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Dr Nicholas Beecroft is a Consultant Psychiatrist who has spent 25 years exploring the worlds of Medicine, Psychiatry, Business, Leadership, International Relations, Politics, the Military and Spirituality. Most recently he has been exploring the Future of Western Civilization through a series of interviews with visionary leaders. This is his story:
I trained as a doctor at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Medical School in London, doing a BSc. in psychology at University College as part of my medical degree. After a year as a House Physician and House Surgeon, I went straight into psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital, the Institute of Psychiatry in London where I became a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I specialize in organizational and military psychiatry and have worked with the British Army, the Royal Navy and the National Health Service.
I spent 5 years developing an interest in what I came to call “Organic Leadership,” aligning organizations with human nature to unleash maximum human potential. I developed this through a combination of consulting, coaching and teaching across a wide range of organizations including McKinsey & Co., BP, Cable & Wireless, the National Health Service, British Gas and Johannesburg City Council. I helped to establish the first Department of Organizational Psychiatry outside of the USA at King’s College London where I taught executives and MSc. students Organizational Psychiatry and Psychology.
I have had a lifelong interest in Foreign Policy, national identity, security and geopolitics. Whilst I was at studying at the London Business School for an MBA, I watched the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks live on television. This and the aftermath persuaded me that it was time to transform our Foreign Policy to include the human dimension-to perceive International relations as the interrelationships between individuals, groups and mass consciousness. I set about applying the knowledge and skills from clinical psychology, psychiatry and group dynamics to diplomacy and began to consult to diplomats, politicians and journalists. I called this “Psyplomacy.”
I immersed myself in Track Two (off the record) diplomacy, helping to facilitate dialogue on immigration into Europe, the Weaponization of Space, Western-Chinese relations, European Common Foreign and Security Policy, State-building, British-German relations, Public Diplomacy, peace building, Islamic radicalization and counter-terrorism.
I worked with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the British Embassy in Damascus where I put the British-Syrian relationship on the psychiatrist’s couch, analyzing the relationship and recommending strategies to improve it.
I influenced the British Council in London to shift their model of public diplomacy from a marketing model to a relationships-based model grounded in a clear identity, values and authentic dialogue. They launched a new policy based upon the Psyplomacy model.
After the German Foreign Minister expressed his frustration at the treatment of Germany in the British media, he accepted my proposal to work with the German Embassy in London on a psychologically informed approach to public diplomacy to improve the British German relationship.
I helped to stimulate the debate within the British government and media about Britishness, patriotism and multiculturalism which is gradually been opening up over the last 10 years. I made a substantial commitment to work behind the scenes on our strategy for the “War on Terror” which I shared in a number of places including briefing two Foreign Secretaries, the Minister for International Development, the Conservative party, the BBC, Channel 4, the Ministry of Defense and the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
It became clear to me that, “We” the British and, more broadly, “We” Western Civilization had lost our direction and self-confidence. I began with a series of interviews with people which I called “Britain on the Couch.” The key theme across the board was a perception of loss of confidence and authority. I interviewed teachers, doctors, nurses, military personnel and the general public to find out what is the foundation of their authority? What most fascinated me was that, in spite of coming from a very broad range of backgrounds, the people spoke as one as if singing from the same hymn sheet, I could almost sense and inner compass and map which everyone shared and-there was a big wobble in it! The traditional order and self-confidence arising from clear beliefs and shared identity had been breaking down but hadn’t yet been replaced by a new set of beliefs and values. Culturally we have many old baggage and maladaptive beliefs which are limiting our full potential. If we going to succeed at a time of unprecedented global change then we can and need to step up to the next level of cultural and personal evolution.
I concluded that if we are to survive and thrive in the face of the many challenges which we face then we are going to have to sort ourselves out-to be clear about who we are, where we’re going, what we believe, what is right, what is wrong, what is true, what is false; to restore our self-confidence, vision and values around which we can align.
I realized that to rejuvenate our society we would need a strong spiritual foundation. That was an uncomfortable conclusion for me because I considered myself to be undeveloped in that area. I was brought up to consider Christianity and spirituality to be a naive, unscientific, superstitious and rather embarrassing relic of the past which simply wasn’t necessary in the modern world. However, through my explorations I realized that we need some core foundational truths about who we are as human beings, why we’re here and how we should live. So, I set about a long journey of exploration through training in Energetics, Values analysis & facilitation, Transformative-Evolutionary Coaching, Vipassana meditation, Enlightenment Intensives, Tantra, Healing, Open Space Technology and Spiral Dynamics Integral. I participated in a Circle of Trust Courage to Lead retreat, the New Warrior Training Adventure, the Mankind Project, the Culture of Honoring Initiatory Journey and have attended many workshops on improvisation and comedy. The big questions are still largely a mystery to me but I’m a bit further forward in the enquiry.
There were three main conclusions that came out of all this. One was that for all the endless negativity in the media and public conversation about the huge range of problems and threats which exist, there are a huge number of people globally working on inspirational and initiatives, ideas and visions in what is a giant process of cultural evolution throughout emerging global consciousness. As Don Beck puts it, “No more prizes for predicting the rain. Its time to build the Ark.”
The second main lesson was that it is a massive waste of time and energy when we resist that which we don’t like. In a fierce battle with a Marxist professor which ended in stalemate, my opponent simply collapsed and dropped away when I asked him, “if everyone took up your ideas and if the world were the way you would like it to be, what would that be like?” He simply didn’t know. He’d never considered it. He only knew what he was against, what he hated. He was like a windsock with no wind. I realised that to defeat all those cultural forces which I had so fiercely resisted, I simply needed to leapfrog to the other side with that incisive question. The only problem was that I couldn’t answer the question myself!
The third main lesson was that we as individuals and a group have much of our power and potential locked away in our shadow, in our dark side, the wounds, the taboos, the dysfunctional beliefs, false dichotomies and the groupthink. To unlock our potential, we need to heal those wounds and shine a light on the dark side and integrate the healthy strands of all. The old false dichotomies such as left and right, male and female, love and power, freedom and control, security and openness, diversity and unity, cohesion and separation, judgement and non-judgement, truth and mystery, patriotism and globalism each have healthy and unhealthy strands which need sorting out and integrating into the whole.
In September 2011 I embarked on a project exploring the Future of Western Civilization to create a resource of interviews with visionary leaders at the evolutionary edge of our culture who can share their stories, experiences and inspirational vision is for the future. The aim is to play my part in rejuvenating the self-confidence and direction of our Civilization.