Lifestyle counselling resources available in eBook format

Sunday 2nd September

Blog post

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Lifestyle counselling resources are now being made available in low-cost eBook format via Kindle

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Resources for counsellors and psychotherapists – and for self-help enthusiasts

The following resources are now available in low-cost, Kindle eBook format:

The Lifestyle Counselling Book

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy,

By Dr Jim Byrne with Renata Taylor-Byrne.

Available here: https://abc-counselling.org/counselling-the-whole-person/

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How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical exercise,

by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.

Available here: https://abc-counselling.org/diet-exercise-mental-health/

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Writing Theapy book coverHow to Write a New Life for Yourself,

by Dr Jim Byrne

(with Renata Taylor-Byrne).

Available here:

https://abc-counselling.org/how-to-write-a-new-life-for-yourself/

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These three books have proved very popular with counsellors and psychologists on LinkedIn, and they are selling in significant numbers.

DrJimCounselling002It seems there is an appetite for radical change abroad in the world of counselling and psychotherapy at the moment, and people are ready to explore new ideas.  In particular, the relationship between the body and mind (the body-mind connection); the problems of sedentary lifestyle and inadequate nutrition; plus inadequate sleep; and how to process our own experiences in a journal.

All of these developments are very encouraging for the future health of our counsellors and therapists, and for their clients!

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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 dot byrne at abc-counselling dot com

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Reading, writing, literature and self-healing

Blog Post No. 168

By Dr Jim Byrne

15th July 2018

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

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, July 2018

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Introduction

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

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

Often, we need to encounter the possibility of love in more than one relationship before we can make sense of this ennobling and devastating emotion.  We seek words for our experiences of love and hate, joy and devastation, only to fall back again and again into the void of unknowing: the wordless pit of unconsciousness.

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

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On being human

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

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

Full cover 3

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

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Regarding literature

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1722816821/

And here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1722816821/

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

That’s all for the moment.  I hope you try this therapeutic writing approach, and gain enormously from using it!

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

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Happiness and relationships research

Blog Post No. 50

10th July 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching and Counselling blog: What really makes people happy?

A ‘rave review’ of Robert Waldinger’s TED talk

Introduction

It’s very easy for us in the west at the moment, to imagine that having more money, or a better house, more foreign holidays, a great new sports car or higher status at work (like getting to the top of an organisation), will make us really happy.

Bugatti-car

And if we have the right physical appearance, as defined by our culture, this can give people a feeling of confidence and self-assurance. So we obviously put a lot of investment and energy into trying to look our best!

KardashiansBut we did not make up these materialistic beliefs ourselves.  All the relentless advertising messages, and propaganda from the media, create this illusion: Having new possessions will really make life better for us, and guarantee our happiness.

But the truth is that they won’t!

Obviously, if we are desperately short of money, have nowhere to live, or no food to eat, then food, money, shelter and clothing are crucially important for our survival.

But if we do have enough to eat, a roof over our heads, and a way of providing an income for ourselves, then some small improvements may make us slightly happier, but more material stuff is not going to make us a lot happier!

So what really does make us happy, after we have the basic means of survival?

Robert-Waldinger

In this blog, I will give a short account of Robert Waldinger’s TED talk in which he describes a major research study which provides powerful evidence for the conclusion that material things won’t make us happy. This conclusion is based on research that started in 1938, and is still ongoing.

The Harvard Study of Adult development

Picture-of-HarvardSeventy-five years ago, ‘The Harvard Study of Adult development’ was established.  A group of researchers started studying 724 teenagers through to their old age. The participants were from two very different types of backgrounds:

# One group was from the poorest part of Boston: from the most economically deprived and distressed families; and:

# The other group was more prosperous, from Harvard College, and was made up of second year students.

These two groups are asked to respond to questionnaires every two years; are interviewed in their homes; have brain scans; have medical records examined; and have blood taken for testing; and they have been videotaped (as adults) talking to their partners about what is really concerning them. And (in time) the researchers talk to their children as well.

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The research project is still ongoing.  Three directors of research have come, served decades in that role; and the project is now being conducted by a fourth director: Robert Waldinger.  And Dr Waldinger has presented a TED talk which explains the research findings.

So, what does the evidence from this study tell us about what really makes people happy?

Elderly-peopleHere’s what Robert Waldinger states:

“Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75 year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Good relationships!  Not cars, or cash, or status, or houses, or holidays, or any of that ‘popular’ materialistic stuff.

Waldinger goes on to say that the researchers learned three big lessons about relationships:

Firstly, the more socially connected we are to people, e.g. family, friends, and the community, the happier and healthier and more long-lived we will be. And the opposite applies: Loneliness is toxic. People who are less connected to people than they would like to be, suffer from declining health as they reach middle age, their brain functioning becomes less efficient and they are less happy.

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Secondly, it doesn’t matter what type of relationships you’re involved in; or whether you are partnered or not; or whether you have a large or small number of friends. The research results show that the crucial aspect of our close relationships is the quality. If we are living in the middle of conflict, then it’s really harmful to our health. Waldinger gives the example of high conflict marriages: If there’s no affection present in high conflict marriages, then they are really bad for our health, and are possibly worse than getting divorced.

Happy-coupleHe then states: And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.”

That is to say, protective of our health, of our life expectancy, our happiness.

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Thirdly: The final important lesson that the researchers learned was that not only do good relationships make us happier and healthier, but they also protect our brains. He gives an example of someone in their eighties: If they are in a securely attached relationship, and can count on their significant other person being there to help them in times of need, then their memories stay intact for longer.

And conversely, when people who were in relationships where they felt they couldn’t really rely on the other person to help them, they fared badly, in that their memories deteriorated sooner.

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Happiness reduces physical pain

Couple-kissingIt might seem that physical pain is physical pain, and that is that.  But we have always known that physical pain and emotional pain are mediated through the same nerve networks.  Here Waldinger explains how pain can be experienced in different ways:

“Good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Our most happily partnered men and women reported, in their 80’s, that on the days that they had most physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. But the people who were in unhappy relationships, on the days that they reported more physical pain, it was magnified by more emotional pain”.

That is to say, physical and emotional pain are either additive or subtractive.  So, if you work at achieving a happy relationship, that happiness will be subtracted from any physical pain you subsequently feel.

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Predicting happiness in senior years

Another insight from the research findings was that (on the basis of the information they had accumulated about the men, up to their entering their eighties), when the men had reached the age of 50, the researchers were able to predict who would grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wouldn’t.

They discovered that the people who were most satisfied with their relationships at the age of fifty, were the healthiest at age 80!

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Conclusion

The bottom line of this research is this: If you want to have a life that is happy, now and towards the end, make sure you invest in building happy relationships – or at least one good, happy relationship – now!

Waldinger’s message at the end of his TED talk, is this:

“…Good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being…this is wisdom that is as old as the hills. Why is this so hard to get and so easy to ignore? Well, we’re human. What we’d really like is a quick fix, something we can get that will make our lives good and keep them that way.”

In our western societies, developing relationship skills comes way down our list of priorities: after academic skills, money-making skills, technological skills, medical skills, selling skills, entertainment skills, sports skills, construction skills, accountancy skills, legal skills, creative skills etc. As Barbara Sher said (referring, critically, to American values, which are not dissimilar to those which dominate at the moment in the UK),

If it don’t make money, it don’t count!”

That is to say, all the propaganda of the neoliberal age emphasizes money, money and more money.  And organizational power, or dominance.  And none of these things will actually make you happy!

We now know, unmistakably, from 75 years of powerful research, that what will make us happy, and healthy, is good quality relationships – at least one!

So how do we develop quality relationships?

Traits of a healthy realtionshipAlthough maintaining the quality of our relationships is the key to health and happiness, there ain’t no quick fixes.  You have to work at building relationships!  You cannot buy them ready made!

Werner Erhard used to emphasize that “Successful relationships are based on agreed on goals!”  Yes, that’s right.  Agree on!  That means negotiated between equal individuals.

And Professor John Gottman stresses that you have to work at maintaining a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative moments in your relationships.  So you have to learn how to do that.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Robert Bolton identified twelve specific roadblocks to communication, which, when used, are likely to negatively impact on our relationships with people.

And John Gottman was able to pinpoint four distinctive ways of interacting that can destroy a relationship and he called them the “Four horsemen of the Apocalypse”. Again, you have to learn those insights, and I teach them to my relationship coaching clients.

There are many valuable techniques that we can learn to keep our relationships of a good quality, perhaps the simplest and most apt being the one that Werner Erhard mentioned in one of his seminars on relationships:

“If you want to have a really powerful relationship with anybody, you have got to stop making the other person wrong!”

(Immediately after he said that, someone in the audience piped up: “But Werner, I don’t make them wrong. They are wrong! I just point it out to them.”  You will never achieve a really powerful relationship with anybody unless you learn to stop being critical, sarcastic, condemning, judging, and so on.  And I teach those lessons to my coaching clients).

Creating good relationships can be difficult at times, because it is an art form, and one you have to learn.  And Waldinger states:

“Relationships are messy and complicated, and the hard work of tending to family and friends is not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong.”

But he finishes his presentation with this message:

“The good life is built with good relationships”.

If we were very lucky, we learned great relationship skills from our parents and other family members. If we didn’t, it’s important to not beat ourselves up because of that. But we then may have to learn the hard way, through trial and error and repeated experimentation, until we develop the people skills we need. And it is often impossible to learn what we need to know in this way.  It makes more sense to seek out teaching or training or coaching in these skills, and learn from people who know what works and what does not work.

That’s what my partner and I did, beginning in 1984, attending couples therapy; studying assertive communication; and Werner Erhard’s relationship and communication skills; and then on to studying Dr John Gottman’s approach to relationships, including marriage relationships.

Based on our experience, of learning how to have a really powerful, happy relationship, I can tell you: the effort is well worth it.

We now know, based on the rock-solid findings of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, that investing time and money and energy in developing relationship skills is the most valuable investment that we can make, and will give us the benefits of health, happiness and brain longevity for the rest of our lives.

This is a really great TED talk and I strongly recommend that you watch it in full.

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If you want to learn some of the techniques and skills that various specialists have developed, so that you can enrich the quality of your relationships, and you can have a happier life, then I would be very happy to help you.  Please contact me to discuss possibilities.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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References

Here is a link to the Adult Development Study website, and there is an interview on it with Robert Waldinger, at CBS ‘This morning’, the television news programme.

http://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/

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Stress management and love for counsellors and others…

Blog Post No.90 

Posted on 25th August 2016 (Originally published on Saturday 28th June 2014)

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

A counsellor’s blog: Stress counselling; Ellis on love; and to hell with Socrates…

Introduction

Chill Out, coverEarlier today, I was discussing with Renata what I could write about this week.  She thought it would be good to write about stress.  But I have written a lot on the subject of stress, including a published book on the subject. However, Renata wondered if perhaps some of my readers often missed the point about the crucial importance of learning stress management skills, in the sense of this being a life and death issue.  I asked her what she meant, and she said she could write out two statements which would alternately make readers’ hair stand on end – regarding the importance of stress management, and the dire consequences of ignoring their own stress warnings – and another piece that would fundamentally reassure them that they could resolve all their stress problems satisfactorily.  So I said, “Okay; please show me what you mean”.  She then sat down and wrote the two following statements:

Today’s bad news:

Jim-Renata7.jpgAccording to The Times – Body and Soul supplement, page 4 – today, 28th June 2014, there was an interesting study on stress conducted two years ago by University College, London. It looked at the relationship between men in demanding jobs and heart disease.

This study tracked the health of 200,000 people.  The findings were these: The men most at risk of developing stress-related heart disease had two characteristics:

Firstly, they were in demanding jobs.

Secondly, they felt that they had no power in their job role to control the stressors around them.

How can we handle massive pressures at work if the job gives us no power to manage them?  What if we’ve got to keep working to pay the mortgage (or rent), to feed the kids, etc.?

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Today’s good news:

Human-heart.jpgYou can immediately drop your stress level by deciding to take your control back.  You can’t (very often) change your job – but you can change yourself!  If you get a professional ally – a counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapist – they will work with you to give you real, sustained backing as you learn to manage yourself, and learn to control what you can control.

This will have an immediate beneficial effect on your health.  Do you remember the Zeebrugger ferry disaster?  Research conducted in 1991 found that there was a 50% reduction in stress levels in survivors of that and other disasters, after they had talked to trained helpers, and had just eight weeks of help, one hour per week.

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Thanks, Renata.  You made your point very well.  Stress is a hugely important topic for everybody to address, for the sake of their physical and mental health; and it is indeed possible to address it, at relatively small financial cost.

My expertise

Jims-counselling-div2I (Jim) have been studying stress management as a discipline for at least twenty years, and in that time I have developed about eighteen main strategies for reducing physical and mental stress and strain.  I have taught those strategies to hundreds of clients who have improved their physical and emotional health as a result.

See:

My introductory page on stress management.***

My book on stress management.***

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Albert Ellis on Love

Wounded-psychotherapist-ellisTo summarise my conclusions (presented on 7th anniversary of Dr Ellis’s death, on 24th July 2014): Albert Ellis was damaged as a small boy by the neglect he experienced at the hands of his mother and father.  He was not actively loved, nor sensitively cared for.  Indeed, he had to become a little mother to his younger brother and sister, when he was about seven years old, and onward from that point.

As a result of his parents neglect of him, he did not understand what it meant to love and be loved.  This was clear from his description of his attempt to establish a relationship with his first potential girlfriend, Karyl, as told by himself, in his autobiography, All Out!

See my biographical sketch of Ellis’s life, and how it impacted the development of REBT: A Wounded Psychotherapist.***

Because he did not learn to love and be loved, he developed an avoidant attachment style, and related to significant others at a considerable, cool distance.  From this stance, it was important to him to invert Karen Horney’s principle, that we all need to be loved, and to thus arrive at his “Irrational Belief No.1”, which claims that “…virtually all humans demand that they absolutely must be loved by somebody, and often they demand that they must be loved by everybody”.  In my post on 24th July, I will demonstrate that, at most, about 20% of the population (of western cultures) may tend to have this sense of an absolute need to be loved.  For most other humans, the need for love is much less anxious and ambivalent; much less insecure.  Watch this space: Albert Ellis on Love.***

Love is hugely important.  Here’s my niece, Jenni, singing a song she composed for her sister (Ruth’s) wedding to Linval.  Love is a potent force in the world:

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To hell with Socrates

SocratesI have done quite a bit of work on the subject of Socratic Questioning, and certainly enough to satisfy myself that Socrates should never be used as a role model by counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists, etc.

In my first study of Socratic Questioning, I concluded, in line with Dr Edward De Bono, that Plato’s-Socrates – (who is the only substantial Socrates known to the modern world) – held the beliefs that:

  1. Most people do not know how to think straight;
  2. That they tend to hold contradictory beliefs;
  3. That, in order to learn some better ideas – or perhaps to learn that they know nothing and are incapable of knowing anything – the first step is to demonstrate to them that they do not know what they are talking about.

How could these three beliefs form the foundation of the questioning strategies of counsellors or psychotherapists?  I do not believe they could.  I think it would be a dreadful abuse of clients to approach them with those three beliefs in mind. Not because those three ideas are necessarily wholly false, but because challenging people on that basis has the predictable effect of making them feel wrong, or stupid!

Socrates’ dialogues (in Plato’s dialogues) show a lack of sensitivity to the person to whom he is speaking – their vulnerability to feeling bad about themselves.  In Buddhism, there is the concept of ‘upaya’ – or ‘skillful means’ – which suggests that, when a Zen master is dealing with a student, they should aim to be skillful.  (Not that the approaches of Zen masters form a good model for counsellors: Remember it is not okay to throw your fan at a client; or to whack them over the head with your bamboo pole! :-))

And yet, when I challenged the idea of using Socratic Questioning in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Albert Ellis told me that, while he could see some merit in some of my critique of Socrates, nevertheless, REBT is “…substantially Socratic”.

Nierenberg-negotiations-book.jpgMy own argument, following Nierenberg’s ‘Complete Negotiator’ approach, is to consider that questioning in counselling and therapy has certain instrumental functions, as follows:

1. To cause the client to focus upon a particular point (event, or object);

2. To cause their thinking to start up;

3. To ask them for some information;

4. To pass some information to them (rhetorically); and:

5. To cause their thinking to come to a conclusion.

Nierenberg also argues that you can arrange those five questions in a grid, like this:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
1.  Combined Qs 1 & 3
2.
3.
4
5.

Dr Jim's photoUsing this grid, we can see that a question can be in two parts; e.g., 1+3 – To cause the client’s attention to focus on a specific event/experience, and to ask them for some information about that event/experience.

The great beauty of this system is that it gets rid of the “Socratic smart-arse” aspect of questioning the client.

The problems with classic Socratic Questioning include:

  1. That the client may interpret the therapist as ‘picking a fight’ with them;
  2. That the client may become anxious when asked particular kinds of right/wrong questions (perhaps because of re-stimulation of the humiliating experience of being at school and being subjected to interrogations, the aim of which was to find a reason to punish the client as a child).
  3. That the client may (as suggested by Asch, Milgram, Zimbardo) simply go along with the therapist’s inferences, as a form of obedience or conformity to authority.
  4. That the therapist never gets to *know* the client, because s/he (the therapist) is always tilting at the windmills of ‘innate irrational beliefs’ – or ‘negative automatic thoughts’).

And on and on.

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That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

 

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone:

01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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Blog Post No.89 

Posted on 25th August 2016 (Previously published on Saturday 14th June 2014)

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

The Counselling Blog: A counsellor writes about “The importance of love…”

Kate-Atkinson-Life-After-Life.jpgI recently mentioned that I had acquired a copy of Kate Atkinson’s new novel. My intention was to read fiction for some part of each day – say 30 to 60 minutes – as a way to have a mental break from my tendency towards overworking.

I have now finished reading that book, at an average of three to six pages per day.  In a review, by ‘Bron’, at Amazon.co.uk, we get the following insight into the fundamental theme of Kate Atkinson’s new book:

“A seemingly small event can change the direction of a life completely: a chance encounter with a stranger who harms you or a conversation that detains you which means you miss bumping into the person, a meeting with the German you fall in love with and marry or being helped up from a fall by an Englishman. Life is full of moments which change the direction a person travels in and we have all wished we could go back and change something, or do it over again in a different way. And Life after Life explores this theme intricately, with sympathy, compassion and superb writing and plotting.”

Domestic-violence.jpgI was deeply moved by the emotional tone of Kate’s book, but I was never able to express what I was ‘getting’ from the experience.  It rattled some skeletons in the non-conscious basement of my mind, and sensitised me to some aspects of human suffering which were not previously in my range of experience – such as being a young woman, in her twenties, who is the victim of wife-beating and emotional abuse.  (Reading Kate’s vivid descriptions of wife-beatings, and eventual murder, happened on top of recently learning that one woman in three will be beaten by her partner.  What a world!)

I suppose a lot of my feelings were of being able to identify with a woman in a predominantly man’s world.  And, in addition, there were lots of descriptions of war and its horrors.

Soon after finishing reading this book, I sat down and wrote the following statement, which must have been, to some extent, inspired by reading Kate Atkinson’s narrative:

In CENT counselling, we are sometimes asked: ‘What is the purpose of life?  What’s it all about?’  This is our attempt at an answer: “We are born and we die.  We come into the world alone and with nothing in our hands, and very little in our hearts and minds.  And we leave this world alone and empty-handed.  The purpose of life, then, cannot be to get; to acquire; to want and desire.  The purpose of life must be to leave this world knowing we have made a difference (a positive difference!) to the lives of those people we met and knew and left behind.  The purpose of life must be to love; to give; to make a contribution to life on earth for our family, community and the people we love”.

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Love-matters-Gerhardt.jpgSue Gerhardt’s book – Why Love Matters – is a wonderful analysis of how affection shapes a baby’s brain, and the long-term implications of childhood experiences in relationships with early carers.  She “…explores how the earliest relationship shapes the baby’s nervous sytem.  She shows how the development of the brain determines future emotional well being, and goes on to look at specific early ‘pathways’ that can affect the way we respond to stress, and can contribute to conditions such as anorexia, addiction, and anti-social behaviour”.

And she presents an easy to understand analysis of the emergence of attachment styles – secure and insecure.

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This brings me to the problem of teaching my counselling clients – who often have insecure attachments to their parents – about love: its importance, what it is, and what it feels and looks like.  This is how I sometimes express it:

Teaching the client about the nature of love is one of the most difficult challenges a counsellor faces:  “There are no short-cuts to understanding what love is.  If someone has been deprived of the crudest infantile experience of love then he might be permanently crippled or, at least, have great difficulty in learning later what the word can mean.  In learning what it symbolises, I need to re-write my autobiography over and over again.  To grow is to re-organise the past now and to move into the future”.

Robert F. Hobson, Forms of Feeling: The heart of psychotherapy, Page 212. (25)

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road-less-travelledI like to teach my clients M. Scott Peck’s definition of love: That love is a process of ‘extending yourself in the service of another person’.  It is not primarily about ‘nice feelings’, although nice feelings normally flow from the process, especially for the love object.  But, of course, what goes around also comes around – so ‘cast thy bread upon the waters, for it shall return after many days’.  Or, as Albert Ellis would say, “The best way to get love is to sincerely offer it”.

But this statement by Ellis is an anachronism.  He is right; but he most likely did not implement that policy in his own life, based upon the research I have been able to do on the subject.

Dr Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) was greatly emotionally deprived as a child – on one occasion spending almost ten months in hospital, around the age of five or six years, during which time he just one or two visits from his mother, and none from his father.

Wounded-psychotherapist-ellisHe failed to understand how wounded he was, and went on to make a virtue of his insecure attachment style – trying to teach emotional coldness to his clients as a ‘superior, rational form of functioning’ –relative to having feelings of need to give and get love.

To those who told him they needed love, he objected, and insisted that nobody needs to be loved, and that they were ‘love slobs’ for thinking they did need love.  I wrote some more on this subject in time for the seventh anniversary of his death, here: About Dr Albert Ellis.***

If you want to find out more about Ellis’s childhood, and how his emotional deprivations affected the eventual shape of REBT, then please take a look at A Wounded Psychotherapist.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone:

01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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

Blog Post No.88 

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

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

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

by Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Arguments about acceptance and love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Rambally wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

This is all discussed in detail in:

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

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Ana Baptista de Oliveira then made this comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would your motivation be?”

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

So this is how I am going to respond:

Dear Frey, Please clarify what you are saying here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

https://abc-counselling.org

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

Telephone:

01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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

Blog Post No.88 

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

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More later.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email Dr Jim Byrne

Telephone:

01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

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