Winging It

We’re Winging it just like everyone else. Holly Hunter’s character said on the Big Sick. A marvelous film watched over the Winter Break.

My mind, always ready and willing to jump at new ideas, sat up and said “Ooooh I like this!

So I ask:

Do we know what we are doing?

Where we are going?

How are we getting there?

What happens on the journey?

Is it worth the effort?

What happens after we arrive?

Does Psychotherapy, Counselling, Therapy, Coaches and coaching, Mentors and Mendallas, Science, Scientists and Doctors have the answers we all are potentially waiting for?

I think that we want to believe that they do. Only they don’t. We don’t. We are intellectually figuring it out with you.

Perhaps we’re all Winging It.

Principally with hands raised over our heads and hoping it works out alright, for us, for them, for we, for you and for I.

We are making it up aren’t we? Yes. Trained. Yes. Confident and then unleashed we are sent out into the world to do some good. Mostly…

The truth of it all, is we don’t know that we do THAT much good. There is a statistic that says that if something bad happens to you and you see a therapist you may get some support and feel better within 3 – 6 months. If you don’t go and see a therapist. Chances are that you might feel just as good in 3 – 6 months too but not have paid out the 1000s for the support of someone like me offering soft plenitudes and platitudes to make it all ‘feel’ better.

Whether you are a doctor, mechanical engineer, teacher, law enforcement officer, director, editor, musician, astronaut, martial arts instructor, or surfer you may know your science, but if we were to strip it all back to basics every thing is up for chance and really we have only a thin veil of knowledge (deceit) figuring out what our next move is going to be.

We are all champion guessers, frauds if you will and there’s fun to be had in the not knowing of things and having the humility of wanting to figure this stuff (Life) out.

Let’s have fun with it. C’mon I dare you!

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Pause

For 37 weeks, I have hummed hawed and harried away at my writing. It has been a joy, a jog, a job, a journey .

Over Thirty thousand words written and shared, mostly. Some a surprise to me, some a surprise for you too. Most of the words my own, a few, and only a few, from others.

Topics have been varied and I hope interesting. I will return in February. I am attempting another task of writing. My BACP accreditation needs attention, basic application then completion.

Thank you for joining me, reading my work and making contributions to the mill that continually spins. I could not have achieved what I have without the conversations, observations and comments.

Adieu until

Simple Beauty

Quote

A client shared a quote that I will never forget…

“The wisdom of Trees in Winter: they show us the beauty of letting go.”

In Hiding

I have recommended the Hidden life of trees by Peter Wohlleben to a number of people as the book illustrates what Trees can help Humans learn about life and living well.

Throughout our lives We let go of things all the time, mostly without recognising that we do. Whether that’s time, relationships, clutter, jobs, money, skin cells, brain cells and other unmentionables we dispose and let go of without a second thought.

Clean

A thought struck whilst eating about letting go of things that have been used. I usually have creative illuminating thoughts in the shower. There is something about the running of water that invites reverie and space, perhaps the act of creating for me is more about the act of cleansing – another letting go.

Voile

As I put aside the lid to the pot of yoghurt I thought about what it was I was letting go of. Like the tree this was a leaf of plastic. If we think about this thin veil of plastic – it comes from oil which comes from organic matter that came from a tree or other vegetation millions of years ago. The plastic leaf did not cascade from my hand to the table with that carefreeness that a leaf from a tree descends to a loamy forest floor. No.

Addition

This lid was placed onto my wooden dining room table carefully and with little grace. The aim of the act was for the lid to be discarded in time. Without much consideration. The plastic leaf eventually going to a landfill site to add to all the other lids and plastic detritus that have accumulated rapidly in the course of my life to be a little big problem. Plastic life, spans a time of decay of between 10-200 years with little up-cycle value but with huge ecological impact and cost.

Subtraction

Being mindful of my impact, of my imprinted footprint on a multitude of ecosystems is worthy of thought and action. Observing where I can let go of less, which negatively affects the course of generations of Earth’s inhabitants is a cause I can ascribe to. Less plastic consumption. More demands on local councillors to reduce plastic consumables available in production and sales of various products. Small big acts. Recycle recycle recycle Michael.

Refraction

With the coming of a new day, new moment, new year, new experience letting go invites me to reflect on the space that is discovered/recovered from discarding what has had use. Letting go of something that costed time, energy, money and sanity is a useful leaf to shed. Moving into another moment I can reflect on the benefits of either holding or releasing an element or relationship or thing.

Cascading

In 2018 a number of leaves fell: I left my counselling space in Lee, clients finished short pieces of work with me, I stopped working for Together, the illness MS progresses and reveals other hidden horrors. My eldest left primary school and started his defiant walk towards adulthood.

Almost Bare

My tree holds few leaves now and I am starting to witness each curve, and knot and root, branch, twig – offering a collection of unparalleled unique beauty. There is learning here also as I struggle to understand what letting go has revealed. A dream to be realised? Challenges to be overcome and triumphed with? To finally see that in letting go we win?

Re-lease

Energy is to be gained in the release. It is not ‘the loss of’ that I fear, it is the idea I will not ever be: whole, good, qualified, enough. Even here the Wintered Tree teaches ‘These ideas too are to be released.’

And so…

Resources

Suzanne Simmard – Trees

Mark Manson – The Subtle Art

Don’t Think Twice – Letting Go

Tactical Empathy and Effective Altruism

blue-masque-2.jpg

Flow state thinking

An interesting blending experience happened after I listened to two of my favourite podcastsPhilosophy Bites and Pod Save the World. One was the thought that both ideas appeared similar and could be done to support those who through no fault of their own are facing unsurmountable challenges. The other was is there something here about listening for the solution in a way that supports a peaceful outcome. Tactical Empathy merged with Effective altruism…

A definition of both Tactical Empathy and Affective Altruism follow.

There are plenty of ways to get what you want in a negotiation — kicking and screaming, threats, and bribery among them. But perhaps the most effective strategy is one that’s pretty counterintuitive: Focus on what the other person wants instead – Chris Voss Author of Never Split the Difference.

Or  “Tactical Empathy” is the ability to share someone else’s feelings while executing a specific plan to achieve a particular goal. LEO Hearted T-shirts

Affective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to benefit others. Effective altruism encourages individuals to consider all causes and actions and to act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact, based upon their values. Wikepedia

Blending

The first podcast is a 15-20 minute show discussing our responses to those in need with Larry Temkin on Philosophy bites. The second is an incredible story of a reporter Arwa Damon who was under siege in Mosul for 28 hours, her rescuers bravery and her desire to support Syrian refugees.

I had the chance to listen to both podcasts within a few days of each other and arrived at a similar point. Both podcasts discuss: tribalism, humanity, decision making and a desire to better understand choice that affect us the individual and the choices we make/could make that effect humanity.

Choice with Others in Mind

Interestingly the ideas of tactical empathy and effective altruism were discussed by both Larry and Arwa. For Larry there was the experience of appropriately understanding choice and making decisions that ultimately serve the greater good. One could look and feel bad for a period but the delay to look after a larger number of people is the better outcome for the many.

The idea of effective altruism or tactical empathy is a challenge to our sensibilities, compassion, recognition of the plight of fellow humans. There are a number of stories Larry Temkin discusses throughout the podcast that nudge a few uncomfortable ideas towards our awareness. The $5,000 watch and the drowning child was particularly distressing and also informing.

Links to Social Responsibility

Previously I wrote about the School to Prison Production Line. The need for interrupters to change the direction, influence and flow of the components that can produce those that make up a forensic population taps into the idea of tactical empathy and effective altruism. By putting the needs of a disaffected displaced over represented group of peoples alongside our own, perhaps even before, then significant derailment of the production line can and will occur.

For Arwa the understanding I arrived at was a sense of compassion that even though one might live in an area affected by conflict, war, and civil unrest. Life is still lived. A birthday is still celebrated, a new visitor treated like a very welcome guest. Arwa’s description of her experiences with the people that were able to offer her a safe place to hide from threat of capture and death are ‘clutch’ moments. If we were to apply tactical empathy and a degree of critical thinking to Arwa’s story we would note that her job was to collect a story. The story became about her survival.

Tactical empathy – effective altruism. Two concepts that are in mind as a continuum. Arwa setting up a foundation recognises that her efforts to raise awareness and create change for the many she had to organise her thoughts and other people to offer more. The Return to Mosul documentary and frying an egg appear as a reminder of humans caring about other humans.

The Call

The aim here then, could be to encourage critical thinking, being aware of our altruistic natures and when necessary use tactical empathy to listen and create change for self and others.

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/4/8/a/48a779ee34e742f3/Larry_Temkin_on_The_Obligations_to_the_Needy.mp3?c_id=20122623&expiration=1524205451&hwt=73d3eb9c2a810f74954eaf8cd6b13f30

https://crooked.com/podcast/turkey-and-28-hours-pinned-down-by-isis-with-arwa-damon-2/

Truth & Reconciliation

truth and reconciliation poem
At a recent conference held by BAATN, I met an inspiring person who spoke openly about her experiences. We talked about challenge and she shared that as a poet writing and sharing has not been an easy thing to achieve. I mentioned that I would be happy to share her work as you will read below it is exceptional.
By Jodene Oghenakaro…

It’s not always the journey that matters,

it’s what you do within it that makes the difference.

The truth is in the telling, feeling heard & retelling.

Like I tell my kids…sharing is caring & caring is sharing.

We suffer in silence and in that silence, we suffer more.

Are we rotten to the core, like we bleed the earth & leave it sore. Feeding the rich & starving the poor.

Seething with hatred, envy & desire. Why can’t we love our neighbours & just inspire.

A culture of uncare & an uncare of culture.

Where does change begin, from the inside out or the outside in.

Is the enemy out there or within. A God within, a God without.

Building walls & defences but what are we running from in these races & whatever happened to face to faces.

Face the enemy, the trauma, fear & anxiety, instead of splitting, dividing the reality.

Earth, sky, heaven, hell, shadow, light, dark, black, white, immigrant, citizen, good, bad, mad, sad, flesh, spirit, soul, mind, love, hate ..when will we learn that we are one body & integrate.

The wise mind, depressive position, individuation, self-actualisation, integration, a revelation..

does it really matter what we call it..it’s accepting the truth that we are all these things, then healing & reconciliation can begin.

By

Jodene Oghenekaro

37

Alexandra Palace Sunset

Excuse Ville

With 37 weeks left in the year, I have set myself a challenge of writing one blog a week. Knowing and doing can be 2 completely polarising concepts. I recently wrote to a colleague from Excuseville the reasons I had for not writing are too many to list, and the longer I delay the longer I remain stalled. With the above in mind, I will ‘No Matter What’ this! No matter what is going on each week, I will submit a blog.

There, and with that intention set – I begin.

There are a number of topics that interest me: Current affairs, Podcasts, Art, Literature, Film, Education, Science, Psychology, Spirituality, Criminal Justice, Sport, Travel, Relationships and the great unknown. My aim: to share insight and awarenesses (Awarni? I have a penchant for silly made up words too, be warned you may find more Opoku-Forfiehisms as I continue.)

With the idea of ‘Excuseville’ in mind the aim to produce a blog weekly will be beset by obstacles (a few are listed below). It’s a little challenge (a game) I have set for myself to achieve.

Busyness

Currently I hold a full time role at Together as a project manager, teach at University of Greenwich twice a week, run a private counselling practice meeting clients either in parks for walk and talk therapy, online or face to face contact, I also support a number of counsellors/life coaches with their businesses as a supervisor, occasionally I also deliver guest lectures at the University of East London for their Forensic Psychology students. On a quarterly basis my time is consumed with marking and reviewing student’s progress on various courses at Greenwich including Introduction to Counselling and the Year 1 and Year 2 MSc in Therapeutic Counselling. These are my yeah but’s. Offering reason enough not to write. However no matter what…

Hustle

The amusing aspect for me is how all of the busyness began: teaching, counselling, lecturing, supervising and managing. There is a saying that ‘One should be careful what one wishes for, as you might just get it!’ A few years ago an ardent and heartfelt request was presented from my longest standing supporter, my life partner. “You need to HUSTLE!” she said. The message was much more poignant and punchier than mentioned here. The main point being that the world was moving quickly and if I did not get up and get going I would be left behind. And so I did and haven’t looked back since!

The second experience that kick started the multi-layered HUSTLE was being invited to evaluate my experiences whilst a student at University of Greenwich. I can remember stating that the training to becoming a counsellor was not for the feint of heart. I was amongst a group of 1st – 3rd year MSc students and alumni from previous years. The comment feint of heart received nods and wistful smiles of recognition. Becoming a counsellor was tough, being a counsellor was tougher still but had rewards that many other professions don’t experience.

Teaching

The following year I was invited to share with 3rd students my counselling journey, this was my first speaking to a large group of people I did not know and I enjoyed the experience immensely. In September I began my first season teaching at University of Greenwich holding the experiential group (The process group). I have written about supporting 1st year students a number of times my teaching as a visiting lecturer began from here as did HUSTLE.

All of my writing going forward will be on some of the subjects shared at the top of this post, however change may occur here to.

Book Review – A Little Life

Small – Big Life Matters

A little life ba-little-lifey Hanya Yanagihara

Revisiting my brief overview of ‘A Little Life’ the 2015’s Man Booker Prize nominee a year later was a passing idea. What could be gained from this experience was noting if my opinion had changed about the book a year later.

A Challenge

I was introduced to this book by my sister CF. She stated in a resigned fashion that this book was a depiction of a persons struggle. No matter what good experiences were presented to them, they could not heal from the pain of their past.

As a practicing counsellor with over 7 years of experience I was intrigued and appalled by the idea of a wound so great that no recovery could be experienced. Naively I approached the book like an investigator seeking to uncover what experiences a fictional character could not heal from.

Within 80 pages Ms Yanagihara (author) had me so involved within a complex story of loss, betrayal and pain that to stop reading was the furthest thought from my mind. As I turned the pages and further engrossed myself with this Little Life, I began to recognise why my sister had stated in as clear a way as possible why she proclaimed that there are scars that some individuals never recover.

Symbolism

The central character is called Jude. Jude has a number of difficulties that he is able to successfully negotiate his life with including low self esteem, self harm and a mysterious physical disability. There is a scene that springs to mind as a metaphor for the book. After a significant self-disclosure to a close friend, Jude is thrown from a roof to a window ledge in a scheme to rescue his friends. The rescue involves him undoing a lock that he alone knows how to remove.

event-horizonEvent Horizon

If a reader makes it to the impromptu rescue part of the book, unfortunately they have been pulled over the edge into the event horizon. There is little chance of escape until the book ends and even then a reader will be further embroiled with ‘But if’ scenarios and disappointed views about the characters lives in the book for months after completing A Little Life.

Support Group for a Book?

I have spoken with others and read tweets about how readers have experienced the story #aLilLife with calls for support groups and warm blankets to help the reader survive the tumult of impassionesupport-groupd story telling.

All talk about the effect the book has on the reader are accurate. The twists and turns of the story, the feelings the book and writing evoke and how, as a reader, they wish they could have friends and family that Jude has.

I read the book morning noon and night. At one point stating on twitter ‘It is the first thing I reach for when I awake and the last thing I touch before I fall asleep.’ At times I stay up for an hour or 2 past the witching hour to complete a paragraph or a chapter. A Little Life is a tour de force.

Willingness to let go

The aspect of the book that stays with me, is the roof incident and the reminder his social worker offers him; ‘You have to let others in and talk about this thing, or it will get the better of you.’ I am mindful that this coupled with the scene of him rescuing his friendsjesse-w
and undoing a lock that only he knows how to unpick are 2 moments of evidence. Jude has the tools for his own rescue if he were willing and able to open the locks. Anna provided Jude with a choice, as all good therapists are able to offer their clients.

Self-Agency

The experience of ‘Life’ can be taken for granted. A character like Jude’s helps to explore a reckoning with humanity and all that the human experience can present: Mystery, Adversity, Humour, Friendship, Challenge.

As a therapist, Jude’s story provided me with a reminder of what professional boundaries are – To walk beside a person being supported and remaining both caring and mindful of the individual’s journey towards self-discovery – hoping that they get there.

Jude’s story is tragic, many of the people I work with have disastrous life experiences too. I hold on to the idea that a character like Jude’s in ‘A Little Life’ and service users I support can take steps to change their life path if they can find value in being…

For Jude the chance to take a leap of faith appeared too great, however in my experience it is often as thin as a sheet of paper.