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CHAPTER THREE: The impact of childhood

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

Childhood events can have a major influence on our lives. In some measure, all of us have unconscious drives and phobias, often originating in our earliest years and which constitute our inner world.

In many ways, Melanie Klein’s background provided her with valuable insight into the stresses of childhood. Born in 1882 in Vienna and living until 1960, she was the youngest of four children and felt unwanted from the outset. Her mother had breastfed her brother and two older sisters but handed Melanie over to a wet nurse. Her father, a surgeon, preferred her sister Emilie. Melanie recalled with some bitterness the time when she tried to climb onto his knee and he pushed her off, leaving her a victim of jealousy, helplessness, and envy. She set out to study medicine and psychiatry, initially in the hope of pleasing her father. But then he died, and she married a man introduced to her by her brother, whose intellect she had always respected. She realized she had made a mistake almost from the outset, but persevered. She had three children before the marriage broke up.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Automatic thoughts and irrational beliefs

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

It’s not what happens to you; but how you react to it that matters.

—Epictetus, philosopher, AD 55–136

When you think about it, this declaration by the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, is extraordinarily powerful. It implies that no one but ourselves has authority over how we should think or feel. And with that authority comes the empowerment to decide how we will respond to any given situation, positive or negative. It is this capacity within us that was recognized by the initiators of a new approach to counselling—the cognitive therapies.

As already discussed, George Kelly held that we build constructs from our earliest childhood. These constructs influence our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviour. Kelly also recognized that this is an active process, in that we continually adjust our thinking according to experience, so as to enable us to anticipate events and respond to them productively. He saw us as scientists, using practical data to arrive at a consensus of how best to lead our lives. We have to make judgements and act on them, for, if we didn’t, we would never learn. But whether our learning is always productive is another matter.

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CHAPTER FOUR: What does counselling set out to do?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

ASKED WHAT they think happens in counselling, people will often describe it as having a chat with someone who will tell you what you've got wrong and give you advice or instructions on how to fix it. But counsellors never tell their clients-the term used to identify those coming for counselling-what to do. Just as well, if you think about it. The last thing we need is to find ourselves scurrying about trying to accommodate someone else's directions. Before long, we would find ourselves powerless to make our own decisions, devastated if we fail to meet their chosen agendas, and attached to them for life!

Counselling is about self-help; an active, collaborative process designed to enable you to explore unresolved issues in a secureenvironment and to better understand why they may be causing you difficulties. It can be bewildering trying to work out how one can have arrived at a particular and perhaps stubborn way of looking at things, particularly if the consequences are clearly unproductive. But the recall of life experiences is selective-it has to be or we'd be swamped with a mass of information, much of it irrelevant. Various emotional factors, or events we perceive as significant, influence what we store in our minds and what we delete from memory. Equally, however, there may be occasions where a crucial moment gets lost but the aftermath remains. A single incident of being bullied at school, perhaps long forgotten, can lead to an unconscious need to please as a form of self-protection which extends into adult life. A failure to make an impact on someone we wanted to impress as a child can lead to the concept that if someone rejects us there must be something wrong with us.

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CHAPTER TWELVE: Do all counsellors work the same way?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

THERE ARE NUMEROUS counselling approaches. Very often these share the same origin, but elements of them have been extended or modified by individual psychoanalysts or therapists until a new version of the technique becomes sufficiently structured and recognisable to be given a title of its own.

Broadly speaking there are three methods of counselling.

The first of these is the Freudian related therapies. Counselling, as we recognize the term, began with the work of Sigmund Freud who founded the psychoanalytical approach in the mid-nineteenth century. Freudian theorists argue that adult problems can be traced to unresolved conflicts from certain phases of childhood and adolescence. Freud promotedthe idea of free association in which individuals are invited to relate whatever comes into their minds during the session. This technique, called psychoanalysis, is intended to help the person learn more about what he or she thinks and feels in a non-judgmental atmosphere. Free association has no pre-planned agenda, but works by intuitive leaps and linkages, which may lead to new insights and meanings. Neither therapist nor subject knows in advance exactly where the session will lead. Freud's work was further developed by Carl Jung, who explored the human psyche through the worlds of dreams, art, mythology, religion, and philosophy.

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CHAPTER ONE: Beginnings

Jonathan Ingrams 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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