Page 2 – Problems with REBT

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Page 2 – Problems with REBT

To see page 1, please click this link.***

The evolutionary psychology perspective is better than the REBT perspective

Jim and the Buddha, 2Our emotions are mainly guides to action in the world. While Buddhism and Stoicism mainly apply the negative theory of emotion – which assumes that all emotions are a problem – evolutionary psychology promotes the idea that our emotions arose, and were selected by nature, because they served to keep our ancestors alive. This is a positive theory of emotion.

Evolutionary psychology is an attempt to build a science of psychology, based on inferences – (many from anthropological studies; animal studies; and many which appear to be little more than applied logic) – about the ways in which our ancestors adapted to their environments, and how and why some psychological adaptations were most likely selected by nature for their survival value.  For examples:

Without your innate tendency towards anger, there would be nothing to stop selfish individuals taking advantage of you, even to the extent of threatening your survival (by stealing all the available food, for example).

Without anxiety, you might sit and watch with curiosity while a lion approached you and then ate you.

Without distress (or sadness) you might be unable to attract social support when you are weakened by illness, or when you are otherwise disadvantaged and in need of extra support.

So feelings, even apparently destructive or painful emotions, can be seen to serve useful survival functions, except when they are taken too far, and then they cause more harm than good.  (This concept of ‘taken too far’ is labelled hyper-arousal [meaning anger, anxiety, etc.] or hypo-arousal [leading to depression, inappropriate shame, etc.] in Affect Regulation Theory (Hill, 2015).

And, paradoxically, as pointed out by Siegel (2015), emotions are both regulated and regulatory.  They are regulated (or controlled) by both internal and external factors; and we also tend to internalize those external, social factors over time.  (The external factors often take the form of verbal or non-verbal feedback from significant others [mother, father, others] about their experience of our emotional expression [or expression of affects]). Some of our emotive-cognitive experiences (including that feedback from significant others) help us to regulate other of our emotive-cognitive urges.

The modelling (or demonstration) of emotional self-regulation by our parents is another of the major internalized sources of self-regulation that we have (which begins outside of us, but ends up encoded in our neurological, higher cognitive emotions, probably largely in the right orbitofrontal cortex [OFC]). (Hill, 2015).

Paul Ekman, an American anthropologist, set out to prove that Darwin was wrong about the universality of all basic primate and mammal emotions; and that, in fact, many cultures are wired up emotionally to be very different from each other – the major example being westerners versus the oriental mind.  This is the famous concept of ‘cultural relativity’.

However, despite the rigour of his studies, Ekman only succeeded in proving Darwin to be right.  There is no cultural relativity in respect of the basic human emotions of anger, fear, distress, surprise, disgust and joy.  There are some cultural differences in how those emotions are expressed – for example the American and southern European tendency to be very open about feelings and emotions, on the one hand; and the Japanese tendency to be concealing of their feelings and emotions. But the basic emotions – which are being revealed or concealed – are common to all cultures.  (The British upper classes are somewhere in the middle ground between the Americans and the Japanese in terms of their expressiveness of the basic emotions – and perhaps closer to the Japanese).

The perspectives of evolutionary psychology and affective neuroscience are better sources of explanation of human emotions than the Buddhist or Stoic theories, or the cognitive psychology theories.  According to Panksepp and Biven (2012) our evolutionary adaptations (as mammals) laid down certain subcortical structures in the limbic areas of the brain.  These neurological structures underpin seven emotional systems as follows:

  1. Seeking: Based on the urge to seek, the brain generates a euphoric and expectant response. (I am wired up by nature to seek: human faces; comfort; food; and as I grow, to seek novelty, stimulation, and so on. I ‘want’ what I am programmed by nature to ‘want’!) So when I am ‘wanting’ many experiences, I am expressing an innate, biochemical urge laid down by natural selection. Of course, my list of wants can be, and is, expanded by my cultural conditioning and experience).
  2. Fear: This innate feeling capacity dictates how the brain responds to the threat of physical danger and/or death. (I am wired up by nature [or natural selection] to fear threats and dangers, because my ancestors who survived long enough to reproduce were kept alive by their fear of predators; and they passed that fear down the line, biochemically.

This is my innate ‘flight response’. I ‘want’ to survive, because I am programmed by nature to ‘want’ to survive! [Again, of course, I can learn to fear things that are not real threats or dangers. But I cannot easily, if at all, learn to define potential ‘harm’ as exclusively related to potential threats to ‘my ethical stance in life’.  I am much more concerned about protecting my central nervous system from painful arousal]).

  1. Rage: Rage results from incoming stimuli interacting with sources of irritation and fury in the brain-mind. (I am wired up by natural selection to respond ragefully to serious frustrations; and to those threats and dangers in response to which I can overcome my natural fearfulness, presumably because this tendency in my ancestors helped to keep them alive long enough to reproduce. This is my innate ‘fight response’). But my regular pattern of manifesting rage is strongly shaped by socialization forces over time.
  2. Lust: This is a manifestation of how sexual desire and attachments are elaborated in the brain. (I am wired up by natural selection to feel loveand sexual desire, when I reach puberty.  Without this lust and desire for sexual congress, and close physical comfort, my ancestors might not have bothered to reproduce, and I would not exist. Because they survived, they passed on their loving-lusting tendencies to me).
  3. Care: The innate source of maternal nurturance. (Mothers do not ‘decide’ to care for their young. Among our ancestral tribes and clans, any non-caring mothers – [who lacked a strong, innate caring urge] – would have been unlikely to keep their offspring alive long enough to reproduce; so non-caring attitudes tended to die out. Those mothers who kept their offspring alive long enough to reproduce were most likely those with neurologically wired tendencies to care sufficiently: to be ‘good enough’ mothers).
  4. Grief: Feelings of intense loss when I lose a significant ‘attachment figure’, like mother, father, other family members and significant others. (I attach myself to significant others [especially mother {or my main carer}], by innate urging. This maximizes my chances of survival, so I reproduce, and pass on to my offspring this same urge to attach to me and their other carers.  But the downside of my strong attachment is that when my attachment figures die, or become unavailable to me, I experience an intense sense of loss [grief]). This is also the foundation of sadness and depression.
  5. Play: This urge explains how the brain generates joyous, rough-and-tumble interactions. (I have innate urges to play, driven by a sense of joy in my own playfulness, and the responses of my playmates. This may have survived through evolutionary time because my playfulness makes me attractive to my carers, and so they want to protect me to keep me alive and near them. Less playful and less joyful children might have been abandoned in tough times, and so their less-playful genes died out).

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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.***

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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.***

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The general point arising out of Panksepp’s research on the brains of animals, and other studies, is that all mammals have these seven basic emotional systems hardwired into the limbic system (or mammalian brain).

These seven systems probably should not be seen as the end of the matter, since Panksepp himself included panic in his original list, and omitted grief. And, we have seen earlier that Ostrofsky (2003) has identified nine innate affects, which overlap, but are not coterminous with, Panksepp’s seven basic emotions.

The takeaway message is that humans have a small range of innate emotions or affects, upon the foundation of which they, non-consciously, and in interaction with their main carers, build a set of higher cognitive emotions, over developmental time.

Another way of expressing that insight would be this: Every human being is carrying a set of basic emotional, motivational and automatic control systems (or the developmental capacity to create them) in the subcortical areas of their brains, at birth.  Their neocortex, on the other hand, is available to be wired up by social encounters.  Their social encounters, initially, are managed from their basic emotions, which, through social interactions become woven together with social experiences, into ‘higher cognitive emotions’. This most likely takes place in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), where the limbic system and the neocortex overlap. (Hill, 2015; Siegel, 2015).

Contrary to Albert Ellis’s view, emotion, on the one hand, and conscious thought, on the other, begin as two separate, brain-based systems, which interact and moderate each other, so that reason (when it emerges over developmental time in the child) depends upon basic emotions [in the limbic system], (plus socially influenced emotions [based in the orbitofrontal cortex]), which are required to evaluate (or value) the significance of thoughts, options, actions, etc.  (Siegel, 2015; Damasio, 1994).

Logic cannot tell us what to value, what to like, or what or whom to love.  Those evaluations are made by our emotional systems (including our basic emotions and our higher cognitive emotions, including our moral emotions of guilt, shame and elevation [Haidt, 2006]).

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Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person:

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

The Lifestyle Counselling Book
Cover design by Charles Saul

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

This book has been found in practice to be very helpful to counsellors and psychotherapists who want to understand the role of lifestyle factors in human disturbance. Because diet, exercise and sleep are increasingly seen to be important determinants of mental health and emotional well-being, it is now necessary to rethink our models of counselling and therapy.

Paperback and eBook versions.

Learn more.***

This book shows counsellors how to incorporate lifestyle coaching and counselling into their system of talk therapy.  It will also help self-help enthusiasts to take better care of their own mental and physical health, and emotional well-being.

Prices: from £4.26 GBP (Kindle) to £12.64 (paperback)

Paperback and eBook versions.

Learn more.***

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Reuniting the mother and baby

After reviewing the complex ABC model, I went on to lay down the basic E-CENT model of the mother-baby dyad, in Figure 5 of Byrne (2009b), as shown in Figure 5.5 of Chapter 5, (of Byrne, 2017). This model helped us to explore the ways in which the mother of a new-born baby has to colonize the baby; take it over; and run its life, for the sake of its survival.  The first couple of years of each of our lives is spent in close proximity to mother (or a substitute carer), who is more or less sensitive to our needs; more or less responsive, attuned, and timely in responding; more or less gentle and caring; and so on.

The personality of the mother dictates the kind of care we get, and the kind of care we get is internalized as the foundations of our first Internal Working Model of relationship.  If she can provide us with a ‘secure base’, then we will grow up with a secure sense of attachment to subsequent love objects, including the individual(s) we marry.

As mother interacts with her baby, the baby internalizes representations of the experience of those encounters – at least those which seem emotionally significant. (Siegel, 2015).  And out of those encounters, the baby’s ego (or personality) self-constructs itself (as illustrated in Figure 5.5 above).

As I wrote at that time: “Thus the mother wires up the brain of her baby, initially by handling and managing its body; and later by introducing the baby to her language, her linguistic culture, her rules and moods and values and emotional responses; and her language-based world.” (Byrne, 2009b).

Of course, the baby brings something to the party – his or her innate wiring in the brain stem and the limbic system; and its enteric brain (in its guts).  All of which is instinctive and emotional.  There are no ‘innate beliefs’, since ‘beliefs’ are linguistic constructions (as distinct from attitudes, which can be visceral-emotive).  I have argued above that there are seven (or nine?) innate emotional or affective control systems, and there is an evaluation capacity – ‘good’ – ‘bad’ – which guides the baby’s reactions to incoming stimuli.  A felt experience seems either negative or positive to the new-born baby and young infant; and this triggers one of the emotional control systems: (e.g. anger or fear, or joy, etc.)

The baby, as it develops, shows signs of having pro- and anti-social tendencies, but these are shaped overwhelmingly by the mother’s level of skill.  A skilful mother can soothe a truculent baby; while an unskilful mother can aggravate and irritate a calm baby and render it truculent.

The child internalizes representations of its encounters with mother, and in the overlapping space of encounter, a cluster of ego state possibilities arise, which are later triggered by external stimuli.

The emergent ego of every child contains the embryonic components of Good and Bad Nurturing Parent ego state; Good and Bad Controlling Parent ego state; Good and Bad Adult ego state; Good and Bad Adapted/Rebellious Child ego states; and Good and Bad Free (or Natural) Child ego states.

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Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons:

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

front cover, dragons
Cover design by Will Sutton

This self-help book presents two processes that are necessary for the digestion of old, traumatic or stress-inducing experiences.

The first looks at how to re-think or re-frame your traumatic memory; and the second is about how to digest it, so it can disappear.

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Prices from: £6.16p (Kindle) and £13.63 GBP (Paperback) 

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Paperback and eBook versions

Learn more.***

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Discovering the social individual in myself

In Byrne (2009b), I explored the nature of a physical/social human by investigating my own nature.  This was my conclusion:

Perhaps I am just this physical organism (body/brain/mind)

Including its feeling/affective foundation (in the limbic system)

And its language based cognitive/emotive superstructure (in the neocortex, and the upper regions of the orbitofrontal cortex)

With all of its cumulative, interpretative experiences

Including internalized representations of good and bad aspects of significant others (especially mother and father)

And all of my good and bad adaptations towards them

And my good and bad reactions and rebellions against them

Which gave rise to my Internal Working Models, of how they related to me (positively or negatively), and how I related to them (positively or negatively) – Plus my personality adaptations towards them

All of which is stored in long term memory

In the form of electro chemical equivalents of stories, scripts, frames, schemas and other narrativized and non-narrativized elements

Below the level of conscious awareness

And permanently beyond direct conscious inspection.

Perhaps that is what I most fundamentally am (and, by extension, what you also are).  And thus, although I am distinct from others, I carry many others inside my head, and I am indeed made up of many ‘social/ relational/ interactional bits and pieces’.  So I am both individual and social.  But I am very far from being a ‘separate entity’.  Because my sense of ‘self’ develops in lockstep with my sense of ‘society’, and with my biological development, none of these three ‘levels’ of ‘me/I/us’ can exist (for any significant period of time) without the other(s).

Implications for counselling

From the point of view of an E-CENT counsellor working with a client, it is important to note that the social individual is hard-wired by nature to be an emotional being.  This emotional being (as a baby) is thrown into a family with its own cultural shape, which impacts the baby so powerfully that it leaves its mark on the baby like a die stamps a pattern on a copper or silver coin.  The coin is malleable, and can be melted down and re-stamped, but not easily. (It takes a lot of ‘heat’ to melt it!) And the child, once grown up, retains some neurological and psychological malleability, but also lots of rigidity or habit-based inflexibilities.

Counselling and therapy can begin to work on restructuring the emotional/ neurological shape of the socialized individual (by ‘melting it’), but the outcome depends upon how good the client is at taking on the necessary hard work.  The counsellor can be available as a secure base for the client, and thus hope to re-parent the client (which also means: to re-educate the emotions and thinking of the client). But none of this is easy, and it’s certainly not automatic or predictable.

When a client sits before me, I do not see a discrete, separate, stand-alone individual.  I see the outworking of a complex family history (and ‘racial / tribal’ history).  I sense the many Internal Working Models from which this social-individual relates to the world.  I am aware that this is an emotional being, with some capacity to think and learn, but also most likely s/he is a “community of sub-personalities” with some strongly frozen schemas! Those ‘frozen schemas’ are fixed frames, or ways of perceiving-feeling-thinking about the world as interpreted. (To understand the strength and resistance of frozen schemas, imagine trying to teach a racist person not to be racist in their thoughts / feelings and actions!) And some of those frozen schemas are the basis of the client’s personality adaptation, which predetermine how they will relate to me.

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In chapter 5 (of Byrne, 2017), I also outlined how to understand and help clients with problems of anger, anxiety and depression, using the E-CENT holistic approach – the whole body-brain-mind-environment understanding, which is illustrated in the Holistic SOR model, in Figure 3.3 of Chapter 3 (of Byrne, 2017).

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The Emergent Social Individual:

Or how social experience shapes the human body-brain-mind

Kindle Cover1By Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2009-2019

The E-CENT perspective sees the relationship of mother-baby as a dialectical (or interactional) one of mutual influence, in which the baby is ‘colonized’ by the mother/carer, and enrolled over time into the mother/carer’s culture, including language and beliefs, scripts, stories, etc.  This dialectic is one between the innate urges of the baby and the cultural and innate and culturally shaped behaviours of the mother.  The overlap between mother and baby gives rise to the ‘ego space’ in which the identity and habits of the baby take shape.  And in that ego space, a self-identity appears as an emergent phenomenon, based on our felt sense of being a body (the core self) and also on our conscious and non-conscious stories about who we are and where we have been, who has related to us, and how: (the autobiographical self).

Learn more about this book.***

E-Book version only available at the moment.***

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Summary critique of the ABC-D-E model

In Chapter 6 (of Byrne, 2017), I introduced my summary critique of the ABC model by explaining that I have a few of problems with Albert Ellis’s perspective on human disturbance, which can be expressed briefly like this:

  1. People are not upset by words in their heads. They are upset by difficult experiences, which go against their desires and expectations – and those expectations exist in the form of socialized emotional states, hardwired into the client’s brain-mind.

And:

  1. Ellis’s definition of the word ‘awful’ is actually wrong and misleading! Awful means very bad or very unpleasant, which many of our experiences happen to be. I would agree that people may be upset, sometimes, because they are exaggerating the degree of badness of a situation; but that should not be called ‘awfulizing’. It should be called “exaggerating the degree of badness of a situation”. Or ‘catastrophizing’, perhaps.

When the client learns to stop exaggerating the degree of badness of their problem, they will feel less upset.  However, sometimes they are not exaggerating how the problem feels to them, and so there is a need to meet the client where they are, emotionally, and then to slowly, gently, try to enrol them into a new way of looking at, and feeling about, their difficult situation, so that they can feel it as less bad. (But it helps if they ‘feel felt’ before this is attempted!)

  1. There are also problems with:

(a) The concept of demandingness. People can be upset because they desire something that is not available to them. If they cannot let go of the desire, then they will suffer.  They might not feel that they have any right to demand what they want, but they can still be very upset by unattainable desires.

(b) The process of ‘disputing irrational beliefs’. This probably often shows up for clients as the therapist ‘picking a fight with them’; ‘making them wrong’; and treating them as if they are stupid, or as if they are wilfully upsetting themselves.

And:

(c) The ‘effective new philosophy’ (E). This is a misleading philosophy, because it includes the ideas of awfulizing and demandingness. And it also contains the insupportable concept of ‘Unconditional Self-Acceptance’, which we have argued against as an immoral stance in life!

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We have seen above that people are already wired up (by nature) to be emotional beings.

They are then socialized into a set of emotional responses to particular frustrations or difficulties that they may encounter in life from time to time.

Although we all have ‘words in our heads’, we also have images and gut feelings. Furthermore, we have our role models in our heads: How mum and dad would respond to this insult; that frustration; or this loss or failure. And, perhaps more importantly, we have myelinated connections (or axons) between brain neurons, which actually dictate how we are to respond to particular perceptions, negative and positive.

The word ‘awful’ does not mean “100% bad”, as suggested by Albert Ellis.  It means very bad or very unpleasant, which many things happen to be, objectively.  And I can tell myself that it is awful to have to work so hard to correct Albert Ellis’s philosophical errors without that word (awful) overly-upsetting me!

Ellis’s concept of ‘demandingness’ is also questionable.  This is Ellis’s belief that people mainly upset themselves by the use of the ‘demanding’ words: should, must, have to, ought to, got to, and need to. His central directive to his trainees, was this: “Look for the client’s should!”

But this approach ignores the fact that people may upset themselves by their unrealistic desires, as much as by Jehovian commands.

And it also ignores the fact that not all ‘shoulds’ are demands or commands; but rather (in the case of moral shoulds) prescriptions and proscriptions.  And, as some other theorists have observed, it is perfectly possible to have a ‘preferable should’.

What Albert Ellis advocated was a system in which the therapist challenges the client’s ‘irrational beliefs’ – like ‘shoulds ’and ‘awfuls’.  The form that this challenging process takes is to ‘dispute’ the logic, empirical validity, and usefulness of the client’s beliefs.  However, his idea of ‘disputing’ the client’s irrational beliefs probably often shows up – in the mind of the client – as ‘picking a fight’; or ‘making them wrong’; and provoking them by insisting that they are not upset about what they are actually upset about!

And then there’s the ‘effective new philosophy’. We originally liked the ‘effective new philosophy’ of REBT, which involved a reversal or negation of demandingness, awfulizing, low frustration tolerance (or “I can’t stand it”-itis), and condemning and damning of self, other people and/or the world.  But clearly, we cannot continue to subscribe to this philosophy given that people are most likely not upset by their ‘awfulizing’, as argued in Chapter 6 (of Byrne, 2017). And, while some of them may be upset by their ‘demands’, many others may be disturbed by their desires and cravings, as argued in section 3(a) of Chapter 6.  And we know that it is sometimes objectively true that our clients’ cannot stand their adversities, because they do not have sufficient, objective coping resources, due to poor diet, poor sleep, poor relationships, excessive environmental stressors, and/or poor self-management generally!  So we have to abandon these ‘effective new philosophies’, and substitute the E-CENT equivalents.

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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. 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 only, at the moment.

Learn more.***

Price: £23.58 GBP

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Emotion precedes thinking

The early cognitive psychologists overlooked emotion almost completely; and later on they added bits of emotion theory to the back of their textbooks!  (See Eysenck and Keane, 2000, as a fairly typical example: where only Chapter 18 [of 19!] deals with emotion – which is just 23 pages out of more than 523!).

What they should have noticed from the beginning – which is now being surfaced by affective neuroscience (Panksepp, 1998); interpersonal neurobiology (Siegel, 2015); and neuropsychoanalysis (Schore 2013) – was that humans are primarily emotional beings, from birth onwards, for the whole of their lives.

What was overlooked by Albert Ellis’s generation was this: Attention is directed by emotional signals from the emotional control systems.  Perception is coloured by emotional history.  Memory is directed by emotional significance.  Language cannot be separated from emotion.  And most ’thinking’ is really automatic, non-conscious, habit-based ‘perfinking’ (or perceiving-feeling-thinking), at the core of which is emotion!

So it is really unhelpful to think of people as being upset by individual words, like ‘should’, or ‘awful’.

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The body is involved in emotion processing

The ABC model omits the body. Indeed it dumps most of the body-brain-mind, apart from the individual’s beliefs – and boils them down to just four! Demandingness, awfulizing, low-frustration tolerance, and condemning and damning.

The ABC model has essentially three elements:

(A) The Event (or something that has happened outside or inside of an individual’s mind);

(B) The individual’s set of rational and irrational beliefs about the event; and

(C) The consequent outputting of an emotional and behavioural response (depending upon whether the individual holds [or ‘deploys’] a rational or irrational belief in response to a particular event or experience).

But, in reality, a significant role is played in the causation of emotional disturbance by:

# The face;

# The viscera (heart, lungs, guts);

# The (emotional) limbic system (in the mid-brain);

# The neocortex (or upper brain); and the brain stem;

# Diet and vitamin/ mineral supplements;

# Physical exercise;

# Quality of sleep;

# Early childhood relationships;

# Non-conscious attitudes; and:

# Habitual patterns of relating;

# Etc.

And the individual’s socialization plays a huge role in determining how an innate emotion can be expressed; and the triggers and targets that are considered legitimate.

In effect, the bulk of the human organism, (as well as much of its historical-social environment), has been dumped by Albert Ellis.

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In Chapter 6 (of Byrne, 2017), I presented a succinct refutation of the REBT position, and a restatement of the E-CENT position on:

  1. The ABC model;
  2. The concept of ‘awfulizing’;
  3. Demandingness;
  4. The idea that ‘I can’t stand it’;
  5. Disputing of irrational beliefs;
  6. And, the so-called ‘Effective new philosophy’.

At the end of this process, very little was left of the philosophy of REBT.

~~~

If you want to know the essence of our critique of REBT, but you don’t want to have to read 500+ pages, then this 150 page summary should appeal to you:

Discounting Our Bodies:

A brief, critical review of REBT’s flaws

Front cover paperback 2
Cover design by Will Sutton

This book is a brief, summary critique of the main errors contained in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) theory. And especially the invalidity of the ABC model, which asserts that nothing other than beliefs intervenes between a negative experience and an emotional-behavioural reaction. (The body is ignored, een though we know that diet, exercise and sleep patterns all affect our emotional state and our emotional resilience!)

Paperback only (at the moment). Price £9.50 GBP

Learn more.***

Discounting our Bodies.***

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Trying to rescue the ABC model from Bond and Dryden (1996)

Chapter 7 (of Byrne, 2017), is where it all began. This is where I started to try to rethink the ABC model in order to defend REBT from a critical attack by Bond and Dryden (1996).  If you have read that chapter, you will know that I began with an absolute faith in the truth of core concepts of REBT, including:

  1. The distinction between rational and irrational beliefs.
  2. The idea that people are upset (at point C in the ABC model) by their irrational beliefs (at point B in the ABC model), and not by what happens to them (at point A).
  3. That the job of the therapist is to teach the client the four core irrational beliefs: demandingness; awfulizing; low frustration tolerance (or “I can’t stand it”-itis); and condemning and damning of self, other people and the world.
  4. And, more importantly (for Ellis), that the therapist teaches these insights indirectly, through Socratic questioning. (But I had abandoned Socratic questioning, and informed Ellis as much – [on the grounds that Plato’s-Socrates is a poor role model for a psychotherapist, in that he constantly irritated and aggravated his interlocutors [or conversational partners] by leading them into verbal and logical errors, and rubbing their noses in their lack of understanding of their own beliefs and values)] – and I told him [Ellis] I was now sticking to didactic teaching of the irrational beliefs, and their rational alternatives, to my clients.)

The actual value of my paper on Bond and Dryden – which is reproduced in modified form in Chapter 7 (of Byrne, 2017) – has little to do with the fact that I was trying to defend REBT, but rather that, in order to do so:

  1. I had to think about the ABC model;
  2. Link it back to the SOR model, which most likely inspired it, and:
  3. To relate the inner workings of the ‘B’ to Freud’s theory of the It/ Ego/ Super-ego,
  4. And then to add in some ideas from neuroscience; and:
  5. To consider the part played by the concept of ego states from Transactional Analysis.

This five-stage process had the effect of blowing the cobwebs from the old, dusty ABC model, and showing up the hidden cracks in its foundations and its façade.

Out of this process of rethinking of the ABCs of REBT came the complex ABC model, in which I added back the body, and clarified the interactional nature of thinking and feeling at point B in the model.

The adding back of the body was necessitated by a number of factors, not least of which was the controversy in mainstream psychology between the James-Lange model of emotion causation and the Cannon-Bard model. (Figure 7.9).

Throughout this whole process of rethinking the ABCs of REBT, I was convinced that I was simply restating Ellis’s implicit positions from Ellis (1958).

But now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that this was wishful thinking, and, just as Melanie Klein dismantled much of Freud in her attempt to ‘extend and clarify’ Freud, I also dismantled the core of the ABC model of REBT, Ellis’s brain-child, in the process of trying to ‘stand him up’ against his adversaries!

Many of the ideas in Chapter 7 (of Byrne, 2017), have now been modified by time and experience.  I no longer accept ‘the four irrationalities’ (in their REBT formulations!), and indeed I have critiqued them in this book.  I have now rejected the REBT concepts of:

  1. Demandingness’:

The REBT formulation denies that we can be upset by desires and cravings; and it insists that we upset ourselves through the use of words like should and must, as opposed to having historically shaped, socialized, emotive-cognitive affects about our desires and aversions. For these reasons I cannot accept it.

  1. Awfulizing’:

The REBT formulation says that ‘awful’ always means “100% bad”, or “as bad as could be”, and sometimes “More than 100% bad”.  But, as I showed, using two mainstream dictionaries, above, awful actually means something quite different, and much milder, than that!  It means ‘very bad’ or ‘very unpleasant’, which many of our clients’ experiences undoubtedly are!

  1. Low frustration tolerance:

We cannot accept this REBT formulation, when it implies that the person [or client] could not possibly be worn down by real stresses and strains, to such a point that they strongly feel that they cannot stand today what could perfectly well stand yesterday, when they were less stressed and drained!

And:

  1. Unconditional self and other acceptance:

This position is unacceptable to me, because it is an amoral stance – indeed an immoral stance – which could give comfort to people who are acting immorally, or who would like to act immorally, and want permission to unconditionally accept themselves.

I no longer practice REBT, having evolved my own system of E-CENT.

~~~

The Amoralism of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT):

The mishandling of self-acceptance and unfairness issues by Albert Ellis

Front cover of paperback1
Cover design by Will Sutton

This book is an extensive, detailed critique of two of the central ideas of REBT:

(1) The concept of ‘unconditional self-acceptance’; and

(2) The idea that life is fundamentally unfair, and that it should be accepted as such, and never complained about.

In the process we also deal with Albert Ellis’s idea that people should never be blamed for anything; that praise and blame are bad; that guilt and shame are to be eliminated, and never taken to be indicators that we’ve done something wrong. Along the way we have a debate with Dr Michael Edelstein about the role of fairness in couple relationships.

Learn more.***

The Amoralizm of REBT.***

~~~

Learning to use demanding words – in reasonable ways

In Chapter 8 (of Byrne, 2017), I began (in 2009) to outline the case for moving on, beyond REBT, into new, uncharted territory. One of the positions I adopted was a defence of the so-called demanding words, for specific reasons and specific purposes.

Why did I defend the use of the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ – even though I acknowledged that they are often implicated in human disturbances (when they constitute unrealistic expectations, or impossible goals)?

Firstly, I defended these words because it is simply wrong to say that it is the demand, and not what is demanded, that disturbs people.  It is more accurate to say that people are disturbed by unreasonable, unrealistic indefensible demands or expectations.  As well as unachievable (or unachieved) desires and cravings.

Secondly, I had to defend these words because ‘the demanding words’ are also implicated in our moral prescriptions; and we need to hold on to our moral prescriptions.  We cannot have a moral discourse (or conversation) without using ‘ought’, ‘should’ and ‘must’.  But we can have effective psychotherapies that leave most shoulds and musts in place, while teaching the client how to think critically about their arguments and their conclusions; and to reframe their disturbing perceptions/ interpretations.

They can keep their shoulds, if they use them for the right kinds of purposes.  And they can get rid of their disturbances by learning to look at their lives from a number of equally viable perspectives, each of which is better than the one they habitually use (as will be illustrated when we come to look at the Six Windows Model, briefly, in Appendix B, below, which is derived mainly [but not exclusively] from moderate Buddhism and Stoicism).

In effect, the more realistic, logical, reasonable and defensible a person’s expectations are, the less disturbable they become, regardless of how many so-called ‘demanding words’ they happen to use to describe what they desire, and what they prescribe morally.

Furthermore, we should remember, people can have ‘demanding attitudes’, or unrealistic expectations, without using any words whatsoever.  The ‘demanding words’ – like should, must etc., – are inferred by Albert Ellis, and not found in practice in the client’s languaging.  As Edward Erwin (1997) points out, non-REBT therapists do not report finding such demanding words in the vocabularies of their clients.  And earlier in the history of REBT, therapists found one or more of the 11 core irrational beliefs that were (then) said to disturb people, and not the ‘core musts or shoulds’ (which are now said to always cause emotional disturbances).  Nowadays, they find only core shoulds and musts, and not any of the original 11 irrational beliefs. (Erwin, 1997, pages 106-109).  This suggests that therapists (who are unwary) find what they ‘look for’ in their client’s languaging.

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

~~~

The Institute for E-CENT Publications: 2020

~~~

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.***

~~~

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.***

~~~

The problem of lack of moral principles in REBT

When Dr Ellis was growing up in New York City, in the 1920’s and ’30’s, it seems likely that most families were headed by patriarchal, authoritarian, mainly religious parents, who went too far (in terms of harshness) in repressing their children’s ‘bad wolves’ (or immoral and anti-social tendencies).  It would have seemed inappropriate, at that time, for Dr Ellis to take responsibility, in that repressive environment, for the maintenance of public morality.

However, today, more than a century after Albert Ellis was born, we live in communities that are under siege by out of control children, teenagers and adults, in a world of greed, violence, spiralling inequality, drug addiction and alcoholism, people trafficking, and widespread decline in moral standards.  In this new context, counsellors and therapists have to consider the effects of their words on public discourse about moral standards.

(I was not the first person to draw attention to the lack of moral content in Albert Ellis’s philosophy of psychotherapy.  You can find a strong criticism implicit in the words of Paul Meehl, who wrote the Foreword to Daniel Wiener’s biography about Albert Ellis in 1988[x].)

It is no longer acceptable for counsellors and therapists to assume there is a ‘Chinese wall’ between the counselling room and the wider society, and that what we say in the counselling room is solely concerned with the client.  Our words are part of a discourse (or conversation); and our concepts are memes (or units of cultural transmission); and what we say in the counselling room today will one day, most likely, have physical effects in the real world.  (How powerful we turned out to be!)

For a good number of years, I failed to notice that REBT was strongly advocating that people ignore, or treat lightly, social norms regarding moral judgement.  At most, Ellis seemed to be saying that we (and the client) need to be aware that we may be ‘penalized by our society’ if we behave immorally – (but that the REBT therapist did not personally object to immorality on the part of the client).  This kind of prudence was what Meehl objected to, which caused him to wish that Daniel Wiener had “pushed Ellis harder on the matter of ethics” – which was to say, his lack of moral principle.

In addition to his tendency to confuse prudence for morality, Dr Ellis also rejected the idea that a person who acted badly could be thought of as being ‘a bad person’.  For example, his repeated references to the claim that “Hitler was not a bad man!”

He would also tell clients that “even if you went out and killed a few people, that action could not make you a wholly bad person!”  But it wouldmorally – in the eyes of society (meaning most people who were consulted about this issue).

He also rejected the moral principle that people should treat each other fairly and justly.  He would challenge his clients who complained of ‘unfairness issues’ like this: “Why must life be fair?” These seemed to be ‘harmless therapeutic tools’, at one point in history, but the time would come when they would be applied socially as guides to action or non-action.  I was finally awoken to this danger by the way in which Dr Ellis was treated in the final years of his life by some of his former colleagues.

In the final years of Albert Ellis’s life, certain things were said about him, and certain things were done towards him, which we, the ‘Friends of Ellis’ and the ‘Justice for Albert Ellis Campaign’, wished to oppose.  However, in practice, we did not know how to proceed, because we were not ‘allowed’, by REBT theory, to use any of the ‘demanding words’ that form the backbone of moral statements.  Thus we were unable to say: “They should not be doing … (X) … to Albert Ellis!”; “He must be reinstated, in all conscience…”; and so on.  We had gagged ourselves, and (presumably) our clients, so that we were incapable of making a moral statement!

I no longer subscribe to those extreme REBT beliefs about ‘should’ and ‘must’.  I now think it is important to state that there are both logical shoulds and moral shoulds, (and also other types of shoulds, such as conditional shoulds and unreasonable shoulds), and that they sometimes stand in diametrical opposition to each other.  (The so-called empirical shoulds and musts – as in ‘the water should boil’ and ‘the train must have gone’, are really not ‘proper imperatives’, but rather predictions of what ‘will’ (most likely) happen, and also what ‘has’ (as a post hoc statement) already happened, masquerading as imperatives.

When clients come to us with problems of shame and guilt, because they have transgressed their own moral code, it might seem that we were being charitable and empathic by challenging their moral shoulds, and insisting that logically, if they did something bad, then they must have done it; should have done it; have to have done it; and so on.  A more sensible way to go, with the benefit of hindsight, is to treat the past as past, and to ask the client: (1) “Are you sincerely sorry about what you did?” And: “Are you committed to being a good person in the future?”

If the answer to both questions is ‘Yes’, then they can forgive themselves their past transgressions against their own moral should, and move into a future in conformity with that should, without any feeling of excessive guilt or shame.  (They might also need to apologize to somebody, or to make amends for their transgressions). We do not need to dismantle human morality in order to promote mental harmony.  This is a clear case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Moral ‘shoulds’ are not just ‘preferences’ masquerading as shoulds.  They are prescriptions. And proscriptions.  With moral ‘shoulds’ we prescribe social rules and required behaviours, and we implement sanctions to ensure that those moral ‘shoulds’ are obeyed.  And we proscribe some forms of anti-social or harmful (to others) behaviour. Where those moral shoulds break down, we see nothing but social misery and the fragmenting of society.  Therefore, we must be very careful not to contribute to the breakdown of moral order.

Albert Ellis’s original motivation for ‘getting rid of the shoulds’ was a noble one – I am sure.  But it was also short-sighted.  Who could have known that he would end his life invoking moral shoulds in the New York Supreme Court, while denying that there are any valid ‘shoulds’ about fairness (in newspaper interviews with journalists).  He ended his life in a paradox: “There are no valid shoulds about fairness; but those people should not have unfairly removed me from office!”

For more than fifty years, Ellis insisted on the following principle: “A bad action does not make a person wholly bad”; “We should accept them unconditionally, as OK, while objecting to their bad behaviours!” However, when it became personal, and his colleagues removed him from office, he did not always distinguish between them and their behaviours.  In private, he and his nearest and dearest called them ‘The Bastards!’ (Which is a global negative rating, which is ‘not allowed’ in REBT theory!)

The bell cracked!

~~~

The Institute for E-CENT arose out of the philosophical crisis in REBT in the period 2005-2007, and is the first post-REBT/CBT institution to set about the challenge of resolving the tension between logical imperatives and moral imperatives.  This we set out to do through the development of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT), which was further developed to incorporate moral philosophy and critical thinking at its foundation.  The therapeutic functions of E-CENT are natural outgrowths of that fusion of morality and logic.  This was explored in Chapter 10 (of Byrne, 2017), above.

~~~

Albert Ellis and the Unhappy Golfer:

A critique of the simplistic ABC model of REBT

By Dr Jim Byrne

~~~

Front cover, Ellis and the Golfer3
Cover design by Will Sutton

This is a book of reflections upon a case study, presented by Dr Ellis in his 1962 book about the theory of Rational Therapy.

The ‘unhappy golfer’ is in Dr Albert Ellis’s office, in New York City, somewhere around the end of the 1950’s.  He tells Dr Ellis that he feels terribly unhappy about being rejected by his golfing peers, and Dr Ellis tells him: This is something you are doing to yourself!

Ellis uses the unhappy golfer to introduce his readers to his simple ABC model of Rational (REB) Therapy, which claims – in those places that matter most – that a person cannot be upset emotionally in any way other than by their own beliefs!

This book sets out to refute this simplistic idea.

For more.***

Albert Ellis and the Unhappy Golfer.***

~~~

Additional problems with REBT theory and practice

In 2011, I wrote about additional limitations of REBT, as follows:

Conventionally, the REBT therapist asks the client: “What are you telling yourself, at point B (in the ABC model), to make yourself upset at point C?”  Implicit in this approach is a more or less explicit belief on the part of the therapist that the client “chooses” their beliefs, and could have responded differently than the way they did. (Erwin, 1997, pages 107-108).

In a video clip that I made on 7th July 2009 – which is no longer available – I argued that it was wrong to tell a highly distressed client that they are causing their own emotional upset by the things they are “telling themselves”.  It is wrong because it is totally lacking in empathy for the suffering of that individual.  And it is also technically wrong.

In what way is it technically wrong?  Well, it is wrong because it asserts that “people are not upset by what happens to them”.  This is not so.  People are upset by what happens to them – especially when what happens to them involves intense pain, or violation of the personal space of the individual.  But the precise degree of intensity of their upset is a function of their largely non-conscious philosophy of life as it applies to their disturbing experiences (plus their historically-socially shaped emotional wiring – plus the state of their body-brain resulting from diet, exercise, etc.).  Not every individual will respond in quite the same way, but most people will respond pretty strongly to being physically or sexually assaulted, shot at, or stabbed with a knife, and so on. This was the view expounded by Aristotle, but which the Stoics (unrealistically) reject! (Sherman, 2007: pages 109-110.  See also Aristotle, 1925/1969).

The REBT approach is also wrong because it discounts the fact that the client is largely non-conscious most of the time, and that the client responds automatically, tacitly, to the noxious stimulus (at ‘A’).

~~~


Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_Kindle (2) (853x1280)Metal Dog – Long road home, by Jim Byrne (Daniel O’Beeve)

I was born in the Year of the Dog, 1946 – during the summer; which makes me a Metal Dog.  Metal Dogs are hardwired to promote justice and fairness, and to be loyal to others.  They are offended by injustice and unfairness.

Because I was a Metal Dog, I would not settle for the rotten social position I was thrown into; and I would not accept the kind of loveless life that my parents had modelled for me.  So I left home at the age of eighteen years, and began a kind of vagabond life (which looked okay from the outside), but I was just wandering from one unworkable situation to another.  However, somehow, because I am a persistent “dog”, I kept knocking on the doors of life to try to find a way into a more enjoyable of life.  By dint of effort, and some good luck, especially in finding a couple of women who were able to love me, and to teach me how to love, I found my way to a kind of unimaginable Nirvana!  The Lotus Land

Read more…

~~~

The nature of the socialized individual

In E-CENT we argue that, it is only after the client has been shown what non-conscious attitude (or belief, or frame) is most probably causing their upset, that the client can choose to try to change their emotional wiring – or to leave it as it is.  But even if they choose to try to change it, this is not perfectly automatic or immediate.

I believe Albert Ellis was quite wrong to hypothesize that the individual’s ‘beliefs’ (or attitudes) were not ‘deeply hidden’, but rather “just below the level of conscious awareness”.  It seems to me (based on a study of Bargh and Chartrand, 1999; Gladwell, 2006; Gray, 2003; and others) that most of our emotive-cognitive wiring operates non-consciously.  And only very little of it can ever be made conscious, to any reliable degree.

REBT seems to be enrolled into the myth of the separate individual, detached (or detachable) from its social roots.  REBT believes that humans have fundamental goals which are “survival, freedom from pain, and happiness”.  This seems to relate to innate tendencies of the organism (which probably show up for the organism as ‘felt needs’), rather than ‘goals’.

REBT also believes that individuals have biological tendencies towards “both actualizing themselves as healthy goal-attaining human beings and also to being irrational and disturbing themselves”.  This is an illogical conclusion.  Just because my desires for those things which prove to be unattainable have the effect of upsetting me, you cannot conclude that I have a biological tendency to disturb myself! If I am trying to get something that seems pleasurable, and that attempt is thwarted, it seems obvious that, if I was following any kind of biological tendency then it was a tendency to pursue a particular appetite (which seemed to be potentially pleasurable)!

As against the REBT view, E-CENT believes that the so-called individual has innate and socially acquired tendencies to act in self-helping and pro-social ways, and also in self-destructive and anti-social ways.  (We call these tendencies the Good Wolf and the Bad Wolf.  Freud called them Eros and Thanatos).  But most human disturbance is probably not caused by this split, so much as it is caused by the fact that ‘life is difficult’ for all human beings, at least some of the time, and often much of the time.  Life is frustrating because we can’t always get what we want! And in the modern world, we are encouraged to pursue almost impossible goals, and to eat all kinds of junk food, and to live a largely sedentary lifestyle. In addition, many of us abuse our bodies with drugs and alcohol; and most of us are trying to cope with impossible stress loads due to economic insecurity and rapid social change.  And we have a history of dysfunctional families, which makes about 45% of us insecurely attached to our main carers – and then this leads on to a 50% divorce rate.  And most people’s lives have become pretty meaningless in a post-Christian world of neoliberal harshness.

Although REBT holds that “humans acquire irrational beliefs partly by social learning”, there is a tendency to downplay the extent to which human individuals are wired up in relationship with their parents, and the extent to which they (unavoidably, and largely unalterably [or at least not easily alterably]) carry their experiences of their parents and teachers and peers in their heads as models of how to relate in the here and now.  (Unless individuals enter therapy, and acquire new Internal Working Models of relationship [and new personality adaptations] from their encounters with their therapist – or they are fortunate enough to have an unusually curative marriage-like relationship, or deep friendship – they are destined to continue operating from the Working Models and personality adaptations they acquired from their encounters with their parents [and/or parent substitutes] in the early years of their lives).

For these reasons, I believe Albert Ellis was wrong to assume that individuals go around ‘making choices’ and ‘upsetting themselves’.  Human beings are habit-based creatures that mostly operate tacitly, non-consciously.  These two antagonistic, and mutually exclusive approaches to conceptualizing the human organism (the REBT view and the E-CENT view), give rise to two totally different approaches to the client in the therapy room.

~~~

The Relentless Flow of Fate

By Kurt Llama Byron

An Inspector Glasheen Mystery

Front KDP Cover, paperbackC4
Cover design by Will Sutton

For more, please click this link:

The Relentless Flow of Fate.***

Learn more.***
~~~

My deviations from REBT

Before I began to read about Attachment theory, I was unaware of the huge degree to which I was shaped by my parents’ influences upon me.  But I quickly caught up. The development of Attachment theory has had a profound effect on the shape of E-CENT counselling practices.  In particular, I place more emphasis on my emotional attachment to the client, and not just on the quality of my thinking and philosophical teachings, and this makes my work quite different from REBT/CBT counselling approaches.  A ‘good enough’ E-CENT counsellor will seek to provide a ‘secure base’ for his/her clients; to treat them with concern, care and sensitivity; and to model mindfulness, body awareness, and emotional intelligence for the client to copy, or internalize.  In short, a ‘good enough’ E-CENT counsellor should be prepared to extend ‘maternal/paternal love’ to their clients, as a matter of course.

My own deviation from REBT-proper happened much earlier than I had realized.  I was under the impression that I was a ‘pure REBT’ therapist up to about 2007, with the exception that I did not like, and did not use, Socratic Questioning.  I preferred to teach, quite didactically, the core principles of REBT.  And I used the Parent-Adult-Child model of Transactional Analysis because I did not believe that REBT had a credible or useful theory of personality.  I shared both of these deviations with Al Ellis, perhaps in 1999 or 2000.  (His response was to sidestep my concerns in a bout of Sophistic fogging, which disappointed me! But it did not dent my attachment to him and his overall theory [at that time]!)

However, my fundamental deviations from REBT were much earlier than 2007. 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 that all emotional distress (including the common manifestations of stress: 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*.

“What causes stress? Stress is a complex problem. It does not have a single cause, as indicated above. It is multifaceted; or is linked to many sources and influences. It is related to your resources for coping with major life changes, and your perceptions of environmental pressures. It’s about what happens to you; how you respond to it; how you then feel and behave; and how you handle those feelings and behaviours.”

These statements are a direct contradiction of Epictetus, Albert Ellis, and the ABC model! (And they also directly contradict most of modern CBT theory!)

I continued: “Environmental factors that trigger perceptions that result in stress include: Financial problems; loss or disappointment; threat or danger; excessive competition or conflict; time pressure; noise and pollution; frustration; and many others. 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.” (Marmot, 2005).

Strangely, I did not spot that, from this point onwards, I had effectively parted company with Albert Ellis and REBT, because I was no longer focused entirely on the client’s self-talk; and I no longer believed that the client is upset solely by their belief system.

~~~

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

~~~

The Institute for E-CENT Publications: 2020

~~~

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.***

~~~

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…

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~~~

Fairness and justice are central to morality

In Chapter 10 (of Byrne, 2017), I took a detailed look at the REBT position on fairness and justice.  In the process, I had a debate with Dr Michael Edelstein, a prominent REBT therapist, and one of Dr Albert Ellis’s early acolytes (from the 1970’s).  Michael refused to accept that it was important to take the ‘unfairness issues’ of couples, in therapy, seriously.  This is in line with Albert Ellis’s own position.  Ellis was often seen (in public demonstrations of REBT) rejecting clients’ appeals for fairness from life, with the glib comment: “Why must life be fair, when it’s obviously unfair“.  In Chapter 10, I show exactly why fairness is important – as an expression of the Golden Rule, which is the foundation of most systems of (deontological) moral philosophy.

In the final years of Albert Ellis’s life, certain things were said about him, and certain things were done towards him, which we, members of the ‘Friends of Ellis’ and the ‘Justice for Albert Ellis Campaign’, wished to oppose.  However, we were unable to develop a ‘moral discourse’ on ‘the unfairness’ of removing Ellis from office’, because we had voluntarily given up all the moral injunction words – should, must, have to, ought to, got to, need to – and we had heard Ellis during some of his public demonstrations of REBT, with members of the public in the ‘client chair’, ‘whipping them’ out of their attachment to ‘unfairness issues’.  It often sounded like he was implying that no client should ever have any feelings of having been treated unfairly.  The only justification for this belief of his was this piece of false logic: ‘Why must your life be fair, when it’s obviously unfair?’

This is false logic because it implies that the only valid perspective is that “whatever exists must exist; therefore, when unfairness exists, it must exist!”  However, that is only one use of the word ‘must’ – derived from ‘hard science’ and Logical Positivism.  The other major meaning is this: According to the Golden Rule, life – at least interpersonal life – is obliged to be conducted in a fair manner by all parties. I must treat you fairly, because I want you to treat me fairly.  I will not harm you, because (at the very least) I do not want you to harm me.  But beyond that, I also do not want to harm you because I can feel empathy for you when you suffer, and I do not want you to suffer.  And even beyond that, I utilize the Golden Rule because I was socialized as a child to utilize the Golden Rule; and I feel moral emotions concerning the importance of fairness, because I was socialized into a family and community that insisted upon the principle, and it is hardwired into my orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).

This understanding of the link between fairness and the Golden Rule means that, in effect, we must treat each other fairly!  Why? Because we must not treat another person less fairly than we would want them to treat us if our roles were reversed!

In other words, it would be morally repugnant, to right-thinking people, for anybody to expect that they will not be harmed by others, but that they can get away with harming others.

Furthermore, according to social intuitionism (Haidt, 2001, 2003, 2006) we have some innate urges to behave morally, and because of our moral education, we feel restraining gut reactions when we consider acting unfairly or unjustly.  But some individuals can and do overcome both their innate urges and their socialized morality; and we therapists must do nothing to encourage or facilitate such developments, which could lead to our clients being more likely to harm others.

~~~

Advert for book, mock coverThis book, about how Jim Byrne cured his own back and hip pain, has been mothballed for the foreseeable future, because of lack of public interest.

The latest book by Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, is about how he cured his own back pain and hip pain.  He wants to share that almost miraculous cure – of conditions which are currently said to be incurable by conventional medicine – with those myriad people out there who are in daily pain, despite taking painkillers, having surgery or being given steroid injections.

Dr Byrne has recently healed his hips of arthritis, despite being told by a chiropractor that arthritis is incurable, and that he would have to have hip operations sooner rather than later.  He has also healed his own low back pain; and sciatic fibrillations in the back of his upper legs.

Now he is writing up his healing journey in a book that will be helpful to millions of pain sufferers all over the world.

For a page of information about this upcoming book, please click this link: How to cure your own back pain and hip pain.***

~~~

The need for appropriate guilt as a moral emotion

In Chapter 11 (of Byrne, 2017), I explored the concept of unconditional self-acceptance (USA), developed by Dr Albert Ellis (1962, 1994).  In order to understand the background to the development of this idea, I investigated the concept of unconditional positive regard (UPR), which had previously been developed by Dr Carl Rogers.  I then related the idea of unconditional self-acceptance (USA) to some of the most important concepts of moral philosophy, including the ideas of praise and blame.  Then I related all of these ideas to the newly emerging field of study of ‘moral emotions’, and showed that Albert Ellis was (at least theoretically, notionally) in the ‘ethical rationalist’ tradition created by Jean Piaget (1952, 1954), which holds that moral judgements are driven by linguistic reasoning, rather than by emotional intuitions (as argued by Haidt, 2001, 2003, 2006).  I say that Ellis was ‘theoretically’ an ethical rationalist because, in practice, he was not actually a moralist of any description, being mainly a pragmatic promoter of prudence rather than moral codes and rules.  (Wiener, 1988: pages xi-xii). He expressly forbade all forms of the moral imperatives: should, must, have to, got to, need to, ought.  And he insisted that nobody should ever be blamed for anything. Furthermore, that life does not have to be fair! For these reasons, he cannot be said to have any kind of discernible moral philosophy.

In examining the views of Carl Rogers and Barry Stevens, I came to the following conclusions: Unconditional positive regard, for ourselves and/or others, does not make sense.  We need to relate to people on the basis of how they behave.  We would not unconditionally accept having a son or daughter who behaved viciously, or maliciously, with others.  We would see it as our duty to change that aspect of their functioning, and we would not be very happy with them while we were working for that change.

Professor Jonathan Haidt (2006) argues that we seem to have an innate neurological predisposition to respond with gratitude to people who treat us fairly; and to respond with vengeance towards those who treat us unfairly.  Clearly we would be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse to the extent that we responded to unfairness with unconditional regard for the perpetrator.

This is a very important point.  Just because Carl Rogers can find – at an advanced stage in his life – a sense of ‘inner guide’ that he can trust to be good and wholesome – and just because Barry Stevens can find in her mind an enlightened state in which there is only ‘one being’, and that that being is Barry, and you, and me, and everybody else, all connected up together – it does not follow that we should promulgate this (inner directedness – without considering outside [social] influences) as a universal philosophy of life to be followed by everybody.

Why not? 

Because many people will pull those elevated insights down to the level of the gutter, and use them to justify all kinds of nefarious actions. I have demonstrated this principle using the experience of Hindu enlightenment insights and India’s problems with moral corruption.

Furthermore, Rogers is here discounting the impact which his early socialization – (with Christian parents, and attendance at a Christian seminary for part of his undergraduate study!) – must have had in producing his ‘inner (moral) guide’ – and he was certainly wrong to imply that this inner guide is invincible. (Indeed, he has been accused of at least one seriously unethical action in his life: See Cohen, 1997: page 206)[xi].

I reject the idea that we are all innately enlightened, or that we could use our personal enlightenment to escape from social morality. We (as a society) need to teach people at the level at which they currently exist, which is mainly the level of the pavement, not the level of the clouds.  That is why, in Buddhism, the individual is trained to be a moral person; a moral person; a moral person.  Over, and over, and over again.  Alongside this process, the individual is encouraged to meditate; to meditate; to meditate.  Over, and over, and over again.  Through those two processes, a solid, admirable kind of social being is shaped: a moral being.  The meditation process might eventually bring about a sense of personal liberation, but not a sense that, since we are all one, I can take your stuff.  Neither could it result in the view that, since there is only one being, I can kill you, and no harm will be done. (Of course, some elements of Buddhism are just as extreme as extreme Stoicism!)

Some Buddhist philosophy may also be taught and studied (in moderate Buddhist circles), but not of a kind that will cause the individual to discount the value of other peoples’ lives; nor their right to be respected, honoured, and left to get on with their own journeys. Ethical functioning must always take precedence over enlightenment.  Furthermore, to use ‘enlightenment’ as an excuse for immoral behaviour has to be one of the lowest forms of self-serving rationalization.

~~~

How to Write a New Life for Yourself:

Narrative therapy and the writing solution.

Writing Theapy book cover
Cover design by Charles Saul

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Prices: from £4.22 GBP (Kindle) to £13.27 (paperback)

Paperback and eBook versions.

Learn more.***

~~~

This how-to book contains in excess of twenty exercises to help you to get more of what you want from your life.

You will become clearer about your goals; and how to work towards them intelligently.

Journal writing, and various forms of writing therapy and reflective writing are included, with specific exercises for specific purposes.

Why not write a new and better life for yourself!

Paperback and eBook versions.

Learn more.***

~~~

Defining ‘unconditional self-acceptance’

I then looked at Albert Ellis’s principle of ‘Unconditional Acceptance’ of self and others. Unfortunately for Albert Ellis, there are two aspects of the definition of the word “accept” which could be relevant to his argument.  The first is: “…(to) regard favourably”. And the second is: “… (to) put up with”.

I have ruled out the second of these definitions, on the grounds that Albert Ellis was not simply asking us to ‘put up with’ ourselves and others.  If we go for the first of these definitions, then it would seem that “self-acceptance” and “self-regard” mean the same thing; so that Ellis was not moving as far from Rogers as he thought.  (And again, it seems to be self-evidently unjustified to ‘regard favourably’ somebody who is behaving unethically or immorally).

Ellis was interested in how to avoid his identified problem which was, in his view, that sometimes counselling clients were upset because they could not accept themselves when they’d behaved badly or inadequately.

More generally, he saw that problem as one of rating yourself highly when you succeed, or when you get love and respect from others; and then, on the other hand, rating yourself lowly when you fail in work, or fail to get love and respect from others.

This is a common problem, but as I showed earlier, Ellis’s approach is not the only way to go about solving it.  Ellis’s solution was this: “Never rate your ‘self’ as a whole human being at all.  Only rate your acts and deeds.  And accept yourself unconditionally, whether or not you do well, and whether or not anybody loves you”.

What is missing from Ellis’s presentation is a serious consideration of morality.  He omits to distinguish between “personal effectiveness issues” and “personal morality”.

In E-CENT, we teach that it is okay to let ourselves and other people off the hook when we or they behave ineffectively or inefficiently in relation to our personal effectiveness issues, or practical goals and actions in the world.  However, it is quite another matter to say, as Albert Ellis said: “Even if you kill a few people, that (action) will not make you bad”.   (But, of course, it will!  It will make you a dangerous murderer!)

And Ellis explicitly said that we should offer unconditional acceptance to Adolf Hitler. Erwin (1997) argues against this position, using the illustration of Himmler (one of Hitler’s right-hand men), insisting that Himmler should not be told he can accept himself unconditionally.

Instead, Erwin argues, “Even if it would make Himmler extremely happy and neurosis-free, he still should not have engaged in self-acceptance if doing so encouraged him to continue as before (in terms of his crimes – JB).

There are other things to consider besides Himmler’s happiness and freedom from neurosis.” (Erwin, 1997: page 108). And those ‘other things’ include moral and legal issues, which are ignored by Ellis (and Rogers and Stevens).

We do not accept Albert Ellis’s (or Carl Rogers’) amoral (and indeed, immoral) position.  On the contrary, if you kill just one person, that will make you necessarily persona non grata with the rest of society, because you are a threat to the peace and viability of society.  It will make you a law breaker.  You will be arrested and deemed culpable (or blameworthy) – unless you can present extenuating circumstances – such as temporary insanity, or reasonable self-defence – which will exculpate you (or nullify your blameworthiness).  You will be treated – quite appropriately – as a bad person, (a person who does not act morally!) – unless and until you have paid your debt to society, and have shown remorse and made amends.

When Albert Ellis invented his system of unconditional self and other acceptance, (USA/UOA), he was obviously operating at the ‘transcendental’ level of the Upanishads: the Hindu texts which caused so much moral confusion in India.  These amoral transcendental positions make no connection with practical, everyday reality. They are quite inhuman and immoral. And that is why in E-CENT counselling, we only accept our clients, and each other, on the basis of being committed to moral action in the world.

We call this one-conditional acceptance’ of self and others. As long as we are committed to behaving morally, and working hard at that commitment, then it does not matter if we fail in terms of practical effectiveness goals and targets (such as being efficient or successful in material matters), or in our general judgements (such as backing the wrong business option and losing some money).

~~~

Discovering moral issues in 2007

In chapter 12 (of Byrne, 2017), I tried to clarify the split between me and Albert Ellis, on principled grounds.  Some of that chapter overlapped bits of the history of my revision of the ABC model, which is covered in earlier chapters. This included the point about adding back the body to the ABC model.

I then commented upon my restoration of moral philosophy, because of the lack of moral content in REBT.  This is the highlight of that section, addressed to the deceased Ellis:

“One of the links that broke in the chain that tied me by act of faith to REBT as a monolithic theory was the question of morality.  In particular, which side in the conflict at your institute, in the period 2005-2007, was correct?  Both sides eventually claimed the other side was acting immorally.

“At least a couple of members of the ‘Justice for Albert Ellis Campaign’ argued that I should give up my adherence to anti-demandingness, and that I should say: ‘[Certain people] should not do [certain things] to Dr Albert Ellis’.

“However, I was too solidly an Ellisian to be able to do that.  I believed that if we pick and choose when to say ‘should’ and when to refrain from saying ‘should’ then REBT would sound like a cracked bell.”

It took me months of agonizing before I realized that we need to distinguish between moral shoulds and other kinds of shoulds, and that we absolutely must have ‘moral shoulds’ if we are to sustain reasonably viable societies and know that we are operating from the Good Wolf side of our socialized-self, and shrinking our Bad Wolf side.

This was my big split from the ‘core religious beliefs’ of REBT.

~~~

How to Have a Wonderful, Loving Relationship:

Helpful insights for couples and lovers

A, Front cover,1By Jim Byrne (with Renata Taylor-Byrne)

~~~

Originally published with the title, Top secrets for Building a Successful Relationship, in 2018.  Reissued with a new title and minor changes in November 2019.

~~~

Most human beings long to be engaged in a loving relationship with another person who they like and admire, and who likes, admires, loves and respects them in turn.

But most people have no idea how to bring this about.

A few lucky people will automatically ‘know’ what to do, non-consciously, because they had parents who openly demonstrated their love for each other.

If your parents did not love, like, respect and/or care for each other; or they failed to demonstrate active love for you; then you are going to have to learn from scratch. But do not despair.  The answers to your problem can be found in this book…

For more information, please click this link.***

~~~

Discovering Albert Ellis’s extremely ‘avoidant attachment style’

I then comment upon the way in which attachment theory has moved me away from the coolness of REBT, in my counselling practice. Writing directly to my memory of Albert Ellis, I said:

“There is little doubt in my mind that I identified you as a kind of father substitute, and loved you in a kind of son-father adoration mode.  That was why, in December 1999, when you presented a public lecture and live demonstration of REBT in Sheffield, I was so shocked at my resistance to approaching you at the dining table, at lunchtime, for a chat.  I was quite happy to write to you, and to phone you (later), on ‘official’ REBT business, but I was resistant to approaching you ‘in the flesh’.  Why?  I believe it was because I had an insecure attachment to my own father, who was cool and distant, and quite punitive; and I feared that you would reject me or dismiss me if I had approached you over lunch.”

“Years later, when you met and got involved with, and then married, Debbie Joffe (now Joffe-Ellis), I realized that you had a very different kind of relationship with her than you had with anybody else that I knew of.  You seemed to be much more secure in that relationship.  Then it came back to me that you had neglectful parents, and that you seem to have developed an avoidant attachment style with them.”

(PS: This was confirmed subsequent to this open letter, by my reading of Ellis’s autobiography: All Out! – [Ellis, 2010]).

“And your attachment style, in most of your publicly available encounters with others, on video and audio tape, seems to me to be cool, distant and somewhat avoidant.

“A couple of years ago I began to study the works of Dr John Bowlby and other attachment theorists, including Dr David Wallin. This helped me to see that what I was trying to work on, in my two ‘training analyses’ – in E-CENT Papers No. 4 and No. 10 – was my attachment style, in relation to my mother, father and family, peers, and ultimately, my clients. (See Byrne, 2009d and 2010e).

“This has (eventually) affected my way of interacting with my clients, which is now very different from what seemed to me to be your more avoidant style.  I now feel quite secure in most of my relationships, including those with my clients.  This has produced a significant softening and warming of my therapeutic style.”

(End of quotation).

But even at that stage, at the end of 2011, I was still very much attached to Albert Ellis, which is shown by the fact that I highlighted this goal of mine: “My main goals today are to honour your value as a human being, and a great psychotherapist, who helped me, and perhaps tens of thousands of others, to get over their emotional disturbances; through your therapy sessions, books, videos, audio programs, public lectures, and (in my case) personal letters and emails.”

At that point I was not clear about my current caveat: That Albert Ellis’s style of therapy works by persuading the client to act in an extremely self-denying way; as an extreme Stoic; which may often be a long way short of what their life could have amounted to with the right kind of attachment/affect-regulation therapy.

And I also declared (in that open letter) that I was still committed to about 80% of the core philosophy of REBT, at that time.  (That is no longer true; though I still adhere to those small elements of moderate Buddhism and moderate Stoicism which also influenced some aspects of REBT.  (See Appendix B below).

I do not, however, go along with any of the extreme Stoic positions, including the Epictetus quote which underpins the ABC model, which claims that people are not upset by what actually happens to them!)

~~~

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person:

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

The Lifestyle Counselling Book
Cover design by Charles Saul

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

This book has been found in practice to be very helpful to counsellors and psychotherapists who want to understand the role of lifestyle factors in human disturbance. Because diet, exercise and sleep are increasingly seen to be important determinants of mental health and emotional well-being, it is now necessary to rethink our models of counselling and therapy.

Paperback and eBook versions.

Learn more.***

This book shows counsellors how to incorporate lifestyle coaching and counselling into their system of talk therapy.  It will also help self-help enthusiasts to take better care of their own mental and physical health, and emotional well-being.

Prices: from £4.26 GBP (Kindle) to £12.64 (paperback)

Paperback and eBook versions.

Learn more.***

~~~

The concept of human needs

One of the most important points addressed in Chapter 13 (of Byrne, 2017) is the importance of the concept of ‘human needs’, and the denial in REBT of human need.

Although Dr Ellis has often denied that humans have emotional needs, he has also been forced to concede that babies need to be loved.  And he also concedes (indirectly) that in order to be happy, humans ‘need’ to achieve certain goals (e.g. Ellis 1994, page 77); but the word “need” is never used.  Another example would be this: “According to REBT theory, humans are happiest when they establish important life goals and purposes and actively strive to attain these”. (Ellis and Dryden 1997/1999).  Notice that he shies away from admitting that this makes the achievement of those goals a form of need – which should not, of course, be exaggerated or denied.

Dr Tom Miller expanded Dr Ellis’s system into a seminar format, and he lumped “needs” in with “shoulds, musts, have-to’s, ought-to’s, and got-to’s”.  In other words, to talk of human needs is to act from demandingness, in Dr Miller’s world; and also largely in Dr Ellis’s world.  (Source: Miller, 1993).

E-CENT, on the other hand, holds that babies are born with definite physical and emotional needs, and that these needs evolve over time, with a movement towards greater autonomy on the part of the socialized individual, but that we never get beyond needing other people in order to live optimally happy lives, as argued by Lewis, Amini and Lannon (2001). Indeed, Lewis et al (2001) argue that we need other people to help us to ‘regulate our affects’, or to soothe our emotional disturbances. This need is greatest when we are very young, but, they argue, we never totally outgrow it.

(See the E-CENT emotional needs assessment form in Appendix C, at the end of this book).

The concept of ‘human need’ was something that Albert Ellis denied all his life, and I have argued elsewhere that this was because of his own unfortunate experience of being an extremely emotionally neglected child. (Byrne, 2013).

~~~

Beyond the ABC’s of REBT, and into the SOR model

I am now convinced that, because of the limitations of the ABC model, we have to restore the Stimulus-Organism-Response (SOR) model to prime position in our understanding of human well-being and disturbance; and to downgrade the ABC model to subordinate status, or, even better, to omit it altogether. (And of course, elsewhere in this book, I have shown that, in effect, we replaced the simple ABC model with the Event-Framing-Response [EFR] model, which substitutes non-conscious frames – which are permanently beyond conscious inspection – for the ‘well known’ irrational beliefs of REBT).

I then discussed the limitations of the ABC-D-E model for structuring a counselling session, because it omits the body, and thus it overlooks the importance of diet, exercise, sleep, gut health, historic relationships, and so on.  Subsequently I outlined one of several potential structuring approaches that can be used in E-CENT counselling, mainly using the holistic SOR model for assessment, and a range of other models for specific purposes.

Also, I explained that we do not use ‘disputing of irrational beliefs’ in E-CENT.  Instead, the E-CENT therapist avoids the kind of probing questions which are likely to cause an anxious or angry response from the client, or obedience and conformity.  We prefer to show the client the Six Windows model illustrated in Appendix B at the end of this book.

We tell the client that they are most likely looking at their problem through a fixed ‘lens’ or ‘frame’, in the non-conscious ‘basement’ of their mind, and that we want them to try looking at it through several (normally up to six) different lenses or frames, to try to change how the problem looks to them, because that will improve how they think, feel and act.

We are able to have a conversation with the client, because the client has a visual referent for the six windows, and their ‘slogans’ or ‘perspectives’; and the client can refer to them, think about them, and talk about how the use of those windows (to view their problem) affects their perceptions of their problem.

During the course of this conversation, we are normally able to ask some gentle, probing questions which consider whether the client is being unreasonably, unrealistically or illogically demanding or desiring of some outcome which they cannot achieve, and to teach them to accept the things they cannot change and to only try to change the things they can.

We are also able to help the client to recognize – on a scale of 1 to 100 – that their problem is normally less than 65% bad, and often less than 15% bad – which means it is not a total catastrophe, which would be 100% bad.  And we are able to teach them to give up damning themselves, other people and the world (without having to suggest that they get rid of all shoulds, or to unconditionally accept themselves, other people and/or the world!)  We never dispute anything.  We never cross swords with the client.  We walk with the client in the direction of their worldview, until it is fully articulated, and then we gently turn them around, and walk them back in the direction of our philosophically and psychologically informed worldview.

This is very different from the process of disputing irrational beliefs

~~~

Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons:

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

front cover, dragons
Cover design by Will Sutton

This self-help book presents two processes that are necessary for the digestion of old, traumatic or stress-inducing experiences.

The first looks at how to re-think or re-frame your traumatic memory; and the second is about how to digest it, so it can disappear.

~~~

Prices from: £6.16p (Kindle) and £13.63 GBP (Paperback) 

~~~

Paperback and eBook versions

Learn more.***

~~~

In chapter 14 (of Byrne, 2017), I reported that I’d had a little time to review part of Albert Ellis’s (2010) autobiography – All Out!

In that book, I found evidence that he had an avoidant attachment style to his neglectful parents, but that he was in denial about the emotional significance of their extreme neglect. (Byrne, 2013).

Furthermore, I argued that this badly affected his capacity to love, as indicated by the abnormal way he expressed his sexuality as a young man – rubbing up against strange women on the New York subway train system, to the point of ‘mutual orgasm’ (according to him), with no emotional or conversational contact. (And not just occasionally, but twice a day!)

I then looked at his relationship with his first girlfriend, Karyl, and his thirty year relationship with Janet Wolf, his ‘apartment mate’.  With regard to his relationship with Karyl, I wrote this:

“Your relationship with Karyl, your first sex-love dating partner, seems to me to tell us a lot about how your mother was with you.  In the section between pages 340 and page 351, there is ample evidence to support my view that you had an avoidant attachment style, and that Karyl was a cool reminder of rejection by your mother. Karyl is clearly just as indifferent to your emotional needs as your mother had been, and you vacillated between being avoidantly attached to Karyl – including the detached and cool decision, right at the start, to write a novel about this new relationship, alongside living the relationship – and being desperate for her to show you some affection.  [I suspect you chose Karyl because she was just as aloof and rejecting as your mother had been; and that you were trying to complete your relationship with your mother, by proxy, with Karyl]) .”

~~~

It now seems to me that the coolness of REBT theory is a perfect manifestation of Ellis’s own emotional coolness – coldness; detachment from normal human concerns – like commitment to relationships; warm, intimate sharing; and passion about the person (as opposed to mere interest in their genitals).  And I now understand why I could not bring myself to approach him at the dinner table in Sheffield, in December 1999, even though we had exchanged what seemed to me to be ‘cordial letters’.

It further seems to me to be the case that Albert Elis’s main form of self-presentation, and his theory of therapy, both manifest his core concern to deny that humans have emotional needs, because he had to deny his love needs when he was a young, hospitalized child.  As he has travelled around the world, as a grown up man, being cool and detached with many thousands of humans, he has been illustrating for us just how coolly and neglectfully he was treated in his formative years by the people who should (morally and ideally) have loved him. (Miller, 1983)[xii].

I was also surprised that he persists in his autobiography in restating his view that his early childhood experiences had little or no impact on shaping his personality, which he seems to believe was largely determined by his genes.  In this era of epigenetics, in which it is now widely agreed that genes do nothing without an environment to switch them on or off, I find this idea completely insupportable[xiii].  I agree with the more empathic approach of Dr John Bowlby, who clarified the damaging effects of childhood abuse and/or neglect.  And I also agree with the dialectical perspective taken by researchers like Sue Gerhardt (2010), who writes:

“My approach to understanding emotional life is a systemic one.  I argue that human beings are open systems permeated by other people as well as by plants and air and water.  We are shaped by other people as well as by what we breathe and eat.  Both our physiological systems and our mental systems are developed in relationship with other people – and this happens most intensely and leaves the biggest mark in infancy”.

For this reason, E-CENT counselling is very interested in what happened to our clients in their childhood.  But Ellis cannot do that, because he never empathized with himself as a child, all alone, in hospital, for far too long for such a young child!  This is how I raised that issue in Chapter 14 (of Byrne, 2017):

“…instead of being able to reflect upon what a miserable experience you (Albert Ellis) must have had as a five, six and seven year old boy, in hospital for many months, with very few visits from your parents (relative to the other children – and absolutely), you create the fantasy of how you sat in bed ‘doing REBT’ on yourself – a system of thought which did not exist at that time.  Then, in your critique of your own chapter on that period of your life, you accept – perhaps because of some comments by reviewers or editors of your draft manuscript – that you could not have been practicing formal REBT, since you were a young child, and REBT did not yet exist.  So then you move the goal posts again.  Actually, you insist, you were practicing a form of ‘common sense’ which contains philosophical elements close to and akin to REBT.  This is an incredible proposition, and one I cannot possibly credit with any substance.  I would assume you were actually practicing denial of your emotional pain, some of which you admit, in passing, in your autobiography.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that you survived that dreadful period of neglect, and to do so you must have toughened up remarkably; and become a significant, or extreme, Stoic.  Indeed, you must have become dramatically avoidant of others (like your mom and dad) in order to protect yourself from the pain of their absence.”

Today, of course, I would say that this was where, and when, and how, Albert Ellis became an extreme Stoic.  In his experiences of significant neglect throughout the formative years of his childhood.

It seems to me that his autobiographical account of his childhood is a just-so story – to use the term coined by Fritz Perls – in which he ultimately denies the malign impact of parental neglect upon himself as a child, because he is an extremely avoidant individual – not only in relation to his parents, but also in relation to all later lovers and colleagues – up to, but not including, Debbie Joffe.  (Perhaps Debbie was able to effect a fundamental change in his personality adaptation and attachment style [in relation to her] because she had a secure attachment style herself; and because she was absolutely devoted to serving him selflessly; and because she was absolutely dedicated to helping him with his REBT work).

~~~

Who Are You, And Where Are You Going?

Transformative insights from psychology and the philosophy of psychotherapy

Front cover, Who are youBy Dr Jim Byrne
With Renata Taylor-Byrne

Most people lead lives of quiet desperation.  They don’t know who are what they are.  They also don’t know what is driving their actions in the world.

Most people skip the challenge of becoming conscious about who and what they are; where they are located in time/history; and what is possible for such an actor in terms of future directions for a viable/enjoyable life.

Most people spend the whole of their life living as largely non-conscious victims of a script they wrote for themselves, with the aid of their parents, when they were less than seven years old, when they hadn’t got enough sense to write a really good outcome for themselves.

This book teaches you who and what you are; and in particular, it helps you to come to know your own personality, and your life script.  It shows you how to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, including your relationship behaviours, in order to produce a better future for yourself.  Change your destiny!

Paperback book, £14.95.

Ebook version $US 3.99.***

For more information.***

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Moving on from Ellis

Because of my serious disillusionment with Albert Ellis, arising out of reading his own account of his life, I decided to cut my ties from him completely.  Really, I had no choice but to do so!

Up to this point, I had been committed to keeping REBT and TA as two distinct bases of my own Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) system.  But after reading Ellis’s autobiography, I felt compelled to incorporate the best of REBT (meaning those moderate Stoical influences and moderate Buddhist influences) and the TA (ego states) into E-CENT, and to separate myself completely from the legacy of REBT, which is not only undermined in so many ways by developments since 2005-2007; and marked by Albert Ellis’s relational coolness; but also deficient in terms of moral philosophy, and many other respects (as outlined in various chapters of this book).

From my perspective, from now on, E-CENT is my new REBT.  And the old associations with unreformed REBT will be washed away.

And so I have come full circle, from stumbling upon REBT as ‘my salvation’, to discarding REBT as a wounded albatross around my neck.

There are too many fundamental errors in REBT to make it salvageable.  It was created by a damaged man, and is a damaged (and damaging [because it is an extremely Stoical]) philosophy of life.

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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.***

~~~

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.***

~~~

Summing up the problems of REBT

The fundamental problems of REBT, which also infected some of those other forms of CBT which use the ABC model, are as follows:

  1. REBT is based on an ancient philosophy which is extremist – Extreme Stoicism. It contradicts most modern social psychology, attachment theory, and affect regulationtheory (most of which came after Ellis’s creation of REBT).
  2. The ABC modelof REBT is a manifestation of that extremist philosophy. I have argued that this simple ABC-DEF model is not suitable for structuring counselling sessions, because it omits the body, and thus diet, exercise, etc.
  3. The ABC model is also inadequate as an instrument for assessing the client’s problematic situation; and it would be better to use the Holistic SOR model, which includes the whole body-brain-mind-environment complexity which is presented by the client’s arrival.
  4. Because of points 1 to 3 above, REBT cannot get to the point of admitting the following reality, which has been unearthed by E-CENT theory:

(a) People are upset by what happens to them.

(b) They do not (normally) choose to upset themselves.

(c) Their distorting frames of reference (or upsetting interpretations) are wired into their brain-minds, through socialization processes (e.g. learned helplessness and other learned emotional orientations towards the world) – all of which are non-conscious, and permanently beyond direct conscious inspection or control.

(d) They can learn new frames of reference, or new ways of interpreting noxious stimuli: but not easily, not effortlessly, not immediately; and certainly not by having a counsellor arguing with them.

  1. Albert Ellis was a man of his time – a damaged man of his time. And his time was a long time ago. He was more a philosopher (of extreme Stoicism) than a psychologist.  His model of the human brain-mind has been superseded by the models emerging from Affect Regulation Theory and Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPN). And also by recent research on the gut-brain connection: (Enders, 2015).
  2. And his system of therapy has been replaced – for me – by Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT). In E-CENT counselling, we look at the whole body-brain-mind-environment of the client. And when we do focus in on their mentation, and its role in their disturbance, we prefer to use the EFR model, combined with the Six Windows Model, because these models not involve blaming the client, or suggesting we know what they are ‘telling themselves’ to ‘make themselves’ disturbed. (Byrne, 2016a).

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2017

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Anger, resentment and forgiveness:

How to get your inappropriate anger under reasonable control

Front cover, anger2

By Dr Jim Byrne

This self-help book is based on twenty years’ experience by the author of providing anger management counselling and coaching to hundreds of individuals.

If you wan to stop wrecking your relationships, at home and in work, than this book is a must read.

It is based on a review of some of the most potent techniques and strategies for controlling your temper that were invented by thoughtful philosophers around the world and across the centuries.

It will give you mastery over you emotions, and the ability to forgive those who transgress against you, without being too passive.

Learn more

Paperback only at the moment

Price: £14.75 from Amazon.

~~~


Safeguard Your Sleep and Reap the Rewards:

Better health, happiness and resilience

Front cover, sleep book, Feb 2019
Cover design by Charles Saul

By Renata Taylor-Byrne

This book contains a detailed review of the science of sleep, and what this tells us about the importance of sleep for a happy, successful life.

Now you can begin to understand why you need sleep; how much you need; how to optimize your chances of getting a good night’s sleep; and what to do if you experience sleep disturbance. You will also learn how to defend your sleep against modern sleep-distractions.

If you wonder why you are gaining weight despite your attempts to diet; or your emotional intelligence keeps letting you down; now you can learn the links from those problems to your approach to sleep.

It is now available, in paperback only.

Learn more.***

Price: £14.99 (GBP)

By Renata Taylor-Byrne

~~~

Endnotes

[i] Myelin is a fatty white substance that surrounds the axon of some nerve cells, forming an electrically insulating layer. It is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. It is an outgrowth of a type of glial cell. The production of the myelin sheath is called myelination or myelinogenesis.

[ii] Jacques Lacan (1901-1981); an online essay, at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/lacweb/

[iii] Mirror neurons were discovered in animal research by Dr Rizzolatti – an Italian Neurophysiologist and professor at the University of Parma. He discovered particular neurons in the frontal and premotor cortex of monkeys while doing research on the neural representation of motor movements.

[iv] Haidt, J. (2001) The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgement.  Psychological Review, 108(4): 814-834.

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

[vi] Sherman, N. (2007) Stoic Warriors: The ancient philosophy behind the military mind. Oxford University Press.

[vii] “Cross-species affective neuroscience studies confirm that primary-process emotional feelings are organized within primitive subcortical regions of the brain that are anatomically, neurochemically, and functionally homologous in all mammals that have been studied. Emotional feelings (affects) are intrinsic values that inform animals how they are faring in the quest to survive. The various positive affects indicate that animals are returning to “comfort zones” that support survival, and negative affects reflect “discomfort zones” that indicate that animals are in situations that may impair survival. They are ancestral tools for living – evolutionary memories of such importance that they were coded into the genome in rough form (as primary brain processes), which are refined by basic learning mechanisms (secondary processes) as well as by higher-order cognitions/thoughts (tertiary processes).” Panksepp, J. (2010). Affective neuroscience of the emotional BrainMind: evolutionary perspectives and implications for understanding depression. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 12(4), 533–545.  Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181986/

[viii] Source: John Coleman, (2017) A Lecture at the University of Oxford.  PowerPoint presentation,  Available online at: http://www.jcoleman.co.uk/book_launch.pptx

[ix] Byrne, J. (2007) Am I completely determined by my genes and my environment? Assignment 5(c) for my Diploma in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy (from 2002-3). Available online: http://free-will-assignment.blogspot.co.uk/

[x] Wiener, D.N. (1988) Albert Ellis: Passionate Skeptic.  New York: Praeger. Pages xi-xii.

[xi] Cohen, D. (1997) Carl Rogers: A critical biography.  London: Constable.

[xii] Miller, A. (1983) For Your Own Good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence.  London: Faber and Faber.

[xiii] Spector, T. (2013) Identically Different: Why you can change your genes. London: Phoenix.

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