Tag Archives: empowerment

organizational leadership, empowerment and sustainable peace

i am still intrigued by the question of the relationship between work, mental health and peace. it is interesting that this relationship is hardly ever explored, not even the relationship between the workplace and peace. however, here and there i find a little nugget. one of them is giving peace a chance: organizational leadership, empowerment, and sustainable peace by gretchen spreitzer at the university of michigan at ann arbour. here is her finding:

we started the paper with the question – can business organizations contribute to sustainable peace? our initial explorations provide some fledging support for our hypotheses that participative leadership practices and employee empowerment can foster more peaceable conditions. how? in simple terms, we suggest that business organizational leaders can give employees opportunities for voice and empower employees to have more control over their work. from these more participatory work practices, employees will be exposed to some of the key characteristics of peaceful societies. when people get a taste of empowerment at work, they may then seek opportunities for empowerment in civic and political domains. in short, business organizations can develop collective agency so people believe they can intervene in civic and political life as well, leading to more sustainable peace.

the idea that business organizations can be a sort of olive branch for peace rather than just a harbinger of excess and exploitation is attractive. too often, it seems that companies seek to have a positive impact on communities through corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility. while these initiatives can be impactful, they are often expensive and can been outside the mission of the firm. this research suggests that business organizations can have a positive influence on peace through their everyday practices around participative leadership and empowerment. while not meant to substitute for more formal philanthropic efforts, this research indicates that business practices affect more than employees and the firms they work for. they can also impact the communities of which they are a part. business organizations can create models of peaceful societies which can ultimately move societies toward more peaceful outcomes. even when financial resources are scarce and impede corporate philanthropy, business organizations can still make a positive impact through participative leadership and empowerment practices. business organizations can do good for peace by creating good business practices. ultimately, it’s a win-win outcome because the business organizations benefit from these progressive management practices while societies benefit from having models for peace.

do you know an organization that embodies these values? have you ever worked in one?

depression and the power of language

depression is a state of subtraction, says catatonic kid,

depression is not an approachable thing. it seems, in fact, to be precisely the opposite. it has a power to repel that is apparently so strong that it stops our mouths before we have even thought to speak of all that runs through its dark night.


there are barriers around the whole experience of depression, and that’s unfortunate because it means we don’t have language, yet, for the most common states of it. it’s like the apocryphal story of how very many words eskimos have for snow…

in this cross-blog conversation with catanonic kid, maybe we can break down the barriers, make it more approachable.

wordwide, depression is the leading cause of disability and the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease, affecting 121 million people altogether. we better find a few words for it!

and we do have words. a sample from catatonic kid and her commenters

a grey wash over everything, a strange and fuzzy cloud, a bell jar, an emotional topper, a thick wall between the individual and the rest of the world …

depression is a barren space, a shore that no-one wants to swim to. i understand that so well. i feel contagious when I am so sickened. i would not want this awful mind to be visited by even the worst people…

a shapeless mess

in a previous post, i observed how words of numbness and emptiness are most common among people who describe depression.

the point i see is that – these are words.  maybe words that we don’t like, maybe words that describe something that makes us feel uncomfortable, but they are valid nevertheless. and i belong to those who think that language, meaningful language, can be a tool in dealing with depression. by leaving depression in the darkness of wordlessness, i give it more power; like a wet rag left in a warm kitchen, this darkness is a perfect breeding ground for dis-ease.

meaningful language. meaningful language is powerful language. ever been to a workshop where the facilitator writes on a flipchart? know that irritable feeling when they re-interpret your words (you say “brother” and they write “sibling”; you say “joyful” and they write “positive”) and, conversely, the great feeling when you see your own words?

i think it’s the same with depression (and with any mental illness, and, indeed any experience).

let’s find, express, use and stand up for our own words for depression. whatever they may be. numb? bleak? empty? what’s wrong with those words? darkness. dust. suffocation. “paralysis” is a word that happens to fit my personal experience with depression.

the more we can use these words, the more we invigorate our own experience, the less helpless we need to feel when it seems that others want to engulf us with their language – the language of those who are well-meaning but really don’t understand the experience, or the language of the overprofessionalized DSM-IV. why accept a word like “anhedonia” if it doesn’t fit the bill? it’s like letting your pharmacist name your cat. (that doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t use those words, too – but i don’t think they’re enough.)

when we are right in the depression, perhaps at first we cannot take charge like that. however, when there are recurring episodes of depression, we learn, over time, to pick up some tools, and train ourselves in more powerful times to respond in helpful ways when the depression hits again.

and language, many say, is the most powerful tool ever invented by humans. why not use it?

watchful words: 7 ways to rename a mental illness

in thinking about today’s blog post and still in line with this week’s theme of the national mental health week, i came back to one of my favourite books about therapy, ben furman’s and tapani ahola’s solution talk: hosting therapeutic conversations. the following is an excerpt and summary of the chapter, “watchful wording” where they talk about diagnostic terms.

names, labels and diagnostic concepts in mental health are more than just innocent terms used to refer to particular problems. they are also shorthand for underlying beliefs and assumptions about the nature of the problem. they refer not only to observable behaviour but also to a host of presuppositions about important questions such as severity, course, causation, and therapeutic interventions.

to select a particular term is to subscribe to a legion of underlying assumptions associated with that term. words used in psychiatry and psychology (e.g. identity disorder, symbiotic psychosis, major depression) often tell us little, sometimes almost nothing, about the actual problem, but a great deal about what we should think about it.

here are some examples of wording mental health issues in ways that are more descriptive, more meaningful and, most importantly, more helpful and conducive to healing. the important thing to keep in mind is we are not trying to re-invent terminology here; rather, the aim is to make the words a better fit to a particular experience.

furman and ahola were called in to help workers on a crisis line deal with an annoying, intimidating caller, who they referred to as “the aggressive caller”. what’s a name that fits his behaviour but would also be agreeable to him? they renamed him “the midnight cowboy”.

people with borderline personality disorder can simply be “going through turbulent times.”

“feeling blue”, “down in the dumps” are well-known synonyms for depression. and how about “taking an inventory break” or “gathering energy”?

then – putting a positive twist on “brooding” – brooding is like hatching. what’s the person hatching? what’s the exciting new thing that’s about to be born?

i also love the idea of switching the idea of “masked depression” to “latent joy”.

instead of “alcoholic”, one could refer to “needing to cut back on the drinking”; another suggestion was “tormented by the booze-worm”.

chronic schizophrenia, say furman and ahola, “is the conventional label for long-lasting deviant behaviour associated with bizarre ideas”. other terms for it might be “in the corner lifestyle” (proposed by michael white).

“wild imagination”, “daydreaming”, “having ghosts” or “being scared to death” are alternatives to using the words “psychotic symptoms”.

finally, christina chew asks whether people with autism and/or asperger’s syndrome aren’t just “quirky” or “gifted”.

any more ideas out there on giving “pet names” to your emotional experiences?

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver