Thinking, feeling and perceiving: REBT critique

Blog Post, 16th January 2020

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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Response to Comments upon my YouTube video about

A Major Critique of REBT

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Introduction

Dr-Jim-Byrne8 (2)I have frequently found that senior REBT theorists, like Albert Ellis and Michael Edelstein, do not seem to be able to string a valid argument together!

This is surprising, because Albert Ellis built his reputation upon being a ‘great thinker’ (although many who followed him thought him a ‘sloppy philosopher’).

In this blog post, I want to present some brief comments by a recent defender of REBT, to demonstrate that nothing has changed in the ability of REBTers to think straight!

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Here’s the background:

On 2nd September 2017, I posted a video clip, with the following title – REBT CBT Book: Title, Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes – on YouTube, at this web address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfmCs9hbN04

Front cover3 of reissued REBT book(Subsequently, that book was slightly updated, and reissued with the title, A Major Critique of REBT’).

On 15th January 2020, that video clip received its 20th comment from a viewer.

In this blog post, I want to present that viewer’s comments – in defence of REBT – plus my analysis and refutation of those comments.

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What the viewer wrote:

“Can’t we concede there are some instances in which beliefs and thoughts cause distress? If I believe that losing my job would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions, won’t that make a job loss much more upsetting than if I view it as merely an unpleasant setback? There are times I’ve had to adjust my thinking with self-talk like, ‘OK, this is unpleasant but it’s not the end of the world.’ Such thoughts have actually made me feel less upset. Also, while I agree with you that blaming the client is usually unwarranted, I don’t think it always is. Don’t we bear any responsibility for our well being or lack thereof? Aren’t we often the architects of our own trouble? Is it always circumstance acting upon us?”

This viewer’s ‘handle’, or ID, was this: Some guy’s page. I checked out his page.  It does not have content.  And the identity of ‘Some guy’ is not revealed.

Some Guy's page

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Nevertheless, I replied to ‘Some Guy’ as follows:

“Hello: You have commented upon a video clip which was designed to advertise my book which critiques REBT.  As it says in the description below this video clip:

“For more information about the book which is reviewed in this video, please take a look at ‘A Major Critique of REBT’:  https://abc-bookstore.com/a-major-critique-of-rebt/

“But instead of following up that information, and reading the book, to see if you can fault its factual basis or its logical argumentation, you have commented upon the advert!

“It would have been more helpful if you had read the book, and commented upon the *actual arguments* presented therein.

“I am extremely busy, and I did not post the advert to stimulate debate.  I do not have time to debate your comments upon my advert.  However, as a quick one-off exception to that rule, let me briefly respond, in the following blog post”.  (And I added a link to this post which you are currently reading).

Here is my brief response to ‘Some Guy’

You asked: “Can’t we concede there are some instances in which beliefs and thoughts cause distress?”

My first answer would have to be this:  Even Albert Ellis (on a *good* day) would not make such a suggestion.  Why?  Because, on a *good* day, he would be pursuing the *official line*, to the effect that human disturbance is caused by the interaction of a noxious experience (or Activating event) with an Irrational Belief.  So, it is never the Belief that causes the upset, in the *official line*, but rather the interaction of a belief and an experience (or a memory, or anticipation).  (On a *bad* day, Ellis would have gone way beyond you, Some Guy.  He would have insisted that human disturbances are always and only caused by irrational beliefs!  And I have demonstrated, in many different ways, in my book, that this is a false conclusion on the part of Albert Ellis: See A Major Critique of REBT.***)

My second answer would have to be this: You (Some Guy) are here utilizing the concept of ‘thoughts’.  But what exactly are thoughts?  In Albert Ellis’s (1962) book on Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy, he cites the idea, from McGill (1954) – Emotions and Reason – that emotions always have a ‘cognitive’ (or thought) component. But McGill was arguing that our emotions (with their cognitive components) determine how we respond to environmental happenings (based on our previous experience).

Albert-Ellis-childhood-imageFrom this, Ellis (1962) concluded that thoughts and feelings are never separate, and are, in some senses, essentially the same thing.

And even though he suggests that they are very often “the same thing”, he goes on to suggest, later in his book, that it’s our thoughts (or beliefs) that determine our feelings.  What a muddle he created here!

I tried to rescue Ellis from this muddle, in a paper from 2003, which is now incorporated into A Major Critique of REBT’.  It involved developing a Complex ABC Model; but when it was complete, it invalidated much of the original theory of REBT.  (More on the concept of ‘thoughts’ and ‘thinking’ below).

Whole cover3

My third answer would have to be this: You are suggesting, rhetorically, that beliefs and thoughts *cause* distress sometimes; and it seems to me you are making that suggestion because you, personally, *believe* that beliefs and thoughts cause distress (which you may or may not have learned from Albert Ellis’s writings).  So, you should then present *evidence* to support that conclusion.  Perhaps that is what you intended to do in what follows next, where you wrote:

“If I believe that losing my job would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions, won’t that make a job loss much more upsetting than if I view it as merely an unpleasant setback?”  (Emphasis added – JB).

Let’s reconstruct that argument in the form of a syllogism, as follows (for an imaginary counselling client who is going through the difficulties that you describe, in bold above):

Premise 1: I believe that losing my job would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions.

Premise 2: I am in the process of losing my job.

Conclusion: I have to *feel* very upset about this catastrophe.

For this to be a valid argument, both premises must be true, and the conclusion must follow logically from those premises.

Premise 1 seems to be true, because you have told me that you *believe* that losing your job would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions.

Premise 2 also seems to be true, in that you have informed me that you are in the process of losing your job.

Back cover3However, the Conclusion does not follow logically from those two true premises, because you have smuggled the word *feel* into the conclusion, whereas it does not appear in either of the premises!  (It has to be in at least one of the premises to get into the conclusion, validly). Therefore, this argument is invalid, and it falls!

It’s interesting to me that you are a follower (or supporter) of Ellis, and Ellis argued that he was interested in the premises of his clients’ arguments, but he failed to teach anybody anything about how to construct a valid argument, or how to reconstruct an argument to test it for validity.

In my book critiquing Ellis’s theory – A Major Critique of REBT – I have reconstructed some of his key arguments, and some by Dr Michael Edelstein, and demonstrated that they use invalid arguments without noticing their invalidity – and therefore their arguments fall!  By contrast with my approach, Ellis’s followers in general do not seem to have learned to put his theories to this kind of test!  That is why you would be well advised to read my book: A Major Critique of REBT.

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You (Some Guy) then continue your comments like this:

‘There are times I’ve had to adjust my thinking with self-talk like, “OK, this is unpleasant but it’s not the end of the world.” Such thoughts have actually made me feel less upset.

I have a problem with part of this statement, but not with another.  To try to tease them apart, let me present two syllogisms. The first is to demonstrate what I agree with; while the second is designed to point out a flaw in your presentation and understanding.

First argument reconstruction:

Defintion of an argumentPremise 1. Particular forms of self-talk help to calm our emotions.

Premise 2. I sometimes have to engage in one of those forms of self-talk.

Conclusion: (Therefore) When I use that kind of self-talk, I feel calmer emotions.

This is a valid argument, because both premises are true, and the conclusion follows logically from the premises.

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Second argument reconstruction:

Premise 1: It is often argued that positive self-talk will have a positive effect upon our emotions.

Premise 2: I’ve noticed that when I use particular forms of positive self-talk, my emotions calm down.

Conclusion: (Therefore) positive self–talk changes my *thinking*!

This is an invalid argument, because the concept of *thinking* has been smuggled into the conclusion, whereas it does not exist in either of the premises.

It is simply an article of your faith (Some Guy) that self-talk changes your thinking; and that your thinking changes your emotions. You have no evidence for that; and it is actually impossible to collect evidence to support your conclusions here.

Think about it: Where would you go to collect evidence that self-talk changes your thinking?

If my thinking/feeling/perceiving is all of a piece, why not conclude that my self-talk changes my thinking/ feeling/ perceiving?

Front cover3 of reissued REBT bookIn the summary of A Major Critique of REBT, I introduce the concept of ‘perfinking’ – which is shorthand for perceiving/ feeling/ thinking, which seems to me, based on modern neuroscience research, to be what humans do – not discrete thinking, or discrete feeling, or discrete perceiving.

Indeed, Albert Ellis should have got to this point himself, because he had McGill’s (1954) statements about the interconnection of thinking and feeling.  But Ellis was so committed to Epictetus’ statement about how “people are never disturbed by what happens to them”, that he had to cling to his simple ABC model, with its discrete Beliefs causing discrete emotions.

Here’s a little extract from the summary of my book:

“…in Chapter 3, Dr Byrne compares Dr Ellis’s ABC model with the SOR model of neobehaviourism, (which says this: A Stimulus [S] impacts an Organism [O] producing an outputted Response [R]).   As a result, he (Byrne) finds that it is essential to ‘add back the body’ to the ABC model; and once that is done, the core theory of REBT falls apart, because now we are dealing with a whole-body-brain-mind-environment-complexity, rather than a simple ‘belief machine’.

“Furthermore, this complex-body-brain-mind engages in ‘warm-perfinking’ – (which means, perceiving-feeling-thinking) – which is coloured by emotion from beginning to end), rather than cool thinking and reasoning.”

Please pursue this argument in my book, A Major Critique of REBT.

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The final point that you (Some Guy) make is this:

“…while I agree with you (Jim Byrne) that blaming the client is usually unwarranted, I don’t think it always is. Don’t we bear any responsibility for our well-being or lack thereof? Aren’t we often the architects of our own trouble? Is it always circumstance acting upon us?”

These questions feel like ‘rhetorical devices’, designed to make statements without making them; and intended to hook emotional responses, rather than attempts at reasoning.

Draft-cover-3My REBT book, and also my Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, argues that human beings are largely non-conscious creatures of habit, who are shaped by their lifetime of socialization and interactions with others.  I also wrote a lengthy essay on Free Will for my diploma in counselling psychology and psychotherapy, many years ago, in which I concluded that the most extreme scientist cannot prove that there is no possibility of some small elements of free will in a human individual; and that the most romantic philosopher cannot prove that free will exists at all.  This, therefore, seems to me to be a highly contested concept. So, rather than blaming a client for their upset emotions, I think it is more ethical, and more productive, to teach them how to change and grow, rather than blaming them for where they are stuck!  (If you would like a copy of my paper on Free Will and Determinism, please email me, drjwbyrne@gmail.com).

I could write a lot more, if I had the time, but I am extremely busy.  Lots of new books to be written!

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What did you think of this blog post?

Was it helpful?

Please leave a comment below.

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Best wishes to all readers.

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

ABC Bookstore Online UK

The Institute for E-CENT

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Diet and exercise affect mental health

Blog post: 4th July 2019

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Diet and exercise are at least as important as philosophy of life in determining how we feel!

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, July 2019

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Front cover design 3Over the years that I’ve been providing counselling and therapy services to individuals and couples, I have had to keep broadening my understanding of the nature of human beings.

I was originally trained as a Rational Therapist (REBT), and tended to focus exclusively on the self-talk of the client.  I had bought into the idea that people are upset by what they “tell themselves” about their negative experiences.

Then I came across clients who did not seem to have any obvious psychological reason to feel depressed or anxious, but they were. This led me to realize that many people suffer from ‘gut dysbiosis’, including Candida Albicans overgrowth, which (we now know) also causes ‘leaky brain’, which allows toxins from the large intestine to get into the bloodstream, and from there, into the brain; disrupting brain chemistry, and causing symptoms of anxiety, depression, in the main; but theoretically also, anger.

Dr-Jim-Byrne8 (2)I also found that some people were anxious because they were over-consuming caffeine or sugary foods; and not consuming enough calming foods and drinks (like Brazil nuts, and Camomile tea).

Out of these realizations, and others, I began to build, and to constantly amend, my own stress and anxiety diet, which I shared with my clients, when appropriate.

And some clients had such sedentary lifestyles that they became anxious or depressed, because of the lack of exercise-induced production of endorphins (or ‘happiness chemicals’); and exercise-assisted washing of stress hormones out of their systems.

Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)Eventually, Renata, my wife and professional partner, did some research on the role of diet and exercise in the experience of anger, anxiety and depression; and we collaborated on a book in which we put her research, and my stress and anxiety diet, together; plus some work we’d jointly done on exercise.

The book is titled, How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression: Using nutrition and physical activity.***

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There are six parts to this book:

Front cover design 3The first part deals with diet and nutrition and how they influence anxiety, anger and depression.

The second part of the book deals with physical exercise and how it can affect these common emotional problems.

The third part is a description of my ‘stress and anxiety reduction diet’ and offers guidelines for understanding different types of diets and their effects.

The fourth part shows some of the key findings from the science of nutritional deficiency, and the role of inflammation in the creation of depression.

The fifth part is a summing up of the key findings of the book, so that you can spot the most useful material that you can use for yourself – or for your clients, if you are a health-care or psychotherapeutic practitioner, counsellor or psychologist.

And the sixth part is our attempt to coach you through the process of habit change (including controlling alcohol consumption; changing your diet; or increasing your physical activity); and to give you a map to guide you through the process of accessing, learning and applying the transformative information in this book.

You can read a page of information about this book here:

https://abc-bookstore.com/diet-exercise-mental-health/

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The psychoanalytic approach to counselling and psychotherapy

Blog post: 4th December 2019

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Counselling and psychotherapy theories (1): Psychodynamic theory (Sigmund Freud and the neo-Freudians)

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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Introduction

Freud-on-dreamsMost counsellors have their basic training in a single system of theory and practice – (a single ‘school of thought) – perhaps augmented by a brief look at one ‘alternative’ system, for comparison purposes.  This is an impoverished approach to counselling theory and practice, which has been pioneered by the universities, and the professional bodies that accredit counsellors and therapists.  It is driven by the need for ‘neatness’, whereas the reality of the human mind, human suffering, and psychological processes is anything but neat.

I was fortunate to train in more than 13 different systems of counselling and therapy, and I have mixed and matched elements of them all for years, eventually resulting in a unique system of my own.

The psychoanalytic approach

The first system that I experienced, at the age of 22 years, was psychoanalysis.  I had been through a very stressful period of social exclusion, and needed help to sort myself out.  I saw a psychoanalyst weekly for three months; combined with other systems, such as art therapy, music therapy, group therapy, relaxation therapy; and some others.

Because of my immaturity at the time, I did not benefit greatly from psychoanalysis (in so far as I can consciously recall!)

Years later I reviewed the psychoanalytic literature and realized that most of the information I needed at the time was there, contained in Freudian theory, if only my analyst had been able to communicate it to me.

Cover image of young O'BeeveI had come from a family which was economically and culturally deprived. I (like all humans) was born as an ‘it’ (or ‘thing’), which was wired up with two basic instincts: the life or constructive instinct and the death or destructive urge. My mother (who was the first element of my ‘super-ego’, or Over-I) was the most important influence on the way my mind (or ‘ego’) was shaped; and she was far from being ‘good enough’ as a caring mother.  So I developed an insecure attachment style. (This latter point – about my attachment style – does not come from Freud or the Freudians, or even the neo-Freudians.  It comes from Dr John Bowlby, who was castigated for deviationism, and ostracized by the British Object Relations School, which was the neo-/post-Freudian tradition that took root after the Second World War.  He believed that the child’s actual experience shaped him; while the Freudians of every stripe believed the child was upset by his interpretations of what his parents did: [and this belief was carried on my Albert Ellis and Rational Therapy! Hi ho!]).

I ended up in therapy, at the age of 22 years, because my life was subjected to cruel treatment by somebody acting from their death (or destruction) urge! I was not strong enough to withstand their destructive influence, because I had been weakened by my family of origin (which denied me the right to be self-protectively angry!)  But after therapy, I was strongest at the ‘broken point’!

Freud, Ellis and Plato

Front cover3 of reissued REBT bookSomewhere in the period 2007-2009, I made good use of Freud’s theory of the three mental agencies – the It (or baby before socialization); the Ego (or emergent personality after [some] socialization); and the Super-ego (which is the internalized mother/other; internalized through socialization processes). I used this model to evaluate the components of the ABC model from Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT); and this helped me to justify rejecting the simple ABC model; and to produce a more complex ABC model.  (See my book, A Major Critique of REBT.***)

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And later I used it as a comparator for evaluating Plato’s model of the Charioteer and the Two Horses. This occurred in my book on models of mind for counsellors:

Title: A counsellor reflects upon models of mind

Integrating the psychological models of Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis

Every counsellor needs to think long and hard about their perceptions of their clients.  Are they based on ‘common sense’, or have they been subjected to the discipline of considering the theories of great minds that preceded us, like Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis. (Ellis, of course, oversimplified the SOR model of mind into the simple ABC model, but he is still important because of his impact on the whole CBT theory, which currently dominates the field of counselling and therapy in the US, UK and elsewhere).

Paperback and eBook versions available

Learn more.***

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And the Freudian model of mind also helped in the development of another of my books, which is this one:

The Emergent Social Individual:

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

Kindle Cover1By Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2009-2019

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

Learn more about this book.***

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

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Today, the Freudian approach has become less significant, especially since Allan Schore developed his ‘affect regulation theory’; and Daniel Siegel developed ‘interpersonal neurobiology’ (IPNB).  And also since I developed Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT). Please see my two introductory books on E-CENT here:

Holistic Counselling in Practice.***

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person.***

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If you want to develop your own rich and flexible model of counselling and therapy, it’s a good idea to study most of the mainstream systems and theories, as sources of creative inspiration for yourself.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr-Jim-Byrne8 (2)Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Author, Counsellor and Psychotherapist

https://abc-bookstore.com

https://abc-counselling.org

https://ecent-institute.org

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