Learn English While Understanding Yourself With English Conversation For Language Learners Ep 478

Windmills and canal in Kinderdijk, Holland or Netherlands. Conversation in English is just what you need to enjoy listening and improve your listening skills and ability with British English.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 2822 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 15 min

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Psychology of Human Behaviour - A Conversation In English For Language Learners

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The primary goal of the Adept English listening practice podcast is to help you with your English listening skills. At the same time, I like to talk about different things that are interesting to me, like life, personal development, psychology, language learning tips and tricks, language hacks I go through in my own language learning journey. Today we explore the idea that everything you do, and happens to you, shapes how your brain develops, from baby to right now. The way you feel, the way you act, is the sum of what has gone before.

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To Prove3
The Mind3
The World3
As Though2
Aware Of2
Part Of2
I See2
Help You2
Things That2

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Transcript: Learn English While Understanding Yourself With English Conversation For Language Learners

Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Talking to you in English to help your language learning. To learn spoken English, mainly through listen – that’s a goal that we help you with!

One of the things that I like to do sometimes in the podcasts – apart from giving you really good English language listening material, of course – is to talk about psychology and different topics around how the human mind works. I’ve been involved in the world of psychotherapy for the last 25 years and this influences how I see the world and the people in it.

So one idea I’ve had is to share with you some of the books that I see as important and influential. Books which have helped me a lot in my client work and which are well-known in the world of psychotherapy, but which might be less well-known outside of that world. And these are books often which are really readable and yet eye-opening, which have been helpful to me in my work and which may help you too!

That adjective ‘eye-opening’ – it means what it says – it describes something that ‘opens your eyes’, it makes you aware of things that you weren’t aware of before. And most of us like psychology, because we’re interested in understanding ourselves better and other people better.

Psychotherapy, Psychology and Psychiatry – and their limitations

So my understanding and view of people has been influenced by my psychotherapy training and by my experience of working with clients. And psychotherapists, well we also have therapy – so part of the learning is in understanding ourselves. This influences how we work. So we’re able to recognise that human distress comes from all sorts of sources.

Some problems clients bring, are part of being human. Some are to do with the client’s situation in life and many are to do with the client’s past. So that’s psychotherapy. There’s also... Psychology, PSYCHOLOGY. This is the scientific study of the mind. And there’s also Psychiatry, PSYCHIATRY. This is the branch of medicine which specialises in the mind – so psychiatrists are medical doctors. Both of these are sciences, so there’s a requirement to ‘prove’ the concepts used, to prove the ideas.

Psychology is great and a fascinating subject. But sometimes the need to prove ideas scientifically, to eliminate all other data, than what you’re studying – well, this can narrow the focus, and place limits on what’s achievable. And sometimes Psychiatry has limitation because its main tool for treating people with problems is medication, pills which affect the mind. What also happens is that people tend to be categorised, put into categories, according to what psychiatric diagnosis they’re believed to have. This can feel a little as though psychological distress is being treated as though it’s a physical illness, like a virus, like it has a particular medical diagnosis.

In medicine, you diagnose what the illness is before you treat it. And this works really well for physical illness, but perhaps not so well for mental illness. So apart from the fact that I was never going to be a medical doctor, I chose psychotherapy as my discipline, because it’s less scientific, and therefore more free to roam.

My experience tells me that every person is different. We’ve all been shaped differently and our psychology is very, very different. Inside one person’s head is a completely different territory from inside another person’s head. So psychotherapy works with that and works with ‘what feels right’, what seems to have meaning and what helps.

You might say ‘This is ‘incredibly unscientific!’, but if you think about all the important relationships in your life, the ones which determine your level of happiness – you probably measure these by ‘how they feel’ – it’s the feeling that’s important. So psychotherapy places great importance on ‘how things feel’. So while psychiatry sometimes seems to see mental distress as being entirely down the chemistry, the chemicals in the brain or down to ‘illness in the brain’, psychotherapy uses other theories too. And one of the main theories in psychotherapy, is that your past experiences affect how you are in the present. And this isn’t just something left over from Sigmund Freud.

There’s plenty more recent evidence and thinking on this. And the evidence from neuroscience backs this up too. The experiences you have as a child and as a teenager literally build the networks in your brain, that determine how you think, how you feel, how you behave.


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This idea was central to psychotherapy even before neuroscience came along to reinforce it. Perhaps you can imagine how a difficult situation or a horrible experience, which happened to you when you were say, 9 years old may have affected you and may continue to affect you as an adult. Of course, there’s no blood test, no diagnostic medical test for this.

There is no psychological experiment that you can set up to prove something like this beyond doubt. Such a connection is not something which is provable in a scientific way. But if you listen to someone telling their story – the connection between past and present becomes very believable, tangible even. ‘Tangible’, TANGIBLE means ‘almost as though you can touch it’, it’s that real.

If you listen long enough to people talking about their lives, talking about these sorts of experiences, you can see how these experiences quite clearly have shaped them, and sometimes affect people still in negative ways. People’s story-telling is very compelling and powerful. For the teller and for the listener. Being able to tell your story, the one which is unique to you is therapeutic in itself.

A book recommendation to an internation best seller in 36 different languages!

So the book that I’m recommending to you today describes a really important aspect of this idea that ‘past affects present’. It’s written by a psychiatrist and is an international best seller. And he’s an author who is still very active in the field. The book is a seminal work. ‘Seminal’, SEMINAL means ‘original, highly influential, a set of ideas that others will build on’.

So the author is called Bessel van der Kolk and the book is called ‘The Body Keeps the Score’, published first in 2014. At least, that’s its title in English. Talking of language, I’m not necessarily suggesting you read it in English, though you could if your English is good.

This book has apparently been translated into 36 languages, so you may find it in yours. And according to Wikipedia, the book spent more than 141 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List for Nonfiction; 27 of those weeks at number one! This book has over 31,000 positive reviews on the UK Amazon website and it averages a full five stars. So I’m not exactly ‘sticking my neck out’ in recommending this book – but it’s an important one if you want to understand human psychology, how past experience affects our functioning in the present. And the idiom ‘to stick out one’s neck’? That means ‘to take a risk’. So I’m not taking a risk in recommending this to you. It’s a book lots of people praise.


Definition of ‘trauma’

So what is this book about? Well, primarily it’s about what we call ‘trauma’, that’s TRAUMA. If you experience a trauma, it means you’ve experienced an event or a situation so truly, truly awful that it’s left you ‘traumatised’ – that means in shock, perhaps unable to function and at the very least damaged by your experience.

The word ‘trauma’ comes originally from Greek and means ‘wound, hurt’, especially physical. So if someone has a head injury, we might say that they’ve suffered ‘trauma to the head’. But this isn’t the kind of trauma that Bessel van der Kolk is talking about. Instead he’s talking about psychological trauma, damage to the mind that happens to people as a result of bad experiences.

So this might be because you’ve been in a war zone, or because you’ve been involved in a car accident, or you’ve been attacked. Or it might be because bad things happened to you when you were a child – and you’ve tried to forget them – possibly even successfully forgotten them, but they continue to affect you all the same.

How does the body ‘keep the score’?

And the title of Bessel van der Kolk’s book, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’? Well, ‘the body’ means your physical self, your whole body – it means your arms, your legs, your neck, your stomach, your chest. And ‘keeps the score’? Well, if you ‘keep score’, it means that you memorise or record what’s happened.

So if you are playing darts for example, that’s DARTS – you have to memorise your score – and your ‘score’ means how many points you have. So obviously in a book about psychological trauma, we’re not ‘keeping score’ in a mathematical sense. What Bessel van der Kolk means here – is that our body ‘keeps score’, the body remembers and holds the trauma, whether or not we consciously know it. And the body sometimes expresses it in unexpected ways.

It reminds us that the trauma is still with us. Bessel van der Kolk describes very clearly what this might look like – how people show the distress related to trauma.

Bessel van der Kolk, trauma and the ‘epidemic of misdiagnosis’ surrounding trauma

Bessel van der Kolk was a psychiatrist. He didn’t set out to be a specialist in trauma – he just happened to make the connection that people presenting with what looked like severe psychiatric disorders, often had trauma in their lives and there was a connection. He’s made a great contribution to the world with this study He’s spent his career educating people about trauma and misdiagnosis. And also educating people like me in how to recognise trauma and work with it. And he’s still very active.

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Trauma stops people living their lives to the full. Trauma sits behind addictions and broken relationships. And trauma is not rare – the National Center for PTSD in the US, says ‘About 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives.’ PTSD – which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the more extreme type of trauma, believed to affect around 6% of the population as a whole, but amongst war veterans – that means soldiers who have been to war zones and experienced combat - PTSD is estimated to affect 10-20%. So trauma is not rare – and many people seem unaware that there are psychological treatments for trauma, which don’t involve taking pills.

Bessel van der Kolk has done a great service to the world – in educating people about trauma. And ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ is a wonderful book, written with warmth and humour, which has had a big positive effect on the world too.

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Get in touch with us at Adept English!

If you found this topic interesting and you’d like to hear more – let us know. If you thought ‘Wow, that’s heavy! I’d rather hear about grammar and punctuation’ or about ‘life in the UK’, let us know that too! I’m happy to cover a whole range of topics. And if you do read Bessel van der Kolk ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ as a result of this podcast, get in touch and let us know what you thought of it.


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.




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