Kimberly Cato asked: Did the public lynching of George Floyd impact you in any way, and, if so, how have you or your life changed this last year? My response – Yes, the public lynching of George Floyd and killing of Breonna Taylor impacted me in a way that the many others killed by law enforcement had not. Not since Rodney King’s filmed brutal battery by LA police in the 90s had I been so affected by such visible hatred. At first I chose to make my writing pay attention to how I was managing his death and the avalanche of information that followed. Perfect Storm was my first homage to his (George Floyd’s) memory…
Transformation Writing offers me a chance to process disturbing and triggering information in a way that takes it past the point of the information being personally held, upsetting and re-traumatising. (It means) I have done something with it and so it’s transmuted into something digestible or more favourable – useable (to me).
Objectification I recognise myself as a healer, a storyteller, a writer, an artist – someone who has a responsibility to support more to achieve a state of balance and stability. My writing aims to do this in as personal and as objective a way as I can. I claim the heuristic autoethnographic process whilst studying my masters degree, as being a chief influence for this form of writing style!
Diversity Spaces Last year I was living in the UK working amongst a number of prisons as the lead counsellor for an NHS healthcare trust. I delivered training on White privilege alongside my colleague PK. It was there I witnessed the not so clever slight of hand that White colleagues would raise. The UK does not have the same issues with race that the US does. I would argue that it perhaps the UK has it worse – Hidden – Insidious – Deadly. The UK hides behind an idea of class, education, history – Wilbur Wilberforce and being a force for good.
Denial A White member of clinical staff stated whilst we engaged with the White Privilege training, that they had not seen the news about George Floyd and the protests and that they were not aware of the global mass awakening. From here I realised that logic, reckoning and knowledge were not going to be enough to support those with their eyes and mouths wide shut to change. I would need to seek a relational experience for those who claim ignorance, to either step in to the arena or take a seat closer to the edge of the action.
Energy Rasmaa Manakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book as a loan from Hamilton’s Public Library. Rasmaa notes that there is an energy in the words we all speak that links us to our past and those that came before. As a seeker I am interested to know more about this partially invisible yet felt substance to our lives that scientists, psychologists and those working in varied fields including art and religion often speak of.
This point in time, this present history is where universal change occurs. Both are frightening necessary and exciting.
The 3rd and last idea I had that arrived in quick succession, related to the 2 previous pieces Reaching and Illiterate Paradox. My understanding is all examine the need for connection. I keep returning to the concept and experience of love. The complex and often misunderstood feeling generally has the power to cause amazing effects for all, The Biggest Little Farm a useful example, as is Growing Up Wild on Netflix.
The third in this Blog series, involves a community of people I have time for. I wonder about those who break societies laws. Who are considered then ‘offenders’ and how pathways could be managed from an emotionally literate and an emotionally intelligent perspective.
Re-write The thought I had was – if prison was infused with the power of healing damaged stories – to life affirming scripts amongst and with community, what would be the effect on an individual and society? I have an 11 year interest with the men and women who are sentenced in the UK. Persons in prison spend considerable amounts of time in cells, under constant watch, lacking privacy, adequate nutritional food, health and care. I also am mindful of what emotional support could be accessed before going to prison?
Rochester I have written about some of my work in prison and the humanity I witnessed by the women and men I had the chance of working with. Thank you Anne Willoughby for introducing me to the Pathways worker that provided me with an understanding of the 20-60-20 rule. HMP Rochester in Feb 2016. The Pathways worker offered the below of persons in prisons mindsets in relation to desistance:
20% never going to change 60% on the fence of change 20% changed and never coming back
Pathways I have Jenna Soame formerly of Pathways HMP Wandsworth, to thank for furthering the idea of desistance. Jenna explained there are a number of factors that support people making pro social choices. The web a person in prison chooses to take steps to remove themselves from, is complicated and can take a long time. Desistance is a journey that Pathways assists those who are supported, to engage with the process of desistance in stages. Stopping activities that are law breaking happens amongst a number of other choices that persons in prison can choose to experience that can include: Re-engaging with family, finding a role that offers personal and or group meaning, removing practices and habits that continue unhealthy experiences, addressing psychological scars from earlier adverse experiences (ACEs), attending to gaps in learning and education, engaging in paired or group activity and beginning to repair individual identity and a representation of self amongst community.
Human Acts My consideration links to emotional literacy in that as a society, little to no attention is paid to this unseen aspect of what makes us human. How many emotions and feelings could you write on the back of a postcard? 10, 20? There are as many as 27 and possibly more yet to be classified human emotions. The point for me having worked with people involved with criminal systems of incarceration, law and probation are that a complex set of emotions are often involved when someone breaks the law, either singularly or repeatedly. We (the general public) are lead to believe by the media that law breakers are often mindless when the act is committed, or vengeful when committing the act. The actor is presented as devoid of any feeling. For most of the men and women that I have supported in prison and on probation, a Molotov cocktail of emotions were scattered amongst the moment as well as precluding the event and almost always after.
Files The person who stands trial is often changed by the act and the process of them being brought to trial. If in fact trial happens. I am holding in mind a few clients I supported in Kent who had a host of challenges that complicated their ‘criminal’ act. Emotions, plural, were woven into those who were sentenced which included: Shame, repressed pain, depression, anxiety, abandonment, bereavement, denial, loss, fear, rejection, suppressed anger, feelings of unworthiness, low social standing and appreciation of cultural ethics and responsibilities. The event often happened in relation to a combination of factors that an individual was battling.
Client Case A client I supported in 2020 had a history of repeated adverse childhood experiences (A.C.E.). Their story is similar to the example in the super Soul Sunday Podcast at the bottom of this page.
Father left family before 10th Birthday. Accompanied their mother who moved back home to live with parent. Bullying begins in Yr5 by former friends. Name calling. Ostracization. Bullying continues at secondary school Yr7. Ostracization. Fights. Personal belongings stolen. School refuser Yr8 – Yr 11. Parents and other care givers home school from 2nd term of Yr8. Challenge by parents to school about insufficient support of their child. Began using nicotine and alcohol aged 13. Romantic engagement with an older person Yr 9 and Yr 10. Parents attempt to reschool Yr 9. Unsatisfactory school learning experience no secondary school qualifications. Ineffective efforts made to challenge school and council about child’s treatment. Reclusive and socially ostracised by peers 13 – 16. Disordered attendance at college able to successfully graduate after 3 years retaking 3 G.C.S.E’s. Studied English literature at a local university. Connection with fellow students tentative. Associative friendships increase risk taking and police involvement with family. Serious offence leads to conviction and 1st prison sentence.
Client Engages At prison the client brought many of their teen experiences in to treatment. They found therapy a challenge to encounter, as had little experience being supported by others outside of their family. trust was a considerable issue. Being in prison was also a huge attitudinal adjustment for them. Always with others. Unable to find quiet or acceptance or solace. Accessing therapy was their first experience of having time to think through their actions and feel the emotions in relation to the crime and sentencing. The client chose to examine elements of their past and the rejection and alienation faced whilst growing up. The client’s father leaving the family home was at the epicentre of their self image becoming destabilised. We worked on self acceptance and the hurt of being negatively confronted by a core group of peers. We also looked at failings of support in school and partially from home. A start was made to replace the clients unraveled sense of self. With 6 appointments the client was beginning to locate their sense of self acceptance and compassion for their earlier choices.
Between the Bars I realise that the part of being an artist that paints upon the canvas of life, is recognising myself as a dreamer. Influences arrive from the wild and off beaten track of chance encounters, client conversations, podcasts, books, TV, Film, Radio and music.
Air Pressure The human will to change, develop, grow can be altered by a simple and daring act of connection. Prisons, probation, police with an altered perspective on the individuals that break the law, could be in the position to change lives positively. Time and energy could be given to men and women entering/leaving prison to develop and enhance acquired skills for pro-social means. The relationship being a dynamic that increases forensic communities chances of employability. Like deep sea diving or climbing a mountain.
Chrysalis We, citizens, take for granted that there is an experience of life amongst society and encountering society, family, work that can take getting used to. It takes time. Those coming out of Lockdown 3.0 may recognise that it feels bizarre not to be living under curfew or state sanction to restrict the number of people one socialises with. There are tools and equipment that returnees are not accustomed to, to be able to manage life on the out. For some, the advent of social media, having a digital footprint, use of a mobile phone that take pictures, videos and can connect to the internet may seem like science fiction gone mad! One aspect that can be hard to move beyond for former incarcerated people is the sense of shame. This could be something remarkably shifted by group engagement/therapy/work/religious practice/reducing the idea of playing catch up. Emotional literacy and emotional intelligence could be pivotal for pro social choices to be continually made. The idea of a big picture world frame, to manage self within, that some members of society are scant equipped with from an early age.
Lifers Bakery The Ear Hustle podcast (below) with Frena bakery offered me a wonderful perspective gaining invitation. If a workspace is willing to look at the big picture of an employee. Asking them to step into a large role. With support, guidance, nurturing and trust any person could achieve greatly. The owners of Frena Bakery appear to be touched with faith in the human spirit of moving beyond adversity to succeed. The owners appear like good parents. Kind, warm, firm and stewards for those who on leaving San Quentin correctional facility want to work and give something life affirming to the community. I am confident that the role is challenging, that there are mistakes and temptations. What the podcast emphasises is the willingness of the owners to take a risk and believe.
Half-way to restoration. There are loose concepts about vulnerability that are beginning to formulate for me. In an earlier blog I referenced shame and what can happen when healing is engaged within community. One of the paths to healing old scars and gaping open psychological wounds lies in books like ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ and ‘It’s Not Always Depression’. Both books invite the reader to harness our inbuilt drive for change. The main way of healing for persons involved with the criminal system is to have a team of people who are invested in tertiary level desistance. The invitation is for us all to be in full communion with vulnerability. A scary and unwelcome concept. The reason for the idea – by opening, accepting, and folding in what has been expelled by society we can figure out how we helped create some of what we experience. It’s like creating a rich/complex sourdough. By incorporating the parts considered waste a fuller flavoured bread is achieved.
Fail Fast Falling/failing is part of the story, as is allowing others to support us getting back up and moving forward.
The 2nd idea that raced across the glittering night of my mind was about a kindergarten/ Nursery through to industry education programme. That was the same night that Reaching and Teritary Desistance also appeared.
My son the 8th Grader, asked “what is a paradox?” I carefully answered whilst listening to Brené Brown and President Barak Obama discussing the term. “A paradox is, the ability of holding two seemingly opposite ideas as equal and finding that they are interlinked.” I said. Paradoxes are also a challenge to fully conceptualise. They seem like odd truths or true lies.
Live fully with the knowledge that one day life will end. The final rule you need to remember is to ignore all the rules “What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw
I wondered what if education was to support graduans and those still attending Uni, College, School, Nursery/Kindergarten to have a larger appreciation and use of emotional literacy and emotional intelligence? Could there be beneficial outcomes for a person who is able to be aware of their emotional landscape alongside others and make use of what they find?
What is emotional literacy My understanding of emotional literacy is the ability to be able to know what one is feeling and be clear of how to make use of the feelings. Claude Steiner shares ideas here in reference to emotional literacy being different to emotional intelligence. I liked the idea of being able to feel and read the emotion first. Similar to when a person begins to learn to read letters/characters to be able to engage with the language of the culture.
What is emotional intelligence My understanding of emotional literacy is the ability to be aware of how you are feeling. In a clear way express how one is feeling with some level of awareness and control. Reflexively interpret the emotions of others you are in contact/communion with. Also come to an awareness of the feelings/emotions of others by reading social cues accurately. The podcast link with Andy McNab explores the idea a little further (see below).
Learning continues The understanding I have of emotional literacy and intelligence is largely influenced from my training as a counsellor and large life events that I have shared previously in earlier blogs. I recognise I have much more to learn, in relation to A.C.E.’s especially in relation to boundaries, stating what my needs are and making demands for what I want/don’t want. As a compassionate guide and someone who has not just survived a small t trauma, I am thriving on a number of levels and am leaning in to the discomfort finally. There is a sense of the small internal child stretching up towards a brighter warmer space.
Cheesy Having had a conversation with Anne Willoughby, who has an uncanny ability to skewer the last forgotten sizzling breaded halloumi at the back of the barbecue. Anne asked the ever important question. When are we were going to look down into that barely opened secret box, lightly labelled shame? She asked. Perhaps in not so many words. I believe she said “Why haven’t we had that conversation about…?” Before, when we ventured near this topic I had said I wouldn’t want to sully what our friendship had evolved into. A closer answer should have been that I was fearful of what might be uncovered when we go there. I think a small t trauma can colour and flavour everything in small ways, or like a red sock in a whites wash – change the colour of eveything. Emotional literacy I feel can help know up from down whilst moving through life.
Bravery Inhaling I centred on my courage (knowing I wanted to run as far from this conversation as I ever have) and leaned in. I have watched and listened to a few others who have been open about adverse childhood experiences they have experienced (A.C.E.), survived, and been able to thrive beyond. Lisa Nichols, Dax Shepard, Tim Ferris, Sonya Renee Taylor and Ray Christian have all recognised that it is not their shame or pain to carry. That the shame, guilt, secrecy and debilitating effects of the story belong to the hurt person(s) who hurt them. The earlier version of who they were then was merely collateral damage. A recogniseable by-passer invited into a soiled secret. A recipient of the unprocessed and misplaced looking for a secure vessel into and onto which they could transfer uncomfortable feeling and disordered information. I realise I have journeyed into a psychodynamic space on this topic. A sort of theoretical psychobabble. However by telling the story, to begin pulling up the murky contents and separate the self from the filth, a new healthy identity can be asserted.
Multiplicity The idea would be to encourage us all to continue to grow into being able to communicate the emotion one feels as they broil about inside of us. What would it be like to confidently in all moments with trusted others share that specific energy in motion? The aim would be to develop and foster understanding between and amongst and not be shouted down and misunderstood. Another aim could be to appreciate the many different ways of being with emotion. The move and growth in understanding neurodiversity, neuroplasticity, non gender binary for me has invited an awareness of difference and human expression in all of its wonderful and varied forms. Slowing down the need for conclusions. We are to remain curious.
Near to 9th The paradox at hand has much to do with the idea of youth being wasted on the young, being linked to an awareness of life for the living. And the young being aware that at some point it all changes regardless of protest or need! For my 8th grader the paradox for him, is about wanting to be out with friends, grow up, explore and be safe in relation to CoViD19, have all the power and privilege of an adult and none of the additional responsibilities that accompany an adult’s life role. Finding the middle space at this time, the in between knowing and not knowing, is hard.
I am excitedly wondering what our world would look like with sensitive and self aware emotionally literate stewardship? Reading Brené Brown’s dare to lead she wonders and shares the idea that emotional literacy is vital for all human life to begin walking courageously. Perhaps within a timeline that involves my children the illiterate paradox could be answered.
Perhaps the use of both explosive and hazardous expression would be understood in relation to personal and community impact. Individuation remains connected to and linked to many many more. A recognition that emotion also carries information that may want/need to be understood.
I feel that the commonality and experience of the individual linked to the experience of the community could be used to further communication, understanding and social and individual action. emotional intelligence and emotional literacy are linked with empathy and connection to others and to ourselves.
The move from London UK to Hamilton Ontario took place in February 2021, during the 2nd or 3rd global lockdown. We are finding our feet and settling in to life here, on this side of the Atlantic. My interest in story continues and in this piece of writing I am to share 1 of a few innovations.
A number of experiences are happening in a way I had not anticipated. I will carefully unfold each like an origami crane with a secret message. They range from being a panelist on True Roots mental health discussion conversations, supporting Health and Wellbeing Connectors, planning training for organisations that would like to work on making their work spaces Anti-Racist and being in communication and activism with the original Diversity Space team.
There was a life before the unlawful killing of Breonna Taylor, the pandemic of CoViD19, George Floyd’s video taped murder and the uncountable number of demonstrations that took place globally after their deaths that underlined how thoroughly incensed, we all were.
Swords Drawn That way of living (denial, superiority, indifference, ignorance of others suffering) has since passed. We are in a new time. The Gladiator – Brené Brown and her team have warned that this time is a dangerous one to be in. Her reasoning – an old way of being wants to hang on to what it has designed as belonging to it and that we all should put up and shut up! It will stop at nothing even it’s own destruction to maintain it’s power over and control and sense of right brained destiny. In my mind, things can not go back to a state of unknowing that we were all in before. Change is always upon us. Perhaps now we change and turn towards something worthwhile.
Black Lead The largest of the ideas I am looking to begin, is assisting Black, Asian and Indigenous Mental Health practitioners to coalesce and concentrate efforts to liberate the practice of Euro-Americentric psychology to become reflective of the communities that it may serve or support. Increasing the number of Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour to support marginalised communities manage with Anti Black Racism, Anti Indigenous Racism and Anti Asian Racism. Investigating older ideas of how communities have healed wounds collectively with little to no residue of the unresolved, science was spirit, spirit was science could be hope inspiring. The current methodology of psychology stigmatises and can create community distrust of mental health professionals. Not understanding nuances of presentation from culturally and ethnically diverse community members. I would like to be a member of a Black lead group of mental health professionals that include Psychiatry, Social Work, Psychology, Psychotherapy and those in training to regenerate a form of thought based and practical application to help/guidance/nurturing/story telling/trauma work/healing that incorporates every racial, ethnic, social and class group.
Like Us A similar organisation exists in the UK. I would be interested in supporting Canadian, American and Caribbean Black mental health professionals to link with BAATN in a partnership of collective interests to become the largest International organisation of Black, Asian and Indigenous Mental Health professionals globally. Think what the reach of a collective like that could be? Training, Podcasts, Guidance, Support, African, Asian Indigenous centred support for people who are calling out for mental health professionals that look like and originate from similar communities.
Artistic Dreams The idea arises as an accumulative effect of seeing a city (Bernin Zana) in the Marvel movie Black Panther, unsullied by African chattel Slavery and it’s twin cousin Colonialism. Other cumulative influences on this piece of writing are kwanda.co and the knowledge professionalism and right/might of the Black Panther Party as depicted in the film Judas and the Black Messiah. How does a 21 year old (Fred Hampton) command such determined and far reaching change? Movements like these, do so by inspiring and inviting all to look at old patterns – deign to dream of better ways of breathing and put in place new ways of living, effectively, powerfully. Comrades all. With a focused goal. The betterment of all by all.
For 1 The Euro-Americentric form of psychological/philosophical places a lot of importance on the individual in healing self first. Above everything and everyone else. I think that health is lost. Placing self first does not and cannot include the all of the family or the community. Outcomes are generally measured against individuals living well. Question? Where does the individual return after their experience with the psychologist/counsellor/psychiatrist? Home or to communities where helpful and healthy change are still often many horizons away.
Ubuntu The story of the western anthropologist who invited a group of children to race amongst themselves. The anthropologist was looking to understand the meaning of the term ubuntu in a country that represents the global south. The winner of the race would win the treats all for themselves. The anthropologist gave a signal to run for the treats and was amazed by what they saw next. Rather than a foot race with screaming laughing children zooming towards the sweets, the anthropologist took a step back as the children linked arms and hands and all ran together for the candy. When asked the reason for this significant change to the rules of the game. The children answered how can I enjoy, when I know that my sister/cousin/friend will not have? What if therapy looked similarly to the example these children have set?
What if the factors outside of the home are addressed and pulled into the formulation of support and healing? It would wonderfully complicate and slow the process down exponentially, but it would also be humane and lift not one but all ships in the harbour. Factors that impacted a person’s self esteem and sense of wellbeing, depression, anxiety, blood pressure, fight-flight-freeze response could be incorporated/supported by a community wide approach met by a community of professionals. I believe that a global community health paradigm shift could support all with a goal of healing being achieved by everyone. It is the essence of Ubuntu.
What Next The plan going forward will be to have conversations with a few members of the helping profession both here in Canada and in the UK in the coming weeks, to begin organising and designing a plan of implementing a change. This idea is one that for me is built on the many that came before. M. Angelou, Arike, DeGruy, Fanon, hooks, King Jnr, Lorde, Malcolm, McKenzie-Mavinga, Nkruma, Y. Davis. The idea is about building from below sea level – like a volcano.