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9 Responses

  1. Bill Andrews says:

    Hi Daryl,
    Very interesting reading, although I’m left somewhat wondering how one arrives at the principles. For example, ‘Disarm by agreement’, is it that this is an example of a principle one develops oneself or is it a ‘truth’, a self-evident truth that suggests this is always the correct thing to do.

    Funnily enough, the way I was trained was based around what the originators of the approach (Human Givens: called a ‘set of organising ideas’. These, I guess, might be 1st principles. For me, the 1st principles (organising ideas) we were taught to recognise make good sense. E.g:

    Human Beings have fundamental needs that need to be met in order that they might thrive.
    Human Beings arrive with innate resources that allow them to get their needs met.
    Human Beings live in environments.
    A failure to get needs met is likely to lead to mental distress.
    Recognition of unmet need and addressing the barriers to getting the unmet need met (such as damaged resources) will lead to resolution of the mental distress.
    An unhealthy environment will not provide the sustenance for assisting to get one’s needs met.

    For me, these are guiding principles, or self-evident truths. They are either true or they are not. I’m happy to accept their truth and then this becomes the compass that can point to ‘true north’.

    So, I guess my wonder about this is how does one arrive at one’s principles in the first place.

    In my rather poor attempt to be empirical I’ve worked over many years at developing a way of measuring unmet meed and have a measure that’s been in use for several years now, although no validation papers have been published (the PRN-14; can be downloaded at ..just click on the long name). Our data show that there is a strong correlation between reduction in mental distress as measured using standardised tools (e.g. CORE-10) and getting needs met better.

    So, I guess I’m looking forward to your next blog…about how to develop one’s 1st principles.

    All the best,

    • darylchow says:

      Hi Bill,

      so good to hear from you. And yes, it’s similar to what human givens call “organising ideas”
      ” Client’s unmet emotional needs causes problems” idea is evident in several models of therapy e.g., bill glasser’s reality therapy, Les greenberg et al emotion focused, and HG…
      This is a good guiding idea. What i’m trying to articulate is that first principles should not just provide a conceptual guide, but also must inform the therapist on HOW to apply such a theory in conversation.

      The other thing is: We need to develop OUR own first principles. As you said, more on that in the next post 🙂

      You mentioned, “Our data show that there is a strong correlation between reduction in mental distress as measured using standardised tools (e.g. CORE-10) and getting needs met better.” Love to learn more about the findings!


  2. Gabrielle says:

    I think you are really on to something here. I think it’s is hard to speak about. What if you applied the resolution of the client-therapist conflict that you have been exploring to the conflict with themselves that a client brings to therapy. I have come to think that the model is just a vehicle for exploring human beings… like exploring the basketball game through drills. It’s a kind of way in but then you are immersed in the game and learn sensitivities without necessarily knowing how you are learning them.
    I don’t think you should pin down what you are saying too quickly in case you miss something.

    • darylchow says:

      I think you hit on a powerful note! And you are right, I really struggled trying to pin down my thinking behind this idea of first principles (as I’ve mentioned in the Facebook frontiers group:
      Can you say a bit more about “I don’t think you should pin down what you are saying too quickly in case you miss something,” as I’m not quite sure what you mean.
      thanks again.

      • Gabrielle says:

        I’m not too sure, but sometimes when people get really close to a breakthrough they can’t help but see the concepts and explanations and miss the real transformative view. There’s a beautiful paper that gets me as close as I’ve ever got to experiencing that difference. I’ll email it in case you are interested.

        • darylchow says:

          Hi Gabrielle, I got it! Thanks so much. Reminds me of Thomas Merton saying that we shouldn’t be obsessed w the finger pointing to the moon, and instead we should just look at the moon.
          Will read the paper, and will get back to you. Thank you so much.

        • darylchow says:

          Hi Gabrielle, I found what you’ve sent me is online as well, in case others wanna read it too:

          Some parts are hard to follow, but this particular section hits me like a ton of brick!

          Fundamental laws and principles, however, cannot be deduced. One knows them by creating them from nothing, out of one’s Self. One does not arrive at fundamental laws and principles as a function of what is already known. Such laws and principles do not merely explain; they ILLUMINATE.” (I love this.)
          “They do not merely add to what we know; they create a new space in which knowing can occur” (emphasis mine).

          The test of whether we are dealing with fundamental laws and principles, or with mere reasons and explanations, is whether there is a shift from controversy, frustration, and gesturing, to mastery, motion, and completion.”

          Thanks for sharing this Gabrielle!

  3. Eeuwe Schuckard says:

    Damn I love this stuff… At the same time I find it so infuriating because I want to be told what to do. I often find myself gravitating towards rules and explanations, and approaching ideas in a “dissecting” sort of manner until they make sense to me. Often this seems to come at the cost of understanding “the bigger picture,” which I think comes through in my presentations which seem to leave people thinking: And now what?

    I’ve also found my “dissecting” approach to be of little help in my attempts at relating to clients during therapy, where it seems to get me offside on occasion and draws me into a very fragile ivory tower where I must know and have the “right” explanations.

    What I really enjoyed about the DCT trials, was being given general ideas about how to approach the interaction and then afterwards, getting feedback about how my application of the idea came across. I was not told what to do explicitly, but I was told how what I articulated, related to the general principle I was asked to adopt (e.g. disarm by disagreement).

    This leaves me thinking about my attempts at developing my mountain biking skills, where someone who’s helping with this says: “Stop trying to make the bike do things you’ve watched in videos, and instead, relax and get a feeling for what the bike is doing.” I’m then told, that as I develop a better understanding of the bike in different terrain, what I’m trying to do now (not very well and with great expenditure of energy) will come as a matter of course. Funnily enough, something similar came up in supervision, where the feedback I got was to try and go with the session more, and the client, rather than exerting as much effort at steering it into a particular direction. I can then expend my energy more at tending to the client during the session, rather than the topics or ideas I want to cover.

    I’m not sure whether, or how, this exactly relates to what you’re saying here Daryl. But I enjoy writing down my musings nonetheless. As usual, great stuff!

    • darylchow says:

      Cheers, Eeuwe! I love your mountain biking example. We watch too much of “end results” and fail to see what are the steps leading to that.
      I’m still struggling w this whole first principles idea. Take for example, for a musician, there’s an assumption that you must be fully grounded in musical theory to be able to improvise well. I disagree. And there are many evidence of renowned musicians who don’t have solid musical theory. Instead, they gasp the key principles of music composition and improvisation.

      Going back to your mountain bike example is a usual one to think about “Getting a feel” for the bike…

      I love your reflection, Eeuwe. Thanks for sharing them.

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