Reflection

Working with service users that have spent time on probation or in prison, a few have reminded me with traits of the below story.

Peace

You may have met people who may have narcissistic traits or display an inability to empathise with another, or view an experience from another perspective other than their own. My aim in this blog, is to offer insight and understanding where possible. I use the name Narcissus throughout this piece of writing to aid personalising narcissistic personality types.

Oppositional

Frank Morris – Small Brown Eyes

The Greek Myth Of Narcissus

According to Conon, Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus who gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked.

Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow.

According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

Inner Turmoil

The aspect that I find interesting about the story of Narcissus and narcissists is that the self image is the one that they protect and adore above all others. The self then is unreal, it is reflection, a mirrored image of perfection that is ultimately flawed as it cannot be attained or possessed, and as such is wanted all the more. A degree of pity and ideas of missed opportunities often flit behind my understanding and observed compassion about working with someone who may have a distorted view of their reality. By their holding so tightly to their view of reality, sometimes with arms, legs, teeth and eyes shut, the world as a whole is considered wrong, bleak, threatening, offering little that can shift their perspective or alter the strangle hold they may have on what they feel is rightfully theirs.

Small window

** Seeing Out Seeing Self

Pain

The pain of being held accountable, of being wrong, of shame and embarrassment, of being made vulnerable and seen as weak or lesser than, is a fear that has a person who may have narcissistic traits to hold on to their distortion that little bit harder and for far longer. The threat of being made small again is too great. Tactics are used to enable self-aggrandizement and remain with a sense of strength (Omnipotence), being right, whole, good, beautiful and powerful, employed at other peoples expense and often their suffering.

Narcissistic personality?

Narcissism produces a distorted self-image, an oversized ego, and a presumption of superiority not based on any real-world accomplishments. Narcissists reveal their feelings about themselves and others through their actions, which are often manipulative and self-centered. Despite the depth of feeling narcissism generates, and the deep-seated insecurity it compensates for, people diagnosed with severe narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) can learn to manage their symptoms and reduce the disorder’s influence over their lives.

Past

Narcissus may have had a number of experiences that threw their idea of self and the world in which they live in disarray at an earlier developmental age. Experiences such as loss through bereavement or home, war, poor relationships with caregivers, poverty, bullying, emotional neglect could support the development of narcissistic traits. The personhood of Narcissus may have been negatively affected by the environment that they were raised in. Developing traits that support a positive view of themselves always, and a lesser view of anyone and everyone else around them. Projecting a view of all that hurt them, into and onto all others and everything else. Denying others their humanity and not recognising their own. Remaining perfect and invulnerable.

Gas Lighting

The term gaslight was coined after the 1944 film of the same name. Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. In the movie, a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. Illustrating the destructive power of gaslighting.

Gas Mask at Altitude

Due to the human capacity for finding purpose and wanting to support others to attain fulfillment and happiness it often occurs that partners, family, friends and colleagues often want to rescue a person that appears to have narcissistic traits. The joke of how many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb fits here. “Ah but the light bulb has got to want change.” For any person engaging in therapy they must see the benefits of change. For someone with narcissistic traits if the problem is with all others then there is nothing to talk about and nothing that therapy can offer… Until…

Recalibration

The challenge for them is in the invitation to begin deconstructing and decommissioning a world view that has enabled Narcissus to win. Be victorious against a past that could have been annihilating for them. Surviving their history would be a closer approximation to their truth if they could trust enough for it to be heard. Dismantling an image, a perspective that has the person beginning to see that the vision they had held was askew is risky.

Staccato

As Jill Scott sang in Love Rain ‘the vibe slipping off it’s axis’ is a useful analogy to describe the destabilization. Slippage is necessary to enable a nobler sight of realism to be perceived and understood. Perhaps the task is not to save but to stand at a safe enough distance. Allow Narcissus to recognise that the image before her/himself is illusion. A visual echo of what once was. The mirrored and always elusive self is unable to be experienced – much like A Picture of Dorian Gray – the perfect imperfect.

*Humorosity

A cataclysmic explosion could be necessary for the change to begin in earnest for Narcissus. Perhaps… With curiosity and double doses of humoured inquiry an attempt to make mild interest of their now – known can be made. Rush not. Pose loose questions less with a sense of interrogation and more with a genuine want to peer behind their curtain. Inviting Narcissus to do so too. For though the subject appears to be laid bare and low due to their expression and expansion, this could either be their first genus of humility or the hard pressed kernel of defiant resistance.

Honouring

What lies at their centre? The aim here is to open chinks in a well-oiled, well maintained armour. The chinks let out as well as let in opportunities for scents of change. The process can be slow. What is to be noted is Narcissus’ recognition of empathy and warmth from themselves to another. Observing fealty and connection for themselves and also what being in honest communion is like. Where, if any differences are felt and what that may be like? Rather than them hearing the familiar self recriminations of blame, of anger, disappointment and fear. Letting themselves out of the prism they shielded themselves from the world – cautiously.

Ignoring the other

Mental and Physical expression

What next

There are a number of choices that could be made in relation to Narcissus. Leave them to attend to manage themselves by themselves. Stay and learn to manage life with them. Leave and attend to the holes that they pockmarked your life with. Stay but be emotionally detached. Leave and heal and be aware of narcissistic tropes. Stay and support them through change. Leave and live well. Stay and enlist others to support their change growth and development.

Attraction

The intriguing factor for me as a therapist is the attraction to Narcissus. Who brings some emotional pain, self doubt, a devalued sense of self, experiences of elation and happiness to the person(s) they are with.

Magnetic

Is there a part of their character that appeals above ones own although harmful? If this were the case what does being with Narcissus offer? Someone who is wicked with their humour? Bringing together a group of charming and attractive friends? Delights of social mobility and acceptance? A sense of  responsibility “If I don’t, who will?”, Does superiority, defiance, charm and wit with moments of crushing lows also become experiences of the person who has fallen for their attraction to Narcissus?

Evaluate with time away: life with and life without. There was a time before when they were not…

Support

A number of therapeutic models may be of use to support someone that has narcissistic traits and close others. Dialetical Behavioural Therapy, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The want to be better, as in the joke above, is to come from them.

Always.

Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one

Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work

Understanding the Mind of

*Humorosity A Michaelism

**Pictures by Frank Morrison

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Mistaken Identity – Pubs

Complex beginnings

And she said something a few weeks ago that had me wondering about social capital and social responsibility. A note to the wise –  this is a declaration for curiosity and moving into a space of complexity and accomplishing the mighty good.

Islamic intricate design

Islamic Wall Art

Leave

“If I showed up everyone would just get up and leave” she said.
A small piece of my heart broke. Amazed and stunned I listened on as she a Muslim woman spoke about her dislike of pubs and the abject fear she might invoke in others if she were to visit a *house of alcohol.

(*My words not hers)

Comfort

At times silence and laughter are used to cover the uncomfortable. I smiled and reflected on my non pub going history. I held the notion since Uni that Pubs were not spaces I felt comfortable or safe in. Alcohol and the consumption of numerous pints were for others and not for necessarily for me. I also held the misguided notion that if I were to go to a pub much like my colleague I could be the cause of the music to stop, fights to breakout or the lively conversation to awkwardly end, and that I would be caused to leave. I hadn’t thought of people being propelled from a space I walked into due to my ethnicity, or that people may react that way to her for her faith. London Summer of 2018.

Responsibility

Discussing the comment a little more I could see some similar themes between my story and hers. She then said “Because of my faith we do see Muslims that do drink (alcohol) if I were to go into a pub and someone saw me (gestures to her *Khimar) it would, you know, be like a sign that it’s okay. I couldn’t take that responsibility. I wouldn’t want someone to think because I did they would too. I just don’t like pubs for me. I don’t get it really. Since I converted it’s not something I can see myself doing.”
*I had thought that a Hijab was the attire worn by some Muslim women. But an Hijab I was reliably informed is a term used for a woman that is covered.

Warmth like a boat riding a wave

Islamic Art by Sargodha

The Greater Good

In that moment I got it. My colleague was not thinking solely about herself or the other Muslim who may, by chance see her entering a pub. I believe my colleague was speaking about the greater good. The ability to place community both seen and unseen alongside and in front of ones individual needs. A greater I, a social responsibility to other faithful Muslims. The request to ‘go to the pub’ came from someone that was leaving the organisation. An unwritten rule of going to the pub to say goodbye to their team and the organisation was the offer. Personal needs/responsibility met social capital with respect and honour – and undoubtedly won.

Awe and Humility

The altruist was observing another law. One that she chose to follow, be in awareness of and sit humbly with. A gentle observing of what unity means for her faith and community that simply outshines the tidal experiences of work alliances and friendships. What was true for her was that attending a pub went against a fundamental truth and did not bow to external pressures from the team. I am usually awed by the immense of space, by scenes of staggering beauty, deft and touching poetry, art that takes breaths away, music that opens doorways. But this, this, this was something else. It spoke of time, respect, values, integrity. It spoke of the greater WE and a love that appeared without an end. Quietly…

A Better WE

My acceptance to pub and bar life is tentative and retracts like a wave. Alcohol is a cognitive disinhibitor and a troubling agent for thinly veiled opinions and loose tongues. I am looking for a greater more un-inhibited WE outside of religion and pubs, away from schoolisms and other human trappings that control, dehumanise, limit and separate. The WE that views all as a continuum and is hungry for parity and better centuries to follow Now!

Four Corners coming together

The Pillars of Unity

Searching

I seek what may never be found – a utopia, an ideal, a peace amongst humanity that lasts. Perhaps the need is myth and arises at these worrying and troubled times. Or as Eric Hoffer has written about we came as close to a difficult place as we could and were scared back into what we knew. Dank Dark Smelly Fear. And here we could remain until we all purposefully choose something better. My wish for her, for me, for Us is that we find other ways…

A few thought inspiring podcasts to end with.

Code Switch

Tim Ferris with Sam Harris

Science of Success

TED Talks Radio Hour Beyond Tolerance 28 uly 2017

Two Guys On Your Head

Unapologetic

In 1995 I watched a TV ad that was as cool as anything I had possibly ever seen. Channel 4 and BBC 2 were sharing rights to provide highlights of NBA action and as a fan I loved seeing the upcoming stars listed in the Nike Ad. Krs1 provided the voice and the link to a supposed Basketball revolution styled on Gil Scott Heron’s classic. The advert was projected as the future of Basketball. Brought to you by Nike and the tag line – Just Do It.

End of Just Do it Advert

Winning smiles Colin Kaepernick

Daring

Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, who dared to kneel during the National Anthem to protest against the many people killed at the hands of law enforcement across America in recent years. His protest courted controversy and the possibility of his never playing for an NFL team again. He continued to kneel and inspired many others to join his respectful protest. Kaepernick’s actions courted comment from POTUS and many others, stating that Colin’s not signing with another team may have little to do with the protest and more to do with his waning skills as a quarterback.

Do It

Nike’s recent and controversial video marking 30 years of it’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign, is moving on a number of levels for me. In the first instance, the simple piano piece and then the commentary noting feats of overcoming adversity and daring against great odds and triumphing – Just Doing It are eyeopening to witness. From the misfortunes of the skateboarders, we cut to a surfer – then a wrestler – a boxer – runner – football player/homecoming queen – iron man finalist – soccer player – basketball icon – and tennis legend. The request is to be not just good, but dare to be exceptionally outstanding.

Endurance

The second aspect to the 2 minute advert that has me moved, are some of the words Colin shares. Insights to ideas of a legacy he has set in motion. Nike, one of the largest global sports manufacturers has endorsed, possibly playing the long game.

American Dream

Backing a be felled star. Supporting a man’s vision to realign the promise America holds as it’s dream. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I feel that Colin is the one who has set in motion an unstoppable wave.

As fast as Bolt

Jesse Owens Dignity in Motion

Pairs

That of living your truth without compromise. It is both daring and congruent. Scorn, ridicule, not being signed have followed in the wake of his protest and still Colin continues to support his idea of what is right. It speaks of strength, resilience and of an indelible message. Much like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, I can see how the pairing came to be.

Star

“Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.” Colin has stood by his convictions and as a result has been locked out of playing for an NFL team. He believed that he as a sports star could make his feelings known about the spate of unlawful killings that have happened far too often in recent years. Captivating the media and awareni of social commentators and members from black and minority groups around the world.

Seeing Red

Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant III, Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talm Bout is a song accounting the number of women children and men that have been killed by law enforcement. The song expresses the feeling of injustice in a clear and profound way.

Equality

Colin knelt to protest the injustice of those slain and their killers not brought to justice for their wrong doing. Protests and movements including Black Lives Matter have given voice to the many that feel that America has not lived up to it’s promise of equality and justice for all. America appears to justify killing those marginalised and held accountable for essentially being classed as wrong and for surviving simply.

Reality

The injustice, the silencing, the bigotry, the racial profiling, the implicit and explicit racial biases, the misdirecting of public insecurities by media outlets, the fanning of inferiority complex flames that I believe Colin was quietly protesting, were being dragged from the shadows into uncomfortable light. His aim – to draw America’s attention to what has been affecting members of it’s citizens in lethal ways.

Wrong, wrong wrong

The demand that those who watched the games he played, and those of his teammates and colleagues across the league could see that by respectfully protesting – something was horribly wrong. The protest though humble, was as loud as thunder and the world heard and payed attention. Colin standing for something risked losing everything.

Ignored

“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy ask if they are crazy enough.” He asks at the end of the advert. When a person has been discounted, knocked down, possessions stolen, aspects of their identity misrepresented and misprinted as truths, when their voices are ignored, their walks, sit ins, runs, dunks, punches, hits, throws, dances tweets and music appropriated repackaged and resold as another’s triumph story. Viewing the world from the position as low as a pavement, and being held there, stating to anyone who listened ‘I can’t breathe’, dreams then are all that are left. Martin Luther King Jnr had a dream. For Colin taking a knee was his stand, his ‘I Have Had Enough’.

Visceral

Prior to the protest and the NFL Black Out of 2017 I knew little of Colin Kaepernick. My disappointment at his treatment by owners and sponsors of NFL teams grew as I witnessed a man quietly make a point against a problem his country faces. The protest was to kneel during the National Anthem played at the beginning of all games. He did not burn a flag, he also did not curse, taunt or abuse others that stood for the anthem. Visually the image is even more notable as most players stand.

Embracing discomfort

Colin knelt because, as a football player, he felt moved by people being killed by law enforcement across his country. So moved, he had to show something to those that watched televised football games. Feeling that the country should know and be moved too by the intolerable slayings. Colin did little to exonerate himself from those who hurled insults and barbs about his reasons for kneeling. They claimed that he was insulting the flag and the National Anthem.

Game Changer Serena

The Legend that is…

Unpatriotic.

Un-American. He was pouring scorn on those who had given up their lives in foreign lands defending and protecting their country. He knelt paying not only respect to the flag but also protesting against what he saw as injustice. A deft quarterback move. Feigning a pass to rush those yards to get a 1st down. What appears unsurprising is the split his kneeling has caused. The act is a difficult one to fathom for those who may find critical thought, critical analysis and aspects of philosophy a challenge. A football player protesting about an unjust system of justice is beyond red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow thinking.

Black Power Salute

Winning Gold and Bronze Politics in Sport

One or the other

The proposition is not binary. The invitation is a request to see Colin’s act through a lens of plurality. Holding us all in the midst of it’s story – trying to figure it out. A world past Post Modernism, 18 years into the Information Age, of Alt truth, Alt Right. Play football and inspire us as a quarterback Colin, but ignore the plight of those named and the others unnamed. The many whose lives could have resembled Kaepernick’s and his – theirs. The splitting of consciousness, of opinion of right and wrong, of good versus bad and poor appears like a schism; a form of un-diagnosed mental illness, festering and leading to a paranoid schizoid position that is fanned by unchecked fear and misdirected internalised self-esteem issues.

Step forward

When America requires a sports phenomena to politically fight against a global threat as was the case with Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics – acceptable. Jesse’s treatment by America post his 4 Olympic Gold medal winning haul was beyond shameful, unacceptable, disrespectful. When Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics stood and raised their fists in a salute that sent a message around the world. The two men were reviled for their act. Their lives were negatively affected for standing up for an ideal – equality and justice for all. With the case of Tommie and John the Black Panther Party supporters, their political fight was seen as unwanted and apparently tarnished the reputation of athletics, the Olympics and the United States.

40 Million Dollar

The book by William Rhoden ‘40 Million Dollar Slaves’ that I was invited to read by Q, D amd Ruze from Broad Waters Podcast appears to have caught a few in the public stratosphere of sports super celebrity’s attention. In the book Mr Rhoden charts the experience of African Americans in sports events as diverse as Horse Racing, Boxing, Baseball, Football and Basketball.

40 Million Dollar

No Exemption

Plethora of sport

In Rhoden’s book all sports are portrayed through a lens of retrospective curiosity and invites reflection of recent sports stars actions, endorsements and silence in relation to social justice. Mr Rhoden appeared to be tilling the soil for new sports stars – conscious and willing to engage in a higher moral purpose other than filling bank accounts and surfing the waves of popularity. Mr Rhoden appeared to be calling on those who had made it, to right the overturned table preventing equality, social justice and social responsibility for black and minority peoples across America. Rhoden’s call may have been answered.

Stars Shining

Lebron James Foundation

Dwayne Wade’s Foundation

Alonzo Mourning Foundation

Dikembi Mutumbo

Tim Duncan Foundation

Serena Williams Fund

 

Furtherance

Code Switch 30th May 2018 A thousand Ways To Kneel and Kiss the Ground

Fighting Talk 8th of September 2018

Kevin Durant discusses race

Broad Waters Podcast Politics in Sport

Bravery

Humble yet defiant

Taking a Knee Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick should have a new contract playing for an NFL team if he so chose I feel. He had a number of years left to play. The impact of his protest has unveiled a new law by the NFL banning any player kneeling through the playing of the National Anthem. I believe that Nike have the right person for the ideal of Just Do It. Colin Kaepernick has and is continuing to… Inspire, Educate, Support, Seek Justice and look beyond self..

Lastly: Colin Kaepernick discusses his protest and the cause he supports in this video. A synopsis of all that is written above.

The Outlet

Thomas would yell whilst making a fast break down court towards the opposing teams basket “Outlet, outlet, outlet.” Thomas was the loud, outspoken, fast talking, mathematician, the unbelievable dribbler and phenomenal shooter. As a shooting guard he handled himself exceptionally on court.

Turnover

I have mentioned my adoration of Basketball and of the Alienist in other posts. With the Alienist the appeal has been it’s willingness to display patterns in manageable saccades that introduce difficult and strange and new ideas, that turn stomachs and minds and at times both.

Release

Let it Go

Shedding

A thought struck as I near the end of the 1st book of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist. The idea of the outlet. The shedding of psychological material in a safe and secure way that offers regeneration. Think a reptile it’s skin, a cat or dog their summer/ winter coats, a London Plane it’s outer bark. At page 516 the case is as good as over. The shudder of the character John Moore, recognised as letting the horror and level of mind torture he has gone through to pass. He shares the events of the night with his friend and police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.

Shake it off

The recognition is in acknowledging that a case has run its course to an eventual end. How many of us in helping professions conduct a full case analysis or case review to determine learning. With the intent to successfully shake the case off? Every client we work with is unique and has patterns that can be recognisable. Then there are those clients that surpass our understanding. That leave us questioning our training our experience, our knowledge, inviting doubt, questioning suggestions from supervisors both internal and external.

Burrs

How often then do we review with the aim of release and then cleanse? Psychological Burrs are sticky and can unduly influence a helpers work. The journeying with another on the path to better health is one that tests both the professional and the person being worked with. We enter a play that has a number of factors that interact and can determine the outcome of treatment.

A Kings Park in South London

A Winter Walk

Path 1

If the play happens to move along desired paths then we congratulate the client for their success. When working amongst a group of other professionals we also commend the team about the decisions and choices we all took part in playing with recovery.

Path 2

Were the play to be difficult and lengthy and not follow the desired path, we make alternative plans and develop contingencies that may develop a successful outcome for the work. This is where the heart of the matter often sits. Perhaps the client is initially enthused with the idea of what the work with you will deliver. Then a number of road bumps happen and they become aware that continuing with the work will arouse long held fears. Forgetting the intention to move towards better health. Here the skill of the therapist is key as well as the resilience and trust of the client. Where a good working alliance is built this road block can be understood and moved past respectively.

Path 3

Were things to get stuck and not progress we then enter another phase of the work – that of figuring out the why of the holding pattern and where the blockage could lie? The tricky thing about road blocks is that they are almost imperceptible. They reveal themselves in the client’s away times, or in the quiet moments in a session. For me they appear as questions or slivers of insights that may be occurring for the person sitting opposite. I have grown to trust these slim chance offerings as hidden openings. Using tools like art, paths, stones, the wind, changing seasons, dreams, woodland tableau’s something gets worked loose and we begin investing time to what has been unearthed. These moments are when the magic happens.

Shudder to Outlet

With all three patterns the shudder should occur. Shudder to reorganise thinking, shudder to congratulate, shudder to stay awake and to find other ways in which to grow move and shape treatment.

Go be and be happy

Go at St James Park

Self Care

Here the outletting of the pressured thinking, the complex conversations, the layered concentrated empathy and compressed and extended compassion need to be passed. To allow space, to breathe freely, to re-energise and replenish to connect with our purpose, our why. This then is an aspect of self-care. We who care for others can be less concerned with our own wants needs and mental well-being sometimes at great cost! Placing all of our focus on those that we support. Care starts with us first. Selfish? Possibly.

Safety

Whilst on an airplane or on a ferry the flight attendants and shipping crew advise to fit in emergencies – breathing masks and life jackets first to ourselves and then to others. The idea: look after self first, then we are able to look after others.

Everyday

Outletting can be achieved through a range of actions and behaviours. The main aim is to let go of the psychological weights being carried from one day in to another or from one interaction in to another. Supervision is a great way to get loose from the psychological work. Once a month or twice a month may not be enough. We can become susceptible to compassion fatigue, empathy impasse or burn out/singe outs. That may be ameliorated with a daily check in and an outletting of all that could be a trigger, an up setter, an applecart turn-overer, with the aim of finding a piece of tranquillity. To rediscover and reconnect to our why. Returning to the play with those being helped with renewed energy.

Everytime.