Truthiness, Brands, Lies and Alternative ‘facts’

February 14, 2017 § 4 Comments


The core psyCommons proposal emerged from enquiries into how it was that three quarters of the UK population have no need for the professional services of the counseling, psychotherapy and psychiatric professions.

I became convinced that we survive, navigate, enjoy and struggle with life more or less successfully via three elements, rapport, chat and learning from experience, presented, together with the psy professions context, in psyCommons and Professionalised Wisdom.

Such perspectives are never complete and recent inquiries for another movie, currently in production, sharpened up my sense that in addition to the first three capacities in play in our daily lives, there might be another one, trance-induction, that can shed light on the truthiness, brands, lies and alternative ‘facts’ that presently seek to enthrall us.

Comments, enhancements and feedback are welcome.

Trance induction, aka hypnosis, is a well-understood psychological intervention in which we are invited to give intense attention to a single sensory input, so that the context of where we are is suppressed. While entranced we are likely to be highly suggestible.

This innate human capacity through words and gesture and presence, to entrance others and be ourselves entranced by a desire, a belief, of what counts as desirable or a necessity, has recently become weaponized by political interests.

Benefits of trance-induction
Humankind is primarily a wilderness of bodyminds in relationship, bodyminds that are made up of an internal wilderness of bone, muscle, nerves, neurons and grey matter. Trance induction helps us cohere psychically, interpersonally and socially..

Disadvantages of trance-induction
Our bodymind wildernesses have been vastly extended by the rapidly accelerating growth of technologies in recent decades. The scale of both our ability to communicate with others and the scale of how much we do communicate has been astonishing, the global village throbs with a 24/7 plethora of files, messages, images and video.

This TV, phone, text and image-based chat is great and it acts to create and sustain new forms of relationship between humankind wildernesses across frontiers and different languages.

However, the benefit we get from them is always accompanied by amputation, especially the loss of context. We see and hear a video or read a message but we don’t engage with the sender’s presence. The clues from feeling and intuition we would pick up if we met in person are missing. These clues are an essential element of trust.

To repeat: focusing narrowly, so as to concentrate on a sound or an image or a thought while its context is side-lined or absent, is the basis of hypnotic trance-induction.

Being entranced is commonplace, it’s a basic human capacity that, coupled with frequent reality-testing, means that we can navigate through life reasonably well.

A huge part of what minds do in our daily life is the generation and interplay of trance-inductions, opinions about people and products, for example where we work and where we play, and the trance-inductions of music. Alongside this, a key feature of getting on with other people, is fielding trance-inductions, checking out how far we can trust somebody and checking out what they are offering or what they are demanding.

Abundant messaging but missing context
In the global village all of us now inhabit, while messages are more than abundant, context in our communications tends to more and more scarce. This means that we can be way more susceptible to predatory trance-inductions, lies, manipulation, coercion, ‘alternative facts’, ‘spin’ and ‘brands’.

Trance-induction assertions
Examples would include claims that something is ‘inevitable’, ‘natural’, ‘evil’, ‘the truth’, and ‘essential’ as a means of focusing attention away from the wider context of what is being proposed.

Along with the local subtleties of our daily relationships, trance-induction has become a core part of political ‘spin’, and business, advertising and marketing and how they work. The Trump presidential and Brexit campaigns have provided signal examples, ‘lock her up’, ‘fake news’, ‘take back control’, ‘enemies of the people’.

Fielding trance-inductions
The elimination or suppression of context from the signals, images and messages we receive mean that we become very susceptible to trance-inductions that intend to manipulate us, or to coerce, control or persuade us. When context is absent, messages in the form of appetising lies can be difficult to refute. What goes missing is trust.

Capitalism and trance-induction
Capitalism continues to be a potent source of trance-inductions and interrupting its trance-inductions and those of its families and friends is very tricky. It means interrupting its ethos – that wealth does not equal righteousness – that capital accumulation may not be just or essential – that they are mistaken about the need for unlimited growth and unlimited debt – that the planetary damage and dissolution of trust this entails does matter.

Recognizing trance-inductions
Becoming trance-savvy seems to mean becoming alert, even to begin with, hyper-alert, about recognising trance-inductions when they are pointed at us, so as to have more choice in whether we follow what they are suggesting, plus diligently reality-testing those trance-inductions (such as this blog) that we generate.

Perhaps most important, when someone tries to insist that something is ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’, this is likely to be a trance-induction, if so, look for the missing context.

Meeting and Greeting… the Psychosocial Field

June 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

First published in Therapy Futures – Obstacles and Opportunities


The core elements of the psyCommons proposal are rapport, the quality of felt contact with others, chat, and learning from experience. This inevitably tentative handle on the human condition accounts reasonably well for our capacity to survive, recover and even flourish as a persons. And yet…

And yet… rapport can dry up, chat can oppress, and experience can teach us to hide.

What we bring to the world of work and living together can be facing the same way as our intentions but sometimes we face west when we intend to move east. And the best of intentions can be in collision with the unforgiving intransigence of time, capital and other people.

Other people. People also with intentions and beliefs, and likes and dislikes. When we sit in a room with a group of other people seeking to sharpen the focus on a task, perhaps a commoning task, what helps and what hinders agreement? Or if it is more relevant, creative destruction?

There is no single or simple answer. Complexity unfolds in both familiar and unexpected ways, can we shake out a few ingredients that go into the group mix? This is what the two images below propose. They present two takes on a psychosocial field.

After we meet and greet, when an event begins, whether it is commoning or a papal enclave or a G7 summit, as we come to order, an instance of the psychosocial field flows out of the ingredients we each bring with us. Each person at the meeting brings with them some version of the basic ingredients. After we turn up the heat in the groupwork and bake ourselves afresh, does the meeting have the aroma of freshly baked bread? If not, why not?

Let your intuition loose on the two versions of the psychosocial field below and see what you find.



Beyond Market and State – the Commons and Commoning

June 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

This is the first of two posts of reflections following my participation in the Economics and the Common(s) Conference  – From Seed Form to Core paradigm in Berlin May 22-24, 2013  See also the second post Making Money.

In this post I’ll offer some reflections on the conference experience and in the second I’ll say something about what I’ll take away from it into commoning.

I had three agendas for the four days of the Berlin Commons conference; the first was to gain perspective on the psyCommons perspective, the proposal that there is an existing and thriving commons of human rapport, ordinary wisdom and shared power. Done. It was easy to see how the psyCommons notion sits within an emerging worldwide cultural/political movement focused on commons and commoning, plus rolling back or interrupting enclosures of commons of any kind. What is being sought is a way of structuring human social relations that reaches ‘beyond market and state’.

My concerns about whether the psyCommons proposal had legs were dissolved by the experience of discovering at the conference a vast collection of global and local networks of commons action and intention, many of them wildly divergent but in ways that spoke of the emergence of powerful cooperative ethos. Agenda item two: make connection with key exponents of the emerging commons, over two hundred people from 30 countries attended the conference. Done.

The positive zizz of the conference was overwhelming, how to keep discrimination awake was sometimes a struggle.

Each morning at breakfast in the hotel the muzak played Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow. Might the commons movement and with it the psyCommons proposal be only a tiny blip on the event horizon of capital accumulation? Might commoning be co-opted as a band aid for its woundings? An ever present danger perhaps but aren’t we also inhabitants of an inflection point in history equivalent in its scope to transform our economic life as Gutenberg’s press? And if so doesn’t the re-emergence of the commons as a way of structuring social relations provide an antidote to the supposed inevitability of capital?

The Commons conference could hardly have been more richly placed to support the notion of the dissolution of apparent cultural inevitability. The Heinrich Böll Foundation hosted it and fifty metres away across the street from Foundation’s somewhat cubic building…


….was another cube, a 1942 WW2 air raid shelter, icon of an earlier, apparently immutable, institution that nevertheless perished…


…albeit following the application of considerable force.


And a certain optimism could be held to permeate the very ground beneath us in the conference venue. The Heinrich Böll Foundation occupies a site in the Mitte district of central Berlin that until 1989 was behind the Berlin Wall.


In that year the German Democratic Republic, the GDR, a client state of the USSR that had for decades maintained a barbed wire and guard post grip on millions of German people, succumbed to determined peaceful resistance (though not without enormous pain and recrimination). Optimism about the commons as a ‘world beyond market and state’ could still be misplaced but the Berlin wall fell, an unimaginable event for those of us old enough to have seen the horror of it in operation. So too in some countries have civil rights been transformed (not to forget slavery) and there have been local successes too, the toxicity of smoking seemed immutable but sustained effort has created smoke-free offices and other buildings.

And then there is the matter of scale, how can the re-emergence of commons and commoning match the scale of the interplay of market with the transport commons that we met on arrival at the Berlin central station?

BerlinTrainStation2 copy

Here again might not threads of optimism about commoning be found? What makes such an elaborate infrastructure and huge complexity of processes feasible both in design and management? Isn’t it software and internet interoperability? And isn’t this, as was very apparent at the Commons conference, now available to anyone and everyone? So far as the psyCommons proposal suggests that human rapport is ubiquitous, don’t we now through the internet and associated software, have the means of production for communities of global and local commons?

A third agenda I took with me to Berlin was the expectation of being able to contribute, to find people for whom the psyCommons proposal would seem like a gift. The richness of the presentations, perspectives and diversity of takes on what the commons might be, should be, or already was, ran wall to wall, and some of it was vividly memorable, however contribution turned out to be more problematic and I remain unclear why this was (but read on).

In the infrastructures stream I gave a brief account of the Independent Practitioners Network (IPN), a long-standing commons infrastructure, but there were no followup questions, no further interest. I raised the notion of psyCommons in the culture stream but again it was received politely but without questions or followup. Did I run into, as I suspect, some (appropriate) aversion to psychology as a pariah domain of distress and stigma? (there’s an understanding among therapists that at a party never say you are a psychotherapist – people will disappear).

Awkward this and it could be mindfluff. However for all its value (see post 2!) I did tend to experience some aspects the conference as leaning towards the technocratic –  technocratic in the sense that there is a technical solution to any and every problem and away from the subjectivities of heart and body (though the food was great!).

I had expected to meet far more lived experience of commons and commoning, instead intellectual/academic conversations ‘about’ commons often seemed to prevail – there was a strong ‘digital commons’ story – that sometimes morphed into a ‘knowledge commons’ narrative which seemed to presume that everything of consequence can be digitised – there was even an assertion that ‘all commons are knowledge commons’.

And it needs to be acknowledged that this was framed by a repeated emphasis on the need to move from transaction to relationship. I take this as a reminder that human relationship is based on a commonality of presence, of gaze, of body language, where feeling and emotion, sustained through rapport precede and shape discrimination and action. But oops… might we be back to the pariah domain of psychology?

If any of this seems mean-spirited, this is not my intention, that my lived experience of being in a long-standing commons with at least two significant fruits, didn’t find significant engagement, was disappointing but the feeling of disappointment rests happily on the richness of an otherwise phenomenal event – for some further details of which, see post two, Making Money

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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