The Economic Policy Is Killing Us!

This is a difficult article to write, because I know so many people are struggling from job loss and cutbacks due to the pandemic. There is no doubt that this is traumatic, and my heart goes out to all the individuals and businesses who are trying to pick up the pieces through a recession. However, while we manage this short-term crisis a longer term and more deadly one is looming. While we may all be focused on slowing the train to take a sharp curve, the current economic policy has us heading of the tracks all together.

What Is The Opposite of The Economy?

Almost every single interview with political leaders is used to advertise the work being done to create ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’, and to build the economy. My greatest wish for everyone is that they have full and meaningful employment. However this singular focus got me thinking — if the priority is on jobs and the economy, what is missing out? There is only one pot of funds and always another side of the coin. So, whatever the opposite of The Economy is will be taking a back seat.

My theory is that the opposite of The Economy is The Community. First let me explain what I mean by The Community. In fact, I am referring to the four levels of community as outlined by Macy and Johnstone in their book ‘Active Hope.’ I have created the diagram below to present a summary of their concept.

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Here is how I see the preoccupation with The Economy impacting on each level of The Community:

· Where We Feel At Home. By concentrating on building the economy you are building an individualistic society. People become concerned with getting and keeping their job, being able to rent or buy a house and protecting their possessions. Their own financial wellbeing becomes the key motivator and they become more insular and independent.

· Our Neighbourhoods. The increased level of employment, and the fact that many jobs are further away from our homes means there is less ‘slack’ in the system to enable community participation. The less involvement there is in community events, the more that people feel their neighbourhood is threatening or unsafe. This only reinforces the withdrawal from community and increasing isolation of families. People withdraw into their own little bubbles and then you are left with neighbours who have never met each other.

· The Global Community. By focusing on economic growth you quickly create a division between the have and the have not’s — the winners and the losers. There will be those that gain from the growth, and those that don’t. Resources are pulled from poorer nations to sell to richer nations. Income inequality creates further division and instead of collaboration and community, you get competition. This occurs both within Australia and across the globe as the amount of resources decline. Everything from oil, fish and water become sources of conflict.

· The Earth Community. Selling the message that The Economy is the most important thing places the greatest priority on those things that we can buy. It is fuelling a preoccupation with spending and seeking external sources of happiness. Ultimately though these external sources of happiness are not sustainable and instead the community is crippled by depression and loneliness, only fuelling the withdrawal from community even more. We lose touch with our sense of place in this world and the amazing gifts that it provides, and we begin to see the Earth as a commodity to use for our own short-term pleasure.

I have asked a number of my peers what they think the opposite of The Economy is, and it is interesting how many come up with the same conclusion. It appears that there is an inherent understanding of the damage that an economic focus is doing on our sense of community, and yet, no sense of urgency that anything should be done about it.

The Economy Is Doing Great!

Well, with all of the attention it gets, you would be very worried if The Economy was not in good shape. While the pandemic has put a significant dip in the statistics, up until then it all seemed to be really rosy. Just have a look at these results:

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But The Community Is Suffering

At the same time however, we are seeing an increase in suffering and negative consequences at all levels of The Community. At an individual level we have seen an increase in mental illness and psychological issues including:

· Depression. The World Health Organization reports that Australia has the second highest prevalence of depressive disorders globally (with prevalence rates of 5.9 per cent)[1]. In addition antidepressant drug consumption rose by 8.6% per year between 2000–2015[2].

· Loneliness. The Australian Psychological Society (2018) reports that over half (51%) of Australians report they feel lonely for at least 1 day each week and 25% of Australians report they are currently experiencing an episode of loneliness.

· Psychological Distress. In 2017–18 there were an estimated 13% or 2.4 million Australians aged 18 and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress. This is an increase of 12% from 2014–15 (11.7% or 2.1 million Australians)[3].

· Addiction. Around one in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance use problem, One in six Australians (17%) consume alcohol at levels that put them at risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury. Nearly 6,000 people die from alcohol-related diseases every year in Australia. That is one person every 90 minutes[4]. And between 2007 to 2016 the rate of opioid deaths increased by 62%, from 2.9 to 4.7 deaths per 100,000 population[5].

· Suicide[6]. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for people aged 15–44. More than 65,000 people attempt suicide every year, and in 2017 over 3,000 Australians died from suicide. That is 8 people every day[7]!

At the neighbourhood level we see that[8]:

· 77% of Australians never talk to the people next door and know little about them.

· More than half don’t know their neighbours name and 25 per cent wouldn’t recognise their neighbours faces

· 56 per cent of people actively avoid their neighbours

· Two-thirds of people believe that crime is one the rise despite the actual statistics shown a decrease in crime over time[9]

· In addition, 9.5% of Australians or around 2.37 million people aged 15 and over report lacking social support (Relationships Australia 2018). This disconnection from the community is not only a result of the individual isolation noted above, but also is a key risk factor for developing loneliness.

Within and across nations we are seeing income disparity and poverty increase. We are seeing the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It suggests that those in power are making decisions which improve their position rather than that of the most vulnerable.

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There are also an increasing number of conflicts occurring over natural resources. For example over the last years there were 172 conflicts across the world where water was the trigger[10]. These ‘water wars’ are being fought in every corner of the earth, with one each year being recorded in North America. The wars include everything from outright violence to active protest, arrests and legal action. In the developing countries they are more likely to be physical battles over access to wells. While in the richer countries they take the form of protests and legal action against oil , dams and diversions which have the potential to impact on the quantity and quality of water supplies. While we have not yet seen any physical battles over water in Australia, there sure has been an ongoing war of words over the Murray-Darling Basin[11]. Accusations are made regularly of one state ‘stealing’ water from another.

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Our Earth Community is also suffering. Humans have driven almost 700 vertebrate species to extinction already. It is reported that another 25 percent of mammals, 40 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of sharks and 25 percent of plant groups are now threatened with extinction. Based on these proportions, the researchers estimated that approximately 1 million animal and plant species could die out, many “within decades.”[12]

Global warming is also wreaking havoc and has the potential to redraw the world map. Scientists at the non-profit organisation Climate Central estimate that 275 million people worldwide live in areas that will eventually be flooded at 3C of global warming, with 80% of those affected being in Asia.

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What Will Save The Train Wreck?

I am certainly no policy expert and have no real understanding of the complexity involved in changing policy direction. However, just looking at the above evidence it does appear that the only thing that will save the train wreck is if we begin to place just as much emphasis on Community Growth as we do on Economic Growth.

Of course, the two do go hand in hand, but it is obvious that the focus on the latter is destroying our communities at all levels. There is a crisis of mental health, community disconnect, global conflict and destruction of our Earth. This is occurring as an inevitable consequence on concentrating on the individual prosperity at the sake of our shared homes.

We hear our political leaders speaking every day about the economic crisis we face and the efforts they are putting into economic recovery. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we also heard about their commitment to balancing economic growth with community growth. Yes, it would be distressing, but what if the leaders also told us about the crisis we are facing in our community and what they were doing from a policy perspective to address it.

As you can see, additional spending on mental health is just a band-aid solution to one part of the crisis. A better balance of economic and community policy is required to address the crisis at all levels. And if the pandemic has shown us anything it is that we can pull together in crisis. It is through a shared problem we come together with a sense of meaning and purpose. People have done it during COVID-19 and a new sense of community and shared responsibility has been fostered. Let’s build on this to bring a renewed dedication to community while we also rebuild the economy.

Because the two are not mutually exclusive. While we avoid our neighbours, it is reported that 90 per cent of us would feel happier if we did know and spend time with our neighbours. What local government initiatives could be enacted to bring this about?

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Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Economists have put price tags on our social relationships and found the happiness delivered in volunteering is equivalent to adding $50,000 to your balance and seeing a friend ‘most days’ is equivalent to adding $100,000 to your balance[13]. What policy incentives could be created to encourage the building of stronger social relationships?

A balanced perspective between Community Growth and Economic Growth also requires courageous leadership. There may be hard decisions made about where money is being spent, for example more coal mines to deliver jobs or community initiatives that will restore and build relationships in our neighbourhoods and with the Earth. There is no doubt it will be difficult as the balance is found between the wants of the individual and the needs of the community.

As outlined in my previous article, the current dearth of political leadership does make this seem unlikely. But if they choose, the political leaders can do their job and pull people together and get us back on track for the long term.

They have shown us how they can change the nature of our lives overnight to battle a pandemic. Now, to avoid the train wreck they need us to show how they can change the nature of their policies to save our lives!

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Only a balanced focus on the economy and our communities can save the train wreck














Workplace Bullying Is A Sign Of Incompetence

I have been around the traps long enough to have witnessed some abhorrent behaviour in organisations. Some of which has been directed towards me, and some of which I have seen from the sidelines. Interestingly though, despite the trauma that I have seen caused, very few people have submitted a complaint for bullying. Moreover, those who have made a complaint have been told after several months of further distress the complaints were not substantiated. The behaviour they had experienced did not fit the definition of bullying, which is:

“repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety”.

The matter is then promptly dropped, and business continues as normal. However, just because the behaviour wasn’t classified as bullying it does not mean that it was not disgusting and distressing. The result though is that the complainer is made to look like the troublemaker and the person behaving badly walks away probably even more convinced that the person who complained is just a troublemaker.

I have seen this scenario play out too many times to think it is just a coincidence. And lately, when I have heard of yet another scenario, it really got me thinking. What is at the heart of bullying? Where does it stem from? Of course there are the technical definitions that include such concepts of power imbalance and lack of cultural consideration. But I have come to the view that bullying is a sign of incompetence. I actually don’t care whether there is a formal claim or not, or whether the complaint is substantiated or not. The fact that someone feels bullied for me is a sign that there is incompetence in at least one, if not all of the following areas.

Emotional Mastery

It is generally the case that bullying is a result of someone in power feeling threatened or intimidated. They act with fear and use it to disable the source of the threat. Here’s the thing though. If the person in the position of relative power was aware of their emotions and was able to work with them, they would be less likely to act from a place of fear. If the person had emotional intelligence, they would understand the messages that the fear was sending them and see it as an opportunity for growth. As outlined by Jim Dethmer in his book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, fear is a signal that there is something new we need to face, know or learn. They are able to use the fear signals arising to ask themselves the question about how this emotion is calling them to grow.

Instead, the person who is not a master of their emotions may not even be aware of what is going on inside of them during the interactions. Even if they are aware, they don’t have the emotional intelligence or maturity to seek growth and learning from the emotion. They let the emotion of fear and anger be the master of them, and not the other way around. The result is that not only the people involved suffer, but the whole organisation loses the chance to learn and grow from that one person’s emotional insight.

Interpersonal Communication

Closely linked with the lack of emotional mastery is the incompetence shown by bullies in the field of communication. Without the care or ability to truly listen to others and to tailor communications to the audience, interactions become a matter of ‘my way or the highway.’ Effective communication becomes the other persons problem instead of a dual responsibility. The other person’s frustration or passion is misread as aggression. I have heard leaders say in the past “I have tried to talk to him/her but….”. But has the person actually tried to listen? Have they tried to paraphrase what they are hearing? Have they engaged a third party to assist the communication process if it appears to need help? These are all the responsibilities of a person in a leadership or managerial role and if the situation gets to a point of bullying, then I would argue they have not fulfilled their communication responsibilities.

Managing Their Own Ego

True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up. ~ Sheri L. Dew

I think this quote says it all. Those people in positions of power who use their power to push others down are not only incompetent, but cruel. It really does speak volumes about their level of insecurity and the lengths that they are willing to go to cover it up. Acting out to harm others shows clearly that the person is more concerned with how they are perceived by others then doing the best for their team, and the whole organisation. It shows a closed mind and preoccupation with either keeping their position or being promoted — a preoccupation they place well over the care and concern for those around them. With every promotion of someone who places their own ego over their people you are sending the signal that this behaviour is rewarded, and so the problem is further embedded into a toxic culture.

Photo by rob walsh on Unsplash

HR Systems

I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that most employees believe their HR units are there to support management, not them. After all, the management and leaders of the organisation have the power to punish and remove the HR people too, which creates a real conflict for them. I have witnessed many times the HR unit ‘siding’ with the person in power and actually fuelling conflict rather than helping to solve it. This is not only incompetence but is downright dangerous for the health and wellbeing of everyone involved.

The HR units are at the front line of making sure the duty of care to the employees is enacted, and at building the capabilities of both parties. By blindly siding with those in power they lose the opportunity to help them build greater emotional mastery and communication skills. They lose the chance to help the organisations leaders become even better leaders, and potentially only reinforce the person’s view that their approach is ‘right’. They also lose the great opportunity to teach both parties how to communicate better, share ideas and feelings and build even stronger working relationships. By siding with person in power, the HR unit has though secured their own position, and perhaps that is all they really care about?

Are Your People Your Greatest Asset?

I know this is not true for everyone, and yes, I am being a bit controversial. But I have seen too many hearts broken and lives shattered not to think that there is something incredibly and systemically wrong with organizations where people feel bullied. And at the end of the day it does not matter how you define it — when an employee feels unsafe there is a direct impact on their health and wellbeing, and the organizations leadership has failed in their duty of care to their people.

Perhaps if we begin to acknowledge and address the underlying incompetence that is at the heart of bullying then maybe we can begin to believe our leaders when we say, ‘our people are our greatest asset.’ Until such time, they are just more shallow words.

When Words Fail – Music Speaks!

I have always had an interest in, and enjoyed music, but it is only the past few months that I have come to appreciate its true magic.  Music has the ability to instantly brighten the day, and bring light, hope and peace.  This discovery has been borne out of necessity –  trying to stay calm and optimistic as I ride the highs and lows of my addiction healing journey.

When you are in the depths of despair but are committed to making great choices, you need something to help you shift the perspective and bring some brightness.  My method of choice lately has been music.


My new appreciation for the power of music has made me more aware of the songs I hear throughout the day.  Recently, watching a movie I heard the following song ‘Middle’ by Jimmy Eat World.  While it was a bit “young” for me, I really enjoyed its simple yet powerful message and happy beat so I thought you might enjoy it too!


The Middle – Jimmy Eat World

I knew this song brightened my day, but a quick scan of the song reviews left me gobsmacked.  So many people have gained support and inspiration from this song.  Here are just a few examples of quotes from song reviewers (they go on for pages)**:

“I payed attention to the words and I stopped crying and have never come home crying again. Thank you for making this wonderful, inspirational song!”

“But then I get in my car and can’t help but sing along and nearly cry because it helped me realize better things will come. It just takes some time.”

“I happened to listen to this song and as cheesy as it sounds this song made my day.”

“For some weird reason, whenever rough times come around, this song comes on the radio and makes everything better. This song has kept me optimistic even when it’s tough.” (note from the author – stay tuned for a post on synchronicity).


And so now, I am inspired!  If one song can have such a positive effect on people, imagine what a whole collection can do?  So, I am starting to gather and collate The Addiction Healing Pathway playlist. I hope that this might provide some support and hope.

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. Plato

*a GermanJewish poetand author. He was the founder of the German “tendency novel,” in which fiction is used as a means of influencing public opinion on social, political, moral, and religious questions.

** Source:


The Untold Cruelty Happening in Your Organization – Right Now

If you knew that focusing on one thing in your organization would lead to detachment, disconnection and reduced performance, then why the hell would you build whole systems around it? It just sounds crazy doesn’t it, and yet this is what most organizations have done through the establishment of their formalised complaints management systems.

But what about the corollary. If you knew there was something you could do to build a person’s skills and performance, and at the same time send ripples of positivity across the whole organization, why on earth wouldn’t you do it? This is the benefit that positive feedback can have in an organisation. And yet I don’t know personally of any leadership team who commits resources to harnessing the power of positive feedback in their organizations. There may be a minefield of uplifting and motivating material in their inbox, but it is largely ignored.

“It’s a sad fact of customer service that while complaints get logged, formalized and circulated, compliments and thanks are often just briefly expressed to one individual before disappearing off into the ether, never to be acknowledged again. It’s a shame, because for many customer service professionals these are the moments that make the job rewarding.”

Is it just me, or does this seem downright cruel? Unintentionally so, but nevertheless, in my opinion the disregard for positive feedback (and the focus placed on complaints) is cruel.

A Focus on Complaints Creates A Downward Spiral

The 2015 study by Kipfelsberger, Bruch and Herhausen[1] showed that a focus on negative feedback (including complaints, expressions of anger, frustration, or dissatisfaction) leads to a downward spiral of detachment, disconnection, reduced individual performance, reduced organisational performance and ultimately organisational exhaustion.

The Cascading Effects of Negative Feedback

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So, while some attention on complaints is required for customer loyalty and to address needed areas of improvement, focusing exclusively on complaints takes its toll on employees. The research shows though that negative feedback also influences the entire organisation.

Customer feedback affects all employees, even those without direct customer contact. And the singular focus on customer complaints impacts the wider ‘health’ of the organisation.

A Balance with Compliments Creates An Energising Upward Spiral

However, those organisations who make a concerted effort to balance the management of compliments and complaints are more likely to meet their objectives, thrive and grow, and have greater employee satisfaction, safety[2] and engagement. In fact, those businesses proactively sharing compliments are almost twice as likely to be successful.

The Energising Cycle of Positive Feedback

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The effect of positive feedback on people is quite substantial, affecting both their lives at work, and their broader sense of wellbeing. It has been shown that just one piece of positive feedback, (be it a customer compliment, praise, expressions of joy, gratitude, or satisfaction) directly contributes to improving a person’s skill or performance not just on that specific task, but on other similar tasks as well.

Even more importantly, complaint management was not found to be correlated with business success, but compliment management is.

What Is Holding People Back From Positive Feedback?

I do have faith that the majority of our leaders have a heart and know inherently the value of praising and complimenting the great work they see around them. I am also optimistic enough to think that they do want to bring more positivity and humanity to their organizations. So what is holding people back from embedding systems for compliments in their organisations? From my research I believe it is a combination of:

Lack of formal expectation

For both public and private sector organisations, there are legislative obligations and standards of complaints management. For example, in Queensland, section 219A of the Public Service Act (2008, Qld) requires public sector agencies to have a complaints management system in place. There is also an Australian Standard for Complaints Management in Organisations (AS/NZS 10002:2014). Many organisations do have a natural focus on meeting compliance obligations, and so do follow these mandated and standard practices for complaints management. A wealth of resources is provided to gather, manage and resolve complaints, and formal policies and processes are embedded across the organisation. However, there is not the same formal legal structure or expected standards around the management of compliments as there is for complaints. Organisations have the freedom to do what choose with these, and therefore processes around compliment management really depend generally on organisational culture and on specific strategic and operational goals. Without external expectations weighing upon them, there is little momentum to invest in the same infrastructure for positive feedback.

A concern it may encourage bending the rules

Interestingly, many people assume that to get a compliment, staff need to bend the rules and not adhere to policies and procedures. However my research has shown that a large majority of the compliments result from processes and values that are not only followed but exceeded in terms of rigor and thoroughness. While there is no statistical evidence as yet, this relationship between compliments and processes would counter this argument for placing more focus on positive feedback.

A concern that people will slack off

One of the concerns that managers have about putting an emphasis on compliments is that they fear that positive feedback will result in complacency and the staff involved will ‘rest on their laurels’. The concern here is that compliments and positive feedback will impede the ability to improve performance and make changes necessary to meet changing customer needs. However, as shown above, this is not the case, and in fact the opposite is true. Well-targeted and genuine compliments actually serve to improve skills and performance across a range of tasks. In addition, the increased job satisfaction makes it more likely that the employee will engage with business transformations which will continue to enhance customer service.

A greater care for their customers than their staff

Yes, I said it. It may appear like a controversial statement, but in reality, money is put towards the things that the organisation really cares about. By concentrating on complaints it inherently suggests that the organisation cares more about what the staff are doing wrong than right. It is putting the customers need to be heard above the employees need to feel valued and supported. Fair enough, customer complaints are more likely to end up on the front page of the newspaper and cause embarrassment if not dealt with well. But isn’t the mental health and wellbeing of your employees just as important? So many strategic plans declare that ‘our people are our most important assets.’ And yet, most of the organisational resources go to filing complaints against them, and very little to improving their performance and sense of self-worth.

They don’t know how to go about it

While there are clear legislative obligations and Australian standards for managing complaints, there is very little guidance out there for how to deal systematically with positive feedback. The good news is, thanks to the research conducted in 2015, there is a logical and staged method for embedding positive feedback within your organisation.

Very simply three stages of compliment management are:

1. Stimulation — how customers are encouraged or supported to identify things they appreciate.

2. Systemisation — the clear and formal responsibilities, policies, and systems in place for stimulating and disseminating positive feedback.

3. Distribution — how positive feedback is shared with the relevant staff and amplified across the organisation more broadly.

Stay tuned for more information about the positive feedback process in the next article.

Until then, if you needed the evidence to prove that positive feedback can help shift the culture of your organization — well here it is. And if you wanted to find a way to truly value and support your people — here it is.

[1] Kipfelsber P., Bruch H. and Herhausen D. 2015. Energizing Companies through Customer Compliments. Marketing Review St Gallen. Vol 1.

[2] Rath, T. and Clifton, D. The Power of Praise and Recognition. Gallup. 2004.The

There Is A Path Out Of Addiction

Yesterday I reflected on how long I have been struggling with alcohol. How sad I was when I realised alcohol abuse has been a part of my life for 30 years. I became even sadder when, after much research and soul-searching I realised the cause of this suffering.

Professor Lewis, (the advocate of the deep learning model of addiction) acknowledges that addiction is initially driven by deep despair and personal suffering. It is preceded by feelings of disconnection, alienation, despair and stress. My question is why are people feeling this way in the first place? I think if we can understand the answer to this question, then we can have a more complete pathway to treatment and healing from addiction. So, I decided to dig deeper, and had the very enlightening conversation with myself!

Why do people become addicted?

Because the behaviour becomes hard-wired into their brains.

Why does it get hard-wired into their brains?

Because they keep repeating the behaviour?

Why do they keep repeating the behaviour?

Because their systems of choice-making have been damaged?

Why have their choice-making systems been damaged?

Because they kept taking a harmful substance?

Why would they take something that harms them?

Because initially it helps relieve their suffering.

And there was the question that created my a-ha moment. Why were these people suffering? Marc Lewis suggests a number of reasons such as stress or shame, trauma, loss of a relationship or job, or societal oppression. Some or all of this may be true. But in my mind, there is one underlying reason that they are suffering because they have either:

· stopped loving themselves or

· never learnt to love themselves in the first place.

Scrape away layer by layer of the addiction effects and you come to this root cause — people become addicted because they don’t love themselves. It is simple and yet profound. But again, the question must be asked. Why don’t people love themselves? From the wisdom gained from so many inspirational thinkers and researchers, I have come to believe that people don’t love themselves because they:

· Have lost touch with their own unique and precious nature (what I will call spirit[1]); and/or

· They are not able to live their true nature and so have lost a sense of meaning and purpose.

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Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

I have not come to this conclusion lightly. It has been informed by years of research into the physiology of addiction, but also into philosophy and spiritual traditions that provide great insight into human nature and the dilemmas of a human life. The first Australians have the word gulba-ngi-dyili-nya which means to know and understand yourself, to be at peace with yourself. Shamans in North America also practice ceremonies for soul remembering to help people reconnect with the gifts and strengths that they entered the world with but have forgotten. Since ancient times, Tibetans have also practiced soul retrieval as way for people to come to know their true nature.

Moreover, in the seminal work Freedom: The End of the Human Condition, biologist Jeremy Griffiths explains that with the arrival of consciousness, some of our human ancestors felt compelled to take unique and individual paths. However, those who wanted to do things differently were seen as a threat to the stability of the tribe, were made to feel faulty. And here is the result –

“naturally when we feel that we are faulty, we mistreat ourselves, and then we mistreat others in some way.”

So, if disconnection with the spirit (and thus loss of love for yourself) is the fundamental cause of addiction, we can just dive in and ‘fix’ it — can’t we? Let’s just dive into the spirit and get connected again! Well, unfortunately from my experience it is not that easy. There is no easy exorcism process or fast-train back to the spirit. This is because the addiction has been like a war, and there have been many casualties in every single area of your life. Bringing peace is a dedicated process of healing and rebuilding a life.

After dwelling upon the various viewpoints of what addiction is and contemplating its many physiological causes and effects, I have developed the following Addiction Healing Pathway.

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The Addiction Healing Pathway ©

I suspect when you first see this model you may be very disappointed. Were you hoping for something more complicated, more academic or more technical? Well, for those looking for more detail, this will be provided later. However, don’t mistake simple for easy. Just like a map is not a true reflection of the territory, this pathway is merely a guide. There are only five elements to this model, and yet each one of these in an intense process of investigation, appreciation and healing. It is a two-dimensional model of a very challenging journey, but without this guide, we may feel lost altogether.

More importantly, I have not developed this model to satisfy scientists or specialists. I have done this to help those addicted, their friends, and their families understand what is happening to them, and that there is a pathway to heal.

Reflecting back on my time in rehab, if I had this model in front of me, would it have made the journey any easier? Probably not. But would I have had a clear view of my destination and the pathway to get there? Yes. This model would have given me something to hang up on the wall, to track and trace my progress, and to understand the work that was being done at any particular time. It would have allowed me to see the connections between all the different activities. I may have given in to the process sooner if I knew the end-game. If I knew that all of those people around me were working together to reconnect me with my spirit, and allow me to be my true self, then perhaps I would have been more trusting of them in the first place.

Addiction is Driven Bottom-Up

It is the loss of connection to spirit, the loss of meaning and purpose in this life that begins the descent into addiction. You lose touch with your passion and your love for life. If you do come to know and seek to live by your spirit, then the tribe is very good at making you feel ‘faulty’. So either path creates a whole range of troublesome emotions arise including fear, anger, pride, shame, apathy and desire.

These kinds of feelings act as a huge negative force and threat upon a person and puts them in a constant state of stress, prepared either to fight to defend ourselves, or to run away. Here is the suffering from which substances and certain activities provide relief.

Even though we may know inherently what we are doing is harmful, or is becoming unhelpful, the call to relieve the suffering continues, and so our thought patterns and beliefs become altered to support continuing the behaviour. “I can’t cope”, “I deserve this”, “what’s the use?”, “I’m worthless” are all thoughts and beliefs that keep the person in the pattern of consumption. And finally, through continued behaviour, the addiction becomes well and truly ingrained in the brain. It has become part of the wiring of the brain, and removal of the substance or behaviour is going to create pain. As a result, the physical body is also damaged. Organs and muscles are destroyed, the body becomes toxic and malnourished and additional chemical imbalances may be have created in the brain.

Addiction is Treated Top-Down

What this model recognises is that the damage done at the physical, mental and emotional levels does need to be healed before the deep work of reconnection with and building love for the unique spirit can be undertaken. Let’s start with the physical body and brain. It is likely that through addiction it has become malnourished, and there may have been chemical imbalances created that are impairing your ability to think clearly, and deal with the withdrawal symptoms as they arise.

It is at this physical level, the body and brain, where medication may play a role. I know there is a lot of controversy around the investment that pharmaceutical companies have in addiction, but if you have found the right help, then medication can play a pivotal role in helping your get your head together, to begin to think clearly for the road ahead. With a clear mind you are able to become more aware of what you are doing and gain insight into how your thoughts and beliefs are driving your behaviour. You can gain some distance from your thoughts and, as Victor Frankl points out, begin to see that:

“Between the stimulus and the response is a space, and in that space is your power and your freedom.”

With awareness and insight you begin to bring back your ability to choose, which is your greatest power. However we are far from rational beings it is our emotions that drive our behaviour. Without learning how to deal with the distressing emotions of fear, shame, guilt and anger, we will never gain the courage to move forward on our spirit journey. When we are able to care for our emotions, and learn the messages they send, then we can build confidence through action, and begin to honour our true selves. Even more, we can begin to love ourselves, and show ourselves the kindness and compassion that is our essence. We can begin to shine, experience a clear sense of purpose, and feel real joy.

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The progression of healing from body to spirit

The Role of the Environment

Your environment can either help or hinder your healing and growth. Unfortunately though, one of the strongest beliefs that undermine progress in addiction is that:

“I should be able to snap myself out of this.”

It is this misguided belief that prevents people either seeking help or following advice that they think compromises their independence. I hope that this model shows the immense benefit of having a holistic support team behind you including:

· Psychiatrists, doctors and specialists — to help heal the body and brain

· Psychologists and counsellors — to help work through challenging thoughts and emotions

· Spiritual friends or teachers — to help you come to know your true nature and what brings meaning and purpose to your life.

At the same time as building up a healing crew, it is also necessary to dissolve relationships that are enabling your addiction and keeping you disconnected. This one act can be the ‘game-changer’ in terms of moving forward. It removes a huge barrier to your progress. Surrounding yourself with people who reflect your true nature, who share your dreams and passions then creates a community that will sustain you through the challenges ahead.

So, while I despair at the decades lost to alcohol I have come to realise that:

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And it does not matter how long you have been in the dark, one spark is all it takes to light your heart again. This journey of discovery has led me back to my spirit, finally doing the work I love. Every tear, every failure, every loss has brought me here, letting you know there is a path to heal from addiction.

May you come to know the path of healing and embark upon it with great patience and compassion.

Find out more in the free Ebook — The Addiction Healing Pathway

[1] My definition of spirit is that part of us that has no physical location and yet it is our very essence. It calls us to be the best that we can be and life a life sharing our talents and passions.

This is an excerpt from the Upcoming Book:

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Bringing Active Hope For A Treaty

When I began this article, I was ready to rant and rave about my frustrations with the lack of respect and recognition for our first Australians. I was prepared to present all the systemic barriers preventing the noble and courageous step of developing a treaty. I really wanted to share my dismay and despair. And then, just in time, I was blessed to begin reading the book Active Hope[1]. I realised that as much as I desired a treaty (and all it symbolises), all I was doing was exhibiting ‘passive hope’ which is waiting for others, namely governments to make this happen. To truly get closer to a treaty I needed to switch my energies to ‘active hope’ which is a practice of making personal change to bring about what I so desperately seek.

I guess you could say active hope is the shortcut description of Ghandi’s famous saying

“be the change you wish to see in the world.” According to Macey and Johnstone it involves three steps:

1. Taking a clear view of reality

2. Identify what we are hoping for

3. Taking steps to move ourselves and our situation in that direction.

So here is my a personal version of Active Hope for a treaty.

1. The Clear View of Reality

There are many elements of the current situation in Australia the create despair and despondency. However, we must be open about the reality in which we are operating if we are to take wise actions for change. Here are some of the factors that in my mind are holding back the development of a treaty:

· The government is invested in maintaining the status quo. This means the focus will continue to be on economic growth, and that land will continue to be seen as a commodity to be traded for the pursuit of economic prosperity. There will be great fear and caution around advancing a treaty that may threaten the economic future of the nation. For me this concern will be an even greater hurdle with a Coalition government. It has been shown that there is a much smaller majority of coalition voters who support recognition (52% as compared to 68% of Labor voters and 75% of Green voters)[2].

· This is an issue of spiritualism v materialism (and hint — materialism is winning). As outlined in the Uluru Statement, the sovereignty that is being sought to be recognised in a treaty is ‘a spiritual notion’[3]. It is the desire to have acknowledged the sacred link that the first Australians have with the land since time immemorial. However, it appears that as descendants of the settlers, we have chosen to pursue consumption and ‘civilisation’ over love of the land. In doing so, we have lost the connection to what makes us human and unites us. We have become disconnected from our true spirit — our own spiritual nature and being part of something bigger than ourselves. We live largely in urban environments that are proven to create mental discomfort and fear[4]. Acknowledging the spiritual connection that aboriginal people have with the land is at the same time admitting that there is something we don’t have. No-one likes admitting a deficiency!

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by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

· Our leaders are not mature enough to distinguish guilt from regret. Guilt is a negative force that represses healing and creates separation. Instead, regret is a mature approach which recognises the hurt caused and enacts remedies to right the wrongs. In this litigious society it is feared that any admission of guilt will result in financial loss for the current owners and governments. But what if we took the adult path of regret instead?

· A treaty will cause much pain. If we do move forward with a treaty, then it calls on each of us to acknowledge that our ancestors did more than just take land, they also broke a spiritual connection and a fundamental pillar of wellbeing for the first Australians. The dispossession of land is horrible. The removal of children from their families is horrific. But when you come to understand the spiritual rift that this created for the first Australians there is no other response but great grief. I do wonder how Scott Morrison would feel if he was told he could no longer practice his faith? What if his places of worship were desecrated and any form of prayer was banned?

And yet, there is another side of the coin. The reality we face is that there are already many states and territories that are taking great strides towards the acknowledgement and relationship building that needs to underly an effective treaty. In Queensland there is a statement of commitment and a Path to Treaty to create a new future between First Nations peoples and all Queenslanders. Mind you, what we have seen lately is a commitment made to the First Nations’ people with one hand, while signing over approval for another commercial coal mine with the other.

There is also wide support across the nation for formal recognition and a treaty. In a poll conducted in 2019, 70% of respondents supported constitutional recognition, and 66% supported the First Nations voice to parliament. There was also majority support (59%) for a treaty. So the reality is, if a referendum was held today, it is likely that there would be enough support to force action. This is the reality upon which my active hope is founded.

2. What We are Hoping For

The Uluru Statement sets the scene for what our First Nations’ people are hoping for. This is:

A voice — having a permanent institution which can express First Nations views in the parliament. Under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples First Nations’ people have a right to self-determination. However at only 3% of the population this is nearly impossible to achieve through the normal democratic processes. The Voice to Parliament will allow direct input to the parliament and government on all issues affecting our first Australians. When you think about it, our First Nations’ people took care of the country for around 60,000 years before the first settlers, so why shouldn’t they continue to have a say in how it is taken care of into the future?

A treaty — A treaty would be a formal agreement entered into by the First Nation’s people and the Australian government. But more than that it would create a path for peace and healing through formal recognition of rights and injustices. It would be legally binding and formally recognise Indigenous people’s prior occupation of this land and their spiritual connection to it.

The truth — The Uluru Statement called for a Makarrata[5] Commission to develop the processes by which all Australians can come to understand the true history of this country. It is only through knowledge of the full extent of the injustices experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that we can begin to accept our shared history and thus create a shared future.

I would love to see the first Australians get each and every one of these things. It is right and it is just. The vision I have for voice, treaty and truth is not only recognition of the suffering, but also the recognition of the great wisdom and beauty of the aboriginal culture. I would be thrilled to see an open pride for their spiritual connection to and stewardship of this country. Even more I would like to see our leaders genuinely recognising this wisdom and embrace it. We have seen some shifts in this direction with the aboriginal wisdom around fire being used to protect the land from the ravages of bush fire. But we can do more than this. We can embrace our first Australians and their spirit. We can celebrate each other’s strengths and bring our nation together to heal relationships, but also help us to discover our lost connection to the earth. Together we can forge a path to bring love and care back to our country and our home.

3. Steps To Move Myself In That Direction

So, ultimately the only things I have any control over are my own actions. And this is the core of active hope — determining what I need to do differently to bring about an embedded respect for and inclusion of our First Nations’ people. How do I need to change to be able to support this whole-heartedly? Here is what I will be doing differently as of today:


· I will use my voice to strengthen the already amazing communities that exist to drive change — speaking up for my vision and the dream of our First Nations’ people whenever and wherever I have a chance.

· I can maintain self-awareness to ensure my voice is coming from a place of openness and heart, not of judgement and ego.

· I will develop the courage to share my opinions, ask questions and challenge myself to learn and grow my authentic voice. I have long hesitated thinking that I don’t know enough to contribute. And yet, I know my own heart, I know my vision, and this is enough to begin to play my part in a new future. This is the beginning of a process of widening my knowledge, my networks and my perspective so that I can contribute even more.


Instead of judging from the sidelines, I will find out how I can participate, and get actively involved in supporting the great work already being undertaken. I can make sure I sign the petitions, stay up to date with the actions underway and get involved in the conversations.


The first Australians have the word gulba-ngi-dyili-nya which means to know and understand yourself, to be at peace with yourself. For me, this is the purpose of the work I need to do around truth. This will involve:

· Acknowledging my settler ancestry and the role my ancestors may have played in dispossessing and disconnecting the First Nations’ people from their spiritual home. I need to acknowledge the role my forebears played in causing personal injury, inculcating racism and the destruction of aboriginal culture. I need to acknowledge the passive role other ancestors played in the injustices through apathy and lack of assistance for the first stewards of their land.

· Offering gratitude to my ancestors for the life they have provided for me today, while, at the same time, honouring the pain upon which my prosperity has been founded. Recognising that the pain and suffering caused to others will have left scars on generations of our family, and that this is something I must understand and come to peace with for myself. Only then can we meet in a place of mutual respect and compassion.

· Offering gratitude to the First Nations’ people who have been with and cared for this land, and the dedication they bring to preserving its health and spirit.

Change Begins With Each of Us

As I look again through this list of things, I will be doing to enact active hope, it does not seem enough. And yes, if it was just me doing this, it would not be enough. But what if the full 77% of the population who support constitutional recognition did the same things? What if the 59% of the population who support a treaty take the same actions? The result would be incredible and positive change. However, the change needs to begin with each of us individually.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

It’s Time For Healing

The first Australians have a spiritual connection to this country that has sustained them and the land for over 60,000 years. Either our ancestors did not understand this, or they did not care. Regardless, the outcome is the same. The spiritual disconnect of our ancestors is at the heart of the suffering of our First Nations’ people and is being manifest right now in the pain of the planet. We have almost destroyed the custodians of this great land and look at the result. It is time to raise them back up , heal our relationships and heal this land.

[1] Macy, J., & Johnstone, C. (2012). Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy (58069th ed.). New World Library.

[2] Murphy, K. (2019, August 1). Essential poll: majority of Australians want Indigenous recognition and voice to parliament. The Guardian.



[5] Yolgnu word meaning ‘a coming together after a struggle’

What Is The Future For The Big 5 Consultancies?

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” ~Charles Darwin

Over the past five years the consulting industry has experienced negative growth. Between 2015-2020 the industry declined by 0.7%. The prediction is that this decline will continue as the world grapples with the economic downturn and reduced business confidence resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. The competition for the ‘Big 5’ has also increased, as smaller consultancies provide a more attractive cost-benefit outcome. Some organisations are also finding it more advantageous to build internal consultancy teams, costing a fraction of the price of one consultancy project. Also thanks to the endless information available on the internet it is easy for people to seek and find a world of advice for free. So as Darwin suggests, even though the large consultancy firms are full of incredibly smart people, and have massive organisational infrastructure, we have seen far too many big business failures to know that this does not guarantee their survival.

In fact, consultancies, who gain so much income from helping others survive and thrive through change, now need to look inwards and do this work for themselves. One of the most important questions they need to ask is what role they can play in the new business environment which is characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). How can they help their clients navigate through these situations, and what value can they offer that can justify their hourly rates?

While many people treat the VUCA context as one big challenge, each element does actually require different strategic responses. Therefore, the role consultancies can play for their clients will differ depending on the specific situation they are facing, which will in turn create different demands for the consultancies own organisational structures and processes. Here are my initial thoughts about what this may look like.

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This analysis, while brief and arguably simplistic, does suggest some changes required to the traditional consultancy business model, including:

Decentralization of resources. To be able to respond to client needs, the options are to have a bunch of slack resources in-house or to have a stock of flexible resources that can be gathered and deployed quickly. The former was certainly the preferred model, with the profits able to wear a plethora of graduates sitting ‘on the bench’ awaiting assignment. Declining profits suggest that this centralized resource model is no longer sustainable and more of a ‘freelance’ model of gathering consultancy resources would be more appropriate. Of course, the challenge with this change would be how you indoctrinate the brand in a decentralized model? There is real risk of diluting the powerful brand that has taken so much effort to create and maintain.

Boundary-spanning. Gathering data and insights fast may require having networks of experts outside of your own organization. There is a real gap in leadership ability to play this boundary spanning role themselves. While 86% of senior-level executives admit effective cross-boundary coordination is extremely important, only 7% admit to feeling effective at doing it.  There is a huge gap in competency here that consultancies could fill to help their clients manage uncertainty. The challenge with this change is that it pushes consultancies to concede that they may not know everything themselves, and to play the role of connector rather than relying on being the sole authority. 

Taking action to reduce complexity. Many consultancies have a vested interest in maintaining complexity as it sustains their business. However, to remove the perception of self-interest, they may need to use their intelligence and strength to reduce complexity for their clients. Why would they do this if it reduces their business? Well maybe for a higher purpose or goal beyond lining the pockets of partners and shareholders. This is the vision that the consultancies need to develop and invest in for themselves.

Shifting from consultants from partners. One of the benefits of being a consultant is that you can hand over the report or install the system and you don’t have to deal with the results. As experimentation becomes more essential to navigate ambiguous business environments, consultants will need to be involved in the implementation of the experiment as well in order to see through the whole learning process. The challenge with this change is that experiments are risky, and if consultants are advising on taking risky action, then increasingly they may be expected to be invested in the whole process – to be more accountable and to be part of the learning cycle with the client.

Facilitating questions instead of answers. In VUCA environments there may not be many answers. Instead, it is about building the ability to ask the right questions. Consultants have gained their powerful positions by delivering solutions. But no longer is the trend to be ‘solutions-focused’. It is being ‘insight-driven’.  Gaining insights relies on asking the right questions in the first place. Instead of handing over results for approval and execution, consultants will then need to be working with clients to find the best questions to explore further. The challenge with this change is that the consultancy deliverables become a lot less tangible. Here you are working to build capability which is a much longer-term pursuit and requires much greater dedication to tracking the results.

In some ways I see the Big 5 firms very similar to the large political parties, major banks or department stores. Much is invested in the all-powerful brand, arguably to the detriment of the overall outcomes. Trust is lost somewhere in the massive machinery and the perceived play of self-interest. Wouldn’t it be a very interesting day if some of the Big-5 joined forces to deliver a great community outcome? Wow, this would be as exciting as having a bi-partisan political approach to climate change!

The declining industry growth suggests that businesses and governments are no longer interested in just paying consultancies to come in, take their watch and tell them the time. External validation is no longer a sufficient reason to justify the high consultancy costs.  Instead, they will need to take their own advice and become truly customer-centric – delivering those things the clients actually need to survive in a VUCA environment.

The Big 5 consultancies are very smart, and very strong. But let’s see if they are able successfully implement change in their own organizations.  But perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me. As they say…

Don’t base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results.

A curly question…

Where do the Big 5 consultancies go when they need an objective perspective on their businesses?

An Interesting Fact

Three out of the Big 5 Animals of Africa have a conservation status of either vulnerable or endangered. These are the African Elephant, the Black Rhinoceros and the Lion. A fourth, the Leopard, is classified as near threatened.

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Yip, Jeffrey & Ernst, Chris & Campbell, Michale. (2009). Boundary Spanning Leadership: Mission Critical Perspectives from the Executive Suite.

Why Are We Surrounded by Underwhelming Politicians?

Is it just me, or are you also despairing at the dearth of political leadership across western democracies. I also wonder what is going wrong, when all America could come up with as choices for its next President is either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. And as much regard as I have for the two front men of Australian politics, Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese are hardly what I would call inspirational leaders.  And it may sound rude, but the recent race between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn felt like a cumbersome roll to the bottom of a hill.

I am certainly not an expert in politics, and in fact am best described as an ignorant observer. However, I can see two basic reasons why we are facing a drought of inspirational political leadership.

1.    People with vision and courage don’t get into politics in the first place

2.    People do enter politics with vision and courage but get thwarted (or kicked out) along the way.

Let’s explore each of these possible reasons.

People with vision and courage don’t get into politics in the first place

Here is an example of why some change-makers don’t get into politics. Uber first launched in Australia in 2012, with I am sure some time before this governments becoming aware of their intended actions. It took until 2016 (at least four years) for some of the state governments to finalise the legislation to legalise their operations. Four years to get something done to support societal change. I could understand then that anyone who was eager to make change would not bother trying to do this through politics. It appears so much more efficient and effective to be driving change in the private or even community sectors. 

Just look at how much time our politicians spend answering Dorothy-dixer[1] questions, cutting ribbons and doing interviews. The time, energy and money spent doing these things could have been used to just get things done – to actually deliver benefit rather than to talk about the benefit. There is a lot of stuff going on in government, but very little inspirational vision preceding it. Bold and courageous visions for the future are not appreciated much in politics these days. There is a risk the voters may not like it. So if you are a visionary, or you a person driven to make change happen, then government is not the best option to deliver on your dreams.

Also, why would people want to enter a profession that the community has such a lack of regard for? This time last year, the lack of trust in government hit an all-time low. In every four people, three expressed no confidence in their political leaders and institutions. Why would a person in their right minds put themselves in a position where their reputation was going to be tarnished? Why would they throw their years of hard work building credibility to have it tossed away by associating with politicians?

People do enter politics with vision and courage but get thwarted (or kicked out) along the way.

Ok, so say a politician comes in with a bold and brave vision and commitment to action. Say they have the patience to work through the bureaucracy to embed the change in legislation. They may also have the leadership needed to drive change through the incredibly inefficient machinery of government. What if one leader begins to bring the parties together for the common good. What if they were able to build consensus and bi-partisan agreement on a clear and compelling vision for the future? What if one politician was uniting parties and the nation to build true and sustainable prosperity?

Well, the cynic in me says they would either very slowly, or incredibly suddenly disappear. Why? Because politics is a divisive game. One side has to be seen to be ‘better’ than the other side if they are going to win the election. This is the ultimate goal – to win the election. So, in democracy then there is a winner and a loser. One side has to be the hero, and the other side has to be the villain. You can’t have anyone coming along destroying the rules of the game. The identities of the political parties would be lost. What would they stand for? How would they differentiate themselves if they were working ‘with’ instead of ‘against’ the other party?

Politics, just like every other area of our lives has become a brand game. It is just as materialistic and image-focused as everything else we see around us. So even if you came in with the best intentions, you have to fit the brand, or leave. This dilemma is recognised by Emeritus Professor Judith Brett when she states:

“the need for party brand differentiation is often a greater imperative than the achievement of durable policy outcomes”.

The Professor cites the example the second Australian Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin who, on his retirement, was criticised for his weak leadership. This was the insult given to someone who did not care for the party brand, but only in building consensus to deliver beneficial policy outcomes. He put the interests of the nation before the interests of the party, and for this he was criticised. 

It appears that the most important thing these days in politics is the party, and the leader is completely dispensable. It really does not matter anymore what the leader thinks is right for the country. It only matters how people perceive the leader. All that matters is whether the brand is winning. How many political leaders have been jettisoned by their own parties using the excuse of poor polling? Enough said.

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Photo by

In this regard, I don’t think the media are always helpful. They tend to thrive and fuel the division. The media likes to ask the questions to get politicians looking uncomfortable and uncertain. It gives them something to write about. I cannot ascertain whether the media is a cause or an effect of the divisive politics we see today, but I have no doubt that it plays some role in sustaining it.

The other reason I believe people get thwarted in their political visions is because of what I call the Messiah approach to leadership. We see it distinctly in the private sector – a new CEO is brought in to ‘fix’ everything and to deliver miracles. When they don’t within an impossible timeframe, they are obviously not the Messiah, and so a new one is sought. I am getting the sense that the same approach is being taken in politics. Parties want a leader that can deliver the impossible:

·      bring people together but keep their party identity intact

·      be a unique and charismatic individual but not outshine the importance of the party

·      bring about change but not disrupt the lives of the party faithful

·      to be strong and decisive but only if the decisions fit the brand.

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Photo by John Price on Unsplash

If the Messiah is unable to balance these dichotomies, then out they go. And the party appoints a new Saviour. The sad thing is that in Australia we are up to our sixth Prime Minister in a decade. This suggests that either Messiah’s don’t exist, or we are just not very good at picking them. In any case, the whole approach does appear to be flawed and disruptive. It is also understandable that voters don’t trust their governments when they are continually being sold false gods!

Perhaps I Am Expecting Too Much?

There is one final reason why I am distressed at the quality (or lack thereof) of politicians I see. Maybe I am just expecting too much? We are living in a materialistic world where image is everything. Why should our system of governments be any different? If social media can make people like the Kardashian family the worlds greatest influencers, then it suggests you don’t need much substance to get ahead these days. Instead of a family of six, Parliament has 227 egos battling it out for attention. It is just the nature of things that it is not the wisest voice in the room that gets heard, but the loudest. Perhaps or governments are just a reflection of the crazy world we are living in.

However, there are corporations across the globe that are larger and more diverse than government that are making a real and positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities. They can build a strong and compelling vision; they can unite people behind the vision and muster resources to make it happen. Why can’t our governments? Why is something like climate-change, which affects us all, being used as another weapon of division and hero politics rather than as an opportunity for nation-wide vision and connection?

Some people may call my views naïve and idealistic. But have you ever watched parliament question time? This picture is not too dissimilar to the way I see it unfolding.

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Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

I am continually disgusted by the behaviour of our leaders and the complete and utter waste of time I see. Shouldn’t our politicians be better than that? Shouldn’t we expect our politicians to be the role models of our nation? Shouldn’t we be able to demand that our politicians work together to secure a prosperous future for ourselves and our children? 

All I can say is that god help us if the role model we should be subscribing to is the mean, evasive and insulting behaviour we see in question time! It only reinforces my understanding of why some of the smartest people in the world decide not to become politicians.


Here’s Why You Are Addicted

Why have you become addicted? This is the ultimate question. If we can answer this, then we have in our hands the heart of the problem, and the seed of the solution. As you may have read in my previous article (What Is Addiction), addiction is a symptom of an undesirable situation, but what was this situation that resulted in such physical, mental and spiritual trauma? What was the common thread that drove people to the self-harm that is addiction?

When I first began contemplating this question, I thought it was ridiculous. Every person suffering from addiction has their own unique situation, so it would be impossible to find one common cause. And each perspective of addiction would have its own view of this as well.

For example:

The choice view of addiction would argue that people become addicted because they are inherently selfish and weak.

The chronic brain disease view of addiction would argue that people become addicted because repeated behaviour gets hard-wired in the brain

The mental disorder view of addiction would argue that people become addicted because of an ability to deal with faulty thoughts and distressing emotions

The deep learning view of addiction would argue that people become addicted because they are striving for unhelpful goals, or the actions taken to achieve the goals is misguided.

People have also tried to explain addiction by genetics. And while there is some influence of genetic makeup there is not enough correlation to make a definitive link. There is not one gene that you can pin down and blame for addiction. Instead, there are a number of hereditary factors that play a part and which have a genetic link, including the predisposition towards impulsiveness, the vulnerability to frustration and sensitivity to rejection.

Given that some of these factors could be described as personality traits, there was also the theory going around for a while that there was such thing as an ‘addictive personality.’ The argument was that if you had a certain set of traits that you would be more likely to become addicted. However, as people dug deeper it was found that there was not one type of person that became addicted. In fact, people from each end of the personality spectrum were affected.

With inspiration from questionologist Warren Berger, I decided to dig further using a series of questions known as ‘the five why’s’. Here is how it played out:

Why do people become addicted?

Because the behaviour becomes hard-wired into their brains.

Why does it get hard-wired into their brains?

Because they keep repeating the behaviour?

Why do they keep repeating the behaviour?

Because their systems of choice-making have been damaged?

Why have their choice-making systems been damaged?

Because they kept taking a harmful substance?

Why would they take something that harms them?

Because initially it helps relieve their suffering.

And there was the question that created my a-ha moment. Why were these people suffering? Marc Lewis suggests a number of reasons such as stress or shame, trauma, loss of a relationship or job, or societal oppression. Some or all of this may be true. But in my mind, there is one underlying reason that they are suffering because they have either:

·stopped loving themselves or

· never learnt to love themselves in the first place.

I know it sounds like a naïve, and idealistic view, but why would people put harmful substances into their bodies in the first place? Why would they get stuck on the internet or gambling if they respected their precious time, energy and potential?

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Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

Scrape away layer by layer of the addiction effects and you come to this root cause — people become addicted because they don’t love themselves. It is simple and yet profound. But again, the question must be asked. Why don’t people love themselves? From the wisdom gained from so many inspirational thinkers and researchers, I have come to believe that people don’t love themselves because they:

· Have lost touch with their own unique and precious nature (what I will call spirit); and/or

· They are not able to live their true nature and so have lost a sense of meaning and purpose.

This is why I state that addiction is a symptom. I believe addiction is only one manifestation of the disconnect that so many people are suffering from. When people have lost touch with their spirit or are in a situation where they cannot be true to it, then we also see other evidence of despair including anger, materialism, depression, chronic illness. People lose connection with their life-giving force and passion which opens the door for diseases of all kinds to march straight in and take over. After all, if you don’t have any passion left of purpose in your life, you are not going to put up much of a fight are you? It is therefore, in my mind, this loss of connection to spirit that creates the inherent vulnerability for a range of diseases and disorders in the modern world, of which addiction is just one.

I have not come to this conclusion lightly. It has been informed by years of research into the physiology of addiction, but also into philosophy and spiritual traditions that provide great insight into human nature and the dilemmas of a human life. It has also been tested through almost thirty years of problematic alcohol use. It has been a long healing journey for me so far and I have further to travel, but there were three specific events to date that have confirmed this view in my own mind and heart. These are:

1. My discussion with a catholic priest.

Yes, I was desperate. I wanted to understand why this could be happening to me. I had a loving family, a ‘good’ job, a house and beautiful children. Why was I pushing it all away? Why was I jeopardising the health and happiness of myself, but also all of those around me? So, I went and asked a priest for his view of addiction. He described two perspectives being:

· Possession. Yep, that’s right. He did say there were some old school views out there that I could be possessed by the devil. Yippee I thought — who do I see about scheduling an exorcism? I was truly thrilled that it could be that simple. It would also relieve me of any personal responsibility. It was the demon’s fault! Of course while it was the source of a chuckle or two during the conversation it was not proposed as a solution for my plight.

· Separation from my spirit. The view here is that we are born with gifts and talents that we are to use in this life. We are endowed with qualities that can bring peace and happiness to ourselves and to others. If we neglect these, if we ignore our true spirit, if we separate ourselves from our hearts then this creates an internal conflict. We are not living an authentic life, but feel trapped to continue living the one that is more ‘acceptable.’ WE begin to hate ourselves for neglecting our hearts but continue to do it anyway. It is this conflict, this self-hatred that was, in the priest’s view the cause of my addiction.

The more I reflected upon this latter explanation, the more it felt right. I could see how I had ignored many of the things I loved to live a ‘conventional’ life and to provide some stability and financial security for my family. But yes, there was no doubt that I had lost myself along the way. I mentioned it to a few other people in rehab and it also seemed to resonate with them too.

2. I came across the following quote:

“ It is the always soul that dies first. Even if its departure goes unnoticed. And it always carries the body along with it.

Humans are nourished by the invisible. We are nourished by that which is beyond the personal. We die by preferring its opposite.” ~ Lucien Jacque (French poet)

This quote was like a flash of light in the dark for me. Of course I was experiencing so much physical, mental and emotional suffering, but these were being driven by something much deeper. These were only the results of the death, or what I prefer to know as the disconnect from my spirit. It is not evident when this disconnect happens, but the outcome is very real, very painful, and all-encompassing. This quote spurred me on to investigate the soul element of the addiction picture, and how it fits with so many other modern theories.

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

3. I had my first ‘proactive’ check-in at rehab.

This was a real turning point in my healing. I had lost count of how many times I had been in rehab to recover from another bust. Until this point, my experience at rehab had been the process of detox, followed by trying to release some of the shame and guilt that cling tightly to a relapse. Then there was the inevitable ‘life’ planning to stay sober and to prevent another relapse. This pattern repeated until my first proactive check-in. I had heard the doctors say many times that I was welcome to come back anytime for a refresher, and then one day I took them up on the offer and spent one week reflecting upon all aspects of my life. This is when I knew the spirit link to addiction was real. The proactive action I was taking was showing a real respect and love for myself. Finally I was showing care for my potential and seeking a way that I could let it shine in the world. I was no longer powerless to the forces upon me but using my own power to fight for my spirit.

Since this time I have been blessed to come across the work of Dr Richard Davidson and the Centre for Healthy Minds. His team uses neuroscience to investigate the sources of wellbeing, This exciting work provides the scientific evidence of what leads to healthy minds and happy hearts. There are four key elements of wellbeing that they have deduced from their studies. These are:

1. Awareness — being mindful of and paying attention to what you are doing

2. Connection — having the qualities to support healthy relationships, such as appreciation, kindness and compassion.

3. Insight — into the beliefs you hold about yourself and your relationship with these beliefs

4. Purpose — having a strong sense of meaning and aligning this purpose into or everyday lives.

Each and every one of these four pillars of wellbeing is compromised or disappears all together in addiction. And more importantly, each support my opinion that addiction is caused, fundamentally by a separation from your true spirit.

1. Awareness — you have lost the ability to see and appreciate your unique and precious nature

2. Connection — you have lost the ability to show acceptance, kindness and compassion for yourself and your spirit

3. Insight — you have become hooked into destructive narratives of being stuck, powerless and unworthy of health and love

4. Purpose — you have lost your ability to let your unique spirit shine, and in doing so have lost your sense of purpose and meaning in the world.

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Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

My hope for the upcoming book — Addiction is a Symptom — is that it will foster greater understanding and compassion for those suffering through addiction, and help them connect again to these important pillars of wellness.

May you come to see yourself as a person worthy of kindness, compassion and love.

To Think About

On a scale of 1–5, where 1 is lowest and 5 is highest, how would you rate yourself right now on the four pillars of wellbeing?

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Why did you give yourself these scores?

What if you were living as a 5 on each pillar of wellbeing?

o What do you think it would look like?

o What would you be doing differently then you are now?

What If We Treated Internet Addiction Like Covid-19?

Internet addiction is the compulsive need to spend excessive amounts of time engaged in online activities, while neglecting other important areas of life such as family, friends work or study.

I know, it sounds like a ridiculous proposition doesn’t it? There is no way that internet addiction could compare to the public health emergency that is the Covid-19 pandemic. However, you may be surprised to know that in many ways internet addiction well and truly surpasses the trauma of the pandemic. Here are some statistics that will put the impact of the two situations in perspective.

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The statistics — Covid-19 cases vs Internet Addiction

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has had an acute impact on the way we live our lives and has wreaked havoc on people’s physical and mental health, as well as on the economic wellbeing of every nation. But just look at these figures. While in the USA 8.9 million people have suffered from the disease, almost double that number of people (17.4 million) are currently suffering from internet addiction. In Australia the comparison is even greater, with more than 50 times as many people suffering from internet addiction then have had Covid-19. In Japan, the comparison is larger again, with 84 times as many people addicted to the internet than have been infected with Covid-19. Medical experts are only expecting the problem to worsen, as the availability, acceptance and speed of internet infrastructure increases. The internet is being known in medical circles as “digital heroin.”

The definition of a pandemic is:

“(of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world”.

That internet addiction is prevalent across the world is evident. Research conducted in 2014 tested participants across 31 nations and seven world regions. The findings showed internet addiction was spread across the globe, with an average addiction rate of 6%. The highest rate of addiction was in the Middle East (10.9%) and the lowest in Northern and Western Europe at 2.6%. Many countries around the world are now collecting and publishing their own statistics showing how widespread the issue is. From Bangladesh to Brazil, Germany to Greenland, Australia to Austria, no country is untouched by internet addiction. Doctors in China, South Korea and Taiwan have already declared it a public health emergency, and fears are rife for the impact that isolation during Covid-19 may have on the already dire situation.

So, given the global nature of the issue, the much larger numbers of people affected, and the predicted escalation of the problem, why wouldn’t we treat internet addiction with even more energy and resources than we are doing Covid-19?

I have considered some of the possible counterarguments to this proposition, and here is what I have come up with so far.

Internet addiction is not a disease

Technically this is correct. As yet, Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) has not been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM 5). Therefore, at least in the United States, it is not yet an official disorder or a disease which can then be supported by the health insurance system. There is a DSM though for Substance Use Disorder which covers dependence upon drugs such as alcohol; caffeine; cannabis; hallucinogens opioids; sedatives, hypnotics, or and stimulants. So addiction to these things is recognised as a disease and covered by health insurance.

Here’s the thing though. Changes to the DSM-5 well and truly lag behind the medical opinion. Gambling is a case in point. It was only finally encoded into the DSM-5 in 2013. While there are some proposals in play to include internet addiction in the DSM-5, it is still in process, and no clear timeframe for resolution advertised.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has already included the more specific branch of gaming disorder in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which is a great step forward. This means there is a global focus now on identification, reporting and treatment of this specific type of internet addiction.

As described in my article What Is Addiction, initially use of the internet occurs by choice, as a way to deal with an undesirable situation. However, as treating doctors attest to, the patients they treat for internet addiction show all of the same structural and functional brain changes as those with substance use disorders. In this way, over time, their ability to make logical decisions, and to choose to desist from internet engagement is reduced. As stated by Dr Teoh, a treating physician:

“We recognise people with internet addiction have all the features of people with chemical addiction. Clinically we can see that they are addicted to it.”

They also exhibit the same kind and intensity of cognitive, emotional and behavioural issues of ‘addicts.’ So while it may not be formally recognised yet, in practice every one of the people shown in the numbers above are facing the same trauma as others we classify as having the disease of addiction.

Covid-19 is infectious and can result in death

Again, this is true. Covid-19 is incredibly infectious, and with a mortality rate of around 10%, the more people that contract the virus, the more people are likely to die. However, as the numbers show, the measures being taken currently are keeping the infections to a relatively low proportion of the population, so much lower than those suffering from internet addiction.

Moreover, in recent years there has been a three-fold increase in Australia in the rate of addiction, and in the United States, the amount of internet use goes up by 25% every three months. While the timeframe for escalation is certainly slower, the number of and rate of increase of internet addiction well and truly passes those infected with Covid-19.

There is no way I am minimising the pain of losing a loved one. I feel so deeply for all of those people who knew their loved one was suffering and could not be there to help them through it. What I am saying is that the suffering that addiction brings needs to be considered as well. Death is traumatic, but so is the waste of human potential, destruction of families and the devastation of a life that continues to deliver pain and suffering.

Covid-19 has broader implications

Most of the rhetoric I hear about the impact of Covid-19 centres around the economy. This is important as the shutdown of businesses means job loss and therefore financial distress and mental anguish for many. It will take years, if not decades for the economies of the world to recover and for many individuals and families to make it back to financial independence.

Again though, one should not ignore the impact of internet addiction on the economy. In a study done by, it was estimated that surfing the internet costs around $54 billion annually in lost productivity. So right now, the costs to the economy of internet addiction are real.

And while the Covid-19 virus is more likely to harm the elderly, internet addiction younger people to a greater extent. Those of college and high school age are most at risk. It results in:

· Adverse effects on brain structure and function

· Delayed cognitive development

· Reduced ability to focus, speak and reason

· Anxiety

· Depression


· Stress

· Obesity

· Reduced social skills

· Family breakdown

· Reduced community vitality and support

· Academic disruptions

· Reduced job performance and job loss

· Financial stress.

There are large and very broad impacts of internet addiction for our society. Because the young are more vulnerable, it means that the problems being faced now, if not dealt with promptly, can also affect communities for generations to come. We will have a whole generation of children who are passing on harmful behaviours.

Covid-19 is completely harmful but the internet has benefits

I agree. The internet has opened up a whole world of information and opportunity. It has so many blessings. But the reality is the greater exposure to these benefits, the increased risk of harm from addiction. The more time you spend on it, the more likely you will become dependent on it. As outlined in the above list, during the addiction there is significant harm for both the individual, their families, carers and communities. Withdrawing from the addiction and maintaining the balance in the future also requires a great deal of support, care and attention. Unlike a typical Covid-19 case, recovery is not expected within 14 days. The harm can last months or years, and the recovery and healing across all aspects of the person’s life could take much longer. Just like anything else provided to us, the benefits must be balanced with the risks. It is the role of government and public policy to do what it can to minimise these risks for its people.

The good news is though, just like Covid-19 both recovery and prevention of internet addiction is possible. There are already so many people out there from both the medical and NFP communities taking great action to minimise the risk and support those experiencing the trauma of internet addiction. But I can’t help wondering what it would look like if federal and state governments treated internet addiction with the same conviction and attention they are investing in Covid-19.

Read more in The 3rd Edge Publication on Medium here

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Cheng C, Li AY. Internet addiction prevalence and quality of (real) life: a meta-analysis of 31 nations across seven world regions. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2014;17(12):755–760. DOI:10.1089/cyber.2014.0317 3rd Edge