Trauma therapy for early childhood adversities

Blog Post No.3 on 13th September 2021

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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Childhood trauma is a common cause of individuals ending up in counselling and therapy as adults

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Introduction

Because there is no training in parenthood, as a general requirement for family reproduction, individuals who were damaged as children – by cruel or neglectful parents – tend to pass that trauma on to their own children, through harsh words, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or serious forms of neglect of the child.

My involvement

cropped-dr-jim-counsellor-therapist-hebden-bridge.jpgOver the past 23 years, I have helped well over one thousand individuals to recover from all kinds of emotional, behavioural and/or relationship problems.

I guess that at least fifty or sixty percent of those clients were carrying some form of childhood trauma.

I was unable to collect precise data on that, but I do have some insights which I will list below.

Feedback from grateful clients

In the Sunday Times Magazine, yesterday (12th September), in the regular column, A Life in the Day, Marie-Claire Chappet interviewed Wim Hof (“the extreme athlete”) about grief and healing.

Hof has helped many individuals to improve their physical and mental health through his unique approach to physical therapy. I was struck by these words of his: “I think back on all the extraordinary things that I’ve done with my life and the best thing is when someone tells you that your teaching has made a difference to them”. (Page 58, Sunday Times Magazine, 12th September 2021).

I agree with Hof. One of the most moving things I can do is to review a few of the unsolicited client testimonials that I have had from my clients over the past 23 years.  Here are just three examples from traumatized individuals:

♣ “Hi Jim, Your support helped me to get in touch with my Inner Strength. I was feeling very weak and discouraged, and feeling so bad about myself, but you helped me to change all that. I don’t know how you turned me around, but I owe you a debt of gratitude…”

C.M., Wadsworth, Hebden Royd. (Received two days after the sixth session of Skype counselling for family trauma after-effects).

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♣ “Hi Jim. You have already exceeded all my expectations in only two sessions of telephone counselling.  And I am extremely grateful for these most generous follow-up notes and handouts, which contain important insights and guidance. You have helped me a lot, and I have much to contemplate and integrate before our next session.”

B.J., Blackburn, Lancs. (Two sessions of telephone counselling for early childhood trauma and current relationship problems).

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♣ “Hi Jim, I didn’t believe you would be able to help me, because of my age, and the fact that I’ve tried many times before and failed to make any improvement in my anxiety, panic and social withdrawal.  But you really got me working on those hidden traumas from early childhood, and I’ve been able to ‘digest them’, as you put it, and they have disappeared from my mind!  It was difficult facing up to the pain, but it certainly has proved to be worth it.”

K.N.P., Rochdale, (Three sessions of Gestalt therapy, and re-parenting, for childhood trauma).

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Writing up my experiences

1, A New Dragons Trauma book coverThe other thing that gives me great pleasure is when I realize how much I have learned, and how hard I have worked to write those experiences up in the form of books that can be used by self-help enthusiasts to transform their lives.

Over the past year or more, I have worked very hard to update my book about the processing of traumatic experiences, to make it even more relevant to childhood developmental trauma, and to incorporate more body-psychotherapy into my systems.

In effect, I have written up the kinds of processes that I have used with my own clients over more than twenty years, in a form which is usable by self-help enthusiasts. And it could also be a good learning resource for new counsellors and psychotherapists who are moving into the field of trauma work.

These processes can be summarized as follows:

Process 1 – Re-framing (re-interpreting, or re-storying) of traumatic experiences (starting with low level upsets; and proceeding upwards with caution);

Process 2 – Confronting and completing (in body-mind forms) medium range traumatic experiences;

Process 3 – And, finally, digesting higher intensity traumatic symptoms; through processes including: writing therapy, combined with re-framing and completion; and with bodily sensations and breath-work; and several other whole body-brain-mind strategies.

(Of course, this work has to be done slowly and gradually; and the individual has to achieve a sense of safety and security before any of this work can begin!)

Some key outcomes achieved

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_Kindle (853x1280)The benefits to be derived from this kind of work are enormous. Sleep is improved; digestion and breathing become normal; anxiety and depression are cleared up; social relationships become less stressful; physical and mental health improve; and so on.

To find out more about this revolutionary new psychotherapeutic strategy, please take a look at: How to Resolve Childhood Developmental Trauma.

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Before I could help my clients to work on their own childhood developmental trauma, I had to process my own horrible childhood, which I did in a book titled, Metal Dog – Long Road Home.

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Email: Dr Jim Byrne***

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Counselling and psychotherapy for childhood trauma

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Blog post 3 – 6th August 2021

Do you need to dig up your childhood history, to resolve some current intractable problem(s)?

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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Introduction

Cover of Drafons book, 2012Many people do not yet know that early childhood traumatic experiences – and that could just mean having a depressed mother who could not give you the face-to-face interaction and attention that you needed for your cognitive and emotive growth and development – predisposes them to being vulnerable to adult-onset Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Yes! It’s true. Most people who become traumatized by adult problems, like rape, mugging, house fires, plane or train crashes, are actually predisposed to having extreme reactions to highly stressful experiences, because they lack the resilience that comes from having a secure attachment to mother (and father) during their formative years[1].

I have written about these kinds of connections, between childhood trauma and adult problems, and how to resolve such problems, in my book: Transforming Traumatic Dragons: How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach. Revised, expanded and updated: August 2021.

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My own trauma journey

I got into helping trauma clients, using strategies I had used to rescue myself from the damage of early childhood developmental trauma.

Long before I got down to writing about the trauma problems of other people, I had to work on my own childhood trauma damage.

One of the ways that I did that was to write my own autobiographical stories about my origins and my ‘relationships’.

Beginning with my story of origins, and moving on to my story of relationship problems, I eventually found my way into attachment theory and the work of Dr Allan Schore on the traumatizing experience of disruption of early attachment bonds between mother and baby.

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_Kindle (853x1280)One of the main ways I did this work was to create an ‘alter ego’ – who I called Daniel O’Beeve.  I then put Daniel into those situations through which I have lived, and which I could dredge up from my memory banks; and I observed how he got on – from the ‘outside’ – (objectification!).  I then retrieved a lot of my old traumatic nightmares, and rewrote them in a literary style.

And then I created a set of ‘alien psychologists’ who could observe Daniel’s journey, through a “wormhole in space-time”, and to make comments about how to understand what is going on in his life, in a way that Daniel and I could never have commented! (Clearly this has to be called “a fictionalized autobiographical story”; and none of the characters in this story should be confused with any real individual, living or dead!)

I published all of that work in a book called Metal Dog – Long Road Home. And this is the Amazon books description of that book:

Book description

Daniel O’Beeve was a victim of childhood developmental trauma, before anybody had even thought to conceive of such a concept.  He was a victim of abuse and neglect long before anybody gave a damn about the emotional welfare of children.

Daniel’s parents were both born into highly dysfunctional families; poor rural families that lived from hand to mouth; families who had been trained by the priests to “beat the fear of God” into their children.

Daniel’s parents did not love each other.  They had an arranged marriage, and never learned to even like each other.

When Daniel was just eighteen months old, his father lost his farm and had to move to Dublin city, to eke out an existence as a gardener. Daniel was born into this mess. Unloved and unloving; beaten and emotionally abused; he grew up with very low emotional intelligence; no capacity to make contact with another human being; and a fear of everything that moved suddenly or rapidly.

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_Kindle (853x1280)He was then thrown into a city school at the age of four years, into a playground in which he was the only “culchie” (or hill billy) – in a sea of “city slickers” (called “Jackeens” by Daniel’s parents) – and this was against a backdrop of dreadful (‘racist’) antipathy between the Dublin and rural cultures in general.

In ten years of public schooling, Daniel did not make a single friend.

With no map of healthy human love, or workable human relations, he entered the world of work at the age of fourteen, like a drunk thrown out of a pub, late at night, in total darkness, mind reeling, and feelings jangled; and from this point forward he has to try to make sense of life; to make sense of relationships with girls; and to make some kind of life for himself.

For more, please go to Metal Dog – Long Road Home. Where I reveal some of the ways in which my childhood trauma affected my difficulties with trying to “got off” with a girl or woman, in a way that might possibly work. For more, please go to Metal Dog – Long Road Home.

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Dr Jim in North YorkshireIf you keep trying to clean up the mess in your life – especially your relationship life – (but you keep finding that nothing seems to change for the better) – then it might be a good idea to

– consider the possibility that you were traumatized in early childhood;

– and get down to working on those experiences, so you can “rewire your right brain” for a happier life!

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I hope this information helps.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

The Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy

ABC Bookstore Online UK

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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Endnotes

[1] Rass, E. (2018). The Allan Schore Reader: Setting the course of development. London: Routledge.

And:

Schore, A.N. (2012). ‘On the same wavelength: How our emotional brain is shaped by human relationships. Excerpts from the interview with Daniela F. Sieff (2012)’. In Rass, Eva (2018). The Allan Schore Reader: Setting the course of development. London: Routledge. Pages 20-27.

And:

Schore, A.N. (2015). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. London: Routledge.

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Good and bad inner critical voices

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Blog Post D2: Theory of trauma impacts on self-criticism

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

26th June 2021

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Our legitimate (Good) Inner Critic (or conscience, super-ego, or Parent ego state) versus the Bad Inner Critic

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2021

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Introduction

Six days ago, a person (called Mick Berry), on YouTube, contacted me about one of my videos – the main one on Anger Management – and suggested that I was simply reproducing the views of Dr Albert Ellis, despite my claim to have moved on from Ellis’s philosophy of Rational Therapy (REBT).  In my reply to that person – which can be read here: https://youtu.be/Esn9ZA6DHQE – I demonstrated that this was a misreading of my views.

Today, I completed Appendix D to my newly updated and expanded book on trauma recovery***, and it struck me just how far I have actually come since the heady (but simplistic) days of attributing the client’s emotional upsets to their “belief system”.

In Appendix D, I write about the client’s emotions, and various ways of processing their emotional problems through their visual and kinaesthetic channels; and then I move on to look in detail at their “feelings/attitudes/values/beliefs” about themselves – which cannot be boiled down to “mere cognitions”!

This is how Appendix D begins:

Preamble

Trauma victims are often very harsh in their judgements of themselves.  They take this harshness over from their abusers or victimizers.

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We each have a legitimate (Good) Inner Critic (or conscience, super-ego, or Parent ego state) which helps us to stay on the moral and legal straight and narrow path through life.

But we each also have an illegitimate, unjustified, and damaging (Bad) Inner Critic, which is based on an excessively harsh conscience; or self-hatred; internalized from others.

I call the legitimate (Good) Inner Critic your “Good Wolf” state, after the traditional view of the Native American Cherokee people.  They believed that we each have a war going on inside of us, between two Wolves; a Good Wolf and a Bad Wolf; and that the Wolf that wins is the one we feed.  So we need to make sure we feed our moral, loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, but also self-assertive Good Wolf; and to starve our immoral, hateful, hurtful and aggressive Bad Wolf.  (This has echoes of the European Christian view of the inner states of (1) sin [the Devil], and (2) the state of grace [or the indwelling Holy Spirit]. It also has echoes of Sigmund Freud’s distinction between the inner urges he called Thanatos [the Death urge] and Eros [the Love/Life urge]).

So our ‘Inner Critic’ ranges from moderate and moral – (which is the Good Wolf state) – to harsh and immoral (which is the Bad Wold state).

Therefore, our Inner Critic can be justified or unjustified.  (The only cases where it is justified all have to do with legitimate transgressions of moral rules or justified laws (or health and safety issues).

The inner critic is not justified in criticizing harshly your efficiency or effectiveness, or general judgements in life.

It also is not justified in blaming you for being victimized; or describing you as worthless or ugly, etc.

When we harshly criticize ourselves, and put ourselves down – especially when the criticism is unjustified, exaggerated or inappropriate – this damages our sense of self-esteem and self-confidence; and makes us miserably unhappy.

… End of extract. …

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Later in Appendix D I present a table in which I list the features of the client’s “Bad Inner Critic”; their “Good Inner Critic (or conscience); and their “Inner Coach/Mentor”.

Albert Ellis must be spinning in his grave!

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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Sleep-walking lovers make many mistakes

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Blog Post D1: Theory of couple relationships

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

23rd June 2021

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Give up sleep-walking through your unconscious relationship

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2021

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Introduction

young ethnic couple arguing on street
Photo by Budgeron Bach on Pexels.com

We humans sleep-walk into and out of our romantic or sex-love relationships.

If we want to be happier in our relationships, we have to wake up and pay attention to the skills of happy and effective relating.

Our conscious and non-conscious goals

We humans have a ‘design fault’ which causes us to believe we are wholly conscious beings, who make our choices consciously.  However, there is lots of research evidence to show that we are not capable of consciously processing all the information that we actually process every second of our day. In fact, we probably are conscious of about one-millionth of the data that our body-brain-mind processes, second by second.

How to have a wonderful, loving relationshipThere is research evidence to support the conclusion that individuals have both conscious and non-conscious goals, including goals for relationship.  That is to say, a person may tell you that they consciously are seeking a ‘perfect partner’, with particular positive qualities.  However, if you then watch what they do when they are presented with a choice between somebody with those positive qualities (in a speed dating context, for example), and somebody who totally lacks those positive qualities, you will too often find that they go for the person who lacks the qualities that they believe they are seeking.  And what is the explanation for this strange behaviour?  It has to be this: They also have non-conscious goals for relationship, and the non-conscious goal is normally very much stronger than the conscious goal.

This is the best explanation for the reason that advising individuals to carry a list of the desirable qualities of their ideal love match will not help.

They will make their choice on the basis of goals which are below their conscious level of awareness.

Isn’t it true that you have seen this perverse behaviour in yourself, and/or some of your close friends or relatives?

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My work on couple relationships

Dr Jim in Thirsk001I have been researching and writing about couple relationships for more than twenty years; and I have helped dozens of couples to either improve their marriage-like relationships, or to dismantle them as calmly and amicably as possible.

Take a look at my Couples Therapy page.***

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Or my main book on how to build a happy relationship.***

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Or my slender volume on how to more quickly fix your couple relationship.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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Attachment theory in counselling and therapy

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Blog Post B2: Theory of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

13th June 2021

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Principle Number 2 (of 20):

Each of us is born with an innate attachment drive…

…which causes us to attach ourselves to a main carer

woman in beige sweater carrying baby

Hello, and welcome to this, the second of twenty blogs about the basic theory of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy.

The first blog in this series argued that, if you want to understand a human being, any human being, you have to start from the reality that we each begin our life as a helpless baby.

In this blog I want to present the second principle of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy, as follows:

“… I accept the Attachment theory proposition, that the baby is born with an innate attachment drive, which causes it (after a period of about twenty to twenty-four weeks of development) to seek to attach itself to a main carer.  The attachment bond that is formed becomes either secure or insecure, depending upon whether the mother (or main carer) is “good enough” – meaning sensitive, responsive, and caring enough to soothe the affective states[1] of the baby.  Later father and siblings become important attachment figures for the baby. And the baby forms a set of internal working models of relationship based upon those earliest relationships.”

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happy black woman drinking wine with boyfriend

Over the many years that I have been involved in counselling and therapy, I have worked with dozens and dozens of disturbed or unhappy couples.  Very often, what I find is that one partner has an insecure attachment style which makes them anxious about losing their partner, and so they cling to their partner for dear life – shadowing them and trying to control their movements – so that they, the first partner, do not have to feel intense feelings of fear of abandonment.

Sometimes the other partner also has an insecure attachment style, but of a different variety.  This other variety is an avoidant attachment style, which makes them feel anxious that their partner will try to control them, or be available for a while and then let them down.  So, this second partner hates it when the first partner clings to them, or tries to regulate their movements.

This is a recipe for misery.

When I work with clients who have an insecure attachment style, either anxious or avoidant, I use my relationship with them to help them to feel what it is like to be in a secure relationship – unlike the insecure relationships they grew up with, involving their mother and father.

Front cover, DIY Couples, 2What was originally created in your relationship with your mother and father can be changed and improved in a relationship with a secure, attachment therapist.

And some people find that they can become more secure in their attachment styles, if they get involved in a romantic relationship with a person who has a secure attachment style.

Furthermore, some of the skills of being in a secure and happy relationship can be learned from books, and I very often send my couple clients extracted chapters from one or other of my two main books on couple relationships, as follows:

How to Have a Wonderful, Loving Relationship: Helpful insights for couples and lovers.***

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How to Quickly Fix your Couple Relationship: A brief DIY handbook for serious lovers.***

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jim-nata-couples-pg-w300h245

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

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Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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Endnote

[1] An ‘affective state’ is a state of the body-brain-mind of an individual, in which there is physiological arousal and a felt sense of emotional attraction (‘positive affect’) or aversion (‘negative affect’).  For most practical purposes, among counsellors, the word affect may be used interchangeably with ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions’.

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Your childhood made you what you are

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Blog Post B1: Theory of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

2nd June 2021

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Principle Number 1 (of 20):

We all begin as babies; and have our babyhood as our lifelong foundation

Dr Jim in North YorkshireHello and welcome to this, the first of twenty blogs about the basic theory of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy.

We forget our childhood at our peril. Unless we strive to remember our babyhood and childhood developmental experiences, and to “process it into a coherent narrative”, we cannot become fully human.

We are “grownup babies”, with all the scars and boons of our childhood hidden away in the basement of our brain-mind – unless and until we dig it up and make sense of it.

Most modern theorists of counselling psychology and psychotherapy make the mistake of “thinking” about humans as Adults; Adults who “think”, rather than former children who “perceive-feel-think” (or “perfink”) in Parent, Adult and Child-like ways.

Front cover, Lifestyle Counselling, 2020In our main book on emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy (E-CENT), I wrote about that problem like this:

“Firstly, I do not make the mistake of extrapolating from adult functioning in order to understand the psychology of human nature.  Instead, I begin with the baby in the mother’s womb (where the mother may be more or less stressed, and more or less well nourished, depending upon the actual circumstances of her life).  I then move on to the baby post-birth, which is colonized by a carer (normally mother) who may be more or less sensitive to the baby’s signals of comfort and discomfort; more or less responsive to the baby’s needs; and more or less caring.  And I also take account of how stressed the mother was, by her life circumstances, even before the baby was conceived.  These are the foundations of human emotional and general psychological functioning.” (Page 49 of Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, by Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne).

What are the implications of this, the first principle of emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy?

If you lose sight of your own foundations; or the foundations of those who are closest to you; or of you clients (if you are a counsellor, coach, psychotherapist, etc.), then you will end up dealing with the following false construct:

“The wholly autonomous, wholly conscious, independent, stand-alone, Thinking Adult”.

But no such thing exists!

– You can read more about this subject in the following book: Lifestyle Coaching and Counselling for the Whole Person.***

– Or you can review a range of books linked to the emotive-cognitive perspective, here: ABC Bookstore.***

– Or you can consult one of the co-creators of emotive-cognitive therapy (E-CENT) here: ABC Coaching and Counselling Services.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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How to think more effectively

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Blog Post 1 – 28th February 2021

Thinking about Thinking – and the Importance of Thinking Slowly!

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Copyright (c) 2021

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Rodin's ThinkerMost people have Thoughts, but they do not Think!

To actively Think means (for me) to ask questions, and to seek answers; and/or to identify problems, and to seek to resolve those problems by mentally dissecting them and subjecting them to critical scrutiny.

Those two Thinking Processes can be done “in your head” – but not very well in your head, because of the small size of Human Working Memory – (which can only juggle 7 chunks of data at any time, plus or minus 2: Miller, 1956).  It is much more effective to “think on paper”. (See my book titled, How to Write a New Life for Yourself***)[1].

Daniel Kahneman, the author of ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ (2012) suggested that we can and do engage in two types (or systems) of thinking[2].  The first is fast and largely non-conscious; the second is slow and more deliberate.  This is not a new idea. It has been around since Sigmund Freud did his original research in Vienna in the late 19th century; and modern neuroscience confirms this distinction. (See LeDoux, 1996[3]; and Damasio, 1994[4])

I call the first of those two forms of mental activity by the label ‘Perfinking’ (Glasersfeld, 1989[5]) – because it is strictly speaking a form of non-conscious, habitual, rapid Perceiving/Feeling/Thinking.  Most of this form of Perfinking is done by our body-based-feeling-systems, and not by our culturally shaped linguistic-distinction-debating-system.

Kahneman's Thinking Fast and SlowQuick Thinking (or Automatic Perfinking) involves no effort; and this is the most common form of ‘thinking’ engaged in by most humans most of the time.

Slow Thinking (or Deliberate, Consciously Guided, Reflective and Critical Thinking) involves a lot of effort; and most people will do anything to avoid the hard labour of Slow Thinking!

Perhaps 20% of 20% (which equals 4%) of the people who stumble upon this blog post will still be reading at this point!  The rest will have retired to a more unconscious place of effortless being!

Most people are probably too lazy to be bothered pursuing this kind of effortful perfinking.  (Brian Tracy, an American business trainer, described laziness as one of the several key features of ‘the psychology of failure’.  Because I believe that to be an accurate assessment, I am willing to work hard at my perfinking!)

But we all get caught by falling into poor thinking traps.  These often occur because of the following kinds of errors:

Poor attention, (and so some systems of thinking-improvement teach about the importance of attention; and Dr Edward De Bono has boiled his system of Thinking-Training down to a set of Attention Directors[6].)

A BlinkLaziness can cause us to accept the first conclusion that our mind “jumps to”! (Hence the important of taking the time to think about important issues, and especially to write it down, which seems to be equivalent to adding a huge external hard-drive to your brain-based CPU [or central processing unit]).

Associations are inevitable in human perception; but sometimes the association is false, and sometimes it’s valid, or accurate, or helpful.  Again, check those associations you have formed, when the outcome is likely to be costly or personally significant.

Jumping to conclusions is unavoidable with the human brain.  Somebody has described the brain-mind as “a device for jumping to conclusions”.  This has great survival value, as you do not want to be hanging around trying to make your mind up whether an approaching tiger is friendly or unfriendly! Jump!  (But later on, when a door to door salesman offers you a great deal on double-glazing; get it in writing; read it three times; get a second opinion; think it through on paper!)

Blinkers: We can easily make the mistake of ‘thinking’, “What you see is all there is”; but, as Nassim Taleb pointed out (in The Black Swan), there is a great deal of Silent History (or hidden facts)[7].

Statistical biases. Winston Churchill famously wrote that “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”; and it is true that statistics can be used to “prove” almost anything – when used selectively; or misapplied.  Malcolm Gladwell (Blink: The power of thinking without thinking)[8], and Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow), have both pointed out that even some professors of statistics have been found to suggest the wrong statistical tests to their graduate students who consult them for ‘expert guidance’.  (And, at best, statistics is just a system of inferring an unknowable future from a set of data from the past, with some degree of ‘probability’ (which always and only meansMay Happen!”  May; May; May!!!)

Writing Theapy book coverAccording to Kahneman (2012) we mostly make our judgements and decisions using heuristics or rules of thumb, from our personal past.

In order to improve our chances of thinking (or perfinking) more effectively, we should take seriously the known problems with our “thought processes”, and then try (Try! Try!) to improve our Thinking (or Perfinking) skills.

That is why I have collected 20+ books on various aspects of thinking, involving:

– various theories of thinking;

– various critiques of thinking;

– and various trainings in thinking more effectively.

They are on a dedicated shelf of one of our bookcases.  I am waiting for the time when I can sit down for a few weeks (or months) and pull them together into my own overview of the subject.

Front cover3 of reissued REBT bookOne illustration of the progress I have made in improving my Perfinking Skills is to be found in my Major Critique of REBT.***[9]

And some of my approaches to teaching others are summarized into more than 20 lessons in my book, How to Write a New Life for Yourself.***

I hope you find this information helpful and interesting.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling,

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Dr Jim’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Division

Email: Dr Jim.***

Or Telephone: 01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

Or 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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Endnotes

[1] Byrne, J.W. (2018) How to Write a New Life for Yourself: Narrative therapy and the writing solution. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.  And:

Miller, G.A. (1956) ‘The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information’. Psychological Review. 1956;63:81–97.

[2] Kahneman, D. (2012) Thinking Fast and Slow.  London: Penguin Books.

[3] LeDoux, J. (1996). The Emotional Brain: the mysterious underpinnings of emotional life, New York.  Simon and Schuster.

[4] Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error: emotion, reason and the human brain. London, Picador.

[5] Glasersfeld, E. von (1989) Learning as a constructive activity. In Murphy, P. and Moon, B. (eds) Developments in Learning and Assessment.  London: Hodder and Stoughton.

[6] De Bono, E. (1995) Teach Yourself to Think.  London: Viking/Penguin.

[7] Taleb, N.N., (2007). The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York: Random House.

[8] Gladwell, M. (2006) BLINK: The power of thinking without thinking.  London: Penguin Books.

[9] Byrne, J.W. (2019) A Major Critique of REBT: Revealing the many errors in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.

Couples therapy before love is lost forever

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Blog Post 1 – 25th February 2021

Providing loving support for our marriage partners

Author: Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright (c) 2021

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Hello,

Dr Jim's office2I help a lot of couples to improve their marriages and couple relationships.  Very often the marriage or relationship is on its last legs when the couple arrives to see me.  Years of disrepair have worn it down to the point of no return.  But no matter what the state of the clients’ relationship, we always begin in the same place.

In E-CENT couples’ therapy, we provide a secure base for both partners, in order to promote secure attachment between them.  Why is this important?  We are modelling how to be supportive in a close relationship.

According to Levine and Heller: “If we are unsure whether the person closest to us, our romantic partner, truly believes in us and supports us and will be there for us in times of need, we’ll find it much harder to maintain focus and engage in life.   …   When (research) participants felt that their goals were supported by their partner, they reported an increase in self-esteem and an elevated mood …  In (another) experiment, we saw that physical contact with a spouse can help reduce anxiety in a stressful situation. … Spending time in the presence of your partner…” (if you are in a satisfying marriage) “…actually benefits you by lowering your blood pressure to healthier levels”.  But your blood pressure will be raised “if …you are not satisfied by your marriage”. … “Not only is our emotional well-being sacrificed when we are in a romantic partnership with someone who doesn’t provide a secure base, but so is our physical health”.  “Our partners powerfully affect our ability to thrive in the world. …  Having a partner who fulfils our intrinsic attachment needs and feels comfortable acting as a secure base and safe haven can help us remain emotionally and physically healthier and live longer”.

Levine and Heller (2011) Attached. Identify your attachment style and find your perfect match. Pages 31-33.

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couple talking with therapist
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

Sometimes the couple have left it too late to salvage their relationship, because they had such low expectations of close relationship.  They thought they could muddle along forever, carping and criticizing; blaming and neglecting their partner.

Whether this is good news or bad news is a matter of judgement: But this approach is doomed to failure.  Badly treated partners eventually do quit; sooner or later!

Don’t wait until the eleventh hour to seek help.  Fix your relationship while there is still some love and respect left to salvage!

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ABC Counselling Coaching Logo Hebden BridgeHappy relationships are possible.

Invest in one!

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling,

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Couples Therapy over Skype/Webcam

Email: Dr Jim.***

Or Telephone: 01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

Or 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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Physical and mental health, how to have them

Blog Post

How to be Happy, Healthy, Successful and Wealthy!

Reflections upon my approach to self-monitoring and self-management

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Tuesday 12th January 2021

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Introduction

People and goalsIt has been said that if you do not have goals for yourself and your life, you will get used by people who have goals in which they can use you to their own ends.

An illustration of this could be that if you do not have goals for your own physical and mental health, you will get used by individuals and institutions which have goals to “process you” in their surgical theatres, or with their side-affecting drugs.

My A1 goal in life is this: “To be happy, healthy, successful and wealthy”.

The point about this goal is that many readers will insist that they also have their goals – which may actually be nothing more than wishes.  To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”.

So what is my plan? Or, more generally, how do I set out to plan to achieve that goal, and my other goals (such as my A2, which is “To have a really powerful relationship with my wife”.)

In this blog I can only mention one of several actions that I take to function intelligently towards my goal of being healthy!  This is it:

Writing ‘Morning Pages’ as a form of self-management

Julia-Cameron - CopyAt least three or four mornings per week – (it should be six or seven, but I am busy, and also distracted at times!) – I sit down and try to follow Julia Cameron’s advice to write three A4 pages of “stream of consciousness”. That means, whatever pops up in my mind gets written on the page, including “I don’t know what to write”; “I have slight pain in my leg”; or whatever comes up.

For example, this morning I wrote these lines, at the start of my pages:

“I had a dreadful sinus headache during the night, which disrupted my sleep.  And my Candida Albicans symptoms[1] were painfully overgrown and intensely itchy”.

“Theoretical cause of both conditions: Milk/Dairy.  I have been having cottage cheese for a few days, to try to gain weight; and I had a glass of full fat milk last night before bed.

“I am also eating other foods (that I would not normally have, or only in moderation) to try to gain weight. (I am determined to combat any tendency towards sarcopenia, which would certainly thwart my desire to be healthy!) These unusual foods (for me to be consuming) include: dried fruits (high GI), pineapple chunks (ditto), prunes, (ditto), gluten-free cereal (mostly buckwheat – not really a cereal) with dried fruit (ditto), plus gluten-free bread (as opposed to my more usual rice cakes).

“I will eliminate all dairy products at once. Stick to rice milk.

“I will continue to monitor the effects of the other (high-GI) ‘dietary indiscretions” on my Candida symptoms”.

…end of extract…

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Reflections upon my Morning Pages extract, above

1. What can we learn from my pages above?

(a) Firstly:

Diagnose your medical symptomsJim had a dreadful headache during the night which disrupted his sleep – three times.  Why did he not take a painkiller?

Painkillers are a very bad idea.  Whoever came up with the idea of painkillers is probably the same person who came up with the advice to “snip the wires on your burglar alarm, when it rings at an awkward time!”  That will switch off the “problem”! 

Have you spotted the obvious mistake here?  The headache is intended to tell you something very important.  Something is wrong in your body, and you need to fix the problem, not the symptom of the problem!

If you switch off the alarm, the disease burglars can run amok in your bodily home!

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Secondly:

Writing as self-managementAlthough Jim treated the Candida symptoms topically, he also has a plan to monitor the link between those symptoms and his high GI deviations from his usual diet.  If the Candida problem persists, he will reduce those high GI foods, and find some other way to gain weight!

(If you do not understand the link between food and mood, you need to read our book in Footnote 1 below).

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Thirdly:

Front cover, sleep book, Feb 2019Sleep disruption is a significant disturbance to normal mood states. See Renata’s book, Safeguard Your Sleep and Reap the Rewards.*** 

People who experience significant sleep disturbance often feel irritable and depressed.  But Jim did not feel irritable or depressed, because he accepted ownership of the problem; and responsibility for solving the problem, using his years of research on how to be healthy! (In an unhealthy world which does not, to any significant degree, address the questions: How should each of us strive to be healthy?  What would a healthy lifestyle look like?)[2]

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2. What is my advice in this blog?

Writing Theapy book coverMy advice to the readers of this blog is this:

If you want to have a long, happy, healthy and productive life, then you have to take back responsibility for managing your own physical and mental health. 

And one way to begin to do that is to begin to write your Morning Pages.

Your physical and mental health are too important, and too complex, to be delegated to somebody who cannot ever come to care as much about you as you should care about yourself!

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3. What is the general approach to self-management that I teach to my clients?

My general approach to self-management is described in detail in my book about How to Write a New Life for Yourself.***

As follows:

1. Monitor your moods and emotions, as they are your basic (functional or dysfunctional) guides to action in the world. (See Chapter 8 for guidance on this; plus Strategy No.17A [both in ‘How to Write…’[3]). In E-CENT theory, we argue that human beings are primarily emotional beings, who learn to ‘think’, after a fashion, in the course of their socialization, at home and in school.

But we are not ‘thinking beings’, because thinking and feeling and perception cannot be separated from each other. When we try to think, we are actually perceiving-feeling-thinking, all in one grasp of the mind. (For shorthand, we call this process ‘perfinking’: perceiving-feeling-thinking). So, because you are a perfinking being, who wants to perfink better, you need to learn how to manage your emotions[4], so they will not undermine the quality of your perfinking.  (If your response is: “To hell with this.  I’m just going to keep on thinking”; then you will tend to perfink very dysfunctionally, inefficiently and with disappointing results in the real world!)

2. Monitor your inner dialogue. In E-CENT counselling and coaching, we say that each person is split between two potentials, which we call the Good Wolf and the Bad Wolf. These can also be thought of as the Inner Critic (or Bad Wolf; which is negative and judgemental, and self-frustrating and self-downing); and the Internal Mentor (or Good Wolf; which is positive and praising and supportive, and promotion of self-care). (See Strategies Nos. 17B and 17C below, for help with the monitoring of your inner dialogues). (Each of the two Wolf states is further subdivided into Parent, Adult and Child sub-states – See Stewart and Joines, 1987 – but, for simplicity, we will not be breaking the Wolf states down in this book!)32. Monitor your approach to diet/nutrition, physical exercise, and sleep. (See Byrne, 2018; plus elements of Chapter 8, ‘How to Write…’[5]).

3. Monitor your goals, and your goal-directed actions, and the feedback you get from the world. (See section 7.2 of my “How to Write…” book).

4. Monitor the problems that arise in your life, at home and in work, and engage in problem-solving behaviours. (See section 7.6 of my “How to Write…” book).

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4. Summing up and signing off…

Dr-Jim-photo-cover002In this blog post, I have tried to draw attention to the importance of conscious self-management, if you want to be happy, healthy, successful and wealthy.  (Having lots of money is not wealth, if you do not have your physical and mental health, and emotional wellbeing!)

Do you want to optimize the possibilities of your life? 

Are you willing to take responsibility for your goals and actions in the world?

Or are you willing to be ‘processed’ by others?

Wakey-wakey!

Best wishes,

Jim

Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

The ABC Bookstore Online

The E-CENT Institute

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Email: Dr Jim’s Email Address***

Telephone: 01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

Or: 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

~~~

[1] Jim has suffered with Candida Albicans overgrowth (a common form of gut dysbiosis [SIBO]) – as many of his depressed clients similarly suffered! – and he has been managing this condition himself throughout that time, using alternative health strategies.  See How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using Nutrition and Physical Activity.*** This book contains a detailed description of his Candida problem, and how he has managed it.

[2] We have produced a book on how to establish a Healthy Lifestyle.  This is the title: Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person.***

[3] How to Write a New Life for Yourself.***

[4] See Chapter 7 of Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, above.

[5] How to Write a New Life for Yourself.***

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Covid-19 anxiety and stress management

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Manage your body to manage your mind

By Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach/Counsellor

13th October 2020

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The anxiety of Covid-19 pandemic

therapist taking notes
 Pexels.com

At the moment, people all over the world are suffering from worry and anxiety, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wreaked terrible damage to people’s lives, families, jobs, happiness and many other aspects of life.

What can you do in the face of all this uncertainty as a result of the virus?

One way forward is to exercise your control over the one thing that you have a lot of control over – your body!

Hearing all the regular updates about the progress of the Covid 19 virus on the television, in newspapers and over the internet, keeps us well-informed so we can make the necessary safety adjustments to our lives.

Unfortunately, it also makes us worry about the future:

– our health;

– the health of our family members;

– and the effects on wider society.

And all this worry affects our physical and mental health in a very negative way.

Relaxation is the undoing of anxiety and tension

Tao of Detox, Daniel ReidDaniel Reid (2003) put it very clearly:

“When you don’t worry, your adrenal glands don’t secrete stress hormones such as cortisone, which supress immune response and enervate the nervous system with hypertension.”(Page 319)[1].

So the price tag for all the latest information which pours out of mobile phones, and the rest of the media, is that our bodies are kept in a constant state of tension.

And most people are unaware of the accumulating inner tension until they start getting headaches, insomnia, or upset stomachs (and there are many more negative consequences).

We do need to know what is happening in the world; but we also need to protect ourselves from the drain on our energies caused by the constant negative drip-drip-drip of these news updates.

As Corrie Ten Boom stated:

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength”.

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Switching on your ‘inner tranquillizer’

How can we protect ourselves from the energy drain of worrying about things that we can’t control?

CAT RELAXINGThankfully, we have a wonderful, in-built tranquiliser, which you may not know about. It’s a biochemical mechanism inside us, and it’s been called the ‘relaxation response”. It a healing mechanism which can help us recover from the stress effects on our bodies; but it only operates fully if you give yourself time to relax properly (which does not mean flopping on the sofa!)

People think they know how to relax; but relaxation is a skill that has to be learned and practiced.  And, given that stress occurs on a daily basis, we need to practice proper relaxation on a daily basis.

The best relaxation technique I have researched is called ’Progressive Muscle Relaxation’ (PMR).

It is a simple technique whereby you slowly learn when your body is tense, and when it’s relaxed. And you learn this by

– tensing individual muscles in a particular way for a short space of time; and then,

– relaxing that muscle rapidly,

A, Front cover PMR BookYou can do this in a space where you can lie down, where it is calm and quiet, and you won’t be disturbed, for just a few minutes each day.

(The process is described in my latest book, Relax Your Way to A Better Life!)

As a result, you learn an extremely valuable skill. You learn the skill of being able to notice when you are tense!  And to relax the various muscles of your body, as they tense up during the day in response to stressful events, bad news, and self-generated worries.

The benefits of Scientific Relaxation

This results in:

– having more energy;

being able to sleep better at night,

– developing a stronger immune system.

As a consequence of those results,

– you can fight viruses and infections better,

– avoid insomnia,

– avoid stress-related illnesses,

– and much more besides.

The man who invented this system (PMR) – Dr Edmund Jacobson – studied the body’s muscles – (in scientific studies, involving electronic measurement of muscle tension) – and the negative effects of tension, and the positive effects of relaxation, on the body, for over seventy years.

It’s all in my new book

A, Front cover PMR BookMy book – Relax Your Way to a Better Life – explains this technique, including

– the reasons our bodies accumulate tension,

– the benefits of relaxation of that tension,

– and how to do the exercises that make the difference.

I have included lots of case studies and research experiments which show how PMR helps people to improve their lives.

Here is a link to the book at Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08JN7FBN6

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Renatas-Coaching--page002I hope you explore this system; get your worry under control; and improve your health and happiness.

Best wishes,

Renata,

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

renata@abc-counselling.org

01422 843 629

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[1] Reid, D. (2003) The Tao of Detox: The natural way to purify your body for health and longevity. London: Simon and Schuster.