Men and Nurturance

It is obvious that a project to nurture the nurturers needs the men on this Planet to take a major part.

How can we nurture men to develop more nurturance ?

If a man scores high on the ACE scale, and has some degree of Developmental Trauma, then psychotherapy and neurofeedback  will be useful.

But what about the rest ?  Here the issue is more of a “Peak Performance”one. Some suggestions.

  1. Babies are your best teachers. They are non-verbal, so you have to relate to them with your Right brain…….gestures, prosody, entunement, empathy, loving kindness.
  2. Meditation will be of some use. Concentration meditation helps develop mindfulness….but it is not enough…Pol Pot was a great meditator. Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta, compassion) needs to be included. Dan Siegel would also include a thing he calls integration, the capacity to use mindfulness and empathy in an inter-relational way.
  3. Reflective listening skills………Carl Rogers, 50 years ago, knew that tuning in to the the person through reflective listening was much more useful than all the interpretation/ advice giving/clever responses. It gives the other person a sense of being caringly reflected, so that they  can process their own internal state more fully.
  4. Neurofeedback. Here the paradigm is one of “Peak Performance”. We are developing protocols which enhance people’s entunement and empathy skills.

As the males of the species develop more and more “nurturing the nurturers “skills, it becomes easier for the primary carers, usually the women, to do their nurturance more effectively. The babies benefit, the Planet benefits.


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Looking at Politics through the Lens of Nurturance

Nurturance deniers at the political level.

A little exercise to bring cheer into your life. Maybe even a tiny bit of power.

Below is a list of 10 major world figures…..politicians or leaders of major organisations.

  • The Dalai Lama
  • Angela Merkel, German Chancellor
  • Kim Jong-un, North Korean dictator.
  • Mother Teresa, missionary worker with the poor
  • Pope Francis
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Barack Obama
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese political leader
  • Donald Trump
  • Hillary Clinton

Arrange them in the order of 0 to 10 according to your intuition of how nurturant  each person might be. .

A wonderful nurturer  might get score of 10. A score of 5 indicates that they are just barely good enough.  A monster nurturer  would  score 0.  For the purpose of this exercise, nurturance has a broad range. Even though the most difficult job is obviously the one of nurturing a baby, a being that cannot speak, and is utterly dependent, we are talking about the broader aspects of nurturance: how someone might look after babies,  but also relate to adults, animals, plants, the environment. This is not an intellectual exercise. Just go with your gut feelings, and arrange them from 0 to 10 on a piece of paper, whatever.

Now give your mother a score from 0 to 10  on this scale.  Anything less than 5 tells you that you had a very difficult start in life.

Finally, think about the next election in your state or country ? Who are the candidates asking you to vote for them ? Give each of them a score from 0 to 10.

Should you give a vote to anyone who scores less than a 5 ??

Leon’s agenda: The more politicians find out about this,  the more likely they may be to include nurturance on their political agenda.

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Domestic Violence

Yesterday was Australia Day in this country……..some of us may have difficulties with the date….I for one would prefer a date that our Indigenous people feel good about, rather than the date  that commemorates  the invasion of this country by Europeans.

But there is one feature that is unreservedly good; the nominations of “Australian of the Year”  for 2015 and 2016 were Rosie Batty and David Morrison; and both of them have taken a leadership role in encouraging us to find ways of dealing with Domestic Violence.

While it is clear that exposure to family violence damages children emotionally and psychologically, a range of further research findings supports the obvious intuition that many perpetrators of domestic violence themselves come from backgrounds of the various kinds of problematic early developmental nurturance that have been described at length in various postings on this blog.

The stage is thus set for a transgeneration cascade of domestic violence……..and of course, a perpetrator of domestic violence is unlikely to confine their aggressive action to the home front alone.

It is encouraging to see how plans to minimise domestic violence are coming more and more into national prominence. And here again, while there is a whole range of measures that have a positive effect, the earlier in the life cycle that they are deployed, the better……nurturing the nurturers……identifying those at risk and supporting them sensitively.

I am currently working on Chapter 6 of my “Politics of  Nurturance”  book. This is the Chapter on identification and sensitive supports and interventions…..and how our recent understandings of developmental neuroscience can inform this.  An extremely difficult area……one of the core problems is that because so much of this stuff is PRE-verbal…i.e. addressing the emotional/relational “networks”and “programmes” of the right hemisphere of the baby and infant, but ALSO of the nurturer, much of the supportive  input needs to be pre-verbal as well, if it is to be effective.  And a book is very VERBAL after all. Prosody is largely absent unless it is read aloud, and then much hangs on the reader’s voice.

I’ve had some ideas about how to subtly address this issue, but I want to do it “under the radar”as it were, without making it so obvious that it loses any good impact.

Any feelings or ideas , dear reader?





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healing transgenerational DTD brain programmes with Neurofeedback assisted psychotherapy.

I recently presented material at a College of Psychiatrists’ Psychotherapy Conference, on the use of neurofeedback to enhance psychotherapy with deeply damaged (Developmental Trauma) patients.

I’ve been using NF with some of my deeply damaged patients, guided by my supervisor Sebern Fisher at regular Skype sessions.

Sebern is the world’s leading authority/exponent on/of this subject, and has written the definitive book: Neurofeedback in the Treatment of developmental Trauma (Elsevier 2014″).

I gave the audience a particularly vivid example drawn from Sebern Fisher’s book pp278 to 296:  the Rennie and baby Madeline story.
Rennie had a horrific history of physical and sexual abuse by every member of her family. Was admitted to S’s residential treatment centre aet 16 . Had multiple psychiatric hospitalisations afterwards, despite this.

Had 2 children by a dysfunctional partner, with lengthy PPD after each birth. Represented to Sebern aet 26 for NF facilitated psychotherapy (at least the contact with Sebern at the residential centre has left a long lasting trusting impression).
Initial T4 P4, T3 T4, T4 P4 downtraining over 18 sessions (weekly).  Rennie finds herself managing stressors more easily, but gets pregnant again.
Sebern starts her on a FPO2 protocol which targets the dysfunctional R prefrontal limbic/amygdalar  circuitry. The baby has been very unsettled in the womb, with lots of  excessive movements, but the  movements gradually become much easier.
After session 25, R ejects the abusive boyfriend. By  session 28, she has given birth to baby Madeline.
Rennie feels baby Madeline is much more attuned than the previous children. Sebern continues FPO2 training with Madeline lying on Rennie’s chest.

Rennie reports:

“She got more regulated…she felt my heart beat and I could feel hers beating in the same way. And her breathing too. This is so different from my other kids. I love them so much, but this baby is just different. I didn’t know there was this way to be , this lace to be in. I didn’t know it existed. I am attuned to her and she is attuned to me. I regulate HER and she regulates ME.”

When Madeline is 8 months old, Rennie is pushing her in her stroller to the grocery store, when they run into her biological mother and oldest brother. He was the most abusive of R’s siblings and had been incarcerated for molesting children. Although surprised to see him, Rennie reports she felt unexpectedly calm….but Madeline…took one look at the man, whom she had never seen before, and started to scream hysterically and could not be comforted until Rennie took her out of the store, away from the brother….she then quietened quickly.

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A huge dilemma

The BIG problem with the “nurturing the nurturers” program is that it will inevitably offend all the mothers on this Planet. They will feel criticized, marginalized, condescended to, etc etc. This is such a sensitive issue.

And yet, Winnicott reminds us that “good enough” nurturance must NOT be perfect. Lapses are absolutely essential, because they create an opportunity for repair, and once this has happened several times, a microculture is created that includes opportunities for repair, and this in turn makes for a much safer and more secure environment. It is no longer a case of “one mistake and you’re dead”.

How do we address this dilemma? Your comments, anyone out there.

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Healing Transgenerational Cascades of Distress in Disadvantaged Indigenous Communities; Challenges, Opportunities, and a Case Study.

Here is the abstract for a paper that will be published over the next few months. A copy of the full text is available if  you e-mail me at <>

Healing Transgenerational Cascades of Distress in Disadvantaged Indigenous Communities; Challenges, Opportunities, and a Case Study.

Leon Petchkovsky 1 , Rachel Johns 2

 1 Associate Professor Psychiatry,  Department of Psychiatry University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 2 Mental Health Worker, Community Mental Health Services, Lismore, NSW, Australia

ABSTRACT:  Aboriginal Australians especially in disadvantaged communities suffer disproportionately; with reduced life expectancy, high suicide, violence, and imprisonment rates, and a range of illnesses (Metabolic Syndrome) associated with Hypophyseal Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis damage resulting from high maternal and infantile stress.  Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, Conduct Disorders and Learning Disorders are prevalent in the child population.

A substantive developmental neuro-psycho-biology research literature points to the centrality of early nurturance processes in facilitating the development of physical and psychological health and resilience.

The larger Australian community has failed to provide adequate repair despite interventionist programs deployed over many years.  The authors argue that this rests in part on a lack of mindfulness (awareness of one’s own processes) and empathy (tuning into others), at every level: cultural, political, organisational, and individual.

Dan Siegel’s neuro-developmental insights into individual and organisational function are used to explore these concerns, and identify early (peri-natal) supportive intervention (nurturing the nurturers) as the most central strategy of repair.

But damaged nurturers are very sensitive. Attempts to nurture them can be counterproductive if political programmes, organisational cultures, and individual case workers themselves have not developed sufficient mindfulness and empathy to address these sensitivities. Recent advances in developmental neuroscience help fine-tune this process. Guidelines are offered, with an illustrative Case Study.

 KEYWORDS: nurturance, attachment, disadvantaged, developmental neuroscience.

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Some change at last,

In conversation with Bev  Allen and Mel Watson at the August 2014 Child Trauma Conference in Melbourne, we learned about Babes to Bumps and Beyond  and listened to their presentation (Allen and Watson 2014).  This program has been going for 2 years, was initiated and maintained by local Aboriginal communities in the Mallee region of Victoria,  and informed by the latest understanding of attachment theory and developmental neuroscience. This is precisely what is needed nationally to begin the transgenerational healing process we support so strongly.

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