Thursday, 29 January 2015

What have you got going for you? More than you think

If your answer to the above question is 'nothing', you are in the grip of black-and-white thinking. So take some deep relaxing breaths and think again.

We all have an enormous numbers of resources available to us, and by that we mean the skills, experiences and attributes we have developed and accumulated to date, which we can call on at any time to help us navigate our way through life. We may take some of them for granted or even deny them if we are in a state of negative thinking.

If you are struggling to think of any consider the resources (called 'human givens') that nature has given us to help us meet our needs including:
  • The ability to develop complex, long-term memory, which enables us to add to our innate knowledge and learn 
  • The ability to build rapport, empathise and connect with others Imagination, which enables us to focus our attention away from our emotions, use language and problem solve more creatively and objectively 
  • A conscious, rational mind that can check out emotions, question, analyse and plan 
  • The ability to 'know' — that is, understand the world unconsciously through metaphorical pattern matching 
  • An observing self — that part of us that can step back, be more objective and be aware of itself as a unique centre of awareness, apart from intellect, emotion and conditioning 
  • A dreaming brain that preserves the integrity of our genetic inheritance every night by metaphorically defusing expectations held in the autonomic arousal system because they were not acted out the previous day. 

And that's not all.

Perhaps you are out of a job and you don't have a relationship at the moment. It is important then, to remind yourself of the jobs you have successfully held in the past, the qualifications you may have gained, the skills you have learned which enabled you to do these jobs, and so forth. Count it as a resource that you have had boyfriends or girlfriends in the past and are therefore capable of making a relationship work: or that you were married for many years before your marriage broke down and during most of that time you were a loving, caring partner, capable of sharing, having fun and being fun to be around.

If you have ever carried out responsibilities in your life, whether in a job or at home or even when doing a paper round in your youth (getting up early and doing out on a dark, cold, wet morning is no mean achievement), count it as an important resource.

If you have loved anyone in your life - your parents or siblings if not a life partner - or have cared for people in a professional capacity, you can count on having loving feelings and being able to love and care for others.

If you have just one exam pass to your name, that still shows you had the ability to follow through and complete a course of work in that subject, turn up for the exam and keep your nerve for long enough to take and pass it.

Perhaps you are great at drawing cartoons or animals for your nieces and nephews to colour in. Or you knit scarfs to give to charity shops. Or you read your children stories at night and give all the characters voices.

Count as a resource even adversitites you have weathered. Perhaps you have had years of illness that you have had to cope with or you have survived an acrimonious divorce or you have managed not to go under, despite financial losses. These are huge resources.

Don't forget aspects of your character either. Perhaps people feel you are a sympathetic listener. Or you are kind to stray dogs. Or you have a great sense of humour.

Write it down

Start making a list of everything you've got going for you.

Be thorough. No skill is too small.

Reminding yourself of your resources will help you to access them more easily, build your confidence, lift depression and think more positively and productively about the future.


This excerpt taken from the book: How to master anxiety: all you need to know to overcome stress, panic attacks, phobias, trauma, obsessions and more

Monday, 19 January 2015

Why right brained autism manifests differently

"Caetextia" from the Latin: - caecus: blind and contextus: context
context blindness caused by an inability to keep track of multiple interconnecting variables and to reprioritise any change in those variables by referring to a wider field that contains the history of them. This causes people with caetextia to resort to one of two mental modus operandi: logical, straight-line thinking or thinking by random associations. 
Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell first coined the term "caetextia" in 2007 to describe the most dominant manifestation of autistic behaviour at the highest levels of the autistic spectrum.

This article was first published in the Human Givens Journal Vol 15, No 4 (2008) and the paper presented and illustrated with numerous filmed examples of Caetextic behaviour at a MindFields College (Now Human Givens College) Advanced Studies Course and also at the Human Givens Institute Conference in 2009 [Video].

We have received many emails from visitors to the website who are excited to find a new and simple explanation for what they are going through. Right brained dominant people in particular feel that this explanation of autism strikes a chord with their own experiences.


Left and right - The brain develops specialisations

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

What happens when context is unavailable?

But when people are missing the mammalian ‘parallel processing’ template for handling multiple streams of information (caetextia), they are forced to try and resolve problems by other means. If a person is left-brain dominant, we see Asperger’s behaviour as traditionally recognised: literal, logical, analytical reactions with difficulties in communication and empathy because of a severely diminished ability to think contextually.

This happens because the left neocortex is itself ‘autistic’ — it doesn’t have access to the feelings that create context. But if a person is right-brain dominant and is missing the template for reading context, we suggest that caetextia may express itself through an undisciplined, very strong imagination.

The right brain looks always for associations, so, without a strong left brain to moderate the myriad associations that the right brain makes, a person with caetextia cannot discipline them and check them out. The associations made are unlikely to be the right ones because, without access to a personal emotional history, they are not anchored in reality. The constant, undisciplined association-making can lead not only to inappropriate but often quite bizarre thoughts and behaviour.

Right brained caetextia

Right-brained caetextia is caused by a lack of instinctive feelings to moderate the person’s thoughts and behaviour, leaving the mind to run free, making directionless, random associations. Because a right-brained caetextic person is more emotional, it may seem odd to suggest that their condition is due to a lack of instinctive feelings, but it is the lack of emotional instincts to discipline associations that give rise to problems.

Scientists researching decision making have determined that it is emotion, fired by imagination, that prioritises decision making, not logic. “Emotions arise when events or outcomes are relevant for one’s concerns or preferences and they prioritise behaviour that acts in service of these concerns” (our italics). Both right- and left-brained caetextia result in black-and-white thinking. Indeed, when heavily stressed, we can all become temporarily caetextic: prone to black-and-white, irrational behaviour and faulty reasoning.

More women than men

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

We would suggest that females are much more likely than males to suffer from right-brain caetextia, and that clinicians are not yet recognising this expression of Asperger’s syndrome.

This could be because, although in right-brain caetextia we see the same inability to track multiple foci of attention and think contextually, such people have ready access to emotions in a way that left-brain dominant caetextics, who, in our experience, are predominantly male, do not.

Right brain caetextics can become emotional quickly and very, very easily, crying at the slightest upset, for instance. This accessibility of emotion, much more common in women generally, disguises the caetextia. However, they are sometimes just as poor at interpersonal intelligence as those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. They also lack empathy and cannot see how inappropriate their behaviour or beliefs appear to others.


Read the whole article at

A one day training course on how to treat context blindness and enlarge people's perspective.

The paradox that cannabis can both exacerbate and alleviate mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, paranoia and anxiety whilst giving rise to imagination and creativity has never been resolved. However, a new theory which places the human givens model for psychosis in a wider context could offer an explanation for the conflicting effects. - Cannabis induced caetextia and the paradoxical effects of cannabis

Monday, 12 January 2015

You cannot escape reality for long. Why depression is a trance state.

Focusing attention – inwards and outwards 

We have a need for trance, as can be seen by our seeking out experiences that put us into it. For example, golfers will say, “I find it just so relaxing; that’s why I play. I come out here and I can switch off everything else. Nothing exists for me then but the game.” We feel more alive when focused on a task in a trance state.

It is as if, for all of us, our consciousness – the constant switching of attention that enables us to see reality in multi-dimensions as much as possible – is a real burden we carry around. Every time we switch attention we arouse, to some degree, the fight-or-flight response and activate a corresponding amount of stress hormones. That creates tremendous wear and tear. But, when we can go into a relaxed, absorbing trance state and our attention is kept focused, the fight-or- flight response is subdued. Perhaps, without realising it, we are all looking for experiences where we can put the burden down and thereby avoid using energy for the emotionally arousing activity of constantly switching attention.

Relaxation is a temporary relief

It is impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time. Relaxation is a lovely state to be in. It’s entrancing! It’s what a lot of people derive from many forms of alternative therapy or from drinking alcohol – their attention and consciousness get ‘locked’, so they don’t need to make much effort. This temporarily filters out certain stress reactions that would otherwise affect their mind/body system. It’s a temporary relief of course. You cannot escape reality for long.

Playing football or badminton will have the same effect. No matter what problems or what deadlines we have, once we start playing the game we are totally released – everything else just disappears for an hour. We become unconscious of our concerns for a while. The only thing that matters is the game, nothing else. When the wider reality is temporarily forgotten, it is a refreshing release from day-to-day pressures. Whilst playing sport does involve physiological activation of the fight-or-flight response, there is an instinctive follow through, when one can play well, that switches off the arousal of the conscious decision making usually associated with it. That’s why it seems so effortless – going into a state of ‘flow’ involves very little conscious decision making.

The depressive trance

Depressed people stop doing things they used to enjoy, so they no longer have that release. Once trapped in a negative (unhelpful) trance state they lose the energy required to focus themselves on a wider horizon, one that has meaning and purpose.

The trance of depression is quite unlike the trance of playing badminton, for example, which, by contrast, is an exhilarating state. That’s because, when playing, we are totally focused outwards, not inwards. And what we are not doing, when in that outward-focused trance, is carrying the burden of decisions to be made, deadlines to be met – all the things in life that require conscious choices and reality checking. We may also try to escape the burden through negative trance states. We become lazy, dreamy, depressed, anxious or angry. We abuse substances or excitement or relationships – do anything, in fact, except take up the burden willingly. When we focus outwards, as in sport, music, gardening and other activities requiring complete concentration, we are relieved of the burden for a while in a much less destructive manner.

Life becomes meaningless

We may not like the burden of daily life’s demands. But, equally, getting caught up in a negative trance state also becomes a burden because, after a certain length of time, we start to get bored with it. We start to realize that there are all kinds of pleasures we are no longer enjoying and suddenly our life becomes meaningless. It’s like becoming aware that we are dreaming the same dream over and over to a point where it becomes tedious. If we stay in a trance state, the rational part of the mind eventually becomes aware of how repetitive it is. We begin to think, “I’m not doing anything interesting in my life. My life is boring. I’m not enjoying my food as much as I used to. I have no energy. This is going to go on for ever.” When such a trance state becomes a burden, we sink into depression. 

Once we understand what a trance state is and the various ways it can be induced, we have a useful way of observing and explaining much of our behaviour. We love many types of positive trance experiences that externally focus our attention, precisely because they release us from the need to switch our attention continually from demand to demand, with all the associated physiological arousal and effort that requires. It is lovely to switch off.


This article is taken from the expanded edition of Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking which contains much more on trance and the need for meaning in life, as well as all references.

For more on depression see and our brand new online course: How to break the cycle of depression.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy New Year!

It's been an exciting year for the human givens approach.

We have lots of things in store for 2015 but before we embark on the new year, let's look back on everything we have achieved in the last twelve months.

HG Online Courses

We will primarily remember 2014 as the year we began offering online psychotherapy teaching as well as face to face training.

For over 16 years we have been the foremost providers of psychotherapy training in the UK so it was very exciting for us to start exploring the world of online training, making it easier and more convenient for people all over the world to access our courses.

The first of our new online courses launched in the Spring of 2014 was HG Delving Deeper: Exploring consiousness and your relationship to reality, a course designed for those who are intrigued by life's 'big questions', consciousness, pattern matching, self-development and meaning.

This course paved the way for the next two courses, How to break the cycle of depression and How to understand and treat all types of addictive behaviour - both of which count towards Part 1 of the Human Givens Diploma. We have already had people booking on from all over the world. Several more courses will be available to take online soon so stay tuned..

The People's Book Prize
We were delighted to have the latest editions of Why We Dream: The Definitive Answer and the Human Givens a new approach to emotional health and clear thinking nominated for the People's Book Prize 2014/2015.

Why We Dream was up first in the autumn phase of voting and became a finalist thanks to the votes of our supporters! The second phase of the competition is now open, so please vote for the Human Givens book if you have a moment.

HGI conference 2014

The Human Givens Institute Conference took place in June in Sunningdale and was a huge success, with Prof Richard Bentall being the keynote speaker.

Read a full report of the weekend here.

Human Givens College

All 2015 training dates are online and available to book now so take a look and see which vital training days are relevant to your life or work this year.

Best of the blog

Some of our most popular blog posts and series of the year:

What is hypnosis? A 5 part blog series taken from the book Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang

Why we dream - a series on creativity and dreaming taken from chapter 7 of the new edition of Why We Dream: The Definitive Answer, published in June.

The APET Model, emotions come first - A landmark article added to the HG Library. 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.

Why Freud and Jung were wrong about dreaming

More proof of the dismal failure of IAPT - so what next?

Best self help posts of 2014

Worrying drains your motivation. But how? Here's the surprising explanation
How to use your imagination to manage pain
5 golden rules for setting achievable goals
Emotional arousal makes you stupid
See all self help blog posts here.

Thank you for all your support this year, and we look forward to what 2015 brings!

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