Flow state thinking An interesting blending experience happened after I listened to two of my favourite podcasts – Philosophy 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
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
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.
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.
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 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 solution.
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 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 nonsensical!
Medieval 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 making 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.