Qualified (but generous) acceptance of yourself…

Blog Post No.87 

Reposted on 4th June 2016 (Originally posted on Saturday 17th May 2014)

Copyright © Dr Jim Byrne

You (morally) should not accept yourself unconditionally; but you (morally) must love yourself!


Dr-Jims-office.jpgIn 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) E-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

I 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 E-CENT. E-CENT Paper No.2(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id203.html.

Carl-Rogers-1.jpgAnd one of the ways in which Albert Ellis’s amorality took shape in his 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. E-CENT Paper No.2(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Available online: http://www.abc-counselling.com/id206.html.

Over the time that has elapsed since the writing of those three papers, above, I have continued to develop my thinking, as and when opportunities have arisen.

About ten days ago, I had a chance to take the next step in the development of these ideas – and the revolution I went through was seeing that…

Well let me tell the story as it evolved:

Al-Ellis-REBT-therapist2.jpgAbout two weeks ago, I got an urgent phone call from a man in South Wales.  He wanted to come up and talk to me about anger management issues.  He had seen my video on anger***, and read some of my web pages.

Anyway, about ten days ago he arrived for his appointment.  I happened to be outside, saying goodbye to the outgoing client, when he drove up in a big white car.  He was driving, and a woman of his own age – mid forties – was sitting in the passenger seat.

I could not understand why he had brought his wife with him.  Maybe I’d misunderstood.  Perhaps they wanted couples therapy.  As it happened, he quickly explained that this was his sister, and she would wait in the car for the duration of our counselling session.

Naturally, ‘Jack’ (not his real name) had come to discuss some very sensitive issues with me – to do with anger at home and at work – conflict with his wife and his teenage sons.  His teenage daughter had left home because of all the aggression, verbal abuse, and so on.

And all of this is confidential between me and him – so I will not be going into detail, and even Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes could not identify the real ‘Jack’ from the description given here.

I will not go into any detail about the session, save to summarize it like this: Jack had to admit lots of ‘sins’ of violence and aggression which he had committed over a period of years.  And now he was awake to how bad he was.

The only specific point that I will make is that his father had been violent towards Jack, until Jack was seventeen years old; when Jack was strong enough to defeat him.  He thus learned that ‘might is right’ from his father.  Recently he has tried to patch up his relationship with his father.  He reached out in as loving a way as he could – and his father could not reciprocate.  His father’s response, in his account, seemed to be quite autistic.

I did not try to get Jack to ‘unconditionally accept himself’, nor to ‘unconditionally accept’ his father.  Domestic violence most often involves criminal acts, and hugely immoral acts, which scar their victims – normally the weak and vulnerable members of the family.

Two-wolves.jpgI taught Jack the errors of his way: of assuming that ‘might is right’, which is the lesson he had learned from his own violent father.

I taught him the E-CENT theory of the Good Wolf and Bad Wolf: (See E-CENT Paper No.25 above).

I taught him the Golden Rule.

I got a commitment from him that he will work hard to grow his Good Wolf, and to shrink his Bad Wolf.  (Specifically, to work hard to live from the virtues of love, charity, compassion, patience, and so on.  And to avoid the vices of anger, rage, hostility, selfishness, impatience, verbal and physical violence, and so on).

I taught him to avoid getting drawn into Drama Triangles – as an aggressive Rescuer – and to create more space in the network of conflicted relationships in his home.

I taught him not to kick over the beehive, if he wants to collect honey!

Time flew, and soon he was standing by the door about to leave.  At that point he turned to me and said: “I brought my sister with me because I thought I’d be in bits at the end of the session.  I thought I’d need her moral support to get home”.

I looked quizzically at him.

“I thought you’d have ripped me to pieces because of all the bad things I’ve done to my family”, he said.

I was nonplussed.

“My job is to love you”, I said; “as your father should have loved you.  I wish he’d been able to tell you he loved you when you apologized for defeating him all those years ago, when you were a teenager”.

My eyes filled with tears of grief.  He turned and left the building.

I closed the door and the grief burst from me in big, loud sobs.  I was crying for all the apparently autistic fathers who cannot reach out to their sons in love.  I was crying for all the sons who cannot find it in themselves to love their fathers.  I was crying for the little boy (me) who used to stand by the gate every evening as my father came home, got off his bicycle, and walked past me as if I were a lamp post or a gate post which he had seen so often that it was now unremarkable.

For all I know, deep in my non-conscious mind, I may also have been crying for all those victims of domestic violence who will go on to offend against others, generation, after generation, after generation.

And that was the moment when I connected up the dots.  Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis had to import the concepts of ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Regard’ into their philosophies of counselling and therapy, because neither of them knew how to love.

See in particular my book on the childhood of Albert Ellis.***

I have learned, over a long period of time – and through much therapeutic ‘repair work’ – how to love.  How to love myself; my family members; and my clients.  The E-CENT concept of one-conditional acceptance really means: “I love myself, and I love you, on one condition.  And that condition is that you and I are committed to being good persons.  And being a good person means growing your Good Side (or Good Wolf side) and shrinking your Bad Side (or Bad Wolf side).


Watergate-cafe-Hebden-Bridge.jpgAfter about three or four minutes of crying, I remembered that there was a big baked potato with baked beans and a large Americano with cold milk waiting for me at Watergate Café.  I smiled.  Dried my eyes.  Laughed out loud, and headed off into sunny Hebden Bridge.

More later…


Jims-counselling-div2Dr Jim Byrne

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services




01422 843 629 (from inside the UK)

44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)


Meditation for stress reduction

Renata’s Blog Post No.6

Written on 7th October 2015.  Posted here on 6th May 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2015-16

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: The dramatic benefits of Daily meditation


Meditation-benefits.JPGIn this blog I am going to explain why meditation is really good for you. It’s the mental equivalent of being on a very nutritious and healthy diet.

And it’s better for our bodies than going on holiday, or going shopping –because you feel good for longer and it doesn’t reduce your bank balance!

That’s a big claim, so I’d better explain why I think it’s so good for you. In order to do that I need to get a bit technical.

But firstly, let me clarify what I mean by ‘meditation’: Sitting quietly, clearing your mind of mental chatter, and focusing your attention in the here and now by counting your breaths in and out.  It’s that simple.  But you can always get more guidance on how to do it by consulting our How to Meditate page.***


Mental demands on our energy

Meditation-effects.JPGIn our daily lives, here are some examples of the mental demands we face:

# Starting the day with too much to do and too little time to do it.

# If you are married: Getting the kids dressed, breakfasted and ready for school – and keeping the mobile phone on, so you can be easily contacted

# Other people’s conversations (and problems), and responding to them appropriately

# TV and radio news which always give the bad news first, relentlessly

# If you use a mobile phone: Text messages throughout the day – with good or bad news; and the ever-present threat of a bad/stressing phone call

# Emails waiting for us when we get to work

# Adverts trying to get us to buy things

# If you are a car driver: Other drivers’ behaviour on the roads

# The demands of the job when you get to work

# Your inner dialogue (mind chatter), as you prepare, respond and carry out your daily responsibilities


Have I missed anything out? Probably!

NataCrags005.jpgOur poor brains are deluged with information overload, and the messages don’t stop until we crawl, tired out, into bed, hoping for a decent night’s sleep.

By that time your body has got plenty of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) circulating in it, so the quality of your sleep will be affected by them. That’s the bad news.



The good news: how meditation works

What meditation does is it switches off your stress response, and switches on the relaxation response.

The stress response is a natural, human response to all the daily challenges you’ve been facing. You’ve probably heard it referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’.  Your heart rate and breathing increase; your big muscles tense up to fight or run; your digestive system closes down, to conserve energy; your body/brain fills with cortisol and adrenaline, so it becomes difficult to think straight.

We’ve got 2 nervous systems in our body: the ‘sympathetic’ nervous system, which activates our ‘fight or flight’ response; and the ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system, which switches on when threats to us have passed.  The parasympathetic nervous system is also called the ‘rest and digest’ or ‘relaxation’ response.

These two systems alternate with each other, to keep a balance in the body – a bit like mixer taps for hot and cold water.

Meditation gets your body’s relaxation response activated which means that the feelings of stress drain away and the ‘rest and digest’ mechanisms start to operate in your body.

So your body stops producing cortisol, and switches to the relaxation part of your autonomic nervous system. Your digestion starts working again, your big muscles relax, and mental relaxation and whole-body rest take place.


Breath-counting – recommended by the Buddha:

Begin by sitting quietly, with no external distractions. Switch off the TV or radio. Sit in a room which does not have any human activity going on. And focus your attention completely on your breathing, so that your thinking about yesterday and tomorrow close down.

Counting your breaths over and over for a period of time rests your brain and reconnects you to your body – to the regular rhythms of your breathing. And in this way your thoughts settle down, lose their power to disturb or run you ragged, and become mere thoughts which come and go, like clouds in the sky.

Meditation roots you more powerfully in the reality of your body and your current surroundings and less in the world of your thoughts.

You may quickly feel sleepy when you start meditating – this is a sign that your body needs rest and wants more sleep.


How do you do it?

You sit still, in a quiet place, and slowly start counting your breaths from 1 to 4, over and over again. It’s as simple as that.  Count 1 on the in-breath; 2 on the out-breath; 3 on the in-breath; and 4 on the out-breath.  And repeat.  Slowly, slowly; let your rate of breathing slow down, and relax your body.

For more guidance, see our How to Meditate page.***

I suggest you try 10 minutes a day at first. Ten minutes of peace!

But as you get to feel the effects on your body I would suggest that you build up to 30 minutes a day. That will be really good for your mind and body.

You will be able to feel and experience the benefits for yourself, and may well want to go into the subject of meditation in more depth.

The Buddha recommended counting your breaths, but there are loads of different types of mediation.


Regular practice makes for successful meditation

Why meditate every day? You will only get the full benefits of meditation, and experience them for yourself, if you do it every day, because it takes time to reap the rewards, just like when you start an exercise programme.

Zig Ziglar once said: ‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily’.

The same applies to meditation.  Daily practice will strengthen your connection to your body, slow down your mind, build up your stamina and lower your blood pressure. The resultant increase in relaxation will mean that when you experience stressful events, you will be meeting them with a more relaxed body/mind. Therefore the stress response will be less powerful and you’ll recover more quickly.

And the only time the brain rests is when we’re meditating!


The benefits of meditating:

Here is a link to a website which has listed 100 of the benefits of mediation:http://www.lotustemple.us/images/Benefits_of_Meditation.pdf

And here is a more detailed account of how to meditate which my partner, Jim Byrne and myself, wrote some time ago: our How to Meditate page.***

How come such a beneficial technique isn’t more popular?

Well, firstly, you will need to get up earlier in the morning or carve out the time in your daily life, if you want to experiment with it.  And some people don’t like having to do that!

It’s not a quick fix, and some people are not very patient.  Give it time to work. The benefits will be worth the effort.  For examples: people have been able to give up hard drugs, cigarettes, lose weight, change their lives, start exercise routines, etc., through using this very simple technique.

It is also very useful if you have difficulty getting to sleep at night or wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about past or future events. The simple practice of breath-counting will help you get off to sleep more quickly.

That’s all for now. I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes,


Renata Taylor-Byrne


The Coaching/Counselling Division


01422 843 629