Wanted Man or Woman GSOH Must Be Nice

This above all to thine own self be true:
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Shakespeare: Hamlet: act 1.

  • Seldom or never does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly without crises. There is no birth of consciousness without pain. C.G.Jung: Psychological reflections.
  • All people in this world are different from each other.
  • Solitary confinement is one of the most dreaded of punishments. Jean Pain.

We all need other people in one way or another, even if we only say ‘Hello’ two or three times a day. Imagine you were stranded on an island. If, after a long time you are still sane and then, one day, another person appears. It would be a wonderful surprise. How long do you think it would last? No doubt you would both do your best to find a way of escaping. After a while, you would gradually lose hope and settle down to make the best of your lives or one of you might kill the other. Or would they? Inevitably you would soon find out all the things that you disliked about each other. I imagine that you are a man and a woman of similar age.

Now, think of the same two people, living in some kind of society, who have great difficulty in making friends, yet still believe that they can get married and make it work. That would be equally hard to do. We have to remember that none of us know ourselves very well. This has always been the case as Shakespeare in his wisdom discovered more than four centuries ago. Most of us have been influenced to fit in to the community in which they were born. I have met people in this predicament when I was a psychotherapist. Working with them is not easy.

Most of the agony aunts writing in newspapers treat this matter in a superficial way. Much of it trying to tell people to be nice to each other. What I want to do is to get down to the nitty gritty. I come across dating advertisements all the time and all of them give descriptions of themselves that shed no light on what kinds of people they are, but focus on physical appearance and hobbies. If you are looking for a long term friendship or spouse, you need to be able to read other people by the way they talk and behave.

We all base our judgements on our own experiences, what we have learned and who we have met. Henri Ellenberger tells us about how Adler possessed the gift of menschenkenntnis (the intuitive practical understanding of man). In his clinical work with a new patient, about whom he knew nothing, he looked at him for a moment, asked a few questions and he could get a complete picture of the subject’s life problems. This is something I learned to do from childhood but because it came naturally I thought nothing of it. I have based my research on the works of Harvey Sacks, C.B. Jung, Freud, Erich Bromm, Eric Berne, Adler, David Rosenthal and many other psychologists and philosophers. I have also been an avid reader all my life, mostly the classics. I find very few contemporary writers and painters that delight me.

I am building up a programme of ways to help people to understand themselves and others. This includes questionnaires, exercises, including how to find out things about themselves and other people . I have always been fascinated by how we talk with each other and how we give our real selves away in so many small movements and tones of voice.

It is not easy to make important changes in our lives and it can be temporarily a painful time, but I know how rewarding it can be when it is properly done.

Behaviour Psychotherapy

Many Happy Marriages

The only way not to be disappointed is to expect nothing. The expectations of marriage today are much too great. Throughout my life I have done my best to understand what makes us tick and how we respond to each other. Two people who have lived together for a long time go through three phases. First, a honeymoon process when everything seems wonderful, then reality creeps in because we cannot be on our best behaviour forever, then disillusionment takes over and finally they either get divorced or try to find out how things could be better.

Today, many people seek out therapeutic help.

Very soon after I began my private practice I had more couples clients than single ones. Their ages varied from quite young to bordering on old age. Since what I know most about is how and why we talk to each other I soon devised a method of my own that proved to work very well.

This is what I discovered. First, many people wanted to come on their own because their spouse refused to. I soon realised that that was a waste of time. Those who came alone invariably blamed their husband or wife for all their problems. As I always believed that it takes two to tango, I knew that the only path I could follow was to find out what was going on between them. I could only do so if both attended.

In the first session I encouraged them to talk to each other. I let this go on for a while. They soon forgot I was there and went back to their usual aggressive habits of talking with each other. I said nothing until I stopped them, which didn’t take very long. They either tried to get into an argument which I quickly brought to a full stop, or they went into a sullen kind of silence. I told them that I would give them some written homework to do and bring back to me at the next session, if they decided to come back.

I asked each one in turn what was the worst thing they disliked in the other. I asked each to listen carefully and tell me what each thought the other had said. They invariably got it wrong. This action in itself shook them up a bit. They had to think hard because they were conscious of my presence; wondering all the time what I would say, something that they never did with each other. I gave each one of them a piece of paper and asked them to write down all the other things that annoyed each other most but to say nothing until the next session.

I realised the value of the presence of a listening therapist. If clients did the homework they usually came back. Then the fun began. I asked them who would like to go first? Understandably neither did, but eventually one of them broke the ice because they found the silence embarrassing. They were not used to silence.

What I did was to take every complaint each made and analyse what they really meant. I learned that both had misunderstood each other because neither of them listened. All they did was to pull a disagreeable face and turn their eyes and ears away. I learned long ago that if anyone says something to me that they think I will not like because they intended to annoy me, they will look anywhere except straight into my eyes. Only if both participants genuinely wanted to improve their lives would they begin to realise the uselessness of such behaviour. There are many different methods that I adopted to help them to come back to reality and retrieve their sense of humour, if they ever had one. Most of us do.

The last resource is for all of us to realise that no matter how much we like another person we need a rest from each other now and then. We cannot expect people to be as perfect as we want them to be because we all know that we are far from perfect ourselves. I use the ‘we’ because I have been through all these phases myself not once but many times. I now know that it is possible to keep a real friend or spouse provided we improve our ability to be tolerant without overdoing it.

Behaviour Power and Control

The Right Kind Of Control

If we value peace of mind, and I think it is one of the best of values, it is vital that we avoid harming other people as far as that is possible. To do this we must develop a powerful sense of self-constraint. This cannot be accomplished unless we accept every aspect of our own natures, also as far as that is possible. This is the most valuable kind of control. All the best leaders aim at maintaining it to a great extent. I have in mind many different kinds of leaders, whether they were great military commanders, entrepreneurs, prime ministers and outstanding teachers to take a few examples. They have to have outstandingly good judgement, a very rare quality.

In military situations the following is necessary for commanders:

They have to have the ability to make painful decisions as well as welcomed ones.

They have to understand the people who follow them so well that they know they can trust them to take responsibility for the positions that they hold.

They have to have the courage to make unpopular decisions when they realise that they are necessary in crisis situations.

They do not feel sorry for anybody in hard times because they know that everyone they lead must take full responsibility for themselves however dangerous the situation must be.

They do not curry favour with anyone. Those who follow them into battle know that, accept orders without question and have great respect for them.

In the business world the situation is different but similar.

Everyone who works in a company needs to feel that all the employees are valued by their leader.

If the leader treats them well and allows them the freedom to make the best of their qualities they will earn his respect and will trust him to make the best decisions for the welfare of the business.

Whether the leaders are men or women, military generals or company directors, the well-being of both organisations has to be continually attended to. In dire situations, both have to make painful decisions for the benefit of the whole. Despite such matters, in every situation, they owe it to themselves to exercise self-constraint, especially over their own human emotions.

In everyday situations, we all have times when we are not sure what is the right path to follow. We can never be certain. However, we too have to have the strength to make decisions that may cause someone pain. We must be quite sure about our motives in such a situation. What can make the greatest harm is to try to run other people’s lives. The right kind of control is always self-control combined with good judgement.

Behaviour Power and Control Psychotherapy

What Type Of Controller Are YOU?

There are two kinds of controllers. The first kind is one who puts the desire to please others at all times before honesty and his own well-being. Such people initially overwhelm you with charm but gradually make you feel uneasy in their presence because you are not dealing with the real person. You are face to face with a mask. You sense the underlying lack of sincerity and feel worse after spending time with them. This is the more subtle kind of control.

The second type has a compulsive need to always be right. All dictators, benevolent or otherwise, come into this category. When taken to the worst extreme of the effort to convert, the final solution is imprisonment, torture and death. Think of the Holocaust, think of the Spanish Inquisition.

We want to control others when our own lives appear to be out of control. We all feel like this sometimes. The most obvious example is when we encourage our children to do well in all subjects at school, instead of letting them get on with the lessons they like best. A common belief is that the more ‘education’ our children have the greater the opportunities for them to get a good job and do well. It is true that children need some guidance, but it is better to wait until they ask for help, and even then we must be careful to respect the childrens’ individual gifts and ambitions.

When working with clients, we psychotherapists have the responsibility to avoid trying to change their lives on their behalf. That is for them alone to do. This is why patience and a good sense of timing are essential qualities in a professional therapist.

Bigots, victims and martyrs also exert pressure on us to believe that this is what they are and they cannot be changed. As in everything, there is a sound reason for such harmful ideas, sunk deep in their unconscious minds. They need to hang on to their beliefs like a man on a sinking ship. If they give them up they are sunk.

Fear is one of the most powerful of all human emotions and the most deadly. All controllers work from this basic belief that we must never take risks but must always do as we are told. This is their way to try to keep everyone they come into contact with, SAFE. Could you imagine anything more stultifying?

(This article is based on an extract from Dr Jean Pain’s book “So you Want to be a Therapist”).


Health and Safety – don’t make me laugh!

Why do we need a Department of Health and Safety? Surely the majority of sensible people can manage to deal with most problems in those two areas. I can see the necessity for inspectors in places of work and hospitals. But I am constantly hearing of people who are being paid to do unnecessary jobs such as teaching workers how to climb ladders or how to carry out procedures that anyone with any sense already knows. This is a branch of the ‘Nanny State’. The whole business smacks of trying to take away our freedom to do what we have learned to do for ourselves. The more things we try to do for other people the more we deprive them of their independence.

Society is a group of individuals who do their best when they are free to make their own choices in work, health and safety. Those people who are disabled may need help and ought to get it, but they too do not want to be told what to do all the time. The minimum of help encourages all of us to take responsibility for ourselves as far as we are able.

After World War 1, there was a lot of talk about it being The War to End all Wars . Did anyone prescribe how this could be done? Of course not! There are always big-mouths, usually politicians, who love to dream up statements to try to encourage enthusiasm in what they call “The People”. World War 2 knocked that idea on the head.

We have had no more world wars because the enormous progress of dangerous weapons would probably have killed both sides including civilians. Yet there have been several smaller wars that have no access to things like atom bombs.

Whenever the most horrible of murders, especially those of children, happen, we are fed the same old words “We must ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.” Do they think they are God or something? The steps taken to avoid such tragedies are usually further ways of curtailing our freedom.

For example, we can make all the laws we like but the lawless take no notice. People are banned from buying guns, but criminals have no difficulty in getting hold of them. When I was a child most little boys carried pocket knives. Now knives are forbidden. The assumption is that anyone who carries a knife is a potential killer.

A safe life is a boring life. All those who want to make their own minds up about what to do with their lives need to have the courage to take chances. The more out of the usual are our ambitions the greater the risk and the more the satisfaction when we succeed.

The more freedom we have the less likely are we to submit to dictators. We should all honour the rebel within us. If we do not, we will not have the guts to speak out and act when we feel we are being pushed into something we do not want to do. Satisfied electors keep an eye on government and do their best to keep their actions within reasonable limits.

Behaviour Self Esteem

Trust Yourself

In a concentration camp where our freedom has been taken away from us our powers are reduced to the thoughts that we create in our heads. In such circumstances if we want to stay alive, doing being ordinary has to be doing nothing that draws attention to the prison guards. If we are imprisoned according to the laws of this country the best way we can help ourselves is to follow the rules and make no attempt to rebel. That is what doing being ordinary means if you want to be released as soon as possible. In other words we work at fitting into a law-abiding society.

Exceptional men and women have to do being ordinary in their own special way. This means getting to know themselves very well by constant self-examination, especially learning from their mistakes. They gradually assemble a set of rules they choose to live by that help them to maintain looking after themselves as a first priority.

Such people understand many kinds of doing ordinary because they constantly study human habits. The better they know themselves the more use they are to other people. They rarely need to ask anyone else for advice because they have had enough experience to trust their own judgements, but at the same time they are always open to new ideas. This enables them to grow and develop and manage their own particular prejudices and negative sides.

They are never anything but themselves whoever they talk with. Titles, ceremonial garments and special kinds of oratory do not impress them. They never become “do gooders” although they are as pleased as anyone else if something they have done has been useful to someone else and at the same time they put their own wellbeing first. They never become martyrs nor are they victims if they can help it. They worship no-one and nothing but they recognise everything that is beautiful and revel in it. They prefer to work alone and they rarely join groups. Einstein was such a one and so was Victor Frankel. The good that they do is not deliberate but the result of having a great virtue: that they set a good example without realising they have done it. That, I believe is the highest kind of doing being ordinary. This kind of ordinariness is the extreme of extraordinary. Another kind of anentiodromia.

When we want to help people we must first consider what our motives are. Many of us are drawn into the so-called ‘caring professions’ because they think they want to help people, or because they have been bludgeoned into accepting beliefs that have more to do with keeping other people under their control than improving their lives.

If we are not on good terms with ourselves, we can be sure we will not be good for other people. All the talking and cajoling in the world cannot be beaten by behaving well ourselves.


Learning Ordinary

Order and ordinary come from the same Latin word ordinarius. Both words are related but they have different meanings. To be orderly means to obey the laws of the land and the many rules and habits that we need to follow for our own good, for example road rules. Why then does the word ‘ordinary’ come across as disparaging? If we speak of an ordinary man or woman we think of someone who never does anything much out of the usual. For instance we would not call a convict or a multi-millionaire, ordinary. Why? Because they have taken risks in their lives that most people would not dare to do.

That is just as well, as if everyone did extraordinary things we might well get into a state of anarchy.

Most of us want to have a job they can enjoy and a settled family. Their lives are highlighted by ceremonies such as Christmas and holidays when they can enjoy a break from everyday lives and then come back to everything they are used to.

Learned habits and behaviours are the foundations of our lives. We feel safe when we have created a regular routine. This is the reason that when people retire, after doing the same work for decades, they often find it very hard to adjust to a new way of life and sometimes they go back to work, if they can. Those people who have created work for themselves and changed it from time to time when they want something new to do, as I myself have done, can always find something fresh to fill in their time.

Rarely do such creative people as writers, painters and all kinds of people who have imagination and curiosity never stop.

If we pay attention to the kind of passive entertainment that is particularly popular we can easily see

what is lacking in so many people’s lives. Throughout history the telling of stories , travelling circuses and the theatre have been favourite pastimes. They provide the colour and excitement that are lacking in so many people’s lives.

The nature of these entertainments have changed as the times change. All the things that ordinary people were never able to do either because they dared not nor could not do are on display today in books, cinema, football, TV and the theatre. They get a vicarious thrill by identifying with the heroes, gangsters and oddballs of all kinds that leaves them unharmed but satisfied.

A new manifestation is the obsession with celebrities. That is why young girls, even the intelligent ones, will imitate what they do and what they wear. I don’t know why. But it must be something that they feel is lacking in their lives. What a pity when there are so many better ways for them to spend their spare time. I think some aspects of women’s lib. are responsible.


Victor Frankl Being Ordinary

According to Harvey Sacks “doing being ordinary” is a job we all have to learn to enable us to know how to fill in the oceans of time we have unless we choose to fill it up with useless minutii to stop ourselves from doing the real work of creative living. Since much of it is spent with other people, unless we are recluses, we need to find a way to talk and behave that will not get us into unnecessary difficulties.

We are a gregarious species. Most of us want to be of use to ourselves by finding a suitable occupation that we can enjoy and being able to make friends. This sounds very simple but it is not. If it were we wouldn’t have so many people trying to “help” us. Whenever I have been asked why I wanted to be a therapist the question is usually “Ah you want to help people?” My answer was “Well no. I want to help people to help themselves.” That is something quite different.

During my long life I gradually learned that I should be very careful when I began to feel sorry for someone. If I saw anyone in what I thought was distress, I leapt in without thought. I wasted time in this unfortunate habit instead of putting myself first.

When I began work as a therapist I had still not completely outgrown this belief, but I was well on the way to it. I wrote my second book “So You Want to be a Therapist” to help those who wanted to help others by telling them about the pitfalls that can get in the way of doing the job properly. We all need to remember that we must not get tangled up in another person’s distress. Our job was to help clients to understand how they got into an unhappy state, so that they were able to change their own attitudes to life.

One of my favourite books is Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. A Jewish Psychotherapist, who was imprisoned in a concentration camp from 1942 – 1945. His parents and his wife all died there. He describes in detail the terrible experiences of all the prisoners. He was determined to survive so that he could continue his work. He learned to harden himself to all the suffering going on around him when as a doctor he could do nothing about it. He wrote “Man can preserve a vestage of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and spiritual stress.”

He also said “What was ultimately responsible for the state of the prisoner’s inner self was not so much the enumerated psychophysical causes as it was a free decision.”

He was released by the American forces. He went to the states where he continued his studies and developed a form of psychotherapy that he called Logotherapy. He married again and had a daughter. He eventually went back to Vienna. He did wonderful work and was devoid of bitterness. He was very well liked and lived into his nineties in spite of his dreadful experiences. His “doing being ordinary” was of a very high quality.

Behaviour Psychotherapy Self Esteem

So Ordinary

Harvey Sacks’ lectures were not prepared. They were delivered ad hoc in ordinary everyday language, which is very encouraging to those of us who are used to reading academic treatises full of special words we don’t understand. Yet paradoxically, its very strangeness surprises us and makes us work hard to see what he is aiming at.

Much of what he says we haven’t heard anywhere else because he was working from sets of human behaviour that he had observed and had not taken for granted. For example when we are in a different group of people we adapt ourselves to the unwritten rules of that group without even realising what we are doing.

Whenever I went to a conference to find out more about psychotherapy I found myself floundering in the group exercises because I hadn’t the faintest idea of what these hidden rules were. Whenever I came up with a response of my own I always heard cries of “This is not what we are talking about!” and I did not know why I should be denied to come up with my own ideas.

Sacks wrote a lecture called “Doing being Ordinary”. This at once threw light on my dilemma. I never learned as a child to fit in anywhere, because my parents left me to my own devices or told me things that seemed so ridiculously childish that I took no notice of them. Neither did I want to join in any kind of group because they never fitted in with what I wanted to do, so I learned to be myself and to act that way to whoever I might be talking to. My book “Boadicea’s Chariot” is about my childhood experiences and clearly explains what I am trying to say here.

Sacks points out that circumstances alter rules about conversation. We all have a job to do which enables us to create different kinds of rules for how we fill in our time.

People who are as independent as I am are categorised as eccentrics because they have found there own way to live and their own work to do. When I consider the small number of what I call ‘real friends’, these are the ones we keep forever even when we rarely meet and even after they have died. I realised in due time that the complete freedom of speech between us is what I value most.

So how can we learn to “Do being Ordinary”? If we have different ways of being and doing ordinary what do we do when we come up with a completely new kind of person? We can say what we like as in my article called “Stranger”.

I end with a story. When I became a psychotherapist I was determined to work only with people who were willing to come to terms with themselves. I noticed that those who did not would play all the games they could think up to avoid taking responsibility for themselves.

When clients came for the first time, I spoke to them as I would have done with any stranger with the sole exception that I would take into account their emotional state by close observation so that I could understand it better.

I worked with a lady who did not value herself enough. She was also making a good recovery from an operation for cancer. I don’t know what I did. Like Sacks I let myself respond to her in a way that would, hopefully, do her no harm. I took a great liking to her from the first time I met her. That made it easy for me. Clients are not fools. They soon find out how you feel about them. Our work was very successful. It took quite a while until she felt confident enough to look after herself. Towards the end of our work she suddenly said, in tones of astonishment “I don’t know what you did but I feel like a different person. I can’t believe it. After all you are just an ordinary person!” “Quite right” I said. It was one of the best things anyone said to me, that just by being myself I could have had such an effect on another person.

Behaviour Good and Evil

Do-Gooders Do Bad?

Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. We don’t kiss and hug our coins and notes.

Love they neighbour as thyself. This is also misunderstood. We cannot love our neighbour until we have learned to love ourselves.

Forget all this rubbish about original sin. In fact I think I dislike the word “sin” more than any other word except “sacrifice”. It began as a means for the powers that be to take it on themselves to tell others what to do and so this has happened since we first learned to talk.

Love is just about the most misunderstood word in our vocabulary. The opposite of love is hatred. This explains why, throughout history, so many hideous murders began with a “love affair”.

“I cannot live without you” is another excuse. Closer to the truth is I can’t live without myself. No-one can disagree about that. Q.E.D. My theme today is that if we try too hard to be “do-gooders” we are barking up the wrong tree.

It is a good idea to start children off reading fairy tales. Remember that these stories were made up by people trying to categorise different capacities of everyone around them. Jung called his categorising archetypes : characteristics that we are all born with to a greater or lesser degree. Part of every child’s education should be to learn what people can be like. Categorisations are useful ways to size up strangers quickly. However we can only make our own judgements out of all we know about ourselves and others. This is why the best of the classics in literature is a great help in understanding human nature. Studying the people around us is not enough.

I have often asked myself why certain kinds of literature are much more popular than others. I have in mind detective stories, which include much of the darker side of people and horror stories that thrill us and frighten us at the same time. Much of the more popular literature in the western world of Victorianism and earlier is full of injunctions to “be good”. It was late in the 19th century that the passionate interest in detective and horror stories began, at a time that more and more people could read.

I believe that this strong interest which includes an obsession with anything to do with “sex”, drugs and food is very understandable. This a time when we are beginning to hear more about the taboo side, that was avoided for so long.

I keep trying to find more suitable words for “good” and “evil”. I cannot do better than “positive” and “negative” because they are not saturated with strong emotions.

The trouble with “do-gooders” is that much of what they do causes harm. Look at what has gone wrong in the social services. We can see the results by the increasing number of negative actions. That is bound to happen if you don’t try to understand the dark side as well. Maybe, as someone has said, it is better to focus on “trying not to do harm”. Once we begin to think of ourselves as “good” we become overbearingly smug and hypocritical.