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This is my personal blog. This is the place where I rant and witter inanely about all sorts of things that take my interest from opposition to odious far right groups to personal learning projects such as my intermittent studies on evolutionary psychology.

If you’ve arrived here looking for information on my mental health and social care training and consultancy services you might want to click this link instead. That’ll take you to my commercial website: The Care Guy

You might also enjoy taking a look at Care To Share Magazine while you’re about it. That’s not affiliated with my business at all (or indeed anyone’s business). It’s a community of people who are interested in sharing ideas and insights into social care without any distractions from political ideologies, corporate agenda or media ‘fashion’.

Paul Golding and Christianity – psychology 101

I found this little video very interesting indeed but not for the reasons that many readers of this blog might expect. It’s true that I’m not above laughing at Golding just as I’m happy to poke fun at fascists everywhere. It’s also true that creationism is an easy source of ridicule but not today.

Anyone looking for humour needs only watch this brief video of Britain First’s hapless leader’s attention-seeking behaviour as he tries to use Christianity to justify his anti-social behaviour. His proselytising didn’t prevent him from being arrested though.

Golding arrested creationism video

I’d like to make a more serious point though. I’d like to talk about the very real dangers of superficial thinking and the need to be wary of anyone who invests so much of their lives into a cause they understand so little about. This is not the hallmark of a reliable leader – rather it’s the sign of a fool who can only lead his followers into complete disaster.

As we all know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The world isn’t really made up of simple, black and white, good and bad dichotomies. Only the most immature thinkers pretend that it is. That’s a dangerous ‘thinking style’. You can learn a lot about a person’s individual thinking style by listening to their rationalisations and justifications.

In the video Paul Golding talks about his Christianity before launching into a bizarre and clearly ill-understood commentary on Intelligent Design (ID). I’ve written about Intelligent Design and the fallacy of creationism before and I won’t go into much detail about it here except to point out the really, really obvious points pertaining to thinking style. As you read these points please remember that the point is to analyse the psychology behind ‘the throne’ of this fascist organisation – to understand the superficiality of the mind that treats such nonsense as evidence and who is quite happy to expound about matters he clearly doesn’t understand. Remember also that the result of this nonsensical rhetoric is hostility and violence toward innocent UK citizens. Golding incites violence and hatred and uses notions of group conformity as a way of selling cheap tat to the gullible. And in the psychopathic style of fascists everywhere he cares little who is hurt as a result.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

We all know that it’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick. We all know that some topics and situations require genuine thought to be understand. We also know that some topics are just nonsense. That’s the beauty of scientific thinking. It lets us understand what is likely to be true and what should be discarded.

It was scientific method (the use of real world evidence to make sense of things) that led us to reject old, outdated ideas like homeopathy. It was science that taught us to reject even older ideas such as astrology. Scientific thinking taught humankind to reject the folly of still older ideas like the naturalistic fallacy or the position of the earth as the centre of the universe. The same scientific method that showed Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo that the earth revolves around the sun has allowed us to discard outdated ideas for generations. That’s how mankind progresses.

There’s a pattern here. As we advance we refine our understanding of things and old ideas are discarded in favour of better ways to make sense of the world. This process has many facets from Thomas Kuhn’s famous ‘paradigm shift’ to Karl Popper’s falsifiability criteria and, of course, the work of the brilliant William Gilbert. Gilbert was that rebellious, heretical Elizabethan physician who used observation and reflection not only to dismiss the long-standing assumptions about disease as God’s will and the four humours, he was also the original creative thinker who inspired Galileo’s step by step methodology.

Interestingly enough none of these advances were the result of slavish obesience to earlier assumptions. Mankind advances by developing ever more accurate understanding as old, outdated models give way to newer, more accurate models of the world. Creationists simply say ‘We don’t know how it happened so we’re just going to make something up’. Why then would anyone try to pretend that scientific method is in the least bit interested in the unquestioning acceptance of bronze-age creation myths? And yet that is precisely what Golding would have us believe.

Actually the ‘look at this evidence of intelligent design’ argument Golding quotes was originally proposed by Rev. William Paley in the late 18th century and utterly disputed in the first part of the 19th Century. The idea was that a pocket watch found on the seashore could not have evolved – it needed to have been created. How much more then must man and the rest of nature need a creator?

Paleys watch

Paley’s watch, as the argument from design came to be know, was destroyed by philosophers such as David Hume even before Darwin published his ground-breaking book On the origin of species in 1859. And yet Golding in his stupidity believes not only that the argument is valid, but that it’s new. In fact it’s neither. It makes no more scientific sense than Bishop Usher’s assertion that the earth was created at 3pm on the afternoon of the day before October 23rd 4004 BC. And yes – Usher really was that precise. Not only that, the only logical conclusion of Golding’s ID argument is that Usher was correct. The logic is long and convoluted but if Golding believes in ID he must, of necessity also believe that the earth is precisely 6018 years old.

If anyone’s interested in this convoluted thought experiment let me know and I’ll outline the inescapable logistical problem in another post.

The nature of science and ID

The only real point I want to make here is that Intelligent Design has been utterly discredited and there is no reputable scientist working in the relevant fields of biology, archaeology, geology, botany, evolutionary science, linguistics or anthropology who takes it seriously. There are a few scientists working out of the Mormon sponsored Brigham Young University who keep trying to prove creationism (so far without success) because of a form of academic wishful thinking and the occasional furore from the American Bible Belt when schools try to promote ID as science. The most recent in Dover Pennsylvania resulted in Judge Jones of the US Supreme Court ruling that there was nothing scientific about ID. The case from 2007 made it excruciatingly clear that Intelligent Design is really just Christian creationism repackaged to look like science.

Even in America the difference between true science and the nonsense of Intelligent Design is well known. Here in UK the very idea of ID and creationism is almost universally ridiculed.

That’s all very well but what does it tell us about Golding? Well – several things, none of which are particularly encouraging. It tells us that:

  • Golding is prepared to jump on an American populist bandwagon (presumably to attract more funding from Britain First’s large contingent of far right American supporters);
  • Golding is either too stupid to understand the problem with ID or he thinks his supporters are;
  • Golding is so uncritical of dogmatic ideology he will peddle nonsense in order to further his cause;
  • Golding is prepared to use religion to justify the widespread abuse of an increasing number of groups he decides not to like;
  • Golding is prepared to make far-reaching decisions based upon the notion that ‘a scientist’ found ‘some signs of something’ without the slightest awareness of who that scientist might be, what that ‘something’ might be or even how evidenced is assessed.

In short, this is not a man to be trusted. He’s either a fool or a liar who treats his followers as fools. Or he might well be both.

Either way, do you want to hitch your reputation (and possibly a criminal record) to someone as arrogant and ill-informed as this?

That’s a new one

According to Britain (Nutzie) First leader, Paul (Bigot boy) Goulding the police have closed down their conference. This is a shame since they managed to attract nearly 40 (yes forty) of their alleged half-million supporters to the so far undisclosed venue in Bexley or Swanley in Kent.

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Their original Berkshire venue pulled out once Bracknell Forest council realised who they were hosting (they’d booked it under an individual’s name rather than the organisation). That left them with a cloak and dagger exercise to get their few fans there without making the new venue public.

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There are rumours that Britain First actually set up the whole incident themselves – arranging for a complaint or allegation to be made to the police so they can scream ‘victimisation’. So far it’s hard to know without asking the venue management what happened to get these charmingly racist scumbags moved on.

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Do you recognise this venue? If so, please let me know where it is. I’d be keen to ask the manager what actually happened.

UPDATE 23/11/2014

And the truth comes out. Below are a couple of screenshots from Britain First’s own Facebook page. Thanks to Reporting BF for spotting this gem. It’s nothing to do with a police conspiracy to derail BF’s democratic rights (as they claim) at all then, is it?

Presumably they did their usual thing and booked the venue under a different name. That rarely works out well for them, does it?

Anyway the screenshot on the left gives the reason from someone who was there. The screenshot on the right shows the same conversation after the truth was deleted by Britain First’s admin.
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Now I really want to know where the venue is. I’d like to give the hotel a plug on my blog. It’s nice to know they value common decency over profit.

This many :-)

And in last place it’s Ms Gobby of Kent, ‘Britain’s Worst’ candidate with this many votes…

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And all because the nation hates……

Racist scumbags

Jayda and the owls

Britain First’s laughably inadequate parliamentary candidate, Jayda ‘The gob’ Fransen will be taking avian advice this Saturday.
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Given her evident inability to understand and use the English language it’s no surprise that the event appears to have been planned following yet another catastrophic misunderstanding. When Paul ‘The bigot’ Golding suggested learning from an experienced Aryan the hapless Jayda heard ‘avian’ instead. Unsure of the word’s meaning she immediately picked up her hardly used copy of ‘My first dictionary’ and after some hard concentration managed to work out that it had something to do with birds.

More hard concentration followed until Ms Fransen remembered something she’d seen on the telly years before. Once upon a time she’d watched a documentary about a wise old bird called ‘Owl’. The documentary’s presenter, a softly spoken, inoffensive little bear named ‘Pooh’ and his sidekick, Christopher, had both agreed that owls undoubtedly must be ‘the cleverestest birds’. So Jayda set out to look for owls.

When she found some owls she would ask them……. well……. she hadn’t quite decided what to ask the owls but since these wise avians seem to know everything anyway that wouldn’t be a problem. She could just ask the owls what she should ask the owls and then she could ask the owls what the owls had said she should ask the owls? Simples!!

But how to attract a group of owls to speak with her? She’d need to find a good, owl-friendly spot that was used to hosting owley meetings. Jayda’s brow furrowed as, for the third time that morning, she concentrated hard. That must’ve been a record for Ms Gobby of Fransen who normally worked really, really hard at not thinking at all.

Eventually a single word found its way into her otherwise empty head and sort of ‘hung’ there, alone in the blankness, waiting to be noticed. Unused to recognising thoughts (she’d had so few before) it took Jayda a little while to notice the word but when she did it was as though a light had been turned on inside her darkling mind. The word was ‘Owlsmoor’.
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She could have gone back to her copy of ‘My first dictionary’ to check out the meaning of the word but that wasn’t really her style. Anyway she’d already looked up one word today and that was a lot more than she normally would do. Instead she decided to fall back on her usual habit of just pretending to understand without actually bothering to do any research. After all reading had always proven difficult for Jayda who much preferred shouting and stomping.
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So without further ado she hatched her cunning plan. She would hold a meeting at Owlsmoor and ask the wisest of birds what to ask. Then she’d ask the owls that – whatever it might be. And then everything would be alright, the Muzzies would leave, the Mosques would spontaneously combust, the lefties would shave and Britain would once again become ‘Top nation’. Oh how clever those owls must be.

At first everything went well. She sold a few cheap tickets to some fine, upstanding (and particularly white-looking) Snowy owls. Wonderful! She had the avian Master race on board! But soon things began to go wrong.

Other, less racially pure owls began to apply. There were Brown owls and Tawny owls and even Long-eared African owls sending in their feathery applications. This just wouldn’t do at all. Jayda only wanted to ask proper, racially superior white owls. No riff-raff allowed!

In a desperate attempt to persuade more Snowy owls to come and fill the 100 perch hall to capacity Jayda decided to throw in a bit of a disco. She even identified owl-friendly songs to play like ‘Rat trap’ and ‘Foul (Fowl) owl on the prowl’ but to no avail. Most of the Snowy owls were far too clever to support fascists and they simply refused to take the bait.

Some Snowies even decided to join their fellow owls, including the much-maligned Bearded lefty owls in a feathery demonstration outside the Owlsmoor Community Centre, Yeovil Rd., Owlsmoor, Sandhurst, GU47 0TD.
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They even agreed to forego their usual hoots and cries of ‘Twit-twoo’ in favour of a single, unifying statement……

“They shall not pass!”
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This diverse, ragtag gathering of birds, led by Berkshire (Owly) Antifascists, the wisest of all the woodland creatures, also got in touch with the venue’s management on 07789 647626 to express their avian displeasure.

It’s true, of course that Ms Franson’s Nazi group could only host a maximum of 100 fascists in Owlsmoor Community Hall (and they’d struggled to manage that) but even 100 would be too many so far as these wise old antifascist owls were concerned. However, being the kindly old owls that they are the antifascists did decide to help Jayda out by answering her questions.

Considering what this hapless, racist child should ask the owls decided that the most instructive question would be…

“Why is Britain First so unpopular?”

The answer to this question was, the owls reasoned, a bit too complicated for the intellectually challenged Ms Fransen to understand, even if she did have a copy of ‘My first dictionary’. So the wise old owls simplified it just for her….

“Because nobody likes childish, attention-seeking thugs who go around stirring up trouble.”
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Just a quick update – 20/11/2014 – 2:30pm.
I think the screengrab from the Britain First Facebook page speaks for itself:
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However if you’d like more detailed information click here and here.

‘Oh dear’, thought Jayda (she really has been doing a lot more thinking than she’s used to today).
“Oh well, never mind.” Hooted the owls.
And peace returned once again to the Hundred acre wood where all the ethnically diverse woodland creatures continued to live happily ever after.
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Update 21/11/2013
Clearly all that hard thinking yesterday wore Jayda out because she certainly wasn’t thinking when she ignored the owls’ obvious lack of support for her racist conference and posted this:
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So it seems the Nazi scumbags, fresh from their victorious by election campaign which won them a massive 0.14% of the vote, will be meeting to practice zeig-heiling after all. The plan seems to be for the Master race to muster at the station before legging it to a hitherto undisclosed location.

Hmmmm…. Don’t they realise that owls can fly (especially bearded lefty ones)?

SH 4: Responding to people who harm themselves

Welcome to this mini blog series on self-harm. It’s by no means intended to cover all aspects of self-harm and the support that can be offered to those who use this particular coping strategy rather than any other. It is intended to dispel just a few of the more common myths surrounding people who self-harm and to provide some very basic pointers for those who work with them.

The mini-series covers:

  1. Socially acceptable self-harm
  2. Clinically significant self-harm
  3. Self-harm as a response to trauma
  4. Responding to people who harm themselves

Responding to people who harm themselves

Working with people who hurt themselves can be a confusing and bewildering experience. It is often extremely frustrating and distressing for the staff who may well be at a loss to understand why their resident keeps on injuring themselves. Traditional views about ‘manipulation’ or a ‘cry for help’ may bring some limited sense of explanation but they do little or nothing to help prevent future self-harm. This article explores some alternative notions about self-harm and examines ways that workers can make a difference in a genuinely difficult situation.

First of all bear in mind that you are not alone. No single person can do everything. Whilst self-harm does not necessarily lead to suicide these things do happen and it’s always a good idea to liaise with other, specialist professionals. A decent GP, Psychiatrist or community psychiatric nurse will be worth their weight in gold. It is important that you and the resident, together with input from other professionals, perform a thorough risk assessment. Agree how to manage future problems and when to seek outside or emergency help.

All that aside though, there is much that workers can do on their own.

A resident’s ability to manage is greatly enhanced by good support from their surroundings and social group. In supported housing this means that the staff can influence significantly the resident’s coping skills.

Back in the 1950s George Brown began studying the effects of families and social groups on coping and mental health. This research led to the concept of ‘High Expressed Emotion’. A few decades later in the USA Marsha Linehan came up with the concept of the ‘Invalidating Environment’. Both these concepts outline the ways in which certain types of interaction increase stress, reduce coping and lead to the conditions which encourage psychological and behavioural problems including self-harm.

These include:

High Expressed Emotion

  • Aggression and hostility
  • Criticism
  • Emotional over-involvement

The Invalidating Environment

  • Erratic, inappropriate responses from significant others to the individual’s thoughts, beliefs and emotions.
  • Oversimplifying the ease with which problems can be solved.
  • Blaming the individual for not solving difficulties with ease.
  • A chronic and classical ‘double bind’ scenario in which the individual cannot ‘win’ whatever he or she does.

It clearly would be inappropriate for all workers to undertake full-scale psychotherapy. However, attention to the concepts of expressed emotion and the invalidating environment is appropriate for us all to take on board and can make a huge difference. Remember that befriending is an extremely effective method of supporting people, with or without external therapy.

I hope that by now as we reach the end of this series it is clear that self -harm is likely to represent a coping strategy. For many people it is the only effective strategy they know. Often in training sessions I use the analogy of a small child in a sweet shop. They can have anything they want but there’s a problem. The lights are turned off and all they have is a small ‘pen’ torch – the kind with a very narrow beam that only illuminates a small are of the shop.

Whatever they can see in the torchlight they can have but it’s a very limited choice because most of the sweets on display are in darkness. They’re effectively invisible. Clearly the child will choose from very limited options – not because the other sweets aren’t available but because he doesn’t know about them.

In one sense this is what it’s like for people with limited coping skills. The other coping strategies are available to them but they don’t know about them or they don’t believe that they will work. The coping strategies are the sweets in the shop in other words and your job is to turn the lights on.

Don’t waste time attacking the only coping strategy the service-user knows. That is unlikely to succeed and, quite frankly you wouldn’t want it to. If you remove the only coping skill a person has then they may see no alternative but suicide. It is no coincidence that service-users who harm themselves are around 50 times more likely than the general population to kill themselves.

“About 3 in 100 people who self-harm over 15 years will actually kill themselves. This is more than 50 times the rate for people who don’t self-harm. The risk increases with age, and is much greater for men.”

Royal College of Psychiatrists leaflet: ‘Self Harm’

www.rcpsych.ac.uk

Instead acknowledge the benefits of self-harm as discussed earlier and then work on discovering and experimenting with other, less injurious methods of dealing with stress. It may well be that to begin with this will amount to nothing more than some slightly less injurious methods of self harming but this is a step in the right direction. Build upon what you can and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Overt criticism of the service-user is likely to create a barrier

between you that may never come down again.

The chart below outlines some of the things support workers can do to support people who self-harm and suggests responses to likely situations.

SH Do and Dont

You can download a PDF version of the whole four post series here Self Harm mini series by The Care Guy

SH 3: Self-harm as a response to trauma

Welcome to this mini blog series on self-harm. It’s by no means intended to cover all aspects of self-harm and the support that can be offered to those who use this particular coping strategy rather than any other. It is intended to dispel just a few of the more common myths surrounding people who self-harm and to provide some very basic pointers for those who work with them.

The mini-series covers:

  1. Socially acceptable self-harm
  2. Clinically significant self-harm
  3. Self-harm as a response to trauma
  4. Responding to people who harm themselves

Self-harm as a response to trauma

Before we go any further let’s acknowledge the thing we’ve been neglecting throughout this series. Some people harm themselves to get a response from others. However they are not the majority. In fact, most people who harm themselves for the benefit of others or to get a reaction of some kind tend not to repeat the experience very often – or their self-harm is very superficial. If you want attention there are many less harmful behaviours that will achieve the same result without the pain. Shouting and stamping your feet or undressing in public for example. There are many ways to get a response without resorting to overdosing or extinguishing cigarettes on your skin.

Contrary to popular belief, self-harm is not usually an attempt to manipulate others. Nor is it usually a ‘cry for help’. Most people are quite able to ask for help without self-harming and the secrecy that often accompanies self-harm demonstrates that something else is going on.

Many people, particularly many of those diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder experience emotions in a particular way. When under pressure they may find it impossible to make sense of what they feel. It’s as though they experience all emotions at the same time but no single emotion in particular. This, understandably enough, is difficult to bear.

One way to ‘reset’ the emotional balance is through physical pain. Self-harm prompts the brain to produce endorphins, a kind of natural opiate, which overcomes the motional turmoil and allows the person to feel better. So when a distressed person self-harms it’s entirely possible that they’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter how stressful others believe their situation to be. Different people have different coping abilities and what may be no problem at all for one person might well overwhelm another.

The key to understanding this process is by looking a little (and only a little) at the body’s response to trauma. The endorphins mentioned above are very similair in effect to opiates such as heroin although the effect may be milder. The result is a state of euphoria (a pleasant, almost dreamy state) that overturns the dysthymia. That’s why in an earlier post I (very briefly) likened the effects of self -harm to the effects of illicit drug use and why it may not be quite so valid to think of addiction and self harm as very different processes.

Incidentally the same endorphins are produced when the body is subject to other types of stressors such as over exertion and this explains why some people become psychologically addicted to exercise. It’s not the purpose of this series to explore eating disorders in any detail but it is significant that the exercise regimes that people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa often employ carry the same endorphin-related response. There is also a very real statistical correlation between the diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder and Anorexia with many people receiving both diagnoses at the same time. Of course there’s a ‘chicken and egg’ argument here as there is with all the personality disorder diagnoses but it’s interesting none the less.

Many people who self-harm do so during a state of dissociation. This isn’t so surprising given what we know about dissociation already and the link to overwhelming emotional trauma. The adult who learned to dissociate from trauma as a child will do so when stressed. They dissociate away from the dysthymia but they still need to ‘reset the balance’ as we outlined earlier. So dissociation and self-harm often go hand in hand.

This provides a stereotypical pattern (although not everyone follows it) that goes something like this:

  1. Distress
  2. Dissociation
  3. Self-Harm
  4. Euphoria

I know of several people who cannot remember the act of self-harm at all. This is because they have dissociated away from the trauma before they harm themselves. Only when the ensuing euphoria wears off do they notice the self-inflicted wounds and realise what they have done. This is why the NICE guidelines make the distinction that not all self-harm is deliberate. It is difficult to say that an act is purposeful when the individual is in a dissociative state at the time.

In Dialectic Behaviour Therapy one of the key skills is ‘mindfulness’. This is a technique specifically taught to help people to ‘remain present’ and not dissociate away from their situation. It’s a simple technique in theory involving people taking note of the minute details of their surroundings and consciously cataloguing them in their minds. I describe it as simple in theory because in practice it takes a fair amount of training to develop the skill – the pull to dissociate is so strong. The point here is that more often than not self-harm is a response to trauma and stress. It’s ironic then that the judgemental attitudes of some care workers actually recreate the emotional turmoil (that the service-user has just dealt with) by reacting in overly hostile or critical ways to the only coping strategy the self-harmer knows.

Extreme criticism simply recreates the invalidating environment

that may well have caused the problem in the first place.

There is a more appropriate and more helpful way to respond to people who self harm and that will be the focus of the next post.

You can download a PDF version of the whole four post series here Self Harm mini series by The Care Guy

Intimidation & incitement: The mark of fascism!

Britain First have sunk to a new low, even for them. Following last Saturday’s fiasco in Rochester they tried to claim that one of their number was glassed (it didn’t happen in Rochester). When that didn’t work they stooped to inciting violence and harrasment against those who opposed their fascism.

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This isn’t British politics. It’s reminiscent of 1930s German Nazism!

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And as if that wasn’t bad enough – they’re also conspiring to attack a police officer.
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But history shows that intimidation just strengthens the resolve of British people. This tactic undoubtedly will backfire as these Nazi thugs reveal their true colours.

No pasaran!

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