Recovery Star or crucifix?

I loved the original concept of recovery: “Regaining what has been lost or taken away”. And I grieve for the way it is being used as a tool for discipline.

@TallaTrialogue presented a link and wrote:  

“A brilliant way of helping to measure outcomes in Recovery for both service users and services.”

When I was having severe dissociation problems, shoving this star with its checkboxes at me would have made me even more confused: 

Embedding some tweets with links:



@maddoggiejo called this star “A cross that they nail you to”. Here is her version:

And she has these suggestions for backup interventions: 

Reading PDF document on the recovery Star made me think of Leanh Ngyen’s excruciating and beautiful paper on “The Ethics of Trauma”

During the Physicians for Human Rights evaluations of the Iraqis, some of the men laughed incredulously upon reading the questionnaires. One man looked at the items in a studious, puzzled way. Another said, “What is this?” One man pushed the questionnaire away in despair. “I can’t do this. I don’t understand this.” Another man eventually refused to continue and said to me, “What you want to know, just ask me.”

Just ask me.

These reactions conveyed to me that the clinician-listener-witness was failing her traumatized subject in the task that the historian Dominick LaCapra (2001) has called “remaining in empathic unsettlement”: to stay unsettled in order to look at, not past or beyond, the subject. To stay in the not knowing and trying to know with the subject—such is the task that we may be failing when we unquestioningly engage in “empirical” standardized testing of traumatized people.

Bertrand Russell; "Why I Am Not A Christian"

I don’t do resolutions, but here is a thought for the new year, from a lecture that Bertram Russell held in 1927: 

We want to stand upon our own feet 
and look fair and square at the world
 — its good facts, its bad facts, 
its beauties, and its ugliness; 
see the world as it is 
and be not afraid of it. 
Conquer the world by intelligence 
and not merely by being slavishly subdued 
by the terror that comes from it.  

And here is a link to the rest of the lecture:

Quoting one section on “The Character of Christ”, about maxims of Christ that Christians do not follow:  

I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present prime minister [Stanley Baldwin], for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.

Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, “Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” That is a very good principle. Your Chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the Liberals and Conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.

Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practised. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

A bit from “The Moral Problem”, about defects in Christ’s  moral character: 

You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell.” That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come.” That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world. 

Then Christ says, “The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” He continues, “And these shall go away into everlasting fire.” Then He says again, “If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him as His chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that. 

 And a bit from “The Emotional Factor”

That is the idea — that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.

You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

And the two last sections:

Fear, the Foundation of Religion
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.
What We Must Do
We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world — its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.

Midwinter greetings!

I wish you well, with special greetings to those for whom this holiday season is something to be endured. I have been there, and I have never forgotten the years when I tried to make this a magical time for my kids whilst almost drowning in memories of lonely childhood Christmases.

Now the grief is only a memory, and I have grandchildren who give me a magical midwinter holiday.

The very first thing they do, when they arrive, is to decorate our windowsill. This year moon gazing hare is singing with an angel choir. Five years ago my elegant Murano bowl was an angel loo, where the angels went potty in between visits to the nisse rock … I’ll post a picture of that too, soon.

Joanna Moncrieff: "Psychiatry has its head in the sand"

Link to this article by the psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff: 

“Royal College of Psychiatrists rejects discussion of crucial research on antipsychotics”


Some leading psychiatrists have been publicly critical of the overhyping of antipsychotics (7) and there are undoubtedly many others who are concerned about these research findings and trying to avoid antipsychotic drug treatment if possible, and use low doses for short periods where not. I have expressed the hope that as this research becomes more widely known, others will follow suit.

My illusions were recently shattered, however, by the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ conference planning committee.  Recently I proposed a symposium for the 2014 annual conference entitled ‘Re-evaluating antipsychotics- time to change practice?’ I invited Lex Wunderink, the first author of the Dutch study, to discuss his study, along with a leading British psychiatrist involved in brain scanning studies of people with schizophrenia. I was confident the symposium would be accepted, because obviously, I thought, the conference committee would recognise the importance of this research, and want to ensure it was widely publicised to, and debated by, members of the profession.

To my astonishment it was rejected. I wrote to the conference organiser to ask why, pointing out that patients, carers and the general public are wondering what the profession is doing about these research findings. They would be most surprised to know that the profession did not consider the results sufficiently interesting to merit discussion at the principal meeting of UK psychiatrists. She replied that there were too many competing suggestions. So I asked if any of the symposia selected covered these same areas of research.  I did not get a reply.

The symposium was suggested to discuss recent research findings which suggest that long-term antipsychotic treatment is associated with some important physical and functional disadvantages. 
Members of the Critical Psychiatry Network wrote to the Conference Committee to seek clarification as it was felt that it was important for psychiatrists to reflect upon these findings and the implications on clinical practice.

Something Rotten in the State of British Psychiatry?

Philip Thomas, MD

February 11, 2014
Delegates attending the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists at London’s Barbican Centre in June this year will almost certainly not hear about the results of the seven-year outcome of the Dutch First Episode (FE) study widely discussed on Mad in America in recent months.

Filtering stories the Nonviolent way

There might be an annoying amount of “in my opinion”, “from
my point of view”, “from where I stand”, “as I see it” and similar disclaimers in
this text. That is because I speak only for myself, from my story. 
And I stand here:

In my belief system, the collective stories of our
surroundings drown out the stories of individuals, and that is
the main cause of mental health problems. Problems. Not illnesses. Some people, the so-called
normal ones, are able to adapt to the collective stories, and the so-called
mentally ill ones are incapable of it, for many different reasons. And “mental
illness” is in itself a powerful story of alienation, isolation, bullshit,
disempowerment and hopelessness.

At the end of my first
and only workshop in Non-Violent Communication, we were assigned one person to write a note to. The trainer drew me, and I am
translating her note by way of establishing my … credentials?

“When I hear your questions, I am inspired and
grateful, because I love new input, to be challenged intellectually and
spiritually. That is nourishment to me. Important nourishment. Thank you for

When I at the same time am aware of your enormous
warmth and see so much inner goodness and abundance, I want to disappear into
your embrace and be enveloped, because I take pleasure in your warm
motherliness, and I take pleasure in the wholeness of a person with insight,
intellect, soul and emotional depth.”

These lovely words, and her
validation of my need to both think and feel, mean a lot to me. And I did not
renew my NVC membership because I could not find room in that community for my
need to think and question, no room for the need of my warm, motherly side to protect the vulnerable – in
myself and in others.

After I came home from
the workshop, during a correspondence on needs with a NVC member, I wrote:

I follow you in this, and I take it a bit further,
because I differentiate between having unmet needs and being harmed.

When we are adults, this difference is very clear: I
have a need to walk safely outdoors at night. If someone rapes or stabs me,
this need for safety is obviously not met, and in addition someone has harmed

The harm that adults do to children is taboo (have you
Alice Miller?)

I dream of a diagnostic system that sees the
late term effects of childhood harm, and of a mental health system that has
efficient tools for solving problems caused by this kind of harm. And I use the
word ‘solve’ instead of ‘heal’ because, in my opinion, the process requires both
thought and action – with the help of
relevant tools.

The reply surprised me:

I sense a deep and prolonged pain in what you have

And I would like to try to connect with it and you by offering feelings and unmet
needs you might have. Do you think that
could be helpful?

Thank you for mentioning Alice Miller, the hurt of
childhood can be huge and painful. And I think we can solve it by seeing that
those who exposed us to pain had needs that they tried to meet in ways that
became painful to others.

I thanked her for her
offer and said that I had been connected with my pain for many years, as can be seen in blog posts like
“To a stalker priest”. And I had seen the needs of people who harmed me even as a child. She did not believe me, and things got so tangly that we never did find common ground. 

As I see it, this NVC member’s reaction is a result of a healing process that the founder of
Nonviolent Communication describes in this article:
From “Speak Peace in a World of Conflict”
by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D
Let’s see if can I present this  the NVC way, to Marshall Rosenberg and other teachers of Nonviolent Communication:

1: WHEN I READ Marshall Rosenberg’s article …

2: I FEEL angry …

3: BECAUSE I AM NEEDING to protect the vulnerable and powerless wounded-child-within myself and other adults. 

4: AND I WOULD LIKE YOU TO take off your giraffe ears and 1) read “The child who refuses to die” with open, human mind and heart, and 2) consider my critique with open, human mind and heart. Are you willing to to look for grains of truth in what I have written, instead of judging if it is right or wrong? I do mean “grain” literally, like one grain of sand on a beach, and I ask you to tell me if you find any.  


What NVC calls healing seems to create an automatic switch that derails anger and accusation into a side track of unmet needs. 

This can probably be constructive in a mediation situation where there is locked and festering hate between more or less equally strong individuals or groups. 

And in his article Rosenberg is using the technique on a person who is carrying deep wounds that her father dealt her when she was a child. 

From my point of view, he has overlooked three crucial  factors in that situation:

  • The extreme disparity between an all-powerful adult and a totally powerless child.
  • The default defenses of the child-in-the-adult who has been harmed. Some people have anger and aggression as a default defense, and Marshall Rosenberg’s method might help them.[1] My default defense as a child was empathy and compassion. Trying to heal me the NVC way would be like giving speed to a junkie. 
  • The need of adults with a wounded-child-within for constructive tools that help them protect and liberate this child. 

“Those who cannot remember the past 
are condemned to repeat it.”
– Santayana

“Forgiving the Past
by Focusing on the Present.”

– Marshall Rosenberg
If I were to describe NVC in one word, it would be “one-legged”. I often see one thought that I agree with, and need another for balance. As in Rosenberg’s title: I need to focus on the present AND remember and understand the past so that I do not repeat it. 

Forgiving is not
relevant in this context. 
As I see it, forgiveness-pushing is caused by society’s need to protect the powerful from accusations of the powerless.

In my opinion, “forgive”, like “trust”, is not something I can choose to do, forgiveness and trust are a result of the actions of people who deserve forgiveness and trust. The options I have is to look past my assumptions at actual actions … or not.

This I learned before I was six years old, from the example of Soldier and his friendsWW2 veterans who befriended my family.  

I refuse to be nicer than Jesus. On the cross he did not say “I forgive you”
to his tormentors.
  He did not see that they had unmet needs. He asked his father to forgive them, “for they know not what they do”. 

I am no
longer religious, and there is no everlasting torment in my belief system, so my version is: “I know that they did
what they did because they have been harmed. AND they did what they did and own what they did, just
as I do what I do and own what I do.”

I have kept the view of
forgiveness that Catholic nuns taught me in the 50s. Therefore, forgiving
someone is only relevant when they …

  • · Realize what they have done
  • · Take responsibility for it
  • · Resolve not to do it again
  • · And show what they are doing to prevent repetition

Back to Marshall

Very often, a lot
of healing work goes on in our trainings. Realize first of all that this takes
place in front of as many as eighty or ninety people, so you might say there
are many witnesses to the efficacy of our approach.

I have two

“Healing” – what is
that? Before I can see what happens as healing, I would need to know
the entity’s situation after one year, five years, ten years. And that  goes for NVC, LP, CBT, and the host of other quickfixes that are available. 

The person who offered to connect with my pain had been healed the NVC way, and was imprisoned, as I see it, in the collective NVC story of unmet needs. 

So … 90 witnesses to the efficacy of what? 

regularly tell me they get more out of thirty or forty minutes of what I’ve
done than they received from six or seven years of traditional psychotherapy.

This I can readily believe,
as “traditional psychotherapy” seems to be firmly rooted in myths and
mystifications that deny an unending chain of harm that has been passed on since the dawn of humanity … from adults to children who then become adults who pass it on to new children. 

Individuals can liberate themselves from this chain, and not pass on harm to the next generation, but only when they know that the chain is there. [2]

In my workshops,
we talk very little about what happened in the past. I’ve found that talking
about what happened in the past not only doesn’t help healing; it often
perpetuates and increases pain. This goes very much against what I was taught
in my training in psychoanalysis.

What kind of psychoanalysis?
What methods did Rosenberg learn and use on his patients?

Talking about things that
fit into the collective story that the therapist has learned can perpetuate and increase pain. Here I agree with Marshall

Getting stuck in the past is just as one-legged as only focusing on the present, and fear of pain seems to be a driving force in many different kinds of mental help and healing. 

Therapists and other
helpers can only help others as far as they have helped themselves, so 
I suggest that anyone who is in pain and needs help asks Oriah’s question: 

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

Just like physical pain, mental pain is a beacon that can show us where the problems are. Here is my approach to liberation from childhood harm, an approach with four different modes: TELLING, FEELING, THINKING and NEEDING: 

From where I stand, being with pain is part of the liberation process, and much of “traditional
psychotherapy” consists of forcing, manipulating or lovingly nudging people from
one mode to another to fill the therapists’ unconscious need to hide or fade or fix pain in areas where
they have not helped themselves.

That is also what I see Marshall Rosenberg doing in this article, within the NVC story of unmet needs. 

Certainly our
current pain is stimulated by the past, and we don’t deny how the past is
affecting the present.

He does not deny that the past is affecting the present, but stating that pain is “stimulated” by the past, is IMO a denial of how the past is affecting the present. 

Here is this huge word “heal” again. 

But I’ve learned over the years that you heal by talking about what’s going on in the moment, in the now.

From my POV, the now is one leg, the past is another, and I need both.

And who is “you”? I, for
one, have not healed by talking about the moment. I am in a constant process of liberating myself from collective stories by telling, feeling, thinking and becoming aware of what I need – and I hope to continue doing so as long as I live.

Marshall Rosenberg writes:

How do I do this?
In workshops, I often play the role of the person who stimulated 
most of the
other person’s pain in the past. Not infrequently this is a parent. I might be
playing the role of a father who beat or sexually molested this person as a

At the word “stimulate” in connection with childhood harm, I call bullshit: “A statement presented as truth in order to strengthen a story”. 

I accept this as part of the collective NVC story, and state that it is not a universal truth, and it does not belong in my personal story.

Has Marshall Rosenberg
ever been with a child who says “Daddy sticks his peepee in my bottom”? I was
looking at a photo album with one, and we came to a picture of the child at 18
months, wrapped in a towel, recently recovered from hard crying, and the child suddenly realized something: “That’s
when it started. When he was changing my diapers.”  

Would Rosenberg,
in a situation like this, begin to play the role of the person who “stimulated”
pain by raping a baby anally? [3]

Saying that adults
“stimulate” pain is a very strong filter, a denial of what actually happened.
People who beat children, who use children sexually, who mentally torture children
… those people do not stimulate pain, they cause the pain of the children. 

And people who harm others own their actions.

That is one leg.

What they do does not
mean that they are beaters, rapists, torturers. They are people, fellow human beings who have themselves been harmed. 

That is the other leg.

I need both legs to
liberate myself from the past.

So now I’m
sitting with this person who’s been in pain for years, and I play the role of
the person who is the stimulus for the pain as though that individual knows
Nonviolent Communication. I begin with empathy and say, “What’s still alive in
you as a result of what I have done?”

See, we’re not
going into the past and talking about what I did, but about what’s alive in you
now that’s still there from what happened in the past.

Here I found an explanation of “alive”: “To say clearly what’s alive in us at any given moment we have to be clear about what we feel and what we need.” Could someone please tell me why Rosenberg doesn’t just ask “What do you feel and what do you need as a result of what I-roleplaying-your-father have done?” 

And I do not understand the “still there from what happened in the past”. Explanations would be very welcome. 

The translator in me does get a whiff of bullshit whenever something that can be stated simply and transparently is jargonized, but I’ll let that lie. 

Often the person
doesn’t know NVC, so they don’t know how to tell me what’s alive in them except
through diagnosis: “How could you do it? You know, you were cruel. How could a
father beat a child that way?”

I call bullshit again. In no way can I identify
those three sentences as “diagnosis”. 
I see two questions and one accusation:

How could you do it?

You know, you were cruel.

How could a father beat a child that way?”

As I see it, children
need to accuse powerful people who have harmed them, and they need answers to their questions. 

In NVC we know
that all these diagnoses are just tragic expressions of what a person is
feeling and needing at this moment.

I am outside the collective NVC story, and I
do not know this. I see Marshall Rosenberg nudging someone out of their individual story: 

Role-playing the
father, I empathically connect with her pain, even if she isn’t expressing it
in a very clear way.

My inner klaxons and warning flags go berserk when Marshall Rosenberg, role-playing the father, imagines
that he connects with her pain.

Marshall Rosenberg states elsewhere that “Intellectual understanding blocks empathy”. I do not agree. I have learned through painful experience that I need to reality check what I feel before I believe it is empathy and act on it. So to me, feeling is one leg of empathy, thinking is the other.  

Without intellectual understanding, there is the illusion that “This is Truth because I feel it”, and I call that “mirror empathy” – responding to a reflection of our own emotions. The word “projection” is so loaded that I prefer not to use it. Is Rosenberg in mirror-empathy mode? He knows nothing about the woman, nothing about the person who harmed her, and yet he knows without intellectual understanding that he is connecting with her pain and healing her. In front of 90 spectators.

I’ve been googling, and “been fully understood” and “receive understanding” seems to mean “they feel that I have understood them”. I would greatly appreciate it if someone explains why this has been jargonized, and I ask to be corrected if I have misunderstood it in this context: 

I continue until
they have been fully understood about what’s alive in them now that’s still so

And then when
they have received all the understanding they need, I mourn – still in the role
of the father. Not apologize, but mourn.
I call bullshit. A huge, stinking pile of bullshit! 

The story Marshall
Rosenberg has told so far, looks to me like a story of avoidance of

As I see it, children
whom adults have harmed need to hear this:

“I have harmed you. I cannot ask your forgiveness – that would be to cheapen your hurts and my responsibility for them. I can only say that I see you. I feel your pain. I see the scars you have kept hidden for such a long time. I see what I have done, and I take the responsibility for it, and when I do that, I can see your strength and your courage.” (From  “The child who refuses to die”)

And if the people who
harmed cannot or will not say this, they need to hear it from others:

“They did it. They harmed you. I see you. I feel your pain. I see the scars you have kept hidden for such a long time. I see what they have done, and I give them the responsibility for it, and when I do that, I can see your strength and your courage.”

Marshall Rosenberg avoids apology, and in this I agree with him.

“Apology” is deeply rooted in poisonous pedagogy, what David Gerrold calls “The law firm of Blame, Shame, Burden and Guilt”

NVC shows us a
big difference between mourning and apology. Apology is basically part of our
violent language. It implies wrongness — that you should be blamed, that you
should be penitent, that you’re a terrible person for what you did. And when
you agree that you are a horrible person and when you have become sufficiently
penitent, you can be forgiven. Sorry is part of that game, you see. If you hate
yourself enough, you can be forgiven.

Instead of apology, Rosenberg has chosen “mourning”. And that would be appropriate if Rosenberg was addressing someone who has harmed a child,  if responsibility was added later. In this role-playing he is addressing a wounded child, role-playing the one who gave her the wounds.

I choose “responsibility”. From where I stand, rejecting the apology game without responsibility leads to the “Let’s pretend it never really happened” game, which is just as harmful. 

To me, sorting responsibility is an important tool for liberation from the past – seeing who owns what. 

Another tool is “allow”: To respectfully and lovingly allow the vulnerable in us to connect with us, in safe surroundings, as described in my “story of shame”. And I do not see how that can be done without responsibility. 

In what he considers a healing role-playing with a person in pain, Rosenberg now seems to be speaking directly to one who has harmed a child: 

Now, in contrast, what is really healing for people is not that game where we agree that we’re terrible, but rather going inside yourself and seeing what need of yours was not met by the behavior.

If this had been Marshall Rosenberg’s personal story, I could accept and respect it. As it is the base of NVC healing, and people get paid for teaching it, I call bullshit.

There are some grains of truth in the NVC unmet needs thing. And something very important is missing in Rosenberg’s reasoning: 

We are who we are, and we do what we do.

We are human beings with an inalienable right to dignity. And there is no dignity in being treated like children who need to be protected from the consequences of our actions. We do not honour people by excusing them, we honour them by giving them what they do, be it constructive or destructive.

I have written more about this in Honouring my strong and broken mother”.

And as I see it, we can
only truly own the harm we do to ourselves and to others when we have given back to the powerful
what they did to us when we were powerless. 
[4]  That has absolutely nothing to do
with apology or agreeing that anyone is horrible. 

Moralistic judgments are irrelevant, actions and responsibility are important: 

What did X do?
What did I do? 
What does X own?
What do I own?”

And when you are in touch with that, you feel a different kind of suffering. You feel a natural suffering, a kind of suffering that leads to learning and healing, not to hatred of oneself, not to guilt.

I see some grains of truth here in the NVC context of unmet needs, and I can use similar sentences to describe the pain of giving and taking responsibility for actions, which I see as a part of the process of liberation. 

So, in the role
of the father, having empathized with my daughter, I then mourn. I might say
something like, “I feel terribly sad to see that my way of handling my pain at
the time could result stimulate so much pain for you. And my needs were not met
by that. My needs were just the opposite, to contribute to your well-being.”

Will someone please show me how Marshall Rosenberg-as-the-father has empathized with his daughter? I can only see Marshall Rosenberg-the-NVC-teacher fading and fixing the guilt and self-hatred of a person who has harmed a child. With grains of truth, by all means, but void of responsibility.

When responsibility is taken from adults who have harmed children, it imprisons their victims in the Blame, Shame, Burden and Guilt of their childhood. 

In Marshall Rosenberg’s description I see a story that manipulates a child who has been harmed into feeling sorry for the person who harmed her. Something many children are much too good at doing anyway. 

I do not know if Rosenberg is repeating his own past in this reenactment, but I will assert that he shows a very clear avoidance of responsibility.

How can you ask for understanding when you won’t say what you did?
     – Andy Conner, “Remanded in Custody” 

From my point of view, Rosenberg is describing an act of violence: An invasion of a woman’s individual story, dignity and integrity.  

After the
mourning, the next step is for the father to explain to the daughter what was
alive in him when he did those horrible things in the past. We do go into the
past at this point, not to talk about what happened but to help the daughter
see what was alive in the father at the time he did this.

In some cases the
father might sound like this: “I was in such pain in so many parts of my life —
my work wasn’t going well, I was feeling like a failure. So when I would see
you and your brother screaming, I didn’t know what else to do to handle my pain
except in the brutal way that I did.”

I see much of traditional psychotherapy as a labyrinth of “They did it because …”. And “because” is only an explanation, it does not excuse or undo what  has been done. What Rosenberg describes looks to me like a variation of the same labyrinth: “I did it because …”

Of course persons who have grievously harmed others have a right to tell their story, and I wish for all of them that they meet someone who can understand them and be with them in their stories and their pain “without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it” – and also allow them the dignity of responsibility. 

And persons who have harmed have absolutely no right to tell these stories to their victims without owning what they have done! And not even then if the victims don’t want to hear it!

And no one, ever, has a right to tell a powerless victim their subjective version of an all-powerful perpetrator’s story with no mention of responsibility, as Rosenberg does!

So … why does a room full of people see “much healing”?

When the father
can honestly express what was alive in him, and the daughter can empathize with
that, and can see that, it’s amazing how much healing can take place. What’s
surprising for some people is that all of this can happen in an hour — and in
front a room full of people.

I think it is because of
the, albeit one-legged, insights that Marshall Rosenberg imparts during this process: the unmet needs, his avoidance of apology and perpetrator blame, shame, burden and guilt. His conviction, which I
share, that people who harm children are not evil, even if he and I see the “why”

And from what I saw in
the workshop, NVC methods can help people get in touch with frozen emotions and vulnerability that has been blocked by anger, fear and shame …
that can also be seen as healing. 

And why do I see an act of violence?

Rosenberg communicates many constructive thoughts in this article, I do realize that, even if there is not room for all of me in NVC. And, as I see it, these thoughts and methods belong in mediation between equals.

In a context of liberation from childhood harm, these thoughts belong in a Power Point presentation, in my opinion, and certainly
not as one-on-one-roleplaying in front of an audience, where a powerless childhood victim of harm is manipulated into empathizing with the all-powerful person who harmed.

And I cannot ever sanction the winkling out of emotion and vulnerability in front of an audience! I have met too many people who have been doubly wounded by methods like this. 

The essence of trauma is powerlessness + bullshit + isolation, and from my POV the bullshitting of a powerless, traumatized child-in-an-adult who is isolated in front of an audience is an act of retraumatization, no matter how excellent the intentions behind these actions are. 

Rosenberg, Ph.D. is the author of the internationally acclaimed Nonviolent
Communication: A Language of Life, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, and
several other books and booklets. 

If you know that you have been healed in the way Rosenberg describes here, I accept that as your story. This healing method might be constructive for some people, even for many. But not for all. And I have written this for people like me, who do not fit into the collective story of NVC.

Many years ago, I was at a summer camp arranged by a Support Centre Against Incest. The collective story was similar to the one in the introduction, and the children who were there knew that story. One day they spontaneously arranged a parade – marching around, banging cans and pots and shouting rhythmically:


Yelling and can-banging is also a part of the healing process … which I prefer to see as liberation, in this case from the prison of Blame, Shame, Burden and Guilt. 

I hope these children got the help they needed, and I fear that some of them did not, because similar doubts and criticisms to those I have mentioned here can be expressed about many different kinds of help, both within the health system and in the jungle of alternative teachings. 

“Medical model of mental illness”, anyone? Or 
“The Work” by Byron Katie, where people heal by transforming “he raped me” into “I raped him”?

I’m not going there now. But I welcome feedback on what I have written. Disagreement, agreement, the pointing out of … points … that I have missed, all will be accepted with open mind and heart. 

I promise to look for grains of truth in everything, and I leave you with Theodore Sturgeon’s greeting to the vulnerable in us, from a “Saucer of loneliness”:

               There is in certain living souls
               a quality of loneliness unspeakable,
               so great it must be shared
               as company is shared by lesser

               Such a loneliness is mine; so know
by this

               that in immensity there is one
lonelier than you.

                (…) And even to loneliness there
is an end,

               for those who are lonely enough,
long enough.

I share Sturgeon’s view on this, and have experienced many good meetings based on the sharing of loneliness unspeakable

I do not share the word “lesser,” though. I prefer “different”. Some people have a basic need to connect with this loneliness, others do not. And if you do not, that’s OK with me. 

“I rejoice in our differences.” And I wish you well.

[1] But I am skeptical, again because of the disparity in power. Anger and hate are defenses, and IMO it is best to let them   fade naturally because they are no longer needed. (I’ll be writing more about this in a later post on Voice Dialogue) In his role-playing, Rosenberg is mostly addressing an adult who has harmed children, and it seems to me that his approach is best suited to people like this. With the added element of responsibility. 

[2] I have no idea if this is true or not. It is a story that enables me to see the harm I and others do and judge actions, not persons, without hate. So it works for me.

[3]  The child’s father was acquitted by a jury that found it easier to believe that “man-hating feminists” like me had brainwashed the child into telling lies about a loving father. I’m not going into the false memories discussion here – if you want to bring it up, please do so in the comments. My default attitude is to first accept what people say as their stories. If fact-checking is necessary,  that can be done later.
     Something strange happened during this trial: Once, when the father walked past me outside the courtroom with his father, he hissed: “Away from me, Satan!” A psychologist who overheard this said that he might feel tempted to tell me his story because I was one of the few there who could see what he had done and not judge him because I could also see what had been done to him.

[4] And I do not believe in the healing power of confrontation. To me, “giving back” is first something to be done privately, to liberate the brainwashed and shameful and guilt-laden parts of us. Confrontation is for later, if we want and need it.  

Relevant links: 

A Comparison of Clean Talk and Nonviolent Communication (NVC)  

I am going to send a link to NVC and ask for feedback, but I want to finish two background stories first. One is done: 

“THERE IS NO DARK SIDE, THERE IS ONLY FEAR OF THE DARK”, about how we do not live in the Star Wars universe, and there is no dark side that is ready to pounce and transform us into Darth Vader.

“NORMLIGHT AND THE LIGHT IN THE DARK”, about how we are blinded by searchlights and streetlights, and can only see the horrible and wonderful diversity of life when we step away from them.

ON NORMLIGHT …” is written. But I haven’t gotten around to “THE LIGHT IN THE DARK” yet

All I want for Midwinter this year is …

…  that people in the helping professions describe the kind of “mental health care”, “psychotherapy” “psychoanalysis” “counselling” “recovery” etc that they are writing about. 

There seems to be a culture of “therapy is what I point at when I say it”, to paraphrase Damon Knight.

And I can’t see people point when I’m reading what they wrote.

"A Wave of Reason"

Written two years ago, reposted now: 

I’ve been reading some of the popular self-fulfilment prophets recently, and Marshall Rosenberg on “Non-violent Communication”, and I badly need to post this as an antidote.

Rosenberg’s message seems to be that we shouldn’t think at all, and the others go on about changing our lives with our thoughts until I feel enveloped in sticky threads of confusion.

And then I need to hear Bertrand Russell say:

When you are studying any matter
Or considering any philosophy
Ask yourself only
What are the facts
And what is the truth
That the facts bear out

And Phil Plait say: 

Teach a man to reason
And he’ll think for a lifetime

And … I’ll shut up and let them speak for themselves. 

At the Symphony of Science home page you  can see the text to all the videos

The fourth circle picture

Deleting text for now, this is to be rewritten completely, but I’ll leave the image, even if it will be redrawn.

I’m trying to show how separate mindsets can influence each other and add to awareness also when there is no actual agreement.

repost: THE INVITATION by Oriah

Norwegian here/på norsk her 

I might not agree with everything Oriah writes, but her “Invitation” seems to be the perfect description of mental health, as opposed to “normality”. And I am reposting it because it goes well with my previous post on mental health: 

The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

I am posting this with the author’s permission, and I am adding this information at her request:

“By Oriah Mountain Dreamer from her book THE INVITATION (c) 1999 Published
in English by HarperONE, San Francisco. Published in Norweigan by Ex Libris Forlag. All rights reserved. Presented with permission of the  author.”

Repeating the website:
And linking to her blog: