You: Sociopath

Astonishment
I have been amazed at the fact that I am transfixed by the Netflix show called YOU, his lies, his abilities to deceive and manipulate his way into peoples lives astounds me. The story telling and artful portrayal of Joe Goldberg is an introduction to the layering of an unwell man, that believes that he is, well – well.

Endings
The first season was complete hedenonism and I allowed myself to be swept up in the mire of Guinevere Beck and Joe’s “love affair” that ended shockingly in season 1.

Currents
The second season I find myself trying hard to swim against the current of liking Joe. Of not wanting him to win, steal, cheat, lie. Kill. But he does and I am amazed and happy and appalled by my want to see him suffer, be caught, found out, be brought to justice and then he is not and I am relieved and dismayed at myself for enjoying his escape.

Adoration Amiss
This is bad love. This is the love of the ill and the confused. This is the love often given or showered upon a narcissist or sociopath/psychopath. This love is wrong on so many levels but there I go, mesmerised with the allure of LA sun and youngish people living their best sordid lives. Pure unalterable, unabashed fantasy.

Familiarity
This is sociopathy. This is personality disordered contortion. The hook for me is the overlaying of the voiceover. The quick, witty, aware commentary. It sort of makes it okay. Smoothies over the roughness. This voice is similar to the ‘always on voice’ of mine in my head. I would hazard a guess that this voice is similar to the voice in your head too. It, the voice in our heads, is the entertainment. The doubter, the proof reader, truth seeker, worrier. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without hearing it?

Surprised recognition
Here in is where the clever thing about the show YOU lies. Hidden but omnipresent. Fixed like the ground beneath our feet but almost invisible because we do not notice that we walk across it, The ground holds us all up.

The voice in Joe’s head provides us with a commentary of all that happens and is happening. The dry, clever awareness of Joe is something we have heard before. He the voice is like our own. For me, this truth is the one that stands ahead of everything else about the show. We recognise them (the voice) as ours and are left wanting and loathing them him and us.

Love be gentle and also confusing on a car hood, resembling a puddle capturing the sky.
A puddle shaped heart

Before
It is a madness (confusing, intoxicating) how YOU can be so enticing! Watch on and be as appalled and as amazed as I have been.

The Wonder Years with Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper held something similar and as recognisable as did Dawson’s Creek’s teenage *philosophizings and posturings or similarly in Everybody Hates Chris with Chris Rock’s commentary. The voice over offers something more alluring.

The 3 shows listed above offered a running discourse that held the viewer wrapped up in both on and off screen musings. Whilst continuing the story in ones own mind well after the TV has been turned off. Another Netflix show that occupied precious cerebellum space, for me, was House of Cards for similar reasons listed here.

Inside Man
The last point I will raise is that the infection, my infection has to be passed on. Like an advert for stopping the spread of something harmful, and doing the opposite! I find myself speaking about the show. Defying my own sensibilities. Deftly displaying how I have been lured in to classifying Joe as disaffected and altered. Thus labelling myself just so.

I had not realised that I was spreading the harm by finding others to discuss the show with, is in itself an alarming, ludicrous and an insidious act. I should be offering warnings: Get out now if you can. Don’t continue to watch. Avoid YOU at all costs!

The cleverness is that you don’t realise how involved you are until it’s too late. Oh the characters themselves warn you. “You’re a sociopath! Is that it?” Says Love. Yes we scream he is! But do we then stop watching? No. We remain as if hypnotised because he is I, and I, is You and that is truly

unbelievably

amazing!

Resources
Sociopath meet Empath
7 Reasons to Watch You
10 Reasons to give up on TV
Have You Heard George’s Podcast ep 6

Images
Photo Erik Witsoe@ewitsoe on Unsplash
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Re-Edit Tactical Empathy and Effective Altruism Pt 3

Links to Social Responsibility
Previously I wrote about the School to Prison Production Line. The need for interrupters to change the direction, influence and flow of the components that can produce those that make up a forensic population taps into the idea of tactical empathy and effective altruism. (Soap Box moment) By putting the needs of a disaffected displaced over represented group of peoples alongside our own, perhaps even before us, then a significant derailment of the production line can and will occur. My reasoning is that the They are Us. Forgotten song goes someway to explore this concept with the Neimoller poem.

Clutch
For Arwa the understanding I arrived at was a sense of compassion that even though one might live in an area affected by conflict, war, and civil unrest. Life is still lived. A birthday is still celebrated, a new visitor treated like a very welcome guest. Arwa’s description of her experiences with the people that were able to offer her a safe place to hide with the threat of capture and death are ‘clutch’ moments. If we were to apply tactical empathy and a degree of critical thinking to Arwa’s story we would note that her job was to collect a story. The story became about her survival.

Tactical empathy – effective altruism. Two concepts that have become fixed in my mind and operate on a continuum. Existing as variant strains of the same complex web of connections and communications that are made and lost. We live our lives daily by knowing dimly. With Arwa setting up a foundation recognising that her efforts to raise awareness and create change for the many, forced her to organise her thoughts and organise people to offer more. The Return to Mosul documentary and frying an egg appear as a reminder of humans caring about other humans in all manner of settings. Living truly with the active philosophical slant of effective altruism. Affecting change.

The Call
The aim here then, could be to encourage critical thinking, being aware of our altruistic natures and when necessary use tactical empathy to listen and create change for self and others.

Resources
Philosophy Bites – Larry Temkin
Arwa Damon – The Seige

Re-edit Pt 1
Re-edit Pt 2
Re-Edit Full Script

Photo by Duniah almasri on 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.

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.

Deconstruct

Can’t fix it – Prison – Criminal justice

Start anew
13th and Eva Du Vernay’s latest Netflix film has further convinced me that criminal justice is a blight. What does the phrase mean – criminal justice? Who gets justice? Does the perpetrator of a criminal act get justice? What if the perpetrator were witness or victims of criminal acts when powerless and young? What justice can be measured against the crimes that they could not stop?

When They see Us
Has turned my stomach, turned my emotions into a heavy drum that reverberates with a sense that Angela Davis’ call of ‘Are Prisons Obsolete?’ are right here, before us, NOW! This is not a review of WTSU. I need a little time to allow what has been stirred to settle. This is a call to remember those who are away, serving time in places called prisons, forensic settings, exclusion units, on probation, in cells, in mental health hospitals and restrained and detained in deportation units.

Cross Pollination is Us.

Almost 10
For 9+ years I have been there. Seeing listening and supporting as a counsellor in Her Majesty’s Prison Services in South London. At Probation Services in a number of offices in and around London and now at a number of prisons in Kent. 

Four Tales
Ava DuVernay’s 4 films, 4 tales about the system of continued oppression that a person who is considered ‘other’ may face primarily because of ‘them’ being in the wrong place, wrong time – wholly screws with the idea of justice. 

Fresh Start
How here in the UK a person can grow up in circumstances that are *unsupportive to them as individuals, or as communities and make good is an unfair expectation. The recent report in Fresh Start shows what wide spread social investment can do for communities. Lack of support could mean one wrong turn, a bad decision, an argument, a moment of unconstrained fury, frustration, injustice, abuse – explodes and becomes a 35 year sentence

Break It Up
No the criminal justice system needs to be deconstructed. I’ve borrowed Jesse Williams phrase and ire here. Look at the things that feed the causes. Capitalism, guilt, shame, blame and the ideals of equality, discrimination and that of ethics are not achieved and held out of reach – I would argue, need be mentioned. 

Replace
In its place a community of activists, philosophers, cooks, teachers, faith leaders, prisoners, students, constructionists, film makers, politicians, service users in the community, Artists come together and develop a number of ideal ways to help move a person who has hurt, is hurting, was hurt – to grow.

To heal.

That’s what is at the foot of this mountain. 

POTENTIAL

Together
We don’t get to the top by wishing, or acting against ourselves or anyone else. We get to the top of the Mountain by planning, co-ordinating, arguing, directing, moving, retracing and supporting and by being compassionate – be human. To All. For All. Ubuntu

A system that further puts people at risk, hurts them and shames those already embroiled within it’s contorted digestive tracts. A system that cannot support a person to free climb up, out and away. Prison – It doesn’t work. It cannot work. It compounds a problem but does not create solutions.

The Obstacle is The Way
The aim is to climb the mountain to establish a fair and equal society for all. That is the dream.
Accepting that perhaps society as it is does not work for all.
Accepting that education systems whilst worthy and reasonably *investable models, remains a widely separating experience for students of a three tiered system.
Accepting that a system that identifies those who are hurt, who then go on to hurt others, are put into a place where others who like themselves are also hurting. Seems utterly nonsensical!

Medieval
Ultimately it sounds like an inhumane calamity. If we were able to, allowed to, we would think this has to stop! We would demand that things damn well ought to change and set about taking the necessary steps to install that change. Rather than invest in a system of continued pain.

Brave
What does work, is gathering all interested parties and support and time being given to see the hurt child inside and help, not blame, help them to reach higher and be courageous as we also become courage-ful.

At a recent counselling in Prisons Network CiPN conference Philip Wheatley presented a simple truth, risk is a factor of life. Risk can be managed but not extinguished and ruled out of our experience. The police, prisons, probation, nurses and detention centre officers should hold the idea that risk is a factor to the work when supporting those who offend.

The dream is for us all to be okay with wherever we are on that Mountain, living our best lives. 

Resource
Theaster Gates
Ethics Philosophy Bites
Code Switch word watch 1 and 2

Join the mailing list for insights and projects being worked on www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com

Therapy in Prison

Held up

Recently I worked with a client in a prison who appeared caught up in the story of how he has been continually mistreated by the Prisons he has resided in.

Expecting

When I re-framed a specific experience, his experience, he growled in acknowledgement of how he had been moving through his sentence. Not progressing. Stuck. Little involvement with probation or a sentence plan. He was tense and expectant of more bad shit to be passed to him.

A Why

It came after a long tirade of him counting up all the negative experiences that he has had. And why shouldn’t he? Life had dealt an undesirable hand. The idea of abandonment and not being heard were high on his watch list. “That shit is never going to happen to me again” he had said.

Sunshine

But they had. Even more shit had happened and he had reacted and then, he was left still holding a sad and ugly can of discontent. It stank! When he recognised the ailment he had been carrying it looked like the clouds covering his psyche broke and a beautiful smile graced his face. The joys of therapy are these moments. They happen when a person is willing to hear themselves put down the mask and step beyond. Out from under the cloud. The gloom had hidden him and his needs. The cloud had also given protection. Why would anyone want to leave?

Perspective

For this client the experience was seeing how tired he was from carrying the sloshing pail of woe and anger and resentment and pain. When he was able to put it down and walk a distance from it, he could see that in actuality he had been holding himself back. That the pain was all his and that the prison, probation or other professionals could not take it from him. All that a professional could do was help him recognise that by putting it down he could see himself anew.

Links

For a few moments it felt like an onslaught that I was being invited to witness and be party to. My careful reframe offered him chance to pause and acknowledge how dreadful those moments had been and where he could drop the bucket off. Ah now this is therapy.

Waves

The work is about creating chance for clients to look thrice and weigh up choices: carry around the ugly for another week, month, year or choose to drop bad for good and pick up something worthwhile, wholesome, worthy, healthy and ride on a crest for as long as it is possible. Picking up belief and self-esteem and confidence and humility and self-worth along the way.

Press Play

I will not be in this man’s life when he returns to his community. I get a sense however, that a shift of seismic proportions occurred and am happy to have been a part.

Choices

Making a decision to stay in a place of discomfort because it is familiar is common. We believe that choosing something unfamiliar but probably better is a simple choice to make and it lies squarely in the unknown.

4 Levels

Known Knowns – Water is Wet
Known Unknowns – That’s hot, how hot? That’s cold how cold…?
Unknown Knowns – Not knowing what is vaguely known Cantonese, Sub Saharan Africa, Quantum Mechanics, Effective Altruism
Unknown Unknowns – Total unawareness

Where would you place the greatest field of learning and of fear?
The Unknown Brain TED Talks

2 Years in the making

Rise to…

A few years ago I met a friend in a Cafe/Bakery I had long held as a pinnacle of urban regeneration and baking prowess.

I had just left the University of East London (UEL) re-introducing two old friends that both had extensive experience working in the field of criminal justice. We had spent time discussing workshops for Forensic Psychology students that we would be delivering over the years course.

Ascent
Rise by Solange Knowles is a great intro track for a complex album and it played as my friend and I entered. You may have come across Don’t Touch My Hair that features on the album. The E5 bakery is a teaching cafe and sells amongst other things sourdough bread possibly the best in London. The coffee is very good too!

Connex
Meeting my friend at the bakery was a culmination of a long held friendship and a cause for Celebration. I had that rare moment of synchronicity meeting serendipity. A choice had been made by my friend that felt important and life affirming. The moment when one realises one’s power. Where flight seems possible. The internal porch light gets flicked to on. The re-awakening of Neo in the Matrix’s final scenes. The culmination of intention meeting luck.

An Overview on…

Possibility
A walk and talk client and I had discussed the merits of both Lemonade and A Seat At The Table. As both albums were so dynamically different and yet stretching the listeners appreciation of musical activism in similar ways. We both felt that Cranes in the Sky was worth the whole album of Lemonade. It appeared that Solange had poured her entirety into that one song. Whereas Lemonade felt like the many iterations of a number of heartfelt concepts.

Chance
My friend had recently decided to change her role and leave the company she was with to join a charity working with service users in Probation. The decision she made was all hers however I felt responsible and to be a person of influence, perhaps I stepped from the role of friend to coach-mentor-consultant. The question is when to offer insights about choice and when not to. The point here is to note that knowledge can be influential. Think algorithms and shopping/buying on the internet. Google and Facebook only know of what you have looked at and as a result know some of your interests not who you are. Do not fall foul of their attempts to have you buy just because you once saw it. 

Games within games
By answering a number of my friends questions I was providing personal insight to a number of their considerations. I attempted to be objective. I am not sure I achieved true objectivity, some subjectivity seeped in. Passion runs through me on subjects I have experience with. For people that I know and love – get an uncensored cut. 

Work/Play
Ask any that I have worked with as a supervisor, basketball player, mentor, friend, service user, client, probation officer or FMHP. The soap box still calls me…

E5 Bakehouse mouth wateringly good produce

Carefree
Junie is a sweet throwback song that immediately brings to mind upbeat sunny hot summers, hanging out and younger fresher days. It speaks of freedom and roller skates and ice cream and hot sun, and full trees, riding bikes, barbecues, car stereo’s blasting and block/house parties. 

Embrace
Listening to Junie in the E5 Bakery talking to my friend about the choice she was making felt like a welcome return to a warm home after a cold night’s long walk.

Psychopathy: Test

Apex

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.

Review Data

EZ Poxy Shimmer

Shimmer

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!

Winning

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.

Listening

Abstraction Art

Abstract Interpretation

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.

Balance

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.

Forensic Populations

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

Seeing Dutch Windmills

Blue Abstraction

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.

Invite

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.

Further Reading

The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/a…the…psychopathy/555335/

The Independent
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/the-difference-between-a-psychopath-and-a-sociopath-10422016.html

Snap Judgement Science and the Psychopath
https://www.npr.org/2015/07/10/421625310/the-scientist-and-the-psychopath

Criminal Podcast The Money Tree
https://thisiscriminal.com/episode-51-money-tree-8-23-2016/

Mental Models

A Hierarchy

Visible Air

Water and Vapor – Mirrored

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.

Counselling Models
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.

Tailor Made 
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.

Criminal Justice 
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…

Odd Triangle

A Triangle of Sorts

Loss 
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.

Tide reversal 
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.

Sun Sea Sparkling

Tides

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.

Hard Change 
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?

Die Hards 
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.

Panoply 
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…

Resources 
A few further thoughts in relation to patterns and models of thinking. 
TED Talks Radio Hour – Hard Wired 
Ear Hustle Podcast – The Row 
Philosophy Bites Podcast – Obligations to the Needy

Reflection

Working with service users that have spent time on probation or in prison, a few have reminded me with traits of the below story.

Peace

You may have met people who may have narcissistic traits or display an inability to empathise with another, or view an experience from another perspective other than their own. My aim in this blog, is to offer insight and understanding where possible. I use the name Narcissus throughout this piece of writing to aid personalising narcissistic personality types.

Oppositional

Frank Morris – Small Brown Eyes

The Greek Myth Of Narcissus

According to Conon, Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus who gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked.

Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow.

According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

Inner Turmoil

The aspect that I find interesting about the story of Narcissus and narcissists is that the self image is the one that they protect and adore above all others. The self then is unreal, it is reflection, a mirrored image of perfection that is ultimately flawed as it cannot be attained or possessed, and as such is wanted all the more. A degree of pity and ideas of missed opportunities often flit behind my understanding and observed compassion about working with someone who may have a distorted view of their reality. By their holding so tightly to their view of reality, sometimes with arms, legs, teeth and eyes shut, the world as a whole is considered wrong, bleak, threatening, offering little that can shift their perspective or alter the strangle hold they may have on what they feel is rightfully theirs.

Small window

** Seeing Out Seeing Self

Pain

The pain of being held accountable, of being wrong, of shame and embarrassment, of being made vulnerable and seen as weak or lesser than, is a fear that has a person who may have narcissistic traits to hold on to their distortion that little bit harder and for far longer. The threat of being made small again is too great. Tactics are used to enable self-aggrandizement and remain with a sense of strength (Omnipotence), being right, whole, good, beautiful and powerful, employed at other peoples expense and often their suffering.

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 their symptoms and reduce the disorder’s influence over their lives.

Past

Narcissus may have had a number of experiences that threw their idea of self and the world in which they live in disarray at an earlier developmental age. Experiences such as loss through bereavement or 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. Denying others their humanity and not recognising their own. Remaining perfect and invulnerable.

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 fulfillment 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…

Recalibration

The challenge for them is in the invitation to begin deconstructing and decommissioning a world view that has enabled Narcissus to win. Be victorious against a past that could have been annihilating for them. Surviving their history would be a closer approximation to their truth if they could trust enough for it to be heard. Dismantling an image, a perspective that has the person beginning to see that the vision they had held was askew is risky.

Staccato

As Jill Scott sang in Love Rain ‘the vibe slipping off it’s axis’ is a useful analogy to describe the destabilization. Slippage is necessary to enable a nobler sight of realism to be perceived and understood. Perhaps the task is not 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 could be necessary for the change to begin in earnest for Narcissus. Perhaps… With curiosity and double doses of humoured inquiry an attempt to make mild interest of their now – known can be made. Rush not. Pose loose questions less with a sense of interrogation and more with a genuine want to peer behind their curtain. Inviting Narcissus to do so too. For though the subject appears to be laid bare and low due to their expression and expansion, this could either be their first genus of humility or the hard pressed kernel of defiant resistance.

Honouring

What lies at their centre? The aim here is to open 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 communion 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 the prism they shielded themselves from the world – cautiously.

Ignoring the other

Mental and Physical expression

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.

Attraction

The intriguing factor for me as a therapist is the attraction to 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 harmful? If this were the case what does being with Narcissus offer? Someone who is wicked with their humour? Bringing together a group of charming and attractive friends? Delights of social mobility and acceptance? A 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?

Evaluate with time away: life with and life without. There was a time before when they were not…

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, is to come from them.

Always.

Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one

Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work

Understanding the Mind of

*Humorosity A Michaelism

**Pictures by Frank Morrison