Boundaries Slipping: CoViD19

With the experience of COVID19 being an extended period of strange, I am noticing things blending that perhaps would not have previously met. Such as home and work. Children and colleagues. Priorities and leisure activities. Tele-video conferencing and unlimited screen time. The challenge is with the frequent chopping and changing to meet a chaotic stream of demands. The ongoing effect of an ongoing strange situation is that of feeling, irksome, bored and fatigued. Can all responsibilities be equally met realistically?

Homogenised
Currently I am working from home. I have not gone in to work since mid March. A warning from a friend who manages a number of hospitals was “if the virus gets in to a prison it will be like being on a cruise ship” she said. I took the cruise ships warning, to mean that if the virus got in to HMP X, it would run rampant and be unstoppable! Me with a compromised immune system and now as of mid May 2020, also being in the high risk category of being a Black Male I have relented and stayed home.

Unease
Regretfully having not returned to my duties at Prison a feeling of malaise is growing. Now at 10 weeks in to self isolation I note that working from home has a number of common/uncommon challenges.

Full House
Everyone is here! Dr CW and my two boys, are home. Where else would they be? I try to juggle a responsible role amongst making lunch, attending to squabbles between the 12 year old and 10 year old. I am also the unofficial teaching assistant (TA) for the boy’s learning. Dr CW is the qualified teacher, dedicating herself to managing the older one’s learning. I am grateful for her insights and perseverance through #Lockdown. I struggle with thoughts of ‘Am I doing this TA thing right?’ or ‘I don’t wanna ask her, but…’ and thoughts of doing not enough or too much.

Distant Guide
I am also supporting my team that do go in to work at the prisons. I supervise remotely either by msn teams, Zoom or WhatsApp video call. Here too elements of guilt seep in to my awareness. Me at home, them there, putting themselves at risk and against the impossible task of welfare checks and keeping themselves safe in a prison! The thought of I should be there too, drags at me.

Lane Change
I have given up the hour long commute – a 3 month old distant memory. The leaving the house at 7 a.m. is no more. The wondering about what to have for lunch at work is absent. The many other trivialities of getting ready for work seem a faint consideration now.

WFH
The challenge for me currently is the blending of environments. Baffling and causing me to reminisce of the times had before the Lockdown. Work and home. Responsibilities of both now being mixed. Competing for dominance because they are both independently more important, urgent, and demanding of my 100% attention.

Pre CVD19
How were things before? They were in neat enough little boxes. Tidy. Distinct. Recognisable. Acknowledgeable for what each box contained. And I knew where those boxes were. And I knew how to open one and close another. There was an order, a schedule, a pattern.

Squared
Now it’s like all the boxes are open. Things are leaking from some boxes into others, some are neglected or forgotten. The reasons for the negligence is that there are fires raging in some and rain pouring against others. Soaking some and threatening to utterly destroy the collection. It is Monsoons and Volcanoes. The Cardboard boxes don’t stand a Chance!

Reflection for Understanding
I mentioned to 2 peer supervisees and to a friend that this time of ours in COVID19 Lockdown feels more stressful and anxiety provoking than anything I have lived through before. There have been other large seismic events that were as incredible as they were terrible. Tiananmen Square, the Zeebrugge Ferry disaster, September 11th, the Boko Haram kidnapping of school girls, the ongoing slaying of Black Women and Black Men in North America by police and security officers, Hurricane Katrina and the July 7 attacks in London all have pock marked my memory indelibly.

Conversations leading to discovery and creation

Never Ending
But this enforced captivity and forgive the crude analogy, is like being sentenced along with family to an IPP indeterminate sentence. With little information as to our possible release dates. Parole options remain hidden. Being able to work towards a release date with good behaviour with our probation officers is off the table. The analogy here looks at those responsible for the management of the Pandemic (Governments). The offence would be catching the disease and spreading it by not socially distancing or non observance of WHO guidelines. With the suspected crime being committed we are then to be summarily mass incarcerated at home: indefinitely.

Tiny
I mentioned in an earlier post that this virus, so small, is like a mushroom fungi spore. Altering the biochemistry of it’s infected hosts turning them into cadavers for birds and other feeding creatures to spread the fungi’s spores as far and as wide as possible. This virus has changed our view/experience of our world in ways that are similarly inconceivable.

Call Time
Maybe I am not alone in thinking I’ve had enough. My fill of Netflix and Prime is replete. Being with the family and Zoom calls with friends, colleagues and clients a depended must. Contact with family overseas was good wholesome and necessary in the beginning of the outbreak. Now seems as tiring as the push me – pull you antics of the UK government. The experience being a blend of missing the simple act of human to human connection and dislocation/dissociation/disruption from what is and what is not real.

Summarise That
Post COVID19’s tag line might read ‘Life Just got Tougher and Now Closer to the Impossible.’

If you contract the illness there is a fair chance you will survive but you might not be the same after you recover! It is probable that our world won’t be as well.

Walking whilst Black through this though, may be another type of story. This tag-line might read: Life was tough before. COVID19 brought out the worst. We are to gather and be limitless!

Demanding better futures and an honest retelling of our world history. Insisting on a closer, more informed and equally educated society, fearing less, eating healthily, thinking clearer and inclined to critical analysis and desiring to be ready to make meaningful change for our lives and for the lives of generations to follow. Perhaps with an idea of a sense of responsibility is a reason for fatigue?

Remembering
There was something about those boxes (mentioned above) that gave a sense of knowing that also comforted and fatigued in a naturally expectant way. Life back then was manageably unpredictable. Now – exhaustively confusing. An old saying is –
‘Life is simple, it’s just not easy’.

Life is also tough but ultimately, it is an ongoing process of change adaptation and learning. I advise us to simply be open to what happens in the years to follow.

In answering the query at the top of this piece, all responsibilities are not equal and so cannot be prioritised equally or fairly or at times rationally.

Resources
Thrive – 20 things to do during lockdown for wellbeing.
The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism I thank EK for this resource. A true reflection of how it really is.
Couples Under Lockdown: Lagos, Nigeria from Where Should We Begin?
with Esther Perel.
After The Storm from The Moth Podcast 9th Ward Burnell Cotlon

Images
Cover photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
1st inlay photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo provided by @therapy_with_kae

Re-edited Tactical Empathy and Effective Altruism Pt 1

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 used/accessed to support those who are facing insurmountable challenges. Like the men and women I counsel in prison.

Anything Left?
The other thought was about asking myself ‘if there was something here about listening for the solution?’ Listening in a way that supports a peaceful outcome for the many? The thought was what if Tactical Empathy merged with Effective altruism…?

What are they?
A definition of both Tactical Empathy and Affective Altruism follow.

There are plenty of ways to get what you want in any negotiation
Kicking and screaming used by infants and some adults!
Using threats to coerce an outcome using the idea of danger and/or harm.
Finally we have bribery as a way to produce a desired outcome from others.

Loops
Perhaps the most effective strategy is one that’s pretty much counter-intuitive: Focus on what the other person wants instead. Chris Voss Author of Never Split the Difference advises that this closes a loop for the other and the negotiator.

Or with “Tactical Empathy” it is the ability to share someone else’s feelings while executing a specific plan to achieve a particular goal. Information collected from 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 a way that brings about the greatest positive impact, based upon their values. Definition by Wikipedia
Re-edit Pt 2
Re-edit Pt 3
Re-edit Full Script

Cover Image by: Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

And He Laughed.

Black laughter. Black Love.

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.

Rutland Water Normanton Church: Slow Moving

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.

Not on this day!

There was no space for it.

Only smiles and laughter.

Resources
The Nod Do Rag
Code Switch School Daze and Gum Boot Dance
2 guys on your head Laughter/Jokes 
Making Sense Mind, Space, Motion

CTA
Comments welcome and appreciated. I am looking to engage in conversation re. Black Laughter. Black Love and the other blogs written. Thank you for reading.

Photo by Giulia Pugliese on Unsplash

Deconstruct

Can’t fix it – Prison – Criminal justice

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

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

Cross Pollination is Us.

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

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

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

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

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

To heal.

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

POTENTIAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therapy in Prison

Held up

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

Expecting

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

A Why

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

Sunshine

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

Perspective

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

Links

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

Waves

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

Press Play

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

Choices

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

4 Levels

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

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

2 Years in the making

Rise to…

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

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

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

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

An Overview on…

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

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

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

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

E5 Bakehouse mouth wateringly good produce

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

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

Leader

Educationally Missing.

Disappearing

There are a number of stories that capture the experience of unmet potential, stories of people falling and staying down long before they had chance to fly.

Having supported teenagers in schools and working in rehabilitative settings for service users. The experiences of: loss, betrayal, resentment, let down, anger, low mood, dis-regulation of the maturation process and abdication of responsibility appear to have an accumulative effect to understanding being made about life paths. An unknown internal point is not reached or appreciated and a resulting cacophony then is the result.

Heightened Stress

As Dr. Lori Desautels and Michael McKnight have illustrated in their 1st book Unwritten the Story of a Living System. A person, especially a child does not grow well and develop within an environment of high stress and high anxiety.

The result is a reduced sense of self-esteem, reduced mental capacity to uptake new information, lowered tolerance to *stressors, heightened response to survival habits of Freeze-Flight-Fight-Friend actions, hostile engagements with others, use of explosive language and behaviour to process and deal with challenge and of pupils forming uneasy volatile alliances with pseudo friends and ‘family’.

‘I’ll hang around with you, if you and your group protect and don’t victimise or bully me. And if you do I am in the In Group so that’s okay.’ How long before the quasi friendship turns into manipulation? Where anti-social activities are the order? Where thrill seeking is obtained through risky behaviours. Where aggression and rule breaking appear normal?

Would the (apparently unbreakable) association/link/connection with the group take an evening? A weekend? A Month? A Term?

Regression

The worrying aspect I find with working at a stage of a person’s negative spiral (prison in my case) is the sense of hope being lost. Of individuals giving up on themselves, their families, on rehabilitating and returning from prison and by-passing society as a whole.

Primary desistance may have been achieved. Secondary desistance may still be a process that is being worked with by a prisoner or service user. Tertiary desistance is where a moral and societal shift occurs in the service user and the individual recognises themselves as part of, not a part from, society – their community. Counselling I find can be useful with a person’s 3rd stopping point.

Tip Point

I witness what the result of stripping social services are for vulnerable people and communities. Crime increase, homelessness, experiences of people in mental distress visible and not able to be cared for by hospitals or carers. What frustrates me is that the experience my son is having with his school and peers could be impacted on positively.

The pain filled progression of pupils, a percentage of whom that are permanently excluded from school (that had the potential to be a pro-social engagement), are victims to, or perpetrators of street violence, join illegal import and export dis-organisations (anti social engagement) to eventually becoming labelled and branded socially unsuitable, un-fit for ‘non offending populations’.

Being removed from mainstream education where students either attend alternative provision for less time than mainline school I feel is a damning move for students, school and society overall. Pupils earn less time being supervised by adults that can provide adequate pro social modelling. Feeding the productionline.

Committed Action

The need then as mentioned in Ignored Song would be for individuals from a range of backgrounds and experiences to provide support to a range of school experiences across the country to ameliorate the perspective some young people have about the world in which they live. And to change how schools and teachers view and support disorganised pupils.

The world does not have to be a dangerous and risky place where disagreements could cost several young people their lives. The aim would be to not minimise their understanding or patronise, but would be to offer challenge and support growth. To see beyond the barriers and horizons they may have erected to protect themselves.

Incision

In 2017 I approached a number of alternative school provisions with an initiative to run morning workshops to groups of students. The theme delivering thinking skills with the topic of psychology as the main driver.

My interest in psychology firmly rooted because of the counselling course. Witnessing that our world is governed by psychology increases my fascination. Psychology is a growth from Philosophy and I am in absolute awe of the impact thought has on us as humans. Continuing discoveries in neuroscience perpetually astound me.

Discussing psychological ideas with students at alternative school provisions in London I felt had the potential to be transformative. When a person begins to come upon a new realisation it is like a gift that was buried. Once unearthed the gleam of treasure that crosses a person’s face is priceless for me – every time.

B-Boy 

Prisoners

Working at a prison with service users in Kent, the look after they realise a hard earned truth feels the same. The service user often points and subtly rears back; like a soft push has just happened. Then a small smile is offered and the subtle shaking of their head. Astonishment!

The chance to experience and practice on the world the new found thing for service users in prison is sometimes delayed by the length of their sentences. Trial runs of new thought and behaviour can be made prior to release in prison with some degree of success. They may alter thinking traps and patterns or their behaviour may flip to be outgoing and light. Interactions with a peer, or group of others could do likewise and change to the positive with new thoughts.

My want was to work with school attendees before they entered the criminal justice system and had negatively altered their lives or the life of others dramatically, irreversibly. Reducing the impact and societies unconscious load that it projects onto those that it classes as criminal. No. We should not wait until our son’s and daughters are detained within secure environments before we develop packages of support. The change I believe has to start now!

The invitation/demand especially in light of Britain teetering on the edge of Exiting the European Union is:

We all must want better now for all.

We have to face up to the challenge.

We must all be willing to work to achieve a brighter tomorrow.

To be the last person standing is not what my son or young people seek. An unblocked, unfettered, untainted future is…

Michael McKnight writes

The Path to Connecting with- Kids “at-risk”. ( Brendtro and Seita )

1. Recast all problems as learning opportunities. 
2. Provide opportunities for fail-safe relationships.
3. Increase dosages of nurturance.
4. Don’t crowd.
5. Find their passion.
6. Decode the meaning of behavior.
7. Be “authoritative”. 
8. Model respect to disrespectful youth. 
9. Enlist troubled youth as team members. 
10. Preemptive connecting.
11. Give seeds time to grow. 
12. Keep positive expectations alive. 

#resilience

Resources

TED Talk Radio Hour School

Code Switch Raising Kings

Psychopathy: Test

Apex

There are moments one dreams of experiencing that I had in October 2018. I had the chance of delivering a lecture to a group of forensic psychology students at the University of East London. The subject was mental Illness and crime. This was the 3rd time of me delivering this lecture and it all came together like the perfect picture. I was given a breakdown of possible protagonists and activists amongst the students. The promise that the group were usually quiet, by the course director Ms Kougiali, was thankfully unmet.

Review Data

EZ Poxy Shimmer

Shimmer

Perhaps it was my brief introduction and experience but the group of roughly 40 students did not let up with comments and questions about the lecture I delivered. They stated as one that some of the material was; too broad, that the stats needed refining in relation to ages, classification of mental illness, the gender of data groups and where the data sources had come from.

Urm note to Michael try harder please!

Winning

I found that I loved the engaging-challenging-rewarding interaction! The buzz of the room felt hard won and not wholly mine – more ours. I have had a number of teaching and lecturing experiences over the past few years starting at University of Greenwich, then as a VL at UEL and recently teaching at a college just outside of London on a level 1 counselling skills course.

Listening

Abstraction Art

Abstract Interpretation

All teaching experiences draw something different from me, there is the all-knowing sage that I aim to be, the old enough yet down enough sharer of counselling mythology, the witty soothsayer sharing what needs to be said for those who have ears to hear. October the 24th was like the perfect blend.

Balance

My style of lecturing is part performance poetry, comedy, debate class, philosophy and counselling pedagogy/theory for balance. My last class with year 2 students at University of Greenwich in May, much of the above was the experience. Teaching/Lecturing appeared to flow effortlessly. It sort of came together as a perfect storm with students sharing, my presentation slides, personal anecdotes of counselling and life experiences all rolled out and accessed by all. That lecture for Greenwich was on What Next? Offering ideas of potential routes beyond year 2.

Forensic Populations

What I enjoyed most about the work with UEL students was that they challenged me and I them! The challenge thrown about the lecture room was the idea of mental illness and psychopathy. Ultimately the idea realised was that many involved in the criminal justice system in the UK if tested and or diagnosed, many may have untreated learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, have experienced trauma, suffer with PTSD symptoms and have a personality disorder, as well as a dual diagnosis of substance misuse or alcohol addiction.

We All Psychopaths

Seeing Dutch Windmills

Blue Abstraction

Everyone in the lecture theatre if they took a psychopathy test would score something between a low to a high psychopathy score, making us all psychopaths to lesser or greater degrees. That includes you dear reader!

The reflective quality of this realisation hit in the 2nd hour after a number of students offered their opinions on the recent film on Netflix 22nd of July. The film about the impact Anders Breivik had on Norway stirred up some controversial ideas and debate in relation to mental illness and acts of self-preservation.

A student shared that we all have the potential to commit acts of violence that were either based on our beliefs or state of un-wellness. I volunteered to complete a psychopathy test listed here the Levenson Psyschopathy self test. Which takes roughly 5-10 minutes to complete https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/LSRP.php. I scored a 2.9. The scores from this test I see more as an indicator for me, rather than a confirmed diagnosis. I mentioned that I would share my results with the class if interested. I now do so with you too.

Invite

I wonder what your psychopathy test scores are and what they say about you?

The thing I enjoy most about writing about multi-layered experiences is what others find through reading these posts and then share. If there are other psychopathy tests that are an improvement on the one listed here please share below. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.

Further Reading

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

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

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

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

Goodbyes…

A few weeks ago I had a conversation about an interesting part of ending a meeting or a conversation – the good bye.

Good Bye Umbrella

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.”

Intention

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.

Family

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.

Formal

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.

Warm

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.

Endings

Final Goodbyes

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:

A truthful quote

Painful Goodbyes

‘Until we meet again’

Breaking the Cycle

Half-Truths

In a conversation with my supervisor we came across an interesting idea. We [society] punish those who have done wrong to society by sending them away to prison.

Arike asked “I just want to make sure I heard you correctly, you want to punish people who have already had a difficult past?”

“Er, yeah, well that’s what society wants for people who have wronged them. They have to repay us by spending time away from us, to then return rehabilitated” I said.

Arike chuckled… My folly although well put, had been illegitimately conceived. I had stumbled into another half-truth of society’s thoughts about the criminal justice service and about what, We the greater want from those who have committed crime against Us. We want them to pay back for the harm they have done to us. Rehabilitate, be re-educated and return healed from the hell that they were sent to…

Is the above a fair request?

Musical Identity

By stating to Arike that I have been the victim of a number of crimes was an attempt to show understanding. Being beaten up on my housing estate at the age of 9 by a school bully, and having my mother’s purse stolen by a friend were painful shocks to the system. We living near the bread line stolen from by a trusted friend…

Living in Wandsworth between 1997 – 2002, my car being broken into a number of times was possibly a greater loss. My car stereo and CDs – stolen, taken, had, made off with, disappeared…

Music was then, and is now, an important part of my identity. I loved making mix tapes and then playing a selection of these carefully chosen tracks as I drove to work.

1st Car

An Escape Golf Mark 2

Loss

My assailant, had taken something I held dear. I felt rageful for my hurt and violated sense of space. I also wanted my stuff back. I shared this with Arike who chuckled some more. In the time after my stereos disappearance, I was able to get to a place of compassion.

The idea I was able to fashion was that the thief possibly needed my stuff more than I. Perhaps they were not in a frame of mind I could ever fathom or figure out. They found my car out of place in this well to do part of Wandsworth, broke in easily and took what they needed. I was lucky they didn’t steal the car, further complicating my commute to work. My red 1988 Volkswagen golf. It pained me to get into it and drive with no sound other than the engine – hollow and vacant.

Why

I imagined a male. Possibly either a drug or alcohol misuser who exchanged my low tech, low cost, car radio for their next escape. The usual phrase of ‘Why Me?’ formed and was popped by a realisation that if a £20 car stereo sale could bring momentary happiness, then my loss could result in momentary happiness for them… perhaps then…

Hurt First

An outcome of the discussion had with Arike was that the thinking around prison and punishment of crime may be archaic, ill fitting, not suited for our modern times, out dated and out grown. If not prison, then what? Community sentences? Returning to the idea of punishment Arike posed a final question:

“Society wants to punish those who already have been hurt?”

From this point a realisation hit home. The want for punishment remains for a society hurt by those who have taken something from us. I get that. What I started to visualise was those who commit crime also have had things taken from them, freedom, childhoods, education, self-agency, identity, family, access to funds, homes, safety… As a group of people, they were hurt first.

Faces at the bottom

We as a society rejected and affixed labels (Mad, Bad, Sad) and then sent them away. Is there much wonder then that as a group of people rehabilitation does not come easy?

Breaking the Cycle - Big Society

All for All. Big Society

Can you imagine what it could be like to return to a place where you are not wanted, feel impoverished, unable to contribute, the so called friends you thought you had were just as dysfunctional as the people you grew up with, or certain members of your family, spending time between probation, job centre, approved accommodation, attending change grow live CGL, trying to give up a habit as a coping mechanism that halts feelings of denial and hurt, returning to familiar patterns of crime, to feed a habit and return to a gaol system that further impresses that you are not a member of anywhere but it’s grey confines. What then?

For me there are many layers to unpack for ‘Those Who Were Hurt First’ that would need to be addressed by all.

The unpacking begins…

Yoga, herbs and sunshine: New Zealand opens ‘humane’ jail for most violent inmates

Johan Hari T.E.D. Talk Addiction as a Health Matter not a Criminal Justice Matter.

I thank Paul Delaney for hi-lighting this article. Drug addiction

King Heroin – James Brown

Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow Americans
Lady Americans
This is James Brown
I wanna talk to you about one of our
Most deadly, killers in the country today
I had a dream the other night, and I
Was sittin’ in my living room
Dozed off to sleep
So I start to dreamin’
I dreamed I walked in a place and
I saw a real strange, weird object
Standin’ up talkin’ to the people
And I found out it was heroin
That deadly drug that go in your veins
He says
I came to this country without a passport
Ever since then I’ve been hunted and sought
My little white grains are nothin’ but waste
Soft and deadly and bitter to taste
I’m a world of power and all know it’s true
Use me once and you’ll know it, too
I can make a mere schoolboy forget his books
I can make a world-famous beauty neglect her looks
I can make a good man forsake his wife
Send a greedy man to prison for the rest of his life
I can make a man forsake his country and flag
Make a girl sell her body for a five-dollar bag
Some think my adventure’s a joy and a thrill
But I’ll put a gun in your hand and make you kill ’em
In cellophane bags, I’ve found my way
To heads of state and children at play
I’m financed in China, ran in Japan
I’m respected in Turkey and I’m legal in Siam
I take my addicts and make ’em steal, borrow, beg
Then they search for a vein in their arm or their leg
So, be you Italian, Jewish, Black or Mex
I can make the most virilent of men forget their sex
So now, no, my man, you must, you know, do your best
To keep up your habit until your arrest
Now the police have taken you from under my wing
Do you think they dare defy me, I who am king
Now, you must lie in that county jail
Where I can’t get to you by visit or mail
So squirm, with discomfort, wiggle and cough (coughs)
Six days of madness, (Hah) and you might throw me off
Curse me in name, defy me in speech
But you’d pick me up right now if I were in your reach
All through your sentence you’ve become resolved to your fate
Fear not young man and woman, I’ll be waitin’ at the gate
And don’t be afraid, don’t run, I’m not chased
Sure my name is Heroin, you’ll be back for a taste
Behold, you’re hooked, your foot is in the stirrup
And make, haste, mount the steed and ride him well
For the white horse of heroin will ride you to Hell, to Hell
Will ride you to Hell until you are dead
Dead, brother, dead
This is a revolution of the mind
Get your mind together
And get away from drugs
That’s the man
Back, back
Songwriters: Charles Bobbitt / Charles Fred Bobbitt / Dave Matthews / James Brown / Manny Rosen
King Heroin lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc