Thursday, 18 December 2014

Worrying drains your motivation. But how? Here's the surprising explanation:

Dream (REM) sleep is a wonderful mechanism. But, just as two aspirins can be helpful in curing a headache but taking the whole bottle would be harmful, so the right amount of REM sleep accomplishes the emotional repairs required but too much is counter productive. In addition, if you give the dreaming brain too much work to do, it is forced to up the amount of REM sleep you have each night, which isn't healthy.

The normal sleep pattern is to start the night with slow-wave body-repair sleep, followed about 90 minutes later by our first period of REM sleep, which lasts about 10 minutes. As the night goes on, we gradually have less slow-wave sleep and more REM sleep, culminating in about half an hour of REM sleep just before we wake up in the morning (which is why we sometimes remember the last dream we have had). As a rule though, we usually forget our dreams, because they represent expectations that didn't get completed in real life, and we don't want them stored in memory as if they had been.

However, research has shown that depressed people who worry a lot have their first REM sleep just 20 minutes (or at most 50) into the night, and it can last for almost an hour. They then continue to have more and longer periods of REM sleep (and more intense dreams) until the brain can take no more and they wake in the early hours, even more exhausted than when they went to sleep. Then, once again, they start worrying all over again.

We have an electrical signalling system in our brains - sometimes called the orientation or 'fight or flight' response - that alerts us to sudden changes in our environment. This same signal is also set off at the start of and during dreaming, alerting us to the fact that there are undischarged emotional arousals which need de-arousing through dream content. Unsurprisingly, this signal goes off at an amazing rate in people who worry continually. Each time we respond to this signal, however, it draws on our motivational energy of which we only have a certain amount. And, as excessive REM sleep pretty well uses this up, it is no surprise then that incessant worriers all too often wake up in the morning feeling not just exhausted but depressed and lacking the motivation to get them going.

Quite naturally, this provides something new to worry about. "Why do I feel like this? I went to bed early, and I know I had quite a bit of sleep. Why don't I feel refreshed? Why is it such a huge effort to just get out of bed and go and put the kettle on? Perhaps there's something seriously physically wrong with me?"

If this is you....

Well yes, something is physically wrong - at the moment. Your sleep pattern is out of balance, leaving you short on slow-wave body-repair sleep while your dreaming brain is in overdrive, running itself ragged trying to discharge all the arousal caused by your worrying. No wonder you don't feel good. And the longer it goes on, the greater the wear and tear on your body, as it is also under siege from all those perpetually circulating stress hormones.

Quite a dramatic scenario isn't it? And it stems entirely from all that fretting, worrying and dread. And although your energy stores gradually fill up somewhat during the day, they quickly become depleted again when the next bout of emotional arousals comes up for discharge in dream form that night. For dreaming doesn't solve problems. It isn't intended to. It merely completes our unresolved emotional expectations so that we can start the day with a fresh 'slate' in terms of emotional arousal. By starting the worry cycle all over again, we undo all that work.

But this needn't be a permanent state of affairs. Indeed, we have found that simply knowing all this is often the spur that people need to enable them to successfully take the steps needed to stop worrying...

This blog post was taken from the book How to Master Anxiety: all you need to know to overcome stress, panic attacks, phobias, trauma, obsessions and more.


Links to more information on how to treat anxiety and depression

SELF HELP blog posts:

How to stop worrying
3 ways to relax immediately
How to beat emotional stress
8 Essential tips for managing anger
Why do I wake up tired?
How to use your imagination to manage pain
5 Golden rules for setting achievable goals
Why emotional arousal makes you stupid
A 'woo free' guide to interpreting your dreams
7/11 Breathing: How does deep breathing make you feel more relaxed?


Why do we dream? - A website dedicated to the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming.
Lifting depression fast - A website for anyone wishing to learn more about how to lift depression 
Free articles on mental health

Publications and training:

Self help and psychology books 
Training with Human Givens College in how to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma and much more
NEW Online training courses: How to Break the Cycle of Depression

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Online Therapy Training: How To Break The Cycle Of Depression

The latest online course launched from Human Givens Online Courses:

How to break the cycle of depression ‒ vital information for everyone - with Joe Griffin

Despite being on the increase, depression is actually one of the easiest disorders to treat successfully and quickly – once you know how.

This new online course with psychologist Joe Griffin, a leading expert in the field, shatters the many myths that still surround this distressing condition and how it should be treated. It also gives you the new insights, information and research findings that have been quietly revolutionising the effective treatment of depression for well over a decade.

Literally thousands of people in the UK and Ireland have already been helped to recover from depression – often remarkably quickly – as a result of the new information taught on this course.

Among other things, you will discover: what really causes depression; why depressed people wake up tired and unmotivated; the link between worrying, dreaming and depression; why some forms of psychotherapy can actually be harmful when treating depression; why the appropriate type of psychotherapy has a dramatically lower rate of relapse than antidepressants and is also the most effective treatment – even with severe cases and postnatal depression.

For the sake of the millions of people affected by depression around the world (including rising numbers of children, young people and the elderly), this information needs to be much more widely known.

It doesn't just transform lives – it saves them...

“Finally a course which has shown me what depression is. I know what I've learnt is going to be immediately helpful to some of my clients.” - Occupational Therapist 

"Loved it. Can't think of anyone I know who wouldn't benefit from this course.” - Psychotherapist

How to break the cycle of depression - an essential course - available to take online, at a time, pace and place that suits you.

Visit our site and enroll now.


For more information on the human givens approach to treating depression - see and the book, How to Lift Depression ... fast.

For more online training please visit: HG Online Courses

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Seemingly strange psychotic symptoms can be explained by a new theory of dreaming

Sleep - Salvador Dali, 1937

Strange psychotic symptoms explained

Our observations of hundreds of depressed patients had confirmed that excessive worry puts huge stress on the REM sleep mechanism. This led us to hypothesise that schizophrenia develops in those particularly imaginative, highly sensitive people who become so stressed that the REM sleep discharge mechanism cannot take the strain, and so their ability to separate waking reality from the metaphorical reality of the dream world (where the metaphors themselves seem totally real), becomes impaired. When they wake up, they cannot properly switch out of the REM state and become stuck in it.

Naturally their thinking is then predominantly driven from the right hemisphere, the part of the brain most active in metaphorical pattern matching and dreaming. Many of their bodily behaviours could be expected to derive from those found in normal dreaming. In other words, the left hemisphere’s role, which is normally to analyse and organise reality in a rational way, and is predominantly in charge during wakefulness, has been usurped. The delicate working partnership of the brain’s hemispheres has shattered.

This, to our minds, provides a plausible way of explaining the wide variety of psychotic symptoms.

'Word salad'

The phenomenon of ‘word salad’ – the loosening of meaningful associations between words and phrases that results in people talking in a stream of apparent nonsense – is just what one might expect if the left hemisphere of the brain were to be out of sync with the metaphorical mind of the right hemisphere, as the latter would continue to generate associations without waiting for the left hemisphere to check them out and articulate them.


Catatonia, where patients can stand, sit or lie motionless for long periods in strange postures, oblivious to pain, is what the body also does during REM state dreaming, when the anti-gravity muscles are paralysed. Indeed, resistance to pain is often observed among schizophrenic patients and is even more marked during severe episodes. This is easily understood when we realise that, in dreaming also, cut off from all sensation, we experience no physical pain. That, too, is a REM state phenomenon (and is why hypnotised people can have major surgery painlessly without anaesthetic).

Hearing voices 

Hearing voices is entirely predictable from our theory too. Talking is primarily a left hemisphere activity, whereas right hemisphere activity is mainly concerned with processing pattern matching and tagging emotions to those patterns to prompt action. We don’t talk when the right hemisphere is dominant during dreaming in REM sleep, although talking whilst in slow-wave sleep is common (but the content rarely seems to make sense to the awake mind.) However, during a psychotic episode, if the person were in the REM state awake, there would still be some logical activity and thinking taking place in the left hemisphere.

But, because the REM state is not anticipating any input from the left hemisphere, it has to interpret those thoughts metaphorically and comes up with the image of alien voices, which can seem to be commenting on the person’s every move, or haranguing them or giving ‘instructions’. (It might be expected that such thoughts would often be critical because the left hemisphere would, to some degree, still be able to analyse what was going on and ‘logically’ know that the behaviour is not normal.) This could further be interpreted metaphorically by the right hemisphere as being spied upon, or being persecuted, or that aliens are inside their head or that they are being followed everywhere by strange ‘rays’ that know everything they are doing. (Neurophysiological evidence confirms that, when schizophrenic people are hearing voices, the speech centres in the left neocortex are activated. And other researchers have observed and filmed REM activity when patients hear voices.)

Visual hallucinations

The visual hallucinations or delusions associated with psychosis are also totally characteristic of the dream state, the function of which is to generate such hallucinatory realities. Neuroscientists have shown the same neuronal pathways are activated in psychotic episodes. Whilst dreaming we all believe completely in the reality of our dreams, just as the schizophrenic person believes in their reality.

Creativity and mental illness 

It has long been suggested that there is a connection between creativity and mental illness. Certainly, people prone to schizophrenia tend to come from creative families. And even if they themselves are not productively creative, then high rates of creativity are found among their siblings and other relatives.

Furthermore, creative people tend to be more sensitive to the emotional environment around them and are less robust in withstanding hostility, intolerance or criticism. Indeed, the higher the level of emotional criticism within the family context, the higher the rate of schizophrenic and depressive relapses. When people go into a psychotic REM trance due to emotional arousal any criticism may well be acting like a post-hypnotic suggestion, compounding the condition.


This article was taken from, the website dedicated to the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming, proposed by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell.

Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your understanding of this post, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website. Of course you could read Why We Dream: The Definitive Answer, (The Kindle version is only £4.99)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Why We Dream: The Definitive Answer becomes a Finalist in The People's Book Prize

Good news! Why We Dream: The Definitive Answer has become a FINALIST in The People's Book Prize Autumn 2014 phase!

The book will compete in the finals in May 2015, but in the meantime another important HG book, Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking, is competing in Stage II of this competition.

To help us promote human givens ideas please vote for us again and share with friends and family.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Human Givens Therapist discusses trauma and PTSD on 'This Morning': I watched my son die.

On 24th November 2014, Human Givens Therapist Joy Griffiths appeared again on ITV's This Morning as an expert in trauma counselling.

The segment centered around the experiences of Tony Broadbent, who lost his son two years ago in a tragic accident on a building site they were working on together. Whilst coming to terms with his loss, Tony was charged with manslaughter - accused of being responsible for the death of his own child. Two years later Tony was finally acquitted by a unanimous jury who made their decision in minutes.

Joy explained that it is possible to recover from such trauma by 'unhooking' the panic response that is associated with a triggered traumatic memory from the memory itself, permanently removing the symptoms of PTSD.

The technique used by Human Givens Therapists to achieve this is called the rewind technique. It is non intrusive and effective, and can take effect in as few as two sessions of counselling.

The rewind technique is used by the military PTSD charity PTSD Resolution that provides counselling for former armed forces, reservists and family.

It was great to see a positive, up-to-date explanation of how trauma works on such a popular show as This Morning. It was very brave of Tony to talk about such a difficult subject on air and we hope he is able to receive the help he needs to overcome this trauma and continue his life with all the fantastic memories he has of his son Kyle.


PTSD: why some techniques for treating it work so fast - An explanation of how and why the rewind technique is so effective.

If you are looking for help with trauma: Find a human givens therapist near you.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

You'll understand dreaming if you understand these three essential points

Last night you went into the REM state and dreamed. You probably don't remember because we evolved not to, although sometimes we do. But all humans dream and most mammals show evidence of doing this. Since time immemorial people have puzzled over the meaning of dreams, these often bizarre night-time visitations that can seem so intensely real and full of meaning while we experience them, but so unfathomable to our conscious mind when we wake up.

In all historical periods, right up to the present, dream interpretation industries have flourished to satisfy our natural longing to understand the mysterious 'messages' that dreams seem to carry. Even today the influence of the idiosyncratic confabulations and fantasies of Freud and Jung permeate our culture and illustrate the continuing virulence of the fanciful dream interpretation industry.

But now, with the expectation fulfillment theory of dreams, we have a viable, scientifically based theory of why we evolved to dream and what dreams are actually doing for us, the situation may quickly become more healthy in this regard.

So, dreaming is the deepest trance state we go into and the three essential points to understand about the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming are:
1. Dreams are metaphorical translations of waking expectations;

2.  But it is only expectations whose resulting emotional arousal has not been acted upon during the day that become dreams during sleep;

3.  Dreaming deactivates that emotional arousal by completing the expectation pattern metaphorically, this leaves the brain to respond afresh to each new day.
This is the briefest of introductions to a theory of dreaming that has wide implications for mental health, our understanding of REM sleep and depression.

To find out more:

Visit the website:

Read this article: Dreaming to forget: The real reason why

Read the book: Why We Dream: The Definitive Answer - How dreaming keeps us sane or can drive us mad

Watch the video: A talk by Joe Griffin, the man behind the expectation fulfilment theory:

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Tackling Addiction: NEW online therapy training from Human Givens College

Ever wanted to do psychotherapy training online, at a time and place that suits you? Are you only interested in doing online training that contributes towards a recognised qualification? Or do you want to find out more about an aspect of mental health without having to wade through jargon?

We are excited to have launched Human Givens Online Courses, a whole new platform to experience our ground breaking psychotherapy training.

The first course to be made available online is one of our most popular Human Givens College 1 day events:

Tackling Addiction
Understanding and Treating Addictive Behaviour - with tutor Joe Griffin

The good news about addiction is that with the right knowledge and treatment, many addicts can, and do, recover quite quickly. This new online course explains the key information you need to know to tackle addiction successfully.

Joe Griffin's new science-based insights into what is happening in our brains when we become addicted have proved a major leap forward in not only our understanding of the addictive process but the successful treatment of a wide range of addictions.

As a result, thousands of addicts have already been helped to overcome their particular addiction. As well as exploring these new insights and their relevance to successful treatment, this course gives you an essential overview of a wide variety of addictive behaviours, including what they have in common, why we are all vulnerable to addiction, and what the genuine causes and drivers of addictive behaviours are.

It also explains the most successful ways to rapidly break addictive patterns and how to prevent, or at least minimise, relapses, using psychotherapy informed by these latest neuroscientific findings.

So ‒ whether it's for professional or personal reasons ‒ taking this online course on beating addictions could prove invaluable to you.

Visit our new website and enrol now


For more information on the human givens approach to addiction, read the following landmark article on addiction by Joe Griffin, the tutor on this online course:

Great Expectations - Joe Griffin goes back to basics to arrive at a some powerful new insights into the givens of human nature and addiction. This article is from a 2004 edition of the Human Givens journal and explores many of the essential insights the human givens approach is centered on.

Monday, 20 October 2014

How to use your imagination to manage pain

  "Your imagination is an incredibly powerful tool, but it requires direction."

The neurologic signature for physical pain identified in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Credit Tor Wager.
Sometimes patients misunderstand when they are told how imagination can affect pain, and say crossly, "So you think the pain is all in my imagination?"

The answer is no. Imagination is about anticipating what may happen in future. What is in your imagination is not pain. It's fear - fear of disability, of being in a wheelchair, of never being able to go out or of never being without pain. That is what is in your imagination!

Imagination is incredibly powerful: you can make it work against you or for you. If you catastrophise, you unknowingly use your imagination against yourself. Now let's look at what you can do to help turn down the pain volume down instead of up, by imagining better, more desirable outcomes.

It helps to find the most comfortable position you can where you will not be disturbed, and to close your eyes. You might like to try imagining:

Being in a lovely, relaxing place. Perhaps there might be floating, fluffy clouds in the sky, a tinkling waterfall, warm sunshine on your skin or a cool soothing breeze. Try to use all your senses and imagine what you can see, feel, hear, touch or smell.

A soothing or healing light in a colour you like, that neutralises the pain.

A gold thread, which is connected at one end to the crown of your head and at the other to an invisible hook in the ceiling (or roof of the car or the sky). Imagine a gentle pressure from the thread, which makes your neck lengthen and your head drop slightly, your chin pull back a little towards your neck and your shoulders pull back a bit too. It is a lovely feeling that takes the pressure off your neck and shoulders.

A shape and size to the pain. See it shrinking or becoming diluted. Give it a colour (for example, fire engine red if it feels hot) and then change the colour to one that you find healing.

The pain being in a different place. Try shifting it in your imagination to a somewhat less bothersome place, like a thumb or an earlobe and then try shrinking it, once there.

An electronic control panel or dials that you can use to switch pain on or off or up or down.

That your pain perception is like computer software, which sometimes gets corrupted or brings the wrong program up. At first, you think the computer is damaged but, in fact, the hardware is fine and you just need to remind yourself to reboot the system or change the program to get it functioning again.

That the pain is a person. Researchers at Bangor University found that sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis could control their pain better when they visualised their pain in the form of a person, thanked that 'person' for alerting them to the problem area and then imagined asking the 'person' to leave, visualising them getting further and further away and finally disappearing altogether, leaving the sufferer free of pain.

Countering the physical sensations of your pain. For instance, if you feel intense heat, you could imagine a cool soothing gel being gently massaged into the area. If the pain is throbbing, perhaps try imagining it as a car with the engine running and then take your foot off the accelerator or turn the engine off. If a part of your body feels heavy, imagine it being gently lifted like a balloon. If the pain is sharp, imagine it as a sharp taste, such as a lemon, and then dilute it into sweetened lemonade.

Changing the nature of the pain. In your imagination, can you make a short, cutting blinding pain into a dull heavy ache? And then you can you make that dull heavy ache into an irritating itch? And then can you make that itch come and go?

Doing any of these exercises will enable you to experience for yourself the power of your imagination over pain.


This post was adapted from a section in Dr Grahame Brown's book How to liberate yourself from pain: practical help for sufferers - part of the Essential Help in Troubled Times series of books from Human Givens Publishing.

Dr Brown is also a tutor for Human Givens College (only available for in-house training) delivering his course: How to manage physical pain and accelerate healing

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

5 Golden Rules for Setting Achievable Goals

There is nothing more satisfying then setting and achieving a personal goal. The human mind is after all, a problem solving instrument.

If you or someone you know is feeling depressed, setting and achieving a goal can be an important step towards lifting depression. Indeed, goal setting is an important part of human givens therapy. By setting goals together, the client and therapist can both be clear about where the client wants to go with the therapy. But take care when setting goals, get the balance wrong and you risk setting a goal that isn't so manageable.

As you set yourself some clear goals that will put pleasure back into your life, consider these five golden rules:

1. Goals must be small and achievable 

Watch out for all-or-nothing depressive thinking that urges you to think too big. Make sure you start with small steps. Succeeding in those will motivate you to take larger ones. So, if you take no exercise, it is better to start by enjoying a short walk every evening than to determine to go to a gym and pump iron every morning and afternoon. If your self-esteem is low, it is not a good idea to decide to boost it by aiming to give up smoking and drinking, lose weight and train for a marathon, all at the same time. You are dooming yourself to failure by over-extending yourself and your self-esteem will then sink even further. Perhaps you need to feel more appreciated by others and to feel better about yourself, so one possibility might be to take on some charity work that involves you in helping others.

 2. Goals must be concrete 

It is no good deciding that you want to 'be happier' or 'less of a burden on others. That's too vague. You have to clearly define your objective. What does being happier or less of a burden look like? Unpack what it means to you. If you can't answer the question easily, try putting it this way. "If I woke up in the morning and found I was no longer depressed, what (realistically) would be happening that is different from the way it is now?"

One man who had become deeply depressed after a back injury enforced his early retirement from work said, "Well I'd be getting out of bed in time to have breakfast with the children before they go to school, and I would talk to my wife about her day like I used to. Even though I can't work long hours anymore because of my back, I would be doing something practical in the house and the garden, to make my contribution."

Seeing this picture of his life enabled him to decide on three goals: he could set his alarm clock each morning and, regardless of how poorly he had slept, get up to have breakfast with his children; he could ask his wife at least three questions during the day about what she planned to do/had done with her day; and he could decide on some DIY task that needed doing in the house and do it. (This gave him even more to discuss with his wife and required him to go out and buy materials." Of course, all of these activities started to increase his engagement with ordinary life once more and helped him regain a sense of meaning and purpose (whereas before he had been mired in self-pity, resulting in withdrawal from family and friends).

When attention is directed outward into activity, there is less time to worry and ruminate, so his sleep quickly improved and his mood lifted significantly.   

3. Goals must be positive  

It is no use deciding what you need to do is concentrate on not worrying. You can't concentrate on not doing something, If all you are doing it thinking. "I'm worrying again! I must concentrate on not worrying. I must stop those thoughts coming into my head," you are still worrying. Turn your goal into a positive action. To stop yourself worrying endlessly, you need to find activities with which to distract yourself, so that you are too absorbed and busy to worry.

4. Goals must be focused on fulfilling the unmet needs you have identified in your life. 

All depressed people gradually disengage from life, doing less and less of what they used to enjoy before, so one of your definite goals should be to reverse this, be re-introducing an activity that involves being with other people. It could be something you used to enjoy doing before or something entirely new. If you used to enjoy good relationships with people in the past, you will be able to build on those same resources to do so again. Like riding a bicycle, even if you haven't done it for years, you haven't really lost the knack. (If however, you have always found it hard to form attachments with others, you may benefit from working with a therapist to develop the social skills that perhaps, for whatever reason, you never had the chance to learn when you were younger. These can be learned at any age, even by the very shy, and be continually improved with practice.)

Consider whether any of these ideas for re-engaging with life and experiencing pleasure is appropriate for you. If not, think of some that are:

- call a friend whom you have been meaning to call for ages and suggest you get together
- go out for a walk or a meal with your partner take your children to the park and join in their games
- invite a friend, or a couple of friends, for a meal at your house take up an activity again that you used to enjoy, such as tennis, swimming, painting, listening to live music, dancing, gardening, amateur dramatics
- walk the dog with a neighbour or go along when the neighbour takes their dog
- suggest a social drink after work with colleagues
- go to the cinema or theatre with a friend or partner
- book a holiday where you will meet you people and explore new places
- decide on a charity you would like to help and make sure this involves your being in direct contact with people – for instance, visiting at an old people's home, helping disabled children, serving hot food at a soup kitchen for homeless people
- join an evening class or go on an activity weekend, where you can meet new people.

Decide on one of two of these sorts of strategies, to start with. They should help you meet your needs for emotional and social connection. Make sure you are doing something that benefits others as well as yourself.

Other unmet needs may require you to take a deeper look at your life and explore or plan carefully for change. List your options if you are no longer happy with work or a relationship and discuss them with someone whose opinion you trust. Perhaps an appropriate strategy might be to research alternative areas of employment or look into the practicability of mending or ending a problematic relationship. What would restore meaning and purpose to your life? 

5. Goals must be appropriate 

Certain things that happen in life will not be possible to change. We cannot bring back the leg that has been amputated, or the partner who has left to live with another lover, or the husband or wife who has died. And if we are old we cannot bring back our youth. We must look at our new circumstances and set goals based on those – to regain as much fitness as possible and to take up different challenges, to engage in social activities or to meet new people to spend time with. And we can be young at heart whatever our age.

Sometimes depression occurs because someone feels stuck between a rock and a hard place, or because they have a difficult decision to make and they don't know what to do for the best. Feeling incapable of taking a decision, they slump into depression instead. But sometimes the right thing to do is not to take a life-changing decision if the courses of action on offer seem as perilous as each other and there is no way of knowing at the time which one would be best. At such times you may need to wait for other factors to click into place before your path becomes clear to you. In the meantime, it is best to concentrate on doing whatever averts unhelpful depressive thinking – for instance being active, keeping your mind productively busy, spending time with friends and eating properly.  

Remember, life events change all the time and the vast majority of depressed people, even left untreated, come out of it spontaneously in 4-10 months. 

This information was taken from the book Lift - we also have a website on depression.

Monday, 29 September 2014

HG Library: The APET model: emotions come first

Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell introduce a biologically-based theory which explains the shortcomings of purely cognitive approaches and why effective therapies can work fast.

This article first appeared in Volume 8, No, 1 (2001) of the Human Givens journal and the APET model forms an integral part of all human givens therapy.


Denny was given a life sentence for murder when he battered his friend to death on a freezing cold night for no reason that he could articulate. He and his best friend Nick were 'down and out'. Having failed to get jobs which they had travelled to a specific town in search of, they had both hitchhiked and trudged, cold and hungry, the 90 miles back to their home town.

On arrival, they huddled in a derelict building, desperately burning any wood they could tear down to make fires for warmth. Nick quite reasonably suggested that they go to Denny's mother's house, which was only 500 yards away, and sleep on her front room floor. Denny wouldn't hear of it. When he ran out of arguments against Nick's pleadings, he battered and killed him.

Why? All Denny could say in explanation was, "I just went too far". Denny had no idea why he felt compelled to kill his best friend, only that the 'need' was overwhelming. It subsequently emerged, through psychiatrist Dr Bob Johnson's work with him in Parkhurst Prison [1], that Denny had felt driven to murder because he was still frozen in a state of terror of his mother who had battered him cruelly as a boy. That he was now adult and a strapping six feet three and a half inches and she was 85 and five feet two did not impinge as a reason not to fear her any more.

This famous case serves to epitomise, in stark form, the shortcomings of the basic idea underlying cognitive therapy — that it is beliefs and thoughts which give rise to emotions and behaviours. Denny's fear was powerfully reactivated by a pattern from the past. It was emotion which led to the belief that he must kill, not vice versa.

The case provides a highly graphic example of how extremely strong emotional reactions precede conscious understanding and reasoning. This can be explained in terms of what is now known about how the brain works and, we propose, has important ramifications for how we can carry out therapy most effectively.

New understandings 

Using new understandings about the functioning of the brain, we have developed a theory we have called the APET model. It is, in effect, a necessary updating and enlarging of the model underlying cognitive therapy, which was first developed well before the current explosion of knowledge about brain function.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Why Freud and Jung were wrong about dreaming: The seminal dreams of Freud and Jung reinterpreted

Freud’s whole system of psychoanalysis, which for a hundred years dominated people’s thinking about psychotherapy, is based upon his dream theory. Not only that, much cultural thinking, fiction and poetry in the Western world has been deeply influenced by psychoanalytical ideas. So, if Freud’s interpretation of this dream is not correct, the whole of psychoanalysis disintegrates and so do many of the Western cultural studies of the past hundred years. As we shall see, Freud’s interpretation was hopelessly wrong.

The dream known as ‘The dream of Irma’s injection’ is the key dream sequence in Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams.[1] Freud had this dream on the night of 23rd–24th July 1895. He regarded it, and his interpretation of it, as so significant that he called it his ‘specimen dream’ and devoted some fourteen pages to its analysis. He even wrote to his close friend Wilhelm Fliess on 12th June 1900, “Do you suppose that some day a marble tablet will be placed on the house, inscribed with these words: ‘In this house, on July 24th 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr Sigmund Freud’?[2] 

Sigmund Freud & Wilhelm Fliess
It has been possible to unravel Freud’s dream because, fortunately, the relevant historical evidence about the traumatic events in his life during the months preceding it, and the reactivation of concerns about these events by the remarks of a visiting friend on the evening before, are available to us. This evidence provides the key to understanding his dream in the light of Joe’s findings about the purpose of dreams. And, as we shall see, this explanation is far removed from the one arrived at by Freud himself. His dream was, in fact, a precise metaphorical re-enactment of specific historical events in his life that were still troubling him greatly. The dream was described by him as follows:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 4 - Consolidation of learning during sleep

Here is the final part of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams
Part 2 - Stages in the creative process
Part 3 - Invention and dreams

Part 4: Consolidation of learning during sleep

Many studies have, however, shown that there is a connection between REM sleep and the effectiveness of memory recall for new learning, and some researchers believe that dreaming is primarily concerned with this. Much recently published work still reflects this stance.

However, the dreaming and learning effect is most notable in types of learning that involve ‘false starts’, such as memory for routine procedures, as demonstrated by Professor Peretz Lavie when he set rats to learn the path through a maze. More recently, Erin Wamsley and colleagues taught students to find their way through a complex computer maze. After learning to navigate the maze, half the students enjoyed a 90-minute nap while the rest watched videos. Five hours later, all tried the maze again. Those who had not slept showed no improvement; those who had slept but not reported dreaming about the maze showed slight improvement whereas those who dreamed about the maze performed 10 times better than the other sleepers. However, the dreams were not exact replays of navigating the maze – one sleeper even reported images of a bat cave he had once visited, mixed up with maze images.

The expectation fulfilment theory would predict these findings. It suggests that REM sleep allows the introspected false starts that were not acted upon to be deactivated. Once the metaphorical acting out of the introspected false starts has taken place, the autonomic arousal is switched off, allowing the ‘correct’ memory to be consolidated – hence the improvement in memory for certain types of learning after REM sleep.

Even the finding that, when rats are in REM sleep after learning a maze, the pattern of brain activity is almost identical to that experienced while learning the maze can be explained by our dream theory. Co-author of the study Matthew Wilson, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Learning and Memory, infers from his findings that, during sleep, the brain rein- forces skills learned during the day by repeating and consolidating memories. We, however, would suggest, that the equivalent brain patterns are likely to be indicators that the unexpressed emotional arousal (likely to be high anxiety) experienced while trying to learn a maze is now being discharged in a dream.

That dreaming is not primarily concerned with memory consolidation would seem to be evidenced by the fact that animals and humans denied REM sleep do not show deficits in task learning. As the brain is in a non-memory encoding state during sleep, consolidation at that time is unlikely. Other researchers have suggested that, as the hippocampus is reactivated during sleep after a learning task, and performance on the task is improved afterwards, dreams are a side-effect of the reactivation of this area, explaining why dream content is not directly related to the learned material. All this is more easily and economically explained by the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming.

The REM state is the repository of our stored instinctive knowledge templates, and all new understandings are the result of a process of refinement and integration of our existing knowledge and new learning. That, in essence, is what the creative process is about, but we have more to say about it in the next chapter....


Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 3 - Invention and dreams

Here is the third of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams 
Part 2 - Stages in the creative process 

Invention and dreams

The development of the technique for making lead shot is a good example of a solution becoming incorporated into the surface structure of a dream metaphor which is expressing an ongoing concern of the dreamer. In 1782 William Watts invented the process that enabled lead shot to be made in regular shapes and sizes. One night, coming home from a drinking session, he decided to sleep it off in the porch of the church near his home. During the night it rained heavily and he had the following dream. He dreamed that his wife was pouring drops of molten lead on top of him from the roof of the church. No doubt he was apprehensive of the scolding (scalding) his wife would give him when he got home, and this provided the metaphor of his wife (who was not actually seen in the dream) expressing her hostility by pouring molten lead on him. In other words, his dream expressed the feeling that he would get ‘shot’ when his wife got her hands on him.

 Watts was an observant plumber who was well used to working with lead and familiar with the way molten lead behaves. He already knew that molten lead dropped through the air would form perfect spherical lead balls. He was also aware of the problems involved in making lead shot. Therefore, it is highly possible that his unconscious could have already solved the problem before he had the dream. Although the solution had ‘incubated’, the ‘illumination’ had yet to take place. The solution is incorporated into the surface structure of the dream metaphor.

When Watts woke up he immediately saw that he had a means of making lead shot of a regular shape and size. He carried out an experiment to test the illumination. With the help of his wife (who had presumably cooled down by then) he dropped molten lead from a considerable height – in fact from the very church roof he had dreamt about – and it did indeed form perfect lead shot as it fell through the air and cooled. This very same process is still used today.

A further example is the invention, in 1846, of the first practical sewing machine. For years an inventor called Elias Howe had been trying to build a sewing machine but, like everyone else who was trying to do the same thing at that time, he couldn’t make his designs work. But he was desperate to succeed because he was being hard pressed for money by his creditors. A solution eluded him and his struggle seemed fruitless. Then, one night, he dreamed that he was chased and captured by a savage tribe who told him they would spear him to death within 24 hours if he didn’t solve the problem. They tied him to a stake and began dancing wildly round him, waving their spears and getting closer all the time. As they got closer and closer he got more and more desperate and, when they seemed on the point of killing him, he suddenly noticed that all of their spears had an eye hole near the point. He woke with a start, remembered the dream, and realised at once that this was the solution to his problem. The eye in the needle needed to be on the opposite end from that on a hand-held needle. The model of the hand-held needle may have conditioned his conscious mind, making it difficult for him to see that the functional elements of a needle would have to be rearranged if it was to work on a sewing machine.

The solution ‘hitched a ride’ up to consciousness, as it were, by being incorporated into the surface imagery of the dream metaphor that was expressing his frustration at being pressurised by his creditors (the savages in the dream). This one dream changed the working lives of millions.

The evidence, therefore, suggests that there are two possible ways that dreams may provide solutions to problems. Firstly, if a person has worked on a problem for which he has not yet found a solution, then goes to bed expecting to dream one, he may just dream a metaphorical solution. However, according to the expectation fulfilment theory, this requires (a) that he has an emotionally arousing expectation that the solution to the problem will be revealed in a dream, (b) that his creative mind reaches a solution to the problem before he dreams, (c) that the solution does not reach consciousness before dreaming, and (d) that he recalls the dream in which the solution appears. We would suggest that this could only be successful for a short time. As soon as the person has experienced not dreaming the correct solution (which is bound to happen sooner or later), then it will no longer be possible to generate the necessary emotionally- arousing expectation that a dream is going to provide the answer.

A second and perhaps more likely possibility is that the surface structure of a dream whose metaphorical content expresses a different waking concern may, on occasion, provide the vehicle to express the solution to a particular problem. But this would only occur when the creative mind has incubated a solution and is looking for an opportunity to express it – as with the discovery of the ‘benzene ring’ and the invention of the sewing machine.

So dreams in which problems are solved do not present a difficulty for this new theory about why we dream. Indeed, such solutions emerge in a form that is in accordance with what the theory would predict.

Part 4: Consolidation of learning during sleep

Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 2 - Stages in the creative process

Here is the second part of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams 


Stages in the creative process

In 1926, the British philosopher Graham Wallace, in the The Art of Thought, concisely described the stages of the creative process in a way that we feel hasn’t been bettered. He called these stages: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.

We have probably all had experience of focusing our attention on a problem (preparation), then leaving it aside for a while, perhaps going for a walk (incubation), when suddenly a solution hits us (illumination). Then, of course, we must check that the solution is viable (verification). The characteristic way in which our cognitive unconscious works by ‘incubating’ the problem is nature’s way of enabling us to find solutions holistically (sometimes called lateral thinking). Creative solutions do not come from logical analysis, although such an analysis is necessary in the preparatory stage, but from rearranging the elements of a problem into a new pattern, or seeing the existing pattern from a different perspective.

You can clearly see this process at work yourself by applying to your own dreams the theory of dreams presented in this book. First, note all the elements of the dream, including your feelings about it. These are the feelings that you would have felt had you been able to enact the waking introspections that gave rise to your dreams. The feelings in the dream are actually more intense than the feelings you had when you were awake. (This is because, as you did not act on the feelings when you were awake, your dreaming brain concentrates completely on the aroused expectations associated with the feelings, in order to deactivate them.) Next, compare the dream elements to your waking experience of the previous day to see if you can find a matching template to the dream scenario. Remember, of course, that the match will not be between the ‘objective’ waking events and the dream but rather between the dream and your introspected view of those waking events. This can be regarded as the preparation phase of the dream analysis.

The corresponding waking situation doesn’t usually spring to mind immediately as the purpose of the dream in the first instance was to deactivate the feelings associated with the memory. Hence it usually requires a period of ‘incubation’ before the unconscious mind can trace the associative links to the waking introspection that gave rise to the dream. Ironically it is often easier, when we have adequate background information, to see the meaning of someone else’s dream, if we have an idea of what was preoccupying them the previous day. This is because the waking sequence has not, of course, been deactivated in our brains. Thus Joe’s wife, Liz, will often identify the meaning of one of his dreams before he does and vice versa. Once the meaning has been identified all of the elements in it can be matched up, which helps to verify it. Thus, real dream interpretation, especially interpreting our own dreams, clearly involves the four traditional phases of creative problem solving: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.

Despite popular ideas to the contrary it appears that successful problem solving in dreams may be pretty rare. Dement has reported a research project in which 500 undergraduate students, over three consecutive classes, were given one of three problems to solve. They were told to study a problem for 15 minutes before going to sleep and to record any dreams they remembered from the night. If the problem had not been solved, they were to work on it for another 15 minutes in the morning. The total number of problem-solving attempts was 1,148. It was judged that 87 dreams related to the problem but that the problem was solved in a dream on only seven occasions.

One of the problems was as follows: “The letters OTTFF... form the beginning of an infinite sequence. Find a simple rule for determining any or all successive letters. According to your rule, what would be the next two letters of the sequence?” The next two letters are SS. The letters represent the first letters used in spelling out the numerical sequence one, two, three, four, five, six, seven etc.

The following dream is one of those in which the problem was solved.

The art gallery

I was standing in an art gallery looking at the paintings on the wall. As I walked down the hall, I began to count the paintings one, two, three, four, five. But as I came to the sixth and seventh, the paintings had been ripped from their frames! I stared at the empty frames with a peculiar feeling that some mystery was about to suddenly be solved, I realised that the sixth and seventh spaces were the solution to the problem.

A second problem the students were given was to consider the letters HIJKLMNO. The solution to the problem was one word: water. In other words, ‘H to O’ or H2O.

No dream was classified as actually solving the problem, but twelve were classified as ‘mode of expression dreams’. An example of a ‘mode of expression’ dream is as follows:

I had several dreams, all of which had water in them somewhere. In one dream I was hunting for sharks. In another I was riding waves at the ocean. In another I was confronted by a barracuda while skin-diving. In another it was raining quite heavily. In another I was sailing into the wind.

This dream, as the student reported, had water in it everywhere. Yet, as far as he was concerned, the student had solved the problem to his own satisfaction before going to bed, with the word ‘alphabet’.

The type of holistic thinking required for creative problem solving is the antithesis of the everyday analytical approach. Rather than breaking a problem down, it involves looking at the entire problem from a different perspective. This is also the type of thinking required to solve the problems in Dement’s study. Such creative problem solving is often facilitated by taking a break from the problem and getting into a relaxed frame of mind (incubation) after which the solution often ‘hits’ us (illumination). It may well be that dreaming can, in a sense, provide the relaxed frame of mind in which a solution can emerge. An individual’s analogical thinking process may have arrived at a solution before dreaming, but he or she is either too tired or, more likely, too set in an analytical left-brain mode of thinking, for the solution to emerge.

The research psychologist Norman Dixon has reported experiments where a subliminal image shown to subjects appeared in the manifest content of a subsequent dream. He argued that, in these cases, although the image has been perceived, the stimulus doesn’t possess enough energy to get as far as waking consciousness but it can emerge in the less controlled consciousness of a dream. Perhaps a similar phenomenon exists as far as dream problem solving is concerned. A solution that doesn’t possess enough energy to break through into consciousness, either because existing cognitive sets are too rigid or because the person is not in a suitably relaxed frame of mind, may become manifest in a dream sequence.

How the solution manifests depends on how people anticipate what will happen in their dream before they go to sleep. In the first example given, the subject has the solution expressed clearly in an analogous setting. He is looking at paintings in an art gallery. This is a metaphor for his anticipation that he will be looking at images in a dream. The sixth and seventh paintings, ripped from their frames, symbolise the missing two letters which had to be found in order to solve the problem. He expects the problem to be solved in a dream. He looks at the blank paintings with a feeling that some mystery is going to be solved. He realises that the sixth and seventh spaces are the solution.

This dream, then, metaphorically represented what this student anticipated would happen in a dream that night. His creative process had probably arrived at a correct solution before the dream occurred. Consequently the anticipated solution provided in the dream was an accurate metaphor of the correct solution. This is in contrast to the great majority of the dreams reported – these were about the problem and trying to solve it but the correct solution did not emerge from them.

In the second example, the student wrongly thought that he had solved the problem before going to sleep. In this case, Joe’s theory of dreams would lead us to expect that, for the correct solution to appear in this student’s dreams, it would have to be incorporated into the ongoing imagery of other dream themes, since he was no longer anticipating a solution in a dream. (This is what happened with the subliminally presented images in Dixon’s study, they were incorporated into the ongoing dream sequences.) The student reported several dreams in which water was the main form of symbolism. However, the dreams were not about the problem, or about water as the solution to the problem, but rather water as a symbol to express a personal concern for the future – a fear that he was heading into ‘dangerous waters’ perhaps.

This student’s creative thinking process had arrived at the correct solution, namely ‘water’, but, because he wrongly believed ‘alphabet’ to be the solution, it did not emerge into waking consciousness and, like a subliminally presented stimulus, was easily incorporated into the symbolism or metaphors of dreams that expressed different waking anticipations.

Similarly, Kekule’s analogical thinking process had arrived at a correct solution but a suitable frame of mind for its emergence may not have been arrived at before he fell asleep, or else his conscious mental sets were too rigid to permit the solution to emerge. So the solution was incorporated into the symbolism in a dream which was expressing some other waking concern. In this case Kekule’s fear that the problem was making a fool of him is expressed appropriately by the snake chasing its own tail, ‘mockingly’ going round in circles. The expectation fulfilment theory suggests that, for a person’s problem to be directly solved in a dream, they must actively anticipate that the problem will be solved in their dreams and, secondly, the correct solution must have already occurred to them prior to having the dream. On the other hand, where a solution has occurred to a person’s unconscious mind, but an appropriate milieu for its expression has not been found while they were awake, then the solution may be indirectly suggested by the surface imagery of the metaphor expressing a different waking concern – as in the examples of Kekule’s dream and in the water solution dream just described.

The New Scientist asked its readers to use their dreams to solve a number of intellectual problems. They were the kind of problems that would be expected to baffle the logical, conscious mind. Eleven people wrote to Morton Schatzman, who was conducting the research, and described how a dream had helped them solve the following mathematical problem:

Using six line segments of equal length, can you construct four equilateral triangles such that the sides of the triangles are the same length as the line segments.

One who wrote in said that, in a dream, she ran her hand along some railings and six of them came together “to form a kind of wig-wam”. Later she dreamt that her chemistry teacher appeared in the dream and said ‘109 28’. The student knew that this number was connected with tetrahedral molecules whose structures make up four equilateral triangles. Translating the metaphor she realised that the solution was a three-sided pyramid. Another student, who was not familiar with mathematics, was delighted with the help her dream provided. In her dream, she asked a scientist for help, and the scientist jumped up and down and eventually flew up on top of a cupboard. When the dreamer woke up, she was able to understand the metaphorical answer by realising that the triangles must be given lift off. She made a drawing using this idea and solved the problem.

Notice how the presence of the scientist in the dream would naturally alert her waking mind to the fact that this dream was about the problem from the New Scientist.

Another problem presented was to discover what was remarkable about the following sentence:

‘I am not very happy acting pleased whenever prominent scientists overmagnify intellectual enlightenment.’ 

(The number of letters increases in each consecutive word by one to form a numerical sequence going from one to 13.)

One sixth-form student dreamed that he was lecturing to scientists seated at five tables with one, two, three, four and five scientists sitting at each respective table. The student was able to see that the dream was a metaphorical solution to the problem. Another student who solved the problem by means of a dream reported that, in his dream, he typed the sentence, ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’. (This is, of course, the sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet.) His supervisor tells him to type 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 instead. Again, we see the dream expressing the solution metaphorically. The words were replaced by a sentence known to contain all the letters of the alphabet, and thus it directs his attention to the letters in the words. The supervisor tells him to write a sequence of numbers that stops at 9. This is because the number of words in the replacement sentence in the dream has nine words in it, unlike the problem sentence, which has thirteen words in it. We can see, therefore, that the dream provided a metaphorical solution to the problem.

In these examples the dreamers were anticipating a solution to the problem in their dreams and then dreaming a metaphorical solution to the problem. In the next two examples a solution to a problem was not anticipated in a dream and so the solution had to follow the more indirect route of being incorporated into the surface images of a dream expressing another theme.

Part 3: Invention and dreams


Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 1 - Solving problems: Creativity and Dreams

Here is the first part of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams

“It is the function of creative men and women to perceive the relations between thoughts, or things, or forms of expression that may seem utterly different, and to be able to combine them into some new forms – the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.”
William Plomer

The relationship between creativity and dreams has long been recognised. There are many recorded anecdotes of dreams helping people solve problems. Indeed, Joe’s research into the origin of why we dream is a case in point: as we’ve seen, it too was inspired by a dream which eventually led to this new theory. But, although Joe’s dream clearly led him towards the solution he eventually found, it is, of course, not strictly comparable with the types of dream that appear instantaneously to give rise to solutions to specific problems. In these dreams, the dream content has a direct relationship with the problem being worked on. One of the most famous dream anecdotes of all time is a perfect example of this: Kekule’s discovery of the structure of the benzene ring – one of the most important discoveries in the history of chemistry. Kekule had been trying for years to solve the problem of the nature of the molecular structure of benzene.

 Kekule’s dream

"Then, one afternoon, I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gambolling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of this kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together, all twining and twisting in a snake-like motion. But look! What was this? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the forms whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightening I awoke .... Let us learn to dream, gentlemen."

The snake swallowing its own tail suggested to Kekule that the structure of this organic compound might be a closed ring. So, would we be right in concluding from this that the dream solved the problem for Kekule which his waking conscious mind could not?

The expectation fulfilment theory offers an alternative interpretation of the events of the dream, as follows. Kekule had worked hard on his problem, trying out many different solutions but without success. He feels he is getting nowhere. He sits by the fire and starts to doze. The dream he then has expresses his deep frustration concerning the problem. He sees the “manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together” – that is, the numerous solutions he had tried, some more closely fitting the solution than others “all twining and twisting in snake-like fashion”. This suggests his continuing attempts to fashion or model the correct shape of the structure. “What was this? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the forms whirled mockingly before my eyes” – we see here a metaphorical expression of Kekule’s frustration. His attempts at a solution are just going around in circles. He feels the problem is making a fool of him – mocking him. (Feelings – emotions – are, of course, what dreams are all about because it is unacted out emotional arousal patterns that dreams deactivate by completing them.)

This interpretation is given further credence by the fact that Kekule’s dream occurred just after he nodded off to sleep. This stage of sleep is not REM sleep proper but the drowsy transitional state called ‘hypnogogic sleep’. The EEG brainwave pattern in hypnogogic sleep is similar to REM sleep, but the lower brainstem is not as involved as it is in full-blown REM sleep. As we saw from Silberer’s research, a current waking introspection may become metaphorically translated during hypnogogic sleep. We would therefore expect Kekule’s dream to reflect his waking frustration at the lack of progress in his attempts to solve his problem. This is exactly what Joe’s dream analysis shows did in fact happen.

However, although the dream represents Kekule’s frustration at not being able to find the correct solution to the problem, the vivid image in it of going around in circles did break him free from his entrenched mental set of looking for a linear solution to the problem and opened up to him the possibility that a circular structure might provide the solution. Are we to assume, then, that it was pure coincidence that led to the selection of the image of the whirling circle to represent the feelings of frustration? Research by Dement suggests an answer to this problem, but first we must consider how the creative process works.

Part 2: Stages in the creative process 


Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Two mindblowing new talks by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell

The expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming – a talk by Joe Griffin

A talk given to Human Givens Diploma students in which psychologist Joe Griffin explains why we evolved to dream. He discusses the failure of earlier dream theories to come up with satisfactory answers and why the discovery of the REM state in 1953, which left Freudian and Jungian dream theories ‘dead in the water’, led to his own research. For twelve years he explored the connection between the REM state, in which we dream and the genetic programming that takes place in the REM state. We now know that dreaming evolved to maintain the integrity of mammalian instincts. In the talk Joe also covers the autosymbolic process; why all dreams have to be metaphorical to prevent false memories building up; metaphorical pattern-matching; why we evolved to suppress emotions; why dreaming was nature’s way of conserving energy; the connection between unfulfilled emotional expectations and nightmares; dream predictions and why all mammals dream.

Dreaming, daydreaming and creativity - a talk by Ivan Tyrrell

A talk given to Human Givens Diploma students about what followed from the ‘brain’s big bang’ 40,000 years ago when our ancestors learned how to consciously access the internal reality theatre of the dreaming brain and ‘daydream’ consciously. Once humans started daydreaming they could creatively solve problems in imagination ask abstract questions and generate complex language with a past, present and future tense. Subjects covered in this talk include: the nature of consciousness; cave art; creativity; psychosis and autism; the origin of civilisations; the 12,000 year old Gobekli Tepe stone temples; the importance of REM state research; how the unconscious mind really works; metaphorical pattern-matching; how dreaming helps us stay effective; dreaming and depression; false memory syndrome; why hypnosis can now be viewed as ‘any artificial way of accessing the REM state' – and how to improve psychotherapy outcomes in the modern world.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Latest Human Givens journal now out! Volume 21, No 1, 2014

Editorial: The many facets of morality

How we are: News, views and information:
Diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder • how best to practise • chivalrous acts • lonely bacteria • children’s amnesia • psychological side effects of antidepressants • launch of the Council for Evidence- Based Psychiatry • analysis of a dream • older eyewitnesses • taking notes • avatars’ effects on behaviour • suicide risk and confidentiality • compliance and discomfort • anxiety in diabetes sufferers • resources in the poor • public speaking • warmth and cooperation

Knowing where you belong 
Pat Williams extols becoming a fully paid-up member of the human race

When you can’t drain the swamp 
Through three moving stories, Chris Dyas shares his methods for working effectively with self-harming teenagers


Reflections on therapy 
Julian Penton highlights what he has learned after years as a human givens therapist, supervisor and trainer

‘Super’ vision 
Rob Parkinson suggests ways for therapists to keep a heightened sense of awareness

Going global with mental health 
Vikram Patel tells Denise Winn what the West can learn from developing countries in working towards mental health for all

You or I, here and now, there and then ... if only 
Denise Winn explores the unexpected ways in which our perspectives on the world can be manipulated

Online therapy 
Linda Singer explores the positives and the pitfalls of technology-assisted counselling

Growing up and moving on 
Ignite Trust works imaginatively with marginalised young people. Lynne Burke explains its success

PLUS: Book Reviews, Letters

Buy Human Givens journal current issue or subscribe

Monday, 14 July 2014

Improving health: It's more complicated than you think - great lecture by Sir Harry Burns

This is a brilliant lecture and well worth your time - it's all about what happens when innate physical and emotional needs are not met, in this case in Scotland. 

Why has the life expectancy in Scotland stayed so low in comparison to other countries and deprived areas? How can you raise children to survive adverse life conditions without compromising their mental and physical health? These questions and more are answered in this fascinating lecture which aligns perfectly with the human givens approach to mental health.

VIDEO: Improving health: It's more complicated than you think:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Emotional arousal makes you stupid

You may have noticed that someone who is incredibly angry seems incapable of seeing wider viewpoints or following a rational discussion about what is annoying them – this is an example of black and white ‘all or nothing’ thinking and occurs when the emotional limbic system inhibits access to the rational neocortex. To put it simply, the brain gets too ‘emotionally aroused’ to think rationally. Black and white thinking is a feature of all highly emotional states, including depression and anxiety. In order to deal with feelings of anxiety and depression, it is important to recognise when black and white thinking is occurring and learn how to get back to your rational observing self and lower your stress levels.

Emotional arousal makes you stupid

When you get anxious in any situation your brain instinctively starts to prepare for the fight or flight response (an innate reflex action that enables you to get away alive from potentially fatal situations like an approaching hungry lion) and begins to set off high emotional arousal levels in the lower, primitive brain (the amygdala and the limbic system) to lock all available attention on the threat and enable you to make quick decisions to run or fight as fast possible. High emotional arousal in the lower regions of the brain obstruct the higher cortex, inhibiting and simplifying logical thought in order to react in the fastest way to possible danger. This is the mechanism behind black and white thinking, and is sometimes not appropriate to the less life threatening anxieties of modern life.

If you were walking through a jungle and suddenly heard a roar and a loud crashing noise coming towards you, you would immediately react by running for your life, rather than standing still, weighing up the consequences and waiting to see if what you heard was a rampaging angry elephant or not! Waiting for logical thought to kick in is too slow in urgent survival situations so your amygdala would rather make the embarrassing mistake of running when there is no danger than making one fatal error in judgement that might cost you your life. In these moments of very high emotional arousal thoughts become oversimplified and ‘black and white thinking’ happens.

Your amygdala sometimes does its job too well as it knows that one mistake could be fatal. However, in some areas of modern life, over simplified thinking is not as useful as it once was when we lived in constant fear of our physical survival, and black and white thinking can become destructive as our anxiety limits our perspective and stops us from being able to clearly see our situation.

Black and white thinking

Black and white thinking is occurring whenever you find yourself saying or thinking things like this: “My whole life is a disaster from start to finish” “I can’t do anything right” “Everyone hates me.” These statements are very likely to be untrue, so take a moment to do something to calm your amygdala and limbic system (see 7/11 breathing technique) and don’t let emotional black and white thinking trick you into thinking thoughts that would make anyone feel bad!

This information is taken from the Lifting Depression website.

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