Updated: 5 December 2020
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21st Century Group HemsMESH Humber MeshWORKS Humberside MESH Network
A middle class boy, born to parents from the upper working classes who had worked their way up into the lower professional grades, I was privileged to have parents who both cared for me and drove me – especially my father. My parents – like most! – had many faults and left me with more than a few issues – see: The Counsellor gets counselled! Yet overall they gave me a good start in life, pushing me through the 11-Plus and the grammar school system to do what had been almost impossible for upper working class teenagers of their generation: to go to university.
I was raised mostly in the Lancashire (now Merseyside) town of St Helens…but the bulk of my family were in nearby Liverpool. And Liverpool, in the early-mid 1960s was the epicentre of the musical and social revolution that began with The Beatles and expanded through ‘Merseybeat’. A tremendously exciting time to be in Liverpool! One of my strongest early memories is of my older cousin Norma Smith (now Norma Klunder), in a shortish dress teasing her hair into a Beehive on the way to see The Beatles at the Liverpool Empire. Thus, I was drawn into pop and rock at an early age. By 1967, as The Beatles led the British side of the hippie counter-culture, my attention was increasingly focused on bands from the American West Coast. Such outfits as The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and Love whose lyrics went far beyond the typical romantic fare of conventional pop songs but encouraged their listeners to take on different perspectives and concerns – in short, to think! By the time I was 15 I was beginning to question some of the taken-for-granted values and norms of British society.
Already a seeker of knowledge, it was perhaps no surprise that, during my Foundation Year at Bradford University, I fell in love with the behavioural sciences – Psychology especially. To me, it was totally fascinating to explore why people thought and behaved as they did – to discover what biological and mental processes drove behaviour. Even better was studying various therapies to help people cope and deal with thoughts and behaviour that weren’t conducive to health and happiness. I was also much taken with investigating philosophical and political ideas as to how we could make our society a ‘better society’.
However, as was – and all too often still is! – typical of academic teaching, the exploration of matters psychological was in a very abstracted manner. It would be another 25 years later, with my exposure to the Gravesian approach and its Spiral Dynamics ‘build’ – plus training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) – that l learned how to use Psychology effectively. Because I studied NLP, I saw not only how to use the behavioural sciences to really help others resolve debilitating issues but also to reflect on what it all meant for me, what my weaknesses and hang-ups were and to develop strategies over time to free me from limiting beliefs (aka maladaptive schemas). From learning to understand myself in a deeper way, I became more able to help others.
I also survived my time of being a ‘born-again’ Christian. Having been ‘converted’ at the age of 16, perhaps being vulnerable through my questing for knowledge, I pursued my faith with zealotry for some 7 years. I had some incredible experiences before becoming progressively disillusioned. For many years I was reluctant to discuss my disillusionment with those of any kind of faith in God. To have the sense of ‘walking with God’ is unbelievably uplifting and I would never want to undermine anyone’s faith to take that away from them – unless pursuit of that faith presented real danger to others. Even so, I believe my ‘faith experience’ has given me an insight into how faith memes can produce the schemas that will drive people to kill other people in the service of their ‘god’. It has also shown me just how enabling and life-enhancing faith in God can be.
Although my mid-70s teacher training included a module on the Psychology of Child Development, for much of the 1980s my attentions were largely elsewhere. After a year in teaching – a profession to which I returned in 2001 – I was enticed into the world of industry & commerce, working initially as an export despatch controller. Jobs in manufacturing, the theatre, the licensed trade and then in administration followed.
I also did – and occasionally still do – a little part-time music journalism, writing reviews of music acts for several small-time journals and ‘fanzines’ as well as some commercial/national magazines such as Melody Maker and Record Collector. Published reviews over the years – albums, concerts and books – have included John Phillips, Fritz Reiner & The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Adam & The Ants, The Teardrop Explodes, UK Subs, Starship, The Manchester Camerata, The Mamas & The Papas, Pete Sears, Crosby Stills & Nash, Johny Barbata, Peter Kaukonen, Pentangle, Jefferson Starship, Emma King, The Albion Christmas Band and Grinder’s Circus. These days, as often as not, Facebook is the favoured platform for such reviews.
Music and SocioPsychology are the 2 interests – passions? – which have dominated my life.
At the time I was head-hunted into the Bridge management training & consultancy operation, I was working as National Administration Manager for what was then Britain’s biggest freight forwarding operation, Hellman Mitchell Cotts Ltd (now Hellman International Forwarders Ltd). At no point had I ever intended going into consultancy & training; but it seemed at the time I’d gone as far as I could with Hellmann and the Bridge offer was enticing…and I very quickly learned to be very good at it!
It was an era – the late 1980s – in which it seemed just about anybody with a whiff of business credibility, who couldn’t do something better, could become a ‘listed consultant’ under the DTI Enterprise Initiative and provide ‘business support’ to smallish companies – ‘SMEs’ (small-medium enterprises) in the vernacular – with 50% of the consultant’s costs being picked up by the taxpayer. (Surveys have shown since that the Enterprise Initiative had only a marginal role in improving the competitiveness of British industry.)
There were good consultants who emerged from the Enterprise Initiative era – and I’d like to think I was one of them. 5 organisations assisted to achieve ISO 9000 and 23 to achieve Investors in People is, I think, some mark of achievement – though my proudest moment from those days was receiving a commendation from Enterprise Support (on behalf of the Department of Trade & Industry) for assistance with an organisation’s business planning.
Though the primary emphasis during my time with Bridge was on organisational development, my interest in Psychology was revived through working with the Dominance-Influence-Steadfastness-Caution (DISC) model of William Moulton Marston (1928). I wrote and delivered courses for Bridge, applying the concepts to sales and management. DISC was the basis of the Western business world’s second favourite organisational psychometric, DiSC. The Myers-Briggs Typing Inventory, based on the work of Carl Gustav Jung (1921), was – and remains – even more popular. However, it was DiSC which I meta-stated to be both more accurate and more useful. Moreover, I wanted to strip back the DiSC ‘build’ and go back to Marston’s original work. In fact, I was so impressed with the power of the model that I contemplated returning to academia to take a second degree in Psychology.
In that sense at least, Bridge was a key step on my road to becoming a ‘SocioPsychologist’.
However, the real turning point for me came in 1998 when I was trained in Spiral Dynamics and NLP and exposed to Adizes LifeCycle – all within the space of 6 months!
Over the following 18 months I took further training in Spiral Dynamics and NLP – being one of only about 20 people in the UK to be trained to the original SD II level and also achieving Master Practitioner grade in NLP. Those incredible experiences led to profound changes in the way I perceived myself, the world around me and how I interacted with it. Now I could understand myself so much more, why I was the way I was and what I could do about it. To a considerable extent, I learned to manipulate myself. I also got to understand the behaviour of others to the point where, at times, it became fairly predictable.
So much about me changed that, as a consultant, the work I had been doing previously now seemed to be, at best, only 2-dimensional. The term ‘consultant’ clearly was no longer adequate to describe what I now could do. It was no longer a job, more a vocation. I tried ‘Management Faciliator’ and ‘Management Psychologist’ before settling eventually on the title of ‘Change Engineer’ in 2001.
In the years following, the main emphasis in my work shifted more and more onto people as it’s people who really make the difference. It is people who plan, lead, design, manage, sell, buy, maintain systems and plant, deliver, and collect the money, etc. It’s also people who divorce, get depressed, become alcoholics and drug addicts, burgle, rape, murder and wage war, etc.
Finally, in 2007, having coined the term ‘Integrated SocioPsychology’ in 2004, I decided to adopt the term ‘SocioPsychologist’ to reflect the fact that, as a teacher, consultant, trainer and therapist, my emphasis had come to be almost exclusively on people – and that was the area of expertise I would focus on from then on.
These pages cover the highlights of my career, starting with my move into training & consultancy in 1988. While I’m proud of my work in the early 1990s, for obvious reasons it is only covered briefly. Far more space is devoted to being first a change engineer and then a sociopsychologist than being a management consultant!!
Conceptually the role has expanded over the years to take on one-to-one counselling & therapy and even the function of A-Level Psychology and Sociology teacher and private tutor. Who knows? I may even have helped grow a new generation of Change Engineers and SocioPsychologists!
Indeed it was a stint (2003-2006) teaching Psychology at Vermuyden School in Goole, East Yorkshire, that led me into experiences almost as profound those of 1998. Through adding so much to my knowledge of Psychology by teaching it to A-Level and studying it way beyond, I began to conceive how an integrated approach to the behavioural sciences might be developed, based in large part on the Gravesian approach. I call this approach: Integrated SocioPsychology.
I had been integrating many elements of NLP with Graves/Spiral Dynamics and running training courses on the integrated material since 2001; but the span of integration I now began to conceive was of a different order altogether. Now the increased conceptual space made room for Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development, Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Aaron T Beck, Susan Blackmore’s memes and memeplexes, L Michael Hall’s meta-states, Martin E P Seligman, Carl Gustav Jung, Jerome Kagan and Joseph LeDoux amongst many, many others. Plus, the conflict management mapping of Robert Blake & Jane Mouton (1964) and Ken Thomas & Ralph Kilmann (1977) . Even Ivan Petrovich Pavlov’s dogs and B F Skinner’s rats could have their place!
Another key moment around this time was rediscovering Hans J Eysenck’s Dimensions of Temperament. I had a therapy client I was failing to help until I realised the problems weren’t rooted primarily in cognitive thought but in biologically-based temperament. Eysenck’s work became another key element in my thinking about the development of Integrated SocioPsychology.
Eventually my studies led to my own book, ‘Knowing You, Knowing Me: an Integrated SocioPsychology Guide to Personal Fulfilment & Better Relationships’ (Trafford, 2006). ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ has received accolades such as “groundbreaking” and “wonderful” from right around the globe.
While there was always a significant social/societal element in my thinking around the development of Integrated SocioPsychology and I read the sociologists and philosophers when time allowed and preference swung that way, of necessity, my main emphases were on things psychological.
That changed somewhat in 2007 when I took a part-time post at Rossett School in Harrogate where I found myself teaching modules of A-Level Sociology and Health & Social Care alongside the Psychology. Once more I found the scope of both theory and application expanding as my studies explored the nature of social groupings in much greater depth and breadth. Sociological theories of the nature of society – Functionalism, Marxism, Symbolic Inteactionism, etc – also added much to and informed my political opinions. While theses theories added to the kernel of what I call Integrated SocioPsychology, they provided even more material for a much broader application of the concepts.
With this greater understanding of Sociology, I began to flesh out much more detail of the lower quadrants of the 4Q/8L model to say much more about the ‘socio’ (social) aspects of SocioPsychology.
In 2014 I ‘retired’ from classroom teaching after 3 years as Head of Psychology at Woodhouse Grove School in Bradford and a brief spell teaching on an access course at Leeds City College. Partly, this was the result of the stress brought by having a very, very difficult class of Year 12s – it being highly unusual to have such immature and disruptive behaviour in 6th Form. Thankfully, my business providing private tuition in Psychology and Sociology was thriving. so I decided to focus on that. Since 2001 I had also been facilitating a handful of clients for counselling & therapy and that grew in importance too until I gave it up in early 2020 as a planned move towards ‘semi-retirement’. I’ve been providing sociopsychological courses for adult learners at the aforementioned Rossett School since 2011 and at Shipley College since 2014. For all that I’m working towards semi-retirement, it sometimes seems I’m as busy as ever!
On a personal level, during my adult life I have lived in several different parts of Yorkshire. In 2012 I returned to live in Bradford with my precious wife, Caroline. The relationship with her has been transformative too in its own way. My PURPLE vMEME’s need for safety via belonging had been compromised in my childhood – unwittingly by my parents. Consequently, as an adult I had bounced back and forth between insecure-resistant (clingy and desperate to be loved) and insecure-avoidant (eschewing the emotional closeness of being in love). Gradually, partly through me learning to manage my own psyche and partly through the steadfastness and patience of Caroline, I have become more secure in my relationship. The quality of our relationship has improved correspondingly. In 2020 we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.
In and amongst all the work, since 2014 I’ve been learning to play bass guitar – hoping eventually to have enough time – and enough skill! – to play in a band. In December 2018 the ambition to play in a band was fulfilled at my 65th birthday at The Rose & Crown in Golcar, just outside Huddersfield. With musician friends, including my bass tutor Owen Griffiths and Eddy Spence (of Gordon Giltrap and Glitter Band fame), we performed 2 sets – and even got an encore!
The SocioPsychology story behind The 65th Band is that, for all my love of music, I had never attempted to learn a musical instrument before. This was the result of having developed a maladaptive schema that I was ‘tone deaf’ from remarks made by father when I was about 7 or 8. It has taken all the knowledge and understanding of Psychology I have developed over the years to successfully challenge that limiting belief But every time I pick up a bass and every time I play with other musicians, I’m overcoming that belief!
For a list of people who have influenced me and for some insights into how they did that, visit Influences, Acknowledgements & Gratititude