Good morning readers!
It’s another day, which means it’s time for another interview. I’ve been working with Psych2Go for a while now, and while reaching out to authors is tons of fun, I find it intimidating. They are important people in our lives and in our community. They teach us so much, and it’s amazing to find out how fascinating humans are. While it takes courage to talk to well-known authors, its surprising to find out how open and willing they are to talk to us. Authors love sharing their work, and I give them my full respect. They take time out of their busy schedules to answer questions they probably answered a million times before. Director Tim Carey is no different! He’s here to tell us about his work in psychotherapy, and how releasing control (or getting out of the way) can benefit those with mental illness. Let’s get this interview started!
1. You were once a preschool teacher, right? What made you change your career to become a psychologist?
I’ve always been interested in understanding how things worked. I loved the training I got as a preschool teacher in terms of learning to observe young children and planning activities to help them develop. It was wonderful watching little children master new activities. From my time in preschools I did some further training as a special education teacher. It was here that I became even more interested in behaviour and behaviour change. I was particularly interested in behaviour analysis and, from this interest in behaviour, studying psychology was a natural progression. As I started to learn psychology I discovered that it has always been a passion for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by what people think and do. I feel really lucky that I can do something that is as much as a hobby as it is a job.
2. I was reading your article “Helping People Find Their Way” and it really got me thinking. How do people do psychotherapy without getting in the way?
That was actually the subtitle of the first therapy book I wrote “The Method of Levels: How to do psychotherapy without getting in the way”. The general idea here is that sometimes, despite our good intentions, we can actually do things that hold up or delay a person’s own natural reorganizing processes. This doesn’t have to be anything dreadful but it can occur when people become focused on tasks or activities that distract them from attending to the main problem.
3. Can you tell me more about MOL and how it helps people listen to themselves?
MOL, or the Method of Levels, is a wonderful way of providing therapy to someone. There’s a website at www.methodoflevels.com.au that has lots of information including vignettes of MOL sessions. The basic idea is to have a conversation with someone about the things that are troubling them and then to look for subtle changes that occur as they talk. Those subtle changes often indicate other things they’re thinking about while they’re discussing their problem. If you can pick up on those other things and ask about them, those other things often hold the key to where the solution to their problem will come from. So as someone is describing their ambivalence about leaving an unhappy relationship, they might realise that they’re scared of living on their own for the rest of their life. Realising that and spending time discussing it and exploring that can often lead to new insights and learnings about themselves and the life they’d like to be living. MOL is an amazing way of having a conversation with people that allows them to discover and create their own solutions to the difficulties they are experiencing.
4. You talk a lot about control in your work. How do we, as humans, control our thoughts and feelings? Sometimes I feel like it accidentally or naturally happens, but is there a way to consciously control what we are doing?
Control is central to everything. Life is control. But you raise a really important point – for the most part control happens smoothly and automatically. We don’t really control our thoughts and feelings. It’s actually quite difficult to make yourself think a particular way for any length of time. Usually, when people feel “out of control” or have the sense that need to get better control of their thoughts and feelings it’s usually because they have some kind of dilemma, or torment, or fight going on in their minds. Control gets disrupted here because they are trying to control two different and incompatible things at the same time. That might happen when someone wants to fit in and be part of the group but also wants other people to agree with their opinions.
I’ve written a book with my good friend and colleague Rick Marken called “Controlling People: The paradoxical nature of being human”. It explains all about control and how it plays out in social relationships.
5. You’ve mentioned in your work that no one lives in the past. But why is it that we still think about the past when it’s gone? Why does the past still take up space in our hearts and minds?
Those aspects of the past that we are conflicted about or that we somehow can’t reconcile are the fragments that stay with us. They stay with us until we have sorted them out. So they’re might be a situation where a boss humiliates us in front of our colleagues and we keep thinking about that for a long time after it had happened. We might be disappointed with ourselves for not standing up for ourself or disappointed that no-one else came to our aid. It’s only when we’ve sorted through those things that the awful event will become a distant, infrequent, and more neutral memory.
6. I read your article that was published today, called “Why You Should Never Try to Change Your Behavior”. I really enjoyed reading it! It’s true, sometimes we do something that we aren’t aware of, and when people see it they tend to address it and question you. With that being said, why do people ask one and another to change when we often don’t know why things happen?
This is a great question and it’s one of the areas we tackle in the Controlling People book. Life is a paradox in that all I can see of you is your behaviour but you only know your behaviour by what you experience. Similarly, all you can see of me is my behaviour but all I know is what I’m seeing, and hearing, and feeling. When someone is standing on a street corner waiving their arm are they catching a cab, or calling for help, or waving to a friend? Only an individual knows what is individually best for them. This is a really important point when we’re trying to help other people. Regardless of how good our intentions are, if the other person doesn’t experience our efforts as helpful then we’re not helping no matter how much we’d like to be.
One of my other articles was about the Golden Rule. The current Golden Rule says that we should treat other people the way we want to be treated but this is actually counterproductive! The new and improved Golden Rule says that we should treat other people they way they want to be treated.
The secret to successful social living is figuring out how I can live the life I want without stopping you from doing the same thing. If we all did that our communities, societies, and world would be much more harmonious places.
7. Is it true that people with mental illness have the same intelligence as people without?
Absolutely! There lots of myths about mental illness and perhaps the biggest myth is the idea that mental illness is an illness! Some people still maintain the idea that mental illness is just like something like diabetes but this is completely false. People who are psychologically distressed are not broken or sick but they certainly can benefit from exploring their minds and resolving the battle that is often raging inside there.
Stay tuned for more interviews coming your way in the month of April!