Speaking your language?
When I originally trained in the human givens approach over ten years ago, it was my first in-depth exposure to the field of psychotherapy. Although I had first hand experience of other forms of talking therapy, I did not have a great deal of existing knowledge to compare with what I was now learning. One of the strengths of the human givens approach is the way it simplifies understanding human behaviour without need for jargon. Concepts such as “superego”, “resistance”, “denial”, “inner child”, “transference” are not generally used or even needed when working from a human givens perspective. I was lucky in that I didn’t have a lot to unlearn.
The disadvantage of not using these concepts is that without a common language, it can sometimes be more difficult to communicate with other therapists, and with clients who do use these ideas.
Attachment Theory Workshop
in8 has recently been working with people who help victims of domestic violence. In this field the language of Attachment Theory is commonly used. So, in order to deepen our understanding and familiarise ourselves with the language of attachment theory, last week Bindi and I attended a one day workshop on Attachment Theory. The workshop in Oxford was given by Dr Gwen Adshead – a consultant forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist who, until recently, worked at Broadmoor Hospital. Now a heck of a lot has been researched and written on this subject and I won’t go into any detail here – but I did notice some clear parallels which I would like to share.
Failure to Develop Innate Resources
Babies who grow up without experiencing a secure attachment to their primary care-giver can experience difficulties which can last the rest of their life. There typically include difficulty reading other people and an inability to regulate emotional responses – both of which can seriously adversely affect adult relationships. Translating into human givens terms I suggest that poor attachment results in a failure to develop three specific innate resources. These resources are tools that everyone has at birth to some degree. But as with all of our innate resources, the way we use them will determine how well they develop as we grow. The three that seem most likely to be poorly developed when there is a lack of secure attachment are:
- Rapport (the natural ability to connect to others)
- Recognition, Regulation and Management of Emotions
- Observing Self (our ability to stand back and see the bigger picture)
We know that humans are born with an innate drive to connect to others. This is evidenced by the fact that if you stick out your tongue to a new-born baby, they will mirror your action and stick their tongue out at you in response. We are born to copy and mimic each other, and this is the basis for meaningful communication. You can always tell when two people are connected by observing the (sometimes unconscious) mirroring of their body language.
Although our ability to “do rapport” is innate, it is also something that develops as we grow and interact with other people. If this innate resource fails to develop adequately, as I believe happens when there is a lack of a secure attachment, we may experience great difficulty in reading other people’s intentions, body language and seeing their point of view.
Our emotions are what drive us to take action – as in “e-motion”. But strong emotions have the deliberate effect of narrowing our focus of attention and therefore limiting our ability to see the bigger picture. Strong emotions limit our ability to think rationally and logically.
It is therefore imperative that we learn to recognise our emotions for what they are and develop ways to regulate their effect on us. Many of us learn this during the emotional roller-coaster of our teenage years, some later, but some of us never ever really master it.
If you are unable to recognise and regulate your emotional response to situations, you are likely to be far more purely reactive than creatively responsive in your dealings with other people. At in8 we teach a range techniques (such as 7-11 breathing) to help our clients regulate their emotional responses.
We all have an innate ability to stand back and observe, or to simply “be aware”. Dr Gwen Adshead used the term “Mentalising” to describe our ability to think about what we are thinking – and this term also includes thinking about what others might be thinking, feeling and intending. Mentalising is not the same thing as awareness, but I suggest that the development of these two abilities may have much in common.
We can access the innate resource of our own “observing self” best when we feel calm. People use many techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises to “get into” their observing self.
When we are able to stand back and simply be aware, we get a real sense of the bigger picture, of possibilities and opportunities. We become more intelligent.
There may be other innate resources which are adversely affected by poor attachment. Extreme neglect has been shown to result in under-development of brains so it may be that development of Memory, Sleep, Rational Thinking, Imagination may also be impaired. Perhaps others with more experience in this field would like to comment or discuss?
Please contact us if you would like to know how we can help you or your organisation by applying our knowledge of the “givens” of human nature.