Monday, 28 January 2013

How Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be Treated in Military Veterans

Resolution is a charity that provides free human givens therapy to traumatised military service veterans. One of the veterans who underwent the treatment was featured in a Daily Telegraph 'Life on Civvy Street' video series:

"When Anthony Taylor left the Army after 11 years service he was haunted by the memory of a murder he had witnessed in Northern Ireland. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he received therapy that helped him to cope with the memories":

Anthony was treated using the rewind technique, a non intrusive technique for treating PTSD that uses imaginal exposure and cognitive restructuring to gently break the association between the emotional response and the memory of the traumatic event or events.

Resolution is a charity and urgently requires funding to continue treating traumatised military veterans who often have nowhere else to turn, click here to find out how to donate to Resolution.

Here are the words of veterans who have undergone the trauma therapy with Resolution:

"…Still no nightmares, even after the (Falklands) pilgrimage. I thought the trip to San Carlos would set it all a-rolling again and spent a lot of time worrying about it beforehand. But it didn't. Of course the day was emotional - I'm no robot - but the following nights were as peaceful as I could have hoped...." 

 "…I feel really great and have at present no problems... I have not felt this good for a long time. I will keep you informed of how I am progressing as time goes by. Many thanks for your help and support…" 

 "I have been struggling with traumas from 25 years ago in N Ireland, and a family trauma 15 years ago, and became increasingly angry and alchoholic. The family one was the worst and I was reluctant to face dealing with it. But after six sessions with Resolution I had dealt with the N Ireland ones, and another three dealt with the family one. I am now much more in control, and have reduced my drinking, and at last sleeping better."

You can read more about how the rewind technique works in this article here on the HG blog: How PTSD can be treated so quickly: The shared mechanism behind EMDR, EFT and the rewind technique


If think you might be suffering from military related PTSD, please contact Resolution.


If you are suffering from PTSD or trauma and are not a military veteran, please find your nearest Human Givens Therapist - our therapists are fully trained in the rewind technique and will be able to help.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

HG Library: The brain’s big bang - and why it won’t be the last. Griffin and Tyrrell on meaning, mysticism and mental illness

This interview by John Zada with Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell on their latest book Godhead, the brain's big bang, is re published from the The Planisphere and was first published as “The Brain’s Big Bang – And Why it Won’t Be the Last” in the journal Human Givens, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2011.

Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin
ZADA: Some people reading this interview will be familiar with your work: the human givens approach to psychotherapy and your book of the same name. But your most recent book, Godhead: the brain’s big bang, is packed with new knowledge. By building upon the organising ideas in human givens psychology and bringing in knowledge and discoveries from areas as diverse as archaeology, anthropology, ancient history, philosophy, physics, religion and spirituality, it offers an explanatory framework for how the entire universe operates. It is a deep exploration of both the human and the universal condition and begins with one of the most important events in collective human evolution, which took place about 40,000 years ago – something which you call the ‘brain’s big bang’. Could you say why this is central to your book?

TYRRELL: First, we should say that the expression ‘the brain’s big bang’ is not ours. Archaeologists have used it for a long while.

GRIFFIN: Yes, we don’t claim to have originated the phrase. It arose when it became clear from archaeological research that there was massive evidence for the sudden appearance of a new level of human consciousness from about 40,000 years ago. Tools and other artefacts of extraordinary subtlety were created from then on, including wonderful works of art, deep down in caves. This provided cogent evidence that something remarkable had occurred to the human mind by around that time. It is arguable that this evidence is not confined to that period and there may well have been an evolutionary process going on in Africa for 60,000 years prior to then, although the actual evidence for this is pretty minimal. But it is possible that individuals and small groups may have accessed the brain state we describe in the book for thousands of years before it became sufficiently widespread in the genome for a major legacy of cultural artefacts to be left behind.

ZADA: What was the brain’s big bang?

TYRRELL: Our view of it has developed from human givens psychology and all that we have been teaching to mental health and other professionals about effective ways to help those with emotional and behavioural difficulties. One of the things they learn from us is that the brains of mammals, including early humans, had always been accessing what we call an internal reality simulator: the rapid eye movement state, known as REM, in which dreaming takes place. Somehow, by about 40,000 years ago, people had become able to access this reality simulator consciously – outside of the sleep state – and could daydream. In other words, we had evolved the ability to imagine. This was the turning point, the ‘big bang’ that changed everything.

Once you have imagination, you can mentally imagine solutions to problems, become creative, think about people who have died, instead of just those who are in front of you, and start questioning in abstract terms, “What is the meaning of this?” In other words, we could properly think about things in ways that we couldn’t do before, such as wondering what other people might feel if we took a certain course of action. For example, what would the people of another tribe think if we started to hunt in their valley?

GRIFFIN: When you access the REM state, you can envisage a future; you can talk about things that might or might not happen – animals that have not arrived at a watering hole yet, for example. New descriptive words would have been needed for things not immediately in front of people, such as they might need for planning journeys – hunting or foraging trips. So it is because we could envisage a future and also review the past that we developed the language of complexity, the language of tenses, etc. It was imagination that made this possible.

TYRRELL: Whereas animals only have a present tense; their language is all about signalling in the moment – mating calls, warning cries, joyous sounds when food is discovered, etc. All the higher apes communicate like this. But, once we could access the reality simulator consciously and imagine consequences, we needed a more complex language to express our newly developed orientation concerning the past and future. At this point storytelling would have flourished and more complex cultural changes could be passed on through the generations. All this seems to have spread quickly throughout the human race. So the big bang came about because we could access the dreaming brain while we were awake.

ZADA: And, of course, alongside this accessing of the REM state in the waking brain, a reasoning faculty also developed to keep that REM state in check. You describe the explosion of mental potentiality, this parallel track of REM state and reason, as coming with a price for those who were not endowed with the right balance of both. And this leads you into the area of mental health.

TYRRELL: That’s right. All these ideas we have developed came from our thinking about what makes a person healthy. Very obviously, once you have imagination, you can worry because worrying means thinking about what might go wrong in the future. And it is worrying that produces all the consequences of anxiety and depression.

GRIFFIN: It became obvious to us that, once you have conscious access to the REM state, you can overload it. The REM state evolved in mammals to perform the biological function of programming in instinctive behaviours and keeping them in a state of good repair. But, through the conscious use of the REM state, you can overload it, which risks triggering anxiety disorders and depression and, in certain people with latent potential, psychotic experiences. So the price we paid for accessing imagination, creativity and language was mental illness – on a scale not experienced before.

ZADA: Yet you describe, amazingly, that even some of the individuals that had to pay that high price, either through autistic spectrum disorder or psychosis, still benefited in ways that allowed them as individuals to serve civilisation as a whole.

GRIFFIN: Yes. What makes the human race so extraordinarily successful is that, although individually we may all be pretty unbalanced, and have a limited spectrum of abilities, collectively we can combine our abilities so that not all of us are insane at the same time! So there are always some sane-thinking people about and a whole range of abilities that can be drawn upon. That is the genius of the human species. But nonetheless it is true that, in having to develop our left neocortex so as to hold our imaginations and emotions in check, some people reached a point of overdevelopment where they lost touch with their emotions and more subtle instincts. These people would now be described as being on the autistic spectrum. Although that was disadvantageous in many respects, it did have one advantage that we now see clearly: some of those on the high-performing end of the autistic spectrum are able to focus on tasks for long periods of time. They are also inclined to ask questions that others would not bother asking and doing so has led them to make huge contributions to philosophy and science. There are outstanding individuals in the world of information technology, for example, who have made extraordinary contributions to our culture, and they couldn’t have done it if they didn’t have some of the Asperger’s traits that enable them to maintain an intensity of focus for long periods of time, so as to solve difficult problems and bring about innovations.

ZADA: In your previous books, you explain the important part that the REM state plays in brain functions such as dreaming, the programming of innate patterns and instincts and in trance states, and you also explore its use as a psychotherapeutic tool, in the form of guided imagery. But it seems, from reading this new book, that the REM state has an even more central role, not just in terms of how humans access the REM state while awake but also as a gateway through which humans can gain access to another realm, where greater knowledge exists.

TYRRELL: We noticed, as many others have, that when people go into trance states you see rapid eye movements. You see these when people daydream, access emotional memories, hear voices, or willingly enter induced trance states through meditation and dancing. Since, as Michael Jouvet, a pioneering sleep researcher, first noted, our genetic instincts are implanted into us in the REM state before we are born, it seems possible that the REM state is the natural portal for accessing higher knowledge from other realms. Many people can sense that knowledge can somehow come to us through certain types of dream. There are descriptions of this going back 4,500 years to the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh– one of the oldest and most moving stories rooted in the ancient wisdom tradition of humankind.

GRIFFIN: And, if the REM state is indeed the portal through which our genetic inheritance is programmed, it may well be that, as Plato speculated, there is a world of forms – a greater world of patterns and more complete knowledge – which can also be accessed. If such a world were to exist, it would be tenable that the portal to that world could be the REM state. We give lots of examples in the book of people who have received incredible inspirations whilst in REM trance states.

ZADA: So, in a sense, can we say that the brain’s big bang was not a meaningless occurrence but that it arose as a necessary next step towards humans being able to access higher knowledge?

GRIFFIN: Yes! Spiritual traditions maintain this too. Take someone like Rumi, the great 13th century Persian poet who is also recognised as a great exponent of mysticism. He said, many hundreds of years before Darwin, that evolutionary developments take place in response to necessity. Evolution is not just a random process; there has to be a pressure for evolutionary events to take place. So, when imagination was triggered off in human beings, it wasn’t just a random mutation; there was a great pressure upon the very limited imagination people had up to that time – a huge pressure on the genome, so that gradually people started being born with a genetic potential to extend the REM state. We are not saying that Darwin was wrong but that a mutation happens not randomly but in response to a pressure that would facilitate a particular development. Mutations are selected from a field of forms that already potentially exists—

TYRRELL: —a field of higher patterns. These ideas connect back so well to human givens psychology because of its understanding that everything that manifests does so through a pattern-matching process. All good therapists, for example, know that the brain is a pattern-matching organism and that this has great relevance for treating psychological trauma. The universe consists of patterns of possibilities and, when you are in the REM state and achieve certain mental states where you can connect up to these higher patterns, they will flood into you. We give descriptions in the new book of how that happens and give examples. Patterns of knowledge flood into certain individuals, those who have mastered their ego and thereby gained enough spare capacity to receive it.

GRIFFIN: We are not postulating any extra metaphysical elements in this hypothesis. It is a completely naturalistic one. Later in the book we do account for and explain that, within the laws of physics and the parameters of science as currently established, it is possible to create a hypothesis that permits information patterns to exist and potentially to be accessible, without in any way contravening normal scientific laws.

ZADA: This process, then, I guess, would fly in the face of reductionist scientists, such as Richard Dawkins, who attempt to break the universe down to its smallest components and thereby rob it of its meaning.

GRIFFIN: Dawkins’ approach to science is, of course, essentially a religious one. He holds on to a reductionist philosophy with a degree of commitment that any Christian or Muslim fundamentalist would be proud of. And the problem with fundamentalism of any kind is that it excludes subtlety and complexity. By that I mean that its assumption that causality is unidirectional, ie from the bottom up, prevents it from seeing that it is really multidirectional. This multidirectionality is now well established in physics and increasingly so in biology. Dawkins attempted to simulate evolution with a computer programme. He tried to show that complex patterns can evolve, but it is very easy to see that the complex pattern that he tried to show evolving by random mutation already existed in the programme. So what he actually showed – inadvertently – was that complex patterns have to exist at a certain level of reality before they manifest on planet Earth in organic form.

ZADA: A number of your professional colleagues that work from a human givens perspective might see some of the ideas that are included in your book as being outside of your traditional field. What would your response be to those that say that you are going a step or two too far into what they might regard as unrelated areas like mysticism?

TYRRELL: There will be some human givens therapists who will not be comfortable going along with what we are saying and that doesn’t detract from what they are achieving, using the human givens approach. Everyone takes from human givens ideas what they can. What we are saying in this new book is that the ideas and skills we have been teaching for the last 15 years relate to larger, richer concepts and, for those who want to expand their understanding, there is a step further they can take. People always have the option of refining their thinking and transforming themselves in such a way that they become better able to recognise truths about the nature of reality – and they also have the option of choosing not to do so.

GRIFFIN: The ideas that are unfolded in our new book actually existed in the first formulating principles of human givens: the understandings about pattern matching, and consciousness arising from pattern matching, and the importance of the REM state. So this is an organic flowering of ideas that have already proved their worth. But nonetheless there are people who will not want to take the journey with us as far as we have now gone and that is a perfectly legitimate response. And the way we can address them is to say that human givens has proven itself to be an incredibly powerful way of helping people achieve better health quickly in all kinds of realms, from mental health to education, and in making all kinds of organisations more effective. It has proved its worth and none of what has been achieved is invalidated by the ideas put forward in this book.

It’s no different from how we use our ability to read. Some people might use their literacy to better themselves at work, to study, to entertain themselves or to improve their social life. Others might use it by becoming interested in poetry and finding it intensely meaningful. There are many literate people who have no interest in poetry but it would be a very sorry person indeed who would gainsay others’ rights to enjoy it, just because they didn’t themselves. It would be very narrow minded to say that poetry is not a valuable source of meaning for other people. We feel confident that the breadth of people involved in the human givens approach, even if they choose not to take this journey with us, will fully appreciate and show tolerance towards those who find meaning in exploring human givens ideas in their richer psychological, cosmological and metaphysical expression.

ZADA: One of the underlying themes of your book is that all knowledge is connected; mental illness, learning, consciousness and enlightenment are connected at a fundamental level, and physics and psychotherapy are linked. How would you say that your work with the human givens approach to mental health connects to the biggest questions facing science?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Why does alcohol have the same effect on sleep as anti-depressants?

Do you turn to a glass of wine if you can't sleep?
Coming as a stark realisation for those who like to relax with a glass of wine in the late evening, the complex relationship between alcohol and sleep has been reviewed by Dr Ebrahim and team at the London Sleep Centre and is reported on by the media today:

"From the hundred or more studies that Dr Ebrahim's team looked at, they analysed 20 in detail and found alcohol appeared to change sleep in three ways.

Firstly, it accelerates sleep onset, meaning we drop off faster.

Next, it sends us into a very deep sleep.

These two changes - which are identical to those seen in people who take antidepressant medication - may be appealing and may explain why some people with insomnia use alcohol.

But the third change - fragmented sleep patterns the second half of the night - is less pleasant.
Alcohol reduces how much time we spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep - the stage of sleep where dreams generally occur.

As a consequence, the sleep may feel less restful..." Alcohol-fuelled sleep is 'less satisfying' (BBC)

I'm writing this article because we believe the human givens approach can contribute to these findings by adding information about exactly how this disruption of REM sleep can affect stress levels. Drawing ideas from the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming, we can also provide more clarity around the fact that alcohol and anti-depressants produce similar effects on sleep.

As the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming makes clear, REM sleep is Nature's solution to the problem that having emotions (also called expectations or 'emotional arousal') creates for humans and animals.

The main problem with having emotions is that each one sets up a chain of arousal in the autonomic nervous system which, if it is not de aroused by taking the necessary actions that would resolve the emotion (resolving the argument, having sex, having the money to pay the bill), ultimately leads to a build up of stress. And how do we resolve emotional stress if we can't complete the arousal pattern in our daily lives? Dreaming.

The fact that dreaming during REM sleep de-arouses our unresolved emotions (read more about this here) sheds light on how the disruption of dreaming by having an alcoholic drink can lead to still feeling stressed upon waking. If we can't resolve our emotions during good quality REM sleep, we are left feeling we've had 'less satisfying sleep'.

The answer to an intriguing paradox

It's interesting how the article points out that alcohol has the same effect on sleep as anti-depressants.

This at first seems paradoxical, how can an effect that prevents you getting good quality sleep be prescribed as a treatment to help depressed people?

The answer lies in the fact that REM sleep can, like many of our bodily processes, get out of balance.

Worrying and ruminating (generating emotional arousal about a problem or situation that has not yet been resolved) leads to an increase in dreaming as the brain desperately tries to reduce our stress level by de arousing the influx of emotional expectations that have been created in the autonomic nervous system. Unfortunately, too much REM sleep can leave the expectation pathways (how we motivate ourselves) and brains, feeling exhausted. This us because our brain uses as much energy during REM sleep as it does while awake.

Do you ever wake up feeling more tired than when you went to sleep?

When highly stressed, the brain devotes more sleep time to REM sleep, which takes up time that would normally be given to the slow wave sleep that restores our physical body. Ever woken up feeling more tired than when you went to bed? It's likely you had too much REM sleep, either from sleeping too long or as a result of your brain trying to de arouse a lot of worries from the previous day.

It's a well documented fact that depressed people dream more and anti-depressants work in large part by reducing REM sleep in the brain through various chemical processes.

Of course, although anti-depressants can lower stress and rebalance REM sleep, they don't combat the reason the person became depressed in the first place or help solve the unmet emotional needs that the depressed person has been worrying about.


For more information on any of the information raised in this article, please see the and

We teach all this information and offer practical help to treat depression on our Human Givens College training courses.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Self help books are an effective treatment for depression

We were pleased to see the recent news reported in the media that reading self help books can help treat depression:

"Prescribing self-help books on the NHS is an effective treatment for depression, a study suggests.

Patients offered books, plus sessions guiding them in how to use them, had lower levels of depression a year later than those offered usual GP care. 

The effect was seen in addition to the benefits of other treatments such as antidepressants, Scottish researchers report in the journal Plos One

Such an approach may help the NHS tackle demand for therapy, they said. More than 200 patients who had been diagnosed with depression by their GP took part in the study, half of whom were also on antidepressant drugs. 

Some were provided with a self-help guide dealing with different aspects of depression, such as being assertive or overcoming sleep problems. Patients also had three sessions with an adviser who helped them get the most out of the books and plan what changes to make. 

 After four months those who had been prescribed the self-help books had significantly lower levels of depression than those who received usual GP care.  

A year later, those in the self-help group were more likely to be keeping on top of their depression."

The human givens approach has always advocated providing depressed people with practical ways to help themselves. Goal setting and overcoming sleep problems are excellent ways of getting essential emotional needs met and rebalancing REM sleep, helping to break the cycle of depression.

Telling people what the causes of depression are, how to break the cycle of depression (see below), how depression is related to worrying and sleep and teaching practical techniques to lifting depression are all vital elements of human givens therapy.

The cycle of depression - essential for sufferers of depression to understand

Our own self help book on lifting depression has become a best seller, shattering many myths about depression and providing help for those suffering across the globe.

Providing people with good quality information about depression is the first step to recovery and, even if you're not depressed, just knowing the causes of low moods and being aware of how to ensure you are emotionally healthy can 'inoculate' you against future depression and ensure your life is full of meaning and joy.


Psychotherapists and health practitioners looking to help those with depression benefit from attending our two Human Givens College training days on the subject:

Understanding the cycle of depression: essential information and How to lift depression - a practical skills-based day

Monday, 14 January 2013

How to cope with tragedy

It is a fact that two separate people, faced with the same tragedy, can react in totally different ways.

While one person may descend into despair, depression and grief for months (even years), another person is quickly able to pick up the pieces and get their lives back together.

How to recover from setbacks

What is it about the more resilient person that prevents them from breaking down after experiencing a setback? In addition to getting essential emotional needs met in our lives, a further reason is often that they are able to find the good that came out of the setback and find meaning.

There are three main ways in which we stretch ourselves to get meaning into our lives:

To serve others – to have people who need us provides a great sense of meaning and purpose. Hence raising a family is always meaningful, looking after grandchildren or elderly grandparents, having friends who value your support, work colleagues you can’t let down, patients or clients you must keep appointments with, students you must keep on teaching or people less fortunate than yourself who you can help. Pledging time contributing to the community for free, for example doing any sort of voluntary work, supporting a football team, or being a member of a Parent Teacher Association, is stretching. Even looking after animals that depend on you for their survival is service.

Learning and problem solving – being involved in activities that challenge and stretch us. Active problem solving is good for us. Your brain must be stretched like muscle as when it is bored and slack, it is an unhealthy brain. Viewing life obstacles as problems to be overcome is the most healthy way of dealing with them, and this is because we thrive on challenges that focus our attention and give us something to work towards. For example, you might hear a successful businessman say, “The best thing that ever happened to me was when my company went bankrupt and I lost everything. I was right down in the lowest place possible but I learnt lessons I wouldn’t have learnt otherwise and then built myself up again. I wouldn’t be the strong person I am today if that awful situation hadn’t happened to me.”

Commitment to coherent philosophy of life greater than yourself – People who have a committed religious practice have better mental health and live longer than those who don’t, but you don’t have to be religious to get the same result. Some people would not call themselves religious but nevertheless have a ‘spiritual orientation’ and open-mindedness towards any quest involving the possibility of a greater intelligence system in the universe. Secular people who consider themselves to be on an active quest for ‘scientific truth’, ‘justice’ or ‘better education’, ‘saving the environment’ or improving the ‘quality of life’ for others, also gain the beneficial effect of a coherent philosophy of life.

Listen to Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell explain further in these two videos:

These clips were taken from the CD: Evolution and the human givens... hope for the future

For more about man's search for meaning: see Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang

Monday, 7 January 2013

New Issue of the Human Givens Journal is out! Featuring therapy for war veterans, Pat Gilroy, work stress and how to help students

The latest issue of the Human Givens journal is now out and is bursting with a wealth of articles, news, views and information:

Editorial: The long and the short of causal links

How we are: News, views and information:

Harm done by antipsychotics • naming the fear • rejection and popular adolescents • disgust and perception • more reliable methods of eyewitness identification • choices • persecution dreams • HG-inspired education resource pack • communicating emotions • wisdom • strong evidence of efficacy for HG therapy • generosity and time • schizophrenia and autism connectionand time • schizophrenia and autism connection

Labelling the difficulty
Pat Williams muses on the pressing need to see through illusory representations to what is really there

How human givens therapy is helping war veterans
Anita Dale describes research showing the effectiveness of the treatment for traumatised former soldiers

Car crash
Denise Winn describes the complex outcomes for a mother and son of a near-fatal accident and astonishing recovery

Work and the mental health continuum
Ezra Hewing helps a large insurance company change its perceptions about employee stress and wellbeing

Taking it from the top
Bart McEnroe and Pat Gilroy discuss HG’s transformatory effects on a leading football team and multinational subsidiary

“And what happened next?”
Dan Jones uses curiosity and encouragement to help parents deter ‘at risk’ children from antisocial behaviour and crime

Using the human givens to cope with personal adversity
Val Giblett’s inspiring account of how she made good use of HG principles when faced with a diagnosis of cancer

Transition distress: the big problem facing universities
Why students are less prepared and more anxious than ever before, and how they can be helped. By Gareth Hughes

Reflections on healing
The HG approach fits well with the trend towards blending intuition with conventional medicine, says Fiona Crabtree

PLUS: Book Reviews, Letters

Subscribe to the Human Givens journal here
(Save £5 a year by paying for your subscription by standing order.)

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

HG Library: Dreaming to forget: the real reason why

This article has been available on our HGI archive for a while but it's so important we thought it was worth reproducing here on the HG library for posterity. It was first published in Volume 12, No 1 (2005) of the Human Givens Journal.

In this article Joe Griffin explains why dreaming, and forgetting our dreams, fulfils a vital human need. It also introduces the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming, the first theory to fully explain why we dream.


The human givens approach is a set of organising ideas that provides a holistic, scientific framework for understanding the way that individuals and society work. That framework has one central, highly empowering idea at its core — that human beings, like all organic beings, come into this world with a set of needs. If those needs are met appropriately, it is not possible to be mentally ill. I do not believe a more powerful statement than that could ever be made about the human condition. If human beings' needs are met, they won't get depressed; they cannot have psychosis; they cannot have manic depression; they cannot be in the grip of addictions. It is just not possible.

To get our needs met, nature has gifted us our very own internal guidance programme — this, together with our needs, makes up what we call the human givens. We come into the world with an instinctive knowledge of what we need and with a set of inner resources that can help us get our needs met, provided we use them properly and are living in a healthy environment.

In terms of the history of where our knowledge about human needs comes from, there has been a distinguished cast of contributors, going right back to ancient times. More recently William James, Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler explored human needs, and there was an outstanding contribution by Abraham Maslow, the pioneer of humanistic psychology, who first talked about a hierarchy of needs.[1] It was Abraham Maslow who introduced the idea that, until basic needs are met, people can't engage with questions of meaning and spirituality — what he calls self actualisation.

Another contributor was William Glasser, who put forward the idea that fulfilment of people's needs for control, power, achievement and intimacy depends on their ability to behave responsibly and conscientiously; he argued vehemently that mental illness springs from these needs not being met.[2] So the human givens approach belongs to no specific people, certainly not exclusively to Ivan Tyrrell and me, although we may have named it; it belongs to the human species. We are just talking more precisely about what nature has gifted us, and there have been many great contributors down the millennia and the centuries, who have contributed to our understanding of the human givens.

What we have started to do, in what has come to be called the human givens approach, is look at human needs in the light of increasing knowledge and recent discoveries that flesh them out, so that we can define them and concretise them and make them more real. We now know that having meaning and purpose, a sense of volition and control, being needed by others, having intimate connections and wider social connections, status, appropriate giving and receiving of attention etc, are crucial for health and well-being. (Attention needs weren't understood in Western psychology at all, before the contribution of Idries Shah.) So, on one side of the equation, we now have a much fuller understanding of human needs.

And, on the other side, we have our human resources — the innate guidance system. We are learning much more about how that works and the more we understand, the more effective we will be, for sure.

The REM state is at the core of being human

At the heart of the internal guidance system lies the REM (rapid eye movement) state. The REM state is, of course, predominantly the state in which dreaming occurs. That is how it got discovered. Sleep researchers studying in the laboratory what happens in the brain during sleep discovered that the brain becomes activated periodically throughout the night, to the accompaniment of rapid eye movements (REM). When they woke people up from sleep at those times to find out what was going on, they learned that, 80 per cent of the time, people reported that they were dreaming. But they dreamed just seven per cent of the time during non-REM sleep.[3] So there is an irrefutable link between dreaming and the REM state.

If you pick up almost any major textbook on the neurology of the brain and look for the REM state in the index, in all probability, you won't find it. Nonetheless, within the human givens approach, we say that the REM state is at the core of being human. This is no idle claim. In the human givens theory, right from the beginning, we have advanced the evidence that instinctive templates are programmed in during the REM state in the fetus[4] and are pattern matched in the environment, after a baby comes into the world. Directly linked to this is the equally significant role of REM-state dreaming — explained in our expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming. I shall be showing how the latest scientific findings now validate these ideas. But first it is important to take a look at the main theories of dreaming, because a challenge to them needs to be able to stand up to the most rigorous scientific examination.

There are four major players in the field. The theory that has dominated for the last 30 years is one put forward by Professor Allan Hobson of Harvard University and his colleague Robert McCarley. They called it the activation synthesis theory. In the light of more recent evidence, this theory has fallen apart. As a result, there has been an effort to revive Freud's theory and I shall be giving the evidence for why that doesn't stand up either. The third theory in the field is one developed by Francis Crick, who died recently. He was better known as the co-discoverer of DNA.

And finally, there is the theory that dreaming facilitates memory consolidation. I am going to look at all these theories to see where they stand now.

Click 'read more' to continue.......