Communing with communities

All my working life I have worked with vulnerable individuals to heal them, primarily physically, as a doctor, but as a General Practitioner or “family doctor” I couldn’t ignore their emotional or relational worlds as a source of their good health. Many times, helping someone to connect to a community that let them thrive was the greatest medicine of all. So often though, for the most vulnerable and isolated, that was the hardest thing to do.

Recently I have seen how absurdly unworkable that was. Like my life’s work was about carrying individual raindrops in an attempt to make a waterfall. Duh! There are plenty of spectacular waterfalls in the world, with plenty of tributaries that actually suck reluctant raindrops into the mainstream just by their very nature. Why try and make a new one from a mass of reluctant raindrops?
Another thing hit me earlier this year when I joined “The School of Health and Care Radicals” and was asked the question: Have you ever noticed that when you are at a conference listening to an invited speaker, there is actually more knowledge and expertise in the audience than on the stage, no matter how expertly specialized the speaker is? It follows for me, that any community has more resources than its leaders.

My interest in individuals turned to families about 16 years ago, and with my husband Rob McNeilly we developed a very simple yet effective Solution Oriented approach to working with families, so that an individual with a perceived problem, did not become the black sheep. With the resources of the whole family, and the ubiquitous love that all families have underneath their gripes, a family in strife could flourish as a strong flock. If you’ve ever seen the first Ice Age movie, where the Mamoth saves the Sabertooth tiger, and the tiger is confused, not understanding why his potential enemy would do such a thing. The Mamoth simply replies, “We’re a herd. That’s what you do in herds” the sloth then says “Funniest looking herd I’ve ever seen” Human beings are herd animals. We know that in our bones, but we also feel the isolation of modern life, which I guess is why that line is so funny. Similarly, at a presentation I went to, I think at a Brief Therapy Conference in the U.S, a presenter was talking about “Blended Families” but thought they should more accurately be described as “lumpy familes”

So, just as I got that it’s easier to work at a family level with an individual problem, because there are so many more resources to work with, I finally got the power of of working with a community so that no person is left behind, isolated, marginalised, brutalised, radicalised, but rather, the potential of all is realised. And it’s done from within, not imposed by some outside expert.

I have also discovered that the “how” of doing this is showing up in my actions and conversations with other people, not so much in my conversations with myself, so if you feel similarly inspired I would love to speak with you. We can talk by phone, email, or zoom. I am cooking up an online conversation with a group. Let me know if you are interested to join. Email me at or add a comment.



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