John R. McNeel, M.Div., Ph.D.

John R. McNeel, M.Div., Ph.D.

This website is named after my book, Aspiring to Kindness: Transforming Male Type A Behavior.  That book is contained on this website as an e-book and is offered to you for free in its entirety. More about that later.

There are three major sections to this website, which are separate, but ultimately interconnected as avenues all having to do with my passion for what helps us change, transform and evolve.

Section One: This is dedicated to sharing with you what I have had the opportunity to learn about Type A Behavior since meeting Dr. Meyer Friedman in 1989 and becoming part of the counseling staff of his institute at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco, CA.  There are already two best-selling books on this material, but they have aged out and are no longer in print, Type A Behavior and Your Heart and Treating Type A Behavior and Your Heart.

My book speaks for itself, and at 280 plus pages, contains just about everything I know about Type A Behavior.  It has an important counterpoint to the two books mentioned above.  The books were written by an expert in medical issues. They primarily concerned themselves with medical diagnoses.   Dr. Friedman was a cardiologist and a world-renowned medical researcher, having discovered the coronary thrombosis through his research about cholesterol. 

I am a psychologist and more tellingly, a psychotherapist.  Dr. Friedman viewed Type A Behavior as a medical diagnosis and provided convincing evidence that it alone is the major cause of coronary heart disease, a medical viewpoint much in contention in his day and to this day.  That is not my concern.  I have had the opportunity to watch the transformation of lives in multiple ways from modifying the affliction called Type A Behavior.  If I am passing along medical protection against coronary heart disease, then all is the better. 

My book espouses the benefits, personal, inter-personal and spiritual to be gained from understanding and modifying this destructive scourge.  I am a psychotherapist, not a physician.  Of course, it was Plato who indicated that there is no clear separation between a physician of the body and of the soul. 

You may wonder why this book, a labor of some number of hundreds of hours, is being offered for free.  It is a good question.  The shortest answer is that it seems like the right thing to do.  The material in my book was given to me, in large part, by Dr. Friedman and his colleagues.  They are all cited throughout the book.  It was an orgy of generosity on their part.  I wanted to do the same. 

In addition to that reason, there is also the personal one.  During dinner one evening, Dr. Friedman asked me to help keep his institute alive after he was gone.  I promised him I would.  That was actually not possible because it was a medical institution and I am not medical.  But I could write down everything I learned from him and pass that on as a psychologist with a psychotherapist’s eye.  So I did.  I hope it will be helpful and illuminating for you. 

Section Two:  Someone once said, “We get sick in relationships and we get well in relationships.”  I think I agree with that.  I certainly have had the opportunity to watch lots of people stay sick and stuck in the relationships that theoretically, at least, should be sustaining, nurturing and healing for them.  My wife Penny and I are writing a book with the working title, To Heal or Not to Heal: Love’s Better Direction in the Emotional World. 

That title has two important concepts in it, the word, “Heal,” and the phrase, “Emotional World.”  In our book, we describe what we call “The Emotional World,” as being separate from what we call “The Survival World” and “The Practical World. We use these phrases to distinguish between the three “Worlds” we believe exist in all love relationships that are based on choice. 

We focus on the Emotional World because that is where the harm was often done when we were growing up and it is the world in which we can become healed today.  You will find lots of charts we have created to distinguish the three worlds from one another.  Properly understood, it can help you to understand some new things, the most important being that the words, voice tone, actions and manners that satisfy one world will not be sufficient in another.  There is a very long chart enclosed listing out the differences in the three worlds.

The word, “Heal” is key because we believe that the highest function of love relationships to be that of healing.  Relationships come in three kinds:  Healing, Limp-Along, and Destructive.  No matter how much you desire it, it is difficult to form a healing relationship if you were born and raised in the bowels of a destructive one.  However, it is possible to evolve into healing relationships with the proper desire, guidance, and information. 

We have provided a chart showing the characteristics of each type of relationship from many different aspects.  Using this information, you can find your own set point, your starting point in relationships as it was taught to you by your own parental figures.  It is vital to know your set point so you know your starting place.  It is also vital to that of your partner and your friends.  Healing occurs as we progress in the direction of healing as we discard the destructive and move through the limp-along.

As we are writing our book, To Heal or Not to Heal, we will include the rough draft of it in this section.  The beginning is already included and this will be updated as more is written. 

Section Three:  All of my early training was in Transactional Analysis (T.A.) and Gestalt Therapy, particularly in a school of T.A. known as Redecision Therapy.  In 1970 I picked up everything I owned, put it in a U-Haul trailer and drove from West Virginia to California to train with Bob and Mary Goulding, the creators of the redecision method.  I not only trained with them, but with Bob’s encouragement I went back to school and received my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.  I then became part of the teaching faculty of their Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy in Watsonville, CA. 

Among other things this section contains the chapters I have written in chronological order about my history and training with them.  From my vantage point, I was witness to their private lives as well as to their brilliant teaching and therapy.  I got to see their genius and their vulnerability, Mary’s successful battle with smoking and alcohol and Bob’s defeat by both of them. 

This section contains my writings about redecision therapy and more specifically my own original thinking about their concept of Injunctive Messages received in early life.  In my articles, I explain both my reverence for their teaching and my own departure from some of their theoretical and clinical beliefs.  I believe a central goal of all psychotherapy is to free individuals from the hold of the beliefs made in response to early injunctive messages.  I believe this is true whether that specific language is used or not.  This section contains a five-page chart listing out all twenty-five identified Injunctive Messages (IMs) and the responses to each.

Bob and Mary taught a style of therapy that sought to help a patient to relive a key scene in their lives, feel their original decision in response to an IM and then in real time make a new decision in response to that IM and the people giving it.  There is an article enclosed from the Transactional Analysis Journal in which I describe the extensive research I conducted for my dissertation on one of their workshops, in which they employed this style of psychotherapy.

As I describe in another enclosed article, I came to see redecision therapy following a different path in order to be successful.  This article was published in a slightly different form in a book edited by Dr. Richard Erskine in 2016, Transactional Analysis in Contemporary Psychotherapy.

For most people, the five-page chart is of immediate interest.  There are five major areas of human life that are affected by IMs: Survival (whether is ok for me to be here), Attachment (whether I am able to form and maintain intimate relationships), Identity (whether I get to enjoy who I am), Competence (whether I am able to define success and feel it) and Security (whether I am able to create a philosophy of life that allows for uncertainly, joy and suffering).

In these charts you will be able to track the effects of each IM from the despairing and defiant decisions to the coping behavior that is created by them.  Then, there is the process of redecision which is really the process of replacing old beliefs with new healthy ones and practicing behaviors that mimic health.  It is also vital to change the voices in our heads and that is included in the chart too. 

I hope you will enjoy the offerings of this website, both by agreeing and disagreeing with what is contained.  There is an overriding desire to seek truth, as well as beauty and love.  There is an abiding belief that our evolution is possible and that all of us have the right to learn what will set us free, give us free choice and allow us to move in the direction of healing if we so choose.  I look forward to our interactions.