Jitters: The Night Before

Having the jitters before the big day is normal, expected, an indication of the importance of what is to be tried. 13th of November was going to be gigantic because I was about to start providing a low cost counselling group experience for Black Men in S.E. London.

*Solstice Shuffle
With the days here in the northern hemisphere becoming shorter and shorter, and with that colder too, rather than retreat and hide. I want to fight back the dark with warmth and light. My colleague and I are to start something I feel will be big. Important. Game Changing. We have talked and laughed and listened and prepared.

It’s time.
So the jitters, and jitter bugging are a nervous type of energy. Highlighting an excitement and a wondering of what is going to be. New. Novel. Nuanced. Black focused group therapy for men.

Why?
Because why not! The reasons aren’t as important as the reasons that some are asking them. What reasons arise in your minds eye as to the reasons as to why, there could be need of an introductory course for therapy for Black Men?

Support
Speaking with my supervisor a few months ago I asked, do you think this idea of mine is racist? He took his time and invited me to think about my reasoning, my question, the need. I did and said No, I do not feel that the group is a racist idea. The want is to support an under-served social and ethnic group access skilled support at a low cost. Some psycho-education will happen and the aim will be to support members grow towards a healthy sense of themselves and their position in the world.

A memoir, an insight to living whilst Black

Lack
I recognise that men generally are less inclined to express themselves and be vulnerable with others. That takes time. It’s a strength that women largely are gifted with. Men tend to suppress their softer side for fear of being manipulated or hurt or worse humiliated. The concern is that under pressure, that hiding, turns those suppressed feelings into something toxic and harmful. We know of the term toxic masculinity.

Triplicate
Being toxic as a Black Man is like a triple bind.

1. Not speaking about ones vulnerability and pain causes us (humans) to seek other ways to find release. Some of these ways can lead to long term health factors that affect Black Men in particular and those connected to them acutely.

2. Becoming toxic, distrustful, upset and angry causes others usually friends, partners and family to flee, reduce contact, disconnect from or just avoid and hide.

Professional dislike
The trusted are often met with the same vitriol and disruptive rage as Drs, nurses, psychologists, probation officers, teachers, police personnel, employers and work colleagues. With the disruption some meet their needs through miss-telling of truths. Making the environment of the affected worse. Thus serving to – ratchet up their paranoia or distrust. Leading to more self isolation and projected anger at others.

Hitting Out
The third and final bind is when the lid blows off!

These moments tips the scales violently over.
The contents carefully balanced are shattered scattered and lost. The family, job, friends, savings, house, children, partner, colleagues, all ruined.

The man at the centre of the storm can then fall foul of pre existing stereotypes. He – unable to cope with the pressures of life. A Man Not really. A Man deemed crazy. Unable to climb and look after himself or anyone else for that matter. A drain on resources, draining energy, becoming to onlookers: menacing. Unworthy…

The Straw
Mental health services are generally not accessed before the police are called in. Usually it is this point that help is found and quickly. Society seems ready to pounce as the risk level becomes uncontained by members of the general public.

Detention
The implosion leads then to an enforced section and the man’s civil liberties of self-governance, self respect, self determination sanctioned and taken from him for between 48hours up to two weeks. Legally! Sometimes it can be for far longer. For this man it is a story he may have avoided. If there was a way to have found a space to discharge through speaking about his allostatic loads with (an)other(s).

A stong looking exterior often hides the vulnerability and the pain. Lets talk www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com
Let’s Talk now.
Photo by Giulia Pugliese on Unsplash

Perhaps
My jitters are about the chance to create a new story. For the one above. For that lonely man who shuffles along the street, sometimes talking or singing to himself. Looking unwell. Acting in a slightly bereft, unkempt way.

Rise
The idea of creating something new as a psychological model is both powerful and exciting. People engaging in therapeutic communities and therapeutic work is a different outcome to the bleak one I have witnessed as a Londoner, as a person working in prison, as a consciously aware Black Man that wants to listen for a different ending. Sometimes a situation has to reach rock bottom before it gets better.

Sometimes

Resources
Code Switch – This Racism Is Killing Me on The Inside
The Stoop – Angry Black Woman
BAATN – Beyond Silence

Comments are welcome.

Re-Edit Tactical Empathy and Effective Altruism Pt 3

Links to Social Responsibility
Previously I wrote about the School to Prison Production Line. The need for interrupters to change the direction, influence and flow of the components that can produce those that make up a forensic population taps into the idea of tactical empathy and effective altruism. (Soap Box moment) By putting the needs of a disaffected displaced over represented group of peoples alongside our own, perhaps even before us, then a significant derailment of the production line can and will occur. My reasoning is that the They are Us. Forgotten song goes someway to explore this concept with the Neimoller poem.

Clutch
For Arwa the understanding I arrived at was a sense of compassion that even though one might live in an area affected by conflict, war, and civil unrest. Life is still lived. A birthday is still celebrated, a new visitor treated like a very welcome guest. Arwa’s description of her experiences with the people that were able to offer her a safe place to hide with the threat of capture and death are ‘clutch’ moments. If we were to apply tactical empathy and a degree of critical thinking to Arwa’s story we would note that her job was to collect a story. The story became about her survival.

Tactical empathy – effective altruism. Two concepts that have become fixed in my mind and operate on a continuum. Existing as variant strains of the same complex web of connections and communications that are made and lost. We live our lives daily by knowing dimly. With Arwa setting up a foundation recognising that her efforts to raise awareness and create change for the many, forced her to organise her thoughts and organise people to offer more. The Return to Mosul documentary and frying an egg appear as a reminder of humans caring about other humans in all manner of settings. Living truly with the active philosophical slant of effective altruism. Affecting change.

The Call
The aim here then, could be to encourage critical thinking, being aware of our altruistic natures and when necessary use tactical empathy to listen and create change for self and others.

Resources
Philosophy Bites – Larry Temkin
Arwa Damon – The Seige

Re-edit Pt 1
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Photo by Duniah almasri on Unsplash

Re-Edit Tactical Empathy and Effective Altruism Pt 2

Blending TE and EA
Following yesterday’s post Pt 1, I wanted to revisit the concepts of TE and EA. The first podcast (see yesterday’s post Pt 1) is a 15-20 minute show discussing our responses to those in need with Larry Temkin on Philosophy Bites. The second is an incredible story of a reporter Arwa Damon who was under siege in Mosul for 28 hours, her rescuers bravery and her desire to support Syrian refugees.

I had the chance to listen to both podcasts within a few days of each other and arrived at a similar point. Both podcasts discuss: tribalism, humanity, decision making and a desire to better understand choice affecting us the individual, and the choices we make/could make that effect humanity/society/communities/villages we are living amongst.

Choice with Others in Mind
Interestingly the ideas of tactical empathy and effective altruism were discussed by both Larry and Arwa. For Larry there was the experience of appropriately understanding choice and making decisions that ultimately serve the greater good. One could look and feel bad for a period but the delay to look after a larger number of people is the better outcome for many more – so choose the greater gross affect.

Confront and Compound
The idea of effective altruism or tactical empathy is a challenge to our sensibilities. The challenge is towards the idea of compassion for self and others. Effective Altruism also is about holding our recognition of the plight and struggle of fellow humans.

There are a number of stories Larry Temkin discusses throughout the podcast that nudge a few uncomfortable ideas towards our awareness. The $5,000 watch and the drowning child were 2 stories that are particularly distressing and yet also informative. I won’t do the story justice by explaining them here. Listen to the episode as linked in Pt 1 and 3 and share your thoughts in the comments section with either today’s post tomorrow’s or Sunday’s final post which brings all 3 parts together. Again

Re-edit Pt 1
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Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

Re-edited Tactical Empathy and Effective Altruism Pt 1

Flow state thinking
An interesting blending experience happened after I listened to two of my favourite podcastsPhilosophy Bites and Pod Save the World. One was the thought that both ideas appeared similar and could be used/accessed to support those who are facing insurmountable challenges. Like the men and women I counsel in prison.

Anything Left?
The other thought was about asking myself ‘if there was something here about listening for the solution?’ Listening in a way that supports a peaceful outcome for the many? The thought was what if Tactical Empathy merged with Effective altruism…?

What are they?
A definition of both Tactical Empathy and Affective Altruism follow.

There are plenty of ways to get what you want in any negotiation
Kicking and screaming used by infants and some adults!
Using threats to coerce an outcome using the idea of danger and/or harm.
Finally we have bribery as a way to produce a desired outcome from others.

Loops
Perhaps the most effective strategy is one that’s pretty much counter-intuitive: Focus on what the other person wants instead. Chris Voss Author of Never Split the Difference advises that this closes a loop for the other and the negotiator.

Or with “Tactical Empathy” it is the ability to share someone else’s feelings while executing a specific plan to achieve a particular goal. Information collected from LEO Hearted T-shirts

Affective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to benefit others. Effective altruism encourages individuals to consider all causes and actions and to act in a way that brings about the greatest positive impact, based upon their values. Definition by Wikipedia
Re-edit Pt 2
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Cover Image by: Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

Musical Interlude

1986

Waking up to the sounds of Hip Hop in 1986 was like a coming of age experience, but now as I think about it the experience was matched by Musical Youth a year or two earlier. In 1982, aged 8, Pass the Dutchee was a huge phenomenon and spoke directly to my youth and Joie de Vivre of living on a council estate in Tottenham, North London.

Autumnal Graffiti Lewisham London

Old School
Before Musical Youth, music consisted of my mum and dad’s records, 70s classic soul songs from Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, Gloria Gaynor, Aretha Franklin and some West African Hi-life music that if I could find now I would wrap my arms around and release – never. There is something I find undeniably uplifting to the energy of high-life music.

Making It
In the late 70’s and early 80’s the Bob Marley phenomenon had phased in but not affected me as much as Musical Youths song had. I couldn’t get enough of Pass the Dutchie. Hoping for a repeat every time ‘Pass the Dutchie’ was on the radio. I must have driven my mum mad, eventually she bought the single! In the 70’s and 80’s Black representation in popular culture was minimal whether on the radio or on TV. Back then social media, the internet and Youtube were simply not invented and getting access to an African Diasporic influence was rare in the UK. Musical Youth for the 2 weeks that they were in the charts topping sales and appearing on various shows including top of pops felt like an important arrival.

The Tail end of Autumnal Graffiti Lewisham

Hippidy Hoppidy
Than came 6 minutes you’re on by Doug E Fresh featuring Slick Rick! And this song blew my mind. In 1983 we had moved off of the estate and our landscape and environment looked very different. We were nearer to Wood Green and that shopping experience, nearer to Green Lanes and that shopping experience and also closer to West Green Rd and that shopping experience too. A Trifecta of sorts. We had moved into a neighborhood of houses and streets. The vibrancy of the estate was replaced by a quieter more progressive neighborhood and Doug E was inviting me to not forget the ‘hood I was from. Scratching, mixing, breakdancing, graffiti, MCing took my Musical Youth experience and flipped it up 100 notches. I was also entering puberty and all of the upheaval that brings.

Giving Life
Listening to Jazzfm a few years ago and hearing the Jackson 5’s Never Can Say Goodbye and Foster Sylver’s Misdemeanour brought my youthful musical musings and wanderings full circle. The youthful exuberance and joy of music came immediately flooding back to me.

Using the words of ‘Gene Denby and Shereen Marisol Meraji of Code Switch fame, “What song(s) are giving you life, right now?” List below, comment, let me know your thoughts…

Songs that Give Me Life: It’s Time
Radio Silence Radio Silence Talib Kweli Amber Coffman & Myka9
Write At Home Radio Silence Talib Kweli feat Datcha, Bilal & Robert Glasper
Day to Day Art Science Robert Glasper Experiment

And He Laughed.

Black laughter. Black Love.

There are times when I am amazed by the generosity of spirit of the people I meet in prison. They may only be dimly aware. For this man I would like to share this piece of writing with him. An action of reciprocity. Effective Altruism? Maybe…

Bad Day
I was having a shitty day. Walking with a walking stick in prison is a cumbersome and slow experience. The walking stick has me feeling vulnerable and very out there on my own. It’s a constant worry that at any moment something is going to go down and I’m going to be jumped beaten and my keys snatched off of my chain.

It has never happened to me.

(Yes, staff walk around with keys attached to a belt.) Uniformed Staff and civilian staff walk with aware that they carry a large responsibility along with those keys – a symbol of power.

Questioning
The opposite is often what I encounter. I generally do not feel powerful. My visible vulnerability brings from many I meet, including officers and often young and mature black men, the nod, or the question of
“Are you alright?” Or
“You cool?”
“What’s happened?”
“You good?”
“Take it easy, yeah?”

Fade
Here I am seen and my daily struggle is met by others compassion, seeing myself as the injured and frail one. I find myself at times wanting to be invisible. But these calls are a gentle reminder that humanity lives here. These moments are of genuine sensitivity being shown from men who are doing hard time, some serving 18-30 years. I have accountability and a responsibility to uphold, mine and theirs.

Between
On this day I passed from one wing to another. There are a number of wings/house blocks, housing between 100-150 men. Every house block has it’s own distinct vibe and concentration of prisoners: Vulnerable prisoners, lifers, remand and re-categorised prisoners. These men are due for parole or to be sent to other prisons for more open conditions. The prison has a total capacity servicing over 1000 men. Me negotiating the gates, doors and stairs takes longer as I manage the cane, the keys, assessment charts, writing paper to note take and my diary. An unholy slow moving ungainly mess.

Rutland Water Normanton Church: Slow Moving

Check-in
I am to meet with a client who attends the bereavement group. (Thanks for the reminder I will offer a write up about this group soon.) I need to see him as he left the group early on this week and I want to make sure that he is okay.

Take
We meet on his house block and I make my way into one of the offices that has a desk and 2 chairs on his wing.

I offer,
“I wanted to come and see you as I wanted to find out how you are after Tuesdays meeting?”
He says “Yeah, I just wasn’t feeling good you know? Sometimes this place takes the piss!”

I nod showing that I understand.

He continues “I asked for something that’s important to me for my religion and it’s not on the canteen sheet and I can’t get it!
“It’s frustrating me.
“I’m usually okay with it here.
“But this thing.
“I’ve been patiently waiting for 3 months and I couldn’t wait any longer. “I’ve done it their way for a long time and nothing ain’t happening for me. “I’m not just going for mine and leaving everybody else you know?
“This is about me and for others like me.”

Release
He shares his disappointments and numerous experiences of being let down and similar disagreements about the prison. Like, losing weight, standing forward and supporting others, confronting officers and attending to his overall fitness, wearing clothes he has had to keep care of for years because he can’t trust that things sent in will safely arrive.

Prism
He says something like jail being more like a mental health institution in patois and we both laugh. Initially tentatively. Then gleefully. Recognising ourselves in a prison situation as Black men. One choosing to be there with the other, another doing his best to find peace within his situation in prison.

Re-set
The laugh of this black man was like the baring of a soul with a comrade at arms, a fellow road weary traveller, a baller. His laugh invited me to view both his and my plight with compassion. This black mans laugh somehow seemed to restore me and also him. We sat and laughed in a prison, about prison and the folly of the circumstances we both found ourselves in. It was Capoeira meeting Jazz, Gum Boot Dance to Blues, Hip Hop bopping slow with Reggae, Salsa and Calypso rejoicing. It was natural and affirming that even here -prison – humanity could be found.

Re-Mix
The wonderful ability to take something that is both internal and external put a spin on it and make it both his and mine. The experience of the infinite in a few short moments of laughter. How deliciously wonderful, amazing and so uniquely surprising. I left the prison a little lighter that day, usually a little guilt escapes with me.

Not on this day!

There was no space for it.

Only smiles and laughter.

Resources
The Nod Do Rag
Code Switch School Daze and Gum Boot Dance
2 guys on your head Laughter/Jokes 
Making Sense Mind, Space, Motion

CTA
Comments welcome and appreciated. I am looking to engage in conversation re. Black Laughter. Black Love and the other blogs written. Thank you for reading.

Photo by Giulia Pugliese on Unsplash

Beautiful Purpose

Ikigai – Purpose of Being

Ikigai

Is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.

The word derives from:
iki, meaning life, and
kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.
From what is.techtarget.com

Tools
Wanting to heal and providing a number of tools, resources and ideas that support others to heal too I believe is my path, my passion and my pastime. A therapist no longer. I am doing something more. It’s surprising this level of experience because I had no idea that I would arrive at a point like Jonathon Livingstone Seagull: Above the clouds, looking for others to soar up here too.

Psychotherapy as Art
I was supposed to be an artist or an architect, at the very least an Interior Designer. But life did what life does best – took me where it needed me to go. From London to Peterborough, Leicester, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, North London, South London. Hamilton Ontario?

Walk and Talk Therapy, Autumn creeps in the mist
Walking and Talking in a London Park. Psychotherapy meets Artistry

Mr Ben
A host of jobs I have played an active role in, that has included; a McDonalds employee, a night packer at Walkers Crisps Leicester, working in a nightclub as a bar person – University experience Leicester, packer and sorter for freeman’s catalogs Peterborough, office mover and delivery person for English Heritage and Manpower staff agency – London, a barista and store assistant manager at Seattle Coffee company, a youth worker/manager for the place in Woolwich.

Speeding Up
It was here as a youth worker, that life began to accelerate and I began to notice the power of influence within conversations I was having with young people and what the effect of being supported could do.

I continued supporting young people at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Wandsworth which lead me to being a school sports co-ordinator at Harris Girls Academy East Dulwich, I completed an introductory course to counselling at Morley College in this time.

Becoming a learning mentor at a boys school Salesian College, a few years later, helped to solidify what I had learned -Talking Helps! Then I completed a Masters in Counselling from University of Greenwich.

Paint
A placement at a Drs surgery in Camberwell and a placement at a prison lead me to working with people in forensic settings. I have written before about becoming an artist that works with the human canvas of life. The reality is artistry has led on to something more.

Labelled Healer
It is further along this path of discovery that I am headed, I notice points of interest and signs that the journey is about to quicken and change once more. Magi, healer, shaman, doctor, it seems like the next potential door through which I am to pass.

A man in prison approached me and asked
“What do you do, then?”
I replied “I am a counsellor.”
He said “You look more like a doctor.”
I laughed and offered “Is that’s a good thing?”
He said “It could be, I need a doctor.”
“Ah” I said…

Sidelined
The idea I am learning to accept is that interpretation of an idea, of a person’s life choices can be vast. So much can be included or completely left out.

Those who are labelled unhinged or mad are often marginalised. The fact that some people can see things that may not appear in our version of reality earns them a severe and enduring mental health label. Perhaps the Magi, Healer, Suffi, Shaman would be more appreciative. Able to show more understanding towards the ‘psychotic’ the ‘schizophrenic’ or the personality disordered. Perhaps there is more to be perceived of our reality.

6 Weeks: Get Ready for 2020

More
My Ikigai is wanting to support the many to be well whatever that may mean. These blogs and links, tweets, linkedIn posts, Instagram shares, Pinterest pictures, Facebook posts are to support the many heal. My 6 week course for Black Man is soon to begin at the Wellness Hub in Lee Lewisham England. A 6 week online course for the same target group is currently in production too.  

It’s Time

Resources
2 Black Guys with Good Credit Don’t Hate, Negotiate
Oprah Winfrey and Malcolm Gladwell Super Soul Sunday
The Dope Black Podcast
Code Switch Our Homeland Raising Kings
The Nod Fearing the Black Body