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June 2016




A Different Look at Culture

"Education is the methodical creation of the habit of thinking.”

… Ernest Dimnet (1866 - 1954) French cleric

Organisational culture is a subject that has been explored in great detail by a wide array of theorists over time. As a result, much thought has been put into a definition of 'organisational culture'. Generally culture is seen to be about behaviour and what defines acceptable behaviour within an organisation. As Human Synergistics speak about it in their white paper, 'What is Culture?'

"It is about behaviour. It is about behavioural norms. It is about the messages people take from their work context about how they should do their jobs and interact with each other. It is about the expectations for behaviour established through organisational structures, systems, technologies, communication processes and leadership practices."

Ultimately they come to a definition of culture as:

The shared values, norms and expectations that govern the way people approach their work and interact with each other."

Although I am in general agreement with how Human Synergistics defines culture, in my mind, there is one thing missing. And, I believe it is a critical thing. It is the idea that our behaviour is habitual.

"Why did you do that?" is a commonly heard question. Although it seems innocuous enough in itself, this question presupposes something. It presupposes that the behaviour in question was intentional. Is this a valid assumption to make? The short answer is that it is not. Most of our behaviour is habitual and is born of instinct and past experience. Our predispositions to action live in our structure and wait to be triggered. Rather than acting with intent we act to take care our concerns such as safety, status, certainty, autonomy, relationships and fairness. When we take care of our concerns we are attracted to those situations that will enhance what is important to us and defend ourselves from those which we assess may harm us. It is why we get angry or scared or feel joy. Without intervention our habitual responses to a given situation will simply play out. Anger will lead to an aggressive response, fear will lead us to avoidance and so on.

In my view this is one of the key planks of culture - our habitual ways of relating. It is not just about behavior but habitual behaviour. So if we want to evolve a culture, it is not enough to be exposed to better ways of behaving, we have to go through a process of habit creation. How do we do that?

The only thing that stands in the way of simply acting out habitual responses is our consciousness. Human consciousness is vast topic in itself but for the sake of keeping to the point, we can see human consciousness as awareness of something in language. Compared to what we perceive, very little of it finds its way in to our awareness. The key to building new habits is to identify what they might be and then find ways of creating awareness - choice points - when old habits might kick in such that we can choose a different path.

If a habit building process is linked and aligned with a process of building a cultural narrative then there is a real chance for a cultural evolution. All that is required to make this work is a fully engaged organisational leader, but that is another story for another time.

Mind Health Matters

Some thoughts from Jacqui Chaplin

“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.”

... Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) US writer and playwright

Just what does cause mental illness?

This is the third part of a six part exploration of some of the things that may cause an empathy deficit in people when it comes to individuals living with mental illness. In the first of the six pieces we looked at the link between preconceived values and beliefs, then we took a look at the impact of being in denial about one’s own or a loved one’s mental illness. This month we’ll take a look at how a lack of awareness and education about mental illness can create an empathy deficit.

Strangely enough, as this post was due to be written, I had a conversation with a woman in a retail setting. We got talking about her family. She told me about a bipolar diagnosis in her father, which she thought was not bipolar – was not a mental illness, but the result of a lack of empathy and care in her father’s upbringing.

It got me thinking about how so many people have a lack of educated awareness about mental illness diagnoses. That with no training, no psychology or psychiatry degrees they will determine whether or not a diagnosis is real or that an undiagnosed person has a particular mental illness. Yes, people draw all sorts of conclusions in many different areas of their lives, with equally absent education or information. It seems to be uncommon for non-medical people to diagnose diabetes or cancer in those we know, so why do so many people think it's ok to personally diagnose or dismiss mental illness?

There is a book (or should I say tome) called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - known as the DSM. Over time it has gone through updates as new research and information comes to light. This is the bible of mental health diagnosis. In my opinion, it and people trained in the field are the only ones who ought to diagnose a mental illness.

This doesn't mean that we don't all have a role in supporting those in need, to access the appropriate medical and psychiatric care. And fortunately there are now organisations which are focussed on the education of the general population so that we or others can get the help needed when it’s required.

So in order to build your knowledge and awareness of mind health matters I'll share some information that I have previously offered in an earlier blog and talked about in many corporate and public settings. We'll take a look at the commonly known causes of mental illness.

Where do mental illnesses come from?

The Three Causes of Mental Illness

Based on my training with the Black Dog Institute, there are three causes of mental illness. An individual’s mental illness may be caused by one or all of these factors.

  1. Genetics - it’s an hereditary thing passed on from your parents
  2. Biological - your physical make up i.e. brain chemistry: including the influences of your whole body
  3. Environmental - your responses to the experiences, challenges, as well as place and times in which you live

Going back to the woman who believed that the bipolar diagnosis in her father was ‘not real’ because of his upbringing was simply unaware that the environment in which you grow up can be part or all of the cause of a mental illness developing in later life. My belief is that often one factor can predispose people to mental illness when a second factor comes into play. A genetic predisposition for depression might lie dormant until an environmental factor such as divorce or death of a loved one may trigger the depression. Yet equally unresolved grief may be a trigger for depression as a stand-alone environmental factor. And so the variables go on…

So, knowing that these factors are the causes of mental illness can allow us to let go of our false assumptions that have us diagnose or dispute a diagnosis with little or no medical experience. So here’s hoping that with more awareness of all the elements that influence the lives of those living with mental illness, we’ll build understanding of each of the causes. And as a result develop greater compassion and diminish the empathy deficit that people might be experiencing!

Next month I’ll take a look at how discomfort in your relationship with a person living with mental illness can add to the empathy deficit!

Why? Because your mind health matters.

For crisis support in Australia call Lifeline 24 hours a day 7 days a week on 13 11 14. In Australia, in case of an emergency, call 000. 

DisclosureDisclosure Now Available Globally

Check out Disclosure: Casting Out The Shadows plus Strategies for Mind Health Resilience.

For European readers you can purchase the book by clicking here.

For the North Americans you can purchase the book by clicking here.

And here in Australia the book is listed but as yet unavailable in online book stores. So, for a limited time I am keeping distribution going for those in Australia. Email me your postal address and I will email you a PayPal invoice for the Australian RRP of $39.99 (plus $5.50 P&H). I am told the e-books are coming soon!

This option also provides the opportunity for you to request the book to be signed.


'But I Feel Good' Radio Show

Remember to tune in to ‘But I Feel Good’ ...talking pink elephants and black dogs BIFGbroadcasting in Melbourne's inner east on 94.1fm 3WBC, on your fav smart phone app or streaming live at www.3wbc.org.au every Monday 12-1pm AET.

The ‘But I Feel Good’ Content Only episodes are available for your perusal and listening pleasure at http://jacquichaplin.com/BIFGarchive.

‘But I Feel Good’ is still heard via syndication in central Victoria on 94.9 MAINfm Mondays 1-2pm AET.

I’d love to hear your ideas for mind health topics you’d like to hear about and any mind health resources you’ve found helpful. Email me at butifeelgood@jacquichaplin.com. Thanks to those of you who have done so already.

If you’d like me to speak about mind health matters and resilience at your conference or to your organisation please contact me at jacqui@jacquichaplin.com or +61 (0)412 741 531

We invite you to read Jacqui's blog here

More on Mind Health Matters next month!

“Choose the life that is most useful, and habit will make it the most agreeable.”

... Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, statesman and essayist

The Monthly Diversion

Some fun facts

1. You can't wash your eyes with soap.

2. You can't count your hair.

3. You can't breathe through your nose with your tongue out.

4. You just tried no.3

6. When you tried no. 3 you realised it is possible but that you look like a dog.

7. You are smiling right now because you were fooled.

8. You skipped no.5

9. You just went back to check if there is a no.5

10. People can be so easily led!

"I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade... And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party."

... Ron White, US Comedian

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 invite to offer 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 Group 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.


Chris has also written some in-depth essays on a number of topics related to the ontological work. If you would like to explore any of these essays then please click on the relevant image below.


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