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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 11/11/2009

I'm literally just back from speaking at an event in Hartlepool on Teeside which was called Paths to Well-being. I was keen to go along as it was a very mixed audience and I haven't done anything before in that area of the world. What I found interesting is that just about everyone I spoke to was publicly or privately complaining about how centralised decision-making has become in the UK and how there is a great deal of fear around expressing opinions which are different from what those in power want to hear.

When explaning the background to the Centre I like to explain that I wanted to add on well-being to the Centre's name, five or more years ago,  as I could see that this was the developing agenda. How right I was: hardly a day goes by and there's another article in the paper about well-being and it has become impossible to keep up with all the government initiatives. And this is one of the challenges for me. I think that the well-being agenda has to be bottom up. It has to be about ordinary people making a shift in their lives and values.  If it is adopted by a command and control government, of whatever political persuasion,  then it will backfire.

Well-being is a hugely complex issue. There are no hard and fast rules and little that can be formulated into Government backed programmes or curricula. So much depends on the individual and the context. I ended my talk today by saying that of course few would resist the idea that it is good for well-being for people to be listened to empathetically. However, even this is not always the case. There was a fascinating story recently on John Humphrey's radio programme where he interviews someone about a life ordeal. This guy had a terrible story to tell about being serverely abused by his step-father, his life falling to bits as a result of what he had gone through and then killing his step father. The turning point in this man's life, which really started his healing process, was when a councillor said to him: 'Ok you've been abused, your wife has left you and you've murdered your father. Big deal. Get over it.'

Anyway, the impressive thing about going to Hartlepool was that there  are a lot of people there who seem to intuitively understand the well-being agenda - its opportunities and dangers posed by centralisation.

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