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Unfreezing Hearts: Changing the Way We connect with One Another?

Listening to a newly found, and already dearly valued, colleague this week was 'I think there is going to need to be a battle about the chemical imbalance theory'. This i the sort of statement i have heard many times in my career. What was different was that i heard this person was not talking about fighting between people. The statement appeared to actually be asking about how we could come together and what are the things that get in the way of us seeing one another.

This is not an anti-psychiatry post. Quite the opposite, this post is a reflection on the 'frozen hearts' of people who intended to be loving and humane to fellow humans when they are suffering.

Mental health services do however find it extremely difficult to hold the wisdom of the human as the primary opportunity for the knowing's that can support a person to feel a sense of justice to their story and needs.

Throughout my whole career I have heard of the intentions to work in person centred, whole or life, humanistic and many other nice sounding ideologies. In truth the dominant discourses of what is wrong with the person, who expresses distress in the way that the person listening finds hard to organise in their own mind, remains front and centre of the assessment, risk assessment, and need to send people to restricted environments and a quite bizarrely 'look' in the other direction from the wisdom of the person sharing the unique and intelligent narrative of their life.

This week I have met many wonderful humans, but the equal nature and focus of their common humanity has not often been the priority as the unequal equal has been unacknowledged. An almost Animal Farm dystopian reality 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others', might best characterise many mental health settings, not just here in London, or South Australia or any other specific setting, but rather in almost all mental health settings. And this, I think, may be due to the ancient ideologies that create separation of the common humanity of us all, driven by narratives of moral failures of another human or heresy, in the utterances and presence of any person, to the perceived wisdom of a given time. But I have also met people seeking connection in our common humanity this week. This experience has felt more in keeping with morality of being with, rather than doing too. I am grateful to those people.

Perhaps the only way to move forward as a 'mental health' construct to is to start a fresh. How would we think of the best way to respond to a person in distress? Perhaps first listen and hear their whole story? Perhaps meet the person in the space they are in? Perhaps trust that the mutual human in front of me has no less or no more humaneness than me and seek connection and belief in one another to move with one another in any moment?

The only answers I found this week, came from the individuals I have met. They behaved how they needed to behave in the moment and in another moment when the need changed, so did their behaviour change. Behaviour here, does not have a layered pejorative connotation. Rather behaviour here, is describing the way any person is in a moment of being.

Perhaps the battle of the chemical imbalance is futile, after all prescribing, detention orders and restriction on listening to, and valuing the wisdom of, a fellow human is not reducing. On the contrary it is increasing.

Perhaps the answer is as simple as human connection and hopefully Just Listening is offering a practical enactment of this possibility.

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