Monthly Archives: September 2008

carnival of eating disorders #20

this month’s carnival of eating disorders is hosted by laura collins at are you eating with your anorexic?

please visit, she has done a fantastic job – she’s turned it into an actual carnival!

next month’s will be here again, on october 31 – yes, the hallowe’en issue. if you have an article about any of these topics

– anorexia (or “manorexia”)
– bulimia and exercise bulimia
– overeating or binge eating
– orthorexia
– body image
– EDNOS (‘eating disorders not otherwise specified”)

please submit it here.

(please, no articles that are just about recipes or dieting. thanks!)

more on professionalism: insurance, education and organizations

i’d like to follow up on evan’s guest post yesterday, entitled, why professionalism is of the devil. evan blogs at wellbeing and health – this is a topic he’s passionate about.

evan says that his problem lies with professionalism, not with professionals. they lie with professional organizations and all that comes with them.

i think evan raises a number of interesting points. i’m going to address three here.

professional organizations

professional organizations are made up of professionals. granted, the professionals who actively participate in professional organizations are usually just a very small fraction of the professionals they represent. but then this is really similar to democracy, isn’t it? there are only a few people who bother to get involved. and yes, a good portion of those who do get involved are power hungry, busybodies or control freaks.

but not all of them are. many of the people who get involved seriously care about the issue, and seriously want to make something really good happen for the constituency. almost always, there are not nearly enough people to make it all happen, and things turn out to be less-than-ideal.


insurance is a double-edged sword and i keep dancing around it all the time. we’re talking about risk here. here are the categories i see:

mitigating loss and suffering through making prudent provisions for adverse events

  • that do not happen often but do happen once in a while (car insurance and health insurance are good examples) and which carry small to very large costs
  • that happen very rarely but when they do occur they carry enormous costs (e.g. malpractice suits)
  • that happen very rarely and when they do, they carry small to very large costs (e.g. many forms of home insurance)

of course insurance is much more complicated (just think of all the mind-boggling small print that excludes a myriad of circumstances) but i think the above can be a good first guideline.

i think the operative word above is “prudent”. going without professional insurance that is the equivalent of the first instance is silly. but reaching for insurance in all categories will often hamper the delivery of good service to the patient – simply because often, for all intents and purposes, the client has ceased to be the patient. the client is now the insurance company/companies. we hear a lot of horror stories about that from the U.S. i’m glad i live in canada, where it’s a bit better.

continuing education

evan says, “professions prevent the learning of practitioners.”

i’m not sure about that. all the professional organizations i know require continuing education. this is a topic i’ve often thought about, to a large degree, i think, because of my work with people with chronic conditions (e.g. chronic pain, or depression). medical doctors tend to be quite ill-informed about these health issues. the question, however, is how to help them learn more about it. doctors are helplessly overworked (one could say that being a doctor is in itself a chronic health condition). like anyone else, they want to have leeway in terms of what they do for continuing education. the things they CAN learn more about are endless. so they’re going to pick their battles. and if one of the continuing education courses comes sweetened by a conference – literally sweetened, with rum and cakes – who can blame them for going for it?

what i would like to see there is more patient groups that aggressively go out and find ways for professionals to get continuing education.

is that a pipe dream?

why professionalism (not professionals) is of the devil

this is a guest post by evan hadkins. his blog is wellbeing and health where he writes about all aspects of health (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social) with a bias to psychological health and a focus on practical things to do that can make a real difference. he also has a membership course, living authentically, that begins on monday 13th of october – an eight week course to finding satisfaction through authenticity.

this is probably a bit of a contrarian view to the prevailing one in the healing arts so i want to make two things clear at the outset:

1. i’m not talking about individuals. those i know who practise the healing arts are well motivated and competent. i am not attacking any individual, i am talking about a system of organisation.
2. i’m talking about professionalism as it exists. some people regard “professionalism” as meaning practise that is both ethical and skilful. i naturally have no objection to “professionalism” understood in this way.

what do i mean by “professionalism”?

it is a system of organising practitioners (my interest is in the practitioners of healing arts) that is characterised by conferences, insurance policies, meetings, codes of conduct and associations.

why is “professionalism” of the devil?
1. the devil lies. the prestige of the professions, rather than those who just ‘hold down a jobs’, is meant to be due to the profession being dedicated to the care of the client first.

in fact professional associations are dedicated to looking after their members first. (this is not a bad thing – it is just a bad thing to lie about it and say that they are dedicated to clients’ needs first.)

if the professions were dedicated to clients’ needs first we would see the healing arts primarily given for free. we would see practitioners on the same incomes as those their clients.

anyone who has brought a complaint against a member of an association will have experienced the hoops that need to be jumped through. it is by no means the rule that the person in the first instance is supported – sometimes they are not believed.

2. the devil doesn’t heal but destroys. the processes used when a complaint is brought are usually legalistic and often enough abusive. for these kinds of processes to be used in the healing arts is scandalous. it is inconsistent with the mission to heal.

3. professions prevent the learning of practitioners. members of professional association are constrained by rules. it is usually necessary to abide by these rules in order to obtain professional practise insurance.

these rules are based on past experience, sometimes called ‘evidence based’. for an art to progress it needs to learn. but these codes are not devoted to the encouragement of innovation. they are instead devoted to encourage routines. (what else could be codified?) this is hardly the way to put first the needs of individuals.

when a professional is asked to defend their practise (say in a court of law) the defense is mounted in terms of consistency with others and the prevailing rules. this clearly is not a learning process.

4. which brings us to all those conferences.
if they are so worthwhile and necessary why are professional development points necessary? how many professionals have had their practise revolutionised this year by what they learnt at a conference? ok then, five years? ten? during their working life?

it is ok for people to get together with those in the same profession. gossip and so on can oil the wheels or interaction. it’s great to get together with those with common interests. but the idea that this is the way to improve the practise of healing is an altogether different claim.

if the professionals are so dedicated to learning and the information so valuable then their should be no reason for compelling people to attend – by requiring people to earn professional development points.

which was the last professional conference in the healing arts that was a genuinely healing experience for those who attended? they may exist, they are very far from being the general rule.

neither are these conferences particularly good educational practise. the gluteus maximus is not the primary organ of learning. sitting around listening to someone read a paper is not the best way to learn. that the healing arts, which want to present themselves as wholistic, adopt this approach is so ludicrous that it defies belief.

professionalism is of the devil because:

  • it puts the needs of the professionals before those of the clients’ while claiming to put the clients’ needs first.
  • the structures and processes of professionalism impede learning and stop improvement in healing.

my hope in writing this post is to encourage thinking about better ways to organise healing and healers. contrary views are very welcome. looking forward to seeing your comments discussing ways forward.

escaping the prison of depression, out into a landscape of … ?

escape from prisonalmost two weeks ago now, catatonic kid (let’s call her CK) posted another entry in our cross-blog conversation about depression and language. in fighting darkness, recovering words, CK took her words and crafted a beautiful post. it’s a work of art and it, along with her readers’ comments, also raises a number of very interesting points. i found myself combing through at as i would for text research.

here are a two of the themes that came up for me:

though shalt not know, thou shalt not speak
dano macnamarrah left this comment:

my body shows the awful truth of living silently in pain. my arms and legs bear witness through countless pale scars of sewn up cuts, pink clouds from burns and livid areas of scabs i worry at.

… it’s safer and better to vocalize my pain, than share it on my skin.

i’ve spent years painting and scribbling my pain, but i have found that writing a blog is better than a diary. in a personal journal, one can get swept away by the terrible tides of isolated madness.

as CK pointed out, in an earlier post i had talked about the connection between creativity, oppression and depression. this connection can be seen again here. a therapist i saw for a long time often used the idea of torture as a metaphor of suffering in relationships. the essence of torture, he’d say, is to be captured and “done by”. torture is oppression. “living silently in pain” sounds like that to me. pain is the torture, silence is the prison guard, silence that says, “you are not allowed to know what’s going on. you must not speak.” and we all have that instinct to break out, or at least to do something about the torture and the prison. dano’s solution was to “share it on the skin”, using the language of torture (cutting and burning) to attempt a prison break.

says CK,

sometimes depression is all we know, all that’s familiar, and even though it’s dark we incidentally feed the darkness by not naming the seemingly unknowable.

a similar image, isn’t it? prisons are dark, and after we’ve spent a long time in them, they start to feel familiar and oddly comfortable. and we start using the language of prison.

how much healthier it is to use the language of words and creativity, and to share them out loud, as dano and CK and so many others do on their blogs.

language as a key to unlock the doors depression slams shut
when i first started collecting these themes, i had not even seen the connection between the images of prison and torture and the idea of unlocking doors.

CK again:

… discover those words which fit into the sore spots in our minds, and unlock the doors depression slams shut. meaningful language is a key – a very powerful tool we can use to experience the totality of being.

what a freeing thought, that these words are “discovered”, not, as in a prison situation, keys that are stolen and smuggled. what is needed then, especially in more intense experiences of depression, are the patience and energy to keep exploring. fortunately, if the right light is shone on what is found, every word, every phrase, every image can be a key, a gold nugget of freedom. the trick is to ask ourselves at every turn, “how can i use this? how can i use this word, this description, this little story, to escape the prison of depression?” (by the way, that brings me back to creativity. i’m thinking of my father, an artist, who would often exhort us not to throw out any little odd-looking doodads: “no, no, we have to keep it! i can use it in a collage!”)

my job as a counsellor is to help the people with whom i work to find and sustain the needed energy and patience. and when depression hits me, i need to run (yes, i said “run”; no time can be lost) to those who, in turn, can help me with that.

further on, CK says,

“i am depression’s dictionary”; and
“what resources do you discover when you begin to speak, and to map the hidden country of your mind?”

for those of us with years and years of dealing with depression, there is definitely still discovery, but somehow there is also a repository, a “dictionary” of depression. as i am writing this, i am actually imagining a word cloud. “lonely” probably wouldn’t show up big in my cloud, but “paralyzed”, “confused” and “indecisive” would loom large. when i “click” on these words in my mind, i will hopefully find some meaning – but also beyond that – maybe i need click again – an escape map: yoga. poetry. sunlight. walks.

if you deal with depression or other types of mental health challenges – what does your word cloud look like?  what’s on the map?

(ps. i wrote this post very tired, my eyes half closed through much of it. first i thought i should just leave it and edit it the next day. but it occurred to me that in view of the topic, writing it in this trance/fog might have its own revelatory power …)


image by amin tabrizi

hypnotherapy and fear of flying

in this paid review, let me talk a little about fear of flying. i wrote about it last year, when i told you a about my first flight after having experienced a rather terrifying attack of fear of flying in a flight a few years earlier. there were six elements that helped me overcome that dreadful memory: journaling, talking about it, resolving to fly again, having a good flight companion, and two ways of being in the moment.

one thing i did not try was hypnotherapy or NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to help with my fear of flying. j.p. richards, a hypnotherapist using NLP, addresses the phobic flyer, the fearful flyer and the first time flyer, which i think is an interesting idea. at some point in my life, my delight in flying had slowly turned into being fearful of flying and i was well on my way to a full-out phobia.

here is a bit more information about hypnotherapy and NLP. if this approach sounds interesting to you and if you’re battling with flight anxiety, why don’t you check out j.p. richards’ site. the program costs only $49, so at minimum, you get to learn something about hypnotherapy, and it might just help you with your problem.  also, if you’re a blogger and interested in writing about the topic, you may be able to try the program for free.

one web day: democracy and open source

open sourcetoday is onewebday. from their site:

onewebday is an earth day for the internet. the idea behind onewebday is to focus attention on a key internet value (this year, online participation in democracy), focus attention on local internet concerns (connectivity, censorship, individual skills), and create a global constituency that cares about protecting and defending the internet. so, think of onewebday as an environmental movement for the internet ecosystem. it’s a platform for people to educate and activate others about issues that are important for the internet’s future.

when i hear the words “online participation in democracy”, my first thoughts don’t turn to politics. they turn to open source.

open source is a collaborative way to develop, maintain and change a “product”, from a sermon to software to pharmaceuticals. open source allows and depends on concurrent input of different agendas, approaches and priorities in decision making and contribution. the most widely known open source product is wikipedia. i guess the barnraising of old was also often an open source project. open source is grassroots-based and the opposite of centrally-directed, authority-based activity.

i know very little about open source yet but the way i see it so far, it seems to epitomize democracy.

here are some examples of open source:

and how can you help the web on onewebday?

1. if you’re a web user, use a standards-compliant web browser like firefox or opera. they’re free, faster, and more protective of your privacy. and because they conform to web development standards, they make things easier for people who make web sites. if you’re a web developer, test your sites with the w3c’s markup validation service.

2. edit a wikipedia article. teach people what you know, and in so doing, help create free universal knowledge.

3. learn about an internet policy issue from the center for democracy and technology, and teach five other people about it. there are real legal threats that could drastically change the way the internet works. we should all be aware of them.

4. take steps to ensure that your computer can’t be treated like a zombie. computer viruses can steal your personal information. they can also cause major network outages on the web, slowing things down and making sites inaccessible. vint cerf estimates that more than 150 million pcs have already been zombified, and are now awaiting their next order. to learn more about the threat of zombie computers, read this article.

5. join an internet rights advocacy group:

  • become a member of the electronic frontier foundation. the eff has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights, from privacy to free speech to internet service.

  • join the internet society. isoc is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the internet for the benefit of people throughout the world, particularly by establishing internet infrastructure standards.

  • support creative commons by donating and by using their licenses to copyright your work. if you’re outside the u.s., help support their counterpart, icommons.

6. help promote public internet access. if you live in a city, there is likely an organization dedicated to providing free wireless access in public spaces.

7. donate to the wikimedia foundation. the wikimedia foundation supports not only wikipedia, but several other projects to create free knowledge: textbooks, news, learning tools, and more.

8. donate a computer. you can donate a new $100 laptop to children in impoverished countries, or donate your used computer to goodwill or a school.

9. write your onewebday story. talk about what the internet means to you and why onewebday matters at

10. if your city is hosting a onewebday event, show up on september 22 and participate.

the open source image comes from marc wathieu

international day of peace

phil ochs in new work in the sixtiessomehow i missed that today is the international day of peace.  i’m about to go to bed but want to at least pay some hommage to it; thanks to clark’s picks to remind me!  he has a video on his blog of peter, paul and mary singing “there but for fortune“.  it’s a song i grew up with, one that still speaks deeply to my heart.  here are the lyrics, written by great american folk singer and activist phil ochs:

show me the prison, show me the jail
show me the prisoner, whose life has gone stale
and i’ll show you a young man
with so many reasons why
and there but for fortune, go you or i ….

show me the alley, show me the train
show me the hobo, who sleeps out in the rain
and i’ll show you a young man
with so many reasons why
and there but for fortune, go you or i …

show me the whiskey, stains on the floor
show me the drunkard, as he stumbles out the door
and i’ll show you a young man
with so many reasons why
and there but for fortune go you or i …

show me the country, where the bombs had to fall
show me the ruins of the buildings, once so tall
and i’ll show you a young land
with so many reasons why
and there but for fortune go you and i, you and i.

image by kptyson