It’s Complicated – Family Scripts

Interception

I am using the film Inception as a way of opening up a discussion about family scripts. What is a family script? Do we all have one? What is mine? A family script I believe is something we live with semi consciously. The script could be about how much of a success/failure we are to be, who in the family we are like and what our life path is. Whether we live with family or have some distance from our families.

A family script can follow us regardless. In part, a family script is as much apart of us as we are a part of it. The story of our family. Informing ourselves of how we are to live and then how we choose to live. Knowing what script is your family’s could be for you to look to parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and notice parts of their story that are similar or very different to your own. Spend time reflecting or if there is space and time, talking with them about their life’s journey. Learning more about their life and your own as a result. A great book to read that further explores and expands the idea of family scripts we are living is: They F£$K You Up by Oliver James.

Games

I re-watched Inception recently with an aim of being simply entertained and of gaining an understanding of what I thought the film was all about. For the helpers out there I challenge you to watch any film without psychoanalysing yourself and the role of the principle characters. As mentioned in an earlier piece of writing my super power has been turned on and simply watching a film or tv show I can no longer do. The thing being watched turns into a psychotherapy session out of habit and as an intellectual game.

Inception has 4 layers of unconsciousness examined and toyed with. I understood the film finally, when I watched again. I will split this blog in to two parts. Processing the first 2 layers of the dream in this blog and the 2nd two layers in a later blog.

1st Layer Down – Rain

Layered is a simple way of sharing my interpretation of the movie. On re-watching Inception I can see that there are a number of elements that are unearthed as the movie progresses: dreams as routes to knowledge, substance use to lucidly dream, planting of new ideas, the unconscious/subconscious and it’s uses and misuses, rescuing lost love, healing of the self, making informed choices and admiration of father figures. As a psychoanalyst/counsellor/artist I enjoyed the blending of ideas. Initially I had thought the film clever and entertaining, after watching Inception again I am left with the idea of what has been planted beneath for me…

Father’s Day passed on the 16th of June this year (2018) and whilst listening to ‘Where should we begin’ podcast I thought about the now I am in. Raising two sons with my wife in London and recognising that, the experience they were having being parented by me is very different to the one I had being parented by my father. Mr Mensah a family friend once said something profound to me and my father. He said to us ‘that who your father had, is different to who Michael’s father is’.

It seems so obvious now, but a shiver went through me at the time. Inviting the idea that my parenting would be different and the same about for him as well. Our relationship was difficult for a number of reasons including being a son of economic migrants. Inception appeared to explore family scripts and expand upon the notion exquisitely.

2nd Layer Down – Hotel

My father Isaac died in the Autumn of 2015 and I still have not attempted to mourn his passing. Grief this time has not arrived like it did with my mum’s death – a raging bull – tearing and trampling at life passionately. This time grief has seemed like a faded monochrome picture of the past. I am sad that we did not mend what was horribly broken. Perhaps that task was too great for both of us. Within the film, the protagonists implant the concept that grows within their target. The term“Disappointed…” takes on both meaning and form as the film progresses.

Disappointment attempts to silence the trumpets of hope for me. With analysis as a friend and because of hope, knowing loss – can bring with it release. Letting go of unobtainable standards, misguided belief, unrelenting demands and family scripts that have the potential to stunt growth and development.

Inception Motif
Monochrome Spinning Top

Unsure

I remain unaware of my father noticing the achievements or challenges that I overcame in my life. His adoration of his grandchildren was witnessed and I took great comfort from that. In a number of ways he had already left my life due to the separation and divorce from my mother. The efforts he did make were with attempts to establish himself in two worlds that seemed not to communicate very well. Ghana of the 60s-80s was a country removing itself from the cudgeling effects of colonisation. Much of his time and energy spent, involved with Ghana’s reformation. A devotion that could have been shown to our family. A disappointing realisation of what could have been.

Gaps

I wanted to have a good relationship with my father and felt that this was possible after our reunion 17 years after we last met. My attempts to have him be a part of my life were unsuccessful. The gap between us was too significant to overcome. After the separation, moving house and divorce from my mother, reforming a semblance of family was a challenge that became un-mend able.

He too far gone his way and me perhaps becoming too settled in mine. The life script of being the middle one, of being the one who brings both laughter and co-operation for the family to rally around was forever unmet. With my father’s death I can choose which parts of the family script I ignore or continue with, much like Robert Fischer does in Inception.

Choose…

Resources

The Moth Podcast – Goodbye

Two Black Guys with Good Credit Burying the Dead

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Psychopathy: Test

Apex

There are moments one dreams of experiencing that I had in October 2018. I had the chance of delivering a lecture to a group of forensic psychology students at the University of East London. The subject was mental Illness and crime. This was the 3rd time of me delivering this lecture and it all came together like the perfect picture. I was given a breakdown of possible protagonists and activists amongst the students. The promise that the group were usually quiet, by the course director Ms Kougiali, was thankfully unmet.

Review Data

EZ Poxy Shimmer

Shimmer

Perhaps it was my brief introduction and experience but the group of roughly 40 students did not let up with comments and questions about the lecture I delivered. They stated as one that some of the material was; too broad, that the stats needed refining in relation to ages, classification of mental illness, the gender of data groups and where the data sources had come from.

Urm note to Michael try harder please!

Winning

I found that I loved the engaging-challenging-rewarding interaction! The buzz of the room felt hard won and not wholly mine – more ours. I have had a number of teaching and lecturing experiences over the past few years starting at University of Greenwich, then as a VL at UEL and recently teaching at a college just outside of London on a level 1 counselling skills course.

Listening

Abstraction Art

Abstract Interpretation

All teaching experiences draw something different from me, there is the all-knowing sage that I aim to be, the old enough yet down enough sharer of counselling mythology, the witty soothsayer sharing what needs to be said for those who have ears to hear. October the 24th was like the perfect blend.

Balance

My style of lecturing is part performance poetry, comedy, debate class, philosophy and counselling pedagogy/theory for balance. My last class with year 2 students at University of Greenwich in May, much of the above was the experience. Teaching/Lecturing appeared to flow effortlessly. It sort of came together as a perfect storm with students sharing, my presentation slides, personal anecdotes of counselling and life experiences all rolled out and accessed by all. That lecture for Greenwich was on What Next? Offering ideas of potential routes beyond year 2.

Forensic Populations

What I enjoyed most about the work with UEL students was that they challenged me and I them! The challenge thrown about the lecture room was the idea of mental illness and psychopathy. Ultimately the idea realised was that many involved in the criminal justice system in the UK if tested and or diagnosed, many may have untreated learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, have experienced trauma, suffer with PTSD symptoms and have a personality disorder, as well as a dual diagnosis of substance misuse or alcohol addiction.

We All Psychopaths

Seeing Dutch Windmills

Blue Abstraction

Everyone in the lecture theatre if they took a psychopathy test would score something between a low to a high psychopathy score, making us all psychopaths to lesser or greater degrees. That includes you dear reader!

The reflective quality of this realisation hit in the 2nd hour after a number of students offered their opinions on the recent film on Netflix 22nd of July. The film about the impact Anders Breivik had on Norway stirred up some controversial ideas and debate in relation to mental illness and acts of self-preservation.

A student shared that we all have the potential to commit acts of violence that were either based on our beliefs or state of un-wellness. I volunteered to complete a psychopathy test listed here the Levenson Psyschopathy self test. Which takes roughly 5-10 minutes to complete https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/LSRP.php. I scored a 2.9. The scores from this test I see more as an indicator for me, rather than a confirmed diagnosis. I mentioned that I would share my results with the class if interested. I now do so with you too.

Invite

I wonder what your psychopathy test scores are and what they say about you?

The thing I enjoy most about writing about multi-layered experiences is what others find through reading these posts and then share. If there are other psychopathy tests that are an improvement on the one listed here please share below. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.

Further Reading

The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/a…the…psychopathy/555335/

The Independent
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/the-difference-between-a-psychopath-and-a-sociopath-10422016.html

Snap Judgement Science and the Psychopath
https://www.npr.org/2015/07/10/421625310/the-scientist-and-the-psychopath

Criminal Podcast The Money Tree
https://thisiscriminal.com/episode-51-money-tree-8-23-2016/

EQ

Emotions

Emotional literacy is a term used to understand ones emotions. In light of the swathe of information in relation to mental health, mental illness and the taboo subjects of psychosis and schizophrenia entering our regular experience. I write to explore a small but significant distance. A gap is beginning to widen in relation to being able to discuss the effects of mental illness and what a person feels. Almost like the dark side of the moon – present but never seen.

Hovering curious

Omnipresent Majesty – Humility

Humble

Luke Roberts was possibly the first person to highlight the willingness commonly witnessed of our public to talk about a mental illness. A few years ago that was unheard of, no one talked about their stuff openly! The gap of not connecting illness with the effects it has on a sufferers/survivors life alongside their emotions appears irrational to me. A sea change has occurred of the willingness to talk about mental illness that has been supported by various well known individuals sharing their stories in a variety of ways: podcasts, radio, television, newspapers, books, blogs. Luke’s point relates to our joint vulnerability in expressing witnessing and accepting that the many they’s are the many us’s. Humility possibly also plays a part here also. We have become inured to the siren and unable to recognise the pain that those who have shared their stories have lived through, or are living with.

Water humbly supporting

Balance on the river Li

Balance

The overall benefit to being open about life’s challenges and the trials one has lived through is encouraging to another who may have similar troubles. By hearing another’s triumph over a personal tragedy, surviving the hurricane of war, another story can be developed like a picture. Showing a story of wonder and banal normalcy.

Precious

Bringing Fresh

Delight of Autumn

There is something sensational about another person expressing their hurts in a public domain that captures attention. Are we looking to empathise with that person’s experience, knowing their story may well support us in avoiding a similar fate happening for us, witnessing another’s horror offers chance to pay attention to the frailty of life?

I think one of the aspects that those who work with others intimately recognise is the strength of vulnerability as well as the beauty in the human experiences of loss, gain, winning, failing, laughing, journeying, pain and healing. It is the promise of alchemy that attracts.

The gleam of joint success and winning and losing and overcoming and moving beyond the hurt to something else…

Knowing

Exposing one’s hurts invites the *witnesser to pay attention to what ails, that can offer chance to review and chance to change. With emotional literacy what is being invited is to recognise what hurts during the conversation. Focusing on the internal world to invite change. The Chimp Paradox is an excellent example of us figuring out what is causing us conflict before it is unfurled and hurts another/others or ourselves. The motive is an understanding that as a human we experienced a number of developments in our life that largely supported our growth.

Inside

Depicting slow

Tranquil Motion

We may recognise that we have an inner child, a surly and impatient teen, an internal parent and a calming adult voice. The tensions that arise by being pulled in a number of different directions by these parts inside of us, cause some emotional pain, in the least invite us to questions such as “Why did I just do that?” “Why can’t I just get over this?” My favourite is “What’s wrong with me?” Invariably nothing is ‘wrong’. What may have happened is you are experiencing the tension between different parts of the self that are in conflict and may have been hi-jacked by an emotion or fear.

Test

As humans we have drives that enable us to navigate through life and learn: seeking safety and warmth, finding a partner, finding food and sustenance. These different drives can throw us against societal norms and personal wants/drives leading to conflict. A great example of this is the marshmallow test. The want to eat for those between the ages of 4 and 7 are so great that some children eat the one marshmallow rather than wait the 3-5 minutes and get to eat 2. Delaying gratification is a skill that is learned over time. As is the ability to be emotionally literate. One can’t run at it like other self-development programmes. Like training oneself for any new skill or ability it is best achieved over time.

‘There will be many failures along the way. Ah, but the successes will carry for longer…’

Talk of the Nation

Two Guys on Your Head Failure

Concert of Chaos

Collusively Clueless

The 4 Horsemen of Marvel’s Apocalypse captivated me reading about the exploits of the X-Men in the mid 90s. An attempt is made here to understand collusion alongside the characters of the four Horsemen.

Collusion

/kəˈl(j)uːʒ(ə)n/

noun

secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy in order to deceive others.
“the armed forces were working in collusion with drug traffickers”

synonyms:

conspiracy, connivance, complicity, intrigue, plotting, secret understanding, collaboration, scheming
“there has been collusion between the security forces and paramilitary groups”


The Four Horsemen

War – Conflict, Aggression, Destruction
Pestilence – Disease, Poverty, Bitterness
Famine – Paucity, Lack of growth, Waste
Death – The End?

Collusion = Death

War, Famine, Pestilence, Death,

Transport

The leader – Apocalypse and his battles with the X-Men transported me from the ongoing contests of growing up amongst a landscape that was foreign to me. Recognising that a civil war was being waged and I was an unwilling yet active participant.

Cambridgeshire of the late 80s -brushes with intolerance and parochial identities troubled my big city sensibilities.

I saw the battles of Professor X and the X-Men as great examples of battling their times experiences of misunderstanding, intolerance,  bigotry and ignorance against mutants as similar to my own; facing prejudice, stereotyping and poverty.

Uniformed

They battled the forces of perceived evil valiantly wearing their newly designed uniforms and with powers they were born with or had augmented. Either by chance encounters or deliberately designed by other super beings.

I faced my adversarial experiences with nothing more than dreams, humour, art and staying within my very narrow lane.

War riding

War the 1st of the Four Horsemen

Insight

Not so anymore. The lane has changed to a hyperlinked expessway. I have earned my own superpower. After working at a young people’s cafe as a project manager/youth worker, training as a counsellor, over 10 years being involved with the criminal justice service in London. With insightful observations, purposeful listening and curious person centred questioning, my appreciation of life’s challenges has grown.

I am now able to peer behind the curtain, on a number of levels of human endeavour: including historical legacy and achievement, sociological factors, financial impacts of choice and *philo-psychological matters. Providing a way of perceiving life through lenses that recognise hidden games within games.

Seduced

One game that I recognise is the act of collusion. We may all have been guilty of agreeing to someone or something that would usually be dismissed or flat out refused.

The art of collusion is that it invites individuals to agree with someone that normally would be told No! Ego strength may be low, energy could be zapped from a long hard day, agreeing could be seen as the quickest way to get the person to shut up and leave you alone. Think of the whiney kid asking for sweets or ice cream or the latest console game for the nth time. We know we shouldn’t but to bring halt to the noise we agree and then offer excuses that soothe the guilty consciousness that kicks in with unhelpful comments.

Offering disease

Pestilence of the Four Horsemen

Pact Breaking

Collusion usually holds all in a pact like agreement that usually is unbreakable. Until something significant happens. The event usually piques through defences and invites those in the confused circle to question their motives. These motives and the associated guilt that starts to get stirred up can be enough to disturb the pack. When events are undeniable, disastrous and invite others who are not involved to wince and question the sanity of those involved in the collusive acts, a breakthrough may well be achieved. Think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the Abu Graib Prison exposé, Guantanamo Bay or your favourite celebrity tv show: TOWIE, Love Island, Celebrity big Brother, The Apprentice, the Great British Bake Off… Are we all participants of collusion by watching and switching off the parts of ourselves that thinks and feels? Saying it’s just a TV show, it’s harmless, it’s just entertainment. Note the defence and the denial…

Ignore

Collusion is a part of our working lives and inserts itself as a part of most companies way of operating. Simply seducing workers to believe that this is a way of getting things done. Think about the last time a person in the organisation was bullied, overstepped, not had their opinions heard or validated by others and a collusive pact formed to not hear any more from that employee. Denying that employee, a colleague, space, time, validity to share their points. Then, that employee labelled a troublemaker, someone not playing ball, a misfit,  a person unwilling to play in the game the company has asserted as the right one to be played.

Following Pestilence taking all

Famine the 3rd Horseman of Apocalypse

Open

The point arrived at is the ‘troublemaker’ has every right to make noise about what they see as wrong or unjust or unethical or not in the best interests of the company or those that the organisation serves. Ultimately a reflective company would attempt to listen to the person with the suggestions/comments and seek to understand what is to be adjusted to make that employee content with the operation, or suggested new ways of doing things.

Inflexible 

A collusive pact does not do this. It destroys the persons that are attempting to better the organisation or the way the company does things. Tarnishing the labelled persons and remaining wrong and strong. Throwing shade rather than accepting other ideas or another way of doing things is a cowardly act. Insidious and spite filled. As Luke Roberts once said, if people or a company are unwilling to recognise and respond to changing environments, they are doomed.

Altered Angel

The Archangel Death the 4th Horseman

Backwards

As a mutant team Apocalypse’s collection of War, Pestilence, Famine and Death brought doom. The 4 Horse Men are a perfect depiction of a company’s attempt to avoid recession, regression, conflict and collapse. Mistrust, illness, en masse staff departure and recruitment of new staff members are often a result of a number of factors happening within an organisation. With the domino effect in motion those involved with the collusive pact attempt to fast fix gaps in the provision of services. Leading to new challenges and difficulties for all. Within an ever diminishing circle of cause effect and reaction and not looking beyond the next crises companies can take a while to reverse the rot.

In order to change direction, first one must stop… The challenge for some is when?

A number of media sources that discuss collusion and integrity.

This American Life – Airport
Serial S3 – You in the Red Shirt
Well-being Ivan Robertson Carey Cooper
TED Talks Radio Hour Quiet

Dawning Realisations

Alternative Action

3 ways out

During a conversation with a friend in Toronto: Canada this year (2018) they said “I have to have at least 3 ways to get downtown”

“What do you mean?” She was asked.

“Well I can’t rely on one way to get there. If the subway isn’t working I can use the tram. If the trams aren’t running I can use a taxi.” H stated.

“What about the buses?” I asked.

H looked at me shook her head and smiled. “I’d rather take a cab. Buses are unreliable. They come when they want. The schedule. The schedule is no help. It’s just added frustration on top of the insult of waiting…”

Snowy Taxi

Toronto Taxi

I had little experience of Torontonian buses apart from Go Transit to Toronto from Hamilton. Buses in London I could offer as comparison were at times unpredictable. I nodded and laughed to show I knew her frustrations.

The other comparison I made was managing anxious thoughts and low moods. What strategies do I employ when I recognise that a state of anxiety, or *pissedoffedness was imminent? What were my 3 exit routes to safety and a better state of mental well-being? Using Denial, Anger and Getting the Hell Out of here, has limited effects. The fire often still rages.

Years ago (1993) as a student at DeMontfort University, I would head to a basketball court in Victoria Park in Leicester and perfect my shot. The release of the ball at the right moment sending it sailing towards the hoop offered something towards appeasement, release and calming. This the summer after my mothers death… I knew little of the effects of grief and depression and found a way to self soothe that became a coping strategy: Basketball.

Basketball was an amazing outlet for me, many years later 1999 – 2011. Coaching gave me the chance to order a team of basketball players around on a court. Another useful way to channel energy. Coaching was a constructive activity for me and the players I coached. Coaching offered discipline, direction, focus and purpose for all. Later still summer 2005 talking therapy opened up as a way to let compressed thoughts chance to be heard and space to breathe. Sharing stories, for that is what Therapy can be, was helpful. And so began a journey I am still travelling.

The exits to better feeling that I use are:

Stopping and listening
Making a choice
Talking
Acting

Stopping and listening

A friend once said in order to change direction one must first stop. First notice the feelings that are stirred up. Listen for the emotions that are engaged in choosing to fight flee freeze or friend the situation. Usually there are many emotions all clamouring for the mic and anger seems to come out on top every time for me. It’s easy red energy gives chance to assert myself.

Pause

Take stock, uh oh this feels something like anxiety or anger or frustration or some other butt ugly emotion. Trailing behind it – dastardly thoughts that lead to impulses and actions that can direct one to regret guilt and shame.

The Way Out

Heading Up

Make a choice

Choosing from the list of Byron Katie’s The Work I make a choice to feel better. I engage in self-soothing acts like rubbing my arms, self-hugging, rubbing my hands gently together like I do when washing hands, rubbing my  head, going for a walk either physically or imaginatively to gain peace and serenity. The aim to give oneself space and some time out. Choose to accept and honour the discomfort. This is the hard part and the best part of the work. The discomfort is showing something that needs to be acknowledged! Denying and ignoring the hurt allows it to fester and grow. Honouring allows recognition of what ails thee and a possible release and easing of the pressure. I am learning that honouring the feelings and pausing is a mighty act. It interrupts the patterns of what usually follows. Choosing rather than impulsively acting can make a huge difference. The I am getting out of here is a choice. Which direction to travel?

Supply Clouds

Reading the chimp paradox by Professor Steven Peters has helped to identify that ‘Mandeville’ my Chimp is at the root to ill feeling and malignant thought. A book recommended by Jonathan Scott several months ago as a must read. Life changing were his words of advice about the book. I wholeheartedly agree!

Another partner to the ill feeling dynamic is my inner child. Mandy the Chimp is powerful but my inner child is like Tetsuo in Akira. Apocalyptic with rage and temper. Finally binary thinking helps the justifying thought that I am right and they whoever they are, are wrong. Completing the off balance set up.

Think

Be decisive and take action. – Gain perspective on the situation. Once clear it could be easier to make choices that best support self and or the situation. The route away from here is questioning, patient compassion. The strategies used invites my brain to move the energy away from Flight Fight Freeze Friend responses and engage with thinking.

The Bus

Towerbridge at Dusk

3 Ways Downtown Bus, Cab, Walk

Soothing ‘Mandy’ and the child is another important task. Once they have said all that is in them to say and have calmed right down. I can begin the questioning. Colour things in more. Invite doubt and gain answers. Here then lies truth peace and a possible way beyond the discomfort and disquiet. A solution to long held outmoded strategies that don’t get you downtown but waiting at a bus stop for a bus that’s way behind late, overcrowded when it eventually does arrive and with a driver with A WORSE mood than the one you had. Getting on to that bus possibly is not going to be the safest journey, for you, for the driver or the other tired, frustrated passengers…

Be Still

Distance yourself from the situation and walk away physically/mentally with the aim to cool down. Imagine a glass of water with ripples gradually becoming still. Even better the water becoming thick with ice. Get creative with the ideas that offer solution. These arise once the noise of the confused anger has begun to calm. Listen and hear well. Generally the voice is quiet, offering advice and guidance. It rarely yells. Adrenaline is a useful energy component. It invites movement, if redirected it can be used to support mind functioning by thinking clearly and acting with purpose to solve seemingly insurmountable and threatening problems.

Talking

The next part of this bus journey is to speak to another, a friend a family member, a trusted colleague, talking activates higher functioning of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is a power house generating imaginative ideas and surprising solutions. Tapping into this part of the brain directs energy to support growth curiosity and enjoyment. Bringing a clear direction forward out of thin air where once only a wall blocked the passage. The first conversation we often have is with ourselves. The next could be with a trusted other. Mentors, Coaches, Hypnotherapists, community and faith leaders, and a host of other objective agents can help to dispel the negative and increase awareness to creative and affirming solutions. With a clear plan or decision in mind something different can be created. Generally I feel better with a solution rather than confusion.

Airborne

Acting – In Flight

Acting

This is the last part of the bus ride. Make a choice/decision as to what you would like to do in relation to the set of circumstances that invited disquiet.

Recently I was driving home from work and opted not to get caught in a traffic jam that would have angered me, and made getting home much later. I chose to take a side road. I went through new areas of a town I knew little of and saw landscapes and scenes that I felt lifted by. I was able to get back on route in less time than if I had sat in the jam and in a much better mood.

What detours can be made in life and what might be achieved when we take them?

Life is simple it’s just not easy.

I am slowly learning to accept what this saying means.

Getting there…

 

Two items of interest

TED Radio Hour
https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/529942522/a-better-you

The Science of Success Podcast
https://www.successpodcast.com/show-notes/2017/6/28/the-shocking-truth-about-talent-what-it-means-for-you-with-geoff-colvin