From everything that I have learned during my entire professional working life, along with every book I ever read, every academic lesson I ever attended, and every experience I ever shared with a problematic person; one learning curve remains prominent. It is what I refer to as ‘The Hammer Impact on human nature, human behaviour and human response’ (my reference label).
If I was taught and learned one incontrovertible truth about human nature/behaviour/response, it was this: In every person’s life experiences they will be ‘hammered’ in different ways, in numerous places, at the most unexpected time by the most unexpected thing! They may hammer out the behavioural bulge (their presenting problem) in their armour plate, but even when they smooth out the bulge, it will reappear elsewhere in the suit of armour.
The easiest way to grasp the concept I am talking about is to momentarily look at the process of ‘human addiction’. For instance, take smoking cigarettes or using hard drugs. Either addiction can be broken (the human bulge smoothed out), but the person who broke their smoking addiction will simply take up another addiction like over-eating fatty foods or developing a sweet tooth and a love for sweets and chocolates. The person who broke their hard drug addiction, however, may start depending on drinking too much alcohol or smoking too many cigarettes instead.
Whereas swapping one bad addiction for another bad addiction is common practice, all behaviourists and some psychologists and psychiatrists advise it to be far better to ‘choose’ one’s new addiction instead of automatically falling into the trap of finding it just happened unknowingly. They would advise that ‘conscious choice’ is always better than ‘unconscious imposition’. They would argue that if you ‘choose’ your new addiction, you can select a more socially acceptable and less harmful addiction (swap a bad addiction for a ‘good’ or ‘more favourable’ addiction).
A good example of such a swap might be a person who was so grossly overweight, that after experiencing their unsuccessful and shame-inducing attempt to sit in an airline seat and found that they couldn’t because their largeness took up the room of two average-sized holidaymakers on the aeroplane. There are so many accounts of this type of person where ‘shame’ has led them to exchange their bad-eating addiction and lifestyle for a good-eating addiction and a healthier lifestyle. Not only do they change their eating habits, but they also become exercise fanatics, spending every spare moment at the gym or preparing to run the next monthly marathon. Many of these former ‘losers’ become ‘winners in the Slimmer of the Year contest’.
When I was training up in Newcastle in 1970 to become a Probation Officer and was daily cramming my head with all manner of the most modern psychological, psychiatric and behaviour modification theories available, my thoughts were crystallised within a triad of thought. Specifically, I read many of the theories and working of three men who changed my view and practice of ‘problem-solving,’ leading to produce more reconciled behaviour.
The first was Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, a Victorian philosopher, cultural critic, composer and poet. This German-born Latin and Greek Scholar introduced my mind to the ‘hammer theory’ he expounded.
The other person to greatly influence my future thinking and working practices along adjacent and similar lines was R.D. Laing, who was a 20th-century Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness; in particular, the experience of psychosis. R.D. Laing introduced me to the concept of ‘Reframing’ (the art of viewing a previous perceived problem behaviour and situation as now being a beneficial situation. Laing taught me through his writings, research and his lectures that any person can swap one psychosis for a more acceptable psychosis.
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who was born in the Victorian era. He is the acknowledged founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. His work on neurosis taught me that one neurosis could be swapped for a more acceptable neurosis.
The life workings and theories of these three great men converged in my learning and persuaded me to place much merit in the ‘hammer impact theory’, ‘the reframing method’ and the acceptance that ‘it is easier to exchange one psychosis for a less harmful and more acceptable psychosis than to seek to eliminate all psychosis (which is probably impossible)’.
I successfully used this triad of knowledge, theory and practice to achieve much success in my many professional roles during the remainder of my working life.
In many ways, I have tried to live out the message in today’s song, and the song reminds me of these three influential academics in my life. The song also reflects the movement through the stages of my life. Through my work as a Probation Officer, I have used the ‘Hammer of Justice’ in my service to the Court and the criminal clientele with whom I worked. During my charitable work over thirty years and raising awareness of many disadvantaged causes and people across the world, I have rung the ‘Bell of Freedom’ at every opportunity. Finally, ever since taking up my daily singing practice just over a year ago, I have strengthened my lungs and have also moved closer to the breath of life; my living God. My choice of daily song has enabled me to choose the content of my message; allowing me to focus on all the very best of the Christian tenets like love, sharing, forgiveness, happiness etc., etc. In a way, I have mostly ‘sung about the love between my brothers and sisters all over this land’.
Love and peace Bill xxx