General Psychotherapy

A Picture Of Truth

It is an interesting phenomenon that when psychotherapy works clients are often unaware what is going on until it is pointed out to them. Things change gradually. An unassertive lady may unexpectedly stand up for herself when she has been unfairly treated. Someone who fears speaking in public finds he does so unusually well. Someone with a phobia about heights looks out of a high hotel window and realises later that he felt no fear.

Surprisingly, instead of being delighted by the change some people are uneasy about it. The sort of thing they say is “I didn’t feel like myself. My voice sounded strange as though someone else was speaking.” The fact is that we all change from day to day, very gradually, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. People need time to adjust to feeling and behaving differently. We are all very closely tied to our habits. They do not change easily because we all become addicted to our present lives. We feel safe with what we know which is one reason that people stay in very difficult situations. They moan about it to all who will listen. Why? Because they hope that people will pay attention and give them sympathy. That is their compensation. Don’t do it!

I was always fascinated by Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” One of my favourite games is learning to read people from their faces. The older people are the easier to read. One of the advantages of my kind of research is that I have read non-fiction massively all my life which helps me to interpret what I see.

I may go back to painting portraits again. I would choose older people as subjects, including myself. As a general principle I believe that as we grow older we care less and less how other people see us. Oscar Wilde knew a thing or two about people.

We are bombarded on all the media with young women. The more beautiful they are, the more they look like inhuman dolls to me, except for the very few who have a character of their own. Very rarely do I find out anything about them. If I see a beautiful woman who is not wearing the usual uniform of ridiculously high heels, long hair flying around their faces and necks, with skirts so short that they can scarcely be seen, I know that such a person has the courage to dress as she pleases not just to please other people.

I like to sit with a cup of coffee in Waitrose and enjoy reading faces. The most interesting are the very young and the old. Most people in these categories are not self-conscious which means they are not seeking attention. Being a writer I make up little stories about them. If you want to understand people here are a few tips on what to look for:

Small children: Notice their energy levels, they vary a lot. Nowadays parents allow far more freedom than when I was a child. This is a good thing. Most of the children I watch do exactly what they want to do. They look straight into any eyes they like. They may respond to me or not. I can soon see which are the more outgoing and which ones might turn into ‘stuck-insiders’.

Ageing people are the most interesting. Unlike Dorian Gray’s Picture, their past life shows very clearly in their faces. The two main categories are stuck-insiders and individuals who still know how to enjoy life. The withdrawn ones usually have what I call ‘dead eyes’. They notice nothing except anything that annoys them. The ones who clearly enjoy life have bright eyes and notice what they want to see. These are the ones I would like to paint because they have grown into their own selves.


Here’s to the Queen

Is the Royal Family a good thing for our country? The answer has to be “Yes!” Since our last invasion by William 1 in 1066 we have never had another one. Since then there has been a Royal Family. The only reason I can think of about how this was maintained is our geographical situation: an island big enough to develop a sense of being united, despite ups and downs like The Civil War, the Armada and the failure of Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler to attempt to conquer us.

As we all know, the Royal Family has changed a great deal over the centuries to the point where they have no political power. This is a great blessing. They are an important icon representing all of their subjects but they have not the right to interfere with the government. That does not mean that the Queen has no power at all. She talks to our prime minister every week and is kept informed about the state of the kingdom. Over her reign she is the only person who has had the chance to form her own judgements and, although she cannot change things, she is very conscientious and intelligent and can pass on to each P.M. information gleaned from her wide knowledge of the past.

The kings and queens are born into their jobs and cannot give them up unless they abdicate. Whatever people say about the cost of maintaining them, the hard work they put in is unprejudiced and encouraging to all kinds of people as well as keeping up constant contact with the rest of the world.

There is no way they can be corrupt because they have no incentive to make money as they have more than enough already. Prince Philip runs businesses and charities that are useful to all of us and makes a good job of it.

Right now the flavour of the day is the coming Royal Marriage. Perhaps because the two young people

seem to want to make a genuinely suitable alliance, at a time when divorces are far too common, especially in the Royal Family itself. I have nothing against the announcement except it is way over the top in emphasis. I think all those people who are searching for the ideal marriage, despite the fact that there is no such thing, are longing that their expectations will be met.

It seems to me that one of the powerful needs of humans is to have someone to look up to. There is nothing wrong with this if those who are idolised are good examples. Looking back at history, those whose names remain well-known, comprise a motley mix of soldiers, dictators, martyrs, saints and miracle makers, gangsters and Royalty. This phenomenon reveals the two opposite sides of us all. The darker side of ourselves gets a thrill from seeing and hearing those who are brave enough to take great risks. That is why detective books are so popular, except for the fact that right always wins. Nevertheless many of us love to read autobiographies of criminals whether they get away with their crimes or not. It can be very boring to try to be good all the time.

The last time I noticed such a fuss was when Princess Dianna was killed. This was a very difficult time for the Queen and Prince Philip. Despite the fact that she had not behaved at all well as would be expected from someone in her position, her enormous popularity, good acts and above all outstanding good looks, created an extraordinary response. Would there have been such a response if she had been lacking in beauty and charisma? I think not. None of us are perfect but nevertheless we still hope that perfection is still possible. Is it better to look up rather than down? Of course it is! But good marriages have to be worked for.

I believe that despite the hicccups of having a royal family, a far worse things to bear are huge posters of power-seeking politicians or bloodthirsty dictators.


What’s the point?

All the talking and cajoling in the world can be beaten by behaving well ourselves. I’ve repeated the last line of the preceding article “Trust Yourself” because I wrote ‘cannot’ instead of ‘can’, which made it the opposite of what I intended. I am telling you this to make it clear how easily we can say the opposite of what we mean. This is what we call a Freudian Slip.

Why should I do so? Does it mean I really do want to say the opposite of what I said? No. But just as everything must have its opposite, hidden away in our unconscious minds, we are reminded to make sure of the truth of the conscious utterance by comparing it with its opposite. There may be another reason for this lapse. It may be that I am frightened that what I meant to say might not be true. Because I very much want it to be true this makes me try to think of more reasons why it could be true. That is the theme of this article.

Every day something happens in the media that makes me very angry. But it doesn’t do me any good if I do: or does it? I have said before that powerful emotions can distort circumstances. But there is always another side to it.

As in most revolutions, people lose their fear because it is overcome by the powerful effect of extreme misery. People do not then care whether they live or die. We, in the western countries, live in conditions far better than ever before. Yet we all know about and some of us have lived through the worst wars in history. When I was at school doing my School Certificate we heard about the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan. I was devastated. I believed that I would not live for very long, because now there was such a weapon I could not imagine that it would not be used, and very soon. If someone had told me I would still be here in my eighties I would not have believed it.

In fact the new weapons were so devastating that no-one dared to use them for fear of another country retaliating.

There have still been wars, but nothing like a Third World War. After the devastation during 1939-1945, I have been surprised by all the good things that have happened to improve our lives. When the pendulum reaches the extreme of painful times there is always a reaction and it starts to go back in the contrary direction.

After the French Revolution and the terrors that followed, people became sickened by all the bloodshed. When it was over there were great public celebrations including ecstatic dancing on the graves of the dead. It is all too easy to become overwhelmed by the bad things that happen but nothing lasts for ever.

Bertrand Russell pointed out that despite all the madness in history “folly is perennial as Erasmus found and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our own times are easier to bear when they are seen against the background of past follies.” There are always two sides to every situation.


What are YOU looking at?

Whatever we are doing, whenever we are engaged in conversation, there is an ongoing dialogue taking place within us. We may not be consciously aware of it, but it manifests itself in a benevolent form when it enables us to talk to others in a way that we respect and like them and in a negative way when it is displayed through speech and body language as irritability, inappropriate annoyance with others and indecision with its close relation, procrastination.

In “Hamlet” Shakespeare presents us with a soliloquy which illustrates this point. “To be or not to be, that is the question”. To make a decision whether to live or die causes problems when is is based on a choice between two powerfully negative feelings: not being able to come to terms with everyday life and being afraid about what would happen after death. This is an extreme example, but many of us are often confused when making decisions because we can see more than one point of view. There is nothing wrong with confusion – it shows that we are able to remain open-minded. We can console ourselves that much harm in the world is done by people who think they are right. However, we cannot live interesting and exciting lives if we do not have the courage to keep taking risks and facing challenges. That means that we must be prepared to fight for what we think is good for us and our children. Do-nothings always end up as slaves and blame other people for their misfortunes. Too easy a life is a dangerous life. We need to experience both negative and positive factors to grow up properly with the ability to look after ourselves.

Constant self-analysis may or may not be useful. Wittgenstein showed us that “thinking” is very difficult to define. No-one knows how we manage to do it. We can make imaginary scenarios about the future but until we are involved in a new situation we cannot be certain how we will react to it. One of the main purposes of psychotherapy is to help us to find the hidden elements in ourselves. We are all blind to certain aspects of ourselves for understandable reasons, mainly because of our wish to be seen in a certain way by others. Whatever facets of ourselves that we dislike, and we all have them because we are human with complex natures, we tend to repress them to the point that we are not consciously aware of them. One of Freud’s most important discoveries is that it is impossible for us to prevent evidence of our repressions from breaking through into our talk with others. We all know about the reality of the “Freudian slip”.

Freud was not right in everything he said, as is true of all great discoverers, but the speed with which his method flourished throughout the western world could be seen as an overwhelming sign of the need for such a discipline. Nevertheless, more than a century away from his beginnings, there are many more facts to be unearthed about the mysteries of the human brain.

Equality General Power and Control


Equality is a dangerous word. Everything and everybody is different from everything and everybody else. To stay in a state of open-mindedness is my basic premise. Every group has rules and regulations. The worst thing about them is the uniformity.

I have just joined The British Humanist Association, mainly because of my loathing of organised religion. I opened the envelope and two round badges popped out. I popped them straight into my waste basket. How could I walk around with the two messages that conveyed, ‘happy humanist’ and ‘good without god’ ? I treat the word ‘happy’ with great reservations, only as a state of mind that is one of many. Everything is defined by its opposite. Otherwise it cannot exist. A well-balanced human experiences both misery and happiness.

As for ‘good without god’ the word ‘good’ does not exist without the word ‘evil or bad’ and the word ‘god’ has as many different meanings as there are people in the world. My particular god is that of the philosopher Spinoza for whom ‘god is nature’, one of the best definitions I have come across.

After my first introduction to psychotherapy, the first book I ever read by Freud, when I was 18 years old, I have read everything I could find out about the subject. I knew one day I would be a psychotherapist. When I was in my sixties after my book business collapsed, I felt that the time was ripe. I knew I must get some sort of qualification. At that time anyone could give training or set up as a psychotherapist. Since I had a vast knowledge of many different methods, I decided to study NLP (neurolinguistic programming) which was relatively new and looked like fun. I joined another organisation that focused on hypnosis, because I am a natural hypnotist. I didn’t realise for decades that my gift for making myself invisible was auto-hypnosis which helped me through so many boring teachers.

After the failure of my business I took myself off for a trip round the world with the few thousand

pounds I had left. When I returned I set up in private practice and very soon had a good list of clients. At that time there were no regulations although many of the trainers had their own lists of rules.

Since psychotherapy is relatively new it is only recently that it has been a subjects for universities. When that happened the government began to take it seriously. That, of course, meant that sooner or later the government would interfere.

Now there is far too much interference in the medical profession, education and now psychotherapy. The UKCP was set up after I began my practice. I didn’t have to join, but it might be necessary once the government insisted.

It has taken the government a long time to know what to do with us. After 15 years I decided to give up my practice and get on with my writing and research instead. This was three years ago. I resigned from the UKCP Why? Because I was very dissatisfied. First, I resented having to be supervised when I was working in my own way and getting very good results, and I resented the movement to regulate which method was most important. CBT was the choice. You may notice in newspapers articles that tell us that we need more CBT practitioners. Don’t believe a word of it.

Now students who want to join the profession are being led by the nose to do a four year course which is ridiculous. Psychotherapy is not a science but it is treated as such. First class therapists and first class teachers are not made by university degrees. They are creative beings just as much as musicians, writers and all other creative beings who work in their own way.


Why are people dissatisfied with their Lives?

Why is it that whilst we live in far greater comfort than our ancestors, many of us are so dissatisfied with their lives? Too many people are telling other people what to do. Why? Because far too many people want to be told what to do.

This is the sliding road down to dictatorship. People need challenges, without them life is boring. I’ve been studying human nature all my life. The results are in myPhD, ‘Not Just Talking’ which was published by Karnac in 2009. It is the first of its kind.

It shows that psychotherapy will not work unless the dialogue between therapist and client is focused on the therapist challenging the words spoken by the client, whatever the kind of therapy applied. The aim is to teach the clients to think for themselves.

People who do think for themself do not need therapy. It does not mean that they don’t have problems but it does mean that they have the mental resources to take the needed actions.

Thinking for yourself only works when you know yourself very well. Such people are rare, as Shakespeare taught us:

This above all to thine own self be true
and it must follow as the night the day
thou cans’t not then be false to any man.

None of us are perfect in our use of words, or to put it a different way, we none of us say exactly what we mean to the right person ar the right time. The art of conversation requires great honesty and great skill. You do not have to be an academic to do this: what you need is the courage to discover what kind of person you are and no-one else can do that for you. We can only help ourselves and others as best we can without letting strong emotions get in the way.

The two conclusions of my work are that what we all of us need to follow them to be at peace with ourselves, whatever happens in our lives.

The first is we need to respect ourselves enough to become the individuals we were meant to be and second, because we cannot be ourselves except through what we learn from those around us, we must make sure to join only those groups that will benefit us and vice versa.

The most important writers who influenced me are the philosopher Spinoza (1632-77), the works of George Orwell, Harvey Sachs and ‘Science and Sanity’ by Korzybski.