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

Beautiful Purpose

Ikigai – Purpose of Being

Ikigai

Is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.

The word derives from:
iki, meaning life, and
kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.
From what is.techtarget.com

Tools
Wanting to heal and providing a number of tools, resources and ideas that support others to heal too I believe is my path, my passion and my pastime. A therapist no longer. I am doing something more. It’s surprising this level of experience because I had no idea that I would arrive at a point like Jonathon Livingstone Seagull: Above the clouds, looking for others to soar up here too.

Psychotherapy as Art
I was supposed to be an artist or an architect, at the very least an Interior Designer. But life did what life does best – took me where it needed me to go. From London to Peterborough, Leicester, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, North London, South London. Hamilton Ontario?

Walk and Talk Therapy, Autumn creeps in the mist
Walking and Talking in a London Park. Psychotherapy meets Artistry

Mr Ben
A host of jobs I have played an active role in, that has included; a McDonalds employee, a night packer at Walkers Crisps Leicester, working in a nightclub as a bar person – University experience Leicester, packer and sorter for freeman’s catalogs Peterborough, office mover and delivery person for English Heritage and Manpower staff agency – London, a barista and store assistant manager at Seattle Coffee company, a youth worker/manager for the place in Woolwich.

Speeding Up
It was here as a youth worker, that life began to accelerate and I began to notice the power of influence within conversations I was having with young people and what the effect of being supported could do.

I continued supporting young people at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Wandsworth which lead me to being a school sports co-ordinator at Harris Girls Academy East Dulwich, I completed an introductory course to counselling at Morley College in this time.

Becoming a learning mentor at a boys school Salesian College, a few years later, helped to solidify what I had learned -Talking Helps! Then I completed a Masters in Counselling from University of Greenwich.

Paint
A placement at a Drs surgery in Camberwell and a placement at a prison lead me to working with people in forensic settings. I have written before about becoming an artist that works with the human canvas of life. The reality is artistry has led on to something more.

Labelled Healer
It is further along this path of discovery that I am headed, I notice points of interest and signs that the journey is about to quicken and change once more. Magi, healer, shaman, doctor, it seems like the next potential door through which I am to pass.

A man in prison approached me and asked
“What do you do, then?”
I replied “I am a counsellor.”
He said “You look more like a doctor.”
I laughed and offered “Is that’s a good thing?”
He said “It could be, I need a doctor.”
“Ah” I said…

Sidelined
The idea I am learning to accept is that interpretation of an idea, of a person’s life choices can be vast. So much can be included or completely left out.

Those who are labelled unhinged or mad are often marginalised. The fact that some people can see things that may not appear in our version of reality earns them a severe and enduring mental health label. Perhaps the Magi, Healer, Suffi, Shaman would be more appreciative. Able to show more understanding towards the ‘psychotic’ the ‘schizophrenic’ or the personality disordered. Perhaps there is more to be perceived of our reality.

6 Weeks: Get Ready for 2020

More
My Ikigai is wanting to support the many to be well whatever that may mean. These blogs and links, tweets, linkedIn posts, Instagram shares, Pinterest pictures, Facebook posts are to support the many heal. My 6 week course for Black Man is soon to begin at the Wellness Hub in Lee Lewisham England. A 6 week online course for the same target group is currently in production too.  

It’s Time

Resources
2 Black Guys with Good Credit Don’t Hate, Negotiate
Oprah Winfrey and Malcolm Gladwell Super Soul Sunday
The Dope Black Podcast
Code Switch Our Homeland Raising Kings
The Nod Fearing the Black Body

Vulnerability: The Hidden

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

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

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

The many…

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

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

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

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

This death.

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

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

But it had.

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

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

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

Tankerton Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

There where you belong.

Safe, Resilient, Free, Successful, at Peace.

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

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

Men of the Diaspora: It’s Time

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Captured in Fall Colours

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

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

How to

To read and make use of the blogs I write.

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

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

The blogs are:

A point of reference.

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

Read for perspective making.

Read for evaluation and test taking.

Explore for tips and learning and for ideas about baking.

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

Be perplexed and curious.

Ask for clarity if you dare!

Comment and be prepared for answers and yet more questioning.

Let us open up dialogues just because.

It could all be oh so much better.

Even these,

Blogs…

EQ

Emotions

Emotional literacy is a term used to understand ones emotions. In light of the swathe of information in relation to mental health, mental illness and the taboo subjects of psychosis and schizophrenia entering our regular experience. I write to explore a small but significant distance. A gap is beginning to widen in relation to being able to discuss the effects of mental illness and what a person feels. Almost like the dark side of the moon – present but never seen.

Hovering curious

Omnipresent Majesty – Humility

Humble

Luke Roberts was possibly the first person to highlight the willingness commonly witnessed of our public to talk about a mental illness. A few years ago that was unheard of, no one talked about their stuff openly! The gap of not connecting illness with the effects it has on a sufferers/survivors life alongside their emotions appears irrational to me. A sea change has occurred of the willingness to talk about mental illness that has been supported by various well known individuals sharing their stories in a variety of ways: podcasts, radio, television, newspapers, books, blogs. Luke’s point relates to our joint vulnerability in expressing witnessing and accepting that the many they’s are the many us’s. Humility possibly also plays a part here also. We have become inured to the siren and unable to recognise the pain that those who have shared their stories have lived through, or are living with.

Water humbly supporting

Balance on the river Li

Balance

The overall benefit to being open about life’s challenges and the trials one has lived through is encouraging to another who may have similar troubles. By hearing another’s triumph over a personal tragedy, surviving the hurricane of war, another story can be developed like a picture. Showing a story of wonder and banal normalcy.

Precious

Bringing Fresh

Delight of Autumn

There is something sensational about another person expressing their hurts in a public domain that captures attention. Are we looking to empathise with that person’s experience, knowing their story may well support us in avoiding a similar fate happening for us, witnessing another’s horror offers chance to pay attention to the frailty of life?

I think one of the aspects that those who work with others intimately recognise is the strength of vulnerability as well as the beauty in the human experiences of loss, gain, winning, failing, laughing, journeying, pain and healing. It is the promise of alchemy that attracts.

The gleam of joint success and winning and losing and overcoming and moving beyond the hurt to something else…

Knowing

Exposing one’s hurts invites the *witnesser to pay attention to what ails, that can offer chance to review and chance to change. With emotional literacy what is being invited is to recognise what hurts during the conversation. Focusing on the internal world to invite change. The Chimp Paradox is an excellent example of us figuring out what is causing us conflict before it is unfurled and hurts another/others or ourselves. The motive is an understanding that as a human we experienced a number of developments in our life that largely supported our growth.

Inside

Depicting slow

Tranquil Motion

We may recognise that we have an inner child, a surly and impatient teen, an internal parent and a calming adult voice. The tensions that arise by being pulled in a number of different directions by these parts inside of us, cause some emotional pain, in the least invite us to questions such as “Why did I just do that?” “Why can’t I just get over this?” My favourite is “What’s wrong with me?” Invariably nothing is ‘wrong’. What may have happened is you are experiencing the tension between different parts of the self that are in conflict and may have been hi-jacked by an emotion or fear.

Test

As humans we have drives that enable us to navigate through life and learn: seeking safety and warmth, finding a partner, finding food and sustenance. These different drives can throw us against societal norms and personal wants/drives leading to conflict. A great example of this is the marshmallow test. The want to eat for those between the ages of 4 and 7 are so great that some children eat the one marshmallow rather than wait the 3-5 minutes and get to eat 2. Delaying gratification is a skill that is learned over time. As is the ability to be emotionally literate. One can’t run at it like other self-development programmes. Like training oneself for any new skill or ability it is best achieved over time.

‘There will be many failures along the way. Ah, but the successes will carry for longer…’

Talk of the Nation

Two Guys on Your Head Failure

Three Benches

Late Autumn

A November morn: Three Benches

A number of conversations about walk and talk therapy have happened recently that have inspired thought about working in nature. An under grad student wrote a compelling review of eco psychology citing the work of Kamitsis and Simmonds 2017. Stating that working in nature can be either a passive or active form of therapy. I enjoyed reading their work as it gave me insight to what I had unconsciously started to experience as a #WalknTalk enthusiast over 5 years ago.

Thin places

In 2014 I met with the originator of Nature Based Therapy and started to recognise that a community of therapists and practitioners were moving their practice from the confines of a room to outside environs. Speaking with Duncan E. Stafford last year was another great conversation as he began venturing into nature using walk and talk as a method of engaging clients. A recent conversation with a therapist interested in using either a garden or a local park Marie-Line Charler brought out what I have begun to recognise as a strength of using Eco psychology/eco therapy as a means to support others the work and the environment – working outdoors is like being close to the thin places

My last conversation with Lynn Findlay further propelled the conversation about therapy in nature. Lynn is a runner and posed a question about pace on twitter that had me intrigued.

@FosterCareLynn My literature research shows plenty [of] studies/research & many #therapists who offer #walkandtalk therapy but little on running. When theory/ethics/contracting are factored isn’t the variable just movement [and] speed? Curious? @hazehill @therapyspaceuk @walktalkinderby @TherapyForfieh

A sunrise framed by trees

Perfect Balance of Light, Trees and Grass. Three Benches

Running Therapy

I was taken by the idea of speed and the added health benefits of running and accessing therapy that Lynn posed. I know of one other therapist that runs and engages with therapy @pullentherapy. Speaking with Lynn was enlivening because of the number of ideas that were brought to light. Such as conducting a research project on the benefits of using running as part of a therapeutic process, whether changing speeds during the exchange would deepen the therapeutic work, and what walk and talk therapy is like for me and my clients.

Goal Less

The student mentioned earlier, made reference to Davis and Atkins 2004 writing, providing insight to the work being about rekindling a connection between a person and nature in a goal-less manner accessing spirituality with the desired outcome of improving mental health. A few weeks ago I had an experience with a walk and talk client that fell into a goal less oriented therapeutic experience. I have been supporting B with walk and talk therapy for a few years, the work has steadily progressed to work using associations.

I checked in with B at a point 10 minutes in to the walk and brought to mind the ending of our previous meeting. With this client in particular, synergy has appeared in our work, either with random encounters with other park users or seeing children’s chalk drawings that frame what we have just been speaking about as we approach. Recently whilst walking across a field B was discussing abandonment and a sole black shoe was discovered.

Dog Chase

On the week in question 3 dogs had been engaged in a game of chase that my client had been bemused by. On nearing the end of the walk a Graffiti Dub had been signed off with Chasing Dogs as the artist. I mentioned this and we both shook our heads and marveled at yet another co-incidence that had happened during our walk. I hold an internal reverent smile with B – last year (2017) a woman had approached and asked ‘Are You God?’ When occurrences like a dog chase and then this being mentioned in an errant piece of graffiti… I am left wondering…

Associations of a wet bench

Bench near hill: a feature of association.

Group Walk

In the past 5 years I have walked and talked with groups and individuals and invited a group of MSc students to spend 20 minutes walking and talking at the end of term. The students had asked for a walk and talk experience. The first year students shared that they were surprised about how quickly the 20 mins had passed, some noticed more about the environment, others focused more on what was being shared. The two groups of men, shared that the experience felt natural and offered solutions that they did not know were there.

In Hiding

Using a non-directive way of accessing therapy can help the person using it to employ creativity which supports identification of a way forward. There may be something in walking forward that helps the conversation and mind to bring about different ideas that seem accessible that before walking and talking may have remained hidden.

2nd Bench

A surprise encounter finding a new area in a park

I said at the end of term to students that walking was our only way of transportation for thousands of years. This could be a good reason why so many find walking and talking a simple and natural way of engaging with therapy.

New Associations – Serendipity

The enjoyment of walk and talk therapy are the moments of serendipity that happen when we are open to exploring in an honest unplanned way. Amazing things occur when the work opens up to creativity and play. With B, 3 paths lead on to 3 benches. Along each one of these paths a different associative idea existed for B. With each of the benches we found more associations that could be positioned .

The first bench represented a collection of recent experiences that were to be removed and forgotten.
The second bench appeared to be a newer experience that was to remain and be nurtured over time.
The third bench became a future representation of ideas for B that showed potential.

Walk and Talk therapy within an enclosed gardern

A fitting end to an insightful walk and talk.

Same Coin

Throughout all of the conversations with both therapists and with B, there was a sense of excitement. The unknown can either scare us or excite us. My counselling supervisor has shared that fear and excitement are 2 sides of the same coin. Working outdoors whether we run, climb, walk, play basketball, canoe or paddle board  being near thin spaces brings the idea of change to the foreground with immediacy. Walk and talk therapy has been like a living canvas for me.

Every walk differs, every talk new. The enjoyment is within the act of co-creation…

Gambit exhibiting his power

Teachers Gambit

Unmoored1

In May I ended my final year with both year one and year two integrative counselling students at the University of Greenwich. I have taught at the University of Greenwich for 3 years as a visiting lecturer. The final teaching lessons with both year 1 and year 2 were surprising and left me feeling un-moored.

What Next

Ending with both year 1 and year 2, conversations involved what would come next??? With year 1 the conversations involved what they had survived and what the next year would bring.  The Counselling and Psychology departments are to move from Avery Hill to the Dreadnought building in Greenwich village, London UK. The change of location represents a physical re-ordering to the experience of teaching and learning. Changes to the orientation of the scheduled lessons and new group members will add an additional layer of nuance to the students day.

High seas 1

Relief

The new cohort of students (2018  – 2019) will not be any wiser of these changes. The 2 groups of students I taught on their last day were relieved to have passed through the gate of the unknown and were weary from the internal struggles the course had helped unearth. I enjoyed the teaching. The opportunity to share what knowledge I have with minds receptive to new ideas – ideas that at times were vastly different to their own. The excitement of moving from unknowing to knowing more, is more than worthy of the days nights and weeks spent marking students work. I will no longer be a part of the excitement, the changes, the conflicts, the time tabling confusions, rooms being locked, difficulties with technology – I am going to miss all of this!

Soft Departures

For year 2, I was to discuss formation of their counselling identity. The presentation began with a student stating that they would not be returning for year 3. A number of students expressed surprise and disappointment as well as tender comments about the student leaving the course this year spattered amongst the room. The student will leave with a level VII (7) diploma and a confidence about how they are going to engage with counselling and psychotherapy.

It’s Personal

For those that were to continue onto year 3, there were ideas as to what was to happen for them. A few students identified that the dissertation piece had been a challenge to be moderated on. The point of the exercise was to gather an understanding of their counselling approach. As an integrative course the need to understand the ‘how and why’ of using a particular theory is important for the therapist and for the client to know.

The Journey

Sharing my counselling journey from 2012 when I completed the same course, with year 2 students was a special moment. Describing the numerous points of growth change and adaptation of how I viewed and interact with the world. Sharing experiences that developed awareness of competence and confidence, helped the arrival where it feels natural to share ideas with a group of 20-30 people as if speaking to a group of friends.

Newbie

I have shared a number of times about the experiential group of that first year. The group surprised and impressed me. There was a dynamic rich freshness, a vibrancy of their experience that fueled the group’s discussions. It may have been my newness to the whole teaching experience that has framed them as a pivotal memory.

In year two I worked with my first all women experiential group, I had chance to relearn what I thought I knew from the previous year. A welcome surprise. I had chance to reflect on growing up within an all-female household. Growing into adulthood I came to appreciate a non-male dominated space – this experiential group mirrored that.

Lecturing

In this my third year I was offered the chance to lecture on the undergrad psychology and counselling course, teach a year one case discussion group, facilitate a year one all women experiential group, and teach the year two case discussion. I have gained a huge amount of knowledge about direction and imparting some of my book learning to trainee counsellors. Fortunately they were receptive to some of the ideas and some of the critiques I offered.

rough seas 2

Irv’s wisdom

Having had the opportunity in April to interview the enigmatic Irvin Yalom for the Counsellors Café – he shared the finer subtleties of working with process groups, he advised that to support a group learn and become it’s own entity, you have to be willing to risk being real, be present and be a part of the process. Be where they are at. Be honest, congruent, vulnerable… I came close…

Illusions

In my 2nd year of teaching (2016 – 2017) a number of opportunities to share interesting ideas seemed to arrive at the end our experiential groups – I went with it and shared. On my last day of this years visiting lecturing, I shared with the year one case discussion group a book. ‘The structure of Magic” and I invited seven of the group members to read a number of the opening paragraphs. The first chapter discusses the idea of magic. Magicians, Princesses and Princes populate a land and a boy is to understand his place amongst it all. The ideas that counsellors follow in the tradition of Freud, we perhaps are also Magicians creating illusions.

Provoke

Those that we work with use the magic to create new stories and illusions of their own making. The year 1 students were challenged by the idea and I deliberately meant to be provocative. Another idea that also challenged them, was my earlier offering of therapists, counsellors, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts being Judge, Jury and executioners.

Invitation

The loss felt, as I move on from the experience of teaching and learning was, the ideas propagated within the minds of students will be watered by other gardeners now.

The un-mooring invites the idea of finding new ports, trade knowledge acquired on high seas, amongst audiences new. The sense of risk and triumph much like the rise and fall of tidal swells offers, chance to arrive there once again…

Tactical Empathy and Effective Altruism

blue-masque-2.jpg

Flow state thinking

An interesting blending experience happened after I listened to two of my favourite podcastsPhilosophy Bites and Pod Save the World. One was the thought that both ideas appeared similar and could be done to support those who through no fault of their own are facing unsurmountable challenges. The other was is there something here about listening for the solution in a way that supports a peaceful outcome. Tactical Empathy merged with Effective altruism…

A definition of both Tactical Empathy and Affective Altruism follow.

There are plenty of ways to get what you want in a negotiation — kicking and screaming, threats, and bribery among them. But perhaps the most effective strategy is one that’s pretty counterintuitive: Focus on what the other person wants instead – Chris Voss Author of Never Split the Difference.

Or  “Tactical Empathy” is the ability to share someone else’s feelings while executing a specific plan to achieve a particular goal. LEO Hearted T-shirts

Affective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to benefit others. Effective altruism encourages individuals to consider all causes and actions and to act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact, based upon their values. Wikepedia

Blending

The first podcast is a 15-20 minute show discussing our responses to those in need with Larry Temkin on Philosophy bites. The second is an incredible story of a reporter Arwa Damon who was under siege in Mosul for 28 hours, her rescuers bravery and her desire to support Syrian refugees.

I had the chance to listen to both podcasts within a few days of each other and arrived at a similar point. Both podcasts discuss: tribalism, humanity, decision making and a desire to better understand choice that affect us the individual and the choices we make/could make that effect humanity.

Choice with Others in Mind

Interestingly the ideas of tactical empathy and effective altruism were discussed by both Larry and Arwa. For Larry there was the experience of appropriately understanding choice and making decisions that ultimately serve the greater good. One could look and feel bad for a period but the delay to look after a larger number of people is the better outcome for the many.

The idea of effective altruism or tactical empathy is a challenge to our sensibilities, compassion, recognition of the plight of fellow humans. There are a number of stories Larry Temkin discusses throughout the podcast that nudge a few uncomfortable ideas towards our awareness. The $5,000 watch and the drowning child was particularly distressing and also informing.

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. By putting the needs of a disaffected displaced over represented group of peoples alongside our own, perhaps even before, then significant derailment of the production line can and will occur.

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 from 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 are in mind as a continuum. Arwa setting up a foundation recognises that her efforts to raise awareness and create change for the many she had to organise her thoughts and other people to offer more. The Return to Mosul documentary and frying an egg appear as a reminder of humans caring about other humans.

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

School to Prison Production Line

The above phrase I heard recently thank you Luke Roberts for introducing the phrase to me. ThSchool to Prisone School to Prison Pipeline I have been dimly aware of after I started working at a secondary boys school in 2004 as a learning mentor. My experience as a learning mentor a role that supported me in discovering my innate ability to listen intently. I did more than just  listen, I also supported young men to resolve their difficulties at school.

Resolution

The challenges they were attempting to resolve were impulse control, anger management, school attendance, completion of school work, issues at home affecting attitudes to learning. My understanding about these young men was if school as a place of learning was unable to meet their needs (socialisation) other opportunities would present. These extra -curricular opportunities would and did offer the socialisation, learning, excitement, experimentation and ego fulfillment that these young men sought.

Water Pipes

There are a number of ideas that leap from my mind in relation to a production line and a pipeline. A pipeline generally is uni-directional in that it flows from one direction to another, think of an oil line or water pipe. A production line like the ones witnessed at a factory are omni-directional largely dependent on what stage of the process the product has arrived.

Ron Brown College

I introduce the 1st episode of a Code Switch Podcast 3 part series. Code Switch is a podcast I have reviewed before in a blog entitled Deliciously Displayed Information.  Code Switch https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/10/18/558104287/a-year-of-love-and-struggle-in-a-new-high-school The podcast centres on a new school Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington that is looking to address the disparity of young men of colour that do not graduate from high school due to suspensions and other impediments.

A Global Trend

Unsurprisingly a similar trend exists in the UK as well as other places across the globe. The tendency is, those that do not complete school can find themselves being educated by the streets. Hence entering the pipeline. If a student is removed from either a primary or secondary school, education is continued at another educational setting.

Educated Men PrisonP.R.U. (Pupil Referral Unit), once referred to a PRU – students can be provided with a reduced time table (curriculum) and reduced number of hours to attend school. Some students who achieve a satisfactory level of behaviour at the PRU can be returned to their former school after a determined period of time. If a student has been permanently excluded and are able to attain a satisfactory level of behaviour, they could be placed in another school. Some students do not return to mainstream education. Steaming along the production line.

Black Male Love

During the 30 minute show I found myself hopeful of the prospect of the school. The aim to educate and uphold a value for the Kings in attendance and for the communities that they live within. ‘Work with us and we can help you to be great, able to achieve with the tools at your disposal and overcome the set of circumstances that have be felled many before you.’ The expression of love from black men to other black men is an uncommon and uncomfortable sharing. Experiencing love from another man is rare and due to the rarity difficult to process.

Often during the podcast there are expressions and experiences that challenge the notion of black on black love, wholeheartedly challenge the premise of setting, circumstance and time that appears to wear the resolve of the teaching staff. I am hopeful that the mission of the school will overturn the students hearts and minds. Maybe the hearts and minds of their community.

Healing to Health

An aside, the film Black Panther holds a promise of the utopia of a fictional African nation determining it’s own future echoes the hopes and aspirations of not only the Ron Brown school or the Black Panther Movement or the Black Lives Matter movement but also the ideal that by offering love from self to self an individual and a community can heal. Episodes 2 and 3 shall be revealing…