E-CENT Paper No.4:
My Story of Personal Origins: A journey through models of mind
Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2009-‘18
This paper began as an attempt to draft an article that would describe the birth of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT).
However, it grew with such rapidity that I realized I have a book on my hands. Or rather, I have enough themes and plots and descriptions to create several books, or to boil it all down into one major book.
In the meantime, I want to keep people informed about the development of E-CENT, and so I want to publish this incomplete paper here. It is only incomplete in the sense that it is not the “whole story”: not the whole book. But it has an integrity and coherence of its own, and hopefully a value to the reader. That value to the reader consists of the following points:
- This is a personal narrative about my origins; the beginnings of my life; and the struggles I had to ‘become a person’. As such it could give you some points of reference for your own life. And it could act as a model for your own written story of origins. (It is fare from fully developed, and my later work, in Byrne 2017, is much more developed, in terms of digesting painful emotional material).
- In E-CENT, I increasingly encourage my clients to have at least one email counselling session, so that they can take the time to reflect upon their most disturbed narrative, and to write it up in detail. This allows me to read it, reflect upon it, re-read it, and then provide some analysis and developmental feedback. This is much more detailed and helpful than verbal presentation of the same material, followed by verbal feedback, in face to face counselling or telephone counselling. This paper is an example of such a narrative.
- I have identified several important narratives, or stories, which often cause problems for counselling clients. These include:
The story of origins;
the story of relationship;
the story of transitions;
the story of career difficulties.
These can also be broken down into:
The story of childhood;
the story of teenage years;
the story of adulthood;
the story of drug and/or alcohol use; and so on.
There are no hard and fast boundaries between all of these stories, and the one the client chooses to work on depends upon their actual trajectory through life, and where and when their major difficulties in life began. This paper is an example of a Story of Origins.
- This paper can act as a model for clients who want to know “how to write a story for analysis”. Of course, it does not have to be as developed or as polished as mine, below. I am, after all, much older and much more experienced than most of my clients; and I am an experienced author. But the structure, depth and detail of my story can give some clues to clients as to how to proceed in structuring their own narrative; at their own standard, of course. (I do not want clients to feel intimidated by my highly polished narrative. Theirs may be much less polished, and still be therapeutically helpful).
- In sharing this story, I am also modelling ‘emotional honesty’, which is very important to personal development and emotional wellbeing. Of course, I am taking some risks here, as there are undoubtedly some Bad Wolves out there who will enjoy having insights into my troubled development. But their perverse pleasures cannot stop me wanting to help others. Perhaps 85% of the population of any country will have developmental difficulties at least as difficult as mine. And the Bad Wolves will be counted amongst us. But the Bad Wolves deny their own emotional distress, and project it into their environments, and attack it in others. We cannot live our lives in fear of the big Bad Wolves!
During my more than nineteen years in private practice as a counsellor, psychological coach and psychotherapist, I have been on a continuous journey of self-discovery and personal/ professional development. Out of this journey has come a new fusion of therapeutic ideas called Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT): which is essentially a new model of mind, build largely from preexisting ideas.
I now want to write about E-CENT, to share this new model with my counselling and therapy peers, with counselling students and interested members of the general public. But where should I begin? Certainly I must write it as a case study – the study of my own journey through maps and models of the mind. (This journey of self discovery and self-healing actually began long before I became a counsellor, way back in 1968; and even earlier – [in my childhood]; and it got richer and more productive down through the decades).
This paper will cover just Part One of my journey, of which there will probably be five parts. So most of the E-CENT innovations will appear in the later papers. But some of the flavour of E-CENT should begin to emerge in this first paper.
The temptation in writing professional papers is to want to present it as more than just a story – more than just a narrative by a person. This temptation results from the status of science in the modern world. Or rather, it comes from our fantasies about science, and our denigration of mere philosophy. There seems to be a powerful delusion in our western cultures about the possibility of ‘certain knowledge’ (meaning knowledge which is certain, or absolute), or ‘unquestionable truths’. This paper will deliberately veer away from this temptation and will unselfconsciously reveal its status as the story of one man’s journey from confusion, pain, virtual autism, towards mental peace, psychological clarity, dramatically improved emotional intelligence, better relationship skills, and even ‘enlightenment’, in the Zen sense of that term.
From Humble Origins
(In 2009, I wrote this): I would love to be able to model myself on Dr Albert Ellis, and announce that I began, in my teens, with a couple of fears and weaknesses, but that I strongly worked against them, and quickly became so strong that nobody could feel anything but admiration for my great achievements at such a young age (of 16 and/or 19 years). A couple of years ago, I began to examine my past to see if I could find parallel experiences in my own life, so I could look and feel “cool”. I could not find any. My story is very different from that of Albert Ellis. So I will have to settle for the unvarnished truth of a very ordinary struggle to make sense of life.
My parents were poorly educated and poverty stricken ‘small farmers’ – or ‘smallholders’ – in rural Ireland, who became bankrupt and had to move to the big city – when I was two years old – in search of employment and housing. I grew up within their impoverished rural cultural heritage, but went to school, at the age of four years, in a different, partly middle class, urban cultural tradition. Those two cultural traditions were significantly antagonistic towards each other, and so I got to experience being a total outsider from the age of four to fourteen years, during which time I did not make a single friend. In some respects I showed up as largely autistic, though I was always in the top three in my class on annual test results for school subjects.