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Fundamental principles of this website

It's been a number of years since I set up this website, and my journey through developing my understanding of emotional health has been a long one.  After many years of rigorous study, I have come to view 3 elements as the most central to my understanding of emotional health.  Whilst in recent times I have unfortunately had less spare time to contribute to this website, I have begun to notice that it is enjoying increasing exposure on the internet.  With this in mind I have felt that it is important that I set out my core beliefs so that those who wish to read this website will have an understanding of its fundamental underlying themes.  The following explanations are a little technical and may make little sense during a cursory reading.  However, I have provided links below each point to webpages that will explain these each principal in more detail.  Please therefore, follow the links if you wish to understand these fundamental principles in more depth.

1)  Two things are central to our wellbeing: being surrounded by people who love, accept and support us, and learning how to fulfil our personal desires in a way that does not undermine people's feelings towards us.

I have been greatly influenced by the work of Harry Stack Sullivan.  Central to his thinking, is the belief that in order to be emotionally healthy, humans need to feel loved and accepted by those around them and particularly by those who are closest to them.  If an individual feels that those close to her do not accept her or that they are unhappy with her general behaviour, she will be prone to become less emotionally healthy.  (This is also the central tenet of Humanistic councelling.)  However she also has personal needs that may conflict with the desires of those around her.  Learning to negotiate between these two concerns, in a way that maximises the requirements of both, is the central agenda governing our emotional wellbeing. 

For a full explanation of principle 1 click on the links below:

LLS Fundamental Principle 1: How people treat us is central to our emotional health

Social Confidence


2)  In order for children (and later adults) to grow up feeling safe and secure, and relatively free from anxiety, they require the ongoing long-term, continuous presesnce of at least one attachment figure, who comforts and supports them whenever they feel insecure or afraid. 

a) My second main influence has been the work of John Bowlby.  John Bowlby was the founder of Attachment Theory, one of the primary areas of research falling within the auspices of academic Developmental Psycholgy.  Attachment theory draws on animal studies (ethology) and evolutionary theory, proposing that animals have evolved with an ‘attachment’ system.  The attachment system is triggered whenever an animal feels under threat.  Once the attachment system is triggered, an animal will look for and attempt to gain support and consolation from an attachment figure.  If the animal grows up feeling that her primary attachment figures (usually primarily her mother, though other attachment figures are also of great importance) have been supportive and have been readily available and able to console her whenever she has felt threatened, she will develop an internal sense that attachment figures will continue to be available and supportive throughout her life, and with such an outlook, her emotional state will usually develop well.  However, if attachment figures have been unavailable or unsupportive when she has felt frightened or threatened, she will typically hyperactive or deactivate her attachment system.  Such responses are accompanied by a myriad of maladaptive behaviours.   

For a full explanation of principles 2, click on the link below:


b) Deactivation of the attachment system involves no longer looking for support from others when one feels under pressure.  Individuals who have habitually responded to emotional strain by deactivating their attachment system will typically try to avoid intimate and close relationships.  On the other hand, individuals who hyperactivate their attachment system typically become very needy and constantly look for affirmation and attention from others.   Both responses are termed ‘insecure’ responses (representing the individuals underlying sense of insecurity) and from my perspective, insecure individuals typically oscillate between the two types of responses, although they are likely to have a preferred response style.  I also believe that a second feature linked to these two response styles is that deactivation is typically accompanied by high levels of self-restraint (impulse control) whereas hyperactivation is typically accompanied by low ability to exercise self-restraint (weak impulse control).  Again, I believe that insecure individuals typically oscillate between these two types of responses, although typically, each individual will show a preferred response style.  I also believe that it is typical that individuals will exhibit hyperactivation within some behavioural spheres of their life whilst exhibiting deactivation in other spheres.    In relation to the subject of impulse control, I have been greatly influenced by the work of the late Jack Block.

For a full explanation of principle 2b, click on the link below:

Fundamental Principle 2b: Impulse Control

3)  The brains of children who have experienced too much pain too quickly implement coping mechanisms that block pain from consiousness awareness.  If these mechanisms become too embedded, we become unable to face pain and this is the cause of maladaptive behaviour and anxiety. 

 In relation to the third principle, I have been primarily influenced by Classical Psychoanalytic theory.  The third principle was termed by Freud: The Reality Principle.

The Reality Principle

Young children are weak emotionally and struggle to deal with pain.  As a result, when a child is flooded by the experience of pain, it is overwhelmed.  However, a child wishes to master its experience of pain, and to thereby no longer be overwhelmed by pain.  If you watch as a child grows she will typically make progressive attempts to excercise increasing boldness and approach the things that she is afraid of.  As the child becomes less afriad of mildly frightening experiences, she then allows herself to be gradually exposed to more and more ‘frightening’ and painful experiences (now percieved with less fear), and increasingly learns to master the emotions accompanying these experiences.  The theory is that if she gradually is exposed to progressively more pain, and if this exposure happens little by little, she will gradually learn to master pain.  However, the theory postulates that if a child is flooded experiences of pain too quickly and with too much intensity, she becomes overwhelmed.  In such a circumstance, the mind attempts to protect the child by what is termed ‘splitting off’ the pain.  Most of the various maladaptive and unhealthy behaviours that people manifest, therefore, are seen to be manifestations of the mind’s attempt to hide painful experinces from the consciousness of the individual concerned.  A typical example may be experienced after someone close to us dies.  After someone close to us dies, we may initially become numb and feel ‘no emotion’.  This is seen to be the mind’s attempt to temporarily shield us from the pain of the experience.  Whilst this may in fact be an adaptive response in the face of such overwhelming pain, if this kind of response becomes chronic, it is a classic example of a maladaptive long time ‘splitting off’ of pain.  In this instance the individual never learns to master the difficult experience of pain, but the mind shields her from the pain instead, and she imagines that it does not exist.  (Typicacally however, this 'splitting off' of pain is accompanied by conspicuous signs of anxiety, perhaps seen in physical symptoms such as headaches, or dependence on substances such as alcohol, or general anger or other signs of anxiety.)  Understanding this principle has been instrumental in my own emotional journey in which, over the years, I have gradually attempted to learn to deal with and come to terms with pain, instead of using various behaviours which are, in essence, attempts to kid myself into avoiding the painful realities of life. 

For further discussion of principles 3, click on the link below:

Life Satisfaction: Being Realistic