“Mental Illness” and medical students with Anxiety/Depression

So today I heard on the radio that 3 point something percent of medical students are suffering from a severe form or mental illness, which was described as anxiety or depression. A brave young doctor spoke out about her own experience. You can find the information here .

What I want to say about this is simple, and I believe vital.

That we regard “anxiety/depression” as “mental illness” is part of the problem.

Continue reading “Mental Illness” and medical students with Anxiety/Depression

Gathering of Kindness

I’ve just returned from the amazing Gathering of Kindness. Thanks so much Mary Freer, Catherine Crock, countless volunteers and countless contributors who gave so generously in so many ways!

I’ve just opened a secret message in my lanyard pouch too.. “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees” -Amelia Earhart.  Thanks heaps Michelle Phillips… your acts of kindness are many!

I’m writing this as a tribute to a fresh community of people who managed to spend an amazing two days together and share so much warmth, generosity, compassion, kindness and love. Mary, your enacting of “trusting” was amazing.

I am thankful for the gift from Rochelle, a Yorta Yorta elder who said to me at one point “Too much opinion!” This was an incredible gift as it encompassed, in three words, a personal struggle I have. What is this blog for example if it’s not “too much opinion?” and how do I rectify that? How much is “too little opinion?” and how can I do “kind opining” whatever that is?

The Gathering of Kindness- So many different experiences brought together! How do we meet and minimalise the effects of accidental practices of invisibling, overentitlement, opining and all those things common to Western Culture?

Thanks to Kate and others who sat silently,  gently modelling of acts of patience, forgiveness, silent deep appreciative listening and humility in spite of the possible or real disempowerment performed by those of us with “entitlement to speak”. I’d love to have sharing of “what kindness is to me” at the next gathering, perhaps with a “deep listening” session. I wish I had been more silent and observant of kindness in action, but I spent a lot of time in relationship with enthusiasm, distracted from communing with and learning from the wise. But I did my best to align my goodwill with my actions.

I was amazed by the lack of conflict, or even when there was dissent, the respect demonstrated by those present when dissent appeared. I was surprised by my own reactions to the rare statements that unintentionally risked “othering”- diagnosing or labelling others, or trivialising their experiences.

Examples were Captain Cook’s “kindness” which when pointed out, was thankfully acknowledged apologetically by the speaker (Billy) as not representative perhaps of indigenous experience of said Captain. How many times have I chosen an example with less than universal appeal when illustrating a point? When we talk about kindness, how can we better consider “to whom” and at whose expense?

I also struggled with the relationship between silence and politeness with kindness. See “Angry rebels are more compassionate than nice people”   for an exploration of this issue- (thanks Gnat Atherden for bringing it to my attention). It has me still questioning “when is it kinder to be silent, and when is it kinder to speak out?”

I was also challenged by the idea that “some people are programmed with a relative incapacity for kindness”, not because I don’t believe it to some extent, but because, (to paraphrase Michael White),  I haven’t found it to be a particularly useful thought from which to proceed. If I believe low -kindness is predetermined, and this deterministic thought diminishes my hope for change of that individual, then how does that not limit my options for interacting with him or her? I prefer the hopeful commitment; “I will learn from this person, engage responsibly and find areas where kindness can be encouraged and nurtured”, relegating “kindness is preset” to the background

And what of the thought-

“because I’m well intentioned and reflective, my acts will be intrinsically kind, as long as I’m in touch with my intentions and I’m reflective, before I act”.

How do I reintegrate the truths in this when this belief didn’t work consistently well enough for me in the past? When my “kind acts” weren’t experienced as such, I integrated “to check on one’s actions is essential” How can I seek feedback from the recipient without it being seen as a conditional act of “self gratification”? Maybe I’m too attached to the checking and I need to dust off “good intentions guarantee the actions” a bit!

Sorry too, Billy, that I failed to empathise with your enthusiasm about mirror neurons because I was unkindly judging this as “science colonising ancient knowledges”!  How dare I use deconstructionism in such an unkind way! As a consequence I ironically missed this opportunity for the warm/fuzzy/oxytocin laden experience of mirroring Billy’s enthusiasm. To miss this was a no-no for me at a Kindness Gathering!

The whole weekend was so positive and kind, it overshadowed these challenges with the hugeness of experience of connectedness, common goals, we-ness, commitment, love, and authentic generosity. This was/is a very special gathering, and in its steadfastness to propagate, I’m sure the inspiration, thoughts, hopes and commitments it has created will infectiously grow in most (dare I say all?) who attended.

It really was kindness in action. I was “elevated to tears” by Rachelle’s gift to Cathy Crock, moved profoundly by Munjed and I was silently appreciative of the love in action by so many people. Mary Freer and Cathy Crock, thankyou so much for starting this! In loving appreciation of all “kindness vectors” (OMG that seems a bit like “velociraptors”!), Thankyou!


A model of apology- 6 steps.

I wrote this piece about apology many years ago for several friends/acquaintances whose relationships had ended precipitously. While they were male, I don’t necessarily think this is a gendered issue. I’ve toned it down a bit as my original was really preachy!

Dear mystified male,

If you feel misunderstood by and rejected by your ex-wife, your children, or your former friends who have either drifted away, or suddenly and dramatically rejected you, this might be for you. Maybe, none of it was your fault! What if the FAULT THING is a distraction; a huge distraction to prevent you from doing something positive about your plight? Continue reading A model of apology- 6 steps.

Abbott in favour of same sex marriage?

Says Tony on Friday-

“While there is a little difference between the legalities …..  there’s no difference in the morality”


Oh, wait.. he was talking about bombing over the border in Syria. Something that’s illegal under international law.

So we can’t override the law with a moral argument when it’s about love between people but we can to justify acts of lethal violence!


Leadership, entitlement, bullying, homophobia and racism

I think we have a problem, and it’s “leadership”, and I think it can have toxic results unless we are very careful with the concept.

Leadership is only harmonious if everyone agrees, which is rare. Usually there is reluctant compliance from “followers”.

This means dissent must be over-ruled, no matter how small or large, if you believe that non-compliance is a threat to your authority as a leader. Power over-rides respect for different values.

Which means you might have to make a captain’s call. Tony Abbott did this over same sex marriage. He said “I am the leader, I had to make a call, and I think this is the best call” (Top marks for self-referentiality!)

There is an alternative view, but when you have a strong lashing of entitlement it wouldn’t be front and centre. It is “I am the leader. My job is to empower, negotiate, reconcile and synthesise. If this isn’t possible I must honor and respect different positions and advocate for one voice-one vote. That is my duty”

Entitlement to make a call in the face of widespread opposition is similar to the booing of Adam Goodes. “We can boo anybody we like, for whatever reason and reserve the right to boo even when it has become symbolic of racism”

The problem here, I think is similar. Sense of entitlement over-rides our societal duty to each other to  minimise harm, maximise goodwill and move as much as possible from

intolerance (“you are other and you cause me fear, disdain or disgust”)


tolerance (you are other and despite negative feelings you may live alongside me if your impact is minimal)


appreciation-despite-not-understanding. (you bring a lot to our society. I don’t feel negative but I just don’t get you)

The latter state is a step towards

appreciation of difference. (thanks Michael White*)

“You and I are same and other. Your thoughts, beliefs, culture are amazing. Let’s work together to bridge difference and foster goodwill, and societal benefit”

Something Tony has occasionally mouthed, but rarely enacts. His captain’s call from entitlement is hurting same-sex lovers and de-values his colleagues considerations and heart-felt positions, and his call on climate change is hurting the world.

Oh, and bullying? Yep it’s integrated in the process.

Fortunately connectivity in the modern world enables an alternative conversation and collectively we make small steps despite patriarchal restraints.

And (cynically), fortunately the progressive corporate take-over of government (see our TransPacific Partnership ‘agreement’ push) seems to be empowering us to think outside  leadership structures.

* Practice notes: Couple therapy” “Urgency for sameness” or “Appreciation of difference” Michael White

Healthy food. Trying to reach the stars, but ending up with heads in the clouds.

Here’s a cloud. It has little to do with this post.

No, I refuse to rave on about how bad are our current dietary guidelines or the government’s Health Star Rating fiasco. No I won’t rave. David Gillespie has done the raving for me here (thankyou David) Continue reading Healthy food. Trying to reach the stars, but ending up with heads in the clouds.

Transition through the middle place

Prompted by witnessing a person in the education world flip between “our students are adult learners- it’s their fault if they can’t organise their education schedule” to “don’t burden the poor little things with too many resources- we have to stage their education in developmental steps” I found myself thinking about what construction might lie between these two extremes. What is the middle place? And how quickly do we transition through it without noticing? Continue reading Transition through the middle place

Empathy: Dutton, Abbott, Brandis, Hockey, Triggs and Nasir

I’m moved to write after reading and hearing so much about the Rohingya refugees.

So here we are, caught with leaders so lacking in demonstrating empathic skills that they are self righteously exhibiting their views without much of an inkling of how they are being perceived as “out of touch” or downright cruel. I’m sure they feel really misunderstood.

Unfortunately, I believe they have a responsibility to shed their experience of being victimised and to act both compassionately and in the interests of Australia. The possibility that both can be achieved simultaneously seems to elude them – Continue reading Empathy: Dutton, Abbott, Brandis, Hockey, Triggs and Nasir

Empowerment. Two disparate views. (published despite my dislike of dichotomies)

View 1. Some people have more power than others. Some have privilege and are blind to the fact that fate has dealt them a good hand, and others not so good. Empowerment is more the responsibility of the blessed who are in a good position to advocate for those who have less ability to do so. Let’s call this responsibility.

View 2. It’s all to do with choices and perception of choice. Disempowered people have more power than they realise. We can assist them to embrace their power, but we shouldn’t give handouts, as this will impede their empowerment. Let’s call this “blame the victim”.

I just saw red when I clicked on this link in from a mailing list I get sent to me. Empowerment. It’s from a chartered psychologist in the UK called Peter Honey.  It outraged me and took me a while to calm down. It’s worth a read to see how cruel some ideas can be. I’m not criticising his intentions here, just wondering whether he has critically examined his assumptions, which I would say aren’t particularly uncommon. The harm I believe can be more when such views are delivered by a “guru” as I saw him described on the web. It’s no wonder the disempowered often end up anxious or depressed after they encounter these oppressive views.

While this view has a tiny bit of merit in some circumstances (I think there are some people whose survival skills fuel their disempowerment and it becomes hard to break the cycle), I believe it does so much harm. You see the effects of pushing this as a truth in the news on a regular basis. Only today in Ballarat were victims of past child abuse pointing out to the Church that supporting George Pell in preference to advocating for them was making them feel blamed for the consequences of the abuse. Why not take this assertion at face value?

I believe we need to really question some constructions of “empowerment” and its compatriots, for example “resilience”. There are some people who have been so oppressed that they become “doppressed” and their lack of resilience is because of the ongoing and persistent labelling (“not taking responsibility” for example.) Let’s not blame them for their suffering.


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And here’s a nice view from today as I walked the dog. Aware of my privilege to be able to do so.