Before There was a time in my life where posting and sharing podcasts was a thing I spent copious amounts of time doing.
I felt that I was performing a useful service by doing so. I thought that by sharing valuable worthy content an involved and engaged conversation would take place.
The dialogue would happen with people from around the world. That the highly sought after content would be worthy of talking about with others. Thereby creating a community of thinkers activists and instigators ready to affect change wherever necessary.
My efforts lasted for 3 months and then ceased. My experiment produced a lethargy and reduced my enthusiasm for sharing what I thought was useful and impactful content.
Busy? Facing the fact that people are just too busy. That some media users are so engaged with many aspects of life to not have the headspace to listen and take on board novel and different ideas. That commenting or striking up conversation with another could be too much. Now I share valuable content with others directly these include clients, supervisees, friends, family, colleagues.
Chorizo Focused shares feel like small personally delivered packets of curated wisdom. Slices of high priced information at cost that some take for granted – time. From my first downloads of the Moth Podcast or This American Life I could experience the same enjoyment of listening as I would and do get from reading. I have possibly consumed 1000’s of hours of enriched mixed spicy curated content.
Benign and Boring When I am doing something like driving, housework, grocery shopping or going for a walk that does not require much auditory attention the ears and brain can switch into a bandwidth where useful information can be downloaded stored used and thought about. Some of the podcasts I listen to has been shared but a large percentage not.
1 thing There’s one thing putting worthy insightful pieces of life changing information into the hands of people you admire, like, know and love, it’s another thing to put that same energy into/onto others who are oblivious of your efforts.
There are times when I am amazed by the generosity of spirit of the people I meet in prison. They may only be dimly aware. For this man I would like to share this piece of writing with him. An action of reciprocity. Effective Altruism? Maybe…
Bad Day I was having a shitty day. Walking with a walking stick in prison is a cumbersome and slow experience. The walking stick has me feeling vulnerable and very out there on my own. It’s a constant worry that at any moment something is going to go down and I’m going to be jumped beaten and my keys snatched off of my chain.
It has never happened to me.
(Yes, staff walk around with keys attached to a belt.) Uniformed Staff and civilian staff walk with aware that they carry a large responsibility along with those keys – a symbol of power.
Questioning The opposite is often what I encounter. I generally do not feel powerful. My visible vulnerability brings from many I meet, including officers and often young and mature black men, the nod, or the question of “Are you alright?” Or “You cool?” “What’s happened?” “You good?” “Take it easy, yeah?”
Fade Here I am seen and my daily struggle is met by others compassion, seeing myself as the injured and frail one. I find myself at times wanting to be invisible. But these calls are a gentle reminder that humanity lives here. These moments are of genuine sensitivity being shown from men who are doing hard time, some serving 18-30 years. I have accountability and a responsibility to uphold, mine and theirs.
Between On this day I passed from one wing to another. There are a number of wings/house blocks, housing between 100-150 men. Every house block has it’s own distinct vibe and concentration of prisoners: Vulnerable prisoners, lifers, remand and re-categorised prisoners. These men are due for parole or to be sent to other prisons for more open conditions. The prison has a total capacity servicing over 1000 men. Me negotiating the gates, doors and stairs takes longer as I manage the cane, the keys, assessment charts, writing paper to note take and my diary. An unholy slow moving ungainly mess.
Check-in I am to meet with a client who attends the bereavement group. (Thanks for the reminder I will offer a write up about this group soon.) I need to see him as he left the group early on this week and I want to make sure that he is okay.
Take We meet on his house block and I make my way into one of the offices that has a desk and 2 chairs on his wing.
I offer, “I wanted to come and see you as I wanted to find out how you are after Tuesdays meeting?” He says “Yeah, I just wasn’t feeling good you know? Sometimes this place takes the piss!”
I nod showing that I understand.
He continues “I asked for something that’s important to me for my religion and it’s not on the canteen sheet and I can’t get it! “It’s frustrating me. “I’m usually okay with it here. “But this thing. “I’ve been patiently waiting for 3 months and I couldn’t wait any longer. “I’ve done it their way for a long time and nothing ain’t happening for me. “I’m not just going for mine and leaving everybody else you know? “This is about me and for others like me.”
Release He shares his disappointments and numerous experiences of being let down and similar disagreements about the prison. Like, losing weight, standing forward and supporting others, confronting officers and attending to his overall fitness, wearing clothes he has had to keep care of for years because he can’t trust that things sent in will safely arrive.
Prism He says something like jail being more like a mental health institution in patois and we both laugh. Initially tentatively. Then gleefully. Recognising ourselves in a prison situation as Black men. One choosing to be there with the other, another doing his best to find peace within his situation in prison.
Re-set The laugh of this black man was like the baring of a soul with a comrade at arms, a fellow road weary traveller, a baller. His laugh invited me to view both his and my plight with compassion. This black mans laugh somehow seemed to restore me and also him. We sat and laughed in a prison, about prison and the folly of the circumstances we both found ourselves in. It was Capoeira meeting Jazz, Gum Boot Dance to Blues, Hip Hop bopping slow with Reggae, Salsa and Calypso rejoicing. It was natural and affirming that even here -prison – humanity could be found.
Re-Mix The wonderful ability to take something that is both internal and external put a spin on it and make it both his and mine. The experience of the infinite in a few short moments of laughter. How deliciously wonderful, amazing and so uniquely surprising. I left the prison a little lighter that day, usually a little guilt escapes with me.
Seeing a one person play spring from the pages of a gifted writer to life on stage is amazing. To have the writer be someone you coached as a basketball player as a teen. An ever larger sense of amazement. To see the focus of the play greet, embrace and thank his son – priceless.
All The Shit I Can’t Say to my Father I went to see All the Shit, in August 2019. A friend, an ex baller, I coached – Abraham Adeyemi has written a modern day sensation. The night was the performance of sublime art.
Charming The performance was led by a young charismatic actor, Zackary Momoh, who reminded me of a younger Chiwetel Ejiofor. There was something about his delivery that was precise and filled with presence. The audience were appreciative of his deft delivery and intimate bringing to life of Abraham’s words.
Partial Delays News broke earlier in July that due to unforeseen circumstances ‘The Shit…’ was going to be changed to just a reading and a performance (How does that work you may ask?).
It’s part rehearsal, part working through of the words to the
stage, set and possibly with an audience. The actor reads through the script
aloud like a read through. Similar to a sound check for a music performance.
I thought the reading was a brilliant way to introduce the concept of what we were doing there. What we potentially could be see. A one person play engaging and interacting with the audience. Seeing the finessing of the script was seeing a craftsperson work their skills to a High Art Finish.
Throughout the play Zackary read and cast aside the pages almost as though this was part of the play. Him screwing up a few of the pages at one moment (after he had read them). Then came the toss towards a wastepaper basket was thrilling. I smiled ridiculously at that and may even have clapped. I instantly recognised both Abraham and many peoples dream of being a top performing NBA/WNBA star.
Engagement The show felt both lyrical and compassionate. ‘The Shit…’ entertained me fully. The audience and I, were involved to see AK the protagonist’s journey. As he begins to acknowledge and unravel his taught relationship with his father.
The AK’s father is Nigerian. A Christian. A multi-talented labourer, a craftsman of often obscure and unwanted jobs. It was at this point the flexibility of the play shone. AK asked a member of the audience what her dad did. She replied “Carpet layer – Handiman” AK “Yeah, my dad probably did that too” Audience – Whoops of laughter and applause of recognition.
The father, AK’s father should have been an engineer, but due to the racist notion that countries outside of the more favored commonwealth countries like Nigeria couldn’t possibly educate to the standard of British trained engineers were denied entry to the professions they trained for. Took what roles and jobs that they could and raised their families as best they could.
Off stage The scene that caught my imagination was of seeing Abraham stand with his father. The moment happened off stage after the crowds milled out. I do not know what was said. That moment being private – Abraham’s and his fathers. What I perceived was a bridge of admiration begin to form. An acceptance of something that had been lost. The awareness that maybe something new has possibly been found. This meeting between father and son, through drama, through ‘All the Shit I Can’t Say to My Father’ is the making of new stories and about letting go of old ones.
My Bridge I realise now that reconciliation was an impossibility for me and my father. A dream unobtainable. A number of significant changes would have to have happened in both of us first. To have approached a turning point that began a new start for us. The moment of second chances and water under the *bridgedness passed aeons ago and I am invited by circumstance, to allow it to pass too.
Duality He was a man of the late 1930’s Ghanian, African, lacking in humility, compassion he believed, was a concept for the weak and foolish, arrogance and bull headedness was his way to confront the world. His religion was dual Christian and Muslim. A Ghanian former politician living abroad was how he saw himself. UK politics was of mild interest behind his own ambitions. Fatherhood suffered.
We never found ground between us that felt comfortable for each other to be on. His death on October The 31st 2016 ended without a neat bow. Ours was not a story book ending. My father left not speaking to any of his children and without making amends for the pain he caused. That will be ours to tidy and pack away.
Reflection For Abraham the play appeared redemptive and restorative. Like a deep cleanse. I was happy I got to witness that for him. For me and my siblings I hope that the clearing and cleanse happens with acceptance moving on in to forgiveness. The chalice was never ours to sup from.
The intention is set for me to start from near the beginning. Refreshed and unburdened. Again.
I had waited a long time for this moment and was glad of the chance to see a living legend. Lenny Henry in conversation.
Wooph I had little expectation of what an evening would be like spent with Lenny Henry and Romesh Ranganathan. Perhaps it would be 2 brilliant men one-upping each other. Laughing at the loops wound around the audience and themselves that the other tried to vault over. Clumsily failing and falling. It wasn’t like that at all. I came away from the evening feeling lighter. Like after a therapy session. Wooph describes the reaction in energy that Lenny would get at a show when an audience laughed uproariously at a piece in his set.
Without Me Arriving a few minutes after the show began, due to train cancellations and me not being able to run for the 18:36 train (another loss MS has had me suffer. It’s either MS or age. I just don’t feel old in my mind, at all. I want my body to know and hold on to that fact too).
The Train pulled off, with me looking on, deflated. Shaking my head then looking up at the board for the next one. Hither Green Monday evening – the choices were limited. 2 Choices I was invited to take. Wait for the train that might get me to there on time or try and hop skip and jump at London Bridge to get a connect for a faster train to Waterloo East?
Selection The choice I made was to wait and hope. Hoping and waiting got me there late and frantic. I eventually walked in and Lenny was mid flow through the end of his set introducing Romesh. He was finishing with something about the physical abuse he experienced at the hands of his mum. Had I made it on time I would have been laughing too, like the already seated audience.
Sit Down I took my seat in the Royal Festival Hall and for the hour and 25 minutes I had left sat and was amazed by Lenny’s and Romesh’s mutual appreciation of what they had contributed to the cannon of British comedy and to reversing the march to an un-coloured comedy and TV scene.
Context My moment I had not anticipated came when after a flurry of mutual appreciation both men took stock of where they were and fist bumped like two men on the street. Only these two men were some of the funniest, most daring, Black and Brown men sat on stage at the Royal Festival Hall watched by several hundred people. Taking stock of how far they had come and what it had taken for them to get there. Both men could scare you with their intense observations and perspective and have you crying with pain and laughter as their on point humor bit.
Represent I was saddened by the number of Black and Brown people that I did not see there. I had wanted the theater full to the rafters of people that looked like me and Romesh. Lenny was our champion. A winner of a fight, he won by not throwing punches with his fists, but with the wisdom of a sage.
That fight – won – has enriched him and lightened the hearts of many. I was saddened that Lenny’s brilliance, his story may have been too political, too sad, too funny, too hard to accept for many to make an effort to be there for a wet Monday night attendance.
Those that were there laughed and laughed hard at some of the memories Lenny shared. The fight at school, with the bully where Lenny beat him with words and had a crowd turn on the aggressor. Another story was of having things thrown at him by his mum, that always found their mark – even around corners.
No. They. We. Missed this. Him talking about his new book. Who Am I again? About the process of writing being like therapy. About his experiences of playing at clubs around the country and being racially abused and slowly winning these difficult crowds round. I was saddened because I would have wanted the under represented to be over whelmed by his story’s show of strength. That even through his saddest times, success and challenging adversity became towering achievements.
Pull Up I was saddened that for the ‘community’ not to have come to support and show appreciation for a sage that has worked hard at his craft and worked at demands of the BBC and ITV to make. The face of British TV and the widening scope of achievement and attainment of BAME communities has been altered. Those that may want to make a career in the media, either in front of the camera/mic or more importantly behind the camera/mic will pay attention to what Lenny has pointed at. He has called it ‘Rubbish’ and said ‘this thing here, needs changing. NOW!’
Shouldering For me, what I came to see, what I was waiting to see was Lenny’s passion at wanting to change the culture and face of British media. His deft, clever brilliance and memory of both his ups and downs of his career showed his resilience and how he has put his weight behind wanting to shift the colour line to be more representative of the young, the forgotten, the talented and the Black.
Who Am I Again is his 1st Autobiography available at all good book stores. With luck there will be others. My only CTA…
Also known as – Deliciously Displayed Information 2 Writing the first overview of the many podcasts I was listening to back in 2017, and still am now, was a milestone experience. My aim was to share my enjoyment of listening to a number of unique and interesting shows that did a good job of entertaining educating thrilling and amazing me. What follows below are my latest podcast listens. Stretching my little understanding and knowledge that little bit further. If the quest for more information, honest reporting, and fun are in your neighbourhood of things you like to be with, look no further.
Like a number of people in the UK
I read Reni Eddo Lodge’s book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About
Race’ and found that her writing summarised my experience of being in white
spaces and not wanting to contribute too much for fear of offending, upsetting,
being labelled or facing ignorance. Getting on and staying quiet seemed to
cause little disruption for others and at times myself. The Podcast over turns
the dynamic of remaining quiet. Taking the conversation out beyond the intimate
and separate and hidden but out to the world.
I have been a fan of Malcolm
Gladwell’s for over 10 years. His book David and Goliath opened my eyes to a
myth that was beautifully retold. Broken Record deep dives into the music
business. I had originally thought that the podcast was going to be about Hip
Hop music and what I have been invited to listen to is Malcolm’s varied
collection of music tastes. Hip Hop is a feature as is Country and Pop. As a
therapist it is the stories of the musicians and of Rick Rubin’s Shangri La
recording studio that captivates and draws me in to each episode.
I have been hearing about Dan
Carlin’s Hard Core History for a few years, mostly from other Podcasts I have
listened to including Revisionist History, The Tim Ferris Podcast, The Science
of Success and Hidden Brain. All have offered an insight to what I would
observe about telling a unedited retelling of historical events. With episodes
lasting up to and sometimes over 3 Hours be prepared to get comfortable and be
amazed as Dan and his team share their perspective of historical events like
you would never hear anywhere like on Hard Core History. I am up to Blueprint
for Armageddon VI and listen on my hour long commute’s to and from work.
There’s something about the way Dan Goes In. He is excited about reliving these
historical moments. Almost like he is reporting on them like he is there. I am
a little upset on Dan’s behalf that Netflix has gone and copied his story of
the beginning of WW1. I recognise now that Dan’s enthusiasm may have been
caught by others… To his credit history has never looked so good!
I credit my wife for introducing
me to Dope Black Dads. I have been hearing about the mischievous 3 for a few
months and have started following them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I
listen because I am a Black Dad myself and they offer a point of reference for
men, for women, for parents. The conversations between the three and their
guests are insightful, humorous, educative. Discussing topics that are
challenging with vulnerability and sensitivity they do and do so well. I can
understand that from my perspective it is what the world needs now.
An imaginative journey where inanimate objects talk to an interviewer about their lives. Being used by us a d what their interpretations of humans are. Stand out episodes include Louis Can of Cola and Chioke Grain of sand. I have gained insight to random facts that the host – Ian Chillag goes on to interview specialists in the field about. There are moments when the randomness is surprising and hilarious, then there are moments that are as profound as anything heard on Philosophy Bites or Code Switch. Thank you Charlotte for the recommendation on this one!
Grief and bereavement are unfortunate experiences that some of us have faced and whilst the subject matter can appear dark and comfortable. Cariad Lloyd spends time with comedians discussing the loss of significant people in the comedians life. David Baddiel’s interview was as tactful as it was exploratory like a therapy session in miniature. A brave show that delivers more than is expected.
I thank Dorottya Szuk for introducing me to this podcast. The stand out episode for me has been with Mo Gawdat who discussed his learning from significant losses. Elizabeth Day talks with luminaries from a range of backgrounds and professions about how they have recovered after setbacks and taken the learning to apply in new projects and ventures. I find the show uplifting and surprising.
The discovery was made by accident, with new and interesting on i-tunes. As a former visiting lecturer at University of Greenwich and at the University of East London I am keen to improve my speaking skills. The idea of standing in front of a room of people and speaking for 2-3 hours used to petrify me. Having lectured a number of times now I relish the opportunity to give insight about psychological matters to students. With How to Own the Room Viv interviews women that have experience of leading, speaking and presenting to audiences. Anne-Marie Imafidon, Meera Syal, and Mary Portas all had fantastic points that will help many to know the craft of speaking well in front of a room of people.
Hebah Fisher an Egyptian-American
presents a thoroughly researched and engaging podcast on the events people
history and culture of countries in the Near East. Kerning Cultures puts a rich
frame around the miss-told and miss sold experiences of people from this region
of the world. Hebah in every episode explores, shares and invites the listener
to hear about concepts and experiences that are often lost through the gaze of
the westernized other. Kerning Cultures is a feast of learning about lives not
largely different from our own but with a flavour that is Saffron in subtlety
Malcolm Gladwell is possibly the funniest North American Podcast/writer/journalist around. These podcasts – reviewing miscarriages of justice, are maddeningly good. As they present little known facts about some of the worlds largest scandals. There is something about the enthusiasm Malcolm approaches each subject.
He goes hard at trying to understand the complexity of the laws and set ups that allow places to get away with unscrupulous acts of behaviour that would throw most in jail or seeking psychoanalysis. Episodes to look out for are The Lady Vanishes, The Big Man Can’t Shoot, Food Fight are great examples of Malcolm’s ability to dig in to places that are squeezed tight against illumination pulling at the truth of injustice, and setting the record straight.
As a show the Allusionist
continues to amaze and enthral me. Words appear to be at the root of the show’s
beginning middle and end. Following a word’s use back to when it came into current
lexicons and translations is part of the format. Helen Zaltzman is infectiously
curious humoured and incredibly punctilious about getting words right, perfect in
all the right spaces. Jeff Goins in his book Real Artists Don’t Starve said
finding the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and a
lightening bolt. Listen in if you like to investigate words their meanings and
their multi usages.
I thank a radio 4 producer for introducing the receipts to me. Louise Kattenhorn I credit the receipts to you. I have listened since January and have to say my life has been better informed, and lifted ever since. Another show I liked to listen to – Black Girls Talking went off air in 2017. I am still guessing as to the reasons why the show no longer is produced.
The Receipts now only on Audible is filling the space that Black Girls Talking left. Tolly T, Ghana’s Finest Audrey, and Mama Sita Milena Sanchez literally cut a fine audible hole for listeners to take a look through into a myriad of worlds insights and views. The women will have you shouting with them with their listeners dilemmas and then uproariously laughing with some of the audacious things that the presenters offer as advice.
If you have listened to Criminal you will know the voice of Phoebe Judge. Her expressive way of speaking invites me to wonder, often, as to what words she is going to say next.
The podcast is a tour de force on what we as human beings define and understand as love. Phoebe has interviewed a woman who swam with a lost baby whale until it found it’s mother. The superhuman feat took hours. The most recent series of This is Love, are in Italy meeting people who love cats, the ugly and art in Venice. I find the podcast uplifting. A feel good factor with no unfortunate pay off dirges. The only bad bit is the shows coming to their inevitable end! Noooooooo
Wanna Be I was surprised to find after Melanin Millennials ended in 2018. Imri hosts a podcast where she interviews notable professionals about their career choices and experiences. Wanna be is a short show 30mins where guests share their story arc from points of personal discovery, and loss to heady heights. Sharing how they have achieved goals they set for themselves. Ultimately inspiring.
If I am honest I have refrained from listing 3 shots higher on this list, however I would be doing a disservice to the talented conversationalists that headline these highly charged, entertaining and generally funny podcasts. Yes there are questionable ethics and topics that scrub the lines between right and good, leaving the listener to make up their own mind.
The three men, Keith Dube, Tazer F Black and Marv Abi are a trio that discuss a range of topics that are at once questionable as they are hilarious. I have found myself chuckling at the *ludicrosity of the conversations that have words mispronounced, hard lefts being turned mid conversation as Keith shares a funny story and the presenters reminiscing about encounters. There are some podcasts that dare, this podcasts dares greatly and possibly is unaware of how far they have danced across many lines.
END I am on the lookout for a French, Italian, and Spanish podcast that lets me get lost with the pheonetics of these latin origin languages. My mum had a theory that the more time I spent being lost in a particular language the faster and better I would learn that language. If any of you have a particular podcast that I have not mentioned before and feel that it should be amongst this list please include it for me to listen to in the comments below.
With thanks I appreciate you reading these words.
If any of the above you do listen to, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation about an interesting part of ending a meeting or a conversation – the good bye.
Wind Caught Umbrella Away
I asked my colleague, “How do you find saying good bye to another professional?” I asked.
She replied: “I never really thought about it.”
I said: “Well…. I… have and I find myself saying bu’bye to just about everyone, even to people that are from call centres. What am I doing?” I said
“Well”… she paused, “it is a nice way to bring a conversation to an end. With my friends I sort of say BYEEEeee” She said
“So you sort of sing it?” I asked
“Yeah something like that…” she said, “…And then with one of the counsellors I worked with before, she would say Bye Bye Bye Bye Bye as they were putting down the phone almost apologetically ending the conversation.”
Here I laughed uproariously, I couldn’t control it. The laughter was delicious and surprising and welcome. My laughter was in part due of recognition of how a counsellor may behave trying hard to maintain compassionate boundaries and also ending a call with a client. My colleague’s re-enactment was also a great characterisation of a person tentatively putting down the phone receiver cautiously. I could almost see the care and non malificence of the counsellor’s intent.
My laugh of recognition was also about how I end my calls this way with my sisters especially my eldest sister.
One of my nieces asked: “Why can’t you just say I love you and get it over with?”
I gave a long explanation about the long good bye as meaning the same thing! My niece 14 at the time didn’t quite buy it. I don’t believe I really did either.
The goodbye or the bu’bye conversation with my colleague continued as I was looking for comparison with how others manage their goodbyes and when and where a bu’bye is an appropriate way of ending an engagement with another.
Perhaps a goodbye has become formalised as a permanent ending – hard with finality. Where as bu’bye is warm and has a similar meaning but is vague and familiar. I have in mind the bu’byes I said to my sons when they were much younger. However singing a good bye as my colleague does with her friends, I understand as another form of familiar parlance and recognition of the significance for people close to oneself.
Goodbye Walking Away
In a few weeks I have an uncomfortable good bye ahead of me. My time at Together for Mental Wellbeing has run it’s course and I am to move on to pastures new. The experience I have gained at the charity has been amazing, transformative and unforgettable. The discomfort arises as I bare witness to the friends I have made, moments of inspiration had, insights shared, support offered and ideas for development discussed, are to be no more.
As a lay philosopher the opportunity to discuss ideas with others about the advancement of the criminal justice service in London and find ways to better support those in the community and those in custodial settings I will greatly miss.
As a group I have not come across another set of people that are as committed, compassionate, resourceful, flexible in thinking, and willing to work the unforgiving hours until the job is complete. It has been a growth making experience working alongside: Counselling Psychologists, Community Links Workers, Counsellors, Forensic Psychologists, the Data Team, IT department, HR team, Admin team, Managers from around the world all contributing to an organisation that has a belief based in recovery and safe return/re-entry to the community
Saying goodbye to all of the above is saying good onward journey for both of us. Borrowing a phrase from Chris the Big Issue seller at London Bridge who always offers me a phrase that makes me smile:
Fractals For as long as I can remember patterns have fascinated me. From simple designs like parquet flooring and tessellation to radial patterns of nature’s fractals, all offer a representation of our world and known universe that support understanding and for me a degree of comfort.
Splicing Media Whilst listening to Invisibilia, The Science of Success, Two Guys On Your Head podcasts and watching The Alienist Netflix show, links below, a thought struck about the need for pattern recognition. The interest for me seems to span from an aesthetic (how things look) to the psychological (how our minds interpret information). Questions arise about our need to rapidly recognise patterns and what use we then make of the recognition. The Two Guys episode does well to explain and expand on the idea.
The Invisibilia episode reviews a woman’s attempt to change her life pattern and asks if we too are able to stop and make different choices that support growth and positive outcomes for our lives.
The Science of success episode shares insights on nonverbal communication, micro expressions, and how as humans we can be better at detecting lies with columnist Vanessa Van Edwards.
The Two Guys on Your Head podcast, the doctors of psychology discuss the problems that can arise from seeing things in our minds and not just with our eyes. In essence they reference pattern matching in an artful way.
Art Meets Science The Alienist has fascinated me too, I started watching the show in late April. I find myself keenly interested primarily as the protagonists are using patterns to solve crime. The show demonstrates how forensic science and forensic psychology may have come into effect.
Forensic Science Heritage
Albeit in a fictionalised 19th Century New York. Here too a pattern seems to emerge as a stellar team of individuals search for clues and hidden meaning of their own behaviors, and of that of the person responsible for the multiple homicides. The aim of casting the search net so wide, is to understand and stop the person responsible with all accessible means at the investigators’ disposal. What also interests me is that the depiction of late 19th century New York appears to be a close representation of our modern 21st century lives.
Patterned Living The realisation that we are living amongst a number of forming and reforming of continual patterns such as algorithms has had me in a state of wonder ever since I read Eric Hoffer’s True Believer in 2008. Themes appear in all four of the media samples mentioned above which include: attraction, guilt, authority, liberty, sexism, addiction, class and passion. History has a habit of repeating itself as Eric Hoffer has suggested.
We tend to use patterns to help us recognise things as diverse as migration, seasons, crop cycles, stock and share prices, rhythm and bpm, music, clothes, travel, festivals, meals, traffic, weather, sleep and waking cycles and psychological patterns marking the stages of life we all pass through. There are a possibly a million more patterns of life that I will have missed.
Counselling Patterns As a counsellor the pattern of therapy I find, is similar to that of a story, there usually is a beginning, a middle and an end. At times the beginning and ending can happen in a single appointment. Caleb Carr’s Kreizler series I am intrigued to start reading, as it has inspired the Alienist TV series. Usually the book is read first then I watch the adaptation later. Here I am able to witness a break in my own pattern of behaviour.
Pattern Matching On a common level we interpret a number of cues to inform ourselves about our lives that include; faces, sounds, smells, tastes, all call upon our ability to make use of a range of stimuli. A face that smiles we could view as friendly, a loud screech of tyres helps us recognise that something on wheels either was braking or accelerating, pleasant aromas of food or scents could alert us to a range of pleasing experiences someone may soon have. We recognise these as a result of experiencing them before and unconsciously process and store them. Once recalled, through action or thought we pattern match and behave almost automatically, almost without thought.
Pattern recognition is a way of interpreting information to support our understanding of what is likely to occur. My fascination with simply being aware of patterns enables me to make more informed choices. To make use of the patterns mentioned what would it be like to become a detective/scientist/artist for a while, curious enough to find out the patterns that involve your life and make sense and meaning from them.
In essence I am enjoying the psychological battle unfolding in the Alienist (episode 5 at the time of writing) as the characters recognise their strengths as a team and some of their weaknesses. The attempt to solve the mystery of the serial killer is a case of playing field chess in fog.
It is a game.
It is baffling and unseen players could move pieces that inspire the win and also the loss.
As in life, the aim is to live well amongst a seemingly ever unfolding pattern.
‘As Counsellors and Mental Health professionals our role could be seen as Judge Jury and Executioner I shared with a group of Introduction to Counselling students at University of Greenwich in March’
The idea came as an afterthought to a slide which shared the below idea…
“…the psychiatrist, along with his psychiatrically orientated satellites, has now usurped the place once occupied by the social reformer and the administrator, if not indeed the judge…”
The idea that we do not judge our clients for their actions, thoughts and circumstances of their lives is mostly I believe true. However as therapists we do make assessments and with that comes some degree of judgement.
How willing are we as therapists to engage with clients and the narratives they share of their lives’? By proxy we are judging! For me the idea is an uncomfortable reality, however it undoubtedly appears as a truism. The wise, and flexible in thought Irvin Yalom in his book ‘Loves Executioner’ shared views about 10 clients he worked with. Wherein lies sometimes excruciatingly honest judgement from him about clients. For example: Penny in the chapter The Wrong One Died was so affected by her past that elements of it were forgotten. Penny’s story stood out for me primarily because her ascent was incredible.
I did however make judgements, about her realisations and towards the end of her story the surprise was tear provoking, moving and surprising as she began to accept what therapy has been able to deliver. A truth well hidden (suppressed) – once seen (recognised) and the pain associated with it had chance to be released the experience offered Penny chance to grow!
As therapists we hold a non-judgemental line with our clients, that attempts to not judge choices of clients but circumstances that they are found within. To this end we judge vicariously choices made and the set of circumstances clients find themselves in. Penny is a great example of judgement by proxy.
As Jury we sit, stand, walk and run with clients for hours, inviting them to make more informed choices about themselves. The deliberations seem never ending, the 2nd guessing, the moving ever backward, sideways, and forward before the breakthrough and release. We as therapists prepare the case, a case, our case, formulate the reasoning behind the whys of what lead circumstances to be as the client finds themselves embroiled within, and prepare, re prepare, and wait and hold and offer possible other ways of seeing a set of circumstances.
What we wait for is the lights to come on and the internal glow of re-framing, reclaiming and enlightenment. As an integrative therapist, these moments are worth the wait and the clients patience, as a testament to their resilience and outward growth. They are hard fought for – similarly in the jury’s quarters where arguments ensue, the fight and wrestle for a client is an internal and elemental battle. As therapists we enjoy the battle and the multiple defeats as I view that just further along, the small reprieves and then the striking of gold await. Leaving the jury’s quarters with a verdict whilst hard won, are so so precious.
The Final Act
Executioners execute and we do, for we let die old ideas a client holds of themselves, relationships, careers, family, money, their pasts, identity, food, love, self-esteem, weight, culture, age, sex, and country. We cease the battle once the client begins a journey anew – renewed.
Faith in self – restored, assuages the pain of growth. I have been fortunate enough to witness the act of resilience many times. This is the therapists chalice. This be the raison d’etre of why we do what we do. We resolve something with each struggle, every fight, every loss and every victory. As long as we remain true of ourselves, (congruent) to the work, to the process and to the client – we as a team ultimately win.
A brief tale of The Argentine Tangoist. I had a client a few years ago that I enjoyed working with. They were a trained psychotherapist and could share with me the approaches I was using to support them as we worked. I viewed the work like a daring dance! The dance was like none other that I had been involved with before. It was quick and slow and brief and intricate. I was lost to the spin at times as were they. The work with the Tangoist lasted just over 10 sessions and then as quickly as the work started it ended. Poof! Just like that over. It was chess of the highest order (I am a beginner) and I lost and won and was amazed by their skill. The sense of growth and loss has become a new narrative of mine. One that I have a grapefruit sensation – lingering. As executioner we too can be opened up to the unknown. Here too lies learning…
I have clients where the battle has raged for a while and then peace bursts forth once a realisation or a truth is found. Undeniably the light is perceived by the client – growing from obscurity to clarity and thus, battle weary but ready, strike new ground with renewed faith in their victory. After many years of searching as an artist, poet, basketball coach, youth worker, learning mentor: Counselling and Psychology found and claimed me.
There is something about this work I love – for it blends art with science and the unknown.
The above phrase I heard recently thank you Luke Roberts for introducing the phrase to me. The 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.
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.
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.
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.
A P.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…
Recently I watched Fruitvale Station the movie (June 24th 2016). A few of my friends Gromyko Dumuje and Thomas Keenan mentioned the story a few years ago, and how it invited them to feel, sad, angry, disappointed and frustrated. I had held back on watching the movie because I was not looking forward to experiencing some of the identified feelings myself.
In short, I was surprised that I was swept away by how I felt in relation to how Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of a young man who was attempting to turn his life around and how his efforts were ultimately halted. I came across Michael B Jordan in the film: Chronicle and was spell bound by his relaxed affable nature in the movie. The next notable appearance of Jordan for me was in season four of Friday Night Lights. I am to write a piece on the effect that Friday Night Lights had on me. B. Jordan’s acting was notable as Vince the quarter-back. His human struggle were immediately identifiable and I applauded his successes and bemoaned his disappointments and failures.
I had not realised that he also was a character in The Wire called Wallace. There is much I had forgotten about the Wire apart from Season 4. The story of the group of young men whose lives all went in various surprising directions. The Wire was the ultimate experience of creating a TV script that leapt out from the screen and stole hearts. Season four of the Wire was the first time I came across the term Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Which could be a pre experience of personality disorder in teens. Treme was the next TV show that held me in it’s rhythmical and complex sway. Friday Night Lights (FNL) has been the latest story to fully captivate me. The story telling and character portrayal are movie calibre in quality, complexity and delivery.
Oscar – Marcus
Getting back to Fruitvale and what touched me about the story, was me recognising the similarity of Oscar Grant’s story and a young man I worked with in a London Prison. Marcus Isaiah (Not the man’s real name) was a 25 year old black male who grew up in London but was from another city in England.
Marcus was a footballer and enjoyed playing football (Soccer). At the age of 12/13 he was scouted by a large London football club and placed on their player pathway to access good coaching, regular football games, nutrition advice, support with homework and possible pathways to playing with a premiership team.
I met Marcus in my 2nd year at the London Prison I volunteered at 2011-2012. At the assessment meeting Marcus stated that he did not want any psychological help and that he was fine as things were. He had recently been in a fight with another male who had since been moved to another house-block. He was shaken, and visibly stirred by the event. Marcus appeared to be trying to adjust to life in the prison, and also to the fact he had been in a physical altercation with another and that his life at our point of meeting appeared bleak. I agreed to not ‘therapize’ Marcus and check in on him within a week.
Pausing to reset
The decision to pause support and give chance for Marcus to re-evaluate if the support was needed was useful. When I returned and checked in with Marcus, he appeared a little more settled and ready to begin in some therapeutic engagement. He expressed that he was feeling stressed and that talking with someone about it, he may find useful. It is possible that being non-committal offers possible clients engaging in therapy, an out if the therapy does not resolve the identified concerns. They then can say that therapy didn’t work and will not allow themselves to be too disappointed with the end result. We agreed to meet for 6 weeks with the possibility of review and extension if necessary of more sessions.
The lull of the street
Marcus described how he had been taken into custody and of elements of his past. He talked about his footballing career. At the age of 15 being a difficult time to negotiate the draw of the street or playing football. The tension to maintain both due to relationships away from the football pitch Marcus found impossible.
Invitations to chill with friends and associates, and be into what they were into, he acquiesced to. He shared during a therapy meeting that a choice to follow friends ultimately was his largest mistake. He started not attending football practice, talking back to his coaches when he did attend, and his football playing suffering as a result. The people he was around were into moving drugs and also smoking weed. Marcus had also started to use and found that football was less appealing than being around friends and associates and making fast and easy money. Football appeared to be the longer route to gaining the success he felt owed to him.
Background to Marcus
Marcus grew up in a single parent household. He lived with his sister and a parent. The pressures of living in London and witnessing how hard his parent was working to make a hard life liveable appeared to make his decision to make money quickly more appealing than staying in school and attending to his football career. Marcus had a number of negative experiences with Police which could have been viewed as a wake-up call which he was unwilling to answer. The excitement of one game appeared to have been replaced by the thrill and risk in another.
Similarly to Oscar (Fruitvale) who appeared to have come to a realisation on his own and had tried to turn the corner on his past. Marcus was aware that the former life he had lead was over. Marcus talked about how he would like to be when he was released. He thought about the people he had been spending time with in the last few years. Not one of these friends/associates had visited him in prison. Moving cannabis and weed and getting paid, Marcus now thought was not worth the risk for himself and for those he was connected to including his parent and his sister.
During our 3rd meeting Marcus described in a poignant and charged way that he had stopped his girlfriend from coming to see him. He was not sending out any more VOs (Visiting Orders) making it almost impossible for her to schedule a visit. His intention was to end their relationship and sit out the time he had left in prison by himself. His parent and sister were also vetoed from attending the prison.
Marcus appeared to be self-isolating in order to minimise the impact of not being able to live with those he cared about. I have witnessed this act a number of times and the consequences of self isolation were short lived and did not deliver the desired effect of stopping the anxiety and reducing the sense of stress in relation to thinking about those who remain in the community.
We discussed the reality of what he was facing and what this may mean for the people in his life. Marcus was being held on suspicion of carrying a firearm with intent, possession of illegal substances with intent to supply and driving offences. If found guilty Marcus was facing 2-6 years of life in prison. Marcus maintained his innocence and shared the story of how he was caught by the Police. The arrest sounded painful, provoking of a fear response and highly embarrassing.
The officers who arrested Marcus believed him to be carrying a firearm and were armed themselves. After a chase through the streets of a Southwark neighbourhood, Marcus was dragged over a wall, pinned to the ground, his arm was brought up behind him whilst the arresting officer knelt his full weight on Marcus’ shoulder. Months after the arrest, his shoulder back and arm were still causing him much pain. Studies have shown that extensive periods of pain management lower a person’s mood and can increase their likelihood of developing mental illnesses like depression.
In Marcus’ case his low mood after being arrested and hurt at the scene of the arrest, detained and entering custody, facing the possibility of years of incarceration was escalating a number of negative associations for him. By Marcus removing people from his life, he was attempting to jettison the feeling aspect of himself. Wrapped up with what Marcus felt needed to be held away from him, was a felt sense of who he was. We could call it Marcus’ Identity: The who he really is. By denying those he cared about access to him and he to them, Marcus could be seen to be arresting his emotional development. By engaging in therapy there was a chance that the attempt to move into a primal state of being could be averted.
Oscar’s frustration (Fruitvale) was witnessed three times during the movie.
The prison scene: where the other prisoner expressed anger after a space infringement was unknowingly crossed. Oscar feeling violated on his turf by a known aggressor in a place he did not want to be in. His mom being present to witness him be verbally abused she also being verbally assaulted. Oscar attempted to stand up for himself in the only way he knew how. Shouting and looking to stop the words from causing further harm. Oscar tried to get at the other prisoner. This act cost him the visit. As he was physically restrained and his mom walked out on him. Adding further hurt to the harm caused by his own actions – Abandonment.
When back in the community Oscar attends his former work place and asks his manager to give him back his job after he had been fired. This scene is coupled with Oscar showing a customer his ability to help another by giving her his grandmother’s recipe for fried fish. A selfless act of reciprocity.
The fatal scene on the train ride home after the New Years celebration where the guy from the prison is also on the train. It get’s ugly quick. However no guns are pulled at this point. Permanent Exit.
Complex – simple
Those who are incarcerated attempt to split themselves into smaller more manageable versions of themselves. Marcus was on his way to achieving a simpler version of himself that would be able to manage the prison system and all that it threw at him. Meeting me gave him a chance to check through this self diminishing plan again.
Oscar and Marcus shared a number of similarities. They were both brilliant young black men. Who had ideas of what living well meant to them in the contexts of their young urban lives. They both attempted to provide for themselves and their loved ones, by the means they found available at their disposal.
Both Oscar and Marcus held views of themselves and of the world around them that included breaking laws and being aggressive. Their reasoning could be as a result of the experiences they had whilst growing up. Both men came from single parent homes, poverty appeared prevalent for both males. Opportunities to move beyond the circumstances of their families appeared to have been derailed either by themselves or by circumstance. On some level I could perceive that both Oscar and Marcus had been beaten by an unforgiving system that was intent on further stripping both men of their dignity and self-respect. This being the case they made choices that affected their civil liberty, their lives and the lives of others.
Recognising the gap in the wall
The point of change for Marcus arose as we entered the 4th meeting and he asked if there could be any meaning to his life. ‘Like what is my life about now? More of this shit? I’ve had it with prison and with being in here.’ He asked if there was another way it could have been or could be as he could not see it. I asked if he read, and then told him about Viktor Frankl the Viennese Psychiatrist, Philosopher, Psychotherapist who survived concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Marcus seemed genuinely shocked and intrigued by the story of Logotherapy and Frankl’s ability to rise from a very dark moment in history. I believe that what hooked Marcus was hearing a story as bleak as his and identifying himself with an internal revolution. I told him about what I remembered from the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and wondered if he would like to read it?
I doubt that I have ever been more surprised or pleased to share a book! I read the book with a general interest as to how a man who nearly died in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia could at the end of the war return to his native Vienna in Austria and accept that people he knew may have turned him and other Jewish people over to the German authorities to perhaps die. His wife, mother father and unborn child all died at the hands of the Nazis.
When I read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ in 1997 the concept of acceptance was a distant thought, compassion even more remote. On passing the book forward to Marcus I was gaining ground on acceptance and compassion as a concept was also being closely followed. The book was a catalyst for me in seeking change and for providing me with answers to an age old ache ‘Who am I and what am I to do with the who I am?’ I was able to fashion meaning from another’s wisdom and insight: Viktor Frankl. In passing the book forward I was attempting to assist another reconstruct themselves with a picture of a young disenfranchised man: in a new progressive light.
I was to meet Marcus for a 6th appointment a month after the 5th appointment had taken place. I called in to the houseblock’s control room to check that Marcus had been invited to stay on his spur for the appointment. I was told that he had gone to court and had been released from there. I tried to hide my joy but I am sure it was witnessed by the officer at the control desk. I was happy that a young man who had made some unwise choices would get a second chance. For the remaining years I worked at the prison I did not see Marcus return. I can only hope he is doing well and I wish him a peaceful journey