I am writing this letter with the intention of, at this stage, no more than informally introducing a nevertheless exciting and – in the right hands and subject to appropriate guidance – readily applied approach in the pursuit of psychological wellbeing and healing, namely Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Hopefully, as you have read your way through recent letters especially, it has become increasingly evident that self-induced mood regulation (which together with other complementary methods reviewed in my last blog) is what autogenic training actually amounts to. Moreover, it plays a key role in holistic healing. However, closer analysis of what is entailed in the description and application of such methods as we have already briefly reviewed reveals that in reality, they derive out of and indeed are the product of little more than sound logical thinking, with a varied mixture of applied common sense and compassion thrown in.
The theoretical constructs of CBT’s modern and proven approach to healing in this sense are, in reality, assembled around the cardinal principle of creativity: a creativity which, in both its general and particular modes, is absolutely essential to the continuing evolvement of the human story. What we also know is that at the individual and – if I may so put it – idiosyncratic level, this same creativity, where negatively applied in the form of distorted and irrational beliefs and opinions about ourselves and others, will inevitably spell failure and, dependant upon what this entails, even disaster, all emanating from impaired judgements, illogical thinking, and the consequent erroneous conclusions that they inevitably lead to. Herein is laid bare for all to see the converse ordering and effects of all that we have described and sought to apply thus far. What therefore we need to develop is the capacity to identify and rectify such mistaken notions whenever and wherever they arise, for it is only via the necessary and appropriate modification/abandonment of such misapplication that we shall successfully impact upon and thus influence ensuing behaviour accordingly.
The key question and issue surrounding any statement* or attitudinal or behavioural strategy is then; is it empirically· sound and predictive, i.e. are there evidence-based grounds to rely and depend upon it, to for instance, plan for the future? “Scientia”, i.e. knowledge – the purpose of which is to provide just such an explicable, objective, factual and empirical account of the world – is comprised of just such predictive statements. These thereafter are commonly formalised and systematised into divining theories. (I believe it was the physicist W.F.Barrett who once declared, “Without a theory, facts are a mob, not an army”). Indeed, science is uniquely distinguished by its systematized approach to learning and an ability to inform, predict and control the outcome of ensuing theoretical constructions. However, the fruits of such labour are by no means limited to any one issue or form of application or usage. Let me explain what I mean by this. The physicist is concerned with the construction and application of laws concerning, for example, variations in the motion of moving bodies related to impetus, volume and other variables, e.g. resistance in the form of atmospherics etc. And in the popular English summer sport of cricket, so is the bowler, i.e. in terms of the swing, spin and the speed, which he is able to impart to the cricket ball (as also, of course and from a somewhat different perspective, is the batsman in the pursuit of runs). Similarly, a mother or guardian is every bit as interested and so much more so, in prediction to the point of exerting control over her child’s behaviour, as is the child or guidance psychologist. (The term “control” incidentally is being used here to mean “influence”, rather than the eliminating of extraneous variation by regulation). In other words, applied science has everything as much to do with everyday and more mundane affairs, as it has with the extraordinary, spectacular and unusual.
If you think about it for no more than a few minutes, you may well come increasingly to see how the past can and does shape and condition us to regard and think about ourselves in clearly discernable ways. This in turn affects and influences our attitudes, emotions, hopes and dreams and – in some measure – the way that we take through life. There is a line in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” which is really most applicable to what I want to write here. “Things are neither good nor bad but thinking makes them so”. What – so it has often occurred to me – is self-evident is that how we think, i.e. the overall consonance, compatibility and reliability of our processes of thought (evident in the opinions we hold, our beliefs that underpin them and the conclusions we reach) must surely exert significant influence upon and thus determine how we feel, i.e. our mood at any given time. Thus by at times challenging and changing our “thinking patterns”, we can change how we feel.
* Based on experiment, observation or experience rather than on theory alone.