Underpinning Theories

To help give some direction to what needs to be undertaken, positively, I’m going to produce a number of quotes from “The Developing Mind,” second edition, Dr Daniel Siege:  how relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are

“As Glaser and colleagues suggest, [childhood trauma] may have long-lasting and enduring effects on adult psychological functioning, as exposed individuals continually react more strongly to small stressors occurring in the natural flow of everyday life. The finding that emotional stress reactivity is most pronounced for subjects who experienced trauma early in life confirms prior evidence suggesting that the effects of trauma are more detrimental when trauma occurs at a younger age. 127

How relationships and the brain interact to define who we are.

“Emotion directly influences the functions of the entire brain and body, from physiological regulation to abstract reasoning.” 158

“The amygdala receives and sends signals directly from and to the visual system, reacting to visual stimuli without the involvement of consciousness.”

The amygdala can rapidly bias the perceptual apparatus toward interpreting the stimuli as dangerous. All of this occurs within (milli) seconds and does not depend on conscious awareness. At least with regard to the fear response, the brain is wired to non-consciously create a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” (Other researchers demonstrate that fear can be aroused in a couple hundreds of a second.)

“If the amygdala is excessively sensitive and fires off a “Danger!” signal, it will automatically alter ongoing perceptions so that they appear threatening. This may be a basis for phobias and other anxiety disorders. 61”

For example, if a child encounters a dog that growls and lunges at her, she is likely to have a response of fear.

(p. 159).

“The take-home lesson here is that in humans, awareness of bodily states may be the gateway to becoming conscious of our emotions.” 74

(p. 161).

Instead, we can state that there is a lack of binding of emotion to consciousness. Consciousness is necessary for an intentional alteration in behavior patterns beyond “reflexive” responses.

Without the involvement of consciousness and the capacity to perceive others’ and one’s own emotions, there may be an inability to plan actively for the future, to alter engrained patterns of behavior, or to engage in emotionally meaningful connections with others.

(p. 162).

In this way, attention is often considered the process that directs the flow of information processing. For perceptual processing, this means, for example, that a person will pay more attention to an object. For memory, arousal leads to enhanced encoding via increased neuronal plasticity and the creation of new synaptic connections and therefore increased likelihood of future retrieval. 77 As the activations within the brain change,

(p. 163).

For example, the motivational drive to seek proximity to a caregiver and attain face-to-face communication with eye gaze contact is hard-wired into the typical brain from birth. It is not learned.

(p. 163).

However, if such eye contact results in the child’s being overwhelmed and feeling intruded upon by the parent, then such interactions may become associated with a negative value. The child learns that eye contact should be avoided.

(p. 164).

How we come to understand others is directly related to our awareness of our own internal states. How we come to know “who” we are is shaped by the communication we’ve had with others. If that communication has been filled with confusion and unpredictable actions— or filled with hostile intention— then our internal sense of a coherent self will be compromised. In contrast, being around caregivers early in life who are attuned to our own internal worlds in a reliable way will provide us with the “mirror experiences” that enable us to have a coherent and flexible sense of our selves in the world.

(p. 166).

Other processes involving the appraisal– arousal structures, such as the orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate, and the amygdala, include emotional memory (especially fear), 93 empathy (feeling what another feels and understanding the point of view of another), 94 and categorical emotions. 95

(p. 167).

allow for flexible adaptations to shifting contexts and perspectives.” 98 In other words, when there are changing or unexpected conditions, the middle prefrontal region is active in creating new, flexible behavioral and cognitive responses

(p. 167).

We can propose that such an integrating function may allow an individual, for example, to approach life decisions, relationships, and perhaps narrative responses with self-reflection and with a sense of perspective on past, present, and future considerations. The outcome of such well-developed and integrated functioning can be proposed to play a central role in the individual’s ongoing development, subjective experiences, and interpersonal relationships. Response flexibility enables the mind to

(pp. 167-168).

assess incoming stimuli or emotional states, and then to modify external behaviors as well as internal reactions.

(p. 168).

EMOTION AND SOMATIC RESPONSE The signals from the body also directly shape our emotions. Our awareness of bodily state changes— such as tension in our muscles, shifts in our facial expressions, or signals from our hearts or intestines— lets us know how we feel. This bodily feedback occurs even without awareness.

(p. 169).

Research has very clearly established that In the vast majority of cases involving an intimate couple emotion drives behaviour, not a desire for “power and control” over a partner. In the vast majority of cases male behaviour with an intimate partner is “reactive” rather than “instrumental”. It follows that clients need to understand and learn to recognise and regulate their own emotions, which will be driving their behaviours and understand and recognise the emotions and intentions of others so that they can respond more appropriately to a partner’s emotionally driven behaviours, and of course to the emotions and behaviours of children of the family.

These facts run counter to the Duluth model and Duluth-like models and the dominant radical feminist stance on which virtually all of the work with so-called perpetrators in the UK and America is based.  You can find a list and summary of the more important research in the back “pages of this website.”

Dr Dan Siegel has now produced a definition of emotion and a definition of the mind. When these are added to the very important aspects of intimate relationships, all linked together by emotion, a much clearer understanding of the work that needs to be undertaken emerges.

From our point of view we have been able to merge the original work we developed with the developments of the last 20 years. In a nutshell what was “anger management” became “emotional regulation”.

For clients to be able to make changes in their behaviours they first have to understand just what drives those behaviours, and the emotional memories which helped to lay down their pre-disposals to their personal types of behaviour. This can be summarised, linguistically, as developing their “auto-biographical memory”.

Much of the “counselling” work undertaken by people, which thousands of counsellors and psychotherapists have been trained to deliver, involves “cognitive behavioural therapy,” CBT.  Nearly all of such work involves “language”.  Language is just one form of communication.  Sometimes the results help an individual to “talk the talk”  rather than, much more importantly as we would see it, to be able to “walk the walk”. Really that has meant that the individuals were able to expand their knowledge about their behaviours but without necessarily being able to do anything about changing them! In order to change behaviours “new paths” need to be trodden through those behavioural fields!   Those “new paths”  involve a range of new and varied ways of communicating, all of which need to be practised.

Massive contributors to current knowledge have been: Dr Allan Schore, integrating much of Professor John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, Joseph LeDoux establishing the primacy of emotion over thought.

More recently the work of Dr Steven Poges, “Polyvagal theory” has begun to highlight how the damage caused to children by the early experiences of violence can inhibit an individual’s ability to emotionally regulate themself. He also points out the likelihood of the phylogenetically developed myelinated vagus nerve in human beings which, when properly stimulated will quickly engage an individual’s  social networks.

Many other neuro-scientists have also pitched in, Antonio Damassio and for those people that enjoy reading,   “The Master and his Emissary” by Ian McGilchrist, psychiatrist, is very much worth a read.