Neufeld Institute Conference

… and now for something completely different … to borrow a phrase from Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy series. Yes, our annual fund-raising conference will be completely different this year.

For one thing, we have decided to go with a one-day symposium style conference where all participants attend each session, providing a shared common experience. We decided to keep the conference online to extend our reach. We also decided to challenge our three keynote speakers to distill their material to the essence in a TED-style talk (with bit of added time as we just aren’t 18-minute people), such as I attempted with the frustration traffic circle talk last year. There is something to be said about speaking succinctly to the big picture so as not to lose the forest for the trees. Each talk will be followed by panel discussion to shed further light on the material by walking around the topic from different points of view.

The theme of our 2023 conference is the Wisdom of Nature. I prefer to personalize this life energy force with a capital ‘N’. As I enter into my elder years, my awe at Nature’s brilliance is only increasing. That Nature is truly for us, yearning towards the unfolding of our potential, has always been at the heart of the developmental approach to making sense of human nature. This understanding and appreciation is even more important as the doctrines and doctors of disorder have completely infected the prevailing world view. As my eyes become clearer with age (says he rather arrogantly) so too does the urgency to be a worthy advocate of Nature. To borrow a turn of phrase from Pascal, the human brain really does have its reasons, reasons we won’t be able to make sense of if all we’re looking for is what’s wrong and all we believe in is disorder and diagnosis. 

Regarding the topics and speakers for this years conference, I will lead off with the Wisdom of Dependence, hopefully turning on its head the doctrine of independence that has dominated parenting approaches throughout the last century. Deborah MacNamara will talk on the Wisdom of Gathering to Eat, sharing some of the most exciting material from her soon-to-be-published book on food and attachment. Tamara Strijack will present on the Wisdom of Story, helping us to take back this primordial, emotional playground from the professional storytellers, and in so doing, recapture its original purpose and power in our everyday lives.

We’re delighted to announce that Gabor Maté and Daniel Maté will join myself and Tamara in a special end-of-day panel discussion to talk about the wisdom of trauma material in the context of parenting. I’m feeling a bit vulnerable here, as it’s dawning upon me that Gabor and I are leaving ourselves wide open for our ‘traumatized’ first-born children to throw us under the bus.

In keeping with our theme, we are releasing my 2022 keynote conference address – Bouncing Back: from stress to strength – as a free resource. My preferred title for this talk is ‘The Wisdom of the Stress Response’. I would invite you to view or review this presentation through the lens of that title. You are also welcome to share this resource as you see fit. 

What I hope for at the end of the day is that our understanding and appreciation of the wisdom of Nature will be enhanced. Most of us are working far too hard at raising our children. We don’t need to push the river. The more we understand the workings of Nature, the better we will be at knowing our role in delivering our children into its care. I hope you will join us!

Gordon Neufeld, PhD