And stop. First listen to the podcast (The Stoop) and then read on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a number of stories that capture the experience of unmet potential, stories of people falling and staying down long before they had chance to fly.
Having supported teenagers in schools and working in rehabilitative settings for service users. The experiences of: loss, betrayal, resentment, let down, anger, low mood, dis-regulation of the maturation process and abdication of responsibility appear to have an accumulative effect to understanding being made about life paths. An unknown internal point is not reached or appreciated and a resulting cacophony then is the result.
As Dr. Lori Desautels and Michael McKnight have illustrated in their 1st book Unwritten the Story of a Living System. A person, especially a child does not grow well and develop within an environment of high stress and high anxiety.
The result is a reduced sense of self-esteem, reduced mental capacity to uptake new information, lowered tolerance to *stressors, heightened response to survival habits of Freeze-Flight-Fight-Friend actions, hostile engagements with others, use of explosive language and behaviour to process and deal with challenge and of pupils forming uneasy volatile alliances with pseudo friends and ‘family’.
‘I’ll hang around with you, if you and your group protect and don’t victimise or bully me. And if you do I am in the In Group so that’s okay.’ How long before the quasi friendship turns into manipulation? Where anti-social activities are the order? Where thrill seeking is obtained through risky behaviours. Where aggression and rule breaking appear normal?
Would the (apparently unbreakable) association/link/connection with the group take an evening? A weekend? A Month? A Term?
The worrying aspect I find with working at a stage of a person’s negative spiral (prison in my case) is the sense of hope being lost. Of individuals giving up on themselves, their families, on rehabilitating and returning from prison and by-passing society as a whole.
Primary desistance may have been achieved. Secondary desistance may still be a process that is being worked with by a prisoner or service user. Tertiary desistance is where a moral and societal shift occurs in the service user and the individual recognises themselves as part of, not a part from, society – their community. Counselling I find can be useful with a person’s 3rd stopping point.
I witness what the result of stripping social services are for vulnerable people and communities. Crime increase, homelessness, experiences of people in mental distress visible and not able to be cared for by hospitals or carers. What frustrates me is that the experience my son is having with his school and peers could be impacted on positively.
The pain filled progression of pupils, a percentage of whom that are permanently excluded from school (that had the potential to be a pro-social engagement), are victims to, or perpetrators of street violence, join illegal import and export dis-organisations (anti social engagement) to eventually becoming labelled and branded socially unsuitable, un-fit for ‘non offending populations’.
Being removed from mainstream education where students either attend alternative provision for less time than mainline school I feel is a damning move for students, school and society overall. Pupils earn less time being supervised by adults that can provide adequate pro social modelling. Feeding the productionline.
The need then as mentioned in Ignored Song would be for individuals from a range of backgrounds and experiences to provide support to a range of school experiences across the country to ameliorate the perspective some young people have about the world in which they live. And to change how schools and teachers view and support disorganised pupils.
The world does not have to be a dangerous and risky place where disagreements could cost several young people their lives. The aim would be to not minimise their understanding or patronise, but would be to offer challenge and support growth. To see beyond the barriers and horizons they may have erected to protect themselves.
In 2017 I approached a number of alternative school provisions with an initiative to run morning workshops to groups of students. The theme delivering thinking skills with the topic of psychology as the main driver.
My interest in psychology firmly rooted because of the counselling course. Witnessing that our world is governed by psychology increases my fascination. Psychology is a growth from Philosophy and I am in absolute awe of the impact thought has on us as humans. Continuing discoveries in neuroscience perpetually astound me.
Discussing psychological ideas with students at alternative school provisions in London I felt had the potential to be transformative. When a person begins to come upon a new realisation it is like a gift that was buried. Once unearthed the gleam of treasure that crosses a person’s face is priceless for me – every time.
Working at a prison with service users in Kent, the look after they realise a hard earned truth feels the same. The service user often points and subtly rears back; like a soft push has just happened. Then a small smile is offered and the subtle shaking of their head. Astonishment!
The chance to experience and practice on the world the new found thing for service users in prison is sometimes delayed by the length of their sentences. Trial runs of new thought and behaviour can be made prior to release in prison with some degree of success. They may alter thinking traps and patterns or their behaviour may flip to be outgoing and light. Interactions with a peer, or group of others could do likewise and change to the positive with new thoughts.
My want was to work with school attendees before they entered the criminal justice system and had negatively altered their lives or the life of others dramatically, irreversibly. Reducing the impact and societies unconscious load that it projects onto those that it classes as criminal. No. We should not wait until our son’s and daughters are detained within secure environments before we develop packages of support. The change I believe has to start now!
The invitation/demand especially in light of Britain teetering on the edge of Exiting the European Union is:
We all must want better now for all.
We have to face up to the challenge.
We must all be willing to work to achieve a brighter tomorrow.
To be the last person standing is not what my son or young people seek. An unblocked, unfettered, untainted future is…
The Path to Connecting with- Kids “at-risk”. ( Brendtro and Seita )
1. Recast all problems as learning opportunities. 2. Provide opportunities for fail-safe relationships. 3. Increase dosages of nurturance. 4. Don’t crowd. 5. Find their passion. 6. Decode the meaning of behavior. 7. Be “authoritative”. 8. Model respect to disrespectful youth. 9. Enlist troubled youth as team members. 10. Preemptive connecting. 11. Give seeds time to grow. 12. Keep positive expectations alive.
Frank Morrison’s Art I have long admired. This work is titled as Arithmetic. The pose of both students is emblematic…
The state of education
My eldest son aged 11, came home from school recently and shared that he had concerns about his experiences that have troubled and alarmed me. As his father I want nothing more than to protect and shield him from the shadier elements of London living. I realise however the contradiction as I write, because I have worked in prisons for over four years. I have also worked with vulnerable people on the margins of society and that live in the shade for over 8 years. Deepening and grading my perspective considerably.
Working for almost 4 years with Together a National charity that supported service users and probation officers and courts in London. Together’s highly skilled team of practitioners provide mental health support and psycho education to service users involved within London’s criminal Justice System.
‘*Shade is a factor of life, it precedes and follows light.’
My son has moved from a well-resourced primary school with a committed PTA (Parent Teacher Association) with middle class values and expectations to a secondary school that whilst being in the same neighborhood seems to not be as well supported. The commitment the school has appears geared to raising it’s educational achievements as a secondary school. The social and emotional development of it’s pupils seems to have been overlooked. The documentary called School emphasises what the lack of investment and resources has meant for secondary schools across the country.
My son reports that nearly every day there are playground fights and his year group are involved with something called “violating” other pupils. A form of engaging negatively with another pupil that shames them and makes them either react aggressively or retreat from social engagements. Which can have a huge social impact on students – limiting the scope of making firm social connections and friends and bearing witness to the challenges of inner city life.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons on Netflix is a phenomenal expose on growing up ‘Othered’ within a country that does not want to accept it’s involvement with the systematic destruction and demonisation of several groups of people and their cultures. Ghetto Rage is a topic of interest John mentioned that I will further investigate and write about soon.
As a 40 something year old man I don’t understand the culture of school being a site for malevolence and cruelty committed by pupils as vulnerable as peers of my son’s against fellow pupils. Being assertive is a factor of living learning and growing. Bullying as part of systemic form of disorganised peer oppression troubles me.
My son simply does not want to go to his school or participate in any of the senseless acts of pseudo violence, passive and active forms of aggression as a result, or other acts of hyper masculinity that seem to have besieged his year group. What is going wrong I wonder with state education? Why are young women and young men acting in harmful ways to other children and themselves and what can we all do about it?
I doubt I will be able to find the answers in this piece of writing however I can raise my concerns and offer ideas of possible ways forward. I wonder if a member of parliament’s child were attending my son’s state school what they would think/see/feel?
I am disappointed that the choices we are left to think through are: exiting the school, non-attendance and living with a sense of anxiety that has grown in my son and through our family. The social development versus academic achievement focus appears to have been the split that this school has made.
The thinking I have is that the school has grossly under estimated the effect that the focus and pressure toward academia could have on it’s key stage 3 and 4 progression results and overall exam achievements. A socially and emotionally balanced pupil could perform academically better. Not just at exams but in life also.
Perhaps another way is to be found with education that invites collaboration, communication and creativity. Few children my son included are without the curiosity to look for answers or create story’s that make sense of the worlds that they inhabit. For their, our children’s, worlds are different to ours. They face challenges that are new for the planet, maybe we should be teaching all differently…
There are moments one dreams of experiencing that I had in October 2018. I had the chance of delivering a lecture to a group of forensic psychology students at the University of East London. The subject was mental Illness and crime. This was the 3rd time of me delivering this lecture and it all came together like the perfect picture. I was given a breakdown of possible protagonists and activists amongst the students. The promise that the group were usually quiet, by the course director Ms Kougiali, was thankfully unmet.
Perhaps it was my brief introduction and experience but the group of roughly 40 students did not let up with comments and questions about the lecture I delivered. They stated as one that some of the material was; too broad, that the stats needed refining in relation to ages, classification of mental illness, the gender of data groups and where the data sources had come from.
Urm note to Michael try harder please!
I found that I loved the engaging-challenging-rewarding interaction! The buzz of the room felt hard won and not wholly mine – more ours. I have had a number of teaching and lecturing experiences over the past few years starting at University of Greenwich, then as a VL at UEL and recently teaching at a college just outside of London on a level 1 counselling skills course.
All teaching experiences draw something different from me, there is the all-knowing sage that I aim to be, the old enough yet down enough sharer of counselling mythology, the witty soothsayer sharing what needs to be said for those who have ears to hear. October the 24th was like the perfect blend.
My style of lecturing is part performance poetry, comedy, debate class, philosophy and counselling pedagogy/theory for balance. My last class with year 2 students at University of Greenwich in May, much of the above was the experience. Teaching/Lecturing appeared to flow effortlessly. It sort of came together as a perfect storm with students sharing, my presentation slides, personal anecdotes of counselling and life experiences all rolled out and accessed by all. That lecture for Greenwich was on What Next? Offering ideas of potential routes beyond year 2.
What I enjoyed most about the work with UEL students was that they challenged me and I them! The challenge thrown about the lecture room was the idea of mental illness and psychopathy. Ultimately the idea realised was that many involved in the criminal justice system in the UK if tested and or diagnosed, many may have untreated learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, have experienced trauma, suffer with PTSD symptoms and have a personality disorder, as well as a dual diagnosis of substance misuse or alcohol addiction.
We All Psychopaths
Everyone in the lecture theatre if they took a psychopathy test would score something between a low to a high psychopathy score, making us all psychopaths to lesser or greater degrees. That includes you dear reader!
The reflective quality of this realisation hit in the 2nd hour after a number of students offered their opinions on the recent film on Netflix 22nd of July. The film about the impact Anders Breivik had on Norway stirred up some controversial ideas and debate in relation to mental illness and acts of self-preservation.
A student shared that we all have the potential to commit acts of violence that were either based on our beliefs or state of un-wellness. I volunteered to complete a psychopathy test listed here the Levenson Psyschopathy self test. Which takes roughly 5-10 minutes to complete https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/LSRP.php. I scored a 2.9. The scores from this test I see more as an indicator for me, rather than a confirmed diagnosis. I mentioned that I would share my results with the class if interested. I now do so with you too.
I wonder what your psychopathy test scores are and what they say about you?
The thing I enjoy most about writing about multi-layered experiences is what others find through reading these posts and then share. If there are other psychopathy tests that are an improvement on the one listed here please share below. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.
The theories and understandings that one fashions for oneself can be as relative to living as other more established ideas. We live in a just and fair society, Good things happen to good people and vice versa, Luck is man made, Every Cloud has a Silver Lining, What goes up has to come down. Life is for the living. Thoughts can include “I am a good, bad, fortunate, unlucky, beautiful, weak, faithful, invisible, resilient, conniving… person”. Which may be true some of the time.
Studying to become a counsellor a number of theories and models were presented for us to learn. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Freud’s Id, Ego and Super Ego, Karpman’s Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer, The Parent Child and Adult, Spheres of influence, Internal locus of control/influence and External locus of Control/Influence, Prochaska and Di-Clemente’s Cycle of change, attachment models by Ainsworth and Bowlby, the transactional relationship and my favourite Petruska Clarkson’s 5 Relationships Model.
Clarkson’s model was impactful as it helped me to recognise the similarities and some of the differences had between major schools of thought within psychological and counselling theory. John Nuttall once delivered a lecture on the breadth and life span of psychotherapy and many of it’s twists and developments, on my 2nd year of my counselling course. My work with Laos helped to develop my thinking and practice as an integrative counsellor. Integration has been a useful way of encountering my work. Blending a number of different counselling models together creatively, intuitively enables those that I work with to gain a nuanced and individual experience of working with me no matter the setting – Individually Tailored.
With over 10 years of working with the UK’s criminal justice system there have been a number of realisations made about detention, rehabilitation and being on probation in the community. The experience of being a law breaker appears to carry a life sentence that burdens both the service user and those that they are close to and possibly society as a whole. A triangle of sorts could then exist for us all. Each side or corner being unwilling to carry the weight of blame shame and pain on behalf of the other. In effect pushing it away from one side to another. It returns in ways that are surprising and upsetting: Incidents of break ins, street robbery’s, car theft, mugging, assaults, depression, anxiety, increasing laws for surveillance of the populace. The cause…
A Triangle of Sorts
The cause I believe is manifold and complex, not that an attempt at explaining or understanding should not be sought. As social beings we live amongst a number of groupings that support our development and perceptions of the world in which we live. Family, culture, gender, race, physical and mental ability, education, class, religion, time, culture and the society one is raised in can support an individuals development. Many from the list can also be attributed to lead someone to have disastrous outcomes – for life’s opportunities to become lost.
Were aspects of a person’s life to be out of balance i.e. with limited access to health services, experiences of poverty, early experiences of violence, witnessing substance misuse and experiences thereof, familial education attainment low and un-supportive, petty crime viewed as a survival engagement.
A person being raised amongst a set of challenges familiar to those involved with forensic backgrounds could find themselves with difficulties that they did not ask for but royally given. Laws, policing, prison, adjudications, societal exclusion are often unlikely to reverse a tide that may have already gone out. Unless…
20 – 60 – 20
There are groups within groups. A visit to Rochester prison in 2017 helped to define the who could be rehabilitated and who perhaps the tide had gone out permanently for. Within any population or group there are percentages of people that are hardened and will always think that they have a way of working things to their benefit and will never change, perhaps have been jaded and have no good reason to. Then there are a percentage of people who are unsure or ambivalent to change and will give anything a try in a half assed way. The last group are the die-hards who recognise that to have any chance of success, commitment to a new way is the only way to bring change and maintain it.
The first 20% may have been in the group just below at one time in their lives. They tried to make the necessary steps to achieve success, but were not believed, found to be lacking the stuff to stick with it and ultimately fell foul of persistent negative thinking patterns and negative events. Becoming convinced that no change is coming and that they are content enough. The term throw away the key is often used for people that present themselves as devoid of hope, lacking empathy to engage with others and have walled themselves in to their dark prism. Should we key throw? Is the choice to agree with their view of the world a necessary acquiescence?
Half in Half out
The 2nd group of 60% are willing to make attempts at change. With successes and positive outcomes change is possible. The challenge is maintaining resilience were things to not happen as quickly, were aspects of success to become failure, were short term gains to turn into losses. Do the 60% group have the ability to keep chipping away? What internal and external supports are they able to draw on to continue on a path that offers a glimmer of something better?
The 3rd group are those who have recognised that by maintaining themselves well they are further ahead. Achieving life goals and turning their once ambivalent/negative perceptions to more positive ones supports their chances of contributing in a meaningful way to their lives and the lives of others living fully. These are men and women who have found a purpose, a talent, gift, a way to make sense of all that had occurred and have the capacity to make peace and plot another path beyond, away from and towards.
I realise that I have presented a number of challenging ideas around change for various groups of people. The training and education I have experienced have enabled me to notice plot twists and the art to life. Recognising when and where opportunities for growth change and are possible. When progress stalls or reverses what chance is there to hold on for? A few years ago I developed a way of viewing recidivism in the UK as a collection of interconnected health goals – another model was realised. I discussed the idea with a number of colleagues J Soame, A Willoughby and K Giakoumi as I valued their insight and all helped to develop the model further. Breaking the Cycle was born…
A few further thoughts in relation to patterns and models of thinking.
This poem/’call to arms’, is written for a former work colleague.
I promised to hold a conversation with.
The aim of the conversation – to ignite their fire.
The intention also is to inspire another,
Above the Clouds
Staying at the office all hours just to make sure that all tasks for everyone else are done.
Seemingly making your tomorrow’s better.
Has that ever worked?
That life that you said you wanted is waiting.
Withering yet waiting.
The dream of supporting others with therapy, dance, massage, hypnotherapy, aqua yoga, pilates, debating, aromatherapy, law, osteopathy, teaching, climbing, acting, martial arts, physical and mental health training – are drumming fingers on tables and waiting.
There is the you
Doing the justifying thing.
That “this job?”
“This thing is enough.”
But is it.…
What would it mean to stop?
To re-plan, re-think, replay your path to the role you always wanted?
Those long hours of training.
The exams, the tests, the reviews, the study hours, the midnight vigils, the all-nighters and support given and taken were for you to grow.
Pushing papers, filing, scheduling may be the new fulfillment.
But if it’s not,
When you spoke to your friends you shared the vision of what you would be doing to help and to support change in other people’s worlds.
The light came on in your eyes.
The internal smile that you offered as a signal was undeniably present as you chatted.
Their eyes shone…
Kusama’s Infinity Mirror
Bringing, offering, sharing healing you recognise is reciprocal like a circle.
It is not your cause or reason but a guide, an internal call.
Once, you answered whilst training and learning and now – the line – dormant and dusty is rarely picked.
Those moments whilst fleeting
When a friend, a colleague or family member excites
Your learning and you recall points on charts that support growth – return screaming,
Almost shouting “How could you have forgotten us?”
“Not used your knowledge more and helped others along their way with growth?!”
Glowing partly through gleefully earned pride you shudder at the response and begin re-asserting the mantle you have been carrying of…
‘Not quite ready enough,’
‘Not quite good enough,’
‘The time is not right, ‘
‘The world is not ready.’
If another were to say that rubbish about themselves
Your will to see them right themselves and their situation
Would not allow you to hold back or permit them lie to themselves any longer.
Take what steps are necessary!
Read what books are helpful.
Watch what films excite and invite action
Listen to the music and songs that pull
Speak to those that encourage and inspire.
Seek out mentors and those that you can support.
Here – to inspiration – the path lies.
Pinpoint the re-entry rediscovery moment and with no holds barred LAUNCH
Break the yoke
Break the cycle
Nothing, can get in your way apart from excuses and you.
What are you waiting for?
The thing that you seek lies on the other side of fear.