Vulnerability: The Hidden

There are a number of reasons that I have wanted to specifically work with Black Men/Men from the African Diaspora engaging in therapy. There is an overwhelming amount of misinformation about the strong, fierce, angry Black Man. There is also an unacknowledged backstory of why these perceptions have been allowed to exist. It is far easier to continue the lie. Pulling misinformation apart is the long slow and hard road.

Edu-
The Introductory course is styled for someone like myself, willing and able to be vulnerable with others – open to learning about themselves and being *edu-trained with others. It’s the therapy course I could have used when I was 13 or 20 or 37. I could probably do with a black men’s group now! Queue Dope Black Podcast.

Mini deaths x 3
I have 3 deaths that I want to acknowledge in this piece. The one that cut the deepest is the one I will write about last. It was an insidious and traumatic cut that has gone on to hurt many. Possibly does still. I now understand this wound. I can now forgive the persons that have directly and indirectly hurt me. I believe that pain is at the core of the reason for wanting to support others. The many…

1st Loss
My 1st death wrapped me up,
shut me down and
had me mute about the pain of my loss
was the death of my mother.
Back in November 1993
Rita Margaret Drakes.

She died some 25 years ago and her terminal fight with cancer has been a model of my own struggles with Multiple Sclerosis: Part denial, part anger, part bargaining, part shock and then ambiguous acceptance that always seems out of reach. Tantalisingly close but defyingly, just beyond my outstretched arms – unable to connect…

Death 2
The 2nd death is of my friend Ade through suicide. His death was both shocking and hard to accept. Recognising that I had no chance of saving him offers some relief. Only some. He made a choice much like a character in a Star is Born. The incident much like Jude in A Little Life, the encounter with almost dieing happened many, many times before.

Death 3
The 3rd is a story I have not written or talked much about. I have shared with only a few. Some members of my family know.
This death.
This loss is of innocence, of trust and the insidious nature of the harm caused to me. I have held myself in a place just out of reach. Believing that I am wrong, bad, mad and sad. That the harm caused was of my doing and that I deserved it. That I continue to deserve mistreatment. That if I hold myself just out of sight, my hurt cannot infect others. But it had.

Unreported
I was about 6 or 7 when I was sexually abused by someone older than me. The events are uncomfortable to describe and I will choose carefully what I share. Being shown pornographic images elicits an uncontrollable physical response in some people. It did for me! I became aroused and that arousal was used by them to perform their sexual acts.

I recognise the crime committed against me. As well as working in corrections (Criminal Justice) I have seen this pattern replicated for a significant number of men and women I have supported. Abuse happening to them including; physical, emotional, sexual, psychological, financial and domestic and then perpetrating a similar crime against another or others.

Tankerton Reflection

The pattern is of ever diminishing returns and a debased sense of self can be and often is the outcome.

Broken Loop
A person who has been hurt can act out in ways to inflict pain on others. But I feel it is more than that, the person is after. They could be after an understanding of what happened to them first, by behaving in ways that evoke fear, obedience, power and getting a secondary gain from the sense of control this may have over another.

Reconnecting
I write this as an origin story of why I have created a course for Black men to access healing. I write because if I am unwilling to recognise my own experiences of pain and trauma how can I then support others begin working on theirs.

As with most things dealing with change it has to start with us first.
Admitting that the hurt happened is primary to begin the process of healing.

Mend
What comes next is action.
This is where the fun and pain coexist. Getting to decide what happens next, where to go next, whom to speak with after, how to work it through and beyond so that it can no longer hold you from getting there.

There where you belong.

Safe, Resilient, Free, Successful, at Peace.

Resources
Episode 7-10 of New Amsterdam is a must see for the development of a story similar to mine.
Where Shall We Begin. Trauma Doesn’t Like to be Touched
Lisa Nichols
When they See Us

CTA
The Black Men’s Introduction to Therapy begins on the 13th of November.
Visit www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com or www.equilibriumtc.com for more information.

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Review: Shit I Can’t Say

Seeing a one person play spring from the pages of a gifted writer to life on stage is amazing. To have the writer be someone you coached as a basketball player as a teen. An ever larger sense of amazement. To see the focus of the play greet, embrace and thank his son – priceless.

All The Shit I Can’t Say to my Father
I went to see All the Shit, in August 2019. A friend, an ex baller, I coached – Abraham Adeyemi has written a modern day sensation. The night was the performance of sublime art.

Charming
The performance was led by a young charismatic actor, Zackary Momoh, who reminded me of a younger Chiwetel Ejiofor. There was something about his delivery that was precise and filled with presence. The audience were appreciative of his deft delivery and intimate bringing to life of Abraham’s words.

Autumnal Feelings

Partial Delays
News broke earlier in July that due to unforeseen circumstances ‘The Shit…’ was going to be changed to just a reading and a performance (How does that work you may ask?).

It’s part rehearsal, part working through of the words to the stage, set and possibly with an audience. The actor reads through the script aloud like a read through. Similar to a sound check for a music performance.

I thought the reading was a brilliant way to introduce the concept of what we were doing there. What we potentially could be see. A one person play engaging and interacting with the audience. Seeing the finessing of the script was seeing a craftsperson work their skills to a High Art Finish.

Throughout the play Zackary read and cast aside the pages almost as though this was part of the play. Him screwing up a few of the pages at one moment (after he had read them). Then came the toss towards a wastepaper basket was thrilling. I smiled ridiculously at that and may even have clapped. I instantly recognised both Abraham and many peoples dream of being a top performing NBA/WNBA star.

Engagement
The show felt both lyrical and compassionate. ‘The Shit…’ entertained me fully. The audience and I, were involved to see AK the protagonist’s journey. As he begins to acknowledge and unravel his taught relationship with his father.

The AK’s father is Nigerian. A Christian. A multi-talented labourer, a craftsman of often obscure and unwanted jobs. It was at this point the flexibility of the play shone. AK asked a member of the audience what her dad did.
She replied “Carpet layer – Handiman”
AK “Yeah, my dad probably did that too”
Audience – Whoops of laughter and applause of recognition.

The father, AK’s father should have been an engineer, but due to the racist notion that countries outside of the more favored commonwealth countries like Nigeria couldn’t possibly educate to the standard of British trained engineers were denied entry to the professions they trained for. Took what roles and jobs that they could and raised their families as best they could.

Off stage
The scene that caught my imagination was of seeing Abraham stand with his father. The moment happened off stage after the crowds milled out. I do not know what was said. That moment being private – Abraham’s and his fathers. What I perceived was a bridge of admiration begin to form. An acceptance of something that had been lost. The awareness that maybe something new has possibly been found. This meeting between father and son, through drama, through ‘All the Shit I Can’t Say to My Father’ is the making of new stories and about letting go of old ones.

My Bridge
I realise now that reconciliation was an impossibility for me and my father. A dream unobtainable. A number of significant changes would have to have happened in both of us first. To have approached a turning point that began a new start for us. The moment of second chances and water under the *bridgedness passed aeons ago and I am invited by circumstance, to allow it to pass too.

Duality
He was a man of the late 1930’s Ghanian, African, lacking in humility, compassion he believed, was a concept for the weak and foolish, arrogance and bull headedness was his way to confront the world. His religion was dual Christian and Muslim. A Ghanian former politician living abroad was how he saw himself. UK politics was of mild interest behind his own ambitions. Fatherhood suffered. 

We never found ground between us that felt comfortable for each other to be on. His death on October The 31st 2016 ended without a neat bow. Ours was not a story book ending. My father left not speaking to any of his children and without making amends for the pain he caused. That will be ours to tidy and pack away.

Reflection
For Abraham the play appeared redemptive and restorative. Like a deep cleanse. I was happy I got to witness that for him. For me and my siblings I hope that the clearing and cleanse happens with acceptance moving on in to forgiveness. The chalice was never ours to sup from.

The intention is set for me to start from near the beginning. Refreshed and unburdened. Again.

Resources

The Dope Black podcast – Raising Kids While Black
Revisionist History – Talking to Strangers
2 Black Guys with Good Credit – Black Power Money Power
The Stoop – Unexpected Family

Structure Them

As with most things in life structure is an important part to creating anything.

Taking Inspiration and Flying
My blog writing has been a flight of fancy, of fantasy and for me a moderate success.

Flight
In 5 years I have grown my readership organically from 10 readers to just over 100. Organically meaning I have posted and readers have liked and then followed the blog. I have attempted campaigns where I have invited friends and family to take a look and subscribe. This took me from being scared to being willingly vulnerable. I had to as Brene Brown would say call on my courage to complete this task. The worst that could happen is readers, family and friends state that they are not interested in reading my work and not click subscribe.
That’s it?
Yup.
Bad huh?

1000’s
The number of readers could always be greater. With time. With consistency. With diligence. With transparency. With vulnerability. With a clear call to action and a clear message the number of quality readers/responders will grow. I am interested in the number of readers growing as some of what I write and think, I intuit is relevant, useful and slightly educative for a few people.

Tate Modern London

Structure Meaning
I will be spending time over the next few weeks re-writing most of my blogs so that they are clear in what they are inviting readers to act on. The blogs are written with the intention to be informative. I have found that the thought that begins the blog post sometimes does not travel all the way to the end. The inspiration leads on to other thoughts and ideas that could be confusing. Leading you astray is where I can get better as a writer. The craft of blog writing is about clarity and information leading to an action.

Action
For me the intention of the blog was to inform others about the thoughts I had about the life I am living. I am still interested in that aim, however the call now is to drive readers to take action. That could include responding to the blog post or any of the 70+ I have written. Read the links included in the blog to increase perspective of what I have written and then respond. Read or buy the book listed in the hyperlink (I currently am not an affiliate marketer), listen to the podcast I have included or watch the youtube video.

Pointing
The aim here – I am interested in having in depth conversations either online or in person with others who have a wider appreciation for the life we are living/leading. The writings of the blogs helps articulate my thinking the aim is not to end the conversation there but to grow the thinking and generate further ideas.

To End

My blogs are going to change. Bare with them and me. A metamorphosis is happening, it possibly is happening for you too.

CTA

The aim of this blog was to share that from a simple and chaotic yet interesting beginning the Therapist on a Journey is changing. If you have read on to the end can you:

  • Send this on to 5 people that you feel would benefit from reading these words
  • Post a comment below or drop me a line at michaelforfieh@gmail.com

Depth

Melancholia/Co-Morbidity

noun

a mental condition characterized by great depression 
of spirits and gloomy forebodings.

Warmth

Summer is here with sun, and glorious heat and trips to beaches, swimming pools and ice cream and floating through in the background of my mind is death.

It’s a weird thought, in all of this jollity, mirth, mayhem, and madness and my mind is stuck with the idea of loss and bereavement. This isn’t the time for thinking about death, I remind myself! But the idea keeps returning like a persistent cold.

Cause

The thought about death and dieing could be connected to a bereavement group I am eagerly anticipating to begin in one of the prisons I work at. It could be something to do with the transition of my son explored in earlier blogs and his presumed loss of innocence. Or it could be the contrast between the summer months and the dread of not being; Like fallen friends and family, colleagues, neighbours or people that expired due to illness, depression, or suicide. It’s a moving and emotional thought that I am pondering onand choosing to share.

CALM

In April I attended The Man Talk at Brixton Ritzy. One of the panelist’s was from Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) who spoke about the loss of his dad through suicide Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone. The evening was filled with personal stories of men being vulnerable in front of, panelist’s, and with other men. I aim to write an overview of the first Man Talk event I attended a little later.

Disappear

I am left thinking about death not in the abstract but as an unknown definite certainty. My Ending amuses me. Less existential angst more a curiosity. I wonder if death will be painful, pain free, a sleeping drift into the great unknown, a pause that continues, a senile bumbling trundle to a stop. The end could be tomorrow, next week, next year or a decade from now.

MIA

The realisation is death’s arrival cannot be planned for. I will be surprised. I will be angry and complain that this is not my time. I will urge the dimming light that I would like another go of pitch and toss. That my duties in life – to life are not fulfilled. But end it shall and trundle I shall go.

Waves

I will leave my 2 sons, my co piloting Dr, my 3 sisters and my nieces and nephews, my co pilot’s family, friends and colleagues, supervisees and supervisors, my ability to bake, these 60+ blogs, the 50 or so podcasts and books I listen to and read that feed my ever hungry mind with and MS.

Happy Loss

Leaving Multiple Sclerosis, I believe, I will be happy to say goodbye. An account of loss that is more thief – cat burglar, than a outright murderer, but then it can do that too.

Perhaps in death I get to encompass peace and the wonder of letting go. Somber I know but it’s worth thinking about.

A few other thoughts about death are contained in the following podcasts:

2 Black Guys With Good Credit Burying the Dead
Grief Cast with Cariad Lloyd interviewing David Baddiel/Susan Wakoma
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day interviewing Mo Gawdat
Philosophy Bites Suicide

In no way am I laughing at, ridiculing or minimising the effect or impact of death. The experience IS, and so we are invited to prepare for an ending of what is known/unknown…

If any points above caused thought or triggered a reaction take a look at http://www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com and join the mailing list.

Therapy in Prison

Held up

Recently I worked with a client in a prison who appeared caught up in the story of how he has been continually mistreated by the Prisons he has resided in.

Expecting

When I re-framed a specific experience, his experience, he growled in acknowledgement of how he had been moving through his sentence. Not progressing. Stuck. Little involvement with probation or a sentence plan. He was tense and expectant of more bad shit to be passed to him.

A Why

It came after a long tirade of him counting up all the negative experiences that he has had. And why shouldn’t he? Life had dealt an undesirable hand. The idea of abandonment and not being heard were high on his watch list. “That shit is never going to happen to me again” he had said.

Sunshine

But they had. Even more shit had happened and he had reacted and then, he was left still holding a sad and ugly can of discontent. It stank! When he recognised the ailment he had been carrying it looked like the clouds covering his psyche broke and a beautiful smile graced his face. The joys of therapy are these moments. They happen when a person is willing to hear themselves put down the mask and step beyond. Out from under the cloud. The gloom had hidden him and his needs. The cloud had also given protection. Why would anyone want to leave?

Perspective

For this client the experience was seeing how tired he was from carrying the sloshing pail of woe and anger and resentment and pain. When he was able to put it down and walk a distance from it, he could see that in actuality he had been holding himself back. That the pain was all his and that the prison, probation or other professionals could not take it from him. All that a professional could do was help him recognise that by putting it down he could see himself anew.

Links

For a few moments it felt like an onslaught that I was being invited to witness and be party to. My careful reframe offered him chance to pause and acknowledge how dreadful those moments had been and where he could drop the bucket off. Ah now this is therapy.

Waves

The work is about creating chance for clients to look thrice and weigh up choices: carry around the ugly for another week, month, year or choose to drop bad for good and pick up something worthwhile, wholesome, worthy, healthy and ride on a crest for as long as it is possible. Picking up belief and self-esteem and confidence and humility and self-worth along the way.

Press Play

I will not be in this man’s life when he returns to his community. I get a sense however, that a shift of seismic proportions occurred and am happy to have been a part.

Choices

Making a decision to stay in a place of discomfort because it is familiar is common. We believe that choosing something unfamiliar but probably better is a simple choice to make and it lies squarely in the unknown.

4 Levels

Known Knowns – Water is Wet
Known Unknowns – That’s hot, how hot? That’s cold how cold…?
Unknown Knowns – Not knowing what is vaguely known Cantonese, Sub Saharan Africa, Quantum Mechanics, Effective Altruism
Unknown Unknowns – Total unawareness

Where would you place the greatest field of learning and of fear?
The Unknown Brain TED Talks

It’s Complicated – Family Scripts

Interception

I am using the film Inception as a way of opening up a discussion about family scripts. What is a family script? Do we all have one? What is mine? A family script I believe is something we live with semi consciously. The script could be about how much of a success/failure we are to be, who in the family we are like and what our life path is. Whether we live with family or have some distance from our families.

A family script can follow us regardless. In part, a family script is as much apart of us as we are a part of it. The story of our family. Informing ourselves of how we are to live and then how we choose to live. Knowing what script is your family’s could be for you to look to parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and notice parts of their story that are similar or very different to your own. Spend time reflecting or if there is space and time, talking with them about their life’s journey. Learning more about their life and your own as a result. A great book to read that further explores and expands the idea of family scripts we are living is: They F£$K You Up by Oliver James.

Games

I re-watched Inception recently with an aim of being simply entertained and of gaining an understanding of what I thought the film was all about. For the helpers out there I challenge you to watch any film without psychoanalysing yourself and the role of the principle characters. As mentioned in an earlier piece of writing my super power has been turned on and simply watching a film or tv show I can no longer do. The thing being watched turns into a psychotherapy session out of habit and as an intellectual game.

Inception has 4 layers of unconsciousness examined and toyed with. I understood the film finally, when I watched again. I will split this blog in to two parts. Processing the first 2 layers of the dream in this blog and the 2nd two layers in a later blog.

1st Layer Down – Rain

Layered is a simple way of sharing my interpretation of the movie. On re-watching Inception I can see that there are a number of elements that are unearthed as the movie progresses: dreams as routes to knowledge, substance use to lucidly dream, planting of new ideas, the unconscious/subconscious and it’s uses and misuses, rescuing lost love, healing of the self, making informed choices and admiration of father figures. As a psychoanalyst/counsellor/artist I enjoyed the blending of ideas. Initially I had thought the film clever and entertaining, after watching Inception again I am left with the idea of what has been planted beneath for me…

Father’s Day passed on the 16th of June this year (2018) and whilst listening to ‘Where should we begin’ podcast I thought about the now I am in. Raising two sons with my wife in London and recognising that, the experience they were having being parented by me is very different to the one I had being parented by my father. Mr Mensah a family friend once said something profound to me and my father. He said to us ‘that who your father had, is different to who Michael’s father is’.

It seems so obvious now, but a shiver went through me at the time. Inviting the idea that my parenting would be different and the same about for him as well. Our relationship was difficult for a number of reasons including being a son of economic migrants. Inception appeared to explore family scripts and expand upon the notion exquisitely.

2nd Layer Down – Hotel

My father Isaac died in the Autumn of 2015 and I still have not attempted to mourn his passing. Grief this time has not arrived like it did with my mum’s death – a raging bull – tearing and trampling at life passionately. This time grief has seemed like a faded monochrome picture of the past. I am sad that we did not mend what was horribly broken. Perhaps that task was too great for both of us. Within the film, the protagonists implant the concept that grows within their target. The term“Disappointed…” takes on both meaning and form as the film progresses.

Disappointment attempts to silence the trumpets of hope for me. With analysis as a friend and because of hope, knowing loss – can bring with it release. Letting go of unobtainable standards, misguided belief, unrelenting demands and family scripts that have the potential to stunt growth and development.

Inception Motif
Monochrome Spinning Top

Unsure

I remain unaware of my father noticing the achievements or challenges that I overcame in my life. His adoration of his grandchildren was witnessed and I took great comfort from that. In a number of ways he had already left my life due to the separation and divorce from my mother. The efforts he did make were with attempts to establish himself in two worlds that seemed not to communicate very well. Ghana of the 60s-80s was a country removing itself from the cudgeling effects of colonisation. Much of his time and energy spent, involved with Ghana’s reformation. A devotion that could have been shown to our family. A disappointing realisation of what could have been.

Gaps

I wanted to have a good relationship with my father and felt that this was possible after our reunion 17 years after we last met. My attempts to have him be a part of my life were unsuccessful. The gap between us was too significant to overcome. After the separation, moving house and divorce from my mother, reforming a semblance of family was a challenge that became un-mend able.

He too far gone his way and me perhaps becoming too settled in mine. The life script of being the middle one, of being the one who brings both laughter and co-operation for the family to rally around was forever unmet. With my father’s death I can choose which parts of the family script I ignore or continue with, much like Robert Fischer does in Inception.

Choose…

Resources

The Moth Podcast – Goodbye

Two Black Guys with Good Credit Burying the Dead

Psychopathy: Test

Apex

There are moments one dreams of experiencing that I had in October 2018. I had the chance of delivering a lecture to a group of forensic psychology students at the University of East London. The subject was mental Illness and crime. This was the 3rd time of me delivering this lecture and it all came together like the perfect picture. I was given a breakdown of possible protagonists and activists amongst the students. The promise that the group were usually quiet, by the course director Ms Kougiali, was thankfully unmet.

Review Data

EZ Poxy Shimmer

Shimmer

Perhaps it was my brief introduction and experience but the group of roughly 40 students did not let up with comments and questions about the lecture I delivered. They stated as one that some of the material was; too broad, that the stats needed refining in relation to ages, classification of mental illness, the gender of data groups and where the data sources had come from.

Urm note to Michael try harder please!

Winning

I found that I loved the engaging-challenging-rewarding interaction! The buzz of the room felt hard won and not wholly mine – more ours. I have had a number of teaching and lecturing experiences over the past few years starting at University of Greenwich, then as a VL at UEL and recently teaching at a college just outside of London on a level 1 counselling skills course.

Listening

Abstraction Art

Abstract Interpretation

All teaching experiences draw something different from me, there is the all-knowing sage that I aim to be, the old enough yet down enough sharer of counselling mythology, the witty soothsayer sharing what needs to be said for those who have ears to hear. October the 24th was like the perfect blend.

Balance

My style of lecturing is part performance poetry, comedy, debate class, philosophy and counselling pedagogy/theory for balance. My last class with year 2 students at University of Greenwich in May, much of the above was the experience. Teaching/Lecturing appeared to flow effortlessly. It sort of came together as a perfect storm with students sharing, my presentation slides, personal anecdotes of counselling and life experiences all rolled out and accessed by all. That lecture for Greenwich was on What Next? Offering ideas of potential routes beyond year 2.

Forensic Populations

What I enjoyed most about the work with UEL students was that they challenged me and I them! The challenge thrown about the lecture room was the idea of mental illness and psychopathy. Ultimately the idea realised was that many involved in the criminal justice system in the UK if tested and or diagnosed, many may have untreated learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, have experienced trauma, suffer with PTSD symptoms and have a personality disorder, as well as a dual diagnosis of substance misuse or alcohol addiction.

We All Psychopaths

Seeing Dutch Windmills

Blue Abstraction

Everyone in the lecture theatre if they took a psychopathy test would score something between a low to a high psychopathy score, making us all psychopaths to lesser or greater degrees. That includes you dear reader!

The reflective quality of this realisation hit in the 2nd hour after a number of students offered their opinions on the recent film on Netflix 22nd of July. The film about the impact Anders Breivik had on Norway stirred up some controversial ideas and debate in relation to mental illness and acts of self-preservation.

A student shared that we all have the potential to commit acts of violence that were either based on our beliefs or state of un-wellness. I volunteered to complete a psychopathy test listed here the Levenson Psyschopathy self test. Which takes roughly 5-10 minutes to complete https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/LSRP.php. I scored a 2.9. The scores from this test I see more as an indicator for me, rather than a confirmed diagnosis. I mentioned that I would share my results with the class if interested. I now do so with you too.

Invite

I wonder what your psychopathy test scores are and what they say about you?

The thing I enjoy most about writing about multi-layered experiences is what others find through reading these posts and then share. If there are other psychopathy tests that are an improvement on the one listed here please share below. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.

Further Reading

The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/a…the…psychopathy/555335/

The Independent
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/the-difference-between-a-psychopath-and-a-sociopath-10422016.html

Snap Judgement Science and the Psychopath
https://www.npr.org/2015/07/10/421625310/the-scientist-and-the-psychopath

Criminal Podcast The Money Tree
https://thisiscriminal.com/episode-51-money-tree-8-23-2016/