Friday, 30 March 2012

Could our society be contributing to the rise in autism rates?

According to recent news reports, the number of school children classified as being autistic has risen by 56% in the last 5 years.

This is an enormous number, and controversy is raging over whether the rise is due to parents pushing for a diagnosis to gain extra resources for a child showing only mild traits or if there is an environmental cause for such a dramatic rise.

Studies have indicated that the criteria for autism is now so broad that other developmental disorders (for example language developmental disorders) which, several years ago, would have been diagnosed separately, now meet the criteria for autism.

The widening of the criteria for autism indicates that there is no organising idea behind the understanding of the condition. From the human givens perspective, we would suggest that what we term 'caetextia' ('context blindness' a chronic disorder manifesting in the inability to adjust behaviours or perception to deal appropriately with interacting variables) is the organising idea behind autism and Asperger's.

The reason for the rise in autism is probably due to a number of different factors, however there is a possibility that, in addition, the set up of our current culture is actively favouring the development of both left brained and right brained autism (what we term 'right brained caetextia').

As we discussed in a previous post, in Silicon Valley, the technological centre of the USA, there has been a threefold rise in children diagnosed with autism in just a decade.

In the same way, it is possible that in our society as a whole, we are inadvertently encouraging both left brain and right brain autism.

Here is a quote from Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang, explaining the premise behind this idea:
"Another factor favouring autistic behaviour in today's workplace is the growth of overly prescribed working practices that remove personal responsibility from people in public services. The management style in HM Revenue & Customs, and agencies focused on education, health, policing and law, suit those who are context blind. (For a person with caetextia, 'responsibility' is just a buzzword - without multiple processing abilities, their attempts to be responsible often lack common sense, which after all is just another way of saying, 'seeing the bigger context'.) 
Alongside the growth of working conditions that favour people with left-brained caetextia, the media may be encouraging right-brained caetextia by randomly generating fantasies and continually stimulating imagination in ways that make it harder for people to stay in touch with reality. Vast numbers now pay a disproportionate amount of attention to emotionalism in music, television, 'reality' shows, computer games and on-screen interaction with one another in ways the inhibit the development of apathy skills and the ability to read multiple contexts. Characters in soap operas become real for them, artificially constructed celebrities infiltrate their mental landscape, and online 'relationships' divorced from empathic face-to-face communication, mimic psychotic symptoms to become delusional substitutes for genuine friendships (which involve mutual understanding and getting innate needs met.) 
Although both types of caetextia occur in society, there is no widespread understanding of what is required for people to hold the middle ground: the flexibility of thought that arises from having equal access to imagination and reason. If we continue to create the conditions that favour both left-brained and right-brained caetextia, either by means of the media saturating the population with emotionalism, or by subjecting people to overly systematised, computer-controlled and rightly prescribed working environments, without valuing the middle position, the end result might be that the window of opportunity for us to evolve further will slam shut."
For more on this topic and references for the above passage, please see the book Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang.

Our course on removing the barriers to learning for those on the ASD spectrum, Demystifying Autism and Asperger's Syndrome: Practical solutions for parents, carers, teachers and other professionals, is available from Human Givens College as an in-house training day in the UK.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Depression highest among those living alone

The journal BMC Public Health reports on a study from Finland which suggests that depression is highest among those living alone.

Laura Pulkki-Raback and her team from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health followed 3,500 working-aged men and women for seven years, comparing living arrangements with psychosocial, socio-demographic and health risk factors.

Pulkki-Raback explained: "Our study shows that people living alone have an increased risk of developing depression. Overall there was no difference in the increased risk of depression by living alone for either men or women."

This finding is to be expected, as many of our essential emotional needs ('human givens') are met by interacting with other people regularly. 

Consider how many of these emotional needs are met by living with others:

Our fundamental emotional needs are:

  • Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
  • Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
  • Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
  • Being emotionally connected to others
  • Feeling part of a wider community
  • Friendship, intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts 'n' all”
  • Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  • Sense of status within social groupings
  • Sense of competence and achievement (from which comes self-esteem)
  • Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.

To read more about treating depression, please visit our dedicated website:

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Dissolving compulsive behaviours: Molar memories and their practical use in therapy

Following my request for blog post topics from our Twitter followers, @pauldowtherapy requested more information on molar memories and how such information can be turned to practical use in therapy to decondition compulsive behaviours.
Molar memories are memories that have two emotional 'roots', involving both 'positive' and 'negative' emotions at the source of the trauma. Molar memories typically present as irrational over reactions and extreme, compulsive emotional responses to relatively minor events or situations. Unlike conventional traumas, molar memories evoke excessive pleasurable/positive emotions (e.g. anger, sexual arousal) when unconsciously activated by pattern matching to stimuli in the present, however negative/painful emotions (e.g. fear, shame, anxiety) will be remembered when the original event that led to the pattern match is consciously remembered. 
The following points will help you understand how molar memories are formed:

1) All emotional reactions are preceded by a pattern match (as explained by the APET model) to a prior innate template or emotional memory. In 2007, the great experimental psychologist Steven Pinker was invited on the US show The Colbert Report and was asked under pressure to sum up how the brain works in five words. Pinker answered "Brain cells fire in patterns."

The perfect examples of a pattern match is a baby instinctively moving towards a nipple in order to survive outside the womb. Leaping suddenly away from a stick that you mistook for a snake is an example of an emotional pattern match. These pattern matches are the basis to our very survival. They happen instantly, before the 'thinking' part of our brain gets a look in, and are designed to save our lives. These pattern matches are patterns for a reason. If our responses were set in stone, there would be no room for flexibility to respond to the multitude of experiences life throws at us. However, the price we pay for the flexibility of these pattern matches is that problems can easily arise...

2) Negative emotional pattern matches can lead to trauma
If you have ever suffered from post traumatic stress (PTSD) or panic attacks you will know all about problematical pattern matches. Traumatic events involving negative emotions (the sort of emotion that leads you away from something, like anxiety or fear) can leave a 'trapped' emotional memory that triggers a negative fear response to a similar stimulus to the original traumatic event. (If you suffer from trauma in this way, be assured that you do not have to suffer. The 'rewind technique' is the best method of detraumatising there is so check our our Register of Human Givens Therapists trained to use the rewind technique.)

3) Molar memories are created in situations where both positive AND negative emotions were involved in the traumatic event
Here is where it's easy to get confused, as by positive we do not always mean 'happy', we mean positive as in when an emotion drives you towards something. Positive emotional reactions that become problematical can include greed (e.g. eating/drinking), anger or sexual arousal. Of course, anger, our sex drive and greed are all important positive emotions, where would we be without anger to protect ourselves against attack, or sex to continue our species? It is when both positive and negative emotions are involved in a psychologically traumatising event that strange compulsive behaviours begin.

An example in the original article of this kind of behaviour is of a man who was troubled by a sexual compulsion to dress in women's clothes. When contemplating about this feeling during guided imagery, he immediately recalled a negative, guilty memory of his mother berating him for trying on his sister's underwear as a child. He knew this memory was in some way involved in his compulsion as it was so strong, but it was only when he uncovered the pleasurable, 'positive' part of the memory that occurred before his mother discovering him, the sexual excitement of wearing the underwear, that he could understand the molar memory. After deconditioning the molar memory using the process below, a therapist was able to help him dissolve his sexual compulsion for wearing women's clothes. For more context to this case please read the original article.

4) Unconscious memories can still affect behaviours
Unconscious memories can still affect behaviours, however it's important to remember that a molar memory is never a 'suppressed memory' (as in psychodynamic theory), only one part of a molar memory is suppressed - the positive root.

5) Why is the positive emotion remembered before the negative emotion in a molar memory?
This is a good question, and the answer lies in the brain's natural assessment of risk. When recalling a memory, the brain will automatically recall the negative (e.g. fear, guilt, anxiety) emotion before the positive emotion, simply as a logical risk assessment. Recalling the negative emotion first enables the body and brain to quickly move away (or attack) danger as soon as possible. This suppression of positive emotions for risk assessment purposes is why molar memories occur in the first place.

How to decondition a molar memory
If a patient has an excessive, positive emotional response - for example, anger, sexual arousal or greed - to certain stimuli, then this could well be driven by a molar memory. A therapist may be able to uncover and decondition the molar memory using the following protocol.

To check for the presence of a molar memory, first use an affect bridge:

Step 1) Relax the patient and put them into a trance

Step 2) Ask the patient to relive a recent memory of when the positive troublesome emotion was excessive, thus making sure the emotional template is 'activated'.

Step 3) Ask the patient to focus on the feeling and see if connects to a specific memory.

Step 4) If the patient then identifies a memory which involves a negative emotion (e.g. shame, humiliation, anxiety, fear or pain) then that is a molar memory.

If a molar memory is discovered, follow steps 5 to 7 below to decondition it:

Step 5) Ask the patient to relive the memory that has been triggered and acknowledge the negative emotion, so that this emotion abates.

Step 6) Then ask them to go back earlier in the memory and describe how they felt ot describe the positive emotion - for example, anger, sexual enjoyment, the desire to eat etc. - that was experienced before it was suppressed (for risk assessment purposes) by the negative one.

Step 7) Once this is done, have the patient experience the positive emotion as intensely as possible - if the client is willing, have them verbally express it - then normalise the emotion e.g. say 'it was perfectly normal for a young child to feel that in those circumstances". This re-contextualises and deconditions the positive root of the molar memory, and dissolves the compulsive behaviour. (Even a 24 year long history of severe anorexia was brought to an abrupt end by this technique. See original article.)


Please read the article links throughout this post as they explain the concepts in a lot more detail.

For more information on understanding molar memories, please read this article which was first published in the Human Givens Journal in 2006: Molar Memories: how an ancient mechanism can ruin lives

To learn more about the mechanism behind trauma, please read the following article, first published in 2005: PTSD: Why some techniques for treating it work so fast

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

International society removes 'schizophrenia' from its title

A statement from the ISPS today reveals that the society has voted to remove the word 'schizophrenia' from its title due to the term being deemed 'unscientific and stigmatizing':
"Members of the International Society for the Psychological Treatments of the Schizophrenias and Other Psychoses ( have just voted, by an overwhelming majority, to change the society’s name to the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis. The new logo and letterhead are to be adopted by the end of March.  
The change comes at a time when the scientific validity of the term schizophrenia is being hotly debated in the lead up to the publication of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (see  
ISPS promotes psychological treatments for persons who experience psychosis (eg hallucinations and delusions), and greater understanding of the psychological and social causes of psychosis. Founded in 1956, ISPS now has branches in 19 countries, has its own scientific journal, Psychosis ( and has published 13 books in the last decade. Members include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, nurses, occupational therapists, family therapists and academic researchers, as well as users of mental health services and family members. 
 In debates preceding the vote the two primary reasons put forward in favour of the change were that the term ‘schizophrenia’ is unscientific and stigmatizing. It was pointed out that the construct has little or no reliability (the extent to which experts can agree on who meets criteria for a diagnosis) or validity (the construct’s ability to predict things like prognosis or treatment responsivity). Research has also repeatedly found that ‘schizophrenia’ is one of the most stigmatizing of all psychiatric labels, and promotes unwarranted pessimism about recovery because of the implication that people with this diagnosis suffer from an irreversible ‘brain disease’.   
ISPS Chair person Dr Brian Martindale (a British psychiatrist and psychotherapist) 
             "This significant change reflects the ISPS's determination to persuade mental heath services to provide high quality psychological interventions for users and families when psychosis is involved. We need to move on from the stigmatising and false idea that schizophrenia is a single identifiable biologically determined ‘disease’”  
ISPS is not the first to take this step. For example, the Schizophrenia Fellowship has changed its name, to Rethink Mental Illness in the UK and to Supporting Families in New Zealand. for similar reasons. In 2002 the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology abandoned their equivalent of ‘schizophrenia’ Seishin Bunretsu Byo (‘mind-split-disease’) to encompass recent advances in psychosis research, and reduce the stigma associated with the old schizophrenia diagnosis."
The human givens approach contributes to the debate by suggesting that 'schizophrenia' is "a partial or complete failure of the brain's parallel processing ability, the brain’s default system, that lies at the root of ASD and psychosis: in autism, the parallel processor is switched off, and in psychosis it is hyper-activated". (See Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang page 68, for more information)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang. The strange origin of creativity, mysticism and mental illness

Since its publication in July 2011, the latest, groundbreaking book by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell has drawn praise from all over the world for its insightful theories of consciousness and the nature of the universe.

Read the latest Amazon review of the book here. You can always write a review on Amazon yourself if you have read the book.
"An All-Encompassing Masterwork: This is a book of both extraordinary scope and profound insight. Drawing together knowledge from psychology, ancient wisdom, poetry, literature, and quantum physics, the authors put forward highly convincing models - demonstrably consistent with science - about the nature of the universe and how it operates. 
Griffin and Tyrrell take aim at questions which genius minds have grappled with since the dawn of time, not least the enduring conundrum: why do we exist? In doing so they, may have solved some of the fundamental riddles which block the way forward for scientists working in physics and biology today, namely: What is the origin of the information that makes matter possible? How did life arise out of inanimate matter? And,what is consciousness? 
Unlike some other works that approach the same, or similar questions, Godhead is neither mired in the indecipherable technical patois of specialist academics, nor blunted by the hollow mystical jargon that nowadays passes for genuine spirituality. Godhead's prose is sharp, sober, informed, flowing, elegant and accessible, leading the reader through its great edifice of knowledge whose passageways and galleries are all shown to be interlinked.
We learn that areas as seemingly distant as physics and psychology are in fact more connected than we could ever imagine. And this leads to one of the main pillars in Godhead's great hall of ideas: that the existence of the physical universe, of the cosmos itself, is directly related to consciousness. The quality of our thoughts, actions and attention, the book alleges, has a very real impact on the constantly changing state of the universe. 
Because of Godhead's colossal, multidisciplinary reach, the book has something for everyone. Godhead has as much to offer the curious layperson as it does the most learned scientist. Not only will the reader's knowledge of the external universe be deepened and enriched, but also his or her INTERNAL universe - whose exploration, Godhead alleges, above all others, is the one fundamental task incumbent upon us all."                      Reviewed by John Zada       
Please see the author's website for more information on Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang: 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Sleep pattern anxiety - did we used to sleep in stages? The 8 hour sleep myth

This fascinating BBC article reports on research that suggests how humans may naturally tend towards sleeping in segments throughout the night rather than the traditional eight hours that our current culture assumes is the correct amount. This is fascinating stuff and has potential links to anxiety about sleep as we shall see.

Roger Ekirch's book At Day's Close: Nights in Times Past brings together over 500 historical accounts from Homer to 16th Century France indicating that in the past it was normal for humans to sleep in two four hour segments with a two hour break in the middle.

During the break it was common for people to get up, smoke tobacco, meditate on their dreams, pray, read or simply lie awake until the next segment of sleep took them.

A 1595 engraving by Jan Saenredam provides evidence of activity at night
"And at the wakening of your first sleepe You shall have a hott drinke made, And at the wakening of your next sleepe Your sorrowes will have a slake." Early English ballad, Old Robin of Portingale

Studies (Wehr 1992) suggest that although we have adapted pretty quickly to sleeping in 8 hour blocks, we do still have a tendency to drop into the old bi-modal patterns of sleep given the chance.

Ekrich suggests that this is only becomes a problem when people who tend towards waking up at night get concerned that they are not sleeping 'correctly' and get anxious.

This waking could also lead to a diagnosis of conditions such as 'sleep maintenance insomnia', medicalising a normal phenomenon and potentially exacerbating anxiety.

Problems occur when sleep related anxiety seeps into everyday lives because too much worrying leads to depression.

As we know, symptoms of depression are the effects of too much pressure on the the REM sleep process as it tries to de-arouse the endless stream of worries that were not acted upon or resolved during the day.

If you would like to learn more about this, read about the link between REM sleep and depression here or check out our book on dreaming, Dreaming Reality: Why dreaming can keep us sane or drive us mad.

In the mean time, if you find yourself lying awake in the middle of the night, just relax and wait for sleep to come again... it is probably not insomnia, just your sleep pattern harking back to the olden days!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Human Givens Publications now available on Kindle

We are delighted to announce that several of the Human Givens books are now available in Kindle format.

Three books in our 'Essential Help in Troubled Times' series are now available to download and add to your portable Kindle reading list.

2) How to Master Anxiety: All You Need to Know to Overcome Stress, Panic Attacks, Trauma, Phobias, Obsessions and More

3) Freedom from Addiction: The secret Between Successful Addiction Busting

Friday, 2 March 2012

Autism and Asperger's syndrome, can computers help?

This interesting piece on autism, Asperger's syndrome and computing is definitely worth a read.

From the Gary McKinnon case to the threefold rise of children with autism in Silicon Valley in California, the article explores recent autism research and covers both the positive and negative sides of the impact of those on the autistic spectrum using technology and computers.

There has been an established link between computer use and autism for many years and since virtually all human behaviour is an interaction between genetic and environmental factors, it would be surprising if the increasing role that sophisticated computer programmes, computer games and technology take in today's world were not impacting on levels of autism, particularly at the Asperger end of the spectrum.

It true to say, as Professor Simon Baron Cohen does, that computers can help autistic people form relationships and learn about social skills, but it is equally important to limit computer time so that autistic people can have as much chance as possible interacting with others face to face rather than relying on a computer.

As Gary McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharpe, advises, "People with autism need space, and computers can offer that, but we have to make sure they don't take over and make other relationships, already difficult for people with autism, even harder."

From the human givens perspective though, until there is an understanding that 'caetextia' is the key cognitive deficit, remedial programmes using technology or not can at best be addressing only part of the problem of autism.

'Caetextia' literally means context blindness, and can be summarised as a disorder manifesting in the inability to adjust behaviours or perception to deal appropriately with interacting variables.

Caetextia is the organising idea behind the conditions of autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Because the name is innately descriptive, it points to more effective ways that we can work with and relate to people who have caetextia, whether that is by the use of computers or not.

Read more on caetextia and watch a video of Joe Griffin explaining the concept.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Human Givens Conference 2012 - The Future of Work: A Shared Vision

Introducing Human Givens ideas and practice into the workplace

Sunday 12th & Sunday 13th May 2012

Sunningdale, Berkshire, UK

The way we work can promote mental and emotional health or undermine it. 

Work should be a huge source of satisfaction, an activity through which many innate emotional needs are met. If, however, it raises people's stress levels to an unhealthy degree and thus contributes to the generation of mental illness, the quality of life of the individual and whole community suffers.

When caetextic working practices, however well intentioned, prevent us from getting our needs met, the effect can be as toxic as being bullied by a social psychopath. Likewise an unethical workplace culture that single-mindedly encourages greed and selfishness eats up trust, destroys personal relationships and shreds the reputations of individuals and organisations. The massive ecological, financial and welfare crises we are experiencing, together with the sharp increase in mood disorders and addictive behaviours, is testament to a culture that in many ways has lost the plot.

The speakers at this conference will address these problems from the human givens perspective. The weekend will feature startling and surprising evidence that public and private organisations can be transformed quickly for the better when HG principles are understood and applied, thereby optimising their chances of long-term success. 

Guest Speakers

Pat Gilroy - Managing Director of Dalkia (Environment Energy Division) in Ireland with over 450 employees and an 87 million euro annual turnover. He is also Secretary of the Energy Institute and a member of the Expert Group in Future Skills Needs within the Irish Green Economy. His interest in, and application of, human givens principles in industry has had a hugely beneficial effect on the company and staff. In addition to his significant experience in the energy sector, he is the manager of the Dublin Gaelic football team and a former President of the Ireland-France Chamber of Commerce.

Nick Leeson - the original Rogue Trader whose unchecked risk-taking as a young man caused the biggest financial scandal of the late 20th century, the collapse in 1995 of Barings, personal bank to HM the Queen. It was his unusual life experience and reflections on subsequent crashes and scandals and the current financial state of the World’s economy, plus his interest in psychology, that made him a much sought after commentator. His best-selling book, Back from the Brink: Coping with Stress, was co-written with Ivan Tyrrell.

Click here for the conference programme and booking form

Book before the 31st March 2012 and receive a free copy of the Release from Anger book, an ideal accompaniment to other Human Givens literature and a great resource to have if your job involves working with people.