Dawning Realisations

Alternative Action

3 ways out

During a conversation with a friend in Toronto: Canada this year (2018) they said “I have to have at least 3 ways to get downtown”

“What do you mean?” She was asked.

“Well I can’t rely on one way to get there. If the subway isn’t working I can use the tram. If the trams aren’t running I can use a taxi.” H stated.

“What about the buses?” I asked.

H looked at me shook her head and smiled. “I’d rather take a cab. Buses are unreliable. They come when they want. The schedule. The schedule is no help. It’s just added frustration on top of the insult of waiting…”

Snowy Taxi

Toronto Taxi

I had little experience of Torontonian buses apart from Go Transit to Toronto from Hamilton. Buses in London I could offer as comparison were at times unpredictable. I nodded and laughed to show I knew her frustrations.

The other comparison I made was managing anxious thoughts and low moods. What strategies do I employ when I recognise that a state of anxiety, or *pissedoffedness was imminent? What were my 3 exit routes to safety and a better state of mental well-being? Using Denial, Anger and Getting the Hell Out of here, has limited effects. The fire often still rages.

Years ago (1993) as a student at DeMontfort University, I would head to a basketball court in Victoria Park in Leicester and perfect my shot. The release of the ball at the right moment sending it sailing towards the hoop offered something towards appeasement, release and calming. This the summer after my mothers death… I knew little of the effects of grief and depression and found a way to self soothe that became a coping strategy: Basketball.

Basketball was an amazing outlet for me, many years later 1999 – 2011. Coaching gave me the chance to order a team of basketball players around on a court. Another useful way to channel energy. Coaching was a constructive activity for me and the players I coached. Coaching offered discipline, direction, focus and purpose for all. Later still summer 2005 talking therapy opened up as a way to let compressed thoughts chance to be heard and space to breathe. Sharing stories, for that is what Therapy can be, was helpful. And so began a journey I am still travelling.

The exits to better feeling that I use are:

Stopping and listening
Making a choice
Talking
Acting

Stopping and listening

A friend once said in order to change direction one must first stop. First notice the feelings that are stirred up. Listen for the emotions that are engaged in choosing to fight flee freeze or friend the situation. Usually there are many emotions all clamouring for the mic and anger seems to come out on top every time for me. It’s easy red energy gives chance to assert myself.

Pause

Take stock, uh oh this feels something like anxiety or anger or frustration or some other butt ugly emotion. Trailing behind it – dastardly thoughts that lead to impulses and actions that can direct one to regret guilt and shame.

The Way Out

Heading Up

Make a choice

Choosing from the list of Byron Katie’s The Work I make a choice to feel better. I engage in self-soothing acts like rubbing my arms, self-hugging, rubbing my hands gently together like I do when washing hands, rubbing my  head, going for a walk either physically or imaginatively to gain peace and serenity. The aim to give oneself space and some time out. Choose to accept and honour the discomfort. This is the hard part and the best part of the work. The discomfort is showing something that needs to be acknowledged! Denying and ignoring the hurt allows it to fester and grow. Honouring allows recognition of what ails thee and a possible release and easing of the pressure. I am learning that honouring the feelings and pausing is a mighty act. It interrupts the patterns of what usually follows. Choosing rather than impulsively acting can make a huge difference. The I am getting out of here is a choice. Which direction to travel?

Supply Clouds

Reading the chimp paradox by Professor Steven Peters has helped to identify that ‘Mandeville’ my Chimp is at the root to ill feeling and malignant thought. A book recommended by Jonathan Scott several months ago as a must read. Life changing were his words of advice about the book. I wholeheartedly agree!

Another partner to the ill feeling dynamic is my inner child. Mandy the Chimp is powerful but my inner child is like Tetsuo in Akira. Apocalyptic with rage and temper. Finally binary thinking helps the justifying thought that I am right and they whoever they are, are wrong. Completing the off balance set up.

Think

Be decisive and take action. – Gain perspective on the situation. Once clear it could be easier to make choices that best support self and or the situation. The route away from here is questioning, patient compassion. The strategies used invites my brain to move the energy away from Flight Fight Freeze Friend responses and engage with thinking.

The Bus

Towerbridge at Dusk

3 Ways Downtown Bus, Cab, Walk

Soothing ‘Mandy’ and the child is another important task. Once they have said all that is in them to say and have calmed right down. I can begin the questioning. Colour things in more. Invite doubt and gain answers. Here then lies truth peace and a possible way beyond the discomfort and disquiet. A solution to long held outmoded strategies that don’t get you downtown but waiting at a bus stop for a bus that’s way behind late, overcrowded when it eventually does arrive and with a driver with A WORSE mood than the one you had. Getting on to that bus possibly is not going to be the safest journey, for you, for the driver or the other tired, frustrated passengers…

Be Still

Distance yourself from the situation and walk away physically/mentally with the aim to cool down. Imagine a glass of water with ripples gradually becoming still. Even better the water becoming thick with ice. Get creative with the ideas that offer solution. These arise once the noise of the confused anger has begun to calm. Listen and hear well. Generally the voice is quiet, offering advice and guidance. It rarely yells. Adrenaline is a useful energy component. It invites movement, if redirected it can be used to support mind functioning by thinking clearly and acting with purpose to solve seemingly insurmountable and threatening problems.

Talking

The next part of this bus journey is to speak to another, a friend a family member, a trusted colleague, talking activates higher functioning of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is a power house generating imaginative ideas and surprising solutions. Tapping into this part of the brain directs energy to support growth curiosity and enjoyment. Bringing a clear direction forward out of thin air where once only a wall blocked the passage. The first conversation we often have is with ourselves. The next could be with a trusted other. Mentors, Coaches, Hypnotherapists, community and faith leaders, and a host of other objective agents can help to dispel the negative and increase awareness to creative and affirming solutions. With a clear plan or decision in mind something different can be created. Generally I feel better with a solution rather than confusion.

Airborne

Acting – In Flight

Acting

This is the last part of the bus ride. Make a choice/decision as to what you would like to do in relation to the set of circumstances that invited disquiet.

Recently I was driving home from work and opted not to get caught in a traffic jam that would have angered me, and made getting home much later. I chose to take a side road. I went through new areas of a town I knew little of and saw landscapes and scenes that I felt lifted by. I was able to get back on route in less time than if I had sat in the jam and in a much better mood.

What detours can be made in life and what might be achieved when we take them?

Life is simple it’s just not easy.

I am slowly learning to accept what this saying means.

Getting there…

 

Two items of interest

TED Radio Hour
https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/529942522/a-better-you

The Science of Success Podcast
https://www.successpodcast.com/show-notes/2017/6/28/the-shocking-truth-about-talent-what-it-means-for-you-with-geoff-colvin

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Mental Models

A Hierarchy

Visible Air

Water and Vapor – Mirrored

The theories and understandings that one fashions for oneself can be as relative to living as other more established ideas. We live in a just and fair society, Good things happen to good people and vice versa, Luck is man made, Every Cloud has a Silver Lining, What goes up has to come down. Life is for the living. Thoughts can include “I am a good, bad, fortunate, unlucky, beautiful, weak, faithful, invisible, resilient, conniving… person”. Which may be true some of the time.

Counselling Models

Studying to become a counsellor a number of theories and models were presented for us to learn. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Freud’s Id, Ego and Super Ego, Karpman’s Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer, The Parent Child and Adult, Spheres of influence, Internal locus of control/influence and External locus of Control/Influence, Prochaska and Di-Clemente’s Cycle of change, attachment models by Ainsworth and Bowlby, the transactional relationship and my favourite Petruska Clarkson’s 5 Relationships Model.

Tailor Made

Clarkson’s model was impactful as it helped me to recognise the similarities and some of the differences had between major schools of thought within psychological and counselling theory. John Nuttall once delivered a lecture on the breadth and life span of psychotherapy and many of it’s twists and developments, on my 2nd year of my counselling course. My work with Laos helped to develop my thinking and practice as an integrative counsellor. Integration has been a useful way of encountering my work. Blending a number of different counselling models together creatively, intuitively enables those that I work with to gain a nuanced and individual experience of working with me no matter the setting – Individually Tailored.

Criminal Justice

With over 10 years of working with the UK’s criminal justice system there have been a number of realisations made about detention, rehabilitation and being on probation in the community. The experience of being a law breaker appears to carry a life sentence that burdens both the service user and those that they are close to and possibly society as a whole. A triangle of sorts could then exist for us all. Each side or corner being unwilling to carry the weight of blame shame and pain on behalf of the other. In effect pushing it away from one side to another. It returns in ways that are surprising and upsetting: Incidents of break ins, street robbery’s, car theft, mugging, assaults, depression, anxiety, increasing laws for surveillance of the populace. The cause…

Odd Triangle

A Triangle of Sorts

Loss

The cause I believe is manifold and complex, not that an attempt at explaining or understanding should not be sought. As social beings we live amongst a number of groupings that support our development and perceptions of the world in which we live. Family, culture, gender, race, physical and mental ability, education, class, religion, time, culture and the society one is raised in can support an individuals development. Many from the list can also be attributed to lead someone to have disastrous outcomes – for life’s opportunities to become lost.

Tide reversal

Were aspects of a person’s life to be out of balance i.e. with limited access to health services, experiences of poverty, early experiences of violence, witnessing substance misuse and experiences thereof, familial education attainment low and un-supportive, petty crime viewed as a survival engagement.

Sun Sea Sparkling

Tides

A person being raised amongst a set of challenges familiar to those involved with forensic backgrounds could find themselves with difficulties that they did not ask for but royally given. Laws, policing, prison, adjudications, societal exclusion are often unlikely to reverse a tide that may have already gone out. Unless…

20 – 60 – 20

There are groups within groups. A visit to Rochester prison in 2017 helped to define the who could be rehabilitated and who perhaps the tide had gone out permanently for. Within any population or group there are percentages of people that are hardened and will always think that they have a way of working things to their benefit and will never change, perhaps have been jaded and have no good reason to. Then there are a percentage of people who are unsure or ambivalent to change and will give anything a try in a half assed way. The last group are the die-hards who recognise that to have any chance of success, commitment to a new way is the only way to bring change and maintain it.

Hard Change

The first 20% may have been in the group just below at one time in their lives. They tried to make the necessary steps to achieve success, but were not believed, found to be lacking the stuff to stick with it and ultimately fell foul of persistent negative thinking patterns and negative events. Becoming convinced that no change is coming and that they are content enough. The term throw away the key is often used for people that present themselves as devoid of hope, lacking empathy to engage with others and have walled themselves in to their dark prism. Should we key throw? Is the choice to agree with their view of the world a necessary acquiescence?

Half in Half out

The 2nd group of 60% are willing to make attempts at change. With successes and positive outcomes change is possible. The challenge is maintaining resilience were things to not happen as quickly, were aspects of success to become failure, were short term gains to turn into losses. Do the 60% group have the ability to keep chipping away? What internal and external supports are they able to draw on to continue on a path that offers a glimmer of something better?

Die Hards

The 3rd group are those who have recognised that by maintaining themselves well they are further ahead. Achieving life goals and turning their once ambivalent/negative perceptions to more positive ones supports their chances of contributing in a meaningful way to their lives and  the lives of others living fully. These are men and women who have found a purpose, a talent, gift, a way to make sense of all that had occurred and have the capacity to make peace and plot another path beyond, away from and towards.

Panoply

I realise that I have presented a number of challenging ideas around change for various groups of people. The training and education I have experienced have enabled me to notice plot twists and the art to life. Recognising when and where opportunities for growth change and are possible. When progress stalls or reverses what chance is there to hold on for? A few years ago I developed a way of viewing recidivism in the UK as a collection of interconnected health goals – another model was realised. I discussed the idea with a number of colleagues J Soame, A Willoughby and K Giakoumi as I valued their insight and all helped to develop the model further. Breaking the Cycle was born…

A few further thoughts in relation to patterns and models of thinking.

TED Talks Radio Hour – Hard Wired

Ear Hustle Podcast – The Row

Philosophy Bites Podcast – Obligations to the Needy

The Outlet

Thomas would yell whilst making a fast break down court towards the opposing teams basket “Outlet, outlet, outlet.” Thomas was the loud, outspoken, fast talking, mathematician, the unbelievable dribbler and phenomenal shooter. As a shooting guard he handled himself exceptionally on court.

Turnover

I have mentioned my adoration of Basketball and of the Alienist in other posts. With the Alienist the appeal has been it’s willingness to display patterns in manageable saccades that introduce difficult and strange and new ideas, that turn stomachs and minds and at times both.

Release

Let it Go

Shedding

A thought struck as I near the end of the 1st book of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist. The idea of the outlet. The shedding of psychological material in a safe and secure way that offers regeneration. Think a reptile it’s skin, a cat or dog their summer/ winter coats, a London Plane it’s outer bark. At page 516 the case is as good as over. The shudder of the character John Moore, recognised as letting the horror and level of mind torture he has gone through to pass. He shares the events of the night with his friend and police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.

Shake it off

The recognition is in acknowledging that a case has run its course to an eventual end. How many of us in helping professions conduct a full case analysis or case review to determine learning. With the intent to successfully shake the case off? Every client we work with is unique and has patterns that can be recognisable. Then there are those clients that surpass our understanding. That leave us questioning our training our experience, our knowledge, inviting doubt, questioning suggestions from supervisors both internal and external.

Burrs

How often then do we review with the aim of release and then cleanse? Psychological Burrs are sticky and can unduly influence a helpers work. The journeying with another on the path to better health is one that tests both the professional and the person being worked with. We enter a play that has a number of factors that interact and can determine the outcome of treatment.

A Kings Park in South London

A Winter Walk

Path 1

If the play happens to move along desired paths then we congratulate the client for their success. When working amongst a group of other professionals we also commend the team about the decisions and choices we all took part in playing with recovery.

Path 2

Were the play to be difficult and lengthy and not follow the desired path, we make alternative plans and develop contingencies that may develop a successful outcome for the work. This is where the heart of the matter often sits. Perhaps the client is initially enthused with the idea of what the work with you will deliver. Then a number of road bumps happen and they become aware that continuing with the work will arouse long held fears. Forgetting the intention to move towards better health. Here the skill of the therapist is key as well as the resilience and trust of the client. Where a good working alliance is built this road block can be understood and moved past respectively.

Path 3

Were things to get stuck and not progress we then enter another phase of the work – that of figuring out the why of the holding pattern and where the blockage could lie? The tricky thing about road blocks is that they are almost imperceptible. They reveal themselves in the client’s away times, or in the quiet moments in a session. For me they appear as questions or slivers of insights that may be occurring for the person sitting opposite. I have grown to trust these slim chance offerings as hidden openings. Using tools like art, paths, stones, the wind, changing seasons, dreams, woodland tableau’s something gets worked loose and we begin investing time to what has been unearthed. These moments are when the magic happens.

Shudder to Outlet

With all three patterns the shudder should occur. Shudder to reorganise thinking, shudder to congratulate, shudder to stay awake and to find other ways in which to grow move and shape treatment.

Go be and be happy

Go at St James Park

Self Care

Here the outletting of the pressured thinking, the complex conversations, the layered concentrated empathy and compressed and extended compassion need to be passed. To allow space, to breathe freely, to re-energise and replenish to connect with our purpose, our why. This then is an aspect of self-care. We who care for others can be less concerned with our own wants needs and mental well-being sometimes at great cost! Placing all of our focus on those that we support. Care starts with us first. Selfish? Possibly.

Safety

Whilst on an airplane or on a ferry the flight attendants and shipping crew advise to fit in emergencies – breathing masks and life jackets first to ourselves and then to others. The idea: look after self first, then we are able to look after others.

Everyday

Outletting can be achieved through a range of actions and behaviours. The main aim is to let go of the psychological weights being carried from one day in to another or from one interaction in to another. Supervision is a great way to get loose from the psychological work. Once a month or twice a month may not be enough. We can become susceptible to compassion fatigue, empathy impasse or burn out/singe outs. That may be ameliorated with a daily check in and an outletting of all that could be a trigger, an up setter, an applecart turn-overer, with the aim of finding a piece of tranquillity. To rediscover and reconnect to our why. Returning to the play with those being helped with renewed energy.

Everytime.

It’s All in the Hands

With summer at it’s height and the evening’s beginning to draw in, I noted my willingness to bake shoot into overdrive. I was asked by a colleague what got me into baking and said “Baking helps me manage anxiety”. Baking helps to stall the thoughts that build about the improbable future by occupying time and ones hands and ones mind with the act of making something – edible gold.

A Probation Favourite

Potato and Dill Bread

Distraction

In an earlier blog I mentioned that I baked my first savoury bread as a result of not knowing how to begin writing my dissertation for my masters in counselling. In a way baking helped to calm my nerves about the mammoth task ahead of me. Writing a significant piece about my early life and relationship with my mother was an unwelcome challenge. Baking bread helped to transform anxiety and stress into doing something productive and creative.

Transition

My first ever bread was a banana bread which lead on to an attempt at making an Irish Soda bread. The step from the banana bread to the Irish Soda was not too great. Unlike studying at an undergrad level with Interior Design and then studying at a masters level with Therapeutic Counselling. The transition from Banana Bread to Irish Soda was straightforward. With the Irish Soda, I didn’t need to invest in any equipment like a bread mixer or training, practice and time were the only requirements.

Development

Bread baking has taken me to attempt sour dough’s, brioche’s, fruit loaves and pastries including croissants and pain aux chocolate. This is not an advert for suggesting a try at the Great British Bake off. Baking relieves me of pent up energy and emotion and relaxes me immensely. GBBO is entirely enjoyable to watch, to be a participant? Not for me. I could see the vision of the master bake ending up in a bin much like a previous contestant were things to go wrong. Baking remains a joy, a simple pleasure. The product of which can cause a rush of excitement and some envy.

The Baking CV

I have brought baked goods into most of the places I have worked:
2004-2007 Salesian College mostly cakes and an Irish Soda Bread
2009 – 2012 Drs Surgery near Camberwell cakes.
2010 -2014 Belmarsh Prison I pushed myself a little and attempted cakes and more complex breads including a quick rye bread.
2014 The University of Kent where I was a student mentor – Breads and cakes. This is where I honed the skill of making the sourdough. A book bought for Christmas that year the handmade loaf by Dan Lepard inspired me.

Smiles

In the 3 years I have worked alongside probation I have brought many breads and baked goods in to offices at Greenwich, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Southwark. The bread is usually accompanied by cheeses, grapes, butter and jam or a soft spread. My belief is, those that work in the public domain genuinely are unsung heroes and are in need of congratulating and validation by those they serve and look after (Society). My offerings were a small testament to an idea: ‘Gift others with something pleasant that would be hard for them to return’. The breads cakes and other items I brought in, usually vanished in a short space of time and put a smile on most people’s faces. For me giving and causing for a short while joy, was priceless.

Edutainment

Mentioning the GBBO above, stirs my thinking about what Channel 4 will offer us this season? Last year’s departure from BBC1 to Channel 4 did not deter my admiration for the participants or enjoyment of watching the show. It still ticks most of the boxes for good entertainment. A sour faced judge, a fair judge, and 2 comedians bringing levity when things inevitably go wrong. The mini edutainment sections are also in CH4’s edition too. Netflix has all 7 seasons and all episodes. Let the entertainment begin!

2 Artisan Breads

Sundried Tomato, Onion and Cheese Loaf alongside a Caraway and Raisin Bread.

Appreciation

I baked for my team of Forensic Mental Health Practitioners recently – 3 Dan Lepard Recipes: a classic banana bread, a yoghurt and chive bread, an onion and cheese baguette that has an MO addition of sundried tomatoes. Renamed  as ‘Pizza Bread’ by a colleague at Together. My anxiety about my moving on from Together enabled me to craft 2 wonderful loaves and a cake as a goodbye to a brilliant team. As a group the NPS team have worked diligently and passionately in probation offices across London. Overcoming a number of unforeseen challenges, obstacles and developments within the service. The bread was to say thank you and that their efforts have been greatly appreciated by me, Together, Probation and the service users they have supported.

Memories fade like the aroma of a freshly baked bread, I would like to hold on to these memories for a while longer…