Monday, 13 November 2017

Retrospective blog on the training for the Psycho Social program in Thailand for HOPE WORLDWIDE PAKISTAN

I felt it was important to log my overall experience of training in Thailand for this project to be the back up to the press release which I hope to be published.  Photos and videos will also be part of this to display the experience more.  The experience of training and being there overall was a very powerful one I won't ever forget.  From going there with the viewpoint of conducting training along the lines of what I worked with when supporting clients with brain injuries I realised more and more how much more complex this all was on a whole political level.  I realised how whereas great training and having volunteers set up was one wonderful thing; that what in fact we were looking at and really being a part of was a whole process of trying to engineer social and political movement.

I was astounded when I was there for just those few days the stories that people brought to me just from within the training.  Just the few people who spoke with me all had huge stories.  One man really keen to volunteer said his case had been closed by UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and that they wanted him to go back to Pakistan.  He personally lives in fear of being detained now each day but is still heroically giving his time to volunteer to support others worse off than him.  Two of his close friends were also in the exact same situation.  These people all had good respectable jobs in Pakistan.  One person was a nurse, one worked as an office secretary in a school.  Two others who spoke to me were deeply concerned about their children who couldn't go to school.  The charity governing this project (HOPE worldwide Pakistan) are also making steps to support the children in their own homes through home based education while they bide their time in Thailand.  I thought constantly about how if these people were white English speaking New Zealanders they would likely be living happy comfortable lives.

During the actual teaching of the course there were issues with people being quite late and it became apparent that this was due to leaving at a time when they would be less likely to be pinpointed by authorities.  The volunteers were a mixture of people all of whom had been through the process of being refugees but had just found their feet a little bit more than those they were hoping to help through the project.  These people were being real heroes and again it hit home for me just how on the fringes and discarded refugees are.  It put more context to my proud volunteer counselling work I used to do.  Being a white English speaking guy really is the most privileged life. The lesson I keep learning is don't be guilty about it but be aware of it and do your best to work to make things fairer.

The training was interpreted as I spoke by the director of HOPE WORLDWIDE PAKISTAN (Malik) into Urdu for our volunteers.  It meant speaking quite slowly throughout.  The volunteers were not necessarily of an educated kind of background (some were) so it was important to just teach the main principles to make a start.  What I felt were most important were to teach about 'empathy' 'boundaries' 'post traumatic stress' and the general process we will follow.

As I taught I realised what a big task this was.  Some of these families may not have enough to eat as well as living in their constant fear of being detained.  I realised how a lot of the process of visiting these families may actually turn into gaining more evidence of what it is we are in fact not able to do and then to bring this back in terms of their reports from the sessions to present as more evidence to appeal for some kind of change.  Volunteers asked me what we would do if we weren't able to supply what they needed.  The only honest answers I could give was that HOPE would have some allocation of food which we wished to increase through greater awareness of the program and that in cases where we weren't able to give anything to them that it would be okay to just leave if they wanted and report this back again to build greater awareness of what is going on.

The key change needed is for Thailand to accept the UN protocol regarding refugees.  Here is a petition I'd urge you to sign and also to read through for more background information.

I was made aware too of initiatives in Canadian Christian churches which support refugees

This made me wonder about on a purely religious level how widely known this situation for Christian refugees in Thailand actually was.  I felt it was really important to make this more widely known to churches to see if further adopting of these families is possible or any kind of donations at least.

During the training I was able to just visit one family.  This family was typical of the way these people are living right now.  There were 5 people in a room in an apartment style complex.  The elder man of the family was devastated that his wife was in detention.  It would take $2000 to release her.  He said he cried each night for her.  I was able to relate this experience back to the training as an example of whereas I unfortunately could not give the person what I wanted that I hoped through being there for him to talk and be with him in his pain that it could have made him feel less alone.  I felt though this was a clear example of the kind of issues we were facing whereas this supportive help is all well and good but what we need is a social and political change.  I said that through these type of situations the whole process of feeding back not just what they did as volunteers but also what they were unable to do would at the very least bring more into light the nature of what is going on to ignite more potential change.

The actual psycho social initiative will start very soon with 2 volunteers and will be overlooked by Malik and myself for the time being.  It is hoped that more funding will make more volunteers and also professionals to take over our roles.  I wish to personally bring as much awareness to this situation as possible to do all I can to create change for these vulnerable people who are worthy of a much greater level of compassion from the world that they are currently getting.  I feel this is possible.

For the project itself the biggest challenge is for the volunteers to be as equipped as possible and to feel relaxed and like they can do a good job to help and support.  It is hoped that further funding and therefore training will become available.  HOPE is currently searching for more funding so a further initiative can be started in 6 months time.

There is a story now below from one of the people who gave their permission to share.  Please have in mind that it is a harrowing story and one also that is not untypical of what these people are going through or have been through.  For the purpose of this blog I have adapted the somewhat broken English into greater clarity.

'I came to Thailand with my family in 2013 and we have status as refugees.  My family consists of my wife and myself and our four children.  Before this time I was in Pakistan where I was an eyewitness to 7 Christian people being burned alive due to blasphemy.  I filed a 'First Information Report' and because of this I was arrested and tortured along with my brother.  I was then released on bail and sent to an area called 'Toba Tek Singh'.  I was continuously threatened and a false complaint was also made against me at which stage we fled to Thailand.

For the first two years we had expenses paid by the Bangkok Refugee Centre.  My family were arrested in Deceber 2015 by Thai immigration.  In January 2016 my wife and children were bailed out by a Canadian man who is part of a church here in Thailand.  My wife is currently pregnant and I am not allowed to work.  The Thai immigration can arrest me at any time by their laws.  I request you to think about my family and me.  Please give us your kind assistance.  Thanks and blessings to you and the team.'

Again to reiterate this example is by no means out of the ordinary.  These are just regular decent working people.  I feel the harrowing nature of this almost makes us want to look away but it's so important that we see what is going on and don't sweep it under the carpet as we have been doing.

Below are a couple of pictures.  One is of Malik and myself.  The other is of the team of volunteers.  I urge you to do all you can to make this more public and do anything you can to help or to share any ideas.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Christian Churches !! Can you help Pakistani Christian refugees?


I am supporting a Charity called 'Hope Worldwide Pakistan'.  I am doing some training in Thailand currently around supporting refugees here.  The refugees are of Christian origin and have come here from Pakistan to escape persecution.  There isn't a foundation in Thailand to support them.  Christian churches in Canada have taken some families on board.  There are 700 people here in total need help.  Can any churches from their fellow Christian brotherhood around the world help these people?

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The spectrum of Mental Health. Psychology links to Buddhism and Taoism.

Have been thinking a lot recently about the whole spectrum of mental health and how the idea of the more self actualised/creative individual links in with Buddhist and Tao teachings.  I wanted to discuss this a bit here.

I think the line of mental health is one where narcissists would be obviously off centre to the left.  If we think of the far left as being a Psychopathic megalomaniac, perhaps Hitler as a good stereotype. Going from the middle to the right I feel this is where different self help Psychology attempts to pull us into.  I am speaking here of the likes of Jung, Maslow, Carl Rogers.  Some what I would call 'pop psychology' has gone a little off track here in my view and isn't totally as foundational to this.  The more pure Psychology I highlight here I feel links in with more spiritual views of what becoming 'enlightened' is.

From the middle to the left can be seen to be behaviour which does harm to self and to others.  It is regressive, self serving, it violates what people would typically see as the human spirit.  To the right from the centre is all about the heroes journey,it's about a responsibility for ones own emotions and their processing.  It is characterised by responsibility and a working forward to be our true selves and to become more enlightened.  Carl Rogers speaks of the fully functioning person, Abraham Maslow
speaks of the self actualised individual and Carl Jung of the process of individuation.

On the far right characters such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln (particularly in later years) were identified by Maslow.  Abraham Maslow spoke of the idea of working towards a utopian future with all self actualised people.  Carl Rogers spoke about the characteristics of the fully functioning person as being what would be required for humanity to survive in the 21st century and obstacles to this emergence.  

It is important for us to take this journey within and from this journey of becoming more whole it can leave the world more whole.  I have posted on here about the owning of our shadow.  Things can become too confusing and political and rhetorical but the journey within is not easy by any means and not for the faint hearted but in ways is actually simple and the only way.  

Ken Wilber said in reference to politics and different people getting in etc etc that at the end of the day all we can do is dedicate ourselves to integral practice and that way we can make the world more whole than how we found it. To some degree we need an actual detachment while at the same time still being healthily involved with events around us but without being too caught up in them.  Abraham Maslow speaks of self actualisers as not being 'encultured'.  I found this resonating.  It seems to make a lot of sense.

I'd recommend anyone to look at the characteristics of the self actualised person and the characteristics of the fully functioning person. See below.

Recently in my spiritual development group I've been able to see more overlap between what these Psychologists were talking about and spiritual teachings.  Buddhism speaks about the great world of harmony as what we are working to.  Similarly this is a life of creativity, of being
able to help others while living our own life to maximum capacity.  I feel this is the same as Abraham Maslows utopian society idea of self actualisers.  

In Couples therapy I often teach about H shape relationships.  Where each person knows themselves and has their own connection while at the same time is able to empathise and to see the world of the other.  Relationships therefore being interdependent each with their own healthy spirituality.  It is this which lacks on the left of the centre of the mental health continuum where things become around control and domination of others rather than harmony.

It's so important to keep processing our own feelings and noticing how we can free ourselves.  Carl Rogers eloquently speaks about freeing ourselves from conditions of worth. Being in spaces where our emotions couldn't process properly.  The conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard given in Counselling help this unravelling to take place and by people being in touch with their own organismic valuing process they can become the person they were always meant to be.

I feel it's important to let life become that simple letting go of just being the fullest you.  The experience of actually being fully human is actually so rare but there can't be a nobler while more simple goal.  This involves lots of work and lots of identification of emotional danger and going down a lonely path but it is worth it.  Experiences happen through dreams, new relationships happen, insights are gained and life never loses a sense of excitement.  The whole cliché of 'just be yourself' can take on a huge and incredibly profound meaning as if that really is the only thing we are really here for and we are good enough just being ourselves in our maximum capacity.  Different karmic tests may come on us then ultimately it becomes about how we respond and grow as we keep walking the heroes path.  Ken Wilbers' integral life practice is wonderful as a resource for everyone just following their own path and creating a path which works for them.

Witnessing the overlaps recently has been a big learning curve for me recently as I've become more settled that this is just the only way and the only goal.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

New Zealand suicide rate, Katy Perry, and the importance of teaching empathy in schools and society

I'd been wanting to write a good blog for quite a while on the terrible suicide rate in New Zealand.  I am actually still waiting for more information I have requested in order to make something more formal and more developed to perhaps go into press release format.  However there have just been a few incidents of the last 3 days which made me feel it was very important just to write a something.

In /may 2015 we witnessed the closure of Relationships Aotearoa.  Ann Tolley irresponsibly closed it down and dispersed many highly vulnerable people to other services at the drop of a hat which could have had huge impacts.  The response she made after she'd done it astounded me in how she told Relationships Aotearoa to 'calm down'.  Like the comical thing you are told in the first day of mental health training to never ever say !!!! For anyone who wants to read my blog I did at the time it is here :

Recently I have been in contact with Lifeline and their Executive director Glenda Schnell.  I was informed of the following statistics in New Zealand: In 2013 there were 125 000 calls to Lifeline.  Out of those between 5-6 daily were at risk of suicide.  Now just think about that for a second.  People phoning on a daily basis who may actually kill themselves because they feel so bad about themselves and their life that they can genuinely see no other way out other than to end it all.

In 2016 there were 1840 calls who were at risk of suicide.  Of these 1368 were able to somehow be settled down and have some kind of recovery plan throughout the call.  432 were however at immediate risk meaning that the police had to be called and the caller needed to be kept on the phone often until police actually arrived due to the threat being that serious.

It was a month or so ago I went to Silo outdoor cinema and saw a great while extremely sad documentary on Amy Winehouse.called 'Amy'.  What struck me as a Counsellor was how she was clearly just a vulnerable woman in need of help.  I so wish I could have helped her through some counselling and really truly believe I could.  Seeing her almost made me see her as an actual child.  So lost and vulnerable and killed by fame.  What also really struck me which it documented well was when she was going through her despair how people responded so terribly to her.  Graham Norton who always struck me as cool kind of guy teased her as did numerous people on different shows.  I mean why?  What had she done that was so bad?  Is it because she was a celebrity she just deserved it or maybe wasn't allowed to feel this way.  Anyone has suffering in their lives.

It was then a few days ago when I saw the shocking while not so surprising article on Katy Perry and her recent distress and the kind of responses people had to it.  Please see the well written article below.

In my view it's pretty great that she is being so open so why all the horrible responses?  Wouldn't it be great if unlike Amy Winehouse she could be someone supported and see as going through a good recovery and healing?  A good representation in the public light of someone dealing with their issues responsibly?  I think so.  Some of the sickening responses are: 'This is hilarious, her hair cut is scary'. 'STUPID BITCH', 'She's say anything to get attention'.

Now as a society where we have such a high suicide rate why do we behave like this?  What does it take us to learn our lesson?  As a Therapist I see empathy is truly being the thing that saves and binds us as humans.  Yes there's always a chance someone could be faking it.  For anyone who knows my work my niche is on people recovering from Narcissists and narcissists feed on empathy.  However when we see someone in distress (with the exception of if someone has done us or the world extremely serious wrong) would it not be good to just have a strong enough sense of ourselves and have the empathy to be able to atleast say: 'Hope you get better soon' or if it is a friend of ours to be able to maybe give a bit of friendly support.

Being empathic to those in distress is fundamental to life.  It's so easy too.  There are courses which teach basic Counselling skills I did when I was a volunteer counsellor many years ago.  I think this kind of teaching mixed in schools would be a wonderful asset.  There is a great book called 'Counselliing skills in everyday life' by Kathryn Geldard which is a great read.  I just checked and you can download the pdf here for free

I saw a good post yesterday which would discussing the idea of teaching about mental health education in schools.  For me this is a huge yes considering this dilemma we clearly have.  Here is the link so you can click your vote:

As a Counsellor I teach building a compassionate relationship with yourself and then from there to be able to relate well and be compassionate to other people.  We need to be teaching more of this and if we feel a need to behave cruelly really asking ourselves why.  It is cruelty which is pathology is Psychology and studies of Mental Health.  The only thing wrong with Katy Perry and pathological as far as I can see are the pathological responses which attack her human longing for empathy.  The same can be said around the issue of mental health and suicide in New Zealand.

Just to add what actually drove me to write this today was that when I saw a further post today of Katy Perry collapsing on stage a response I saw first on it was 'Who gives a f... about Katy Perry, totally vacuous'.

The point to me seems to just be 'giving a f...' about anyone regardless of who they are.

Here is another blog post I have wrote with a good link on what to do if a friend is suicidal.  Take care

What to do if a friend is suicidal ?

I felt it important to write this post.  It's that ultimate baseline thing.  Your friend is suicidal, or may be.. what do I do? I've looked around online and used my knowledge and wisdom I have of my years of being a therapist so far to give my best ideas I can to support through this hugely important time.  It may be important to act and to do and say the right things.
Remember that you are not a professional.  You are just there to be you and to provide the best counselling skills you can to be able to be the buffer to hopefully ease the person through this phase and to be able to transition them out.  Think of it as potentially being like a learning of emergency CPR which you may learn to perform on someone who needs it until further support arrives.
A huge huge thing that the person needs is validation.  I can't stress this enough. 'Validation' 'validation' 'validation'.  Sometimes in therapy we refer to it as 'the value of being there'.  The very act of this is profound and is going to make a huge different to your friend and what they may do next.  They need you now more than ever. 
Here it is important to make a huge distinction between sympathy and empathy.  This validation which is required means empathy and lots of it.  In my counselling training this was displayed well as being like your friend being in a hole.  Sympathy would be the person talking from above the hole saying things like 'oh its really bad down there' 'poor you'.  Empathy is more being in the hole with the person.  They are maybe literally dying right now for someone to atleast try to understand how they feel and to feel they are not alone and that someone is with them. 
The following website is a great resource and I am going to summarise from here the main points about what to do and what not to do. Funnily enough the site on the DO list says be sympathetic which I feel is an error.  Here is a summarised list of what TO DO with the words 'Be sympathetic removed and replaced with 'Be Empatic'.
'Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
Be Empathic. non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.'
Stick with this list and remember you are only performing CPR and being the buffer for them to get through.  You are the emergency resource similar to the emergency act for someone choking in a restaurant.  You are not the full blown emergency services.  Keep it all as simple as you can.  VALIDATE AND BE THERE.  There is a myth that talking about suicide to them makes suicide more likely.  This is not true.  Supporting the person to talk about their feelings is the key.
Avoid any kind of moving into sympathy and somehow taking out of their frame of reference of seeing the world. Don't start saying things like 'I'd be devastated' or 'It's selfish'.  This is not validating, not empathic and not being there for them.
Do not leave your friend alone during this critical time.  You can call '111' if you feel there is immediate risk of suicide.  You could ask them if they would like you to do this.  Below is a list of numbers which can be offered as support for your friend.  Remember they just want you to be there for them during this time.  It's all about you being this prop and needed support to just get them through.
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Acute care team (ACT) 0800 653 357
A 24 hour helline from Palmeston North to Waikanae
Depression Helpline 0800 111 757
Healthline 0800 111 757.
Samartans 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline. 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Helplines for children and young people
Youthline 0800 376 633

Outline NZ (experts on LGBT matters) : 0800 688 5463

Friday, 9 June 2017

Selfish and unselfish becoming one. Personal power and self actualising

I've been reading more of Abraham Maslow recently and the idea of the self actualising individual.  What I found the most resonating was the idea that moving into that kind of lifestyle that selfish and unselfish become somehow the same thing.  The idea that when we are able to build a compassion relationship with ourselves that life fulfillment comes from just being us and doing what we want while at the same time this filtering out to be something that helps others too.  As if to identify with the creative life and being a self actualiser brings us into this wonderful realm.  There is always the fear of being selfish I see often with clients as they work on their self love and also the very primal biological view of just for own survival.  This really resonated with me though and linked with ideas of Integral Practice and the idea of just becoming a more developed person means that selfish and unselfish become the same thing.

I'd recommend any works by Maslow.  I've been reading 'The father reaches of Human Nature'.  Works by Ken Wilber are great too such as Integral Life practice is getting an overall integral life plan for personal growth which naturally resonates outwards to living a more fulfilling life and ultimately being of better service.  Maslow conducted studies of who he termed self actualisers as being driven by peak experiences.  This realm I feel is something that anyone can reach into given the right conditions and is about accepting all parts of ourselves.  The idea of an integral life should be available to anyone and be a path where we can be more whole and leave the world more whole than how we found it as Ken Wilber says.  Notable people in history seen to be self actualised individuals are Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln

Note: I am available for skype and phone sessions. Transfers through paypal available for international clients.  Please contact to schedule a session.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Highly sensitive person, INFJ, and codependent. The most targetted group for narcissists

If you fit into this category as I have done then you belong to the most targetted group for narcissists.  Your caring nature can be targetted mixed with the likely lack of belonging you have due to the least common archetype.  You are the easiest to be made to look a fool by the narcissist and be the object of their projected shame.

It's important to learn to grow to a healthy state of independence which may require professional support.  If you are a highly senstive person the work of Elaine Aron can be amazingly helpful.  Do a free Myers Briggs personality test online to help you to understand your character type and to embrace it and the innocent you which was underneath all the shame which was never yours to begin with.

By embracing these characteristics we can free ourselves by getting to grips with our own independent ego state.  We can see what has happened to us more clearly and become freer of the past.  We can pay attention to our dreams and often become more intuitive in the process.  We notice that our ego states start to function together like cogs in a machine which generate power and we are able to reclaim our lost selves.  Research into ego state theory and see how our many selves all function together.  Work to build a compassionate relationship with all parts for maximum effectiveness in life.
Note: I am available for skype and phone sessions. Transfers through paypal available for international clients.  Please contact to schedule a session.