Sunday, October 30, 2011

Life positions

What is your life position?


I’m OK, You’re OK
I’m not OK, You’re OK
I’m OK, You’re not OK
I’m not OK, You’re not OK

OK Questionnaire 001


Book update - October.

I am much happier now. As I enter the second half of the manuscript for my book on counselling drug users the last two weeks have been frustrating to say the least.

Desert bike

I have never had to produce documents of this size and for this purpose before so I did not know how I would do it. But I am discovering I am doing this second book the same way as I did the first. I am not a systematic writer at all. I have a general idea of what is going to be covered, after all I did have to produce a book proposal that included a statement of the titles of the chapters for the publisher.

Fortunately last time they allowed me to modify that a bit as I went along and I am doing the same again. I definitely do not have a very clear idea of what I am going to write. I make it up as I go along in the general areas that I have decided on.

I kind of start at chapter one and move through the chapters but often I am doing them out of order. It depends what comes to my mind on any particular day. I walk pretty well every day as exercise and often when I am walking I get the best ideas coming up. So when I get home it is straight onto the word processor and putting down the ideas, at least in note form.

Jump woman

I have a current supervisee who has to do this project that is basically a small thesis. About a month ago she made a contract in her supervision that she would do ‘x’ amount of words, ‘x’ number of days per week. When she made it I thought, there is no way this is going to work, but it has worked well and she is getting it all done. Obviously I projected onto her because there is no way I could write like that.

However back to me being happier today. In the past two weeks my thoughts have been jumping between three separate chapters all at once. Counselling the teenage drug user, the Transactional Analysis theory of addiction and self soothing and the drug user. A common feature of the problematic drug user is an inability to self soothe. This jumping around has left me feeling like I am not getting anywhere and hence the frustration.


However today I concluded two of the three chapters, the teenage one and the theory of addiction one and that is why I am back to being a happy little chappy again. And I will be doing the self soothing one this week which is a little bit more focussed, well I hope it remains that way!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

The peace protester and projection.

Projection is a natural thing that many, no all of us do from time to time. It has also been identified by Freud as a defence mechanism. A defence mechanism is a psychological process employed by a person to save them from anxiety and one could say to save their self image as a good person.

jump woman1

For example a peace protester may have significant aggressive impulses inside him. He is disturbed by these impulse so they cause him anxiety and they do not fit with his own self image of what a good person is.

As a consequence his unconscious takes over and solves his anxiety. It gets him to project his aggressive impulses outside onto someone else or perhaps some organisation. This allows him to avoid his anxiety and maintain a good self image because in his conscious mind he has no aggressive impulses. Due to his non aggressive sense of self he becomes a pacifist and goes on peace protests, (Also because he is unconsciously frightened of his own aggression).


He sees the government as being very aggressive at least in part because he has projected his aggressive impulses out onto it.

Hence we have

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.
William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

And the icing on the cake comes when he can go on a peace protest and express his aggression towards the police (who he has also projected his aggressive impulses onto). This aggression does not cause him anxiety because in his mind he is being aggressive in the quest to achieve peace.

Peace protester


Boiled egg and peace protesters

Have you ever had a boiled egg with toasted soldiers. I was raised on that sort of breakfast food and the soldiers dipped in the yoke is very yummy.
Egg and soldiers

But my good friend calls them -

A boiled egg and peace protesters.

A good name I thought!


Eros and thanatos

Any student of the psychotherapies would have heard the terms:
Eros and thanatos
Libido and mortido
Life instinct and the death instinct
If not, then they should have! Freud seized on this concept and it became central in his overall theory of human nature. In his book “The ego and the id” he discussed this theory of instincts at length.

Freud[1962] in his discussion of the two classes of instincts states that the first class is the sexual instincts or Eros. This is a "...self-preservative instinct,..."(P30). On the other hand there is the death instinct whose task it is to, "...lead organic life back into the inanimate state;..."(P30).
He is thus entering into the field of the philosophy of opposites. Human nature, life and the universe is unerringly a collection of opposites. The answer to the question, “Is it possible to have something that does not have an opposite?” begs unending cognition.

Hyams(1998) notes this in her article on dissociation. She says that the world is full of polarities - good/bad, inhaling/exhaling, high/low and so on. In addition there is yin/yang, protons/electrons, left/right, black/white, matter/anti-matter and so on endlessly. Does something exist that does not have an opposite? I am yet to think of one. As soon as one defines ‘x’, then ‘not x’ is also defined. However that is for the philosophers to conjugate over.

Mask face

Freud’s theory of these two instincts is a theory of opposites. One problem with such theories is they can become static. One discusses what is a manifestation of Eros (the life instinct) and what is a manifestation of Thanatos (the death instinct).
Eros = love, procreation, win/win situations, peace and cooperation, god.
Thanatos = hate, murder, game playing, war, devil.
This provides us with a static taxonomy of this theory. It is possible to look at how they interact and Freud does this to a certain extent in ‘The ego and the id’. He talks about love and hate being able to change into one another and how eating is both simutaneously constructive (gives life to consumer) and destructive (destroys the consumed product).

It is this point, in my view, that gets lost and is never taken far enough by Freud. This theory of insticts gets caught up in a right/wrong or good/bad morality. His bipartite system has a moral basis which leads it into trouble. It follows on from the same moral view that has been held by many if not all religions throughout time.

Life, growth, creation is good vs death and destruction is bad. In religious terms we have good and evil and god and the devil. The church has for all time seen god as good and the devil as bad and we must behave and think in a way that allows to be with god and defeat the devil. The only true way to defeat the devil is to not define god. As soon as one defines god, one defines the devil at least in part - the devil = non-god. If you do not define god then the devil cannot exist. If it does not exist then it is ‘beaten’ in one sense.

Spider woman

This god vs devil or eros vs thanatos are static models based on a moral principle as suggested before. Thus we have the very basis for the moral underpinnings of psychotherapy.
Thanatos vs Eros = games vs intimacy, aggression vs assertion, I’m not OK vs I’m OK, win/lose vs win/win, competition vs cooperation, script vs autonomy. Some now argue they do not hold to such a moral view, as Transactional Analysts they work with the client and hold no judgements as to what is right and wrong.

In my view - balderdash. How many books on TA describe how to increase game behaviour and decrease the capacity for intimacy. How many describe how to avoid intimacy and increase script bound thinking and feeling. Transactional analysis is based on (as are all psychotherapies) a set of moral judgements about what constitutes life & growth and what constitutes death and destruction. What constitutes health and what constitutes pathology is central to any psychotherapy.

Base jumper 2

Let us take the static model of Freud’s bipartite theory and look at it as a dynamic model. Once done we end up with a very different situation. This allows us to go beyond examining the two insticts and what they represent in thinking, feeling and behaving. Instead it leads us to 3 new questions:

1. Are Eros and Thanatos interacting or not?
2 When they do not interact what happens?
3 When they do intereact what happens?
These three questions lead us to yet another set of opposites - change vs inertia.

What would happen if all the poeple on earth suddenly came to their senses and were able to tap totally into their eros energy and avoid all their thanatos energy? Governments would stop spending trillons of dollars on building bombs and weaponery and put all that money into psychotherapy and medical science. With all the advances taking place eventually people would than be able to live good quality lives until, they were 150 years old. What would the planet be like then. Firstly, governments of the world would rapidly bring out one child policies and these would even more rapidly become ‘no child policies’ or ‘very few child policies’. We end up in a state of inertia - little change. If we could all tap into the good growth, creative energy of the universe we end up static, in a state of inertia. When the eros instinct over rides its opposite for too long this is where we end up. If the thanatos instinct over rides then we end up in a similar state. Everything is destroyed, nothing is created and we end up inert again.

As transactional analysts this means we must be aware that it is essential that we remain playing games at some level and remain script bound to some degree. If we became script free then we end up inert. Thus we have one answer to the question about what happens when eros and thanatos do not interact.

So what happens when they do interact. Consider this other example that occured in Australia recently. There were massive bush fires in the eastern states of Australia. We saw images of huge flames, dead animals and huge areas of burnt out forests, All the reports were of how much devastation had been caused, how much bush had been destroyed. Clearly thanatos had been at work and left massive destruction in its wake.

However this is incorrect. The bush had not been destroyed it had been changed. The pictures of huge blackened areas all left us with black, sorrowful feelings. These blackened areas should be a stimulus of great feelings of excitment, anticipation and joy, not of sorrow. Imagine the growth and creation of insects, rodents, vegetation that are now going to occur in these blackened areas. It will represent an expression of eros in its undiluted form, a thing which we all say is wonderful. If there had never been the thanatos of the fire then this eros could not have occured.


We humans are a death phobic species. We will do almost anything to avoid the pain that acts based on the thanatos instinct can bring. We spend millions of dollars on fire fighters and fire fighting equipment to reduce the “destruction” (ie thanatos, ie change) to a minimum.

Consider human reaction to endangered species like the elephant or lion - the Kings of the wild. What do we do. We create breeding in captivity programs in zoos. We create reserves for them to live in. These are called wild life parks. A nice term to alleviate our guilt. Lets be realistic wild life parks are the same as breeding in captivity. These wildlife parks and zoos are simply museums. They allow us and our children to see species as how they once were. A useful endeavour. But lets not pretend they are existing as they used to. Such parks and zoos allow us to observe the history of such species, not the now.

So why do not we just let all the elephants and lions die out. Let that symbol of evil and thanatos - the poacher - do his work and kill off all the remaining ones. Why do we not get it over and done with instead of stringing out the pain and trying to pretend that these species still exist. Why do not we accept that lions are extinct, its just that we do have some in a museum that we can go and look at from time to time?.

I do not have an answer. Perhaps it is a sign of some form of collective human guilt. Perhaps it is because we have accepted a static model of eros and thanatos or god and the devil. If we look at the same model dynamically then we see that with the extinction of the lion that opens up change and some form of species will be allowed to grow, develop or even be created that could never have happened with the presence of the lions. The poachers work allows eros (god) and thanatos (devil) to interact thus we do not remain in inertia but move into a change phase.

Skeleton face

How does this translate into psychotherapy and transactional analysis. All psychotherapies have some sort of statement on what is health and what is not. The majority spend a great deal of time defining such things. For instance in TA we have script and autonomy. Large amounts of time and energy have been spent on defining and diagnosing what are script thoughts, feelings and behaviours and what are not. Then just as much time is spent on how to treat or facilitate change of such thoughts and feelings.

How would people react to suggestions that:
“A divorce is to be as celebrated as much as a marriage”
“Game playing is essential to normal human growth and development”
“The srcipt free individual will wither and die over time”

This is what the dynamic model of eros and thanatos or the life and death instincts proposes. Up to date psychotherapies have been taken from the church or the (moral) static dichotomy of good and bad and the god and the devil.


It seems erronous to view humans as having the two drives of eros and thanatos. Instead we have:

interaction/unbalance/change or stagnation/balance/homeostasis.

It is more reasoned to view these two drives as either interacting or not. If they are not dynamically involved then we have stagnation and non-life. If they are interacting then we have life.

Freud, S. (1962). The ego and the id. New York: W.W. Norton.
Hyams, H. (1998) Dissociation: Definition, Diagnosis, Manifestations, and Therapy, with Special Reference to Cults/Sects. Transactional Analysis Journal. 28(3), 234 - 243.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Who am I?

Describing words



Sunday, October 23, 2011


Sometimes I do requests. (I agreed to a brief one)

Resilience is a word as we know that is used in common everyday language. It also refers to a specific psychological concept. One definition I found was:

The ability to maintain or regain mental health despite experiencing adversity.

How some people can with stand adversity without developing negative physical or mental health outcomes. Desensitisation is one part of resilience but it includes much more. For example the ability to self soothe. A person who can self soothe is going to be more resilient than the person who can not.

Poodle man

The concept of resilience is of particular importance in the training of military personnel. Part of their training is to desensitise them so they become more resilient. To do that they must be abused or assaulted in some form which is how they will naturally desensitise.

But desensitisation is a tricky little sucker because you have to do it in the right amount. Look at this graph

Resilience graph

As desensitisation increases so does resilience but a point is reached at the top of the graph where further desensitisation results in a drop in resilience. When you have too much desensitisation for too long, one ends up with PTSD which we know can happen to combat veterans. They fail to resensitize on the return home.

On the other side is being hypersensitized when one has not desensitised enough and thus the resilience is down again. In the previous post this is where I would put many Australian children because they are overly protected from things like the Gaddafi death video.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Developing resilience in children

Since the images and video of the death of Col. Gadaffi have been out so have all the moaners and groaners in Australia.

Its not necessary to show the video
Its not newsworthy to show images of a dead and dying Gadaffi
We need regulation on this (The last thing we need in Australia is more regulations!)

And then finally someone plays the trump card of all cards and says:

“What about the children?”

Meaning that what if the children see such pictures?

and I think, yes what indeed about the children.

Kids at ATM
Let children be confronted with problem situations.

I know one way to get the moaners and groaners, moaning and groaning and getting the regulators sharpening their pencils and salivating at the prospect of making even more regulations.

When children see the video of Gadaffi being killed then as a psychologist I can say that they will be a bit more, wait for it.....

desensitised to violence!!

OMG (x10)!!

I can now hear those electric pencil sharpeners whizzing and whirring at a frantic pace now.

Tree pencils

That is an interesting phrase

Children desensitising to violence.

I’ll tell you what I will do. I will say the same thing but with different words.

By watching that video of Gadaffi dying children will have an opportunity to develop their psychological resilience.

Now that sounds much better. Not desensitising to violence but developing resilience!

Desensitizing to violence and developing resilience are the same thing.

Now all the huffers and puffers will be chortling that developing resilience is a very good thing and we want our children to develop their resilience and become resilient. That is a very good sounding thing indeed they will pronounce.

A central part of a child developing psychological resilience is to desensitise to repugnant images such as people being killed. Not to become a cold, hard machine but to desensitise to violence at a healthy level.

If you don’t regularly desensitise then one becomes hypersensitized. If we completely sanitise a child’s world then it can never develop resilience to the unsanitary. If we remove all repugnant images, from the severe to the mild, from children then they are going to become hypersensitized to them. And I am afraid to say that in Australia we have done precisely that. In Australia we are a group of hypersensitized wooses when it comes to images and videos of the demise of Mr Gadaffi.

Sitting girl

I have said this before here.

Australians are nation of neurotic necrophobics. By sanitising our lives of seeing death on TV and so forth we have become hypersensitized to it and now have a national phobia about seeing dead people.

You have to let children see such things or they wont desensitise to them and will become hypersensitized to them. I am not suggesting you sit children down in front of a TV to watch violence for an hour or so but be realistic about what they see in day to day activity on the TV, the internet, newspapers and so forth.

Then yes you deal with it a clear and effective way. If I was watching TV with my young children and the Gadaffi death video came on this is a summation of the dialogue that would happen. It would probably be longer than this but this gives the general idea.

Developing resilience

Children: What’s happening there daddy?

Father: That man is a called Mr Gadaffi and he is hurt.

C: Who is he?

F: He is the president of a country that is near the pyramids like you drew pictures of at school

C: What are those people doing?

F: They are probably going to kill Mr Gadaffi because he has been a bad man. He hurt lots and lots of people and those people are angry at him. Its called revenge, like when your sister hits you and then you want to hit her back.

C: Why are they all shouting?

F: Because they are very excited and angry at catching him hiding. That red stuff on his head is blood.

C: How did he get that?

F: He has probably been shot with a gun. When people get shot blood comes out. If you get shot in the leg, or bum (to which there are snickers and giggles because daddy said a rude word) or head blood comes out. It looks a bit scary doesn’t it?

C: Yes it is a bit scary.

F: Oh well these things happen and if you treat people nice they are nice back to you.

Maybe more on feelings and thoughts about the thing and then that is about that. Problem solved and the children have had a chance to develop a bit of resilience. It is OK to say words to children like kill, shot in head and blood. It’s not going to traumatise them for life. More importantly its how the adult in the dialogue above does it in an open and clear way without a fear or horror about the whole thing. If the children see the father handle it in an OK way then the children will see it for what it is and have their questions answered as well.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Strengthening the Adult ego state

Today is Saturday and that means laundry washing day for me. Hey I am a regular kind of guy! As I embarked on this most OCD of all OCD tasks I discovered that my laundry powder had run out so I went to the supermarket to buy a new box of clothes washing laundry powder.

When I got there I was confronted with this wall of different types of laundry powder boxes all different shapes and sizes and colours all claiming different sorts of things. I thought

“S**t, all I want is a box of washing powder and I am going to have to make 30 decisions to end up with the one I want”.

Now I know what home work exercises to give my clients who are tormented with indecisiveness. To hone their decision making skills just go and buy some laundry powder.


So I started the process and decided on the size I want and the kind of money I want to spend. The rule of thumb with this kind of product in the supermarket is never buy the cheapest as the quality is crap. Also never buy the most expensive as they use the psychology that people will assume it is the best quality when it is no better than the average priced brand.

On a side note sometimes people ask me about how to pick a therapist, to which there is no easy answer but there is one thing I tell them not to do. Never pick the one with the biggest and most expensive advertisement. Now if one is choosing a plumber or an accountant it may be OK to pick the most expensive advert. But in choosing a therapist there is something not just right about the one with the most expensive advert. I can’t articulate why it’s just an intuitive conclusion. Having been in the counselling industry for 30 years, to me there is just something wrong with a therapist who presents self in the biggest advert.

However back to the topic at hand. I finally reached the point where I had decided on two possible items to buy. One was called Bam and the other was called Blast. That was my choice - Bam or Blast. Who thinks up these names? Some psychologist would have done a PHD on this. Someone would have received a doctorate for a study on the marketing psychology of laundry powder and concluded that names like Bam and Blast are the ones that would sell. Hey it worked on me!

Dog lady

Also as I pondered this decision one is confronted with a paradox. There are questions one muses over such as what does my life mean and who am I? And then I realise I am in a supermarket pondering on which product to buy - Bam or Blast!

So I made my decision and Blast it was. However there was still one decision to go. What scent do I want - lemon or frangipani? Do I want to smell like a lemon or smell like a flower when I wear my clothes? Last time I chose lemon because it seemed more manly to smell like a lemon as compared to a flower. But this time I chose frangipani because of late I have been developing my feminine side.

Flower woman

Today I have been walking around smelling like a flower. And after all that decision making I feel like I have to have a valium and have a lie down.


Friday, October 14, 2011


One could diagram the state of sleep as such:

Sleep and love

The Parent and Adult ego states are decommissioned and one is left with the Free Child alone. That is why sometimes dreams are referred to as the windows to the soul. It is truly a way to see into the unconscious and the primal needs of the person.

With the two ego states decommissioned the FC is allowed to roam free and create what ever it wants which is what it does with dreams. It provides such a rich source of psychological material but many disagree on what it means and what is the best way to use it with clients. There are many, many different varieties of dream work.

Muslim girl
To have good sleep the adult woman has to somehow psychologically get like the girl.

However getting into the state of sleep that is diagrammed above involves an interesting psychological process and this is why some have difficulty with insomnia. The way people talk about sleep states it fairly well. People are said to FALL asleep. People do not run into sleep or jump into sleep but they fall asleep.

People have to kind of surrender into sleep. It is a letting go process. To decommission the Parent and Adult and access pure FC involves the person giving into or surrendering to sleep, like letting self fall. Some have a lot of trouble doing this because it means they have to let go and trust. Letting go of the conscious and surrendering to the unconscious if frightening for some and hence they experience insomnia.

The same applies for the experience of love. People do not run into love or drive their car into love instead they FALL in love. To understand and experience this people have to do the same kind of surrender or submission that is required for the sleep state. Those who say they do not know what love is, can be because they are too frightened to do this letting go and falling process. Hence they can never experience the Free Child as it is shown in the diagram above and hence never have a true experiential understanding of love.


Finally sex also requires a similar psychological state, especially for the male. Some men who have difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection, can be because they have difficulty with the same letting go process. If they cannot decommission the Adult and Parent ego states adequately enough that can lead to sexual difficulties as described.

The diagram shows a very child like state. When each of us are born we are psychologically like this. So in one way it is such a natural state to be in. However to release our control and indeed our very way of understanding and viewing the world is difficult for some. Also it seems safe to say that when people fall they quickly and instinctually reach out and try and grab onto something. To fall asleep one has to trust the fall process such that they do not instinctually grab onto their Parent or Adult ego state.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The dream I had last nite

I was outside in the street. I didn’t recognise where. I suddenly realised that I could fly and kind of just floated up in the air and I could fly around. (Flying has been a theme in many of my dreams over the years. I don’t know what it means but it’s probably important). Other people where there and saw me and tried to fly but they couldn’t.

Lady in box

That felt kind of good. Like a special feeling and I was enjoying the flying anyway. I was flying around and suddenly realised there were electric power lines nearby and I got frightened. I might touch them and die. I kept flying but was scared of the power lines and the dream ended. Maybe there is some danger in my life at the moment that interferes in my enjoyment of life.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What the judge said

Comment made by the British Medical Association judges on the high commendation awarded to the book - Working with suicidal individuals.

BMA Judge's report

BMA Certificate

JKP report on award.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Anti social personality

Conduct disorder in children can lead onto the subsequent development of the anti social personality.

AntiSocial Personality  and childhood