Tuesday, 31 July 2012

How to stop worrying

We are all familiar with worrying, the apparently endless turning around of thoughts in our heads, our minds buzzing with negative commentary about our lives, our imaginations creating worse case scenarios that make us feel awful and keep us awake at night.

The fact is, worrying is a gross misuse of the imagination, and fuels the cycle of depression. Today’s worries are tomorrow’s depression, and reducing worrying to manageable levels will enable you to sleep better and start to lift depression almost immediately.

What strategies can you use to beat worrying?

Here are some useful tips for controlling worrying:

1. Carry a notebook around for a few days and write down every time you notice yourself thinking negatively.

Doing this will make you more conscious of your thinking style and will prepare you for the next step, which is to challenge your own pessimistic thinking.

2. Challenge your negative thoughts
Every time you catch yourself thinking negatively, take the statement and ask yourself if it is really true, or if it is just emotional black and white (all or nothing) thinking. Challenging these thoughts will disempower them, and help remove them from your mind altogether. This technique is called ‘reframing’, and is one of the most powerful techniques you can use to break down problems and dissolve worrying.

For example:

“I can’t do anything right.”
-”I’m actually doing my best under difficult circumstances.”

“It’s all too much.”
-"I have coped before and I can cope again. I will do 7-11 breathing for a few minutes and then see how I feel.”

“I will die if I don’t pass this exam”
-”If I don’t pass the exam it’s not the end of the world, I can retake it and at least I will know how to do better next time”

3. What can you do about your worries NOW?

Worrying is the route in to depression and of itself never solves any problem. Once you have identified your negative thought patterns and challenged them, you can ask yourself what you can actually DO about the problem you are worried about, however bad the difficulties you face are. If you are worrying about what has happened in the past or what may or may not happen in the future that you have no control over, then you must resolve to stop worrying about it and wait for circumstances to change. Getting depressed is just an added burden you can do without.

If there is something practical you could do right now to resolve a worry or meet an unmet emotional need (eg, take out holiday insurance, sign up for an aerobics course, complete a job application, booking a driving test) make a note of it and DO it.

4. Set aside a ‘worry half hour’

Set aside half an hour a day at a time convenient for you (but not just before bed) in which to do all your worrying. If a worry pops into your head before the allotted time, dismiss it from your mind and tell yourself you will think about that later on, when you’re allowed to worry. People often find it easier not to worry when they know they’ve got the time to worry later.

In your ‘worry half hour’, you can do all the pointless worrying you want. If you find, while you worry, that there are some steps you can take to deal with the worrying then you might want to use the time to do those, and if you find you want to stop worrying before 30 minutes is up, then cut short the worrying time. But remember, you have used up your worrying time for the day and you’re not allowed to make up this time tomorrow!

5. If you think you need more help

Not everyone finds it easy to follow the advice on a website without guidance and support from someone else. If you think you need more help, check out the find a human givens therapist page. If you cannot find a human givens therapist near you, at least make sure you select another therapist who understands the information we have given you.

This advice is taken from our website dedicated to lifting depression.

Monday, 23 July 2012

HG Library: Autistic tendencies: the consequences for our culture. Joe Griffin interviews Prof Michael Fitzgerald

Published in 2006 after the release of Professor Michael Fitzgerald's third book, this landmark interview outlines some of the current thinking on autism that influenced the development of caetextia theory and will be of great interest to anyone interested in Asperger's Syndrome and autism.

Autistic tendencies: the consequences for our culture

Professor Michael Fitzgerald talks with Joe Griffin about the powerful impact, both positive and negative, of autistic thinking in diverse walks of life.

GRIFFIN: Michael, having read your three books on Asperger’s and creativity, I have become a great admirer of your work, finding it hugely enlightening. I had so many wonderful ‘Aha!’ moments reading them, partly because I’ve a significant amount of autism and Asperger’s in my own family, having a sister who is autistic and two brothers who meet the criteria for Asperger’s.

FITZGERALD: You’re an expert, then!

GRIFFIN: Well, I’ve lived with it all my life and, in addition to that, I’ve encountered it clinically. But I’m curious, Michael. You’ve written so profoundly and with so much insight into this condition; it’s your life work. What prompted your interest in this area?

FITZGERALD: Well, it was accidental. In about 1973 my boss said that I should do research and he suggested I look at autism. And once I got into it I became more and more interested, and I began doing clinical work too. Once you’ve got an interest in Asperger’s, you never give it up for the rest of your life because these people are so fascinating. We human beings are totally obsessed with ourselves, and studying Asperger’s and autism gives us hints that point to the central issues about what it is to be a human being. When you understand autism, by studying people with problems in this area, paradoxically you understand more of what it is to be a normal human being. It’s just the most fundamental thing of all.

GRIFFIN: What amazed me about the analysis in your books of personalities you felt had these traits was that it was so utterly convincing. And yet, when I heard you being interviewed on Irish radio, people phoning in took such a strong exception to it, rejecting almost out of hand your analysis – which seemed to me to be so blindingly obvious! Were you surprised at that?

FITZGERALD: Well, when I thought about it, I wasn’t. Such hostility is based on a lack of understanding. People don’t understand because they have preconceptions about everything and when these preconceptions are challenged it makes them angry and they just get hostile.

GRIFFIN: Mostly nothing is looked at in any depth. That’s why this interview opportunity is so useful. For those who don’t know your work, your findings show an astonishing relationship: Asperger’s, which we normally think of as almost the opposite of innovation – a desire for sameness, systems, rules and control at all costs – can also be associated with creativity. Could you say something about how that could be possible?

FITZGERALD: It is a surprise to most people. Savantism has a long history of being accepted. Savant syndrome is seen when there is both a severe developmental or mental handicap and extraordinary mental abilities not found in most people, often involving great feats of memory, arithmetic, draughtsmanship or musical ability. And it is generally accepted that engineers and mathematicians might be a bit autistic, but what is the hardest thing for most people to swallow is that artists like Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, George Orwell or Michelangelo – those kind of people – are autistic too. (I’ve written about them all in my books.) It surprises them. But it’s true.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

HG Library: Brain and mind: an unfathomable relationship? Ivan Tyrrell talks to James Le Fanu

This interview with James Le Fanu was published in the Human Givens journal in 2009 and is a must-read if you are interested in Darwinism, science and progress.


Brain and mind: an unfathomable relationship?

James Le Fanu explains to Ivan Tyrrell why he believes that reductionist science cannot, and never will, explain the complexities of what it is to be human.

TYRRELL: James, in your earlier book, The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine, you laid out all the wonderful achievements of modern medicine but felt it had arrived at a point where progress had stalled. You included psychotherapy in this, describing how psychoanalytic approaches to mental illness had turned out largely worthless and often harmed people. In your new book, Why Us? How science rediscovered the mystery of ourselves, the pattern is the same. After describing the very real achievements of modern science, you conclude that it has now stalled and is no longer making progress with the big issues. Did you consciously have that pattern in mind or did it just pan out like that?

LE FANU: It came about through the process of writing. The last 60 years has witnessed the culmination of an extraordinary scientific programme stretching back 400 years that has produced, both in pure science and applied science, the remarkable achievements we have all seen in the post-war years. It takes some time to make sense of it all and appreciate the sheer scale of what’s going on. For me, it’s being able to hold in our mind’s eye, for the first time in the history of our species, the whole history of the universe, from the moment it started to life on earth as it is today: the history of the evolution of the universe, the solar system, life appearing on our planet and evolving, and unravelling of the genetic codes of the whole genome. Science made that possible in my lifetime, and I just find this completely awe- inspiring. By the early 80s there were really only two outstanding questions: What is the nature of the genetic instructions which are passed from generation to generation? And how do the chemical and electrical activities of the brain create the mind? Then a series of major technical innovations in the late 70s and early 80s held out the promise that these questions too might be resoluble.

TYRRELL: Neuroscientists were developing the means actually to observe the living brain doing things – thinking, talking, deciding, experiencing emotions, and so on—

LE FANU: —And that had never been possible before. Genetics and neuroscience, when they got off the ground, fell within my sphere of interest as a science writer. We were promised that spelling out the human genome and the genetic instructions of organisms would clarify and explain, at least in principle, what distinguishes one organism from another, and also that watching the brain in action using PET scans would tell us how the mind works.
That major research effort lasted for about 20 years culminating around the time of the millennium with the Decade of the Brain and the publication of the human genome. It seemed to me, although it took some time for the penny to drop, that, quite inadvertently, the findings were completely contrary to those which science had been anticipating, and so dramatically as to suggest that either something else is going on or that science’s presumptions about the phenomena of life represent a fa├žade of knowledge.

TYRRELL: As you wrote, “Two of the most ambitious scientific projects ever conceived have revealed, quite unexpectedly – and without anyone really noticing – that we are, after all, a mystery to ourselves.”

LE FANU: Yes, this was particularly so with regard to the twin enigmas: the nature of ‘form’, what distinguishes one form of creature from another; and what accounts for the richness of the human mind – consciousness and so on.
It all came together for me whilst I was trying to work out what the unexpected findings thrown up by genetics and neuroscience actually meant. Specifically, what did it mean that there was a near equivalence of the number of genes across a vast range of organistic complexity – essentially we share the same number of genes as a millimetre long worm – and the realisation that science cannot get from the monotonous electrochemistry of the brain to the richness of the subjective experience of the human mind? This, naturally enough, suggests that something else is going on. By itself the sequence of genes strung out along the double helix could not alone conjure up the near infinite diversity of form and attributes of the living world, nor account for the emergence of the human mind. And whatever is missing is substantial. But it’s quite obvious that science doesn’t want to go there. There remain virtually limitless possibilities for research, but this only generates a yet further avalanche of undigested and indigestible facts without any sense of what it all means.

TYRRELL: So, when you started exploring the wider context of science’s perception of how things are, what happened?

LE FANU: Well, inevitably, it led to modern biology’s foundational theory – Darwin’s evolutionary theory, with its claim to explain the phenomena of life as the consequence of an incredibly simple mechanism: natural selection acting on the random mutation of genes. As long as I can remember, I have been a bit of a Darwin sceptic. Not that evolution doesn’t happen: it is self-evident that the whole history of the universe, from the simple to the complex, is an evolutionary one. Similarly, the concept of natural selection is indisputable: nature selects the robust and the strong against weak.

TYRRELL: So, for you, the problem is that Darwin’s theory has become a theory for everything.

LEFANU: Exactly that! It’s not that it explains too little but that it explains too much...

Friday, 20 July 2012

The importance of context blindness and working with children with ASD

The Aspergersphere, a website for parents of children with Asperger syndrome, has added a page of information on catextia, recognising the importance of caetextia theory when working with children with Asperger's and autism:
"Many of the approaches parents and professionals use to help kids develop competencies such as social skills focus on teaching rules and scripts. However, for social understanding and competence to develop, rules and scripts are insufficient. The missing element is context. Behavior that is socially appropriate in one situation might be inappropriate in another context. Because of the literal, absolute way our kids think, they need help in understanding not only whether a certain behavior is socially appropriate, but also when that behavior is appropriate. 
Context blindness explains why your child can tell you exactly how he or she should handle a situation (when you’re discussing it before or after the event), but then has difficulty applying that theoretical understanding to real world experiences."

Further information:

Visit The Aspergersphere

Find out more about caetextia or watch this video:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Unusual behaviour in girls and right-brained caetextia

The bias towards boys when diagnosing autism is having a negative impact on girls with the disorder, reported The Guardian last week.

Many parents have to fight particularly hard for a diagnosis for their daughters whilst overcoming ignorance from the medical profession about how autism presents in girls, with one doctor even stating that "girls don't get autism":
"Annette Lewns has more experience than most of the different ways in which boys and girls with autism are treated. Her 14-year-old son, Ryan, was diagnosed when he was three and a half. But doctors refused to diagnose her 12-year-old daughter, Rachel, until she was nine.
"What angers me is that for years I was dismissed by doctors purely because Rachel was a girl. Ryan was spotted very quickly because the autism symptoms that doctors look for are so male-orientated," said Lewns. "But Rachel's autism was hidden unless you knew where to look for it.
"Rachel could express herself, she had a couple of friends and understood emotions if someone was at an extreme: really upset or really happy. But you didn't really have to look too hard to see she didn't genuinely understand emotions or relationships: she was just mimicking scripts and scenarios from TV."
"The doctors failed time and time again to see through her coping strategies. I fought for years but I was confronted with a wall of disbelief and scepticism. They were simply unable to understand that a girl might present differently to a boy."
 The idea that autism is a boy's disorder stemmed from a number of researcher’s including Simon Baron Cohen's theory that autism is an 'extreme variant of male intelligence' due to the apparent larger incidence of autism in males. Unfortunately, this theory has blinded many to the bigger picture as well as generating gender discrimination cases such as the above.

Fortunately, since this disparity has been recognised efforts have been made to study more closely the effects of autism and Aspergers in girls. The human givens approach added to this line of enquiry with Caetextia theory, which explains how the same disorder can present differently in girls than in boys and suggests that the prevalence of Asperger's Syndrome in women is grossly underestimated.

Below is an extract from the book, Godhead: The brain’s big bang where the authors’ explain the origin of creativity, mysticism and mental illness, which anyone wishing to understand more about Asperger’s, autism and psychosis should read:

Left- and right-brained caetextia
As the intelligence system evolved in humans, our higher cortex became more complex and its left and right hemispheres developed specialisations for different processes. While maintaining the ability to interact with and complement each other, the hemispheres developed exponentially to support rational and contextual thinking. Human language and thought, for example, are primarily ordered through the left hemisphere, which sequences and structures information moment by moment in a way that fosters reason. But our logical thinking is informed, and also coloured, by associative thinking and imagination, both faculties that primarily involve the right hemisphere. Whereas previously we had relied on instinctive responses to keep us safe, once the cortex developed in modern humans we were able to consciously review feelings and not just act on them. In other words, we could investigate what was going on around us with a more refined reasoning ability.

But when people are missing the mammalian parallel processing template for handling multiple streams of information, they are forced to try and resolve problems by other means. If a person is left-brain dominant, we see Asperger’s behaviour as traditionally recognised: literal, logical, analytical reactions with difficulties in communication and empathy because of a severely diminished ability to think contextually. This happens because the left neocortex is itself ‘autistic’ – it doesn’t have access to the feelings and metaphors that create context.

Such people are easily stressed by sensory overload, which often produces intense outbursts of autistic anger and more desperate attempts to try and control everything around them so as to minimise the unpleasant feelings they are having. But if a person is right-brain dominant and is missing the template for mobilising context, we suggest that caetextia may express itself through an undisciplined and very strong imagination. The right brain looks always for associations, so, without a strong left-brain to moderate the myriad associations that the right brain makes, a person with caetextia cannot discipline them and check them out. The associations made are unlikely to be the right ones because, without access to a personal emotional history, they are not anchored in reality. The constant, undisciplined association-making can lead not only to inappropriate but also often quite bizarre thoughts, speech and behaviour.

Right-brained caetextia is caused by a lack of instinctive feelings to moderate the person’s thoughts and behaviour, leaving the mind to run free, making directionless, random associations. Because a right-brained caetextic person is more emotional, it may seem odd to suggest that their condition is due to a lack of instinctive feelings, but it is the lack of the instinct to discipline emotional associations that gives rise to problems. Scientists researching decision-making have determined that it is emotion, fired by imagination, that prioritises decision-making – not logic: “Emotions arise when events or outcomes are relevant for one’s concerns or preferences and they prioritise behaviour that acts in service of these concerns” (our italics).

Both right- and left-brained caetextia result in black-and-white thinking and, of course, when heavily stressed, we can all become temporarily caetextic: prone to black-and-white, crazy, irrational behaviour and faulty reasoning. As one excited boy described an emotionally arousing sporting event, “People were running about all over the place, the boys in shorts and the girls in hysterics.”

There is a widespread contention that Asperger’s is linked to gender. However, the notion that it is overwhelmingly a male condition, with the male-to- female ratio ranging up to 15:1, is not consistent with our clinical experience. As psychotherapists we see more females than men with this condition and, even taking into account that more women than men come for therapy, we believe that the prevalence of Asperger’s syndrome in women may be underestimated.

We would suggest that females are more likely than males to suffer specifically from right-brain caetextia, and that clinicians are not yet recognising this expression of Asperger’s syndrome. This could be because, although in right-brain caetextia we see the same inability to track multiple foci of attention and think contextually, such people have ready access to emotions in a way that left-brain dominant caetextics, who, in our experience, are predominantly male, do not.

Right-brain caetextics, for instance, can become emotional in an instant and very easily cry or express extreme anger at the slightest upset. This accessibility of emotion, generally much more common in women, disguises the caetextia. However, they are just as poor at interpersonal intelligence as those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and have difficulties around their sense of identity. They also lack empathy and cannot see how inappropriate their behaviour or beliefs appear to others.

Confirmation that our description of right-brained caetextia is plausible has come not only from psychotherapists working with difficult ‘stuck’ patients, but also from individuals who have read our caetextia website.

Nicolle from the US, for example, wrote to us as follows (and kindly gave us permission to publish her letter):
“I have just stumbled across your site after Googling ‘right brained aspie?’ I want to say ... THANK YOU! I can’t believe it, after all these years I have FINALLY discovered what it is I really have. I am a 36-year-old female who has struggled my entire life with all the symptoms and issues that you describe. I was recently diagnosed as being on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum by a wonderful and very experienced psychiatrist who specializes in autism. Prior to that I have collected a number of labels by inexperienced and ignorant medical professionals who had their heads stuck in a bucketful of stereotypes. Avoidant Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Despite fitting some of these symptoms I always knew there was more to it than that and they didn’t describe or explain much of my other difficulties.
When I got the Asperger diagnosis, I was elated but also puzzled as all the aspie people I know, including my classic left-brained aspie husband, were very different from me, being highly intellectual and very logical. Although I shared much in common with them in other regards such as sensory problems etc, I have been wondering what it is and came to the conclusion it must be because I am a right-brain dominant aspie and have some co-morbid bipolar, hence the Internet searching and discovering your site explaining ‘caetextia’, which I have not heard of before. I have chronic fatigue syndrome. I know this but cannot get any doctor to listen to me and it is difficult to diagnose.
I have been battling this all my adult life and also struggle with autistic inertia. My mother has undiagnosed autism as she is exactly like me. She is diagnosed with fibromyalgia and is extremely volatile. I also have a son who is diagnosed with AS and he is a lot like me. I have many behaviors which I cannot help and don’t even understand why I do the things I do; I know some of it is how I manage my anxiety and now I see after reading about caetextia that there is a lot more to it than that. It has confirmed all my suspicions about myself that I have not been able to put into words.
Sorry to harp on, I just think you have cracked it and most professionals have no knowledge of this and how autistic women present, especially when they are very right-brain dominant. You’ve given an explanation for my entire life and behavior. I’ve been accused of being lazy, crazy, bad, selfish…the list goes on. I hope the medical community wakes up to this. So many of us are suffering in the shadows.
Thank you again: now I know what it is I am dealing with, I hope I can learn to manage myself better.”

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The importance of meaning

An interesting piece from the blog of the health journalist Jerome Burns explores the difficulties of implementing the findings of new research which indicates how important a sense of purpose is to those who suffer from Alzheimer's.
"This study which involved looking at the brains of over 200 people who had been followed and regularly rested for around ten years before dying found that those who still functioned quite well despite the plaques and tangles were often those who had reported having a sense of purpose in life. Now this makes a kind of intuitive sense but it raises the problem of how do you do a randomised controlled trial of a sense of purpose?"
This research highlights the importance of one of the human givens"a sense of meaning and purpose - that comes from being stretched in what we do and think".

Despite the difficulties of testing for meaning and purpose with randomised controlled trials, the human givens approach has been promoting the importance of the need for meaning for many years. We consider the sense of meaning and purpose as pretty central to emotional wellbeing.

You can listen to Ivan Tyrrell summarising the essential emotional needs including a sense of meaning and purpose in this video about innate emotional needs:

Part 2 explains the innate resources that we have to meet these needs. Activating these resources to meet our innate needs are what psychotherapy and emotional wellbeing is all about:

Find out more about how to meet the need for purpose and meaning from our lift-depression website.

Monday, 2 July 2012

What to expect when seeing a therapist for the first time

Seeing a therapist for the first time can be a nerve-racking experience. On the one hand you may feel relief that you are seeking help, but on the other, discussing emotional and personal problems with a stranger can be very intimidating.

With the wide choice of psychotherapy schools and therapists out there, we wanted to create a checklist that someone seeking therapy could use to choose a therapist that is effective as possible, and this checklist is also a great way for those new to therapy to find out what a session may entail.

 An effective psychotherapist or counsellor:
  • knows how to build rapport quickly with distressed people,
  • understands depression and how to lift it,
  • helps immediately with anxiety problems including trauma or fear related symptoms — is prepared to give advice if needed or asked for,
  • will not use jargon or 'psychobabble' or tell you that counselling or psychotherapy has to be 'painful'
  • will not dwell unduly on the past,
  • will be supportive when difficult feelings emerge, but will not encourage people to get emotional beyond the normal need to 'let go' of any bottled up feelings,
  • may assist you to develop your social skills so that your needs for affection, friendship, pleasure, intimacy, connection to the wider community etc. can be better fulfilled,
  • will help you to draw and build on your own resources (which may prove greater than you thought),
  • will be considerate of the effects of counselling on the people close to you,
  • may teach you to relax deeply,
  • may help you think about your problems in new and more empowering ways,
  • uses a wide range of techniques as appropriate,
  • may ask you to do things between sessions,
  • will take as few sessions as possible,
  • will increase your self confidence and independence and make sure you feel better after every consultation.
If you are searching for an effective therapist, take a look at our register of Human Givens Therapists for effective psychotherapy in the UK.