The Completion Compulsion

‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ Viktor Frankl

A few years ago an interesting idea blossomed. The thought, to interrupt the want and wish to complete a idea or action. A few experiences helped to solidify these concepts. I will detail below. Explaining thoughts like these, are useful to those interested in psychological models. Also those interested in relieving unhelpful ruminative thoughts.

IOM
The Case of Ms. Snow. For a few years I worked as a forensic mental health practitioner for Together for mental wellbeing. My role at the charity changed a number of times. I began working with one probation service in Greenwich (Jan 2015). In May/June 2015 I supported 6 probation services. The Probation service NPS/CRC (National Probation Service/Community Rehabilitation Company) were adapting to a new model of resource management. As a result the NPS contract with Together changed. ‘Doing more – with less’ was the theme of the new contract. After a year of supporting Probation services in Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Merton and Sutton, I transitioned to working within the Southwark probation service. The new role was to support in partnership with Probation, Police, Housing, Substances and Rehabilitation and employment. I provided the mental health arm of support to individuals involved with the IOM (Integrated Offender Management) programme.

Mosaic In Colour

Messy
Ms. Snow a probation officer was a ‘conversational’ courts assessor. We held a fast friendship. Discussing the challenges the service users faced and how IOM and probation were aligning to provide improved health outcomes. Ms. Snow was particular about her work-station organisation! Post it notes, coloured pens, pads and computer set up just so. With impish glee, I took great pleasure in re-arranging a few items at her desk. I had an idea of how much the rearranging offset her equilibrium. Ms. Snow also shared in making a mess of my workspace in a similar way too. I wasn’t as organised or as particular about my workstation. Her efforts often caused me to smile. It’s the thought that…

Re-Arrange
I would disturb Ms. Snow’s station and then leave to meet a client and on returning note what was disturbed in my area too. Without fail Ms. Snow’s arrangement of her work area would return to pens and note pads and post it notes – to as they were before my involvement. We joked about her compulsion to restore ‘order’. We laughed about my need to increase entropy. An uneasy alliance formed about the balance between order and chaos. Her need to reassemble and my want for disorder. 2 adults acting like children in a serious setting, professionally shepherding adults facing significant difficulties. The idea for the Completion Compulsion was borne in that space. Chaos curiously can invite/inspire order.

Non-Compos
The irrationality of tidiness, or the discomfort caused by presumptions of messy work stations/offices/cars/bed/kitchen/living rooms is linked to an idea of messy space = messy mind. ‘An indicator of instability or a ‘marker’ of mental illness, some assume. Ms. Snow and I joked, laughed and made fun of her near incessant need to bring order to what appeared as chaos. A representation of the organisations and people we were working amongst at probation and Together, perhaps. An experience at a staff lunch emphasised the want for both order and completion. A common phrase was said by me which began something like ‘No smoke without…’ or ‘Sticks and Stones may break my bones but…’ As you read these words I wonder have you chosen to complete these well worn phrases? Was there an involuntary sigh as you recognised that leaving the phrases incomplete draws attention to something agape in you, unsatisfactorily incomplete? If so, you are now aware of a compulsion to complete. Because not closing the loop is often discomforting.

Unusual
Another example of a completion compulsion arrived whilst working 2 years later as a counsellor at a women’s prison in Kent. The client recently convicted. Troubled by the nature of the crime they were accused and sent to prison for. They found accepting the circumstances of being in prison impossible to bear. The crime they were sentenced for, far outside of their ‘regular’ life experience. This will not be a blog proclaiming their innocence or guilt about the crime accused and sentenced for. The blog is a piece of writing explaining how we (both *Stacey and me) were on course to interrupt her thought patterns.

Unsupported
At our first and following meetings, an exploration of Stacey’s past was uncovered. The complicated details of her education, schooling experiences and friendship networks were shared. Ideas of her being a wall flower, bullied, disliked and unsupported by peers. We unpacked what her relationships with friends and teaching staff were like. Departures were another group of people observed. Either she had left them or they had moved away from her. Her current experience of being bullied at the prison by other detainees – a reminder of her past and an uncomfortable undeniable truth about her present. Intrusive thoughts, depression, low self esteem and a waning sense of resilience were discussed and carefully explored.

Projection
We talked about patterns of behaviour and associated ideas Stacey held about herself and the past. The intrusive thoughts were linked to her disbelief about being sentenced and about the accusation that brought her to prison. Her dislike of prison. Being away from her family. Confronting difficulty daily. Her life at East Sutton Park, these aspects of her new world she was dissociated from as she had been understandably in her past. A dislocation of how her life was supposed to have turned out Stacey was barely willing to face. It was here that the interruption was to be placed. Starting with a simple game of recognising a patterned hand clap was the launch point of creating something safe and new.

RBG  Light Circles

Play
Why a game? Most games are fun to play! There is a sense of learning and enjoyment in game play. The 1,2,  1,2,3, 1,2,3,4, 3,4 hand clap is immediately recognisable. Stacey smiled as she recognised and then was able to complete. The next part of the completion compulsion game is to start the pattern of the 1,2, 1,2,3, 1,2,3,4, and not clap the 3,4 part of the pattern. The reason for this is to support tolerance of non-completion. Recognising that surviving the compulsion, is part of building an awareness to interrupting a way of being. The magic of the completion compulsion took root. What was introduced for Stacey was a new cognitive pathway and a resilience to trying something new. The game part makes the completion compulsion accessible and immediately recognisable. She smiled with concentration as she aimed not to complete the pattern. Her feet tapped out the last part of the pattern after 15 seconds.

Sigh
We laughed at how this challenge was offered and at how silly the idea of not completing left her feeling. After a few more attempts we were able to breath through the conflicting need of not completing the pattern. When Stacey identified that she could choose to either ignore or complete the compulsion she was able to live inside a paradigm shift. A woman free of the obligation to only see herself as a prisoner, as a person cast out from society for perpetrating a crime. But also to appreciate that she was a creative, able to interpret written material and support others with reading and writing at the prison.

Bi-ped
I was later taught in 2019 EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing). Engaging a client with bi-lateral stimulation (clapping, tapping, walking, lateral eye movements or saccades) changes neuro-pathways in the brain. Establishing a validity of cognition helps to embed an alternative way for a client like Stacey to perceive themselves anew. Interrupting the compulsion to complete a familiar upsetting pattern, is key to establish and access ideas of choice, space and alternative possibilities.

Pool Patterns


Applause
There are unseen rewards for completing a pattern. We are rewarded by a hormone feed of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins when a recognised pattern is successfully achieved. For example: the door was shut after using it, the sentence complete, the thought pattern arriving at it’s pre-imagined end.

Abrupt
Some degree of discomfort is caused when the pattern is disrupted. When the pre-destined arrival at the ‘end’ is unmet. If you can, think about calling a tele-service for banking, telecommunications, TV, Insurance or other customer experience. Passing amongst the laborious numbered steps to finally, eventually speak with someone. The service alerting you of how long the call may take until you speak with a representative. As a loyal customer, you are mentally prepared for the 5 – 30 minute wait. You’ve made time for this. The annoying music has clicked through convincing you of progress being made. Just before the call is about to be patched through to a real live person, the line goes quiet and next all that is heard is dial tone.

Livid
If like me you’re already stretched patience breaks and you begin hurling abuse at the company, and the rubbish telephone service offered, an awareness of the completion compulsion is present. Mainly because of the call not going the way you had planned. The eventual end of the conversation has been hi-jacked. The choices that someone in this position is left with are to leave the call to another time, call again immediately, rage fueled or to vow never to engage with this service again!

Battle
The reward arrives once completion of the action is met. After the tenseness of the situation is passed, a relief then fills the space that was formerly occupied. The feeling can be heightened with either food, drink, a good conversation, laughter or movement. But the reward arrives after survival of the event. Such a strong word to use to describe tolerating a moment of low stress. However it is like a micro battle of wills and wants. To have the thing sought one has to travel through the mire to the other side. We could put up walls, convincing ourselves that we don’t need the service. But the uncomfortable truth is that we recognise the importance of whatever the service is and yes, do still need. So once more back into the fray.

Relief
The completion compulsion idea is to learn tolerance of discomfort and disconnected completion. We have a pre-conceived patterned ending in mind. Reward hormones are queued up waiting to bathe the brain with feel good rewards. A peak moment of stress. Followed by an intentional interruption. The usual ending averted. Instead – a period of non-activity, of waiting, or long held moments for curiosity to brew. Asserting another possible wanted completion. Preferable to the interruption. An alternative could be as readily accepted as a proposed pre-planned expected outcome. A positive cognition is what we want the mind to begin accepting. Then allow the ‘happy’ bath of the brain to commence.

Golden Shimmer

Metamorphosis
For me, returning to the women’s prison a fortnight later, Stacey shared that there had been a change to her intrusive ideas. Speaking with family outside of the prison a shift in perception had started. Stacey and her family were lodging an appeal about her conviction. A spark of prevailing had begun to be established. Stacey had started a difficult transition to appreciating herself as a person in prison. By interrupting a pattern of thinking a newer cognitive model could be inserted and made use of. She had been able to challenge those who were making things difficult for her in prison. A visible change was noted as we completed our work after 6 appointments. Stacey appeared satisfied with how she was viewing her past, present and future.

Arrivé
A simple game of moving things around on a desk turned into a game of interrupting thought completions in Stacey’s mind, resulting in a new way to appreciate herself and her life. The Completion Compulsion initially is to bring to awareness the need to close a loop. Don’t! Wait. See what else arrives…

@calm There is a gap between every heart beat, breath, event and response. Not only does choice exist in the space between but also a powerful awareness awaits #meditation M.O.

*Stacey is a pseudonym to protect their identity.

With thanks to Kate Bowler and Joshua Isaac Smith for words of encouragement and support to write the above.

Resources
I have cast my resource net wide to offer a useful collection of ideas in relation to interrupting our usual pattern of success arrival.
Code Switch podcast features an in-depth episode from The Nod featuring unknown celebrities who should be household names. In light of the recent events in Buffalo, I wanted to offer another story of Black life, filled with glamour joy, some tragedy and restitution.
From Criminal an unknown story of a man’s choice to create state wide change. Interruption of a status quo is how Dr. Dudley E. Flood engaged with segregation and changed the experience of schooling in North Carolina.
The Happiness Lab features Dr. Laurie Santos considering how intrusive thoughts can be redirected in this episode of The Happiness Lab.
I end with Dr. Brené Brown’s interview with Adam Grant and the benefits of remaining with an idea past it’s natural conclusion point and reconsidering an initial viewpoint. The highlight for me was when Brené spoke about the Priest and the Prosecutor. There being a fear about the Politician and what they can do with words.
Code Switch ft The Nod podcast They Don’t Say Our Names Enough
Criminal podcast The Boycott
The Happiness Lab podcast Don’t think of the white bear
Brené Brown and Adam Grant Think Again

Images
Theme: Patterns
Cover photo Blossom by Nighthawk Shoots on Unsplash
Colourful Mosaic photo by Max Williams on Unsplash
RBG Circles Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash
Blue Pool Pattern Photo by Marek Slomkowski on Unsplash
Gold Leaf photo by Susan Gold on Unsplash

Kwanzaa. Black Excellence. Black Mental Wealth.

As the year begins to wind down to the holiday season with Winter’s Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa an African American Cultural Holiday and New Years. I am writing my almost penultimate blog of the year to log an awareness of both an implicit and explicit form of othering. Some cultural and religious holidays are internationally celebrated others are misremembered. This time of year where the hours of darkness far outweigh the hours of light, festivals of light are an attempt to remain enlightened. At the end of November I was a panelist on the last True Roots conversation of the year. Emotional Emancipation Healing circles was the focus of the discussion as well as Black Mental Wealth and Black Excellence. Amber Golden, and Therese Taylor-Stinson highlighted that restoration happens when we come together, and look at what has hurt us, make healing a priority and support each other to move.

Mixing
Celebrating Christmas is amalgam of pagan festivities and of Christian beliefs. The date of Christ’s birth is largely unknown. Historians identify possible months of Jesus’ birth from April – October. The 25th of December wildly accepted as Jesus’ birthday is very likely to be a falsehood. Winter’s Solstice in the Northern hemisphere occurs every year on the 21st of December and is the shortest day. For some the 21st of December marks the ending and the beginning of the New Year. The shortest day is a recognition of the end of the Earths spin away from the sun and towards longer and warmer days. For pagan communities aware of Sun and Moon cycles an element of magic and thanksgiving observed the shortness of this day. All days that followed would only increase time spent in the light.

Harvest Crop

Like
Kwanzaa is a construction of an ideal for the African Diaspora to celebrate amongst itself a 7-day ritual of community appreciation and cohesion. Kwanzaa is named after the first fruit of the harvest. A feast to give thanks to the community. There is a double meaning to harvest that includes the children and their re-acclimation to values that support the unity of the family. The argument returns to one I presented earlier this year, of finite and infinite games. What springs to mind about Kwanzaa is the union of old and new, those members of the community who no longer exist in physical form and yet are remembered as still belonging to the unity of the family. An appreciation of life yet to be is also a cornerstone of the cultural celebration of Kwanzaa. In 1998 I ventured to visit family in New Jersey for the ‘Holidays’ and was awed by my cousins observance of Kwanzaa. My cousin had a dismissive view of the commericalised Christmas holiday celebration. Some of the words I write here are a remembrance of the sharing and learning he offered me back then.

Year Review
Christmas represents for many the birthdate of Christ. The 24th and 25th of December is a time of celebration – seeing family – eating – coming together – eating – wrapping presents -eating – giving presents – receiving gifts – eating – looking back over the year – planning and imagining for the year ahead – napping and eating if there is any room! Christmas is also a time of mass anxiety, upset, commercialism, stress, money and credit card over use, increased debt and increased profits for many retailers. Christmas sales are almost as important as black Friday deals, Boxing day sales, New Years sales and Easter sales. For many, the meaning of the 21st and 25th of December has been all but erased. Interpreted as “What am I going to get?” For many more there is anxiety and stress. Christmas is an unwelcome yearly phenomena. Forever bearing down on willing and unwilling observers. The Christmas march, begins from the first of January every year, and the accompanying concerns the ‘Holiday’s brings, grow continually. ‘It’s for the children’ some say still. I wonder if the smiles of collected parties, adults included on the ‘Big’ day are equal to the 3-4 weeks of anxiety – elevated heart rate, serotonin and cortisol release of preparations previous to the 25th every year?

3 Red

Increase Light
An eclectic and inclusive celebration would in the least recognise the traditions celebrating light festivals the world over. A conscious global community would observe: Diwali, Hanukkah, Winter’s Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Gregorian calendar’s New Year, and the Winter season concluding with the Chinese New Year every year. My reasoning is that I feel unity arrives as a outcome of awareness, collaborating and exemplifying human connection – sharing both difference and sameness can decrease hostility towards the unknown.

Outline
What I have specifically enjoyed about Kwanzaa is the representation of joyous fulfillment extending beyond 1 day. Most of the celebrations mentioned above are either singular or successive. Spanning either 24 hours or a number of days. Kwanzaa is a non commercialised and community centred celebration observing the African family living in *Diasporan lands (Absentia). Every and all dimensions of family is what I am interested in recognising beyond the nuclear. The 7 days of Kwanzaa highlight the collection and connection of the African family gathering. Each day of Kwanzaa are known as: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, Imani. For me each day invites a sense of collective success and wellbeing. Inviting mental wealth amongst, strength within the collective and that then meeting each individual as a residual product. I position Kwanzaa as an ideal against the wealth sought in individuality, the incessant greed of possession, and the frequent belittling of others for their lack.

Umoja – Unity
Umoja the first day of Kwanzaa. Lighting of the first central Black candle marks the beginning of the 7 day cultural harvest festival. The other 6 candles 3 Red and 3 Green are lit on the following days. For members of the African community living in absentia Dr. Maulana inspired by the Watts riots in 1966 imagined a weeklong celebration incorporating ideas from his studies of African traditions. For me Kwanzaa is a representation of Black mental wealth and an example of Black excellence made manifest. Some of the symbols and phrases can be identified in Southern, West and East African countries. What Dr Maulana has been able to ‘see’ is a gathering of Diasporan African people under 7 guiding principles. Achieving self acceptance and self awareness with an aim to release self from mental and physical subjugation. The African family in unifying would appreciate our inherent excellence, the strength, ability to persevere, to lead, create, challenge, be vulnerable, and to love despite uncountable barriers and obstacles. Kwanzaa invites all to know and love self and know and love family.

Connecting with games

Kujichagulia- Self-Determination
The act of self determination is to live life with little outside/other influence or determining/governing factors. Doing what is needed and sometimes wanted from a position of curiosity is to be governed by one’s own interest. The motivation feels different when another is advising telling or yelling at you to do something you may not want to do, or need to do. Self determining is to recognise that all choices even the act of not making a decision has an equal and possible outcome. In relation to Self-Determination for the African family, excellence is truly what we are. Attributions of maligned unwanted, discarded, projective identified qualities and stereo types have been incorrectly ascribed. Operating with a belief of not being enough is an unconscious representation of growing up in a number of systems that do not value, or refuse to acknowledge us as anything other than 3/5ths human. Dr Clint Smith’s How The Word is Passed book link below explores the lie in detail. The acceptance of self-determination also inspires the community to know itself. To appreciate ones personhood and of those who came before, and those yet to be born. The resilience of ancestors surviving an inhuman system afforded us a light that is impossible to erase.

Ujima- Collective Work and Responsibility
I understand Ujima and the idea of collective work as primarily centred on the organisation of family including extended family and the community overall. As a counsellor/psychotherapist I am in regular conversations with clients that are grappling with their disillusionment of family and also looking to re-structure, reshape and repair these relationships. The work of healing is both individual and collective. The responsibility of advancement can and often does start with one individual and often leads to many taking up the cause. On the 3rd day of Kwanzaa the family is to observe what work has been carried out to support everyone’s wellbeing. What has been harvested in effortful engagements, received as a result of gifts and what time has been given to others to manifest health. Those whose efforts are often unseen, or taken for granted are invited to come forward and accept their role in holding and guiding the family group through the year’s challenges.

Ujamaa- Cooperative Economics
In a world that is predicated on profit and loss, wealth and poverty, accumulation over waste and destruction Ujamaa observes the benefits of collaboratively working together to improve an individual’s, a family’s and a community’s economic ability. The 4th day of Kwanzaa observes that consumerism, capitalism and the cultural lay religious practice of Christmas robs some communities of wealth, humility and compassion. Presenting an idea that some deserve not to have a good end of year celebration as these groups are the wrong type of humanity and thus deserve judgement, scorn and little from the table of good sharing. The principle of Ujamaa centers the idea of coming together for the family’s good – humanity’s wellbeing.

Nia- Purpose
The 5th day of Kwanzaa is Purpose or Nia. I am mindful of a saying I came across a few years ago. Mark Twain is reported to have said ‘Two most important days in your life: The day you were born and the day you discover why. ‘ Offers a useful perspective to the understanding of purpose. I am taken back to working for Together for Mental Wellbeing and developing training on Tertiary Desistance. Purposeful endeavour is an engaging concept working with people in prison and those once returned. Discovering one’s purpose is a little like inspecting interiorly and finding the one thing or the connected parts of the self, that are beyond passion and can be seen as life’s work. (My mind has ventured to Dave Eggers ‘A Life’s Work of Staggering Genius’) Purpose is appreciating ones inherent and earned skills and to make use of them to support self and others. My born with skills are to artistically represent what is seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted. The earned skill is psychotherapeutic and being able to write missives to direct understanding. Bringing both together are the blogs purpose. I feel that my specific purpose is in translating concepts of psychoanalytic thought artfully for those who share an interest in healing.

Cornucopia of Corn varietals

Kuumba- Creativity
I witness creativity in almost everything. For instance architecture and living on a housing estate perhaps was a beginning of my noticing the art in a concrete clad environment. The block I lived on had a central atrium with plants and trees growing up from the ground floor up towards the light of the first floors. Natural beauty contained/constrained by the concrete that sounded it. The 6th day of Kwanzaa observes the act of creating a better world. For me the act of creating often begins with an inner spark of something or an experience that is inspirational. The want that follows is to reconfigure, reimagine and reorganise the inception to be something more. Transmuted into physical and active form. Dr. Maulana was able to make use of his studies and understanding to reimagine an end of year celebration to reconstruct the African family. A repurposing of his studies willfully applied to restoring Africans living in absentia. Kwanzaa observes a themed approach to live well.

Imani – Faith
The 7th day of Kwanzaa is one of celebration and to acknowledge faith in oneself, family, and community followed by deliberate mindful action which can create opportunity for change. Faith in the ancestors. In those who came before. Faith in those living amongst the community to support those engaged in affirming activities. Faith in those yet born to continue righting the keel of the ship so the remaining journey arrives at a just port. The aim to manifest good returns on the energy of their time and commitments. Kwanzaa a non-religious practice. Kwanzaa aims to raise awareness amongst those who are looking to support their community rather than continually investing in companies and businesses interested only in profit. Placing the global African community as an after thought, a peon to larger market forces.  

All Smiles

Celebrate
In conclusion festivals that light darkness are representative of human ingenuity and genius. A conversation about misrepresentation of the myth of Christmas has assisted my appreciation of the holiday’s origin beginning in Egypt. What Dr Maulana Karenga has offered with Kwanzaa is an interpretation of his African research for global application. In order to support global unity. From the 26th December – the 1st January, my aim will be to observe the 7 principles of Kwanzaa. Another way to mark the ending of one calendar year and make space for the one that follows next.

Resources
The TED talk by Dr. Cheryl Tahede Grills was shared by Kimberly Cato of True Roots prior to the conversation in November, priming panelists and guests for a wholly beneficial and uplifting conversation about EEC .
Kwanzaa the official website for the end of year celebration. A wealth of information about Kwanzaa the originator and useful resources for communities wanting to observe the African American cultural holiday.
I enjoyed Tarana Burke’s and Brené Brown’s interview on Unlocking Us. What is shared between the two is how vulnerability in African-American communities is a difficult ask.
Tobe and the Originals to the list of resources arrived as I poured through a number of music videos. Their movement and creativity are a force to be reckoned with in that the principle themes of Kwanzaa are inherent in what I saw in the interview and in some of their music.
TED Talk Dr Cheryl Tahede Grills Emancipate From Mental Slavery
Kwanzaa – The African American celebration
Brené Brown, Tarana Burke and Jason Reynolds You Are Your Best Thing
Tobe and Fat & the Originals discuss Love, Erykah Badu and Breakthroughs
Unlocking Us Brené Brown and Dr Clint Smith How The Word Is Passed

Images
Cover photo Rainbow candles by nrd on Unsplash
Autumn Harvest photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash
3 Red candles photo by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash
Board Games Family photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Coloured Corn photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
All Smiles photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Packed Ending

The following piece of writing has been mostly published over the last few weeks, save for the last few paragraphs. The piece remains largely imaginative. I am attempting to invite a note of discomfort before turning a corner. My hope, towards something believable and healthy for maligned, marginalised and underserved groups. The adage of ‘It can only get worse, before it gets better’ perhaps ever more fitting…

Difference in The Details
A university friend shared an understanding they had about the ‘small’ rooms a business or a restaurant has. Dave Li (circa 1992) stated that ‘When you visit a toilet (bathroom) in a restaurant or any other business and it isn’t nice, this shows how they value your custom. It’s a matter of how much attention they pay to something the public uses, that demonstrates if they appreciate the small things’. Dave Li’s parents owned a small business in Wales. I imagine even now (Nov 2021) that Dave Li’s parent’s business bathroom was a pleasant place to visit.

Everything Fits, Nature Recycles Perpetually

Eyes Shut Now
When I think about unseen communities of people and an advanced society, a few social groups are swiftly brought into awareness, often unfavourably. In unkind and demeaning manners. The idea I have observes how an advanced and humane society would treat the poor, those physically and mentally disabled, those who commit crime, those who are viewed as psychologically unwell, the young, those who are either educators or within education systems, the homeless, the poor, immigrants and green agitators. Advanced societies would treat all with care, concern, kindness and a willingness to arrive at equanimous understanding. Including rather than excluding and positioning those who are willingly unseen, as permanently disadvantaged! Could a humane society remain in a position to not ‘other’ those that demonstrate a quality to life that is difficult, unimaginable, and unmanageable?

Wheel Turn
Given time and tools to develop better understanding, appreciation and gratitude, could there be chance to become aware and attuned to our similarities? Exploring points of contact. Noticing where intersectionality, between disowned groups and those who, stubbornly remain within the stronghold of our current capitalistic (solipsistic) society meet? Choosing to ignore a greater number of people who through no fault of their own remain at **the bottom of the well. Affecting those who like Smaug sit at the top of the mountain of gold. The planet, those who represent the Global South, the willfully ignored, aren’t waiting any longer for equity!

Possession
Advanced societies I believe would look at the smallest component of the strata of it’s populace, and be willing to invest in holistic growth, development and the levelling of all playing fields. Calling to mind Jo Amand who stated during training of Walking Group Leaders for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme back in 2002, ‘A group always walks together. They walk at the pace of it’s slowest member!’ Reminding of the African quote ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together!’ The idea, if a parachute is pulled apart the circumference encompasses all. No-one is left outside/behind. The reciprocal return would be to develop children and adults that are consciously aware of their privilege and where that awareness intersects/interacts with elements of themselves that are a challenge to accept. The aim would also be to develop understanding of where aspects of their being are under valued or under appreciated (where we all become the other). We are all Dragon, Dungeon and Dragon’s treasure (see above link to Smaug).
The aim could be to support and to develop emotionally literate, physically responsible, sociologically curious and flexible people. A following aim could be to improve our appreciation of all aspects of life. Disowning death, disease and inevitable destruction – cuts the enmeshment that is the whole of our existence. (The fright of the four horsemen.) All parts of a terrific/terrifying life are brought together within surrender.

Smog, Dust, Pollution?

Wealth Extraction
If we were to globally eradicate poverty (a huge thank you to Stephanie at Thrive Hamilton for the conversation) including paucity of critical thinking, I wonder then, what the world’s community would resemble? Would we still as a society carry the fear/threat of violence because of what we have/do not yet possess? Would we still hold on to a notion of one group of people being better than other groups of people? Would the ever increasing global debt be something that could continue to exist and weigh upon hearts and minds without coming to a necessary and abrupt end? The never-ending pursuit of financial security, of surplus – dismembering, denuding and robbing the Global community and the natural world of it’s health and it’s wealth.

Waste
Returning to the analogy of the toilet (began at the top of this page) would we want to arrive in a bathroom, with the smells of another user still hanging? Toilet paper strewn about on a suspected urine soaked floor. An omnipresent dripping echoing dimly. Possessing only one working stall (unwillingly checking the 5 other stalls in haste), someone having defecated not only on the seat, but also the floor, the walls? Paint of an undisclosed colour, flecked, bubbling, peeling from walls. Graffiti adding a quality of perceived threat and additional grime to an already stressful situation. Tiles of the floor and walls cracked. Oozing. The lock on the one working urinal broken. A flickering fluorescent bulb overhead. The 2 working hand basins showing signs of disrepair. Rust, grime, leaking taps, slowly draining grey water, already collecting in the bottom of the basin. Proof of poor maintenance and care.

Fish Plastic Waste

Fixin’ Unfair
You the visitor to this unsavoury scene, not being able to hold the contents of your bowels/bladder or both any longer, have little other option. Imagine inhabiting a space that heaps an idea that you deserve to live the rest of your life here and that you should die here too! Because born poor, of a lower social class, of a specific gender, of a certain racial group, having a certain physical or mental capacities, have ineffectively (criminally) acted attempting to improve yours and your family’s situation, or by becoming homeless, an immigrant this foetid mess is what some advise you to make a home, a society from. Being told by those living in better conditions that this environment is where you belong? Those supporting communities such as those described above, unfairly branded with the same toilet brush.

Poor
I was born into a family living on a North London housing estate (BWF). Poverty was a mixed experience of struggling and pushing to achieve an improved life experience for us and many residents. My mother came from a middle-class background in Guyana. I can imagine the unpleasant shock she received arriving in the UK, making a life for herself. Previously living in a colourful, warm, vibrant world only to arrive in England the cold, the sepia tones, staining the lives of those she would interact with as a nurse. The nasty taste of barely disguised racism. Then there was returning home to the housing estate’s depravation. Those born into poverty the world over are a large willfully unseen group. The eye skips uncomfortably over signs of poverty. A street hawker, someone who begs, with visible signs of malnourishment, unwashed, clothes in disrepair. They: showing signs of both distrust and a rapacious need, cause discomfort and a wish of ours to not associate. The idea – distance creates separation and less chance of being infected with their version of ‘lack’. Those who live below a poverty line in most of our societies are potentially us. A few missed mortgage or rent payments, losing ones employment could transform a seemingly wealthy person into the needy. Take time to notice both the privilege and the possibility of upheaval. The notion that we are more deserving – untrue. In actuality due to some degree of luck, choice, support and determination providing an outcome that has us living remarkably, thankfully differently.

Persons With Physical and Mental Disability
Living in a body deemed disabled by some, one is often ascribed as not only physically incapable but also mentally deficient. Some notice my cane as I approach and prepare themselves to speak in soft, accommodating condescending ways. I notice the flick of their internal switch. The subtle grimace, the hard swallow, the mouths set just so. Choosing words that are simple for an obviously disabled person (me) to comprehend. Noticing physical and mental ability can be a challenge. MS lurks barely visible. Being asked if help is wanted in the first instance, can begin a simple opening to a human experience of reciprocity. To warehouse and write-off persons that have physical and or mental disabilities, is an under appreciation of the human breadth of living. Pausing before offering judgement we have the ability to learn how to be inclusive rather than dismissive. By splitting off parts of ourselves from ourselves, we dampen the fires of progress that includes rather than excludes.

Deny at your peril

Crime
The resource below from Ibram X Kendi’s ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast fully examines a thorough understanding of the criminal punishment system. Mariame Kaba explores with Ibram what the future of supporting someone who has caused harm could look like. The initial want to cause harm and punishment back, for the hurt experienced is a part of human conditioning. Initially if we experience pain we seek soothing and for the pain to stop. Moving away from the pain’s source. A part of us may want retribution and for the harm caused to be repaid in some way. The learning Mariam speaks of is to unlearn the want to hurt back and observe the need to be repatriated, repaid and the tear between ourselves and the other to be repaired in some restorative way.

Theft
The 2nd Ibram X Kendi podcast I have used is from ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast that looks at the international crime of land theft by Europeans of indigenous populations in North and Central America. David Treuer a Native American invites us to think about how America could repay what America took from Indigenous populations in this article and whilst speaking on the episode. What I enjoyed hearing was David’s tribe the Ojibwe’s way of healing past wounds inflicted amongst it’s people but also against other tribes. In the case of taking life: three actions stood out amongst many of the ideas David spoke about.
1. A ceremony to mark both the passing on of the loved one, and to give the deceased person’s spirit some rest.
2. The second idea David spoke to, was adoption of another of the same age/same sex by the bereaved family to replace, spiritually the person who died.
3. The last idea shared by David, was gifting the bereaved family, with many items of immeasurable personal wealth. Something of value given in each exchange for the loss being communicated to the bereaved.
Because being a nomad has a childlike, unmoored presence in my mind. I position land theft among this list of a Willfully Unseen groups of people who have been disgracefully treated by America/Canada. Being purposefully overlooked has been wrought upon Indigenous populations in North America with long standing consequences.

Snagged Bottle

Mental Illness
For the last decade or so the awareness of a barely visible human experience we all at some point may venture into has mushroomed into a permanent figure in a number of diverse fields that is to be carefully be tended to. The pandemic exposed globally our fears, the cracks in a number of systems and what an incessant diet of misinformation, overstimulation of the amygdala, unhealthy foods, instant gratification ( thank you Netflix/Amazon) and the allure of working from home with everybody there, could and did wreak havoc on our mental health. Add to that trying to function normally in a world that has slid off of it’s axis, it would be safe to say that maintaining wellness would be a near improbability. Before the pandemic did we appreciate how ones mind can start to become instable when known knowns change to unknown unknowns? Stability and mental health is made possible by both known and some unknown factors. We may not have willfully understood that seismic change can produce Tsunami sized psychological waves.

Young leaders
Being young, below the age of 21, the rest of the adult world can present that the young know little. It could be that knowing less could be a provision to engage in creative and critical thinking and emotionally engaged solution finding. The idea that those older and wiser, know more. In some cases those who are 21+ do, and are yet still to find solution to the problems the world faces! The notion, that being born, one should be grateful for life and put up with the rubbish being thrown is largely outdated. Young people have certain protections offered in relation to health, wellbeing, autonomy, access to education. The offers to seats of power, to direct the course of important arguments are less available to include youthful viewpoints. Decisions, especially about education, are made by people who left their own classrooms 30-40 years ago. The young are not seen/valued appreciated for what lessons they are to teach. We should remain aware and interested in the way young persons see the world. Passing on our jaded world views, whilst initially seen as protective, may not yield a determined, explorative, daring, courageous young person who is prepared to commit to heavy lifting that could result in systemic global change. Those who who engage with young minds are often laughingly surprised by what ideas their youthful charges dream up. Inviting us to step up, stand up, speak up and speak out about a number of injustices the world faces, because the young require us to!

Rough
The city I have moved to, Hamilton Ontario, has many people living on the streets or in tents in parks or scraps of land that are unused. The city is attempting to resolve the crises by supporting homeless people. A global understanding of those who live with complex factors would be a useful way to engage with groups of people who find themselves living without a home. Becoming homeless is never a choice a person makes. Living outside of shelter is arrived at by a number of connected and unforseen factors. Ultimately to resolve some of the concerns those who live beyond shelter are to be consulted and involved with their repatriation. A recent study observing 1 persons cost to a community in the US, for 10 years observed an individual who cost a city 10’s of Thousands of Dollars just to keep them alive, without ever successfully rehousing that person. It is less warehousing of solutions and resolutions but finding individual and group breakthroughs. We all need to walk and talk together through and beyond labelling and problem finding.

Green Activitists
Sir David Attenborough has aptly and repeatedly described the peril we all face. He speaks here at the recent COP26 and remains composed whilst delivering a passionate note of warning. Some willfully choose to ignore. Some choose to deny. Others yet, still opt to close eyes, ears and minds in relation to the once barely visible threat of a planet dieing. The fires, land losses, global rising of water levels, extreme experiences of weather storms and desertification of once arable land – symptoms of a group of mindless apes ruining what once they managed so expertly.

Freeze
There are a number of ways to exist within our means and remain functioning amongst the planet as custodians. Money maddens us. Power can corrupt. By putting money and power together we have examples of those who govern us being both power mad and with money corrupt. As Brené Brown has repeatedly suggested power over helps no one, whilst power to and power with – helps everyone. A change of thinking, believing and behaving is to occur. Ibram, Mariame, David all strongly speak about the cost of not acknowledging and remaining affixed in a (Frail, Pale, Female/Male, Stale) FPMS global frieze.

Rainbow Rubbish

Better
My hope is that the dead wood blocking flow, is blown through! Obliterating and washing away inhumane systems of thinking, and practices that enslave bodies and minds. Since the industrial revolution the human body has been made an unwilling barely conscious component. Part of a chattel system that perpetually produces misery over comfort, disease over health and chaos over creativity. Humanity deserves better and is in an active role pursuing something other, representative of all, for all.

Resources
David Treuer writes in the Atlantic of how America can pay back in financial terms what was stolen from Native Americans. The article makes both a passionate and logical presentation of historical facts.
Young Leaders reviews 6 young people that have had the lens of history swung upon them. The article observes leaders such as Malala who have shook the world to pay attention to causes beyond their shores.
Malcolm Gladwell’s useful depiction of Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit gave me a spring to further understand pointlessness of wealth. The link takes you to the short blog that has the episode of Revisionist History.
Homeless has 4 links that observe homelessness in Canada and the US. 3 of the links specifically look at Hamilton Ontario. The Spectator article discusses cases of homeless people and what the City of Hamilton’s council is attempting to do to resolve the city’s homelessness crises. The CBC article observes one person’s re-housing ending their encampment experience. Lead Me Home is a beautifully poignant Netflix documentary observing homelessness in Oakland Calidornia. For more information on Lead Me Home <click here.
David Attenborough’s COP26 speech heavily influenced my choice of images for this weeks blog. Dr Dwight Turner has spoken about the interwoven nature of speaking about BLM alongside just as important issues such as Gender equality, Immigration, Feminism, Sexuality and the environment.
Black Is… by Tall Black Guy features towards the end of the piece of music, Sareem speaking their truth. There is something about their delivery and words chosen that resonates profoundly for me ‘My Bite pressure is much to much…’
Mariame Kaba and her conversation with Ibram X Kendi is mentioned above.
The Chaos Machine by the Invisibilia Podcast is a useful foil to begin unpacking how an information service that attempts to inform the public turns into a tool of cruel divisive control. Social media can have a separating role amongst our interpretation of facts v untruths.
David Treuer and his conversation with Ibram X Kendi is mentioned above.
Buffalo Soldiers is more than just a song from Bob Marley. The podcast from The Stoop looks at who were termed Buffalo Soldiers and the difficult line Black service people have walked along in the US military service.
Gaslighting by Two Guys on Your Head is helpful in beginning to understand how socialisation pulls individuals to need/want like. Perhaps we all willfully ignore the impact of being socially coerced and manipulated.
**Derrick Bell who wrote Faces At The Bottom of the Well as an originator of Critical Race Theory begins to unpack the construct of Race.
We may be unwilling to acknowledge the experience of racism amongst different racial groups. Cathy Park Hong and Ibram X Kendi discuss Asian solidarity in the global fight on Anti-Black Racism. The emphasis is for Black and Asian people to identify the divide and overcome the pattern matching of internalised racism and do many things differently.
Have You Heard George’s podcast episode 26 observes the patterned experience of 2 separate movement phenomena in music and what unseen relationship vibes have in realising artistic expression.
Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye’s interview once more affirms that intergenerational trauma becomes de-contextualised as symptoms of illness. This too is Willfully Unseen amongst healing professions. Continuing to learn can support appreciation of new/old information of which can be then applied to living. A large thank you to Kwame Opoku for the link.
Black Is Tall Black Guy
How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and Mariame Kaba: Prison and Police Abolition – Finding True Safety
Invisibilia The Chaos Machine: The endless Hole
How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and David Treuer: Repairing The Past – Returning Native Land
The Stoop: Buffalo Soldiers
Two Guys on Your Head: Gaslighting
**Faces at The Bottom of the Well authorDerrick Bell
How to be Anti Racist Black and Asian American Solidarity: Ibram X Kendi interviews Cathy Park Hong
Have You Heard George’s Podcast: Podcast Ep26 Vibrations
Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye Discuss Healing

Images
Volcano photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash
Nature Not Waste photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Exhausted Air photo by Justin Bautista on Unsplash
Plastic Fish photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash
Bird photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash
Plastic Bottle Snagged photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash
Rainbow Rubbish photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Green

Green Activitists
Sir David Attenborough has aptly and repeatedly described the peril we all face. He speaks here at the recent COP26 and remains composed whilst delivering a passionate note of warning. Some choose to ignore. Some choose to deny. Others yet, still opt to close eyes, ears and minds in relation to the once barely visible threat of a planet dieing. The fires, land losses, global rising water levels, extreme experiences of weather, storms and desertification of once arable land are symptoms of a group of mindless apes ruining what once they managed so expertly. Another example of willful ignorance blocking understanding and proactive solution finding action.

Resources
A link to a great writer sharing her insights about nature and therapy wrapped up in bird song. A useful parallel is drawn here in relation to wellbeing and outdoor spaces.
The Story of Capitalism by Jennifer Good (thank you Joy Warner for highlighting this article) observes COP26’s willfully unseen recognition that consumerism includes waste, which directly impacts on the climate. Conversations about global climate change are yet to address actions that increase re-wilding, carbon capture and instituting an ethical social money management practice.
Boots with Blossoms – Nicki Gilbert
COP26 and the Story of Capitalism

Image:
Bird Photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Rough

Homeless
The city I have moved to, Hamilton Ontario, has many people living on the streets or in tents, at parks or scraps of land that are unused. The city is attempting to resolve the crises by supporting homeless people to find accommodation. A global understanding of those who live with complex factors would be a useful way to engage with groups of people who find themselves without a home. Becoming homeless is not a choice a person makes. Living outside of shelter is arrived at by a number of connected and unforeseen factors. Ultimately to resolve some of the concerns those who live beyond shelter, are to be consulted and involved with in the process of repatriation. A recent study observing 1 persons cost to a community in the US for a decade, observed an individual who cost a city 10’s of thousands of dollars just to keep them alive. It is less warehousing of solutions and resolutions but finding individual and group breakthroughs. We all need to walk and talk together through differences of occupying land and keep our eyes open and mouths moving! The aim: find impossible solutions.

Image:
Plastic Bottle Snagged Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Dare Us

Young leaders
Being young, below the age of 21, the rest of the adult world can present that the young know little. Knowing less could be a provision to engage in creative and critical thinking and emotionally engaged solution finding. A central idea is that those older and wiser, know more.
In some cases those who are 21+ do. And yet are still to find solution to the problems the world faces! The notion, that being born, one should be ‘grateful for life’ and put up with the rubbish being thrown is largely outdated. Young people have some protections offered in relation to health, wellbeing, autonomy and access to education.
However the offer to seats of power, to direct the course of important arguments are less available to youthful viewpoints. Decisions, especially about education, are made by people who left their own classrooms 30-40-50 years ago!
The young are not seen, valued, appreciated for what lessons they are to teach. We should remain aware and interested in the way young persons see our planet. Passing on our jaded world views, whilst initially seen as protective, may not yield a determined, explorative, daring, courageous young person.
We may be undoing their preparation to commit to the heavy lifting required for systemic global change. Those who engage with young minds are often laughingly surprised by what ideas their youthful charges dream up. Inviting us to step up, stand up, speak up, speak out about a number of injustices the world faces, because the young require us to.
And because they already are!

Image:
Rainbow RubbishPhoto by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Hurt Psyche

Mental Illness
The last decade or so, the awareness of a barely visible human experience we all at some point may venture into, has mushroomed into a permanent figure. Mental Health, mental illness and wellbeing are fixed as an area for us in the 21st century to be aware of and conscientiously to look after. The pandemic exposed globally our fears, the cracks in a number of systems. An understanding was borne of what an incessant diet of misinformation, overstimulation of the amygdala, unhealthy foods, instant gratification (Netflix/Amazon) and the allure of working from home with everybody there, could do and did wreak havoc on our mental health and wellbeing. Add to the heady brew, trying to function normally in a world that has slid off of it’s axis. It would be safe to say that maintaining wellness would be a near improbability. Before the pandemic did we appreciate how ones mind can start to become instable when known knowns change to unknown unknowns? Stability and mental health is made possible by both known and some unknown factors. We may not have willfully understood that seismic change can produce Tsunami sized psychological waves. Before we may have down graded mental illness as a problem for a select few. Perhaps recognising now to push anxiety or low mood to one side hurts more than it helps. Mental Health, mental illness and wellbeing may not be so easy to willfully ignore anymore.

Resource
Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye Discuss Healing

Image
Nails and Painted Fist photo by Khashayar Kouchpeydeh on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Stolen

Theft
The 2nd Ibram X Kendi podcast I have used is from ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast that looks at the international crime of land theft by Europeans of indigenous populations in North and Central America. David Treuer a Native American invites us to think about how America could repay what America took from Indigenous populations in this article and whilst speaking on the episode. What I enjoyed hearing was David’s tribe the Ojibwe’s way of healing past wounds inflicted amongst it’s people but also against other tribes. In the case of taking life: three actions stood out amongst many of the ideas David spoke about.
1. A ceremony to mark both the passing on of the loved one, and to give the deceased person’s spirit some rest.
2. The second idea David spoke to, was adoption of another of the same age/same sex by the bereaved family to replace the person who died – spiritually.
3. The last idea shared by David, was gifting the bereaved family, with many items of immeasurable personal wealth. Something of value given in each exchange for the loss being communicated to the bereaved.
Because being a nomad has a childlike, unmoored presence in my mind. I position land theft among this list of Willfully Unseen groups of people who have been disgracefully treated by America. Being purposefully overlooked has been wrought upon Indigenous populations in North America with long standing consequences.

Resource:
How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and David Treuer: Repairing The Past – Returning Native Land

Image:
Nature Not Waste Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Rapprochement

Crime
The resource below from Ibram X Kendi’s ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast fully examines a thorough understanding of the criminal punishment system. Mariame Kaba explores with Ibram what the future of supporting someone who has caused harm could look like. My thoughts are, the initial want to cause harm and punishment in retaliation, for the hurt experienced could be a part of human conditioning. Initially if we experience pain we seek soothing and for the pain to stop. Moving away from the pain’s source. A part of us may want retribution and for the harm caused to be repaid in some way. The learning Mariame speaks of is to unlearn the want to hurt back and observe the need to be repatriated, repaid and the tear between ourselves and the other to be repaired in some restorative way. Those who have committed offences against society are another group of people that are sent away to be unseen.  Prison – a draconian and outdated way of people management. An advanced society would identify what happened amongst its body for harm to be caused by a member to another member of it’s collection. Questions alluding to an unknown picture an advanced society could begin to ask. Also be willing to wait for uneasy answers.

Resource:
How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and Mariame Kaba: Prison and Police Abolition – Finding True Safety

Image:
Volcano Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

Willfully Unseen: Vulnerability

Persons With Physical and Mental Disability
Living in a body deemed disabled by some, one is often ascribed as not just physically incapable but also mentally deficient. Some notice my cane as I approach and prepare themselves to speak in soft, accommodating condescending ways. I notice the flick of their inbuilt switch. The subtle grimace, the hard swallow, the mouths set just so. Choosing words that are simple for an obviously disabled person (me) to comprehend. Noticing physical and mental ability can be a challenge. MS lurks barely visible. Being asked if help is wanted in the first instance, can begin a simple opening up to a human experience of reciprocity. To warehouse and write-off persons that have physical and or mental disabilities, is an under appreciation of the human breadth of living. Pausing before offering judgement we have chance to learn how to be inclusive rather than dismissive. By splitting off parts of ourselves from ourselves, we dampen the fires of progress that excludes, rather than includes.

Image:
Plastic Fish photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash