Internalised Racism – Missed It

I have continued with the theme of Internalised Racism offering a personal insight of how I recognise what it looks and feels like with this blog.

Miss Hit
What is missed by projecting outward on to others, what we cannot stomach? We could benefit from further understanding ourselves. This point Dr Dwight Turner invites us to spend time with. Projective Identification (P. I. ) is a self protecting act, but the act cannot fully protect the persons who expel what they cannot tolerate in themselves onto others.

It creates in the object projected upon, a sense of fear and loathing. Deficits of self-worth, self-esteem, anxiety and low mood. Manifestations of the disdain are re-presented by the subjected upon persons internally/interiorly and to others who resemble or behave in similar ways to them.

Here my attempt is to match P.I. and Internalised Racism as cousins. In essence those who are treated by a nationally sanctioned power structure; unkindly, unfairly, with prejudice, do not have the power to represent their hurt to those who hurt them. The hurt people observe the hurt in themselves internalise it and project this hurt on to others who appear similar to them. Both Zed and Daniel offer useful interpretations in last week’s post.

Division
An early experience I can remember that woke me up to what internalized racism is was being bullied at primary school by two Caribbean girls. I can’t exactly remember what these 2 girls repeatedly said to me. Something like ‘Smelly little African boy’. The resemblance was of a hatred that was borne as a result of my father – African. His genes a part of mine. This an undeniable truth. I could not make sense of their disowning of our joint cultural heritage and obvious visible similarity. My skin – brown like theirs. My mum was from the Caribbean too, so were we not the same? Not to them.

Power Over
This experience of internalised racism was one I could not comprehend at the age of 6. The bullies dislike was a felt sense of wrongness. Mine. Possibly theirs too. I assume (now), that these two sisters felt a sense of power and a feeling of entitlement.

Brené Brown discusses the concept of power over, as opposed to power with, or power amongst. The Caribbean for me was well represented amongst my friends. Culturally, London and the UK of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, Caribbean influence was acknowledged and appeared valued.

Music, Slang, Fashion all influenced by children of migrants from the Caribbean. Bob Marley and other reggae stars were regularly heard on stereo systems across the estate I lived on. My world – Tottenham High Road and Wood Green felt like mini slices of Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts, Dominica, the Grenadines. The homes we visited, the shops and grocery stores, the foods we ate were of mostly Caribbean and West African flavour and influence.

Norf
My awareness of racial and cultural understandings arrived late, like the 243 bus to Wood Green , or the 321 to Seven Sisters. The raising awareness job is a lifelong one, but peaked when I moved out of London to Cambridgeshire in the mid 80’s. The North London Estate I grew up on was filled with newly arrived immigrants from a great collection of African, Caribbean, Asian and European countries. These two girls would sneer at me whenever our paths crossed at school or on the estate. They, whispering to each other and cutting their eyes in my direction as if their waspish looks could make me disappear. Their disapproval didn’t make sense to me but left an invisible mark. That of being disliked by others for a seemingly senseless and unknown reason. I became distrustful of persons who cast unkind and disparaging looks my way.

Resources
Ursula Rucker performs Innocence Lost. The line that stands out is missed hit. The resonance is palpable as this poet intones an all too familiar story. The Roots woke me up to the power in poetry.
Hana and Leila discuss in detail the insults that are thrown back and forth between Africans and African Americans.
I thank Kimberly Cato of True Roots who passed on the Halton Voices video. Sameera discusses with guests what Internalised Racism is.
The Stoop You Called Me African What?
Diverse Perspectives conversations with Sameera Ali, Leena Sharma Seth, Mifrah Abid

Images
Cover Photo Lee Junda

Internalised Racism

Hidden by same race or similar cultural groups. Could be experienced as lateral violence. I will do my best to explore both terms and offer a few resources that look at the expriences of internalised racism in blogs to follow.

Internalised Racism Definition
The upholding of a system such as White supremacy by racialized groups both unconsciously and consciously. It looks like in racial group dislike or hatred of peoples from similar racial backgrounds. looking to confirm one group being better than another group. It is Shadism/Colourism, Poor v Rich, Educated against Undereducated, Gender, Age, Sexual preference, Religious affiliation and denomination against other faiths and beliefs. Many of these points of sameness difference and otherness are well addressed by the book Mockingbird.

Group Discussion
I was asked what my thoughts were in relation to internalized racism by Kimberley Cato. This question  posed for the last group discussion for True Roots of the season. My thoughts on internalised racism in late May 2021 weren’t fully formed. Reading ‘Intersections Of Privilege And Otherness’ helped to begin formulating my understanding. I will share below what Dr Dwight Turner writes because it offers an understanding that is useful to how my mind has been able to make use of these earlier incisions to character development. I recognise that a discussion on this topic can be a sensitive experience to engage with. I will offer my experience as a base board from which to move beyond in later
pieces of writing.

Resources Explained
Jabari discusses his growing into an awareness of internalised racism in an accessible and personable way.
Farah Nasser discusses with University of Toronto professor Girish Daswani, and communications professional, Gelek Badheytsang about internalized racism. The conversation highlights some of what the True Roots conversation spent time; evaluating, rueing and laughing at. What I enjoyed from the Living Colour interview was the unequivocal idea that internalised racism can be changed.

Resources
Jabari Lyles Lessons on Internalised Racism
What is Internalised Racism? Living in Colour

Images
Candle melt near table splash photo by Jaclyn Moy on Unsplash

Group – Ends

Wellness Hub Group
Following the previous weeks of discussion of Group, I wanted to reflect on the last group I supported and helped bring into being – the Black Men’s Therapy Group. We began at the Wellness Hub in Lee, South East London. Just like in other group spaces the beginning was tentative, wary and awkward. Within 10 weeks the first group were willing to engage with the dynamic of the space much more. The group of 9 Black men became with each other and themselves a fluid, self questioning, humble and hilarious, authentic assortment of people of differing backgrounds, ages, sexualities and shades. We were able to after a few appointments be vulnerable with each other, challenge, support and laugh like our cares and concerns were forgotten, or behind us.

Noodles delicately balanced like Group

CoVid19 Interruption
With the event of Corona Virus 2019 erupting at the beginning of 2020, thoughts were had about how to continue if we were unable to come together? The decision to take the meeting online was made with hesitancy and questioning of if the group could function virtually. Skype for some provided enough bandwidth for a few meetings to operate well. Zoom eventually won out as the preferred method to conduct the Black men’s therapy group. Similarly to Group the meeting virtually did not hamper the group’s engagement at all. I would suggest that without the boundaries of the circle, making direct eye contact with others in the ‘room’ a significant change took place for attendees. Conversation and depth of what was discussed improved what we understood and felt from fellow participants. CoViD19 was a significant topic for discussion as was George Floyd’s murder.

Peak
Being a facilitator amongst this group was a zenith experience of all the groups I had ever been a part of. The reason for the feeling was the summation of all group engagements seemed to be the direction I was travelling in. An ending point to all of the previous group experiences.  

First Charceuterie. The Finer Hot Points of Group

Change
What I have enjoyed about both short seasons of Group is the spontaneity. The expert direction by Dr Ezra. The challenges I recognise from my own experiences of being in group. Forceful presentations by Manny, Tilda and Karina are laudable. Rebecca and her quixotic presence alongside the enigmatic Stuart, provocative Henry and Pam dynamics and then there is Frank the enigma. The cast of characters offer something refreshing and also recognisable about group processes for those who choose to watch. Be they families, organisations or amongst other clients being treated. Group is both art and a mindful reminder of days past and hopeful, that a post CoViD19 world can be found and accessed by all. Left to wrestle with the aftermath of Lockdown 3.0 and a planet beginning to wrestle with difficult and different concerns brought about by an undeniable murder.

Rice Dish as important: The Lulls in Group

Energy
Each episode of Group is between 10 -15 minutes, I found myself hooked and wanting more. A worthy sugar rush with none of the guilt and shame of devouring a triple choc cookie. The show offered me a perspective of what I have been missing about group work. The silly, the deeply defined and entrenched, the undulating sense of never quite ending and always beginningness. My hope is that group will be renewed and that we see more from this dynamic cast and the creators of this amazing show. I also plan on building a new Black men’s therapy group only this time in Canada. It is the reformation of community that is of specific interest to me at this time: Post George Floyd, post the Tulsa uprising, post the Capitol Hill invasion and the UK government’s handling of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report by Gareth Iacobucci reporting on Health disparities.

Final Course: The dessert. Group ends and departure to further growth and *awareni.

Together
There is something very fulfilling about witnessing a group of people come together to dine, to share stories, listen, be seen. My love of cooking shows departed with the fru-fru-ness of Masterchef but returned en-force with Chef’s Table (yes Netflix again!). High on the Hog appears to exemplify all that is good in sharing culinary experiences and a people connected together by food! Dr Mos-Shogbamimu offers her interpretation on a year post George Floyd. I agree with a number of her points. Home Cooking is a simple delight of a podcast. Home Cooking presents group as a virtual friendly experience – sharing jokes – recipes – puns – and food making support guidance. Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman share their story of finding each other and an interesting idea for a dinner party.

Remember
We are both amongst and outside of group/tribes simultaneously. Group offers
us paradox. Until we make a choice. Both are indeed true and align with us simultaneously…

Resources
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu Independent Article
High on the Hog – Netflix
Home Cooking Podcast
Unlocking US with Brene Brown Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman

Images
Cover photo by sunorwind on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash Soup Noodle Bowl
2nd Inlay photo by Emerson Vieira on Unsplash Barbecued Meat
3rd Inlay photo by Estela Shaddix on Unsplash Colourful Rice dish


Group – Challenges

In this post I am reviewing the experience of difficulty and the danger of being in group.

Good Enough
My initial training as a counsellor at Morley College in 2006 was my first-hand experience of group. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was the tutor whose warm guidance offered everyone on the course a sense of what being a counsellor looked and felt like. Ian challenged, heard, listened, appeared unendingly wise and somewhat of a humoured story-teller. A bit like Dr Ezra in Group, or how I imagine Irv Yalom to be in treatment groups. Intelligent, patient, resourceful and poignant with insights that arrest as much as they inform.

Follow Up
The 2nd therapy group experience had, was the experiential group. First year of the MSc programme at University of Greenwich. I joined a year after finishing the Morley introduction course. The experiential group was a new yet familiar experience. Similar in essence to the YouTube show Group mentioned above. Fellow students, I and a facilitator would talk about our experiences with the course. The blend of our learning and our personal lives alongside how we were inadvertently becoming more consciously aware of the counsellor waking up in us, were frequent topics of discussion. The discussion was the object we pulled and played with. It was neither mine nor theirs. This object was the groups and seemed to change in form, and colour and vitality when members were not present.

Not Group Therapy
The Experiential group was like group therapy but not. The facilitator generally offered observations of the group process as if they hung from the ceiling. Aloft. Looking down from their elevated experienced height. Infuriatingly. Never laughing at our juvenile forays into this new world of Counselling and Psychotherapy. We moaned about how we were finding timing impossible to schedule alongside work commitments, life commitments (what life) and how we were finding it hard to fit it all in with the incessant always present uni work commitments. Diabolical and yet somehow achievable or so we were lead to believe.

Games Seen, Lost and Won.

Tempered Smiles
They the facilitator, were able to somehow with mirth offer reflection as if they were remembering their time, in our place – struggling. To make sense. To make it all fit. To make it all work. I became bemused by it all. A defence? Possibly. When I became a facilitator of my own experiential group a few years later, I vowed that I wanted to be a little more helpful. But a process group does what a process group needs to do. Process and work out for themselves the up from the down. The necessary from the useless.

Group in Prison
The third group experience arrived as a result of an idea generation. How to support more people in prison therapeutically? The answer. Group!
Myself and a very experienced counsellor friend came up with the idea of wanting to support men come to terms with their grief, whilst inside away from family. Listening to Griefcast for a few years prior, inspired a question that only beginning a group could answer. Could a grief counselling group be effective in prison? How will a counselling group work in prison? Will the group experience be effective for the men in a category B prison?

Answered
We began the grief therapy group at one of the prisons I worked at in Kent in February 2019. The answers to the questions were: Yes a counselling group will work. The How – took planning, and advertising, and discussing the idea of the group with officers, and clergy, and education, and with clients that expressed a need for the group – a soft sell. The operational lead for the NHS foundation trust we worked for at the time, was enthusiastic about a grief therapy group starting. With their guidance, we began the bereavement group. The first few appointments were difficult to engage with for a number of reasons: Finding a location was a challenge. Arranging for clients to attend was another hurdle to overcome.

Grief is an unwelcome visitor for anyone.

Witnessing
For these men, encountering grief alongside serving time in prison increased the level of challenge significantly. Despite these challenges the group grew and stabilised until the Summer break in 2019. Men found that they could share long held pains. The facilitation of the men sharing happened as a result of support and stabilising interpretations by the counsellors and by other men within the group. The level of insight and willingness to encourage other men by fellow persons in prison was the rare quality of compassion myself and my co-counsell witnessed frequently.

Coloured Defiance

Companions
Some meetings we were left wondering how the group had supported much of the repressed pain to be released. It was like from a pressure valve – slowly. At other times supporting the talking felt like walking a tight rope. Going too fast we all fell. Going too slow – not much happened and still we fell. Boredom, distraction, avoidance, telling other unconnected stories that felt familiar. All to leave the specter of Death and her willing companion Grief alone. Unfortunately I left the prison in October 2020. My hope is that the Bereavement group continues in some shape and form.

Resources Explained
Thank you to Anne Willoughby for sharing Prison Break on BBC Sounds. The aspect of death and dieing is a constant factor to life. Experiences end. This too is also considered death. College behind bars is a wonderful testament to endeavour and to dare greatly. These men and women dare greatly and are both punished and rewarded. Philosophy Bites overviews the life of Spinoza who thought about the existential aspect of dieing. Code Switch Podcast shared the tragic story of Claude Neal. There is a chilling reminder of what constitutes group mind and group decision in relation to the podcast episode and the article that follows.

All things come to pass.

Eventually.

Resources
College Behind Bars – Netflix
Prison Break – Podcast
Philosophy Bites Podcast – Spinoza
Remember Claude Neal: A strange and bitter crop Ben Montgomery article: Spectacle https://www.tampabay.com/spectacle-the-lynching-of-claude-neal/
Code Switch Remember Claude Neal: A strange and bitter crop Claude Neal: A Strange And Bitter Crop : NPR : Code Switch : NPR

Images
Cover Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash BW Basketball
Photo by Lerone Pieters on Unsplash Lone Hoop
Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash Colourful Basketball

Group – Intro

What I was interested in exploring over the next few blogs was Group. The TV/Youtube show, I have been mesmerised by recently. A few of my favourite characters are Dr Ezra, Stuart, Tilda and Manny. Each embodiment offers a different whole person experience that thoroughly captivates. I recognise them as parts of myself and as identities in my own life. Dynamic, rich, challenged, reserved, demonstrative and powerful.

Social animal
There are many different types of group we can identify with. I won’t name all of the millions of different groups here as I am sure other blogs have written about Tribes too. As a member of the human animal species (thank you Celia for keeping this idea in my minds eye!), we are members of some groups and tribes. Other groups, we remain painfully aware of how outside we will remain.

Opposites
Dr Dwight Turner, in his book Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird, spends a glorious 130 pages discussing these gossamer embers in glorious person centred detail. Dr. Turner has written and explored the interesting paradox of intersectionality and privilege. Where belonging and the experiences of being othered are held painfully, balancing the act of being discriminated for one’s identity as well as being aware of privilege too. The book is masterful.

This blog is followed by 3 more on Group – Explored, Group – Challenges, Group  – Ends

The resources listed in the following works involve groups that inform, explode and challenge notion of identity and belonging.

Resources
Group YouTube Clip
Group Review
Code Switch Podcast – Remember Claude Neal

Images

Cover photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Tertiary Desistance

The 3rd and last idea I had that arrived in quick succession, related to the 2 previous pieces Reaching and Illiterate Paradox. My understanding is all examine the need for connection. I keep returning to the concept and experience of love. The complex and often misunderstood feeling generally has the power to cause amazing effects for all, The Biggest Little Farm a useful example, as is Growing Up Wild on Netflix.

The third in this Blog series, involves a community of people I have time for. I wonder about those who break societies laws. Who are considered then ‘offenders’ and how pathways could be managed from an emotionally literate and an emotionally intelligent perspective.

Re-write
The thought I had was – if prison was infused with the power of healing damaged stories – to life affirming scripts amongst and with community, what would be the effect on an individual and society? I have an 11 year interest with the men and women who are sentenced in the UK. Persons in prison spend considerable amounts of time in cells, under constant watch, lacking privacy, adequate nutritional food, health and care. I also am mindful of what emotional support could be accessed before going to prison?

Rochester
I have written about some of my work in prison and the humanity I witnessed by the women and men I had the chance of working with. Thank you Anne Willoughby for introducing me to the Pathways worker that provided me with an understanding of the 20-60-20 rule. HMP Rochester in Feb 2016. The Pathways worker offered the below of persons in prisons mindsets in relation to desistance: 

20% never going to change
60% on the fence of change
20% changed and never coming back

Pathways
I have Jenna Soame formerly of Pathways HMP Wandsworth, to thank for furthering the idea of desistance. Jenna explained there are a number of factors that support people making pro social choices. The web a person in prison chooses to take steps to remove themselves from, is complicated and can take a long time. Desistance is a journey that Pathways assists those who are supported, to engage with the process of desistance in stages. Stopping activities that are law breaking happens amongst a number of other choices that persons in prison can choose to experience that can include: Re-engaging with family, finding a role that offers personal and or group meaning, removing practices and habits that continue unhealthy experiences, addressing psychological scars from earlier adverse experiences (ACEs), attending to gaps in learning and education, engaging in paired or group activity and beginning to repair individual identity and a representation of self amongst community.

Seeing beyond

Human Acts
My consideration links to emotional literacy in that as a society, little to no attention is paid to this unseen aspect of what makes us human. How many emotions and feelings could you write on the back of a postcard? 10, 20? There are as many as 27 and possibly more yet to be classified human emotions. The point for me having worked with people involved with criminal systems of incarceration, law and probation are that a complex set of emotions are often involved when someone breaks the law, either singularly or repeatedly. We (the general public) are lead to believe by the media that law breakers are often mindless when the act is committed, or vengeful when committing the act. The actor is presented as devoid of any feeling. For most of the men and women that I have supported in prison and on probation, a Molotov cocktail of emotions were scattered amongst the moment as well as precluding the event and almost always after.

Files
The person who stands trial is often changed by the act and the process of them being brought to trial. If in fact trial happens. I am holding in mind a few clients I supported in Kent who had a host of challenges that complicated their ‘criminal’ act. Emotions, plural, were woven into those who were sentenced which included: Shame, repressed pain, depression, anxiety, abandonment, bereavement, denial, loss, fear, rejection, suppressed anger, feelings of unworthiness, low social standing and appreciation of cultural ethics and responsibilities. The event often happened in relation to a combination of factors that an individual was battling.

Client Case
A client I supported in 2020 had a history of repeated adverse childhood experiences (A.C.E.). Their story is similar to the example in the super Soul Sunday Podcast at the bottom of this page.

Father left family before 10th Birthday.
Accompanied their mother who moved back home to live with parent.
Bullying begins in Yr5 by former friends. Name calling. Ostracization.
Bullying continues at secondary school Yr7. Ostracization. Fights. Personal belongings stolen.
School refuser Yr8 – Yr 11.
Parents and other care givers home school from 2nd term of Yr8.
Challenge by parents to school about insufficient support of their child.
Began using nicotine and alcohol aged 13.
Romantic engagement with an older person Yr 9 and Yr 10.
Parents attempt to reschool Yr 9.
Unsatisfactory school learning experience no secondary school qualifications.
Ineffective efforts made to challenge school and council about child’s treatment.
Reclusive and socially ostracised by peers 13 – 16.
Disordered attendance at college able to successfully graduate after 3 years retaking 3 G.C.S.E’s.
Studied English literature at a local university.
Connection with fellow students tentative.
Associative friendships increase risk taking and police involvement with family.
Serious offence leads to conviction and 1st prison sentence.

Client Engages
At prison the client brought many of their teen experiences in to treatment. They found therapy a challenge to encounter, as had little experience being supported by others outside of their family. trust was a considerable issue. Being in prison was also a huge attitudinal adjustment for them. Always with others. Unable to find quiet or acceptance or solace. Accessing therapy was their first experience of having time to think through their actions and feel the emotions in relation to the crime and sentencing. The client chose to examine elements of their past and the rejection and alienation faced whilst growing up. The client’s father leaving the family home was at the epicentre of their self image becoming destabilised. We worked on self acceptance and the hurt of being negatively confronted by a core group of peers. We also looked at failings of support in school and partially from home. A start was made to replace the clients unraveled sense of self. With 6 appointments the client was beginning to locate their sense of self acceptance and compassion for their earlier choices.

Expectant Ever Hopeful

Between the Bars
I realise that the part of being an artist that paints upon the canvas of life, is recognising myself as a dreamer. Influences arrive from the wild and off beaten track of chance encounters, client conversations, podcasts, books, TV, Film, Radio and music.

Air Pressure
The human will to change, develop, grow can be altered by a simple and daring act of connection. Prisons, probation, police with an altered perspective on the individuals that break the law, could be in the position to change lives positively. Time and energy could be given to men and women entering/leaving prison to develop and enhance acquired skills for pro-social means. The relationship being a dynamic that increases forensic communities chances of employability. Like deep sea diving or climbing a mountain.

Chrysalis
We, citizens, take for granted that there is an experience of life amongst society and encountering society, family, work that can take getting used to. It takes time. Those coming out of Lockdown 3.0 may recognise that it feels bizarre not to be living under curfew or state sanction to restrict the number of people one socialises with. There are tools and equipment that returnees are not accustomed to, to be able to manage life on the out. For some, the advent of social media, having a digital footprint, use of a mobile phone that take pictures, videos and can connect to the internet may seem like science fiction gone mad! One aspect that can be hard to move beyond for former incarcerated people is the sense of shame. This could be something remarkably shifted by group engagement/therapy/work/religious practice/reducing the idea of playing catch up. Emotional literacy and emotional intelligence could be pivotal for pro social choices to be continually made. The idea of a big picture world frame, to manage self within, that some members of society are scant equipped with from an early age.

Lifers Bakery
The Ear Hustle podcast (below) with Frena bakery offered me a wonderful perspective gaining invitation. If a workspace is willing to look at the big picture of an employee. Asking them to step into a large role. With support, guidance, nurturing and trust any person could achieve greatly. The owners of Frena Bakery appear to be touched with faith in the human spirit of moving beyond adversity to succeed. The owners appear like good parents. Kind, warm, firm and stewards for those who on leaving San Quentin correctional facility want to work and give something life affirming to the community. I am confident that the role is challenging, that there are mistakes and temptations. What the podcast emphasises is the willingness of the owners to take a risk and believe.

Don’t Stop

Half-way to restoration.
There are loose concepts about vulnerability that are beginning to formulate for me. In an earlier blog I referenced shame and what can happen when healing is engaged within community. One of the paths to healing old scars and gaping open psychological wounds lies in books like ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ and ‘It’s Not Always Depression’. Both books invite the reader to harness our inbuilt drive for change. The main way of healing for persons involved with the criminal system is to have a team of people who are invested in tertiary level desistance. The invitation is for us all to be in full communion with vulnerability. A scary and unwelcome concept. The reason for the idea – by opening, accepting, and folding in what has been expelled by society we can figure out how we helped create some of what we experience. It’s like creating a rich/complex sourdough. By incorporating the parts considered waste a fuller flavoured bread is achieved.

Fail Fast
Falling/failing is part of the story, as is allowing others to support us getting back up and moving forward. 

Resources
Ear Hustle Lifers Bakery
Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday with Shaka Senghor
Dr Sarah Lewis amidst potientia with Brené Brown 
3 Forms of Desistance by discoveringdessistance

Images
Cover photo by Klemens Köpfle on Unsplash Spiral
Photo by Dave Goudreau on Unsplash Woman
Photo by Matthew Spiteri on Unsplash Black and White group
Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash Never stop

Illiterate Paradox

The 2nd idea that raced across the glittering night of my mind was about a kindergarten/ Nursery through to industry education programme. That was the same night that Reaching and Teritary Desistance also appeared.

My son the 8th Grader, asked “what is a paradox?” I carefully answered whilst listening to Brené Brown and President Barak Obama discussing the term. “A paradox is, the ability of holding two seemingly opposite ideas as equal and finding that they are interlinked.” I said. Paradoxes are also a challenge to fully conceptualise. They seem like odd truths or true lies.

Live fully with the knowledge that one day life will end.
The final rule you need to remember is to ignore all the rules
“What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw

I wondered what if education was to support graduans and those still attending Uni, College, School, Nursery/Kindergarten to have a larger appreciation and use of emotional literacy and emotional intelligence? Could there be beneficial outcomes for a person who is able to be aware of their emotional landscape alongside others and make use of what they find?

Boats at harbour

What is emotional literacy
My understanding of emotional literacy is the ability to be able to know what one is feeling and be clear of how to make use of the feelings. Claude Steiner shares ideas here in reference to emotional literacy being different to emotional intelligence. I liked the idea of being able to feel and read the emotion first. Similar to when a person begins to learn to read letters/characters to be able to engage with the language of the culture.

What is emotional intelligence
My understanding of emotional literacy is the ability to be aware of how you are feeling. In a clear way express how one is feeling with some level of awareness and control. Reflexively interpret the emotions of others you are in contact/communion with. Also come to an awareness of the feelings/emotions of others by reading social cues accurately. The podcast link with Andy McNab explores the idea a little further (see below).

Learning continues
The understanding I have of emotional literacy and intelligence is largely influenced from my training as a counsellor and large life events that I have shared previously in earlier blogs. I recognise I have much more to learn, in relation to A.C.E.’s especially in relation to boundaries, stating what my needs are and making demands for what I want/don’t want. As a compassionate guide and someone who has not just survived a small t trauma, I am thriving on a number of levels and am leaning in to the discomfort finally. There is a sense of the small internal child stretching up towards a brighter warmer space.

Parellel Support

Cheesy
Having had a conversation with Anne Willoughby, who has an uncanny ability to skewer the last forgotten sizzling breaded halloumi at the back of the barbecue. Anne asked the ever important question. When are we were going to look down into that barely opened secret box, lightly labelled shame? She asked. Perhaps in not so many words. I believe she said “Why haven’t we had that conversation about…?” Before, when we ventured near this topic I had said I wouldn’t want to sully what our friendship had evolved into. A closer answer should have been that I was fearful of what might be uncovered when we go there. I think a small t trauma can colour and flavour everything in small ways, or like a red sock in a whites wash – change the colour of eveything. Emotional literacy I feel can help know up from down whilst moving through life.

Bravery
Inhaling I centred on my courage (knowing I wanted to run as far from this conversation as I ever have) and leaned in. I have watched and listened to a few others who have been open about adverse childhood experiences they have experienced (A.C.E.), survived, and been able to thrive beyond. Lisa Nichols, Dax Shepard, Tim Ferris, Sonya Renee Taylor and Ray Christian  have all recognised that it is not their shame or pain to carry. That the shame, guilt, secrecy and debilitating effects of the story belong to the hurt person(s) who hurt them. The earlier version of who they were then was merely collateral damage. A recogniseable by-passer invited into a soiled secret. A recipient of the unprocessed and misplaced looking for a secure vessel into and onto which they could transfer uncomfortable feeling and disordered information. I realise I have journeyed into a psychodynamic space on this topic. A sort of theoretical psychobabble. However by telling the story, to begin pulling up the murky contents and separate the self from the filth, a new healthy identity can be asserted.

Multiplicity
The idea would be to encourage us all to continue to grow into being able to communicate the emotion one feels as they broil about inside of us. What would it be like to confidently in all moments with trusted others share that specific energy in motion? The aim would be to develop and foster understanding between and amongst and not be shouted down and misunderstood. Another aim could be to appreciate the many different ways of being with emotion. The move and growth in understanding neurodiversity, neuroplasticity, non gender binary for me has invited an awareness of difference and human expression in all of its wonderful and varied forms. Slowing down the need for conclusions. We are to remain curious.  

Erhm…?

Near to 9th
The paradox at hand has much to do with the idea of youth being wasted on the young, being linked to an awareness of life for the living. And the young being aware that at some point it all changes regardless of protest or need! For my 8th grader the paradox for him, is about wanting to be out with friends, grow up, explore and be safe in relation to CoViD19, have all the power and privilege of an adult and none of the additional responsibilities that accompany an adult’s life role. Finding the middle space at this time, the in between knowing and not knowing, is hard.

I am excitedly wondering what our world would look like with sensitive and self aware emotionally literate stewardship? Reading Brené Brown’s dare to lead she wonders and shares the idea that emotional literacy is vital for all human life to begin walking courageously. Perhaps within a timeline that involves my children the illiterate paradox could be answered.

Perhaps the use of both explosive and hazardous expression would be understood in relation to personal and community impact. Individuation remains connected to and linked to many many more. A recognition that emotion also carries information that may want/need to be understood.

I feel that the commonality and experience of the individual linked to the experience of the community could be used to further communication, understanding and social and individual action. emotional intelligence and emotional literacy are linked with empathy and connection to others and to ourselves.

Perhaps

Resources
How to Fail with Elisabeth Day and Andy McNab
Brené Brown with Tim Ferris and Dax Shepard
Group Youtube from Irv Yallom’s Schopenhauer Cure

Images
Cover Photo by Ben Scott on Unsplash  
1st Inlay Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash In Lifting Others
2nd Inlay Photo by heylagostechie on Unsplash At the Computer
3rd Inlay Photo by Ismail Salad Hajji dirir on Unsplash boys whispering

On Shame

Question
What is it about this seemingly dirty and soiled word that has many recoiling as though struck? As though a memory from a distant past has returned like a forgotten thrown smelly damp sock, and hit dead centre – on the forehead?

Douse
Shame Brené Brown has discussed, as a thing that can be lessened by bringing it out into the light. It’s power is removed by our tongues movement, in sharing with trusted others how, why, when and with whom the event happened. Give the shame experience no-where to hide. Shame cannot survive out in the light. Empathy, Compassion and receiving love and understanding will make shame shrivel and die!

Triangle
Hilary Jacobs Handel has written about an open-hearted state we can all arrive at, if we follow the steps in her book ‘It’s Not Always Depression’. This great book looks at the change triangle and how a person using Hilary’s model with support can blow past depression and anxiety to become a functioning person accepting past hurts and living.

Dance
Kimberley Cato has mentioned that when we get through to the other side of this thing (mental wellbeing and finding mental health) and have done most of the heavy lifting with the process of healing we get to dance in sunshine. I like to think of dancing joyously in whatever the weather.

Design and Dance in Technicolour

Design
Joshua Isaac Smith has shared that once we really get moving, and let go of our trauma, pain and shame. We find ourselves at peace. It is here that we move beyond the story and begin writing and designing a script we want to live inside of.

During
So how do we get there? It sounds like a space that is too good to be true. After being involved with therapy for over 10 years as a counsellor/coach/consultant I have seen much of the before, lots of the during and some amazing aftereffects of working through past pains with clients.

I shared with a group of interested attendees and a panel of mental health professionals some of my ideas on shame. The event hosted by Kimberly Cato for True Roots Counselling Services was the 2nd in a series she has hosted discussing Black Mental Health concerns for the African Diaspora living in Canada and in the Americas.

Contact Kimberly for more information about the next MH awareness discussion. The conversations are informative and illuminating inviting attendees to realise, we are no longer alone!

Resources
Oprah with Brené Brown interview showing shame the door
Hilary Jacobs Hendel on shame

Images
Cover photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash
Inlay photo by Chad Walton on Unsplash

Writ.

Water came close to falling from
Eyes. I blinked and stalled them
Hard. They stayed hidden. Remained
My barely held secret. Didn’t want to
Loose them. Not then. They –
Jewels I wanted to savour.

Write for Life

There was another that
Invited them fall. And
Again caught somewhere mid
Throat. Coughs wouldn’t relieve them
Safe passage. Gravity
Couldn’t work her weak magic.

She peering over glasses,
Wisened, offered “So a writer then?”
Tremors. Words stalled
Near to where my tears
Caught. “Uh, a writer?
Me?”

Artist at Work

Was this a
Statement, an accusation,
A summation? Cracked imaginings
Flashed then held
Fast. The creative in me
Faltered then, laughed.

Stood wobbling, first then
Stoically. Staring ahead.
Afloat. Buoyed by her
Warmth. A barely heard
Whisper of thought.
Am I?

Message to the brave

The artist in me
Danced, 
A little. The smile caused 
Sunlight to blush and 
Came the answer, “Yes.
A writer. Then.”

Resources

Message of Hope Derrick Hodge
Writing to improve Mental Health
Revisionist History Hamlet was wrong

Images
Cover Photo Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
1st Inlay Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
2nd Inlay Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash
3rd Inlay Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

H.E.R.

Until I remembered a number of sharings,
Of personal stories
Of moments of loss and gain.
Hospitals.
Intravenous drips.
Transfusions.

A walk along an old street.
The sun hidden behind
Thin clouds. I remember
Trees whispering with intent.
Offering scents of a tomorrow
We both couldn’t grasp.

I was swept up in a story
Of lifting awareni.
But was falling.
Like dry leaves from
Branches overhead.
Those trees!

Tree Fall

I remember the warm
Glow. The awkwardness.
The unsaid.

The conversation belied
Contact that seemed
Omnipresent and
Yet scant.
We danced closely
In minds held by
Other times.

Never to meet
Intimately. But to be held
Fondly as memories
Of what could have been.
Remaining as a gift,
A laugh, a humming ache
With no short answer.

To dare,
To dream and never
Arrive at picture book
Endings. Feeling as though
Everything is possible.
Yet be damned by distance
Confusing

Improbability.

Resources
Inspired by H.E.R. Could Have Been
Cassandra Speaks Unlocking Us interview with Elizabeth Lesser and Brené Brown

Images
Cover photo by Muhammadtaha Ibrahim Ma’aji on Unsplash
Inlay Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash