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CHAPTER FOUR: The road to self-discovery

Ingrams, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

Oak Park, Chicago was the birthplace of Carl Rogers (1902–1987), still one of the most influential figures in psychotherapy today. Rogers pioneered a move away from traditional methodologies. In contrast to Freud’s rather gloomy view of human nature as a cauldron of sexuality and aggressive tendencies, manifested in the id and the ego, which the super-ego struggled to keep under control, Rogers took a very different view of humanity. Perhaps because for a time he studied to be a priest, he saw people as fundamentally healthy and believed that we all have the ability to develop our potential to the fullest extent, provided that conditions are in place for us to do so.

A plant trying to grow in a dim and musty cellar will send out tendrils towards the light it needs if it is to survive. But, significantly, if the plant is moved and placed in an environment conducive to healthy growth it will automatically thrive. This is the essence of Rogers’ therapeutic approach. He was intrigued by the way that even if conditions are harsh, this tendency will endow the organism with the capacity to make the very best of what is available to sustain itself. Thus, mushrooms can push up paving stones, birds migrate for thousands of miles, and humans can create works of art, utilize atomic energy, and invent the cuckoo clock.

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CHAPTER TWO: The age of psychoanalysis

Ingrams, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

When Freud and Jung first met, a huge rapport immediately developed. The story goes that they talked virtually without a break for thirteen hours! Jung saw Freud as a father figure, his own father having died when he was young. Freud regarded Jung, twenty years his junior, as his heir-apparent. But a friendship that started so promisingly and blossomed for some seven years, nevertheless ended in acrimony, accusations, counter-accusations, and mutual dislike. Was the breakdown inevitable? Although it may not provide all the answers, one of the essential elements of counselling is recognizing the impact of significant events in childhood, our own every bit as much as those of our clients. Social background, relationships with parents, siblings, and other family members, and the established criteria for what constituted good or bad behaviour, success or failure, all play their part. As Aristotle said: “If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.”

From the outset, Freud’s and Jung’s backgrounds were very different. Freud was the eldest of five children from his father’s second marriage, and his mother’s favourite. She encouraged him to be ambitious and always believed he would be a success. Freud was proudly Jewish in an anti-Semitic culture and determined to prove himself. Money was tight, but his parents scraped together enough to send him to medical school. Freud thus started his adult life imbued with confidence and the determination to merit his parents’ investment in him and, through success, to avoid the strictures of poverty.

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CHAPTER ONE: Beginnings

Ingrams, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

It seems only right that we start with Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the Big Bang from which all psychotherapy emerged. He’ll almost certainly be the first authority you’ll be introduced to if you go on a counselling course. But although a huge influence on the development of psychotherapy, he didn’t emerge from a vacuum, or practice in isolation. Before Freud, superstition and magic were often believed to be the prime controllers of mental functions. A contemporary of Freud, William Walter Atkinson (1862–1932), in his book Mind and Body or Mental States and Physical Conditions, published in 1910, observed: “Mental Healing operates under a thousand names, forms and theories in every race, nation and clime in all ages past and present”.1 This remains true to this day. Proof of this can be found in an incident as recently as 2007 in which the actress Phyllida Law had two gargoyles stolen from her garden. She erected a notice warning that she had put a hex on the culprit. Some time later, the statues were returned, with a note from the thief pleading her to lift the curse as he had been very ill since he stole the gargoyles. Law duly put up another notice: “Thank you for returning the statues. All curses lifted.”2

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CHAPTER SEVEN: The power of conditioning

Ingrams, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.

—Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuit Order

(attributed)

The quotation above reflects the potential influence of conditioning. It suggests that if children are brought up from the earliest years to respond in a particular way to certain stimuli in the form of events or situations, these responses will be locked into their minds and cannot be changed. This brings us to the question: How well might we recognize the influence of childhood conditioning? And, importantly, if this conditioning is proving unproductive for us or our clients, how might it be changed or modified?

The most straightforward example of stimulus/ response behaviour is that which, if not completely out of our control, is largely automatic. A tickle in the throat produces the reflex action of a cough. We yawn when we are tired (or bored!), and instinctively change position if we are uncomfortable. We’re hardly aware of the processes and coughs or sneezes are quite difficult to suppress unless we catch them very early. These are defined as innate responses.

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CHAPTER FIVE: How we construct our world

Ingrams, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

In physical medicine the diagnosis of a set of symptoms will usually point to a particular disorder. Unfortunately, psychotherapy offers no such straightforward process. In an attempt to create some set of ground rules, many of the pioneers drew up charts of how we could be expected to think and act at different periods of our lives. Bowlby and Winnicott explored mainly evolution in the early years. Jung developed the idea of four stages of development and consciousness from childhood through youth, middle life, and old age. The Danish psychoanalyst, Eric Erikson (1902–1994), later created his psychosocial theory, The Eight Stages of Man—our psychological development from birth to the end of our lives. Daniel Levinson (1920–), an American psychiatrist, came up with a hypothesis in which he predicted that the pattern of an individual’s progress at any given point in time will be the product of their social and physical environment. In this, he distinguished between men and women in two books, The Seasons of a Man’s Life (1978) and The Seasons of a Woman’s Life (1996).

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