The insidious idea of Internalised Racism has a probable point of origin. In this post I look at identifying plausible reasoning for this form of harms continuance.
4 Corners Communities from one corner of the globe to the other that survived European invasion were infected with a number of diseases that include; the cold, the flu, chicken pox, measles, syphilis, polio. The longest standing disease after the invaders became settlers and then colonizers, is the idea that the European was/is better than the peoples that they ‘discovered.’ That indigenous populations were/are worthless or not as culturally, artistically, morally comparable to the ‘superior’ invaders. The challenging intergenerational legacy being observed is that, Black and Brown bodies have continued to hold concepts of themselves that do not serve thesmelves or anyone else, especially the African, the Asian, the South East Asian, Indigenous groups of the South Pacific and Indigenous groups across the Americas.
Splintering But hold on to them we do. Like a forgotten splinter driven into the ball of the foot. Causing a dull throb when spun upon. Wondering how it came to be so painful – only occasionally. Considering how to remove the thin offending article when the pain becomes unbearable. Tools offered by former captors and tormentors that regenerate health – not trusted like psychotherapy or psychiatry or psychology. We may have all watched GET OUT and taken appropriate warning and evasive action!
Better? Ideas that being fairer (White), cleaner, more Westernised and behave in a recognisable way to those that oppressed the global South. The assessment made is that Europeans offer something that could be considered as an improvement, modern, progressive. That by becoming similar to, we can be made safe. Cultures that birthed different and early forms of civilisation be damned some may think. Becoming assimilated, acculturated as Western keeps one and group ‘healthy’. Believing that the gaining of status or riches will alleviate the splinter’s harm.
Whose Game? Only, the gain game, the suppression and denial game don’t work. When I think about those who have caused harm historically, I am brought back to my learning about intergenerational wars across Europe in History lessons at school. The blood shed for land gain. People slain for Queen, King and country. Millions that were displaced assaulted and indiscriminately violated. I am left with not wanting to honour, accept or know this villainous portion of history. Religion or Paganism offered some restitution but possibly not soulful healing. And so if cognitive dissonance, helps to support a loose form of wellbeing it is chosen over the heart rendering truth seeking of enlightened peoples. Leaving some unknowingly hurting and some knowingly and unbelievably healing.
Resources The 2016 film Get Out by Jordan Peele staring Daniel Kaluuya is challenging. What piqued my interest in using the clip above was the scene of the Psychologist stirring a cup of tea, and the effects she has on the mind of the protagonist. Culturally competent and culturally cognisant psychotherapy can be wholly beneficial for anyone seeking restitution. Ibram X Kendi discusses his ideas about his book and about growing up realising the importance of separating self from unhelpful ideas of identity and race. The 2016 Film Get Out by Jordan Peele Ibram X Kendi on Internalised Racism as Black on Black crime
I am rounding the corner on the topic of Internalised Racism with this blog. The games we play to keep ourselves safe or amuse ourselves is observed within this post.
Games I was interested in playing Freeze Tag, Bulldog or climbing and jumping from climbing frames at my primary school. The game of disgust and dislike, projective identification, lateral violence and internalised racism would be concepts I could only begin deconstructing when adult. An unrealised inheritance. As a child I tried to make myself invisible and stay away from these two sisters. The new and best game to play. An unwilling game of hide and seek. But a type of hiding an aspect of myself that was plainly visible, similar to the faces of my friends and also of my tormentors – these Dementors, was a plight I could not extricate myself beyond. They were me. I was them. Zero sum with no winners. Mainly losers of ground, development, progress, time…
Lateral Violence The experience of infighting amongst others who are at a similar social standing or within an organisation. The expression of animosity with others from similar cultural and racial backgrounds. Where outrage and dissention cannot be shared with managers or dominant racial, class, gender, groups for fear of individual and of a group’s destruction stall efforts at empowerment, or truth sharing.
Expression of an individual’s or a group’s displeasure, rage, disappointment in a sideways motion can be a safer way to share dissatisfaction to others. The damage is done amongst others who feel bullied, hurt, outmaneuvered, played, let down and powerless. It has been said before “Hurt people, hurt people.” Lateral violence ultimately is an extension of powerless groups expressing pain amongst people groups, similar to them.
‘Lateral violence is a term that describes the way people in positions of powerlessness, covertly or overtly direct their dissatisfaction inward toward each other, toward themselves, and toward those less powerful than themselves.’ By Jens Korff
Issues of Identity As a group, Black people experience and perpetrate internalised racist acts against those who are African, African American, African European, African Caribbean, African LatinX. Lateral violence is also visited amongst and within Asian communities, South East Asian communities, indigenous groups in the South Pacific and across the Americas. Holding to a belief of what oppressive devious strategies were used upon many peoples across the planet to divide conquer and rule.
An outcome of hurt people who willingly went on to hurt others.
Resources Freeze Tag is a powerful song by the super group Dinner Party that reminds of the many who whilst surrendering were still/are slain. Put your hands up. Freeze. Don’t move! The scene from Harry Potter from Prisoner of Azkaban perfectly depicts for me the experience of the soul sucking force bullying can have. Jens Korf goes to great lengths to explain lateral violence, and what steps can be taken to cease internal and external conflicts. Dr Kira shares an idea of reconceptualising the idea of internalised racism. A useful clip from a groundbreaking tv show ‘The School That Tried to End Racism’. I found Bright’s awareness of the challenges he and friends face heartfelt. Bullying & lateral violence – Creative Spirits Dr Kira explains Reframing Internalised Oppression Internalised Oppression Explained The School That Tried to End Racism clip
I have continued with the theme of Internalised Racism offering a personal insight of how I recognise what it looks and feels like with this blog.
Miss Hit What is missed by projecting outward on to others, what we cannot stomach? We could benefit from further understanding ourselves. This point Dr Dwight Turner invites us to spend time with. Projective Identification (P. I. ) is a self protecting act, but the act cannot fully protect the persons who expel what they cannot tolerate in themselves onto others.
It creates in the object projected upon, a sense of fear and loathing. Deficits of self-worth, self-esteem, anxiety and low mood. Manifestations of the disdain are re-presented by the subjected upon persons internally/interiorly and to others who resemble or behave in similar ways to them.
Here my attempt is to match P.I. and Internalised Racism as cousins. In essence those who are treated by a nationally sanctioned power structure; unkindly, unfairly, with prejudice, do not have the power to represent their hurt to those who hurt them. The hurt people observe the hurt in themselves internalise it and project this hurt on to others who appear similar to them. Both Zed and Daniel offer useful interpretations in last week’s post.
Division An early experience I can remember that woke me up to what internalized racism is was being bullied at primary school by two Caribbean girls. I can’t exactly remember what these 2 girls repeatedly said to me. Something like ‘Smelly little African boy’. The resemblance was of a hatred that was borne as a result of my father – African. His genes a part of mine. This an undeniable truth. I could not make sense of their disowning of our joint cultural heritage and obvious visible similarity. My skin – brown like theirs. My mum was from the Caribbean too, so were we not the same? Not to them.
Power Over This experience of internalised racism was one I could not comprehend at the age of 6. The bullies dislike was a felt sense of wrongness. Mine. Possibly theirs too. I assume (now), that these two sisters felt a sense of power and a feeling of entitlement.
Brené Brown discusses the concept of power over, as opposed to power with, or power amongst. The Caribbean for me was well represented amongst my friends. Culturally, London and the UK of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, Caribbean influence was acknowledged and appeared valued.
Music, Slang, Fashion all influenced by children of migrants from the Caribbean. Bob Marley and other reggae stars were regularly heard on stereo systems across the estate I lived on. My world – Tottenham High Road and Wood Green felt like mini slices of Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts, Dominica, the Grenadines. The homes we visited, the shops and grocery stores, the foods we ate were of mostly Caribbean and West African flavour and influence.
Norf My awareness of racial and cultural understandings arrived late, like the 243 bus to Wood Green , or the 321 to Seven Sisters. The raising awareness job is a lifelong one, but peaked when I moved out of London to Cambridgeshire in the mid 80’s. The North London Estate I grew up on was filled with newly arrived immigrants from a great collection of African, Caribbean, Asian and European countries. These two girls would sneer at me whenever our paths crossed at school or on the estate. They, whispering to each other and cutting their eyes in my direction as if their waspish looks could make me disappear. Their disapproval didn’t make sense to me but left an invisible mark. That of being disliked by others for a seemingly senseless and unknown reason. I became distrustful of persons who cast unkind and disparaging looks my way.
Resources Ursula Rucker performs Innocence Lost. The line that stands out is missed hit. The resonance is palpable as this poet intones an all too familiar story. The Roots woke me up to the power in poetry. Hana and Leila discuss in detail the insults that are thrown back and forth between Africans and African Americans. I thank Kimberly Cato of True Roots who passed on the Halton Voices video. Sameera discusses with guests what Internalised Racism is. The Stoop You Called Me African What? Diverse Perspectives conversations with Sameera Ali, Leena Sharma Seth, Mifrah Abid
I continue reviewing the concept of Internalised Racism in this post.
Closed The True Roots conversation on the 30th of June was a closed group for Black and Brown (Racialised) people to hold an open, challenging and affirming conversation. With members from White communities barred, the freedom to share difficult experience with others unburdened double consciousness. Links to current and past personal histories were made. Unfettered – the conversations were like a surge of blood to an unseen unnoticed wound. Members who attended discussed their understanding of Internalised Racism. Part of the discussions observed what has been the learning in relation to ourselves and about the societies we live amongst.
So We Dare Having written a little about group the idea of being amongst a closed experience felt risqué and yet also necessary. Inclusivity is undoubtedly an ideal to be achieved. Perhaps once Racialized communities recognise their needs for active participation in healing, liberating from outdated and ill fitting, ideas can begin. Exclusive meetings held amongst communities that are representative of diasporic Africans, Asians, Indigenous communities and LatinX communities are often framed as anti-White. Generally, these encounters are experienced as spaces for important idea generation, healing and application. The focus is on uplift. The experience of being amongst the True Roots online space felt unapologetic. Panelists and guests offered clear resourced and relative experiences about their growing understanding of what is lost by trying to acclimatise to societies that are structurally racist.
Abdicating Responsibility The UK, Canada and the US deny and work to hold on to the outcomes of Colonial pasts and historic abuses against Black and Brown bodies. Claiming each country’s sovereignty and superiority over former and existing colonies. European settler behaviours have largely bestowed power upon European descendants and centred on greed gaining wealth. I would argue that centuries of war, genocide, trauma, and vilification of others has left a fetid festering wound amongst the planet. Calling all to attention, yet only a few hear the Earth’s cries. Fewer still tirelessly wrestle to create change that invites resuscitation or better regeneration.
Resources Ms Xaba offers a number of personal stories of coming to realise the impact of the invisible marks left by apartheid. I recognise myself in the Ghana experience. Making self small, with the idea of perceived threat. Choosing to leave, before being told to. Daniel shares his realisation of Internalised racism and the connection to misogyny. His story takes him from the US to Jordan where he learns to understand himself anew. Internalised Oppression by Zed Xaba Internalised Racism and Misogyny by Daniel Juweid
Hidden by same race or similar cultural groups. Internalised Racism could be experienced as lateral violence. I will do my best to explore both terms and offer a few resources that look at the experiences of internalised racism in blogs to follow.
Internalised Racism Definition The upholding of a system such as White supremacy by racialized groups both unconsciously and consciously. It looks like in racial group dislike or hatred of peoples from similar racial backgrounds. Looking to confirm one group being better than another group. It is Shadism/Colourism, Poor v Rich, Educated against Undereducated, Gender, Age, Sexual preference, Religious affiliation and denomination against other faiths and beliefs. Many of these points of sameness, difference and otherness are well addressed by the book Mockingbird.
Group Discussion I was asked what my thoughts were in relation to internalized racism by Kimberley Cato. This question was posed for the last group discussion for True Roots of the season. My thoughts on internalised racism in late May 2021 weren’t fully formed. Reading ‘Intersections Of Privilege And Otherness’ helped to begin formulating my understanding. I will share below what Dr Dwight Turner writes because it offers an understanding that is useful to how my mind has been able to make use of these earlier incisions to character development. I recognise that a discussion on this topic can be sensitive to engage with. I will offer my experience as a base board from which to move beyond in later pieces of writing.
Resources Explained Jabari discusses his growing into an awareness of internalised racism in an accessible and personable way. Farah Nasser discusses with University of Toronto professor Girish Daswani, and communications professional, Gelek Badheytsang about internalized racism. The conversation highlights some of what the True Roots conversation spent time; evaluating, rueing and laughing at. What I enjoyed from the Living Colour interview was the unequivocal idea that internalised racism can be changed.
Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy, by Dr Dwight Turner.
Opening I wrote to my friend Banjo Aromolaran-Eaton that ‘Mockingbird is an outstanding reflexive undertaking. Dr Dwight Turner has done a difficult job of contending with Intersectionality and otherness brilliantly.’ Like wrestling with a thunder cloud. Every droplet of water examined and the electrical charge removed from most of the ion particles.
Indent When a good book lands, one might read it once, and think on what has been learned occasionally. With a book like Mockingbird the learning will be a consistent reminder of what work and stretching still lie ahead. As an adherent of life long learning, the idea of continually growing – a welcome challenge. The ‘once read and gone’ idea is past, in our age currently being lived. Information once read, understood and digested can now be actively applied. We can demand more from what we consume.
Unapologetic What Dr Turner does is turn the lens he is looking out at the world with, upon himself profoundly, unflinchingly, unapologetically. The book wilfully presents the discomfort of observing and feeling around challenging self concepts of identity. You might find yourself wincing in parts of the book that boldly delve way beneath the surface of safety. This is what makes Mockingbird stand out. Dr Turner does not turn away from the difficult. He in fact chooses to pause, point and move toward the unaligned (taking us with him), like an architect or builder snagging all fixtures that don’t sit right.
Beyond Bubbles A message for those looking for an Aladdin’s cave of treasure, we won’t find it at the end of our lane/road/village. We will have to leave our comfort zones and go in search of it. There will be trials, there will be miss steps and lost chances. We will experience failure and defeat. What we will also come across, are clues as to where the treasure is hiding. Getting forever closer and seemingly further lost. I am writing as though the book is a story. It sort of is. Mockingbird is an heuristic undertaking with many points of learning. Mockingbird is both excruciating and exquisite in how it presents us with both understanding and many moments of insight. It is the Sea at the End of the Lane! The point of interest for me is, when a writer writes about themselves in intimate detail as Dr Turner has, they invite us to look at ourselves too in just as brave a way.
Scythe My least favourite part of Mockingbird. The most challenging and at the same time best learning, came as Dr. Turner, focused his attention to Death of the other. It took me about a month to read this chapter. (A slow reader I am not!) It’s the apex part of the book. This chapter is the half mile Andy Dufresne has to crawl through to arrive outside of Shawshank as a smelly free man. Dr. Turner observes the many millions that have been classed as other and killed throughout history. In all honesty my heart sank at this point of the book. Death as a subject I had thought I had vanquished.
Death, I find is only over when our story inevitably ends. Mockingbird pulls no punches and everything is unearthed to be picked over and reviewed: Privilege encompasses us all he shares. This is a hard concept to bear witness to. There is death in acknowledging our experience of privilege, when believing that privilege belongs to everyone but us. How wrong was I?
Why Read Mockingbird Questions that arise from a position of confusion, outrage and a sense of powerlessness are addressed. The book does well to hold the paradox of being othered and yet also having power. ‘Intersections…’ provides a way to begin engaging with the unconscious for answers, as Dwight has and wilfully shares his findings. The aspect of battling with the barely conscious parts of ourselves sounds challenging, because it is. With Dr Turner as a guide, who continually shares his discoveries, the uncovering of hidden meanings, make questing in a psychological way appear painful yet appealing, and also ultimately freeing. There is bravery in Dwight being so open and vulnerable with us.
Flawed Without question there is difficulty in first understanding ones privilege within Western societies. Both Canada and the UK present a few preferred specific characteristic identities above others. As a Black male, grappling with the disabling effects of Relapsing Remitting MS, there are dynamics of feeling both disempowered, and yet held as powerful, whilst counselling to empower others. At times it can feel as though I/We are in the Minotaur’s labyrinth trying to make sense out of the complex multiple narratives held about Black and Brown bodies. If we include ableism, mental illness, gender, culture, race and class, we can begin to widen our lens and witness how Intersectionality encapsulates everyone. Post Trumpism, with Canada waking up to it’s residential school horror, of indigenous children’s remains being discovered in mass unmarked graves across Canada, post Britain’s exit from the European Union (I have refused the misnomer, for it was never fast and it was never easy), post the social reckoning that George Floyd’s murder awoke many people up to. Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy is a just and balanced and intrepid response. Intersections aims to support readers understand the paradox of the part held and the part we are to play at this critical multi-layered moment in world history.
We are all human animals making sense out of chaos.
Resources Explained The list below is extensive primarily because much of what Dr Dwight Turner has been involved with has been affirming and informative. The links to his Twitter, Website and the numerous interviews and discussions all offer insight into a psychotherapists expansive explorative and sometimes explosive understandings. Heuristic research initially I wanted to engage with for my Masters, but the subject of my topic to be researched wouldn’t fit into the model that Alice Shlegel shares. Alice’s explanation of Heuristic research further confirms my choice to use autoethnography. A Son’s Journey will be dissected further at a later point here. Ionized particles and them being contained in Thunder Clouds was a useful aside to examine the comparison of Intersectionality, power, race, psychotherapy and the heavy charge a mix like this offers. A thank you is extended to Kate Bowler who recommended that I read The Sea at The End of The Lane. Tim Ferris interviews Neil Gaiman about his process of writing. The line in Exhibit A by Jay Electronica in the 2nd or 3rd verse remains one of my favourite verses referencing struggle, redemption and winning against multiple odds. Shawshank was/is a life long great film. Morgan Freeman offers these words about his friend Andy at the end of the film. Morgan’s character intones how Andy lives on as a memory – whispering a promise of life after incarceration.
Wellness Hub Group Following the previous weeks of discussion of Group, I wanted to reflect on the last group I supported and helped bring into being – the Black Men’s Therapy Group. We began at the Wellness Hub in Lee, South East London. Just like in other group spaces the beginning was tentative, wary and awkward. Within 10 weeks the first group were willing to engage with the dynamic of the space much more. The group of 9 Black men became with each other and themselves a fluid, self questioning, humble and hilarious, authentic assortment of people of differing backgrounds, ages, sexualities and shades. We were able to after a few appointments be vulnerable with each other, challenge, support and laugh like our cares and concerns were forgotten, or behind us.
CoVid19 Interruption With the event of Corona Virus 2019 erupting at the beginning of 2020, thoughts were had about how to continue if we were unable to come together? The decision to take the meeting online was made with hesitancy and questioning of if the group could function virtually. Skype for some provided enough bandwidth for a few meetings to operate well. Zoom eventually won out as the preferred method to conduct the Black men’s therapy group. Similarly to Group the meeting virtually did not hamper the group’s engagement at all. I would suggest that without the boundaries of the circle, making direct eye contact with others in the ‘room’ a significant change took place for attendees. Conversation and depth of what was discussed improved what we understood and felt from fellow participants. CoViD19 was a significant topic for discussion as was George Floyd’s murder.
Peak Being a facilitator amongst this group was a zenith experience of all the groups I had ever been a part of. The reason for the feeling was the summation of all group engagements seemed to be the direction I was travelling in. An ending point to all of the previous group experiences.
Change What I have enjoyed about both short seasons of Group is the spontaneity. The expert direction by Dr Ezra. The challenges I recognise from my own experiences of being in group. Forceful presentations by Manny, Tilda and Karina are laudable. Rebecca and her quixotic presence alongside the enigmatic Stuart, provocative Henry and Pam dynamics and then there is Frank the enigma. The cast of characters offer something refreshing and also recognisable about group processes for those who choose to watch. Be they families, organisations or amongst other clients being treated. Group is both art and a mindful reminder of days past and hopeful, that a post CoViD19 world can be found and accessed by all. Left to wrestle with the aftermath of Lockdown 3.0 and a planet beginning to wrestle with difficult and different concerns brought about by an undeniable murder.
Energy Each episode of Group is between 10 -15 minutes, I found myself hooked and wanting more. A worthy sugar rush with none of the guilt and shame of devouring a triple choc cookie. The show offered me a perspective of what I have been missing about group work. The silly, the deeply defined and entrenched, the undulating sense of never quite ending and always beginningness. My hope is that group will be renewed and that we see more from this dynamic cast and the creators of this amazing show. I also plan on building a new Black men’s therapy group only this time in Canada. It is the reformation of community that is of specific interest to me at this time: Post George Floyd, post the Tulsa uprising, post the Capitol Hill invasion and the UK government’s handling of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report by Gareth Iacobucci reporting on Health disparities.
Together There is something very fulfilling about witnessing a group of people come together to dine, to share stories, listen, be seen. My love of cooking shows departed with the fru-fru-ness of Masterchef but returned en-force with Chef’s Table (yes Netflix again!). High on the Hog appears to exemplify all that is good in sharing culinary experiences and a people connected together by food! Dr Mos-Shogbamimu offers her interpretation on a year post George Floyd. I agree with a number of her points. Home Cooking is a simple delight of a podcast. Home Cooking presents group as a virtual friendly experience – sharing jokes – recipes – puns – and food making support guidance. Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman share their story of finding each other and an interesting idea for a dinner party.
Remember We are both amongst and outside of group/tribes simultaneously. Group offers us paradox. Until we make a choice. Both are indeed true and align with us simultaneously…
In this post I am reviewing the experience of difficulty and the danger of being in group.
Good Enough My initial training as a counsellor at Morley College in 2006 was my first-hand experience of group. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was the tutor whose warm guidance offered everyone on the course a sense of what being a counsellor looked and felt like. Ian challenged, heard, listened, appeared unendingly wise and somewhat of a humoured story-teller. A bit like Dr Ezra in Group, or how I imagine Irv Yalom to be in treatment groups. Intelligent, patient, resourceful and poignant with insights that arrest as much as they inform.
Follow Up The 2nd therapy group experience had, was the experiential group. First year of the MSc programme at University of Greenwich. I joined a year after finishing the Morley introduction course. The experiential group was a new yet familiar experience. Similar in essence to the YouTube show Group mentioned above. Fellow students, I and a facilitator would talk about our experiences with the course. The blend of our learning and our personal lives alongside how we were inadvertently becoming more consciously aware of the counsellor waking up in us, were frequent topics of discussion. The discussion was the object we pulled and played with. It was neither mine nor theirs. This object was the groups and seemed to change in form, and colour and vitality when members were not present.
Not Group Therapy The Experiential group was like group therapy but not. The facilitator generally offered observations of the group process as if they hung from the ceiling. Aloft. Looking down from their elevated experienced height. Infuriatingly. Never laughing at our juvenile forays into this new world of Counselling and Psychotherapy. We moaned about how we were finding timing impossible to schedule alongside work commitments, life commitments (what life) and how we were finding it hard to fit it all in with the incessant always present uni work commitments. Diabolical and yet somehow achievable or so we were lead to believe.
Tempered Smiles They the facilitator, were able to somehow with mirth offer reflection as if they were remembering their time, in our place – struggling. To make sense. To make it all fit. To make it all work. I became bemused by it all. A defence? Possibly. When I became a facilitator of my own experiential group a few years later, I vowed that I wanted to be a little more helpful. But a process group does what a process group needs to do. Process and work out for themselves the up from the down. The necessary from the useless.
Group in Prison The third group experience arrived as a result of an idea generation. How to support more people in prison therapeutically? The answer. Group! Myself and a very experienced counsellor friend came up with the idea of wanting to support men come to terms with their grief, whilst inside away from family. Listening to Griefcast for a few years prior, inspired a question that only beginning a group could answer. Could a grief counselling group be effective in prison? How will a counselling group work in prison? Will the group experience be effective for the men in a category B prison?
Answered We began the grief therapy group at one of the prisons I worked at in Kent in February 2019. The answers to the questions were: Yes a counselling group will work. The How – took planning, and advertising, and discussing the idea of the group with officers, and clergy, and education, and with clients that expressed a need for the group – a soft sell. The operational lead for the NHS foundation trust we worked for at the time, was enthusiastic about a grief therapy group starting. With their guidance, we began the bereavement group. The first few appointments were difficult to engage with for a number of reasons: Finding a location was a challenge. Arranging for clients to attend was another hurdle to overcome.
Grief is an unwelcome visitor for anyone.
Witnessing For these men, encountering grief alongside serving time in prison increased the level of challenge significantly. Despite these challenges the group grew and stabilised until the Summer break in 2019. Men found that they could share long held pains. The facilitation of the men sharing happened as a result of support and stabilising interpretations by the counsellors and by other men within the group. The level of insight and willingness to encourage other men by fellow persons in prison was the rare quality of compassion myself and my co-counsell witnessed frequently.
Companions Some meetings we were left wondering how the group had supported much of the repressed pain to be released. It was like from a pressure valve – slowly. At other times supporting the talking felt like walking a tight rope. Going too fast we all fell. Going too slow – not much happened and still we fell. Boredom, distraction, avoidance, telling other unconnected stories that felt familiar. All to leave the specter of Death and her willing companion Grief alone. Unfortunately I left the prison in October 2020. My hope is that the Bereavement group continues in some shape and form.
Resources Explained Thank you to Anne Willoughby for sharing Prison Break on BBC Sounds. The aspect of death and dieing is a constant factor to life. Experiences end. This too is also considered death. College behind bars is a wonderful testament to endeavour and to dare greatly. These men and women dare greatly and are both punished and rewarded. Philosophy Bites overviews the life of Spinoza who thought about the existential aspect of dieing. Code Switch Podcast shared the tragic story of Claude Neal. There is a chilling reminder of what constitutes group mind and group decision in relation to the podcast episode and the article that follows.
The not Netflix show Group, has truly mesmerised me. I could watch both seasons repeatedly and still learn something new. Alerted by Kwame Opoku in the UK. A fellow Ghanaian Psychotherapist suggested I give the YouTube phenom a try. Working with groups has been a part of my life professionally as a counsellor for more than 5 years. I wanted to discuss and share partially what it is like being in group and being designated the facilitator in this piece of writing. Primarily because the position is an imperceptible dance.
Diviner As the facilitator of a group you get to dance with the life and death of experience. At times the pace of a group is so slow and quiet. A group can be a space filled with unheard and unseen ghosts of past experiences. At others group experiences can be fast and dynamic, filled with talk, voices raised as the energy flies around the room. If you have read the Shopenheur Cure (as yet I have not) or Loves Executioner (this one I have) by Irv Yalom you will recognise the unending sense of experience and compassion that arises from Dr Ezra.
Art Imitating What has inspired me to remain a fan of Group, and hoping for a further 20 shows that gets picked up by a major studio, is the sense of how true and congruent and vibrant the show feels. Group is strangely authentic and as real as any TV show has the potential of being. For me it is the recognition of the energy that appears to move about the room. The energy, caught well by the double camera filming and the actors shedding lines and insights like members of a dance troupe – fluidly, with the ease, force and grace of a strong wind.
The links below highlight the felt sense of movement for me in Group and also how both Move and Code Switch live in Birmingham Alabama brought group experiences and shared insights to life.
Resources Move – Netflix Code Switch – Live in Birmingham. A group experience and more
What I was interested in exploring over the next few blogs was Group. The TV/Youtube show, I have been mesmerised by recently. A few of my favourite characters are Dr Ezra, Stuart, Tilda and Manny. Each embodiment offers a different whole person experience that thoroughly captivates. I recognise them as parts of myself and as identities in my own life. Dynamic, rich, challenged, reserved, demonstrative and powerful.
Social animal There are many different types of group we can identify with. I won’t name all of the millions of different groups here as I am sure other blogs have written about Tribes too. As a member of the human animal species (thank you Celia for keeping this idea in my minds eye!), we are members of some groups and tribes. Other groups, we remain painfully aware of how outside we will remain.
Opposites Dr Dwight Turner, in his book Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird, spends a glorious 130 pages discussing these gossamer embers in glorious person centred detail. Dr. Turner has written and explored the interesting paradox of intersectionality and privilege. Where belonging and the experiences of being othered are held painfully, balancing the act of being discriminated for one’s identity as well as being aware of privilege too. The book is masterful.
This blog is followed by 3 more on Group – Explored, Group – Challenges, Group – Ends
The resources listed in the following works involve groups that inform, explode and challenge notion of identity and belonging.