Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Response to a young person overwhelmed.

Thanks for writing Laura. I wonder what are the delusions that would disappear when we are enlightened? Is it this paradox of everything being perfect as it is, and yet us feeling constantly dissatisfied with the way it is? I don't think that is going to change. We get a moment of delight when we see a possibility and then drop back into the gloom again.

There is a process going on that we cannot see. We have to learn to trust it. Every little thing is given to us for our benefit, to bring us to some greater realisation. It doesn't make any sense at the time, and it is never easy, even if it looks that way on the outside.

We have to get into the habit of appreciating what we have, the little moments, a breath, walking out after the rain. The issues we face are so big and out of control, as you say, when we begin to appreciate what we have, (rather than constantly hankering after what we don't have, which is the mindset engendered by a capitalist society) we will be able to think creatively about them, rather than be overwhelmed by them. So begin with the little things, the beauty of a flower, the sound of a bird. Find time to look at the sky or the stars. Come back to yourself during the day and breathe. Even if it's only when you are sitting on the toilet!  Lots of love Anna xx

Monday, 4 September 2017

Kindness and Activism

I found this article, 'Kindness and Activism', inspiring. I posted a comment, see below:

A lot of sense in this article, especially spelling out what it means to have a genuinely inclusive movement, that replaces antagonism with compassion, while maintaining the right to feel anger.

However, there are too many 'musts'. These processes cannot be predefined. I'm not sure what history can teach us since this is a totally new situation. And talking about holding political candidates to account sounds too much like tinkering with the same old system.

What binds us is kindness. Other than that we cannot know what we will need. I am in UK. Of course this needs to be international, so can't be based on a political party. What practical steps can we take to start this movement?

It is time for all the many organisations, communities, and individuals that are seeing the necessity for a change in ourselves and in the way we live, to link up together under one banner. Not to minimise the differences in approach and in details needed in different regions, and by different cultures. But by emphasising the common factors, to build a mass movement which can put pressure where it counts.

I am already making a list of organisations and individuals to approach, while admitting I am way out of my depth. But we have to start somewhere. I would like to take from your article all that will apply internationally, leaving out the specifics to do with the US. Are you in?

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Healthy Birth, Healthy Earth

Healthy Birth, Healthy Earth!1

New research from Neurobiologist Darcia Narvaez - Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality2 - reveals that birthing and infant rearing practices which we regard as normal may be a root cause of mental health illness in later life, contributing to reactions of destructive violence and aggression. The emphasis on competition in our culture contrasts with the cooperation which infuses and predominates in the natural world, and with 99.9% of human social history. In leaving that collaboration behind, we may have also left behind child rearing practices which maintained healthy humans who respected each other and the planet.

The institution of the nuclear family or monogamy is comparatively recent. For most of human existence, people lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers (SBHG) with very different culture and values. Studies of contemporary SBHG's, quoted in the book, show generosity, sharing, egalitarianism, living cooperatively and strikingly little aggression. Sharing child care means that babies are in constant contact with carers, their needs met almost instantaneously. Not that we need to turn the clock back and live as small band hunter gatherers, but perhaps we can learn from them.

Generally not much attention has been paid to the experience for the baby at or immediately after birth. As a rule we have little access to memories of our birth or infancy till we reach the age of about 2. Our early personal experience is lost in the mists of time. But intuitive attempts by psychoanalysts to connect with those early experiences are now supported by evidence from neurobiology.  Those first minutes, hours or weeks of life are crucial in determining our later capacity to cope with loss or trauma. If we are not given the care we need, it can affect our neurobiological development, particularly the vagus nerve, which is central to proper functioning. Darcia Narvaez cites seven conditions for a satisfactory birth and infancy, which if fostered in our own culture could increase mental health and decrease aggressive tendencies and polarity thinking stemming from lack of connection to self, other, and nature.

a) soothing perinatal experiences; b) responsiveness to the needs of the infant and prevention of distress; c) extensive touch and physical presence; d) extensive infant initiated breastfeeding; e) a community of warm, responsive caregivers; f) a positive climate and social support; and g) creative free play with companions of multiple ages.

How many of us received the loving warmth with skin contact that could help us feel safe in those first few hours? Quite probably many of us were left as babies to cry ourselves to sleep, and consequently we may tend to discount the screams of young babies as "exercising their lungs", to hide the discomfort it arouses. It is not hard to imagine what that must have felt like, the stress that it caused to both mother and baby.

In the clinical treatment of children and adults, psychoanalytic theory posits an early experience of 'falling apart', the 'nameless dread', terror of the unknown which occurs at a time when the helpless infant has little resources to cope with experiences of being left alone in a world that does not respond to its cries. These experiences may initially be suppressed using splitting as a way to hold on to the good, and separate out bad experiences as the infant tries to protect itself. This 'schizoid mechanism' is described in Melanie Klein's Envy and Gratitude3, as a necessary polarisation, helpful in maintaining good internal figures, until the infant is ready to see good and bad as co-existing in one relationship (the depressive position op cit.) Early trauma or stress can delay this natural urge towards integration of the whole, until later life, when these feelings may begin to break through into consciousness as anxiety or manic depressive episodes. At any rate, there comes a time later in life, when it seems we have to reintegrate these expelled parts of ourselves, reclaim lost pieces, welcoming back those characteristics we would rather see in other people than in ourselves. This seems also to be the nature of the maturational need of humanity at this time.

For me in my 50s after a relationship breakup, I became trapped in a deep dark hole with no way out, which lasted for about 6 months, before I was able to face the unwanted feelings and reclaim them as mine, becoming in the process a richer, more whole person. Fortunately my sister allowed me to sit in her garden while this process worked itself out. Not many have such support. The key to unlocking that causal chain, described by Alice Miller -The Truth Will Set You Free4- is to get in touch with those feelings which were stored in mind and body at the time when we had then no resources to deal with them.

The resistance to depressive feelings, aided by a whole range of pharmaceuticals recommended by the medical profession, can delay the recovery of early feelings of helpless terror and rage, which instead get played out towards the 'other', re-enacting the polarisation, previously useful, which now sees strangers as enemies with whom it is impossible to communicate, justifying the need for bigger and more powerful bombs to keep us safe.

In order to heal our world we need to heal our own infancy, and rediscover the connections to our most basic needs for comfort and security, organising our communities in ways that provide the support that mothers and families need, to relax and be with their young child during the time when foundations for adult life are being constructed in body and brain. Welcoming newborns into the world  requires a collaborative society, which shares childcare, and supports early experiences in a harmonious environment.


1- Healthy Birth, Healthy Earth - title taken from a 2016 Findhorn Conference,  Videos available -

2- Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality, evolution, culture, and wisdom. Darcia Narvaez 2014

3- Envy and Gratitude. Melanie Klein. 1957

4- The Truth Will Set You Free. Alice Miller 2001 Elena Tonetti

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Talk with Dalai Lama about Reinventing Organisations

Iceland crowd-sourced a new constitution

In 2012, by a 2/3ds vote, the Icelandic people told its parliament to enact a constitution "based on" a constitution a citizen council had drafted. Four years later, they have done nothing. Help us show the politicians who they work for.

Iceland crowd sources a new constitution

'Constitutionalising does not stop after a certain point, but ought to continue as a fundamental part of social and political activity.'

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Profound wisdom concerning the grief journey we all must take to reach our essential joy.

In this week’s episode, Carolyn Baker speaks with Joanna about: understanding the context of the latest American election; Standing Rock, example of sacred activism; inner and outer activism; the safe circle; the five gates of grief; return to radical joy; the shadow magnet of our time; reconnection is a two-way street; we must resist the possibility of a 21st century fascism; the way of developing resilience

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Alice Miller and Darcia Narvaez

I would like to recommend the books of Alice Miller, a German psychotherapist, which opened my eyes to a deeper level of understanding than I had received in training as a child psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic, London. By opening up to her childhood feelings, Alice was able to identify 'the true origin of the vein of ferocity which runs through human relationships everywhere'. The methods recommended by paediatricians to impose obedience and firm discipline on young babies up until recently, are revealed as cruel and damaging to helpless infants. Darcia Narvaez, in her book, Neurobiology and the development of Morality, has shown in detail how the true needs of the child, when not met by parents or carers, eg when a baby is left to cry themselves to sleep, a very common practice, can damage the development of the child and produce anxiety and depression later in life.