The psyCommons recognizes and acknowledges the ordinary wisdom and shared power through which the vast majority of us get through our lives. While the intrinsic capacities that are threaded through the daily round: cooking, eating, sleeping, being entertained, falling in out of love and grieving over loss, etc are all worthy of respect and admiration, we might also note that here and there, the psycommons could be more actively supported and enhanced.
Locally and generally, ordinary wisdom, and especially shared power, is undermined, demeaned and neglected. Education, religion, academia, professions, politics and media feed us with ideas about human nature in which power relations are either invisible or inevitable or both, and along with this (see the second psyCommons video) for most people, psychological knowledge tends to be out of reach.
As my attention has turned away from the professionalised psytherapies I came to see that the psyCommons already included enhancements by the hundred if not thousand, what Carl Walker and colleagues call ‘beneficent spaces’. Examples include: AA, Mumset, 5 rhythms dancing, infant massage, mediation, meditation, home schooling and so on. A third psyCommons initiative, maybe a video, more likely web pages, will make a collection of these existing enhancements and resources.
And yet a nagging concern remains. I have become convinced that the way that psychological knowledge is tightly enclosed in the psyprofessions has had an enormously malign effect. Their ‘mental illness’ ethos has a focus on acute distress and abuse, and also, a reliance on ‘disorder’ categories that too often lead to ‘mental illness’ stigma. Because of this professional capture and sequestration of the psychological aspects of the human condition, daily life capacities well within the range of everyone, reflexivity, emotional competence, and knowledge about basic psy phenomena such as re-stimulation etc., are deprecated, or regarded with suspicion.
What to do?
I’ve been a lifelong cyclist, and the spectacle two summers ago, of over 20,000 cyclists passing the end of my street, all of whom could ride 100 miles, warmed up the cyclist in me even further. And that, coupled with the Olympic games and the phenomena in some parts of London of being as likely to be over-run by joggers as vehicles, set me wondering. There do seem to be extensive cultures of fitness and athleticism that seems to have escaped enclosure by the medical model. Marathon participation commonly reaches into the 100 thousands and these runners are clearly the tip of a fitness ice-berg.
There is a big chunk of the population that is somewhat or very savvy about physical fitness, the routes into it and benefits from it. Trekking, running, cycling, dancing and other routes to non-competitive fitness embody cultures of skill, knowledge, strength, endurance and flexibility. Is it too much to envisage analogous routes to becoming more psySavvy, the generation of parallel cultures of psychological skill and knowledge focused on extending and enriching our existing ordinary wisdom and shared power?
How might a culture become established where to be psySavvy was as acceptable and as valued as being physically fit? (I don’t mean to competitive level) Part of the answer is that it already exists, though not in name, with some of the best practice to be found in corporate and public service staff and management trainings. Elsewhere instances of psySavvy education or experience still tend to be marginal, under-resourced, and often in thrall to the idea of ‘mental health’.
Public health has seen step improvement due to sewage networks, clean water networks and energy networks. Now, with the internet knowledge networks, we are passing through a Gutenberg moment in which, the availability of previously inaccessible psyknowledge could support the diffusion of a step up in general psychological awareness. Think of being psySavvy about our inner and outer realities as sister to being streetwise about traffic and personal safety.
Join us in the twin tasks of identifying and acknowledging the psysavvy that is already is in place and looking at how it can be extended, deepened, enhanced and promoted.