Monday 12 March 2012

"If you want to be loved and liked, don't go into psychotherapy."

Take a look at this article about the doyenne of forensic psychotherapy, EstelaWelldon

The field often attracts "do-gooders", says Welldon, who are singularly ill-suited to it. The only physical attack she has ever witnessed at work took place when a colleague comforted a client by patting them sympathetically, prompting an explosive reaction. "Touching them?" she says, "No way. Also, if somebody's saying nobody wants them, and wants to talk about the parts of themselves that are bad, or hateful, they don't want to hear: 'You're actually really nice.' Fuck you! I mean, honestly, it's so condescending, and you're not seeing what the patient wants to give you.

My first exposure to psychiatry was when as a very new student nurse I chaperoned a doctor one night as he spoke with a young woman, about 16 or 17 years old in the Sisters Office. Looking back on it it’s clear now that she had been raped, was in shock and possibly a little dissociated. The psychiatrist was all technique, at one point noting that the woman glanced at a picture of fairies that was propped against a wall and wondering if she’d like to join them. Happily, his bleep went and he left the room.

Having not yet learned that professional means detached, I said something along the lines of “Well thank Christ that load of old rubbish is over. What happened to you?” The doctor hailed me as some kind of miracle worker when he returned and the young woman was able to speak about the evenings events.

When we treat patients as poor souls in need of our expertise we distance ourselves from them and patronise them. As a matter of principle, we are all equals.  And it’s dead true that therapy attracts do-gooders, people in massive need of care themselves who find satisfaction in exerting control over others. Therapists come into training because we’re interested in our own inner lives above and beyond almost everything else; we’re a desperately solipsistic lot and we’re all a bit bonkers. Therapists have to accept that about ourselves to keep the privileges that we’re given under control.

[Welldon] says she has an "enormous amount of violence myself, and I think the patients know that too.”

Hoorah. Many of us are seething with violence a lot of the time but we’ve learned to tone it down, disguise it, pretend it’s something else because that’s what gets rewarded and it’s why so much of Paganism is pathetic. Sitting with some friends the other day one said, ‘If one more person tells me I’m strong, I’ll scream.’ Another replied, ‘Tell them you’re not strong, you’re violent, that’ll shut them up,’ and we laughed with recognition and pleasure. Religions in particular tell us we must be meek and mild, totally accepting, utterly non-judgemental and it’s a very rare person who can come close to that even occasionally. Patients who are wild with fury, often very justifiably, don’t want to be met by someone who would really like them to talk about rainbows and puppies and the power of forgiveness. Whilst it’s often important for a woman patient to have a woman therapist there must also be room for a woman to meet with a male therapist who’s au fait with his responses to sex and  gender and is comfortable with a woman who needs to rage or talk honestly about her dangerous feelings around her children. I’ve met too many women therapists who make their fear and disapproval of women’s rage and violence all too obvious.

We all walk a thin line between professional, cold, and over-involved and we’re not always going to get it right. Good training, a good attitude towards authenticity, excellent and rigorous supervision all help, as does having people around us who are also authentic, who are settled enough in themselves to allow us to be vulnerable, livid, clever, committed, successful. Who are wise enough to allow and accept our humanity in its entirety.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Abuse Excuses

The media is heaving with news and opinion on the conviction of Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu, the three day torture and murder of Magalie’s brother, Kristy aged 15, and the torture of Kristy’s other siblings.

This case has been simmering away for a year but it was only after sentencing that pictures of the flat in which Kristy was murdered were allowed to be shown. I’m very unsentimental, detest sentimentality in others and fairly hardened to life, but I was aghast at what I saw on the news last night. Suffice it to say that the people whose duty it was to sit through details of this misery and pass verdict have been exempted from jury service for the rest of their lives.

Commentary is starting to focus on the socio-economic situation of the perpetrators – Bikubi and Bamu lived in a council flat in Peckham, an area of deprivation. The words ‘council flat’ in populist media are code for poverty and general shiftiness and also, to paraphrase a number of talk radio responses,  “We’re giving council flats to asylum seekers who bring their strange and dangerous foreign ways over here.”  Not only were they poor, they were African and therefore doubly troglodyte and unable to know the difference between right and wrong. Which misses the billions of poor people, African people and people in social housing who would not dream of being abusive.

The people who tortured Kristy to death were respectable members of their British communities. There’s the clue to what was really going on:

“People who knew 28-year-old Eric Bikubi have spoken of their shock to learn that the promising football coach . . . who showed no sign of the barbaric nature that was to emerge . . . killed a teenager.”

I’ve worked as a domestic violence counsellor for many years and the same issues arise there too. Perpetrators are very often respectable, charming people well liked by their co-workers and neighbours. In fact, the more charming and well liked perpetrators are the more likely it seems that they will kill, sometimes indulging in family anniahilation. Their motivations are power, control and a sense of entitlement.

When you meet with abusers it’s very easy to be drawn in by their charm. Abusers are almost by definition manipulative. It’s never a matter of ‘losing control’ because abusers are absolutely in control of themselves, they don’t attack their friends and neighbours or strangers who accidentally get in their way as strangers will from time to time. They choose to ‘lose control,’ that is, they choose to become abusive.

 They will say that they blacked out and have no memory of what happened; that the violence appeared out of the blue (“I’m not a violent person”); they deny their victims humanity (“A slut, a bitch,” “A Witch.”) Their entire perception of events is centred around themselves: if the victim hadn’t have done something to them they would not have had to defend themselves, or the police were called in order to punish them rather than to protect their victim – they’re classic narcissists. They have an enormous sense of entitlement and will want to talk about their victims’ behaviour and their own feelings.

Alcohol and stress are often used as excuses for violence. Yes, they can lower inhibitions but they’re also used ritualistically, as a precursor to violence. The scene is set, “I had a drink,” or “I’ve been under a lot of stress.” The abuser blames the victim for causing the stress or for not soothing stress.

Psychological instability is often used as an excuse, either a momentary insanity or because the perpetrator had an abusive childhood. In fact, the link between experiencing abuse as a child and perpetuating abuse as an adult is not clear and, again, discounts the vast majority of children who were abused who do not go on to become abusers.

I’ve no doubt that Bikubi and Bamu will use the ‘cultural belief' in witchcraft as an excuse for their behaviour. At least for a while, until they realise that the UK mental health system is inherently racist and will not tolerate any cultural expressions of distress at all. Whatever their eventual diagnosis part of Bikubi and Bamu's crucible of healing will be to acknowledge that they are child killers and child abusers: it has nothing to with witchcraft or kindoki style=, or any other 'cultural' practice.

Friday 26 August 2011

You Need This Book

Three years ago it was Mindfulness. In the late '80's it was Project 2000. I've lost count of the stuff in between but at least this says what it means: Be Intelligent. And Be Kind. I'm hopeful that this will go some way towards altering the industrialisation of looking after people because it addresses it. It might be kinder if this book was not £25 but it looks like being a good investment. Here's the review from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Intelligent Kindness: Reforming the Culture of Healthcare

Intelligent Kindness is a powerful new approach to healthcare reform. Ballatt and Campling argue that the NHS is a system that invites society to value and attend to its deepest common interests; it is a vital expression of community and one that can improve if society, patients and staff can reconnect to these deeper values. To do so will improve quality and patient experience, as well as morale, effectiveness, efficiency and value for money.

Relentless regulatory and structural NHS ‘reforms’ have failed to avert scandals and left many health service staff feeling alienated. Industrial and market approaches to reform, whatever their merits, urgently need to be balanced by an applied understanding of what motivates and assures compassionate practice. The authors examine this topic from a wide variety of perspectives, including psychoanalytic thinking, group relations, neuropsychology, social psychology and ethology.

This book calls on policymakers, managers, educators and clinical staff to apply and nurture intelligent kindness in the organisation and delivery of care, and offers advice as to what this approach means in practice.

Readership: This book will be essential reading for health service managers, clinical leads, politicians, policy-makers and health journalists.

About the authors:
John Ballatt - Independent consultant advising on health and social care and organisational systems, Leicester.
Penelope Campling - Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist at Francis Dixon Lodge (a therapeutic community), Leicester.

Monday 6 June 2011

Carers Week: Caregiving and Truth Telling

Sick people are grumpy and often angry. Wise Elders can turn bratty and difficult when they feel less able and under threat. I knew that going in. The trick was not to match these moods with more of the same, which, by and large, I avoided.

From Sia's Full Circle blog

Friday 3 June 2011

It's The Economy, Stupid.

Voluntary Euthanasia is going to become legal in the UK within, please Goddess, my lifetime. Elderly people live longer, we don't want to pay for their wellbeing and we don't want to care for them ourselves because we've been told that being employed is far more important and that caring is someone elses job. But we can't bear to hear the endless story of elder abuse in hospitals and care homes either.

Many illnesses that would previously have killed us have now become chronic conditions and the health service was never designed to care for infirmities that can last 50 years. That's not to say that it shouldn't - it absolutely should - but whether we like it or not it all costs money, and our population is growing, aging, becoming more and more unwell . . .

The London School of Economics is discussing it. Is there a Pagan thealogy of assisted suicide? Because there certainly are any number of Christian takes on the subject, some of them not as hardcore as we might imagine.

Jack Kervorkian, a poineer of assisted suicide, died today aged 83.

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Spare A Thought For Carers

A guest post from Sue Vincent

There are over six million unpaid carers in the UK alone. They range from small children to old age, and care quietly for family, friends and neighbours. In 2006 it was estimated that this silent workforce saved the UK economy around £87 billion that would otherwise had to be spent on social and medical care.

The 30th May is a Bank Holiday in England. I, and my fellow carers, will not get a day off, nor get paid extra, or at all, for working.

Carers are often forgotten, hidden, silent and isolated. Children who cannot learn to grow and play with their peers, because they care for their parents and siblings. Skilled and talented people who cannot work or create because their days, and often their nights, are spent caring. There is no time, nor is there energy for a social life. Holidays are rare, if ever. Careers, dreams, hopes and futures are surrendered daily, silently, to meet the needs of love.

As carers, there are 'rights', legislation, policies... and little support except from peer groups. Pride goes out of the window as poverty is enforced in very many cases. There is not a vast package of welfare benefits available to carers, as many people believe. Caring becomes a lifestyle. So does begging.

Carers need to be nurses, secretaries, chambermaids, housekeepers, cleaners, gardeners, taxi drivers, psychologists, counsellors, cooks, personal shopper and PA. Carers are companions, lifelines and advocates. We get no training, we learn through neccessity.

Carers are often exhausted, get little sleep and are expected to carry on. We are human, we get lonely, frustrated, irritated.. then feel incredibly guilty because our problems are so much less than those of the person for whom we care.

Carers are at risk of depression, isolation, injury and poverty. You cannot solve all these problems, but there IS something you CAN do. Many carers find any kind of social contact difficult, through time, expense... or the fading away of their social networks. Many rely on email and phone to stay in touch and remind ourselves we are human. An empty inbox can be a body blow when you are down.

All I ask is that you look at your friends and aquaintances and identify the carers among them. I can almost guarantee that you know at least one! Then pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email, a joke, a smile and LET A CARER KNOW YOU CARE.

Please, if this makes sense to you, pass this around.

Thank you.


The creaking wakes me.
Four a.m., and again I am poised,
Ready to rise from the sofa bed,
Conscious of the steel strut against my spine.
Above my head, in the room once mine,
The bed that was mine once upon a time
Grinds against the wall.
He is wakeful again.
Another bad dream?
There are many.
There are tears.
There is fear and ‘what if’s?’
Every day.
Even the wonderful dreams hold pain,
The pain of loss and memory
The pain of what was and what should have been.
Reality is his nightmare.
“It is shit being me,”

I can dream too.
I can watch the flaying of a loved one,
A mangled body, broken in hate,
Love disembowelled by madness.
I stifle my screams in  the pillow
Or sob in the bathroom, quietly.
Even now.
I can see the scars on his chest
The tubes went in there, and there, and there..
No escape from heartache and memory,
Even in hope.

Body aches,
Mind is tired,
Bones hurt,
Muscles beg for peace,
Wedded to exhaustion.
The last shreds of youth
Leached away
Worry is my bedfellow.

Yet, how dare I complain?
How dare I feel tired?
He should be dead,
Fighting each day,
Hunting life with passion,
Pursuing the impossible,
Grasping its tail
With paralysed fingers.
I the squire, he the knight,
The dragon of disability
And the worm of despair,
The quest, the grail of normality.
Our shield is laughter
And gentle lunacy.
Our armour a refusal
To accept pain as answer.

My sin is hope,
My sin despair
Poised on the knife edge
Razor sharp, each step cutting.
My burden, guilt.
Failure to protect
To prevent the unpreventable
Failure to heal the unhealable
Illogical, ridiculous.
Yet human.
Because I am his Mum.
And because I care.

Sue Vincent

Monday 28 March 2011

Moral Cretins

A guest post from Mogg Morgan

The so-called Kidwelly Sex Cult Case probably raises all sorts of mixed emotions amongst the UK’s many occultists and Pagans. It has just the kind of lurid details that make it difficult to focus on the core issues in the case and the temptation must surely be to keep one’s head down and hope the scandal blows over. And after all, rational discourse largely stops as soon as the boogeyman of Aleister Crowley or to give him his full name “Mr Aleister Satanist Crowley” or “Sir Aleister Notorious Crowley”, enters the narrative.

Let me say right out that I think the culprit Colin Batley and his accomplices are moral cretins (The same term was applied to Karen Mathews – who faked the kidnapping of her own neglected daughter in order to claim some putative award). People like Colin Batley claim they are following the imperatives of the Devil, Satan or Aleister Crowley for the bad they do. And the courts and the media are happy to accept that the long dead libertine Aleister Crowley and his works are somehow responsible for the wrong people do. I’m not sure if they ever bother to discover which came first, the Batley’s violent, abusive personality or his interest on Crowley and his Thelemic religion – it is just assumed that one must have caused the other. But I say that in the end the evil people do is down to their own moral failings.

The details they are reported from the trial show to my admitted practice eye that these people have misinterpreted and misunderstood Crowley and more especially his Thelemic Religion that has many thousands of law abiding modern disciples. Contrary to what you may hear in the press and indeed even in some Pagan commentary, in my opinion Thelema is not an immoral creed. Its famous axiom “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” (reported as “Do what thou wilt” in some new reports) is an ideal intended for an enlightened community of refined adults. Its core myth is found in the Early European novels of Rabelais, where he envisions an ideal community as an escape from the chaos, crime and madness of the times. Its motto is indeed “Do what thou wilt” (Fais ce que voudras) but this commune can only function if certain kinds of behaviour are excluded. In other words perverts such as Colin Batley would be excluded from the Thelemic community, for the simple reason they are dominated by their most base desires.

Crowley emphasises this very point in a pamphlet called Liber II, widely circulated amongst all true seekers of the Thelemic religion. He is at great pains to emphasis that “Do what thou wilt” is not the same as “Do what you want”. In comparative religion this approach is more akin to yoga and indeed it is in the widely despised Tantrik texts that the explanation of Crowley’s system really lays. But in short Thelema aims to develop enlightened, compassionate human beings.

For a more modern version of the rules of an ideal community – see John Rawls’ “A Theory Of Justice” which contains a “thought experiment” not unlike Rabelais’s “Abbey of Thelema”. The whole is the subject of the Harvard University’s first freely available online course on Justice – see
For press reports of the trail see

The Kidwelly group’s actions show them to know none of this. They are merely venal criminals who use the widespread fear and ignorance of Paganism and magic as a smokescreen for their abusive personalities. This case has very little to do with any genuinely held religious beliefs but is about one person using his power over others to fulfil his own perverted needs. I venture to guess that his personality was formed long before he ever heard the name Aleister Crowley and absorbed the popular myths about Satan and the Devil, As 'cult leader' he found a way to gain power over other gullible or otherwise vulnerable people.

It is easy for us to be sidetracked by the sensational details, which shows just how powerful the image of “cult leader” is in mainstream society. The details of the trial make me seriously doubt that he ever had contact with a genuine, Thelemic or Crowleyian group or was aware of the appropriate training in the tradition. His knowledge of Thelema is superficial and minuscule and based on unsupervised reading and uninformed secondary sources, perhaps even the media. I have no problems condemning what Colin Batley has done and feel sure I am not alone in my condemnation.

Mogg Morgan with contributions from Kym and Floortje