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The Writings of Ivor Browne

Steps along the road-the evolution of a slow learner

by Ivor Browne

Publication Year: 2013

This book charts the career of a man who has always been respected for his compassion, quirky way of thinking and fearless opposition to orthodox psychiatry. Ivor Browne has had a positive input into Irish life on both sides of the border. As a young man he was given a fellowship to Harvard University where he studied Public and Community Mental Health. He returned to Ireland determined to put what he had learned into practice and it was his initiative which took the care of mental patients away from large institutions into the community. He conceived and was director of the Irish Foundation for Human Development. This set up the first Community Association in Ireland in Ballyfermot one of the early large housing estates in Dublin. Ballyfermot was merely a housing estate without any facilities, he went in with a professional team and helped the residents to turn it into a thriving working class community.This project was so successful that an offshoot was established in Derry, called the Inner City Trust which not only rebuilt, but transformed the city of Derry during the years it was being torn down by both sides in the conflict. The work of rebuilding was done by young people of Derry, who were trained by the Trust and inspired away from taking part in the destruction of their home town. Derry was made a model for The Prince of Wales' urban village development project and other urban renewal developments around the world.

Published by: Cork University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 3-10


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pp. ix-x


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. xi-xvi

Ivor Browne is one of Ireland’s great liberators. Such a word is normally used only to describe those who furthered religious and civil freedom or political independence. But it applies here nonetheless – doubly so, in fact. Browne is a literal liberator: he was a key figure in the freeing of thousands of people ...

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pp. xvii-xxii

Not too long ago I was sitting in my office looking for something when I came across this collection of my papers. These are articles on a variety of topics that I have written over the past fifty years. Some have appeared in journals or in the media, but the majority have never been published anywhere, and were often put together for talks or lectures that I had to give. ...

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1. The Management of the Acute Withdrawal Phase in Alcoholism

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pp. 1-6

The alcoholic in an acute toxic state following prolonged excess is an unpleasantly familiar problem. We have been unfavourably impressed by the frequently vague and haphazard treatment of such cases in general hospitals, and even in specialized centres. ...

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2. An Experiment with a Psychiatric Night Hospital

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pp. 7-18

The article ‘An Experiment with a Psychiatric Night Hospital’ was included in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine in late 1959. It was written in conjunction with Joshua Bierer (1901–84), founder and long-time editor of the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. ...

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3. Psychiatry in Ireland

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pp. 19-26

In 1960 I went to the United States on a scholarship to the Harvard School of Public Health. One of the participants in the Mental Health Group was a psychiatrist from India. What interested me was that at that time there were 20,000 mental hospital beds in the Irish Republic for a population of less than 3 million, and in India, ...

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4. The Dilemma of the Human Family: A Cycle of Growth and Decline

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pp. 27-44

The following article, ‘The Dilemma of the Human Family: A Cycle of Growth and Decline’, is reprinted from the Journal of the Irish Medical Association, vol. LX (Jan. 1967), No. 355, p. 1. The coauthor is T.J. Kiernan, who was Irish Ambassador to the United States during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. ...

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5. The Therapeutic Community Within Society

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pp. 45-50

This article about the ‘therapeutic community’ was written in September 1968. At a mental health meeting in Maynooth attended by a number of psychiatrists, including Maxwell Jones – the first person to establish a therapeutic community in Britain – and Joshua Bierer, I presented this paper on the current development of community psychiatry in the Dublin area. ...

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6. Human Beings, Their Surrounding Environment and Human Development

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pp. 51-72

This paper was never published but was presented at an international meeting in Dublin in 1970 on the state of society at the time. It was attended by a diverse group, including economists, sociologists, community workers, etc. This paper was my first attempt to look at the direction I felt small, personal, human communities might evolve into in the future. ...

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7. Psycho-Social Problems and the General Practitioner

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pp. 73-83

On reflection, a better title for this paper would have been ‘Human Bio-Social Problems and the General Practitioner’, for in real life we do not find any such thing as a purely psychic or psycho-social problem; all the things which happen to us are experiences involving our whole being. ...

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8. Macra na Feirme: To Farm or Not to Farm

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pp. 84-95

The next piece was written on 7 November 1974. As part of the work for the Irish Foundation for Human Development, we were asked to consult with Agricultural Inspectors to suggest ways in which they might be able to assist farmers with the human problems that were arising as a result of the introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy. ...

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9. Mental Health and Illness

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pp. 96-108

The article ‘Mental Health and Illness’ was never published, but I gave a talk on it on 8 May 1976. I am not sure where this was – it may have been at a meeting in Wexford. In this paper I refer to the numbers of patients in Irish Mental Hospitals in comparison to other Western countries ...

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10. The Family in Western Society

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pp. 109-125

Most people in this country or elsewhere would, I think, agree that the family is a basic social institution in our society, perhaps the primary social unit. The constitution of Ireland has this to say about the family in Article 41: ...

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11. The Human Group – A Living System

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pp. 126-140

There is a growing awareness among individuals at the present time of the need to live more in tune with nature, each other and our fellow creatures. That we will do this only by making being a priority and doing a by-product, albeit totally necessary, would seem to be an inescapable conclusion. ...

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12. Towards a Healthy Society

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pp. 141-151

This paper was never published but was the subject of a talk I gave in Wexford on 11 June 1979. It was around this time that I first encountered the work of the two Chilean biologists, Umberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, and their concept of autopoiesis, which is fundamental to the understanding of human group organization. ...

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13. Minorities

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pp. 152-159

I was asked by The Furrow magazine to write this article to promote the launching of an issue of Crane Bag dealing with minorities. In my paper, written on 7 May 1981, I started with a poem by Bobby Sands, who had died on hunger strike. However, because of the political tensions surrounding his death at the time, The Furrow magazine refused to publish the article ...

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14. The Canute Syndrome

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pp. 160-172

Work, and the methods by which wealth can be distributed, are relentlessly changing – terrifyingly, for many people. There are now in excess of twelve million people unemployed in Europe. Even as I write, that figure will have increased. A large proportion of these people will never again have a job, ...

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15. How Does Psychotherapy Work? Part I. The New Science Paradigm for Psychotherapy Theory

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pp. 173-190

Vincent Kenny and I were asked by Dr Frederik F. Flach, MD, to write two papers on the way psychotherapy works for his ongoing Professional Development programme in New York entitled ‘Directions in Psychiatry’. The following two papers were published in the journal Directions in Psychiatry (vol. 5, lesson 3) in December 1984. ...

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16. How Does Psychotherapy Work? Part II. A Systems Approach to Psychotherapy Practice

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pp. 191-206

The previous chapter raised the issue of what is reality and what is illusion. It was argued that there is a large gulf between the view of reality inherent in the Newtonian mechanical model on the one hand and the experience of reality as humans live it on the other. ...

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17. Thomas Murphy: The Madness of Genius

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pp. 207-215

Tom Murphy is one of Ireland’s premier playwrights who has worked closely with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and Druid Theatre, Galway. He was born in Tuam, County Galway, in 1935. His first successful play, A Whistle in the Dark, was performed at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London in 1961 and caused considerable controversy ...

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18. Psychological Trauma, or Unexperienced Experience

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pp. 216-243

My thesis is such that it is hard to understand why it is not already part of our everyday knowledge. Simply, when something happens to us, we do not experience all of it at once. Experiencing is a process that takes place over time. It involves neurophysiological and somatic work on the part of the person to whom the experience happens. ...

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19. A Granular Society

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pp. 244-266

In 1992 we are told that Europe will be taking a further step towards political and economic integration. There will be free movement throughout the community with the abolition of customs and national borders. This is to be welcomed and is simply part of a wider and very gradual movement on the surface of our planet ...

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20. To Be or Not to Be (Doing vs Being)

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pp. 267-290

Enter homo sapiens. For the greater part of the two million years or more since human beings appeared on this planet, tribal or hunter-gatherer clusters lived in a more or less harmonious relationship with all the other living systems within the biosphere. ...

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21. Management of Responsibility

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pp. 291-300

This paper was not published. It arose as a result of the Tavistock Group Conferences that we ran in Dublin during the late 1970s on the theme of responsibility and leadership. This paper, written in February 1980, represented my views as a result of those experiences. ...

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22. Guided Evolution of a Community Mental Health Service: The Dublin Experience (A Personal Odyssey)

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pp. 301-322

Many talented and dedicated women and men have participated in the Dublin Community Psychiatry Experiment, in so far as this has succeeded. My only contribution has been to keep a guiding hand, from time to time, on the direction of its flow. ...

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23. ‘Community Care’ or Independence?

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pp. 323-328

Dr. John Connolly in his paper spoke of the widely differing meanings of and attitudes towards the concept of community care but, to paraphrase the words of Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland: ‘When I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ ...

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24. New Chronicity

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pp. 329-338

I am pleased and honoured to be here because I have admired GROW’s work for a good few years and I have had a number of dialogues with Con Keogh whom I have great respect for. This, of course, means I am a deviant like the rest of you, because the orthodox people do not even ask me to talk anymore. ...

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25. Mental Illness – Letter to The Irish Times

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pp. 339-341

This letter was published in The Irish Times in November 2006 in response to a piece by Breda O’Brien, ‘The Minister’s View on Mental Illness’, which was subsequently described as ‘downright irresponsible’ by a group of six professors of psychiatry. I felt obliged to respond to what is now becoming a national debate about the nature of mental illness. ...

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26. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) – Letter to The Irish Times

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pp. 342-344

This letter was published in The Irish Times in June 2008. It resulted from the response of the Irish College of Psychiatrists to a letter on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) by Dr Michael Corry, where they stated that ‘ECT is still a valuable psychiatric treament’. I stated that ‘I would beg to differ’. ...

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27. ‘Unassimilated Happenings’ and the False Memory Syndrome

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pp. 345-376

This paper and ‘Healing the Trauma’ were never published, although I did send them to the American Journal of Psychiatry, not realizing how much thinking had changed in the USA. They had dismissed the previous emphasis on psychoanalysis and dynamic psychiatry and shifted to a narrow medical view of psychiatric illness, claiming that it was all ‘biologically based’. ...

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28. Healing the Trauma

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pp. 377-402

The next paper was written, in June 1995, with David Meagher, Kevin O’Neill and Miriam Gannon. While the previous paper, ‘Unassimilated Happenings’, presents the theory of unexperienced experience, this second paper deals with the therapeutic aspects and the methods of treatment involved. ...

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29. Breaking the Mould: Spirituality and New Developments in Science and the Psychology of Consciousness

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pp. 403-421

My intention in this paper is to attempt to contrast the Newtonian mechanistic scientific viewpoint with some Recent, more open-minded scientific developments in the psychology Of consciousness, brain function, memory and information Storage, etc. ...

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30. Northern Ireland – A Dysfunctional Family?

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pp. 422-427

Written in July 1996, this paper was published in The Irish Times as a special article. What I was attempting to do was to describe Northern Ireland as a sick family. Since I wrote this paper, of course, the Peace Process has intervened. It feels strangely prophetic that, at the end of this article, I described as a possibility what has actually happened since then. ...

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31. After the War, Reconciliation?

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pp. 428-438

Written in November 1997, this paper was presented at a conference in Derry under the title ‘Reconciliation and Community: The Future of Peace in Northern Ireland’. On the first page of this paper, I refer to four headings which would need to be dealt with if any significant peace and reconciliation in the North of Ireland were to be achieved. ...

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32. Suffering and the Growth of Love

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pp. 439-456

Change is central to our existence in this reality, in this material world. Humankind has changed the world out of all recognition and yet it remains true that the only lasting positive change anyone can make is within him/herself. Change oneself and one’s world changes. ...

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33. ‘Spirituality Begins Where Religion Ends’

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pp. 457-463

I think my first awareness of spirituality came from my mother. She was a simple, gentle woman who was herself genuinely spiritual without even being consciously aware of it. She was Church of Ireland simply because of her upbringing but had no prejudice whatsoever. ...

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34. All in One

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pp. 464-469

Sahaj Marg provides us, as individuals, with a unique method of developing our inner spiritual lives. Nevertheless, as our Master has stressed many times, it is the abhyasi’s responsibility to develop character and to mould external behaviour, which is essential if we are not to fall back ...

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35. Love and Respect for Freedom

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pp. 470-478

If you think about it, were we to design a universe we would want it to be as perfect as possible, to be under our control so that there would be no chaos or disruptive behaviour. Interestingly, this is just the way Newton conceived the universe to be organized. However, this view of the world did not begin with Newton. ...

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36. Human Potential

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pp. 479-485

In this paper I ask the question ‘Can we exercise our free will without causing damage to everything around us?’ It seems to me there is only one way and that is to use our freedom to hand over, to become a humble part of nature. In struggling to envisage how this could happen I point to the way the cells in our body combine and co-operate ...

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37. Management of Stress Resulting from the Celtic Tiger

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pp. 486-495

So far in this conference you have heard eloquent descriptions of the pressures in the workplace, and in contemporary life generally, which cause us to be stressed. What I want to focus on is the question of why it is that these pressures and external circumstances cause us to be stressed? ...

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38. Redrawing the City

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pp. 496-503

A senior planner with Dublin Corporation and an Israeli architect have put together an imaginative volume about Dublin to which they have given the interesting title, Redrawing Dublin. It is beautifully produced and asks many questions about the nature of the city, such as ‘Where does your city begin and end?’ ...

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39. Mental Illness –The Great Illusion?

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pp. 504-517

The world is a sea of troubles and we all have to face suffering in various ways as we go through life. We have to adapt to these circumstances as best we can. People use all kind of ways to try to manage; some work better than others, while some are counter-productive and land us in trouble. ...

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40. Turning Medicine Upside Down

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pp. 518-530

Medicine at present is functioning upside-down. What do I mean by this? Traditionally, the medical profession is organized on a hierarchical basis. The elite at the top are the specialist physicians and surgeons. They work in our hospitals and private clinics and expect to be treated with the greatest deference and respect. ...

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41. Psychotherapy: What is it?

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pp. 531-554

The word ‘therapy’ comes from the greek – therapeia,1 meaning to treat, or alternatively to be of service, to attend on, but it is usually understood as referring to ‘Medical treatment’. In medicine this is understood as meaning to ‘treat’, that is, the main activity rests with the doctor, to do something; to carry out some precedure on the patient. ...


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pp. 555-570

E-ISBN-13: 9781782050551
E-ISBN-10: 1782050558
Print-ISBN-13: 9781855942196
Print-ISBN-10: 1855942208

Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Abused women.
  • Intimate partner violence -- Psychological aspects.
  • Psychological abuse -- Prevention.
  • Intimate partner violence -- Prevention.
  • Men -- Psychology.
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