I hope this finds you well – even thriving.
Apologies for the long gap between musings – I’ve been busily engaged in a number of projects.
One of these projects has been to become qualified as an iheart facilitator – the curriculum being taken into schools to help young people reconnect with their innate wellbeing and resilience. The course is having a tremendously positive impact on 10 – 18 year olds in the UK and around the world. https://www.iheartprinciples.com/
Read more here https://www.iheartprinciples.com/impact/#latest-reports about the impact the curriculum is having in over 400 schools.
Yes folks, contrary to popular public opinion, wellbeing and resilience are innate to all human beings – although sometimes it can absolutely feel like it’s covered up.
I’ve become so very tired of hearing ‘experts’ invited on various media to talk about how the pandemic and the lockdowns are ‘causing’ an epidemic of mental health issues.
iheart are offering a fantastic free one-day conference on 1 March – and you are warmly invited. It’s called “Unlocking Resilience: Your Psychological Vaccine”. You can register here: https://www.iheartprinciples.com/
Feelings are a perfectly natural part of the human experience.
Feelings don’t need to be medicalised or pathologized.
But this is what we have done as a society over the last couple of decades. I am not trivialising the distress people sometimes feel – that is real (I spend the majority of my time working to support people who are suffering)
Anti-depressant prescriptions in the UK have increased from around 9 million in the 1990’s to 65 million in 2016 – without any convincing improvement in mental wellbeing.
There are many academics now who are challenging this ‘medicalisation’.
Eminent Harvard Psychologist Jerome Kagan deplores the explosion in diagnostic disorders, and our tendency to conceptualise normal human suffering as disease in his book “Psychology’s Ghosts: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back”
I recently finished reading “Cracked” by James Davies. A psychiatrist himself, Davies takes a mind-boggling wander back through the last few decades, and shows convincingly how we got into the mess we’re in. A profoundly disturbing look at a profession that seems to be in thrall to Big Pharma. This is an important book for anyone who has an interest in mental health.’
Another highlight for me last year was Marilyn Bowman’s book called “Individual Differences in Post-Traumatic Stress Response”, summarising her comprehensive research into PTSD.
This book challenges the assumptions of the event-dominated DSM model of posttraumatic stress disorder. Bowman reviews the empirical literature, and finds (wait for it)… that post-traumatic stress is not caused by the traumatic event. It is, rather, a reflection of the meaning and narrative the individual has created about the traumatic event. In other words, thought. And the degree to which the person was in touch with their own resilience prior to the ‘traumatic event’.
She also reports that all the so-called evidence about PTSD was assembled by studying those people who experienced it, and excluded all the people who experienced a ‘traumatic event’ and yet were not ‘traumatized’. This is known as ‘availability bias’.
By the way, both James Davies and Marilyn Bowman are keynote speakers at the iheart Conference I mentioned earlier.
When we construe normal feelings as an illness, we encourage people to think of themselves as disordered, broken or un-whole in some way. Our inner landscape can become stuck on this narrative, and see themselves as victims.
By no means am I suggesting that we go back to the days when people felt shame, or stigma, in reaching out for support.
But we do seem to have created a society where we ought not to be expected to tolerate distress or discomfort. We have come to the point where we believe that emotional disquiet will cause harm, that we ought to be soothed and tranquil at all times. In fact, there is much evidence to support the opposite idea – that children raised by parents who normalise challenging experiences suffer from less anxiety, not more.
Much mental suffering results from being stuck in a story about ourselves. In my view, the mainstream mental health profession risks reifying and reinforcing this story. What’s needed instead is to help people to shift perspective, and transcend the narrow, ego-based experience of ourselves.
So many of my clients show up for their first session with me by listing their various diagnoses.
The sad thing is we’re doing this to our children too. Watch this inspiring video called “Childhood is not a Mental Disorder”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv49RFo1ckQ
When life’s problems are addressed only from within the impoverished terms set out by this medicalised approach to distress, difficulties can become concretized. This overly concrete attitude toward our inner life creates petrification – as in a fairy tale, things harden and turn to stone.
Those of us working with people ought not to communicate how fragile we believe people are. We ought to be in the business of helping people to see themselves as innately whole and psychologically resilient.
So, you probably don’t have a disorder – but you do have feelings. Feelings are transient by nature, and you are strong enough to navigate them all – even the unpleasant or uncomfortable ones.
I’d love to know your thoughts about all this.
Atopos is a Greek word, meaning “out of place”.
This describes perfectly my experience of life at the moment. With the exception of my husband, a few dear friends, the Deep Adaptation community and a couple of Facebook groups that I moderate, I feel completely out-of-step with the society that I live in.
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want you to wake up!
As a Three Principles facilitator, and somebody who has spent decades immersed in spiritual development, I know where my experience is coming from (thought in the moment), and I know that I (the ‘big’ I) is profoundly OK no matter what’s happening in my circumstances.
But, although I realise we are spiritual beings having a human experience, for the moment I reside in the material, physical, world-of-form.
And this world is going to shit, folks.
2020 has seen a large amount of new science being published. If you want links to these resources, e-mail me.
Even for those of us who are awake to the emergency, the conclusions from this latest science force us to go beyond our usual narratives about the planetary predicaments we face.
The challenge is by no means limited to reducing carbon emissions. There are many other, related issues – including mass species extinction, eco-system collapse (both on land and in oceans), climate-created refugees, and likely future Zoonotic virus pandemics.
That doesn’t mean we should panic, or give up. There are many things we can begin doing now that will help us to prepare and adapt.
“Fighting to turn things around” in the face of a rapidly deteriorating situation can be highly stressful and exhausting. I work with many activists and change-makers who are suffering from burnout and depression, and I’m grateful that I’m able to help them through and past that. Yet we are closer to the edge of the cliff than ever.
9 of the 15 known global climate tipping points that regulate the state of the planet have already been activated, and we are racing towards the others.
Speaking personally, as I’ve come to accept that collapse is likely, inevitable and already unfolding – I have discovered an even deeper wellspring of peace, courage, resilience, creativity and love.
I haven’t ‘given up’. I’m still totally engaged and doing meaningful work. But this is no longer, for me, about mitigation – although we need to still keep doing things so as not to make matters worse.
ADAPTATION is now just as, or even more important than MITIGATION. See my previous blog about Deep Adaptation here:
And the crises are not even limited to the planet and eco-systems.
We have political crises all over the world – have you noticed? We have an upswing in conflict and social injustice everywhere we look. Normally polite and decent people have taken to spreading hate-messages on social media. Neo-liberal capitalism gone completely bonkers. I read just the other day about a teenager who committed suicide because they couldn’t afford a particular pair of branded trainers.
It’s just not working any more, folks.
Or, at least, it’s only working for a very small minority of billionaires and elites.
(There is also good news to be found – of course there is!)
And yet, most people seem asleep to all of this.
Listen to the “Today” programme on BBC’s Radio 4, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that none of this is happening. Yes, they report on problems – this morning it was about the row over ‘A’ Level results, or the need to quickly find an effective vaccine that will save us from Covid-19. There was one brief report about extreme weather and the fact that the Arctic hit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this summer, but hardly anybody bats an eyelid. “…. and now, in Sports news….”
So, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s not that bad.
As a species, we are notoriously psychologically poor at paying much attention to issues that aren’t right in front of our face. The current pandemic is a good example of this – and we’ve all seen what can be achieved by governments and by communities when there is an obvious emergency.
Professor Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate, has observed that if you were to design a problem that the human mind is not equipped to deal with, climate change would fit the bill perfectly!
John Cook, an expert in climate change communications, uses graphics and cartoons to show how we’re psychologically hard-wired to take immediate action if we are faced with an immediate threat – like a bear running at us (or a deadly virus!) Show us a series of graphs about the future, however – even if the implications of those are catastrophic – and most people tend to look away and get on with cooking the tea.
And then if you combine that with the billions of dollars globally that have been spent on professional climate change denial by vested interests (like fossil fuel companies) over the years, it becomes even more challenging to really wake up to the facts.
So, you could be forgiven. But you’d be wrong. Most experts agree we’re going to start feeling much more severe impacts of climate change in this coming decade. Professor Jem Bendell asserts that social collapse is likely in the next 5 – 10 years. Other parts of the world are already being severely impacted of course – and climate change is already the direct cause of mass starvation, multiple refugee crises, and wars over scarce resources.
This collapse will be patchy, messy, and take different forms in different places. It won’t happen all at once, but there will be sudden, unpredictable crises that we’re nowhere near prepared for currently.
Here’s a very recent (July 2020) documentary called “Living in the Time of Dying”
You might be thinking: “Yes, but we need to protect people from this kind of bad news. Society won’t be able to handle it. Everybody will become incredibly depressed – even suicidal. There may be riots, violence, hoarding. Telling people the truth will bring on any potential collapse much sooner”.
I really do see your point. But it’s not been my experience – or the experience of the now 10,000+ people in the Positive Deep Adaptation community that I’m a part of. When people see that this emergency is close to home, and now, they’re way more motivated to do something about it.
Governments have been kicking the can down the road for 40 years about this, and carbon emissions are still rising every single year.
People often say to me “Wasn’t it great during the lockdown as pollution came down, and carbon emissions slowed, and you could hear the birds sing again”. Well yes it was.
But figures suggest the global downturn in emissions was just about 14% – during a global shut-down! Even the cautious IPCC says that we have to reduce emissions by that much again, every single year, from now on, if we are to reach our targets. No Government on Earth is willing, or able, to take the necessary dramatic action needed.
I realise this is an unpopular message. But there are things we can and should now be doing to prepare and adapt to what will be a very different way of life. If you’d like to know what these things are, drop me an e-mail.
I’ll leave you with the words of Jem Bendell, whose 2018 paper “Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Climate Tragedy” is the most downloaded academic paper of all time. The paper has been downloaded more than a million times, and has been translated into more than 10 languages. He’s just published an update in July 2020 which you can read here
“Millions of people are already suffering. It’s worse than we’ve been told. We are now in danger. We must do all that we can to try and slow the problem down. But we must also now do all that we can to help each other through this.”
There’s a song I love called “May I (Stand Unshaken)?” Weirdly, it comes from a popular video game called Red Dead Redemption 2, set in the Old Wild West. The words really resonate with me at this time. As I come to terms with my own “Atopos”, I found myself moved to change a few of the words. This is my hope now – to stand unshaken in the face of whatever comes our way, and to support others to do the same.
It’s a beautiful piece of music – I recommend you listen to the music as you read the words:
May I stand unshaken
Amid a clash of worlds
May I stand unshaken
Amid the crash and burn
Did I hear a thunder?
Did I hear you break?
I can’t quite remember
Just what guided me this way
The trees, they often whisper
No tongue can tell
He who drinks from the deep water
May he know the depths of the world
Oh traveller, what have you seen?
Were there crossroads, where you’ve been?
I once was standing tall
Now I feel my back’s against the wall
The morning light, when it comes to me
Reminds me of beauty, and hope overcome
I live in ‘Atopos’, at home with Truth
But out of place with the human world
The other side of the bone-shaking grief
I found love, strength and peace
My calling now is to be a guide
For others on their journeys
I’m curious about your experience through all this. Do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
The purpose of this paper is to share my understanding of Positive Deep Adaptation, and to inspire you to reflect on your answers to the 4R questions.
Positive Deep Adaptation is an idea, a community and an agenda initially created by Professor Jem Bendell to help us to reflect on useful activities, cultural norms, values and behaviours now. People who share the PDA narrative accept that societal and economic ‘collapse’ is now likely, inevitable or already unfolding.
Mitigation is about anything we do to ‘turn things around’ so that we achieve our carbon-emissions targets and continue with business as usual. That’s important too, in that there are mitigation strategies that will at least avoid making things worse, or slowing down the worst effects.
Adaptation refers to those things we do to prepare for the conditions that we know are coming, but most people are still in denial about. Good examples are building sea-walls, changing buildings to cope with different temperatures, food and water security, and re-wilding or permaculture.
DEEP adaptation is about asking some fundamental and profound questions about who we are, what’s most important and how we choose to live now. It includes psycho-spiritual approaches that deepen our resilience. And starting now to build resilient, deeply connected local communities.