Spring is actually here

Tree hugging with precious fleeting cherry blossom. ..


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Welcome to my May newsletter.

I am trying to make these shorter. Below  are books, podcasts, articles, news, events and a free chapter and yes  a bad joke or 2 at the end if you get that far!!

There is no long blog this month but there is a theme around AI.

Many of us struggle with the impact of screens and addictive traits, whether from social media, gaming, doom-scrolling and of course pornography. The free chapter below is taken from one of Cath Knibbs 3 books. Knibbs is well aware of  the dangers of technology, about cybertrauma and allied subjects but has also helped to dispel many myths and scare stories.

As several of the podcasts attest, AI is here to stay, and our lives will never be the same again. There is much controversy about it. The likes of Elon Musk have fired warning shorts that AI could lead to the ‘destruction of our civilization’. In the last few weeks the so-called godfather of AI, Geoffrey Hinton fired similar warnings as he left his post, especially about misinformation and risks of ‘bad actors’.


Below in the podcasts and book section I provide links to writings that highlights some of the issues we are facing. Mo Gowdat’s book Scary Smart, is a wonderful lesson about AI generally, how it works,  its extraordinary power and imminent exponential growth, why we should be really worried, but he also how we can make a difference.  Many of the central profound issues are brought to life in Jennifer Egan’s wonderful novel, the Candy House (also highlighted below).

Perhaps the issue I keep coming back to most is that, like much else in our time, we are fearful of the consequences of AI but we cannot seem to stop ourselves. Its a bit like climate issues (we know we shouldn’t but shall we take just that one extra flight?), or shopping (I shouldnt have a plastic takeaway but it looks so nice, or its better to go to the local bookshop but amazon is so easy). Countries and corporates do not want to be left behind, all hoping to use AI for increased market reach and profit. While there are so many developments that are helpful, such as this AI tool to detect cancer, many tech people are both extremely worried but are too excited to stop themselves.

We already have super-intelligences, powerful uncontrolled systems which work and ‘think’ in ways their inventors dont understand, making their own decisions. We all depend so much on the so far not very sophisticated forms used in every area from banking, policing, the military, transport systems,, in the algorithms  that suggest what we buy and watch and scroll towards,  and AI  already  can solve unimaginably complicated questions in nano-seconds.  Yet these systems, built mainly by males, often  with left-hemisphere dominance, and programmed to learn that humans want to kill others, control them, ruthlessly sell to them and other unsavoury aims.  Teaching them empathy or deep moral values has not been high up on the list of aims, yet AI isn perfectly capable of very soon making decisions which over-rule human expectations. As Gowdat says, we need to treat them like our children, be loving and nice to them and help them see what is right and wrong. It sounds mad but it could save us!

So far AI has not much affected therapeutic practice directly, although there are many new digital therapeutic tools being developed, some of which worry me, and others i think are very helpful. Overall though I think most of us believe that it is embodied human mind-to-mind and nervous-system to nervous system interaction that is central to therapeutic change. Indeed there are some interesting ideas about such as whether interacting with a non-human (android or bot) might trigger activation of brain areas linked with Parkisnons, and this in part is a mirror neuron response to a non-human ways of being. I have been personally worried about tech for a long time, i wrote about it in The Good Life, a decade ago and feared i was being an old curmudgeonly luddite. But we as a community have important things to say on these matters. We want, I think, a world where reason has a place, but only if empathy, love, kindness, emotional understanding and human motivations to SPARK healthily are as absolutely central.

In this chapter Cath Knibbs addresses important practical issues we are increasingly facing about consent, children’s exposure to sexual content online. This chapter will be really useful for parents, practitioners and people training other professionals

You can also  watch her Tedx talk from last year about technology and its effects and the link to embodied states  (see here) and click on image above for her amazon page

Click to get Cath Knibbs Chapter

   Spring and light, … you can almost feel the cacti in my consulting room reaching for the spring dawn sun

A really good video on parent-infant interaction by the great infancy researcher and psychoanalysts Beatrice Beebe

Joining Your Baby’s Distress Moments: A Story of One Mother and Infant

Upcoming talks or events

  1. 13th May I am doing the Madeleine Davis  Squiggle  Foundation Lecture:  The Body is no Brain-Taxi: Psyche-soma and the importance of safe embodiment in work with intellectual defences details here
  2. Caspari Fioundation, online 22nd May : I am doing a talk on The Embodied  Predictive Brain and Trauma tickets here
  3. Counselling Foundation 20th may: A talk on Respark online  tickets hereOther events I am doing include those found here ansd below are some others I am interested in
  4. Centre for Child Mental Health, online evening talks: Some brilliant speakers here, dan Hughes, Eamom McCrory, Margot Sutherland, Dickon Bevington, I am doing one in June too , details here
  5. Live Legacy Interview with Ruth Feldman, 31st May: i am a big fan of Feldman’s work   details here
  6. Tavistock External Trauma Lectures: next one, 4th may,  our Wounds as medicine, looks fascinating details here
  7. Association of Infant Mental health :  An interesting talk about A Parent, Baby and Toddler Group for Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Families WITH Dr Teresa Sarmiento, Fatima Martinez Del Solar and Professor Inge Pretorius ..BOOK HERE

Yes, bluebell time!!

A few blogs and writings to enjoy

The brilliant Rebecca Solnit in the Washington Post: :  What if climate change meant not doom — but abundance?  read here

From Psyche: An old but ever more important about the need to widen out our understanding of therapeutic need to the political and social read here

Another A! warning from a senior AI researcher:  I used to work at Google and now I’m an AI researcher. Here’s why slowing down AI development is wise read here

Our multiple and contextual selves: Good article from The Big Think and looks like an interesting book read here

Yuval Noah Harari: The great thinker asks if AI already has hacked human civilization   read here

Wisteria near regents park, london. I love it when the wisteria comes out, for personal reasons .. the smell reminds me of my father’s Italian retirement home .. smell is so important, in trauma, in subtle unconscious communication, including in therapy

Five books I  read last month

Patricia Coughlin: Facilitating the Process of Working Through in Psychotherapy : Some of you will know I have become interested in the therapeutic thinking of ISTDP, which grow out of the work of Malan and Davanloo.. It talks to me because of its psychoanalytic roots and focus on how to work with defences, its focus on the body and its compassionate yet courageous approach. Patricia Coughlin’s new book is as good a place as any to start to make sense of this way of working. Insightful, direct, full of clinical examples and using theory and research as well to make a compelling case for why this still too little known form of therapy is so powerful  get here

Scary Smart by Mo Gowdat: The former google executive has written a surprisingly readable book, outlining the very real risks and worries about AI, but also with a big heart, making clear what we can all do to offet the worst risks. While I cant help but feel that what is needed is international nd governmental action, he does have some important tips  about how we can all teach AI, by for example searching for things which accord with our values, and even being nice and polite to AI bots and alexa/siri etc see here

The Candy House, Jennifer Egan: I thought this was a brilliant, moving novel, a dystopian story in keeping with the AI theme, in which memories, indeed the unconscious,  gets uploaded, and somehow Egan takes the themes of social media, internet and gaming yet keeps at the centre the importance of human longing and desire and of our emotional connections. I loved it see here

This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson:  An incredible rollicking blockbuster of a novel, over 600 pages but pages turned so fast. Characters include Darwin, the Beagle, the theory of evolution, colonialism, race and culture, love, death and a brilliant protagonist.in Fitzroy. What a tragedy Thompson died so young, what else might he have written! see here


Greenlights by Mathew McConaughey    Well this book came recommended with over 4500 5 star ratings on amazon. its a memoir of a film person with lots of life lessons. I know lots of people have loved this book, but i felt . enviously, that I was reading an account of someone of another species, the way he does incredible things and takes on adversity and comes through with character and strength and has amazing stories. I guess I am probably just too awkward and unconfident to aspire to a life like that, as much as i would like to, but for many this is a powerful  read, what he calls a ‘love letter to life’.  see here

A poem that affected me this month ..   at a time personally of loss and change


by David Whyte

To hold together and to split apart
at one and the same time,
like the shock of being born,
breathing in this world
while lamenting for the one we’ve left.

No one needs to tell us
we are already on our onward way,
no one has to remind us
of our everyday and intimate
with disappearance.

We were born saying goodbye
to what we love,
we were born
in a beautiful reluctance
to be here,
not quite ready
to breathe in this new world,
we are here and we are almost not,
we are present while still not
wanting to admit we have arrived.

Not quite arrived in our minds
yet always arriving in the body,
always growing older
while trying to grow younger,
always in the act
of catching up,
of saying hello
or saying goodbye
finding strangely
in each new and imagined future
the still-lived memory
of our previous life.

3 Some AI related podcasts I enjoyed last month

Iain McGilchrist and Philp Pullman:  Discussing the  worries about left hemisphere dominance  and  the loss of imagination, curiosity, good science, arts, and even the role of A! listen here

Talking of AI, On the Huberman lab, neuralink:  Interesting interview with someone who works on Elon Musk’s neuralink program, love or hate Musk, there are some hopeful things coming which can help people with all kinds of brain issues listen or watch here

Ezra Klein: Always a thoughtful interviewer The culture creating AI is WEIRD  listen here

A dawn in Kent

Research bites

Interested to hear what people think of this: The Highly Sesntive person as a Personality Type .. see here

Taking 3rd person perspective and pronouns makes a big difference read here . Follows on from research in last newsletter about cultural differences in empathy: fantastic paper, thanks to Esrther Obiri-Darko for pointing out read here

Plants really do scream: I have suggested readings on tnhis before but this research looks very credible read here  

My books and writing:

My writing has been slow as life issues have taken centre stage.

The 3rd edition of Nurturing natures is now off to the publisher (phew and hallelulah!!), big thanks for all who helped, i expect it to be out at the end of this year

I do have one new paper just out called

Latency? If Only. Rethinking Middle Childhood, Its Developmental Tasks, Neurobiology, Cultural Differences and How Trauma and Neglect Undermine Its Course. It is in the Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy see here


‘RESPARK’ is  available in audible format  here and on

Spotify a and many others

The physical book and ebook available from amazon or better, independent bookshops    eg  psychological therapy books  

Affect and Emotion (the new edition) get from

amazon or  psychological therapy books .

Click on links below to view or buy these:

Nurturing Natures,

Nurturing Children,

The Good Life,

From Trauma to Harming others

For other journal papers and chapters  papers  and chapters see here

And this month’s bad jokes (less and worse!)

So I started seeing a therapist to help with my kleptomania.

I’ve already taken something valuable from each session

I’ve been telling people about the benefits of eating dried grapes,

You know, Raisin Awareness

so i need help .. please send in better ones!

Silly phobia support group

Phobia Support Group
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