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

On Shame

Question
What is it about this seemingly dirty and soiled word that has many recoiling as though struck? As though a memory from a distant past has returned like a forgotten thrown smelly damp sock, and hit dead centre – on the forehead?

Douse
Shame Brené Brown has discussed, as a thing that can be lessened by bringing it out into the light. It’s power is removed by our tongues movement, in sharing with trusted others how, why, when and with whom the event happened. Give the shame experience no-where to hide. Shame cannot survive out in the light. Empathy, Compassion and receiving love and understanding will make shame shrivel and die!

Triangle
Hilary Jacobs Handel has written about an open-hearted state we can all arrive at, if we follow the steps in her book ‘It’s Not Always Depression’. This great book looks at the change triangle and how a person using Hilary’s model with support can blow past depression and anxiety to become a functioning person accepting past hurts and living.

Dance
Kimberley Cato has mentioned that when we get through to the other side of this thing (mental wellbeing and finding mental health) and have done most of the heavy lifting with the process of healing we get to dance in sunshine. I like to think of dancing joyously in whatever the weather.

Design and Dance in Technicolour

Design
Joshua Isaac Smith has shared that once we really get moving, and let go of our trauma, pain and shame. We find ourselves at peace. It is here that we move beyond the story and begin writing and designing a script we want to live inside of.

During
So how do we get there? It sounds like a space that is too good to be true. After being involved with therapy for over 10 years as a counsellor/coach/consultant I have seen much of the before, lots of the during and some amazing after effects of working through past pains with clients.

I shared with a group of interested attendees and a panel of mental health professionals some of my ideas on shame. The event hosted by Kimberly Cato for True Roots Counselling Services was the 2nd in a series she has hosted discussing Black Mental Health concerns for the African Diaspora living in Canada and in the Americas.

Contact Kimberly for more information about the next MH awareness discussion. The conversations are informative and illuminating inviting attendees to realise, we are no longer alone!

Resources
Oprah with Brené Brown interview showing shame the door
Hilary Jacobs Hendel on shame

Images
Cover photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash
Inlay photo by Chad Walton on Unsplash

Vicarious Trauma – Jacket

I wrote a few weeks ago about the experience of some people suffering trauma by witnessing harm come to another. Reminding them of their own hurts and past experiences of pain. Writing about Rodney King and then George Floyd has opened the door to an even earlier experience with Stephen and his jacket.

Big or Little T Trauma?
Last week I wrote about the chase by police of me on my bike for reasons unknown. This week I wanted to discuss a first trauma. Yes there were others. The event was momentous as I had not been treated like this by anyone. I was about 7. It was summer. My friend ‘T’ and I were taking it in turns to ride my bike around the estate. The bike a black and yellow Cinzia, was my most treasured Christmas present! The bike was a sort of hybrid BMX.

Looking up.

Summer
It was another hot summer 1979/1980. We kids were not up to much. Playing around the blocks of flats, killing ants, making and firing peg guns at each other and at pigeons. Harassing each other for rides on each others bikes. Playing knock down Ginger. Asking about who’s going to the shop? Because those half penny cola bottle sweets were so tangy and sweet. Tangmere used to have it all. Something unknown to my 7 year old awarness made all of the shops shut and never re-open.

Intimidate
T had somehow met Stephen and been impolitely requested to give him a go of my bike. I believe Stephen had chased T and pulled him off the bike! Stephen was an older kid, maybe 10 or 11. He carried himself with some swagger. I can remember him (Stephen) pulling wheelies and doing long skids along the pavement. Treating (trashing) my bike in a disrespectful and in a way I found unapologetic in manner. Like the bike was his! I was angered by this. T may have told me what had just happened to him. I became livid I can remember. A thought I had was, this could be a case for the Red Hand Gang! But they weren’t around so, I could make this situation better all by myself.

Propulsion
I ran at Stephen and shouted give me my bike back! He ignored me and sailed past. I gave chase. Screaming. Shouting. Wanting. My bike back! We met at Martlesham or Croydon one of those housing blocks on the estate. Stephen had sneered a warning to others who were gathered earlier: “if anyone touches my jacket. You’re dead.” He, Stephen, serious, warned. Me oblivious and not hearing, ignored.

Martlesham and Croydon were 5, 6 or 7 stories high with garden units at their lowest housing level. Both blocks had little to no outdoor space higher up the blocks, unless you counted the landings. All of the housing blocks had double height under building car parks. Our show down (mine and Stephen’s) was to take place in one of the car parks – later. The estate had many outdoor green park spaces dotted throughout the collection of buildings at ground level.

Air Time on bike

Engagement
I think I shoved him in the back, or on the shoulder. Committing the mortal foul of touching his jacket. He had warned all who had cared to listen. But I shoved and he went ballistic. I believe that I started running before my bike hit the ground. Before Stephen started swearing. Before Stephen repeated he would hurt me after he managed to catch me. My feet took me away. At great speed. Fear is a phenomenally great accelerator. 

Distance
I ran. He chased. Back then aged 7. I was Nike. Fleet of foot. Good at bulldog, the running tag game. The 60m dash. The 100m sprint. But distance races I had not spent my time running. Now Stephen was quick too, and run as I might I could not lose him. He relentlessly gained on me. Swearing. I thought I could make it home, but his gallop closed down that line of escape. I turned away from racing home to Tangmere 119. To dodging between parked cars. Feeling that if I could use the cars to hide me I could evade capture.

Scared
I ran for my life. Petrified. I feared that Stephen would finish me. He had said just that! This was happening and whilst in disbelief, I ran. Who threatens who about a Jacket? A jacket! Possession and custody of things I understood on some level. I put my body in harms way to get my bike back. This need felt justified. Right. Believable. Stephen’s need seemed trivial, petty. Unjustified. Stephen wanted to hurt me because he viewed his jacket as sovereign. I had mistakenly entered sacred space. Spoilt thread by touch and so here we were. Lion and gazelle in a death defying race. I feared for my life and ran away to protect it.

Relief
He caught me under Martlesham and punched me a number of times. Head. Neck. Body shots. I wish I could tell you I took them all like a man and didn’t give him the satisfaction of witnessing a tear fall. I believe I cried from one side of the estate to the other. I cried up all the stairs to the top floor of Tangmere and when I got to my door which thankfully was opened by my mum. I went in and told her what had happened. She incensed. The bike left and forgotten where it lay. T later returned the bike.

Night Fades

Many – One
Lost in my mayhem of thoughts and sorrow. I was not out for revenge. I wanted the pain and the sense of defeat at being outrun to pass. The reason – I was fast and rarely beaten in a running battle! There was the curious case of Darren. I wanted not to remember the embarrassment of losing a fight to an older boy. I vaguely remember T trying to defend me either running beside as a distractor or getting in the way of Stephen. Stephen had singled me out to exact his vengeance. And so found – was punished.

Prey
The lion had found his prey and was set to claim his spoils. Remembering this painful memory does a number of things. I get to remember and release the pain that has been embedded in me for almost 40 years. There is also the courage to look at past hurts and witness the learning. I recognise that my experience of the chase trauma bears little resemblance to George Floyd’s murder or Rodney King’s assault. What I am doing is reclaiming my experience of terror. Providing an understanding of an unjust event and by doing so, allowing myself to relieve the experience of a trauma witnessed vicariously. It’s narrative therapy.

If
My want in writing this series is that you the reader come away with an understanding of the term Vicarious Trauma that is personally enhanced. That the resources below support compassion and a commitment to live within an anti-racist frame, and that you comment below on these thoughts.

Resources
Trevor Noah Explains the Domino Effect
Code Switch The Return of Race Science
Unlocking Us with Brené Brown Shame and Accountability
This American Life The Reprieve
Going Home song
How Can We Win Kimberly Jones

Images
Cover photo by Chromatograph on Unsplash City Skyline
1st Inlay photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash Looking Up Block
2nd Inlay photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash BMX rider
3rd Inlay photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash Night estate

Compadre

Together until hats and
Sabres, scarves and
Ammo belts tilt and
Fall or thrown
Down! Bullets
In psychological
Psychobable we blew
Others away
Like Chaff!

You dashing and
Daring and me
Quiet, dismissive, assessing.
Our foes dodging and
Careening to get ‘way
From your shots.
My warnings.

Balance Power And Poise Personified

Sparing none. Killing
With kindness and
Flare. Tragedy and
Trauma. Both lived
Brushed off, scarred
A little, and so knew
Our enemies
Well.

Not versed and
Unable to battle
Similar. Spat ‘n
Cursed ‘n had to
Let us
Pass undeterred.

But harm they
Did. Blatantly. Traps.
Audaciously, withering with
Lies and supported by
Cavalry and legions of
Followers, sheep, braying,
Stinking others who
Thought we were
Outgunned by seniority.

Pseudo superiority. They
Shot down, we battle
Weary. Back to back.
Butch and Sun
Dance. You slim and
Deft and defiant. Confident.
Me heavy and
Slow, somber looking.
Attached to thinking.
Acting mute.

Throwing all, silent
Fingers of vengeance and
Despised eyes of
Demise, a Phoenix rises
From ashes and
So warned they
Burned. Mightily. We
Still laugh at their
Moxie and
With our children tell
Of bravery in
Battle, little big stories.

Inspired by your tracings of invisible marks and rememberings of days past EK.

Resources
Seven is the Wind by Menahan Street Band – this song frames this poem
Sketches in Spain by Miles Davis
Pecking Order Margaret Heffernan T.E.D. Talk
Fugitive – Indigo Girls
This is Love Podcast The Wolves

Images
Cover photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash
Inlay photo by yoo soosang on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash

Insidious Insight

Rather than fighting when repeatedly attacked I like to write. Here my assailants can be imaginatively deposed…

The peck, peck, pecking,
Had to stop.
The bird had to die, or
Fly. I made it
Flee. Feathers scattered
Like leaves

Behind it’s behind.
The dust it kicked up,
The mess it left.
Reluctantly I picked
At, kissing teeth
Wanting to give chase!

Make sure it left, or
Died bloody.
Sometimes bloody is
What the Leghorn
Knows. Head cocked sideways
Cocky confident.

Airless, knowing less
Every passing day.
I should have chased
Him, made sure he’d
Gone away – dead.
Bad feelings stirred.

Can’t shake them loose!
Stupid goose, silly
Rabbit, crazy
Chicken.

What’s left, are little
Eggs, that can’t be
Seen, felt nor found.
But grow and sap
Strength, from all
Wounded nouns.

Invisibly unlike
Chinese knot weed!
A vine that kills
Everything bound.
Strangling for air,
I wish we never

Met, because your
Depravity eats inside
Of me, like seeds,
From a rotting flower.
Infected my story.
Illuminating what psychology

Can not undo.
The persistent pecking,
From a past riddled
With you
Inside of it.
With lies told.

Continuously, confusingly,
Laboriously splitting,
Futures infinitely.
Denying freshness
Chance to break
In and free…

And look at,
Us, You, her, them.
A quickening,
Insanity installation.
Ruins the light

Again

Resources
Criminal Call Russ Ewing

Images
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Investment in Therapy pt 1

Running the Black Men’s Therapy Group has gifted me and my co counsel Sheila Samuels with more evidence of how necessary the Introductory course/workshop is for Black Men.

A previous post Jitters, observed the negative side of what too often happens, when someone does not get the help so often not looked at as a support. Therapy is often a last resort and sometimes barely that. How can therapy be successful when there is so much at stake? There are a number of reasons for the reluctance to engage. Cost. Culture. Cures and Cons.

Cost
Therapy is not generally a low cost investment. See Kwanda’s initiative to redress this. IAPT was seen as a possible panacea for the masses to engage with psychologically trained individuals to access C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

Helping those who wanted psychological support to begin resolving and managing their experiences of depression and anxiety well. The NHS support was provided through GP services for those who either expressed need or were found to be able to access C.B.T. support. The cost for a person wanting C.B.T. is nothing but time. Current waiting lists are between 6 – 18 months in some areas.

Culture
For many people there is a sense of unknowing and unconscious/conscious fear when thinking to access talking therapy (a stigma). TV shows like In Treatment, Queer Eye, In Conversation with John Bishop and Couples Therapy allow viewers to see the process outside of themselves. Sort of like a fly on the wall. Viewers don’t get the first hand raw experience of what therapy does. Therapy can often be a truly eye opening experience. It can be scary too. Don’t let fear prevent you doing great things, again!

Uncoupling
However living with the pain of what potentially is lying hidden could be seen as worse. On a number of levels the person living with the pain knows this too.

Many cultures across the globe have differing ways of managing internal scars. Some attend to these scars in community settings, some go to see a Doctor or psychotherapist, some a faith healer, shaman or spiritual leader a wise elder in the community. The aim is similar – to unbuckle the experience of (emotional, physical, psychological, historic) pain from the present.

Not for Me
Therapy supports a person or group to achieve this aim of unbuckling. In a Western technology filled world. Some cultures have developed a socially accepted space in the minds of their people for therapy to be an acceptable form of treatment. For some cultures including the African Diaspora, Asian Diaspora and South East Asian Diaspora, therapy is often seen as something that is not to be touched. Therapy is for other peoples.
“We don’t speak our family matters to outsiders.”
“It makes us weaker as a community that has already suffered and is going through our own ongoing struggles with it’s identity purpose, history and future.”

Cures
Therapy is not a cure. It has helpful elements that have curative affects for individuals and for groups but it by no means can wipe out past traumas and pains in a single shot. The process can take time – sometimes for a few years.The accumulative effects are like a river cutting through rock or an overnight heavy snowfall. Therapy cannot undo centuries of pain. What therapy can do is support a better understanding to support groups and communities resolve current and past experiences.

Finding a Heart

It is Written
Books like The Body Keeps The Score and It’s Not Always Depression support an individual and groups to begin reviewing their current lived experience and review them critically. The two books highlighted above and therapeutic encounters generally encourage people to take out the parts that are not working for them anymore. Observe the learning from an array of differing experiences. Begin implementing another way to live and live well. I can think about a number of clients I have worked with for 1 – 5 seasons who have all gained somethings from therapy and found a way to let their past demons die and accept their now to live as best as they can making improved choices.

Cons
Therapy has it’s good, bad, and indifferent encounters between therapists and clients. The right mix often happens when skilled therapists meet willing clients to address their difficulties. At times an incompatible mix can happen of cultures, sexes, compassion fatigue of therapists, unconscious biases, identities and egos are amiss and both the client and therapist cannot make the therapeutic encounter work. The fatigued battle weary therapist and enthusiastic risk aware client would be an interesting dynamic to supervise.

Cons?
The thinking behind IAPT’s 6 appointment model is that a short focused piece of work can be effective when a single problem is looked at solely. This is equal to 300minutes of considered time and can be effective to resolve an issue. The difficulty arises when more than one primary concern is activated or pulled through. Which can happen as a result of discussing the other factors around the initial reason a person engages in therapy.

Time is a valuable commodity as is a
successful outcome for the work for client and therapist.

Cons??
Six appointments at times does not touch the sides of heavily affected people’s challenges like complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). Another difficulty that the Global Majority has with encountering therapy are the historic experiences of colonisation, criminalisation, cultural appropriation and theft, villainizing communities and splitting groups of people along tribal, ethnic and gender lines. An implicit encouragement of groups to fight politically or physically inside of these constructed divisions, and then them to be offered a westernized approach to heal communities seems like an insult to a historic injury.

Cons!
Where would trust exist within these paradigms to complete a piece of effective work? Western approaches to therapeutic outcomes were developed originally for a small group of people in Europe!

If we were to widen the lens and take in the planet through a global and pan view, communities from Central and South America, the indigenous populations of Australasia, Inuit communities, Sub Saharan Africans and Northern African communities may not access therapy marginally or fully because of their own senses of culture, their community understandings, religions, beliefs, sense of collectivism and historical legacy experiences with the West. A Eurocentric approach with therapy would need to be de-colonised and become incorporated within the cultures therapy hopes to support.

Cons!!
There are also the experiences of what White psychiatrists, and White therapists have perpetrated against Global Majority communities which adds to the sense of historic mistrust against westernised approaches to healing.

Resources
Black Issues in the Therapeutic Process – Dr Isha McKenzie-Mavinga
Black Bodies TEDx Devante Sanders

Images
Photo by Shane Avery on Unsplash
Photo by Roman Kraft@romankraft Unsplash Autumn Love Signs

You: Sociopath

Astonishment
I have been amazed at the fact that I am transfixed by the Netflix show called YOU, his lies, his abilities to deceive and manipulate his way into peoples lives astounds me. The story telling and artful portrayal of Joe Goldberg is an introduction to the layering of an unwell man, that believes that he is, well – well.

Endings
The first season was complete hedenonism and I allowed myself to be swept up in the mire of Guinevere Beck and Joe’s “love affair” that ended shockingly in season 1.

Currents
The second season I find myself trying hard to swim against the current of liking Joe. Of not wanting him to win, steal, cheat, lie. Kill. But he does and I am amazed and happy and appalled by my want to see him suffer, be caught, found out, be brought to justice and then he is not and I am relieved and dismayed at myself for enjoying his escape.

Adoration Amiss
This is bad love. This is the love of the ill and the confused. This is the love often given or showered upon a narcissist or sociopath/psychopath. This love is wrong on so many levels but there I go, mesmerised with the allure of LA sun and youngish people living their best sordid lives. Pure unalterable, unabashed fantasy.

Familiarity
This is sociopathy. This is personality disordered contortion. The hook for me is the overlaying of the voiceover. The quick, witty, aware commentary. It sort of makes it okay. Smoothies over the roughness. This voice is similar to the ‘always on voice’ of mine in my head. I would hazard a guess that this voice is similar to the voice in your head too. It, the voice in our heads, is the entertainment. The doubter, the proof reader, truth seeker, worrier. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without hearing it?

Surprised recognition
Here in is where the clever thing about the show YOU lies. Hidden but omnipresent. Fixed like the ground beneath our feet but almost invisible because we do not notice that we walk across it, The ground holds us all up.

The voice in Joe’s head provides us with a commentary of all that happens and is happening. The dry, clever awareness of Joe is something we have heard before. He the voice is like our own. For me, this truth is the one that stands ahead of everything else about the show. We recognise them (the voice) as ours and are left wanting and loathing them him and us.

Love be gentle and also confusing on a car hood, resembling a puddle capturing the sky.
A puddle shaped heart

Before
It is a madness (confusing, intoxicating) how YOU can be so enticing! Watch on and be as appalled and as amazed as I have been.

The Wonder Years with Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper held something similar and as recognisable as did Dawson’s Creek’s teenage *philosophizings and posturings or similarly in Everybody Hates Chris with Chris Rock’s commentary. The voice over offers something more alluring.

The 3 shows listed above offered a running discourse that held the viewer wrapped up in both on and off screen musings. Whilst continuing the story in ones own mind well after the TV has been turned off. Another Netflix show that occupied precious cerebellum space, for me, was House of Cards for similar reasons listed here.

Inside Man
The last point I will raise is that the infection, my infection has to be passed on. Like an advert for stopping the spread of something harmful, and doing the opposite! I find myself speaking about the show. Defying my own sensibilities. Deftly displaying how I have been lured in to classifying Joe as disaffected and altered. Thus labelling myself just so.

I had not realised that I was spreading the harm by finding others to discuss the show with, is in itself an alarming, ludicrous and an insidious act. I should be offering warnings: Get out now if you can. Don’t continue to watch. Avoid YOU at all costs!

The cleverness is that you don’t realise how involved you are until it’s too late. Oh the characters themselves warn you. “You’re a sociopath! Is that it?” Says Love. Yes we scream he is! But do we then stop watching? No. We remain as if hypnotised because he is I, and I, is You and that is truly

unbelievably

amazing!

Resources
Sociopath meet Empath
7 Reasons to Watch You
10 Reasons to give up on TV
Have You Heard George’s Podcast ep 6

Images
Photo Erik Witsoe@ewitsoe on Unsplash
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

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

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.

Men of the Diaspora: It’s Time

On 13th of November 2019 a colleague and I will begin a group therapy experience for Black Men. The group will be run as an introduction to therapy and group psychotherapeutic support.

Inspire Them
The idea came from a former client who is featured in a testimonial. He was a client who in the span of 2 short seasons of work transformed his outlook on life. He mentioned the idea last year (2018). An introduction to therapy for Black Men or Men of the African Diaspora crystallized. In April 2019 when I went to The Man Talk in Brixton, I was moved to begin something that men who perceive of talking therapy as not for them – could be introduced to the idea of therapeutic support.

Sharing Vulnerability
At The Man Talk, seeing a group of men talking about issues they have lived through including: suicide, prison, depression, bereavement, life plans overturned and offering support to others, was amazing. The event brought the need for specialised low cost support to me in an impactful way. So impactful that I wanted to start something too.

Authority
Working with case discussion groups and process groups at Universities across London beginning at University of Greenwich (Sept 2015), presenting at UEL to students on their psychology programmes I paid attention to the amazing power of group work.

Unkown Knowns
I use the word power with intention as I feel there is an unknown element that affects working with groups. The bereavement group I currently support at one of the prisons I work at in Kent, is a perfect example of the wonder and amazing effect group work has on individuals and the group overall.
The group becomes it’s own entity. Factors from outside the group space interact with members and push and pull what is shared in directions that are unknowable.

Summer Captured in Fall Colours

Wellness
Reading the work of Irvin Yalom and his experiences of group work especially in Loves Executioner offer the reader a clear understanding of what group therapy does.

Call To Act
If interested to know more about the group please contact either myself or Sheila Samuels who will be co-counselling the space with me. The group begins on the 13th of November 2019 at the Wellness Hub, 7 Burnt Ash Hill London. SE12 0AA