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Royston, R. (1995). How Humans Relate: A New Interpersonal Theory by John Birtchnell. Published by Praeger, 1994;. Brit. J. Psychother., 11(4):637-638.

(1995). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 11(4):637-638

How Humans Relate: A New Interpersonal Theory by John Birtchnell. Published by Praeger, 1994;

Review by:
Robert Royston

Coming from a totally different direction to psychodynamic psychology and psychoanalysis, John Birtchnell offers a new theory of relating. His approach and way of thinking are made startlingly clear from the start. Newton, he writes, did not discover gravity, which was always there; he simply drew attention to it, pointing out that there is a pull between the earth and the falling apple. So he, Dr Birtchnell, approaches another universal phenomenon, relating; in a similar manner, he draws attention to a previously unattended phenomenon and introduces a new theory to explain its laws.

So we have, out there, an entity, a fact of nature if you like, and, over here, an observer who notices it, suddenly becomes curious and then begins to observe and construct a theory about the abstract and universal laws that govern it. Relating becomes a thing. He talks about situations in which there is a scarcity of relating. Relating is in short supply. In this cognitive vocabulary relating is not the outcome of the individual will operating with a personal purpose, but is a substance like food.

This approach leads to passages where one feels that what is being described is obvious but also, curiously, that the description is not entirely human. ‘One person has the capacity to give a particular state of relatedness to another or take a state of relatedness away from her/him. A person may choose to be friends with another or may chose to break off that friendship. Equally, a person may have a state of relationship given to her/him or taken away from her/him.

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