Ian White, Affectology and Af-x® Therapy

This page was created in July 2009 as a supplement to Issue 158 of the Parental Intelligence Newsletter

About Ian White

From a formal monastic background in Zen therapy and mindfulness meditation teaching, Ian White has moved through many years of application of "private" therapy to his current position as Principal of the School of Affectology. He trained in Morita Therapy and has taught meditation in Zen and Taoist mindfulness traditions for 28 years.

Until 1993 he was a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University (A.N.U.), at which time he moved from Canberra to establish therapy practices in Sydney, and continue with research into the neuro-psychological aspects of psychosomatics and the development of emotional sub-personalities.

He has been instrumental in the successful application of Af-x® programs with executives looking to improve decision-making and communication skills, futures trading market operators seeking to improve performance, artists needing to "get unstuck" from creative blocks, and Olympic level sportsmen and sportswomen looking to achieve peak performance.

He has a particular interest in and concern for the emotional well-being of the youth of today, particularly related to the burgeoning incidence of depression and suicide in teens, and the (seemingly) socially-endorsed drugging of school kids with amphetamines and SSRI antidepressants.

Ian is the Director of the original International Centre for Subconscious-mind Training and Research (I.C.S.T.R.) and Principal of the School of Affectology and the Euro-Scandin School of Affectology (Sweden).

He is a member of the Advisory Council of the International Center for Studies in Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP) in New York, U.S.A.

You can contact Ian White on 61+2+4571 3902 or email at afxwhite@bigpond.net.au

Or visit his website at: www.emotionsinbalance.com/

Some excerpts from the Af-x® website

"When it comes to you, only one person has all the answers - and that's YOU; but not the 'you' that's doing the talking!"

Sometimes we decide or know that there's something about ourselves that we feel we need to change. That recognition is a good start, but then whom do we turn to when we are experiencing psychological, behavioural or emotional problems or difficulties?

There are many different therapies and techniques available for us to choose from, both mainstream and 'alternative'. In many cases people will see their doctor and possibly be referred to a specialist. With this choice, as well as almost all the 'alternative' options available, the first thing we'll be asked to do is to describe our symptoms and try and explain what is wrong. We hope that the therapist or practitioner will then be able to use her or his knowledge, expertise and experience to help solve our problems.

However, this is the dilemma. Throughout our lives, all our feelings and emotions are influenced by our experiences and what we learned in the pre-verbal and pre-conscious-memory stages of early development - our own unique 'emotional matrix'.

We can do our best to try and describe our surface symptoms or problems, but trying to consciously reveal the underlying affect cause is basically impossible. And when we can't consciously explain why we react, respond or feel the way we do, how can any another person ever accurately understand our emotional problems, let alone work out our individual emotional matrix or earliest emotional experiences?

Our Emotional Matrix

In our day-to-day lives as adults, we mostly rely on and trust the logical, reasoning and conscious parts of our minds. At a stage in our childhood we develop the ability to think things through, solve problems rationally and learn how to understand what is going on in the world around us. From then on we learn to mainly rely and depend on this ability.

But when it comes to our emotions and feelings, as children, teenagers and adults alike, we find that our emotional reactions seem to be driven by something deeper or beneath our logical, rational self. Although we are instantly aware of the feelings or emotions we have in response to situations and events, we experience these automatically and immediately without thinking them through, or even being able to think them through.

Some neuroscientists are referring to this as the "amygdala click;" the way in which those emotional response memories are triggered at an unconscious level and hijack all reason.

The familiar statements "I don't know why I got so angry", "I'm not sure why I feel so sad" or "I can't help how I am feeling" and many others, all confirm that our emotional reactions are driven by something other than our reasoning minds and conscious will. If this were not the case, we would all be able to just consciously control or change any uncomfortable feelings or emotional reactions. We'd just "think ourselves better!"

In our infant years we can only interpret things around us through our feelings and emotions, we have no other choice. So by the time any of us are able to talk, think or develop conscious memories, we have already learned how to respond to the world at the emotional or affect (feeling and emotional) level. This is a protective mechanism and it's unavoidable. These early experiences and learnings form the basis for our own unique emotional matrix that unconsciously influences all our future emotional responses and reactions. This goes a long way towards explaining why we have so much difficulty in identifying and describing the real causes of our emotional discomforts and why we can't just consciously change how we feel and respond. "I've talked all about it, tried to analyse and understand it but it hasn't changed how I feel."

Over the past decade or two, science has been catching up with the reality about human emotions and the existence of our own very individual and unknowable emotional matrix. Various independent researchers have been instrumental in alerting the world to the fact that our talking selves, our conscious perceptions and our reasoning minds play very little part in our actual ability to resolve our emotional problems.

This knowledge has steered the development of a very different therapeutic approach called 'affectology', a revolutionary approach based on a thorough understanding of how we learn, develop and maintain our subconscious emotional matrix, and how this understanding can be used to help us privately and permanently resolve our emotional
problems, without the difficulty and pain of trying to talk about them.

Affectology and Af-x® Therapy

"Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought." - Sir William Osler

Most mainstream therapies rely on professional diagnosis and analysis to arrive at an in-the-present version of what is wrong with a person. This can take any number of sessions, followed by either medication or various techniques to try and treat the identified symptoms. Also, many problems are seen as 'disorders' or 'conditions' that the sufferer can do little about, without external "expert" advice.

But what if there was an approach that focused directly on the underlying affect (feeling or emotional) cause of the problem? One where you didn't talk about your surface symptoms, personal history or past experiences. One that focuses on your feelings and acknowledges that at some level, you already "know" the true causes of your problems(and only you could ever truly "know"). An approach to therapy that understands that you already have the resources needed to bring about positive change and simply aims to guide you in doing that. One that involves just three contact sessions, that help your subconscious, self-correcting resources back onto the right track.

Developed by Australian academic and therapist Ian White over many years, this is the unique, revolutionary and highly effective approach used in affectology and Af-x® Therapy and is the much-needed move away from the second-hand interpretation and analysis of the other therapies. It is the result of a new understanding of the nature of the human emotional matrix, that is, how we learned to unconsciously respond to things at feeling and emotional level. This new scientifically based view of how people develop and maintain their emotional problems now provides the means for people to privately and permanently resolve them.

'Affectology' is the term coined by White to describe the field of study that investigates how we learn and develop affect (feeling and emotional) patterns very early in life, that form our underlying emotional matrix or 'sense of self', and how that influences all our future emotional responses and reactions. It makes a clear distinction from 'psychology', a field that has concentrated on the 'thinking processes', rather than the 'feeling' self.

Af-x® Therapy is the practical application of affectology. Its training program is run under the auspices of the Sydney-based School of Affectology, of which Ian White is the Principal, and the Euro-Scandin School of Affectology in Sweden.

How we learn our emotions and feelings

Just as we are not consciously aware of most of what goes on within our physical bodies, our minds are also constantly processing thoughts, memories and feelings at subconscious levels.

It is a scientifically proven fact that we feel emotions (as infants) long before we are able to consciously think and we began to learn our initial feeling (or emotional) responses at this subconscious level.

Our early feeling level reactions were formed without conscious thought, reason or logic because we had not yet developed the ability to consciously think about or analyse what we were responding to.

Research shows that we repetitively respond to things throughout our lives the way we first learned to respond in our childhood and even earlier, in our pre-verbal infanthood.

We store our first ever feeling experiences (fear, love, discomfort pleasure, trauma, joy and all our range of emotions) and unconsciously learn, almost immediately, which feeling or emotional reactions get the best results, therefore 'rationalising' that we should develop and maintain these reactions as though time stood still.

Significantly, we can't ever remember what our first feeling responses were, because we did not have the capacity to develop conscious memories of them at the time they were learned.

We build our "emotional matrix" or personal response patterns (emotional personality) based on early feeling learnings that are stored subconsciously, beneath our ability to recall and understand. We unconsciously "memory-trace" or "bridge" back to these primary encodings in order for them to be continuously repeated.

As we mature, some of these automatic response patterns may be altered or adjusted to suit our development, while others are not.

Well-learned and entrenched early feeling level reactions, that are no longer useful or protective, can form the basis for and influence the development of the uncomfortable feelings, physical symptoms or uncontrollable behaviours that we may experience in later life.

This is particularly relevant for people who have experienced traumatic events and seemingly developed problematic symptoms, conditions or behaviour as a result.

It is never an event that is the real cause of problems, but rather our learned emotional response that we unconsciously apply to that event. This explains how two people can experience the same traumatic situation or similar sort of situation, and why one can develop significant long-term problems while the other may be relatively unaffected.

Nothing, including any amount of therapy, will ever change the fact that a person experienced a certain event. What can be changed is the person's learned emotional response pattern that is doing the damage and maintaining the problematic symptoms, conditions or behaviour.

By their very nature, early feeling level learnings and reactions are not revealed to the conscious mind, they are automatic and reflexive. Because they are unconsciously learned and maintained they can not be affected by conscious efforts to identify, analyse, understand or change them. They can however be privately re-assessed and permanently resolved by the subconscious mind.

About The Therapy - "Mind Over Chatter"

From the moment you decide to undertake Af-x® Therapy, what you can expect is likely to be very different to any other therapy you've experienced in the past.

Af-x® is about helping your subconscious mind learn how to respond to things differently than before. It seeks to deal with the real cause of your problems. So don't be surprised if your practitioner seems to discourage discussion of any presenting symptoms that may have unconsciously developed from that cause.

Unlike the sessions in most other therapies, your Af-x® Practitioner will do most of the talking and this approach only ever involves three contact sessions.

In session one, you are helped to fully understand a number of very important facts. Why this work is about your feelings and not your thoughts or any particular event in your life. How we all have the ability to change unconscious affect (feeling or emotional) response patterns by privately re-assessing old outdated affect learnings. And why you must do this in the privacy of your subconscious mind without any intervention from the practitioner, other than a skilful guidance through this inner process.

Once you are comfortable with all this, your practitioner will introduce you to the 'inner work' or quite simply 'assisted self-attention'. This introduction is designed to show you how easy this is, as "self-attention" is a natural state available to us all with a little guidance.

Session two and three mainly involve this subconscious 'inner re-learning work', with no emphasis on "experiencing past events". It's a fact that we are all constantly taking on information at levels we're not consciously aware of; just look at the effect advertising and marketing have on us at times! It doesn't matter what you consciously think happens during these sessions, what is really important is what happens afterwards, as a result of the subconscious communication and learning that took place.

This three-session format has proven through therapy feedback research to get the best results. Change can sometimes take a little time, so your practitioner will not be pressuring you for information about what you've experienced during your sessions. He or she understands that the session-work is just the very beginning of an ongoing process of subconscious change that you will experience in your own way and one that allows for continuous improvement. You will be encouraged to simply allow that to gently go ahead and let it happen, without consciously thinking too much about it. 

Many people come along to Af-x® Therapy sessions after hearing about the experiences and successful outcomes of
others. The thing to keep firmly in mind is that no two people are exactly the same. Even those that appear to have the same symptoms will have different underlying affect (feeling or emotional) causes. Therefore, every individual must be allowed to resolve their own inner conflicts within the privacy of their own emotional mind. And this needs to
be done without the conscious burden of expecting they'll have the same experience as someone else.

No two experiences of therapy are alike and no two paths to wellness are alike. This is why Af-x® outcomes can be so varied between different people. Your experience both during and after the sessions may be profound or subtle, immediate or gradual, recalled or below the level of awareness, or a combination of these. It's best to just let the process happen and wait and see, rather than putting conscious pressure on yourself to experience "something" in particular.

This is one of the reasons an Af-x® practitioner doesn't pressure you for information about how things are going during your sessions. If positive change did rely on you having to have "something" happen that you can consciously recall and explain, then therapy sessions could go on indefinitely. Research and feedback from ex-clients has shown that only three contact sessions are needed to begin an ongoing process of subconscious change and it's not necessary for anything in particular to be consciously experienced during those sessions for that to occur.

Sometimes it is the very people who think that "nothing" happened during their sessions that are the most surprised by their success over time and the positive changes they make to the way they feel and respond. Other people ask if they will have to re-do their sessions if other problems arise in the future? The answer to this question is no.

The Af-x® sessions help you learn how to unconsciously reassess your earliest experiences and how suitable the affect responses you developed from them are now. This process only needs to be learned once. It can be a complex task dealing with well-entrenched patterns you've been repeating for years. But as you are doing this work and changing at a deep affect level, it has an ongoing effect into how you feel about yourself, all areas of your life and
your past. This work is a way of dealing with your surface symptoms by permanently resolving the cause.

The nature of subconscious change, how it is experienced and how long it takes very much depends on the individual and the complexities of their own emotional matrix (how they learned to unconsciously respond to things at an emotional level).

"We have not inherited the Earth from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children." - From "The Truth" (a novel) by Peter James

Copyright © 2009, Ian White

You can contact Ian White on 61+2+4571 3902 or email at afxwhite@bigpond.net.au

Or visit his website at: www.emotionsinbalance.com/


Brief testimonial re:
Ian White's Clinical Affectology teaching program conducted in Athens, Greece
October 2008-February 2009

General comment:

Ian White's work is a pioneering, new and radical approach to therapy that circumvents over-complex and often unnecessary analysis and therapeutic contortions and goes directly and effectively and, at the same time, gently and respectfully, to the crux of what has been creating serious problems to the human race - individually and collectively - in the last 2 or 3  thousand years. Many have tried over the centuries, some almost did it, but White is the one who has eventually cut the Gordian knot.

He possesses vast scientific knowledge of affective neuroscience and has developed a revolutionary therapy approach that is informed by that solid scientific basis.

As always happens with pioneers, he has laid strong foundations, providing a powerful and indisputable rationale and, thus, he has paved the way to what I sincerely hope will be a refreshing and long-awaited sea change to psychotherapy. White's Clinical Affectology provides professionals, and by extension, the public, with a long-awaited quantum leap into a therapeutic realm that respects human affect sub-personality and provides outcome oriented answers not previously seen in mainstream therapy.

It is inevitable that through White's work, other techniques and methods will be seen under a different light and certain of their elements used, in conjunction with his methods or elements thereof, in new and creative ways to develop new powerful techniques and methods that are flexible enough to fit like a glove, every individual's uniqueness.

New methods and techniques that are built on the foundations of Ian White's Clinical Affectology maintain the original goals and philosophy of - and are informed by - his original work, both conceptual and practically oriented. White remains forever the pioneer, the prime source and the inspirator, and as such he has my deepest respect and appreciation.

Athens Teaching Program (C.A.) 2008-09:

During his Clinical Affectology course conducted at the Academy of Psychotherapy and Counseling here in Athens, White developed and taught his course to 20 practicing psychologists over the space of four months - part time. My own longtime positive opinion of the importance of his work was steadfastly reinforced by every student and professional who attended the course, and most have gone forward to include Clinical Affectology as an important and highly successful aspect of their practice.

As for his acquittal of his brief as visiting lecturer/trainer, he was found to be thorough yet not complex, personable yet highly professional in approach, challenging yet not argumentive, and devoted to a quality delivery of the course/program that he has developed for psychotherapists, both practicing and students alike.

It is my opinion that every School or Academy teaching psychotherapy would do well to consider an inclusion of White's specialized work as part of the curriculum for the development of well-rounded, contemporary graduates.

Not only do I have no hesitation in recommending Ian White, his work and his teaching program to any school, but I am adamant that his Clinical Affectology has potential to change the face of psychotherapy, and should not go unconsidered.

I will have no hesitation in supplying more details related to White's course and its progress at this Academy (and further outcomes) should they be required.

Yours faithfully,

Iannos Dovelos PhD
Academy of Psychotherapy
and Counseling




Working in a profession that has a lot to do with sensitive emotional issues, and being an active member of a motorcycle club is not a conflict of ideas for Af-x Practitioner, Ian White. He says there's no paradox there, because, as much as they might like to deny it - bury and suppress it - the "real men" of that club, and the scores of policemen, firemen and builders he's worked with, have feelings too!

White jokes that "being an affectologist let loose in a world full of people feels a bit like being Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank." He smiles and sounds flippant, but he's serious about that and says that men in our society are starting to pay dearly for their perceptions that they "can't have emotions. Stand firm. Never give up!"

He says that Dracula knew that everybody has blood coursing through his or her veins, but he lived in a time when not everybody knew that for certain - or, at least, how important it was. Today's affectologist knows that we are all driven by deep - if not invisible - feelings and emotions, but lives in a time when not everybody accepts the importance of that; especially many males in our society.

White talks about Goleman spending his life and career researching 'emotional intelligence.' Damasio spends his life and career researching the effect that feelings have on people - all people! Susan Greenfield researches the 'Secret Life of the Brain;' - emotion, in other words. And long is the list of bestselling books and well-researched papers that support that. These people are not new-age gurus sitting in caves in the Himalayas. They are professors and established neurobiologists and affective neuroscientists devoted to the fact that we are all influenced to lesser and greater degrees by our emotions and feelings - both obvious and hidden. White is one of the new breed of professionals openly talking about the need for recognition and acknowledgement of our 'feeling selves' in the whole range of health, whether mental, physical, behavioural or attitudinal.

White quips that we all know it's not a blokey thing to talk about emotions and feelings - but, men have feelings, too. "Nobody gave men permission to leave the human race. I know that there are a growing number of books that talk about men being from Mars, and women being from Venus, proposing that we're not emotionally and genetically made the same. And those books sell a lot of copies while we all try to figure out why the emotional structure of men and women seems so different. But, at a fundamental level, it's not," he says.

Research has shown that there may in fact be small differences in brain structure between males and females, but certainly those differences are not enough to explain the vast diversity in the way that we as adults view our world, especially our emotional landscape. We know that we all basically, whether male or female, have started our journey in life in identical ways in which we learn emotional responses, and those learnings go to creating our fundamental 'feeling structure' - our recognition of 'who and how' we are in life.

So, what is it that creates such a later-life difference? Psychology has always talked about theories such as operant conditioning, learned conditioning and the like, but the way that men seem to proceed into later life is reliant on what's observed from a simple perspective in early formative years. The messages that boys get are "don't show your feelings;" "be tough;" "don't be a sissy." And these early life 'musts' are very powerful and important to the way that we grow into adults, says White. Boys don't even have to be told these things in words; they merely have to observe the manner in which their fathers deal with their lives, stressed or not. As youngsters, boys don't make rational decisions as to whether their fathers' or older brothers' manner of conduct makes sense or not, they simply adopt those facades as 'the way men are.'

But even that veneer of toughness and resistance against showing emotion is something that's learned on an emotional or feeling level. Ian White courageously says that that feeling is fear, or something like it:- fear of not fitting into our perception of what a 'man' is; not being accepted in our society's 'male warrior and provider' landscape.

To make a comparison between male and female styles of emotional management, we could use the example of a male balloon and a female balloon. The female balloon cries, talks about her emotional states, and in so doing, regularly lets air out of the balloon, constantly self-managing; inflating, then deflating. But the male balloon keeps filling up, not letting air out of its neck - a metaphor for dealing with emotional stress - then it keeps inflating until the inevitable happens, and it bursts. And with many males, this can result in excessive anger, drinking binges and unfortunate episodes of violence, not to mention some fairly serious sickness issues.

All this may be obvious, or at least understandable, but White says that in his work, he's concerned the most about those more subtle levels of emotional stress that men seem to experience in modern life. Because the health of human beings - all of us! - is subject to our deeper feelings and emotions, research has shown that blokes are much more likely to contract diseases and conditions like ulcers, stress-related neurological problems, immune conditions like influenza than are women. And as for the issue of depression; women are three times more likely to deal with depressive problems than are their male counterparts for the simple reason that women allow themselves to remember past depression episodes and seek help, while men (because they generally don't want to admit it to themselves) tend to forget past experiences of depression and rate a present experience as a one-off episode. But it builds and builds. A study in all regions of Australia showed that compared with women, men's suicide rate is 'astronomical.' We've all heard the expression of 'bottling up your feelings.' Blokes are good at that, and just because those feelings are not eagerly expressed doesn't mean that they're not doing damage.

The research in White's work has shown that when depressed, or otherwise emotionally confused, women were likely to engage in self-consoling behaviour like over-eating and spending money on themselves. Men coped by being reckless and taking risks, such as drinking and driving fast. But these things don't signify a fundamental difference between the sexes; it is more likely to be the result of men not being conditioned to allow themselves to express their emotional and feeling states in non-aggressive ways. Men have feelings, too, they just express those feelings in different ways, and they often don't recognise those behaviours as being the result of emotion.

In our modern life, males are undergoing great changes. More expectations are placed on them, more pressures to perform, more hours to work to pay the mortgage and more puzzles about our fundamental place in the tribal scheme of things; a tribal scheme that no longer exists. The bottom line is that men are more stressed and confused today than at any other time in history. Demands are great, yet, men are not allowed to show anything other than strength and a certain air of confidence. "It's a mask," says White.

In his work as an affectologist, here and overseas, Ian has seen many men who have been puzzled about their own feelings and low-level emotions that they say they "can't really put their finger on, but there's something going on." The good thing is that many are now wanting to do something about their feelings about their lives and themselves in preference to drowning those emotions at the pub or club. Or worse. Finding out more about these issues is as easy as going to the website www.EmotionsInBalance.com

Firemen, policemen, accountants, doctors; mechanics, bankers, teachers, footballers and bikers all have feelings. Some acknowledge that, others don't. But it's fundamental to the human condition that our health and wellbeing is directly affected by our sense of our emotional selves. Even men. In his Af-x work, clients are discouraged to do the thing that we most expect from therapy - and that is talk about our selves and our lives. Most men respond well to that privacy. If the signs are there, blokes must not be afraid to seek help, because real men have feelings too, and Af-x is the perfect solution for those who prefer to remain silent from a "talking it out" point of view.

And don't let appearances fool you. White has this year returned from a long series of training programs that he conducted in Greece, Holland and Sweden. These programs were as response to invitations from psychologists and psychiatrists in Mental Health Education programs and Psychotherapy academies who have followed the two-decade development path of his revolutionary and ground-breaking approach to the business of emotional restructuring. His "Af-x Program" now enjoys European and American recognition as the perfect choice for men in our culture.

Copyright © 2010, Ian White

Parental Intelligence