Willfully Unseen: Packed Ending

The following piece of writing has been mostly published over the last few weeks, save for the last few paragraphs. The piece remains largely imaginative. I am attempting to invite a note of discomfort before turning a corner. My hope, towards something believable and healthy for maligned, marginalised and underserved groups. The adage of ‘It can only get worse, before it gets better’ perhaps ever more fitting…

Difference in The Details
A university friend shared an understanding they had about the ‘small’ rooms a business or a restaurant has. Dave Li (circa 1992) stated that ‘When you visit a toilet (bathroom) in a restaurant or any other business and it isn’t nice, this shows how they value your custom. It’s a matter of how much attention they pay to something the public uses, that demonstrates if they appreciate the small things’. Dave Li’s parents owned a small business in Wales. I imagine even now (Nov 2021) that Dave Li’s parent’s business bathroom was a pleasant place to visit.

Everything Fits, Nature Recycles Perpetually

Eyes Shut Now
When I think about unseen communities of people and an advanced society, a few social groups are swiftly brought into awareness, often unfavourably. In unkind and demeaning manners. The idea I have observes how an advanced and humane society would treat the poor, those physically and mentally disabled, those who commit crime, those who are viewed as psychologically unwell, the young, those who are either educators or within education systems, the homeless, the poor, immigrants and green agitators. Advanced societies would treat all with care, concern, kindness and a willingness to arrive at equanimous understanding. Including rather than excluding and positioning those who are willingly unseen, as permanently disadvantaged! Could a humane society remain in a position to not ‘other’ those that demonstrate a quality to life that is difficult, unimaginable, and unmanageable?

Wheel Turn
Given time and tools to develop better understanding, appreciation and gratitude, could there be chance to become aware and attuned to our similarities? Exploring points of contact. Noticing where intersectionality, between disowned groups and those who, stubbornly remain within the stronghold of our current capitalistic (solipsistic) society meet? Choosing to ignore a greater number of people who through no fault of their own remain at **the bottom of the well. Affecting those who like Smaug sit at the top of the mountain of gold. The planet, those who represent the Global South, the willfully ignored, aren’t waiting any longer for equity!

Possession
Advanced societies I believe would look at the smallest component of the strata of it’s populace, and be willing to invest in holistic growth, development and the levelling of all playing fields. Calling to mind Jo Amand who stated during training of Walking Group Leaders for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme back in 2002, ‘A group always walks together. They walk at the pace of it’s slowest member!’ Reminding of the African quote ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together!’ The idea, if a parachute is pulled apart the circumference encompasses all. No-one is left outside/behind. The reciprocal return would be to develop children and adults that are consciously aware of their privilege and where that awareness intersects/interacts with elements of themselves that are a challenge to accept. The aim would also be to develop understanding of where aspects of their being are under valued or under appreciated (where we all become the other). We are all Dragon, Dungeon and Dragon’s treasure (see above link to Smaug).
The aim could be to support and to develop emotionally literate, physically responsible, sociologically curious and flexible people. A following aim could be to improve our appreciation of all aspects of life. Disowning death, disease and inevitable destruction – cuts the enmeshment that is the whole of our existence. (The fright of the four horsemen.) All parts of a terrific/terrifying life are brought together within surrender.

Smog, Dust, Pollution?

Wealth Extraction
If we were to globally eradicate poverty (a huge thank you to Stephanie at Thrive Hamilton for the conversation) including paucity of critical thinking, I wonder then, what the world’s community would resemble? Would we still as a society carry the fear/threat of violence because of what we have/do not yet possess? Would we still hold on to a notion of one group of people being better than other groups of people? Would the ever increasing global debt be something that could continue to exist and weigh upon hearts and minds without coming to a necessary and abrupt end? The never-ending pursuit of financial security, of surplus – dismembering, denuding and robbing the Global community and the natural world of it’s health and it’s wealth.

Waste
Returning to the analogy of the toilet (began at the top of this page) would we want to arrive in a bathroom, with the smells of another user still hanging? Toilet paper strewn about on a suspected urine soaked floor. An omnipresent dripping echoing dimly. Possessing only one working stall (unwillingly checking the 5 other stalls in haste), someone having defecated not only on the seat, but also the floor, the walls? Paint of an undisclosed colour, flecked, bubbling, peeling from walls. Graffiti adding a quality of perceived threat and additional grime to an already stressful situation. Tiles of the floor and walls cracked. Oozing. The lock on the one working urinal broken. A flickering fluorescent bulb overhead. The 2 working hand basins showing signs of disrepair. Rust, grime, leaking taps, slowly draining grey water, already collecting in the bottom of the basin. Proof of poor maintenance and care.

Fish Plastic Waste

Fixin’ Unfair
You the visitor to this unsavoury scene, not being able to hold the contents of your bowels/bladder or both any longer, have little other option. Imagine inhabiting a space that heaps an idea that you deserve to live the rest of your life here and that you should die here too! Because born poor, of a lower social class, of a specific gender, of a certain racial group, having a certain physical or mental capacities, have ineffectively (criminally) acted attempting to improve yours and your family’s situation, or by becoming homeless, an immigrant this foetid mess is what some advise you to make a home, a society from. Being told by those living in better conditions that this environment is where you belong? Those supporting communities such as those described above, unfairly branded with the same toilet brush.

Poor
I was born into a family living on a North London housing estate (BWF). Poverty was a mixed experience of struggling and pushing to achieve an improved life experience for us and many residents. My mother came from a middle-class background in Guyana. I can imagine the unpleasant shock she received arriving in the UK, making a life for herself. Previously living in a colourful, warm, vibrant world only to arrive in England the cold, the sepia tones, staining the lives of those she would interact with as a nurse. The nasty taste of barely disguised racism. Then there was returning home to the housing estate’s depravation. Those born into poverty the world over are a large willfully unseen group. The eye skips uncomfortably over signs of poverty. A street hawker, someone who begs, with visible signs of malnourishment, unwashed, clothes in disrepair. They: showing signs of both distrust and a rapacious need, cause discomfort and a wish of ours to not associate. The idea – distance creates separation and less chance of being infected with their version of ‘lack’. Those who live below a poverty line in most of our societies are potentially us. A few missed mortgage or rent payments, losing ones employment could transform a seemingly wealthy person into the needy. Take time to notice both the privilege and the possibility of upheaval. The notion that we are more deserving – untrue. In actuality due to some degree of luck, choice, support and determination providing an outcome that has us living remarkably, thankfully differently.

Persons With Physical and Mental Disability
Living in a body deemed disabled by some, one is often ascribed as not only physically incapable but also mentally deficient. Some notice my cane as I approach and prepare themselves to speak in soft, accommodating condescending ways. I notice the flick of their internal switch. The subtle grimace, the hard swallow, the mouths set just so. Choosing words that are simple for an obviously disabled person (me) to comprehend. Noticing physical and mental ability can be a challenge. MS lurks barely visible. Being asked if help is wanted in the first instance, can begin a simple opening to a human experience of reciprocity. To warehouse and write-off persons that have physical and or mental disabilities, is an under appreciation of the human breadth of living. Pausing before offering judgement we have the ability to learn how to be inclusive rather than dismissive. By splitting off parts of ourselves from ourselves, we dampen the fires of progress that includes rather than excludes.

Deny at your peril

Crime
The resource below from Ibram X Kendi’s ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast fully examines a thorough understanding of the criminal punishment system. Mariame Kaba explores with Ibram what the future of supporting someone who has caused harm could look like. The initial want to cause harm and punishment back, for the hurt experienced is a part of human conditioning. Initially if we experience pain we seek soothing and for the pain to stop. Moving away from the pain’s source. A part of us may want retribution and for the harm caused to be repaid in some way. The learning Mariam speaks of is to unlearn the want to hurt back and observe the need to be repatriated, repaid and the tear between ourselves and the other to be repaired in some restorative way.

Theft
The 2nd Ibram X Kendi podcast I have used is from ‘How to Be Anti-Racist’ podcast that looks at the international crime of land theft by Europeans of indigenous populations in North and Central America. David Treuer a Native American invites us to think about how America could repay what America took from Indigenous populations in this article and whilst speaking on the episode. What I enjoyed hearing was David’s tribe the Ojibwe’s way of healing past wounds inflicted amongst it’s people but also against other tribes. In the case of taking life: three actions stood out amongst many of the ideas David spoke about.
1. A ceremony to mark both the passing on of the loved one, and to give the deceased person’s spirit some rest.
2. The second idea David spoke to, was adoption of another of the same age/same sex by the bereaved family to replace, spiritually the person who died.
3. The last idea shared by David, was gifting the bereaved family, with many items of immeasurable personal wealth. Something of value given in each exchange for the loss being communicated to the bereaved.
Because being a nomad has a childlike, unmoored presence in my mind. I position land theft among this list of a Willfully Unseen groups of people who have been disgracefully treated by America/Canada. Being purposefully overlooked has been wrought upon Indigenous populations in North America with long standing consequences.

Snagged Bottle

Mental Illness
For the last decade or so the awareness of a barely visible human experience we all at some point may venture into has mushroomed into a permanent figure in a number of diverse fields that is to be carefully be tended to. The pandemic exposed globally our fears, the cracks in a number of systems and what an incessant diet of misinformation, overstimulation of the amygdala, unhealthy foods, instant gratification ( thank you Netflix/Amazon) and the allure of working from home with everybody there, could and did wreak havoc on our mental health. Add to that trying to function normally in a world that has slid off of it’s axis, it would be safe to say that maintaining wellness would be a near improbability. Before the pandemic did we appreciate how ones mind can start to become instable when known knowns change to unknown unknowns? Stability and mental health is made possible by both known and some unknown factors. We may not have willfully understood that seismic change can produce Tsunami sized psychological waves.

Young leaders
Being young, below the age of 21, the rest of the adult world can present that the young know little. It could be that knowing less could be a provision to engage in creative and critical thinking and emotionally engaged solution finding. The idea that those older and wiser, know more. In some cases those who are 21+ do, and are yet still to find solution to the problems the world faces! The notion, that being born, one should be grateful for life and put up with the rubbish being thrown is largely outdated. Young people have certain protections offered in relation to health, wellbeing, autonomy, access to education. The offers to seats of power, to direct the course of important arguments are less available to include youthful viewpoints. Decisions, especially about education, are made by people who left their own classrooms 30-40 years ago. The young are not seen/valued appreciated for what lessons they are to teach. We should remain aware and interested in the way young persons see the world. Passing on our jaded world views, whilst initially seen as protective, may not yield a determined, explorative, daring, courageous young person who is prepared to commit to heavy lifting that could result in systemic global change. Those who who engage with young minds are often laughingly surprised by what ideas their youthful charges dream up. Inviting us to step up, stand up, speak up and speak out about a number of injustices the world faces, because the young require us to!

Rough
The city I have moved to, Hamilton Ontario, has many people living on the streets or in tents in parks or scraps of land that are unused. The city is attempting to resolve the crises by supporting homeless people. A global understanding of those who live with complex factors would be a useful way to engage with groups of people who find themselves living without a home. Becoming homeless is never a choice a person makes. Living outside of shelter is arrived at by a number of connected and unforseen factors. Ultimately to resolve some of the concerns those who live beyond shelter are to be consulted and involved with their repatriation. A recent study observing 1 persons cost to a community in the US, for 10 years observed an individual who cost a city 10’s of Thousands of Dollars just to keep them alive, without ever successfully rehousing that person. It is less warehousing of solutions and resolutions but finding individual and group breakthroughs. We all need to walk and talk together through and beyond labelling and problem finding.

Green Activitists
Sir David Attenborough has aptly and repeatedly described the peril we all face. He speaks here at the recent COP26 and remains composed whilst delivering a passionate note of warning. Some willfully choose to ignore. Some choose to deny. Others yet, still opt to close eyes, ears and minds in relation to the once barely visible threat of a planet dieing. The fires, land losses, global rising of water levels, extreme experiences of weather storms and desertification of once arable land – symptoms of a group of mindless apes ruining what once they managed so expertly.

Freeze
There are a number of ways to exist within our means and remain functioning amongst the planet as custodians. Money maddens us. Power can corrupt. By putting money and power together we have examples of those who govern us being both power mad and with money corrupt. As Brené Brown has repeatedly suggested power over helps no one, whilst power to and power with – helps everyone. A change of thinking, believing and behaving is to occur. Ibram, Mariame, David all strongly speak about the cost of not acknowledging and remaining affixed in a (Frail, Pale, Female/Male, Stale) FPMS global frieze.

Rainbow Rubbish

Better
My hope is that the dead wood blocking flow, is blown through! Obliterating and washing away inhumane systems of thinking, and practices that enslave bodies and minds. Since the industrial revolution the human body has been made an unwilling barely conscious component. Part of a chattel system that perpetually produces misery over comfort, disease over health and chaos over creativity. Humanity deserves better and is in an active role pursuing something other, representative of all, for all.

Resources
David Treuer writes in the Atlantic of how America can pay back in financial terms what was stolen from Native Americans. The article makes both a passionate and logical presentation of historical facts.
Young Leaders reviews 6 young people that have had the lens of history swung upon them. The article observes leaders such as Malala who have shook the world to pay attention to causes beyond their shores.
Malcolm Gladwell’s useful depiction of Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit gave me a spring to further understand pointlessness of wealth. The link takes you to the short blog that has the episode of Revisionist History.
Homeless has 4 links that observe homelessness in Canada and the US. 3 of the links specifically look at Hamilton Ontario. The Spectator article discusses cases of homeless people and what the City of Hamilton’s council is attempting to do to resolve the city’s homelessness crises. The CBC article observes one person’s re-housing ending their encampment experience. Lead Me Home is a beautifully poignant Netflix documentary observing homelessness in Oakland Calidornia. For more information on Lead Me Home <click here.
David Attenborough’s COP26 speech heavily influenced my choice of images for this weeks blog. Dr Dwight Turner has spoken about the interwoven nature of speaking about BLM alongside just as important issues such as Gender equality, Immigration, Feminism, Sexuality and the environment.
Black Is… by Tall Black Guy features towards the end of the piece of music, Sareem speaking their truth. There is something about their delivery and words chosen that resonates profoundly for me ‘My Bite pressure is much to much…’
Mariame Kaba and her conversation with Ibram X Kendi is mentioned above.
The Chaos Machine by the Invisibilia Podcast is a useful foil to begin unpacking how an information service that attempts to inform the public turns into a tool of cruel divisive control. Social media can have a separating role amongst our interpretation of facts v untruths.
David Treuer and his conversation with Ibram X Kendi is mentioned above.
Buffalo Soldiers is more than just a song from Bob Marley. The podcast from The Stoop looks at who were termed Buffalo Soldiers and the difficult line Black service people have walked along in the US military service.
Gaslighting by Two Guys on Your Head is helpful in beginning to understand how socialisation pulls individuals to need/want like. Perhaps we all willfully ignore the impact of being socially coerced and manipulated.
**Derrick Bell who wrote Faces At The Bottom of the Well as an originator of Critical Race Theory begins to unpack the construct of Race.
We may be unwilling to acknowledge the experience of racism amongst different racial groups. Cathy Park Hong and Ibram X Kendi discuss Asian solidarity in the global fight on Anti-Black Racism. The emphasis is for Black and Asian people to identify the divide and overcome the pattern matching of internalised racism and do many things differently.
Have You Heard George’s podcast episode 26 observes the patterned experience of 2 separate movement phenomena in music and what unseen relationship vibes have in realising artistic expression.
Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye’s interview once more affirms that intergenerational trauma becomes de-contextualised as symptoms of illness. This too is Willfully Unseen amongst healing professions. Continuing to learn can support appreciation of new/old information of which can be then applied to living. A large thank you to Kwame Opoku for the link.
Black Is Tall Black Guy
How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and Mariame Kaba: Prison and Police Abolition – Finding True Safety
Invisibilia The Chaos Machine: The endless Hole
How to Be Anti-Racist with Ibram X Kendi and David Treuer: Repairing The Past – Returning Native Land
The Stoop: Buffalo Soldiers
Two Guys on Your Head: Gaslighting
**Faces at The Bottom of the Well authorDerrick Bell
How to be Anti Racist Black and Asian American Solidarity: Ibram X Kendi interviews Cathy Park Hong
Have You Heard George’s Podcast: Podcast Ep26 Vibrations
Resmaa Menakem and Angela Rye Discuss Healing

Images
Volcano photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash
Nature Not Waste photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Exhausted Air photo by Justin Bautista on Unsplash
Plastic Fish photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash
Bird photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash
Plastic Bottle Snagged photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash
Rainbow Rubbish photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

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

Worry

The idea of worry is that once we start we aren’t able to stop. But we can! We are able to critically evaluate the usefulness of the concern and downgrade it. Match it to reality we curate.

Frivolous
The activity is a pointless engagement and I will go in to what worry could be useful later on in this blog.

Generally the worries we become involved with are to do with scenarios we can see happening.

What we can do to either prevent them or how we might make things better if they were to occur.

RTA One of my consistent worries is being involved with a road traffic accident (RTA). I am either a pedestrian or a driver of a vehicle. The few accidents I have been a part of included me crashing into another car after another ploughed into mine. Another accident involved a bike colliding with a car door flung open to change places with my wife who was driving at the time and me on a bike and a car crashing into me. Some were not that serious. So what does this particular worry pertain to?

Prediction
Few if any can predict the future. But we almost want to tell our brains/minds that we can sort of manage the imagined situation if it were to happen. Take the RTA of mine. The useless idea was imagining what the pain, what the hurt and the mess that will happen if an accident did happen again.

A useful idea on worry would be to positively create the steps as to what should happen if ever I was involved in another accident for example,

call my wife,

call the police,

check if the other person is okay,

check that no further traffic accident can happen,

check your body for damage,

review damage to vehicle and theirs,

walk to safety.

Rest.

Regulate breathing.

The more you practice and imagine the what happens next, the lesser the worry takes up space in your mind. Why? Well because you have seen how the event will be when and if it were to occur. You will be ready to deal with that eventuality and know what to do!

The Body Keeps the Score
There is a great section in the Body Keeps the Score book about people who are able to recover after an RTA. Those who get involved suffer less traumatic memory retention because of their working out the challenge at the time of the accident. Using their pre-frontal cortex and using the human part of the brain. Those who block out or blot out the experience of the accident generally fare worse.

Michael Forfieh Counselling presenting the idea that all that we think does not have to be believed.
All is not to believed

So
The advice with worry is to pay attention to what the is concern is.
Evaluate the worry for it’s value and truth.
Develop a strategy as to how to resolve the worry as best you can.
If the worry is a big one see where help can be asked from to support you to reduce the challenge of the concern.
Be proactive, create a new scenario with the challenge resolved.
Think about the scenario being solved and pay attention to how you feel.

It is in the feelings that you can understand what the emotional hijack has been about. You can now see the worry for what it was and how to resolve it.

So now put your energy into solving the challenge.

Mentoring coaching psychotherapy
A good helper can support a person who experiences these challenges. The helper will aim to resolve anxieties and begin working on returning you to a healthy helpful state of calm.

How
By examining the origin of the concern a helper can pinpoint its beginning. Generally the worry is linked to other ideas a person has about themselves including race, class, status, money, childcare, performance outcome and the weather with everything else in between. A helper will aim to establish what the client experiences in heightened states of concern and help you to reduce the siren’s noise and find solution.

Resources
Hidden Brain – Coping with Chaos
Impact Theory – Cultivating a Powerful Worldview
Two Guys on Your Head – Breathing

Images
Cover Photo by Tyrell Charles on Unsplash
Inlaid photo

REFLECTION Reviewed pt 3

Recalibration
The challenge for them (Narcissus) is in the invitation to begin deconstructing and decommissioning a world view that has enabled their Narcissistic behaviours to win at life.

For their self-interested behaviours be victorious against a past that could have been annihilating for them. Surviving and sharing their history with another would be a closer assessment of their truth if they could trust others enough for it to be heard.

Dismantling their coiffed well-presented image of themselves takes courage. The dark side of themselves is a perspective that has them as a person beginning to see that the vision they had held was askew is risky. The final scene in Dorian Gray is a perfect depiction of Narcissus seeing himself almost for the first time. The grotesque in themselves is an unbearable concept.

Staccato
As Jill Scott sang in Love Rain ‘the vibe slipping off it’s axis’ is a useful analogy to describe the destabilization for Narcissus. Slippage is necessary to enable a nobler sight of realism to be perceived and understood. Perhaps the task is not for us to save, but to stand at a safe enough distance. Allow Narcissus to recognise that the image before her/himself is illusion. A visual echo of what once was. The mirrored and always elusive self is unable to be experienced – much like A Picture of Dorian Gray – the perfect imperfect.

*Humorosity
A cataclysmic explosion would be necessary for the change to begin in earnest for Narcissus. To make a change of such import the intervention has to be brutal and honest. Perhaps…

The offer here is, with curiosity and doses of humoured inquiry make an attempt to be interested in what happens for Narcissus’s now. Do not rush. If you can, pose loose questions. With a sense of genuine wanting to peer behind their curtain/wall. Inviting Narcissus to do so too. For though the subject appears to be laid bare and low -unprocessed material lies here.

In part due to their exposure of a little known truth they dimly knew of themselves. Mainly because of the expansion caused by the explanation of their inner truth. Be careful as this could either be their first introduction (genus) to humility or the hard pressed kernel of defiant resistance. Only time will tell which route they will take. One that leads to re-connecting with their humanity. The other continues following a path to more pain for themselves and for others.

More Walk London

Honouring
What lies at their centre? (Have you wondered?) The aim here is to open up chinks in a well-oiled, well maintained Armour. The chinks let out as well as let in opportunities for scents of change. The process can be slow. What is to be noted is Narcissus’ recognition of empathy and warmth from themselves to another. Observing fealty and connection for themselves and also what being in honest communication is like. Where, if any differences are felt and what that may be like? Rather than them hearing the familiar self-recriminations of blame, of anger, disappointment and fear. Letting themselves out of their prism they shielded themselves from the world – cautiously. See earlier

What next
There are a number of choices that could be made in relation to Narcissus. Leave them to attend to manage themselves by themselves.
Stay and learn to manage life with them.
Leave and attend to the holes that they pockmarked your life with.
Stay but be emotionally detached.
Leave and heal and be aware of narcissistic tropes.
Stay and support them through change.
Leave and live well.
Stay and enlist others to support their change growth and development.

I recognise these are not easy choices. It is about what resilience is like for you and what resources you have at your disposal. Always hold the gas mask analogy with you. This is about you not them.

Attractive
The intriguing factor for me as a therapist is the attraction to Narcissus. Narcissus who brings some emotional pain, self doubt, a devalued sense of self, experiences of elation and happiness to the person(s) they are with.

Magnetic
Is there a part of their character that appeals above ones own although this particular aspect is often harmful and hurts?

If personal harms are the case, what does being with Narcissus offer? Someone who is wicked with their humour. They are able to bring together a group of charming and attractive friends? They are able to offer you the delights of social mobility and acceptance? They provide you with an undeniable sense of  responsibility “If I don’t, who will?”

Does superiority, defiance, charm and wit with moments of crushing lows also become experiences of the person who has fallen for their attraction to Narcissus?

I would advise you to evaluate with time away from them. Look at your life with them and life without them in it. There was a time before when they were not. How was life then…?

Support
A number of therapeutic models may be of use to support someone that has narcissistic traits and close others. Dialetical Behavioural Therapy, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The want to be better, as in the joke above ‘How Many Psychotherapists.., is to come from them.

Always.

Resources
Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one
Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work
Understanding the Mind of a narcissist
*Humorosity A Michaelism see No 37

Cover Image by https://unsplash.com/@marcojodoin
More Walk Photo by David East on Unsplash

REFLECTION Reviewed pt 2

Pain
The pain of being held accountable,
of being made to feel perpetually wrong,
of shame and embarrassment,
of being made vulnerable and seen as weak or lesser than,
is a fear
for a person who may have narcissistic traits
to hold on to their distortion
that little bit harder and for far longer.
Than is healthy/necessary
The threat of being made small again is too great.

Because once, a few years ago, perhaps when they were infants they had been made to feel all of the above by valued loved ones, friends, teachers, frenemies.
So they, Narcissus, erected a wall. Keeping all the bad out and locking in all they perceived as good.

Tactics like division, fear and threatening behaviours are used to enable self-aggrandizement and remain with a sense of strength (Omnipotence), being right, whole, good, beautiful and powerful, employed at other people’s expense and often their suffering.

The right of Narcissus’.

Hand Holding Crystal Ball

Narcissistic personality?
Narcissism produces a distorted self-image, an oversized ego, and a presumption of superiority not based on any real-world accomplishments. Narcissists reveal their feelings about themselves and others through their actions, which are often manipulative and self-centered. Despite the depth of feeling narcissism generates, and the deep-seated insecurity it compensates for, people diagnosed with severe narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) can learn to manage humanity, their symptoms, and reduce the disorder’s influence over their lives. That is if they recognise that change is beneficial.

This is a BIG if…

Past
Narcissus may have had a number of experiences that threw their idea of self and the world in which they live into disarray at an earlier developmental age.

Experiences such as loss through bereavement or loss of home, war, poor relationships with caregivers, poverty, bullying, emotional neglect could support the development of narcissistic traits. The personhood of Narcissus may have been negatively affected by the environment that they were raised in.

Developing traits that support a positive view of themselves always, and a lesser view of anyone and everyone else around them. Projecting a view of all that hurt them, into and onto all others and everything else in between helps to protect a fragile self. The act of denying others their humanity and not recognising their own robs Narcissus of intimate contact with another/others.

Therefore Narcissus can remain perfect and invulnerable: Always.

Gas Lighting
The term gaslight was coined after the 1944 film of the same name. Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. In the movie, a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. Illustrating the destructive power of gaslighting.

Gas Mask at Altitude
Due to the human capacity for finding purpose and wanting to support others to attain fulfilment and happiness it often occurs that partners, family, friends and colleagues often want to rescue a person that appears to have narcissistic traits. The joke of how many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb fits here. “Ah but the light bulb has got to want change.” For any person engaging in therapy they must see the benefits of change. For someone with narcissistic traits if the problem is with all others then there is nothing to talk about and nothing that therapy can offer… Until…

Resources
Gaslighting – Two Guys on Your Head
Understanding the Mind of Narcissus

Cover Photo Serrah Galos@serrah Unsplash
Crystal Ball Dawid Zawiła@davealmine Unsplash

REFLECTION Reviewed pt 1

Last year (2018) I wrote an impassioned piece in support of a friend who wanted to know a little more about Narcissistic personality types. I wanted to re-touch the blog a little and help make some of the concepts discussed a little more accessible. Maybe. Just a little.

Working with service users that have spent time on probation or in prison, a few have reminded me with traits of the below story. With transparency a number of people I have met and know display some of the traits explored below. It could be that in some way we all have narcissistic traits.

Peace
You may have met people who may have narcissistic traits or display an inability to empathise with another, or view an experience from another perspective other than their own. My aim with this blog, is to offer insight to the history of Narcissus and provide an understanding of what can be done to reduce the harmful effects of coming in to contact with personality types that have narcissistic traits. I use the name Narcissus throughout this piece of writing to aid personalising narcissistic personality types.

Oppositional

Photo by https://unsplash.com/@ms88

The Greek Myth Of Narcissus
According to Conon, Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus. Narcissus gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked.

Mirror
Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow. According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

Reaction
The story above presents a number of uncomfortable ideas.
1 Narcissus refuses love and adoration from suitors.
2. The best that Narcissus can offer is a sword with which Aminais can do what he likes with.
3. Aminais chooses death and the wrath of the Greek gods to punish Narcissus for his intolerant self worth opinion of himself.
4. Narcissus falls into complete adoration of himself and dies alone and happy?

Inner Turmoil
The aspect that I find interesting about the story of Narcissus and narcissists is that their self-image is the one that they protect and adore above all others. The mirrored self is not real. The unreal self is only a reflection. The unreal self is a mirrored image of perfection that is ultimately flawed as it cannot be attained nor possessed. Thus the mirrored unreal and perfect self is as such, wanted all the more by Narcissus.

Pitiful
I hold a degree of pity towards Narcissus. Ideas about missed opportunities flit behind my consciousness and understanding of a narcissistic personality type. The idea of what they could be or come into contact with is an interesting twist of fate. Observing my compassion about working with someone who may have a distorted view of their reality, helps to maintain my connection with personality types.

Strangle Hold
By their holding so tightly to their view of reality – Narcissus.Imagine this if you will: arms, legs, teeth clamped over the reality they desperately hope to maintain. And with their eyes firmly unequivocally shut – holding themselves from new information that their view is misguided. The world as a whole by Narcissus is considered wrong, bleak, threatening, offering little that can shift perspective.

The strangle hold Narcissus may have on what they feel is rightfully theirs we hope would/could change. Providing logical, referenced, evidence as to why their way may not be working any longer is useful for us. Speaking with others about what difficulties we are experiencing can be useful to hear another perspective and context check that our thought processes are fully operational.

Resources
Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one
Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work

Cover Picture by Photo by Thomas BRAULT 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

Vulnerability: The Hidden

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

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

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

The many…

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

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

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

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

This death.

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

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

But it had.

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

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

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

Tankerton Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

There where you belong.

Safe, Resilient, Free, Successful, at Peace.

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

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

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

The 1st Man Talk

7 men on stage all talking about their individual experiences of life loss and mental illness.
The men included
Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician Dulwich Dons,
Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone,
Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach,
Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor
and Leon ‘Sweets’ Lewis @SweetsLewis

When I found out about the event, thank you Eddie, I was at first intrigued. I knew little of the people who were going to be speaking at The Man Talk. But this did not derail my interest.

Finding a queue outside Brixton Ritzy mostly with men from the Diaspora standing, waiting, talking amongst themselves, greeting each other, shaking hands, fist bumping, head nodding and laughing was a welcome sight to behold. I usually see something similar of this relaxed nature at one of the prisons I support as the men travel to or from their activities to their wings.

Here though there were no prison officers. Patrolling, expectant, ready, making small talk with themselves or with some of the men housed at this prison. The scene was light and celebratory not couched for things to go off or tense.

I looked on and waited. Hoping to get a seat soon. My 6’2” frame groaning for respite leaning on my adjustable cane, we stood and waited for close to an hour. Eventually the doors were loosed and patiently the assembled group of men ambled with reverie into the cinema.

I found a seat near to the end of a row. Most had come with friends or people they knew. If Ade was still here I would have gone with him. The evening began with a welcome and a brief greeting with people sat beside me, in front and behind that added to the sense of camaraderie amongst the audience. The Man Talk began with Leon Sweets Lewis introducing what we the audience were in store for. His informal beginning allowed the assembled panelists to introduce themselves and their reasons for why they felt The Man Talk was important.

Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Spoke about the soon arrival of his first child, being sent to prison for a period and wanting to get to a train platform… Terrol became more impassioned the more he spoke about his mission that almost never was. The train platform experience was a moment that he came close to bringing his life to a premature end.

Inside Brixton Ritzy at the Man Talk

Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Talked about not finding his purpose and being lost and close to being broken. Finding his path with personal training and getting fit and supporting others to do the same.

Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician, Dulwich Dons talked about his known and unknown personal stories, encountering loss, finding himself between a number of different worlds that include Music Football and his community. Wanting both to succeed and support family and friends.

Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone held nothing back. Paul introduced himself with the story of losing his father to suicide. A pin drop moment for me. It brought the audience and me to the edge of our seats. From Paul’s conversation the TALK became REAL and the objective of why we all were sat, listening and witnessing was made evident. The Campaign Against Living Miserably  

Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach, the elder statesman of the room shared aspects of his story. He is a voice coach, singing mentor and has supported numerous X-FACTOR contestants to perform well. Xavier discussed becoming a life coach after sharing his insights with friends and putting his skills coaching singers and performers to shine. XTLC was launched as a new concept for him from that point going forward. Xavier also shared about the death of his mother which completely caused him to shut down and function. When he returned home he cried for his sense of loss. Xavier mentioned that his loss was profound because of his connection with her.

Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor story was different. He began by sharing with the crowd that he was a Ghanian and his dream of becoming an American citizen was upended by 2 things. 1st his financial organisation changing their hiring policy of foreign nationals and America’s new immigration policy. The dream he had built up in his mind was over and he had to rethink his goals and dream fast.

I felt inspired by what I witnessed at The Man Talk and want to start a Men of the Diaspora therapy group. The feeling is that something positive that tackles toxic masculinity has started. Potentially men talking about shame pain being hurt and loving is essential for how men process and see themselves. With a fresh perspective and with new imaginings. Not with the tropes of old that states that men are 2 dimensional, simple, unemotional monoliths inflexible immature and bullish.

All panelists were humorous, honest and humble.

All of the men on stage presented a good argument, a representation for men to talk, listen and to be seen in similar ways with others. The Man Talk was a window into vulnerability and honesty. What would that be like for family and friends to experience? To See?

The 2nd talk is scheduled for June 19th and I am not able to attend. What I am confident about are a number of outcomes.

There will be other ‘The Man Talks’ and the ripples will affect how men relate to themselves, and the communities they move amongst.

Other groups will begin holding other men focused talking experiences.

Some already do.

Something important has begun and I am excited by what more is to follow.
Resource
Dope Black Dads Podcast https://soundcloud.com/dopeblackdads/episode-4-co-parenting

I am interested in knowing what you all think about my blogs/writing, when you can, can you complete this survey monkey questionnaire https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9V9TYQS Thank you.