Insomnia and possible ways to sleep

I know two people who have challenges with sleep. My son aged 10 and my wife CW. I have over the past few years investigated and interrogated both to get an understanding of what happens for them when they try to go to sleep. Below are my findings and possible solutions.

Similarities
Both my son P, and my wife CW, have active working memories that retain events of their days.

For my son; the entertainment he has thinking about school, his friends and activities he was involved in the day, alongside whatever technological gadgets that have captured his imagination seem to keep him awake. He tires at about 10:00pm.

My wife is usually engaged in numerous nocturnal intellectual pursuits that seem to be a holdover from studying at an intense level for 5+ years.

Concerns
Some of her intellectual meanderings involve worrying about our eldest son, worrying about me, worrying about if the backdoor is locked, worrying about work and worrying about future events, that may never happen, or never happen.

Then there are the many frustrations of being a PhD survivor. Being married to a man who does not want to admit his failing health and doing the laundry are high on the agenda as is a family relocation.

To Canada to be clear.

A future Blog is in development currently that speaks to this huge change!

Strategies
A few years ago I once offered the unwise task of counting backwards from 100 in 7s to CW. Not only was she able to do it (patterns) 93, 86, 79, 72… but became more enraged and upset that she had completed the task of 7 counting and not fallen asleep. I am often still reminded.

Resourcefulness
I have offered to CW Tom Bilyeu’s how to get a decent rest (see below) on his podcast Impact Theory to support her sleep improvement. She has not listened to it yet, stating that podcasts are not her thing. (SMH)

The wise Eric Berne’s ‘Yes But’ approach from Games People Play I have just started to remember because, as the book suggests, it doesn’t really matter what method, I or anyone else offers/presents as the golden bullet to get to sleep, it will be refuted, denied and ridiculed by stubborn sleep refusers and CW.

Endurance
The reason, I think, some people (my wife may be one of those people too) who “enjoy” being able to survive on 2-4 hours worth of sleep and apply extra cranky crunch to all who experience them.

It’s the get out of all get outs! Excuses of all excuses. They, Insomniacs, can never be challenged or provoked to look at the intensity of what their brain’s deprived of rest has wrought. Perhaps genius springs forth from fatigue?

The Boardroom
Listening to the Tim Ferris Podcast (see below) I heard of a technique that I thought was worth mentioning to those who have trouble sleeping.

Imagine that you are in a boardroom and have the director’s seat. You call the meeting to order as the director of this sleep meeting you are about to conduct.

Now imagine the other seats filled with all those annoying voices that plague you at night.

Imagination Riot
Personify them exquisitely. Dress them. Give them personalities and a place to sit at the table. You may want to depending on importance and urgency, rank these voices and place less important ones further away.

Dreamy waves depicting a sweet sunrise or sublime sunset. Perhaps sleep too are formed like waves...
Dream Like Waves

Name and Listen
Each voice has something to say to you about something specific.

There’s the voice that represents Fear, Anger, Love, Money, Work Mistakes, Regret, Family, Denial, Debt and financial concerns, Politics, Worry, Inner Child woes, Death, Car, Transport and Travel and a mariad more.

Roll up Sleeves
Now for the hard part. Imagine one of your principle concerns sitting next to the directors chair. They are speaking about what they have found, seen and have predicted to happen next in your life.

Usually in the day, you engage and take on with energy all that they are saying. Getting prepared to wage war on all that they brought to your attention.

The difference now, laying prone you are only going to listen and thank them for bringing all that they have to your attention, and importantly NOTHING more!

Loosening Grip
The ‘concern’ once being heard will dissipate and choose to leave the boardroom. In the least it will be satiated and choose to quieten from bothering your attempts to sleep. I invite you to do this for all the voices clamouring to speak to you.

Patient Practice
The technique takes practice. In time you won’t be able to stay awake long enough to listen to all of their complaints and worries, you will be too tired relaxed and calm to stay awake. Wouldn’t this be a better way to bring the day to an end?

Sleep Oddity
I know this sounds like an odd task to complete at the end of an already busy and tiring day. But would offer, does another night of twisting, turning and concerning oneself with thoughts that keep you awake for hours longer, seem like a good use of precious restoration time to you?

Technique.
The understanding I am left with is one of tactical empathy. Be prepared to be triggered and then not to act when applying the boardroom techno. But by listening you have given the ‘voice’ all that it was after – an audience. Once they have shared all there is to be shared, there is not much more for the ‘concern’ to do so they quieten.

Ignore Marry Avoid
Choose not to engage with the content. An outcome from from having a daily meditative practice is to allow thoughts to pass and not follow them, as the mischief makers want to entice! Listen with care and thank them for all that they brought to your attention. With an empty head and all ‘voices’ now abated sleep should happen.

This may feel strange. But it is what the insomniac has said that they needed. I know, they have woken me up to tell me! “Quiet in the mind to be able to go to sleep.”

Fear
Often we want change, and fear change at the same time. Some people believe that we should suffer on some level for past wrongdoings. I strongly refute this idea as a truism. Insomnia is a learnt experience and so can be unlearned or another tactic applied to get to go to sleep. The dread of staying awake again could be the motivator that ushers in change for insomniacs leading to a global phenomenon.

For the insomniac procrastinator, maybe there is the want to figure out what it all means and stay awake doing so.
It is a choice to be made between sleeping or not to sleep.

One – leads to an increase in mental ability and does increase resilience affability, mental acuity and alertness, and overall health exponentially.

The other – a slow death.

The choice is yours.

Resources
Impact Theory – Get the Best Rest
Science of Success – Reluctant Meditator
Tim Ferris – Safi Bahcall
Two Guys on Your Head – Sleep
Late Night Tales: Another Late Night -Zero 7

Images
Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash
Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

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…

Leader

Educationally Missing.

Disappearing

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.

Heightened Stress

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?

Regression

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.

Tip 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.

Committed Action

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.

Incision

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.

B-Boy 

Prisoners

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…

Michael McKnight writes

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. 

#resilience

Resources

TED Talk Radio Hour School

Code Switch Raising Kings

Togethered Learning

Educational Misses

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.’

An Event Horizon
Shade and Light – Event Horizon

Transfer

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.

Aggress

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. 

Refuse

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?

Switch

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. 

Something Else

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…  

Resources

Akala and Education

TES Small Schools Work