Clean Space

What is a clean space? I am borrowing from psychotherapy’s understanding of clean pain and dirty pain here. The idea for clean space is a transmutation from Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, and a conversation with a friend. In the book Resmaa defines ‘clean pain as choosing integrity over fear and standing in that fear with integrity and moving towards the unknown. The alternative path is responding from dirty pain. Dirty pain is when we respond to fear and conflict from our most wounded parts. Responding from dirty pain only creates more pain, both for ourselves and for other people.’ Kevin Reese.

Ahhhhh, Clean Space

Adapt Faster
For the past few months I have been engaged in conversations with Joshua Isaac Smith. ‘Clean space’ is a new concept for us to consider. Perhaps also psychotherapeutically. We wondered what ‘clean space’ would mean? A room devoid of clutter, debris from the past, smoke, mirrors, egos, distraction and expectation. A ‘clean space’ would be filled with windows. Allowing safe passage of the used and damaged out, and on the new breeze, fresh exciting ideas and plans.

‘Clean Space’ existing as a hopeful tentative NOW.

Empowered
Recently I was amongst 20 Black men at MacMaster’s Black Student Success Centre for an Empowered conversation. Being with groups of Black and Brown men, has been part of my psychotherapeutic experience since joining BAATN in 2010. Forming The Black Men’s Therapy Group, collaborating to start The Diversity Space at NHS Oxleas, being a counsellor of Kwanda’s Mens Groups, attending and co-facilitating the True Roots Check-In and Chat gatherings and now the Empowered experience at Macmaster’s University have all been ‘clean spaces’. Every experience supports an understanding of how rare meeting in an unencumbered way can be.

A Waiting Page

These Days
I wrote last year, about when Black people gather in numbers larger than 2, in spaces that are considered White, often that group is interrupted or stopped from happening. Noise, disruption, a perceived harmony considered out of alignment the cause. A closer examination could be that witnessing Black people together laughing, discussing, enjoying time peaceably can cause suspicion, disharmony, an old yet fully present order – disrupted. The observer offset by a preconceived notion that a group of Black men are planning something. Leading to revolt. In solidarity groups arrive at causes that determine outcomes and act accordingly to achieve necessary change.

Ready
The Empowered event at Mac’ was the first of it’s kind at the University. Members of staff (2 sports coaches, a lecturer/PhD student) students from different years and areas of study and me came together to watch Black Boys. A film about the Black Male experience in America, and then discuss our understanding of being a Black man in Canada. The skill of withholding rather than exploding, being assertive versus aggressive, non reactive when encountering micro and major aggressions, the exhaustion of constantly being on guard. Like being in an invisible straightjacket…

Community Clean

Rebound
Speaking with Joshua, who wondered about an organisms tendency to shrink, retreat, respond in fear when new stimuli are introduced. Prompted me to write this short blog. Our conversation helped me to think about synapses and encountering difference. Does the brain re-wire initially encountering challenge? Do synapses retreat breaking connection momentarily? Only to reach out and form a link later and then re-enforce that link with others. Or once a synaptic link drops, is the link permanently severed? Being in safe spaces, ‘clean spaces’, do synaptic links regrow? Do we regrow once danger and perceived threat disappear?

Exponential Growth
I believe we do in ‘clean spaces’. If the human has a tendency to self actualise, to improve continually, Black men witnessing another (others) in a space being vulnerable, can identify that the masculine can be compassionate and however that male wishes to recongise and express themselves. That was what I witnessed. A willingness to step outside of a pre-set mold. Tentatively we began to unfurl and live in space without filters. We became hushed, listening intently, focused. We found time to articulate our ideas and experiences like a testimony for the gathered to know ‘You are not alone.’ ‘I see you.’ ‘I have felt that way too.’

Bubble Balcony

You, Me, Us
Being in service to another, is being in service to self, to one’s family and community. ∞ (infinity) is an act of Ubuntu. When as a species (human) we can accept that no person is more important than anyone else on the planet. Death then can be an equalising concept. This final experience has us all in repose, be you a queen, a member of a Junta, or a salesperson. Having access to ‘clean space’ for Black men I imagine contributes to a sense of being seen, heard, valued and fulfilled. I am fortunate to have been a part of the inaugural Empowered event and look forward to many others at MacMasters, and beyond. The request from ourselves to humanity is less to seek permission, but taking the necessary steps to live well as Black men.

More of
Experiencing ‘clean spaces’ more than once, leaves me questioning about how members of the Empower group found their time? I am also interested to know how to increase a sense of security and ‘clean space’ beyond designated times and places. As a psychotherapist I am interested to know what the bite point is. When do ideas of connection bloom towards collaboration, action and then implementation? Having access to ‘clean space’ could be the catalyst.

Moving energy collectively forward.

Little is achieved without community around.

The first ‘clean space’ may well have been the family unit…

Resources
Black Boys hyperlinks to the site of the film. The link below is a Blog discussing the film in some detail by The Curvy Critic Sonia Lowman.
With I stand Alone, the outro of this piece of music bites down on the kernel I have been mulling on throughout this blog. Patrick Stump presents an idea on repetition. Without ingenuity nothing new can be introduced. Amongst community – everything is out for reinvention.
Black Folk introduces a wonderful love song to Black People about the Black experience. As insightful as the music is wistful. Poetry filled with pointed observation. Again we observe community.
Clean Pain links to a short piece by Kevin Reese who looks at his life following release from prison and integrating with community.
Jason Reynolds has a 4-part podcast where he in his smooth baritone, observes life post CoVid19 alongside his mother’s influence. Community for me is more than 1.
QLS Classic with Common, highlights Common’s rise from Chicago to being a global figure. Note how he observes community, influence and movement that helps to shape his career.
Black Boys by Sonia Lowman a review
Robert Glasper, Common, Patrick Stump  I Stand Alone
Tank and The Bangas Black Folk
Clean Pain and the necessity of healing – MSR
Radiotopia Presents My Mother Made Me – Jason Reynolds
Quest Love Supreme – QLS Classic: Common

Images
Image Theme: Clean
Cover photo Hands Clean Eats by Wasa Crispbread on Unsplash
Living Room photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash
A Waiting Page photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Window Clean photo by Victor on Unsplash
Bubble Balcony photo by Salman Hossain Saif on Unsplash

**Backlinks
Adapt Faster – Joshua Isaac Smith
Canada links to the Blog Encounters of the 3rd Kind
Black Student Success Centre or BSSC at MacMasters Uni
BAATN The Black African and Asian Therapist Network
The Black Men’s Therapy Group Blog
The Diversity Space Blog
Kwanda’s Mens Group Blog True Roots Blog
Ubuntu: Recovery – White Supremacy Blog

**Whilst I find backlinks useful in the main body of text. They can be distracting for you the reader. I would be interested to know if you find links at the end of the writing helpful.

In Dance

2020 was an ‘off’ year for a number of reasons. The blight of CoViD19 significantly affected millions living on the planet. The global social uprising sparked by the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd offered radical insights of not just the coronavirus but also multiple lockdowns and a social awareness that all is uncertain. For me, I chose to leave one organisation and join another. The organisation I chose to join: B.A.i.D. Black Artists in Dance.

Clocked
In 2019 an inspired group engagement re. Something Other: Diversity Space – lead to a sparkling conversation with Joyce Gyimah-Distefano and Gerrard Martin from B.A.i.D. We discussed what my role had been with Diversity Space and what their vision was for B.A.i.D. A recognition of shared interests in the wake of the global social unrest was straightforward for me to recognise.

Mirroring Buddy

Opposites
There was a clear overlap of B.A.i.D’s involvement with challenging status quos, and my involvement with Diversity Space, creating opportunity for Black and Brown voices to be heard amongst an NHS foundation trust. Whilst from two vastly different practices ‘psychology’ and ‘dance’, I would hazard that there are psychological components in dance and a dance in psychotherapeutic engagement. These differences made working together glimmer with possibility. If you have had the chance to watch Move on Netflix a flicker of the psychological, sociological and historical is present within each of the dance offerings.

Recognise
I held an affinity for what the future of B.A.i.D. was to begin engaging with nationally. The similarity of what had begun in 2019 with Diversity Space was – Black/Brown people to be seen, valued, heard, supported to achieve both inside of and outside of the NHS. For B.A.i.D. A space for Black dancers to be recognised amongst, celebrated within and supported to achieve what their hard won talents would earn them in the world of movement performance.

Picturesque Poise

Buckaroo
The promise to Black and global majority communities – that the harms and injustices of the past – were to be rectified and put forever right are largely still unmet. Capitalism’s promise following unarmed Black death, appeared as the last hiccups of a world semi conscious of race, colonised histories and the lie of supremacy gave way to resentment and impatience. The backlash came after a few weeks of full tilt support of Black Lives Matter and *EDDIE (Equity, Diversity, De-colonialism, Inclusion, Equality). Change unfortunately takes time. Some know, others don’t. As Mariame Kaba carefully described in an interview with Ibram X Kendi, “make use of and remain vigil of disciplined hope”.

Outline
Joyce explored what had been achieved with Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust alongside colleagues. What the Raison D’Etre was for the Diversity Space and how our collaboration grew to become a significant force for change for the organisation and for the 4 members of the small but dedicated team. 2 have remained and 2 have joined other teams beyond the NHS. B.A.i.D. as an organisation were clear with what they wanted to engage and achieve. Small – large scale dance training institutions address how to be anti-racist and to tackle practices that ignore, silence and invisibilise individuals from Black and global majority communities that attend dance training.

Fields of Gratitude

Marked
I have delivered 2 individualised events for Rambert School. At the first event as the supervising counsellor for B.A.i.D. I met with students to discuss mental wellbeing, addictive qualities of mobile phone use, risks and rewards of being in and outside of group, raising awareness of public, private and secret communication, identifying attachment patterns, and developing coping strategies. The event in March went well, primarily due to the open curiosity of students, the overview and support of Joyce, Gerrard of B.A.i.D. and Phaedra from Rambert. Students were willing to explore difficult concepts and find interesting solutions and challenge their thinking and mine.

Elastic
The second event involved a group of staff from different components of Rambert School. The staff group were equally as engaged as the dance students had been. They followed what was presented in relation to end of year reflections, as though this type of training happens every term! (It doesn’t!) Staff were as flexible in their thinking and as willing to engage with challenging and opposing ideas, as their students had been. Either there is something in the air in this part of London, or the ethos of the school helps shape all engaged at Rambert.

Flexibly In Tune

Crash
A number of stand out moments happened throughout the day. Concepts such as a ‘Year in Change’ and ‘Conflict’ began shifting around the identity of self and community for Rambert staff. I was thankful to have had a number of prior conversations with Joyce, Gerrard and Phaedra in relation to what an event with me could resemble. Reflecting on 2020 – 2022 the Rambert team were able to note the necessary and amazing choices staff had taken to change ways of being in the school and away from – virtual/online learning, marking, attendance, re-engagement at the school after lockdown. Heading into the topic of conflict, we noted that for much of the pandemic we were all engaged within a number of battles that were; physical, psychological, philosophical, political and social.

Resolution
The small skirmishes (mentioned above) potentially left small and deep scars. Rambert staff identified that we would be better to pay attention to these wounds, heal them and make use of the learning offered. Rather than to limp slowly and recklessly forward – hurting more.

The internal conflict the past 2 years have presented are: what changes are to remain and what of the many adjustments made, do we leave behind?

For me there are phenomenal outcomes when seemingly opposing disciplines arrive at the same place at the same time and attempt to dance.

Perhaps individually we can remain in tune.

Collectively we may find co-ordination a challenge. With considered effort and for a long time after, fun can be re-discovered amongst the many…

Perhaps

Resources
The B.A.i.D. link connects to Black Artists In Dance website – offering the uninitiated an insight to an amazing organisation.
Rambert School present their collaboration with BAiD.
The Mariame Kaba link is connected to the Blog post of Willfully Unseen: Packed Ending and her interview with Ibram X Kendi on How to be Anti-Racist podcast.
In Tune is a link to the musical and poetic feat by Robert Glasper and Amir Sulayman. When artistry takes on a social movement often a power experience is entombed.
EDI a short film by Oxleas NHS trust a view of some of the work the Diversity Space delivered and continues to support and improve the NHS service.
Unlocking Us with Brené Brown in conversation with Karen Walrond, provides a clear direction beyond the upset of the past 2 years. I thought the conversation fitting for the staff group.
The last resource is of Prentis Hemphill discussing conflict with Kazu Haga. The big take away for me was that, there are 7 truths inside of the true false paradigm. Useful to overcome differences of opinion and remaining in the unknown open to curiosity.
Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust EDI
Code Switch Why Now?
Brene Brown in conversation with Karen Walrond Unlocking Us
Prentis Hemphill in conversation with Kazu Haga Finding Our Way

Images
Theme Dance
Cover photo by Maick Maciel on Unsplash
Buddy Wave photo by SJ Objio on Unsplash
Field Dance photo by Ian Kiragu on Unsplash
Picture hold photo by Nkululeko Mayiyane on Unsplash
Wild Style photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

*An acronym recently invented.

Something Other: Therapy

I continue thought on being something other in the psychotherapeutic profession. Whilst the experience is singular, I know I am not on my own.

The Problem
A problem halved, is a problem that is shared. Or so we are told, and a few believe. Many hold to a sense that they alone carry the burden of their thoughts and worries. Often withholders are surprised by what happens when they begin to discuss concerns with a trusted other. At times the trusted other is an outsider to their lives. Strangely, anonymity helps entrust the listener and the sharer to intimately examine past and present hurts. This – the relationship between counsellor and client, coach and coachee, mentor and mentee, perhaps also teacher and student.

Unseen or Invisible?

Taught
The experience I have had of being othered has been a part of the caring profession for as long as I have been aware of the double standards held within the profession. Caring and caring less about those who are identified as other. Therapy is to be an experience of supporting individuals, groups, organisations observe the problem(s) and provide support in moving into the beyond. Completing my training as a counsellor at Uni of Greenwich, I have grown increasingly aware of the long held and embedded ideas that accompany being Black and working in the psychological profession. By omission of African, Asian, and global community influences and contributions to the psychology profession, an unspoken idea remains prevalent of Black and Brown bodies delivering care. Some notions may include identification of African Diasporan practitioners as inferior, incapable, unintelligent, possessing poor communication skills, lacking in technical ability and seen as a low quality substitute compared to qualified ‘professional’ (White) mental health practitioners.

Difference Stratified
At most – 6 weeks worth of teaching for the 3 years I was at Greenwich, involved an awareness of Gender, Race, Religion, Age, Culture, Class, Economic status, Education, Sex (G.R.A.C.E.S.). Millions of topics relating to equality were lightly grazed. I am grateful for being introduced to BAATN in my second year. I had no awareness that BAATN existed, and have enjoyed what I have learned from being a member.

Standing Amongst
I once described being at one of BAATN’s men’s gatherings as being not only seen, but heard, understood, recognised and valued. My presence was accepted as amongst. A hugely significant and powerful moment of realisation for me. Ralph Ellis’ book Invisible Man offered a useful frame to know what a Black man might experience beyond the sanctity of his home.

Unstoppable

Pscyhotherapeutic Beginnings
The profession I am a part of is yet to appreciate Black people as amongst and belonging alongside difference. The understanding I have is that a supremacy is incapable of holding a compassionate view inside a nihilist agenda. Europe birthed an idea of psychology that was largely Eurocentric, built on Greek foundations of Philosophy. For me, the link to African (Egyptian) beliefs and traditions is undeniable. The contention I have relates to the progression psychology has taken since the 19th century. Becoming centred and refined on an understanding that gaining more knowledge of the subconscious, will reveal our path to healing. But as the ancestors invite us to be aware, to truly know self is to also be aware of our physical nature too. The body has as much influence on how we think and feel as does the subconscious. The investment made to dust off the research into psychedelics and psilocybin, invites a further leap from mind singularly to mind body and spirit connections. Is this not where those in Middle Earth centred some of their beliefs and understandings of humans living on the planet eons ago? How have we lost this information and what has made ‘Psychology’ the purview of a select few Frail Pale Male Stale people. Freud the genus but the belief in the European model of therapy being best, has many other global traditions behaviours and practices scrapped and made to be valueless muck.

Prometheus
I am in a part of the book ‘Work Won’t love You Back’ by Sarah Jaffe, where the author looks at intimate labor and observes how largely Black and Brown women are treated in professions that care for others professionally. I wonder if the inbuilt label of being classed as unskilled and unvalued is also cast upon Black and Brown mental health professionals? We aren’t what the model of a highly skilled professional in text books looks, sounds and behaves like. It is at the institutions that change is to happen. What is taught, how it is taught and by whom it is taught has got to change. Informed this week that Wales is to introduce Black History teaching to all of it’s curricula will in Wales address the change that is to happen globally. The West did not travel the globe liberating people from eternal darkness. The West plundered the Global South for it’s wealth and plunged nations and billions of people into a modern form of windowless shadow. The gloom that persists is the one that hides the light of realisation from plain sight and holds to high ransom (debt, imprisonment, indentured labour, substandard education, threat of war) for those seeking to enlighten the masses.

Over and Under
Engaged in similar work a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist a belief is held, that roles such as these are the purview of White highly skilled, highly educated women and men. Caring professions in the West are heavily over-represented by a main ethnic social and class group. That deliver services to ever over-populated people represented by G.R.A.C.E.S groups, in institutions. Schools, Child and Adolescent Services, adult education and prisons are a small list of a mismatch between the numbers involved in delivery and receipt. Observing mental illness and support on offer at hospitals, residential short and long stay facilities, psychological interventions in the community, again I am struck by two experiences of over representation by those providing care and those on the receiving end of it. I wonder what those who provide care to those receiving care believe, think, feel about their knapsack of real or presumed privilege?

It is about change

Supervision
Attending an online supervision group I note the welcome received, (tight, brief, a hint of something undefinable yet all too present). Generally I like to arrive early to the meetings. I hear and regard the effusive positive welcome and list of accomplishments other therapists are lauded with. A warmth, recognition of something similar/familiar, a thing not spoken but still wholly palpable. I understand we like people who in some way mirror ourselves. When met with a frequent experience of being unconsciously or consciously reviled a weathering happens. Aware of the apparent unconscious bias I say nothing of the discomfort these experiences cause. I do not want to be the rabble rouser. The upstart, bringing contention and upset, where others feel sanguine. But some degree of psychological pain experiencing the deletion of my attendance happens. I am at a loss of how to make use of the feeling so as to experience this edition of supervision well. A better solution may be in non-attending. Or showing and saying little (another form of non-attendance), or even being the one who throws each meeting into necessary checking of insults felt and throwing hurts back to be managed by the group. An hour or 2 is not enough to fully disgorge the malcontents held, and I wonder what ultimate good is caused?

Always Seen, Often Ignored
Being othered and feeling an inconsequential value within the counselling psychotherapy profession is a common experience I note. Being the only Black person, nay the only Black man (on screen) at a meeting of mental health professionals is a scene on repeat. I am shocked less by these moments. There can be little comfort in solitary confinement. The scene (me alone or to be counted amongst a smaller population of global majority attendees, alongside a larger whiter group of people) has presented itself many times before. The threat of being discovered as not as good as, pointed out as the fraud or made the subject of biased judgement lurks peripherally. One is unable to hide in plain view.

Intimately Labouring
What would I like to happen instead in group? Would platitudes, and over ingratiating welcomes make me feel better about attending mostly White gatherings? For me, the change would be about a sensate shift towards feeling less at the wall, clamoring to flee. Fearing attack from an unknown assailant. My preference that all at a space, potentially, are unknown unknown allies. That are doing the emotional, psychological, spiritual work to lessen the sense of distance between G.R.A.C.E.S groups of people, of which I place White people amongst.

Quiet defiance

Canvas
The sense of attending a space where all in attendance are (un)consciously aware of the lack of representation from Global South communities could reduce unease. The challenge ahead is staying with the sense of discomfort. The *taughtness of an environment in time will lessen. Even when the experience is incredibly difficult. It’s the example of my Spidey sense going off at the Pizza Place, letting me know that an unknown foreign agent (fear) is malevolently spoiling an experience. The deciding factor, an awareness that perceived difference does not make anyone lesser or should jettison them from a room. If a space is filled with curiosity and a willingness to make it beyond – to the other side of the challenge then mostly all are usually lifted further along. A new path of awareness can be engaged with. An appreciation of the complex richer connections made across aisles, ages and other forms of perceived stratification and otherings enhance learning. To be applied by continually evolving professionals.

Therapy Today
The latest edition of BACP’s counselling magazine Therapy Today (October 2021) offers a wonderfully rich complex yet balanced review of Black therapists engaged in changing the psychological landscape of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. ‘On the shoulders of giants’ the title of the magazine, looks at a range of professionals. Offering examples of the many women and men who have battled to steer important changes made for the improvement of the profession. My reasoning is ‘But we all have hearts, minds and bodies with which we think, feel and move with’ and so a mass experience of living whilst human can be identified, installed and ideally utilised for the fulfillment of all.

Resources
The term allostatic load was the first time I recognised what prejudice, othering and the effects of racism are for Black and brown bodies is medically noted as. Code Switch podcast, discusses what Weathering is and how it can affect people.
An earlier blog listed the second link. Black (African American Psychoanalysts) speak of their experiences, training and working with members of the public. When I first watched the documentary I was both affirmed by what these esteemed colleagues discuss and also slightly dismayed. An inherent sadness is present within the pride of being a Black Psychoanalyst and the reality this title holds a mirror to.
The link to the Podcast takes you to BAATN’s site. listing the richness of the Black African And Asian Therapists Network Podcast series of talks and presentations. The highlighted episode with Arike and Eugene discusses what steps training organisations could take to become globally influenced, engaged and representative of, in relation to psychological teaching. The podcast was both encouraging and conscious of the work still ahead for many colleges and universities staff students and graduates.
The last resource may have been missed in the shuffle. Listed amongst the resources discussing a Pizza shop experience. Jennifer Mullins discusses her journey to become a therapist the learning she experiences in both the class room and most importantly outside of the institution are both inspirational and illuminating.
Black Psychoanalysts Speak
BAATN Podcast Creating Partnerships Training With Organisations: Lets Talk About Race
Decolonise Therapy interviews Jennifer Mullins

Further Reading
I am yet to read the Race Conversation by Eugene Ellis and Black Identities, White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago. My listing them here is to highlight that I am still learning and growing.
Race Conversation in Psychotherapy by Eugene Ellis
Black Identities White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago
Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird by Dr Dwight Turner

Images
Cover photo Black and White Dice by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash
Invisible person photo by Laura Thonne on Unsplash
Eyes on the prize photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Office window smiles photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
Orange Tie professional photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash


Narcissus Is Us

Call To Act
I am going to ask that before you read the below, pause, go for a walk, make a beverage and do something that is you centred. My sister Edwina advised once she gleaned what the blog was to interrupt.
Whether that pause is taking a nap, meditating for a few minutes, reflecting over something recently heard, tapping out a rhythm, sketching something, scribbling, or just staring out the window.
What follows below attacks the very thing we are communicating on right now. So leave.
This piece will remain, and you can laugh at it’s offering whence you return.

Suprise
The pursuit of happiness has many of us duped. Caught inside an ever decreasing trap of our own making. A few years ago I wrote extensively about Narcissus. He who fell madly in love with his own reflection. His admiration of himself causing his eventual death. It is said that Narcissus is still admiring himself by the river Styx in the under world.

Reflection Can be Golden

Addict
Some of us believe that we look at our computers/laptops/tablets or phones infrequently? Some of us believe that we casually gaze upon mobile devices once every half an hour to every couple of hours. The truth, we regard devices as many times as 10 – 40 times in an hour.
That’s as often as once every 1.5 minutes in an hour. If we were to ask ourselves, if like Narcissus we have fallen in love with our own image?
We would possibly answer with a resounding – NO! However the attraction to longingly, lovingly, look at our internet savvy tech has me questioning. Are we doomed like Narcissus?

Brain on Notice
For a few years I have attempted to keep a regular meditation practice. There are a few reasons. Firstly, for overall brain health. Another consideration for me is to maintain a consistent level of focus.
Our world now, demand’s a renewed level of awareness. At the top of my priority for improved concentration include; Raising 2 emotionally literate children, my work with counselling or coaching clients, listening to podcasts or radio programs, reading bathing in the knowledge of others and enjoying their insights. The benefits of focusing would be positive outcomes relating to meditation practice.

Infuriation
The constant challenge is that the mind drifts. This is experienced at an exaggerated degree when I am sat in repose meditating. It is like my mind finds ways to literally run away with itself on the most errant of ideas worries and imaginings.
Examples include: Last nights meal, conversations to be had, arguments lost, items found, children to picked up or dropped off at their various activities, client considerations, relationship concerns, family, health (relating to MS and aging) fitness, financial worries, ongoing world crisis (Climate, War, Water, Energy), elections, study, travel and the list continues.
All of the above thoughts and considerations flood in when a moment is created for internal reflection. It is like brains wired for activity, our minds attached to them are unable to fully let go of the high functioning operant level. Problem solving, solution focused finding is a goal to be reached. To down gear into an experience of relaxing calm seems like an impossibility.

Eye Glasses
Perhaps we should be happy for Narcissus? He found the subject of his desire, and was content to waste away with his beloved by a river and die.
Knowing the story from a position of the outsider looking upon Narcissus’ folly, we notice his short-sightedness. His inability to find anything other than his own image reflected back at him. A totality of all that was beautiful, beguiling, attractive and yet ultimately unobtainable. Zeus presented Narcissus with a cruel curse then. A tale of woe for all who cannot hear or see the message therein!

Enchanted
Like Narcissus what our devices are able to do, is show us our interests in ever more increasingly captivating  presentations. Whether the service is delivered by Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the appeal is to be amongst, playing, adapting, creating, uploading and engaging with an audience that reflects an individual back unto themselves.
Devices offer an echo chamber, a self-fulfilling feedback loop. Being away from the ‘mirror’ then, invites fear, revulsion, envy, jealousy, self pride and hubris, pity, fleeting experiences of happiness and momentary collections of learning.
I have been with all of these emotions and thoughts throughout my time creating a virtual footprint.
The feelings that are legion, arise either through producing content or accessing information. Being away from the device and the virtual world has many experience the idea of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Not being online at the right time and place all the time. I imagine the virtual footprint anxiety steals something important from us all.

Like Narcissus – Really?

Handling Fire
At a new years eve party 2019 – 2020, when the crisis that is the global pandemic was nascent, I shared an idea about mobile phones. I said to another party goer ‘It is like the mobile phone has replaced the fire we all used to share our stories, whilst sitting around its warmth.
The phone is our camera, telecommunication device, and connects us to the world in a way that fire did and yet also could not.’
In the days before – we would throw our imagination against the fire. Fire would help us see and describe what we saw, amongst our group. These imaginings could then be made real. Manifestations of our imagination happened at first with interpreters, then scribes and with paper, then books, then radio, cinema then TV. We have steadily moved away from the communal and shared experience to the insular and the individual.

Heat
What has been replaced by a communal warmth and sharing is a cooler blue light. There are uncountable gains for those who value and learn as individuals – to absorb information in an singular way.
The loss for me, is being aware of how learning by self is passed on?
As a global community with a small handful of members holding knowledge for themselves, how can we all grow and learn similarly?
Is there a need for Ubuntu? The idea of the Zero-Sum game is made manifest here. Could individual isolated learning be an example of flaws in a solo monoculture? Potentially leading some towards fundamentalism and radicalization over and above collective reasoning, reflection, awareness of self, group, community and growth?

Urbanized Reflection

Minimise
With self interest held at a premium does the web of interconnectedness fail with a system that has a few sclera’s enmeshed amongst it’s organisation?
I am taken to my own faltering nervous system, the scourge that is MS. Within a weakened system like the nervous system of a person with an auto-immune disease like Multiple Sclerosis, electrical messages are not passed easily along damaged nerves.
The message either arrives late, in a delayed or garbled fashion or not at all. With relapsing remitting MS (RnR) a relapse can be caused by heat, stress, tiredness and by the over defensive mechanism of the body’s immune system confusing food particles as harmful pathogens that should be attacked and destroyed. Thereby damaging formerly healthy cells and creating scars and lesions along nerves.

Corrupted
I am also mindful of Cypher in the Matrix, who as a human component attacks and betrays the system the rebels have asserted.
As a node Cypher attempts to corrupt all – for his own gain.
If a web like the human nervous system, the microorganisms of the soil and the systems that support plant life, can and often do find alternative paths to carry information, then the organism can survive and often finds ways to do so well.
With the invention of mobile technology our ability to function well, beyond a virtual world appears hampered, affected – infected.

Juggernaut
Attention spans have been decreasing ever since the Information Age became the mental onslaught it now is! Our minds have become a much sought-after real estate upon which a number of material battles are fought. Those who win get to earn our first 2nd and 3rd purchasing choices.
They earn our belief and own our loyalties. Any other choice is seen as untrustworthy, valueless, having inferior quality and simply does not hold our interest.
Reading a long read like Whiteness on The Couch by Natasha Stovall. Or a book that challenges long held ideas about the world in which we live. Such as The Origin of Consciousness in The Breakdown of the Bicameral mind by Julian Jaynes, or True Believer by Eric Hoffer.
Books similar to those mentioned – help to improve focus and build a newer understanding of what we all experience and offer chance to re-evaluate.
Even a blog as lengthy, wordy, wan and as wildly speculative as my blogs tend to be. Potentially can grow attention spans and generate a nonlinear perspective that could be useful in topics of discussion at personal or professional settings. Make what is read, listened to or watched personally meaningful. Even if the subject material is used as a catalyst to spark ridicule or laughter. For a moment allow self to be altered.

Intelligent Light Trappings

Options
What we tend to gain when we step away from the banal, simple, pre-digested material often fed through news and media outlets, snap chat feeds, Instagram lives, TikTok videos, Youtube viral finds, Facebook campaigns, twitter links, LinkedIn broadcasts, can be a step closer to genuine rich honest communicative ideas that challenge and create space for new thoughts and ideas to emerge.
The intention behind writing this piece was ultimately for the reader – you; to answer a simple question.
If you realise that like Narcissus, are soon to bring about your own end through mindless neglect what steps do you take?

Resources
An inspired evening of conversation, food and drink, with friends and new acquaintances can provoke discussion that offer chance to catch new ideas. If the pandemic has robbed us of anything it is the freedom to meet, and have chance to come together and talk, share ideas and laugh at the folly of our lives. I thank Dave, his wife Emily and family for hosting a truly entertaining evening that birthed the idea of the fire in our hands – mobiles.
I have shared in previous Blogs Natasha Stovall’s article of Whiteness on the Couch. The article is a prime example of a sustained effort arriving at difficult conclusions. Whiteness on the Couch is a long read. My advice take time to absorb the information shared.
The Origin of Consciousness sounded like a great book to spend time with. My niece Portia suggested I read it if I wanted to gain understanding of what we perceive as psychology. The book has helped me appreciate the complicated awareness we have understanding our minds.
The link to Cypher is in essence prophetic in relation to how he attempts to swing events in the 1999 movie The Matrix, to his favour.
After Skool offers a wonderful philosophical and practical understanding of what we are experiencing being a sentient being on the planet now. I was attracted by the title ‘MASS PSYCHOSIS – How an Entire Population Becomes MENTALLY ILL’. I believe the authors of this beautifully drawn argument offer a useful and updated understanding of Eric Hoffer’s True Believer.
Elite Content Marketer brings the article Screen Time Stats as a useful observation of our human trend in relation to the other screen we used to spend hours watching – TV. I also enjoyed reading about the impact of picking up our phones. We become enthralled with what we have seen. Narcissus whisperings.
The Social Dilemma Netflix documentary was a perfect film to highlight the challenge facing humanity at the height of the Pandemic. I found the documentary useful to hear from those involved with the information age industry, state clearly, if a service is free YOU ARE THE PRODUCT being exploited, used and largely manipulated.
The True Believer YouTube video is an insightful look at Eric Hoffer’s book. Academy of Ideas shares understanding of what the book discusses. I offer True Believer as a counter argument to A Killing of the Mind video. Mass movements come and go, we determine their impact.
A Killing of the Mind After Skool
Screen Time Stats Elite Content Marketer
The Social Dilemma Netflix
True Believer Academy of Ideas

To answer the question above, as an Artist my medium du jour is writing. It is my small act of creating, imagining and bringing to light from another place ideas that engender hope, resilience, humor and balance.
These ideas are what keep me up at night and get me up in the morning. If writing can open doors that lead to corridors of wonder – the attempt – tether lightening to my leaden ideas. I can only hope are worthwhile…

Images
Cover photo Glee by Glen Anthony on Unsplash
1st photo Inlay Golden Tree image by Faye Cornish on Unsplash
2nd photo Train Viewing by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash
3rd photo White Shoes by Redd on Unsplash
4th Mirrored Man photo by Imani Bahati on Unsplash

Group – Explored

The not Netflix show Group, has truly mesmerised me. I could watch both seasons repeatedly and still learn something new. Alerted by Kwame Opoku in the UK. A fellow Ghanaian Psychotherapist suggested I give the YouTube phenom a try. Working with groups has been a part of my life professionally as a counsellor for more than 5 years. I wanted to discuss and share partially what it is like being in group and being designated the facilitator in this piece of writing. Primarily because the position is an imperceptible dance.

Diviner
As the facilitator of a group you get to dance with the life and death of experience. At times the pace of a group is so slow and quiet. A group can be a space filled with unheard and unseen ghosts of past experiences. At others group experiences can be fast and dynamic, filled with talk, voices raised as the energy flies around the room. If you have read the Shopenheur Cure (as yet I have not) or Loves Executioner (this one I have) by Irv Yalom you will recognise the unending sense of experience and compassion that arises from Dr Ezra. 

Boardroom Group Collaborating Board Room

Art Imitating
What has inspired me to remain a fan of Group, and hoping for a further 20 shows that gets picked up by a major studio, is the sense of how true and congruent and vibrant the show feels. Group is strangely authentic and as real as any TV show has the potential of being. For me it is the recognition of the energy that appears to move about the room. The energy, caught well by the double camera filming and the actors shedding lines and insights like members of a dance troupe – fluidly, with the ease, force and grace of a strong wind.

The links below highlight the felt sense of movement for me in Group and also how both Move and Code Switch live in Birmingham Alabama brought group experiences and shared insights to life.

Resources
Move – Netflix
Code Switch – Live in Birmingham. A group experience and more

Images
Cover Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash Women on Steps
1st Inlay Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash Women in Boardroom

A Different Future

Equity in Dreamworks Inc

An odd moment arrived recently when reviewing the past few weeks of protests, stating the now ubiquitous ‘Black Lives Matter’. The movement, for me, blended with the ending scenes from the movie Kung-Fu Panda 3. The idea is somewhat out there, and will probably not land safely. If you have not seen the movie or are unfamiliar with the KFP franchise the idea will land ever more askew!

Unity Looks Like
Ubiquity Accepted

Unity
In the final scenes of Kung-Fu Panda 3, a village of pandas step forward after defeating a marauding wolf pack and put out there paws to save the hero, Po.

Demonstrating
The scene clearly demonstrates the now common idea that in unity, a great wrong can be put right. That a Black and White hero can defeat a Demi God! Inviting a village/world to heal long held wounds and restore itself to a bright and limitless future. The idea has long been held. The story has also been told since human beings have walked the earth.

Together we stand. Divided we fall!

Touch
With Po (Hero) in the spirit world, feeling the hands/paws reaching out and lifting him up. Po gains the strength to be able to put up a good fight and defeat the misguided power seeking Kai. Does this concept sound familiar? World leaders current and past be warned…

Switch
Kai interestingly resembles a buffalo with dreads and his baritone voice denotes a person of African-American heritage. Possibly increasing the diversity representation in the DreamWorks cannon of films and simultaneously complicating my relationship with the synergy of good and bad, black and white, up and down dyad.

Support
There is mass celebration and delight amongst the villagers, once Po returns. Evil has yet again been defeated by Po aided by the furious 5 and the Panda village. To save the One, The Many must unite.

Silence as Weapon
Apathy Harms

Evolve
The moment of blending for me, is the recognition of the callous murder of George Floyd and the laying of hands for Po in KFP3.

For me, evolution can be experienced amongst us (the human being). A global recognition of the myth of White Superiority has begun.

And in protest against the systemic factors insisting that White Supremacy is the natural order of how the world is always to be.

What has been experienced by the many, has been one of finding Unity. At least for a moment in history. Seeking justice for George Floyd after the pandemic is also about finding a way to restore – make what has been centuries of old wrongs – right for and with Black people at the helm. Globally.

The Tao Haiku
Without opposite
Warm, Cold, Up, Down, the journey,
Possibly never

Resources
Kung-Fu Panda 3 Ending
The American Lie https://youtu.be/2roWLzrqOjQ
History of White People – Nell Painter
Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos – Dwight Turner

Images
Cover Photo Photo by Devon Divine on Unsplash
1st inlay photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo by Karimi Karagania on Unsplash


Conspiracy Theory: CoViD19

Weather
The reason I am attempting to write a counter conspiracy is for a counselling client (PK) who summed up the mælström that is the pandemic. Wherever one may have been in the last 2-3 months, in all of the countries around the globe, one word has possibly been used billions of times more than almost all others: CoViD19.

More
The meaning of the word CoViD19 is an amalgam for the Corona Virus Disease 2019. There have been other Corona Viruses which this one has become the most famous currently. There was H1N1 and SARs that are also well known to have had deadly effects on us humans.

Past responses
In my last piece of writing, I attempted to show what a millennia of learning has taught us. What do we do in the face an of overwhelming threat? We share knowledge to defeat said threats. With this virus – sharing unverified information can have a large downward spiralling affect.

Valuable
Sharing viable information from reliable and trustworthy sources serves to contain and uplift those that we care about. Putting forward concerning or hopeless material can put even more stress and strain on already overwhelmed biological systems. The effect: more illness and disease and possibly death. Various communities have been hit disastrously by COVID19. Globally – China, Italy, Spain the UK and then the US, have been affected grossly with high infection rates and death tolls.

Guardians
African Americans, African Caribbeans, Black British and Asian British people appear to be experiencing the illness at a considerably higher rate than the general population. Within these communities the disease has spread very quickly: see the Guardian article below. Some time could be spent reviewing incident rates, skewed figures and total numbers observing underlying health difficulties.

You at the Front
African and Asian communities, here in the UK are often frontline workers i.e. Doctors, Nurses, Public Transport operatives, grocery shop employees, refuse and garbage disposal operatives, cleaners, janitors, security guards, delivery agents, postal workers, packers and sorters.
Who come into frequent contact with the disease from a wide array of sources. Often frontline workers are without the appropriate equipment, training or guidance. Simply doing their jobs without due protection.

How did this come to pass?

Responsibility
These women and men as brave as they are, perhaps, are as wary of the set of circumstances we all face but may have little option but to continue to support themselves, their employers, employees, their families, their communities.
Why? Because they care?
Yes, and there maybe a simpler more human reason. If they aren’t able to fill the unforgiving task, who will? If they don’t, will frontline workers be able to stop working if they are the main earner in their household? If family in countries of their origin are in need of the stipend they are able to send each month can frontline workers easily walk away from their frontline roles?

Unknowing Unseen
Perhaps just before we are about to click send on the latest conspiracy theory: showing how this latest crises caused by the Nameless Them will be our undoing. Maybe we should think of others who are fighting for a larger ideal. Rather than the 2 or 3 minutes of edutainment that the video has provided us with. Maybe we can think how is this information going to serve another? Spending time with the idea of – “if I cannot verify or make good use of this too hot to handle information, should I send it?”

Accountability
I am not saying do not send info that you feel can be useful for others. What I am asking is that we make a considered effort to pause and think of others more. Because if what is sent causes another to feel progressively worse and hopeless – do they deserve that? For another to carry the burden of a future that looks as bleak and as unpromising as their not too distant past has been?

Dual Responses
For communities suffering with co-morbid presentations of hypertension, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, mental illness, personality disorders, substance misuse and pasts affected by the criminal justice system – would adding another straw to an already overworked overburdened back be a compassionate wise or empathic response?

Holding a candle

Light in Dark Spaces
Aim always for kindness I have been told. Always! Aim for lessening the load of others and bearing some of the weight they carry.

Do not click send without forethought.

If the South African term Ubuntu (I am: Because You Are) is used as a guide, CoViD19 could be used as a tool to look to a greater good for all.

Pandemics do not need to separate but throw us all under the same sky fighting a microscopic monster together. Would that not be a better conspiracy to spread?

Resources

P Diddy State of Emergency – A plan of action
The Stoop Podcast – Together and Apart
The Guardian – CoViD19 affecting Black Communities
Pod Save The World – How a Virus Can Threaten Democracy There are many relevant view points incorporated into this episode including David Lammy discussing Corona Virus and his new book!

Images
Cover photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

CoViD19: A Conspiracy?

Managing the anxiety of COVID19 and the surrounding conspiracy theories that go along with the outbreak, the spread, and the intentionality of the disease has been both amazing and tiring. I realise that this blog has the potential to sail close to a conspiracy. I will watch my tone as I explain my thinking.

Bare with me.

Stupefying
Amazing in that we want to make meaning from the amount of emails, WhatsApp shares, Twitter updates, Facebook Posts, News feeds and radio bulletins. Some information can be useful and thought provoking. Some information perhaps…

Exhaust
The tiring part for me is the conspiracy theories and secret society imaginings. Sent my way by well-meaning friends and family. The aim of the sender to receiver (me) is to inform and provide some good or useful information. Sometimes…

Foil Hats as seen first: Gumball

Alarm
The effect of sharing conspiracy, is that when in a state of concern or panic the person who receives this information isn’t calmed or soothed. The oppoite effect is achieved. The receiver has a number of choices with this fear engendering information. They can either share it, or keep it to themselves. The want to be helpful in a seemingly helpless situation: CoViD19, can override an inbuilt system of holding onto suspicious unhelpful or slanderous material.

Critical Awareness
Using the ability to be suspicious/cautious of the intent of the information could be useful. Helping to begin a process of distancing ourselves from a heightened fear response. By engaging the human part of the brain (see Chimp Paradox) and keeping our minds thinking (pre-frontal cortex), potentially is the desired goal! Jumping to conclusions, or *scud assessments could be unhelpful in maintaining our equilibrium or anyone else’s.

Panicked Pattern
First the unasked for idea or information arrives. On viewing of the sensory overwhelming video, our bodies react. The body is flooded by a cortisol response. We do not need to be aware/conscious of the response but our blood stream becomes a souped up system. Ready for Fight, Flight, Freeze or Friend. The response is automatic. Our heart rate may quicken, we might lose our appetite, we may find concentration on other topics evaporate. We simply want to act. Simply act we often do.

Confusion
There is an interesting case that happened with laughter in the 60s. The event spanned months and started in a school in Tanzania. An incident caused a pupil in school to laugh uproariously which sparked a contagion that affected a community. I have walked and talked with clients who when realising the enormity of their situation have become both extremely upset and uproariously giddy with laughter. The event is called a psychogenic illness.

Wildfire
There may have been times when something like a confused response happens in the face of a significant life changing event. A joke, a youtube video is as ludicrous or upsetting as it is funny and witnessing the scene causes the viewer, to be swept up with the happy confused state. In these moments laughing without a care, with tears streaming and mouths agape can be cathartic. Relieving a pressure build up. The passing of joy can consume us. Hilarity can bring us face to face with our humanity.

An simulation of the virus

World Wide Worries
The opposite affect can also be true when we have a concern. We seek truth and facts in all the right and appropriate spaces, and also in all the wrong places. News feeds. News cycles. Social media. The spinning and circulating of an ever growing concern. On this occasion it happens to be a global pandemic. Covid19 has consumed all hours and all days in an endless stream of updates, worries and many deaths. What then happens is when seeking truth, the material is passed forward. Asking friends if they have also seen or heard?

Corona Virus Disease 2019: CoViD19
The latest news about the deadly virus takes its discomforting place in our psyche’s. There stored the fear wreaks havoc with our natural defences: positive psychology, family ties and connections, friends, community, religious and philosophical gatherings, eating habits, work patterns, school and education, financial planning – all affected. The invitation is that we hold to this new reality like a raft in a storm, hoping it will bring us safely to shore. Can this vessel, with scant resources and ill meaning to humanity offer us sanctity?

Do or Do Not
Unlike the psychogenic laughing bug. Once caught the hysteria and hyperbolic concepts are passed along, they do little to make us feel better. Sharing, seals in the yuck with cortisol and adrenaline running the show.

What could help would be, to mentally walk away from the information and critique it. Rather than be pulled into a belief that all of the thinking, neg vid sharing, hand washing, policy making will deliver us from the disease.

Stay with the Known Knowns: Our world will change. It always has. What act will you perform to support yourself and others in the face of the pandemic?

Resources
Fear is Contagious – T.E.D. Talks
This American Life — One Last Thing
Ear Hustle – Us and Them
This is Money – How Bad…
Unlocking Us – Brené Brown and Alicia Keys

Images
Cover photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Tom Radetzki on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

This piece was inspired by a conversation with a counselling client PK. Thank you!

The 3rd World War a Theory: Coronavirus

It is possible that we as a world are facing the largest global threat to our ongoing human survival since the 1918 flu epidemic and WWII. COVID19 has been termed a pandemic, an unprecedented global emergency, and a war.

The threat is a protein that once it invades/infects its host, reproduces and causes illness and worryingly death. It is the death part which is indiscriminate and strikes down neighbourhood’s and nation states. I am reminded of documentary’s on WWII and buildings being blown apart and communities destroyed. We all have been unwillingly called up to fight, NOW.

Warning: this is a dive into a few associative ideas I have to support and manage the current crisis. The aim is to provide useful ideas and a brief overview of some media I have consumed that help me position this existential threat.

Cat Theory
A theory of Schrödinger’s cat I shared with a client to support their accepting and reconstructing their ideas of the unknown that is the COVID19 strain of the flu currently turning the world on it’s head. Loosely I presented the theory of a dead/not dead cat in a box as a way to help assimilate a challenging awareness of the pandemic that is COVID19.

The virus reminds me of a fungus (David Attenborough presents entomopathogenic fungi) that affects insects. Over a period of days these insects become cadavers that help spread the fungi’s spores to other unsuspecting insects to create other fungi. Nature is ridiculously clever. In a similar way, an invisible assailant is causing all that we hold in our world experience as important and precious, being torn down and irreparably altered.

Schrödinger’s Theory
And so to the Theory of Schrödinger’s cat. The theory is that we imagine a domestic house cat. The tabby is placed into a box with a radioactive isotope. I should say that, at no point was this experiment ever carried out. This is a thought experiment, inviting our human minds to hold two opposing ideas at the same time. Like in quantum theory where light is made up of particles and acts as a wave at the same time. The radioactive isotope is wired with a timer that releases the poison at a specific but unknown time.

Unknown Paradox
The question to be answered is, is the cat dead or alive? For a scientist or an inquisitive person like my client, questions are posed about the amount of radioactive isotope and the resilience of the cat? Other questions could also include whether the cat had food or water to sustain itself and how long the cat is in the box for? 24 hours is the length of time I gave as my answer. I think for the thought experiment the answer was an hour and yes there was enough food and water to sustain the cat for 24 hours in my example.

Both
Now to answer the question and bring this level of questioning full circle. Point the question at the deadly virus that is irrevocably changing the world. Because we cannot determine the effectiveness of the radioactive isotope. Nor the resilience of the cat. The answer to the question about the wellbeing of the cat, is, that the cat is both dead and alive. Simultaneously. It is neither dead nor is it alive. We would have to open the box and see for ourselves. Up until that moment we are to hold both ideas as probable correct answers.

Is it quantum theory?
I went a little further with the example of Schrödinger’s Cat and COVID19 with my client. Globally we are in the boxes of Known Unknown’s and the box of Unknown Knowns simultaneously.

The threat for all of us is the factor of not knowing. Can we know what will happen along the continuum of getting the virus or evading the virus and not becoming unwell? No we cannot. Looking at the examples of nation states like China or Italy, we can observe the effectiveness of what these countries have done. Locking down an entire nation and restricting movement appears to have slowed the infection rates. China as a country is believed to be beyond the worst of the crisis. Italy is approaching the worst experience of the crisis: total numbers of people who were infected dieing from the illness reaching it’s daily/weekly peak. The rest of the world are 2-3 weeks behind Italy..

Rat-a-tat-tat
If we were to contract the virus we would move into the known and unknown boxes. We would know that we could potentially become unwell or seriously unwell. It is the extent of the unwellness that we would not know. The ‘what would happen next’ would also remain unclear. Uncertainty is the point of concern for nation states at the moment. The same concern also extends to families and individuals as of 28th Mar 2020 (date of writing this piece). It is possible that public hysteria, panic and paranoia begin knocking heavily on our rational thoughts door now. If we open this door we could be beset by many many concerns.

Choice
If we open the door and accept the state of unknowing, what then? If we keep the door shut and stay with what we know about the virus, would this for both the short and long term be better?

Here are 2 outcomes from many other possibilities that could cancel out panic hysteria and paranoia. We could learn to accept what is or deny what is.

Lake Matheson – The Unknown?

Managing what can be controlled is moving into the 1st box of known knowns. Which feels comfortable and we are inherently confident with a certain future.

Inhabiting the 2nd 3rd and 4th boxes are unsettling, scary and invite destabilising ideas. These are the boxes of the Known Unknowns, Unknown Knowns and Unknown Unknowns.

All Better Now
Seeking information at this time can be seen as a wise move however there is an avalanche of confusing and conflicting information at this time. Pod Save the World share a new podcast that provides a bi weekly update on the Coronavirus.

If you can, reduce anxiety, reduce social media use, isolate, socially distance yourself when out, eat healthily, keep fluid intake up and aim at maintaining positive virtual connections with friends and family. One thing that is a known known, this experience of War will pass. Our world will change. It has to. Living from then on, in a changed world is a Schrödinger’s cat outcome: lying in the last box of the Unknown Unnowns – Exciting and yet Scary.

Open The Box!

Resources
Brené Brown Podcast FFT’s
Bill Gates – WWIII
Podsave The World Coronavirus Reality
Marios’ Video fwd
Netflix Pandemic
This Day in Esoteric Political History from 99% Invisible – We Have Been Here Before

Images
Title Photo by David East on Unsplash
Lake Matheson Photo by Jingwei Ke on Unsplash

Re-imagining Loss pt 1

What if there were more than 5 grief stages to processing loss or death. A recent conversation with the Black men’s therapy group helped me to revisit a long held belief and choose another way to be with loss.

Staged and known
Kubler Ross invites us to imagine the process of managing grief in a range of steps or *awareni that one encounters. The original 5 are useful to frame the experience of being bereaved. Discussing Loss and Bereavement with the introduction to Counselling course for Black Men group, other stages were discussed and arrived at organically. The group not only challenged the 5 previous well known stages but provided reason why further stages may need to be added.

Avoidance
Denial presents shock as a 1st step of the process of encountering the magnitude of loss. A person can attempt to deny that death has occurred. Watching the 2nd season of New Amsterdam a hospital employee is invited often to review their grief process which is firmly rooted in denial. I will choose not to spoil the exploits of the new season of a well told hospital drama. The ending of the 1st season of New Amsterdam was a true shocker. The 2nd season has continued to enthrall me, and was filled with most of the emotions and experiences of the Kubler Ross model of processing grief Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance.

Trading Places
Bartering is another of the initial experiences of processing death. I know I visited this state when I finally admitted to myself that my mother was dieing. This was back in 1993. I bartered my own life away for the sake of hers. To who better than God. I wanted to trade places with her, that if she was left to live that I would attend church and believe like no other Christian ever has before.

I vowed to give up my adherent addiction to comic books, to stop playing basketball, even attending university for the vain hope that my mother could continue to draw breath. Bartering as a stage is pure psychotic belief in one’s own unrealised potential to make the impossible real. It’s a stage close to madness. I ask, for what good reason would the universe listen to my small offerings? There is no significant pay off universally. To what end? Really? What changes if one entity is exchanged for another? Sorry. No deal.

Fury
Then we arrive at Anger. Now this delicious unrelenting energy giving force of furious energy makes all the other feelings of emotional turmoil seem like a breeze. Paltry. Ineffective. Like Meh! Anger at death is another psychotic experience where we can lose ourselves in rages of senseless fury. Arguing with others (family) friends and loved ones (partners) and ourselves for all that they or you could have done more of to mitigate/stop the deceased from dieing. The point here is you or I don’t have those superhuman powers. Ours is to love. Be consumed by the hurt that our sense of attachment has brought us into intimate contact with. And recognise that there is little left to replace us with the person who has gone.

Depression as a stage of bereavement is a deep and slow part. Life looks different once in it. But we are not supposed to stay here.
Loss Hurts

Pressed On
Acknowledging the hurt can bring us into the uncomfortable 4th stage of the grieving process. Depression. This stage can be unpredictable slow and long. It can also be a dark stage. Ideas both alien and life threatening can enter ones thinking. Behaviours like self-harm, self-isolation, suicide, drug misuse, reckless acts that increase risk to self and others appear to make sense. This stage is a hard one to navigate. Don’t do it alone. Find others to help. Speak to friends. Speak with the one who has gone. Write them a letter, sing them a song. Visit their favourite place and say what you dared not to before. Feel the feelings and recognise that they ebb and flow, wax and wane. Depression isn’t the final destination it’s the wet dark space we get to sometimes pass through. Usually to get to another space. A brighter place. It took roughly 2 years for me to move beyond this stage.

Release
Acceptance is often seen as the final stage to the Kubler-Ross grief process and supports the person who is grieving to come upon a sort of deliverance. Some speak of the light at the end of the tunnel. I found acceptance to be like the weight I was struggling under, lift off of me in gradual stages. Which met the time I left Cambridgeshire and returned to London, the city of my birth. I felt hopeful and excited finally, about the possibility of what had the potential to be.

Resources
Griefcast a Podcast with Cariad Lloyd
Grief Encounter Cariad discusses grief with Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE

Images
Metropolitan City of Rome Mike Labrum@labrum777
Pressed On Paulo Silva selfvisionstudios.wixsite.com/home