Beyond Modernity Eco-Systemic and Tentacular Thinking
Guest: Roger Duncan
Hosted by: Marina Robb
Roger Duncan, M.Sc., UKCP is a registered Systemic Family Therapist, Systemic supervisor, and author. He originally studied biology and later trained as a Waldorf teacher, and Wilderness rites of passage guide with The School of Lost Borders before becoming a Systemic Family Therapist.
He was one of the pioneer tutors of the Ruskin Mill Education Trust where he was involved in the development of innovative therapeutic education programs for adolescents with complex and challenging behaviour in the woodlands and wilderness settings and had a leadership role in senior management.
His first book ‘Nature in Mind, systemic thinking and imagination in ecopsychology and mental health’ was published by Routledge in 2018.
He was the founder and director of the 2022 Confer Diploma ‘Eco-psychotherapy and the Emerging Adolescent Mind- A Systemic Integration of our Relationship with Nature into Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Practice’ and the 2018 Confer Eco Psychotherapy webinar ‘Reclaiming our Indigenous Relationship with Nature. An introduction to the Systemic Integration of Nature into Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Practice’.
He currently works with adolescents within the Child and Adolescent Health Service (CAMHS) within the NHS in the UK and in private practice. Roger has been involved in exploring nature-based practice and Eco Psychotherapy for more than 30 years and writes and lectures internationally on Eco Systemic approaches to nature and mental health.
In this episode, We dive into:
- What is an eco-systemic psychotherapist?
- How our world is made up of systems and how we think about systems.
- The impact of modernity and colonization.
- Tentacular thinking and re-imagining what it is to be human.
- The importance of the imaginal.
- Listening to what young people are saying.
- Valuing Indigenous knowledge.
- The Circle of Courage Model.
- The Embodied, heart-felt process.
Music by Geoff Robb: www.geoffrobb.com
Articles by Roger Duncan:
Bessel van De Kolk
Dr Michael Yellow bird
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(transcribed by AI so there maybe some small errors!)
Marina Robb: Hello, and welcome to the Wild Minds Podcast for people interested in health, nature based therapy and learning. We explore cutting edge approaches that help us improve our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. My name is Marina Robb, I'm an author, entrepreneur, Forest School outdoor learning and nature based trainer and consultant, and pioneer in developing green programs for the health service in the UK. You're listening to Episode 23 Beyond modernity ecosystemic and 10 tacular thinking,
My guest today is Roger Duncan and ecosystemic psychotherapist within the NHS. for over 30 years he's worked within the nature therapy world was one of the pioneer tutors of the Ruskin mill Education Trust is a wilderness passage guide and developed a UK based eco therapy course, reclaiming our indigenous relationship with nature. This drew on a wide range of speakers and practitioners, and is a course we all hope will run again in the future.
Hi, Roger, Marina, welcome to the wild minds podcast, I always like to start with some gratitude. And before I started recording, I just took a moment and tuned in as we do. And what came to me is just to say that I'm really grateful for the teenagers that I have worked with, that I know now and just that time of life to be around that time of life and to be around the turbulence, I guess, and the emerging young adults that they are, but just just super grateful to have had the opportunity to hang out with teenagers and learn with them and from them and remember my own time as a teenager, and yeah, grateful to have had that opportunity. And I wonder if you would share some gratitude or anything that's coming for you.
Roger Duncan: Yeah, Thanks, Marina. I mean, I think I can echo that, because I've worked with adolescents my whole life. And they do bring an edge to everything a quest, a questioning, and I'm really, you know, I'm really grateful of all those experiences I've had over many, many years. And also my sort of teach adolescent experiences of being challenged, and forced to think differently. And being, you know, being forced to be more reflective by my experiences in nature and my experiences through life and that and those, it's many of those things that have that have often been quite uncomfortable that have driven me and I've really, I'm really grateful for that. I'm really grateful for being on your podcast and for all the work that you do. Because it's amazing.
Marina Robb: Yeah, thank you. I really appreciate it. I guess this brings me to wanting to ask you why you do the work you do, because I've known you for many years and often on and I know that nobody does this work. Unless they care. Right? Whether and I so I'm really be interested to know why do you do the work you do? I mean, maybe tell us a little bit about what you're doing. But what is what's driving you on and underneath, you know, what motivates you?
Roger Duncan: I suppose my motivation is that is that little rabbits, like, you know, it's like the grain of sand in a in an oyster shell, that things aren't okay with the relationship between human beings and the world. And I got that experience pretty early on. I remember one particular experience I remember was being a being a school and a buyer right, it was the early days but borrowers are quite a new kind of exciting thing in those days and we had a bye Arrow and it got it got trodden on the floor broke. And the teachers put it in the bin. And for some reason I thought, oh, wait a minute, that's not okay. That's the problem here, there's a kind of what I would say now a kind of systemic dissonance or something between those, those two things. And I've always felt that, and it's taken me quite a long time to get my head around what the hell that means and how to make peace with that and how to do my work with that kind of uncomfortableness. And then of course, it's increased, you know? Now it's every day, you know, we hear things on the news and think, yeah, that's not okay. And that's not just a bar going in the bin, that's something really big. So that's what motivates me, really.
Marina Robb: So you're speaking about? Noticing over a lifetime, that, that there are millions and millions of moments where we can see that something isn't working in our everyday lives, like whether that's what we're throwing away? Or whether, yeah, whether we're just or just so many moments that don't feel that they're actually we're not living in a kind of way that is healthy, I guess.
Roger Duncan: It's like a felt sense. It's a kind of felt sense.
Marina Robb: Yeah. So I know that you're working within mental health as I understand that, I think your cordon ecosystemic, psychotherapist. Now that that sounds pretty fancy to me. I've heard of psychotherapists, and I have heard of psychiatrists and all this, but what is an ecosystemic psychotherapist mean? Does that is that is that an idea? Or is it have you coined that yourself?
Roger Duncan: I partly coined it myself, but it comes from different places. And it’s part of a process of sort of owning or network or owning who I am and what my position is. And it's not, you know, it's not a professional category of work as it were, I mean, I am a systemic psychotherapist, and that is a professional qualification. I work in the NHS, UK, CP registered and all that kind of stuff. And I suppose what while I was training before as training as a psychotherapist, there was this word, ecopsychology that was around, which had a great ring to it, it felt like wow, ecopsychology. That's an amazing thing. You know, and I read a lot of there were some books out in the early days on ecopsychology. And I sort of began to sort of orientate myself around that concept. And as I kind of scratched the surface a little bit more, it became clear that it was an American word. So to be a psychotherapist in America, you have to be a psychologist, you have to you have to study psychology first. So it makes sense in America to be an ecopsychologist. In other words, the psychotherapist who is including nature in their work. But again, it's not a professional qualification. And then having trained as a systemic psychotherapist and listened really, to what was happening and sort of true tuning into the UK, whereas eco psychology in the UK, the word the word that Mary Jane Ross came up with was ecopsychotherapy, which is more of an anglicized version of ecopsychology. And then as I you know, as I got deeper into the work, and I explored the kind of boundaries of systemic psychotherapy, I realized there's this whole eco layer, which doesn't get into the program. So that's really what I've been doing for the last 10 15 years or so. Trying to get the trying to get that the Eco element into the systemic because obviously, when you go back to the beginning of thinking about systems, nature was, well nature can't be separate. We can't be separated from nature, so that nature has to be in there. So we can't be systemic psychotherapists without being ecopsychotherapists, actually, otherwise, we're, missing a big piece of the pie. That's why I call myself an ecosystemic psychotherapist, because I'm doing eco I'm doing systemic psychotherapy in the NHS. We don't all the boundaries and and positioning that requires, but I have in my mind, in my backpack as it were ecosystemic thinking which influences my practice.
Marina Robb: Okay, well, let's let's unpack that a little bit because I don't think I fully understand that I'm, I imagine, some of the listeners won't understand that. So when you say systemic, immediately what comes to me is thinking, here I am Marina and I'm born into a family. And so are you saying when you say systemic psychotherapy that we're looking at the influences of our family and human relationships? Is that what you mean? And therefore, when you say ecosystemic, are you saying, Okay, so now we're going to start looking at the influences of our wider culture wider, thinking around how nature or the natural world impacts us and our psychology? Yeah,
Roger Duncan: I mean, the systemic family therapy, as it's called, came out of ideas from people like Gregory Bateson, who were systems thinkers, in the, you know, back in the back in the 40s, and 50s, I think, or maybe, and later 60s and 70s, who came up with this idea that actually that actually the world is, is made up of systems, and we need to think if we're going to understand the world, because that was, you know, he came out of an early ecological concern, really, because his dad was a biologist, he was, he was an anthropologist himself. So it was a sense, he had that sense of like, wait a minute, something's not quite right here. So he and a few other people were involved in this idea of how do we think around systems. And that was picked up by psychiatrists, psychotherapists, who were working within the medical model, which is very much embedded in modernity of, you know, I'm a doctor, I know what's right, I can give you some medicine to cure your illness, and then you can go back to work or go back to your family, whatever it was. So that a group in Italy, in fact, picked up this work and went okay, well, what is it? What does it mean to bring systems thinking into psychotherapy, and really, the whole the whole of that, that whole of that has grown out of that period. So what that looks like, as you say, now, it's in the NHS or in private practice, is that a systemics, family therapist will look at influences within your family, within your history, but also your social and cultural context, that are influencing your mental health or your or your or your concerns. And that's the work. That's the work that I do with adolescents in camps.
Marina Robb: Okay, that's really, really helpful. And I wonder, because I want to look at the Eco side more in this talk. You mentioned about biology. And when I've read some of your work, when you start thinking about biology, you sometimes jump or not, you, but one sometimes jumps to science and thinking about Darwin, and that the survival of the fittest kind of model. And I'm wondering, you know, like, when, cause you mentioned, also the medical model and how people are, you know, a train, I mean, I'm curious how people are trained to think in a particular way. So the, because I was taught that, you know, especially like studying ecology, maybe in the early 90s, or something that it was about, thinking about how different species need light, or they need certain food, and they were fighting to compete for everything. And, and I wonder whether, whether first of all, do you think that's even true? Because I know, we're talking about system, but we're given a story, aren't we about the system, and about how things work? And I know you're really interested in story, and we may get a chance to look at that, but we get a story about the system. And, and so, whenever we're thinking about ecology or eco we're given a story to there, aren't we, about how things work? And I wonder if you could just share whether you think if that's problematic at all, you know, the fact that most of us are told that, you know, Darwin's idea of survival of the fittest is the way it works in Europe biologist, you were a biologist, as well. I wonder if you could just share some of the thinking or the way you've changed your ways of thinking about this, as well.
Roger Duncan: Okay, yeah. So you know, because I was into nature when I was a kid, you know, I studied biology and thought, well, this you know, this is really good. I can find out about the world. About what I bumped into, was that little grain of sand in the oyster going, is this. Something there's something quite not quite right with it. So You know, so at university, for instance, we did experiments with Kissing Frogs killing frogs to do an experiment so that the we could see the nerve jump in their leg, which was, you know, which is an experiment that's done, I don't know, 100 years ago or whatever. And it was sense of like, is that really okay. And then the other one that came, the other one that had that kind of feeling was Darwinian evolution, the survival of the fittest, and so, because there was a sense that actually, there's, yeah, that's the strong elements of that are true, but there's also quite a lot of other stuff going on. And I suppose what, you know, what I've got to, over many years thinking about this is the idea that, you know, the survival of the fittest, Darwin's idea that it's a struggle, to survive, is embedded in what we call modernity, the idea of modernity, the idea that kind of permeates the Western world that actually, we're individuals, we've got to get on in the world, we don't make it we're going to fall by the wayside that survival of the fittest thing, which came out of really the Edwardian social system, which was the, you know, the beginning of capitalism kind of ramping it up. And actually, if you don't get ahead, you're gonna get trampled underfoot. And it's okay to trample people underfoot. Because obviously, you're fit you're fitter. And all that stuff.
Marina Robb: So it justifies, because you are, you've 60, you're succeeding? is natural, our natural right or something?
Roger Duncan: Yeah, exactly. You survived. So you are fit basically. So there's a, there's quite a lot of philosophical tautology in there, it's kind of closed in on itself. But also, that is one of the characteristics, that's one of the little signals that we're that's a modernist idea. But actually, if we think about something, enough, we're going to understand the world and actually thinking enables us to penetrate the world and understand it, and eventually control it, and make money out of it. And if you can't do that, then you're not really fit enough to be in the world and you get trampled underfoot. That's the sort of story that's embedded in, in Darwinian evolution. And you see, what's happening now is, that's beginning to come to an end, that story is beginning to break down the idea of continuous growth that we hear on the news and is, people going, Well wait a minute, that's not going to work. If we're thinking about this, if we're thinking in a systems way, which is how nature is organized, then we can't just take stuff that you know, the Earth is finite, we can't grow forever, that's not going to work. And what's really clear now is it's not working. But we don't have a better story, or most people don't have a better story, we're still stuck in this world, well, we can grow out of this, or we can technologized our way out of this, or we can think our way out of this. And it's like, no, we're still stuck in that goldfish bowl of modernity, and we haven't really stepped outside of it.
Marina Robb: But it's really attractive in it, isn't it because I'm not saying it's attractive when you look at all the disasters, and you look at that lens, but when you look at like, those that have succeeded, according to the story of modernity, you know, the ones that are actually have the houses and like, you know, have all the things, you know, the trappings it is very attractive, and I'm struck by, oh, this idea that the culture I've been brought up in really promotes the individual and promotes the kind of that you are on your own. You know, that's why I think is there's so much tension, because we're almost so immersed in that now that it does feel like, I've just got to do what I've got to do for my family. You know, yes, I can help some friends. But that is it. I you know, like, that's all I can manage. And that's what I've got to look after even I don't think like that. I hope you know that but a bit of part of me does. But a part of me does feel like that. You know, it's like that's the most important thing is what belongs to me. You know what, it's from my lineage or whatever. And, and so that's quite scary because I feel like what you're beginning to talk about is, well, there's a lot of other ways of thinking here. There's a lot of other COC models here. There are a lot of an A either and I've said it ways of thinking. It's not even thinking is it there's a lot of other knowings understandings Do you know that come from different cultures different times different that help us to see that it's not that we are in US Story and we're creating the story is, is that does that is that am I feeding back what you're saying? Does that make sense?
Roger Duncan: Yeah, no, absolutely. And again, a lot of that, and this is where we kind of this is where we start to dive into the sort of you we move away from the sort of nature, nature connection, ecopsychology element into the kind of philosophical, that, you know, there are a lot of data, a lot of deep thinkers like Daniel Schmeckt, and Berger and Nora Bateson, who were saying, well, the narratives collapsing the Western that the Western modernists narratives, the story that we weave, you know, absorbed through the whole of our education through our whole of our lives, and our parents and our grandparents, and as well, is actually collapsing. And we don't have, we don't have another one, because no one's told us what it is, although there are stories around but you have to, you have to dig a little bit deep within modernity to find them, because they're seen as not fit, they're kind of they're kind of marginalized. So it's so this brings us into the sort of decolonization element is that there are, you know, many, many 1000s of indigenous cultures, which have run a different story for 1000s and 1000s. of years, because they're tuned in to thinking systemically although they wouldn't say that. And they've learned that because they're looking at nature in a different way. They're not looking at nature, through a Darwinian, you know, rose tinted glasses there. They're experiencing nature in a different way. And also, they're not thinking about nature in the way that we do in the West. And that is a, you know that that's a tricky one, because actually, how do you engage in something without thinking about it? Because thinking is embedded in this whole maternity, the whole modernist project?
Marina Robb: I think you need to say that question again, actually, because I think that's a That's the million dollar question. And that's the wrong way of saying it's a million dollar question. But that is like, how do you engage with it coming from a Western modernity lens? How do you engage with it without thinking about it?
Roger Duncan: Well, I mean, this is something I've been exploring a lot in my writings, particularly my book, nature of mind, and but it's come through, it's come through systemic psychotherapy, and a few other few other angles as well. Which is that the Western world in other words, that, you know, all US folk, are in that we're living in the West living in modernity? I've only been taught one way of engaging with the world, which is thinking, absolutely. And there's an there are other ways. There are older ways, more indigenous ways, and more and more indigenous, even indigenous European ways of thinking about the world, which, which are more sophisticated, but actually a little bit more difficult to access.
Marina Robb: Well, of course, I want to ask what they are. So maybe we'll let let's go back. Let's make sure we at least touch on one or two. We'll come back to that one, maybe one or two ideas, but I've got this word going on in my brain that has come from your writing. And it's and I hope I've got it, right. But it's tentacles or something like that. It's like tentacle take, what is it? And the reason why I say tentacles is because I'm reading a book at the moment called octopus. Is God an octopus, right? Which is quite a moving book. But basically, I love to 10 tacular. I mean, these words can be very hard to get your head around. But when I thought of an octopus, you know, or when I thought about, you know, how these things connect is this idea that everything is connecting and the way you've just started to describe a different way of systemic way of thinking where it isn't linear, right? Isn't one thing happens. And the next thing happens, and the next thing happens, it's like, in that moment, there are multiple things happening aren't there are multiple inputs, and outputs, responses, and we cannot exist, as you say, without whether we're conscious them or not. They're all operating. And I think you and your writing said something, I'm just giving a very simple example, which I think is helpful is the idea that, you know, here I am, I might make a plate of food or something, and this is my words. And of course, to make that food, everything around. There's multiple kinds of I don't know, kind of I'm imagining threads that connect to so many things, both land people and beyond that enabled me to have that food right. Is that the idea of this? 10 tacular Thinking? Yes. At least have I got some of it?
Roger Duncan: No, definitely. And the art I mean, the idea I picked up the idea from Donna Haraway.
Marina Robb: Yes, don't Haraway I have a book from her from back 20 years ago about cyber or something.
Roger Duncan: But this is from a, I think it's about my most recent book, staying with the trouble stage. And it's quite difficult to read because she's describing a world outside of modernity. And so this is where we get to the thing about thinking and not thinking. So part of the way out of the thinking is to use our imagination. And we tend to think in the West because of our modern lens that imagination is fantasy. You know, if you're, you know, you're imagining something, you know, that's what you get told at school, don't make it up, you're imagining something. Whereas actually, what people have known for a very long time, which is kind of being suppressed them, what is the imagination is an organ of perception. In other words, you can navigate the world through it through your imagination, not by imagining stuff, by but allowing your imagination to give you information, what we what people call the imaginal world, which is a kind of sense making through imagining. So if we come to the if we come to the 10, tacular, thinking what Donna Haraway says, she says, think it says we've got to learn to think with animals, not about them. So when we think about an octopus, you think, well, it's a cephalopod. It's got eight legs, each this it lives, this that lives in the sea, blah, blah, blah, fast. facts, facts, facts, and we go got it. I know everything there is to know about I've got a massive book on octopuses. Every species of octopus in the world, yeah, Done. What she's what she says is, we got to think with the octopus. In other words, the image of the octopus becomes a way of imagining how the world works. So if you've been if you've ever tried to cat, if you've ever seen a film, or some are catching an octopus, or trying to catch an octopus, what happens is when, if you hold the body of an octopus, all its legs will go into little holes, and it will hang on and it will pull and it will change color. So it's, you feel like you've got hold of something, but actually, it has a lot of tentacles. So that's an imagination of an octopus. And that's what systems thinking is. So when you know, we put petrol in your car, there's petrol in the pump, you pay the person in the garage, you can drive your car, fine. But without tentacles from those things into the whole petrochemical industry, pollution, the exhaust coming out of the car, the rubber, that's getting worn onto your tires, that's going into the atmosphere, the non-recyclable parts of your car. Traffic congestion, air pollution, etc, etc. metal mining, aluminium mining bauxite, Opencast bauxite mining, indigenous land rights, everything, you know, the fact the fact that the product that Henry Ford didn't allow any trade unions and actually had his workers shot when they complained about their wages, you know, it's a, it's an octopus, it's got loads of tentacles. And actually, that's quite difficult, but it's quite challenging to think about that, because actually, you can apply to everything,
Marina Robb: it is challenging, and we could go down and may very well go down. Thinking again, about the absolute impact of the way we have in the West exported, and it's not just exported, it's through violence, exported many, many of the ways that we think right and operate, but I just want to pause there for a second because they want to think about that it must be true. Only please tell me if it isn't that whilst you've so well described how everything is linked. And the exists simultaneously. In a way when I'm putting that petrol into my car, all the other exist, it's happening at the same time. I'm also wanting to kind of capture for a moment that that is must also be true that are imagined or the experiencing of the of life and the beauty that we can feel and experience in our bodies when we maybe feel the sun on our face or see the raindrops falling but that is also part of the living imaginal right And, yeah, I feel like I want to I can get, we could ease and we can go down millions of these currently existing things that are exceptionally painful and difficult. But I want I also want to, at the same time kind of feel into the other also as possible. And as soon as I say the other, I'm limiting it. It's like the millions of others, you know, and that kind of excites me in a way. And I'm some I'm wondering about that. But please say yeah, please say because
Roger Duncan: I think it brings us back to the nature connection. What's the what's, why is the nature connection? Why is it important? Why is thinking about the imaginal, and systemic, and all that stuff important? And Darwinian evolution? Why do we need to challenge Darwinian evolution? Because when we do that, when we take away that story of me, and it's not like saying, it's not like denying the story, because it's a piece of the jigsaw, you know, what Darwin discovered was, was incredible. I mean, it's a fantastic piece of the story, but it's only a part of the story. So if we, approach nature, without that, or as adolescents or young people, we approach nature without that story, which is very difficult, because that's in all the books and TV programs, even right down to kids programs now. And we approach it in an imaginal way, we imagine it as we imagined the nature as an octopus, all those connections, and we park our thinking, so we're going in with our imagination, which is what children tend to do, then nature begins to that nature begins to those tentacles begin to feed us when we learn that actually, oh, there's a whole big system here, which is very smart. It's been going on for a very long time. It's super interconnected. And it's been around longer than humans. And it's been around longer than human thinking. And it's been doing its stuff. So if we want to access, you know, another program different, a different movie, from the Western world, we can actually do that. And stuff happens, you begin to, in your imagination, you begin to learn things. And, and the way to imagine around the way we check it out, to see what's true. And what's just our imagination, is you check it out with other people, or did you have that experience? Do I have that as well? Oh, does that answer? Yeah, that happened to me. And so that's what indigenous people have been doing for 1000s of 1000s of years, they've been having these experiences, and, and cross referencing, recourse referencing against other people, parents, grandparents, elders, who've also had them. And you see, what I'm finding now is that I'm talking about indigenous people indigenous ways of thinking because as a white guy, because only very only recently have indigenous voices come back on the scene, because of the whole colonial project in and there's some fantastic thinkers out there. No, you know, like Tyson young reporter, you know, who are really rattling the cage, you know, in a very good way.
Marina Robb: But I want to say, though, that I when you're speaking, I mean, I'm, you know, I'm feeling moved in myself and, and that's, we are also human, aren't we, as people, I thought, I feel incredibly aware how we haven't listened. We just haven't listened. We've you know, we haven't listened to all this wisdom that is here, you know, and, and we've really denigrated what isn't thinking into something that is not valued by us, I mean, there's so much I could say to that as well, but I feel that we all have this capacity to use this imagine or that you're describing and, and that this, you know, this is this feels really important part of a time to listen to learn something different than what we were given. And I guess one thing that brought UPS feeling in me was also about, again, going back to adolescent and knowing that you know, you're working as a therapist to support young people and thinking about so many young people that I've met that say in the system, in the in the school system, are struggling and we're all kind of told Old that we have to fit into a particular box and regurgitate certain things. And again, whilst I'm not diminishing that has a place, it almost seems like a parallel to what we're talking about, you know, Darwinian thinking is one way it is one way, isn't it? It's one way. And I can't help by knowing how the statistics in mental health is through the roof, you know, self harm suicide, and you're there supporting young people and their narrative about who they are. And what were what they're supposed to be. Is very different to what you're saying, isn't it?
Roger Duncan: Yes, yeah. You know, and I, you know, and I suppose, again, sort of bringing it back down to the ground without losing that sort of 10 10 tacular. element, you know, a part of what I find myself doing in a camp setting, is listening to what young people are saying. And then beginning to make sense of that help helping them make sense of that, in the context of this huge system that we're part of, and so on what that looks like, is young people, quite often young people have very troubled stories about their own family, their because those are the experiences they've had, if you like, those are the that's what they've been exposed to, whether it's domestic violence, or neglect, or that kind of thing. So that's shaped their emotions, their capacity, their capacity to feel, which is influenced, which is prevented them from going to school or making friends or, you know, being with being with people that are looking for that are looking after them. So it's really helping them and helping them sort of come out of there come out of their heads a little bit into their bodies and make sense of what they're thinking, and trying to just give trying to bring a bigger picture that are inviting them into a bit of bigger, a bigger picture. And obviously, a lot of these deep philosophical, systemic issues, don't come into the session, but they're in there in my mind. So I'm holding them in my mind, I'm holding these young people as bigger than they are presenting themselves. And of course, one of the pieces that again, I've written about in my paper in the paper de donkey is about, again about that, you know, that indigenous knowledge that we've that's been marginalized. And, you know, it could be thought of as imagination is the idea that we are ultimately spiritual beings who are coming to the earth to have an experience. And that's something that's kind of dropped out of Western culture, because it's too woowoo. But actually, pretty much everyone else in the whole of human history have taken that as a fact, because they had experiences which back that up. So, and it's not about believing it or disbelieving it is about holding those two stories lightly. Well, is it? Is it possible that human beings are just here for one life? And actually there is no systemic connection with anything at all? Or is it possible that human beings have this connection with the spirit world, and they've come for a particular mission that we don't quite understand. And so you can just use hold those ideas lightly, you know, playfully, as we say, in family therapy, and see what happens. So it gives you it gives you a bigger context for what you're working with, really.
Marina Robb: You've talked before to me about this idea of circle of courage. And you've talked about these? I don't know what you actually say they were the they formed the basis of attachment and belonging and I don't want to throw away this the talking about spirit either. I really welcome that. But could you talk to us a little bit about how perhaps there's another way of looking at mental health and adolescence? And does that link to this idea of this circle of courage?
Roger Duncan: It completely does. Yes, it completely Yes. Because the book, I mean, what the what when I started to act when I started explore the boundaries of modernity of the kind of western model when I was when I was working with adolescents at the time, think Hang on. Yeah, I was working outside. So exposing people to nature and finding actually that they changed being exposed to nature for long periods of time because Yeah, well, there's something going on here. This is really no one ever told us this. And then coming across the work of the school of lost borders, which is which, which has a model and Medicine Wheel model, which has a lineage back to indigenous people that taught the school of loss borders, then coming across this book, reclaiming youth at risk, which was the first book that I came across where we had where I found indigenous voices that had broken into the modernist world. And we're saying, hey, actually, this is a much older model, this is what we're running. And it works really, really well. And it's just, you know, I use that I have it in my mind all the time. And that comes back that comes down to having a completely different model of what it means to be human being. This is not this is a non Darwinian model. And I suppose the key piece of it is that the highest the highest context for being an adult is generosity, the giveaway, not accumulation of wealth, status, blah, blah, blah, it's about giving away to adolescence, to use to nature to the community, which kind of spins the whole consumerist world on its head, really. But it works really well, you know, and it's a Lakota model. I've been using it for 15,000 years.
Marina Robb: So and, and immediately, it makes me think of that. When I said, it's, you're alone here in the West, aren't we? We're alone, we've got art, we've we, you know, we think we are I mean, that's just an illusion. But the machine says, survive, survive, do what you have to do. And I don't know that someone's going to be generous to me. I don't know that I'm going to be held. I don't know that. You know what I mean? That's, I think that's a fear. It's a fear, right? So when you speak about generosity, and being within a system that is generous, I mean, I can see that in the natural world content, you know, that continual moving and offering on constantly, but that's a huge thing, isn't it huge.
Roger Duncan: I mean, it reminds me of when I was traveling in my early 20s, and traveling through country, Arabic countries, in the Middle East and North Africa. And at that time, and I mean, I, you know, I still think it's true. I mean, we tend to think that because of al Qaeda has, you know, that's painted those cultures in a particular way, but my experience in the West that there was a huge generosity, everyone would say, Come, stay in my house Come and eat. And that was part of the culture. You know, that was a real shock coming from a Christian culture, which was basically Christian, and finding that the Muslim culture was hugely, hugely generous, and how healing that is to just be accepted for being a human being. For me, it was just it was tremendous. So I have a great love for Arabic culture because of that.
Marina Robb: Absolutely. So in this model, would you just briefly talk a little bit about the model around particularly around attachment and belonging and just to give us a little sense of another way of looking at what it is to be human, a kind of shift away from, as we said, this linear kind of success driven, orientated, consumerist model that we're within? Would you mind?
Roger Duncan: Yeah, yeah. So basically, the model comes from the solar cross the north, the south, east and the west. So it's orientated within nature. And it's orientated within the seasons, the year, the day, the changing seasons. And that's, and those are imaginal experiences that have been formed the model. So the model looks like across basically with a circle, like a Celtic cross, because we had it here once as well. So it starts in the east, morning, with belonging. And so the belonging is not just belonging to your family, your nuclear family, it's belonging to your wider family, following it to culture. It's belonging to nature. It's belonging to your land, and it's belonging to the ancestral spirits who are part of that part of the show and, you know, we've lost pretty much all of those in camps, you know, I see people who are, you know, have small families that are struggling to survive without, without a wider context. So that if I belonging so belonging, attachment gotta get it we know from, you know, psychotherapy, you've got to get attachment sorted before anything else. And that's quite hard work. And obviously, you know, a lot of work with adolescents, particularly troubled adolescents is about attachment, you've got to make that connection, you got to make a therapeutic alliance. So once from that quadrant, you move on to the bottom, the South, which is about mastery, almost forgot that is bound, it's about mastery. So it's about achieving stuff. And that involves the body. So it's about achieving stuff with your body primarily, again, what we know is, but once you've got a sense of belonging, as a little kid, then you can get into doing stuff, you start running around to get into your body, learning how to jump and seeing and, and, and ultimately, practical skills, craft things, growing vegetables, hunting, painting, whatever it whatever it is learning an instrument. And all of those things give us a sense of psychological well being. And they also give us a systemic place in the world, we connect with the world through doing stuff with other people. Again, that's quite, difficult in the West, because most of schooling is about intellectual mastery. And the body is kind of parked, you know, we sit down the desk, and if you get up, go to ask the teacher, we're not doing a very practical stuff. And I suppose that you know, the work that I did, at the college was we spent, we flipped that on its head, and the whole time the students were outside doing stuff with adults. Moving to the third quadrant, which is about adolescence, which is about autonomy. I can do it on my own, I got this, I can do this. And then once you've done it on your own, you can actually, again, your Aditya at your, you know, you cook a meal, you make a present for your granny, or you paint a picture for your mum, you know, suddenly you're pulling, you're putting yourself back into that sense of belonging. Oh, thanks. This is a great meal. And again, you know, a lot of the young people we work with adolescents, they who are who are have difficulty stay. I really liked painting, I want to do child I really like cooking, I want to be outside. So there's this whole set, they tell us what they need to do. I want to fix bikes, I want to fix cars, I don't want to be in a class, and they tell us what they what they need to do from a very early age. But there's no structure to do that. No, no, sorry, got to get you GCSEs or whatever. And then to find the final quadrant, which is the adult quadrant is generosity, which is being able to having developed a sense of belonging, having a sense of mastery of our self and our bodies and our emotional states. And then autonomy, having been able to achieve stuff on our own independently, we've moved to the adult place, which is generosity, which is giving away, which is how can I make an income from my family? How can I support the community? How can I support nature? How can I support young kids for their sense of belonging? How can I help people master skills? How can I support the adolescents become more autonomous? You know, and because it's because it's an imaginal. picture if you like it goes deeper and deeper and deeper on every level is like a fractal that goes down, down, down, down, down. So there's so every layer, it's not like oh, attachment yeah, I've got my I've done my attachment interview. Now I know what my attachment is note No, you gotta go. Attachment is a lifelong thing, as is all the other things as his generosity. So it's a very, very deep model. And you know, and reclaiming is the risk of doing just fantastic work with it.
Marina Robb: I'll make sure I put all the references that you've spoken about, into the show notes as well. And it makes me think about that 10 tacular thing again, there's like you said every single bit, has a whole kind of wave that reverberates beyond what we've just been talking about. It's a huge just, I don't even have the words to describe that. Yeah, which exactly is actually wordless. So I'm just so aware that we've almost come to the end have this really? Yeah, far reaching kind of conversation that in my mind, I mean, I want I've got so many more things I'd like to ask, and maybe I could get you back another time if you'd be willing. Yeah, and I just suppose it's for us. When we talk about a lot of these things. There's always an awareness that we've come we've got, like you say, the ancestors before us, we have all these stories and the stories that exist, that haven't been stories of kindness, you know, have they they've been quite brutal, our history and the trauma that people are carrying, and what cultures are carrying, and that's a very well, there's something we need to talk to that we need to be with that and know, the impact of it. And I know that you speak in other places very, very passionately, and helpfully about that, I think, as well. So is there anything else you'd like to just speak to that kind of helps us, helps us move or work with the truth of that now, as we as we are in crisis, but there is, but here we are living, you know, here we are living in there are many, many millions of people that really, really do want to contribute to the community that's coming. You know, is there anything you'd like to just share? Just to kind of bring us together?
Roger Duncan: Yes, I suppose this kind of simple. The simple world word and symbol way of thinking about that is through healing trauma. And you know, traumas really hit the headlines now, you know, with Bessel, Vander Kolk, and Gabor Matta, and people like that saying trauma, trauma, or everyone's traumatized. And there's a sort of backlog of like, yeah, no, we're not really traumatized. You know, that's kind of snowflake, talking, we got to toughen up, and which is that whole modernity thing again. But I suppose the way I experience my, you know, my own trauma and the trauma, the adolescence I work with, is it's something in the body, which is what Bessel Vander Kolk talks about. And it prevents us accessing a different faculties. And one of the faculties that it prevents us accessing is our heart of feelings. Because you get triggered, or you get overwhelmed, or we get into or go into our heads or we dissociate or whatever. And then the thing about the reason the hearts are important, as is, because that's where all these ancients scholars have said, well, that's where that's how you access the imaginal, you have to feel into it, that's where you get us we can get you to change your thinking. So if you if you can't go into your heart, you can't get into that element of the world. So it means that it's much easier to stay in modernity. So that's really, why the healing of trauma is so important. And again, it's I don't think it's so much a therapeutic process, it's more of an embodied process. And again, you know, again, me speaking for indigenous cultures, but I had an indigenous scholar who's going to teach on my course, Michael Yellowbird, Dr. Michael Yellowbird, who has taught who is talking about how the how the exactly how the mind has been being colonized in the West, and indigenous people have been colonized, and how indigenous cultures opened, kept open these, this heartspace, through ceremony, through dance, through skills, through being out in nature, all the things that we love to do when we're not working. But actually, you know, and all those things that we know adolescents really respond to really, really well, but they can't do it because they're at school doing the GCSEs. So, you know, that's part of I think, that's part of where my focus is because it's an also brings it into the reality of, of this time, that actually, that's what those are people that are coming towards me. You know, they're people who are carrying trauma and transgenerational trauma and they can't go to school or they can't relate to their mom or their dad or whatever it is. So that's the best good place to that's a good place to start. And of course, in my backpack, I haven't been the thinking well, there's a whole lot of nature connection stuff that could be useful here, but it's not in the mental health conversation yet, but it's getting that you know, where our work is basically bringing that into the, you know, joining up these worlds really, isn't it?
Marina Robb: Yes, it is. And I, I really know. And I guess this is always a call out to listeners that, you know, this work, needs support, doesn't it and I know that you have a lot of things that you're trying to do and we'll make sure that that's there's a contact if you need to kind of support some of the things you're trying to do as well because and I there's something just about if everyone did that little step, that little thing, then that tacular that word that I've now I'm enjoying so much at the moment, you know, has reverberations doesn't,
Roger Duncan: ya know, there's another it's another thing that reminds me of this is calling out people I know. So Dave, key from New Zealand is Nika psychologist, one of the questions he had when he was asked on one of the courses was how do you get into the work? And he said, well just start just start just do it put you know put something in your calendar, invite some people start and the other thing he said which is I think is absolutely essential is have your own practice. And that was a kind of reminder from Dave like, oh, yeah, it's fine sort of doing this work for other people but go into your own practice and over the last since lockdown, really, that's what I've been deeply I've been doing a deep dive is my own practice. And when you go in there as an adult, isn't it I think is a you know, an older person who's whose family you know, you're not so tied up with family and work as well. You younger? Yeah, it's pretty deep. It really starts to talk to you.
Marina Robb: And this is real. Wow, watch this space. Really brilliant. Oh, well, thank you again, Roger. It's been a delight to have you on this show. Thanks for speaking to me today. Roger.
Join me next week for episode 24. For the last episode in Season Three. We've done a lot of thinking in this season looking at values and stories that lie beneath our culture, education and health models. But it's important to me to also take more practical, actionable steps. The thinking bit isn't for everyone, though, my intention is to make some of the harder to reach information more accessible. Next week, I'll be sharing about why education needs to be more experiential, and practical. In particular, my work with the outdoor teacher, and Forest School.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Wild Minds Podcast. If you enjoyed it and want to help support this podcast, please subscribe, share and leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. Your review will help others find the show. To stay updated with the wild mines podcast and get all the behind the scenes content. You can visit theoutdoorteacher.com or follow me on Facebook at the outdoor teacher UK and LinkedIn. Marina Robb,
The music was written and performed by Geoff Robb.
See you next week. Same time, same place