REFLECTION Reviewed pt 3

Recalibration
The challenge for them (Narcissus) is in the invitation to begin deconstructing and decommissioning a world view that has enabled their Narcissistic behaviours to win at life.

For their self-interested behaviours be victorious against a past that could have been annihilating for them. Surviving and sharing their history with another would be a closer assessment of their truth if they could trust others enough for it to be heard.

Dismantling their coiffed well-presented image of themselves takes courage. The dark side of themselves is a perspective that has them as a person beginning to see that the vision they had held was askew is risky. The final scene in Dorian Gray is a perfect depiction of Narcissus seeing himself almost for the first time. The grotesque in themselves is an unbearable concept.

Staccato
As Jill Scott sang in Love Rain ‘the vibe slipping off it’s axis’ is a useful analogy to describe the destabilization for Narcissus. Slippage is necessary to enable a nobler sight of realism to be perceived and understood. Perhaps the task is not for us to save, but to stand at a safe enough distance. Allow Narcissus to recognise that the image before her/himself is illusion. A visual echo of what once was. The mirrored and always elusive self is unable to be experienced – much like A Picture of Dorian Gray – the perfect imperfect.

*Humorosity
A cataclysmic explosion would be necessary for the change to begin in earnest for Narcissus. To make a change of such import the intervention has to be brutal and honest. Perhaps…

The offer here is, with curiosity and doses of humoured inquiry make an attempt to be interested in what happens for Narcissus’s now. Do not rush. If you can, pose loose questions. With a sense of genuine wanting to peer behind their curtain/wall. Inviting Narcissus to do so too. For though the subject appears to be laid bare and low -unprocessed material lies here.

In part due to their exposure of a little known truth they dimly knew of themselves. Mainly because of the expansion caused by the explanation of their inner truth. Be careful as this could either be their first introduction (genus) to humility or the hard pressed kernel of defiant resistance. Only time will tell which route they will take. One that leads to re-connecting with their humanity. The other continues following a path to more pain for themselves and for others.

More Walk London

Honouring
What lies at their centre? (Have you wondered?) The aim here is to open up chinks in a well-oiled, well maintained Armour. The chinks let out as well as let in opportunities for scents of change. The process can be slow. What is to be noted is Narcissus’ recognition of empathy and warmth from themselves to another. Observing fealty and connection for themselves and also what being in honest communication is like. Where, if any differences are felt and what that may be like? Rather than them hearing the familiar self-recriminations of blame, of anger, disappointment and fear. Letting themselves out of their prism they shielded themselves from the world – cautiously. See earlier

What next
There are a number of choices that could be made in relation to Narcissus. Leave them to attend to manage themselves by themselves.
Stay and learn to manage life with them.
Leave and attend to the holes that they pockmarked your life with.
Stay but be emotionally detached.
Leave and heal and be aware of narcissistic tropes.
Stay and support them through change.
Leave and live well.
Stay and enlist others to support their change growth and development.

I recognise these are not easy choices. It is about what resilience is like for you and what resources you have at your disposal. Always hold the gas mask analogy with you. This is about you not them.

Attractive
The intriguing factor for me as a therapist is the attraction to Narcissus. Narcissus who brings some emotional pain, self doubt, a devalued sense of self, experiences of elation and happiness to the person(s) they are with.

Magnetic
Is there a part of their character that appeals above ones own although this particular aspect is often harmful and hurts?

If personal harms are the case, what does being with Narcissus offer? Someone who is wicked with their humour. They are able to bring together a group of charming and attractive friends? They are able to offer you the delights of social mobility and acceptance? They provide you with an undeniable sense of  responsibility “If I don’t, who will?”

Does superiority, defiance, charm and wit with moments of crushing lows also become experiences of the person who has fallen for their attraction to Narcissus?

I would advise you to evaluate with time away from them. Look at your life with them and life without them in it. There was a time before when they were not. How was life then…?

Support
A number of therapeutic models may be of use to support someone that has narcissistic traits and close others. Dialetical Behavioural Therapy, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The want to be better, as in the joke above ‘How Many Psychotherapists.., is to come from them.

Always.

Resources
Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one
Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work
Understanding the Mind of a narcissist
*Humorosity A Michaelism see No 37

Cover Image by https://unsplash.com/@marcojodoin
More Walk Photo by David East on Unsplash

REFLECTION Reviewed pt 2

Pain
The pain of being held accountable,
of being made to feel perpetually wrong,
of shame and embarrassment,
of being made vulnerable and seen as weak or lesser than,
is a fear
for a person who may have narcissistic traits
to hold on to their distortion
that little bit harder and for far longer.
Than is healthy/necessary
The threat of being made small again is too great.

Because once, a few years ago, perhaps when they were infants they had been made to feel all of the above by valued loved ones, friends, teachers, frenemies.
So they, Narcissus, erected a wall. Keeping all the bad out and locking in all they perceived as good.

Tactics like division, fear and threatening behaviours are used to enable self-aggrandizement and remain with a sense of strength (Omnipotence), being right, whole, good, beautiful and powerful, employed at other people’s expense and often their suffering.

The right of Narcissus’.

Hand Holding Crystal Ball

Narcissistic personality?
Narcissism produces a distorted self-image, an oversized ego, and a presumption of superiority not based on any real-world accomplishments. Narcissists reveal their feelings about themselves and others through their actions, which are often manipulative and self-centered. Despite the depth of feeling narcissism generates, and the deep-seated insecurity it compensates for, people diagnosed with severe narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) can learn to manage humanity, their symptoms, and reduce the disorder’s influence over their lives. That is if they recognise that change is beneficial.

This is a BIG if…

Past
Narcissus may have had a number of experiences that threw their idea of self and the world in which they live into disarray at an earlier developmental age.

Experiences such as loss through bereavement or loss of home, war, poor relationships with caregivers, poverty, bullying, emotional neglect could support the development of narcissistic traits. The personhood of Narcissus may have been negatively affected by the environment that they were raised in.

Developing traits that support a positive view of themselves always, and a lesser view of anyone and everyone else around them. Projecting a view of all that hurt them, into and onto all others and everything else in between helps to protect a fragile self. The act of denying others their humanity and not recognising their own robs Narcissus of intimate contact with another/others.

Therefore Narcissus can remain perfect and invulnerable: Always.

Gas Lighting
The term gaslight was coined after the 1944 film of the same name. Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. In the movie, a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. Illustrating the destructive power of gaslighting.

Gas Mask at Altitude
Due to the human capacity for finding purpose and wanting to support others to attain fulfilment and happiness it often occurs that partners, family, friends and colleagues often want to rescue a person that appears to have narcissistic traits. The joke of how many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb fits here. “Ah but the light bulb has got to want change.” For any person engaging in therapy they must see the benefits of change. For someone with narcissistic traits if the problem is with all others then there is nothing to talk about and nothing that therapy can offer… Until…

Resources
Gaslighting – Two Guys on Your Head
Understanding the Mind of Narcissus

Cover Photo Serrah Galos@serrah Unsplash
Crystal Ball Dawid Zawiła@davealmine Unsplash

Vulnerability: The Hidden

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

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

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

The many…

1st Loss
My 1st death wrapped me up,
Shut me down and
Held me mute
About the pain
Of my loss
It was
The death of
Mother.
In December ’93
Rita Margaret Drakes.

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

Death 2
The 2nd death is of my friend Ade through suicide 2011. His death was both shocking and hard to accept. Recognising that I had no chance of saving him offers some relief. Only some. He made a choice much like a character in a Star is Born. The incident much like Jude in A Little Life, the encounter with almost dieing happening many, many times before.

Death 3
The 3rd is a story I have not written or talked much about. I have shared with only a few. Some members of my family know.

This death.

This loss is of innocence, of trust and the insidious nature of the harm caused to me. I have held myself in a place just out of reach. Believing that I am wrong, bad, mad and sad.

That the harm caused was of my doing and that I deserved it. That I continue to deserve mistreatment. That if I hold myself just out of sight, my hurt cannot infect others.

But it had.

Unreported
I was about 6 or 7 when I was sexually abused by someone older than me. The events are uncomfortable to describe and I will choose carefully what I share.

Being shown pornographic images elicits an uncontrollable physical response in some people. It did for me! I became aroused and that arousal was used by them to perform their sexual acts.

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

Tankerton Reflection

The pattern is of ever diminishing returns, and a debased sense of self, of having little value, little to offer, often is, the outcome.

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

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

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

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

There where you belong.

Safe, Resilient, Free, Successful, at Peace.

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

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

Men of the Diaspora: It’s Time

On 13th of November 2019 a colleague and I will begin a group therapy experience for Black Men. The group will be run as an introduction to therapy and group psychotherapeutic support.

Inspire Them
The idea came from a former client who is featured in a testimonial. He was a client who in the span of 2 short seasons of work transformed his outlook on life. He mentioned the idea last year (2018). An introduction to therapy for Black Men or Men of the African Diaspora crystallized. In April 2019 when I went to The Man Talk in Brixton, I was moved to begin something that men who perceive of talking therapy as not for them – could be introduced to the idea of therapeutic support.

Sharing Vulnerability
At The Man Talk, seeing a group of men talking about issues they have lived through including: suicide, prison, depression, bereavement, life plans overturned and offering support to others, was amazing. The event brought the need for specialised low cost support to me in an impactful way. So impactful that I wanted to start something too.

Authority
Working with case discussion groups and process groups at Universities across London beginning at University of Greenwich (Sept 2015), presenting at UEL to students on their psychology programmes I paid attention to the amazing power of group work.

Unkown Knowns
I use the word power with intention as I feel there is an unknown element that affects working with groups. The bereavement group I currently support at one of the prisons I work at in Kent, is a perfect example of the wonder and amazing effect group work has on individuals and the group overall.
The group becomes it’s own entity. Factors from outside the group space interact with members and push and pull what is shared in directions that are unknowable.

Summer Captured in Fall Colours

Wellness
Reading the work of Irvin Yalom and his experiences of group work especially in Loves Executioner offer the reader a clear understanding of what group therapy does.

Call To Act
If interested to know more about the group please contact either myself or Sheila Samuels who will be co-counselling the space with me. The group begins on the 13th of November 2019 at the Wellness Hub, 7 Burnt Ash Hill London. SE12 0AA

An Origin Story

Musings on Therapy
I can remember the moment that counselling, psychology, psychotherapy or psychopathology became the most important career choice I ever made. I was 33, this was in the summer of 2007.

Balance
3 years before I met Laos I worked at Harris academy school for girls in East Dulwich. I had begun an introductory course of counselling at Morley college. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was a great example of Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls, I was later able to appreciate. Ian was able to combine wisdom and grace with humor and presence.

SSCO
I was the school’s Specialist Sports Co-ordinator providing group and individual sports and pastoral care support. I also coached basketball in the morning as a Breakfast Basketball initiative. Within 2 seasons the programme helped beginners take 3rd place in London’s Central Venue League Basketball tournaments. A crowning moment for the team, the school and for me their coach.

Clarity
The crystalisation moment mentioned above was realised at an individual mentoring appointment with a student of the school. My own a ha moment. Goodbyes carry an emotionally laden content that is difficult to contain and manage. A yr9 pupil was relocating to a different school for the next academic year.

By me asking if she was going to be alright she replied:

“I’m gonna have to be aren’t I.?” Her South London brogue attempting to deflect the suppressed emotions of loss and attachment to her school and friends. The tears were kept inside but we both acknowledged their presence with a nod and pleasant ending phrases.
“It’s been good working with you.” I said
“I hope that the course works out for you.” She offered
“I think you can see that it has this effect on people.” I said
“Oh, right, yeah, Mr Opoku. You might be on to something.” Shaking her head
“Shall we end it [the appointment] here then?” I said
“Yeah I think now would be a good time to stop, or I really might start…” She insisted
“Okay then…”
“Good bye then and… thanks…”
And with that she got up and left.

Something…
I have since gone on to complete a Masters in Therapeutic Counselling, courses in Brief Solution Focused Therapy, Trauma Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy and a course at Westmeria College to become a counselling supervisor. The latest training has been to complete Eye Movement De-sensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) that is reconfiguring, reconceptualising what I thought I knew about counselling and psychotherapeutic support.

The Climb
The interest in supporting others has not yet reached it’s zenith. The craft, this high art has become a greater thing than looking to care for just 1. By helping another the environment around them and the person doing the helping is immeasurably changed. I look back at the moment with the yr 9 student and said yes let’s have a conversation, which lead to many more conversations at that school and took me out of Harris Academy to other change spaces including: A boys secondary school, 7 Probation offices, supervisees, a team of Forensic Mental Health Practitioners, 6 prisons and 6 counsellors in Kent and clients in a range of settings including prisons..

I fell in love with the idea of living my purpose: the Artist repackaged. All day and everyday. ‘This Artists Way’ thing is more than most other things I have been before. Parenting can never be bested. However thinking creatively about Psychoanalysis is what I have been climbing towards. Climbing beyond a challenged past. The journey has been difficult and not for the faint of heart. I have crossed ravines and archipelagos never before seen by me, or that I ever knew existed. I have fallen and wondered about not getting back up. Events have brought me to my knees and I have asked for support in being raised back up on to my feet.

Gifts
This path that I chose has not been a bed of roses getting where I have. The challenges are seemingly insurmountable and I have failed many times. However the successes far outweigh the losses. The smiles, the thank you’s, the nods, the hand shakes all make the art worth it. There is still much to learn and to achieve.

Attempting to support service users that appear blocked and fearful of change. Supporting other professionals to grow outside of set protocols and policies to think creatively and act courageously, to support people in their communities. A drug or alcohol misuse dependency should not determine whether that person could or should get access to good psycho-social support and yet currently it does.

As a friend said in 2016 the person should want change, not the set of difficulties they have to continue. I offer that mental health services could be just as solution focused. Offering a label free, diagnosis opposed care centres treating a person with needs – compassionately. Diagnosis can be limiting. Diagnosis can also be explanatory. It is the person that experiences the difficulty that is to be helped.

Mental health support is about offering change along a continuum. Beginning at a super light spot that’s easier to assist a client experience change. Then graduating the person to access support that genuinely alters self-perception by fractions/degrees. The small changes aspect of psychological support is what I feel is most important. Great distances are walked by taking a single 1st step.

We raise we.
Not I or you.
Alone.
A simple singular exchange.

For me it is:
Collaboration,
Connection
Community.

Change
I have opted to include the resources in the body of work. Click the hyper links to take you to other pieces of insightful information. Let me know what you think of this and other pieces below and here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9V9TYQS Thank you.

Breaking the Line

Quick Dip

And stop. First listen to the podcast (The Stoop) and then read on.

Twinned

Someone who reads my blogs said to me that they enjoy reading my words as their mind works similarly. A thought and then digression, never knowing if and when the return may arrive. Travelling in too many to count directions that could be interconnected.

Possibly…

Spores Spread

My posts on LinkedIn, Twitter and my counselling page on Facebook break a few lines. The most notable is that posting a story featuring a woman or man from the African Diaspora including an image of that person, does that thing of breaking the line. Here in the West seeing, hearing, being aware of the thinking of the European is common. In fact it is everywhere! Unquestioned and unsanctioned. 

Problematic?

Possibly.

Mechanism of Oppression

The image, the stories, the experiences are unapologetic and veer in to territory that is uncomfortable, uplifting, informative. Angie’s line from a talk held recently “it is not our job to inform and educate White people about racism.” We Africans did not put in place the structurally oppressive systems that provide stability for one group of people and that leaves everyone else not from that group destabilized and struggling in Westernized societies. It is not our job to deconstruct and do the work.

Again

Share

Breaking the line is an invitation to note what happens when an image of a person of colour is brought before your/ our/ my minds eye. Do thoughts that surprise and dismay also follow? But I am not prejudiced/racist I have so and so person in my life is a common answer and offering. Suggesting leniency and clemency for all wrongs. Malcolm Gladwell shares his insight in this podcast stating that the liberal is possibly the worst offender.

An Education

Books like ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ and follow up podcasts About Race, books such as ‘The Good Immigrant’ and ‘The Colour of Madness’ invite readers/listeners to immerse themselves into another’s view of life.

In Comparison

I have invited those that I work with to invest time in reading these works. As Marlon James said at an event in March ‘if a people can go through 400 years of dehumanising pain, suffering through 3 books exploring racism’s affects may be uncomfortable, but cannot compare to a race’s continued victimisation and vilification at the hands of systemic oppression of difference. Being othered by race, culture, religion or where ones parents originate is a factor in my life and for millions of others.

Marching

Remaining with the idea of being human first is difficult when other barbs are thrown. If Breaking the line happens to be another move to represent all experiences – the work, the journey is a step closer, but not yet done.

Possibly…

How to

To read and make use of the blogs I write.

View them as poems in long form. The hyperlinks are a gateway. Click and follow the pebbles – new awareni* awaits.

Read with an aim to deep dive into topics and subjects that are as interesting as they are exhumations about difference, about life lived at the boundaries: criminal justice, education, therapy, art, Multiple Sclerosis and being othered by society.

The blogs are:

A point of reference.

A placeholder for thought and reflection about oneself, about another, about us.

Read for perspective making.

Read for evaluation and test taking.

Explore for tips and learning and for ideas about baking.

They are slices of condensation, concentrations and at times my consternation’s – for living is a complex choice. An activity of thinking, doing, breathing, resting and being bored. Often…

Be perplexed and curious.

Ask for clarity if you dare!

Comment and be prepared for answers and yet more questioning.

Let us open up dialogues just because.

It could all be oh so much better.

Even these,

Blogs…