INTAR Conference, Liverpool 2014: Call for Contributions

The International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR) in partnership with the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, Liverpool Mental Health Consortium and University of Liverpool is pleased to make this preliminary announcement and call for contributions for the INTAR 2014 Conference, to be held in the University of Liverpool on 25th – 27th June 2014.

INTAR gathers survivors, professionals, family members, and advocates from around the world to work together for new practices towards emotional distress and what is often labelled as psychosis. Based on leading research and successful innovations, INTAR believes the over-reliance on diagnosis, hospital and medication fails to respect the dignity and autonomy of the person in crisis. Self-defined recovery must be at the centre of ethical care.

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The H-word: Happiness

There’s a new post by Meg about happiness and mental health over on the  Rewriting-the-Rules blog.

Existential youtube

For light relief. A wonderful youtube video about feline existence:


And one about the existence of a croissant:


And existential Star Wars:

Huckabees at the Northern Existential Group

On 22nd March 2012 the Northern Existential Group discussed the existential film ‘I ♥ Huckabees’.


IMDB details

Whilst we agreed that the film was perhaps a little too self-conscious or harsh in places, we liked the way that existential themes were explored. Through the film the characters move from the notion that everything is interconnected and that this makes life meaningful, to the idea that everything is meaningless and that life is inherently painful, to the possibility that it is through this very pain and meaninglessness that we are connected to one another.

There is a further discussion of the existential theme in the movie here. We would be very interested in hearing from people about other movies that explore existential themes that we might watch for future sessions. There is a list here and the book,  Existentialism for Dummies, lists:
Ikiru (1952)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Apocolypse Now (1979)
Blade Runner (1982)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Pleasantville (1998)
Fight Club (1999)
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Superbad (2007)

Simone de Beauvoir and gender today

9/3/12 Meg Barker

March 8th marked International Women’s Day with the theme ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures’. I would like to take the opportunity here to celebrate my own favourite feminist, Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986). I will look back to the past to see if what she had to say about gender still holds today, and what her theories might mean for the kinds of futures that we want to inspire – for girls and for everyone.

One is not born, but rather one becomes, a woman.

Perhaps the most famous quote from de Beauvoir’s writing on gender, The Second Sex, is this one. Here she is arguing, from autobiographical experience and from the available evidence at the time, that the things associated with womenhood (such as being passive, concerned with appearance, childlike and in need of protection, and wanting to care for others) are imposed upon women by society rather than being innate characteristics they are born with.

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Happiness at the Northern Existential Group

10/2/12 by Meg Barker

10th February 2012 was the fourth meeting of the Northern Existential Group (NEG). This time we focused our discussions on Bo Jacobsen‘s paper What is happiness? The concept of happiness in existential psychology and therapy, which was published in the journal Existential Analysis in 2007. Here I will present a brief overview of the paper and then summarise our discussions about the nature of happiness and what an existential perspective might have to offer on the subject. We were also very lucky to receive a response to this summary from Bo Jacobsen himself, which is included at the end of this post.

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Authenticity and R. D. Laing

24th November 2011 saw the third meeting of the Northern Existential Group (NEG). This month our reading was a paper called ‘A Road Less Travelled‘ by M. Guy Thompson. Based on the author’s own relationship with R.D. Laing, the paper wove together biography of the famous ‘anti-psychiatrist’ with an account of his understanding of the concept of ‘authenticity’. What did authenticity mean to Laing, and how well did he embody it within his own life?

This paper was a perfect one for the NEG as our discussions tend to focus on the personal and pragmatic issues of the concepts under consideration. Are these existential ideas something that we want to strive for in our own lives and, if so, how might we go about that?

Here we will briefly introduce R. D. Laing for those who are unfamiliar with him. We will outline the concept of authenticity as it is presented in M. Guy Thompson’s paper, and then give a flavour of the NEG discussion on the topic.

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Mental Health: Reflections from an Existential Therapist

Meg Barker reflects on current understandings of mental health:

A short while ago I was asked to take part in an Open University day about mental health for tutors. It was a good chance to give a workshop about self care and why that might be useful for both students and staff. But I was also given a lecture slot in the day. I decided to share some of my thoughts on mental health more broadly. I was nervous because this was the first time I had spoken on this topic specifically and I know that my ideas on it can be challenging to hear. However, the talk seemed to go well and led to some great discussions, so I’ve decided to share it here too.

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Tragic Optimism in the Northern Existential Discussion Group

7th September 2011 saw the second meeting of the Northern Existential Discussion Group. This month our reading was a short essay by the existential psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, called The Case for Tragic Optimism. He wrote this in 1984 as a postscript to his classic book about his experiences of the holocaustMan’s Search for Meaning. The essay makes the case for finding meaning in life despite the inevitable tragedies which we will experience. Frankl is, perhaps, one of the most accessible existentialist writers to read, and the essay is very engaging and thought-provoking indeed.

Here I’ll say a bit more about the author, summarise his argument, and then give a flavour of our discussions: what we found inspiring about the essay, and where we felt it was limited or problematic.

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Hell is other people? The Northern Existential Group discuss No Exit

2nd June 2011 saw the inaugural meeting of the Northern Existential Group (a Manchester-based version of the London-based Society for Existential Analysis discussion group). For our first session we chose to discuss the Jean-Paul Sartreplay No Exit: a marvellously accessible introduction to the ideas of the French existentialists, and particularly resonant in these days of reality TV shows which place contestants in a very similar situation to the one in which his characters find themselves.

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