I Get Now… Woodsy

I get now,

more than ever,
how nobody saw it coming.
How could they?
I’m hiding now, behind a dozen or so tangled pieces of
“no, that’s not what it’s like”…
“no, that’s not what happens”…
“no, that’s not how it feels”…
“no, that’s not what this is about”…
and it feels right now like most of you can’t get to grips with just one.
Don’t tell me you want me to explain.  Because most of you barely want me to get halfway through the world’s longest, scariest sentence before you ride in with your gleaming sword and kill it stone dead –
without even stopping to see what it was.
If I was able to explain the gazillion things you can’t hear right now, I wouldn’t need the help I can’t ask you for.
But right now, I can barely breathe.
That’s why I can’t come to you.  Because sometimes, the thought of killing it all feels way less scary than hearing the screams of all those things we’re torturing by letting me carry on.
You don’t get that – because you think you know.
That’s why nobody saw it coming.
Posted in mental health professionals, poetry, poetry of the disenfranchised, trauma | Leave a comment

Digitisation: winners and losers.

Let me set out my stall to begin with, I’m a technophile and an early adopter. I love technology and the benefits it brings. But, that’s not to say that I assume everyone benefits from technology in the same ways that I do, that would be absurd! Every new innovation has its winners and its losers.

When human beings moved from a nomadic lifestyle 11,000 years ago to become urban dwellers, the increase in numbers living in close proximity brought the advantages of feeding, leisure and support through community. It also initially brought a lower life expectancy, poor hygiene and increased levels of disease. Then the move from city states to states and nations brought a myriad of complexities and conflicts, but it also brought greater cooperation and opportunity for a wider exploration of human abilities and talents. The Industrial Revolution brought the marvel of mass produced goods, many of those goods now within the grasp of many more people, not just the elite.

Again, it also brought poor hygiene, increased levels of disease, overcrowding and crime as people moved from the countryside into the cities and the cities grew ever larger. Each of these transitions produced their own problems as well as their own solutions, but those in power were often reluctant to initiate change. Perhaps the best example is John Snow in London in 1856 when he took the handle off the pump to prevent the spread of cholera. It was another 10 years before his peers and the medical profession as a whole accepted that foul water was the problem.

Then came the so called “fourth Industrial Revolution” which has brought huge innovation in the last 30 years. Innovations that my father and many of his generation could never have conceived of. Who would have thought that the mobile telephone (of which I had the ‘brick’ form very early on) that gave us such freedom could morph into something so ubiquitous and fundamental to modern life that it has become a tool of everyday use? For example, a median of 76% across 18 advanced economies surveyed have smartphones, compared with a median of only 45% in emerging economies. https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/02/05/smartphone-ownership-is-growing-rapidly-around-the-world-but-not-always-equally/

The transition that we are currently going through, the outcome of which has been the subject of hundreds of articles, both apocalyptic and utopian, is creating the same kind of disruption as the transitions that I noted earlier. This time however it is a much more subtle transition, perhaps it seems more subtle because we are in the middle of it; or perhaps it seems more subtle because for many of us it is a huge advantage to our lives both at work and at leisure.

Even so, like all major shifts in human behaviour, it has brought its own problems. These problems are not just social but also challenging for the scientist too. Let me begin with the social challenges, I observed that on average 76% of the world’s population is now connected to the Internet in some way, conversely, 34% of the world is not. That 34% is being left behind or perhaps they don’t want to keep up.

There are moral and ethical issues around assuming that everybody on the planet wants to have the next technological innovation immediately. Or perhaps those people are unable to take advantage of the technology because their literacy is low or non-existent, perhaps they have not been so fortunate to be able to access digital technology and be able to develop an income, whether through working for an organisation or being sufficiently entrepreneurial to work for themselves and develop an income stream that way; or perhaps they have some kind of developmental difficulty; a physical disability; suffered some kind of physical trauma which has entirely disrupted their lives (one area of my activity as a clinician); or perhaps they have suffered some kind of psychological abuse (short or long-term) that has impacted upon their ability to trust others and compete on equal terms with the rest of us.

We are also seeing the digitisation and automation of factories and many other forms of production, computer-aided design (CAD) computer-aided manufacture (CAM), for example. We are also seeing the automation of many traditional white-collar activities, to name a couple: accountancy through software programs like QuickBooks, the law through will writing and other algorithm driven legal processes, estate agency and, of course, online retail shopping whose exemplar is Amazon. Those people without access to the Internet are immediately disadvantaged in the current employment market. This huge leap in communication ability saves time and effort, the advantages in automated production produces opportunity for cheaper goods and greater profits. Those without access to these advantages are again disenfranchised. At the beginning of December 2020 a website called ITProPortal produced a shocking headline: AI could generate more revenue than human workers by the end of the decade, this headline gives a clear steer to the direction of travel for business of all types. Money not people is the overriding principle. Though it does suggest that such a direction of travel will produce upskilling of workers, but only those who are already at a reasonable level of literacy and education. https://www.itproportal.com/search/?searchTerm=generate+more+revenue+than+human

However, there is something far more important that we are just at the beginning of that is going to disenfranchise many in those groups of people that I outlined above in a far greater way. The Covid-19 pandemic has sped up the process that the fourth Industrial Revolution has made possible. For the first time in 300 years, we have realised that we no longer need to live in cities to be close to where we work. The pandemic has also made people long for a piece of green grass or garden of their own for privacy. The company Airbnb has now become one of the largest flotations of any company in the history of global stock markets at somewhere in the region of £31 billion. https://www.standard.co.uk/business/technology-media/airbnb-ipo-booking-shares-marriott-hilton-b209244.html The reason for this is simple, those that can are now looking at long-term leases and purchases in rural areas. As this new global trend grows, rural settings will become more intensively populated but without the office blocks that city dwelling has previously brought. We are already seeing leisure activities, drive-in movies, plays and shows brought to local halls and cinemas that have been in the doldrums for years. https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/coming-pub-near-you  There are new delivery companies springing up all the time to be able to manage the new demand for online shopping as more and more people spend all day sitting in front of their computer screens and on their phones, whether it is for work or leisure. The film industry is already evolving to capture a larger audience by including streaming and last Christmas at least one company produced a film that was put on the Internet the same day it was put out in the cinemas. Communications programmes like Zoom are attracting the interest of the arts as a new medium: https://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2020/12/11/using-zoom-in-a-new-way-to-create-theater-that-transforms-how-we-see/?fbclid=IwAR0Pbso0A4RxbTqLl1j8RYlrApJ7twT4S7_XAQeG41cV80xkuv6WYMOevFI

Digitisation has enabled this diaspora, it is, as yet, only in its infancy but as it gathers pace the cities will become hollowed out because opportunity will follow the wealth that can afford to move. “Network provider Openreach (BT) has announced that 227 new UK locations – 250,000 premises – are being added to the roll-out phase of their 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP technology, which this time appears to focus on some of the “harder to reach” villages, market towns and rural areas”. https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/01/openreach-add-227-rural-uk-areas-to-fttp-broadband-rollout.html Already some large corporations are ending their leases on city blocks as they realise the benefits of having their staff work from home. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/09/12/is-the-office-finished https://www.raconteur.net/workplace/future-office-remote/

Yet there is little consideration for those who cannot take advantage of these amazing innovations. As cities decay, and we have already seen this beginning to happen long before Covid and the pandemic, properties will be repurposed, if they are lucky, if they are not, they will become derelict. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tiffanychu/2020/10/01/covid-19-is-not-the-death-of-the-cityits-the-rise-of-the-neighborhood-center/?sh=97ded0424919 If cities are not repurposed, as Tiffany Chu suggests, cities will become the dwelling places of the poor and disadvantaged where there will be few services, despite this being the place where they are most needed. Furthermore, any services that do survive are likely to charge insurmountable sums of money because there is nowhere else to go, further separating the poor and the wealthy. Power and influence will become increasingly networked and the advantages of close proximity to each other for powerbrokers will diminish.

White-collar employees who might live in suburban areas will become increasingly isolated from their work colleagues physically and will have to develop and get used to new ways of communicating effectively through technology. Health services have already been developing digitised services, telemedicine, national data management and hundreds of thousands of online services. And this is just as true of private sector as it is of the public sector. They all seek to commodify their services as predatory capitalism demands that every service has a cost rather than a value. Mark Carney describes this very clearly in this year’s Reith lectures. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000py8t

This may seem a rather dystopian view but, in much more quiet ways and far less headline grabbing ways are the millions of people who are quietly developing communities (village in the city for example, which is now spreading globally https://villageinthecity.net/ ), learning to communicate face-to-face in their immediate physical horizon, beginning to notice and take care of those less fortunate than themselves. Working away, often as volunteers, while carrying on their day job, connecting with others in their own country and much more widely across the globe as individuals with common interests discover each other and common goals.

Yet this ability to communicate still remains a double-edged sword as social media divides and rules with its clever algorithms and its ability to engage the human psyche. There is an organisation called the social dilemma (https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/) and I hope that many of you have seen the movie they made late last year about how those who created the massive social media platforms never intended their platforms to be used to promote lies and fake news, nor to encourage hate speech, bullying, misinformation, etc. Their intention was always good, human beings rarely do things with dubious intent. Folk get uncomfortable when I say this and then use the example of Donald Trump by suggesting his intentions are good! They are – for his constituency. He did not intend to deceive people, he really believes he is changing America for the better. (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Madness-Crowds-Gender-Race-Identity/dp/1472959957). People prefer the echo chamber of their own world and this is true just as much of the left as it is of the right in politics. The use of social media to manipulate is well known and the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal is perhaps the best known example. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook%E2%80%93Cambridge_Analytica_data_scandal )

The gathering of masses of data has also enabled deceit to take place in science as well as our social world. As ionadis points out, “There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false”. The BPS published an article in September 2019 illustrating the lack of safety of some of the most famous research findings in psychology suggesting that “…given the public fascination with psychology, and the powerful influence of certain results, it is arguably in the public interest to summarise in one place a collection of some of the most famous findings that have proven tricky to repeat.” (https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124 https://digest.bps.org.uk/2016/09/16/ten-famous-psychology-findings-that-its-been-difficult-to-replicate/ ). We have learned that over 40% of all psychological research is not safe. Data is used to prove what the researcher hopes is true, if the research doesn’t provide the answer, it is filed in the bottom drawer. A skilled enough statistician can make data say whatever they want it to by omitting or including certain criteria! I’m sure plenty of institutions do this (for example IAPT).

In terms of specific data on mental wellbeing, Wilkinson and Pickett (2014, Kindle Locations 960-965) observe that it may be that greater public spending on mental health services reduces the burden of mental health difficulties. However,

“A study was specifically designed to test this using data on over 35,000 people from 30 European countries. It found no support for explanations involving public spending, but did find support for what the author called the ‘psychosocial hypothesis’: more equal countries seemed to have better mental health at least partly because their populations are less anxious about status and are more involved in social networks that involve reciprocity, trust and co-operation”.

This observation would suggest that those countries who consider equality as an important aspect of policy making fare better than those who do not. Attempting to treat individuals one at a time for their lack of success, as the UK does currently, is clearly not a recipe for success – more a waste of taxpayers money and increases the sense of failure of those who are less fortunate. Furthermore, many services (as noted above) are becoming digitised which increases the disenfranchisement of those who cannot access them.

Yes, we are in a transition and what will come after that transition is not yet clear. One thing I am sure of it will not be a utopian world. Yet digitisation has the opportunity to bring many benefits particularly in terms of energy use, climate and planetary conservation, it brings the opportunity for people to communicate across the globe with people that they could never have hoped to have met previously. The sad thing is that currently digitisation, data gathering and psychological manipulation are the most common benefits for the few over the many. Every new innovation has to be monetised, has to bring a benefit in competition against its rivals.

The future of digitisation, of the World Wide Web, social media, data collection and communication in all its forms cannot be left in the hands of a few extremely powerful people to play out their power games at the expense not only of the disenfranchised and disadvantaged, who will be left behind altogether, but for many others whose naiveté of the system and gullibility related to things that they are told will also be ultimately left behind.

I said at the beginning that I am a technophile, I am. I love it but I’m now getting too old and crotchety to understand it so well, so perhaps my view is a little jaundiced, but I also see a huge opportunity for mankind to step up to its moral and ethical plate and begin to think how it can use these innovations for the good of itself, the other creatures on the planet and the planet itself. If we learn to cooperate, communicate effectively, clearly and honestly, use everything we have learned so far as engineers, psychologists and politicians to begin to think about how we can make a better world, a more sustainable world then we will begin to find ways to use this new wonderful technology in a way to improve ourselves and care for each other better. In 2016 I wrote an article called “Are we the guardians of the human psyche?” It is still on the British Psychological Society website and I would argue that everything I said there is even more relevant today.

While global politics continues to be based upon hunter gatherer principles, acquisition of wealth and power remain crucial to the survival of successful politicians. I believe that this produces a crop of particularly toxic individuals whose desire for power overwhelms any sense of purpose other than to gaining and retaining that power. The digital revolution, if used successfully, will sweep away the ability of the few to manipulate the many and take another small step towards a better and more secure future for every organism on this planet. If it is used as it is being used at the moment it will sweep away the many for the short-term advantage of the few. The few are a conniving bunch, they will devise a way to keep the many on the brink of survival, always swimming against the tide while they continue to cash in because the population is too tired, too ill or too weak to fight.

We need to act now as researchers, psychologists and citizens to try to prevent the worst excesses of the desire for power. We need to think about a world that is more sustainable and better for everyone, including those who are less fortunate than ourselves. The transition is already taking place and disruption is occurring. It is up to all of us as to what that new world looks like when the dust settles.

Steve Flatt and Laura Gregory 20/12/20

Posted in economics, future history, politics, psychology. | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Holiday Hunger – Laura Gregory

Hunger pains like stabbing needles

Growling like a rabid dog

Stomach churning, acid burning

No one dare complain

Belly concave like an empty spoon

Ribs protruding trying to break free

From the deathly pale prison of flesh

While cold reaches in to take root

In bones too small to withstand it

Energy reserved for body to function

Can’t play, can’t laugh, can’t run

Tears run down a small gaunt face

As the last bell of the year rings shrill

Like nails on a chalkboard it grates

Sealing the fate of the ones trailing behind

With no one at the gate to run to

No school, no food on repeat in their heads

Dread creeps, fear stalks in the shadows at home

Empty fridge with its glaring light mocking

Cupboards are bare but for the cobwebs

Its only six weeks, not long at all

Six weeks

1008 hours

60480 minutes

3629000 seconds

To wait, to hope, to survive

Posted in free school meals, poetry, poetry of the disenfranchised, politics, trauma | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The race to the top results in fighting in the mud.

There are indications in the press, on social media and in the journals that the psychological professions see a great need for an increase in therapists and expert therapeutic intervention, particularly as a consequence of the pandemic. While there is some recognition that politics play a part in the health and well-being of our society the professional psychological and psychotherapeutic organisations appear to be playing largely lip service to the significance of community and political interventions. 

I want to consider some alternative possibilities to the threat of still more psychological therapy for individuals or small groups, I also want to consider some of the reasons why the professionals continue to maintain this professional, expert and rather individualistic role. 

One doesn’t need to look very far on social media to see the turf wars that are being fought between psychiatry and psychology and within both professions. These battles for the soul of the client, to my mind, are almost entirely pointless but are indicative of the meritocracy in which they are being conducted.  

There are a number of areas that I wish to cover, the common good, meritocracy, scaling/impact and commodification. I do not intend to provide all, or perhaps any of the answers, but to begin to ask questions about how each of these impinges on the nature of the delivery of services at the current time and try to get people to consider alternative interventions that may be worthwhile exploring and perhaps more effective.   

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) has now been running for more than a decade and has no doubt helped, probably, millions of people. After all, we know that somewhere between 10 and 20 million people have accessed the service during the time it has been in existence. However, while it may have made a difference to individual lives there is absolutely no evidence to suggest it has improved the well-being of the nation in anyway whatsoever.

Indeed, I would be surprised in the current climate if any individualistically based intervention would impact upon the current neoliberal political ideology that holds sway. Rather than focus upon the real or perceived shortcomings of the IAPT service I wish to take a more helicopter view all the difficulties we face as a nation and consider how we might be more effective as a body of knowledgeable individuals who for the most part wish to make a difference to the quality of life of those around us.

Some of the issues that I consider may not appear to be immediately relevant but please try to stick with the narrative and I will attempt to explain why I am considering them.

I think the place to start is with the idea of meritocracy. The evidence for the increase of inequality of income and opportunity over the last 40 years or so is unequivocal. It has been driven by a careful shift of emphasis by global politicians from the idea of sharing common goals, space and resources to the idea that we are each responsible for our own success. Michael Sandel (2020) puts it very well, 

“It encourages people to think of themselves as responsible for their fate, not as victims of forces beyond their control. But it also has a dark side. The more we view ourselves as self-made and self-sufficient, the less likely we are to care for the fate of those less fortunate than ourselves. If my success is my own doing, their failure must be their fault. This logic makes meritocracy corrosive of commonality.”

I can’t help looking at the race for qualifications and expertise within the psychological professions that provides clear water, academically speaking, between the therapist and their client. Indeed, I could argue that cognitive behaviour therapy is particularly responsible for this; how its language is inherently paternalistic, for example describing someone’s beliefs as irrational is profoundly disrespectful in today’s climate. Just to make the point, I consider that the degree of success attributed to this particular form of psychological intervention is overblown and often due to researcher allegiance and that proponents of the intervention have an ideological adherence to the model that is irrational. I have little doubt that there are those who are now bridling at my statement and would suggest that I am the irrational one!

Cognitive behaviour therapy was a product of an era, that era has now passed in much the same way as, for the vast majority of people, psychoanalysis is also past its sell by date. The human psyche is a constant and dynamic process, changing as the environment changes and in the 30 years since CBT became popular as a form of psychological therapy the world has changed considerably, economically, socially and spiritually. The idea that an expert therapist can understand the mind of the individual sat in front of them to the extent that they can make judgments as to whether their thoughts and beliefs are rational or otherwise has long since passed. I would also make the point that therapy is in a position to be able to prepare people for work and should be encouraging people back into work is a value judgement that is not part of the therapeutic process.

Wilkinson and Pickett (2014, Kindle Locations 960-965) observe that it may be that greater public spending on mental health services reduced the burden of mental health difficulties. However,

“A study was specifically designed to test this using data on over 35,000 people from 30 European countries. It found no support for explanations involving public spending, but did find support for what the author called the ‘psychosocial hypothesis’: more equal countries seemed to have better mental health at least partly because their populations are less anxious about status and are more involved in social networks that involve reciprocity, trust and co-operation. A similar study that sought to see if lower public expenditure contributed to the relationship between higher inequality and higher levels of violence reached the same negative conclusions”.

The development of an explicit meritocracy in the last few years has created huge inequality and has begun to explicitly blame those less fortunate for their misfortunes. This has been exploited by politicians in the West unmercifully. This meritocracy is clearly displayed in a single set of statistics from Kate Raworth (2017 Kindle Locations 869-872),

“Thanks to the scale of global income inequality, responsibility for global greenhouse gas emissions is highly skewed: the top 10% of emitters – think of them as the global carbonistas (The wealthy elite) living on every continent – generate around 45% of global emissions, while the bottom 50% of people contribute only 13%.”

I consider that this growth of meritocracy is actually part of what enabled Improving Access to Psychological Therapies to come into existence. It is based upon the expertise and idealism of the meritocratic professional. 

This brings me neatly to my second point which may not be immediately obvious. Over the centuries there has been a steady erosion of the entitlement of the common person to those things which have been held in common for all. It began in earnest with the enclosure acts in England and by 1844 a third of all the tillable land in England and Wales had been enclosed by private landlords. Hundreds of thousands of small farmers were reduced to beggary (Rocker, 1989). The coming of the industrial revolution produced overcrowding and reduced sanitary conditions for millions.

“The commons – a vehicle for meeting everyone’s basic needs in a roughly equitable way – is being annexed and disassembled to serve a global a market machine which treats nature as a brute commodity. Commoners become isolated individuals. Communities of commoners are splintered and reconstituted as armies of consumers and employees. The “unowned” resources of the commons are converted into the raw fodder for market production and sale (Bollier & Helfrich (eds) 2012).

This erosion of the Commons has continued to this day.  “Private control over living beings is now reaching into the deepest levels of people, plants and animals, i.e., their DNA. The same impulse to implant “code for control” is also being implemented deep inside the new digital commons” (Crosnier 2012 found in Bollier & Helfrich eds, Kindle Locations 4834-4836).

Crosnier goes on to say,

“Similarly, the commons of world scientific research may also be contaminated by fraud, which erodes collective confidence in the research while boosting the careers of deceitful researchers. Deceptions may at times lead the scientific community to pursue dead-end lines of research and ignore more promising research priorities”.

Crosnier also observes that, “the threats to the commons are also threats to communities, their existence and their ways of life. The dispersion of communities, generally due to violence, is the main form of attacks on the commons.” However, there are many more much more subtle attacks on communities through the commodification of services to communities.

Wilkinson and Pickett, Kindle Locations 470-471) make the point that,

“Over the last thirty or forty years, a large number of studies have shown that having a network of close friends, good relationships and involvement with others is extraordinarily beneficial to health”.

The determination of the psychological professionals to become the assessors, advisors, diagnosticians and treaters of misery is part of that disablement of people to manage their own difficulties and distress within their communities. If professionals really want to get on board with psychological distress, then they need to be part of and firmly embedded in their community and help people to recognise their inherent skills and develop those skills to help themselves and not treat the skills of the expert as a commodity to be sold into a community.

Russel (2020) reminds us that,

“The first invisible threat results from living in a culture of consumerism. In this kind of culture, the members believe that they can buy everything they need for a good life. The only thing they can’t buy is community, and community is the essential producer of a good life. He reveals the second threat as the world of professionalism. In that world, the message is “you will be better because I know better.” Cormac reminds us that a community is made up of people who know best how to create the future that will kindle a good life. The third threat Cormac makes visible is governments and institutions that claim they want to help. Their help most often creates a benign dependency” (Kindle Locations 136-142).

This quote provides more than just a nod to that aspect of meritocracy outlined above where professionals assume that they know better than the person living and working in a particular environment which frequently has never been experienced or is even understood  by the expert.

The final frontier Of the Commons is that of our minds, which are not very subtly being invaded by nudge units, psychologists and psychotherapists. One could argue that this invasion of the mind began with Descartes who disentangled mind from body and suggested that the body was simply deterministic matter and the mind was a rational principle detached and standing above that raw clay. In today’s world we know that body, emotions, mind and beliefs are intimately tied to one another in a daily dance where each has their turn at ascendancy while we struggle with the paradox of trying to be a human being.

To then try to struggle with ‘new principles and new ideas’ of yet another supposed expert when we are distressed seems utterly bizarre to me.  But, more importantly, this is yet another invasion and a reduction of our common rights as a human being.

As (Kilty & Dej (2018) Put it so eloquently,

“Psycho-centrism refers to the dominant view that pathologies are intrinsic to the person, promoting a hyper-individualistic perspective at the expense of understanding social, political, economic, historical, and cultural forces that shape human experience. Psycho-centrism is itself a form of social injustice that promotes individual reformation rather than social and economic justice.”

Finally, there is an unwarranted assumption that research in human psychology provides final answers. it is common knowledge that psychological research is hard to replicate  (Amir & Sharon 1990, Galak, LeBoeuf, Nelson & Simmons 2012, Earp & Trafimow, 2015, Ingre & Nilsonne 2018), But what is even more uncertain is the idea that small scale research in one specially designed and controlled environment can be scaled up to national and international scale interventions that are going to be effective.

As McLean, Gargani & Lomofsky (2020) observe,

We don’t know what works, what might work depends on context, and context is complex. This is why research and innovation are critical. And why the common wisdom about scaling typically falls short. Unlike in the private sector, and as attractive as it may seem to donors and social enterprise, when it comes to development outcomes, faster, bigger and more is not necessarily better. Instead, we need to shift our focus toward achieving positive impact at optimal scale.”

Right at the beginning of this essay I observed that while IAPT has had impact for individuals across the decade of its existence it has had absolutely no impact upon the well-being of our society and despite being set up with trying to get people back to work in mind (Indeed, it was this premise that suggested the service would be cost neutral by returning people into work and that this was part of its political attraction) has palpably failed in this goal.

The argument is only just beginning about how we move forward post pandemic and, more importantly, when the primitive hunter-gatherer economy that we continue to rely upon finally breaks down entirely. There is considerable research (for example, Wilkinson and Pickett, Kate Raworth) suggesting alternative modes of existence for human beings but these alternatives are much less oriented towards the meritocratic winners and losers approach that we have at the moment and illustrate clearly the efficacy of community and cooperation instead of competition. This is not a plea for socialism or any other sort of ‘ISM’ it is a plea for people to start thinking about what kind of a world they would like their children and their children’s children to live in, rather than considering more and more ways of attempting to climb the greasy pole of meritocracy and expertise at the expense of others who have just as much right to live and have access to the commons as those blessed by being born into more fortunate circumstances.

References:

Amir, Y., & Sharon, I. (1990). Replication research: A “must” for the scientific advancement of psychology. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, Special Issue, 5, 51-69.

Baker, M. (2015), Over half of psychology studies fail reproducibility test. https://www.nature.com/news/over-half-of-psychology-studies-fail-reproducibility-test-1.18248

Bollier, D. Helfrich, S. (eds) (2012) The Wealth of the Commons: A World Beyond Market and State (Kindle Location 22). Levellers Press. Kindle Edition.

Earp, B., Trafimow, D. (2015) Replication, falsification, and the crisis of confidence in social psychology. Frontiers in psychology 6, 621, 2015

Galak, J., LeBoeuf, R. A., Nelson, L. D., & Simmons, J. P. (2012). Correcting the Past: Failures to Replicate Psi. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Ingre M, Nilsonne G. (2018) Estimating statistical power, posterior probability and publication bias of psychological research using the observed replication rate. R. Soc. Open sci. 5: 181190.http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.181190

Kilty, J. Dej, E, (eds.), (2018) Containing Madness, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-89749-3_2

McLean, R. Gargani, J.  Lomofsky, D., (2020), Scaling what works doesn’t work: we need to scale impact instead, September 7th. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2020/09/07/scaling-what-works-doesnt-work-we-need-to-scale-impact-instead/ 

Raworth, Kate. (2017) Doughnut Economics, Random House. Kindle Edition.

Rocker, R. (1989) Anarcho-syndicalism, Pluto Press 345 Archway Road, London N6 5AA.  https://libcom.org/files/Rocker%20-%20Anarcho-Syndicalism%20Theory%20and%20Practice.pdf

Russell, C. (2020) Rekindling Democracy: A Professional’s Guide to Working in Citizen Space, Kindle edition.

Sandel, Michael J. (2020) The Tyranny of Merit, Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Wilkinson, R. Pickett, K. (2014) The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Wellbeing. Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Posted in mental health professionals, meritocracy, politics, psychology. | Tagged | Leave a comment

There is No Beauty – Laura Gregory

White hot rage

Burning, all consuming

As bright as a star, but there is no beauty.

Dangerous like a volcano erupting

Spewing its anger onto unsuspecting targets.

Innocents caught up in the wrath of its fire

Unable to escape the ferocity, the anger

Violence unspoken, building and building,

The pressure amounting to inevitable collapse.

The teenage me, broken, unwanted

Unrecognisable in the aftermath of the fire

A burnt-out husk with nothing left to give

An acrid, black stain on the floor

A product of hatred, of neglect

Like a once loved toy at the bottom of the box.

But, out of the ashes I rise

Like a phoenix reborn from destruction

The adult me, stronger for the chaos that came before

Cautious, resilient, hopeful

Yet so fragile, the scars still fresh

Angry red welts that linger like a jagged smile in a broken mirror

Distorting

Disfiguring

Numb to the faintest touch, the smallest glimmer of kindness

The result of the fire that burnt nerve endings away,

Preposterously fine strands, that allow one to feel

Gone

In a flash

Like a slap to the face

Shock and then

Nothing

Nothing at all

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Torturous Sea – Laura Gregory

I am lost in this torturous sea

A furious maelstrom of thoughts,

Swirling, thrashing, snarling

Trying to pull me under

Fighting for each and every breath

As the waves crash and the tides drag me

Ever further from solid ground

I look to the sky but find no solace

The clouds black and ominous press down

Their crushing weight ever present above me

Just as dangerous as the ocean I’m drifting in

The intensity of the storm ravages

My body, my mind, my soul

Energy saps, the will to survive waning

Acceptance of my fate to drown all alone

In the midst of this unforgiving beast

I let go of the breath I’ve been holding

The last of my hope ebbs away

I succumb to the will of the dark, cold water

Caressed by its grip, it steals my strength

The light in my eyes long since burned out

Just as the last of me slips under

There is a light, a voice in the dark

A hand reaches down and pulls at my clothes

Plucks me from the depths of despair

I am too far gone, no one can save me

The sea has made sure of that

But the voice is persistent, gentle, encouraging

Like the first rays of a new dawn

Breathing new hope, new life into my broken and battered being

The storm begins to calm, the sky, slowly brightens

No longer adrift in a sea of malaise

The shadow of land on the horizon, still out of reach

But no longer impossible to grasp

The helping hand guides me to safety

Plants my feet back on solid ground

Building a wall to keep the sea at bay

When the storm rises up with the intent to destroy

Now, I can feel the sun on my skin

Smell the salt on the air

See the sand at my feet

Hope is restored, strength is regained

The light in my eyes, reignited

One helping hand and a voice in the dark

Cut through the confusion, the hurt, the pain

To save me, a person, once lost to the sea

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Battle of Wills – Laura Gregory

Who am I?

I don’t know

Who can tell me?

Where can I turn?

I can’t trust my mind to tell me the truth

It tells me I’m disgusting

That I’m a failure

I don’t deserve to be here

I should die

Everyone would be better off

But I don’t want to

Not really

Do I?

The constant narrative of negativity

Relentless

Wearing me down

Breaking my spirit

Slowly

Surely

I try to rally, use coping mechanisms

But it uses them against me

Smoking is disgusting

Alcohol makes you needy

Chocolate will make you fatter

Twang of the elastic band

Not as satisfying as a blade

The release of pressure not quite the same

Who will be the victor?

Between my mind and me

Only time will tell

I feel that perhaps time is running out…

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The Road I Travel – Laura Gregory

It’s a beautiful day!

I’m glad I’m alive!

I wish I could say this everyday

But I can’t

Sometimes I long for the end to come

Because I can’t see the beauty

In the world

In myself

It’s a long road to travel

To being OK

Not even happy, just toeing the line

It’s lonely and cold

I try to keep walking, slow and steady

Sometimes I’m crawling

Sometimes I’ve stopped

Sometimes I’ve gone backwards

These days are the worst

One day I hope

That the path will change

And I’ll find joy in the simplicity of life again

But for now I keep plodding

One step, two step

I can’t stop, I won’t

I will regain what I’ve lost

When I find what it is I am looking for…

If only I knew what that was…

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Fight for Life – Laura Gregory

Migrants are coming!

Don’t let them in!

They’re all bad news, it’s the colour of their skin

They’ll steal all our jobs

Put my nan on the streets

I don’t care if they’ve got no shoes on their feet

The government’s right!

It’s a crisis they say

If we let them in, then we’ll all have to pay

So close all the borders

Patrol England’s seas

You can’t come in, we’re a nation on our knees

All lives matter!

They rant and they rave

As they condemn those arriving alone and afraid

I’m not racist but

Is the common retort

Followed by nonsense from a Facebook report

Those migrants are people

These people are strong

Battling through hell to be told they don’t belong

You’re not a good parent

For risking your life

You shouldn’t be travelling when pandemic is rife

Of course, if you’re rich

You can flout all the rules

As long as you swear you didn’t stop to refuel

My heart aches for you

I wish we could be

The nation you hoped would help set you free

I hope you find peace

A new place to call home

As you leave yours behind thanks to OUR warzone

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Eight Simple Words – Laura Gregory

People assure you that time heals all wounds, but that’s not true at all.

Mental wounds if left alone can fester and infect until all aspects of you,

The person you were, is nothing more than a brittle shell.

People are supposed to change, to grow, as they gain knowledge and experience

From this thing called life.

But not you.

The trauma, the pain, the fear from the past has impeded, stalled, halted your growth.

Beating you down time and again, becoming the norm.

Why would anyone care if you weren’t here anymore, no one would miss you,

Your contribution so minute to the daily rat race.

Mourning for the person you used to be,

Just can’t see a way to get past it to pastures new.

Doubtful, Mistrusting, disgusted with yourself.

Hurtful, spiteful, hatred.

Twisted, broken, burnt out from trying.

You didn’t ask to be this way.

What have you got to be sad about?

Look at your life, your job, your friends, your family.

No one understands

These are just more pressures, more expectations, more guilt for the way you feel.

You look fine on the outside,

May even laugh, joke, be the soul of the party.

A lot of time spent perfecting the mask.

Excelling at work, being the star of the show an absolute must.

There can be no disappointment from anyone

But yourself.

Inside you are breaking with the weight of pleasing, of shining bright.

Everyone comes for advice because you’re just “so put together” and “on top of it all”

But the pedestal is precarious, it always falls.

It just happens in private when it all gets too much

A flicker as the mask slips, too quickly to reveal the truth.

So next time someone confides that they’re depressed, suicidal or just plain unhappy,

Don’t tell “get over it”

Don’t tell them “it takes time”

Don’t tell them they’re attention seeking.

They wouldn’t really do it,

No how, who, what, where, why.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda,

That’s just life.

The worst is the statement “we all feel down sometimes”

Your problems are insignificant, unjustified. Adding to the guilt, the pain, the suffering.

Words are important,

They hurt and they heal.

Just 8 simple words can go a long way,

“How can I help you feel better today?”

Posted in mental health professionals, poetry, poetry of the disenfranchised, solution Focused Practice, That awful language of "mental health professionals", trauma | Tagged , | Leave a comment

BME and the Working class: Steve Flatt and Javed Rehman (Bridging communities).

“As professionals from this depersonalized, specialist, unsituated position we can come to know everything in general and very little in particular. The trouble with that is that citizen space is filled with people who know everything in particular and are not all that interested in our generalizations. And so often institutions and communities, professionals and citizens are ships passing in the night.” (Russell 2020)

Russell really manages to nail it in this quote from his latest book. There is a huge gap between what actually happens on the ground in everyday communities and the way the institutions approach those difficulties experienced by significant proportions of the population.

Over the last 20 years there has been a shift from community towards commodification of services. Services are delivered in a particular format, whether they be health, utilities, education or even food delivery. The disconnect is deliberate and is focused upon economic progress rather than social progress. This is incredibly clear in health. For example, IAPT has been described as the, “industrialised access to psychological therapies”. Happiness has become an industry that is sold to the people on the street, mostly through books and therapy.

The groups that have been most disenfranchised by this move towards commodification, and which has become clear over the last few months of the pandemic, are those BME groups and the working class. Those people who earn more are able to take advantage of this commodification – they can purchase their way out of misery. For the vast majority of people in low-paid vocational occupations the reality is the grinding hamster wheel of employment to enable them to feed their families, themselves and just keeping a roof over their head.

People have become dependent on services for their existence, even for their health and particularly for their mental health. We know that well-being is rooted in social activity and strong communities. It is an irony that mental health services in particular have largely disabled our ability to take care of our own well-being through social activity as the expert becomes the person to solve the problem and we hand ourselves over to the experts as though they have some panacea for happiness.

Ignoring, for a moment, the vast differences between the different cultures in the United Kingdom today the overarching approach of government in the last 25 years has been to deliberately destroy community cohesion for the purposes of selling services. Furthermore, the statutory services have been systematically cut during that time in the name of austerity.

Making a difference to the lives of so many people will require a gargantuan effort to begin to find a way to enable communities to take back control of their destinies in a meaningful way and develop locus’ of control that are in the hands of people whose faces are known and trusted in each community. The digital world may have a part to play in this, but good old face to face low tech communications will be the real driver.

This requires a monumental shift in approach from top-down intervention to bottom-up action. Finding a way to motivate people to begin to communicate amongst themselves once again across the country will begin by noticing where this is already happening creating local events for local people and spreading what works. This cannot be done by professionals or “experts” who do not live in those communities and do not understand their needs in the same way that local community leaders do. Nor can it be one size fits all.

There has been so much rhetoric about the NHS using the rainbow as a metaphor. While the intention is great the reality is that more BME and working-class people have died in this pandemic than any other group.

If we are to take this seriously, we need to do two things it seems to me:

  1. find those communities that are working well and learn from them
  2. use that knowledge to challenge the rather arrogant “we know best” approach that has been applied for the last 25 or 30 years by so many policymakers and professionals.

This means a fundamental change in thought processes from an assumption of the inability of the working class and BME groups to be able to take care of themselves and know what is right for them to position of trusting them and allowing them to do the best things for their communities in terms of governance and service delivery.

Ref:

Russell, Cormac. (2020) Rekindling Democracy: A Professional’s Guide to Working in Citizen Space (Kindle Locations 89-92). Cascade Books. Kindle Edition.

Posted in corona virus, economics, mental health professionals, trauma, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment