6. Of course Ellis tried to keep up his official ideology of Unconditional Acceptance – by saying, about his adversaries: “They should be unfair, because that is their chief talent!”  But at the same time he wanted the Chief “Bast***” Dead!  And he wanted serious action taken against them all.
  7. Ellis asked me to make an ethics complaint to the American Psychological Association (APA) regarding what he saw of unethical behaviour by one of his colleagues (Doctor-X).  Doctor-X had written one of the reports which justified removing Ellis from office.  I read a copy of that report, identified a number of problems with the logic and the professional standard of the report, and, before sending it to APA, I ran it by Doctor-X – which is an APA requirement.  Now remember: Doctor-X has 40 years’ experience of using REBT; and 30+ years of teaching it.  And so he has thousands of hour’s experience of teaching Unconditional Acceptance of Self and Others.  So what would you expect him to do when he saw my ethics complaint?  He should have said: “Jim, your behaviour is very bad (for the following reasons), but you’re okay as a person”.  That’s what the theory says, and that is what he should have done.  But what did he actually do?  He denounced me as “a sick sadistic bast***”.
  8. It seems to me, on the basis of the above descriptions, that it is reasonable for me to conclude that people who declare that they hold to the view that we should all Unconditionally Accept each other are mouthing platitudes! And that the only way we can tell if they ‘really mean it’ is to put them to the test.  If Albert Ellis, the creator of this idea, cannot walk his own talk; and if one of his chief acolytes cannot walk his talk – then what is the value of these declarations?  Very little, actually!  At deep emotional levels, neither Ellis nor Doctor-X were capable, in practice of delivering Complete, Unconditional Acceptance!
  9. Throughout the conflict at the Albert Ellis Institute, in the period 2004-2007, both sides accused the other of immoral behaviour.  But neither side could support their claims, because both sides had their hands tied in a significant regard.  They had all agreed (WE had all agreed!) never to use these words: SHOULD; OUGHT; MUST, HAVE TO, GOT TO, NEED TO!  And it proved impossible to mount a moral argument without the use of these words.  (Behind the scenes, Ellis mounted a couple of court cases, which necessarily involved saying: “they have unfairly dismissed me, which they should not have done!” – but nobody noticed that! J)  We (on both sides) could refer to actions by our opponents which we DID NOT LIKE, and which we thought would ‘sound unsavoury’ to our readers.  But that is not a powerful moral argument.  I eventually realized that we have to be able to distinguish between MORAL SHOULDS, PREFERENTIAL SHOULDS, and ABSOLUTE SHOULDS, at the very least.  And we have to hold on to our moral should.

I have written extensively about these issues in the following papers:

Byrne, J. (2010) Self-acceptance and other-acceptance in relation to competence and morality. CENT Paper No.2(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online: E-CENT Articles and Papers

Byrne, J. (2010) Fairness, Justice and Morality Issues in REBT and CENT CENT Paper No.2(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT. Available online:E-CENT Articles and Papers

Byrne, J. (2009) Beyond REBT: The case for moving on.  CENT Paper No.1(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online: E-CENT Articles and Papers

~~~

  1. It seems to me that most people who communicate via group discussions on LinkedIn and elsewhere in the world of Social Media are very busy. People seem to post sound-bites, and respond to sound-bites.  But I am not a sound-bite manager.  I believe it is important to think clearly on paper, in elaborated arguments and/or descriptions, and it is important that, in dealing with your conclusions, I take your arguments into account (where ‘you’ means anybody who interacts with me on the internet).  If all I do is to present you with my conclusions, in response to reading your conclusions, then no significant communication will take place; and there will be no substantial progress made in the development of ideas.  We must look at each other’s detailed arguments, otherwise we are not able to understand where the conclusions came from.
  2. I have printed off all the comments which were made in response to my posting about Conditional Love versus Unconditional Acceptance (at LinkedIn), and I will make the time to critically analyse them, and I will respond in due course.  I regret that there has to be this inevitable delay.

~~~

More later.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email Dr Jim Byrne

Telephone:

01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

~~~

Qualified (but generous) acceptance of yourself…

Blog Post No.87 

Reposted on 4th June 2016 (Originally posted on Saturday 17th May 2014)

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

You (morally) should not accept yourself unconditionally; but you (morally) must love yourself!

Introduction

Dr-Jims-office.jpgIn the past, I have written a good deal on the subject of the importance of morality in counselling and therapy.  See:

Byrne, J. (2011-2013) E-CENT Paper No.25: The Innate Good and Bad Aspects of all Human Beings (the Good and Bad Wolf states).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.  Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id312.html

I was shocked to read one post on Linkedin, some weeks ago, in which a counsellor argued that, although he was obliged to act ethically within counselling sessions, he was free to act immorally outside of counselling sessions.

The reason I find this shocking is that we social animals depend upon widespread agreement about the standards of civilization, or moral behaviour, to which we will adhere with each other.  The Golden Rule, which has been around since ancient China at the very least, states that I must not treat you in ways that would be objectionable to me if you reciprocated.  Or, I must not harm you, because it would not be good to be harmed by you, and I logically must not be inconsistent in demanding that you not harm me, but at the same time be willing to harm you (or your interests).

I have written detailed critiques of the views of Dr Carl Rogers and Dr Albert Ellis, on the subject of morality. See:

Byrne, J. (2010) Fairness, Justice and Morality Issues in REBT and E-CENT. E-CENT Paper No.2(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id203.html.

Carl-Rogers-1.jpgAnd one of the ways in which Albert Ellis’s amorality took shape in his philosophy of counselling and psychotherapy was in his development – following Carl Rogers’ model – of Unconditional Self-Acceptance, and Unconditional Acceptance of Others (People).  If we advocate unconditional acceptance of others, and we mean it literally, we cannot object no matter how badly they mistreat us.  This ideology could threaten not just our comfort, dignity and wellbeing, but our very survival – and hence it cannot be accommodated within a real, living community: (as opposed to surviving inside the scattered brains of Rogers and Ellis!).  And again, I have written extensive critiques of Rogers and Ellis on the topic of Acceptance and Regard:

Byrne, J. (2010) Self-acceptance and other-acceptance in relation to competence and morality. E-CENT Paper No.2(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id206.html.

Over the time that has elapsed since the writing of those three papers, above, I have continued to develop my thinking, as and when opportunities have arisen.

About ten days ago, I had a chance to take the next step in the development of these ideas – and the revolution I went through was seeing that…

Well let me tell the story as it evolved:

Al-Ellis-REBT-therapist2.jpgAbout two weeks ago, I got an urgent phone call from a man in South Wales.  He wanted to come up and talk to me about anger management issues.  He had seen my video on anger***, and read some of my web pages.

Anyway, about ten days ago he arrived for his appointment.  I happened to be outside, saying goodbye to the outgoing client, when he drove up in a big white car.  He was driving, and a woman of his own age – mid forties – was sitting in the passenger seat.

I could not understand why he had brought his wife with him.  Maybe I’d misunderstood.  Perhaps they wanted couples therapy.  As it happened, he quickly explained that this was his sister, and she would wait in the car for the duration of our counselling session.

Naturally, ‘Jack’ (not his real name) had come to discuss some very sensitive issues with me – to do with anger at home and at work – conflict with his wife and his teenage sons.  His teenage daughter had left home because of all the aggression, verbal abuse, and so on.

And all of this is confidential between me and him – so I will not be going into detail, and even Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes could not identify the real ‘Jack’ from the description given here.

I will not go into any detail about the session, save to summarize it like this: Jack had to admit lots of ‘sins’ of violence and aggression which he had committed over a period of years.  And now he was awake to how bad he was.

The only specific point that I will make is that his father had been violent towards Jack, until Jack was seventeen years old; when Jack was strong enough to defeat him.  He thus learned that ‘might is right’ from his father.  Recently he has tried to patch up his relationship with his father.  He reached out in as loving a way as he could – and his father could not reciprocate.  His father’s response, in his account, seemed to be quite autistic.

I did not try to get Jack to ‘unconditionally accept himself’, nor to ‘unconditionally accept’ his father.  Domestic violence most often involves criminal acts, and hugely immoral acts, which scar their victims – normally the weak and vulnerable members of the family.

Two-wolves.jpgI taught Jack the errors of his way: of assuming that ‘might is right’, which is the lesson he had learned from his own violent father.

I taught him the E-CENT theory of the Good Wolf and Bad Wolf: (See E-CENT Paper No.25 above).

I taught him the Golden Rule.

I got a commitment from him that he will work hard to grow his Good Wolf, and to shrink his Bad Wolf.  (Specifically, to work hard to live from the virtues of love, charity, compassion, patience, and so on.  And to avoid the vices of anger, rage, hostility, selfishness, impatience, verbal and physical violence, and so on).

I taught him to avoid getting drawn into Drama Triangles – as an aggressive Rescuer – and to create more space in the network of conflicted relationships in his home.

I taught him not to kick over the beehive, if he wants to collect honey!

Time flew, and soon he was standing by the door about to leave.  At that point he turned to me and said: “I brought my sister with me because I thought I’d be in bits at the end of the session.  I thought I’d need her moral support to get home”.

I looked quizzically at him.

“I thought you’d have ripped me to pieces because of all the bad things I’ve done to my family”, he said.

I was nonplussed.

“My job is to love you”, I said; “as your father should have loved you.  I wish he’d been able to tell you he loved you when you apologized for defeating him all those years ago, when you were a teenager”.

My eyes filled with tears of grief.  He turned and left the building.

I closed the door and the grief burst from me in big, loud sobs.  I was crying for all the apparently autistic fathers who cannot reach out to their sons in love.  I was crying for all the sons who cannot find it in themselves to love their fathers.  I was crying for the little boy (me) who used to stand by the gate every evening as my father came home, got off his bicycle, and walked past me as if I were a lamp post or a gate post which he had seen so often that it was now unremarkable.

For all I know, deep in my non-conscious mind, I may also have been crying for all those victims of domestic violence who will go on to offend against others, generation, after generation, after generation.

And that was the moment when I connected up the dots.  Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis had to import the concepts of ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Regard’ into their philosophies of counselling and therapy, because neither of them knew how to love.

See in particular my book on the childhood of Albert Ellis.***

I have learned, over a long period of time – and through much therapeutic ‘repair work’ – how to love.  How to love myself; my family members; and my clients.  The E-CENT concept of one-conditional acceptance really means: “I love myself, and I love you, on one condition.  And that condition is that you and I are committed to being good persons.  And being a good person means growing your Good Side (or Good Wolf side) and shrinking your Bad Side (or Bad Wolf side).

~~~

Watergate-cafe-Hebden-Bridge.jpgAfter about three or four minutes of crying, I remembered that there was a big baked potato with baked beans and a large Americano with cold milk waiting for me at Watergate Café.  I smiled.  Dried my eyes.  Laughed out loud, and headed off into sunny Hebden Bridge.

More later…

Jim

Jims-counselling-div2Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

https://abc-counselling.org

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone:

01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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