I have continued with the theme of Internalised Racism offering a personal insight of how I recognise what it looks and feels like with this blog.
Miss Hit What is missed by projecting outward on to others, what we cannot stomach? We could benefit from further understanding ourselves. This point Dr Dwight Turner invites us to spend time with. Projective Identification (P. I. ) is a self protecting act, but the act cannot fully protect the persons who expel what they cannot tolerate in themselves onto others.
It creates in the object projected upon, a sense of fear and loathing. Deficits of self-worth, self-esteem, anxiety and low mood. Manifestations of the disdain are re-presented by the subjected upon persons internally/interiorly and to others who resemble or behave in similar ways to them.
Here my attempt is to match P.I. and Internalised Racism as cousins. In essence those who are treated by a nationally sanctioned power structure; unkindly, unfairly, with prejudice, do not have the power to represent their hurt to those who hurt them. The hurt people observe the hurt in themselves internalise it and project this hurt on to others who appear similar to them. Both Zed and Daniel offer useful interpretations in last week’s post.
Division An early experience I can remember that woke me up to what internalized racism is was being bullied at primary school by two Caribbean girls. I can’t exactly remember what these 2 girls repeatedly said to me. Something like ‘Smelly little African boy’. The resemblance was of a hatred that was borne as a result of my father – African. His genes a part of mine. This an undeniable truth. I could not make sense of their disowning of our joint cultural heritage and obvious visible similarity. My skin – brown like theirs. My mum was from the Caribbean too, so were we not the same? Not to them.
Power Over This experience of internalised racism was one I could not comprehend at the age of 6. The bullies dislike was a felt sense of wrongness. Mine. Possibly theirs too. I assume (now), that these two sisters felt a sense of power and a feeling of entitlement.
Brené Brown discusses the concept of power over, as opposed to power with, or power amongst. The Caribbean for me was well represented amongst my friends. Culturally, London and the UK of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, Caribbean influence was acknowledged and appeared valued.
Music, Slang, Fashion all influenced by children of migrants from the Caribbean. Bob Marley and other reggae stars were regularly heard on stereo systems across the estate I lived on. My world – Tottenham High Road and Wood Green felt like mini slices of Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts, Dominica, the Grenadines. The homes we visited, the shops and grocery stores, the foods we ate were of mostly Caribbean and West African flavour and influence.
Norf My awareness of racial and cultural understandings arrived late, like the 243 bus to Wood Green , or the 321 to Seven Sisters. The raising awareness job is a lifelong one, but peaked when I moved out of London to Cambridgeshire in the mid 80’s. The North London Estate I grew up on was filled with newly arrived immigrants from a great collection of African, Caribbean, Asian and European countries. These two girls would sneer at me whenever our paths crossed at school or on the estate. They, whispering to each other and cutting their eyes in my direction as if their waspish looks could make me disappear. Their disapproval didn’t make sense to me but left an invisible mark. That of being disliked by others for a seemingly senseless and unknown reason. I became distrustful of persons who cast unkind and disparaging looks my way.
Resources Ursula Rucker performs Innocence Lost. The line that stands out is missed hit. The resonance is palpable as this poet intones an all too familiar story. The Roots woke me up to the power in poetry. Hana and Leila discuss in detail the insults that are thrown back and forth between Africans and African Americans. I thank Kimberly Cato of True Roots who passed on the Halton Voices video. Sameera discusses with guests what Internalised Racism is. The Stoop You Called Me African What? Diverse Perspectives conversations with Sameera Ali, Leena Sharma Seth, Mifrah Abid
I continue reviewing the concept of Internalised Racism in this post.
Closed The True Roots conversation on the 30th of June was a closed group for Black and Brown (Racialised) people to hold an open, challenging and affirming conversation. With members from White communities barred, the freedom to share difficult experience with others unburdened double consciousness. Links to current and past personal histories were made. Unfettered – the conversations were like a surge of blood to an unseen unnoticed wound. Members who attended discussed their understanding of Internalised Racism. Part of the discussions observed what has been the learning in relation to ourselves and about the societies we live amongst.
So We Dare Having written a little about group the idea of being amongst a closed experience felt risqué and yet also necessary. Inclusivity is undoubtedly an ideal to be achieved. Perhaps once Racialized communities recognise their needs for active participation in healing, liberating from outdated and ill fitting, ideas can begin. Exclusive meetings held amongst communities that are representative of diasporic Africans, Asians, Indigenous communities and LatinX communities are often framed as anti-White. Generally, these encounters are experienced as spaces for important idea generation, healing and application. The focus is on uplift. The experience of being amongst the True Roots online space felt unapologetic. Panelists and guests offered clear resourced and relative experiences about their growing understanding of what is lost by trying to acclimatise to societies that are structurally racist.
Abdicating Responsibility The UK, Canada and the US deny and work to hold on to the outcomes of Colonial pasts and historic abuses against Black and Brown bodies. Claiming each country’s sovereignty and superiority over former and existing colonies. European settler behaviours have largely bestowed power upon European descendants and centred on greed gaining wealth. I would argue that centuries of war, genocide, trauma, and vilification of others has left a fetid festering wound amongst the planet. Calling all to attention, yet only a few hear the Earth’s cries. Fewer still tirelessly wrestle to create change that invites resuscitation or better regeneration.
Resources Ms Xaba offers a number of personal stories of coming to realise the impact of the invisible marks left by apartheid. I recognise myself in the Ghana experience. Making self small, with the idea of perceived threat. Choosing to leave, before being told to. Daniel shares his realisation of Internalised racism and the connection to misogyny. His story takes him from the US to Jordan where he learns to understand himself anew. Internalised Oppression by Zed Xaba Internalised Racism and Misogyny by Daniel Juweid
Hidden by same race or similar cultural groups. Could be experienced as lateral violence. I will do my best to explore both terms and offer a few resources that look at the expriences of internalised racism in blogs to follow.
Internalised Racism Definition The upholding of a system such as White supremacy by racialized groups both unconsciously and consciously. It looks like in racial group dislike or hatred of peoples from similar racial backgrounds. looking to confirm one group being better than another group. It is Shadism/Colourism, Poor v Rich, Educated against Undereducated, Gender, Age, Sexual preference, Religious affiliation and denomination against other faiths and beliefs. Many of these points of sameness difference and otherness are well addressed by the book Mockingbird.
Group Discussion I was asked what my thoughts were in relation to internalized racism by Kimberley Cato. This question posed for the last group discussion for True Roots of the season. My thoughts on internalised racism in late May 2021 weren’t fully formed. Reading ‘Intersections Of Privilege And Otherness’ helped to begin formulating my understanding. I will share below what Dr Dwight Turner writes because it offers an understanding that is useful to how my mind has been able to make use of these earlier incisions to character development. I recognise that a discussion on this topic can be a sensitive experience to engage with. I will offer my experience as a base board from which to move beyond in later pieces of writing.
Resources Explained Jabari discusses his growing into an awareness of internalised racism in an accessible and personable way. Farah Nasser discusses with University of Toronto professor Girish Daswani, and communications professional, Gelek Badheytsang about internalized racism. The conversation highlights some of what the True Roots conversation spent time; evaluating, rueing and laughing at. What I enjoyed from the Living Colour interview was the unequivocal idea that internalised racism can be changed.
Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy, by Dr Dwight Turner.
Opening I wrote to my friend Banjo Aromolaran-Eaton that ‘Mockingbird is an outstanding reflexive undertaking. Dr Dwight Turner has done a difficult job of contending with Intersectionality and otherness brilliantly.’ Like wrestling with a thunder cloud. Every droplet of water examined and the electrical charge removed from most of the ion particles.
Indent When a good book lands, one might read it once, and think on what has been learned occasionally. With a book like Mockingbird the learning will be a consistent reminder of what work and stretching still lie ahead. As an adherent of life long learning, the idea of continually growing – a welcome challenge. The ‘once read and gone’ idea is past, in our age currently being lived. Information once read, understood and digested can now be actively applied. We can demand more from what we consume.
Unapologetic What Dr Turner does is turn the lens he is looking out at the world with, upon himself profoundly, unflinchingly, unapologetically. The book wilfully presents the discomfort of observing and feeling around challenging self concepts of identity. You might find yourself wincing in parts of the book that boldly delve way beneath the surface of safety. This is what makes Mockingbird stand out. Dr Turner does not turn away from the difficult. He in fact chooses to pause, point and move toward the unaligned (taking us with him), like an architect or builder snagging all fixtures that don’t sit right.
Beyond Bubbles A message for those looking for an Aladdin’s cave of treasure, we won’t find it at the end of our lane/road/village. We will have to leave our comfort zones and go in search of it. There will be trials, there will be miss steps and lost chances. We will experience failure and defeat. What we will also come across, are clues as to where the treasure is hiding. Getting forever closer and seemingly further lost. I am writing as though the book is a story. It sort of is. Mockingbird is an heuristic undertaking with many points of learning. Mockingbird is both excruciating and exquisite in how it presents us with both understanding and many moments of insight. It is the Sea at the End of the Lane! The point of interest for me is, when a writer writes about themselves in intimate detail as Dr Turner has, they invite us to look at ourselves too in just as brave a way.
Scythe My least favourite part of Mockingbird. The most challenging and at the same time best learning, came as Dr. Turner, focused his attention to Death of the other. It took me about a month to read this chapter. (A slow reader I am not!) It’s the apex part of the book. This chapter is the half mile Andy Dufresne has to crawl through to arrive outside of Shawshank as a smelly free man. Dr. Turner observes the many millions that have been classed as other and killed throughout history. In all honesty my heart sank at this point of the book. Death as a subject I had thought I had vanquished.
Death, I find is only over when our story inevitably ends. Mockingbird pulls no punches and everything is unearthed to be picked over and reviewed: Privilege encompasses us all he shares. This is a hard concept to bear witness to. There is death in acknowledging our experience of privilege, when believing that privilege belongs to everyone but us. How wrong was I?
Why Read Mockingbird Questions that arise from a position of confusion, outrage and a sense of powerlessness are addressed. The book does well to hold the paradox of being othered and yet also having power. ‘Intersections…’ provides a way to begin engaging with the unconscious for answers, as Dwight has and wilfully shares his findings. The aspect of battling with the barely conscious parts of ourselves sounds challenging, because it is. With Dr Turner as a guide, who continually shares his discoveries, the uncovering of hidden meanings, make questing in a psychological way appear painful yet appealing, and also ultimately freeing. There is bravery in Dwight being so open and vulnerable with us.
Flawed Without question there is difficulty in first understanding ones privilege within Western societies. Both Canada and the UK present a few preferred specific characteristic identities above others. As a Black male, grappling with the disabling effects of Relapsing Remitting MS, there are dynamics of feeling both disempowered, and yet held as powerful, whilst counselling to empower others. At times it can feel as though I/We are in the Minotaur’s labyrinth trying to make sense out of the complex multiple narratives held about Black and Brown bodies. If we include ableism, mental illness, gender, culture, race and class, we can begin to widen our lens and witness how Intersectionality encapsulates everyone. Post Trumpism, with Canada waking up to it’s residential school horror, of indigenous children’s remains being discovered in mass unmarked graves across Canada, post Britain’s exit from the European Union (I have refused the misnomer, for it was never fast and it was never easy), post the social reckoning that George Floyd’s murder awoke many people up to. Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy is a just and balanced and intrepid response. Intersections aims to support readers understand the paradox of the part held and the part we are to play at this critical multi-layered moment in world history.
We are all human animals making sense out of chaos.
Resources Explained The list below is extensive primarily because much of what Dr Dwight Turner has been involved with has been affirming and informative. The links to his Twitter, Website and the numerous interviews and discussions all offer insight into a psychotherapists expansive explorative and sometimes explosive understandings. Heuristic research initially I wanted to engage with for my Masters, but the subject of my topic to be researched wouldn’t fit into the model that Alice Shlegel shares. Alice’s explanation of Heuristic research further confirms my choice to use autoethnography. A Son’s Journey will be dissected further at a later point here. Ionized particles and them being contained in Thunder Clouds was a useful aside to examine the comparison of Intersectionality, power, race, psychotherapy and the heavy charge a mix like this offers. A thank you is extended to Kate Bowler who recommended that I read The Sea at The End of The Lane. Tim Ferris interviews Neil Gaiman about his process of writing. The line in Exhibit A by Jay Electronica in the 2nd or 3rd verse remains one of my favourite verses referencing struggle, redemption and winning against multiple odds. Shawshank was/is a life long great film. Morgan Freeman offers these words about his friend Andy at the end of the film. Morgan’s character intones how Andy lives on as a memory – whispering a promise of life after incarceration.
Wellness Hub Group Following the previous weeks of discussion of Group, I wanted to reflect on the last group I supported and helped bring into being – the Black Men’s Therapy Group. We began at the Wellness Hub in Lee, South East London. Just like in other group spaces the beginning was tentative, wary and awkward. Within 10 weeks the first group were willing to engage with the dynamic of the space much more. The group of 9 Black men became with each other and themselves a fluid, self questioning, humble and hilarious, authentic assortment of people of differing backgrounds, ages, sexualities and shades. We were able to after a few appointments be vulnerable with each other, challenge, support and laugh like our cares and concerns were forgotten, or behind us.
CoVid19 Interruption With the event of Corona Virus 2019 erupting at the beginning of 2020, thoughts were had about how to continue if we were unable to come together? The decision to take the meeting online was made with hesitancy and questioning of if the group could function virtually. Skype for some provided enough bandwidth for a few meetings to operate well. Zoom eventually won out as the preferred method to conduct the Black men’s therapy group. Similarly to Group the meeting virtually did not hamper the group’s engagement at all. I would suggest that without the boundaries of the circle, making direct eye contact with others in the ‘room’ a significant change took place for attendees. Conversation and depth of what was discussed improved what we understood and felt from fellow participants. CoViD19 was a significant topic for discussion as was George Floyd’s murder.
Peak Being a facilitator amongst this group was a zenith experience of all the groups I had ever been a part of. The reason for the feeling was the summation of all group engagements seemed to be the direction I was travelling in. An ending point to all of the previous group experiences.
Change What I have enjoyed about both short seasons of Group is the spontaneity. The expert direction by Dr Ezra. The challenges I recognise from my own experiences of being in group. Forceful presentations by Manny, Tilda and Karina are laudable. Rebecca and her quixotic presence alongside the enigmatic Stuart, provocative Henry and Pam dynamics and then there is Frank the enigma. The cast of characters offer something refreshing and also recognisable about group processes for those who choose to watch. Be they families, organisations or amongst other clients being treated. Group is both art and a mindful reminder of days past and hopeful, that a post CoViD19 world can be found and accessed by all. Left to wrestle with the aftermath of Lockdown 3.0 and a planet beginning to wrestle with difficult and different concerns brought about by an undeniable murder.
Energy Each episode of Group is between 10 -15 minutes, I found myself hooked and wanting more. A worthy sugar rush with none of the guilt and shame of devouring a triple choc cookie. The show offered me a perspective of what I have been missing about group work. The silly, the deeply defined and entrenched, the undulating sense of never quite ending and always beginningness. My hope is that group will be renewed and that we see more from this dynamic cast and the creators of this amazing show. I also plan on building a new Black men’s therapy group only this time in Canada. It is the reformation of community that is of specific interest to me at this time: Post George Floyd, post the Tulsa uprising, post the Capitol Hill invasion and the UK government’s handling of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report by Gareth Iacobucci reporting on Health disparities.
Together There is something very fulfilling about witnessing a group of people come together to dine, to share stories, listen, be seen. My love of cooking shows departed with the fru-fru-ness of Masterchef but returned en-force with Chef’s Table (yes Netflix again!). High on the Hog appears to exemplify all that is good in sharing culinary experiences and a people connected together by food! Dr Mos-Shogbamimu offers her interpretation on a year post George Floyd. I agree with a number of her points. Home Cooking is a simple delight of a podcast. Home Cooking presents group as a virtual friendly experience – sharing jokes – recipes – puns – and food making support guidance. Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman share their story of finding each other and an interesting idea for a dinner party.
Remember We are both amongst and outside of group/tribes simultaneously. Group offers us paradox. Until we make a choice. Both are indeed true and align with us simultaneously…
In this post I am reviewing the experience of difficulty and the danger of being in group.
Good Enough My initial training as a counsellor at Morley College in 2006 was my first-hand experience of group. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was the tutor whose warm guidance offered everyone on the course a sense of what being a counsellor looked and felt like. Ian challenged, heard, listened, appeared unendingly wise and somewhat of a humoured story-teller. A bit like Dr Ezra in Group, or how I imagine Irv Yalom to be in treatment groups. Intelligent, patient, resourceful and poignant with insights that arrest as much as they inform.
Follow Up The 2nd therapy group experience had, was the experiential group. First year of the MSc programme at University of Greenwich. I joined a year after finishing the Morley introduction course. The experiential group was a new yet familiar experience. Similar in essence to the YouTube show Group mentioned above. Fellow students, I and a facilitator would talk about our experiences with the course. The blend of our learning and our personal lives alongside how we were inadvertently becoming more consciously aware of the counsellor waking up in us, were frequent topics of discussion. The discussion was the object we pulled and played with. It was neither mine nor theirs. This object was the groups and seemed to change in form, and colour and vitality when members were not present.
Not Group Therapy The Experiential group was like group therapy but not. The facilitator generally offered observations of the group process as if they hung from the ceiling. Aloft. Looking down from their elevated experienced height. Infuriatingly. Never laughing at our juvenile forays into this new world of Counselling and Psychotherapy. We moaned about how we were finding timing impossible to schedule alongside work commitments, life commitments (what life) and how we were finding it hard to fit it all in with the incessant always present uni work commitments. Diabolical and yet somehow achievable or so we were lead to believe.
Tempered Smiles They the facilitator, were able to somehow with mirth offer reflection as if they were remembering their time, in our place – struggling. To make sense. To make it all fit. To make it all work. I became bemused by it all. A defence? Possibly. When I became a facilitator of my own experiential group a few years later, I vowed that I wanted to be a little more helpful. But a process group does what a process group needs to do. Process and work out for themselves the up from the down. The necessary from the useless.
Group in Prison The third group experience arrived as a result of an idea generation. How to support more people in prison therapeutically? The answer. Group! Myself and a very experienced counsellor friend came up with the idea of wanting to support men come to terms with their grief, whilst inside away from family. Listening to Griefcast for a few years prior, inspired a question that only beginning a group could answer. Could a grief counselling group be effective in prison? How will a counselling group work in prison? Will the group experience be effective for the men in a category B prison?
Answered We began the grief therapy group at one of the prisons I worked at in Kent in February 2019. The answers to the questions were: Yes a counselling group will work. The How – took planning, and advertising, and discussing the idea of the group with officers, and clergy, and education, and with clients that expressed a need for the group – a soft sell. The operational lead for the NHS foundation trust we worked for at the time, was enthusiastic about a grief therapy group starting. With their guidance, we began the bereavement group. The first few appointments were difficult to engage with for a number of reasons: Finding a location was a challenge. Arranging for clients to attend was another hurdle to overcome.
Grief is an unwelcome visitor for anyone.
Witnessing For these men, encountering grief alongside serving time in prison increased the level of challenge significantly. Despite these challenges the group grew and stabilised until the Summer break in 2019. Men found that they could share long held pains. The facilitation of the men sharing happened as a result of support and stabilising interpretations by the counsellors and by other men within the group. The level of insight and willingness to encourage other men by fellow persons in prison was the rare quality of compassion myself and my co-counsell witnessed frequently.
Companions Some meetings we were left wondering how the group had supported much of the repressed pain to be released. It was like from a pressure valve – slowly. At other times supporting the talking felt like walking a tight rope. Going too fast we all fell. Going too slow – not much happened and still we fell. Boredom, distraction, avoidance, telling other unconnected stories that felt familiar. All to leave the specter of Death and her willing companion Grief alone. Unfortunately I left the prison in October 2020. My hope is that the Bereavement group continues in some shape and form.
Resources Explained Thank you to Anne Willoughby for sharing Prison Break on BBC Sounds. The aspect of death and dieing is a constant factor to life. Experiences end. This too is also considered death. College behind bars is a wonderful testament to endeavour and to dare greatly. These men and women dare greatly and are both punished and rewarded. Philosophy Bites overviews the life of Spinoza who thought about the existential aspect of dieing. Code Switch Podcast shared the tragic story of Claude Neal. There is a chilling reminder of what constitutes group mind and group decision in relation to the podcast episode and the article that follows.
The not Netflix show Group, has truly mesmerised me. I could watch both seasons repeatedly and still learn something new. Alerted by Kwame Opoku in the UK. A fellow Ghanaian Psychotherapist suggested I give the YouTube phenom a try. Working with groups has been a part of my life professionally as a counsellor for more than 5 years. I wanted to discuss and share partially what it is like being in group and being designated the facilitator in this piece of writing. Primarily because the position is an imperceptible dance.
Diviner As the facilitator of a group you get to dance with the life and death of experience. At times the pace of a group is so slow and quiet. A group can be a space filled with unheard and unseen ghosts of past experiences. At others group experiences can be fast and dynamic, filled with talk, voices raised as the energy flies around the room. If you have read the Shopenheur Cure (as yet I have not) or Loves Executioner (this one I have) by Irv Yalom you will recognise the unending sense of experience and compassion that arises from Dr Ezra.
Art Imitating What has inspired me to remain a fan of Group, and hoping for a further 20 shows that gets picked up by a major studio, is the sense of how true and congruent and vibrant the show feels. Group is strangely authentic and as real as any TV show has the potential of being. For me it is the recognition of the energy that appears to move about the room. The energy, caught well by the double camera filming and the actors shedding lines and insights like members of a dance troupe – fluidly, with the ease, force and grace of a strong wind.
The links below highlight the felt sense of movement for me in Group and also how both Move and Code Switch live in Birmingham Alabama brought group experiences and shared insights to life.
Resources Move – Netflix Code Switch – Live in Birmingham. A group experience and more
What I was interested in exploring over the next few blogs was Group. The TV/Youtube show, I have been mesmerised by recently. A few of my favourite characters are Dr Ezra, Stuart, Tilda and Manny. Each embodiment offers a different whole person experience that thoroughly captivates. I recognise them as parts of myself and as identities in my own life. Dynamic, rich, challenged, reserved, demonstrative and powerful.
Social animal There are many different types of group we can identify with. I won’t name all of the millions of different groups here as I am sure other blogs have written about Tribes too. As a member of the human animal species (thank you Celia for keeping this idea in my minds eye!), we are members of some groups and tribes. Other groups, we remain painfully aware of how outside we will remain.
Opposites Dr Dwight Turner, in his book Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird, spends a glorious 130 pages discussing these gossamer embers in glorious person centred detail. Dr. Turner has written and explored the interesting paradox of intersectionality and privilege. Where belonging and the experiences of being othered are held painfully, balancing the act of being discriminated for one’s identity as well as being aware of privilege too. The book is masterful.
This blog is followed by 3 more on Group – Explored, Group – Challenges, Group – Ends
The resources listed in the following works involve groups that inform, explode and challenge notion of identity and belonging.
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.