**The extracts from Satir’s books are my own translations from Greek into English, therefore, there might be some differences in the terminology

Virginia Satir

“I see it clearly now, that the family is a microcosm, a miniature of the world. We can study the family to understand the world.” Virginia Satir

“I would of course like to see every institution linked to the well-being of the family.” Virginia Satir

Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.” Virginia Satir

“We get together on the basis of our similarities; we grow on the basis of our differences.” Virginia Satir

“There are five freedoms: The freedom to see and hear what is; / The freedom to say what you feel and think; / The freedom to feel what you actually feel; / The freedom to ask for what you want; / The freedom to take risks on your own behalf.” Virginia Satir

May is usually the month I begin washing and putting away winter clothes to make room for summer stuff. This involves some reorganizing of closet and cupboard space and my aim is to get most of this out of the way by the end of the month. Anyway, this year I decided to simultaneously tackle other things, as well, like all the non digital photos that weren’t in albums. Meanwhile, along with the arrival of the first summer days, a persistent sore throat and cough have also arrived. All this daily life has to some degree influenced the drawings I’m posting today.










However, what I’ll be writing about today has to do with Virginia Satir’s work. I’ve wanted to return to it for some time both to refresh my memory, but also to consider her ideas from my current older self and see what feels relevant and true.

Virginia Satir was a charismatic and pioneer psychotherapist and writer, regarded by many as the Mother of Family Therapy. She was the founder of Satir Transformational SystemicTherapy, which is a systemic therapy model that evolved from her work. In this approach, the family system is seen as a unit instead of just a sum of its parts, and the goal of STST is to help individuals and families resolve problems and improve their relationships by transforming the whole family system. There are four basic principles associated with Satir’s approach: the principle of “self”, of communication, of boundaries and of time. Satir’s model of change includes (1) the late status quo, (2) resistance to change (3) chaos (4) integration of new possibilities, and finally, (5) a new status quo. Resistance to change to any established status quo is to be expected because systems and all organisms desire equilibrium and homeostasis – even when it is oppressive or dysfunctional – that may serve the parents or one partner. The therapeutic process often involves going through the stages many times. Forrest Hanson has uploaded a 10 minute video with the title, Why changing is so hard?, in which he briefly explains the important process of homeostasis at an organism and individual level, as well as, at a relational level, and how often family, friends and other social groups, in order to maintain equilibrium, resist or try to hinder and block change because as he notes as one piece of the puzzle tries to change it inevitably puts pressure on the rest of the puzzle.

Moreover, Satir’s work focuses on warmth and empathy, and is holistic in the sense that it takes into account the individual, the family and environmental factors. Satir was interested in the raising of children who value themselves. She believed that the family is a microcosm and that changing and healing the family would contribute to creating a better world.  With this in mind, she travelled to many countries and established professional training groups all over the world. She also integrated meditations and poetic writing into her public workshops and writings.  On my book shelves I found Greek editions of her books, The New Peoplemaking, which I will be writing more about below, and Meditations and Inspirations. Some of her poems and meditations in this little book felt inspiring and some did not resonate so much now.

A short sample from this book:

Feel the treasure in you / The wonder that you are / not only because you are / but because you are a manifestation / of the universal laws / of the Universe / We do not make ourselves / We are only co-creators / Love yourself / because you are / a member of the Universe.

But as I said the book I’ll be focusing here is The New Peoplemaking, which was edited and re-published in 1988, and translated into Greek in 1989. I have this early edition, but I actually bought and read it, about twelve years ago, while I was doing a family therapy course. I found I had enthusiastically highlighted many ideas and points, which gave me a glimpse of my former self. The book reads like a letter from the writer to the reader, and also, contains Satir’s cartoon like sketches, which illustrate the various relational dynamics she describes and the many metaphors she tends to use. She contended that because metaphors create images they reinforce learning. One of her best known metaphors is the “iceberg” through which she suggests that our behaviors are only the top visible layers of the iceberg and that there are many layers underneath, such as, coping, feelings, perceptions, expectations, values, beliefs and yearnings. The book is also packed with experiential exercises.

Other metaphors she often used are the “tapestry” and the “gardener” metaphors. There’s a 14 minute YouTube video with the title:“Virginia Satir on Raising Children Who Value Themselves”, where she expands on these metaphors. Satir says: “Parents need to be good gardeners… and what does the gardener do? They take seeds and they never say to the seed: “Listen, if you don’t grow in a way I want you to grow, I am going to throw you out.” They say: “Now, I am going to find out what are the growing conditions of this… what is the light, fertilizer, temperature…,” and that is what I would like to see people do with children… Also waiting for the seed to sprout… Knowing it takes a while for a seed to sprout, for a seed to unfold itself, and in the meantime you go on trust.”

In this book Satir focuses on the features of family systems and how they can change and become more functional. She distinguishes between dysfunctional families, which tend to be closed systems, and nurturing (functional) families [I’m translating from Greek into English, so I hope I’m as close as possible to the original terms], which are more open systems. Satir proposed that a family is a place where people are made. She found through her work with families and individuals that human beings can become flexible and can change and that adults have the power to positively affect both their own and their children’s behaviors and lives.

Some of the areas and topics she tackles and offers insights into are the fact that surface problems and problematic behaviors are rarely the actual problem. Instead of packing or filing away our emotions and past, working with our blocked experiences can free us to live and relate better. In the book she writes how old unfinished business often become a barrier to full acceptance in relationships and that “as long as we look at the present, but we see the past, more and more the walls of separation will grow higher and higher. If you come across the garbage truck, say so and empty it.”

She has also expanded on the problems that the sense of low self-worth and low self-esteem can cause in relationships and families. The following extracts reveal her views on this topic:

“Feelings of worth can only flourish in an atmosphere in which individual differences are recognized, love is openly expressed, mistakes are used to learn, communication is open and rules are flexible, accountability is developed (the coupling of promise with realization) and honesty is put into practice, in the atmosphere one finds in a nurturing family”.

“By honoring all parts of ourselves and being free to accept them, we build the foundation for high self-esteem / self-worth. The opposite means conflict with nature. Many of us create serious problems for ourselves because we have failed to understand that we are unique beings. Instead, we have tried to fit into a mold to be like everyone else. Some types of education are based on comparison and uniformity. This almost always results in low self-esteem.”

Satir explores different stances of communication and communication games, and some of the outcomes of these. Also, in chapter 7 she discerns five basic modes of responding / communicating: [translation from Greek copy] compromise, reproach, calculation and deception, and direct or flowing, and suggests that we learn these ways of communication when we are very young. …. In terms of the response she calls direct or flowing she writes:  “In this response all parts of the message follow the same direction… voice and words agree with facial expression, body posture and tone. Relationships are free, easy, and honest, and people don’t feel their self-esteem / worth is threatened. This response dispenses with any need for compromise, for blame / reproach, for gathering inside a computer, for constant movement.

Satir also examines the nature and role of rules in families. In her chapter on rules [9] she claims that when there is any family prohibition to mention what is happening or what has happened, then this provides fertile ground for weeds to grow because we are all influenced by everything we hear and see and we automatically try to make meaning of it. She writes: “As we have said, the explanation, if one is not given a chance to check it out, it turns into a “fact”. The “fact” may or may not be accurate, but it is what the person will base their actions and opinions on….  Many children grow up forbidden to comment or question, and by the time they reach adulthood, they see themselves as some variation of a saint or a devil rather than as a living, breathing, feeling human being.

Satir suggests that “the implications of systems thinking for personal, family, and societal behaviour are evident everywhere today.”  In chapter 10 she discusses how there are two types of systems, closed and open. She notes that people cannot develop in a closed system, at best they just survive, and also, that we could all cite countless examples of closed systems to one extent or another, such as dictatorships in modern societies and prisons, but also schools, political parties, and so on. She invites us to ask ourselves: What would you say about the system in your family? Is it open or closed? I would perhaps add that it would be closer to reality to ask: “To what extent is your family or any other system / group open or closed? or Which areas tend to be more closed or open? because it is probably almost impossible for any system to be entirely closed.

She explains that systems consist of many interrelated parts and that every system should possess a purpose or goals, which for families involve enhancing the growth of individuals. She argues that the basic difference between systems involves their relationship to change. While a closed system is more rigid when it comes to change and more disconnected from the outside world, in an open system there is less rigid interconnection among the different members and the outside world, as well as, more awareness of their role in the system. She claims “In the open system the parts are interconnected, responsive, each is sensitive to the others and allow information to flow between their internal and external environments.” Also, in open systems, as opposed to closed systems, self-worth is primary, power and performance secondary. In more closed systems power is more concentrated and much more important than uniqueness, self-worth, free communication and change.

Satir further examines the organization of families, types of families and extended family, family in society, the developmental life cycles, the later years, the family of the future, her own sense of spirituality, world peace, and more.  But, as the post has become quite lengthy I will end here with an extract from the book that is representative of her values.

“Your birth, my birth, everyone’s birth is a spiritual event and cause for celebration. Obviously there is a need to provide the richest context for each child to grow up and become fully human. We haven’t reached that point yet. For many, the miracle of birth is marred by the sad conditions in which children are born. However, when we accept the fact that every child contains the ingredients of a “living and walking” miracle, then we have a basis for establishing positive behavior on a global scale. Certainly, this starts with the family. We are slowly moving towards this reverence for life. In our effort to change behavior, it is easy to crush the spirit, leaving the body crippled and the mind asleep. This approach is largely due to equating a person’s worth with their behavior. Whereas, when we remember that behavior is something learned, we can simultaneously honor the spirit and cultivate a more positive attitude.”

You can’t please everybody…….

“There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.” Barbara Ehrenreich

“The flip side of positivity is thus a harsh insistence on personal responsibility; if your business fails or your job is eliminated, it must be because you didn’t try hard enough, didn’t believe firmly in the inevitability of your success.”      Barbara Ehrenreich

“Interiority is no place where we want to build and spend our lives. It is not the place where we will be able to achieve any significant social change, either. We do not want to be controlled by dubious promises of self-transformation or to live obsessed with our thoughts, feelings and expectations of self-improvement”. (Terry Eagleton, cited in Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz)

“We’re not very good at having conversations about struggle, these are very vulnerable conversations, they require that we drop that mask, that we come forward as an authentic and whole person, including the parts of us that we’re not so happy with or that we don’t think are necessarily fit for public consumption, but ironically, that kind of vulnerable self-expression is often what helps people really feel included by others.”Rick and Forrest Hanson

Today’s post is also a mix of different things and it reflects some of what I’ve been reading, doing and engaging with. There are new pictures I’ve made with a common thematic thread running through them, an exercise from last week’s mediation-talk [25/05/2023] by Rick Hanson, a link to a recent episode from Dr Rick and Forrest’s weekly podcast, and finally, a presentation of the book, Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control Our Lives by Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz.






















A. To begin with, in their episode at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu1y3aHgmTs, Dr. Rick Hanson and his son Forrest explore the so called “imposter syndrome”, the common experience of self-doubt and anxiety about our capabilities and worth, perfectionism and cultural forces that invalidate the worth of people systemically, and feeling like a fraud, which they say “disproportionately affects high achieving people”, and women in particular. They discuss what Rick Hanson calls “construct or syndrome creep”, which is basically the tendency to pathologize and medicalize common, normal human experiences. “Imposter syndrome” is an example of this. Forrest describes the stages of this cycle from anxiety over beginning something to the stage of relief once the task or goal has been completed or accomplished. He notes it’s “like receiving a stay of execution”. They refer to at least one reason why this occurs like the worldwide media machine that is like a beast insatiable for content and new shiny objects.

They explore why accomplished or capable people can also experience this and ways to break free from self-doubt and comparison, to believe in oneself and have healthy self-confidence, the importance of finding support from allies, and recognizing the locus of our motivation. Rick Hanson says: “…. if our fundamental root of motivation is about pleasing others, or propitiating them, appeasing them, trying to win the approval war every day, oh, oh, oh, I just feel sad saying it, my own personal sadness, and mainly sadness for tons of other people. And at the end of the day, what’s the line from the song? “Ya can’t please everybody, so ya got to please yourself.”

B.The exercise I mentioned above, in a nutshell, involves bringing to mind our younger selves, beginning from birth, moving on to when we were ten, twenty, thirty, forty, and in my case, fifty and the recent sixty, in order to allow ourselves to see and feel what it was / is like, and to then [in our imagination] step in as our older self to embrace, soothe, accept, nurture and praise that self. A kind of summary of the ambience, major events, goals and priorities, efforts and achievements, challenges and losses, common threads, of each decade came to the foreground of my awareness along with accompanying emotions. My experience of the activity – which was not exactly new for me – was emotionally moving and integrative. I was also somewhat surprised by the amount of living that has actually occurred. Finally, I can assume that my meditation and mindfulness practice, with its earlier challenges and later gains over the last decade, shaped the nature or the outcome of the practice. There was probably more presence and depth than if I had tried to engage with the process for the first time or prior to my meditation journey.

C. In relation to the book I’m presenting today, Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control Our Lives, to some extent it is related to a book I wrote about a while ago by Dana Becker. [The book has been translated into Greek: ΕΥΤΥΧΙΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ: ΠΩΣ Η ΒΙΟΜΗΧΑΝΙΑ ΤΗΣ ΕΥΤΥΧΙΑΣ ΚΥΒΕΡΝΑ ΤΗ ΖΩΗ ΜΑΣ] Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz write that the book aims to contribute to the lively debate on happiness from a critical sociological perspective, and that the term ‘happycracy’ – the title of the original edition was coined to emphasize the particular interest of the book in showing the new coercive strategies, political decisions, management styles, and consumption patterns that, together with a new notion of citizenship, have emerged in the age of happiness. The book is worth a read because the arguments and facts presented bring the underlying politics and dynamics of the global happiness and wellness political trends and industries to the foreground, which helps make us more discerning as consumers of information, books, products, courses and services, and can give us back some of our agency as citizens. The book also manages to cover a lot of ground, thus, giving us a glimpse of a much bigger picture, which is good to at least bear in mind even as we purchase or embark on things.

Before I go on, I’d also like to clarify that I believe that  within whatever circumstances and larger socio-political contexts we may be embedded in, seeking ways to grow strengths and develop psychological maturation, helping others and ourselves to  be more peaceful, content and joyful are all worthy and good. Seeking therapeutic support for trauma and ways to overcome adversity is also essential. It is also important to be informed of what good therapy is. We need to know that often “….. psychologists have been unwilling to admit their complicity with specific sociopolitical arrangements, for to do so would undermine a credibility forged on value neutrality presumed to be ensured by scientific objectivity and moral indifference to its subject matter. Consequently, as the historical record attests, in the main, psychologists have served primarily as ‘architects of adjustment’ in preserving the status quo and not as agents of change.” (Jeff Sugarman)  Psychotherapeutic interventions and tools should be safe and should also aim at increasing our knowledge of our micro and macro reality. Finally, interiority is not a place we want to build and spend our lives because it is not sufficient in terms of achieving any significant personal or social change.

The authors of the book state at the beginning that the book is not against happiness, but against the reductionist view that the science of happiness preaches. They write that helping people feel better is a commendable intention. They write; “We honestly believe that the science of happiness helps some individuals, that some of its advice and methods do make people feel better ….. [but] in its current form and usages, happiness is a powerful tool for organizations and institutions to build more obedient workers, soldiers and citizens. The figure of obedience in our times takes the form of a work on and maximization of the self. In the 18th and 19th centuries the claim to individual happiness had a transgressive flavour. But through an ironic detour of history, happiness is now smoothly woven into the fabric of contemporary power.”

Specifically, their reservations are based on four critical concerns: epistemological, sociological, phenomenological and moral.

They are firstly concerned with the legitimacy of the science of happiness as science, and of its concept of happiness as scientific and objective. This is not a new criticism. They suggest that the science of happiness relies on several unfounded assumptions, theoretical inconsistencies, methodological shortfalls, unproven results, and ethnocentric and exaggerated generalizations.

The second concern is sociological. They examine which social agents find this notion of happiness useful, what and whose interests and ideological assumptions it serves, and what the economic and political consequences of its broad social implementation are. They note that the scientific approach to happiness and the happiness industry that emerges and expands around it contribute significantly to legitimizing the assumption that wealth and poverty, success and failure, health and illness are of our own making, which lends legitimacy to the idea that there are no structural problems but only psychological shortages. They refer to the economists, who, from the 1950s onwards, convinced the world that the individual search for happiness was the only realistic substitute for the search for the collective good; however, the pursuit of happiness as devised by happiness scientists epitomizes the triumph of the personal society (therapeutic, individualist, atomized) over the collectivist one.

Their third concern, which might be called phenomenological, relates to the fact that too often happiness science breeds many unacknowledged, undesirable outcomes because the science of happiness builds its proposal of well-being and personal fulfillment upon the very same therapeutic narratives of deficiency, in-authenticity and un-self-realization for which it promises solutions. It also produces a new variety of ‘happiness seekers’ continuously preoccupied with correcting their psychological flaws and personal betterment, which makes happiness a perfect commodity for a market that thrives on normalizing our obsession with mental and physical health, but can turn against the very same people who pin their hopes on happiness products, services and therapies.

In chapter 4 they argue that happiness has become a series of ‘emodities’ like services and products that promise emotional transformation. They write that these emodities follow a circuitous route. For instance, they may start as theories in university departments, but quickly follow different markets, such as corporations, research funds or consumer lifestyles. Emotional self-management, authenticity and flourishing are not only ways of making the self constantly produce itself, but ways for various institutions to make emotional commodities (or emodities) circulate in the social body.  Cabanas and Illouz write: that these “happiness ‘emodities’ successfully recast the pursuit of happiness into a lifestyle, a habit of mind and soul, and ultimately, a model of selfhood that turns citizens of neoliberal societies into psytizens.

Finally, the fourth concern is moral and involves the relationship between happiness and suffering. They write: “In identifying happiness and positivity with productivity, functionality, goodness and even normality – and unhappiness with the exact opposite – the science of happiness places us at the major crossroads of a choice between suffering and well-being. This assumes one always has a choice – positivity and negativity are two diametrically opposed poles – as well as the possibility of ridding our lives of suffering once and for all. To be sure, tragedies are unavoidable, but happiness science insists on suffering and happiness as a matter of personal choice.” For instance, in chapter 5 they first analyse the strong divide that happiness scientists posit between what they consider positive and negative emotions, which they draw upon when revisiting the notion of the ‘average person’.  They challenge this division by highlighting some of its pitfalls from a sociological perspective. They also argue that the scientific discourse of happiness is progressively establishing itself as the yardstick to measure what is considered healthy, adaptive and even normal.

They note that in recent years, sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists, journalists and historians have published an abundance of works dealing with happiness from a critical perspective. Their own book has been inspired by the works of Barbara Ehrenreich and Barbara Held on the tyranny of positive thinking, Sam Binkley and William Davies’ analyses of the relationships between happiness and the market, Carl Cederström and André Spicer’s exploration of wellness as ideology, and many others.

They examine the many substantial critiques that have been leveled against the field, and some critics have argued against the field’s foundational assumptions like its de-contextualized and ethnocentric claims; theoretical oversimplifications and contradictions; methodological shortcomings and serious replicability problems;  over- generalizations; intellectual deficits and scientific underachievement; therapeutic efficacy; the ideological agenda of many of those who fund, promote and implement happiness in organizations, health institutions, the entertainment business, public policy, the army, and schools.

Cabanas and Illouz remind us that happiness should not be seen as an innocuous, well-meant abstraction for wellness and satisfaction and devoid of cultural, moral and anthropological biases and assumptions. They pose the question:  “…..why happiness and not any other value – e.g., justice, prudence, solidarity or loyalty – has come to play such a prominent role in advanced capitalist societies…..” They argue it has  proven a very useful concept for rekindling, legitimizing and re-institutionalizing individualism in seemingly non-ideological terms through science’s neutral and authoritative discourse because  neutral discourses appealing to the natural properties of human beings are always more persuasive and easy to institutionalize.

Throughout the book they provide extracts from Martin Seligman’s [the father of positive psychology] papers and books, as well as, his connections with ultra-conservative institutions, which endowed him with large amounts of funding. They write that through cherry-picking from evolutionary, psychological, neuroscientific and philosophical claims and concepts, the rubric of positive psychology was rather eclectic and poorly delineated. They trace the funding history of the field and how the field expanded to unprecedented levels in a very short time, creating a broad and global institutional network. Even companies like Coca-Cola invested in positive psychology with the objective of finding out cheaper and more efficient methods to increase productivity, reduce stress and anxiety at work, and promote workers’ engagement in corporate culture.

They track the history of positive psychology. They write that as it grew, it strengthened its alliances with its professional, non-academic counterparts and the happiness economists. After the global economic meltdown in 2008, more and more countries taking advice from psychologists and the happiness economists thought that they could well use happiness indicators to check whether, despite the continuing decline of objective indexes of quality of life and equality, people were still nonetheless feeling well, because they asserted that “If people claimed to be happy, then there was nothing much to worry about – after all, wasn’t happiness the real and ultimate objective of politics, a priority over justice or equality?” The idea was to introduce the concept of Gross Happiness Product (GHP) as an indicator that went beyond Gross National Product (GNP) to measure political efficiency and national progress.

Challenging the traditional economic approach, where once costs and benefits were measured in money units, it was suggested that benefits should now be measured in units of happiness instead.  Cabanas and Illouz claim that once happiness was turned into a value-free and objective number able to cross cultural borders and operate within mass-scale cost– benefit calculations, it was postulated as one of the chief economic, political and moral compasses in neoliberal societies. However, they write many happiness measures “lack the consistency needed for them to be used as the basis for international comparisons.”

Concerns have been expressed over the excessive individual orientation of these measures, and also, the fact that it is not clear that happiness measurements are comparable between individuals. For instance, how can we know that someone’s score of X out of 10 in a happiness questionnaire is equivalent to someone else’s score of X out 10 or whether a score of X from someone in one country is higher or lower than someone else’s score in other places. Also, quantitative self-assessments neglect important social issues in the way people assess their lives, including particular and specific circumstances, and generally limit the range of responses that people can provide when assessing their own happiness. This is important because close format responses may favour researchers’ biases and they may disregard important information to make political decisions. Another implication of happiness measurement is that it allows political and economic issues to be settled in a seemingly non-ideological and purely technocratic manner.

In addition to methodological problems the book raises concerns on whether happiness-based policies might often function as strategies to side-line and deflect attention from complex socio-economic indicators of welfare and the good life, such as income, material inequalities, social segregation, gender inequity, democratic health, corruption and transparency, objective vs perceived opportunities, social aids or unemployment rates.  They may also facilitate the displacement of the burden of market uncertainty, scarce employment, and increased work competition onto workers / employees themselves. Concern can also be expressed when countries characterized by widespread poverty, constant human rights violations, high rates of malnutrition, infant mortality and suicide, have resolved to adopt happiness measures to assess the impact of their national policies. Interesting examples of different countries that have joined the initiative are provided in the book.

They write about ‘the second individualistic revolution’, a cultural process of individualization and psychologization which deeply transformed the political and social orders of accountability within advanced capitalist societies. This revolution allowed the structural deficits, contradictions and paradoxes of these societies to be rendered in terms of psychological features and individual responsibilities. They write: “Aspects such as work became progressively understood as a matter of personal projects, creativity and entrepreneurship; education a matter of individual competences and talents; health a matter of habits and lifestyle; love a matter of interpersonal likeness and compatibility; identity a matter of choice and personality; social progress a matter of individual growth and thriving; and so on. The consequence was a widespread collapse of the social in favour of the psychological, with Politics being gradually replaced by therapeutic politics, and with the discourse of happiness progressively replacing the discourse of individualism in the definition of the neoliberal model of citizenship”.

They also alert us to issues pertinent to democracy. They refer to William Davies who has suggested that a problem for technocratic approaches is democracy itself; perhaps because the reach of democracy has extended beyond manageable boundaries, and concepts such as happiness, which are amenable to quantification, able to homogenize judgments and beliefs, have become a useful strategy for offering crumbs of democracy, but without having to deal with the political challenges that real democratic decisions would involve.

The book also explores other topics like mass-scale data mining in terms not of what it can say about happiness, but how this data can be used to influence the way we understand happiness and the relationship with ourselves and the world through it, without us being aware of the process. They write that by digging into what we do and like, when and how often, institutions and corporations possess information that in turn allows them to affect what we consume: the news we read, the advertisements we watch, the music we might like to listen to, the advice on health and lifestyle that we should see. They get to influence the social collective by shaping what should or should not be valued as contributing to our happiness, and so on.

I will end this article here even though the book touches upon many more important issues that are at least worth considering.

Edited May 22nd. 2023

Today’s post includes a variety of things that I have engaged with or that have been of interest recently.


“Time to choose,  time to choose. To open and learn or run and lose.”

A few days ago I read Edgar and Elouise, an illustrated  book by Sue Johnson, PhD. Sue Johnson developed Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT) for individuals, families and couples, which in a nutshell is a humanistic based approach developed in tandem with the theory and research findings of adult attachment. Attachment views humans as innately relational and wired for intimate bonding with others. This model prioritizes emotions and emotional regulation as the key organizing factors in our personal experience and in our key relationship interactions. It draws on the principles of attachment science, Carl Rogers and Salvador Minuchin’s concepts and techniques.  I first encountered her work in 2011, as part of a clinical psychology programme I was doing. At the time the focus of EFT on attachment and emotions had felt a welcoming change to the heavily cognitive and behavioral orientation of the programme.

In the videos below Dr Sue Johnson and Ed Tronick show us moments of connection, disconnection and repair both in childhood and adulthood, and also, provide an overview of EFT:



To come back to the book, it’s for those aged 9 to 90 plus, is written for the inner child in all of us, has the form of a fairy tale and has been inspired by the author’s ten year old granddaughter. The story is set in an enchanted forest, featuring three grand pine trees, several inhabitants, like Edgar the crow, Elouise the fox, Spike the porcupine, Harry the hummingbird, Ronald the rabbit,  country mice, flies and other creatures, and humans, which are called SOAs, the Scariest of All.

Take your place: a new story for Edgar                               

When we first meet Edgar he is a crow with very little confidence. Elouise the fox, on the other hand, seems to be ecstatic about her superiority and beauty. These two have a strong bond, but Elouise has gotten into the habit of putting poor Edgar down and making him feel really small. Spike the porcupine enters the scene. He is wise, well read, compassionate, with therapeutic skills. He knows how to guide others to find their fierceness, tap into the confidence of who they are, see the positive qualities in themselves and others. He also knows about threat responses, biases and obsessions, and old myths.

‘I am NOT the me you say you see! Love me. Help me to see the best of me!”

Spike asks Edgar: “But who gets to decide who you are?  Do we do it ourselves or do we let others decide crow?” He tells him he can’t let Elouise and the SOAs (humans) determine who he is. He talks to Edgar about his ancestors and his family’s migration to find the sea, and about Nordic and Indigenous myths related to crows. He patiently guides him to find a new ‘me’ and choose his story about who he is carefully, and then advises him to try this new way of being and perceiving himself with his best friend, Elouise. Meanwhile, we learn that despite her nasty personality, Elouise has a soft heart and is actually the one who rescued Edgar as a tiny chick and the one who stuck around to raise him, which as we know is against all fox norms, forcing her to leave her pack and live as an outsider.

Spike helps other more timid, shy creatures find their fierceness and courage to act when they are scared. In the book we are informed in simple words about our biological responses to threat. He explains that it is natural and makes good sense to be afraid in a place like the forest because there are real threats. Edgar, in turn, soothes Ronald the timid little rabbit, who is scared all the time, even of his own shadow. He explains to him that rabbits “freeze and hide and only sometimes run. We ALL freeze and hide sometimes” and that “it is actually clever to go still and numb sometimes, but not so if you get stuck there…” because we are bigger than our fears. He also tells him that “Everything has a shadow…. It won’t eat you. It just follows you around in the sunshine.”  A little girl also steps in and shows the little rabbit how to take a deep breath, in, in, in to stop the Trembles.

Then the pine trees and the animals face the biggest threat of all from the SOAs,  “the most scared and mistaken of all creatures, who murder each other all the time. They call it a ‘battle’…”.  They are coming to cut down the trees. Like humans each animal responds differently when scared and anxious, and thus, we learn about “obsessions”, which is when the same moves are repeated over and over to make the worries stop. For instance, Harry the hummingbird paces to-and-fro repeatedly when she’s afraid, but Edgar strokes her head and soothes her fear. He also tells her about his own obsessive behaviour when he was young.

Together we are stronger

Finally, we witness how these small animals are stronger together and how in togetherness they manage to find a way to stand against the big scary SOAs, in order to save the trees and their habitat, without freezing, giving up, doing frantic to-and-fros or running away.


Speaking of cutting down trees last week we had to cut down a fig tree that had died in our garden. It was a sad affair for me, and I had being postponing the process for over a year, stubbornly watering the tree while knowing deep down that it was probably beyond redemption since last summer it produced no fruit and this year no leaves at all, its brittle branches breaking off and its bark cracked like the surface of dry land.

All three of the old fig trees we found here when we arrived have now died and have been cut down, signifying endings, but in their place three new trees have sprung up in other places. I don’t know whether they will produce any figs or figs as sweet as the ones this small tree gave us over many years in surprisingly great abundance. The experience has found its way  in one of my drawings.











I’ve also included a few photos from a recent walk in the rockier, arid and less inhabited parts of the island… There are certain Greek naturescapes like these that I love, as well as, olive groves, fig trees and rocky shores, which along with the language make me viscerally aware of my Greek roots. While I was hiking with the cut tree in mind I thought of a poem I recently came across by the Greek poet, Αντώνης Σκιαθάς,  The only loyal tenant.

“That’s how this summer ended / with embroidered heather / on a Sunday afternoon / in Astipalia**, / on whatever white / was in the sun’s metal sheet. / Unsuspecting, we left / but left a fig tree behind / rummaging through the doors  / looking for the latch to survive  the winter.  / We trusted   / that she wouldn’t empty the house. / That’s how the fig tree, winters and summers   / listening to Scops owls and muffled cries /  remained there all those nights / in the hall towards the cistern / the only faithful tenant”.

** Greek island

The Australian television pantomime style series Adventure Island screened from 1967 to 1972 created by Godfrey Philipp and John Michael Howson was for quite some time top children’s TV show. The story was moralistic with a strong “good over evil” motif. Usually the residents of a town on the island would be tricked in some way by one or more of the “baddies” and often dimwitted Clown, with sawdust for a brain and a very poor memory, would save the day. Each story was serialized over five days, Monday to Friday, and everything turned out alright by Friday. I think the earlier shows began with Nancy in an enchanted wood. She would sit down behind a tree-stump on which was poised a magic book. She began to read the story from the book and then we would see the story played out by the characters themselves. Some of these characters have also seeped into my artwork above.

Some of the more frequent characters were Liza, Mrs Flower Potts, Percy Panda and Dodo Panda, Clown, two Cockatoo and Matilda Mouse puppets, Samson the pussycat and several baddies, like Pirate Captain Crook and Miser Meanie, who counted his money consistently and set fines for things like chatting in the street,…, The characters possessed magic powers which they could call upon if the need arose.  I came across an episode on YouTube, in which some magic seeds in a pot grow into a magic plant that produces glass like flowers with diamonds….


Another topic I’ve decided to include in this post, after listening to a singer’s decision to learn sign language to allow her art to be accessible to deaf people, has to do with the benefits of sign language. I was already aware of the many benefits of learning sign language not only for people who are deaf, but even for people who can hear, in terms of cognition, communication, visual-perceptual skills and spatial awareness.

I delved further into the topic and it seems that sign language is a very versatile language that can be used to talk underwater and taught even to babies with many benefits. Also, sign language can be particularly useful for those working in public roles such as police officers, doctors and other health workers, teachers and social workers. Some other significant benefits, other than been able to communicate with the millions of people with hearing deficits across the world and making art and knowledge more accessible to them, are:

Sign language has been found to help babies communicate better and sooner. According to studies, babies as young as eight months can sign words and imitate signs from their parents, which increases opportunities for parents and children to bond in positive ways and eliminates stress for a child in terms of communicating its needs. Some research suggests that this earlier communication can lead to greater levels of confidence in childhood and beyond, and that it can be beneficial for children with special needs or on the autism spectrum.

Sign language also seems to lead to higher reading levels in children and brings long term cognitive benefits for those who have been signing since they were babies or very young. It has been linked to higher IQ scores. Over the course of their 20 year longitudinal study Dr Linda Acredolo and Dr Susan Goodwyn have discovered that it leads to heightened reasoning skills, raises child’s IQ, babies speak much sooner and use more complex sentences, which sets them up for faster cognitive development.

Sign language enhances our ability to interpret body language because it involves facial expressions, a range of nonverbal signals that people use to communicate their feelings, and bodily cues and hand gestures. Moreover, studies conducted in the UK and elsewhere, have found that another area that seems to be positively impacted by the ability to use sign language is our reaction time and peripheral vision. Reaction time refers to the amount of time that passes between the moment we perceive something and the moment we respond to it and peripheral vision is what we can see around us without having to turn our head. These capacities play a key role in activities, such as, sports, driving or cycling, etc.

And finally, similarly to what is already suggested about how learning a second language can have a range of cognitive benefits, such as, enhancing creativity and even protecting against memory deterioration related diseases [and while there are differences between spoken and sign languages] research shows that the underlying  neural processes are similar.