The gotcha journalist is us

Gotcha! Cries the young journalist with notes on his phone in the palm of his hand, along with every vigilante pleased to have skewered a politician on the sharp end of a pointed question. This is not the first time Albo has been unable to remember facts on the spur of the moment. So he must be an unworthy candidate, unfit for the high office of Prime Minister surely? How can we vote for a person who has trouble remembering facts under pressure? Isn’t coping with pressure a mark of quality leadership?

But then again maybe quality leadership is about more then being able to recall high volumes of information on a wide range of topics under pressure. Maybe he is a worthy candidate and the 20-something journalist has got it wrong.

This “gotcha” journalism, a feature of news conferences during the current election in Australia has revealed an assumption that exists like mycorrhizae in the life of Australia and every other western culture: That we cannot tolerate memory mistakes, that we can only allow people to be leaders, to participate if they can recall high volumes of facts under pressure and that this is what makes a quality leader, that needing others for information we do not have to hand is a weakness.

This is the product of what Prof Stephen G. Post called a “hypercognitive” culture. Memory is overvalued and other human functions under-valued to the extent that people with memory problems, who make mistakes with memory are side-lined, excluded from public discourse and edged out of employment. The under-valued functions include the capacity to work as a member of a team, to know when to call on the knowledge of others and to work with them, the capacity to be able to judge and assess information, to weigh up and determine a course of action based on the evidence. We used to call this teamwork and wisdom and it was prized. Now it appears to be despised.

This is also an ageist cultural assumption. Just as maleness has been accepted as the standard for human function until recent times, performance at age 20 has been accepted as the standard for thinking and memory function and the natural change in memory as we age has become regarded as a sign of a weak mind and a failure.

In addition to the ageist implications of gotcha questioning, there sits the idea that quality leadership is not needing others. The leadership that the young journalist seems to support is that of the solo performer who does not need others but shines by not relying on others, by not needing a team of people around him/her. This is the leader who despises forgetting and needing others as weakness. This is the hero who can slay dragons and stand victorious on the bodies of his/her enemies.

Th hypercognitivism of Stephen Post regards memory limitations as a failure, a sign of mental weakness. There is no place for people with memory limitations in this society. You can belong if you have the memory of a 20-something. You can float to the top if you can recall detailed information. This is you showing you are on top of your brief. You may not know what to do in a crisis or have the values to guide you to make worthy decisions for vulnerable others but you will be regarded as superior because you can recall those facts.

Success is remembering. Failure is forgetting. Needing others and relying on others for skills and knowledge we do not have or who others have more of than us is regarded in this hypercognitive culture as weakness. Success comes from not needing others to succeed. Be independent. Don’t rely on others. This is true strength. A sharp mind is a mark of the truly high functioning person who the young journalist embodies on behalf of us all. The gotcha journalist is us. We recoil from moments of forgetting, shrink from our inability to bring words and facts to mind.

An alternative cultural future for our nation is one in which we change over our lifetimes, in which our abilities are different to those around us and in which we need others in order to shine. In this culture differences and limitations on memory and thinking ability are recognised and valued rather than despised. This is a culture in which a person can draw others with talents together, can foster skills and celebrate knowledge, can give praise and genuine gratitude when others perform well. This person can be part of a community. We can all belong in this culture.

The hero on the other hand has a lonely life on top of the mountain, watchful for enemies, ready to highlight weakness in others. Waiting for the gotcha journalist.

Silence maintains misogyny – time for a new standard for being a man

I am sick of hearing men blame women for walking in parks at night or dressing in clothes men consider sexual as if “they’re asking for it”. I am a 60 year old white professional man. I grew up in a family where I was taught to act fairly, to not be violent or aggressive, to be kind to people in need, to be thoughtful of others and to offer women a seat or to go first through a doorway. I read ‘Gentleman Junior’ at school, my perceptions honed on the rock of Catholic values. As a young man I joined the professional church as a seminarian and spent seven years as a priest. I left so I could marry and have a family. Those years shaped me for good and ill, in ways I still discover to this day. I work now as a psychologist and encounter daily the pain and suffering of people struggling with the lifetime effects of poor parenting or unjust, harmful behaviour from others.

I believed I was a fair, just and caring man.

However, I learned in more recent years just how ingrained is my sexism and misogyny, how normalised and therefore invisible to me are my assumptions that guide my judgments and beliefs and thence my attitudes about women’s behaviour, clothing and about them walking in parks at night.   I had it pointed out to me how much I corrected pronunciation and grammar; how I interrupted and talked over women, how  I assumed what women wanted or needed; how I took it upon myself to explain matters. And the kicker, I was hurt and angry when a woman wasn’t grateful for me doing this.

I noticed when male friends, shop assistants (not all men), real estate agents (mostly men) and tradesmen (all men) spoke to me rather than to my wife   when we were part of joint-decision making conversations.

I realised that I had long assumed that women dressed the way they did to be attractive to men. But discussing the issue with women, I discovered they choose to dress for themselves or for their female friends and less so for men. But males assume it is focussed at them. As much as this may shock some men, women are not walking around wanting sex! Mostly, from what I have learned from the women in my life, women want to live with equal freedom to men, to move around, to live their lives the way they choose. To go about their business without harassment or fear; or the expectation they will be interrupted and talked over. They want to sit on a tram or train without being ogled or touched up. Women would like to know they can walk in a park, or a street, or a laneway without being attacked, murdered and raped.

Yet, women live in a world that men seem to claim as theirs, physically, socially and sexually. It’s a man’s world. But it shouldn’t be. Men have no right to dominate the world or even a seat on a train.

I was part of a conversation recently with five males and one female, all professionals gathered for a meal at the end of a conference day. I listened with interest as the woman talked about the country she came from.   It was a compelling story of her own family’s experience. One of the men at the table came from the same country and had a very different life experience there and proceeded to interrupt and talk over her. To her credit she stuck to her guns for a few minutes, obviously used to this and able to hold her own. But he was louder and more insistent she listen to him and he dominated the conversation in volume and time. But it wasn’t a conversation anymore. And we were his audience. She fell silent. I said nothing. I saw it happening and I said nothing. Next morning I apologised to her for remaining silent. She was gracious and told me it was nothing, even made excuses for him. But what he did was unacceptable and it happens all the time. And I had been complicit in his disrespect to our female colleague.

I have always regarded myself as a caring, empathic person who was respectful toward women. But as you can see it is not the case. It was not easy to accept the way I saw   women was not in a caring nor empathic manner. I was unthinking, wrong and often misogynistic. Even sexually, with embarrassment, I can remember times in my late teens  when I had behaved in thoughtless and self-centred ways that must have put the woman I was with under pressure.

When Jill Maher was killed I wanted to march with the citizens of Melbourne who were grieved and enraged by her rape and death. I didn’t. I watched it on the news. And now that Euridice Dixon has so tragically met the same fate I am despairing about the behaviour of that man, and those men who want to blame her for walking home along the streets and across a sport’s field of Parkville at night.

After Euridice Dixon’s rape and murder I came across a Facebook post urging women to not walk in unsafe parks or streets at night, to call an Uber or taxi. The male writer wrote that he will teach his daughters to avoid these areas at night, to learn martial arts so they will know how to protect themselves against men who want to rape and kill them. He wrote Euridice should have taken a taxi or Uber, she was foolish and that’s why she is dead. ‘It’s her own fault,’ he said.

Men like this man accept that the world is the way it is and you (read women) have to adjust to it, learn to be afraid and restrict your life in order to survive. Men like this do not believe in the possibility of changing their behaviour in order to change the   world where men and women can walk about in freedom and safety. These men believe girls and women should live by different rules to themselves. They accept the idea women should limit their lives, be silent and listen to men when they speak, feel afraid or not dress as they please because they are physically smaller and less able to defend themselves.  They assume that it is only women who should make fearful adjustments to their lives while men do not. Men can dress as they please, walk where they want, sit any way they want, talk over women, take over spaces for themselves, make sexual jokes and passes at women. These men do not believe they should adjust their lives in order to be considerate of what women want, need and deserve.

So what can I do?

The spectrum of situations in which women experience sexist or misogynistic behaviour from males ranges from being talked over in conversation to criminal physical and sexual assault. Several writers have talked about the need for men to take positive action, to speak up, and I support all of that. I have been silent for too long. My wife says I am a good man. I am deeply grateful for her seeing good in me. But I have been silent in my lounge room and in life for too long on this. Too many men are mute.. Men must speak out to other men and risk an aggressive push-back or ridicule, not just when misogynistic talk happens in a pub, but at dinner with friends, on trains, trams, at work when female colleagues are talked over at meetings, or during any conversations.

Speak out when you see women closing down because a man has taken over the conversation or actively shut her down, or made a sexist remark or joke. Listen with respect. Take equal turns when conversing. Avoid speaking more loudly than women to make your voice heard. Wait to hear, give the person time to speak. This is not difficult.

Don’t correct a woman just because she pronounces a word different from you. What does it matter? Get over the need to be right, to be the person who knows more stuff. There are many ways to see situations, not just yours. A woman’s view is just as valid as yours. Maybe she is not interested in getting the name of the thing correct but in the smell or colour or taste of it and values it for its beauty. Maybe she wants to be with you and connect with you emotionally. Be open to another way of experiencing life?

Look at women in a new way, as people with a perspective as valid as yours, not as sexual beings who are restraining their lust for you! Notice how you use your eyes to stare or gaze at women as they approach, as they walk in front of you. Are you treating them as a person or a sexual object? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so don’t go imposing your perception onto a woman. She is just going about the business of her life.

Speak up in the small stuff, the daily invisible misogyny we all share and have responsibility for maintaining. Silence maintains misogyny. Many men are afraid of being criticised by stronger louder more aggressive males. So we stay silent to preserve our own social skins. Imagine if every good man spoke out and took a social risk. Let’s face it, do you really want to remain part of a group that stays silent and won’t support respectful relationships?

It’s time all men stood up and set a new standard for how it is to be a man, and that includes me.

Learn to use Dementia Care Mapping – new course in Melbourne November 2016

We are holding a new Learn to use dementia Care Mapping course to be held on November 28-30 in Eltham, Victoria. This course is an introduction to DCM and licenses you to use this powerful tool in your own workplace to improve quality of life for people living with dementia in residential and day care settings.

The cost of the course is $1375 incGST. You will be provided with all materials, lunch and refreshment breaks.

To register contact Bernie McCarthy at or on 0408 145 819.

The course is provided under license from Bradford University, UK by BMAC Education.

Psychotherapy at McCarthy Psychology Centre

People who may benefit from therapy with Bernie McCarthy may present with the following conditions:

  • Anxiety (panic, agoraphobia, OCD, generalised worry, phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Depression
  • Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) including chest pain, back pain, jaw pain, headaches and migraines, skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema, reflux and bowel disturbance
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Transient cognitive disturbances such visual blurring, going blank, mental confusion
  • Relationship distress and life changes
  • Grief
  • Many of the above conditions will present with co-morbid depression/ anxiety.

For more information on the approach Bernie uses in therapy please click on the link here.


13years +


First session is a trial therapy of two hours – fee is $400.00 (out of pocket $275.50). Subsequent sessions 50-60 mins – fee is $215.00 (out of pocket $90.50).

Medicare rebates under Better Outcomes for Mental Health program


Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm


For appointments call 0408 145 819.



Anxiety gets you three ways

Anxiety is often assumed to be palpitations, dry mouth and shortness of breath. But your anxiety may not look like this. It can also be experienced in a range of other ways that may not look like the anxiety we know from the movies or scaremongering 6.30pm TV shows.

Anxiety affects us in three ways. The first of these ways is physically in the superficial muscles of our body including the chest muscles, arms and legs, neck, shoulders and back, and of course head. When adrenaline floods the system in response to perceptions of threat, these large superficial muscles contract in readiness for action. If we live with chronic anxiety it can cause us to develop lower back problems, neck, jaw, teeth and head aches, and sometimes migraines associated with stress. Many people presenting to physiotherapy practices have anxiety induced physical pain.

The chest pain we experience can often cause us to think we are having a heart attack. It is extremely important that you check this out with your GP or specialist so you eliminate this possibility. If after you have explored this and there is no medical explanation it may be worth considering if you have strong chest pain because of stress.

A common problem when anxiety affects people in this way is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). It is by no means the only reason but it can make us extremely tired and lethargic. Effectively we become too tired to function and the anxiety causes us to withdraw and in some cases curl up on the couch. Rest becomes a priority and in time the symptoms can become the main aspect we build our life around

The second way anxiety can show itself in our bodies is in our smooth muscles of our gastrointestinal tract. . These are the intestinal muscles that move food down and around our oesophagus stomach and bowel.. Have you noticed that when you get nervous you can sometimes hear your stomach gurgling, or even feel nauseous? Some people do vomit and have trouble keeping food down when they are very anxious.

In the stomach and oesophagus the anxiety causes the release of stomach acid which in large quantities can pass up into the oesophagus causing a burning commonly known as ‘heartburn’, which is very painful.

A common bowel problem that is affected by anxiety is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Stress makes the symptoms worse and can compound the physical difficulties by making people uncomfortable about socializing where they may not be close enough to a toilet. Often there has never been any toilet accident in the past but the fear of it is enough to make people avoid social situations altogether.

Other bowel issues include pain and discomfort, gas, diarrhoea and constipation.

The third way anxiety can cause us discomfort is not as obvious as the first two ways. It is known as Cognitive Perceptual Disturbance (CPD).

This type of anxiety can affect your memory, thinking and perception. Memory problems are fairly common at all ages, not just as you get older.

Stress causes some of us to forget, to have difficulty concentrating, and in some extreme cases to simply blank out. Some clients have moments of not being able to remember where they are or to have forgotten what we spent the session talking about if stress was too high for them during the session. Some people will report being dizzy and unable to stand without assistance when highly stressed.

Thinking can also be affected. Some will report having ‘cloudy’, confused thinking. Others will report being unable to concentrate on the voice of a person who is making them anxious.

Disturbances of perception can also occur when anxiety becomes very high. This can take the form of visual blurring, or visual snow. Hearing can be impaired for brief periods making the person unable to hear clearly. Tinnitus is also made worse by stress.

So you can see that stress can affect us in many different ways. Psychotherapy is designed to assist you to recognise the signs of anxiety/stress for what they are. Too many times we hear of people attending Emergency Rooms (ER) with chest pain or crippling stomach pain only to find they have no physical reason for the experience. Canadian figures suggest 50% of presentations to ER with gastrointestinal pain are due to anxiety/stress. This is high cost to the person and to the medical and hospital system.

Psychotherapy can help!

A story of two wolves

The wolf you feed… | Catapult Events

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me”, he said to the boy…

“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.

One is evil.

He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego”.

He continued…

The other is good.

He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

The same fight is going on inside you… and inside every other person, too”.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather…

“Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied…

“The one you feed”.


Use your DSB Supplement to enrol in the Diploma of Dementia Care Leadership

The Dementia and Severe Behaviour Supplement (Australian aged care funding) can be used by aged care organisations in Australia to improve staff skills, and you can do this by enrolling in the Diploma of Dementia Care Leadership. This nationally recognised  qualification is for  leaders and those who are in roles that require leadership and who feel they need to learn how to be a better leader and to know more about modern dementia care.

McCarthy Learning has developed a Diploma of Dementia Care Leadership which is to be launched with our first intake this July 2014.

Let’s face it, most undergrad courses or entry level courses do not prepare you with adequate knowledge about dementia – most of you have probably learned what you know on-the-job.

Now is the time to consider a professional  training program that is designed to be practical and give you the knowledge you need to be an excellent leader and have the most up-to-date knowledge of best practice dementia care.

The Dementia and Severe Behaviour Supplement provides $5,894.75 for each eligible resident. If your organisation is receiving this supplement for some of your residents suggest to your manager that they support you to improve your leadership skills by enrolling you in the Diploma of Dementia Care Leadership.

The course is delivered in six blocks of  face-to-face learning for 3-5 days every two months for a year, with online learning and workplace projects.

Cost of the course this year is $7,000. Next year the cost will increase to our usual price of $9,000.

Offered in all capital cities of Australia.

Contact Karen Carver at McCarthy Learning 03 9431 0311 or find more information at

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers with dementia in Australia today

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers with dementia in Australia today who are anxious about their children, who believe they have to be home with their children, who cannot remember their children’s names or faces anymore, who cannot remember their husband’s name, who become upset when they are reminded that they are mothers because they realise they have forgotten, who are anxious because they think there is something they have forgotten to do, who think they are young and need  their own mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and to those wonderful people who care for you.

SOFI2 used for direct observation of residents in Australian aged care homes

SOFI2 is now being used by the Australian Aged Care Accreditation Agency to directly observe residents during their accreditation visits.

This is a marvellous step forward as it introduces evidence of resident wellbeing (or otherwise) and staff care behaviour into the mix when they are considering compliance. And isn’t the very reason you provide care so that the resident experiences a life worth living, i.e., wellbeing?

SOFI2 is a scaled down version of Dementia Care Mapping and has been designed by the University of Bradford Dementia Group in the UK. If you wish your staff to be familiar with the observations that are to be used by the assessors and the way they are interpreting their direct observations it may be helpful to have some of your staff trained in Dementia Care Mapping. DCM courses are available throughout Australia with McCarthy Psychology Services. Contact us to discuss your needs.


The purpose of anxiety

Why do we get anxious? The usual explanation is that it is designed to help use fight or flee from danger or threat. This is true but it also functions to keep our feelings away from our conscious awareness. Take for example when you get angry. You know you are angry but your body reacts with tension in muscles , raised heart rate, chest tightness and dry mouth. This combination is signs of anxiety and not anger. But how can this be even though you know you are feeling angry?

In addition to helping us respond to external threats by activating our sympathetic nervous system releasing adrenaline into our bloodstream, anxiety is triggered when we experience emotions that have become unacceptable to us, effectively becoming an internal threat or danger to our psyche. So our system perceives them as a threat and we react with physical anxiety.

This is a very common problem and often in therapy I find clients will identify the feeling they have as anger or sadness and then go on to describe anxiety in their body.

What can do about this? Firstly we can be clear about what is what. Call it what it really is. Anxiety is anxiety – not feelings of anger or sadness etc..

The effect of living with  anxiety being mislabelled as anger and other feelings is that we are deceived by our own psyche into not paying close attention to ourselves. Effectively we ignore ourselves thinking we are being so attentive but in reality we are living with an internal deception.

By being clear about it in our minds we can begin the work of self-awareness, paying attention t ourselves and noticing what is going on inside us. Then we can make decisions about whether this is the way we want to live.