Book review: NURTURING THE NURTURERS: HEALING THE PLANET | Leon Petchkovsky

To heal the planet, it’s not just climate change that needs fixing. We need to nurture our fellow humans in the first three years of life and we need to do that with mindfulness and empathy according to Northern Rivers psychiatrist and Jungian psychotherapist, Leon Petchkovsky.

It may not seem like such a radical idea to nurture a child in a critical period of life but Petchkovsky’s book ‘Nurturing the Nurturers: Healing the Planet: The Wati Kanyilpai Story’ points to a plethora of evidence that would suggest otherwise.

It takes a radical person to come up with radical ideas and Petchkovsky is no exception. In the late 60s the recently graduated doctor and junior researcher at a mental hospital in Sydney commandeered a bevy of dead lab rats whose brains had been pickled with amphetamines, and published his own research on the side. He swiftly found himself unemployed and unable to find work in Sydney so he went to Alice Springs in 1969 and so began his love affair with central Australia.

It was through his work with Indigenous Australians he was introduced to Wati Kanyilpai, the male Dreamtime ancestor whose task is to nurture the nurturers. Petchkovsky channels Wati Kanyilpai throughout the book by way of directing his message to men, the primary audience for this book. Patriarchal hegemony has a lot to answer for, and Petchovsky takes aim at damaging behaviours, narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, that can exacerbate developmental trauma disorder (DTD), reactive attachment disorder (RAD), ADHD, autism, conduct disorders and so on.

Devastating consequences of colonialism on indigenous communities such as high suicide rates and foetal alcohol syndrome, is well covered. Interestingly, Indigenous cultures always been strongly patriarchal yet pre-colonial Australians had a strong system of nurturing children.

While Petchkovsky points out a ‘collective cultural avoidance of nurturing awareness’, he does have great respect for the Babes to Bumps and Beyond initiative in Victoria, as well as other initiatives. Domestic violence, however, is the core issue that men must address in family life.

The book is an unusual mixture of both spiritual and scientific offerings, perhaps a reconciliation of sorts of ancient and contemporary cultures. It also offers hope in practical form to help reduce the range mental illnesses that plague our society today.

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