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.

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The Next Frank Morrison

It’s Complicated: For a Reason

Wrestling Free

Perhaps we are supposed to wrestle with family scripts for portions of our lives. It is possible that the wrestling supports our growth and development of resilience. Maybe understanding what came before helps us know what direction we are to travel or perhaps when we should stop and drop the heavy load.

3rd Layer Down – Winter Fortress

There are a number of differences between who Isaac my father was and who I am being for my sons. An uncomfortable realisation was that he Isaac, was not a consistent presence in our lives. His extended trips to Ghana, caring more for his political interests and party, his letters to parliament, his conflicts with the then local council of Haringey appeared more important and relevant to his identity than being a consistent part of mine and my sister’s lives. In Inception, something important happens on this point in the film: the inception is made.

Perfection

I am a long way from the perfect parent. I am not attempting to get there. Good enough parenting is the aim, not do as bad as Isaac did. What I wanted and needed from my father was to above all talk, be heard, discuss, debate and wrestle with aspects of life, with him either cheering or advising. Relating to me as Adult.

With other family members: Ananta and the New Jersey/New York tranche, I have empowered  conversations, when we meet, we discuss and share learning and debate.  Being good enough, I will be available for my sons to explore that which I did not have with Isaac. My sons call me dad. I referred to him as ‘Old Man Boogie’ as he loved to dance: my Father. Dad is a term of endearment. Offering a sense of proximity and warmth, I could not say dad about him…

It doesn’t seem to fit.

Implant

Tangle
Complicated Lines

Coming back to Inception, the goal was to plant an idea into the sleeping awareness of the target – Robert Fischer. An illegal act, but one that we are to notice as consumers because we are victims of Inceptions as well.

Think fast and note what:
hair product brand,
mortgage company,
car insurance logo or phrase,
drinks manufacturer,
comedy show,
vehicle company,
shoe brand,
grocery store,
furniture company,

Soap opera,
holiday provider,
mobile phone manufacturer
or life insurance brand
springs to mind as you read these words. I wonder what happened for you as you read the above? 

Asleep

We are brand loyal, TV show advocates and label devotees for life! We even introduce brand loyalty to our family and friends. Look upon those who are walking differently and often away from, as though they are the ones losing out!

In actuality it is us who lose continually: Money, time, worry, often distracted, procrastinating, disappointed with our lot, ill at ease and diseased, demotivated – depressed, perhaps?

Extraction and implementation has happened to us a million times.

Inception’s point was in reversing the process of extracting information…

Nudge

The plant was to have the heir of a power corporation recognise that he was his own self-determining person. The aim to live beyond the idea that he was a disappointment to his father and could make choices that were his alone and no-one being able to influence him!

The subtle switch.

Arc

Planting a challenging idea in a way that organically grows to overtake the family script. I notice that my disappointment with my father is that he could never appreciate the who I was. That I was very different from him. He only saw me as a representation of his ideals not being met. Not as a person in my own right. Free to make choices and mistakes of my own. And learn from them! I became what I ought to have been: an Artist, a Psychotherapist, a lay Philosopher – emancipated from his outdated idea of what success is.

4th Layer Down – Ocean Decay

We arrive at a fundamental understanding of being human. Generally we seek to make our parents proud of our achievements. To have them look on us fondly and recognise that we are going to be okay with whatever life throws at us. We have learnt to adapt and roll with it. Get up and keep going when knocked down. That we have earned the right due to experience to be independent and resourceful. My role as a father is to support my children’s development and recognise them as younger individuals carrying their own important agendas into their futures. My wife and I are guides, providing love, information, support and ideas for them to navigate their way through life.

I can understand that Old Man Boogie’s life and mine were starkly different and as a result his father ship felt different to the one I have been able to offer to my sons. I am told that I am strict. Just like my father was with me. But feel that I differ considerably from his Ghanian idea of raising a male child. I provide love, boundaries that are flexible when necessary and firm when important. I can be silly and playful whenever and wherever possible, knowledgeable and capable of sharing what I know in ways that my children can learn something from. “Aw dad are you lecturing me again?” Sharing my views of the world with passion and in a measured reasoned way mostly is a job I hold preciously. My passion can short circuit my intentions and there are moments when I can be short sighted and short tempered. 

Delicate Balance

The game is a difficult one to temper, like walking a tight rope whilst juggling seven burning batons and dodging cannon fire. It’s a fine balancing act that I have good days with and some horrible crashes – where I get caught by a cannon ball, drop a baton, or fall off the rope. Mostly it’s a case of all three! The attempt is to live and love well. Be good enough but not perfect. For Isaac good enough was not possible, not attempted and not achieved, at a loss because of his own unmet *potentia. Within Inception, arriving at the final dream scenes: beat up, washed up and old speaks to an undeniable self-script: We would all like to live well, long and happy lives, leaving a legacy, an indelible mark for those that follow.

Analogy of Parenting
Fire Juggling

In our dreams as well as in life – there is always potential.

When we realise that our family scripts are ours now to manipulate and fashion for ourselves then we can move into a newer *betterer now.

Family scripts, are complicated because they determine who are to become over time…

Resources

Grief cast No1 with Cariad Lloyd and Adam Buxton 

Philosophy Bites Podcast Death and the Self and Philosophy in Africa

The Stoop Podcast So Hard to Say I Love You

Loving You

Tim Ferris and James Altucher discuss saying No and Family Scripts

It’s Complicated – Family Scripts

Interception

I am using the film Inception as a way of opening up a discussion about family scripts. What is a family script? Do we all have one? What is mine? A family script I believe is something we live with semi consciously. The script could be about how much of a success/failure we are to be, who in the family we are like and what our life path is. Whether we live with family or have some distance from our families.

A family script can follow us regardless. In part, a family script is as much apart of us as we are a part of it. The story of our family. Informing ourselves of how we are to live and then how we choose to live. Knowing what script is your family’s could be for you to look to parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and notice parts of their story that are similar or very different to your own. Spend time reflecting or if there is space and time, talking with them about their life’s journey. Learning more about their life and your own as a result. A great book to read that further explores and expands the idea of family scripts we are living is: They F£$K You Up by Oliver James.

Games

I re-watched Inception recently with an aim of being simply entertained and of gaining an understanding of what I thought the film was all about. For the helpers out there I challenge you to watch any film without psychoanalysing yourself and the role of the principle characters. As mentioned in an earlier piece of writing my super power has been turned on and simply watching a film or tv show I can no longer do. The thing being watched turns into a psychotherapy session out of habit and as an intellectual game.

Inception has 4 layers of unconsciousness examined and toyed with. I understood the film finally, when I watched again. I will split this blog in to two parts. Processing the first 2 layers of the dream in this blog and the 2nd two layers in a later blog.

1st Layer Down – Rain

Layered is a simple way of sharing my interpretation of the movie. On re-watching Inception I can see that there are a number of elements that are unearthed as the movie progresses: dreams as routes to knowledge, substance use to lucidly dream, planting of new ideas, the unconscious/subconscious and it’s uses and misuses, rescuing lost love, healing of the self, making informed choices and admiration of father figures. As a psychoanalyst/counsellor/artist I enjoyed the blending of ideas. Initially I had thought the film clever and entertaining, after watching Inception again I am left with the idea of what has been planted beneath for me…

Father’s Day passed on the 16th of June this year (2018) and whilst listening to ‘Where should we begin’ podcast I thought about the now I am in. Raising two sons with my wife in London and recognising that, the experience they were having being parented by me is very different to the one I had being parented by my father. Mr Mensah a family friend once said something profound to me and my father. He said to us ‘that who your father had, is different to who Michael’s father is’.

It seems so obvious now, but a shiver went through me at the time. Inviting the idea that my parenting would be different and the same about for him as well. Our relationship was difficult for a number of reasons including being a son of economic migrants. Inception appeared to explore family scripts and expand upon the notion exquisitely.

2nd Layer Down – Hotel

My father Isaac died in the Autumn of 2015 and I still have not attempted to mourn his passing. Grief this time has not arrived like it did with my mum’s death – a raging bull – tearing and trampling at life passionately. This time grief has seemed like a faded monochrome picture of the past. I am sad that we did not mend what was horribly broken. Perhaps that task was too great for both of us. Within the film, the protagonists implant the concept that grows within their target. The term“Disappointed…” takes on both meaning and form as the film progresses.

Disappointment attempts to silence the trumpets of hope for me. With analysis as a friend and because of hope, knowing loss – can bring with it release. Letting go of unobtainable standards, misguided belief, unrelenting demands and family scripts that have the potential to stunt growth and development.

Inception Motif
Monochrome Spinning Top

Unsure

I remain unaware of my father noticing the achievements or challenges that I overcame in my life. His adoration of his grandchildren was witnessed and I took great comfort from that. In a number of ways he had already left my life due to the separation and divorce from my mother. The efforts he did make were with attempts to establish himself in two worlds that seemed not to communicate very well. Ghana of the 60s-80s was a country removing itself from the cudgeling effects of colonisation. Much of his time and energy spent, involved with Ghana’s reformation. A devotion that could have been shown to our family. A disappointing realisation of what could have been.

Gaps

I wanted to have a good relationship with my father and felt that this was possible after our reunion 17 years after we last met. My attempts to have him be a part of my life were unsuccessful. The gap between us was too significant to overcome. After the separation, moving house and divorce from my mother, reforming a semblance of family was a challenge that became un-mend able.

He too far gone his way and me perhaps becoming too settled in mine. The life script of being the middle one, of being the one who brings both laughter and co-operation for the family to rally around was forever unmet. With my father’s death I can choose which parts of the family script I ignore or continue with, much like Robert Fischer does in Inception.

Choose…

Resources

The Moth Podcast – Goodbye

Two Black Guys with Good Credit Burying the Dead

Dawning Realisations

Alternative Action

3 ways out

During a conversation with a friend in Toronto: Canada this year (2018) they said “I have to have at least 3 ways to get downtown”

“What do you mean?” She was asked.

“Well I can’t rely on one way to get there. If the subway isn’t working I can use the tram. If the trams aren’t running I can use a taxi.” H stated.

“What about the buses?” I asked.

H looked at me shook her head and smiled. “I’d rather take a cab. Buses are unreliable. They come when they want. The schedule. The schedule is no help. It’s just added frustration on top of the insult of waiting…”

Snowy Taxi

Toronto Taxi

I had little experience of Torontonian buses apart from Go Transit to Toronto from Hamilton. Buses in London I could offer as comparison were at times unpredictable. I nodded and laughed to show I knew her frustrations.

The other comparison I made was managing anxious thoughts and low moods. What strategies do I employ when I recognise that a state of anxiety, or *pissedoffedness was imminent? What were my 3 exit routes to safety and a better state of mental well-being? Using Denial, Anger and Getting the Hell Out of here, has limited effects. The fire often still rages.

Years ago (1993) as a student at DeMontfort University, I would head to a basketball court in Victoria Park in Leicester and perfect my shot. The release of the ball at the right moment sending it sailing towards the hoop offered something towards appeasement, release and calming. This the summer after my mothers death… I knew little of the effects of grief and depression and found a way to self soothe that became a coping strategy: Basketball.

Basketball was an amazing outlet for me, many years later 1999 – 2011. Coaching gave me the chance to order a team of basketball players around on a court. Another useful way to channel energy. Coaching was a constructive activity for me and the players I coached. Coaching offered discipline, direction, focus and purpose for all. Later still summer 2005 talking therapy opened up as a way to let compressed thoughts chance to be heard and space to breathe. Sharing stories, for that is what Therapy can be, was helpful. And so began a journey I am still travelling.

The exits to better feeling that I use are:

Stopping and listening
Making a choice
Talking
Acting

Stopping and listening

A friend once said in order to change direction one must first stop. First notice the feelings that are stirred up. Listen for the emotions that are engaged in choosing to fight flee freeze or friend the situation. Usually there are many emotions all clamouring for the mic and anger seems to come out on top every time for me. It’s easy red energy gives chance to assert myself.

Pause

Take stock, uh oh this feels something like anxiety or anger or frustration or some other butt ugly emotion. Trailing behind it – dastardly thoughts that lead to impulses and actions that can direct one to regret guilt and shame.

The Way Out

Heading Up

Make a choice

Choosing from the list of Byron Katie’s The Work I make a choice to feel better. I engage in self-soothing acts like rubbing my arms, self-hugging, rubbing my hands gently together like I do when washing hands, rubbing my  head, going for a walk either physically or imaginatively to gain peace and serenity. The aim to give oneself space and some time out. Choose to accept and honour the discomfort. This is the hard part and the best part of the work. The discomfort is showing something that needs to be acknowledged! Denying and ignoring the hurt allows it to fester and grow. Honouring allows recognition of what ails thee and a possible release and easing of the pressure. I am learning that honouring the feelings and pausing is a mighty act. It interrupts the patterns of what usually follows. Choosing rather than impulsively acting can make a huge difference. The I am getting out of here is a choice. Which direction to travel?

Supply Clouds

Reading the chimp paradox by Professor Steven Peters has helped to identify that ‘Mandeville’ my Chimp is at the root to ill feeling and malignant thought. A book recommended by Jonathan Scott several months ago as a must read. Life changing were his words of advice about the book. I wholeheartedly agree!

Another partner to the ill feeling dynamic is my inner child. Mandy the Chimp is powerful but my inner child is like Tetsuo in Akira. Apocalyptic with rage and temper. Finally binary thinking helps the justifying thought that I am right and they whoever they are, are wrong. Completing the off balance set up.

Think

Be decisive and take action. – Gain perspective on the situation. Once clear it could be easier to make choices that best support self and or the situation. The route away from here is questioning, patient compassion. The strategies used invites my brain to move the energy away from Flight Fight Freeze Friend responses and engage with thinking.

The Bus

Towerbridge at Dusk

3 Ways Downtown Bus, Cab, Walk

Soothing ‘Mandy’ and the child is another important task. Once they have said all that is in them to say and have calmed right down. I can begin the questioning. Colour things in more. Invite doubt and gain answers. Here then lies truth peace and a possible way beyond the discomfort and disquiet. A solution to long held outmoded strategies that don’t get you downtown but waiting at a bus stop for a bus that’s way behind late, overcrowded when it eventually does arrive and with a driver with A WORSE mood than the one you had. Getting on to that bus possibly is not going to be the safest journey, for you, for the driver or the other tired, frustrated passengers…

Be Still

Distance yourself from the situation and walk away physically/mentally with the aim to cool down. Imagine a glass of water with ripples gradually becoming still. Even better the water becoming thick with ice. Get creative with the ideas that offer solution. These arise once the noise of the confused anger has begun to calm. Listen and hear well. Generally the voice is quiet, offering advice and guidance. It rarely yells. Adrenaline is a useful energy component. It invites movement, if redirected it can be used to support mind functioning by thinking clearly and acting with purpose to solve seemingly insurmountable and threatening problems.

Talking

The next part of this bus journey is to speak to another, a friend a family member, a trusted colleague, talking activates higher functioning of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is a power house generating imaginative ideas and surprising solutions. Tapping into this part of the brain directs energy to support growth curiosity and enjoyment. Bringing a clear direction forward out of thin air where once only a wall blocked the passage. The first conversation we often have is with ourselves. The next could be with a trusted other. Mentors, Coaches, Hypnotherapists, community and faith leaders, and a host of other objective agents can help to dispel the negative and increase awareness to creative and affirming solutions. With a clear plan or decision in mind something different can be created. Generally I feel better with a solution rather than confusion.

Airborne

Acting – In Flight

Acting

This is the last part of the bus ride. Make a choice/decision as to what you would like to do in relation to the set of circumstances that invited disquiet.

Recently I was driving home from work and opted not to get caught in a traffic jam that would have angered me, and made getting home much later. I chose to take a side road. I went through new areas of a town I knew little of and saw landscapes and scenes that I felt lifted by. I was able to get back on route in less time than if I had sat in the jam and in a much better mood.

What detours can be made in life and what might be achieved when we take them?

Life is simple it’s just not easy.

I am slowly learning to accept what this saying means.

Getting there…

 

Two items of interest

TED Radio Hour
https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/529942522/a-better-you

The Science of Success Podcast
https://www.successpodcast.com/show-notes/2017/6/28/the-shocking-truth-about-talent-what-it-means-for-you-with-geoff-colvin

Reflection

Working with service users that have spent time on probation or in prison, a few have reminded me with traits of the below story.

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 in this blog, is to offer insight and understanding where possible. I use the name Narcissus throughout this piece of writing to aid personalising narcissistic personality types.

Oppositional

Frank Morris – Small Brown Eyes

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 who 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.

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.

Inner Turmoil

The aspect that I find interesting about the story of Narcissus and narcissists is that the self image is the one that they protect and adore above all others. The self then is unreal, it is reflection, a mirrored image of perfection that is ultimately flawed as it cannot be attained or possessed, and as such is wanted all the more. A degree of pity and ideas of missed opportunities often flit behind my understanding and observed compassion about working with someone who may have a distorted view of their reality. By their holding so tightly to their view of reality, sometimes with arms, legs, teeth and eyes shut, the world as a whole is considered wrong, bleak, threatening, offering little that can shift their perspective or alter the strangle hold they may have on what they feel is rightfully theirs.

Small window

** Seeing Out Seeing Self

Pain

The pain of being held accountable, of being wrong, of shame and embarrassment, of being made vulnerable and seen as weak or lesser than, is a fear that has a person who may have narcissistic traits to hold on to their distortion that little bit harder and for far longer. The threat of being made small again is too great. Tactics are used to enable self-aggrandizement and remain with a sense of strength (Omnipotence), being right, whole, good, beautiful and powerful, employed at other peoples expense and often their suffering.

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 their symptoms and reduce the disorder’s influence over their lives.

Past

Narcissus may have had a number of experiences that threw their idea of self and the world in which they live in disarray at an earlier developmental age. Experiences such as loss through bereavement or 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. Denying others their humanity and not recognising their own. Remaining perfect and invulnerable.

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 fulfillment 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…

Recalibration

The challenge for them is in the invitation to begin deconstructing and decommissioning a world view that has enabled Narcissus to win. Be victorious against a past that could have been annihilating for them. Surviving their history would be a closer approximation to their truth if they could trust enough for it to be heard. Dismantling an image, a perspective that has the person beginning to see that the vision they had held was askew is risky.

Staccato

As Jill Scott sang in Love Rain ‘the vibe slipping off it’s axis’ is a useful analogy to describe the destabilization. Slippage is necessary to enable a nobler sight of realism to be perceived and understood. Perhaps the task is not 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 could be necessary for the change to begin in earnest for Narcissus. Perhaps… With curiosity and double doses of humoured inquiry an attempt to make mild interest of their now – known can be made. Rush not. Pose loose questions less with a sense of interrogation and more with a genuine want to peer behind their curtain. Inviting Narcissus to do so too. For though the subject appears to be laid bare and low due to their expression and expansion, this could either be their first genus of humility or the hard pressed kernel of defiant resistance.

Honouring

What lies at their centre? The aim here is to open 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 communion 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 the prism they shielded themselves from the world – cautiously.

Ignoring the other

Mental and Physical expression

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.

Attraction

The intriguing factor for me as a therapist is the attraction to 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 harmful? If this were the case what does being with Narcissus offer? Someone who is wicked with their humour? Bringing together a group of charming and attractive friends? Delights of social mobility and acceptance? A 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?

Evaluate with time away: life with and life without. There was a time before when they were not…

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, is to come from them.

Always.

Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one

Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work

Understanding the Mind of

*Humorosity A Michaelism

**Pictures by Frank Morrison

The Outlet

Thomas would yell whilst making a fast break down court towards the opposing teams basket “Outlet, outlet, outlet.” Thomas was the loud, outspoken, fast talking, mathematician, the unbelievable dribbler and phenomenal shooter. As a shooting guard he handled himself exceptionally on court.

Turnover

I have mentioned my adoration of Basketball and of the Alienist in other posts. With the Alienist the appeal has been it’s willingness to display patterns in manageable saccades that introduce difficult and strange and new ideas, that turn stomachs and minds and at times both.

Release

Let it Go

Shedding

A thought struck as I near the end of the 1st book of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist. The idea of the outlet. The shedding of psychological material in a safe and secure way that offers regeneration. Think a reptile it’s skin, a cat or dog their summer/ winter coats, a London Plane it’s outer bark. At page 516 the case is as good as over. The shudder of the character John Moore, recognised as letting the horror and level of mind torture he has gone through to pass. He shares the events of the night with his friend and police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.

Shake it off

The recognition is in acknowledging that a case has run its course to an eventual end. How many of us in helping professions conduct a full case analysis or case review to determine learning. With the intent to successfully shake the case off? Every client we work with is unique and has patterns that can be recognisable. Then there are those clients that surpass our understanding. That leave us questioning our training our experience, our knowledge, inviting doubt, questioning suggestions from supervisors both internal and external.

Burrs

How often then do we review with the aim of release and then cleanse? Psychological Burrs are sticky and can unduly influence a helpers work. The journeying with another on the path to better health is one that tests both the professional and the person being worked with. We enter a play that has a number of factors that interact and can determine the outcome of treatment.

A Kings Park in South London

A Winter Walk

Path 1

If the play happens to move along desired paths then we congratulate the client for their success. When working amongst a group of other professionals we also commend the team about the decisions and choices we all took part in playing with recovery.

Path 2

Were the play to be difficult and lengthy and not follow the desired path, we make alternative plans and develop contingencies that may develop a successful outcome for the work. This is where the heart of the matter often sits. Perhaps the client is initially enthused with the idea of what the work with you will deliver. Then a number of road bumps happen and they become aware that continuing with the work will arouse long held fears. Forgetting the intention to move towards better health. Here the skill of the therapist is key as well as the resilience and trust of the client. Where a good working alliance is built this road block can be understood and moved past respectively.

Path 3

Were things to get stuck and not progress we then enter another phase of the work – that of figuring out the why of the holding pattern and where the blockage could lie? The tricky thing about road blocks is that they are almost imperceptible. They reveal themselves in the client’s away times, or in the quiet moments in a session. For me they appear as questions or slivers of insights that may be occurring for the person sitting opposite. I have grown to trust these slim chance offerings as hidden openings. Using tools like art, paths, stones, the wind, changing seasons, dreams, woodland tableau’s something gets worked loose and we begin investing time to what has been unearthed. These moments are when the magic happens.

Shudder to Outlet

With all three patterns the shudder should occur. Shudder to reorganise thinking, shudder to congratulate, shudder to stay awake and to find other ways in which to grow move and shape treatment.

Go be and be happy

Go at St James Park

Self Care

Here the outletting of the pressured thinking, the complex conversations, the layered concentrated empathy and compressed and extended compassion need to be passed. To allow space, to breathe freely, to re-energise and replenish to connect with our purpose, our why. This then is an aspect of self-care. We who care for others can be less concerned with our own wants needs and mental well-being sometimes at great cost! Placing all of our focus on those that we support. Care starts with us first. Selfish? Possibly.

Safety

Whilst on an airplane or on a ferry the flight attendants and shipping crew advise to fit in emergencies – breathing masks and life jackets first to ourselves and then to others. The idea: look after self first, then we are able to look after others.

Everyday

Outletting can be achieved through a range of actions and behaviours. The main aim is to let go of the psychological weights being carried from one day in to another or from one interaction in to another. Supervision is a great way to get loose from the psychological work. Once a month or twice a month may not be enough. We can become susceptible to compassion fatigue, empathy impasse or burn out/singe outs. That may be ameliorated with a daily check in and an outletting of all that could be a trigger, an up setter, an applecart turn-overer, with the aim of finding a piece of tranquillity. To rediscover and reconnect to our why. Returning to the play with those being helped with renewed energy.

Everytime.

It’s All in the Hands

With summer at it’s height and the evening’s beginning to draw in, I noted my willingness to bake shoot into overdrive. I was asked by a colleague what got me into baking and said “Baking helps me manage anxiety”. Baking helps to stall the thoughts that build about the improbable future by occupying time and ones hands and ones mind with the act of making something – edible gold.

A Probation Favourite

Potato and Dill Bread

Distraction

In an earlier blog I mentioned that I baked my first savoury bread as a result of not knowing how to begin writing my dissertation for my masters in counselling. In a way baking helped to calm my nerves about the mammoth task ahead of me. Writing a significant piece about my early life and relationship with my mother was an unwelcome challenge. Baking bread helped to transform anxiety and stress into doing something productive and creative.

Transition

My first ever bread was a banana bread which lead on to an attempt at making an Irish Soda bread. The step from the banana bread to the Irish Soda was not too great. Unlike studying at an undergrad level with Interior Design and then studying at a masters level with Therapeutic Counselling. The transition from Banana Bread to Irish Soda was straightforward. With the Irish Soda, I didn’t need to invest in any equipment like a bread mixer or training, practice and time were the only requirements.

Development

Bread baking has taken me to attempt sour dough’s, brioche’s, fruit loaves and pastries including croissants and pain aux chocolate. This is not an advert for suggesting a try at the Great British Bake off. Baking relieves me of pent up energy and emotion and relaxes me immensely. GBBO is entirely enjoyable to watch, to be a participant? Not for me. I could see the vision of the master bake ending up in a bin much like a previous contestant were things to go wrong. Baking remains a joy, a simple pleasure. The product of which can cause a rush of excitement and some envy.

The Baking CV

I have brought baked goods into most of the places I have worked:
2004-2007 Salesian College mostly cakes and an Irish Soda Bread
2009 – 2012 Drs Surgery near Camberwell cakes.
2010 -2014 Belmarsh Prison I pushed myself a little and attempted cakes and more complex breads including a quick rye bread.
2014 The University of Kent where I was a student mentor – Breads and cakes. This is where I honed the skill of making the sourdough. A book bought for Christmas that year the handmade loaf by Dan Lepard inspired me.

Smiles

In the 3 years I have worked alongside probation I have brought many breads and baked goods in to offices at Greenwich, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Southwark. The bread is usually accompanied by cheeses, grapes, butter and jam or a soft spread. My belief is, those that work in the public domain genuinely are unsung heroes and are in need of congratulating and validation by those they serve and look after (Society). My offerings were a small testament to an idea: ‘Gift others with something pleasant that would be hard for them to return’. The breads cakes and other items I brought in, usually vanished in a short space of time and put a smile on most people’s faces. For me giving and causing for a short while joy, was priceless.

Edutainment

Mentioning the GBBO above, stirs my thinking about what Channel 4 will offer us this season? Last year’s departure from BBC1 to Channel 4 did not deter my admiration for the participants or enjoyment of watching the show. It still ticks most of the boxes for good entertainment. A sour faced judge, a fair judge, and 2 comedians bringing levity when things inevitably go wrong. The mini edutainment sections are also in CH4’s edition too. Netflix has all 7 seasons and all episodes. Let the entertainment begin!

2 Artisan Breads

Sundried Tomato, Onion and Cheese Loaf alongside a Caraway and Raisin Bread.

Appreciation

I baked for my team of Forensic Mental Health Practitioners recently – 3 Dan Lepard Recipes: a classic banana bread, a yoghurt and chive bread, an onion and cheese baguette that has an MO addition of sundried tomatoes. Renamed  as ‘Pizza Bread’ by a colleague at Together. My anxiety about my moving on from Together enabled me to craft 2 wonderful loaves and a cake as a goodbye to a brilliant team. As a group the NPS team have worked diligently and passionately in probation offices across London. Overcoming a number of unforeseen challenges, obstacles and developments within the service. The bread was to say thank you and that their efforts have been greatly appreciated by me, Together, Probation and the service users they have supported.

Memories fade like the aroma of a freshly baked bread, I would like to hold on to these memories for a while longer…