What is this term “PWLE”  anyhoo?
“Person With Lived Experience”

I guess folks who use it think they are being respectful.

its bollocksWell, I say it’s  bollocks.

And it’s high time someone did .


Let’s examine its components…

Person – ok so far. Yet, how come it’s deemed inadequate insufficient to describe er, a person?

Is it  not enough to be a person? Do we have to regard them as somehow qualified or not qualified? and qualified for what, exactly?

Or is it the case that they are simply a few [seems at least three] initials short of being a person who can be called a person?

With – well no biggie here but if you’ve been a person for a while then you’ll certainly have something…, been through something…,  you’ll certainly be with something…

But, on the other hand,  what if you don’t?  Hypothetically, I guess, you could be a…

PW… – Person Without… without  what? scruples? empathy? common sense? insight? [hee hee] …balls?

PW… is also a Pressurised Water Reactor so you could be a nuclear power-plant, likely on a big boat or sneaky-beaky submarine: no, you wouldn’t want to get confused with that.

Lived – come on, if you’re a person then you’ve lived: a short while or long while or somewhere in-between while; and we’ve all done some of that.

It goes without saying
…so it doesn’t need saying.

Experience – again, if you’ve actually been a person for a while, long or short,  even in-between,  then you will have some experience.

Of course, if you’re a robot it may not work the same way – but then you’d be stuck at P, with that nice Bob fella [see below].

Now, the word “experience” actually refers to the direct knowledge we gain from doing or going through something ourselves or directly observing.  An “expert” is a person who has such experience – and we all do have experience of some shit – likely plenty.

So If I’m a person, it’s jolly difficult for me not to have amassed  some experience, and there really is only one way to get experience – by living .

So why all this tautology and saying the same thing over and over?

And why all these initials?

Maybe it stems  from an insecurity about sufficiency of initials?

An initial deficiency, or initial disorder? 

Do you have IDD?

 Initial Deficiency Disorder?

Maybe “person” – P is simply not enough initials to confer sufficient “expertness” required to have anything worth saying in our TV zombieland soundbite society?

Let’s test it by trying some other, shorter acronyms…

P – person Yup, maybe it doesn’t have the  gravitas that is  required. It certainly  could be confused with “I’ll have a P please, Bob” and reduce serious quasi-pseudo-scientific  interactions to giggly sidebars with people having waaay too much fun.

HB – human being. I grant you, this could certainly make it difficult to categorise me apart from you, or all the other 7,000,000,000 plus  HBs on the planet – or indeed, all the pencils in their PCs -pencil cases owned by the other HBs.

XP – X Patient .

xpatientX– Well, I do like the X: not as in ex , or “not anymore, mate” or “was once married to him/her/etc”, but as in Xtra…, like Wolverine: kinda cool that…

P – Patient, anyone who encounters the  MH system and the egos and bureaucratic bull-crap sure knows how much patience is required to get anything worthwhile out of it.

more abundant than hydrogen…

zappa - hydrogen-stupidityOr maybe it’s because of what Frank Zappa says…

“…I say there is more stupidity that hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.”

Anyway enough about me, what of you?

What if you don’t qualify as a PWLE?

What if you are not a person?

What if you are without experience? be it lived experience, dead experience or beam-me-up-Scotty experience.

…then what are you?

Maybe you’re a nothing?

Apparently 99% of the universe is nothing so you’d be in good company.

Maybe you’re  PWRAFB?

A PWRAFB? – a Person Who’s Read A Few Books.
And maybe you think that qualifies you to tell me not just who, but what, I am.

If so, then maybe you’re not reading the best books.

When is “PWLE” ok?

There is, perhaps,  one sense in which calling someone “PWLE” makes sense .
That is the sense that acknowledges that it speaks of someone who has direct experience of having been fucked about by the mental health system, dehumanised and marginalised by society – and systemmatically discriminated against.

That’s probably not what you mean, yet some of us being called names like “PWLE” is simply one more example of how that works.


  • If you think somehow that “PWLE” is what you’re supposed to say, think again.
  • If you somehow think it makes you sound smart, well, it doesn’t: it really, really doesn’t.
  • If you think it somehow makes you seem like you empathise- you might want to look up “empathise” – or “empathize”  depending on your preference for s or z..
  • If you somehow think it’s easier to say “PWLE” than “person”, then try them both a hundred times, fast. Go on, time it.
  • If you think it’s ok to call me “PWLE” , sure go ahead “DWSFB” – so long as it’s ok for me to call you names too…

I’m a just person, you’re just a person. If you don’t know what to call me  you could just ask.


When we categorise others as separate, different, deficient we are taking the necessary first step in creating a world in which one small group gets to tell the rest of us how to be and how to live. History offers plenty of examples of how it works out – non are too good.

It serves no other purpose and it, and neither biology, nor defective genes,  is the real root of the epidemic of “mental illness” plaguing our society.

Your training may make it difficult for you, but you can break through the indoctrination you have been subjected to: your brain has evolved to do it  – you really can think a different way.

The language we use is a choice – choose yours.

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