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Upon our arses

By Timothy Cocks Philosophy of pain 12 Aug 2016

The Imposter Syndrome

The School of Life has a brilliant little video on The Imposter Syndrome – that ‘crippling thought that people like us couldn’t possibly triumph given what we know of ourselves’….


Alain de Botton offers an antidote to The Imposter Syndrome from the philosopher Michel de Montaigne who wrote;

On the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses.’

Michel de Montaigne

and perhaps the ultimate thought to kill all pretensions

‘Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies.’

You’re all mad

In 2010, NOI put on the very first NOI conference in Nottingham. Opening the conference was musician, artist, film maker (and philosopher) Jamie Catto, founding member of the band Faithless. Jamie ran into the time of some of the world heavyweights in pain science and neuroplasticity (who were seated in the front row, as captivated as anyone else) but held the audience enthralled by his story the whole time.

Echoing Montaigne’s words was Jamie’s blunt, but liberating, assessment of humanity

“You all turn up to work everyday and you have to kind of look confident, and you have to look like a winner, and you have to look clean, and you have to look like everything is ok, even when it isn’t. And the actual truth is that every single person in this room is totally fucking mad.

And if the person sitting next to you really knew what went on inside your head, you’d all be fired. Your practises would be over if your clients really knew how fucking nuts you are, but you’ve got to put on this sort of… David Bolton does it brilliantly… you’ve got to put on this kind of suave panache, or grounded, eye of the storm stuff.

But you’re all nuts, and it’s ok, I am, you are, and it’s wonderful to create a space where we can all have just one breath together…… and just reside in that truth.”

As powerful an Imposter Syndrome antidote as anything the great philosophers ever wrote.

Jamie’s entire talk is on Vimeo – you can skip to about the 19 minute mark for this pearl, but the whole thing is worth watching

[vimeo 11888596 w=640 h=512]


A final thought, for how many patients might the idea of being an imposter be a powerful DIM? Looking back on clinical years, I can pick a number of patients with problem pain states, in these instances high performing, successful people, who I reckon hinted at the idea of feeling like an imposter in their role at work or life in general.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the clinical nous or finesse to pick up on these hints and deal with this DIM. Perhaps between de Botton, Montaigne and Catto, you will.

-Tim Cocks


EP3 events have sold out three years running in Australia, and we are super excited to be bringing this unique format to the United States in late 2016 with Lorimer Moseley, Mark Jensen, David Butler, and few NOI surprises.

EP3 EAST Philadelphia, December 2, 3, 4 2016

EP3 WEST Seattle, December 9, 10, 11 2016

To register your interest, contact NOI USA:

p (610) 664-4465



Last chance to get on an Australian Explain Pain or Graded Motor Imagery Course for 2016

Gold Coast 30 September – 2 October Explain Pain and Graded Motor Imagery (Close to full, remaining tickets selling fast)

Perth 15 – 17 October Explain Pain and Graded Motor Imagery



  1. Hi Tim,
    I’m with you on that one. So called success can be a powerful DIM particularly when others put you on a pedistal! I await daily to be found out as a complete fraud……
    On location

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