Symposium

I attended the very first Psychosynthesis Coaching symposium in London. What a fantastic day!

Around 60 people from the Institute of Psychosynthesis, the Psychosynthesis Trust, the Association of Professional Executive Coaches and Supervisors attended.

Many of the people in the room knew each other from the Certificate courses offered by the Institute, but there was a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere and many people — including myself — made new friends.

I shall update this blog with a more comprehensive account of the day when I get time.

Traumatised by Brexit? You’re not alone

“Theirs are strong and deep emotions. They feel devastated, angry, depressed, betrayed and ashamed, nearly two years after the referendum”. Prof Emmy van Deurzen, reflecting on survey conducted with Dr Helen de Cruz of 1,300 people who voted to Remain in the  European Union in June 2016 referendum.

I am gradually waking up to the reality that the UK will indeed sleepwalk out of the EU in March next year. #brexitmeansbrexit as the Brexiteers have insisted since 52% of UK voters opted to Leave and 48% to Remain in the referendum.

My wife says she feels traumatized. There is a real sense of impending doom. I recall movies set in Medieval times when the End of the World was a real and present fear. Armageddon. I remember my teens when the Cold War led us all to consider building nuclear bunkers in the back garden.

Myself, I feel more a sense of mystification than trauma. “Things fall apart/The centre cannot hold”. The words of the poem by W.B. Yeats were written about a different political trauma, but they keep coming to mind whenever I think about Brexit.

Devastated?  Certainly. I feel like a building that is being smashed by a wrecking ball. I was born in Austria, and being European is part of my identity. I have brought up my children to feel part of Europe. My daughter was in tears when this was ripped from her. My son was too young to vote in the referendum, but he believes anyway that referendums are undemocratic, and that it’s the job of politicians to act responsibly to do the best for those who elected them, not to pass the buck.

Angry? Yes, definitely. Referendums have been used by populist regimes through history to legitimate their undemocratic actions. I feel a real rage in myself when I think about the weak government that has allowed a small and extreme right-wing faction within the Tory party to split the country like this.

Betrayed? I feel betrayed. when I consider the lies that were told to the public ahead of the referendum. I feel deeply betrayed when I think about  the self-serving and undignified behaviour of the politicians who have tried to ram-road this through for their own ends. I feel like crying when they cite the Will of the People to support their self-serving and crooked behaviour.

Ashamed? I feel that also, although unexpectedly, because I voted Remain and it’s not my fault we face this precipice. I marched in London with 700,000 people from all walks of life — middle class, working class; young and old; left-wing and right-wing– to demand a Vote on a Brexit deal that is a travesty of that promised by Brexiteers ahead of the referendum.

I did my best to stop this. But even so, it leaves me with a feeling of shame. I feel ashamed to be British, to be part of the squalid stitch-up that has been perpetrated in the name of democracy. I feel ashamed to be part of a nation that is being laughed at by its Continental neighbours.

Depressed? Not really. I feel like fighting this, and I will not allow the sneers of the 52% to stop me. But I do feel a deep sense of loss. In the last two years, I have been bereaved twice. My mother died on the 1st day of 2017, and my father died earlier this year. Mum was Austrian and Dad was English, and they met after the war.  I always felt their marriage reflected a reconciliation after the traumas of European conflict. Now I feel like I face a third bereavement, all the more painful because it is the result of wilful suicide, rather than age and the course of nature.

 

The Hazards of Tweeting

I have been Tweeting about Brexit. Being half Austrian, I feel passionately that the UK should not be leaving the European Union. The trouble is, I’m not sure that Twitter is helping my karma.

The trouble is that tweeting is an activity, just like walking to the railway station or hitting a tennis ball. But whereas activity creates a calm sense of agency in those involved in doing it, tweeting has exactly the opposite effect.

When you set off for the railway station, you usually know you will be there in a given time (whether the train leaves on time is a different matter).

Similarly when you are hitting a tennis ball, you roughly know where it will end up (not always, in my case).

But with Twitter you gear up to make a tremendous impact, and it never happens. You might get some likes or retweets, you might get trolled by those hostile to your point of view, but certainly there is not the bandwidth for a healthy two-way conversation in which what you say affects the person with whom you are discussing.

Today, I got a reply to my Tweet from my local MP. I had asked whether there would be enough NHS nurses after Brexit, quoting a study by a respected independent research institute that suggested there wouldn’t be. The response was fairly immediate, but defensive: a quick-fire stat to demonstrate to the world at large that what I had dared to suggest might be the case was, well, just wrong.

To be honest, I’d sent out my tweet before dawn, while still lying in bed, and before the walk to the station for work. And I honestly didn’t mind the MP’s response. But I was struck by the knee-jerk reaction to try to “put down” the question. The game seemed to be to win an argument against an opposing Tweeter, rather than discuss ideas and opinions in any meaningful way.

This is why it’s bad for karma. When you act, you expect the action to have a consequence. But like the name Twitter implies, whatever you say or do on Twitter has about as much impact as bird-song.

There is something deeply satisfying about conversations where one party changes their mind about an important issue. It makes the discussion worthwhile. It’s even better when a conversation you’ve had changes your mind about something.

It is the same feeling you get when you hit a tennis ball and for once it goes exactly where you wanted it to go. Or when someone you are playing against makes a great point and you lose the rally honourably.

Echo Chambers

But Twitter isn’t like that. The best you can do is to enjoy the Echo Chamber effect of the Likes and RTs and the feeling that everyone is on your side. But that’s the mind-set of the mob! As for those who don’t agree with you, all you can hope for is to niggle them and hope they are rattled enough to leave the field. But that’s a highly unlikely result. Because their own echo-chamber is egging them on, and they are listening to them, not you.

So it becomes a spectacle in which two school bullies blindly take swings at each other, each in their own little world, and only randomly making occasional contact.

So it becomes a spectacle in which two school bullies blindly take swings at each other, each in their own little world, and only randomly making occasional contact. The technologies that were meant to connect us become walls that prevent us seeing and hearing each other.

The effect that activity has on the body is well known. Faced with a threat, adrenaline builds up in the body. Whether you fight or take flight, it is discharged by acting. The build-up of stressors is eased by muscular exertion, and you end up with a sense of calmness and peace, rather like you feel after sport or a long walk.

But in Tweeting, the only action to discharge the tension is the twiddling of your finger and thumb. Small wonder that people feel such rage and impotence.

 

Caretta Caretta

Turtles live incredibly hard lives, returning to their birth area every year to lay eggs, ponderously dragging themselves up onto the sands, digging the holes that will allow their offspring to survive, and then painfully dragging themselves back into the water. When the eggs hatch out, thousands of tiny turtles make the dangerous race to the sea, many being picked off by predators before they reach the water.

Somehow, the whole cycle reminds me of the pain and precariousness of happiness, how hard it can be just to survive. I guess that sounds slightly more bleak than I feel about everyday life, but it’s a metaphor that is meaningful to me.  

Caretta also means “wheelbarrow” in Latin, and that’s another metaphor I find interesting. I’ve included a tab on this website about my allotment, and the allotment features in a few other websites that I run. Allotments allow you to be self-sufficient, to provide for your nutritional needs without being so reliant on shops and supermarkets.

Why Caretta?

Metaphors

Turtles live incredibly hard lives, returning to their birth area every year to lay eggs, ponderously dragging themselves up onto the sands, digging the holes that will allow their offspring to survive, and then painfully dragging themselves back into the water. When the eggs hatch out, thousands of tiny turtles make the dangerous race to the sea, many being picked off by predators before they reach the water.

Somehow, the whole cycle reminds me of the pain and precariousness of happiness, how hard it can be just to survive. I guess that sounds slightly more bleak than I feel about everyday life, but it’s a metaphor that is meaningful to me.  

Caretta also means “wheelbarrow” in Latin, and that’s another metaphor I find interesting. I am passionate about m,y allotment in Lewes, which I maintain with my wife. We both love working on the plot. My wife is from Canada, where they believe that the Three Sisters — squash, beans and corn — are essential to The Good Life. If you have only ever eaten corn from supermarkets, you will find that is so much sweeter when freshly picked. |Delicious! Allotments also allow you to be self-sufficient, to provide for your nutritional needs without being so reliant on shops and supermarkets.