NICE Depression in Adults guideline consultation

BACP’s Summary of main concerns


1. NICE should move from an over-reliance on data collected through randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and ensure that other types of evidence, including data from real world practice, are recognised and valued in the production of recommendations.

2. NICE should conduct a proper analysis of one and two-year follow-up data from trials and priorities treatment recommendations, made on the basis of this data over and above recommendations, which are made on the basis of short-term outcomes (less than one year).

3. A full systematic review of primary studies of service user experience is required, employing formal methodology for qualitative synthesis; and findings from such a review must be incorporated into the broader approach to quantitative review and treatment recommendations rather than left as a stand-alone section.

4. Trial where the majority of population is clinically complex, chronic or treatment resistant need to be grouped together as persistent depression for the purposes of review, following the European Psychiatric Association.

5. The guideline review must look at the amount of clinical effect (e.g. partial recovery) from a severe baseline point and not ignore treatment effects because clients do not fully recover by the end of treatment. Moreover, categorisations of depression severity must be based on validated tools, not un-validated non-transparent functions of them.

6. Findings from indirect or mixed comparisons using Network Meta-Analysis (NMA) should only be used to supplement evidence derived from direct comparisons. NICE must re-analyse the data using standard meta-analyses and should NMA be used to supplement the findings, a validated and reliable model for doing so should be employed.

7. NICE must run a re-analysis of studies using quality of life and/or functions outcomes, where these are available, and prioritise recommendations based on these measures, given that these are the measures of greatest priority to service users.

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Unintended consequences of war against drugs

Below is a full transcription of an important speech by the Colombian President on September 20, 2022 to the United Nations General Assembly:

I come from one of the three most beautiful countries on Earth.

There is an explosion of life there. Thousands of multicolored species in the seas, in the skies, in the lands…I come from the land of yellow butterflies and magic. There in the mountains and valleys of all greens, not only do the abundant waters flow down, but also the torrents of blood. I come from a land of bloody beauty.

My country is not only beautiful, it is also violent.

How can beauty be conjugated with death, how can the biodiversity of life erupt with the dances of death and horror? Who is guilty of breaking the enchantment with terror? Who or what is responsible for drowning life in the routine decisions of wealth and interest? Who is leading us to destruction as a nation and as a people?

My country is beautiful because it has the Amazon jungle, the ChocóWar  jungle, the waters, the Andes mountain ranges, and the oceans. There, in those forests, planetary oxygen is emanated and atmospheric CO2 is absorbed. One of these CO2 absorbing plants, among millions of species, is one of the most persecuted on earth. At any cost, its destruction is sought: it is an Amazonian plant, the coca plant, sacred plant of the Incas. [It is in] a paradoxical crossroads.

The jungle that tries to save us, is at the same time, destroyed. To destroy the coca plant, they spray poisons, glyphosate in mass that runs through the waters, they arrest its growers and imprison them. For destroying or possessing the coca leaf, one million Latin Americans are killed and two million Afro-Americans are imprisoned in North America. Destroy the plant that kills, they shout from the North, but the plant is but one more of the millions that perish when they unleash the fire on the jungle. Destroying the jungle, the Amazon, has become the slogan followed by States and businessmen. The cry of scientists baptizing the rainforest as one of the great climatic pillars is unimportant.

For the world’s power relations, the jungle and its inhabitants are to blame for the plague that plagues them. The power relations are plagued by the addiction to money, to perpetuate themselves, to oil, to cocaine and to the hardest drugs to be able to anesthetize themselves more. Nothing is more hypocritical than the discourse to save the rainforest. The jungle is burning, gentlemen, while you make war and play with it. The rainforest, the climatic pillar of the world, disappears with all its life.

The great sponge that absorbs planetary CO2 evaporates. The savior forest is seen in my country as the enemy to be defeated, as the weed to be extinguished.

Coca and the peasants who grow it, because they have nothing else to grow, are demonized. You are only interested in my country to spray poisons on our jungles, to take our men to jail and put our women in exclusion. You are not interested in the education of the child, but in killing its jungle and extracting coal and oil from its entrails. The sponge that absorbs the poison is useless, they prefer to throw more poisons into the atmosphere.

We serve them only to fill the emptiness and loneliness of their own society that leads them to live in the midst of drug bubbles. We hide from them their problems that they refuse to reform. It is better to declare war on the jungle, on its plants, on its people. While they let the forests burn, while hypocrites chase the plants with poisons to hide the disasters of their own society, they ask us for more and more coal, more and more oil, to calm the other addiction: that of consumption, of power, of money.

What is more poisonous for humanity, cocaine, coal or oil? The dictates of power have ordered that cocaine is the poison and must be pursued, even if it only causes minimal deaths by overdose, and even more by the mixtures necessitated by clandestinity, but coal and oil must be protected, even if their use could extinguish all of humanity.

These are the things of world power, things of injustice, things of irrationality, because world power has become irrational. They see in the exuberance of the jungle, in its vitality, the lustful, the sinful; the guilty origin of the sadness of their societies, imbued with the unlimited compulsion to have and to consume. How to hide the loneliness of the heart, its dryness in the midst of societies without affection, competitive to the point of imprisoning the soul in solitude, if not by blaming the plant, the man who cultivates it, the libertarian secrets of the jungle.

According to the irrational power of the world, it is not the fault of the market that cuts back on existence, it is the fault of the jungle and those who inhabit it. The bank accounts have become unlimited, the money saved by the most powerful of the earth will not even be able to be spent in the time of the centuries. The sadness of existence produced by this artificial call to competition is filled with noise and drugs. The addiction to money and to having has another face: the addiction to drugs in people who lose the competition, in the losers of the artificial race in which they have transformed humanity.

The disease of loneliness will not be cured with glyphosate [sprayed] on the forests. It is not the rainforest that is to blame.

The culprit is their society educated in endless consumption, in the stupid confusion between consumption and happiness that allows the pockets of power to fill with money. The culprit of drug addiction is not the jungle, it is the irrationality of your world power. Try to give some reason to your power. Turn on the lights of the century again. The war on drugs has lasted 40 years, if we do not correct the course and it continues for another 40 years, the United States will see 2,800,000 young people die of overdose from fentanyl, which is not produced in our Latin America. It will see millions of Afro-Americans imprisoned in its private jails.

The Afro-prisoner will become a business of prison companies, a million more Latin Americans will die murdered, our waters and our green fields will be filled with blood, the dream of democracy will die in my America as well as in Anglo-Saxon America. Democracy will die where it was born, in the great western European Athens. By hiding the truth, they will see the jungle and democracies die. The war on drugs has failed.

The fight against the climate crisis has failed. There has been an increase in deadly consumption, from soft drugs to harder ones, genocide has taken place in my continent and in my country, millions of people have been condemned to prison, and to hide their own social guilt they have blamed the rainforest and its plants. They have filled speeches and policies with nonsense. I demand from here, from my wounded Latin America, to put an end to the irrational war on drugs. To reduce drug consumption we do not need wars, for this we need all of us to build a better society: a more caring society, more affectionate, where the intensity of life saves from addictions and new slavery. Do you want less drugs? Think of less profit and more love. Think about a rational exercise of power.

Do not touch with your poisons the beauty of my homeland, help us without hypocrisy to save the Amazon Rainforest to save the life of humanity on the planet. You gathered the scientists, and they spoke with reason. With mathematics and climatological models they said that the end of the human species was near, that its time is no longer of millennia, not even of centuries. Science set the alarm bells ringing and we stopped listening to it.

The war served as an excuse for not taking the necessary measures. When action was most needed, when speeches were no longer useful, when it was indispensable to deposit money in funds to save humanity, when it was necessary to move away from coal and oil as soon as possible, they invented war after war after war. They invaded Ukraine, but also Iraq, Libya and Syria.

They invaded in the name of oil and gas. They discovered in the 21st century the worst of their addictions: addiction to money and oil. Wars have served them as an excuse not to act against the climate crisis. Wars have shown them how dependent they are on what will kill the human species.

If you observe that the peoples are filling up with hunger and thirst and migrating by the millions towards the north, towards where the water is; then you enclose them, build walls, deploy machine guns, shoot at them. You expel them as if they were not human beings, you reproduce five times the mentality of those who politically created the gas chambers and the concentration camps, you reproduce on a planetary scale 1933.

The great triumph of the attack on reason. Do you not see that the solution to the great exodus unleashed on your countries is to return to water filling the rivers and the fields full of nutrients? The climate disaster fills us with viruses that swarm over us, but you do business with medicines and turn vaccines into commodities. You propose that the market will save us from what the market itself has created. The Frankenstein of humanity lies in letting the market and greed act without planning, surrendering the brain and reason. Kneeling human rationality to greed.

What is the use of war if what we need is to save the human species? What is the use of NATO and empires, if what is coming is the end of intelligence? The climate disaster will kill hundreds of millions of people and listen well, it is not produced by the planet, it is produced by capital.

The cause of the climate disaster is capital. The logic of coming together only to consume more and more, produce more and more, and for some to earn more and more produces the climate disaster. They applied the logic of extended accumulation to the energy engines of coal and oil and unleashed the hurricane: the ever deeper and deadlier chemical change of the atmosphere. Now in a parallel world, the expanded accumulation of capital is an expanded accumulation of death.

From the lands of jungle and beauty. There where they decided to make an Amazon rainforest plant an enemy, extradite and imprison its growers, I invite you to stop the war, and to stop the climate disaster. Here, in this Amazon Rainforest, there is a failure of humanity.

Behind the bonfires that burn it, behind its poisoning, there is an integral, civilizational failure of humanity. Behind the addiction to cocaine and drugs, behind the addiction to oil and coal, there is the real addiction of this phase of human history: the addiction to irrational power, to profit and money. This is the enormous deadly machinery that can extinguish humanity.

I propose to you as president of one of the most beautiful countries on earth, and one of the most bloodied and violated, to end the war on drugs and allow our people to live in peace. I call on all of Latin America for this purpose. I summon the voice of Latin America to unite to defeat the irrational that martyrs our bodies. I call upon you to save the Amazon Rainforest integrally with the resources that can be allocated worldwide to life.

If you do not have the capacity to finance the fund for the revitalization of the forests, if it weighs more to allocate money to weapons than to life, then reduce the foreign debt to free our own budgetary spaces and with them, carry out the task of saving humanity and life on the planet. We can do it if you don’t want to. Just exchange debt for life, for nature. I propose, and I call upon Latin America to do so, to dialogue in order to end the war. Do not pressure us to align ourselves in the fields of war.

It is time for PEACE.

Let the Slavic peoples talk to each other, let the peoples of the world talk to each other. War is only a trap that brings the end of time closer in the great orgy of irrationality.

From Latin America, we call on Ukraine and Russia to make peace. Only in peace can we save life in this land of ours. There is no total peace without social, economic and environmental justice. We are also at war with the planet. Without peace with the planet, there will be no peace among nations. Without social justice, there is no social peace
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Anxiety at Home

Webinar by Bridget Bradley; hosted by Centre for Research on Families, 10th June, 2021

Bridget related the findings of a digital Patchwork Ethnography study that she and her team at the University of St Andres, had carried out with families on the topics of climate anxiety and climate activism in Britain. Although the team had hoped for more diversity, most  participants were white, middle class adults.

Three main topics emerged:

  • the challenges of talking about climate issues within families.

Many people reported feeling alone and isolated as others did not appear interested, many others also reported difficulties within the wider family. There was talk of guilt in making other family members feel bad. Grief and anger were more in evidence than anxiety

  • dislike of like the term eco anxiety as it appears to pathologise a rational response.
  • a growing awareness of climate issues, although many challenges and difficulties remain.

Other issues included:

The many barriers to leading a more sustainable life.

Plastic packaging of much baby stuff.

Climate change awareness prompted by having a child. 

Fear for the future of their children.

The importance of being a role model.

Raising children in a climate conscious way.

Fostering values of care and respect for the natural world, enabled by spending time in nature.

Building psychological resilience.

Little emphasis on building practical resilience, such as growing food.

Concern of instilling fear in children; the need for a balance between hope and fear.

Impact on everyday family life of climate related work or action.

Increased anxiety and fear when risks are closer to home.

Only two women had decided to stay childless.


In the questions and answers section of the webinar it emerged that many people find it helpful to talk about climate issues within therapy, as long as the therapist is comfortable to do so and trained in eco issues.  The Climate Psychology Alliance has a list of therapists who offer sessions to those wishing to talk about climate issues. (See link below).


Overall the findings demonstrated the importance of family dynamics.  Bridged therefore recognised a need to relate to the world in a deeply relational way (like many indigenous cultures do already).  In other words, when the earth is considered as our home, then all beings (including animals and plants) might be viewed as family.

Relevant  links :


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Review of Pilgrimages to Emptiness. Rethinking Reality through Quantum Physics”, by Shantena Augusto Sabbadini

The title hooked me in immediately. As a Zen student it reminded me of the Heart Sutra, a Buddhist chant, that contains the lines,” form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form, that which is form is emptiness, that which emptiness form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness… and so on.” For me the chant evokes a deep truth about everyday reality that is not accessible by the rational mind and that I would be hard put to explain. The same is true of meditation (or psychotherapy for that matter), as without sustained practice no amount of reading about it gets near to what it feels like. The idea of quantum physics as part of a more mystical approach to reality therefore sounded most intriguing.

The author’s background does indeed span the divide between science and Eastern philosophy. As a theoretical physicist at the universities of Milan and California, he researched the foundations of quantum physics, and also contributed to the first identification of a black hole. Later, in the 1990s Sabbadini worked at the Eranos Foundation, an East-West research centre founded under the auspices of C.G. Jung.   He has translated various ancient Daoist texts (presumably from ancient Chinese) and is currently Director of the Pari Centre, a non-profit educational centre located in the medieval village of Pari in Tuscany.  The centre runs interdisciplinary courses and conferences with a focus on ecological considerations within the context of our current consumerist society. Sabbadini also lectures at Schumacher College, Devon (UK)on the philosophical implications of quantum physics. 

Sabbadini aims to re-awaken in the reader a sense of the amazing mystery of life and all existence.  He first provides an overview of the main developments since our hunter-gathering days, ranging from the development of farming to the scientific and philosophical revolutions of the 17th century to the present day.  At one time, he says, we felt part of an alive, sentient and ensouled world, often referred to as a “participation mystique.”  However, each new development took us further away from our natural environment so that now we regard ourselves as separate from a soulless world that is governed by mechanical laws.

I was particular interested in the author’s discussion of thermodynamics, a nineteenth century development that came out of the technology of the steam engine. According to the second law of thermodynamics, in any system there will be increasing entropy (breakdown) over time. This is indeed what appears to have happened to many cultures throughout history, and is evidently happening today.  Examples include Margaret Thatcher’s notion of there being no such thing as society, to ex-president Trump’s undoing much of Obama’s work, the increasing economic imbalance within societies and the continuous, ever accelerating, breakdown in the earth’s climate system.

I was equally interested in chaos theory, a discipline that was developed relatively recently, as it is dependent on computers being powerful enough to simulate the consequences of physical models of reality.  Simulations showed that, depending on the nature of the system, very small changes in starting conditions can have a very large effect on future behaviour, making it unpredictable.  Weather is an example: as it is impossible to know the current situation in complete precision, small errors can cause wildly different predictions.  It seems obvious that as the earth as a whole is a system, it tries to maintain itself in a stable state overall. However, it remains only stable over a certain range of variation, which has now been exceeded, hence all the unpredictable weather events that have been occurring in recent years.

Interestingly, the boundary between order and chaos is more permeable than we used to think, as it is possible for order to arise out of chaos, with “the most interesting things happening just on the edge between order and chaos.”  “Important things happening on the edge” is something many therapists may be familiar with.  Many of us may have experienced clients mentioning something really important outside the boundaries of the actual session, typically just as they are walking out of the door!

It was surprising to read that quantum theory is already a century old as it is probably the most fundamental discovery regarding the nature of physical reality. Here the reader is introduced to some very strange phenomena, such as the movement of particles depending on whether or not there is an observer. From a quantum perspective, our assumption of an objective world independent of whether or not anyone is looking at it is unwarranted!

In the last two chapters, Sabbadini draws links between Eastern philosophies such as Daoism, Hinduism and Zen Buddhism, and the current scientific understanding of the nature of everything. In the Epilogue, Sabbadini refers to the Mahayana Buddhist notion of Indra’s net, according to which all of existence is a “kind of cosmic spiderweb in each knot of which sits a shining jewel (and) each one of these jewels reflects all the other ones in a recursive play that generates the universe” (p257).

Overall, I enjoyed the book, it is clearly written, although containing various typos. It is reminiscent of “The Tao of Physics”, by Fritjof Capra (1975), but doesn’t reference it, which is surprising as Capra’s work was such a bestseller at the time. My old copy had disappeared, so I was delighted to be able to get the updated 35th anniversary edition, published in 2010.  I find it a bit more accessible as it offers a more coherent integration of modern science and ancient mysticism.   Unfortunately, neither author engages particularly with climate change or climate psychology, although towards the end of his book Capra mentions “a new form of ecologically oriented politics, known as Green politics” (pp341).

Regarding climate psychology it is problematic that, as Sabbadini says, the general public has not yet caught up with the scientific developments of the last century and a half. Many people still appear to assume that we live in a clockwork universe where everything is predictable.  Although the author does not say so, this also partly explains why, despite so much evidence, the world as a whole is not taking in the seriousness of the current climate emergency.


Capra, F. (1975/2010) 35th Ed.  The Tao of Physics. An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism.  Boulder: Shambhala. 

Sabbadini, S.A. (2017) Pilgrimages to Emptiness. Rethinking Reality through Quantum Physics. Pari Publishing, Pari (GR), Italy, ISBN 978-88-956o4-32-9

Useful link:

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Book review of Alistair McIntosh’s book Soil and Soul. People versus Corporate Power (2004).

London: Aurum Press Ltd.

As someone who did not grow up in the UK, I was shocked when I first heard about the brutality of the Enclosures Act in 1845. It seemed supremely selfish and just plain wrong to shut people out from what had always been common land. I had a similar reaction to reading Alistair McIntosh’s account of the Scottish Clearances. Apparently local inhabitants of Hebridean islands had no say at all in the buying and selling of their ancestral lands and could just be evicted if the new land owner wanted to change its use.

In the foreword to this inspirational book George Monbiot calls McIntosh’s work a “first step towards the decolonisation of the soul.” What a wonderful and pithy way to describe the essence of this extraordinary book. Various reviewers refer to it as containing mythology, theology, ecology, economics, history and politics. It does all this and more. The author’s love for the land and traditional ways of life that respect the natural world for its own sake, is evoked with poetry and passion.

I loved reading how, in his childhood on Lewis, McIntosh experienced an ‘economy of mutuality, reciprocity and exchange’, where “sufficiency is the measure of and surplus is for sharing before trading.” Any fish caught, butter churned or vegetables grown were to be shared, rather than bought and sold. McIntosh relates how, from the age of fourteen, he would go out alone onto the open sea, in order to catch the fish for the evening meal and how, in this community-based society, everyone had a role to play no matter how young or old.

How amazing that this way of life still persisted in the 1960s and how sad that it has now largely gone!  As measured by GNP, people on the Hebridean islands are now less poor.  However, as McIntosh argues ‘the use of GNP to measure wellbeing is an astonishingly crude yardstick’ as rather than being a valued part of the local economy, these days young people get drunk, inject drugs, fight, smash windows and otherwise create some sort of rite of passage, no matter how perverse.”  Apparently, all this adds to GNP.  “Repairs to vandalised shop fronts also count as ‘wealth’ in national accounting.  So do the hospital casualty services, and the alcohol consumed, and the policing and court time’.” (p36). Madness indeed.

The book relates the story of how the local inhabitants of the Isle of Eigg took on corporate power, for the first time in history, to prevent a beautiful mountain being turned into a superquarry.  The style of writing is poetic and passionate, and a joy to read.  It is also a wake-up call: according to McIntosh we are all sleepwalkers, hypnotised by the current social reality, which sees no alternative to our current form of capitalism, dominated as it is by the greed of large multi-national corporations.  He argues that we need to wake up to what is happening to us and our world, and reconnect with   an ‘authentic’ spirituality, which is deeply grounded in a nature-based mythology. 

Within the current Covid-19 lockdown we have the opportunity to take an honest look at our way of life, and how it has contributed to the situation we find ourselves in. On the last page of the book the author suggests that if humankind is to have any hope of changing the world, we must constantly work to strengthen community.  He sets out three main points:Within the current Covid-19 lockdown we have the opportunity to take an honest look at our way of life, and how it has contributed to the situation we find ourselves in. On the last page of the book the author suggests that if humankind is to have any hope of changing the world, we must constantly work to strengthen community.  He sets out three main points:

  1. We need to make community with the soil, to learn how to revere the Earth. In practical terms, that means ecological restauration, walking lightly in the demands we make of life – sufficiency rather than surplus, quality rather than quantity, and buying (if and when we can) products like organic food and sustainable timber that are produced by working with rather than against nature’s providence.
  2. We need to make community of human society.  We need to learn empathy and respect for one another simply so that people get the love they need…………..shifting from competition to cooperation in politics and economics, and buying ‘Fair Trade’ products that avoid exploitation.  For there’s no such thing as ‘cheap’ when it comes to right relationship.
  3. And third, but not least, we need community of the soul.  Whatever our religion or lack of one, we need spaces where we can take rest, compose and compost our inner stuff, and become more deeply present to the aliveness of life. We need to keep one eye on the ground and the other to the stars.  We need to remember that when we let loose our wildness in creativity, it is God-the-Goddess – or call it Christ, or Allah or Krishna or the Tao – that pours forth.  It does so from within, as a never-ending river.

Before deciding on any course of action  McIntosh suggest we ask  the following questions:

 Does it help the poor?

Does it restore the broken in nature?

 Does it bring music to the soul?

In short, is it concerned with the blossom?

I hope that this review has whetted your appetite to read the book, and that you will enjoy it as much as I have.

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Gaia, Psyche and Deep Ecology

Navigating Climate change in the Anthropocene by Andrew Fellows. London, Routledge, 2019.

In this well researched book Andrew Fellows, a Jungian analyst, faces the existential threat of climate change that the media brings to our attention almost daily now. By making links between different disciplines, such as Jungian’s Psychology, Systems Theory, Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis and Deep Ecology, Fellows illuminates how the current situation has come about, how various groups respond to it, and what actions might need to be taken. He states that our current Zeitgeist, which is characterised by a belief in unlimited economic growth, our blind trust in technology and our hubristic sense of being at the top of the nature chain, need an urgent rethink.  

Systems theory and the Gaia hypothesis describe how everything and everybody is connected and how our separation from nature and thoughtless behaviour will therefore have enormous consequences.  However, there is not that much evidence yet that governments take the climate situation sufficiently on board. On the one hand targets are set to limit global warming, on the other hand airports continue to expand, and there is much (worrying) excitement about fracking, or now being able to exploit the Artic for fossil fuels – thus make the climate crisis so much worse.

Within Jungian psychology the first half of our life is seen as dominated by Ego, and the second half as one where we become more inner or soul focussed. Fellows compares our global behaviour to someone well past mid-life, who cannot accept this fact and continues to pursue the same goals and pleasures as someone decades younger.  In other words, the world is now at a stage where the human race needs to face facts and drastically change its behaviour.

What is needed, according to Fellows, is a nothing short of a ‘Metanoia’, a complete change in the way we all live our lives. We need to reconnect with nature, including our own inner nature.  At present many of us are depressed and anxious and our consumption-based lives offer us no happiness or meaning; we are disenchanted. Deep Ecology offers a guiding framework for re-enchantment in the form of a complete global rethink: some of Deep Ecology’s principles include the need to let go of our cherished place at the top of the food chain and value the flourishing of non-human life as equal to our own. 

Ultimately we need to drastically change our current economic, technical and political structures, reconnect with the natural world and everything and everyone in it, and recover our sense of meaning through that connection, through being part of the whole.

The book is well written, here and there somewhat challenging, but overall I found it inspiring. None of are helpless, whatever we do will have an effect.  Let it be positive!

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Living Like Crazy

ISBN: 978-1-9998683-0-7

Living Like Crazy, 2nd edition,byPaul Gilbert, York. Anmyn House, 2018. 610pp.

It seems appropriate to review this book by Paul Gilbert, the originator of Compassion-Focussed therapy, at a time when Extinction Rebellion is desperately trying to draw attention to the fact that we cannot go on as we are!

The title says it all: the way we live today is indeed crazy! We are part of the earth and therefore dependent on it for our survival – yet rather than working out how to look after it, we allow large corporations to plunder its resources with disastrous consequences. We do, however, spend millions on weapons and seem enthralled by a predatory form of capitalism that results in increasing inequality between the haves and the have nots.

This bizarre situation has come about, Gilbert argues, because our brains have not really changed since our hunter-gatherer days, when our main concerns involved survival and reproduction. So, our minds are ill equipped with the modern world and have trouble grasping that profound change is not only desirable, but imperative.  Ever since the agrarian revolution there has been a conflict between the part of our nature that wants to share what is available, and the part that is basically greedy and wants to accumulate wealth and possessions. There is now a great deal of research that shows that how we feel mentally is profoundly affected by the context in which we live. As our current culture is based on greed and limitless consumption we are, says Gilbert, literally driving ourselves crazy.

The book’s chapters range from a detailed exploration of the mind, religion, leadership and power (or its absence) to the development of callousness and cruelty.  Gilbert challenges the myth of competition as a good thing and in the last chapter discusses what we might do to create a more equal society. He argues that we need to develop Buddhist qualities such as kindness, helpfulness and a compassionate rationality, not just to others, but also to ourselves. Compassion-focussed societies do indeed appear to have existed in the past, which is encouraging as that means that it might be possible to create such a society again.

The book is very readable although a bit more editing would not have gone amiss, as there is more detail than perhaps necessary. However, the overall message is clear: we have a choice, either we go on as we are and face extinction, or we work together to create a more compassionate world! According to Gilbert: “..caring for ourselves, each other, our environments and the world we live in may be the most important archetypal potentials within us that we now desperately need to develop” (p443).

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Helpful books

Book blog

Books have always been a weakness of mine. Throughout my life I have been guilty of buying and keeping far too many books, as I like to read them in my own time and refer to them whenever I want.  However, there’s a limit to the number of books I can actually accommodate in my (not very large) office, particularly as it also doubles up as a guest bedroom. So, I decided to bring at least one book a week to my local charity book shop. This is not easy for me; I am attached to my books and letting go of them feels like a kind of a loss – every time. In true Marie Kondo style, I will therefore thank each book for the pleasure it has given me and post a brief review on this blog. 

Here goes:

Judith Viorst (1988) Necessary Losses.  The loves, illusions, dependencies and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow.  London: Simon & Schuster, London.

I found Necessary Losses in a charity shop more than twenty years ago. The title and subtitle immediately spoke to me, as coping with loss was very much on my mind at the time.  It has a great start: “We begin life with loss. We are cast from the womb without an apartment, a charge plate, a job or a car.  We are sucking, sobbing, clinging, helpless babies. Our mother interposes herself between us and the world, protecting us from overwhelming anxiety. We shall have no greater need than this need for our mother” (p21). 

That’s certainly telling it as it is! From this totally helpless beginning we gradually need to learn to become a separate self, and eventually look after ourselves. But not before we are ready!  As Bowlby and others have shown, early separations can cause lifelong emotional scars. This is why it is so useful to help people look at and work through their early experience, as the clues to their depression, anxiety or relationship problems may often be found there.

By means of examples and case histories Viorst does a good job explaining therapeutic concepts in everyday language, including defence mechanisms (Freud), attachment theory and Winnicott’s concept of the good enough mother.

Thank you, Judith Viorst, I hope my well-thumbed and annotated copy may now be enjoyed by whoever buys it.

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New Year Resolutions – good idea or waste of time?

We all like the idea of turning over a new leaf, to make a fresh start or to have another chance. Some people are sceptical about this and see it as a waste of time; they say: – “you know you won’t keep it up so why do you bother?”

Are they right? Do New Year’s resolutions exemplify a laudable wish for self-improvement, or are they a sad case of not being able to accept ourselves as we are? In other words, are they positive or negative?

Well, making resolutions is positive in that it indicates a belief that things can be better, and what could possibly be wrong with that? On the other hand, it could be seen as negative in the sense that if we ‘fail’ we may feel worse. Examples of New Year’s resolutions may include wanting to kick an addiction; exercise more; or (if you are like me), keeping on top of all your commitments and never falling behind. They say that ‘the way to hell is paved with good intentions’, but I am not so sure. Following that logic we should believe that the way to heaven is paved with bad intentions, which makes no sense at all!

There are occasions in life, perhaps a particular time of year such as Christmas, an anniversary, or a significant birthday, when you may find yourself reflecting on your life. Perhaps you take stock of where you are, and realise that there is room for improvement, that there are things you have always meant to do but haven’t and that you could be happier. If such a reflection results in a new resolution, there is a sense of optimism and an attitude of ‘yes I can’.

Basically, any change that we want to make in our life is about letting go of habits that are no longer good for us. The creation of new habits goes hand in hand with consciously letting go of old ones, a process that will result in actual changes in your brain. Your neural pathways are like paths in long grass. Initially the creation of a new path will be hard work, but the more often you walk the new path, the easier it will get. Meanwhile the old path will get overgrown and walking along it will be less tempting, but…it take persistence.

There is something else that will help too. Take a look at the three resolutions below. What do you notice about them? How likely to you think it is that Irene, Simon or Fred will succeed?

Irene         – I am going to try and lose weight

Simon       – I will do my best to drink less

Fred         – I intend to give up smoking

The tentative and non-specific way in which Irene, Simon and Fred express their intentions make success seem unlikely. It seems better to say, for example:

I will lose at least 1 lb. each week;

I will limit my drinking to two glasses of wine on a Friday and Saturday only;

I have thrown my cigarettes in the bin and will never smoke again.

However, all three intentions are still expressed in terms of giving something up something pleasurable, which may not seem an attractive prospect! Therefore, you may feel that if you do achieve this heroic thing, you deserve a reward. Unfortunately, all too often that reward involves a relapse, a piece of that cake, another glass (or two) of that wine, just one fag, and so on.

So the trick is to frame whatever it is you want to do in such a way that it sounds like the greatest thing ever. For example, when Irene wanted to lose weight, her partner said how much he was looking forward to her being happier and healthier. This worked for her, as it told her that he just wanted what was best for her. As he accepted and loved her anyway her size was actually irrelevant to him, although he did understand that it was an issue for her.

So express, whatever it is that you wish to achieve, positively and as something you’ll enjoy. For example, ‘from now on I will feel great and full of energy. I will do this by only consuming what I need, and what is healthy for me.’

If your intention involves giving up something, like smoking or drinking for example, it is a good idea to replace it with something else. This is because giving up something leaves a void, so fill that void with something that you really enjoy and that makes you feel good. And what that is will vary, what is right for one person is not right for another.

Irene found it helpful not to dwell (amongst other things) on the loss of a cake or two with her coffee every morning, but on the gain, on what she was doing differently. In other words, she found a way to enjoy the process by joining a women-only running and exercise club that met twice a week. They all became great friends and Irene looked really forward to going. Through talking with Sue, another club member, she decided to go back to college and study creative writing. This was something she had always wanted to do, but had not got round to because of family commitments. She is now enjoying life and weight is not an issue for her as there is no longer a lack in her life that needs to be filled with food.

To summarise:

Create a positive frame for the thing you want to achieve;

Look at the ‘pay off’ you are getting from the bad habit; do you eat cakes only because they taste nice, or because they satisfy some other need?

Reflect on the lack the bad habit is meeting and think of some other way to meet this need. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what the lack is, in which case it may be helpful to see a counsellor or therapist to get clarity.

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Can’t sleep? Don’t panic!

My great granny used to say: “sleep is not essential, what matters is that you rest.” I think these are wise words. We often suffer more from worrying about being awake, than from lack of sleep. However, there are things we can do (and also avoid) to promote a good night’s sleep.


Helpful habits:

  • Allow yourself to have a comfortable bed. Some people swear by a memory foam mattress, others like a really firm mattress. Whatever you choose, it has to be right for you.
  •  Create a comfortable and restful bedroom where it is a pleasure to be. Resist the temptation to share your bedroom with your computer and other ‘work’ related items. If you have no choice, use a screen so that your sleeping area is peaceful.
  •  Do not exercise just before bedtime, but make sure that you get sufficient exercise earlier in the day. Sometimes people cannot sleep because they have been working very hard and find it hard to switch off. If that is you, make sure that you go for a half hour’s walk in the fresh air – ideally during daylight.
  •  Stay away from the computer for a few hours before going to bed. Instead allow yourself to relax, perhaps by having a bath, listening to music or reading a book.
  •  Have a milky drink and a banana, or a piece of toast, before going to bed. This is also helpful if you wake in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep
  •  A few drops of lavender on your pillow is wonderfully relaxing.
  • Try to have a regular routine so that you go to bed and get up at more or less the same time each day.
  •  Are you the kind of person who starts to remember things, or who gets good ideas, as soon as your head hits the pillow? If so, have a notepad and pen by your bed so that you can jot it down and then forget about it.

Things to avoid:

  • Ÿ Coffee in the evening, too much alcohol, recreational drugs.
  •  A heavy meal late at night.


  • Ÿ If you have been awake for more than half an hour and find it hard to go to sleep it is best to get up and have a herb tea or milky drink and perhaps something to eat like a banana, toast or cereal.
  •  While you are up and drinking your tea or milky drink, listen to some soft music.
  •  If you are woken by a dream or nightmare and find it hard to go back to sleep, write it down (download it) in a notebook.
  • Some people find it soothing to have the radio on very low to a station that ensures continuous talking. Others, however, prefer complete silence.

And above all – don’t worry about it!

Sleep well! 


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