'What one needs blessed are the oddities of character specific to our solitary uniqueness and therefore so hard to bear. I can bless my own virtues, but I need a well-trained, long-suffering eye to bless the virtues concealed in my vices.” - James Hillman

'You're on earth; there's no cure for that' - Samuel Beckett

"I don't care how great you are man, you'll never be greater than yourself' - Bob Dylan

'Be not too hasty, to trust, or to admire, the teachers of morality; they discourse like angels, but they live like men' - Samuel Johnson, Rasselas

I have always been fascinated by the law of reverse effort. Sometimes I call it ‘the backwards law’. When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; when you try to sink, you float….insecurity is the result of trying to be secure. Contrariwise, salvation and sanity consist in the most radical recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves. –

Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing. – Macbeth


He said: I want to be normal again

I said: What’s normal?

He said: Like I was before

I said: What would that have been?

He said: Happy

I said: What makes you think you should be happy?

He said: Because I was.

I said: And now?

He said: I’m not happy.

I said: That’s tough then.

He said: Yeah. It is.

I said: And it shouldn’t be tough?

He said: No. Not this tough.

I said: And it is this tough.

He said: Yes. It is.

I said: Are you sure?

He said: Yes. I am.

I said: Good. Now we know where to start.


The Oxford Dictionary definition of Mental

relating to the mind

, mental phenomena

, mental faculties

done by or occurring in the mind

a quick mental calculation

, she made a mental note to ring him later

of or relating to disorders of the mind, a mental hospital

[predic.] informal mad; insane:I think he was a little worried that I might be mental

Origin: late Middle English: from late Latin mentalis, from Latin mens, ment-'mind'

The use of mental in compounds such as mental hospital and mental patient was the normal accepted term in the first half of the 20th century. It is now, however, regarded as old-fashioned, sometimes even offensive, and has been largely replaced by the term psychiatric in both general and official use.

How often have you heard - "well, we all have mental health issues", "I'm worried about my mental health"? What do we really mean when we say this? What are we really trying to identify?

It has become a term so ubiquitous it is now very much part of the zeitgeist. We talk about 'mental health' as if we all understand what that means; a term swallowed whole without being chewed over, digested or appreciated, and this lack of awareness is having serious repercussions for those identified as having a 'mental health' problem or 'disorder'.

In my practice I frequently meet people who have either identified themselves, or been identified, perhaps by a GP, psychiatrist, or indeed a friend, as having a mental health disorder, problem or issue; they have 'depression', 'anxiety', 'bipolar disorder', 'social anxiety disorder', 'obsessive compulsive disorder'. These labels strike fear into most of us because they are de-contextualised from our individual lives, perspectives and stories and identify us as a member of a sub-group and are thus incomprehensible. "How come I've got this (illness)?" The subtext will often be - "I am (mentally) ill" or simply "I am mental", "there must be something wrong with my brain", "I'm mad"etc.

No doubt you will have noticed my italicised emphasis - mental. As you read these words, notice how you react, how the word locates the field of the problem; in the head and probably more specifically in the brain or the mind. The Oxford Dictionary definition above clearly locates this as the field.

My gripe with this is not semantic, far from it, for quite clearly we need our mental faculties; we need our intellect, cognition, and our abilities to conceptualise, perceive, theorise, think etc. However, this is to seriously overlook and ignore the complexities of our lived experience. To locate the problem in the mental field alone is to ignore the significance and impact of our felt world; e.g I feel depressed or I am depressed, I feel anxious or I am anxious, I feel scared or I am scared, - in short, I feel or I am. We don't say, I think scared, I think anxious, I think depressed; it is a felt experience.

Those I have worked with who have been in the 'mental health system', have all experienced a focus on their problem or disorder and not on them as individuals, an experience which can be very invalidating and dismissive, as if the journey they made to the point where they need help is both irrelevant and unimportant; i.e. the problem is the ‘mental health problem/disorder'.

Each of us has a unique story. How can we expect our clients to feel they are being taken seriously if we ignore the experience of their story and its’ impact on how they view life now?


This man (Hans Rosling) sees the world as a human field in which the impossible is always possible but..... watch and listen till the very end!!

A very comprehensive library and archive of Mens psychological and emotional issues - Minnesota Men's Conference


Tchaikovsky - “A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.”

Novelist Isabel Allende - “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”

Painter Chuck Close - "Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Author E.B. White - “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”


The decision not to start world war three was not taken in the Kremlin or the White House, but in the sweltering control room of a submarine. The launch of the B-59's nuclear torpedo required the consent of all three senior officers aboard. Arkhipov was alone in refusing permission. It is certain that Arkhipov's reputation was a key factor in the control room debate. The previous year the young officer had exposed himself to severe radiation in order to save a submarine with an overheating reactor. That radiation dose eventually contributed to his death in 1998. So when we raise our glasses on 27 October (anniversary) we can only toast his memory. Thank you, Vasya.

© Clive Oxford

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