Emotionally Intelligent Resilience

Blog Post No. 162

By Dr Jim Byrne

11th February 2018

Updated: Sunday 25th February 2018 – (See Postscript No.2 at the end of this blog)

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog:

Contrasting moderate stoicism against extreme stoicism in dealing with life’s adversities…

A personal blog story…

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

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Story at a glance:

  • I recently faced a serious adversity involving the crashing of a piece of written work – (a digital index in a Word document,  for a new book) – which had taken weeks to construct; and which will now (it seems) take weeks of work to restore!
  • I felt very bad when I realized how serious the problem was.
  • I instinctively used a system of coping which I have described as the ‘wounded cat’ position – which involves allowing the passage of time; and staying with the bad feelings; and not trying to jump over them.
  • In order to illustrate this ‘wounded cat’ process, I present a case study of a former client who had a serious loss to deal with, and to whom I recommended this process.  It was highly effective in allowing the client to process and integrate his sense of loss.
  • I have also clarified that there are two other processes that have to be in place before the ‘wounded cat’ process can be used: (1) Work on family-of-origin fragility; and (2) development of  moderate stoical re-framing skills.

Context

Why people become upsetWhen important things go wrong in a person’s life, that person predictably and understandably becomes emotionally upset.  This was a common-sense perspective until rational and cognitive therapy resuscitated an ancient Roman slave’s perspective which asserts (wrongly) that people are not upset by what happens to them!

And that is precisely the problem.  Epictetus was a slave in ancient Rome.  Not only was he a slave, but his mother, before him, was also a slave; and he was born into slavery.  Imagine how low his expectations of life would be – the slavish son of a slavish woman!  And then he was released by his slave-owner, to preach Extreme Stoicism to the masses.

For a time, I was taken in by Stoicism, and subscribed not only to moderate Stoicism (which is realistic resilience), but also to extreme Stoicism (which is an unrealistic and unhealthy tendency to try to tolerate the intolerable!).

Today I want to present you with a little story of a recent adversity that I had to face – (which I am still having to face) – as a way of teaching a particular point about philosophy of life, and how it fits into emotional self-management. Needless to say, I will be trying to avoid Extreme Stoicism, while at the same time showing some resilience in the face of adversity.

The adversity is actually more than a ‘little’ problem.  Basically, I was getting close to publishing my next book – Counselling the Whole Person – and I had produced two or three new sections of the index, at the back of the book.

Cover, full, revised 5-10th Feb

The rest of the index had been borrowed from an earlier version of parts of this book (published as Holistic Counselling in Practice, in 2016), and the complete index seemed to be working well electronically (in that the automatic page numbering changed correctly, every time I inserted new pages, or extracted deleted pages).  Then, all of a sudden, I noticed some of the entries in the index did not correspond to the content of the pages to which they referred.  They were out by exactly 8 pages.  Always the same scale of error. I checked four, five, seven, nine, entries, and every single one was incorrect.  So I checked eight or ten more.  Each one was inaccurate.  The index had become corrupted somehow, and was now useless, because it was misleading and inaccurate.  I could not see any way to fix this, and so I had to decide to delete the whole index, including the extensive entries for two or three new chapters that I had recently completed, (which had involved about two or three weeks’ work altogether).  I am now faced with constructing a whole new index, which may take a month, or six weeks.  Who can say?

Coping with adversity

Sleep section of indexThis is a significant adversity, for me.  It involves a lot of wasted labour constructing a useless index, which had to be dumped.  It involves having to do a lot of days and days and days of reconstructing this index, which prevents me from engaging in other areas of important and urgent work.

A moderate stoical way of seeing this, which is the E-CENT approach, goes like this: “This is awful – but I am determined to cope with it!” (It is awful in the sense of being very bad; and very unpleasant.) And my commitment to cope with it is in the context that there are some things I can control, and some I cannot control.  And so I will try to control those aspects of this problem which are controllable by me!

By contrast, an extreme stoical way of seeing this same problem – which comes to us from rational and cognitive therapy – would be: “This isn’t awful.  I certainly can stand it.  And it should be the way it indubitably is”.

The problem with this extreme stoical approach is this:

  1. It’s completely unsympathetic to the suffering individual who is facing the adversity.
  2. It encourages the victim of adversity to jump over their emotional response, and to deny that they have any right to feel upset about this. (In practice, the extreme stoic often sails under a false flag, [which may actually be non-conscious!], which claims that they only want the victim of adversity to avoid overly-upset emotions, and to keep their reasonably upset emotions! But in practice, there is no space in an REBT session [based on extreme stoicism] for the client to articulate their reasonable upsets, and to have them acknowledged!  And they had better not expect any sympathy, because they sure as hell are not going to get it!)

So, given that I have moved away from extreme stoicism (in all its forms, including REBT and CBT), and now only practice moderate stoicism, how have I managed my adversity involving my crashed and burned index?

My moderate stoical approach to coping with adversity

Firstly, I no longer use the ABC model of REBT/CBT, because those systems are based on the false belief expressed by Epictetus like this: “People are not upset by what happens to them, but rather, by their attitude towards what has happened to them”.  And the only aspect of their ‘attitude’ that is taken into account by modern rational and emotive therapies is this: The thinking component of their attitude!  But our attitudes have three components, which are all interrelated and bound up together – the thinking component; the feeling component; and the behavioural component.

I reject the Epictetan view, that I am upset by my attitude, and not by the crashing of my index. I know I am upset by the crashing of my index, and the negative train of events which flowed from that happening.  If my index had not crashed, I could not possibly be upset about a non-existent event!

And I reject the modern cognitive/rational perspective, that the only thing that intervenes between my experience of my crashed index and my upset emotions is my Beliefs or Thoughts about the experience.

Firstly, it is not possible to separate out my so-called thinking from my so-called feeling, and my so-called behavioural response.  In our E-CENT model – the Holistic SOR model – there is only this:

S – Stimulus = I notice that my index has crashed

O = Organism = My whole body-brain-mind identifies (or matches) this adversity with a historically shaped response, linked to similar experiences in the past.

R = Response = My emotional and behavioural response is outputted, or expressed, into the world.

PS: I will write some more about what goes on inside the ‘O’ (or Organism) tomorrow!

Cover444

Epictetus was a slave, with low expectations of life, and his writings were discovered by 19 year old Albert Ellis who had low expectations of social connection, love, and affection, because he was seriously neglected by his parents from the beginning of his life.  Ellis has tried to teach all of us to join him and Epictetus in having exceedingly low expectations of life.  Ellis calls this “High Frustration Tolerance” – but I have called it “Tolerating the Intolerable“; or “Putting up with the changeable and fixable aspects of adversity!”

Resilience as defined by Albert Ellis and Epictetus is way too far from what I now see as necessary or reasonable expectations of a human being.    I have reviewed a lot of literature on modern views of resilience, and I have summarized that work in my book on REBT.  Here’s a brief extract:

“In this spirit, I want to make the following points.  Perhaps we should abandon any reference to Stoicism in counselling and therapy, and replace them with advice on how to become more resilient in the face of unavoidable life difficulties.  Southwick and Charney (2012)[i] – two medical doctors – suggest that a useful curriculum for the development of greater resilience would include: Developing optimism (and overcoming learned pessimism); Facing up to our fears (or being courageous); Developing a moral compass (or learning to always do what is the right thing, rather than what is opportunistically advantageous); Developing a spiritual, faith, or community connection that is bigger than the self; Connecting to others for social support; Finding and following resilient role models; Practising regular physical exercise; Working on brain-mind fitness, including mindfulness and cognitive training – (but Southwick and Charney overlooked the impact of food and gut flora on the brain-mind, so that needs to be considered also); Developing flexibility in our thinking-feeling-behaviour (including acceptance and reappraisal); Focusing on the meaning of your life, the purpose of your life, and on desired areas of personal growth.”

“Perhaps a consideration of these ideas could take us beyond the ‘wishful thinking’ about impossible goals set by Zeno, Marcus and Epictetus (and Albert Ellis, and some other CBT theorists).”  (Extracted from my book on REBT. )

Footnote [i] Southwick, S.M. and Dennis S. Charney (2013) Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

If you have been enrolled into the Extreme Stoicism of REBT, and you want to think your way out again, so you can be fully human, living from your innate emotional wiring, as socialized by moderate stoical resilience, instead of trying to live like a block of stone, or a lump of wood, then you have to read this book: Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes: the case against RE&CBT***)

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Anger, anxiety, depression, and nutrition and physical exercise, imageUnlike the rational and cognitive therapists, I accept that I am an emotional being first and last, with some degree of capacity to think and reason – though my so called thinking and reasoning can never be separated from my perceiving and feeling.  So I am not so much a ‘thinking being’ as I am a ‘perfinking being’ – where perfinking involves perceiving-feeling-thinking all in one grasp of the brain-mind. (And I am a body-brain-mind in a social environment, and my approach to diet and exercise is just as important as my approach to philosophy.  See How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, using nutrition and physical exercise.***)

New ways of coping with adversity

In dealing with my own adversity, involving the ‘death’ of my book-index, I think, (meaning, I now assume that), without any conscious awareness of what I was doing, I followed a pattern that I had used with a male client who had been betrayed by his lover/partner, who had had an affair with a near neighbour.

Let me now review that case, so we can understand my moderate stoical approach.

Instead of telling this client, regarding his partner’s infidelity:

  1. “It should be the way it is!” (This is the REBT – Extreme Stoical – approach! Think how insensitive that is!)

I also avoided telling him:

  1. “It isn’t awful!” – (Because it obviously was awful, according to any reasonable dictionary definition! And also, that was precisely what it felt like to him – awful! And the dictionary definitions that I’ve consulted say that ‘awful’ means ‘very bad’ or ‘very unpleasant’ – which this experience undoubtedly was!)

And I did not resort to telling him:

  1. “You certainly can stand this kind of abuse!” (Enough already!)

Instead, I listened sympathetically.  I knew he was suffering, and in a stressed state.  I knew he was locked into a deep grieving process.  And grief is not pathological!  It’s not inappropriate!  It serves a very important function; and the way to manage grief is to stay with it; to feel it fully; and to let it take it’s course.  (See Chapter 5 [Sections 5.10 and 5.11] of Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes.***)

Grief is an innate ‘affect’, or basic emotion, which is further refined in the family of origin.  Grief is implicated in the attachment process between mother and baby; and is clearly related to the map/territory problem.  We humans build up a map of our social experience; and every significant person and thing is represented on our inner map of our social/emotional world.  When somebody to whom we are close either abandons us, or dies (which comes to the same thing!) there is now a serious discrepancy between the map and the territory.  The inner reality and the outer reality. And it takes a long time to bring our inner maps up to date.  In my experience, it will most often take up to eighteen months for a healthy updating of a person’s inner map when they lose their partner through divorce or death. (But bear in mind that the Berkeley Growth Study showed that “…ego-resilient adults come from homes with loving, patient, intelligent, competent, integrated mothers, where there is free interchange of problems and feelings (Seligman et al., 1970…” And “ego-brittle persons, by contrast, come from homes that are conflictual, discordant, and lack any philosophical or intellectual emphasis…” (Cook, 1993, Levels of Personality).

Knowing what I know about grief – that it requires time: I did not try to send any ‘solutions’ to this client!  There are none, in this kind of grief about loss situation.

I did not offer any advice, for at least three-quarters of the session.

I showed that I felt for my client; so visibly that he would ‘feel felt’! 

I also communicated non-verbally that it is okay to grieve; it’s normal to grieve when we have lost a significant other person, or even a significant possession, like a career, a home, or whatever.

Wounded cat 2Right near the end of the session, I told him:

“Imagine you are a wounded cat.  Take yourself off somewhere quiet, and rest, and recuperate.  And lick your wounds (metaphorically).  And take very good care of your needs, for food, and rest, sleep, and withdrawal from the world for a while. And allow time to pass, like a wounded cat would!”

This man did exactly what I suggested, and three weeks later he was back in a more resilient state. He had found a way to ‘square the circle’ – while resting and sleeping.  He had got over the worst of his grief, though he was still understandably raw. He and his ex-partner had been the best of friends for many years; and he had eventually found a way to forgive her; and to preserve the friendship.  The sex-love aspect of their relationship was at an end, but they were able to be friends, and that was a great comfort to him.

I congratulated him on finding his own solution to a difficult problem, and I commiserated with him about his loss of his love object.  But I also celebrated with him the fact that he had salvaged an important friendship.

(What this client was doing, while licking his wounds, like a wounded cat, was what I call ‘completing his experience’, instead of jumping over it.  In this case, he was ‘completing his feelings of grief’. I have written a paper on Completing Traumatic Experiences, which anybody can acquire via PayPal.***)

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If you want to get a feeling for this  concept of ‘completion’ – accepting – or ‘allowing to be’ – I could do a lot worse than to quote a famous statement by the American playwright, Arthur Miller.  Miller was just 23 when the second world war broke out, and 25 when the Americans joined the war.  My understanding is that he was sent to Europe to fight, and that his experiences of war in Europe wounded him deeply.  He may also have been carrying other kinds of ‘existential wounds’, or psychological problems from his family of origin.  Anyway, in this quotation, he is talking about the impossibility of finding salvation outside of oneself, and about the way in which life suddenly shifts from safe and secure known territory, to something horrendous:

“I think it is a mistake”, he wrote, “to ever look for hope outside of one’s self.  One day the house smells of fresh bread, the next of smoke and blood.  One day you faint because the gardener cuts his finger off, within a week you’re climbing over corpses of children bombed in a subway. What hope can there be if that is so? I tried to die near the  end of the war.  The same dream returned each night until I dared not go to sleep and grew quite ill.  I dreamed I had a child, and even in the dream I saw it was my life, and it was an idiot, and I ran away.  But it always crept onto my lap again, clutched at my clothes.  Until I thought,  If I could kiss it, whatever in it was my own, perhaps I could sleep.  And I bent to its broken face, and it was horrible … but I kissed it.  I think one must finally take one’s life in one’s arms”. (Arthur Miller, quoted in Baran, 2003: 365 Nirvana Here and Now, page 307).

And that is what ‘completion’ is: taking your life in your arms; accepting reality as it is; allowing the unchangeable to be!

This can also be expressed like this:

“When we truly hate what’s happening, our instinct is to flee from it like a house on fire.  But if we can learn to turn around and enter that fire, to let it burn all our resistance away, then we find ourselves arising from the ashes with a new sense of power and freedom”.  (Raphael Cushnir, quoted in Josh Baran, 2003, page 14).

But already we are heading into problems here, since these two quotations can be interpreted in both moderate and extreme forms.  A moderate interpretation would say, if you cannot change your life, you will benefit from accepting it exactly the way it is.  An extreme way will simply opt for saying you should accept it the way it is, disregarding the potential for changing it for the better.  There is a core of realistic acceptance to the moderate approach, and a core of sado-masochistic dehumanization to the extreme interpretation.

The other problem here is that there is a difference between a philosophy of life which is normally passed on through an oral tradition, to initiates who are readied for the new insight.  That is to say, they are ready morally, and in terms of character development, for the new revelation.  For example, take this quotation from Native American wisdom:

“Every struggle, whether won or lost, strengthens us for the next to come.  It is not good for people to have an easy life.  They become weak and inefficient when they cease to struggle.  Some need a series of defeats before developing the strength and courage to win a victory”.  (Victorio, Mimbres Apache: Quoted in Helen Exley, The Song of Life).

Quite clearly, this quotation could be used to justify political oppression.  “We’re doing the poor and downtrodden a favour”, the neo-liberals could say, all over the world today.  “We’re helping to strengthen them by defeating and crushing them!”  Indeed, versions of this kind of argumentation have already been used by right-wing ideologues; and this very quotation by Victorio could be used to defend the expropriation of the Native American tribes’ traditional tribal lands, and their confinement to ‘reservations’ (or ‘Bantustans’).

People should, clearly, not allow themselves to be tricked into feeling they have to be more Stoical than they absolutely need to be. And we should all hold on to the right to be morally outraged and politically active in the face of oppression and exploitation!

Furthermore, we have to ask this question: Is Victorio right to say people are strengthened by struggle?  It seems they might be, if they have a ‘learned optimism’ perspective.  But if they have a ‘learned helplessness’ perspective, from previous defeats, then they are only going to become more defeatist and passive as a result of being subjected to more oppression or difficulty. (See Martin Seligman on Learned Helplessness).

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Back to my cuckolded client:

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I could not have asked this client – let’s call him Harry – to go away and process his grief in private; to complete his experience of loss, over and over and over again – unless I had already taught him a moderately stoical philosophy of life, combined with a sense of optimism and hope – of self-efficacy, and the possibility of positive change.  And that I had done, about two years earlier, when he was struggling with problems of social conflict.  At that time, I introduced Harry to my Six Windows Model, which is derived from moderate Stoicism and moderate Buddhism.

And it should also be noted that, resilience is linked to family of origin.  Some families produce children who are resilient and some produce children who are fragile.  So I had to deal with Harry’s family of origin problems, about a year before I taught him the Six Windows Model.  At that earlier time, I focused on my relationship with him; how to provide him with a secure base; how to re-parent him, so he could feel secure in his relationship with me, so he could then generalize that feeling to his valued, close relationships.

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Conscious processing of traumatic events

Of course, it is not possible to make much progress in terms of personal development, or recovery from childhood trauma, unless we engage in some form of talk therapy (or writing therapy). The ‘wounded cat’ process will only take us so far. And especially if you want to accelerate the healing process, you need to work on your traumatic memories, and to process and digest them.

I did just that, in a couple of early pieces of writing therapy that I completed; one about my story of origins; and one about my relationship with my mother. I have since packaged those two stories, with some introductory and commentary material, in the form of an eBook. The title is this: Healing the Heart and Mind: Two examples of writing therapy stories, plus relective analysis. You can find out some more about those stories here: https://ecent-institute.org/writing-therapeutic-stories/

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My crashed index

So how does this relate to my adverse experience of having my book-index crash and have to be written off; and having to start all over again, from scratch?

Firstly, I was numbed by the experience: for minutes, or even hours.  It was a significant, symbolic loss.  A loss of face.  A loss of my self-concept as a highly efficient and effective author/ editor/ publisher.  It was also a significant material loss, of labour-time that was now down the drain!  And I had to face to discomfort anxiety of contemplating starting all over again, from scratch, to do this long, boring, tedious task of rebuilding this index, word by word, phrase by phrase, page number by page number.

Cover444Secondly, I wanted to jump over the experience, and to get right on to starting to construct a new index. (I was, after all, just like Albert Ellis – (the creator of REBT [as a form of Extreme Stoicism]) – raised in a family that showed no sympathy for my pain and suffering (in this case, my sense of loss of face, and loss of my sense of self-efficacy, and discomfort anxiety about starting over).  But that desire, to jump over my feelings, was cruel and insensitive, and neglectful of my sensibilities.

And I can now see that my family script fitted very sell with REBT, when I first encountered it, in 1992, when I was going through a painful career crisis! That is to say, REBT fitted well with my extremely stoical family script!  REBT taught me to jump over my feelings about my career crisis – and to rationalize them away, so I would not have to deal with them!

However, thirdly, I jumped track from the appeal of an extreme Stoical denial of my pain, and moved to a ‘wounded cat’ position.  I stopped any attempt to immediately switch to constructing a new index.  I stayed with the sense of shock; of frustration; of loss and failure!

I allowed time for some non-conscious adjustment.  (This most likely involved some low-level grief work.  [Meaning the processing of feelings of loss]. I had lost something meaningful; valuable; and I had inherited a painful challenge up ahead: namely, the building of a new index, where the old one had ‘died’!)

It would take time for my inner map to be brought up to date; to come in line with the external reality.

And I found a way to salvage some good from this bad situation, by writing this blog post to help others to be moderately stoical when things go wrong in their lives; and not to buy into the extreme stoicism of REBT and much of CBT, which demands that we should jump over our negative experiences; we should dump the experience; and thereby to fail to learn from it; and to live our lives in a kind of anaesthetized state, instead of feeling the full range of positive and negative emotions which are the lot of a sensitive human being.

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Conclusion

DrJimCounselling002Some of our day-to-day experiences are awful – in the sense of being ‘very bad’, or ‘very unpleasant’.  It takes time to process such adversities, and we owe it to ourselves to take the time to process our emotions (like grief about losses, failures; anxiety about threats, dangers; anger about insults and threats to our self-esteem; and so on).

Extreme Stoicism demands that we pretend to be stones, or lumps of wood. That we pretend that we are not hurt by the things that hurt us!

It demands that we should deny that we are fleshy beings with feelings and needs.

But if we allow ourselves to be enrolled into such an unfeeling philosophy of life, we will miss the opportunity to heal our wounds – like a cat or other animal would.  We will end up denying our pain; failing to process it; and becoming deniers of other people’s pain – since we ‘cannot stand’ to hear of the pain of others, if we have unresolved pains of our own!

Unlike the extreme Stoicism of REBT, we in Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) practice a much gentler form of moderate Stoicism and moderate Buddhism.  For example, to help myself deal with the crashed index adversity, I can use my own Six Windows Model, which begins like this:

  1. Life is difficult for all human beings, at least some of the time; and often much of the time; so why must it not be difficult for me today, with this crashed index? Quite clearly, this is ‘my karma’, and I will have to adjust to it (but not necessarily today; or tomorrow; but one day soon). I can allow myself to take the time to process this difficulty, as an inevitability, and to gradually adjust to it; and then, and only then, will I bounce back!
  2. Life is going to be much less difficult if I pick and choose sensibly and realistically. Therefore, I should not choose to have my old index be magically fixed; and the problem to disappear! Instead, I choose to take a break; to rest and recover. After all, it happened on Friday, and it is now just Sunday!  And most people take Saturday and Sunday off anyway!  So even if it takes another couple of days to adjust and recover, I am going to choose sensibly.  I will be ready to re-start this uphill climb when I am ready.  Two days; three; four or five?  Who knows?  But I am going to take my time, and allow myself to feel whatever I feel in the meantime.

That is just a sample of the first two windows of E-CENT. To find out about the other 4 windows of the six windows model, you can get a copy via PayPal:

Re-framing problems, 6 windows modelE2 (Paper 3) The 6 Windows Model…  Available from PayPal, for just £3.99 GBP. Please send me my copy of  The 6 Windows Model pamphlet.***)

This (Six Windows model philosophy) is a million miles from the insensitivity of REBT – which is most often practised in an Extreme Stoical way.

This is also a few thousand miles from mainstream CBT, which would insist that my ‘problem’ is caused by my ‘thoughts’ about it.

This is not true.

The loss of my index is a real adversity, which any sane human being would lament and feel the loss of; feel the pain of its loss; feel the adversity of having to start all over again, or just feel like giving up and quitting!

My problem is not caused by my feeling.  My feelings are mainly caused by my experience.

Or, to be more precise:

The primary cause of my upset feelings right now is the failure of my IT package, which screwed up the digital links between actual page numbers, on the one hand, and the page numbers listed in the index entries, on the other.

The secondary cause is my need to get that book out sooner rather than later; which is also a real need, dictated by something other than my ‘mere thoughts’.

The tertiary cause of my feelings, is the history of my experiences of dealing with adversities. That history is recorded in my body-brain-mind.

And so on.

So please do not jump over your own feelings.  Stay with them.  Digest and complete them, and watch them disappear, leaving a stronger, more sensitive, and more human ‘You’ behind! 🙂

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

01422 843 629

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

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Postscript: Monday morning, 12th February 2018

I decided last night to adopt the ‘wounded cat’ position regarding the stress arising out of my sense of loss of my book index (involving weeks of work lost; and weeks of recovery work to engage in! And some loss of self-esteem around self-efficacy and productivity!)  I clocked off work at 7.00 pm last evening; and I made an omelette salad for tea; and we sat down to watch a cop show (‘Endeavour’) on TV at 8.00 pm.  We went to bed about 10.30, and I decided to have a lie-in in the morning, in keeping with my ‘wounded cat’ position.

I got up late this morning, had chunky vegetable soup (or stew) for breakfast – homemade (which I created at 4.30 am, when I was up briefly). Then I read three quotations from a book of Zen quotes; and meditated for 30 minutes.

Then I stood up to do my Chi Kung exercises (which normally take 20 minutes to complete).  At that point in time, I had the thought, which just bubbled up from my (rested) non-conscious mind: “Perhaps I can salvage the Index, if I can find out what went wrong with the page numbering, and go back to an earlier draft, and fix the page numbering!”

This seemed like a long shot, but it paid off!  I went to my office – at the end of exercising time – and investigated the possibilities.

And I have now salvaged the index, and saved myself weeks of work in rebuilding it from scratch.

And this was only possible because I acted like a ‘wounded cat’ for a few hours, instead of ‘jumping over the problem’, as advised by Albert Ellis and Epictetus and many CBT theorists!

Long live the ‘wounded cat’ position! (But do not try to use it with somebody who has not yet learned a moderate Stoic form of coping – like the Six Windows Model.  And also investigate whether there are family of origin problems leading to fragility, which have to be fixed before the windows model can be usefully taught).

Best wishes,

Jim

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Postscript No.2: It never rains…

But my relief from stress did not last long…

Of course, it was a great relief to realize that I could salvage my book index, and it seemed likely that it would not take many days to fix it up and make it good enough for purpose.

Then it just so happened that I needed to look up some concept in our recently published book – How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, using nutrition and physical activity.  I went to the index, looked up the page reference, and went to that page.  It was not there.  So I did some checking, and, nightmare of nightmares, that index was also corrupted.

This was a huge shock, because I had worked so hard on that index, and talked it up as a significant aspect of the book – the usefulness of the index!

So, to say the least, I was embarrassed.  And anxious that this situation might undermine my credibility with future potential buyers of my (our) books. These two emotional states – and especially my desire to be free of them, when I was not free of them – was very stressful.

Part of me wanted to respond with the complaint that “It never rains but it pours!”  But that would be too bleak a viewpoint – comparable to Werner Erhard’s view that “Life is just one goddamned thing after another!”  The problem with these two statements is this: they could be taken in a defeatist way to mean it’s all too much; too difficult; and therefore demoralizing and defeating.

And part of my problem was this: I wanted to be over the embarrassment; beyond the anxiety; clear of the problem.  But it is patently impossible to be “over the embarrassment” when one is embarrassed!  And it is equally impossible to be “beyond the anxiety” when on is immersed in it!

So now I was floundering, and spinning out of control.  I reached for a Zen quote, from Gay Hendricks, which talks about ‘giving up hope’.  Perhaps that was the solution: to give up any hope of being beyond the anxiety, and free from the embarrassment?!?  This is what Gay Hendricks writes:

“If you give up hope, you will likely find your life is infinitely richer. Here’s why: When you live in hope, it’s usually because you’re avoiding reality.  If you hope your partner will stop drinking, aren’t you really afraid he or she won’t?  Aren’t you really afraid to take decisive action to change the situation?  If you keep hoping the drinking will stop, you get to avoid the rally hard work of actually handling the situation effectively…” (Gay Hendricks, in Josh Baran (2003) – 365 Nirvana Here and Now: Living every moment in enlightenment).

For me to hope that this problem would go away – or resolve itself – would be even crazier than somebody hoping their partner would give up drinking alcohol.  Why? Because this published index is a fixed reality, which has no capacity to correct itself!  And nobody else has the power or need or responsibility to correct it.

This caused me to revert to the ‘wounded cat’ position, in terms of living in the embarrassment and anxiety; and not trying to get rid of it.  I stayed with the bad feelings, not knowing what to do about it.  This also allowed me to non-consciously process the problem, and about 36 hours later I came up with an action plan to revise the index for the Diet and Exercise book, and post it online so it can be downloaded by people who have already bought the book.  So I set about doing that, and it is now posted online

at: https://abc-counselling.org/revised-index-for-diet-and-exercise-book/

in the following format, online:

Revised index – downloadable 

Final corrected Index 14XXX001

In November 2017, we published a new book titled,

How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity

by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.

Unfortunately, an error crept into the index, after it had had its final proof-reading.  This resulted in all the page references in the index being exactly 8 pages lower than they should have been.

We have now tracked this error down and corrected it, and, if you bought a copy of that first edition of the book, then please download a revised index from the link below, and print it off.  We are deeply sorry for this technical error, and we are willing to make appropriate amends by providing the corrected, downloadable index.

Download the corrected index by clicking this link.***

PS: And if you feel aggrieved by the error in the original copy of the book, and you bought it in paperback from Amazon, then we are willing to send you a free gift – of a PDF document on the science of sleep – if you email dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org with the receipt number which you received from Amazon.

Thanking you for your understanding.

Sincerely,

 

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne – Director – E-CENT Publications – February 2018

~~~

 

philosophy of happiness and success

Blog Post No. 55

6th January  2018

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018

Renata’s Coaching Blog: A philosophy of happiness and success for 2018

Five powerful quotations that change people’s lives!

Here’s a selection of treasures from the past which strengthen us in the present

~~~

Introduction

Some simple words and phrases, created by others, can help us to survive in this complex world that is saturated with excessive information and bad news. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all interconnected.  And some insights from profound thinkers can change the way we think-feel-act.  For this reason, if you change your philosophy of life, you can become happier, healthier and more successful, at home and in work.

In this blog I want to present a brief range of profound insights which have woken me up, and which can awaken you to a new way to think, feel and act in your new year of opportunity: 2018.

These quotations are like a dose of medicine, strong and powerful, (and without side effects); which can ground you in your body-mind and your actual surroundings; and awaken you to the stunning world in which you live; thus recharging your energy, and providing optimism for the year ahead.

These insights have worked wonders for me – and I hope they help you to be happier, healthier and more successful in the period ahead!

~~~

Teddy Roosevelt quotes

Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt was an American president who had strong views about how to live. He won a Nobel Peace prize and entered political office in 1901. The following quotation from him is magnificent – because it forces us to reign back our minds from fantasies and re-orient ourselves to the reality around us, and our limitations. We aren’t superhuman; and we need to manage our bodies, and our environments, carefully, and not exhaust ourselves. This is it:

Roosevelt-1

~~~

The next quote by Roosevelt was one that I heard for the first time at a Landmark Forum, (or Personal Development marathon), in Leeds, many years ago. And I was blown away by it. It states, very eloquently, the warning message that, whatever we do in life, there will be people on the side-lines criticising us, and trying to demotivate and divert us from our goals. But to live our lives fully we need to be in the arena of life, striving to find our way forward. (Imagine a massive football stadium with you in the centre, dealing with life and its challenges).The glory doesn’t go to the critics, sitting in the stands; but to the millions of heroic people who struggle through life to achieve their goals.  Here are the words that moved me:

Proper-Roosevelt-critic-quote

~~~

We now move on to a statement by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese sage, who created Taoist philosophy, and who lived in the 6th century BCE. His profound insights were written down and put in to a book called the “Tao Te Ching”, and I strongly recommend that you read this book, many times.

Lao Tzu 

This is the bit I mean:

Lao-Tsu

In this quotation, Lao Tzu is advising us to work at accepting reality and accepting change as a constant part of our lives. (But please remember, it’s okay to try to change those things which are changeable, as we will see when we look at Epictetus, below). And Lao Tzu is also saying that blocking change is not a constructive thing to do. This is not easy to accept, and at times it can seem overwhelming. However, it is, he implies, the wisest way to live our lives.

~~~

Epictetus and the question of control…

This leads us into one of my really top quotes, which I use myself, by reminding myself of its wisdom, whenever I become upset about the nature of reality. I also mention it to my coaching/counselling clients, because of its simple clarification of our personal boundaries. It comes from an ancient Greco-Roman philosopher called Epictetus. He was born in 55 CE in Turkey and was one of the most famous Stoic philosophers. (I advocate the use of the moderate elements of his philosophy, but I reject, and warn against using, his extremist views: such as the one where he asserts that we are not upset by what happens to us! [All our heroes have feet of clay!])

This quote, below, states that there are some things that we can control and some things that are definitely beyond our control. This sounds glaringly obvious, but it isn’t! Lots of human suffering arises when we try to change something which we can’t – because we haven’t got the power. And all too often, humans continue to try to change things which are beyond their control – and this makes them very frustrated and unhappy. To be really happy we’d better actually work at sussing out what we can control, and forget about trying to change those things, events and people which we cannot change or affect in any significant way.  Here’s that relevant statement:

Proper-epictetus

The question of personal change…

Finally, this last quote explains why there are limits in the control that we have over other people. Marilyn Ferguson was an American author, editor and public speaker who specialised in personal and social transformation. She was born in 1938, and died in 2008. Her quote describes the truth that people can’t be forced to change – it’s up to them and they are (often) firmly in charge of their own growth processes (in those areas which they can control! This is what she said:

Proper-marilyn-ferguson-quote

Conclusion

Reading the views and ideas of thoughtful and wise people, who have lived before us, can be very helpful – as indicated above. They can broaden our view of life; and help us to manage our emotions in difficult circumstances.  They enrich the wealth of knowledge that can be passed down in our families, and can be therapeutic for us and our nearest and dearest.

Their views can act like compasses or road maps, and help us make our way through life more easily. The quotes I have selected above are some of my favourite, treasured principles; and I strongly recommend that you look for your own, which will nourish you when times get tough. (But please remember, all our heroes have feet of clay.  So we’d better read their writings critically, and try to avoid following their errors or unhelpful thoughts.

As a lifestyle coach/counsellor, I am always looking for examples of the practical and useful wisdom of others, which can strengthen my clients as they make their courageous way through life. I hope you find this blog post helpful; and I hope you also search for and find some really good wisdom quotes for yourself.

That’s all for today.

If you need to clarify your thinking or feelings, call me to arrange a conversation.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

~~~

Albert Ellis and REBT ten years later

Blog Post No. 156

21st July 2017

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2017

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: The tenth anniversary of the death of Albert Ellis…

~~~

Introduction

Ellis-video-imageAlbert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), which is sometimes called Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (RE&CBT), died on 24th July 2007.  So we are very close to the tenth anniversary.

Since that event, Renata and I have posted something on each anniversary about Albert Ellis and REBT.  Initially, those posts were very positive about the man and his theory of therapy.  But as time passed, and we found more and more problems with the man (from his autobiography, All Out!) and from our reflective analyses of his theoretical propositions, our posts became more and more distant, and more and more critical.

Books about Ellis and REBT

Wounded psychotherapistIn 2013, I published a book on the childhood of Albert Ellis, which was an analysis of the ways in which he was mistreated and virtually abandoned at times by his parents, and the effect of these early negative experiences on his psychological development.  Here are the basic details:

A Wounded Psychotherapist: Albert Ellis’s childhood and the strengths and limitations of REBT, by Dr Jim Byrne

A critical review of the childhood of Albert Ellis and the impact of his suffering on the shape of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

‘A Wounded psychotherapist’ is a critical enquiry by Dr Jim Byrne.  It is an analysis of both the childhood of Dr Albert Ellis (the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy [REBT]), and how some of those childhood experiences most likely gave rise to certain features of his later philosophy of psychotherapy.  If you have ever wondered what the roots of REBT might have been, then this is the book for you.  it explores the childhood difficulties of Albert Ellis, and links those difficulties forward to the ways in which REBT was eventually shaped.  It also identified the strengths and weaknesses of REBT, and proposes an agenda for reform of this radical system of psychotherapy. Available now from Amazon, in two formats:

Paperback: for as little as £6.66 GBP

Kindle: for as little as £6.89 GBP

Buy it now: A Wounded Psychotherapist: The childhood of Albert Ellis, and the limitations of REBT/CBT

Amazon in the US Amazon in UK (and Ireland)
Amazon in Canada Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Germany Amazon in France
Amazon in Japan Amazon in Australia

~~~

honetpieHowever, in that book, I was still very soft on some of Ellis’s major errors, such as his false definition of ‘awfulizing’, and his mistaken assumption that, just because ‘demandingness’ is often a ‘sufficient condition’ for human disturbance, therefore it is also a ‘necessary condition’, which, the Buddha’s followers would argue, it is not.  Any significant degree of desiring that the present be different from how it is, could, in theory, cause significant levels of negative affect.

~~~

Tenth Anniversary of the Death of Albert Ellis:

On this anniversary, I have today posted some feedback from Dr Meredith Nisbet of my book on the childhood of Albert Ellis.  This is what she wrote:

Book Review – by Dr Meredith Nisbet:

“I learned so much about human nature reading your book (Jim) about (Albert) Ellis. I also learned from your book about Jim Byrne. The similarities are obvious. The differences are where most of the learning comes. You overcame your childhood experiences; he lived with his experiences, but the differences were that he needed help to conquer his experiences, but he never was able to “normalize” as you did. I’d like to hear your comments on what made the difference for you  – something within you or the people who helped you? Was his problem something he missed or didn’t think he needed? I think it was more the latter. What do you think?”

To see my response to her questions, please go here: https://abc-counselling.org/albert-ellis-a-wounded-psychotherapist/

~~~

Since 2013, my thinking about Albert Ellis and REBT has moved on again, into a more detailed critique of the foundational ideas underpinning his basic conclusions about human disturbance.  This work of mine is described in my latest boon on Ellis and REBT:

Cover444REBT Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes

The book that reveals the fundamental falsehoods at the heart of REBT/CBT

At a moment in history when thousands of counsellors and therapists are being coerced and cajoled into using the ‘flavour of the month’ therapy – CBT – in order to keep their jobs and incomes, everything is changed by one action! Dr Jim Byrne has produced a devastating critique of the original form of CBT: known as Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT).

Many of his criticisms of REBT apply equally to all forms of CBT which utilize the ABC model of human disturbance.

Dr Byrne begins by showing that Dr Ellis was wrong to claim that he had evidence that people are upset by their thinking, plus their thinking about their thinking.  In a line by line analysis of the relevant text from Dr Ellis, Dr Byrne destroys the basis of this false claim.

He then explores the value and veracity of some of the core principles of Stoicism , which are built into REBT/CBT, and find that they do not stand up to scrutiny!

There are at least seven key errors in the foundations of REBT, many of which overlap CBT practice.

For anybody to practice these forms of therapy, without taking Dr Byrne’s critique into account, would be a grave error and a serious miscalculation.  These systems of therapy are enjoying a short-lived popularity which will end in tears.  If you are being forced on to this particular bus, now is the time to object – to present a strong counter argument against this madness.

This madness which denies the impact of the social environment upon the body-brain-mind of the client.  This madness which blames the client for their emotional disturbances.  This madness which copies the delusions of a first century Roman slave, instead of the research evidence of modern social psychology, neuroscience, and interpersonal neurobiology!

Get this book today, if you want to retrieve your right to work for the client; to feel with the client; to champion the rights of the client; and to refuse to go along with the idea that helping the client to repress their feelings, in the name of Stoical bravery, is an adequate ‘therapeutic solution’.

Get the book here, now:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia Amazon Netherlands Amazon Germany
Amazon Italy Amazon India Amazon France
Amazon Spain Amazon Brazil Amazon Japan

~~~

Albert Ellis was a man of his time, which was a long time ago.  He modelled his philosophy of psychotherapy[y on the idealistic notions of a Roman slave, instead of on modern theories of social psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and so on. He grossly oversimplified the nature of human disturbance; blamed the client for ‘choosing’ to upset themselves; and denied the value of moral language.

We no longer need to reflect upon the contribution of Dr Ellis.  It was very small.  His contribution is evaluated in the book above: Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

~~~

 

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A little knowledge about Stoicism is a dangerous thing…

Blog Post No. 143

By Dr Jim Byrne

Origianlly posted on 18th March 2016 – And re-posted here on 6th April 2016

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A little knowledge about Stoicism is a dangerous thing…

Part 1: The distinction between moderate and extreme Stoicism…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2016

~~~

Introduction

Pope-quote-knowledgeIt was most likely Alexander Pope who warned the world that “a little learning (or knowledge) is a dangerous thing”, and that it would be better to have no knowledge of a subject than a little, since the little we acquire may greatly mislead us.  This seems to me to be true in many contexts, and in particular, today, I want to focus upon the ways in which brief ‘quotations’ (or aphorisms) are transmitted through our culture which give us an unrepresentative flavour of a subject, but no real grasp of the substance of that subject.

One example of this kind of misleading approach to the use of quotes (or aphorisms) is the tendency in cognitive and rational therapy to cherry pick a few phrases from Stoic philosophy, which seem on the surface to be helpful, but which hide dangerous depths of extreme lack of empathy and lack of self-regard, or self-care; especially those which come from the more extreme cogitations of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

The most common example of this harmful practice is the promotion of the erroneous thought that “people are not upset by what happens to them”!   Many cognitive and rational therapists promote these kinds of misleading quotations (or aphorisms, or phrases) to all and sundry, without any awareness of the harm that may be caused.

Overall, I think Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus show signs of having both a moderate tendency (of dedication to reality) and an extremist tendency (of trying to tolerate the intolerable – and advocating toleration of the intolerable).

Over the next few weeks, I hope to post a multi-part critique of extreme Stoicism in this blog, beginning with Part 1 today.

~~~

An example from my practice

Meditations-MarcusInstead of trying to present a summation of what I have learned of this problem of extreme Stoicism in one blog post, I want to approach the problem in small, easy steps.  Here is an example from my counselling practice which should help to illustrate the distinction between moderate and extreme Stoicism.

Over more than a dozen years, up to 2007, under the influence of Albert Ellis’s system of rational therapy, (which I have now abandoned), I’ve used bits and pieces of Stoic philosophy with my counselling clients.

In recent years, I’ve had three clients who had great difficulty handling difficult people in public places, such as workplaces, commercial offices, and educational settings.  Those individuals would come to me, week after week, complaining about having (once again!) run into people who insult them, use sarcasm with them, or hook them into nasty psychological games.  Eventually, I developed the habit, with those three particular clients, of always reaching for my copy of Marcus Aurelius’ book of Meditations, turning to Book II, Verse 1, and reading out this (moderate) statement:

  1. A moderate example

“1. Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men (and women). All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill (or evil).  …”

And, after several such experiences, each of these clients eventually made a commitment to teach themselves this lesson, so that could avoid being upset when they (inevitably!) run into difficult people in the future. Indeed, each of them wrote down this statement from Marcus, and carried it with them, and eventually they each came to terms with the reality that there are Good and Bad ‘Wolves’ out there – and that the Good and Bad Wolf lives inside each of us (which is an old Cherokee insight, which I also taught to them – alongside some assertiveness skills!  See my paper on this subject[1].)

Stoic-concept-harmBut if you have Book II in front of you, then you will notice something significant.  I have not quoted Verse 1 in full; and the reason is that the second part of Verse 1 is an example of extreme Stoicism:

  1. An example of extremist thinking

This is what the second part of Verse 1 says:

“But I, because I have seen that the nature of the good is the right, and of ill the wrong, and that the nature of man himself who does wrong is akin to my own (not of the same blood and seed, but partaking with me in mind, that is in a portion of divinity), I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth.  To work against one another therefore is to oppose Nature, and to be vexed with another or to turn away from him is to tend to antagonism”. (Page 7)[2].

I could not offer this second part of Verse 1 to my three clients as sound advice.  Why not? For the following three reasons:

  1. Because of the foolish claim that “I can (not) be harmed by any of them…” (Of course I can – and so can you!)
  2. Because of the untenable idea that my clients cannot be angry with their tormentors. (Yes they can – and if they are emotionally healthy, then they will often be appropriately angry with their tormentors!)
  3. Because of the strange idea that to work against one another is to oppose Nature. (I will show, shortly that this is a false claim).

Analysis of those three points

Guide-to-Good-LifeLet me now look at each of those three reservations in turn, before coming to my conclusion (for this week).

  1. Firstly: Marcus’s foolish claim that “I can (not) be harmed by any of them…”

In a blog post in 2011, I remember writing this: “Of course, we need to note that this is not the ‘common sense’ understanding of harm.  After all, Marcus knew that several previous Roman emperors had been seriously harmed (killed) by their political enemies.  And Seneca, a great Stoic philosopher, was himself put to death by Nero during the crushing of a conspiracy to assassinate Nero.  So, logically, he must be speaking of ‘harm’ here in the classical Stoical sense of ‘moral decay’ or ‘moral deviation’.”

But my clients would be poorly served by me if I told them: “When you go into public places, you will meet all kinds of difficult people, but none of them can harm you!”

This would not be true.  They can be harmed by others; and they must be clear about that.  They also have a responsibility to know how to protect themselves in the presence of others who might harm them.

So it would be an example of extreme Stoic self-delusion if I taught my clients that nobody could harm them!

~~~

  1. Secondly: Marcus’s untenable idea that my clients cannot be angry with their tormentors.

I cannot teach this to my clients, because I want them to have access to their reasonable angry responses when anybody tries to oppress or exploit or otherwise harm them.  I want them to be able to defend themselves, assertively (not aggressively) – and to do that they need to be able to feel appropriate anger.

Enchiridion-EpictetusThe Stoics made the mistake of thinking that all emotions area result of false beliefs[3]. This is untrue, as a person who believe, accurately, that they are about to be killed by a violent assailant will feel strong, logical, and rational feelings of fear and dread!  Stoics are committed to being unemotional.  From Cynicism, Epictetus had learned that he should strive to be “as unfeeling as a stone” – see Irvine (2009)[4] – and though Stoicism is supposed to be in the middle ground between Cynicism and moderate emotionality, there is evidence that both Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius tended to drift towards the Cynic position from time to time – and this probably constitutes the core of their extremism!

This extremist tendency to want to be as unfeeling as a stone is exemplified in the famous statement by Epictetus, in the Enchiridion, to the effect that:

“Men (and women) are disturbed not by the things which happen, but by the opinions about the things: for example, death is nothing terrible, for if it were, it would have seemed so to Socrates; for the opinion about death, that it is terrible, is the terrible thing.  When, then, we are impeded or disturbed or grieved, let us never blame others, but ourselves, that is, our opinions.  It is the act of an ill-instructed man (or woman) to blame others for his (or her) own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed, to lay the blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself”. (Page 14, Section V, the Enchiridion)[5].

But this is a false view of human emotion – which was adopted by Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck – to the effect that cognitions cause emotions.  In my new book (in press), I have this to say on this subject:

“People are affected by their environments, and especially their social environments (which contradicts the extremist view expressed by Epictetus in his most famous dictum: where he states, in the Enchiridion, that “people are not disturbed by what happens to them, but rather by the attitude they adopt towards what happens to them”). Most often, our emotional reactions are automatic, very fast, and non-conscious (Goleman)[6]. The emotional arousal occurs in a fraction of a second, which is far too fast for any thinking to take place. And very often, the strong emotional reaction is ‘self-preserving’ or self-protective, or survival oriented, and not at all ‘irrational’.”

Furthermore, according to the extensive research project of Jaak Panksepp[7], human cognitive processes – including attention, perception, memory, languaging and thinking – are all regulated by our innate emotions, and not vice versa!  But Daniel Siegel (2015)[8] clarifies that our emotions are both regulating and regulated.  And Daniel Hill (2015)[9], summarizing the work of Allan Schore and Peter Fonagy, suggests that regulation of non-conscious primary affects is more fundamental than the conscious insights of mentalizing (or thinking in language).

I will have more to say on this subject in Part 2 or 3 of this blog post series.

~~~

  1. Thirdly: Marcus’s strange idea that to work against one another is to oppose Nature.

I cannot agree to teach my clients this naïve view of human cooperation and competition.  In E-CENT theory we teach that the line between good and evil runs right down the centre of the human heart; that we each contain a constructive, pro-social tendency (the ‘Good Wolf’ state) and a destructive, anti-social tendency (the ‘Bad Wolf’ state).  We need to cooperate with each other for the common good, but we must not lose sight of morality.  We must not cooperate with people who are promoting evil.  We must, in fact, to the degree that we can, work against those people who are promoting evil – and this is not against ‘our Nature’, because our Nature is shaped by culture, and our nature/culture is split between the Good and the Bad.

Marcus Aurelius was not who we think he was!

And here’s the paradox.  If you sit down and read through Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, you get the sense that you are reading the journal of a saint; a sage; a monk or hermit.  A man who is filled with love for his fellows.  But you are not!  (He is actually said to have reviled mankind! [Irvine, 2009]).

Marcus Aurelius wrote Book II “among the Quadi on the river Gran” in central Europe, where he was crushing a rebellion against the Roman Empire.  Marcus was at war with the peoples who were subjected by the tyranny of the Roman Empire, throughout most of his forty years of adult life, during which time he was the Emperor and military leader of the most aggressively expansive empire seen up to that time in ancient history.

When he retired to his tent to write the opening lines of Book II, he may have had to wash the blood of battle from his hands before handling his journal.  How convenient that he believed that the subjugated peoples, who were oppressed by him and his armies, on behalf of his empire, were not upset by his oppression of them – which (Stoicism believes) was a matter of ‘indifference’ – but by their opinions of the Roman army of occupation!

And how insincere that he should write that “to work against one another therefore is to oppose Nature, and to be vexed with another or to turn away from him is to tend to antagonism”.

How can he – a full time warlord! – use that word, “antagonism” in that way, after a hard day’s bloodshed in putting down rebellion and revolt by an oppressed people?

Conclusion to Part 1

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  I learned that lesson the hard way, when I learned that the philosophy of psychotherapy developed by Dr Albert Ellis was hidebound by his emotional damage in childhood; his (self-acknowledged) amoralism; his mild autism; and his avoidant attachment style.  I learned in the process that you had better know the provenance of any idea you decide to take into your mind, because ideas carry the birthmarks of their creators, and screwed up individuals can only produce screwed up philosophies of life!

That’s all for this week.

More later.

Best wishes,

Jim

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

[2] Aurelius, M. (1946/1992) Meditations. Trans. A.S.L. Farquharson.  London: Everyman’s Library.

[3] Sherman, N. (2005) Stoic Warriors: The ancient philosophy behind the military mind.  Oxford: Oxford University Press. Page 9.

[4] Irvine, W. (2009) A Guide to the Good Life: the ancient art of Stoic joy.  Oxford: Oxford University Press. Page 30.

[5] Epictetus (1991) The Enchiridion. New York: Prometheus Books.

[6] Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury.

[7] Panksepp, J. (1998) Affective Neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. Oxford University Press.

[8] Siegel, D.J. (2015) The Developing Mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are.  London: The Guilford Press.

[9] Hill, D. (2015) Affect Regulation Theory: A clinical model.  London: W.W. Norton and Company.

~~~