Dillon ~ Changing attitudes
Michael Dillon, 56, the man whose business acumen
saw Pharmacy 777 grow from a corner shop to a chain
of eight outlets, now knows that money can’t
He describes himself as a regular bloke, born
and raised in Maylands, taught by his father that
“what blokes do is stand around the keg
and eat pies and sauce” ~ he hit the wall
twelve years ago.
“Back then I was righteous and self-opinionated.
If someone wronged me, I’d give back as
good as I got, and I had a sense of humour that
many people found offensive.”
He thought that he was doing pretty well though,
he was president of a local rotary club, he had
a successful business and great kids, but there
was also a sense of not being in touch with life.
The routine felt like a treadmill and there were
big questions looming that were hard to answer.
He said: “I also had attitudes about women
that my wife didn’t like, and that’s
what led to the crisis ~ my marriage was on the
line and the only way I knew how to deal with
that was to work harder.”
Struggling with the crisis, he stumbled upon
what was then a fledgling organisation, the Perth
branch of an international network dealing with
something called “Attitudinal Healing”.
Attitudinal Healing is a phrase coined by Californian
doctor and psychologist Gerald Jampolsky. In the
1970s he was working with children with cancer
and he developed a programme to help the children
deal with their emotional and spiritual concerns,
to supplement the medical treatment they were
The idea caught on and parents and siblings requested
groups for their own issues. Then TV host Phil
Donahue invited Jampolsky and the children onto
his show and gave them international coverage
that was followed up by Sixty Minutes and several
The publicity was a catalyst that has since seen
100 centres set up around the world to teach people
a set of simple principles to live by that diffuse
emotional and spiritual stress, whether the problem
is cancer or a marriage crisis or anything in
Today, in his modest office above the original
Pharmacy 777, Michael Dillon is surrounded by
photographs of his children and grandchildren
~ interspersed with the odd kindergarten crayon
drawing for Granddad.
He still holds the reigns as managing director
of the chain of eight stores, as well as being
the current president of the Centre for Attitudinal
Healing, but the smile on his face and the teddybears
on his tie give the impression that he would never
be too busy these days for family or friends.
The core concept of Attitudinal Healing is that
it is possible to choose peace rather than conflict
and love rather than fear.
Dillon said that when you really take it on board
it influences everything you do.
He said: “I used to drive like I was on
a racetrack. I always wanted to get there first.
I never let anyone in, but now I really take pleasure
in those little acts of kindness, like letting
someone else go first ~ it’s not goody two-shoes
stuff, it’s just about enjoying it.”
Attitudinal Healing teaches about love, but according
to Dillon talk about love often needs to be “re-languaged”
and expressed in terms that people wont automatically
turn away from. He says, “if you don’t
re-language it, you can frighten the crap out
of the average bloke”.
While giving introductory sessions at the Cancer
Wellness Centre, he said that he found some resistance
to it, on the grounds that it sounded like ‘New-Ageism’.
He said: “It’s not that either, it’s
a sensible approach to understanding and accessing
This is something he said he never learnt as
a young man becoming an Aussie-bloke.
He said: “Women have always been able to
speak about their feelings, when something bad
happens a woman picks up the phone and talks for
an hour or two. A man will pick up the phone and
say “Coming the footy? Fine. Saturday. OK.”
and hang up, then men will spend time doing something
together but there isn’t the same transfer
of emotional information as there is with women.
But it doesn’t have to be like that, men
can talk about these things. Men are just as magnificent
emotionally as women, and recognizing that gives
you freedom to choose how to act.
“Attitudinal Healing challenges the ‘men
don’t cry’ conditioning, but it’s
not a hug-fest, or a bleeding heart show-and-tell
club, it’s about listening to other people
and validating them, by hearing and respecting
their perspectives on life.”
The conversations that happen in Attitudinal
Healing groups are not restricted to love either.
Dillon said they are a space for exploring attitudes
on everything, including money, sex, life and
He said: “People learn that they don’t
have to keep the attitudes they inherited from
their parents or schools or cultural backgrounds.
Those old attitudes can be archived off, and replaced
with new ones that make life easier and more fun.”
Attitudinal Healing is broadly spiritual ~ it’s
about a belief in “something else”,
not necessarily Christian or Buddhist or Jewish
or anything, just something that is out there.
According to Dillon, it attracts people from
diverse religious backgrounds.
He said: “There is a hunger in people to
want to get more out of their lives and to not
be in conflict. People come to Attitudinal Healing
feeling devoid and empty, things aren’t
working for them, often they’ve tried other
ways to make things work, such as getting really
task oriented but these strategies haven’t
really changed things.
“They come because people are seekers,
at some time for everyone the questions arise,
then it is time to look for answers.”
While he now lives and breathes the philosophy,
as an employer Dillon doesn’t force it on
his staff. He said: “They all know my allegiances
but I don’t preach to them, there’s
no need to, if they like the example I set they’re
welcome to follow it. The bottom line is that
it has made me a more considerate employer. If
a staff member is doing something wrong, I don’t
just get rid of him (or her), we talk about it
instead and often resolve the issue.
“I’m also more approachable now and
the staff feel more comfortable about making suggestions
about ways things could be done better and they
have more passion about the business because they
know that I care about their opinions.”
“I’ve learnt how to be honest and
forthright without being aggressive. I’m
less inclined to blame others and less ashamed
of admitting to stuffing up occasionally or to
changing my mind.
“When conflicts arise, I look at myself
first and think about why the problem has come
“Attitudinal Healing is not about believing
that we can live in a peaceful world with no conflict,
put any two people together for any reason and
they will have differences and things to resolve.
“The fundamental problem with our society
is that there are divisions between people and
there are inflexible attitudes about those divisions
~ people are either Eagles or Dockers supporters,
they’re from the West coast or the East
coast, and they have strong inflexible attitudes
about these things.”
Dillon said that his greatest learning was in
coming to understand that a diversity of opinions
can peacefully exist in a room and that they can
all be respected and that they can contribute
to amazingly creative problem solving processes.
His main aim as president of the Centre for Attitudinal
Healing is to launch and secure funding for a
schools programme that will teach the basic principles
to parents, teachers and children.
He said: “Think about all the problems
we are having with education and schooling and
youth, like bullying, suicide, trauma. Many of
these problems stem from the fact that we have
never been taught how to relate. Imagine if all
parties involved were conversant in the same emotional
language, how different would it be.”
Once the schools programme is up and running
and self-funding the centre’s next aim will
be a prisons programme, similar to schemes being
run by Attitudinal Healing groups in the US.
According to Dillon, very little remedial work
is done in WA prisons. He believes that something
needs to be done differently, something “more
than just chucking money at the problem”.
He said: “It’s about throwing a circuit
breaker that allows them to start thinking/feeling
about their emotions, that is what changes the
way people behave, not just time out in jail.”
The centre already runs several regular groups
including peer support groups for the families
of drug users.
Dillon explained: “Drug use is an emotional
problem. People go into treatment and then come
back out into the same emotional environment and
they start using the same old behaviours again.
What needs to shift is the emotional environment
that they live in. The way to do this is to help
the families of drug users to have more flexible
attitudes so that the home environment can shift
Dillon said that when he first became president
of the organisation he felt embarrassed talking
about it, because he didn’t want people
to think that he was asking for money for a charity
or that he was involved in a cult ~ which it isn’t.
He’s over that reticence now, and feeling
good about his involvement with the organisation.
He’s happy to offer the group his expertise
and time because he believes that the way to get
more out of life is to tune in to love ~ and that
the easiest way to do that is through acts of