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Counselling - that’s a funny one.

According to John Cleese and the Dalai Llama that would be a good thing.  Funny - that is.  In the book “Life, and how to survive it.” by Skynner and Cleese [ISBN 0 393 31472 3][check it out at Amazon], John Cleese recalls a quote from the Dalai Lama where the Dalai Llama says “Sometimes I find it useful you see, to make jokes, then your brain becomes a little more open.  It’s helpful to get new ideas.  If you think with too much seriousness, your brain somehow is closed” [p78].  In summary what is being referred to here is that many emotional conditions are postures to act.  That is, the person (body/mind) has made some assessment of the incoming stimuli and is prepared to respond.  In that condition the person is no longer very receptive to new information but is ready to act.  Laughing (according to Skynner and Charles Darwin [p73]) is where two conflicting emotions are coming into play together.  Maybe relief and shock, and they cannot co-exist, so the result is a release of some of the potential energy, and an emotional condition ready to receive more stimuli, perhaps with the objective of deciding what is a more appropriate response.  At this point the person becomes more receptive.  The Dalai Lama, with his different standpoint, or paradigm, puts it more simply and states that a person is more open when they laugh a little.

But why do I say counselling is funny.  Well, I mean it in the funny/peculiar sense of the word.  Most of my adult life I have experienced significant depression, anxiety, distress etc and have a conviction that things should not have to be like this.  So I have sought assistance.  Maybe the church can help here.  But I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and am suspicious that some of the damage was caused by the church.  My conviction was (when I was in my early 20’s) that psychology was a new and important aspect of human development.  Sigmund Freud certainly considered it so and with incredible focus he set himself on a course to study this amorphous subject in a “scientific” manner.  Part of his motive was to make it acceptable to the prevailing culture.  I have little doubt in my mind that the man was extremely perceptive and astute and, except that I don’t know quite what it means, a genius.  Psychology, like many human endeavours, has come a long way in the last 20 years.  It has branched into many areas and for me the evolutionary path has followed through to counselling as it is today.  Counselling is, I suspect, one of the least “scientific” results of psychology.  But when the emphasis is on “scientific” the subject seems to follow a reductionist exploration and begins to become isolated and not so broad.  Rather like catching the butterfly and wondering how it flies so beautifully, and examining its wings, and then the aerodynamics and the molecular structure etc.  All these areas of more detailed investigation are completely valid and reveal a lot.  My interest, however, continues more along the lines of wanting to understand the larger picture.  Counselling seems to maintain an objective of relating to the broad mainstream of humanity, where other fields of academic endeavour seem to focus on smaller and smaller areas of interest.  An analogy has just popped into my head.  It’s a bit like building a long fence.  You have to measure the distance from one pole to the next and make sure it is correct.  You have to ensure that the pole is firmly in the ground to the right depth and that the tension on the rope (or whatever) is correct.  But at the same time you have to ensure that the whole thing is going in the desired direction.  But that’s not what I meant by funny.

What I meant by funny is the difficulty in dealing with disparate views and emotions.  Dealing with humiliation and pride, with crying and self-respect.  Dealing with the very things that confuse and hurt.  That’s what I meant by funny.

A complete aside that just sprung to mind:
“Ain’t Love Funny” - track 10 on the CD ”Closer to you” by J J Cale. [check it out at Amazon] The whole CD is worth listening to.  Its fun, easy listening, good honest American “on the road” blues.

But the reason for this page was to say a little more about re-evaluation counselling than the link page warranted.  So - in my inimitable way of branching - which should be ideal for hypertext - I finally get to the point:

Broadly speaking I think re-evaluation counselling is a layman’s pragmatic paradigm (useful way of thinking) for effective counselling of non-critical emotional distress.  Counselling is expensive in time and money.  It is very often people with little money and little time that need some help and support.  Re-evaluation counselling provides a network of co-counselling.  That is, once someone has understood the basics of what it’s about and how to do it, they can counsel and be counselled.  This is then done on a mutual sharing basis such that money does not change hands.  However, having done it for some time, and being naturally inquisitive, I have come across a lot of different counselling standpoints, paradigms, schools of thought etc.  I cannot help feeling that like so many things which start with a good idea, the danger is that the subject, or school of thought, seems to take on something akin to an ego.  It promotes it’s own amazing value and uniqueness.  It can become an “ism”.  And it can get itself out of proportion.  Harvey Jackins is accredited with being the founder of Re-evaluation Counseling (note in this instance it is capitalised and counselling is spelt with one “l”).  And, that he remained Leader of the Re-evaluation Counseling community until his death in 2000, and that he states that human beings can become immortal (in physical reality), suggests to me that (although he may have had some very good ideas) he was suffering a little bit from a warped sense of perspective.  However, I still feel that the fundamental ideas of re-evaluation counselling and of co-counselling are substantially wholesome and useful.  There is the official Re-evaluation Counseling web site, which is worth a browse, and there is an unofficial site entitled The Re-evaluation Counseling Resources Site which is also worth a visit.  On my prowlings round the internet I also came across an article entitled “Group influence and the psychology of cultism within Re-evaluation Counselling: a critique”.  For a deeper look at the ideas of “discharging” old distresses as a means to re-evaluating one’s experience I would recommend a look at a book by Dr Arthur Janov called “Prisoners of Pain” [ISBN 0 349 11844 2], or a visit to his primal therapy web site.

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A number of books have been recommended in this field:
they can all be obtained from Amazon by clicking on the title

Counselling Older People by Steve Scrutton.

Living With It : A Survivor's Guide to Panic Attacks by Bev Aisbett.

Psychodynamic Counselling in Action by Michael Jacobs.

Person-centred Counselling in Action by Dave Mearns & Brian Thorne.

The Art of Psychotherapy (2nd edition) by Anthony Storr.

Theory and Practice of Group Counseling by Gerald Corey.

Individual Psychotherapy and the Science of Psychodynamics by David H. Malan.

Towards a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow & Richard Lowry (Editor).

Questions of Ethics in Counselling and Therapy by Roger Casemore & others.

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More amazing titles:

Process Work in Person-centred Therapy by Richard Worsley

Tales of Un-knowing by Ernesto Spinelli

Empathy Reconsidered : New Directions in Psychotherapy - Arthur C. Bohart (Editor), Leslie S. Greenberg (Editor)

Congruence - Gill Wyatt (Editor)

Psychopathology and Therapeutic Approaches by Stephen Joseph

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© Nik Allday 2000