‘mindfulness’ is one of those expressions interpreted a dozen ways, particularly if one is fixated on brain-centrism. However, the essence of Mindfulness is really about ‘person-ness’ not head-centredness. In Sociopsychological thinking we capitalise Mind to denote whole person. Too often the word mind is interpreted as brain.
Wellness is associated with the notion of Mindfulness and looks at the idea of health holistically, not just medical diagnosis. One can be physically healthy but not ‘well’. Wellness is more about meaning, purpose, Socialitie, cultural congruence and human ‘togetherness’. You can read a good summary piece on the 8 dimensions of wellness here: Wellness in 8 Dimensions
In SPoR, when we study Holistic Ergonomics (https://cllr.com.au/product/holistic-ergonomics-unit-6/) we explore the nature of Personhood in a Transdisciplinary approach and this includes looking at disciplinary traditions that are completely excluded from anything studied in risk and safety. In risk and safety the dominant disciplines of behaviourism, scientism and engineering rule most thinking. This is why the industry is astounding silent about many critical matters in ethics, culture (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/) and personhood.
Resiliencing is language developed by SPoR that moves away from the static notion of resilience and has a focus on active and ongoing action. There is no such thing as ‘bouncing back’, nor ‘pull yourself up by your own boot straps’, such a metaphor is not true, unhelpful and develops toxicity. Whenever we experience trauma or suffering, we never go back to where we were once, we cannot save ourselves. Instead, we move forward to a new version of us, who has learned and embodied the changes endured and experienced with the help and support of a community.
In reality, we never stop Resiliencing, this is the complement to fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/). Fallibility is not the enemy of being (as safety proposes) but rather the blessing of being.
Resiliencing is the ongoing wisdom dynamic (https://safetyrisk.net/ecological-resiliencing/ ) that understands what learning is (https://safetyrisk.net/resiliencing-wisdom-for-covid-safety/). Resiliencing comes from an ecological worldview that understands life in all of its messiness, unpredictability and radical uncertainty (https://safetyrisk.net/radical-uncertainty/) and is prepared for it.
The opposite of Resiliencing is Zero.
If you want to know what Resiliencing isn’t, just read Hollnagel (Resilience Engineering) (https://safetyrisk.net/why-resilience-cannot-be-engineered/).
There is no ‘differently’ for persons in any engineering paradigm.
The language and worldview of ‘engineering’ is opposite to Resiliencing.
The idea of Mindfulness (and associated thinking) emerges from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions that, accept persons as: whole bodies, intercorporeal, interconnected, transcendent, embodied and inseparable. For more on this read Fuchs (https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/fileadmin/zpm/psychatrie/fuchs/Literatur/Depression_Intercorporeality_and_Interaffectivity.pdf) or Johnson (http://www.doyletics.com/arj/tbitmrvw.htm).
Unfortunately, you won’t find Damasio or Johnson in any safety curriculum. Indeed, Safety is very much about a disembodied brain, essential to the brutalism of Behaviourist Safety and Resilience Engineering.
Some of those who have been the most significant voices for Mindfulness (and wellness) have been Jon Kabat-Zinn, Julia Cameron and Sam Harris.
Kabat-Zinn and Cameron are prolific and, much of their work is accessible on Youtube and in print:
Being Mindful is NOT about being brain-ful but rather understanding that the whole-person is an embodied being.
All bodily systems are intercorporeal, integrated and interaffected.
Even our bodies demonstrate a social relationship between systems and organs.
This is why when persons are injured, harmed, traumatised and suffer, The Body Keeps the Score. The notion of embodiment is nowhere to be found in any of the stuff safety speaks on Psychosocial Safety. Indeed, nearly everything I have read in Psychosocial Safety is focused on the myth that structure creates culture (perpetuated by the likes of Hopkins).
When I was in my second job at the age of 20, I was bullied badly by a senior staff member. Back in 1974 there was nothing about for support and the bullying persisted. (At least today in Psychosocial Safety the problem is named. However, naming and providing information is not a strategy for change). I was in a small country town of 120 people and the closest doctor was an hour away. So, even finding a doctor was not easy. Guess what happened? Eventually, the bullying got so bad I got pneumonia, was off work for some time and went to hospital. My body was telling me, you can’t keep this up. Often our bodies do this. The Body Keeps the Score. This was my warning sign to resign and move, which I did. The top 3 in the organisation were in ‘cahoots’ and had all the power (never discussed in Psychosocial Safety) and so ‘speaking up’ was pointless. The workplace smelt of the stench of micro-management, a sure recipe for toxicity. Indeed, whilst the Union was empathetic, their involvement would have only inflamed the situation.
I was lucky in my next move to a country town (400kms away) where the Leader was wise, old, mature and empathetic.
More recently, I had a friend who was bullied at work and not much has changed despite all the noise and structures we have about bullying and Psychosocial Health (it is NOT a hazard). He wisely knew that if she spoke up about it: nothing would happen, a storm would follow, she would be further victimised and everyone would suffer especially himself and family. Instead, he chose to go on extended stress leave and quietly exit the situation and the profession. His doctor supported the stress-leave and he resigned from work after 7 months. He is now happy at a new place, thank god for the current high unemployment rate. Three of my 4 adult children have also experienced similar situations.
When we are under distress, our nervous system, breathing system, endocrine system, digestive system, skin system, circulation system all tell each other something is wrong. Our Bodies Keep the Score. Just as mental illness is NOT a brain issue so too, Psychosocial health is NOT a brain issue. Psychosocial health is about the whole person including, Wellness, Mindfulness and Resiliencing. It’s just that Safety never talks of this. If it can’t be measured, Safety=Zero is not interested.
If the Safety industry urgently needs to learn anything, it is that we have One Brain and Three Minds (1B3M) (https://vimeo.com/106770292; https://vimeo.com/156926212). 1B3M is foundational to all learning in SPoR. An ethic of personhood is essential to an ethic of risk and whatever follows. There is no such discussion of anything like this anywhere in safety globally.
As Claxton (Intelligence in the Flesh) notes ‘The brain doesn’t issue commands, it hosts conversations’ (between the systems of the body). Similarly, illness is not just a physical thing but is socially constructed (Read Radley (1994) Making Sense of Illness or (1991) The Body and Social Psychology.)
Even the language we use for illness, injury, harm, disease, suffering and sickness is socially, linguistically, socially and culturally formed. So, unless we understand that Wellness, Mindfulness and Resiliencing are socially situated and community-centric, we will seek healing in medical, structural and individualistic methods. And, they don’t work.
You can change all the structures you like at work but this cannot give leaders the empathy, vulnerability, humility, wisdom and powerlessness they need to foster Psychosocial health.
How we talk about illness and health at work frames and shapes everything from behavioural outcomes to political and ethical practice. This is why we should never speak of Psychosocial health as a ‘hazard’ (https://safetyrisk.net/the-language-of-hazards-and-psychosocial-mental-health/). I am not a hazard, neither are my behaviours.
Unfortunately, when we use mechanistic language (hazards) to describe social and individual ill-health we toxify the linguistics associated with response. Often diagnosis of ‘the problem’ as a ‘hazard’, takes the focus off personhood and makes analysis about ‘objects’ and structures.
Whenever I hear the language of ‘hazards’ associated with Psychosocial health, I know the focus will NOT be on persons. The language of ‘hazards’ is the perfect language to ensure that workers will NOT speak up (or participate in surveys).
Given the history of how safety understands ‘hazards’ we know that such language will confirm the popular belief in the industry that humans are the hazard.
Wellness, Mindfulness and Resiliencing are completely at odds with the language of ‘humans as hazards’ that is common in approaches to safety (https://safetyrisk.net/a-leadership-worldview-for-psychosocial-safety/). Wonderfully supported by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety. No wonder it supports the brutalistic non-ethic of deontology. No wonder it never speaks of ‘care ethics’.
Similarly, behaviourism, engineering and positivism (common to Safety culture), are at odds with Mindfulness, Wellness and Resiliencing.
Fortunately, Homeostasis (self-regulated protection – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4484222/ ) (also Allostasis) often kicks in (as long as we have cultivated a supportive community outside of work) and we are ‘helped’ in our coping, support and survival.
Fortunately, in SPoR we adopt a practical, holistic, positive and Transdisciplinary approach to persons. SPoR has a very clearly articulated ethic of persons, ethic of risk and practical methods that emerge from such methodology. You can hear an example of how SPoR makes a difference in the workplace (https://open.spotify.com/episode/5i31N4AuGcnSoKoQNkT2Ek?si=CZnDNBI7SZizOoRABI4TQA&nd=1). Similarly, you can hear here how SPoR makes a difference in managers who welcome SPoR approach to persons (https://youtu.be/rAZf2d-SllQ).
Such testimonies can be repeated many times over by people who have found SPoR to be holistic, helpful, practical, person-centric and positive. Such is the foundation of Brain Darlington’s experience (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/).
If you want to find out more about an ethic of risk, registrations close soon for the free module on Ethics. Just register your request by email to email@example.com
Hi Rob, as always a great blog, so true metaphors like “ bouncing back’, nor ‘pull yourself up by your own boot straps” is so anti-social and of a bullying nature. We often hear the metaphors like “pull your sh1t together” or “put your big girl panties on” all so brutal, dehumanizing, blaming and insulting in nature.
Still a long way to go for leaders as well as safety.
Matt Thorne says
Great article Rob. Too often we hear of organisations who guarantee a permanent change in culture when in reality it is Behaviour based Safety dressed up to look like it is care.
Rob Long says
Thanks Matt. There’s nothing in safety quite as brutal as BBS, except zero. I’m yet to read one safety approach to culture that has a foggy clue what it’s is. Regardless of the spin it’s just more engineering marketed as something it is not. Similarly, some of the stuff on Psychosocial is simply fraudulent. Nothing quite like a safety engineer or safety science lecturing others on humans as hazards.