Monday, 30 April 2012

Herbert Silberer and the autosymbolic effect

Herbert Silberer was one of Freud's original 'professional circle' in Vienna and is a neglected figure in the history of psychoanalysis.

Like Freud, he was interested in dreams and wrote extensively on the 'hypnogogic' stage of sleep, that strange state that occurs as you drift off to slumber from your left hemisphere to your right, in which hallucinations, lucid dreaming and creative thought regularly manifest.

His research lead to the discovery that the images which occur during this state are metaphoric representations of waking thoughts of the dreamer. He termed this the "autosymbolic effect" and in recent years this buried finding has been rediscovered and found vital to our modern day understandings of why we dream.

But Silberer never received the credit he had hoped for from Freud. In 1923 he took his new book to show his master and Freud coldly dismissed it, probably because the publication contradicted his own dream research.

Silberer was greatly depressed at Freud's reaction to his work and committed suicide by hanging in 1923, aged just 40.

Read more about the significance of the auto symbolic effect in the book: Dreaming Reality: How dreaming keeps us sane, or can drive us mad

Friday, 27 April 2012

Depression Awareness Week: Raising awareness of the link between depression and REM sleep

From 22nd - 28th April 2012 it is Depression Awareness Week, when charities and mental health campaigns work hard to raise awareness of depression and the great impact it has on the lives of sufferers.

In this post I would like to focus on the link between depression and dreaming, as this is an overlooked element of depression and is often the key to understanding and treating this disorder.

To understand how dreaming is relevant to depression, look at the following cycle of depression which begins with innate emotional needs not being met:

Dreaming is designed to de-arouse unresolved emotional expectations during the day. Of course, worrying about unmet meets constantly generates a lot of unresolved emotional arousal, leading to intense dreaming.

REM sleep is very resource intensive (the brain uses up almost as much energy as when you are awake) so it is no surprise to notice that after intense dreaming, a depressed person often wakes up feeling more tired than when they went to bed.

Lack of motivation in depression

Lack of motivation during depression, a feeling that can make even opening a can of beans an insurmountable task, is directly due to too much REM sleep. This is because emotional expectations are the motivation behind everything we do, from making a cup of tea to writing a thesis.

To stop the cycle of depression the depressed person must focus on getting innate needs met, which inhibits worrying. This brings REM sleep back into a healthy balance, raising motivation in the morning and ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed instead of tired, calm instead of stressed and with a higher capability to solve problems.

Our website, focuses on practical ways to understand and treat depression.

Find out more about dreaming at our dedicated Why We Dream website.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Human Givens Diploma delivered 'in-house' for the Irish Health Service Executive

The Human Givens College has almost completed delivering Part I of the HG Diploma course for the Irish Health Service Executive, which is responsible for the provision of healthcare and personal social services for everyone living in Ireland and is the largest single employer in Ireland.

This is the first time the whole HG course has been done as an ‘in-house’ project, something we expect to see more of as the benefits of adopting HG methodology becomes increasingly recognised in financially strained times.

The response of those lucky enough to attend the training days held so far was overwhelmingly positive. Participants quickly came to appreciate the contribution the practical and effective HG approach can make to mental and emotional welfare.

Part II of the Diploma is being taught in July in the beautiful southern Irish town of Kilkenny.

The Autumn Part ll course in Bristol is already fully subscribed and people wishing to attend in Spring 2013 are urged to reserve their place early.

The course just completed in York was a great success and included participants from Ireland and Holland.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Severe abuse in childhood trebles risk of schizophrenia

From The Guardian 18th April 2012,
"Children who experience severe forms of abuse are around three times as likely to develop schizophrenia and related psychoses in later life compared with children who do not experience such abuse, according to a study that has brought together psychiatric data from almost 80,000 people.  
The results add to a growing body of evidence that childhood maltreatment or abuse can raise the risk of developing mental illnesses in adulthood, including depression, personality disorders and anxiety.  
Prof Richard Bentall of the University of Liverpool's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, who led the study, showed that the risk of developing psychosis increased in line with the amount of abuse or trauma a child had gone through, with the most severely affected children having a 50-fold increased risk compared with children who had suffered no abuse. He also showed that the type of trauma experienced in childhood affected the subsequent psychiatric symptoms later in life.
Echoing the view of the human givens approach, this is an interesting study that continues research into how an environment that does not meet emotional needs not only contributes to general wellbeing but can also have an effect on more severe conditions such as psychosis.
"Louise Arseneault, a senior lecturer at the IoP, said it was encouraging to know that so many different studies were coming up with similar conclusions on the relationship between childhood adversity and psychotic symptoms. "We already know that trauma and harmful experiences in childhood bring their share of difficulties, whether it is mental health or physical health problems. But it is striking that these adversities extend to mental health as disabling as psychosis, which has been thought to be highly influenced by genetic factors."
Richard Bentall was interviewed nine years ago by Ivan Tyrrell in a 2003 edition of the Human Givens Journal, discussing new patient centered approaches to the understanding and treatment of psychotic illness.

The article is available to view online in our archive, read the article,  'A new look at psychosis'

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Godhead Review: "They may have solved the three fundamental question ... without spending billions"

Here is a link to an excellent review of Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang from John Zada at The Planisphere, please have a read:
"Three questions sum up the fundamental quandary for scientists working in biology and cosmology today. Where did the information that made matter possible come from? How did life arise out of inanimate matter? And what is consciousness? These profound puzzles about the nature of our universe are the major stumbling blocks holding up progress in physics and biology. Vast sums of money are directed at trying to answer them. 
How we arrived at a point where our species could investigate such questions is itself astonishing. Archaeologists tell us that around 40,000 years ago humankind made a sudden and dramatic evolutionary leap. From seemingly nowhere our Homo sapiens ancestors developed a sophisticated tool technology alongside a fulsome culture of symbolic art. It is an event known by some archaeologists as “the brain’s big bang” – an evolutionary turning point marked by a sudden ability in humans to daydream and think conceptually.  
In Godhead: The Brain’s Big Bang, psychologists Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell take this watershed moment in the great narrative of human history and make it the starting point for a tantalizing and powerful investigation into the mystery of human consciousness and the question: why do we exist? In doing so they may have solved the three fundamental questions mentioned above – without spending billions....."
Go to The Planisphere to read the full review >>

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Three Reasons for Depression

It might surprise you to learn that there are only three basic reasons why people become depressed or suffer from any form of emotional ill-health:

1. They are in a toxic environment or situation that prevents them meeting their emotional needs.
If you put a plant in an environment where it cannot survive, in a dark, dry place with not enough earth, sunlight or water - it will wither away. This is not the fault of the plant; it is the fault of the surroundings. It has all its biological systems intact but is unable to use them properly to survive. Likewise, if a human being is situated in an environment that is toxic, and are unable to get their innate emotional and physical needs met, they will suffer in the same way by exhibiting signs of mental distress - depression, anxiety, anger or addiction.

Perhaps they are in a difficult situation at work, at home or elsewhere. Perhaps they are lonely, and need to be with others or feel part of a community, perhaps they are in a relationship which isn't working for them, their status has taken a sudden fall or they feel they have no meaning in their lives and are not being stretched enough. Whatever the issue is, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

To treat a plant that is dying in an environment that is unhealthy for it, you must remove it from the dark into sunlight and give it regular watering and quality soil to take nutrition from. Then it will use its innate resources to get its needs met, heal, grow and blossom again. To treat someone living in a toxic environment, the answer is obvious - change the toxic environment or situation (or remove the person from the toxic environment) so they can get their emotional needs (or 'human givens') met in a healthy way - then the depression will lift and the person will flourish.

If this involves helping them to get a job, detraumatising them from past events, start a new hobby, get the courage to get out of a failing relationship, getting them to ring their bank manager and discuss their financial situation with someone who can help, or just give them the time to talk to someone who can listen - then a good human givens therapist should do everything they can to get their client into a situation where they can start living their life again without worrying about emotional needs not being met, perpetuating the cycle of depression.

2. They have not learned how to use their innate resources correctly to meet their emotional needs.
Not using, or not currently having the ability to use, or misusing any one of our innate resources (the second strand of 'human givens') is likely to result in mental distress. If someone is using their innate resources badly, then they need to learn how to use their resources in the correct way, either on their own or with a therapist.

Misusing imagination by creating 'worse case scenarios' in our minds, for example, creates negative expectations, and raises levels of worrying, which can begin a cycle of depression. A good therapist will teach someone to use their imagination in constructive and healthy ways, often by using guided imagery, which is the most effective way of doing so.

Through life we are constantly learning, and different people naturally have different levels of ability in many areas. There are many behavioural and personal skills required to function healthily in our society, and if someone is currently at a lower level of ability in one of these areas, they may find they have difficulty meeting their needs.

A good example of a capacity many people need help with are social skills. There is an art to making friends and talking to people, which is largely learned by experience, so if someone is depressed because they haven't got many friends, or have difficulty talking to others, then treatment should focus on teaching the person specific social skills and techniques that they can practice and use for themselves.

3. They suffer from a genetic, biological or trauma based condition that prevents or damages their capacity to use resources to meet their needs.

Unfortunately, some people suffer from conditions that affect how well they use their resources to meet their needs. In these cases however, the focus is still on getting emotional needs met by using all available innate resources, with more long term help if needed.

Examples of these conditions are ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and Asperger's, bipolar disorder, chromosomal disorders, developmental disorders etc. Biological causes can also lead to damage to our innate guidance system, for example strokes, lesions and accidents.


Knowing the reason for depression is the starting point towards lifting a depressed state, a task that is not necessarily only undertaken by the use of medication, but can also often be achieved by self work or effective brief therapy.

This article was taken from our website. 

Also see the book: How to lift Depression... Fast

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Twitter Round Up

Every month or so, I am going to do a round up of interesting articles & snippets I've come across on Twitter.

As well as tweeting latest Human Givens news and sharing our own links of interest, I try to re-tweet articles of relevance to anyone studying psychotherapy, behaviour or neuroscience from the human givens perspective.

So here is an interesting selection from the last couple of months:

On storytelling:
@GuardianTeenBks 500 new fairytales discovered - a whole new world of magic animals and evil witches 
On Bipolar Disorder and creativity:
@TheMentalHealth: Does a bipolar state of mind encourage creative genius? 
@the99percent: The connection between bipolar disorder and creativity 
On Autism:
@autismspeaks #Autism May Begin at Very Early Phases of Brain Development blog by Eric Courchesne, Ph.D.
 @social_brains Autistics have enhanced perceptual processing
@sciammind Society offers little help to adults with autism. Here's what we can do, by
On depression:
@PsychologyView How Western Psychology Needs to Rethink Depression
@sciammind For depression researchers. "chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking"
...and just for fun:
@openculture: Arthur C. Clarke Predicts the Future for Little Boy in 1974. Foresees the Internet & PC. Video:

And finally, a quote from a tweet by @PsychNetworker: "It's not the situation. It's your reaction to the situation." Robert Conklin


Don't forget to follow the Human Givens Twitter yourself: twitter/humangivens