“Depression” : a call to deep rest ?

The language of “mental health” pretends to an authority and a scientific exactitude it does not deserve and never earned.And, this language rarely offers much help when it comes to really understanding our pain, making sense of how we got here, and even less when it comes to finding ways we can heal and support others in their healing.

We give this language more power over us than it deserves and more power than is good for us.

Q. What if we choose different language ?

As Daniel Siegel puts it:
The diagnostic manual is concerned with categories

not pain.

Jim Carrey here, taking an idea from Jeff Foster and talking about framing experiences we call “depression” as a call for deep rest.

“People talk about depression all the time.
The difference between depression and sadness is sadness is just from happenstance
—whatever happened or didn’t happen for you, or grief, or whatever it is.

Depression is your body saying f*ck you,
I don’t want to be this character anymore,
I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world.
It’s too much for me.

What if we think of the word ‘depressed’ as ‘deep rest’ ?

Your body needs to be depressed.
It needs deep rest from the character
that you’ve been trying to play.”

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Workshop | Trauma: less bollox, more healing


The overall aim of this workshop is to begin building an understanding of the many and various ways that life can leave us wounded that is large enough, wide enough, and deep enough it enables us to generate the kind of capacity for supporting individual, family, community and cultural healing that we will need as we face the future.

Learning Objectives

Those who participate in this workshop bill be better able to

  1. Express a meaningful understanding of trauma in simple language that is compassionate, pragmatic, and that need not break our brain, yet enable us to generate maximum capacity for learning, connecting and healing.
  2. Appreciate the limitless ways that life can leave us wounded, and the infinite variety of how that very unhealed woundedness manifests in uniquely personal ways.
  3. Begin to identify our own need for healing.
  4. Appreciate and identify how unhealed trauma-woundedness  manifests in the ways we tend to shape our  world, especially in our relationships, in our teams, workplaces and institutions and in our culture.
  5. Turn our attention away from categorizing to ways we can support healing individuals, families, groups, communities, cultures, peoples and at societal level.
  6. Play our part in building a world that leaves us less wounded and less often.
  7. Work in ways that support growing our collective capability to heal ourselves, and each other at individual, family, group, communities, cultures, peoples, and societal levels.

Workshop Description

Please Note: This workshop will not seek to offer a definition of “trauma”: what trauma is and what trauma isn’t.

We believe that attempting to do so is futile and restricting, and more often than not results in more people being left traumatized by how they experience life; experience support from services; and also hinders and even prevents healing.
It also prevents us finding and treating ways we can support individuals, groups, families and whole communities in healing.

This excludes and silences so many of us; and especially those who need support most.

It denies us support and it disables our whole society society from moving toward collective healing.

We can make a different choice.

No amount of the kind of conversation we are having about trauma to date will heal us.

It will, and can only, result in more of what we have already: only those privileged few who have been deemed to be “just traumatized enough” are offered any kind of support at all.

Register now, or scroll down for more information.

Registration is Open

Limited Spaces. Register now online.

The mess we’re in…

The conversation around trauma is expanding faster that any of us can keep up with. Many are fighting to have their own pain and struggle included a trauma context.

Conversely, many others fight to resist that, claiming only they have knowledge, expertise, power, and authority to define what trauma is and what trauma is not. Some even going so far as dismissing the very real, living pain that others live with others as #nottrauma, or #notrealtrrauma.

This results in many – even the vast majority – of us being excluded from consideration that their own struggle-in-life is related to their experiences in life; and especially how they have been treated since whatever happened did happen; and more especially how they are treated when they seek support from services.

We only need be willing to open our eyes to see that it is plain as day that many of our institutions and services fail wholesale, the many who live with the woundedness of living as a human in this world that seems, daily, to be made by humans to be one that is less and less suited for humans to flourish.

And, more tragically, even many of those health services, and even more so, some of those claiming to be “trauma-informed” also fail us miserably, some even shamelessly.

No amount of more of the same will never be enough

No amount of more of the same will enable us to find a way out of this mess.

  • No amount of more of the same power struggles between those institutions and individuals who claim sole right to define our pain will help us move towards finding and creating ways to heal our own pain, nor to find and create ways support each other in healing.
  • No amount of more of the same treating trauma as something that only a highly trained professional can possibly understand or can possibly have anything to offer to help us find our way to healing.
  • No amount of more of the same thinking that trauma as a very narrowly controlled-by-experts list of very specific life experiences that can happen to an individual will help us understand, help us heal, or support each other in healing.
  • No amount of more of the same defining trauma as a solely individual experience , will help us truly understand when trauma is also a collective and cultural experience.
  • No amount of more of the same defining trauma as a deficit, deficiency or disorder, and cf categorizing those individuals, groups families, communities and cultures as being deficient, disordered or just plain not up to living in a cruel, unjust and often uncaring world will lead us to find and create pathways of healing.
  • No amount of more of the same regarding trauma as something that only a highly trained professional can possibly understand will get us anywhere other than where we are now.

And, no amount of more of the same old bollox will help use create a world that leaves us wounded less or less often.

What if…

What if we took just some of the energy, attention, and resources that are consumed by seeking to win unwinnable arguments, seeking to define what trauma is and what trauma is not, and used it instead to inquire curiously how we could build new ways of understanding that promote learning, connecting and healing?

We will need to have a different conversation about trauma, and the first step to doing that is to resist the temptation to continue having the same conversation that we keep having about trauma.

This workshop offers an opportunity to participate in and to experience a different kind of conversation about trauma, woundedness, learning connecting and healing.

Trauma means wound – and life can be wounding.

The woundedness we can be left living with lives in our body, mind, spirit, relations, and spirit and

manifests in an infinite variety of ways. Each of us is wounded in our own unique way, and each of us can find our own unique pathways to healing.

Wounds can heal – if we have the supports that we need to be able to heal. There are no prescriptions, templates or cookie cutter recipes.

We will need to learn to have a different kind of conversation

If we are to get ourselves out of this mess we made – the mess that we made- then we will need to learn to have different kind of conversation.

The workshop: Trauma: less bollox, more healing offers an opportunity to participate in and experience the beginning of a different conversation.

A conversation intended to find and build a different kind of understanding that can enable us to co create co generate new ways, and re-energize some older ways to, that we can shift focus to ways we can support individuals, families, groups, communities and cultures in healing and supporting healing.

And, the workshop is designed as a first step.

Over the two days we will engage in learning with and from each other, dialogue and curious inquiry

Day One will focus on sharing multiple understandings and hearing multiple perspectives and understanding how our understanding of trauma can itself lead to those seeking services being more traumatized, and how they may be more conducive to healing.

The aim is to allow us to build deeper, more full understanding trauma, how it affects our lives , and implications for how we design, fund, manage and operate services , especially those intended to support healing, and that enables us to generate new ways, and to re-energize some older ways, that support learning, connecting, and healing.

Day Two will shift focus to making more concrete – we will use an open space technology format in which participants design their own projects, and focus on area of interest to them, e.g. a deeper inquiry into some ideas or some aspect or aspects already touched upon, or co creating and prototyping new ways of bringing to bear an understanding of trauma that better healing and that address concerns in work, team or organization.


Participants in these workshops:

• Trauma: less bollox, more healing,


will be invited to join our community of leaning and healing, which we have chosen to call: unbolloxing.

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Put on Your Attachment Hat & Change Your Attachment Style | Ashley Harvey

Put on Your Attachment Hat & Change your Romantic Attachment Style | Ashley Harvey

A few years ago my husband and I got road bikes
so that we would have something to do together.

But what I noticed is on these road bike dates was
I wasn’t very happy

Now, when I rode by myself
I felt scared
but empowered,

In fact, I was often singing.
-I’m bad, I’m bad, I know it…

as I rode along.

But when I was getting ready to go on a road bike date
with my husband I was cranky before we even left the house.

Now it’s important to know that Jordan
had been mountain biking for years
and he was a lot stronger than me.

So how these dates would typically go is that
we’d start off
and he’s up ahead
riding with ease
and I’m in the back
struggling to keep up
and already not having fun.

And my feelings of irritation would
just intensify as we begin climbing those first hills.
and he’s way up ahead  
standing up on his bike
grinding it out…

This cute little spandex butt..

and I’m down at the bottom,

and he’d often stop to wait for me
at the top of the hill,
all chipper…

and then I’d unleash my fury…

If I was at my worst
I’d angrily complain.

Things like:

“It’s hot !”
“It’s cloudy !”
“My butt hurts !”
“I hate this !”

I’m a super fun date.

But one day I decided to do something different:
I put on what I think of as my

my attachment hat.

That’s basically like putting on your thinking cap.

But I analyzed how I was feeling
from an attachment theory perspective


I managed to share something
with Jordan that brought us together
rather than pushed us apart.

So more on what I said soon.

But first I want to help you learn
how to put on your attachment hat.

Now, if you’re new to this attachment business,
it’s basically just about the bonding that we have
in our close, ongoing relationships.

And I’ve been teaching students and couples
about attachment for over 15 years
in my roles as a university professor
and relationship educator.

I’m drawing on the work of so many amazing  
attachment researchers.

What I’m going to be talking about is
mainly about romantic relationships…


You can apply it to friends and family as well.

I do have to warn you though:

Attachment tends to stir us up,
it makes us feel:
hot around the collar,
maybe a little queasy in the stomach.

You might want to escape the room.

But I promise:

You’re not alone in this feeling.

We all have to deal with this
attachment business together.


Q. What do you need to know to put on your attachment hat ?

Five principles

Principle #1 :
Attachment is intertwined with fear

It’s important to know that neurobiologically..

Our attachment systems and our fear systems are intertwined.

And that’s across our lifespans.

So let’s imagine I experience a threat:
I get some negative feedback at my job.
And so my fear system fires up,  
and it says:

“Danger !”
“Danger !”
“You are in trouble !”

…and stress hormones are released.

If, during this time I reach out to someone  
who’s a secure attachment figure for me,
like my husband Jordan,
and I say

“Oh my gosh !
“I’m gonna lose my job !“

He might say :

“That sounds really, really, tough honey.
but it’s probably not as bad
as you think it is “
“and, if it is, we’ll figure it out together “

So now my attachment system is turned on.
It helps calm and down regulate my fear system.

That’s pretty straightforward
but what if I call my husband Jordan
and he doesn’t give me what I want.

What if he says:

“Honey you are always
making a big deal out of nothing
and I’m in the middle of something
so let’s talk about this later “

Now i’m in a bind
because the person who
I needed to call …

My fear system is just
amping it up.

And this is one of the things
that makes our romantic relationships
so hard
and it ties to what Beckes and Coan call:

“The Distress-Relief Dynamic”

I turn to you when I’m in distress,
you give me some support,
I experience some relief,
and we repeat it.

It’s pretty straightforward
and it’s the making of a secure attachment
in any relationship.

But it’s harder than it looks.


If we think back to me on the bike…

I was in distress
but I wasn’t expressing that in a way
that was going to get me the support
and the relief that I needed.


Principle number one is that
our fear and our attachment systems
are intertwined.

Principle #2
Childhood affects attachment experiences

We didn’t get to choose as kids
how well our distress was relieved
or how secure was the attachment that we had,
and it may have changed over the course of our childhoods.

John Bowlby’s work on internal working models
tells us that in our earliest relationships
we form internal working models
of ourselves and of others.

And if our caregivers were mostly
safe and responsive
then these models of ourselves and others
are pretty positive.


We all struggle in some way
with our internal working models.

These are the basic attachment fears:

“Am I good enough ?”

“Am I lovable ?”

“Can I count on you ?”

“Can you handle me ?“


We carry these fears into our current relationships
and sometimes they become self-fulfilling prophecies.


Back to me on the bike..

When I put on my attachment hat
I was thinking a lot about
my childhood fear of not being good enough
and how that was tying into my current fear
of not being fast enough –
to ride with Jordan.

But this was leading me to come across
as angry and irritable.

Which was just gonna push Jordan away.
and confirm for me
that I wasn’t good enough.


Principle number two is about
how we carry our fears into our current
relationships in different ways.

Principle #3:
Our attachment styles can vary

So now we’re getting to what you really want to know.

Q. What are the attachment styles ?
      – and what’s yours ?


When we are in distress
and our attachment needs
are not being met…

We have two choices…

We can either amp up
-which is higher attachment related anxiety


We can tamp down
-which is higher attachment related avoidance

So when I am at my best,
I’m more secure.

When I’m at my worst,
I’m a more anxious.

Four attachment styles

and these four attachment styles
were originally developed by Mary Ainsworth.

So let’s go through them one at a time,
starting with

1. Anxious attachment style

If we are higher on attachment related anxiety,
then in our dating relationships,
we can be worried about being rejected.

We can come across as a little too much in the beginning..
We can over share,
We can be hyper vigilant, to our partner’s cues in ongoing relationships

“You look a lot more excited
to ride your bike with Dave
than you do with me.
What’s that mean ?”

And when we’re upset
We ruminate,
We spin in our heads,
And we can maximize our distress.

When we’re upset you know it.

Back to me on the bike…

We both knew I was angry

2. Avoidant attachment style

What if you’re someone who tends to minimize
rather than maximize your distress?

Then we are higher on attachment related avoidance.

And so, in our dating relationships
we don’t disclose as much about ourselves early on .

We come across as more aloof,  or game playing.

In conflicts we want to get out of there
and we tend to minimize our distress
and distract ourselves with tasks

So my husband Jordan has higher attachment related avoidance.

And what this might look like is..
It’ll be a Thursday and he’ll say to me:

“you know, on Monday I was really upset about such and such”.

And I’m thinking:

“Okay, I was with you on Monday,
and I couldn’t tell you were upset,
and number two..”

“why didn’t you tell me on Monday?”

“because …”

But Jordan has learned to cope with the stress
by sort of ignoring it  for a while.
And so it can take him a little while
to realize what’s going on.

Whereas it takes me like 15 seconds.

This is why I love to ask Jordan’s scaling questions:

“On a scale of one to ten, how upset are you ?”

..because otherwise I can’t tell.


What if we’re someone who’s higher on both ?
We’ve got more attachment related anxiety
more attachment related avoidance.

This is the third attachment style, called the…

3. Fearful – Avoidant attachment style

This can happen for us when the people that were supposed to be safe around,
that we were supposed to be able to rely on
growing up just weren’t that…
that predictable.

And maybe they weren’t that safe.

And so now we’re in this position of
really longing for connection
but feeling like it could be dangerous
and so
we do higher amounts of both:

We move towards…
and then we pull away.

Now we’re on to our fourth and final
attachment style:

4. Secure attachment style

This is like the how-to of relationships –
what we’re all going for right ?


and it’s when we have
lower attachment related anxiety
lower attachment related avoidance.
-because we all have some.

So people who are more secure
in their dating relationships,
they’re able to take it seriously
they’re not holding on to it so tight that
they think they’re gonna die
if their relationship ends.

And this was a personal favorite,
and a life lesson for me,
since I tend to be an over sharer:

People who are more secure
regulate their disclosures
based on how much
the other person is sharing.

In their ongoing relationships they’re better able
to give their partners the benefit of the doubt.

“If you’re tired or distracted
that doesn’t mean that you
don’t care about me.“

And in conflict…

They’re more out to understand
than they are out to win.

So let’s talk more about how these
attachment styles lead into
our conflict patterns.


Principle number 4:
Attachment underlies conflict.

Therapist and researcher Sue Johnson
helped us understand how
attachment related anxiety and avoidance
feed into a very common pattern of conflict
in couples called…

The Pursue-Withdrawal Pattern

So in my own marriage
I tend to be

the pursuer, because I have
higher attachment related anxiety
than my husband.
-and he tends to be the avoider
or the withdrawer because
he has higher attachment related avoidance
than me.

But let’s talk about a different couple.

Let’s talk about Maya and Gabby.

So, a little background…

Maya has higher attachment anxiety
-and she’s learned to amp-up to get heard.

Gabby has higher attachment avoidance  
-she’s learned to cope with the stress
by putting her head down and working.
Which she’s really good at.

So, Gabby’s working late
and Maya’s home,
lonely and getting increasingly irritable.

By the time Gabby comes home
Maya criticizes her:

“You’re always late. “

Gabby defends herself:

“It’s not all the time
and it’s just this temporary project.
It’ll be over soon.“

As soon as one person minimizes
another person maximizes.

So Maya makes her case

and Gabby starts to get overwhelmed,
she feels like:

“Okay whatever I’m saying
is making it worse..
so I’m just going to shut down
and distract myself with tasks “

And then Gabby’s left feeling like
Maya doesn’t care
and this cycle will repeat itself.

Maybe on another day
with a different topic.

It also shows us four important things
about the four principles of attachment
that we’ve talked about so far…

So it helps us understand that:

#1: Attachment is intertwined with the stress

It shows us what it looks like when
that distress relief dynamic
isn’t working..

So both Maya and Gabby are in distress
but they’re unable to really
help each other.

#2: Our childhood fears can play out in our current ongoing conflicts

Our fears that we aren’t good enough
and that we can’t rely on the other person.

#3: attachment related anxiety and avoidance

can feed into a pursue-withdrawal conflict cycle


#4 number four

and perhaps most important,
it shows us that a lot of times couples
think they’re fighting about
someone coming home late,
or chores,
but what they’re really fighting about is:

“Do you see me ?”

“Do you value me ?”

“Do you need me ?”

“Can I count on you?”

and until that gets addressed and articulated
they’re unlikely to
be able to resolve the conflict.

So what do we do about this ?

We can begin to talk and think about
our attachment styles

Principle #5: Attachment is key to connection

So we can explore our own attachment style
as well as the attachment styles
of the people that we’re connected to.

We can watch for that pursue-withdrawal pattern in our relationships.


When we see it we can name it:

“Oh, we did that thing again.”

“Where I am up..
..and then you tamp down…
..and I amp up some more…
..then you shut down.”

And so

Once we name it then we can begin to change it.

And then the last one is

We can take a risk …
and share our attachment needs and fears.

So if we go back to Maya and Gabby…

Maya might have been able to say

“When you are late
I’m worried that it’s about me.”

And Gabby might have been able to say:
something like:

“You know work is how I bring value
and when you dismiss that
I feel really unworthy. “

Here’s how I did it on the bike …


I used all five principles:

Number 1
I understood that I was in distress
and I was going to need my husband Jordan to reassure me.

Number 2
I realized that my childhood fear of not being good enough
was getting triggered ..
and that was leading me to come across
as the more anxious attachment style.

Number 3
and that was going to just push Jordan away in that pursuit-withdrawal pattern

Number 4

and I used

Number 5
To take a risk and tell him what I was feeling.
and this is what that sounded like ..

When he waited for me at the top of the hill,
instead of unleashing my fury, I said:

“You know what, honey
  I’ve been riding along here
  and feeling really cranky
  and I wasn’t sure why “

  and I realized
  it’s because I’m worried that
  you don’t really want to be out here with me
that you wish you were riding with Mike or Dave,  
somebody faster.
That I’m just too slow.
That you’re not even getting a workout.”


Jordan, being the supportive person that he is was able to say:

“It’s okay that you’re slow “

I was slow !!!

“I was slow once too –
 and today isn’t about getting a workout.
Today’s about being together.

  Do you want to lead ?
  Because we can go at your pace.”

And I said:

“Are you sure ?
 because we could just ride separately
 and meet back at the house ?”

And he said:

“I’m sure. “


To wrap this up…

Talking about attachment
is scary,
it’s uncomfortable,  
we hate it.


If we can take the risk
and talk about our fears
then we can decrease conflict
and increase connection
with the people that we love.

Thank you

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The forgotten history of autism | Steve Silberman

Steve Silberman, author of the book Neurotribes, offers a brief history of autism, from Nazi extermination plans and a discredited journal article about vaccinesand how that has shaped our current understanding of autism.
Through to autistic people reclaiming their power, finding their own voice and coining the term neurodiversity, calling themselves neurodiverse and others neurotypical.

Q. Why is it that we still insist on regarding those who are different as “not normal”, “deficient” and categorizing them as “mentally ill”.

Difference is neither illness nor disorder.

Difference is just difference.

Difference is the space from which we can learn and understand.

Embracing difference is how we learn.

Human history is replete with examples of treating human difference as deficiency and disorder – and is, perhaps, one of the greatest disorders afflicting humanity.

As Silberman puts it

“we need every form of human intelligence on the planet
working together to tackle the challenges that we face as a society “

Steve Silberman

00:00 / 13:39

Steve Silberman • TED2015

The forgotten history of autism

“Just after Christmas last year, 132 kids in California got the measles by either visiting Disneyland or being exposed to someone who’d been there. The virus then hopped the Canadian border, infecting more than 100 children in Quebec. One of the tragic things about this outbreak is that measles, which can be fatal to a child with a weakened immune system, is one of the most easily preventable diseases in the world. An effective vaccine against it has been available for more than half a century, but many of the kids involved in the Disneyland outbreak had not been vaccinated because their parents were afraid of something allegedly even worse: autism.

But wait — wasn’t the paper that sparked the controversy about autism and vaccines debunked, retracted, and branded a deliberate fraud by the British Medical Journal? Don’t most science-savvy people know that the theory that vaccines cause autism is B.S.? I think most of you do, but millions of parents worldwide continue to fear that vaccines put their kids at risk for autism.

Why? Here’s why. This is a graph of autism prevalence estimates rising over time. For most of the 20th century, autism was considered an incredibly rare condition. The few psychologists and pediatricians who’d even heard of it figured they would get through their entire careers without seeing a single case. For decades, the prevalence estimates remained stable at just three or four children in 10,000. But then, in the 1990s, the numbers started to skyrocket. Fundraising organizations like Autism Speaks routinely refer to autism as an epidemic, as if you could catch it from another kid at Disneyland.

So what’s going on? If it isn’t vaccines, what is it? If you ask the folks down at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta what’s going on, they tend to rely on phrases like “broadened diagnostic criteria” and “better case finding” to explain these rising numbers. But that kind of language doesn’t do much to allay the fears of a young mother who is searching her two-year-old’s face for eye contact. If the diagnostic criteria had to be broadened, why were they so narrow in the first place? Why were cases of autism so hard to find before the 1990s?

Five years ago, I decided to try to uncover the answers to these questions. I learned that what happened has less to do with the slow and cautious progress of science than it does with the seductive power of storytelling. For most of the 20th century, clinicians told one story about what autism is and how it was discovered, but that story turned out to be wrong, and the consequences of it are having a devastating impact on global public health. There was a second, more accurate story of autism which had been lost and forgotten in obscure corners of the clinical literature. This second story tells us everything about how we got here and where we need to go next.

The first story starts with a child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital named Leo Kanner. In 1943, Kanner published a paper describing 11 young patients who seemed to inhabit private worlds, ignoring the people around them, even their own parents. They could amuse themselves for hours by flapping their hands in front of their faces, but they were panicked by little things like their favorite toy being moved from its usual place without their knowledge. Based on the patients who were brought to his clinic, Kanner speculated that autism is very rare. By the 1950s, as the world’s leading authority on the subject, he declared that he had seen less than 150 true cases of his syndrome while fielding referrals from as far away as South Africa. That’s actually not surprising, because Kanner’s criteria for diagnosing autism were incredibly selective. For example, he discouraged giving the diagnosis to children who had seizures but now we know that epilepsy is very common in autism. He once bragged that he had turned nine out of 10 kids referred to his office as autistic by other clinicians without giving them an autism diagnosis.

Kanner was a smart guy, but a number of his theories didn’t pan out. He classified autism as a form of infantile psychosis caused by cold and unaffectionate parents. These children, he said, had been kept neatly in a refrigerator that didn’t defrost. At the same time, however, Kanner noticed that some of his young patients had special abilities that clustered in certain areas like music, math and memory. One boy in his clinic could distinguish between 18 symphonies before he turned two. When his mother put on one of his favorite records, he would correctly declare, “Beethoven!” But Kanner took a dim view of these abilities, claiming that the kids were just regurgitating things they’d heard their pompous parents say, desperate to earn their approval. As a result, autism became a source of shame and stigma for families, and two generations of autistic children were shipped off to institutions for their own good, becoming invisible to the world at large.

Amazingly, it wasn’t until the 1970s that researchers began to test Kanner’s theory that autism was rare. Lorna Wing was a cognitive psychologist in London who thought that Kanner’s theory of refrigerator parenting were “bloody stupid,” as she told me. She and her husband John were warm and affectionate people, and they had a profoundly autistic daughter named Susie. Lorna and John knew how hard it was to raise a child like Susie without support services, special education, and the other resources that are out of reach without a diagnosis. To make the case to the National Health Service that more resources were needed for autistic children and their families,

Lorna and her colleague Judith Gould decided to do something that should have been done 30 years earlier. They undertook a study of autism prevalence in the general population. They pounded the pavement in a London suburb called Camberwell to try to find autistic children in the community. What they saw made clear that Kanner’s model was way too narrow, while the reality of autism was much more colorful and diverse. Some kids couldn’t talk at all, while others waxed on at length about their fascination with astrophysics, dinosaurs or the genealogy of royalty. In other words, these children didn’t fit into nice, neat boxes, as Judith put it, and they saw lots of them, way more than Kanner’s monolithic model would have predicted.

At first, they were at a loss to make sense of their data. How had no one noticed these children before? But then Lorna came upon a reference to a paper that had been published in German in 1944, the year after Kanner’s paper, and then forgotten, buried with the ashes of a terrible time that no one wanted to remember or think about. Kanner knew about this competing paper, but scrupulously avoided mentioning it in his own work. It had never even been translated into English, but luckily, Lorna’s husband spoke German, and he translated it for her.

The paper offered an alternate story of autism. Its author was a man named Hans Asperger, who ran a combination clinic and residential school in Vienna in the 1930s. Asperger’s ideas about teaching children with learning differences were progressive even by contemporary standards. Mornings at his clinic began with exercise classes set to music, and the children put on plays on Sunday afternoons. Instead of blaming parents for causing autism, Asperger framed it as a lifelong, polygenetic disability that requires compassionate forms of support and accommodations over the course of one’s whole life. Rather than treating the kids in his clinic like patients, Asperger called them his little professors, and enlisted their help in developing methods of education that were particularly suited to them. Crucially, Asperger viewed autism as a diverse continuum that spans an astonishing range of giftedness and disability. He believed that autism and autistic traits are common and always have been, seeing aspects of this continuum in familiar archetypes from pop culture like the socially awkward scientist and the absent-minded professor. He went so far as to say, it seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential.

Lorna and Judith realized that Kanner had been as wrong about autism being rare as he had been about parents causing it. Over the next several years, they quietly worked with the American Psychiatric Association to broaden the criteria for diagnosis to reflect the diversity of what they called “the autism spectrum.” In the late ’80s and early 1990s, their changes went into effect, swapping out Kanner’s narrow model for Asperger’s broad and inclusive one.

These changes weren’t happening in a vacuum. By coincidence, as Lorna and Judith worked behind the scenes to reform the criteria, people all over the world were seeing an autistic adult for the first time. Before “Rain Man” came out in 1988, only a tiny, ingrown circle of experts knew what autism looked like, but after Dustin Hoffman’s unforgettable performance as Raymond Babbitt earned “Rain Man” four Academy Awards, pediatricians, psychologists, teachers and parents all over the world knew what autism looked like.

Coincidentally, at the same time, the first easy-to-use clinical tests for diagnosing autism were introduced. You no longer had to have a connection to that tiny circle of experts to get your child evaluated.

The combination of “Rain Man,” the changes to the criteria, and the introduction of these tests created a network effect, a perfect storm of autism awareness. The number of diagnoses started to soar, just as Lorna and Judith predicted, indeed hoped, that it would, enabling autistic people and their families to finally get the support and services they deserved.

Then Andrew Wakefield came along to blame the spike in diagnoses on vaccines, a simple, powerful, and seductively believable story that was as wrong as Kanner’s theory that autism was rare.

If the CDC’s current estimate, that one in 68 kids in America are on the spectrum, is correct, autistics are one of the largest minority groups in the world. In recent years, autistic people have come together on the Internet to reject the notion that they are puzzles to be solved by the next medical breakthrough, coining the term “neurodiversity” to celebrate the varieties of human cognition.

One way to understand neurodiversity is to think in terms of human operating systems. Just because a P.C. is not running Windows doesn’t mean that it’s broken. By autistic standards, the normal human brain is easily distractable, obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail. To be sure, autistic people have a hard time living in a world not built for them. [Seventy] years later, we’re still catching up to Asperger, who believed that the “cure” for the most disabling aspects of autism is to be found in understanding teachers, accommodating employers, supportive communities, and parents who have faith in their children’s potential.

An autistic [man] named Zosia Zaks once said, “We need all hands on deck to right the ship of humanity.”

As we sail into an uncertain future, we need every form of human intelligence on the planet working together to tackle the challenges that we face as a society.

We can’t afford to waste a brain.

Thank you.”

Posted in Difference and Diversity, Emancipate yourself..., neurodiversity | Comments Off on The forgotten history of autism | Steve Silberman

What Causes Wellness ? Sir Harry Burns

[ via youtube auto transcript]

Okay the title of this session is

”The Common Wealth’

and Katherine and I thought
I would play around with the title
because the Commonwealth has connotations
of money and riches and economic growth
and to be perfectly honest

I’m fed up hearing
about it

So that’s what I thought…

we talked about the Common Welth
well as in wellness

Adam Smith talked about this
not in his book The Wealth of Nations

but the book he wrote a few years earlier
what was it called again?

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

in which he talked about the fact that
there is something in us that requires us
to see the happiness of others

even although we derive
no profit from it
except the pleasure of seeing it

he said at one end of the scale
he saw people behaving for their own good
in terms of their involvement with the market

and at the other end of the scale
he saw people behaving for the good of others

and there’s clearly a spectrum
between either end he said even

‘the greatest ruffian, the most abject violator
of the laws of society is subject to this notion of sympathy’

he called it,

He didn’t actually mention bankers
but I guess they’re probably in there somewhere.

So what I thought I would do  is
to pose the question:

What Causes Wellness ?

What is it that creates wellness in society ?

What is it that makes us well ?

and you’re probably sitting there thinking:  

“Stupid question,  isn’t this guy a doctor ? “

Doesn’t he know that what causes wellness
is avoiding the causes of illness ?

Doesn’t he know
that what makes us well
is not  being sick  ?

Well that’s fair enough for you to believe that
because we have
for the last hundred and fifty years
been brainwashed into thinking

that what matters is not being ill

but the reality is there is a spectrum here,
just as there was in Adam Smith’s thinking

about well-being and wealth

there’s a spectrum between
pathogenesis at one end
and salutogenesis at the other.

Doctors are trained exclusively in pathogenic thought:  
the causes of disease.

We’re trained to diagnose it

We’re trying to take histories to detect it

We’re trying to treat it

We’re trained to even sometimes – if we go into public health – try and find ways of preventing it

That’s a disease focus.


… on the other hand is a term that comes from Salas.
Salas was the Roman goddess of well-being.

also interestingly,
Roman goddess of safety
-interesting combination of thought there.

The idea that there is a spectrum
first occurred to me best part of 30 years ago
when I went to work in the Royal Infirmary
as a surgeon
and I was there for about two weeks
and I noticed something strange
they took longer to heal their wounds
than all the East End hospitals I had worked in previously

If we did an abdominal incision,  
by about eight to ten days it was healed up and they could go home

At the Royal it was about ten,  eleven days.

Subtle, but wasn’t just me

Others had noticed it
and we put it down to the fact that,  well,
they smoke or eat the wrong kinds of food,
 and so on.

That will slow down healing.

Over the next few years it became very plain
to me that that wasn’t the cause

and since then, in the last twenty five years
our analysis has shown that

– now don’t get me

Wrong, smoking is very, very bad for you okay?
 if anyone here smokes
stop it at once.

but we cannot ascribe the gap
between rich and poor
to the commonly held beliefs of
smoking, fatty diet –

These have an effect

but they don’t explain nearly enough of it

so I began to look for other theories
that would begin to explain what it is

that was missing in the lives of people

in the poorest parliamentary constituencies in Britain

At the lowest life expectancy,
what was it that they didn’t have
that others had ?

and that’s when I stumbled on the notion of

and I’ll just mention one or two theories.

Emily Varner, for example, is a psychologist
who studied the health of children
living in a particular island in the Hawaiian archipelago
where there was a high level of alcoholism,  child abuse,
just general chaos in life.

She found that

70% of the children grew up to have serious difficulties
followed their parents into these particular patterns of living

but 30% of them survived and did well

and what she said was they acquired resilience,
and what allowed them to acquire resilience
was they had developed the positive attributes:
they were outgoing, positive, optimistic, bright
they had a significant relationship
with a sensible adult
– who may have been a parent or a grandparent-
but it was a mentor there to help them
and they received support
within the community from their peers.

Another theory came from Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychotherapist
who spent the war years in Auschwitz
and he wrote a book. He went on to live till he was 95.

He wrote a book entitled
Man’s Search For Meaning

and the introduction to it says if you have a Why ? to live
then you can deal with almost any how

Meaning and purpose allows you to hang on to life
and make the best of it
no matter how miserable the circumstances are

and if you think about the way meaning and purpose
and lives began to disappear in West Central Scotland:
Yards closed when the steel foundries disappeared,
when men suddenly had no jobs that gave their lives
meaning and purpose

another notion is the notion of flourishing q

Quarry Keys an American psychologist
who talks about flourishing as a cause of well-being.

People who flourish are happy, satisfied,

they see themselves as having a purpose,
they are optimistic
they have a degree of mastery,
they have a sense of control over their lives
and they have a degree of self-esteem,
they accept themselves for what they are

all of these themes run through all of the different theories of well-being

but it was when I came across an American sociologist called Aaron Antonovski
that things began to make sense
because I was looking for a link between
psychology and biology.

When I was a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary
I would sign death certificates all the time
but I never signed a death certificate that said
he died because he was unemployed,

You died of a molecular event.

So what was the link between the social circumstances
and the increased risk of molecular events,  
like thrombosis, and malignancy,  and so on ?

And Antonovski began to fill in that space.
He said unless we learn that the wonders
comprehensible manageable meaningful
unless we learn that we can make sense
of the one then we can control to a certain extent
events round about us
and want to engage with that we would
experience a state of chronic stress an

Antonovsky derived that thought from
interviewing many hundreds of concentration camp survivors

he found that 70% of them are unhealthy
but again 30% same as Verna’s discovery

30% of those adults as children had been in concentration camps survived,
he said,

children who don’t acquire that sense
see all the events around about them as noise
not as information
and they become stressed by it

and, I don’t have time to go into the detail,
but we’ve followed through
in great detail the biological consequences of social chaos

and I’ll just show you one example
the way in which stressful events and early life
change the way brain structures develop

We know that even from the earliest  months children living in children’s homes,
a  Canadian study,
the longer a child is being looked after away from a single significant parent,  
the greater the stress hormone levels are

and they grow up to have changes in structures in the brain
– that squiggly bit in the middle of that brain picture is
an area called the hippocampus,  
that’s the bit of the brain that among other things
allows you to learn and remember appropriately,

but it allows you to suppress the stress response.

We know from measurement of the volume of the hippocampus
and affluence- deprived people
not just in the west of Scotland  but in other parts

that chaotic early life leads to
a reduced ability to manage stress

regulation of stress responses
reduced ability to  learn
reduced ability to make sense of the wound
round about you
and behave appropriately

The biology is very clear:

chaotic difficult circumstances
lead to increased risk of physical ill health

So let’s not spend a fortune trying to find drugs to fix that

let’s change the chaotic and difficult circumstances
so that they don’t happen.

In 1971 I was a medical student when we elected the great Jimmy Reed,  Lord rector of Glasgow University.

His Rectoral  address was reprinted and full in the New York Times,  which called it
“the single most important speech since the Gettysburg Address”

and those of us who were there thought that comparison rather flattered Abraham Lincoln to be perfectly honest .

Reid’s speech was about alienation.


Which he defined as

“the cry of men,  
the victims of blind economic forces
beyond their control

the feeling of despair and hopelessness

that pervades people

who feel with justification
they have no say in shaping

or determining

their own destinies “

This is what I think is happening in West Central Scotland

The cycle of alienation that may begin with chaotic early years
leads to mental health
and childhood leads to behavior problems at school

or, and by the way,

When a child who is becoming alienated
has behavior problems at school what do we do ?

We exclude them from school:
alienating them even futther

I heard recently about a kid who was permanently truanting.
What did they do ?
They excluded them from school !

  • Madness !

They fail in education.
The end up, often, in prison.

When I visit the young men in Pullman,  
I say to them:
“what are you’re going to do when you get out?”

 “I’ll never get a job “

So what are you going to do ?””

“I’ll just sit at home and watch telly
and drink.

The lives are ended, aged 18.

The consequences of that are
poverty which feeds even more
into the sense of alienation.

We think if only we fix poverty
it will all be alright.

Poverty is part of a cycle
and poverty can often be as much a consequence of this cycle
as a cause of it.
Action that is required has to happen
across the whole of that life course:

we have to deal with early years
we have to deal with teenagers
we have to help young people who are being alienated even further
we have to help older people who become isolated

and we’re doing it
we’re doing things in Scotland that the rest of the world is looking on enviously.

Tomorrow down in the SECC
we will have their fifth meeting of
the collaborative brings together
800 practitioners plus
some senior people
one of the guys in the foreground is
the permanent secretary
in the Scottish Government
who comes to all of these things

cause he thinks if he comes then
ministers come they come and they stay
they don’t just do the 20 minute speech
and go away
and what’s happening as
practitioners have decided
that they will change childhood
that they will stand up
and they will walk out what’s happening

they will test things for example:
you improve attachment between parent and child
you improve cognitive function by bedtime stories.

I was probably the only chief medical officer
in the world who knew from one day to the next
how many children in Scotland
got bedtime stories
because we counted

If this is a nursery that says
ok we’ll ask all the kids
“did they get their own story ?”

and if it falls below 90%
we’ll do something to make it better

and just like the British cycle team
made huge performance improvements
by attention to lots of little details
those bedtime stories
those breastfeeding
those-  the smoking cessation-
there’s a whole range of things going on
across the whole of Scotland
to make Scotland the best place in the world
for children to grow up

With will and with method we can transform Scotland.

Last April I went to visit a lady called Roseanne Haggerty in New York

In 2010 Roseanne decided to set out find a hundred thousand homes for homeless people

I checked this morning, the counter on her website shows that
she has found homes for ninety nine thousand six hundred and fourteen people.

Four years later she found that
by connecting with people, volunteers would go out
walking up folks sleeping under bridges and ask them the names
and once they had asked them the names
connections are cut and they found them homes.

These people had been homeless for an average seven years
and she’s doing it.

and I’ll just finish by a court quoting this guy…

The guy in the middle with the daft grin on his face
is a priest who thirty years ago was sent to a parish in South Los Angeles

the police told him he would be lucky to survive a week,  
because of the gang warfare that was taking place

Thirty years on he is surrounded by adoring fans
because he connected with them.
He just went out and asked them their names
and he found that the thing was
they felt as if they had no meaning and purpose.

So he got a rich friend of his to buy a disused bakery  
and Homeboy Bakeries was born.

He employed them.
He quickly found he had to start a second enterprise
called Homeboy Tattoo Removal

Many had gang tattoos and they were all fighting with each other
so a plastic surgeon friend of his gave him a laser
and showed two or three of the gang members
how to take tattoos off.

Greg came to Glasgow a few months ago
at the request of the violence reduction unit
and I took him to visit a school at lunchtime.

He told me that the 14 and 15 year olds he spoke to there
asked far harder questions than most academics asked.

but I just want to leave you with one final comment
that he made to these kids

and it’s the comment that should drive us
to strive harder to fix the broken bits of Scotland

What he said to them was

“What we need is
a compassion that stands in awe
at the burdens the poor have to carry
rather than stand in judgment
of the way they carry them.”

If we live by that
we will make Scotland
a much better place.

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Hearing Voices Cafe Toronto – Jan – Mar 2023

We’re back, in-person, and meeting in the cafe.

Coffee and All That Jazz

72 Howard Park Ave
Planet Earth

Right on the 506 TTC route.

4pm to 6pm

A huge
to Su & David
at the “The Jazz”
for their ongoing

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Hearing Voices Cafe Toronto – Jan – Mar 2023

Embracing Confusion and Uncertainty

That feeling when…
you’re certain…
that’s when
you know
fer sure
you’re wrong.

Dave U

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately, through COVID I was working on developing and refining a new workshop – UN_ESCALATE, probably the most complex one I’ve done.

UN_ESCALATE came about in respons to a question that would always come up at one of my other workshops that has been running for ten years

“do you do anything like this on de-escalation?”

To which I’d respond with

“”no because I don;t really think about it that way.”

Then one day someone I really respect came to that workshop and asked the exact same question in the exact same way.

I responded in my usual way but then something inside me compelled me to say:

“But let me have a think on how I do think about it and what I might have to offer.”

And since I’d decided I wanted to offer, in the words of Monty Python,

“And now, for something completely different…”

I needed to call it something different.

I did almost call it “un-deescalate” which might have offered more of a clue to what its about and how it is different, but I decided to do what academics and psychiatrists think they are the only ones who can do it without being called a symptom of serious mental illness: I neologised the ass off it and made up a word.

I started working actively on UN_ESCALATE four years ago, and since its been difficult to bring people together in a room for much of that time, opportunities to try it out and develop it have been few. Every time we did manage yo invite folks to a workshop that we’d developed using the feedback response was the same:

“Wow, this is great, more please!”.

So it grew in three stages from a simple single half-day ideas sharing session, then a three half-day version, and finally into a full-on two-day immersive workshop, which we were able to offer twice in summer and fall of 2023 and its settling there as being just about right.

Folks who’ve attended this version no longer ask for more time in a workshop [ “hell no!” ] but through a series of dialogues it is emerging as the basis of a new project- a “community of learning and healing” that we will be calling: “unbolloxing”. [Watch this space.]

Though I was working on the workshop it for four years, since some of the core ideas in it first came to my awareness early in the 1990s it’s probably true that this project has been in the making for some thirty years. and now – going by what folks who came said about their experiences – its working fine.

Over the last three months, starting the week after the last offering of the workshop, I’ve been immersed in writing a piece sorting out and connecting some of the the many ideas I was wrangling together over that four years. I started out with the intention of writing an op ed, but it resisted being constrained to eight hundred words. I am much better at designing workshops than I am at writing op eds.

I shared the draft yesterday with a handful of friends I trust to offer me robust feedback. I expect it’ll turn into a backgrounder for those interested in participating in the workshop.

Especially over that period, and more especially when thinking about moving forward with unbolloxing, I’ve been turning a lot to the words and language and ideas of one of my favourite writers: Margaret Wheatley.

So, here’s a piece that seems a fitting reflection as the clock time moves us from the end of one year and into a brand new one…

  • Most of us weren’t trained to like confusion or to admit when we feel hesitant and uncertain.
  • In schools and organizations, value is placed on sounding assured and confident.
  • People are rewarded for stating opinions as if they’re facts.
  • Quick answers abound; pensive questions have disappeared from most organizations.
  • Confusion has yet to appear as a higher order value, or a behavior that organizations eagerly reward.

-Margaret Wheatley




Partnering with Confusion and Uncertainty | Margaret Wheatley

Partnering with Confusion and Uncertainty”
Shambhala Sun November 2001
Margaret Wheatley

Most people I meet want to develop more harmonious and satisfying relationships–in their organizations, communities, and personal lives. But we may not realize that this desire can only be satisfied by partnering with new and strange allies-uncertainty and confusion. Most of us weren’t trained to like confusion or to admit when we feel hesitant and uncertain. In schools and organizations, value is placed on sounding assured and confident. People are rewarded for stating opinions as if they’re facts. Quick answers abound; pensive questions have disappeared from most organizations. Confusion has yet to appear as a higher order value, or a behavior that organizations eagerly reward.

And as life continues speeding up (adding to our confusion,) we don’t have time to be uncertain. We don’t have time to listen to anyone who expresses a new or different position. In meetings and in the media, often we listen to others just long enough to determine whether we agree with them or not. We rush from opinion to opinion, listening for those tidbits and soundbites that confirm our position. Gradually we become more certain, but less informed, and far less thoughtful.

We can’t continue on this path if we want to act more intelligently, if we want to find approaches and solutions to the problems that plague us. The world now is quite perplexing. We no longer live in those sweet, slow days when life felt predictable, when we actually knew what to do next. In this increasingly complex world, it’s impossible to see most of what’s going on. The only way to see more of the complexity is to ask many others for their perspectives and experiences. Yet if we open ourselves to their differing perceptions, we will find ourselves inhabiting the uncomfortable space of not knowing.

It is very difficult to give up certainty-these positions, beliefs, explanations define us and lie at the core of our personal identity. Certainty is a lens to interpret what’s going on and, as long as our explanations work, we feel a sense of stability and security. But in a changing world, certainty doesn’t give us stability; it actually creates more chaos. As we stay locked in our position and refuse to adapt and change, the things we hoped would stay together fall apart. It’s a traditional paradox expressed in many spiritual traditions: By holding on, we destroy what we hope to preserve; by letting go, we feel secure in accepting what is.

I believe that this changing world requires much less certainty, and far more curiosity. I’m not suggesting we let go of our beliefs, only that we become curious about what someone else believes. As we open to the disturbing differences, sometimes we discover that another’s way of interpreting the world actually is essential to our survival.

The global system we inhabit is dense and tangled. We each live in a different part of this complexity. And, no two people are identical. Therefore, it’s impossible for two people to see things exactly the same. You can test this out for yourself. Take any event that you’ve shared with others (a speech, a movie, a current event, a major problem) and ask your colleagues and friends to describe their interpretation of that event. I think you’ll be amazed at how many different explanations you’ll hear. You’ll end up with a rich tapestry of interpretations much more interesting than your single one.

I find that the first step to becoming curious is to admit that I’m not succeeding in figuring things out alone. If my solutions don’t work as well as I’d like, if my explanations of why something happened don’t feel sufficient, I take these as signs that it’s time to begin asking others about what they see and think. I try to move past the lazy and superficial conversations where I pretend to agree with someone else rather than inquire seriously into their perspective. I try and become a conscious listener, actively listening for differences.

There are many ways to sit and listen for the differences. Lately, I’ve been listening for what surprises me. What did I just hear that startled me? This isn’t easy-I’m accustomed to sit there nodding my head as someone voices what I agree with. But when I notice what surprises me, I’m able to see my own views more clearly, including my beliefs and assumptions.

Noticing what surprises and disturbs me has been a very useful way to see invisible beliefs. If what you say surprises me, I must have been assuming something else was true. If what you say disturbs me, I must believe something contrary to you. My shock at your position exposes my own position. When I hear myself saying “How could anyone believe something like that?” a light comes on for me to see my own beliefs. These moments are great gifts. If I can see my beliefs and assumptions, I can decide whether I still value them.

If you’re willing to be disturbed and confused, I recommend that you begin a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you do. Listen as best you can for what’s different, for what surprises you. Try and stop the voice of judgment or opinion. Just listen. At the end of this practice, notice whether you learned anything new. Notice whether you developed a better relationship with the person you talked with. If you try this with several people, you might find yourself laughing in delight as you realize how many unique ways there are to be human.

We have the opportunity many times a day, everyday, to be the one who listens to others, curious rather than certain. And the greatest benefit that comes to those who listen is that we develop closer relationships with those we thought we couldn’t understand. When we listen with less judgment, we always develop better relationship with each other. It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments that do. Curiosity and good listening bring us back together.

Sometimes we hesitate to listen for differences because we don’t want to change. We’re comfortable with our lives, and if we listened to anyone who raised questions, we’d have to get engaged in changing things. If we don’t listen, things can stay as they are. But most of us do see things in our life or in the world that we would like to be different. If that’s true, we have to listen more, not less. And we have to be willing to move into the discomfort of uncertainty and confusion.

We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Yet if we move through the fear and enter the abyss, we rediscover we’re creative.

As the world grows more strange, perplexing and difficult, I don’t believe most of us want to keep struggling through it alone. I can’t know what to do from my own narrow perspective. I know I need a better understanding of what’s going on. I want to sit down with you and talk about all the frightening and hopeful things I observe, and listen to what frightens you and gives you hope. I need new ideas and solutions for the problems I care about. I know I need to talk to you to discover those. I need to learn to value your perspective, and I want you to value mine. I expect to be disturbed, even jarred, by what I hear from you. I expect to feel confused and displaced-my world won’t feel as stable or familiar to me once we talk.

One last thing. As I explore partnering with confusion and uncertainty, I’m learning that we don’t have to agree with each other in order to think well together. There is no need for us to be joined at the head. We are joined already by our human hearts.



Margaret Wheatley is a well-respected writer, speaker, and teacher for how we can accomplish our work, sustain our relationships, and willingly step forward to serve in this troubling time. She has written six books: Walk Out Walk On (with Deborah Frieze, 2011); Perseverance (2010); Leadership and the New ScienceTurning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the FutureA Simpler Way (with Myron Rogers); and Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. Each of her books has been translated into several languages; Leadership and the New Science appears in 18 languages. She is co-founder and President emerita of The Berkana Institute, which works in partnership with a rich diversity of people and communities around the world, especially in the Global South. These communities find their health and resilience by discovering the wisdom and wealth already present in their people, traditions and environment (www.berkana.org). Wheatley received her doctorate in Organizational Behavior and Change from Harvard University, and a Masters in Media Ecology from New York University. She’s been an organizational consultant since 1973, a global citizen since her youth, a professor in two graduate business programs, a prolific writer, and a happy mother and grandmother. She has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. You may read her complete bio at http://margaretwheatley.com/bio.html, and may download any of her many articles (free) at http://margaretwheatley.com/writing.htm

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Hearing Voices Cafe Toronto – Fall 2022

We’re back, in-person, and meeting in the cafe.

Coffee and All That Jazz

72 Howard Park Ave
Planet Earth

Right on the 506 TTC route.

4pm to 6pm

Big thanks to Su & David “The Jazz” for their ongoing support.

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Workshop: UN_ESCALATE – Mon.27 & Tue.28 FEB 2023


The overall aim of this workshop is that participants are better able to reduce the number and impact of situations in which those seeking support from services experience that in ways they find dehumanizing, degrading and oppressive.


As if it were not abundantly so before, the last two years has made crystal clear the extent to which just how stressed beyond limits are our systems and individuals who work in them and those they are intended to serve.

When most stressed we tend to default mode and talk of escalation – de-escalation, and place expectation on staff to be experts in deescalating those said to be in-need-of “de-escalation”.

We create a completely bonkers binary of escalate<>deescalate, in which we assume and expect that:

  • those we call “clients” [amongst other terms] will act in a way we get to call “escalate”
  • and those we call “workers” are then tasked “deescalate” them.

And, so doing, we keep creating results that nobody wants:

including but not limited to “burnout”, which in turn generates more “escalation”.

This is perhaps an unintended consequences a system strained beyond limits, and experienced as injurious and oppressive, and all this in a system espousing important principles of “anti-oppression” and “trauma informed”.

Q. How can we begin to question current practices and habits and the underlying assumptions they are built upon and limited by ?

Q. How might we stand back and examine eth mindset – habits of thinking – and the orthodoxy lays the foundations of this and thus creates the patterns we see repeated dozens of times a week, even each day ?

Q. How might we begin to look at how we design and deliver services?

Q How might we begin to build approaches and practices at individual team and organization level rooted less in fear, containment and control but in connecting and healing?

Please note:
If you’re looking for the kind of training that offers something like…
“Three easy steps you can use to deescalate anyone, any time”,
then UN_ESCALATE really is not it


  • Different, and intentionally so.
  • Starts in a different place and carves a different path.
  • Shares ideas, tools from many sources including: systems thinking and relational dynamics, peace building, peer support, health promotion.
  • Focused on ways we can critically examine how services are designed and operated , to not do – or to undo – some of the many things that get done to people who access services that lead them to react in ways that get called “escalating” and results in them being deemed a “person in need of de-escalation”. 

If we do this then, maybe, we’ll find ourselves thinking that we need to “de-escalate” another  person less often.

“Yeah, we do things round here all the time that ‘escalate’ people.”

UN_ESCALATE : Some basic assumptions.

  • No individual escalates all by themself. We each “escalate“: in response to [something in] our environment, and in context of our whole life experience.
  • Whatever a person is doing is both an expression of a deeply felt need, and a survival response.
  • Whatever survival response we tend to fall back on is likely one that we’ve learned from how life has treated us and one that’s worked so far… but is also not the only one and may not the best one for this moment.
  • The only person I can “de-escalate” is me. None of us can “de-escalate another”.
  • We can though, de-escalate the situation in which we both find ourselves.


  • Q. How might we draw upon experiences of being in the role of  worker required to “de-escalate” a person said to be “in need of de-escalation”?
  • Q. How might we draw upon experiences of having been that person said to be “in need of de-escalation”?
  • Q. How might we go beyond the operationalization, steps, and rules-based approach of  “de-escalation” and instead UN_ESCALATE?

This is a TWO DAY workshop.

Two full days


Learning Aims and Objectives


The overall aim of this workshop is that participants are better able to reduce the number and impact of situations in which those seeking support from services experience that in ways they find dehumanizing, degrading and oppressive.

And, especially

-When working with individuals who have been marginalized and stigmatized…

-In those encounters that that lead a person seeking support to react in ways that services then deem that individual to be “escalating” and “in need of de-escalating”.

Also, that staff in services feel better equipped, more competent, and better able to work in ways that they can bring forth their full humanity and enjoy their work.
The goal? :
Number of encounters experienced by clients as as oppressive: zero.

UN_ESCALATE: Learning Objectives

Participants in this workshop will be better enabled to:

Participants in this workshop will be better enabled to:

  1. Recognize for many of those who seek support from health and other services that their experience of doing so can often be degrading, dehumanizing and oppressive.
  2. Inquire into our current practices, habits, and the underlying assumptions informing them; and how they can contribute to clients often experiencing services as degrading, dehumanizing and oppressive.
  3. Understand the complexity of dynamics at work in a situation we might call “escalating”.
  4. Explore new models of understanding and working with situations we call “escalation” that are less violent, coercive, oppressive and more focused on building relations that promote connecting, healing,
  5. Recognize the part we might play in generating or contributing to a situation that might be regarded as “escalation” – when in the roles from designing and directing to daily running of services that many people experience as oppressive.
  6. Identify ways we can act differently to reduce the likelihood of “escalation” arising, and to reduce the damaging impact whenever it does.
  7. Reduce defensiveness in-after-action reviews and debriefings following encounters that go all “Pete Tong”
  8. Work in ways that can reduce both the number and severity of instances in which individuals who seek support from services experience that as oppressive.
  9. Offer support to those seeking services who find it difficult and who wish to enhance their ability to self-advocate: Express their needs for support – in ways that make it more likely they will receive it.
  10. Offer support to those seeking services who find it difficult and who wish to enhance their ability to Communicate any dissatisfaction they may experience with service in ways that makes it more likely that they will be heard and be addressed.
  11. Initiate and maintain relations and relationships between those we call “worker” and those we call “client” that are rooted in mutual dignity and respect and, which generate connection, learning and healing.

a WORKshop for WORKers…

Sharing ideas, thinking tools and practical stuff you can use so you can suck less.

This workshop is designed to share some ideas , tools and approaches we can use to examine how we can change the way we approach situations in which it is usually said that an individual is “in need of de-escalation”.

  • Shares and examines some ideas on how we might look upon and understand how escalation works and how power plays out in that.
  • Creates opportunity – to use some of these ideas, individually and or in combination, to examine how we work in services in ways that lead people to “escalate” and generate practical ideas for changing how we work in these situations, including systemic changes and also personal choices we make in how we go about the work.
  • Including generating ideas for change in our workplace individual, team and organisation level – or different choices we can make starting from our next shift.
  • Skills Practice. Working in small groups, you’ll create real scenarios you come across in your work and want time to practice: thinking, doing differently, using the ideas and tools shared in parts 1 & 2, feeling how it feels in your body, reflecting and building confidence.
  • Designed as small, interactive, participatory workshop .
  • Spaces are Limited [20 spaces]. 
  • NO ZOOM!


Kevin Healey


Church of The Holy Trinity

10 Trinity Square

[next to Eaton Centre]


Register online now via Eventbrite using the checkout box below.

If you prefer to go to the full event page at Eventbrite use this link:


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The workshop formerly know as :
HV Workshop#1 Accepting Voices

We’ve now added a new follow-up workshop:

Accepting Voices | Part 2

Coming soon.!!

What if everything you think you know about hearing voices is wrong?

Or if not wrong, then it at least limits your ability to:

• understanding a person’s struggle with experiences like difficult-to-hear voices and others that get called “psychosis” and dismissed as “not real” ? 

• support them in navigating their struggle and finding ways they might heal.?

Who this workshop is designed for…


If you are in a leadership position and seeking ways to develop capacity at individual, team and organization level to support clients in ways that fully honors:

  • Truly understanding trauma and the many ways it can manifest, and in ways that are fully congruent with other approaches like harm reduction and health promotion.
  • Centering our interconnectedness and shared humanity; and drawing on them as resource and source of power and practical action for bringing change that supports community and healing.


If you work in health or social services, and especially supporting those who have been pushed out to the margins of society, then you likely…

  • Meet many people who live with difficult-to-hear-voices are told what they experience is “not real” and many of those who struggle.
  • Know too how that can leave you feeling uncomfortable, confused, lost, or powerless.

This workshop is designed for you.

Supporters and carers.

If you support a loved one who struggles, then you likely do too: to understand the nature of their pain and ways you might best support them and support healing.

This workshop is for you too and you are welcome to join us.

This workshop will enable you to…

  • Offer yourself as a one-person safe space to those who struggle with painful experiences that get categorised and labelled as ‘psychosis” and dismissed as “not real”.
  • Understand what hearing voices can feels like to those who experience them, those around them.
  • Open options for support other than those rooted in fear and control and – put them into practice in supportive environments that promote connection and healing.
  • Free yourself from downloading thoughts, language, and acts of stigmatization used against those who hear voices that you don’t hear.
  • Join with a community of practice that is informed by the International Hearing Voices Movement and individuals who experience voices.

Workshop #1: Accepting Voices


  • Mon  23rd
    JANUARY 2023
  • 9:30am to 5:00pm


  • This is a full day workshop
  • We take an hour interval for lunch.


We’ll have coffee / tea / water available

  • Lunch is not provided.
    We do take 1 hr for lunch.


Church of The Holy Trinity
Trinity Square

[East Side of Eaton Centre]


  • Worker / Full $250
  • Family Member / Carer $150
  • Concessions From $100


Register NOW online- via Eventbrite using the ticketing box below.

If you prefer to go to the full event page at Eventbrite use the link:


More About This Workshop

This introductory and foundational workshop will open doors of new understanding, in non-diagnostic, non-categorizing ways, of a range of human experiences that get called names like “psychosis”and dismissed as “not real”, when at least to the to the person experiencing them, they are very real indeed.

This workshop is designed especially for those who work in health and social services but is open to all who want to learn how they can better support a person who struggles.

Many who find themselves struggling to support loved ones who struggle and find themselves bewildered and frustrated by the help offered by services have also attended and found it useful for them. Indeed, we find it creates a richer experience when we can come together and learn with and from each other.

The world, society, and culture that we have created for ourselves and each other is not fit for humans. Join in co-creating one that is.

What Participants Have Said About This Workshop

“You gave me a whole new way of thinking about voices.”

“I’m not quite sure what I learned but I feel like my whole Universe has been tilted.”

“Eye opening, Stunned”

“Best workshop I ever attended”

“I learned more from one day with you and Dave than in seven years of training to be a psychologist”

Who needs to attend this workshop?

Really, whether you need to attend is your choice, the above is what some who’ve attended said, here’s another.

“Everyone working in mental health. Scratch that: EVERYONE !!!”

This workshop offers a beginning, an introduction to a non-diagnostic, non-medical, human experience perspective understanding of the kinds of experiences – like difficult-to-hear voices- that are often categorised as “psychosis”.

A key part is making connections between pain, trauma psychosis powerlessness and disconnectedness we can experience when we find ourselves feared and discarded by society.

Q. Do you…?

  • Work with people who hear voices and who struggle with their experience of that?
  • Have someone in your life who hears voices and struggles with difficult experiences that get called “psychosis
  • Feel limited in your ability to understand and support them?
  • Feel frustrated at how the story that voices must mean illness limits us – not only the lives of people who hear voices, but all of us?
  • Feel weary of the notion that we must fear ourselves and fear each other?
  • Want to understand connections between adverse events, trauma , injury woundedness, pain and difficult-to-hear voices.
  • Want to minimise the additional trauma generated by how services are typically designed and operated when working to support those who face being rendered powerlessness and disconnected from society?
  • Feel ready to learn more, and find you keep asking yourself “what else can I do?”.
  • Want to know more about how you can be part of creating the future, and join in with enacting a world that understands and is better able to offer real support?

Q. Are Ready to “tilt your universe”?

If so, then this workshop might help you tilt your universe and emancipate yourself with very simple and very human ways to understand and begin to act to support a person who struggles with difficult experiences that get called names like “psychosis”.

Our aim is that you can feel more confident in your ability to offer yourself as a one-person safe space to people who live with experiences that get called names like “psychosis” and that can be difficult to live with and more difficult to talk about.

Note: If you’re looking for a workshop on how to diagnose and categorise your friends, family and colleagues then please know that this workshop really is not that workshop.

Join us in enacting a world that understands voice hearing, supports the needs of people who hear voices and regards them as full citizens.

How this workshop fits with others we offer…

This Workshop is part of a structured and modular approach to learning ways of supporting people who struggle.

As a first step that is designed to offer a basic grounding but also foundation for further, deeper learning and practice in supporting people who struggle with experiences like difficult-to-hear voices that get called “psychosis”.

Participation in this workshop is step towards to other more advanced and learning opportunities, around Hearing Voices approach (sometimes called Maastricht Approach) to living with and supporting those who live with experiences that, though remarkably common, get dismissed as not real, mystified, made taboo and dismissed as “not real”.

  • Working With VoicesStarting and Sustaining Hearing Voices Groups In Your Community
  • Carnival des Voix [running your own]
  • Working with Maastricht Interview
  • Facilitating Voice Dialogue

What you can expect

This workshop is a whole day and a full one, too.

This unique and innovative workshop offers you a non-diagnostic understanding of the kinds of experience like hearing voices that are that are sometimes called “psychosis”.

We offer you simple, everyday language to show you how you can understand such experiences not as “disconnected from” but intimately connected with reality and in ways that can be overwhelming, painful, frustrating, sometimes terrifying response to the reality we share,

It also offers a framework – we call it “The Wormhole”- a heuristic that you can use to held you be more open to your own experiences draw from that to help you truly empathize and understand how better to support people who might be undergoing such difficult experiences.

You’ll leave feeling more at ease with both yourself and your ability to offer yourself as a one-person safe-space to people who struggle.

Join us in enacting a society that understands voice hearing, supports individuals who hear voices and views them as full citizens…

This workshop will enable you better to …

  • Understand hearing voices [and other experiences] as a normal human experience, that can become problematic when a person is left to struggle without support.
  • Share simple data and stories about just how common it is to hear voices – how it is not in itself a problem and many people do – some cultures regard it as bringing great benefit.
  • Peer through and beyond diagnostic frameworks – resist the urge to catalogue and categorize everything you witness as “symptom” and instead.
  • Take an interest in the person struggling with their experience of voices and other experiences called “psychosis” as a human being having a hard time.
  • Begin to accept even the most difficult of human experiences as something that can be understood, explored and even valued.
  • Look within your own experience and relate with different experiences like hearing voices, visions, unshared beliefs.
  • Explore how you can be at ease in your role and be more real with people who have difficult experiences.
  • Offer yourself as a one-person safe-space to people who struggle with experiences like hearing voices.
  • Connect yourself with a community of people doing just that.

We believe the hearing voices approach is part of broader human liberatory approaches around the world and is emancipatory for all. As Lilla Watson is credited with put it so wonderfully…

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Workshop design…

This is an intensive workshop covering a lot of ground, together we will :

  • Gain insights from people who hear voices, and from others who work with people who hear voices.
  • Learn how we can think differently about voices and other experiences that are sometimes called “psychosis”.
  • Explore how, as workers, we can accept ourselves and each other, relax and enjoy our work: the better to offer support for people who hear voices.
  • Interact – with deep personal reflection, shared sense-making and dialogue.
  • We will also share some simple, practical approaches that you can use in your practice on return to work.
  • Connect with resources and both local network and the global hearing voices community.
  • This workshop is designed to leave you feeling more competent and confident in your own ability to offer yourself as a one-person safe space for people who hear voices.

You will not become an expert in one day but you’ll have a good basis for starting and feeling more comfortable – and more human – as you do.

Please feel free to help us let other people know about this workshop by printing, posting, distributing, however you can with your networks…

About the Presenters, Facilitators, Designers

  • Kevin Healey 

hears more voices than you can shake a stick at, so many that even his voices hear voices, and has done so for longer than either he – or they – care to remember but its over fifty years.

Founder and coordinator of http://www.recoverynet.ca, Toronto Hearing Voices group, Anglophone Canada’s longest running, and of the Hearing Voices Café.

Creates and delivers innovative, taboo-busting talks, trainings and workshops that enable people to find new language, and simpler ways to understand surprisingly common human experiences that we’ve made fearful and taboo, so making life even harder both for those who struggle and also for the rest of us to understand.

Shows how we can make simple sense of trauma, pain, psychosis, taboo, and butt-hurt voices, and how they interweave and interconnect our inner-struggle with living in an outer-world that is fast becoming unfit for humans who built it and in which we keep creating results that nobody wants. After you’ve heard him talk you may join those who say they don’t hear voices but now wish they could.

  • Dave U

For many years Dave would only say only one word, now he authors articles at http://www.recoverynet.ca and moderates online support groups for voices to talk directly with each other round the world, he codesigned this workshop – in fact there’s a lot of Dave in this workshop – if you come you’ll get to meet him/ them.

Enjoys creating memes: out of things voices say, about living in a universe that mostly comprises what he refers to as The Weird, and his own wry observations on the human obsession with calling each other horrible names, categorizing and crushing each other into boxes that don’t fit.

As Dave points out, voices have stories too.

Dave’s favourite pastime is pretending to be a jelly while swearing a lot.

Next second is remarking upon how “voices” and “humans” behave in ways that are often very much the-one-is–like-the-other. Dave doesn’t really have a bio – like other superheroes he has an “Origins Story”, and like “The Truth…”, at least some of it, is already “ Out There…”

  • Mark Roininen

Mark has many years experience as “worker” with a major social services agency, and has worked with many who struggle with the kind of experiences that get called “psychosis”.

He shares his personal perspective of how being confronted with his own dark side enabled him to relate more simply and authentically with difficult experiences of the people he works with, in-process, freeing himself from merely following “the script” and playing “invisible worker” so that he can be both more professional and more human.

His ability to share stories of his own experience of learning how to do this work offers others hope that they can too.


About “Hearing Voices”

Why we choose to use the term hearing voices, what we mean by it…

Hearing voices is intentional, ordinary language descriptive of a range of human experiences that in Western cultures has been mystified and made taboo, and that we have been taught to fear – and yet which are also remarkably common, likely much more common than you think. No everyone uses this language, all kinds of people live with experiences they might call voices, some choose other languages.

Hearing voices does not presuppose neither that a voice can only come from a human body, nor must be heard by more than one person, or more especially must be also heard by someone called a “mental health professional” .

Hearing Voices as Approach also refers to broadly emancipatory ideas and ways of working that accepts such experiences as very real and meaningful- if sometimes difficult to live with, and that seeks to share ways we can learn to live with such difficult experiences and support and connect with each other.

This approach also includes many other similar experiences that can be hard to live with and harder to talk about and make sense of.

When we learn to put aside our fear of both ourselves and each other we generate possibilities, to create new roles, to connect with each other, and to find richer experiences of being human and co-create a world that’s easier to live in for all of us.


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