Poetry – Psychology

Street Art - Poetry

Poetry as street art

Stopping

Having seen Innua Ellams perform, there seemed little reason for a continuance from my poetry book. His flow, poise, diction, ability to instil images in the mind of an audience I found defiant, brilliant and silencing. This was back in 2006. The idea of walking away from performance poetry never to return: easy. Watching Suli Breaks perform for an event for the Terrence Higgins Trust in 2015 reopened a door I had permanently shut. Speaking with Suli after he performed ‘Why I Hate School but Love Education’ reawakened a sleeping ember.

There has been a growing sense that the writing I offer has a significant piece of me missing. It feels like an eternity ago, that I used to stand, sometimes shimmy, on stage and offer my version of poetry to audiences in Shoreditch or near Spitalfields Market. Finding the experience of flow whilst teaching in April was a welcome experience. A friend commented once that the below was some of my ‘best writing’.

Perhaps…

After the conference

So I asked her how she got that scar on her chin…
She blushed then answered…
My mind had already raced ahead and targeted the place and,
Time the incident had occurred, and then

I noticed it in a work group, work shop, work thing, at a
Conference just off Oxford Street
It wasn’t big. Just a
Thin line. A divot of definition. Running off centre off
Of the chin to just below the bottom lip.

I had wondered how it came to be there, this scar.
Imagining a cat fight in poor light, searching to take aim,
Then fire. The line was construed as if a ruler and
Knife or other sharp object had come together to divide.
It must have bled.

Trying not to stare. It didn’t stand out much. No more
So than her brown shoulder length hair, or rich brown
Eyes. Framed in blue white sclera’s. Her pupils were
Large as she interacted with the group. Graceful arm
Sweeps as she elucidated her points

Imagining blood, seeping from the cut, slowly, loosely
Dripping, freely and with that free hand wiping gracefully
Wiping away the wound marked in red.

Ashamed? I could guess not. Aghast probably – unlike
The expected monthly. This red was of Pain not birth but
Death. I continued to stare. Aware of the mesmerising
Allure of this faint forgotten sliced vein.

She turned her head and I could tell it was only skin
Deep. Near fainted as she caught me. Gazing. Intimately
At her chin, out of the corner of her eyes. I shamefacedly
Averted my gaze – towards the mint green carpeted floor.
Resumed idle talk with a neighbour. Then turned to the
Door. As if expectant of a SURPRISE visitor.

The mark still called (Michael) my eyes back to
That point on her face, just above her chin and
Just below her bottom lip.

Only this time gazing through her noticing
Everything and her chin, the brown cords jacket,
The black blue jeans, the dark toe scuffed ankle
Boot shoe things. Sitting cross legged – Right over Left.

But above all, the mark, skin deep, kept calling,
And again my eyes went back to wandering

…”I had fallen through a plate of glass” she said
And re-enacted the scene, whilst sitting, then
Blushed

I chose that moment to gush an apology then
Said “Excuse me” and left the scene. She
Leaning on her right knee…
Holding her chin.

Wondering…

2004

At the time of writing ‘After the Conference’, I had never thought of involving myself with psychology or even forensic psychotherapy. The clues of what I do now are hinted at within the poem. Imagining scenes that have the potential to be as real for me as falling through a plate of glass was for her.

When supporting service users or clients as a counsellor, the role can be about holding  visions of hope. And possible alternatives that uplift, cleanse, heal.

Supporting another way to view the world that holds more potential than before.

The recognition for myself is that use of poetry back then, assisted a blending of realities – words as paint. Finding another way beyond an interior design career. Of course my poetry would be different to Innua Elams and Suli Breaks, it has taken a while to recognise and appreciate this.

The entry to the world of prose, poetry rhyme and meter, began before Hip Hop and has lead me to multiverses of psychology and…

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Talking Therapy as Hip Hop

Power in Poetry

Music Therapy

My life partner CW happened to say a profound statement as we watched The Defiant Ones. She said ‘Rap is talking therapy.’ I was struck by the fundamental truth of her statement and tried not to confuse or complicate it.

Gutter Rainbows seeing the beauty in the everyday

Beauty in the everyday – Gutter Rainbows

Continuum

I wanted to write this blog as a bridge to offer a larger idea. Pulling current protagonists and icons of Hip Hop culture, and also pooling disparate experiences of music and psychology along onto a continuum. From the Podcast Code Switch, Jean and Shereen often ask ‘What song is giving you life?’ I thank them for the saying and the idea. My answer…

Analogy

To Pimp a Butterfly ends with a prophetic poem that depicts the human struggle in, Mortal Man. I grew emotional whilst listening. Possibly due to the idea shared above with thanks CW…

To: Kendrick Lamar – I witness your genius and the power in your words.

‘Damn
I wanted to read one last thing to you
It’s actually something a good friend had wrote describing my world
It says…

“The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it

A Cocoon hiding potential

The Cocoon from To Pimp A Butterfly

Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak
And figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city
The caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas start to take roots
Such as going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations
That the caterpillar never considered, ending the eternal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different
They are one and the same”

Metamorphasis

The beauty of the poem is the perception of a human reality seen through the changing experience of a creature that begins life in one form and earth bound and yet ends life in another and is benefitted by flight.

As analogy the three stages of growth brings to mind crime prison and freedom, infancy life and death. The analogy may arise due to the 8 years I have supported people involved with the criminal justice system in the UK.

Podcasts like Criminal, Ear Hustle, Burner Phone Podcast, books such as Are Prisons Obsolete, The Lucifer Effect, True Believer and documentaries such as the 13th, Teach Us All and Zeitgeist have increased my curiosity and want to develop solutions to the disparity between caterpillars and butterflies.Purple Butterfly

Interview List

There exists a long list of people I would love to interview on behalf of the Counsellors Cafe Magazine (TCCM)

3 Hip Hop Artists that top my list are Dr Dre, Kendrick Lamar and Logic. The former and the latter have been featured in 2 Netflix shows titled The Defiant Ones and Rapture. Both artists convey in rhyme and through living – the joy and pain of life and unparalleled successes.

Dr Dre’s experiences of betrayal loss and meteoric success has been artfully portrayed in the 4 part documentary The Defiant Ones. The hidden pain in his visage is as palpable as his iconic headphones and influence on the music scene.

Logic was an unknown for me, however his story is not only incredible and inspiring and captivating but also immediately recognisable. His idea of breaking psychological concepts down into songs that encapsulate a swathe of people across the US, clarifies his genius. The song 1-800 and the slogan EVERYBODY worn on hoodies, is about you me and everyone that we know. His message is beyond insightful. It takes us to sheer brilliance and has rightfully endeared him to millions.

Giving Life

To answer Shereen and Gene from above: a few years ago Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talmbout was THE SONG! What the hell you talking about (IVERSON) put the feeling of the unlawful killing of African-Americans by the hands of law enforcement into a visual and auditory format that is powerful and justified. Right now the song giving me life is Robert Glasper’s Maiden Voyage/Everything in it’s right place that is giving me life.

Kendrick happens to be for me an outlier, a Nubian poet powerhouse who’s instep with the universe is perfectly poised. The poem above is from the album to Pimp a Butterfly. The aim would be for the interviews to enrich the known world with their visions, their story to support the many caterpillars encased in their cocoons to emerge…

Gambit exhibiting his power

Teachers Gambit

Unmoored1

In May I ended my final year with both year one and year two integrative counselling students at the University of Greenwich. I have taught at the University of Greenwich for 3 years as a visiting lecturer. The final teaching lessons with both year 1 and year 2 were surprising and left me feeling un-moored.

What Next

Ending with both year 1 and year 2, conversations involved what would come next??? With year 1 the conversations involved what they had survived and what the next year would bring.  The Counselling and Psychology departments are to move from Avery Hill to the Dreadnought building in Greenwich village, London UK. The change of location represents a physical re-ordering to the experience of teaching and learning. Changes to the orientation of the scheduled lessons and new group members will add an additional layer of nuance to the students day.

High seas 1

Relief

The new cohort of students (2018  – 2019) will not be any wiser of these changes. The 2 groups of students I taught on their last day were relieved to have passed through the gate of the unknown and were weary from the internal struggles the course had helped unearth. I enjoyed the teaching. The opportunity to share what knowledge I have with minds receptive to new ideas – ideas that at times were vastly different to their own. The excitement of moving from unknowing to knowing more, is more than worthy of the days nights and weeks spent marking students work. I will no longer be a part of the excitement, the changes, the conflicts, the time tabling confusions, rooms being locked, difficulties with technology – I am going to miss all of this!

Soft Departures

For year 2, I was to discuss formation of their counselling identity. The presentation began with a student stating that they would not be returning for year 3. A number of students expressed surprise and disappointment as well as tender comments about the student leaving the course this year spattered amongst the room. The student will leave with a level VII (7) diploma and a confidence about how they are going to engage with counselling and psychotherapy.

It’s Personal

For those that were to continue onto year 3, there were ideas as to what was to happen for them. A few students identified that the dissertation piece had been a challenge to be moderated on. The point of the exercise was to gather an understanding of their counselling approach. As an integrative course the need to understand the ‘how and why’ of using a particular theory is important for the therapist and for the client to know.

The Journey

Sharing my counselling journey from 2012 when I completed the same course, with year 2 students was a special moment. Describing the numerous points of growth change and adaptation of how I viewed and interact with the world. Sharing experiences that developed awareness of competence and confidence, helped the arrival where it feels natural to share ideas with a group of 20-30 people as if speaking to a group of friends.

Newbie

I have shared a number of times about the experiential group of that first year. The group surprised and impressed me. There was a dynamic rich freshness, a vibrancy of their experience that fueled the group’s discussions. It may have been my newness to the whole teaching experience that has framed them as a pivotal memory.

In year two I worked with my first all women experiential group, I had chance to relearn what I thought I knew from the previous year. A welcome surprise. I had chance to reflect on growing up within an all-female household. Growing into adulthood I came to appreciate a non-male dominated space – this experiential group mirrored that.

Lecturing

In this my third year I was offered the chance to lecture on the undergrad psychology and counselling course, teach a year one case discussion group, facilitate a year one all women experiential group, and teach the year two case discussion. I have gained a huge amount of knowledge about direction and imparting some of my book learning to trainee counsellors. Fortunately they were receptive to some of the ideas and some of the critiques I offered.

rough seas 2

Irv’s wisdom

Having had the opportunity in April to interview the enigmatic Irvin Yalom for the Counsellors Café – he shared the finer subtleties of working with process groups, he advised that to support a group learn and become it’s own entity, you have to be willing to risk being real, be present and be a part of the process. Be where they are at. Be honest, congruent, vulnerable… I came close…

Illusions

In my 2nd year of teaching (2016 – 2017) a number of opportunities to share interesting ideas seemed to arrive at the end our experiential groups – I went with it and shared. On my last day of this years visiting lecturing, I shared with the year one case discussion group a book. ‘The structure of Magic” and I invited seven of the group members to read a number of the opening paragraphs. The first chapter discusses the idea of magic. Magicians, Princesses and Princes populate a land and a boy is to understand his place amongst it all. The ideas that counsellors follow in the tradition of Freud, we perhaps are also Magicians creating illusions.

Provoke

Those that we work with use the magic to create new stories and illusions of their own making. The year 1 students were challenged by the idea and I deliberately meant to be provocative. Another idea that also challenged them, was my earlier offering of therapists, counsellors, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts being Judge, Jury and executioners.

Invitation

The loss felt, as I move on from the experience of teaching and learning was, the ideas propagated within the minds of students will be watered by other gardeners now.

The un-mooring invites the idea of finding new ports, trade knowledge acquired on high seas, amongst audiences new. The sense of risk and triumph much like the rise and fall of tidal swells offers, chance to arrive there once again…

This One’s for You…

Tactical Empathy

After an engaged conversation with Luke Roberts he shared that he had gained a number of interesting ideas from Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference. One area that Luke felt could have been explained better was the idea of Tactical Empathy. Luke Roberts the MD of Resolve consultants supports organisations including prison institutions to work on conflict resolution and restorative approaches that support positive outcomes for individuals and the organisation overall.

Conflict and Negotiation

As a hostage negotiator Chris offers a number of useful tactics that he was able to use throughout his career. The tactics he employed secured the release of people held hostage by negotiating from a point of reducing distance between hostage taker and those negotiating. A reduction happens as a result of gaining an understanding of the wants of the hostage takers. Then those wanting the safe release of those imprisoned can literally see what parts of the jigsaw can be moved around. I imagine that conflict resolution is a similar experience supporting individuals/groups to arrive at a solution where more is gained as a result of attempting to work through a solution that both sides are content with.

Empathy

Empathy is formed from a willingness to understand, emotionally experience and recognise for self what the other is experiencing or has lived through. From a counselling perspective empathy is a fundamental point for the therapeutic work to grow from.

Tactics

The experience of using skills and techniques to arrive at an advantageous position. As a former basketball player/coach tactics and plays were used to work out an advantage for an offensive or a defensive situation. These tactics were used to earn my team a number of favourable outcomes that included; scoring, gaining turn overs, having players on the opposing team foul out, playing full or half court presses, interrupting a charge with a timeout. These techniques and tactics were used to win the game.

Tactical Empathy

Tactical empathy happens to be an inspired way of thinking when working with others. I base my understanding on our human responses to reciprocity. If someone were to; offer a colleague a compliment, support on a project, make a cup of tea and or buy them a cup of coffee. A loop is opened. Usually the response from that colleague is when next an opportunity presents the beneficiary from an exchange will generally aim to reciprocate. Closing the loop. The loop of gain and loss being opened and then closed can support healthy trusting relationships amongst individuals and teams.

In the case of a hostage taking situation or in conflict resolution – the attempt whilst negotiating is to listen using empathy. One is listening not just to the words but also the emotion of the other in the negotiation. There will be difficult parts to the discussion where the person being tactically empathic will use their ability to hear the words and recognise the emotions of what the person who is sharing their aims and wants.

Reciprocity

Often a moment during discussion arrives because we are hearing the emotion of the other person. Responding to the emotion and by naming them could develop statements like;

‘I hear that you are talking about X, am I right in saying that you are feeling Y too?’

The other person in the conversation once they believe that understanding and trust has been built will likely offer an insight where reciprocity could be built. It is here that the collaboration or clear request can be asked of them.

They may say something like ‘I feel that you really understand where I am coming from, how can we work this out?’

The aim here has been achieved. They are showing a willingness to not only listen to an idea of yours but also the idea of collaboration has been receptively achieved. Generally the idea of gifting another opens a door to successfully resolve a conflict or negotiate a solution that works for more than just one. Fist

The gift of time cannot be understated here – as well as a laser like focus to achieving a solution for both parties. Using tactical empathy and supporting another until they are able to reciprocate is the outcome that generates solutions that feel as though the win is collaborative creative and beneficial for all involved.

Links

2 Guys on Your Head podcast discuss reciprocity http://kut.org/post/psychology-reciprocity

Never Split the Difference – Chris Voss

The Structure of Magic – Richard Bandler and John Grinder. A book that looks to support growth in an understanding of the use of language.