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IDEAS, NEWS AND RESOURCES  | October 2016    
We hope you enjoy receiving our newsletter which includes constructionist ideas and practices as well as news and resources from the Taos Institute.
Brief Encounters with The Taos Institute

This month we welcome Kenneth J. Gergen as he shares insights about a healthcare experience ...

Traveling Dark Valleys

by Ken Gergen

For some years now, my wife Mary and I have written and edited the Positive Aging Newsletter ( The newsletter is offered free of charge and delivered electronically. We devote each issue to news and opinion that subvert the common construction of aging as decline, and replace it with a view of aging as an unprecedented period of enrichment. As we reason, if we live in constructed worlds are we not better off with a focus on that which enables us as opposed to disables?

At the same time, our orientation toward positive aging is not simply about staying on the bright side of life. It also means finding ways of traveling through the dark valleys of life without falling into despair, and discovering meaning even in the shadows.  For me, three weeks of this summer were essentially a journey through such a valley. A long-needed heart valve was replaced, and the surgery left me with pain, lost abilities, and many grim and tedious hours. I had never experienced serious surgery before, so I found myself without resources to move through this world in anything approximating a positive way. Slowly, however, with Mary as my guiding companion, I began to find some ways of confronting the daily challenges. I share five of these here, in hopes that others might find them useful:

Choose your comparisons : "How am I feeling" is a question frequently asked by others and myself. It is not an insignificant question, because how I answer can often affect my mood. The most important point is that "how I am feeling" can only be answered in comparison to some standard. Choosing the standard is crucial! If I use the standard of my pre-op life, I am plunged into a hole. I feel terrible! And, because there are many ups and downs across the days of recovery, it is important to select that moment that will allow me to draw a positive conclusion. "Compared to yesterday at this time....", "Compare to last night when it took the nurse four tries to draw blood..." If I am careful to select the right moment of comparison, the day is that much brighter.

Friends and family are invitations to exit myself . When I am alone, my focus often remains on myself...conscious of each ache and pain, each sign that things may be going amiss. I live in a world of grey to black from which it is oh so difficult to imagine myself otherwise. Friends and family are powerful invitations to exit this pit. The important point is to shift the conversation as soon as possible away from myself, to their lives. As they speak about their dramas, I exit myself. I am caught up in their lives, living vicariously in worlds of significance and hope.

Search for the soft
. One major problem with being a surgical patient, is the radical reduction in human touch. Not only did I resist others' touching, feeling fragile as a patient, and fearful that one untoward touch would undo my incisions. But as well, visitors in general were very careful and tentative in their approach.  Perhaps it is the caring security that accompanies touch, but its loss is significant. Thus I began to search for any form of garment, toweling, or other soft material - a substitute, for sure, but far better than nothing. For me, the gift from the gods came in the form of a luxuriously soft, faux fur throw, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. It was a constant companion.

Enjoy the return to childhood . The idea of maturity is frequently equated with autonomy. To grow up, is to learn self-sufficiency. This seems especially so for us males. Becoming a patient is thus akin to losing one's maturity. There is the silent but repeated echo, "You are such a baby..." But such thoughts were debilitating; the situation only became worsened. So, a reflection: what a wonderful opportunity to enjoy again some of the joys of immaturity! It was also gratifying to find that Mary, and the many others upon whom I have leaned, actually found meaning in this transition. 

Forgive yourself . Before surgery I painted a picture of convalescence in which I would bask in the luxury of having time for activities too often shoved aside in the rush of daily life - reading, listening to music, catching up on correspondence, and the like. Thus, when I found myself after surgery little able to concentrate, continuously exhausted, and lacking any ambition, my initial impulse was self-criticism. I was turning into a vegetable! Then a reflection: were my hopes not just another repetition of the life-long voice on my shoulder, equating worth with productivity? The voice was now my enemy. I was later surprised to find how easy it was to enjoy a nap whenever needed.

I suspect that readers could offer many more, and possibly far better, ways of moving more resiliently through such dark periods. I often think there should be an international web-resource where people could share their many -otherwise private - ways of dealing with loss, depression, illness, and the like.  Such a vision is itself uplifting.

We invite you to join us November 10- 12, as we explore Relational Practices in Health and Healthcare: Healing through Collaboration.

We each have our own story of healing and healthcare experience, so all of us, as patients at one time or another, can share in the exploration of relational practices in healthcare.
For information see:

Ken and Mary Gergen will also be facilitating a workshop on Nov. 9th, as part of our pre-conference offering on Reconstructing Aging for Health and Well-Being. 

Visit:  and  
Taos Institute Events and Gatherings  - The Many Ways to Get Involved.....

We are thrilled with the innovative space where the conference will take place and the speakers and  presenters who will be joining us in November . We invite you to take a look at the information on our website: 

Special event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - you will want to be there! 
Music and Healthcare - Medicine and Music Therapy: Tuning into One Another
Wed. Nov. 9th - 5:00 - 9:00 PM - Program, Dinner and Museum

Cleveland, Ohio  (Home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!) 

At The Global Center for Health Innovation (

A Taos Institute Conference in collaboration with the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology (

This conference will bring together scholars and practitioners to explore, share and develop ideas and practices around health and effective healthcare through relational, appreciative, and collaborative initiatives. We will explore how this fundamentally depends on a vast matrix of relationships. Relationships between and among patients, families, physicians, nurses, administrators, educators, insurance adjustors, attorneys, social workers, mental health practitioners, and clergy, are all included.
Conference themes will include Innovations in Relational, Collaborative, and Appreciative Practices in:
  • Patient, Family, and Professional Relationships
  • Healthcare Organizations, Policies, Practices and Whole System Change
  • Healthcare Education
  • Connecting Community and Healthcare
Who should attend:
  • Healthcare providers and practitioners - All those involved with care giving at all levels of care
  • Healthcare and medical educators
  • Consultants to healthcare organizations
  • Students from all healthcare professions
  • Healthcare Executives, Senior Managers and other Leaders
  • Insurance companies, lawyers and policy makers
  • Patients and community members
The Program is Amazing 
We are thrilled with the speakers who will be joining us in November and invite you to take a look at them on our website:   Breakout Sessions and Plenary Speakers

Special event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - you will want to be there! 
Music and Healthcare - Medicine and Music Therapy: Tuning into One Another
Wed. Nov. 9th - 5:00 - 9:00 PM - Program, Dinner and Museum


3rd International Conference of Collaborative 
and Dialogic Practices 
Conversations with and among Education, Research, Health, Social Practices, Psychotherapy...

March 30 - April 2, sponsored by ICCP and TI, 
in the Canary Islands, Tenerife. 



Taos Institute Workshops
  • Social Construction: Relational Theory and Transformative Practices | October 27-29, with Harlene Anderson and Sheila McNamee, Durham, NH
  • Social Construction: Premises and Practices | Oct. 31 - Dec. 12, An Online Workshop, with Celiane Camargo-Borges and Dawn Dole 
  • Practical Tips for Writing a Dissertation | ONLINE workshop - Jan. 15 - March 10, with Rich Furman
For details about these workshops and to register visit:


  • Discover Development NYC | Oct 28-30, with the Eastside Institute


Social Construction: Relational Theory and Transformative Practices

October 27-29, with Sheila McNamee and Harlene Anderson in Durham, New Hampshire

This workshop will introduce social construction and relational practices for those new to it and will help those familiar with it deepen their understandings and practices. Additionally, focus will be on the practical application of constructionist ideas in organizations, therapy, education, and community development. We will focus on relational constructionist understandings of language and meaning making, polyvocality, transformative dialogue, and appreciative and future oriented perspectives. Participants will learn how social reality is constructed in language and the implications of this for our understandings, knowledge, and everyday practice. Participants with a background in social construction will have an opportunity to explore issues of special relevance to their projects and practices. Taos Ph.D. students are encouraged to attend, as are other interested students and professionals.


FREE Downloadable Books 
We are thrilled to bring you all the WorldShare Books and we hope you will  take a few minutes to download your free copies today.  

New Book: 
See all the WorldShare Books >
Donate to the Peggy Penn WorldShare Books Fund 
This fund helps to cover the expenses of offering these online books free of charge to anyone in the world. 
Relational Research Network Meeting and Global Dialogue - a free event

October 26th  
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM US Eastern Time

Hosted by: University of Laguna, Tenrife and The Taos Institute Relational Research Network 

What: We invite you to join with us in conversation to begin to create a space for an international network to generate conversations and collaborations around Relational Research.
    1. Explore
    2. Engage
    3. Dialogue
    4. Share
    5. Create
  • What is relational research?
  • What can a network for relational research become?
  • Are there projects on which we could collaborate together - transdisciplinary, multi-voice that we could design together?
  • What's next? What are the opportunities for collaboration and learning?
To register for this meeting and dialogue - go to: 

by Emerson F. Rasera
Taos Institute Publications, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-938552-31-1

For more information
70Candles! Women Thriving in their 8th Decade

Recently featured in the 
New York Times and the 
by Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole
Taos Institute Publications, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-938552-35-9

by Glenn E. Boyd
Taos Institute Publications, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-938552-22-9

For more information

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By focusing on the positive aspects of aging, and the availability of resources, skills, and resiliencies, research not only brings useful insights into the realm of practice but creates hope and empowers action among older people. By moving beyond practices of repair and prevention, to emphasize growth-enhancing activities, practitioners also contribute more effectively to the societal reconstruction of aging. 
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Participate in online conversations, share resources, ask questions, connect with others doing similar work. Also, we feature special events on this community website.

Join in many different forums, groups and conversations:

1. Taos Institute Europe
2. Collaborative Governance
3. Relational Learning
4. Relational Research
5. Taos Latin America
6. Intergenerativity and Innovation

and many more at:


Welcome (Bienvenidos) to the International Journal of Collaborative Practices. The Journal brings together members of a growing international community of practitioners, scholars, educators, researchers, and consultants interested in postmodern collaborative practices.

Sponsored by Taos Institute and Houston Galveston Institute

I ssue 6- Available Now in English and Spanish - 
International Journal of Collaborative-Dialogic Practice 

Submit your articles!

Issue 7 - coming soon.

  The International Journal of Collaborative-Dialogic Practice
brings together members of a growing international community of practitioners, scholars, educators, researchers, and consultants from diverse disciplines who are interested in collaborative-dialogic practice based in postmodern-social construction assumptions. This community responds to important questions in social and human sciences such as:
  • How can our practices have relevance for the people we meet in our fast changing world?
  • What will this relevance accomplish? For whom? And, who determines it?
The Journal provides a bilingual forum for the exchange of ideas and practices from diverse practitioners and scholars around the world. This forum aims to help produce and promote relationally responsive-dialogic processes which generate new opportunities and new futures in our working and living together locally and globally. 
 The International Journal of Collaborative Practices is available for free, online, in both English and Spanish. Visit:

Donate to the Jane Magruder Watkins Scholarship Fund 

The Taos Institute's mission is to bring together scholars and practitioners concerned with the social processes essential for the construction of reason, knowledge, and human value.

We are committed to exploring, developing and disseminating ideas and practices that promote creative, appreciative and collaborative processes in families, communities and organizations around the world through a social constructionist lens.

We look forward to your participation in the dialogue.  Keep up with our updates!

Dawn Dole, Executive Director
The Taos Institute
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