Splitting off parts of myself for the allure of peace has been a way of coping with adverse events. This piece of writing I am setting myself the challenge of introducing a little-known aspect of myself. The aim to smooth re-integration and aid a hopeful release. All in 800 words or less. I am speaking of my shadow also unknown as my internalised sadist.
Why Now As you may have noted throughout this year (2022) these blogs are mini-pscyho exploratory stories where I hold an experience up and inspect carefully. The idea of the shadow and sadism follows two important conversations had with my supervisor and another with Joshua Isaac Smith. Who highlighted that whilst we hold sadism in our psyche we also suppress – fearing sadism’s strength to maraud through everyday functioning.
Corrupting With TV shows like House of Cards, The Wire, Game Of Thrones (GOT)and You, sadism reaches an honesty that is captivating, and yet also confusing. We find ourselves caught between wanting the best outcomes for those we develop an uncomfortable kinship. Perhaps with recognition of our own sociopath, psychopath, narcissist, sadist. Wanting these characters to thrive or overcome challenge, possibly relieves our trapped shadow selves. Witnessing them act out our suppressed desires offers us release. Safe, in that although acted by external bodies we recognise ‘the act’ as our unexpressed desire. Reich and Erikson offered psychoanalysis an understanding of human development. They wrote of the journey from childhood to adulthood. Exposing the infant to stages of human maturation that include masochism. The idea of sadism intrigued me enough to offer Joshua a metaphor. My Sadist locked in a submarine 20,000 leagues deep. Never to released.
Narcissist, Psychopath, Sociopath, Sadist I have written earlier of psychopathy and narcissism but not of sadism. The revelatory aspect I want to explore is the reason I had, locking my sadist and shadow away. Fear is a motivator. To act in ways that protect others and self. Healing not hurting people, another important factor that drives me. The sadist is willingly aware of the harm they cause. But also finds pleasure witnessing others suffer. We could argue that helping professionals, working with those who are in cycles of pain, may ‘enjoy’ relieving a suffering helpee. Could the wounded physician also be a healing sadist? My fear is if I were to bring to berth the submarine with it’s cargo of 1. What terror could I then be releasing? Better to have the sadist permanently held at an uncompromisable distance. Surely…
Association A vessel not only large enough but also capable of causing nuclear destruction I felt a fitting metaphor. The internal – mirroring the external. It is Bruce the Great White shark, losing his temporary control on his blood lust in ‘Finding Nemo’. Marty and Dory narrowly escaping being eaten. Bruce and his friends swimming away. The scene of the mines blowing up. The idea of why I have housed sadism out of harms way succinctly caught in the clip below. But in so doing, am I holding back an explosive yet necessary part of myself.
Volley Return Could there be a physical outcome to a once experienced trauma? A destabilising event at an earlier point in my life had me hold horror, anger and confusion. I learned to keep these emotions hidden. I didn’t have the words. Acting out with aggression brought unwanted attention including punishment and questions. Choosing instead to let imagination find balance, not justice. Seeking vengeance against ‘them’ was not viable. Perhaps here the passive aggressive 1000 tiny paper cuts method was given life. In admitting that I sought retribution satisfies the angry part still left in me. Psychology has offered understanding settling the disquiet of what happened.
Rigidity What is the cost to a person continually suppressing their internal shadow or sadist? Do we become rigid and inflexible in thought and physical presence. And also somehow short changed in how we engage with the world? Has the submarine not only caged a part of myself I have little trust with, but also magically ensnared my body too? MS is in the mix here as well. Possibly the cause for the inflexibility lies first with a psychological cage that has then become a physical extension.
Shade Clients are given chance to struggle with their shadow. Beneath the umbrella are the parts of the self that others and society have said are undesired, not valued, wrong, nasty, cruel, ugly. We may have decided, to disown and live on as though they aren’t important. They are. The challenge is to collect parts discarded and make use from them. Each disowned piece contains a lesson or memory that leads to growth and change.
Wobble My internalised untrusted self the sadist is an unrefined being. Potentially with the power and will to burn everything I value down into ash. What I have failed to recognise is the energy of the former submarine dweller. The positives of balancing sadism with acceptance. A combination of understanding, compassion and concentration might equal the might of sadism. The drive to achieve justice of past hurts mercifully, is a journey I am now willing to take. I fear less the power of the sadist in me. Appreciating more what this fire offers – an uncertain balance.
Resources Stutz, this Netflix film offers us a chance to look at the inner workings of Jonah Hill’s psychiatrist and the tools he has shared with Jonah to support his growth. One tool I picked up was on the waiting to be vindicated. Never going to happen. Ever! So what now? Well… In Finding Nemo The shark scenes with Bruce Marty and Dory draw parallels between Sadism, Masochism, Psychopathy, Narcissism and sociopathy as well as group support. Wilhelm Reich links to a Wikipedia page overlooking the discoveries and ideas of Reich. Code Switch looks at past American presidents whose policies, words and beliefs affected race locally and globally. Tthe podcast intrigued me to observe what absolute power offers sadism. Jemele Hill shares her multiple stories with the Questlove crew who chop up what using your voice and being politically and socially active can change at a community and country wide level. Stutz a film by Jonah Hill Finding Nemo The Name’s Bruce Character Analysis by Wilhelm Reich Wikipedia Code Switch Podcast: Is Trump Really That Racist? Quest Love Supreme Podcast: Jemele Hill Pt 1 and 2
Many of these blogs are born from a filtering of information from a range of sources. Some arrive whilst in conversation with friends and family. The below is a hybrid of both. A large thank you to my sister Edwina and Ms. Amarpreet Ajji who both steered me through a number of tough realisations.
Adverse Hooch is well known as a legal and illegal alcoholic drink. In America – pruno is the colloquial equivalent. Moonshine is another name of illegally produced malted alcoholic beverages. Why am I writing about illegal liquor one might be inclined to ask? “Adversity is the mother of all invention”. My mum was fond of saying. This is my offering.
Locked In Having worked at over 10 prisons in the UK, and witnessed the ingenuity persons in prison extend themselves to – brewing alcohol illegally, there is a truth to my mum’s saying above, that I wanted to explore here. The common experience of hardship creating solution. If there wasn’t difficulty, poverty or war, would development of the advances that exist in the world currently be with us?
Community Links Living in Canada I am unable to be employed. My migrant status is under review. My ‘In Country’ application has been in process for over a year. In that time I have had chance to volunteer my support as a psychotherapist for True Roots as a panelist, and also as a co facilitator of their men’s monthly check in and chats series, ACCA as a volunteer co-ordinator for the organisation’s Individual and Family support programme, and most recently as a member of the St. Leonard’s Society of Hamilton that support individuals with rehabilitation after a custodial sentence. There is also a piece of work at McMaster University in Autumn I am looking forward to be involved with. I haven’t stopped engaging in purposeful activities it looks different at the moment.
Combustion The sloth of my application currently being processed by Canada’s immigration service is at the centre of my reasoning for Hooch. My ability to work and contribute, as in the UK, is hampered by slow processing. A low-grade frustration builds like a storm cloud. Similar to the lazy afternoon pull and erasure of dry wipe marks from a board that once held the allure of valuable information. The teacher oblivious, uncaring or both. Queue the classroom explosion.
Brew Hooch is a bi-product of ingenuity meeting boredom, opportunity and time. The blogs are my attempt to produce something potent and as therapeutic in a collection of words as hooch are for those behind ‘the wall’. Offering a taste of freedom. By writing I ease the storm cloud’s weight. If each letter were a droplet of rain, perhaps by the end of this year the rain cloud could become like cirrus – light as wisps of steam caught in rarefied air.
Expense Existing as a non-entity has perils: unaffordable health care, costly health and car insurance, inability to join the labour force, nonexistent credit rating, poor social mobility or cultural capital. Confidence repeatedly dashed against the rocks of doubt ‘Will this ever…?’ I am not alone in sensing the vacuum. A hoovering up of all that was known about a temporaneous life before the move is common for an immigrant.
Slow Down Whole communities have travelled from one country into another, and sometimes into yet more. Some – held in an infernal holding pattern such as Tom Hanks in the film Terminal, knowing the turmoil of life in absentia. And more living with the daily concerns: imminent threat of permanent removal re. ICE, deportation holding centres, dashed plans to reunite with family, job prospects and hopes of starting to live once more, following the global lockdown – held just beyond reach. An added sting of not knowing reasons for the omnipresent delay.
Process As a former sourdough bread baker and investigator of the subtle art of Kimchi (Sauerkraut restores gut health too) I wonder about the end of my waiting experience. I recognise that there is a fermentation taking place. A general awareness of developments I am not involved with. The experience – maddening and wildly frustrating. Space is taken to think a little, and share some of my thoughts with you. For me the sharing is the main point of writing these truncated missives – fermentation’s produce – Hooch.
Resources The ACCA links to the Afro Caribbean Canadian Association’s website, where you can find out a little bit more about the organisation is achieving in Hamilton. St Leonard’s takes readers to the SLSH website, one can take a look at all that this inspiring organisation does. Sourdough takes you to the almost fool proof method of creating and crafting a sourdough bread by Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall. I am yet to make Kimchi. When I do I will follow Sue’s recipe. There are a range of studies that introduce the concept of our guts being our 2nd brain. Sean Brock is another find on Netflix who has an interesting take on flavour, pickling and fermentation. The article by Sandor Katz looks at fermentation’s power to transform cooking/baking. I enjoyed reading their interpretation of brewing cultures to transform ingredients for a diners culinary pleasure. A House Divided by Code Switch introduces a family that reside in the US under different policies of immigration. A number of complexities arise from their differing legal status. My Lying Eyes by This American Life explores the complex experiences of migrants to the US. Some appear to be allowed quick safe passage whilst others are left with a complex and dangerous route. Bassem Youssef introduces a number of important reflections about civil unrest, seeking justice and being an immigrant. The Stoop’s excellent coverage of Black life introduced a micro tear in the fabric of being othered outside of North America. Code Switch A House Divided This American Life My Lying Eyes Pod Save The World – Bassem Youssef The Stoop – I’m Black and I’m Jameela
To build muscle one needs to put the reps (repetitions) in. So shared by various online fitness enthusiasts, coaches, trainers, physios. Even Ms. Snow, my friend the personal trainer (PT) advised. A daily core practice would support me in all I do now and later in life. I sought Ms. Snow’s advice to help me with the depleting effects of MS. To build strength, conditioning, discipline the same could also be true. One is to repetitively – with purposeful engagement put in the reps. I wonder what then of empathy, cultural competence, listening and compassion?
And So What? For me last month’s post re. The Completion Compulsion supported ideas of just because something has begun, does it mean it has to end in its usual fashion? The ongoing war in Ukraine, the conflicts in relation to Black Lives Matter, Me Too, the proposed ideological conspiracy of the Great Replacement Theory, the impending world grain shortages, possibilities of an economic recession, a world at war and ecological upheaval destabilise a sense of normalcy. Reality was never predictable even if the human animal has attempted to make it so.
Pardon? A slower more complicated understanding of both global and provincial challenges would be to appreciate that there may only be one problem that can be solved. Once complete, we can then move on to the next. I am mindful that we all probably aren’t asking as many questions to determine what the problem should be defined as. Einstein is reported to have said, ‘if given an hour to solve a problem he would spend 55 minutes asking questions to thoroughly understand the challenge in front of him.’
Rush From the war in Ukraine, the recent massacres in Buffalo, Texas, and Nigeria the human animal seems to be at odds with itself. ‘Finger pointing’ does little to answer these questions a client said to me recently. To resolve the many deaths, the overwhelming sense of being lost, or of being on a runaway train without a driver and crew. Much like the Pandemic we are all very much ‘in it’ with little chance of escape. Let’s begin asking questions, not necessarily to only find solution, but also to raise our capacity for critical thought and to claim responsibility for what we do next.
Silk Road The fraying fabric of our now has brought to our beleaguered attention spans the onslaught of gross upheaval, change and uncertainty. The concept of a repetitive exercise – to improve the human capacity to remain outside of chaos and stay in contact with our collective realities is the charge I am levelling here. Can we? Has the march towards the end of civilisation as we know it, begun?
Backing Out I am mindful of the work of Resmaa Menakem and his assertion that whilst we attend to the heavy lifting of deep psychological spiritual restructuring, he also advises that we stop when the work gets too much. He is famous for saying “Pause, just pause, notice the charge and back out of it. Come back to it when you feel you can manage…” The completion compulsion installed in many, invites us to run through the experience of whatever the pain, shame, blame may be so we can arrive at ‘reframe’. The reframing is the prize promise held out for us after surviving the assault course of paying attention to what ails. Talking about or allowing the body to somatically process and release the pain is what Resmaa is advising. If not today, then at some other time when one is capable of managing the charge. Once one has built up enough strength to withstand the labour of what the charge presents. We survive, we heal and we grow.
Drawing Parallels 10 minutes can be enough to suggest both the satisfaction of annihilation and understanding existence anew. The first episode of Love Death + Robots I watched, called Zima Blue, presents an interesting take on a new, yet old story. If humanity had a search for meaning, that resulted in arriving at as straightforward a solution as the protagonist Zima does in this Netflix show, perhaps many of our protests about living and dieing the way that we currently are, would be less torturous. Simply, we are no more or less important than pollen, dust, a water droplet, sand, microbes or subatomic particles. Yes we have sentience, morals, laws, science, philosophy, religion, art. How do we know that sand, like sub atomic particles does not have intelligence? Sand is able to find it’s way into food, homes and machine parts uninvited isn’t it? How is this so? Like sand we also have an incalculable ability to find ourselves in perilous circumstances with an always present entropy. How intelligent/sentient are we to have both the ability to creatively build and yet also to completely destroy?
Flex Putting in the work of building up our ability to remain safe and conscious takes time, practice, resourcing, awareness and a team of committed individuals to support what is unearthed to be integrated, left or discarded. There is no specific end point, only a continual learning, implementing, contracting and expanding. Much like a muscle, strength is maintained as long as the practice is continued and consistent. The reason for the effort is to improve outcomes for the many that perhaps have little or lack resources, or voice. Perhaps the voiceless show through action that every decision made has a direct consequence that impacts upon us in the now and definitely will in the future: Beached whales, birds dieing from plastic consumption, fertile land loss, mudslides, millions of hectares of arable land ablaze, centuries old glaciers collapsing and shrinking…
Vigil In May I attended a candlelight vigil for the massacre in Buffalo. The event was arranged by the leader of ACCA and the youth development co-ordinator Evelyn Myrie and Talibah Howard. The mood sombre. The need for a public show of support and community display of solidarity was met appropriately. I mentioned during my talk that since Rodney King’s, attack over 20 years ago, I have been numb. The idea was shared amongst peers for a True Roots discussion on the 2nd year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. I believe grieving can have a similar effect. As Lama Rod Owen suggests below, continuing the journey out of the numbness, into a broken hearted state. I feel resourced and ready to build the muscles by putting in the reps. At the horizon, where sky meets earth: answers.
Simply Because The aim is to do better with the tools and knowledge available to us and make changes in the systems of education, finance, money management, manufacturing, waste disposal and looking after the whole of life as if our lives depend on it. Because we do!
If we don’t put the reps in we won’t have the chance of ever arriving…
Resources Steve Rose’s article in the Guardian was interesting for what has been misrepresented as the ‘truth’ in relation to Black Brown and white lives in conflict for access to live as equitably as possible. Philip Hoare writes about the research on whales and dolphins beaching themselves. Initially I thought that whales beached themselves due to illness caused by digesting plastic waste. The article dispels my basic awareness. Jaymi Heimbuch Photographer, conservationist shares their story about the tragic impact of plastic waste on the environment. They list 9 steps to reduce plastic waste in seas and land fills. The Happiness Lab with Dr. Lori Santos and Arianna Huffington exquisitely explores the misunderstanding we have about rest, sleep, restoration and vitality. Going slower, doing less, concentrating on 1 or 2 tasks does not make us lazy or slow. Possibly focussing on a small number of projects, having the energy to complete them helps us feel satisfied. Sleeping is a conduit to living well. The Link here takes you to the site of the Nap Ministry. Listening to this episode of the Happiness Lab reminded me of the industrial revolution and the idea of being a wheel in an international production machine. The nap ministry introduces another way to make use of and access work. The Other Front Lines from This American Life invites us to observe conflict in Ukraine from a number of perspectives. Resistance and survival appear different to various communities in Ukraine. Prentis Hemphill interviews Lama Rod Owens about our misunderstanding of anger, and the emotion’s misuse, mislabelling and what we can do once anger gives way to something more. Brené Brown on Unlocking Us contends with the difficult experience of the epoch we are in and what will be experienced, lost and eventually realised. I enjoyed Brené Brown discussing the insurrection at the Capitol Building in 2021 and what may be inferred from the show of avarice and hubris. Guilane Kinouani and Eugene Ellis discuss their books and their encounters writing about race as psychotherapists, living whilst Black and what the journey ahead entails. The Happiness Lab BONUS: Sleep When You’re Dead Tired (LIVE with Arianna Huffington) This American Life The Other Front Lines Ukraine stories Finding Our Way Prentis Hemphill and Lama Rod Owens Radical Anger Brené Brown Unlocking Us Words, Dehumanization, Accountability Therapy Today: The Big Interview with Guilane Kinouani and Eugene Ellis
‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ Viktor Frankl
A few years ago an interesting idea blossomed. The thought, to interrupt the want and wish to complete an idea or action. A few experiences helped to solidify these concepts. I will detail below. Explaining thoughts like these, are useful to those interested in psychological models. Also those interested in relieving unhelpful ruminative thoughts.
IOM The Case of Ms. Snow. For a few years I worked as a forensic mental health practitioner for Together for mental wellbeing. My role at the charity changed a number of times. I began working with one probation service in Greenwich (Jan 2015). In May/June 2015 I supported 6 probation services. The Probation service NPS/CRC (National Probation Service/Community Rehabilitation Company) were adapting to a new model of resource management. As a result the NPS contract with Together changed. ‘Doing more – with less’ was the theme of the new contract. After a year of supporting Probation services in Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Merton and Sutton, I transitioned to working within the Southwark probation service. The new role was to support in partnership with Probation, Police, Housing, Substances and Rehabilitation and employment. I provided the mental health arm of support to individuals involved with the IOM (Integrated Offender Management) programme.
Messy Ms. Snow a probation officer was a ‘conversational’ courts assessor. We held a fast friendship. Discussing the challenges the service users faced and how IOM and probation were aligning to provide improved health outcomes. Ms. Snow was particular about her work-station organisation! Post it notes, coloured pens, pads and computer set up just so. With impish glee, I took great pleasure in re-arranging a few items at her desk. I had an idea of how much the rearranging offset her equilibrium. Ms. Snow also shared in making a mess of my workspace in a similar way too. I wasn’t as organised or as particular about my workstation. Her efforts often caused me to smile. It’s the thought that…
Re-Arrange I would disturb Ms. Snow’s station and then leave to meet a client and on returning note what was disturbed in my area too. Without fail Ms. Snow’s arrangement of her work area would return to pens and note pads and post it notes – to as they were before my involvement. We joked about her compulsion to restore ‘order’. We laughed about my need to increase entropy. An uneasy alliance formed about the balance between order and chaos. Her need to reassemble and my want for disorder. 2 adults acting like children in a serious setting, professionally shepherding adults facing significant difficulties. The idea for the Completion Compulsion was borne in that space. Chaos curiously can invite/inspire order.
Non-Compos The irrationality of tidiness, or the discomfort caused by presumptions of messy work stations/offices/cars/bed/kitchen/living rooms is linked to an idea of messy space = messy mind. ‘An indicator of instability or a ‘marker’ of mental illness, some assume. Ms. Snow and I joked, laughed and made fun of her near incessant need to bring order to what appeared as chaos. A representation of the organisations and people we were working amongst at probation and Together, perhaps. An experience at a staff lunch emphasised the want for both order and completion. A common phrase was said by me which began something like ‘No smoke without…’ or ‘Sticks and Stones may break my bones but…’ As you read these words I wonder have you chosen to complete these well worn phrases? Was there an involuntary sigh as you recognised that leaving the phrases incomplete draws attention to something agape in you, unsatisfactorily incomplete? If so, you are now aware of a compulsion to complete. Because not closing the loop is often discomforting.
Unusual Another example of a completion compulsion arrived whilst working 2 years later as a counsellor at a women’s prison in Kent. The client recently convicted. Troubled by the nature of the crime they were accused and sent to prison for. They found accepting the circumstances of being in prison impossible to bear. The crime they were sentenced for, far outside of their ‘regular’ life experience. This will not be a blog proclaiming their innocence or guilt about the crime accused and sentenced for. The blog is a piece of writing explaining how we (both *Stacey and me) were on course to interrupt her thought patterns.
Unsupported At our first and following meetings, an exploration of Stacey’s past was uncovered. The complicated details of her education, schooling experiences and friendship networks were shared. Ideas of her being a wall flower, bullied, disliked and unsupported by peers. We unpacked what her relationships with friends and teaching staff were like. Departures were another group of people observed. Either she had left them or they had moved away from her. Her current experience of being bullied at the prison by other detainees – a reminder of her past and an uncomfortable undeniable truth about her present. Intrusive thoughts, depression, low self esteem and a waning sense of resilience were discussed and carefully explored.
Projection We talked about patterns of behaviour and associated ideas Stacey held about herself and the past. The intrusive thoughts were linked to her disbelief about being sentenced and about the accusation that brought her to prison. Her dislike of prison. Being away from her family. Confronting difficulty daily. Her life at East Sutton Park, these aspects of her new world she was dissociated from as she had been understandably in her past. A dislocation of how her life was supposed to have turned out Stacey was barely willing to face. It was here that the interruption was to be placed. Starting with a simple game of recognising a patterned hand clap was the launch point of creating something safe and new.
Play Why a game? Most games are fun to play! There is a sense of learning and enjoyment in game play. The 1,2, 1,2,3, 1,2,3,4, 3,4 hand clap is immediately recognisable. Stacey smiled as she recognised and then was able to complete. The next part of the completion compulsion game is to start the pattern of the 1,2, 1,2,3, 1,2,3,4, and not clap the 3,4 part of the pattern. The reason for this is to support tolerance of non-completion. Recognising that surviving the compulsion, is part of building an awareness to interrupting a way of being. The magic of the completion compulsion took root. What was introduced for Stacey was a new cognitive pathway and a resilience to trying something new. The game part makes the completion compulsion accessible and immediately recognisable. She smiled with concentration as she aimed not to complete the pattern. Her feet tapped out the last part of the pattern after 15 seconds.
Sigh We laughed at how this challenge was offered and at how silly the idea of not completing left her feeling. After a few more attempts we were able to breath through the conflicting need of not completing the pattern. When Stacey identified that she could choose to either ignore or complete the compulsion she was able to live inside a paradigm shift. A woman free of the obligation to only see herself as a prisoner, as a person cast out from society for perpetrating a crime. But also to appreciate that she was a creative, able to interpret written material and support others with reading and writing at the prison.
Bi-ped I was later taught in 2019 EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing). Engaging a client with bi-lateral stimulation (clapping, tapping, walking, lateral eye movements or saccades) changes neuro-pathways in the brain. Establishing a validity of cognition helps to embed an alternative way for a client like Stacey to perceive themselves anew. Interrupting the compulsion to complete a familiar upsetting pattern, is key to establish and access ideas of choice, space and alternative possibilities.
Applause There are unseen rewards for completing a pattern. We are rewarded by a hormone feed of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins when a recognised pattern is successfully achieved. For example: the door was shut after using it, the sentence complete, the thought pattern arriving at it’s pre-imagined end.
Abrupt Some degree of discomfort is caused when the pattern is disrupted. When the pre-destined arrival at the ‘end’ is unmet. If you can, think about calling a tele-service for banking, telecommunications, TV, Insurance or other customer experience. Passing amongst the laborious numbered steps to finally, eventually speak with someone. The service alerting you of how long the call may take until you speak with a representative. As a loyal customer, you are mentally prepared for the 5 – 30 minute wait. You’ve made time for this. The annoying music has clicked through convincing you of progress being made. Just before the call is about to be patched through to a real live person, the line goes quiet and next all that is heard is dial tone.
Livid If like me you’re already stretched patience breaks and you begin hurling abuse at the company, and the rubbish telephone service offered, an awareness of the completion compulsion is present. Mainly because of the call not going the way you had planned. The eventual end of the conversation has been hi-jacked. The choices that someone in this position is left with are to leave the call to another time, call again immediately, rage fueled or to vow never to engage with this service again!
Battle The reward arrives once completion of the action is met. After the tenseness of the situation is passed, a relief then fills the space that was formerly occupied. The feeling can be heightened with either food, drink, a good conversation, laughter or movement. But the reward arrives after survival of the event. Such a strong word to use to describe tolerating a moment of low stress. However it is like a micro battle of wills and wants. To have the thing sought one has to travel through the mire to the other side. We could put up walls, convincing ourselves that we don’t need the service. But the uncomfortable truth is that we recognise the importance of whatever the service is and yes, do still need. So once more back into the fray.
Relief The completion compulsion idea is to learn tolerance of discomfort and disconnected completion. We have a pre-conceived patterned ending in mind. Reward hormones are queued up waiting to bathe the brain with feel good rewards. A peak moment of stress. Followed by an intentional interruption. The usual ending averted. Instead – a period of non-activity, of waiting, or long held moments for curiosity to brew. Asserting another possible wanted completion. Preferable to the interruption. An alternative could be as readily accepted as a proposed pre-planned expected outcome. A positive cognition is what we want the mind to begin accepting. Then allow the ‘happy’ bath of the brain to commence.
Metamorphosis For me, returning to the women’s prison a fortnight later, Stacey shared that there had been a change to her intrusive ideas. Speaking with family outside of the prison a shift in perception had started. Stacey and her family were lodging an appeal about her conviction. A spark of prevailing had begun to be established. Stacey had started a difficult transition to appreciating herself as a person in prison. By interrupting a pattern of thinking a newer cognitive model could be inserted and made use of. She had been able to challenge those who were making things difficult for her in prison. A visible change was noted as we completed our work after 6 appointments. Stacey appeared satisfied with how she was viewing her past, present and future.
Arrivé A simple game of moving things around on a desk turned into a game of interrupting thought completions in Stacey’s mind, resulting in a new way to appreciate herself and her life. The Completion Compulsion initially is to bring to awareness the need to close a loop. Don’t! Wait. See what else arrives…
@calm There is a gap between every heart beat, breath, event and response. Not only does choice exist in the space between but also a powerful awareness awaits #meditation M.O.
Resources I have cast my resource net wide to offer a useful collection of ideas in relation to interrupting our usual pattern of success arrival. Code Switch podcast features an in-depth episode from The Nod featuring unknown celebrities who should be household names. In light of the recent events in Buffalo, I wanted to offer another story of Black life, filled with glamour joy, some tragedy and restitution. From Criminal an unknown story of a man’s choice to create state wide change. Interruption of a status quo is how Dr. Dudley E. Flood engaged with segregation and changed the experience of schooling in North Carolina. The Happiness Lab features Dr. Laurie Santos considering how intrusive thoughts can be redirected in this episode of The Happiness Lab. I end with Dr. Brené Brown’s interview with Adam Grant and the benefits of remaining with an idea past it’s natural conclusion point and reconsidering an initial viewpoint. The highlight for me was when Brené spoke about the Priest and the Prosecutor. There being a fear about the Politician and what they can do with words. Code Switch ft The Nod podcast They Don’t Say Our Names Enough Criminal podcast The Boycott The Happiness Lab podcast Don’t think of the white bear Brené Brown and Adam Grant Think Again
For a few months now the idea of connection has been spinning. A few concepts have been attempting ascendency. Their want – to remain as consistent lenses for viewing the world through. These lenses tinted by the topics of: Shame, Open hearted state, Vulnerability, Listening, Attention and Intimacy. Merging together they have made a mind soup. Appealing in colour. Rich in flavour. Texture silky with some identifiable and unknown contents awaiting discovery therein. It’s the after taste of umami, that has my head to the side – questioning…
Vulnerability – Intimacy A counselling conversation recently, wandered close to the cliff edge of danger, curiosity and discovery. Most do. My hope with the below is that I can summarise and offer some of what was covered. Many of the counselling engagements I have throughout my working week pull and stretch understanding along a range of different paths. We were observing vulnerability as a component of being with others/another. That being amongst a space of vulnerability, is ultimately a goal often ventured but not soon realised. My mind turbo charged – whispered ‘but what of intimacy?’
Attention Deficit I shared my understanding of the world’s lurch toward certainty and attention with the client. When the opposite of attention, offers just as many outcomes and rewards. As likely to resolve a few human wants. I’ll share my basic understanding. We have a world focused on assessing and evaluating what can be made use of. What can be managed safely. If there is profit or gain. What can be left, lost or discarded. Veering wildly away from risk. Presenting the unknown unknown as problematic, unchartered and dangerous. In Narcissus is Us, I wrote about the draw of hiding behind a mobile device that offers the promise of connecting with others, but increasing a feeling of separation and loneliness. Our detriment. By venturing an unknown, new learnings, experiences and appreciations can be gathered. Are these encounters not as valuable as the ones we know and expect?
Switch Tracking Attention can be useful. By becoming aware of global issues, we can ask ourselves and others difficult questions and be willing to listen for answers. Humanity is curious by nature. Often we want to find reasons for things working the way that they do, or not. We can then find possible solutions. Alternatively flicking between a number of sources, to entertain ourselves is often the outcome of our attention being used. I wonder at what cost? Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’, offered a useful interpretation of where our global attention is affixed. Our ‘seeing’ a range of images, stories, videos, links to sales and profit for an elite few. Attention is a way of being used to support financial reward for companies globally – not us, the user.
Pause for Cause My interest here is what are we losing, or have already lost? Could our attention deficit cause disconnection? Would we be aware of this trend? The CoViD19 pandemic, the global racial reckoning after the public murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the rise in technological dependency and entertainment, potentially may have instigated a turning away from trusting relationships with each other and specifically within ourselves. Use of telecommunication devices such as: Google Meet, MS Teams, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp Video Call, Apple’s FaceTime, offer a semblance of remaining in contact with and a newer way of connecting with others. I wonder if “the being with” is the same? Is there an unknown component being lost? In my case, living on a different continent to those I support. I am dependent on mobile communication and working agilely. Does convenience increase or decrease contact?
Vulnerability I will use Brené Brown’s counsellor’s words to begin this part of the discussion. Vulnerability is both *exfoliatingly excruciating and **excitingly exquisite. Vulnerability is similar to walking a tightrope across a canyon. There is both risk and beauty to be had in both. To know that there could be pain attached to being vulnerable, can make us less willing to share much of ourselves. There could also be a wonderful sense of release, relief and resuscitation with letting go – the armour and shield. When we are in a place that we feel is safe enough. That the company we keep can bear witness to our vulnerability. We can get to the next more pleasing experience of being with, with less distance, less fear more empathy and a sense of being held.
Opening In last years post On Shame I placed emphasis on how to use shame to support growth. Both Hilary Jacobs Hendel and Brené Brown in their books, and interviews, share what living in an open-hearted way, looks and feels like. Another perspective of what learning arrives once Brown’s and Jacobs Hendel’s work takes root. We become engaged with the possibility of daring greatly, being compassionately congruent, and living within the scope of intimacy. The idea of engaging consistently in an open-hearted way, presents challenge. Would we be able to, with the world sliding towards the solipsistic? I wonder what do we gain from the pretense? That a me-centric view of the planet has us on course to irreparably damage ourselves and the biosphere we inhabit. A rise in mental illness could illustrate that the construct of the world we are living in, is unhealthy. Perhaps there are other ways to be in the world?
Dive Of late my concerns are about the bare-naked truth of limited interaction with others. Telecommunication has limits. Hearing and seeing, can be experienced from afar. But what of the sense of felt presence of being in the same space/room with another, with others? What happens to the intimacy of non-verbal communication? The hand gesture that is not seen as a result of the glitchy nature of WiFi, or the LAN cable disconnect, power outage? My client wondered if vulnerability was similar to a person going for a swim at their local swimming pool. Bathing suit on. Walking out carefully along the mid level diving board. Bouncing up and down. In full view of everyone else, but not piking and diving into the pool. Vulnerable yes. Intimate not yet.
Listening To experience unity and no degree of separation, the pool into which we dive is to be receptive. We were vulnerable bouncing up and down on the diving board. We move from vulnerability to intimacy when we leap forward into the pool. The water, willing and able to embrace us well. With the capacity to support if we were poor swimmers. The want to be intimate and vulnerable with others is linked to the spaces and people with whom we could share our tenderness and theirs. If the listening environment is primed and ready to accept, hear, understand, sharing will be an easier happening between those in the room/space. A few examples of altered listening were provided whilst I was training to become a counsellor/psychotherapist. We were asked to share a story with another student sitting opposite us. Who showed obvious signs that they were not paying any attention to what the storyteller was saying. Yawning, feigning sleep, mouthing the words this is so boring. I witnessed one student, stand and walk off! The vibe of these encounters felt uncomfortable for both the teller and the listener. A listening environment, in time becomes as valuable to a personal exchange as the “what” is shared in those spaces.
Unity Intimacy being the submersion. The hitting the water. Pushing up from the bottom of the pool. Bubbles. Breaking the surface. Gasping. Ejecting water from the mouth. Treading water. Feeling the cool. Spreading fingers and swishing the water in full play. Swimming the full length of the pool. Intimacy then, is bringing oneself into an experience of being with. Recognising self as separate from and yet being willing to fully commit, engage and be for however long enmeshed and inside of. Willingly being embraced and held by that other. Looked after by many trusted others. And you them. Intimacy is an act of trust. An act of faith that they, you, can exist as a oneness. Separation the umami taste of the soup. Within an intimate encounter, an ingredient that aims to dissolve union. Or possibly to enhance it.
Algorithm To move from distrust to intimacy, I wonder what the way of growth would be? Distrust, Dislike, Disappointment, Ambivalence, a positive experience, many positive experiences, Questioning throughout, Acceptance of what is, Testing self, Testing others, Failure and willingness to starting again – many times, Independence, Pauses, Building Resilience, Empathy, Compassion, Disciplined hope, Trust, Vulnerability, Intimacy…?
Event Horizon The path I propose to intimacy would likely be non-linear. My guess would be that the journey would be with a number of restarts from various positions listed above. I believe at our core, we seek connection and are excited by the prospect of being intimate (honest, open, collaborative, risking vulnerability) with others. 2020 was a beginning of a different way of living for many on the planet, perhaps there is another pull, daring us towards –
Resources The Anthropocene and all that is to be discovered in an ever changing human/non human landscape are subjects that Ayana and Dr. Bayo sit down to discuss. Dr. Bayo conjures in discussion with Ayana, a plethora of viewpoints through which to learn, question and revisit our understanding of spaceship earth. Masterpieces and Messes with Brené Brown and Jason Reynolds observes the up and down nature of discovery, loss, heartbreak and getting suspended from school for doing the right thing! A wonderful dance to listen to. Mistakenly Seeking Solitude uncovers a long-held myth. Being by oneself, holding oneself in abeyance does not make us happier, talking to strangers does. Dr. Laurie Santos with guests explain. Maya Shankar uses this podcast to investigate how significant events in hers and her guests lives leads to break through’s discoveries and successes. Failing can lead to break down and break through and intimate connection. For the Wild podcast with Ayana Young and Dr. Bayo Akomolafe Unlocking Us Brené Brown and Jason Reynolds The Happiness Lab – Mistakenly Seeking Solitude with Dr. Laurie Santos A Slight Change of Plans – Meet Maya Shankar in Conversation with Michael Lewis
The feeling of love experienced or expressed in the psychotherapy ‘room’ is a complex dynamic to encounter. I will attempt to analyse this phenomena and my experiencing of a profound and surprising blossoming in the counselling relationship.
Fission During training at Greenwich University to become a counsellor, we (students) were advised and taught about the growing of warm intimate feelings between client and counsellor, warned of the dangers of developing a relationship that is based on unseen and unknowable factors. That drive powerful ingredients and are most often used as a catalyst to the counselling dyad. Like a nuclear physicist, carefully bespectacled, be-gloved and radiation suited – mindfully managing radioactive substances as though all errors could, end not only the experiment but her life and the lives of many. And so this last development in healing is to be handled with care.
Defying Gravity Recently I learned that in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy the client is inpart ‘supposed’ to fall in love with their counsellor. Thus recreating the powerful and intimate connection a client may have had with primary care givers. Evolution of intense feelings are a bi-product of meeting with one person and sharing intimate, hidden aspects of ones life with a trained professional week after week, at times for years. Psychotherapy can be a significant challenge for those, who find being open, congruent, honest or trusting of themselves or another an uncomfortable and at times a painful invitation to encompass change. The other outcome is that a client is to also fall out of love and humanise the counsellor. Finding fault where once there was none. The client potentially can then enter the final phase of support. Looking to gain perspective on granular aspects of living life alongside another, who is willing to also acknowledge all aspects – comparatively-realistically-compassionately.
Flowering Before a client enters the counselling room, there may have been past experiences of hurt. Vulnerability being squashed or vanquished by those appointed to care, however these carers did not, could not. And so the person who takes their seat across from the counsellor is rightfully wary. The past has taught them to be alert, to any hint, that any form of harm, insult or embarrassment is met in a formerly used similar self-protective way (Friend, Fight, Flee, Freeze). In time the furtive eyes – dart less. The slightly scrunched body posture unfurls. Petal like. They are able to hold gazes more and then, they really speak. In this place, at these times there is almost a oneness in communication between counsellor and client. It feels like flight. A sense of trust is establishing itself and the distance between the people in the room disappears…
Transpersonal An encounter with a client left me floundering last year. They said just before our session came to a close, “I Love You, Man.” I believed I knew what they meant. They were affirming that something important and meaningful was being recognised in them and that they found this emergent quality both beautiful and surprising. Returning the sentiment with a depth of feeling, by not just saying the words was the difficult part for me. I have been inside these moments of heartfelt connection before. They always surprise and invite me to think about what the counselling work has been able to begin attending to. Like a Doula bringing to life, to light – the unseen…
Transact With the client I hoped that my words and commitment to the challenging work we were engaged with were enough. Simply saying in a constricted, halting way ‘I love you’ would not have conveyed honestly the depth of feeling I hold for the work and for them (clients). I floundered because in the transaction something of equal value is to be offered in the moment. This is a societal lesson. Anything less seems unfair. There was little time left at the end of the session. I knew that a rushed offering would lose the content and meaning of the message. In that moment I may have smiled and nodded and shown my appreciation. Hoping that a felt sense of mindful embrace would convey my connection to them and to the work. The fear, my fear was that I couldn’t bring balance to the exchange. That would be my work to walk with and process in counselling supervision.
Scent Sense We could look at the meaning of the word love specifically in the psychotherapeutic space. However, love has more than a romantic application. I believe that just like the term therapy, there are layered and have multiple reasons and applications of both words use. “I Love You” is an expression of appreciation, recognition, a felt sense of something significant and a not easily identified pleasant sensation. I love you is an acknowledgment of a connection beyond a simple like. There are probably 7 billion expressions, interpretations and mis-understandings of the deeply intimate and connection filled word love. In counselling the relationship between those engaged in the process is similar to a friendship, or of a student and mentor. These relationships are anything but simple and yet remain complex and beautiful at the same time.
Unknown Terrain Having worked in a range of settings the idea of liking those who sit in the chairs or in the now virtual rooms opposite me has grown. My former prison supervisor, now friend, Anne Willoughby, advised that whilst you might find working with some of the clients difficult to connect with, and they you, aim to find one thing about them that you are curious about, that makes you smile internally, that you can like. It could be the clients trainers, jeans, the way they talk or an aspect of their face. Grow your appreciation of who they are from that point. This tool given back in 2010-2011 has grown to generally appreciating all clients I have the opportunity of working alongside. I realise that the expression and experience of love is tentative, risky, containing a power dynamic that has unknown elements buried deep within it’s catacombs. The equation consistently asked by a healer is; are they, am I, are we, ready to explore this wild landscape? Often the answer given is – Yes!
Art If projective identification, mirroring, transference and counter transference are the tools that support a clients’ self – entity to realise themselves. In and amongst a list of items of what the client throws out against the canvas of counselling/psychotherapy. The job, my job, is to gently return the disguised and dislodged parts of themselves back to them, in piecemeal fashion and slowly in procession. The client then can appreciate their full picture of themselves as I and close allies do. With congruence, compassion and yes, a deeply resourced, well informed and suitably intentioned – Love.
Resources I first came across the word Doula a few years ago at a training event. Since then I have been struck by the necessity of the role and the idea of what a Doula does. The link takes you to a website about Doulas. There was something about the episode of the Stoop that took love on an interpretive ride. Polyamory was discussed in an open curious investigative fashion. I enjoyed the multiple discoveries made. Brené Brown’s, Atlas of The Heart book and short podcast series about Atlas of the Heart with her sisters, is both informative, searingly honest reflections and often hilarious. The mini series is a great companion to the beautiful and well crafted work of a modern sage. This is Love and The Magpie of Heart Mountain is a phenomenal story of love found in a hard place and at a difficult time in an American’s History. When I heard that President Obama had his own podcast with his friend Bruce Springsteen, I was intrigued to find out what these two men would talk about. I have been entertained and surprised from what I learned about both as they reflect on their lives. The podcasts are reflective in what they invite the listener to witness. Love appears as a character connecting their stories to the past and future. The Stoop Podcast – Polyfree A Sisters Book Club Series Atlas of the heart This is Love The Magpie of Heart Mountain Renegades: Born in The USA Our Unlikely Friendship Images Photo inspiration – glowing feelings. Cover Photo Love Sign Hands photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash 1st Inlay photo ‘Benched Together’ by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash 2nd Inlay photo ‘Family Time’ by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash 3rd Inlay photo ‘Love Hearts Glitter’ by freestocks on Unsplash 4th Inlay photo ‘T-Shirt Design’ by Brian Lundquist on Unsplash 5th Inlay photo ‘Lean on me’ by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash
I have already begun thinking ahead to what the year to follow will be about for me and the blog. From 2018 -2021 a commitment was made to write regularly. My lightning quick imaginings and hard to capture thoughts have been ensconced in lengthy word paper and bubble wrap.
Then ‘ta da’ – presented.
The past few years have been eventful. Police killings, an uncontainable pandemic, sporting events mislabeled 2020 even though they they were held in 2021. The statement then – mild.
Horses For me there has been a mix of enjoyment at being able to work with a lot of energy to write a blog a week. There has also been a degree of anxiety and low mood. I too was surprised by the low mood. November’s Willfully Unseen series of shorts – a challenge to embrace fully. When given time to explore topics at length, the risk is to be emotionally pulled along. The writer left to make an unwelcome decision, either chase after the horse or lead the charge.
Tonnage At times sitting down to write, has felt like a significant weight to lift or pull. There has been no request placed upon me to pen away without tiring. The awareness for me has been of not wanting to disappoint by not show up for readers of this blog. Some topics this year have caused an internal struggle. Others were a joy. The mini projects and tasks set for myself, mostly complete.
Proclamation For 2022 I will be writing at least one new piece a month rather than once a week. I have a few other projects on the boil that require attention and incessantly tap on my shoulders, as they too also need completing. I won’t detail them all here but a big one – transition my UK qualifications to an equivalency to be able to provide counselling/psychotherapy in Ontario Canada.
With over 200 pieces written since 2014 I also want to spend time re-editing and re-writing a few blogs as I feel some are in need of updating or refreshing. These too I will repost.
Tilt The New Year often brings with it a sense of agency, urgency and enthusiasm to have things completed as quickly as possible. Inevitably we lose sight of both. The goals and our sense of energy. Turning good will, into a vessel waning and listing in hope.
Plod Perhaps in 2022, we (you and I) can go slower, purposefully. The aim to safely arrive to where we are headed. CoViD19 as much as we would like the disease gone, may continue to affect ‘normality’ for a few more years yet. Maybe by slowing we notice more and reflect on what is important for us to invest our time, finally.
Thank you for journeying with me and for showing interest in my musings. I have appreciated the comments and feedback offered.
Resources There are a number of reasons that we should at times slow down and think again, in the article attached of Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam explores the benefits of slow thinking. In the Revisionist History podcast below, I enjoyed Malcolm making sense of his reactions to decision making. He has an uncanny way of surprising the listener causing laughter in this episode. The conversation between Brené Brown and Adam Grant is another to invite introspective thought on what we think we know and what we understand of our world. Thinking again is possibly a new approach to life in this millennium. Daniel Kahneman is interviewed by Shankar Vedantam on NPRs Hidden Brain, where Fast and Slow thinking are reviewed for our overall health and wellbeing. Hidden Brain Slow Down Revisionist History – Hamlet Was Wrong Dare To Lead The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know Hidden Brain Think Fast