Saturday, June 21, 2008

Idling With Ivor 11



This will be my last post on Music and Madness, Professor Ivor Browne's memoir. 

Self-Reliance and Independent Thinking

This heading is a summary according to Ivor of what his book is all about.  I feel that both these aims are not alone the aims of all personal development, but also they should be educational ones also.  From reading this Memoir, Ivor has convinced this reader at least that he is a very self-reliant and strong individual who indeed has learned to think for himself - he certainly has achieved his aim in this book.

On Dependence and Independence:

Ivor records his thanks to Canon Herrick, C. of E. priest and member of the Tavistock Clinic for giving him a wonderful piece of advice on the dilemma of dependence either in families or on the psychotherapist: "You know, you've got it all wrong.  In your profession and mine we work continually in a context of dependency.  If someone were not feeling in some way dependent and thus unable to manage, they would not come to seek our help in the first place.  What is important is not that the person who comes to us is in a dependent state, but whether we use this dependency for growth towards independence, or whether we foster further dependence." (Op. cit., 197-198)

Co-operation Versus Competition:

Ivor states that what he learned from his years with The Irish Foundation and his work in Derry was "the gradual realisation that ultimately co-operation is more effective than competition."  (ibid., 225)

Final Chapters:

While the final several chapters that compose the last section of the book, grouped under the heading Spirituality and the Growth of Love are enriching personally and spiritually, I feel that there is nothing new there that the reader will not find treated equally as well or better even in standard spiritual classics.  Ivor does report some interesting recent scientific studies on the role of the organ of the heart in our emotions, viz., that the Atrium of the Heart produces a hormone called ANF which has control over the whole cardiovascular system (see ibid., 335-336) and studies which show that there are networks of neurones in the heart showing evidence of "mind" and "that the heart is the real centre of emotions, reflecting back on the brain." (ibid., 336) 

However, none of these chapters is as interesting as Chapter 33 on "Rebels and Reappraisals."  I will briefly highlight some points from this chapter and attempt to omit any that Ivor has mentioned before:

1. Freud was brilliant in the sense that he managed to create rebels and rival movements.  Whatever one may feel about the founder of psychoanalysis, he certainly provoked people's interests and enthusiasms.  Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and Otto Rank were original disciples of  Freud and they set up their own movements within the broader category of psychotherapy.   Without the master these schools would never have been set up. (see ibid., 310-311)

2. Once again Ivor takes the Royal College of Psychiatrists to task for the narrowness of their approach to psychiatry insofar as they practically rule out a lot of psychotherapeutic practices. (see ibid., 311)

3.  Personally I find his views on patients experiencing an episode from a former life somewhat unbelievable.  However, the good psychotherapist lists several cases and explains these experiences and how reliving their memory led to the lifting of some trauma or negative experience or block. (see ibid., 313-314)

4. He also avers that consciousness or the mind cannot be located solely in the brain.  In fact for Ivor, as for many other scholars, the brain is a sort of transmitter of the signals of consciousness as well.  What these signals are is anyone's guess.  I'm at a loss to describe them anyway.  I just find his image interesting anyway, and his take on consciousness intriguing too.  On page 315 he states simply: "The brain itself is an antenna receiver."

5.  Dissociation:  I liked this term and Ivor uses it with respect to cases who presented with trauma due to physical or sexual abuse.

Persons who have been traumatised or abused over many years will typically, for most of their lives, have a strongly negative self-image.  They think they are only fir to be treated badly, because they are bad.  They may have self-destructive tendencies, either to mutilate themselves or attempt suicide.  When they first present for therapy they are usually unaware of much of their traumatic history and major areas of their personality may be dissociated, so they do not know why they have all those negative feelings about themselves. It is only when they work through the painful experiences that these dissociated areas become accessible and they can begin to take responsibility for all that they are.  (Ibid., 316-7)

Needless to say the highlighted text is my doing!  Through therapy they can begin to integrate these dissociated areas.  This links in well with Dr Anthony Storr's (on whom I have written much in these posts see this link: AS and scroll to post "Personality 1") contentions in his wonderful little book The Integrity of the Personality.

6.  To finish with I found what Ivor has to say on family and psychiatric illness very instructive.  All families, of course, are to one extent or another dysfunctional, but unfortunately some are more dysfunctional than others. (my thoughts and my words). This has been my own experience from meeting parents over some 30 years of teaching experience. Here is Ivor on this subject, and his insights are so worthwhile in my opinion that I will finish by quoting the section in full:

If we take the view that not only in the person a living system but that this applies to the family also, the family can be seen as a living system in its own right, which it sown separate life and existence.  Where there is a block in a person's family of origin, what we typically find ids that there is not only a secret which cannot be allowed to see the light of day, but also a myth.  The myth is that if these things were ever to be spoken of, somebody would breakdown or be destroyed.  This is unlikely to have any basis in reality now, whatever may have been the situation in the past...In any of these circumstances, where the event is denied by the parents and hence by the family as a whole, the patient may unwittingly take on the role of scapegoat and guardian of the secret. (Ibid., 317-318).

There ends my treatment of what has been for me a brilliant read.  It has given me much insight into psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis, the latter which I intend studying from September next in the hopes of becoming a qualified counsellor.


Above I have uploaded a picture of the evening sky as I left the nursing home where my mother is a patient. This was taken on Chesterfield Avenue, Phoenix Park, facing west to the Castleknock Gate.

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