Can our leaders in Australia do what is right?

There is a lack of values driven leadership in Australia. By that I mean leadership that uses values such as community, equality, care for those in need, to relieve the suffering of those we can, as core criteria in political and social decision making.

Prior to an election many political leaders make speeches about what they will do. And they appeal to values such as the above (and others such as safety/security/tough on crime) in order to obtain votes on polling day. However, very shortly thereafter the decisions they make in parliament bear little or no resemblance to the pre-election promises.

Malcolm Turnbull inspired many (including me) who thought he was going to be a breath of fresh air after Tony Abbott, and likely to resolve the plight of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island, move to a more compassionate and fair Australia, and engage in a response to climate change that would be effective and courageous.

What we got was a series of disappointing compromises to the hard-fighting right wing of the Liberal party led by a vengeful Tony Abbott and craven moderates.

You have got hand it to Tony Abbott. He might have beliefs that I abhor but at least he stands for something that is predictable and he is prepared to cop the negative response that ensues. It inspires a section of the population that need simple explanations and a rhetoric that assures them their streets, jobs and future in a largely vanilla Australia will be safe in a time of instability and worldwide population movement. Ditto Pauline Hanson. Like America’s Donald Trump they have managed to inspire people who wanted this type of snake oil. It makes them feel inspired, better than they were, and more secure and hopeful.

Some of us however, are cut from different cloth. We need different values to feel hopeful about. We are not inspired by the right wing conservative view of the world but want a future where people can be confident they will be treated fairly by the courts regardless of their ability to pay for an expensive barrister. A world in which we make national and local efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, in which the refugees and their children on Nauru and Manus Island are offered a life and hope instead of despair, in which our first nations people are regarded with respect and dignity and have the resources they need to make a life for themselves in this land. A world in which those of us in poverty can aspire to improve our lot, in which women are treated equally to men, in which integrity and honest dealing are evident in the daily behaviour of our political and community leaders and others in positions of responsibility.

Where are the leaders like Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated in 1980? He has been canonised this week in Rome. The courage of the man to oppose the right wing militias and thus risk his life. Where are our leaders in Australia with the courage to believe in something enough to stand up for it let alone risk anything other than their political careers? Where is the consistent integrity that inspires us to be better people? Silence.

The left side of politics is no less inspiring than the right at the moment. Labor has imbibed the coolaid and have no other vision than the conservatives. They sold out on refugees and have a watered-down version of climate change response. The Greens are squabbling among themselves and the only person who makes much impression for integrity is Cathy McGowan, the independent member for Indi in north-east Victoria. She acts local and yet has an eye to just dealing on the national stage as far as I can see. But she is one person and do little without the involvement of the two major parties.

At the core of this is a cleft stick. It’s the same nasty squeeze Malcolm Turnbull found himself caught in. To satisfy the right and yet not alienate the left. But what about what is right? This does not seem to figure in their thinking and it disappoints me again and again. I wonder if they know how to think about what is the right thing to do. Ethical thinking rather than pragmatic short-term-gain thinking. They have been thinking about what is politically expedient for so long that they have lost their inner sense of what is right. They resolve the conflict that is created by this clash of left and right by choosing the pragmatic, the lowest common denominator. What is right and good does not figure in the range of options considered by our current leaders. Where is our Oscar Romero, our Xanana Gusmão?

There is in our leaders a short-sighted narcissistic need to relieve internal (party and personal) conflict to satisfy the almost instant polling of daily news feeds that fuel both sides of politics and propel leaders into expedient decision making and damage control on a daily basis. This is what all political leaders in living memory have done in attempts to remain in power: try to satisfy the demands of the mob. The shouting mob is led by the loudest superficial analysis and facile writing by major media outlets whose priority is grabbing the mob’s attention with sensationalist headlines that trivialised complex and difficult social, economic and environmental problems. See Rupert Murdoch’s goals for ousting Malcolm Turnbull.

Who is prepared to take a risk and stand for something that causes some short-term discomfort yet inspires because it is the right thing to do, e.g., release the refugees from the concentration camps we have created in order to discourage boat arrivals? Or take on the coal industry and make a significant decision to reduce carbon emissions? This may cause outrage among some. But it would be the right thing to do. To relieve the suffering of those we can. To take a stand. Our national conscience is at stake here. Particularly as we caused the suffering and despair of the refugees in the first place. Or is our national identity so polluted and self-serving that we have lost our sense of what is the right thing to do?




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.

All the rage

All the Rage is a feature film about Dr. John Sarno and others who are pioneering mind body approaches to treating chronic illness.

This film is to be shown in Melbourne at Cinema Nova Carlton on Sunday September 3rd 2017 at 6.30pm. You can listen to local practitioners and find out about local resources.

For bookings contact

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.

Express your feelings?

I once had a client who said when I asked what feelings he felt, “I don’t seem to have feelings”. This dismayed him and his eyes began to fill up. Slowly it dawned on him that he did indeed have feelings and that he experienced them so rarely that he thought he had no feelings at all. This was normal for him.

On the other hand I have also had clients who seem to have so much feeling that they come in weeping or angry and have difficulty talking without exploding in tears or rage. Usually it is tears as we are not all that comfortable to express rage in front of others.

Feelings are an important dimension of being human and they are present in all of us. If we are biologically human we have feelings. I am sometimes asked, “But if I have feelings, tell me what they are because I can’t feel them?” Examples of feelings include love, sadness, anger, rage, gratitude, guilt, grief, and anxiety.

How we experience our feelings can vary from person to person. In some households you may find that there is so much feeling expressed that it seems chaotic and out of control, even unpredictable. This brings us to a distinction. There is a difference between EXPRESSING and EXPERIENCING.

Expressing is when we do or say something with our feelings, i.e., Cry when we are sad, or hit or shout when we are angry. This becomes aggression. Anger is the feeling and aggression is the action or words. Experiencing on the other hand is when we have the physical experience of the feeling inside our bodies, without expressing it.

To help understand feelings better here we can identify three parts to a feeling. There is the COGNITIVE label or thought that goes with a feeling, i.e., we know we are angry and recognise it.

The second part is the physical experience of the feeling in our body. This is slightly different for each feeling. Sadness, feels heavy, comes into our chests and causes us to fill up with tears and crying so our nose runs and we have tears. Anger on the other hand is hot and it rises from our stomachs into our chest and up our spine into our shoulders and arms, We form fists and clench. We feel stronger and breather faster in readiness for action.

Anxiety is different again. In anxiety we have a sense of something coming from above and pushing down, raised heart rate in palpitations, dry mouth, shakes, tight chest causing sighing, increased need to go to the toilet to pee, and muscle tension in various body areas. Anxiety can also go to our gastro-intestinal tract, causing pain, nausea and bloating. If anxiety becomes chronic the muscles can become stuck in a tense state causing significant pain. Third, anxiety can affect our senses so we have temporary visual problems, hearing difficulty, or a sense of feeling drifty or in some cases blank out altogether for brief periods, leaving us with no memory for parts of conversations. Other words for anxiety include stress and tension.

The third part of a feeling is the IMPULSE. This is an urge we have to act in a way that releases the rising energy generated by the physical and cognitive parts of the feeling. This may be the impulse to cry, to hit, to shout, to hug, to walk up close to someone you love, look them in the eyes and tell them you love them.

When a feeling is experienced it is all internal, not communicated to others and is not expressed. All feelings can be experienced without expressing them.

When a feeling is expressed it is discharged or exploded out and others can see it or hear it in the actions that we have the urge to do or words we want to say.

An example is anger. This is the feeling. It is internal to the person and is experienced as heat rising like a volcano. As described above it causes a rising sense of strength and the impulse is to strike out, to grab, to throttle or to kick. We rarely give expression to this impulse so most of the time people around us are safe. However, some people have trouble containing the impulse to act and they express the feeling in aggressive or even violent actions, i.e., road rage.

Some households have a lot of expressed emotion flying around. They shout at each other, swearing and calling each other names when they feel anger toward each other. These are rarely emotionally safe places to grow up. Children form defensive shells around themselves, learn how to handle feelings and intimacy from watching their parents and other adults and do the same themselves. They are often punished for it by the very parents they are modelling.

Couples can sometimes engage in expressing feelings to each other and this can be destructive if it is done in the heat of the feeling and without respectful concern for the emotional safety of the other person.

Expressing feelings is not as healthy for us as experiencing the feelings, knowing what they are and understanding the meaning of the feeling for us. This is all internal and only then does it lead to external actions toward other such as raising a concern, sharing thoughts and having a discussion together to reach an understanding of an issue that concerns you both.

For example, people will say to me, “But what do I do with it once I experience it?” The answer is understand it. If a couple are angry with each other and discharge their anger by shouting and calling each other names, swearing at each other or making statements about their past behaviour in anger or rage, the feeling is expressed but is this helpful? Not likely. The most likely result is that there is increased distance between the people and they do not communicate easily. There is silence and hurt. This can create loneliness and isolation.

The other alternative may be if both parties notice they feel angry, experience it internally, understand why they feel angry, understand the importance that the other person’s actions or words have had for them and only then once the feeling is understood, they engage with the other person to share their thoughts and that they have felt angry.

This is much more emotionally safe for each person. Words are not said in anger and people are not hurt intentionally because the love we have for the person is also felt alongside the anger. It is true that we can experience more than one emotion at a time. I have had clients say to me, “If I get angry that means I don’t love them anymore.” We can feel angry at the people we love most in the world.

Experiencing feelings first is more emotionally safe, better for relationships and better for us individually than expressing emotion without the experience.

See what feelings you can recognize in yourself. Monitor your own inner emotional life more closely by noticing what changes in your body when you have interactions with others. How do you feel when you are waiting for your partner to come home? Love? Anger? Sadness? Joy? Gratitude? All of the above? Nothing?

Expressing or discharging emotions does not communicate feelings and create understanding. Rather it pushes people away and creates hurt and loneliness.

Experiencing feelings enables us to create intimacy and closeness with others that is respectful, safe, and enjoyable. It also enables us to be productive in our work because our energy is available for creativity and effort. Finally it enables us to experience pleasure and enjoyment in our lives.


I was at a funeral last year and it struck me that sadness

I was at a funeral last year and it struck me that it is acceptable to cry at a funeral if you were close to the person because the person was important to you. But if the person was not particularly close and you still feel like crying you may find yourself thinking that it is not OK because you were not close enough to them to justify feeling so overwhelmed and sad.

I am interested in the fact that we put such restrictions on when and how much we can feel sad. Only if we are close enough, only if the loss was big enough to justify it etc.

This flies in the face of the fact that sadness is just that. Sadness. It is the normal and natural feeling we have when we feel loss of something valuable to us, perhaps loved. There may be many reasons we feel sadness come up in us at a funeral of someone we were not particularly close to. It may be that it touches off memories of someone we were close to in the past. Or it may be that we saw someone else crying and that was enough to trigger our own sadness. Or it may be that we are feeling loss in some other area of our lives, other than loss of someone by death, i.e., loss of a job or moving to a new town and feeling sad about losing the old town. Having an argument with your spouse can make you feel sad about the distance it creates so you find yourself crying.

It is important here to distinguish between reasons we cry. We cry because we are sad. But we also cry because we feel overwhelmed by strong feeling such as anger and so we discharge it by crying it out, as if the tears wash the feeling away. It can seem like a relief afterward but this relief is due to the fact that we were becoming anxious/tense about the feeling becoming so intense. We felt overwhelmed and so cried to get rid of it. This is not as healthy as the tears from sadness.

Sadness does not have a calendar to it so as with all feelings, it doesn’t know that the death was a long time ago. It just knows that you feel sad right now.

You do not need to have a good reason to feel sad. Your psyche knows you feel sad so you will feel sad and then once the sadness has been felt in its entirety you will find the insight comes that helps you understand what it was about.

Emotions do not have reasons. The reasons come afterward to help us make sense of the feeling.

So sadness is a valuable emotion. It tells us how much we have valued something or someone we have now lost. This is important in loving relationships that we can know how much we have loved those we lose in death. Sadness tells us how much we love.

Gratitude is an old fashioned word we don’t hear much in everyday conversation

Gratitude is an old fashioned word that we don’t hear much in everyday conversation these days. Yet, it is the oil that greases the wheels of human relationships and makes us able to get on with each other so much more smoothly than we do without it.

Gratitude is simply thankfulness. I have noticed in some relationships people do not express gratitude for anything others do, but accept the kindness or thoughtfulness of others as if it is just a given, something to take for granted, that is always there. Some even seem to expect kindness and thoughtfulness and become annoyed when it is not readily available, but do not express gratitude for it when it is offered.

Being thankful is a way of recognising that what someone has done for us has been noticed and we are better for it. It recognises that the other person is important and offers them this recognition as a way to say, “I see what you do for me”. In effect this is like saying, “I see you and I value you”.

Close relationships are built on a capacity to accept another person in your life and allow them to affect you emotionally and psychologically.

Gratitude is a way to recognise that the other person has done something that has a beneficial effect on us, and we welcome this closeness. We welcome them into our lives.

Expressing gratitude for what others do for us is also a recognition that we are not islands, self-sufficient to ourselves, but need others and rely on others for much in our lives. These acts of gratitude may be for simple acts such as that someone has cooked a meal for us, or offered to drive us somewhere, or folded our clothes for us, or asked us if we would like a cup of tea/coffee.

Being grateful is a way of recognising the other person’s thoughtfulness, valuing it and letting them know that you understand you are better off because of them.

Often in long-term relationships it can easily slip into an acceptance that the other person in the relationship does what they will do and will continue doing what they do, and that we don’t have to keep thanking them for it. However, this can lead to the kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity of others becoming invisible and not being valued by either party. The solution is gratitude.

The type of gratitude I have in mind is regular small thanks for regular small things. Each time someone does something for you thank them for it. Thanks for making breakfast. Thanks for taking the bins out. Thanks for listening to me rant on. Thanks for tea. Thanks for doing that for me.

Thanks for reading.





Feeling is not doing

We are often afraid of our anger, that feeling anger means we should be guilty. But what have you done by feeling it? Nothing. Feeling is not doing.

We frequently get feeling and acting mixed up as though feeling angry means we have been aggressive. Let’s get a few things straight. Anger is a feeling and aggression is an action or words. One is interior (anger), and the other is exterior (aggression).

The feelings we have are a normal part of being a human being. They are a physiological response we have to experience and so are an integral part of relating with other people, the world around us and our own inner experience.

Take for example, the sadness we have when we lose a person we love in death. This is a normal reaction and not something pathological. We grieve because we have lost someone we loved. The grief is an indicator of the depth of love in us for that person. In this way sadness is to be welcomed because as painful as it is, it is never the last word. Love is.

Often when we have lost someone in death there is also anger toward the loved person. So we feel sadness and anger and love, all mixed in or one after the other in close succession. This can be confusing and cause guilt in us as if we are being unfaithful to the person by being angry with them. We feel what we feel – no judgment. It just is. if you feel angry about them leaving you in death or for any other reason then that is what you feel. Once you feel it deeply enough you can get to the bottom of why you feel angry. Just give yourself enough time to feel all of it without loading it up with judgments.

Keep it simple. Feelings are OK because they are a natural process we experience as much as breathing is a natural process. Feelings are like our emotional skin to the world.

If we let feelings be themselves, feelings will come and go. I often hear people say (as a justification for not crying) “If I start I won’t stop”. This is not sadness talking, it is anxiety. Anxiety that you will be out of control if you let yourself feel sad. So we avoid it. This has the makings of depression if we sit on our feelings and won’t let them be felt.

This brings me to my last point. Experiencing is not expressing. This is the difference between anger and aggression. Anger is an experience, and aggression is an expression of the angry feeling. I am encouraging you to experience rather than express your anger or whatever other feelings you have

Notice in yourself how you relate with your own feelings. How much anxiety do you have about experiencing (not expressing) your feelings? Give yourself close attention so you notice the physical experiences that make up your feelings. This means practicing self-monitoring, or self-observation. If you don’t do it naturally, you may have to learn to do it by practicing is regularly, daily and just notice your inner sensations. What do I feel right now?



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.