Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Summer blog break

Posts on the HG blog will resume in September after a short summer break.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

HG Library: Twisting the truth: why the mass media misinform

You can’t believe what you read in the newspapers, even the quality ones. Award-winning journalist Nick Davies tells Ivan Tyrrell why. This article was published in Vol 15, No 3 (2008) of the Human Givens journal.

TYRRELL: First, I want to thank you. Your book Flat Earth News has cured me of my addiction to newspapers! Until reading it, newspapers had always been a part of my life, as they were for my parents, and I grew up thinking that journalists were interested in getting at the truth. I remember in the 60s, for example, the Sunday Times’ Insight team doing major investigative exposés of scandals involving greed and hypocrisy, which chimed with the optimistic, if foolish, belief – which many people held then – that political corruption and injustice could be eradicated. And that is all gone now...

DAVIES: Yes, more or less.

TYRRELL: I was riveted by your unrelenting descriptions of the behind-the-scenes degeneration of all the major newspapers, not just the Sunday Times, but, as I understand it, what really got you into writing this book was what you called “a single, notorious story – the long and twisting saga of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”. You wanted to understand how journalists could have got it so wrong about weapons of mass destruction [WMD].

DAVIES: Yes, although I should put it in a slightly different way. What really annoyed me was when the media began analysing the non-existence of WMD, as though it were a problem only of the intelligence agencies’ and government’s making, whereas, if you look at the shape of the dis- information, there was a third player involved: the media. So, my initial thought was, “Why on earth are we in the British media not writing about our part in this?” Why is it that the New York Times and Washington Post were the only major newspapers that actually investigated their own failure and published the results? No newspaper or broadcast organisation in this country did that. Why don’t we put our journalism under the same kind of scrutiny that we bring to bear on everything else: politics, finance, entertainment, sport? And then, yes, the key question became, why do we get these stories so wrong? 
And I think that a lot of outsiders would answer, “Well, you misreported the WMD story because that’s what Rudolph Murdoch and the other proprietors told you to do”. But, as a journalist, I reckon that’s not really true. There is some proprietor interference, and I’ve written a bit about it in the book, but actually it’s relatively rare, and on nothing like the scale that outsiders imagine. Proprietor interference certainly can’t explain the misreporting by say, The Guardian and The Observer, which are owned by a trust, or by the BBC, also owned by a trust. There was an analysis of the BBC coverage of the build-up to the invasion of Iraq which found that 86 per cent of their stories took it for granted that the weapons existed. Well, that wasn’t because the owners were telling them what to write, because there ain’t an owner! There is something more interesting going on here.

TYRRELL: It is a clear example of what you term “flat earth news”. I quote: “[A story] appears to be true. It is widely accepted as true. It becomes a heresy to suggest that it is not true. The most powerful institutions on the planet insist that it is true, but it is riddled with falsehood, distortion and propaganda.” Another perfect illustration was the hysteria generated about the so-called ‘millennium bug’.

DAVIES: Yes, when you stand back and look at the scale of falsehood, misreporting and distortion involved in the millennium bug story, it doesn’t look like the kind of story where a proprietor would have any interest in interfering. There is something else at work here in these great global stories which we get so wrong, and also in the many small stories that just come up, live for 24 or 48 hours and then die off or go away.

TYRRELL: Of course, there are still journalists with integrity and determination to root out truth. But you seemed to find that the huge pressure put on journalists to churn out stories conditions them in the main to make certain stock responses, so they can’t think flexibly. Investigation takes time.

DAVIES: Yes, what we have is ‘churnalism’, a great term that someone coined. It means that you don’t have the time or the incentive to follow the basic rules of journalism: to go out and find stories, make contacts, check facts – those basic things. You just churn it out.

TYRRELL: It’s a terribly sad and damaging practice. If journalists have no time to think, it starts to spread out into the community, because we are reading what they’ve written.

DAVIES: I think we are looking at a global collapse of information gathering and truth telling. And that leaves us in a kind of knowledge chaos, where the very subject matter of global debate is shifted from the essential to the arbitrary; where government policy, cultural values, widespread assumptions, declarations of war and attempts at peace all turn out to be poisoned by distortion.

TYRRELL: You make the case that a lot of that is down to 10 ‘rules of production’ by which the media operate today. I think our readers would find it interesting if we talk through these rules because we are all too aware how difficult it is to get new ideas taken up by the media, and what you say explains why.

DAVIES: Okay. The central thrust of the book is that the logic of journalism has been undermined by the logic of commercialism: cut costs and increase revenue. Twenty years after Wapping, when Rupert Murdoch broke the print unions and the new corporate owners became free to apply the logic of commerce, staffing levels are slightly lower than they were then but the amount of editorial space to fill has trebled. So we no longer have the time to do our jobs properly – including having little time to check facts. So we end up with all these rather destructive tendencies.

TYRRELL: And it is these that you describe in the rules. The first rule is run cheap stories.

DAVIES: Yes, you just go for stories which are financially cheap to cover. I teach aspiring journalists and I sometimes say to these students, as an exercise, “Suppose we had a story about an Australian rules football player, a game nobody follows over here, and that we don’t understand. But this particular football player is quite interesting because he’s an Aborigine and that means he’s important in the Australian context because Aborigines there are treated so badly. He’s just retired from football but he’s developed a little bit of a second career as a singer or something but, basically, we’ve never heard of this guy. However, he’s being going out with a white woman, and she turns up dead, and this Aussie rules football player is arrested. What will we do with this story?” And we discuss it and the class usually agrees that we’re going to ignore it because he’s a guy we’ve never heard of, who played a sport we don’t follow, so we are not interested in it. Maybe one or two in the class say, “Well, he’s an Aborigine so, in the context of race relations in Australia, it’s sufficiently important there that we might do a feature at the moment of the arrest, when the trial begins and when the trial finishes. But that’s it.”
Then I tell them that, “Well, actually, in real life, what happened was this: the story took off and made headlines around the world, day after day after day, for months. It became so huge that, when he came to court, his trial knocked our Prime Minister’s keynote speech at the Labour Party conference off the top of the news bulletins, causing a major row behind the scenes.”

TYRRELL: Of course, you are really talking about the circumstances of the O J Simpson case.

DAVIES: Yes, an American football player who was a black man accused of killing a white woman: I just translated it to Australia. But how can something like that happen? It isn’t anything to do with journalistic judgement of the kind which we should be making: it’s a commercial judgement. There are more journalists per square foot in the US than anywhere else on the surface of the planet. “O J” is a big story for them. They start filing copy. It turns up on the wires. The pictures come over. You can sit at a news desk and say to a reporter, “Just write that up; give me 600 words”, and then 30 minutes later you’ve got a page lead. And once you set the story up, you create the narrative; the punters want to know more about it. You’re off! It just takes over. There is no rational thinking going on. But that irrational thinking infiltrates the media in this very subtle way.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

PAY ATTENTION! The human need to receive (and give) attention

(Trigger warning for discussion of Middle Ages experiment involving child neglect)

Without nutrients of any kind we will die, and the human need for attention is no different.

This is shown by a horrific experiment in the Middle Ages by the Roman and German Emperor, Frederick II, who had newborn babies removed from their parents and cared for by nurses who fed and cleaned them but were under strict instructions not to touch, talk or give them any attention whatsoever in an attempt to satisfy the emperor’s curiosity as to what language the children would speak if they didn’t hear a native tongue. The experiment was never resolved, as all the babies died from lack of attention before reaching talking age.

The phenomenon of attention needs has always been well understood in Eastern psychology but has only recently been equally as valued by the West. A 1927 study into productivity performed by the Western Electric Company plant in Hawthorne near Chicago found that difference in the ways they treated employees was the amount of attention they were giving them, not taking 5 minute rest breaks or going home at 4pm. This became known as the Hawthorne effect. (Mayo, E 1933 The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Macmillan)

We all know that people draw attention to themselves in myriad ways - by being the most stylish, fashionable or expensively dressed, or the noisiest and most noticed at social gatherings. Some exhibit eccentric behaviours, wear garish clothes, sport deliberately odd hairstyles, boast about their achievements etc. But the lure of attention seeking can be far more subtle than that. People are attracted, far more often than they realise, to situations that provide opportunities for getting attention.

Many social and commercial transactions are in fact disguised attention situations, and if individuals are unaware that what is driving them in certain circumstances is the demanding, exchanging, extending or exchange of attention, believing they are engaged in something else - such as learning, informing, helping, buying or selling - they are likely to be less efficient in achieving their ends (both those they think they are serving and their attention needs) and will be less able to act and react in ways that are appropriate to a situation, whatever that is.

In becoming aware of how your attention needs are being met it’s important to realise:

1) That this attention-factor is operating in virtually all transactions;

2) That the apparent motivation of transactions may be other than it really is. And that is often generated by the need or desire for attention-activity (giving, receiving exchanging);

3) That attention-activity, like any other demand for food, warmth etc, when placed under volitional control, must result in increased scope for the human being who would then not be at the mercy of random sources of attention - or even more confused than usual if things should not pan out as expected.

This is a profoundly more subtle understanding of the importance of attention than found in Western psychology until now.

It's worth considering how your need to give and receive attention is being met in your life at the moment.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about attention: 

Do you feel like you receive enough attention?
Do you give other people significant attention?
Are you often around attention seeking people who seem to drain you of energy?
Are you around people who are genuinely interested in what you think?
Do you spend a lot of time alone, by choice or not?
Do you feel too shy to get the attention you need?
Do you get attention in healthy or unhealthy ways?
Do you get attention through behaving dramatically, being emotional and creating scenes?
If so, have you considered that you might be an emotional tyrant?
Do you really listen when people talk to you, or just hear what you expect they are saying?
Do you enjoy being the centre of attention?
Do you dislike being the centre of attention?
Can you separate out your need for attention from the activities you are involved in, such as sport, politics, community work, attending meetings or a church?

Read more about your human need for attention on our lift depression website.

Friday, 3 August 2012

How to be cool and attractive

Ever wondered how to be cool and attractive? Let Human Givens therapist Chris Dyas share the secret...

“Do you know the old story about the Sun and the North Wind having a bet about which one of them could get some guy to take his coat off? Well, the North Wind had a go and blew his hardest, but the guy just clung to his coat with all his strength. But all the Sun had to do was shine and the guy took off his coat because he was too hot. Truly ‘cool’ people shine a kind of calm control that everyone else secretly wants, and so they find it attractive..” 

“The Art of Being Cool and Attractive,” is a social skills method designed to help develop an approach to others that will attract the right amount of the right kind of positive attention.

It is an exerpt from an article in our Journal archive that I thought deserved a little more attention.

 The ‘art’ is contained in ten laws. How well do you follow them?

 1. Learn to do with less attention than you would like at the moment

 2. Do not compete with other people for attention

 3. Say less than is necessary

 4. Learn to behave well from those who don’t know how to

 5. Do not ‘freeload’ or overstay your welcome

 6. Never whine

 7. Appear unhurried

 8. Be different — but not too different

 9. Appear not to want things you cannot have

 10. Exercise courtesy and tact at all times.

Creating ‘cool’ 
Chris Dyas is a Human Givens Therapist working for a children’s charity which provides help for children who have suffered severe abuse. He introduces the Art of Being Cool and Attractive to the young people he works with in order to help them get their emotional needs met in healthy ways. He has been applying the human givens approach to his work for the past six years.
 “Andy placed a lot of importance upon being ‘cool’. He liked my idea that he might become the coolest member of his group, because, if he were the coolest, he would not feel the need to be ‘led’ anywhere — instead he would be doing the leading and his mates would want to follow. 
“Have you noticed that the coolest people do not seem to have to put any effort into it?” I asked. 
“Yeah, it’s like people just want to be with them,” agreed Andy. 
“I think this is because there is a big difference between attracting attention and seeking attention.” I said.” 
You can read the whole of Chris’s article in our old HGI archive, where he describes how he teaches troubled children how to hold their own among their peers in a healthy way: “It’s what right with you that fixes what’s wrong.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

HG Library: How PTSD can be treated so quickly: The shared mechanism behind EMDR, EFT and the rewind technique

Joe Griffin suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder treatments that can yield immediate success share an underlying mechanism, which explains their effect.

(Trigger warning: brief mentions of bomb trauma and rape)

A man recalls the terrifying moment when the bomb went off that blew away the lower part of his leg. He shakes as, yet again, the images crowd in upon him, the screaming, the smell of burning, the sudden blackness, the splintering glass. He has come to see a therapist because these images and fears, from eight years ago, still continually invade his life.

Quickly, the therapist works to calm him down, relaxing him deeply, and then gradually guides him to experience himself going swiftly backwards through the trauma, as if he were a character in a video, which is being rewound. The therapist then asks him to view the trauma as if in fast forward on a TV screen. Just ten minutes later, after having done this a number of times, the man can think and talk about his ordeal without horror and panic for the first time since the incident. The intrusive thoughts and nightmares he had been suffering do not return.

Another therapist in another therapy room requests a man to focus on a traumatic memory from the day that he nearly lost his life in an industrial accident. Simultaneously, the therapist moves her fingers to and fro in front of her client, asking him to track them with his eyes. Suddenly the man is sweating and shaking and, as different images of the events surface, one after the other, rates his degree of discomfort and the believability to him of certain statements about self-confidence and hope that the therapist presents to him. By the end of the hour's session, the devastating power of the memories has subsided and the man is much more hopeful about going on positively with his life.

In another therapy session in another therapist's office, a woman who suffered a vicious rape is being asked to bring the occasion to mind, focus on one incident, and allow the terror she experienced to resurface and intensify. Then she is asked to tap parts of her face and upper body a number of times in a particular order, and scale her degree of discomfort.

To keep up her emotional arousal, the therapist asks her to repeat emotive words connected to the incident (such as "the shirt is tearing") and then to say something like, "Although I feel fearful, I deeply and completely accept myself". All this time, she is tapping, as instructed. Quite quickly the intolerable feelings abate, but then more related images come into mind, causing her arousal to rise, and she is guided to tap and scale again and again. Soon she no longer feels traumatised by memories of the rape.

These are brief snapshots of three therapeutic methods — the rewind technique, eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) [1] and emotional freedom therapy (EFT, colloquially known as 'tapping') [2] — for which claims of success bordering on the miraculous have been made, in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For all have demonstrated numerous genuine successes.

As in the examples described above, people who for years have suffered over-whelming, intrusive memories and panics (because innocent sights, sounds or smells trigger the memory and the fear) are free of their burden after a single session. It is, indeed, a startling thing that someone can be in the grip of, or almost consumed by, an extreme reaction to trauma at one minute and yet be manifestly unaffected a short while later.

Each of these methods has its firm adherents who proclaim it 'the best' for treating PTSD. Most interesting to me, however, is to find out what it is that, at a very deep level, these three techniques may have in common. All seem capable of achieving profound physiological change at least some of the time, and I would like to explore more closely the powerful mechanism I think might underlie the effects.

The three techniques

At the human givens diploma course and at Human Givens College workshops, we teach the rewind technique, with which we have had a great deal of success. It has been tried out over lengthy periods in various settings, including in Northern Ireland where, for the last five years, practitioners have reported a very high success rate when working with people traumatised by the violence there.

We now have literally hundreds of people using this technique and, down the years, we have continually improved on it, so that most practitioners are achieving a consistently high success rate with it. But, as with any technique, it doesn't work 100 per cent of the time.

The EMDR technique was 'discovered' in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, then a mature clinical psychology student in California, who refined it into a highly specific treatment for which, originally, there were numerous supporters, eminent professors of psychology among them. It was recently recommended as a treatment for PTSD by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

However, over time, it has become clear that results are mixed and some researchers claim its effectiveness is no higher than with placebo. Others have found that the eye movements do not inhibit negative emotions and that the reprocessing element doesn't play a significant role in any positive outcome. This leaves desensitisation, which is a long-known therapeutic technique, and non-specific effects, such as therapist-client rapport.[3] (This was even acknowledged in the NICE guidelines.)

Clearly, claims are controversial for this technique but nonetheless a disinterested reviewer would need to be open to the fact that it does work in certain circumstances, in order to identify the underlying mechanism.

The tapping technique springs initially from the work of a clinical psychologist, Roger J Callahan, in the United States, who developed what he called "thought field therapy".[4] This technique involved tapping meridian points on the body whilst recalling a traumatic event and experiencing the extreme discomfort associated with it. According to Callahan's version, particular meridian points release and rebalance energies preferentially for different types of trauma.

The emotional freedom technique is a simplified version of thought field therapy developed by engineer Gary Craig, who trained with Callahan. It involves tapping the meridian points in turn whilst recalling a stressful event, experiencing and identifying the nature of the feelings that come up, verbalising them and accepting or reframing them.

For instance, "Even though I am feeling a tightness in my chest because I am angry at my wife, I still respect and love her deeply". Craig claims that stressful memories, phobias, PTSD and even addictive behaviours can be significantly abated by this means, thus making it the proverbial cure-all. But we are concerned here only with the claims that concern trauma and phobias.

As with the rewind technique, there is no published clinical controlled trial showing that tapping works (there are some trials that show an effect for EMDR, which is why NICE recommended it) but there are videos that demonstrate its application to patients and cures apparently being achieved. Having seen some of these videos, I have to say that they appear very convincing, although we can't know whether we are watching a subgroup of patients for whom the technique has worked or a random selection of patients.

Having experimented with the technique myself, I have had some success, and know of others who have, too. So, is there a common mechanism underlying these three techniques, and any other variations that may be developed?