Communication: Peter Shepherd

A friend of mine, whom I greatly love and admire, but have unfortunately and unintentionally deeply wounded -was unhappy with my "Letter to My Friend's Doctor:" and so she very kindly took the trouble to send me a "Communication and Relationship Course" by Peter Shepherd.

Below are some excerpts from his website, plus a few notes from the course.

 Underneath these are a few personal comments from myself.


    Peter Shepherd is a Transformational Psychologist, Supervisor of The Insight Project, and author of Transforming The Mind. Born in London in 1952, he spent most of his life in England before moving to France to be with his partner, Nicole Jérémie.

    Trained as a rational-emotive and transpersonal psychotherapist, Peter combines these techniques in his own system of transformational psychology, applied to personal growth rather than therapy.

    "Behavioral psychology has installed the idea that we inherit all of our traits and besides the modifying effects of cultural conditioning, we stay basically the same as our genetic hard-wiring dictates. That's true if you don't do anything about making positive change, if you don't recognise the aspects of yourself that are more than animal. Recently many have recognised this possibility and they are looking for valid information that can help them make positive changes."

   Peter's web site, Tools For Transformation, is dedicated to introducing the best available personal development resources to free us of the shackles of the past by re-awakening awareness of our true identity, and so being fully conscious in the present moment.

    In a recent interview for the magazine 'Just Coach It,' Peter was asked his views on the topic: Spirituality

        When I was five, I perceived little sparkles in the air around me in the garden, and indoors, in one room of the house there was a place where Jesus and some angels always were, to meet me. Outside the window were goblins that scared the life out of me but the angels gave my life back. Phew... either I was crazy or my childish brain had not yet been programmed into perceiving only the consensus reality, as a couple of years later I had none of those experiences but knew well the alphabet and times tables. Nevertheless I'd received my first taste of the spiritual dimension and that has inspired my life ever since, to know and experience more, and to understand how our everyday lives relate to our inner and more subtle lives.

        A few years on, after being a choirboy at the local church, it suddenly dawned on me that all these sermons about our sinful nature and the wrath of God, were being made on a totally misguided agenda. I let go of all that and it was a huge relief, a huge burden off my back. Going in quite the opposite direction, I studied Buddhism and found there a validation of each individual as a spark of the universal consciousness. There were meditative methods to help the person attain a higher level of that consciousness for themselves. But again I found misguided aspects of that religion and I decided to both stay clear of organized religions and also to look for better ways of expanding consciousness that do not take lifetimes to achieve their goal. It was enough for me to perceive of God as the quality of Love, and that when we love (which is to say accept unconditionally) we are part of God. As the saying goes, "When we love, we are the universe and the universe lives in us."

        Again going forward a few years, I had studied general psychology and went on to look at the 'transpersonal' dimension, that which is beyond the ego connecting us with universality, as pioneered by Assagioli, Grof and others. Again, I found that two divergent branches of a subject only really worked when combined as one. The everyday, rational and behavioral understandings of psychology were just as important as the more esoteric understandings to do with consciousness, and in fact each needed the other to provide a true and holistic picture of things. I put my comprehension of all this together in a book, 'Transforming the Mind,' that has been freely available on the 'Net ever since.

        Any person is of the opinion that he is 'right' in what he believes - otherwise he wouldn't believe it. But he can have all sort of misconceptions, misinterpretations, false information and delusions, and be holding fast onto them in order to be right. The fundamental elements of his belief system, the things that have made sense of past confusions for him, are not changeable by reasoning alone because they are held in place by force - by an unwillingness or inability to face up to certain things.

        The only way that I know of to resolve this impasse is through examining the reality of our existence with ruthless honesty. Done with integrity, this can help one to see, bit by bit, the truths underlying our mental distortions. One may gain understanding, and the ability to live consciously, to be one's true self, in those areas where one had shut off one's vision.

        By increasing understanding one is increasing awareness of truth, and then in life one needs to actually face that reality with equanimity and take responsibility. Without actually putting our insight into action, it soon tends to be forgotten and the body-mind programming (the habit patterns of many years) take over again. Without such integrity of application, even extensive work on ourselves can become a charade.

        My goal in life has been to break free of the consensus trance, to find instead my own truth and to help others find their own truth also. To transform and be free, like a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Because we are each such different individuals, with personal goals and at different stages on our various paths, I have found there is no singular tool for transformation, there are many, and I've tried to select good ones for my web site, Tools for Transformation. Some of the tools have a masculine or feminine feel, a left-brain or right brain dominance, an intellectual or intuitive approach. Ultimately, however, I believe we need to integrate these polarities and develop both sides equally and together, for our being contains all of these. A certain tool may be right for us now but later we will probably need the help of another kind of tool that is not currently appropriate for us. Development is also hierarchic, one skill makes another possible and the correct order needs to be found.

        It certainly is possible to regain causation in life. One is motivated again because one has recovered one's true identity and is aware of one's own goals. What were previously heavy and serious problems are now games to enjoy. One is truly happy with renewed purposes in life. Others are not enemies but either team mates or competition, who make the game more interesting and from whom one can learn - from what they do right and what they do wrong. Without fixed rightnesses, one too can learn both from things that go right and from one's mistakes. Life, love and truth become one's operating basis.

        The way I see it, all experience is for learning, and when you've learned the lesson that experience offers then you can move on. Provided you have learned the lesson, and not got serious/solid/heavy about it and justified your ego - otherwise it haunts you till you have really learned the lesson (which is karma). Your actions remain to haunt you until you have learned their lesson.

        I have had some huge setbacks in my life. Twice I have lost everything - partner, house, job, finances - and started again. But I never really felt alone and in fact they were freeing experiences, because (as I can see now) each time my life had gone in a direction untrue to my real goals, and I was able to get back on track. Of course, this will happen to all of us at the end of our lives. How good it will feel if we know that this time we have indeed been living in accordance with our most sincere desires, and our integrity is whole and shining brightly.



The brain is like computer hardware, with various types of memory and processing power. The mind is the software, the programming that makes the computer useful. This programming is partly inbuilt (through the genes), partly the result of education, upbringing and enculturation, partly the result of negative and positive learning experiences. It is reprogrammable by debugging and the effort of learning new cognitive skills. What is the spirit then? The meta-programmer - the one who determines the need for new programs. As you know, we have a whole advanced course for Meta-Programming.



Basic Operational cycle:

Reach <-> Withdraw
Speak <-> Listen


Positive and Negative effects of Basic Communication Strategies:

Reach Out:               -> Togetherness          /     Dependance
Pacify:                      -> Acceptance             /     Resistance
Opposition:               -> Negotiation            /     Agression
Withdrawal:              -> Providing Space     /     Avoidance
Bi-Directional:          -> Interactions             /     Obsessions


The Communication Triad:

Communication -> Understanding -> Empathy
Communication -> Empathy -> Understanding
Empathy -> Understanding -> Communication
Empathy -> Communication -> Understanding
Understanding -> Empathy -> Communication
Understanding -> Communication -> Empathy


 A Personal Reaction:

Surprisingly, I feel I have almost total agreement with Peter Shepherd. Reading his text, I feel that it relates comfortably to my own (developing) approach within the Society Art Technology section. Perhaps the main difference is one of "perspective": The text that I recieved is written within the context of inter-personal communication and development -wheras mine is perhaps a more meta-philosophical (cosmological) approach. However, I understand that there are many more texts (on a wide range of subjects) on his website too. There have also been objections to my own fundamentally critical and cynical undertone (which is indeed present in section 2) -however, I hope that "Section 4:" is concerned with a more positive approach to the fundamental problems of human survival (and the generation and testing of possible organisational and conceptual models related to problem solving in general). Perhaps the metaphysics are also nothing more than an attempt to find practical solutions to the problems created by the mind's own search for effective solutions.... My own approach concerns the mappings within and between conceptual spaces in the context of the creative (problem solving) process -while Peter Sheperd's approach (in the text that I read) focusses on mappings within the context of inter-personal communication. I guess his remarks on "meta-programming" come very close to my own approach. although perhaps coming from a slightly different direction.

Nevertheless, these comments should not be seen as a denial of the pain apparently caused by my own lack of positive emotional feedback concerning my friend(s). In defence, I can only claim that (for a number of complex reasons) I often took "empathy" for granted and skipped over the "communication" (and perhaps "understanding") phase which would have reafirmed it. Concidering my love to be as unconditional as that of a family, I never really thought much about proving it. A silly mistake -because, as the man says, one cannot expect others to read one's own thoughts... Due to the pressure of so many ambitious and frustrated hopes -listening was not my strong point iether. I apologize for behaving so -and trully regret the unintended results. Hopefully, my new environment will also make change easier -and I can revert to my happier and less frustrated previous self.

This apology also creates a conceptual link back to the original "Letter to My Friend's Doctor:" -which was one of several that I wrote (with some form of logical/emotional progression) to her -because, paradoxically, I intuitively felt that the basic conditions discussed by Peter Shepherd had not been met in my relationship with the doctor, or the family.  Perhaps this was the result of my own lack of communication skills (and failure to listen), perhaps it was the result of a clash of cultural values -maybe the overworked doctor was simply too busy to give me the support I felt I needed -or perhaps there is something structural in the patient/doctor/family/(ex)partner relationship which makes meaningful communication impossible. However, it is wierd to have the feeling that one can understand the patient better than the doctor. I'm afraid that my suspicions with regard to psychology as an objective tool remain. Perhaps tossing coins, reading the stars or the innards of goats is just as useful. Perhaps understanding the search for analogies and answers is more valuable than the nature of the answers one recieves. The universe does not exist in any static form -but we all help to create it on the fly, through our own participation -as we live, grow older and finally die.

Peter Shepherd provides as part of his course -a number of "excercizes" which I'm sure can be most valuable in correcting communication problems. I would be happy to participate (prefereably with my (ex)partner) in practicing them. In fact, my (ex)partner and I were referrred to her current doctor as a result of a search for a "Relational Therapist" who could help revitalise the communication process which was obviously failing disasterously. Unfortunately, such people do not seem (easilly) available here. Indeed, perhaps they are not required in view of the friendly, social and family orientated Filipino society. However, if the number of mixed culture marriages rises -then the need may increase. I understand that in Cebu there is already somebody specialised in helping broken western/pinay relationships. Unfortunately, the logic of western society often does not fit easily into other cultures.

Parential relationships are also locally very powerful. My (ex)partner's first contact with her doctor was thus not together with me -but with her mother, who (apart from the problems leading up to, and arising out of, the separation) had been unhappy with the relationship (from the begining?). By the time that I, together with my (then) fiancee, met the doctor -it seems that it had already been decided (by person or persons unknown) that the relationship was dead and that no specific plans for revival were being concidered. I was more or less told to "forget it and move on".... The protective and impervious walls of the family closed around my (ex)partner -even though it was then not clear (to me -at least) if they were not just as much a part of the problem as I was. The separation had also been particularly bloody and painful due to many ambiguities. Although I had cooperated in the search for a relational therapist it seemed that I had found a relational executioner. Even the doctor admitted that my (ex)partner was  "ambivalent" towards what had apparently become a love/hate relationship on her part. While on my part, I could see no reason why the "hate" should be given precedence and the "love" be given no chance. This is also a country that knows no divorce. A "cooling off" period (of undetermined length) with the prospect of some form of relational therapy involving both partner, parents and myself (to determine what kind of relationship it really was) would have seemed (to me) more understandable -especially when backed up with emotional and informational support from the doctor. To have my heart ripped out, be publically pilloried and then be told to move on -with an offer of some pills to help relieve the stress -did not seem adequate, despite my respect for a hard working and sincere doctor. Presumably, a lack of adequate mental health resources was also an improtant part of the problem.

The way things happened raised so many questions -but it seemed that answers were impossible (or unreliable):  How much was evasiveness from the doctor due to a desire to spare my feelings, was it simply professional ethics or cultural reticence -and how much was it due to other reasons? How guilty was I of "emotional abuse" and how much were other factors involved? At which point did acceptable loyaly and tenacity possibly become a neurotic refusal to face facts? But what were the facts? Who was really determining the outcome? What were the real positions of the various players, and were they prepared to play openly and fairly -or were they simply protecting their own interests? How dangerous was I for future partners?  Do I over-rationalise -or do other's (who point the finger of accusation at me) allow their own emotions to over-rule? How can I listen patiently -and be a perfect communicator -when the lack of genuine communication was driving me crazy and my respondants were not cooperating? How could I remain independant of the opinions of others -without risking closing myself off completely in splendid isolation? How could one break through the (one way) screen of silence -without upsetting others?

 Each question seemed to raise many more -and there seemed no way to get the answers. The stream of unanswerable and non-disputable criticticisms via the internet completely overwhelmed me -especially in an environment where I had few contacts except those of my (ex)partner. It seemed that powerful judgements were being made -but who determined the rules -and who or what was the judge?

When the number of questions explodes and the space for answers contracts -then one is in a truly nasty situation. Perhaps at that point one has to learn to live without answers -and perhaps this is a useful lesson in itself.

I still don't know the answer to many of these questions. I'll accept that I made mistakes -but I don't believe that I was the only one to do so (for whatever reason): It takes two to Tango..... One cannot "communicate" with somebody if they will not (or cannot) reciprocate.

So can my (ex)partner risk the potential pain of opening up the channels of communication again? Can I respond adequately to the awsome responsibility of her trusting me once more? Do the rewards of our success justify her risk of failure?

I hope so. Taking responsibility for one's own articulations is the way to freedom. One must kill the ghosts and monsters that oneself has created. In any case, I thank the friend for sending me the text -and I would welcome the chance to put it all into practice with her.

Trevor Batten
<trevor at>
Manila, Nov 2-3 2006