A gift from the air

December 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

In recent weeks as I geared up to post this blog. I have felt like a hen sitting on the psyCommons egg and waiting for it to hatch.

The commons of the air has been close by.

Falcons nesting in a wall above the kitchen.

Swallows negotiating loudly above our heads over breakfast.

And then a gift arrived from the air commons. As I sat taking in the landscape, a bird plopped into the grandchildren’s paddling pool next to me.

It sat in the water, motionless, contemplating what amounted to a bad move.


My wife and I fished it out gently with a broom. Settled it on a nearby wall. A young bird? A falcon? Wet feathers, too heavy to fly.


We waited for what would come next. 40 minutes passed. Warm wind. Under-feathers drying. Under-feathers dry. Open wings. Fly. This inhabitant of the air commons took off north disappearing above the forest.

These and the other birds here rattle n shake my imagination.


These swallows know how to fly south down the east coat of Spain across the straights of Gibraltar and south into Africa and find their way back here next year.

Each summer the falcon chicks have a massive existential crisis. For the first time they step off the ledge 40ft up in the wall to become actors in the air commons. What are all these feathers for? Oh yes, flap. Fly. Oh shit, where’s  the nest. This young falcon, whether exhausted, or lost, clung to the ivy outside the kitchen window for a long time before risking another attempt to fly back home.


And the bird in the pool. It had fallen into a piece of life for which it seemed under resourced. Wet, but not drowning, it sat motionless in the pool and motionless on the wall afterwards. Fearless? Terrified?

Do we humans not also have ‘learning to fly’ moments – leaving home for the first time – do we not also mistakenly land in pools and get our flying feathers wet? Situations where struggle is unavoidable? Where we learn from the experience and build a more savvy approach to daily life? And where on occasion support for our difficulties from other inhabitants of the commons is likely to be valuable?

What counts as support and from whom, and to what purpose, is what the psyCommons is about.

The psyCommons – further ferment

December 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

The psyCommons is work in progress, it is not a thing, or a settled perspective, it is more an intuition that might or might not settle as relevant or useful or accurate.

Since I posted the previous material, quite a few developments have occurred that have both shaken and consolidated the notion of a psyCommons.

The School of Commoning hosted several days of commons workshops and meetings in November. I showed up at the opening meeting in the House of Commons (a curious irony there, I felt) followed by a whole day on commons healthcare, and a half a day on commons economics. James Qilligan was a key feature of all of these events; he brought a presence and perspectives on the commons that nourished the psyCommons notion, though I had very little opportunity to speak about it. His take on healthcare commons is here.

Showing up is essential, and these occasions bore fruit right away. I realized that while there was a lot of talk about how this or that possibility of a commons might be worth pursuing, I was a participant in three actual commons. The Alliance for counseling and psychotherapy is a commons, the Independent Practitioners Network is a commons and I have lately been part of an intense family healthcare commons. Ring a ding! This was exciting.

While there was no space at these events (or I didn’t take space) for the psyCommmons notion) what did bite was what I had to offer about civic accountability – a virtual product of participation in the Independent Practitioner Network commons. I had written this up as a possible offering for a commons conference in Berlin in May 2013, you can find a copy of it in the pageshere.

This cluster of commons related events and awakenings was being fed by two other initiatives: one, publication of my book Therapy Futures: Obstacles and opportunities – introducing the psyCommons, and secondly, a conference hosted by the Alliance for counselling and psychotherapy that explored future trajectories and current concerns of psychological therapies. My talk for this event is the latest iteration of the psyCommons notion, you can read it in the pages here, or listen to the podcast (not yet).

The last in this autumn cluster of public commons related events was a book launch hosted by the ever-diligent School of Commoning. Advance copies of The Wealth of the Commons: a world beyond market and state edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, Levelers Press, were for sale and the evening featured David Bollier in person.

While the commons form of human relating is rooted in open grassroots participation and horizontal governance, this doesn’t mean that hierarchies of experience (and courage) are not also valuable and David Bollier, along with James Gilligan in the previous week, contributed essential international global perspectives. A necessary accompaniment to what I suspect will often necessarily be local commons initiatives.

When I finish it, I’ll try to post a review of The Wealth of the Commons, a collection of 90 contributions from a Berlin 2011 international commons conference.

How has the psyCommons notion been shaken by any of this? Principally discovering that some of the language lacked precision and I’ll end this post with a heads up call that I have picked up from David Bollier. In a chapter from the above Wealth of Commons book entitled Global enclosures in the service of empire pp. 212-3, and, see this commons definition, he makes a request for a clarification in how we talk (and think/approach) the commons. I began to understand that we must distinguish, as Eleanor Ostrom does, between ‘common pool resources’ such as air and oceans and forests, and reserve ‘commons’ for specific instances of the structuring of common pool resource usage.

I understand this now in the following way: The River Thames can be seen as a ‘common pool resource’ – suppose that users of the river – for recreation, sport, transport, fishing and education plus houseboat owners and mooring landlords – had collectively developed a mission/agreement such as ‘Love the Thames’ – this could lead to the formation of a group structured as a commons to pursue/sustain this agenda.

More on recipes for commons structures another day. ­

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The psyCommons blog by Denis Postle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

A beginning

December 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

After 27 years as a psy practitioner and something like ten years as an activist in the task of confronting the micro-fascism of therapy professionalization in the UK, my attention shifted. Too much ‘against’, too much ‘they’re terrible’, not enough ‘what do we want’, not enough ‘big picture’.

And then I fell upon a big picture, or rather it fell upon me, the institutions that we had been opposing were offensive because they were fencing in, making enclosures, of a field of mutual caring, rapport and cooperation that belonged to all of us, a commons, the shared power and ordinary wisdom of the psyCommons.

I realized recently that I had written several separate introductions to the psyCommons, (see pages left) it was time to broaden the enquiry and to reach an audience outside the therapy world.

Welcome to the psyCommons blog.

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The psyCommons blog by Denis Postle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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