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May 2014




Life in Paradox

"I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes."

… Maxine Hong Kingston (b. 1940) US author

Recently I was a guest panellist on an ANZI Coaching webinar dedicated to the ontological approach to coaching. I knew one of the questions was going to relate to what distinguished ontological coaching from other coaching disciplines and as I considered this question in the lead up to the webinar it created a breakdown for me. What was my work really about? I knew that I had helped many people through my work but I found I could not quite put my finger on the common thread.

Visit The HubAs I pondered this question, an idea struck me. Ever since I was introduced to the ontological approach in 1994, I have been seeking to resolve aspects of the underlying philosophy that lacked complete coherence for me and therefore seemed to be inadequate. As a result, my work has always involved addressing those inadequacies and moving the ontological approach into a greater coherency and I think I have been very successful in doing so.

One of the great joys of my conversations with clients is that they provide fertile ground to develop my interpretation of the ontological approach and this led me to realise that my work is really about helping people resolve the paradoxes in their lives. What do I mean by this? A person finds themselves in a paradox when they are in a situation where they believe various things to be true but which are contradictory. For example, one of the paradoxes in which people find themselves relates to how people balance their work life with their home life. When asked what is the most important thing to them in life, many people will automatically say "family", yet these same people direct most of their energy to their work and little to their family. They will have justifications for doing so, but, at some level, they know this is a contradiction.

Many paradoxes are fairly shallow and can be readily resolved in a few conversations. However, some paradoxes run deep and resolving these paradoxes is transformational. These paradoxes often show up as great turmoil in our emotional being or our physical being. They often take large swathes of our energy and can even consume us. They can bring great pain but can also bring amazing insight and learning.

The resolution of any paradox lies in self-understanding and being able to distinguish between your current pattern of being in relation to who you want to be. The fascination for me in the ontological approach lies in its capacity to create a foundation of self-understanding combined with the ability to create who you want to be based on clear foundations. Great coaching is not about helping people be more effective or more productive; it is about resolving life's deep paradoxes and becoming who you want to be.

We invite you to explore more in the articles section of our web site.

Play Create Elevate

Some thoughts from Jacqui Chaplin

"The optimism of a healthy mind is indefatigable."

… Margery Allingham (1904-1966) English detective story writer


Making it OK…

In the spirit of talking openly and comfortably about mind health matters this article is written to invite you to think differently about mind health matters. It’s written for those who know about mental illness or mood disorders from a first-hand  experience; those who know they work, live or love someone with a first-hand  experience; and for those who are, what I will call, “bystanders”.

So, what’s a bystander? Bystanders are those of you who may know that mental illness exists but it’s ‘out there somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away’; or a bystander may not know about the things that can go wrong with brain wiring and attribute behaviours in others they don’t understand as quirks or weirdness. A bystander may think they know what mental illness looks, sounds or feels like, they may not. They may have a story that it’s safer to keep their distance, and not get involved; they may not. A bystander may be scared of having to deal with a person with a mental illness or mood disorder because they’re “crazy”; or not. They may simply be unaware of more effective ways of making a difference, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and talking openly and comfortably about mind health matters.

As a person with experience of mind health issues, an ‘experiencer’, I speak up about my personal experiences. This is my choice and it is not for everyone, and that’s OK. If you have first-hand experience my invitation to you is that you speak about mind health matters when it is appropriate or when the topic is raised, from your informed perspective, with or without self-disclosure. It’s about getting the conversations happening. Awareness is a prerequisite for people to see how they have responded to mental illness in the past. It provides new and different choices for the future.

Same deal for the ‘carers’, who live with and/or love an ‘experiencer’, or ‘connecteds’, who know, work, or live near someone with a first-hand experience. My invitation to you is that you also talk about mind health matters when it is appropriate or when the topic is raised. Do so from your informed perspective as a ‘connected’ or ‘carer’, with or without disclosure, as appropriate. The more frequently that ‘experiencers’ and ‘carers’ or ‘connecteds’ speak openly and comfortably about what they know, the faster awareness will spread and the less scared those not in the know or new to the knowing will be. It provides better networks of support for the future.

How can ‘Experiencers’ and ‘Carers’ or ‘Connecteds’ talk about mind health matters?

When you do take the step to speak openly , it often takes a great deal of courage. For the ‘carers’ and ‘connecteds’ out there here are a few tips for talking openly and comfortably about mind health matters:

  1. Keep it real and as positive as possible. The aim is not to scare people; it’s to help them become more aware of the broad range of experiences and challenges that people with mind health issues, their ‘connecteds’ and their ‘carers’. When you talk about a symptom or difficult experience also talk about what you learnt from that experience… even if it’s to make sure it never happens again.
  2. Talk about the important things for you. Based on your experiences what were the important things to make sure you took care of or that you did regularly. You can talk about it from first-hand experience… “When I was in the depths of depression, it was really important that I went out for a walk every day.”  If you want to talk about it from a detached point of view… “I know for a friend of mine, taking care of his wife who experiences bipolar, he became very aware of what manic symptoms to watch out for.  That way he could intervene before things got out of hand.
  3. Let others know support is out there… you just have to know where to look. Talk about the online resources you know about… “I recently heard about a Radio Show “But I Feel Good” that every week puts a resource up on their Facebook page to support better mind health.”   Talk about books that you know about… “The Black Dog Institute has a great range of books about all sorts of mind health matters from teenagers, through bipolar to oldies. I think you can I ask for them at your local library. These books tell you about other people’s experiences.”   Talk about the Better Outcomes For Mental Health program that’s accessible through GPs or the great psychiatrist or psychologist you’ve used or heard about.

So I’ve talked about the ‘experiencers’, the ‘carers’ and the ‘connecteds’; it’s time to make an invitation to the ‘bystanders’. My invitation to you is simple. Find one thing that you can do to help yourself become better educated about mind health matters. Here are some suggestions.

  • google ‘mental illness’ and see what show up
  • when you’ve googled ‘mental illness’ pick a term you want to know more about and google that
  • ask people you know what they know about mental illness and mind health matters – let them know you are interested in getting better educated on the topic
  • google “what can I do to find out about mind health”… you’ll get about 3,130,000,000 results (0.32 seconds) 
  • check out the Black Dog Institute website at www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
  • check out the PWC report commissioned by Beyond Blue at their Heads Up website http://www.headsup.org.au/

I’d love to hear how you go and what your learn. You can write to me at jacqui@jacquichaplin.com.

If you work for an organisation that has a regular newsletter that goes out to staff and you think these articles would be appropriate to replicate please let me know… I’m more than happy to do anything which raises awareness about mind health matters. And if people need a financial incentive, current research by Beyond Blue and PWC show that a minimum ROI of 2.13 for every dollar spent occurs when working towards mentally healthy workplaces.

Remember, your mind health matters!

May your days be resilient ones!

We invite you to read Jacqui's blog here

You can visit the Play Create Elevate website here

More on PCE next month!

Hey, did you know?

"But I Feel Good" Radio Show

Radio Show

Did you know that since November 2013, Jacqui has been hosting a weekly radio show called ‘But I Feel Good’ …talking about pink elephants and black dogs.

The show is dedicated to speaking openly and comfortably about the ‘black dog’ of mood disorders from a lived experience perspective and the ‘pink elephant’ strategies and practices that build emotional resilience and inner fortitude.

It covers a range of topics related to mind health and plays a great mix of music in between interviews with subject matter experts and related content.

The show goes live to air, streaming on www.MAINfm.net so it can be heard AROUND THE WORLD every Monday from 1-3pm AET. Its official broadcast base is 94.9 MAIN FM which extends across the Mt Alexander Shire in Victoria on the wireless.

The Monthly Diversion

Another one courtesy of my friend David Powis ...


Barbara Walters, of 20/20, did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan several years before the Afghan conflict.

She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands. She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands. Despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the
women now seem happy to maintain the old custom.

Ms Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, 'Why do you now seem happy with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?'

The woman looked Ms Walters straight in the eyes, and without hesitation said, "Land mines."


"Being busy is a form of laziness - lazy thinking and indiscriminate action."

… Tim Ferriss, US Author and Entrepreneur

Join Us Online

LinkedInDo you want to explore some of these ideas in more depth? Then, we invite you to join our LinkedIn Group and share any insights you may have. As others have done, we also initiate your own thoughts and conversations if they relate to the ontological approach. You can find us on LinkedIn by clicking here.

Want to Read More?

Since the formation of Talking About in 2005, we have published our e-zine every month. Before that, Chris wrote regular newsletters and e-zines with Gaia Consulting dating back to 1995. If you would like to explore more of Chris' ideas then you can access our e-zine archive and view any newsletter written since 2005 by clicking here or to look at all the articles Chris has written over the years simply click here.

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