- Left-Brain/Right Brain
- Human needs
- Potential of Human Beings
- Non-cathartic society
- Theory of Discharge
Left Brain/Right Brain
|Left brain||Right brain|
Split-brain studies at the California Institute of Technology during the 50's and 60's indicated that each hemisphere of our brain employs different modes of processing information. In most right handed persons the left side is believed to be more dominant than the right side, and it is thought that with left handed people this can be reversed. The left side is to do with logical rational thought processes i.e. the intellect of the person, whilst the right side is to do with intuition, feelings, and a sense of beauty, e.g. scenery, music, art, etc.. There is little 'cross over' i.e. emotions are not experienced in the logical side and rationality is not experienced in the emotional side. The implications of this are far reaching:-
- Our society pays a great deal of attention to the logical/intellectual side of the brain. In effect this attention is focused on only half of the brain. This seems to be a disproportionately small representation of a whole person.
- We behave largely as we feel. What I mean here is that if a person is feeling sad or depressed, no amount of self-talk to 'pull themselves together', 'people are worse off than me' etc., will shift that feeling. The logical rational side cannot alter the feelings 'locked into' the emotional side. It is important to remember this because the only effective way of dealing with emotional behavioural issues is to ACCESS THE RIGHT SIDE.
Talking about, intellectualising (which is in effect dissociating from incidents and events), maintain a person in the left side. Co-counselling techniques are all about accessing the right brain, which is why they are so successful.
A comparison of left mode and right mode characteristics
|Left mode||Right mode|
|VERBAL: Using words to name, describe, define.||NON-VERBAL: Awareness of things but minimal connection with words.|
|ANALYTIC: Figuring things out step-by-step and part-by-part.||SYNTHETIC: Putting things together to form wholes.|
|SYMBOLIC: Using a symbol to stand for something. For example, the drawn form stands for the eye and the form + stands for the process of addition.||CONCRETE: Relating to things as they are at the present moment.|
|ABSTRACT: Taking out a small bit of information and using it to represent the whole thing.||ANALOGIC: Seeing likenesses between things; understanding of metamorphic relationships.|
|TEMPORAL: Keeping track of time, sequencing one thing after another. Doing first things first, second things second and so on.||NON-TEMPORAL: Without a sense of time.|
|RATIONAL: Drawing conclusions based on reason and facts.||NON-RATIONAL: Not requiring a basis of reason or facts; willingness to suspend Judgement.|
|DIGITAL: Using numbers as in counting.||SPATIAL: Seeing where things are in relation to other things and how parts go together to form a whole.|
|LOGICAL: Drawing conclusions based on logic: one thing following another in logical order for example, a mathematical theorem or a well-stated argument.||INTUITIVE: Making leaps of thought often based on incomplete patterns, hunches, feelings or visual images.|
|LINEAR: Thinking in terms of linked ideas, one thought directly following another, often leading to a convergent conclusion.||HOLISTIC: Seeing whole things all at once; perceiving the overall patterns and structures, often leading to divergent conclusions.|
What is perception? 'Perception' is the way a person views the world. It is important to remember that each person views the world from a different perspective. The reason for this is that we each have different histories i.e. our parents are different from other parents so their 'rules', their ideas of what is right or wrong, how things 'should' be or not be are different. Our lives have given us individually different experiences - schools, holidays, reading material etc., to name but a few. Each new experience is therefore based on our past history and our own 'perception' so it is not surprising that several people experiencing a similar incident are likely to have 'seen' it in a different way. A good example of this is when several people are witness to an accident and submit statements to the Police. These statements are unlikely to be the same and in some respects can even differ on crucial points. Let us now take this further:-
Events of themselves do not have an emotion - an 'emotion', when experienced, lies within the person perceiving the event. To explain, if two men who are fighting are viewed by a mixed crowd of people the following are possible reactions:
- Women are likely to feel very frightened and want to run away or at least seek some protection from another human being around.
- Men are likely to react either by wanting to step in and stop the fight or by urging one of the fighters on and to "give it him............" etc..
The event itself cannot create these divergent feelings. How we each view the world is likely to be determined by our inner state and beliefs.
Perception and reality are closely linked - as illustrated by the following example:
"Which side of the road is the right hand side?"
Of course this depends on 'where you are coming from'. If two people are walking towards one another, the right hand side of the road occupies both sides, not only that, but each right side is also the left side. Confusing? The application of this in co-counselling is that as each person sees and experiences the world from a different perspective, so each person is always 'right' from their own point of view. We create our own reality. Accepting this means accepting the person and their right to see things as they do.
Another important feature is to remember that all speech is autobiographical. That is, when a person speaks, on whatever subject, they are always speaking from their own individual perspective - even their observation of another person's behaviour is how they see the person and how it effects them. It is helpful to remember this when at the receiving end of criticism and/or praise as well.
Following on from this, it can be argued that how the world is for different people depends largely on their 'inner world'. A cold, haughty, withdrawn person is likely to experience coldness and haughtiness from those around. Conversely, a warm, loving and friendly person is more likely to notice these qualities in those around. To a large extent this point can be developed further by proposing that everything that is happening around a person - events and people, is a mirror image of what is going on inside them. Our outer world is therefore dependent on our inner world. Each person creates their own reality and the beginning of change therefore lies within each one of us.
Co-counselling is one way to begin to see things from different perspectives.
At this point I would remind the reader that you have survived life crises until now. You already have a survival tool kit. Co-counselling does not mean throwing away any of these tools, they are very important to you. What it does offer is additional tools to add to the ones you already have, and to use them for helping yourself whenever you choose to do so.
"Sorcerers say that we are inside a bubble. It is a bubble into which we are placed at the moment of our birth. At first the bubble is open, but then it begins to close until it has sealed us in. That bubble is our perception; we live inside that bubble all of our lives. And what we witness on its round walls is our own reflection."
Don Juan from Carlos Castaneda, "Tales of Power"
Human Needs: their frustrations and consequences
Apart from the physical needs for food, drink, sex, sleep, warmth and shelter, we have, according to John Heron, three basic personal human needs:
- The need to love and be loved
- The need to understand and be understood
- The need to be self-directing and live with others who act likewise.
Where these needs are not met then the result is:
- Grief when there is no love
- Fear when there is no understanding
- Anger when there is frustration in being self-directed
Let us look more precisely at what these human needs are. John Heron's description of love is the "capacity to care and be cared for, to be concerned for the other for the others' sake and to be the conscious recipient of such concern, to wish the flourishing of another and to flourish in response to a reciprocal wish." This kind of love, he proposes, is unconditional, non-possessive and nurturing. Heron points out that in our society "nurturance needs are confused and conflated with sexual needs. Physical contact and human warmth are confused with erotic contact and sexual desire so that the whole culture cheats itself of warm, supportive, human physical interaction." (1977)
With regard to understanding, we are talking here of the intellect of the human being. At the time of birth, according to Harvey Jackins, the human being is at its most intelligent. This intelligence then becomes increasingly occluded by hurtful, stress experiences. It is very true to say that we cannot think intelligently while we are distressed. How often have you experienced an accident or near miss in your car after a row with your partner? Or done something 'silly' because your mind was not on what you were doing at the time, but taken up with thoughts and feelings about the disagreement and feelings about the disagreement or distress recently experienced?
When a child is presented with a strange and unfamiliar situation without being given adequate information, then fear may result. This situation will be recorded in the child's history, together with the feelings experienced at the time of the incident. A child also needs to know that other people around recognise and accept him/her for whom s/he is. The consequence of this not happening can be a deeply distressing and hurtful experience. Being understood and accepted by other human beings is a fundamental need. One of the major aims in co- counselling is to draw attention to this fundamental need and to facilitate such interaction.
Self-direction is the exercise of intelligent choice which can be towards the meeting of physical needs such as food or sex or rest or warmth or shelter. However, it can also be toward a personal goal such as choosing a partner, achieving a position of repute in a job, the ability to take part in desired social activities or the expression of ones own abilities and talents on self-development. Frustration of any personal goal can result in anger. In addition, young children can be frustrated by the sheer physical effort required to achieve their objectives, quite apart from being frustrated by other human beings. Ideally a child requires facilitative parents who provide conditions for self-discovery, give encouragement to make decisions, and provide the opportunities to fulfil the decisions once they have been made. (Heron 1977)
Frustration of Human Needs
When 'love needs' are frustrated through loss or separation, or from parting due to indifference, or invalidation from a rejection by another person(s) in the love relationship, then according to Heron distress is experienced as sadness, as sorrow, and in its more intense phases as grief.
When 'understanding needs' are frustrated because there is insufficient information, either in the surroundings or by a child's 'significant' adults, then anxiety is experienced. When this situation appears to be threatening, either physically or or emotionally, then fear will be experienced.
When 'self-direction needs' are frustrated i.e. the child is prevented from exploring and experiencing situations (a natural process of self-discovery), then tension results. The more thwarted a person feels, the more anger is experienced. Children, if permitted, can explore this need for discovery through their imitation of adults, and through their imaginative play.
The frustrating messages that we are constantly given during childhood are:- you 'should' 'ought' and 'must' be other than you are. These 'shoulds' 'oughts' and 'musts' are the rules of other people which are being imposed on us. Very often they are rules which we then take in and adopt as our own rules of how we and others should behave. Closer analysis of these rules reveals that people can vary greatly in what is believed to be right/wrong.
One of the long term effects of these messages can be that people are unsure whether they are doing the right thing and may need approval from others before they feel OK. A dependence may then be created together with low self esteem and a lack of ability to make decisions. Let us now look at the effect of the frustration of our Human Needs.
Consequences of Frustration
Apart from the immediate emotional reactions to the frustration of achieving human needs, what are the long term effects? Distress needs to be discharged otherwise it is permanently stored in the person. (See 'Patterning' and 'Theory of Discharge' for expansion of this)
Stored distress will affect the person in either one or both of the following ways:
Wilhelm Reich's theory postulates that there is a systemic response to distress resulting in muscle and organ contraction. Since this results in tenseness and then a reduction in energy flow through these organs and muscles, these parts will eventually begin to manifest a malfunction. There is a dis-ease of the physical being. It is a well known fact that there are stress induced illnesses - high blood pressure, skin rashes, asthma, arteriosclerosis, coronary artery restrictions and some cancers, to name a few. In addition, research has also shown that where there is stress then the body's auto-immune system against illness is reduced in capacity, and this can lead to an increased risk of catching colds and minor illnesses and a reduced resistance to other viruses.
John Heron promotes the work derived from Pavlov and Penfield in explaining the consequences of distress on the human psyche. There are specific areas in the brain which hold on to the memory of experiences, which will not normally be transmitted to the conscious mind unless stimulated. However, these memory experiences are largely responsible for the belief patterns a person has about him/herself and the world. Traumatic and stress incidents, unless discharged fully at their origin, are therefore stored in the person's memory bank. This storing also includes the emotional experience at the time of each incident. When a subsequent incident re-stimulates this memory (albeit unconscious to the person) then the emotional reactions are experienced as they were the first time. This response is like a replay of the past event with the recipient reacting in the same way as at the age of the original incident, regardless of their current age. This is called 'patterned behaviour'. (The section on Patterning will deal with this in more detail).
Apart from patterned behaviour, there is the state of mental illness at the far end of the continuum. When a person has been so emotionally interfered with the intelligence and emotional behaviours become sufficiently bizarre for the person to seek help or for others to notice the bizarre behaviour and expedite such help as is considered to be necessary.
Potential of Human Beings
AFFIRMATION OF TRUTH: "I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, harmonious and happy."
According to Harvey Jackins (1965), human beings have the capacity to be enormously intelligent. In addition, the natural way for a human being to feel is zestful, i.e. gets a 'kick' out of being alive and views problems as interesting challenges to solve with enjoyment. With regard to our relationships with other People, Harvey Jackins proposes that it is a natural process to have relationships, and to enjoy affection, communication and co-operation with other human beings. These three characteristics are innate (with each of us at birth) and are not acquired. Harvey Jackins goes on to propose that all the rest of human behaviour and feeling is acquired and is the result of something having gone wrong.
Much of this theory is reflected in Analytic and Humanistic Psychology.
Let us now look further at a process of behaviour which may help to throw light on how our thinking and beliefs can become distorted. This process is called 'Patterning'.
What is it? The word Patterning is applied when a person is behaving in a way that is largely influenced by previous distress experiences. Take the analogy of a blank gramophone record as being the new born child's mind before any messages have been recorded. Through the learning process, events are recorded. Soon the child will experience a stressful time and will feel a deeper emotional stress response i.e.. anger, fear, etc.. This 'response' will have a marked effect - it will make a 'deeper groove recording' a chronic pattern is thus established.
Many differing deeper recordings will be made during early childhood, the most vulnerable years being 0-6. In the future, and as adults, when similar experiences and emotions are felt, the person is pulled back into the original stress recorded groove. The consequence of this is that people then behave and feel very much the same as when they were 'little people' and it is this response or reaction that we call patterned behaviour - replay of the old distress recording that a person is hooked back into. The person is therefore not acting from their true authentic able self but from the position of a hurt/angry fearful child.
This patterned behaviour is labelled as our personality. When a pattern is established in this way it is seen to be in a 'chronic' state so that the person is unable, by conventional means, to get themselves out of the reaction or feeling. It is useful to remember that whenever we argue with another person in distress, we have slipped into the other person's, and probably our own, patterned behaviour. Whenever we blame or reproach another person we have slipped into this as well. It is so important to remember that the distress pattern is of a completely different character to the human being.
It is also useful to remember that our stress recordings have a very strong pull, rather like a tug of war with the present logical reality. The stress pull is the more powerful. Hence a person will say 'I know it is unreasonable/silly etc. of me to feel like this - but I can't help it!'
It is only possible for human beings to believe something different about themselves when their stress has been discharged. The right brain which holds the original stress recording is stronger than the intellectually left brain. Let me now illustrate what I mean by telling you......
The Story of Harry
Harry was a little boy of about 5 years old. He was outgoing and lively, and his mother allowed him a lot of freedom to discover things for himself. Harry started school. The Headmaster was a tall chap with glasses and a mass of curly brown hair and had a large moustache. For some reason this Headmaster frequently seemed to catch Harry doing something he shouldn't be doing. As a result he would tell Harry off in a loud and severe voice or take him to his study and do the same there. Harry didn't like these confrontations, they gave him bad feelings in his tummy and he was frightened and wanted to run away. As a "little person" there were not many options open to him so HE DID THE BEST HE COULD AT THE TIME and began to 'take avoidance tactics. He kept a 'weather eye' open to spot the Headmaster and whenever he thought he would appear, Harry made himself scarce. This worked fine since it prevented him from being told off and also stopped the 'bad' feelings.
Harry eventually left this school and progressed through other schools to University. The memory and emotions of the early school experience faded away.
Harry then went on to his first job, where he was placed in an open office with colleagues about the same age. The manager of this department was a fairly tall man with thick curly hair and glasses. Harry noticed that whenever this manager buzzed him on the intercom or called him into his office, he began to feel nervous and his tummy churned. However, Harry put this down to the fact that probably this was normal and most people felt this way when being confronted by their 'boss'. That is until one day when the manager had spoken to him over the phone and wanted to see him, and Harry expressed his anxiety to a colleague. This colleague showed great surprise that Harry should even feel this way, and others in the office likewise, saying that they found Bill (the manager) a really decent guy. Learning this, Harry was very surprised but had no understanding or knowledge in consciousness as to why he should be reacting in this way."
Harry was in patterned behaviour - way back in time in the recording groove of being 5 or 6 years old. He was 'restimulated' by the appearance and position of Bill to his previous experience with the Headmaster. Being in that patterned state was not conducive to acting in an adult way. In fact Harry's demeanour in front of Bill would be more that of a frightened child within the body of an adult.
Patterns are addictive in their actions. They tend to force their victims through a re-enactment of the original hurt that caused the pattern. This is in an attempt to deal with it. However many times a present time experience is worked through, until the original hurt is accessed and dealt with, the pattern will continue to repeat. Human Beings are constantly attempting to deal with the original hurt. I believe patterns are the basis of all the difficulties and problems we experience through our life's journey. Co-counselling offers the opportunity of dealing with the origins of these patterns and so heal the distress.
Another way of describing an experience that restimulates is to say that a 'button has been pushed'. Anne Dickson uses the phrase 'crumple buttons' which I think aptly describes the event.
Harvey Jackins stresses the importance of remembering that "The Human Being as a Human Being is integral, is wholesome, is good. The pattern may be of infinite variety including some pseudo-survival varieties, but the Human Being as distinct from the pattern is one-piece, is consistent, is wholesome, is good." As he then states - "is completely 'upward trend"'.
Furthermore, you are as intelligent as you have needed to be to arrive at today's date. Worth celebrating?
Let us now examine how it is that stress is not released but stored within us ..............
How shall the humans of the future live?
Without distress, in love and zest and peace?
Of course they will, but mystical good-will
Is not enough. We have a lot to learn
Of practical details. We must divide
The work between us in rewarding ways,
Allow, encourage growth in everyone,
Yet know the wishful fancy from the fact
Not won to yet. No one shall be oppressed
Nor be imposed on, yet shall all contribute,
And workability shall bring accomplishment.
The techniques of community we fashion
May guide the great Community to come.
Harvey Jackins (To "Guidelines")
Generally speaking, our society is non-cathartic, which means that as human beings we do not own nor are we very often in touch with our feelings. In addition, we are discouraged from showing or giving way to our feelings. So what is acceptable behaviour in our society?
Intellectual prowess is highly praised and regarded. Those with academic qualifications are often highly regarded and are better paid than those in less academic jobs e.g. Lawyers, Doctors, and other professional persons are paid more than manual workers, so there is an hierarchical order of esteem and remuneration. Attention would therefore appear to be being given to 'brain' accomplishments.
Sports accomplishments are also highly regarded because Physical fitness is becoming increasingly recognised as being important to our well being. Opportunities to attend health clubs and 'keep fit' classes are growing, based on the recognition that to keep fit we must have regular exercise. Eating habits are shifting from meat and animal fat to vegetarian and vegetable fat. The eating of wholefoods and the elimination of harmful additives and preservatives from our diet is a growing acceptability.
Smoking is now recognised as harmful and is increasingly being banned from public places and becoming an unsociable habit.
Emotional needs are not generally addressed. The prevailing societal attitude says something to the effect that:-
"Our emotions are what we are born with and we are stuck with them. As a result of this, the way we behave and our personalities are things which cannot be changed."
Let us look more closely at these 'Non-Cathartic beliefs'.
As infants, we instinctively know the natural way to express ourselves. When uncomfortable, angry, or hurt-., we scream/cry; when frightened we shake; when happy we laugh. These 'expressions', to some extent, are tolerated as being 'baby' ways of behaving. During childhood we receive "messages" such as 'big boys don't cry', 'control yourself', 'pull yourself together', from the adults around us. Even laughter, if considered to be 'too much', is discouraged in some ways. "Watch out - it will all end in tears". The implication here being that the discharge of emotions through tears, or angry storming or shaking is not OK.
Jackins suggests that hidden underneath these "messages" is a statement about the parent him/her-self. This contains both a misunderstanding and an emotional component.
Firstly, there is, a fundamental misunderstanding about what discharge means. Tears are usually taken to mean grief, trembling taken to mean anger. So the belief is that when these emotional reactions are stopped, then the grief or anger or fear is no longer present in the person.
Jackins' point is that this is fundamentally a backward thinking process since tears indicate the freeing of the emotion not the creation of it. Crying etc., never occurs unless a person needs to do it. Tears need to be inside in the first place for them to be able to come out.
Secondly, parents may have a need to stop their child crying because this is re--stimulating their own locked in but undischarged emotion. This creates uncomfortable feelings so "there, there'' and "don't cry" are attempts frequently used by parents to stop their child crying, whilst at the same time patting and stroking the child. Once a child is quiet then the parent feels better. Where a child fails to respond, the patting in extreme cases may become beating.
These messages to the growing child and to other adults are really statements about the internal state and understanding of the parent. Gradually we learn as children, that it is not OK. to express what we feel. Thus, from an early age, we learn to bottle up our feelings, stuff them down and put a 'cork in the bottle'. We learn that the desired state in which to conduct our lives and behave toward other people, is to be "in control".
It is indisputable that to be in control is a desirable state, but again there are some fundamental errors of understanding both about what being in control actually means and also how to achieve it. To be in control means that a person's reaction to whatever is going on around them is one of logic and understanding, and where emotions are experienced they are not overwhelming.
Conversely a person who is 'out of control' says and does things which they may later regret or have some confusion about. Remarks such as 'I don't know what came over me', or 'I just went berserk for no apparent reason', can often be heard - the 'last straw' syndrome. An analogy that is particularly useful here is a kettle, which when switched on gradually builds up steam underneath the lid until it is forced up to let the steam escape. The build up of stress in the body is very like this and the experience of a person 'blowing their top' is also familiar - we even use this expression.
The more we attempt to keep the lid on a boiling kettle the greater the build up and eventual 'blow out'. In attempting to push down our emotional feelings we are also using up a lot of energy to achieve this, energy that we could usefully use to function in a fulfilled way going about our daily business. This misuse of energy to keep our emotions down can so drain a person that they have very little energy for anything else. They can literally become 'depressed' - a well recognised emotional state.
In order to become more in control it is necessary to let the stress out a little at a time, rather like draining a tea urn by turning the tap on for a short while and looking at what comes out. This has a double effect. Firstly it allows us to deal with manageable quantities of distress, and secondly, since we are all subject to stress around us in our everyday lives, space is created for this other stress to enter and not create a 'blow out' situation. The greater the space created through discharge, the greater the amount of stress which can be experienced without being out of control any more. Releasing distress is called catharsis.
In our society catharsis is recognised and accepted as appropriate in some limited forms i.e. crying when watching a sad film or play, weeping in the comfort and privacy of the home with ones closest family members, who accept this; crying in response to the sound of beautiful music or the sheer beauty of the countryside; prayer and church services can also have an acceptable cathartic response, otherwise it is not OK. to cry. It is not even acceptable to cry at the loss of a loved one after a 'reasonable' time lapse - "He or she should have got over it by now."
Laughter is the cathartic response which is most acceptable in our society since it is seen to be a positive emotion. However, since this tends to mobilise the body's energy, it is not unusual for laughter to open up 'blockages' of the deeper layers of distress and for tears to emerge; hence the warnings about 'laughing too much'.
Let us now look at what the discharge process is.
Theory of Discharge
According to the theory of co-counselling so far as it exists, there would appear to be a real necessity to ensure that stress is not sustained within the body if maximum physical and mental well being are to be maintained. According to Harvey Jackins "it is possible to completely discharge any distress and therefore one's occluded abilities and capacities can be completely recovered" (Jackins 1965).
Co-counselling addresses the opening up and dispersal of distress through the progressive unfolding of associations and imagery within the client's psyche. The discharge of distress can take many forms outside co-counselling techniques and it is useful to recognise that these are also helpful. Examples include physical sport, yoga, dancing, physical pressure on the body's tense muscles and vigorous movements by the client to mobilise the body's energy, as in massage and bioenergetics.
There is a strong link between the body and the mind. A healthy body can assist a healthy mind and vice versa, so caring for ourselves as total physical and emotional beings is important for achieving a 'wholeness'.
As we have seen, human beings are equipped with the inherent ability to discharge their distress. As "little people" we cry when we are upset, rage when angry, and shake with fear. If the emotion has been allowed to 'run off' through discharge then no evidence of the 'hurt' will remain. An example of this can be experienced by observing children who are allowed to cry until there are no more tears. They will suddenly stop crying, look up with their 'attention out', jump down from the parent's knee and carry on playing as if nothing untoward had ever happened, now free from distress.
Most of us have missed out on being allowed to discharge our feelings in this way as we have grown older. Although our intelligence and physical states have been affected, it is important to know that it is possible to work towards a healthier existence by discharging our past distress experiences, however long ago a traumatic event took place. When stress is released through catharsis, a healing process takes place.
We are born with a clear blueprint with normal connections in our intelligence. This then becomes distorted and occluded through being hurt. In order to survive, we attempt, as far as we are able, to make sense of our world - to make some order out of the chaos we are experiencing. In these distressed states we are in danger of making distorted decisions about ourselves and about the world. Consequently, as adults, those early decisions and formulated beliefs which we repeat in our every day life can be inappropriate and have no useful purpose any more. In fact, these early decisions based on limited knowledge can become disabling.
Discharging the early distress aids the healing of these previously distorted ways of thinking, by clearing our minds of the stress clutter and allowing us to function more intelligently. This healing process manifests itself in any one or more of the following forms:
- Spontaneous insight:
- the understanding of what was really going on at the time of the initial trauma.
- Future behaviour:
- new emphasis, open to behaving differently in situations which have in the past been the cause of restimulated distress.
- the recognition of being a beautiful person in the here and now.
- Auditory and Visual:
- seeing colours brighter and sounds clearer - a heightened awareness. Experiencing the world in a new way, being much more fully present and alert to what is going on around.
- Belief Systems:
- a re-evaluation of who and what a person is. A shifting of negative to positive beliefs about the self.
Co-counselling theory therefore accepts the notion that discharge can clear the past distress experience, free the intellectual mind from the stress bondage and allow the human being to increasingly have access to their full potential. The process of learning how to discharge is an educative one and the techniques in co-counselling teach this as being a very natural way of behaving. There are usually some concerns expressed at a Fundamentals course about this process. Examples of these concerns are given below, together with my responses.
How can I get at my emotion? - I am not feeling angry now - it has gone away.
Unless discharged, our mind and body holds within it all the emotional or physical reaction to a distress incident whether that happened two days, two years ago or longer. All co- counselling techniques will aid in accessing these hidden hurts if you as client wish to. In any event time is only a concept and time per se has no effect on healing, only on whether the hurt is in consciousness or lost in unconsciousness. So go with the techniques and trust yourself to know at what depth and pace you wish to work.
I don't want to drag up all that hurt again - it is too painful, I don't think I could bear it.
Painful feelings are being borne all the time, albeit not in consciousness, and are giving rise to distorted patterns of behaviour which continue to stimulate repeated stress experiences. Other manifestations can be nightmares, feelings of fear, guilt and unworthiness. Accessing the hurt to release it can be done in small amounts - it does not have to be done all at once. The client in co-counselling is in charge of the depth and amount of work being done. Keeping feelings in uses up a lot of energy - energy that can usefully be used for getting on and living life more enjoyably. It is your choice.
What is the point of making myself angry/fearful etc. - I need to remain in control?
As previously discussed, being in control is a desirable state. This is only possible if there is sufficient space to absorb everyday stress. To make this space it is necessary to let emotions out in a safe and regulated way. Co- counselling teaches how to do this in a safe and acceptable atmosphere. This process is rather like servicing a car on a regular basis so it can take the stresses and strains of every day wear and tear. As human beings, we need regular servicing and clearing out in order to deal with these everyday stresses and strains.
If I open up the floodgates I won't know how to stop.
This expressed fear of opening up resulting in being out of control, is never unexpected. The messages about 'pull yourself together', 'act your age', 'pull your socks up' etc., etc. have taught us that it is difficult to stop the emotion from bubbling up and trickling out when we are trying to control it. Because crying or shaking or trembling are seen as loss of control, the connection is made between this and not being able to stop and has led to misunderstandings. The effect of discharge that is allowed to be fully expressed is not usually experienced in our culture.
Remember, crying or shaking or trembling frees the distress from the body; a tear shed is one less tear to hold down. Also, crying or shaking or trembling have a natural end, if the person is allowed to carry on until finished. This is how we self-regulate.
Furthermore we have all learned very well how to control our emotions. We do it all the time, so the skill of being in control is one which is known and practised very successfully, and can be applied at any time. Right now, you the reader, unless you are in a state of heightened emotional discharge are 'sitting' on all the emotions you have experienced and not yet discharged. Remember that when you give yourself permission to let go of any emotional feeling then you will have less to 'keep down' than you are now managing. The difficulty I propose is not so much in 'how do I stop?', but 'how do I start?' because we have been 'stopping' all our lives.
Catharsis and how to do it
Prior to any release of emotion the techniques of 'Balance of Attention' and 'Coming Back into Present Time' are taught. These are necessary life lines which are important for the 'client' whilst discharging emotion, and to enable the 'client' to return to the 'here and now' at the end of a session. Because tears are seen to be the heaviest of painful emotional discharges and because learning that discharge is important in co-counselling, there can be a tendency for the new co-counsellor to feel that only the discharge of grief is important and that if the client laughs or talks angrily s/he is avoiding the real issues. Other kinds of discharge are equally important - discharge through laughter, non-repetitive talking, shaking, trembling, yawning, scratching etc..
Catharsis can also include experiencing physical pain - pain which has been locked into the body from the original emotional trauma. Stomach cramps, nausea and retching and other muscular tensions are the most usual.
A word here also about the result of deep catharsis work. When the body releases these deep emotional and/or physical traumas, there can be a period of reaction to this over the next few days. This reaction can be manifested as the symptoms of colds/flu with or without temperatures which I believe is a form of further discharge leading to an eventual healing and should be allowed to run its course. There may also be a very heightened awareness of another reality of power and of a heightened feeling and openness. These states may present a vision of how it might be to be completely clear of distress. Regular co- counselling can slowly progress to enable these developments to be more persistent, consistent and integrated.
According to Dr. William Frey (QED BBC1 March 1988) prolactin is released when the body is under stress. He has researched the difference between emotional and irritant tears. His findings show that the lachrymal glands are like breast tissue and the hormone ACTH is linked with the amount of prolactin in the body when under stress. We literally wash away our stress when we cry. He also believes that weeping staves off stress linked diseases, whereas unreleased stress can lead to subsequent disease which is the price we pay. This scientific explanation of the effect of crying is consistent with co-counselling theory, according to Harvey Jackins and John Heron.
To "All the time in the world"Sure, hurts will come, and oftener when we venture. The crucial option lies in how we meet them. Avoiding all the damage that we can, We face what did occur un-numbed, unflinching, Call loving, skilled awareness to our aid To feel and discharge all the recent blows Plus all the old ones that the new have rankled And, turning insight on the gaps thus opened, Reclaim vast areas of our lost potential.