Being willing and able to stand out. Not stand amongst. Daring to be counted for or against. Being the binaried other. The up to the down side .
Three stories and many many more. James, Davis and Thomas. All came to London, all discussed their books and visions.
All at the Southbank Centre. London.
All witnessed by the Grateful I.
All willing the next generation of writers, to pick up and sign on the Ether: that is fabric, that trick of time, a slice of magic.
With Angie Thomas the bright energy of her torch is carried aloft and loudly. Her message is one of hope and endearing those who are young, to knock down the doors to the banquet. Not ask for a seat at the table. Take the table and the hall!
Healing as action, a right for the young the mature, for the willing and the able.
For Marlon James – Black Leopard and Red Wolf was a call out for healing. Split psyches, broken dreams and promises, pooling resources and hollowing out ones own truth from African spirituality and new/old mythology.
For Angela Davis the story too was also about healing and about activism and about spanning histories and movements like a fan. My notes cannot do her enough justice so I cobble these sentences to scramble my meanings – together and then loosen.
In three short weeks I recognised that we are speeding towards a downpour of words, acts and decisions that have the potential to irrevocably change minds hearts and futures. Whatever the outcomes some ideas remain, things change – Always
A few years ago I met a friend in a Cafe/Bakery I had long held as a pinnacle of urban regeneration and baking prowess.
I had just left the University of East London (UEL) re-introducing two old friends that both had extensive experience working in the field of criminal justice. We had spent time discussing workshops for Forensic Psychology students that we would be delivering over the years course.
Ascent Rise by Solange Knowles is a great intro track for a complex album and it played as my friend and I entered. You may have come across Don’t Touch My Hair that features on the album. The E5 bakery is a teaching cafe and sells amongst other things sourdough bread possibly the best in London. The coffee is very good too!
Connex Meeting my friend at the bakery was a culmination of a long held friendship and a cause for Celebration. I had that rare moment of synchronicity meeting serendipity. A choice had been made by my friend that felt important and life affirming. The moment when one realises one’s power. Where flight seems possible. The internal porch light gets flicked to on. The re-awakening of Neo in the Matrix’s final scenes. The culmination of intention meeting luck.
Possibility A walk and talk client and I had discussed the merits of both Lemonade and A Seat At The Table. As both albums were so dynamically different and yet stretching the listeners appreciation of musical activism in similar ways. We both felt that Cranes in the Sky was worth the whole album of Lemonade. It appeared that Solange had poured her entirety into that one song. Whereas Lemonade felt like the many iterations of a number of heartfelt concepts.
Chance My friend had recently decided to change her role and leave the company she was with to join a charity working with service users in Probation. The decision she made was all hers however I felt responsible and to be a person of influence, perhaps I stepped from the role of friend to coach-mentor-consultant. The question is when to offer insights about choice and when not to. The point here is to note that knowledge can be influential. Think algorithms and shopping/buying on the internet. Google and Facebook only know of what you have looked at and as a result know some of your interests not who you are. Do not fall foul of their attempts to have you buy just because you once saw it.
Games within games By answering a number of my friends questions I was providing personal insight to a number of their considerations. I attempted to be objective. I am not sure I achieved true objectivity, some subjectivity seeped in. Passion runs through me on subjects I have experience with. For people that I know and love – get an uncensored cut.
Work/Play Ask any that I have worked with as a supervisor, basketball player, mentor, friend, service user, client, probation officer or FMHP. The soap box still calls me…
Carefree Junie is a sweet throwback song that immediately brings to mind upbeat sunny hot summers, hanging out and younger fresher days. It speaks of freedom and roller skates and ice cream and hot sun, and full trees, riding bikes, barbecues, car stereo’s blasting and block/house parties.
Embrace Listening to Junie in the E5 Bakery talking to my friend about the choice she was making felt like a welcome return to a warm home after a cold night’s long walk.
Does Psychotherapy, Counselling, Therapy, Coaches and coaching, Mentors and Mendallas, Science, Scientists and Doctors have the answers we all are potentially waiting for?
I think that we want to believe
that they do. Only they don’t. We don’t. We are intellectually figuring it out
Perhaps we’re all Winging It.
Principally with hands raised over our heads and hoping it works out alright, for us, for them, for we, for you and for I.
We are making it up aren’t we? Yes. Trained. Yes. Confident and then unleashed we are sent out into the world to do some good. Mostly…
The truth of it all, is we don’t know that we do THAT much good. There is a statistic that says that if something bad happens to you and you see a therapist you may get some support and feel better within 3 – 6 months. If you don’t go and see a therapist. Chances are that you might feel just as good in 3 – 6 months too but not have paid out the 1000s for the support of someone like me offering soft plenitudes and platitudes to make it all ‘feel’ better.
Whether you are a doctor, mechanical engineer, teacher, law enforcement officer, director, editor, musician, astronaut, martial arts instructor, or surfer you may know your science, but if we were to strip it all back to basics every thing is up for chance and really we have only a thin veil of knowledge (deceit) figuring out what our next move is going to be.
We are all champion guessers, frauds if you will and there’s fun to be had in the not knowing of things and having the humility of wanting to figure this stuff (Life) out.
“The wisdom of Trees in Winter: they show us the beauty of letting go.”
I have recommended the Hidden life of trees by Peter Wohlleben to a number of people as the book illustrates what Trees can help Humans learn about life and living well.
Throughout our lives We let go of things all the time, mostly without recognising that we do. Whether that’s time, relationships, clutter, jobs, money, skin cells, brain cells and other unmentionables we dispose and let go of without a second thought.
A thought struck whilst eating about letting go of things that have been used. I usually have creative illuminating thoughts in the shower. There is something about the running of water that invites reverie and space, perhaps the act of creating for me is more about the act of cleansing – another letting go.
As I put aside the lid to the pot of yoghurt I thought about what it was I was letting go of. Like the tree this was a leaf of plastic. If we think about this thin veil of plastic – it comes from oil which comes from organic matter that came from a tree or other vegetation millions of years ago. The plastic leaf did not cascade from my hand to the table with that carefreeness that a leaf from a tree descends to a loamy forest floor. No.
This lid was placed onto my wooden dining room table carefully and with little grace. The aim of the act was for the lid to be discarded in time. Without much consideration. The plastic leaf eventually going to a landfill site to add to all the other lids and plastic detritus that have accumulated rapidly in the course of my life to be a little big problem. Plastic life, spans a time of decay of between 10-200 years with little up-cycle value but with huge ecological impact and cost.
Being mindful of my impact, of my imprinted footprint on a multitude of ecosystems is worthy of thought and action. Observing where I can let go of less, which negatively affects the course of generations of Earth’s inhabitants is a cause I can ascribe to. Less plastic consumption. More demands on local councillors to reduce plastic consumables available in production and sales of various products. Small big acts. Recycle recycle recycle Michael.
With the coming of a new day, new moment, new year, new experience letting go invites me to reflect on the space that is discovered/recovered from discarding what has had use. Letting go of something that costed time, energy, money and sanity is a useful leaf to shed. Moving into another moment I can reflect on the benefits of either holding or releasing an element or relationship or thing.
In 2018 a number of leaves fell: I left my counselling space in Lee, clients finished short pieces of work with me, I stopped working for Together, the illness MS progresses and reveals other hidden horrors. My eldest left primary school and started his defiant walk towards adulthood.
My tree holds few leaves now and I am starting to witness each curve, and knot and root, branch, twig – offering a collection of unparalleled unique beauty. There is learning here also as I struggle to understand what letting go has revealed. A dream to be realised? Challenges to be overcome and triumphed with? To finally see that in letting go we win?
Energy is to be gained in the release. It is not ‘the loss of’ that I fear, it is the idea I will not ever be: whole, good, qualified, enough. Even here the Wintered Tree teaches ‘These ideas too are to be released.’
There are a number of stories that capture the experience of unmet potential, stories of people falling and staying down long before they had chance to fly.
Having supported teenagers in schools and working in rehabilitative settings for service users. The experiences of: loss, betrayal, resentment, let down, anger, low mood, dis-regulation of the maturation process and abdication of responsibility appear to have an accumulative effect to understanding being made about life paths. An unknown internal point is not reached or appreciated and a resulting cacophony then is the result.
As Dr. Lori Desautels and Michael McKnight have illustrated in their 1st book Unwritten the Story of a Living System. A person, especially a child does not grow well and develop within an environment of high stress and high anxiety.
The result is a reduced sense of self-esteem, reduced mental capacity to uptake new information, lowered tolerance to *stressors, heightened response to survival habits of Freeze-Flight-Fight-Friend actions, hostile engagements with others, use of explosive language and behaviour to process and deal with challenge and of pupils forming uneasy volatile alliances with pseudo friends and ‘family’.
‘I’ll hang around with you, if you and your group protect and don’t victimise or bully me. And if you do I am in the In Group so that’s okay.’ How long before the quasi friendship turns into manipulation? Where anti-social activities are the order? Where thrill seeking is obtained through risky behaviours. Where aggression and rule breaking appear normal?
Would the (apparently unbreakable) association/link/connection with the group take an evening? A weekend? A Month? A Term?
The worrying aspect I find with working at a stage of a person’s negative spiral (prison in my case) is the sense of hope being lost. Of individuals giving up on themselves, their families, on rehabilitating and returning from prison and by-passing society as a whole.
Primary desistance may have been achieved. Secondary desistance may still be a process that is being worked with by a prisoner or service user. Tertiary desistance is where a moral and societal shift occurs in the service user and the individual recognises themselves as part of, not a part from, society – their community. Counselling I find can be useful with a person’s 3rd stopping point.
I witness what the result of stripping social services are for vulnerable people and communities. Crime increase, homelessness, experiences of people in mental distress visible and not able to be cared for by hospitals or carers. What frustrates me is that the experience my son is having with his school and peers could be impacted on positively.
The pain filled progression of pupils, a percentage of whom that are permanently excluded from school (that had the potential to be a pro-social engagement), are victims to, or perpetrators of street violence, join illegal import and export dis-organisations (anti social engagement) to eventually becoming labelled and branded socially unsuitable, un-fit for ‘non offending populations’.
Being removed from mainstream education where students either attend alternative provision for less time than mainline school I feel is a damning move for students, school and society overall. Pupils earn less time being supervised by adults that can provide adequate pro social modelling. Feeding the productionline.
The need then as mentioned in Ignored Song would be for individuals from a range of backgrounds and experiences to provide support to a range of school experiences across the country to ameliorate the perspective some young people have about the world in which they live. And to change how schools and teachers view and support disorganised pupils.
The world does not have to be a dangerous and risky place where disagreements could cost several young people their lives. The aim would be to not minimise their understanding or patronise, but would be to offer challenge and support growth. To see beyond the barriers and horizons they may have erected to protect themselves.
In 2017 I approached a number of alternative school provisions with an initiative to run morning workshops to groups of students. The theme delivering thinking skills with the topic of psychology as the main driver.
My interest in psychology firmly rooted because of the counselling course. Witnessing that our world is governed by psychology increases my fascination. Psychology is a growth from Philosophy and I am in absolute awe of the impact thought has on us as humans. Continuing discoveries in neuroscience perpetually astound me.
Discussing psychological ideas with students at alternative school provisions in London I felt had the potential to be transformative. When a person begins to come upon a new realisation it is like a gift that was buried. Once unearthed the gleam of treasure that crosses a person’s face is priceless for me – every time.
Working at a prison with service users in Kent, the look after they realise a hard earned truth feels the same. The service user often points and subtly rears back; like a soft push has just happened. Then a small smile is offered and the subtle shaking of their head. Astonishment!
The chance to experience and practice on the world the new found thing for service users in prison is sometimes delayed by the length of their sentences. Trial runs of new thought and behaviour can be made prior to release in prison with some degree of success. They may alter thinking traps and patterns or their behaviour may flip to be outgoing and light. Interactions with a peer, or group of others could do likewise and change to the positive with new thoughts.
My want was to work with school attendees before they entered the criminal justice system and had negatively altered their lives or the life of others dramatically, irreversibly. Reducing the impact and societies unconscious load that it projects onto those that it classes as criminal. No. We should not wait until our son’s and daughters are detained within secure environments before we develop packages of support. The change I believe has to start now!
The invitation/demand especially in light of Britain teetering on the edge of Exiting the European Union is:
We all must want better now for all.
We have to face up to the challenge.
We must all be willing to work to achieve a brighter tomorrow.
To be the last person standing is not what my son or young people seek. An unblocked, unfettered, untainted future is…
The Path to Connecting with- Kids “at-risk”. ( Brendtro and Seita )
1. Recast all problems as learning opportunities. 2. Provide opportunities for fail-safe relationships. 3. Increase dosages of nurturance. 4. Don’t crowd. 5. Find their passion. 6. Decode the meaning of behavior. 7. Be “authoritative”. 8. Model respect to disrespectful youth. 9. Enlist troubled youth as team members. 10. Preemptive connecting. 11. Give seeds time to grow. 12. Keep positive expectations alive.
Frank Morrison’s Art I have long admired. This work is titled as Arithmetic. The pose of both students is emblematic…
The state of education
My eldest son aged 11, came home from school recently and shared that he had concerns about his experiences that have troubled and alarmed me. As his father I want nothing more than to protect and shield him from the shadier elements of London living. I realise however the contradiction as I write, because I have worked in prisons for over four years. I have also worked with vulnerable people on the margins of society and that live in the shade for over 8 years. Deepening and grading my perspective considerably.
Working for almost 4 years with Together a National charity that supported service users and probation officers and courts in London. Together’s highly skilled team of practitioners provide mental health support and psycho education to service users involved within London’s criminal Justice System.
‘*Shade is a factor of life, it precedes and follows light.’
My son has moved from a well-resourced primary school with a committed PTA (Parent Teacher Association) with middle class values and expectations to a secondary school that whilst being in the same neighborhood seems to not be as well supported. The commitment the school has appears geared to raising it’s educational achievements as a secondary school. The social and emotional development of it’s pupils seems to have been overlooked. The documentary called School emphasises what the lack of investment and resources has meant for secondary schools across the country.
My son reports that nearly every day there are playground fights and his year group are involved with something called “violating” other pupils. A form of engaging negatively with another pupil that shames them and makes them either react aggressively or retreat from social engagements. Which can have a huge social impact on students – limiting the scope of making firm social connections and friends and bearing witness to the challenges of inner city life.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons on Netflix is a phenomenal expose on growing up ‘Othered’ within a country that does not want to accept it’s involvement with the systematic destruction and demonisation of several groups of people and their cultures. Ghetto Rage is a topic of interest John mentioned that I will further investigate and write about soon.
As a 40 something year old man I don’t understand the culture of school being a site for malevolence and cruelty committed by pupils as vulnerable as peers of my son’s against fellow pupils. Being assertive is a factor of living learning and growing. Bullying as part of systemic form of disorganised peer oppression troubles me.
My son simply does not want to go to his school or participate in any of the senseless acts of pseudo violence, passive and active forms of aggression as a result, or other acts of hyper masculinity that seem to have besieged his year group. What is going wrong I wonder with state education? Why are young women and young men acting in harmful ways to other children and themselves and what can we all do about it?
I doubt I will be able to find the answers in this piece of writing however I can raise my concerns and offer ideas of possible ways forward. I wonder if a member of parliament’s child were attending my son’s state school what they would think/see/feel?
I am disappointed that the choices we are left to think through are: exiting the school, non-attendance and living with a sense of anxiety that has grown in my son and through our family. The social development versus academic achievement focus appears to have been the split that this school has made.
The thinking I have is that the school has grossly under estimated the effect that the focus and pressure toward academia could have on it’s key stage 3 and 4 progression results and overall exam achievements. A socially and emotionally balanced pupil could perform academically better. Not just at exams but in life also.
Perhaps another way is to be found with education that invites collaboration, communication and creativity. Few children my son included are without the curiosity to look for answers or create story’s that make sense of the worlds that they inhabit. For their, our children’s, worlds are different to ours. They face challenges that are new for the planet, maybe we should be teaching all differently…