3 Lions

The blog below concerns the many losses that occurred after the European Cup Final in 2021. If vicarious trauma can offer something of use, it would be to remember the steps to remain safe, aware and empowered.

Hurt Magnified
The violence witnessed via news sources at Wembly Stadium on the night of England’s defeat last month, came as a chafenning. The thousands that spilled out from the stadium causing uproar and wanton destruction on the streets of London was indicative of a hurt people hurting, that don’t realise that they are hurting and expel their hurt on to others. It pained me to see these esteemed set of players fall foul after an epic game of many ups and a few downs. The following piece of writing is an attempt at exposition.

FFS
I wonder a few thoughts here: Would an emotionally intelligent person/people act in ways that cause further emotional or physical distress and harm to others? What device could invite pause, for those who are hurting? Acting out in childish and outlandish ways is an errant choice. Could other creative means be employed to expel disappointment? My feelings of let down and frustration by the end result of England not winning the European championship made me look at future goals. There is a sense of inevitability rather than hopelessness. I was also able to recognise and hold onto the numerous successes the whole team had achieved. Mostly of briefly unifying a multi-cultural society as England soared through the group stages and made it to the quarterfinals, the semifinals and then on to the finals.

On Repeat
What I am left questioning is, if English football fans and supporters witness their team’s defeat again, will further racist, vindictive showings of abuse and violence, that appears mindless, again fill time in national and international media? My guess is that yes, there is a high probability the sensationalist press will. Filling time and news print. Unable and unwilling to offer themselves or the public a vulnerable introspective or reflective persective, but the regular, standardised rote stories of old. Stories that continue the divisive ‘us’ and ‘them’ rhetoric. ‘British football fans are as brutish and as problematic as they were in the 80’s.’ The press may report.

Systemic
Attempts at Kicking Racism out of football have continually been made however, if the structure upon which the beautiful game was first built and then is played upon: Historical legacy, Politics and Governmental Policy, Sports Journalism and sports infrastructure, Education, Law, Policing, Prison, Healthcare, Social Care, continue to hold and perpetually consume racist thought, beliefs and decisions, can supporters of the England football team be any less racist? Can racism be kicked out? The beautiful game is an idyll. Similar to many human ideals. Football and sport overall arises from humanity’s basal, primal needs. Aspiring towards something greater, the outright good for all.

Islander

Blame You
The fans are not the team. The fans are representative of a dormant underbelly. The seemingly over patriotic fans are of a settler refugee people that were war strewn and savaged historically by numerous conquests. What has been left? A residue amongst the psyche, an islander who feels vitriolic and triggered by any seeming slight gain at its shores. The national psyche will even dispel and violently attack any that is classed as other, and hold them to account for its own failings. This is a trauma response. This is a way to cognitively separate self from perceived harm that may be real or imagined. My question mostly is about the right some explicitly feel they have, to publicly disown fellow islanders. Is this lord of the flies on repeat?

Origin Story
It is undeniable that the 3 members of the team missed their penalties. It is also undeniable that these players origins hail from communities that lie beyond English shores. Do these two facts make these football players any less English because of their families place of birth or because of where their parents or grandparents grew up? A few years ago (11 if we want to split infinitives) I had a similar discussion with a psychotherapist from Germany. She argued that some people in her country were not really German. Primarily because of where their grandparents or parents were from. My argument was, if these immigrants spoke German, were educated in German schools and colleges, held a passport or other form of I.D. that identified them as German, they were in all manner of speaking as germane as she was. Lineage and history are something to be aware of, but are not tombstones upon which any country can claim who is to be classed amongst or dismissed as alien. Her argument was largely levelled against Turkish immigrants, who have suffered similar persecutions as visible minorities in the UK, Europe, North, Central and South America. A historical genealogy would show that there are more intersections of similarity amongst a nation state than there are aspects that separate citizens. Belonging is a matter of perspective.

Trauma Response
What I am left with is when we are quick to anger and disappointment, we stop existing in our thinking rational human minds and enter a primitive brain system. A similar disordered thinking pattern happens too, when we are triggered by traumatic memory or experiencing trauma. Our pre-frontal cortex goes off-line and we enter a way of being that is operant on survival instincts. We flee, fight, freeze, or friend with an aggressor. The applied psychology for me here, is if we observe the furore of English football fans snarling and lashing out against a perceived threat, we could ascribe these actions to a fight response. Quick to anger is a trauma response too, involving perceived ideas and experiences of defeat, destruction and death.

Industrialisation pictured

Result
How some choose to discharge these feelings without further processing are to attack either verbally or physically all who are potentially a threat. With vitriolic and seemingly patriotic missiles thrown against those who appear obviously different. On Sunday the 11th of July 2021, fans threw barbs, fists and feet at Italian football fans wearing the Italian football team’s colours. The 3 English football players that brought about England’s defeat received racist abuse. Physically they could not be attacked. Mentally, psychologically they could.

The loss of the game, which on that night appeared not to be tolerated, accepted or predicted. The fans caught on camera and fans who wrote horrible messages online, seem not to be able to subsume loss without personal affect. It would appear that the subsidence of adrenalin and endorphin coursing through blood streams moments before the first English missed penalty caused hearts to stop. The stress hormone cortisol that possibly swamped an uncountable number of bodies and minds, worked it’s alarming panic. Can our human minds make sudden hormonal and emotional changes without veering towards the unthink of the wounded? The reasoning may be because, learning of loss and defeat are also a part of living a full and complicated life. Enduring a football match of such importance may not have been readily appreciated, by a triggered few. Once traumatised – one’s thinking can be altered and may not allow for thinking that involves *greydom. It is either Black or it is White. We run or we fight. Simple. Ultimately we stay alive!

Make Sport, Not War
The difficulty I have with the trauma responses at the defeat of England’s football team, or the unthink of trauma reactions by fans, are there was no war, only sport. The beautiful game became sullied with wants of victory that were pulled from grasp at seemingly an intolerable moment. Thereby causing a rupture into basal behaviour and non thinking actions. That has lead to hysteria, harm as well as over-hyped expectations being dashed. Leading to wanton damage. Trumpism on a national scale. It is like the idea of a White offensive nationalism overriding and overtaking a largely positive muti-cultural and encouraging experience. What was shared and possibly would be best to be later processed, are trauma words that then potentially traumatise many others.

Marriage
For a misremembered history to be made factual, a mislabeled past is to be believed above and over the data that invites doubt that the evidence is false. The UK and England suffered invasion, repeatedly from nation states as far afield as Scandinavia, Spain and Italy. The French and the Dutch were also interlopers despoiling ransacking and plundering the island as they saw fit. The point of my historic meanderings is to observe what defences an Island Nation can install. The UK could invest in fleets of ships to defend it’s shores. An island Nation can use intellectual defenses like cognitive dissonance to deny what it has seen, heard and felt. A nation can make allyship and appeal to powers greater than itself to keep it’s sovereign soil free from further invasion. The UK has engaged in all manner of similar actions mentioned above, but the nation and the minds of it’s citizens are still yet to heal from previous historic wounds. The UK has spread them, like a polygamous intimate violent partner whose tools of hurt are psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, financial and emotional – Slavery, Indentured labour, Colonialism, Capitalism.

Equal and yet

All Past
These forms of abuse listed afore, were visited upon the Island nation and once the UK and England became a global controlling behemoth, it too became like it’s former oppressors: abusive, controlling, violent, as insidious and vindictive as the harms suffered in the past. Contorting to a new form of divisive control amongst the UK’s global subjects that included industrialisation, economic disparity, wealth acquisition and dominion over through Colonialism. There are ghosts in the shell that will not acknowledge that a past as challenging and as damaging would have left a people battle scarred and lithe to violence and harm at the smallest infraction or insult. A football game can now be seen as an act of revenge and just desserts that underline a trauma response from a formerly traumatised people who then exact their experiences upon others. It is Israel and Palestine. It is Spain’s assault of Central and South America after the Moors 800 year conquest leaving architecture, religion, science, and libraries. It is Europe’s global treasure seeking exploration into Africa, Asia, North, Central and Southern America and the greater Pacific Islands of Papua New Guinea, Austrialia and New Zealand. An unjustified, unequal exchange offering only barbarianism over civility.

Defy
I am left with:

A little more humour,
Some semblance of understanding,
A degree more compassion for
Hurt people who then go on to hurt others.

There is cause, and there are possible outcomes and effects. With a psychotherapists scalpel to hand, supporting the necessary surgery and bleeding away with uncompromising words…

Asé

Resources
The resources shared below are in order to support reflective thinking in relation to the above post. The aim is to in one small part share knowledge and engage with ideas that interrupt miss interpreted notions of good Black, bad White.
Kicking Racism out of Football a sliding doors YouTube moment where one error filled choice, potentially leads to dire consequences.
Howard Nicholas discuses in a clear way the Zero Sum game Western countries, their policies and practices have prevented the development of Sub Saharan Africa.
Ghost in the Shell offers a rapid overview of the 1995 Manga classic. Where knowledge and doubt are used to coerce a number of outcomes for a number of protagonists/antagonists.
Joy DeGruy explains her idea of Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome and how the behaviour is presented as, for Black communities in the African Diaspora. I use Joy DeGruy’s position on PTSS as a pin to spin the idea of the UK’s self perceived greatness to it’s conquered and defeated past, and what effects it’s citizens are unknowingly carrying.
Akala is possibly one of the most electrifying thought leaders the world has in relation to race theory, critical analysis and culture. In 2016 he shares his ideas about Institutionalised racism. I wonder what has changed since 2016?
Gary Neville offers his understanding of England’s defeat and racist outrage with understanding and compassion.
Anna Edwards writes a short article on the book Fortress Britain by Ian Hernon. Anna also shares in the article the list of the many countries that the UK later despoiled is another factor to be contended with.

Joy DeGruy Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome
Akala explains Institutionalised Racism
Gary Neville interview on England’s Defeat Sky Sports
False Notions of Britain – Daily Mail

Images
Cover photo Football Pitch by Izuddin Helmi Adnan on Unsplash
1st photo inlay of 4 Islands by Ahmed Yaaniu on Unsplash
2nd photo inlay of Industrialisation by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash
3rd photo inlay of 2 Knights embattled by Hassan Pasha on Unsplash

An Origin Story

Musings on Therapy
I can remember the moment that counselling, psychology, psychotherapy or psychopathology became the most important career choice I ever made. I was 33, this was in the summer of 2007.

Balance
3 years before I met Laos I worked at Harris academy school for girls in East Dulwich. I had begun an introductory course of counselling at Morley college. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was a great example of Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls, I was later able to appreciate. Ian was able to combine wisdom and grace with humor and presence.

SSCO
I was the school’s Specialist Sports Co-ordinator providing group and individual sports and pastoral care support. I also coached basketball in the morning as a Breakfast Basketball initiative. Within 2 seasons the programme helped beginners take 3rd place in London’s Central Venue League Basketball tournaments. A crowning moment for the team, the school and for me their coach.

Clarity
The crystalisation moment mentioned above was realised at an individual mentoring appointment with a student of the school. My own a ha moment. Goodbyes carry an emotionally laden content that is difficult to contain and manage. A yr9 pupil was relocating to a different school for the next academic year.

By me asking if she was going to be alright she replied:

“I’m gonna have to be aren’t I.?” Her South London brogue attempting to deflect the suppressed emotions of loss and attachment to her school and friends. The tears were kept inside but we both acknowledged their presence with a nod and pleasant ending phrases.
“It’s been good working with you.” I said
“I hope that the course works out for you.” She offered
“I think you can see that it has this effect on people.” I said
“Oh, right, yeah, Mr Opoku. You might be on to something.” Shaking her head
“Shall we end it [the appointment] here then?” I said
“Yeah I think now would be a good time to stop, or I really might start…” She insisted
“Okay then…”
“Good bye then and… thanks…”
And with that she got up and left.

Something…
I have since gone on to complete a Masters in Therapeutic Counselling, courses in Brief Solution Focused Therapy, Trauma Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy and a course at Westmeria College to become a counselling supervisor. The latest training has been to complete Eye Movement De-sensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) that is reconfiguring, reconceptualising what I thought I knew about counselling and psychotherapeutic support.

The Climb
The interest in supporting others has not yet reached it’s zenith. The craft, this high art has become a greater thing than looking to care for just 1. By helping another the environment around them and the person doing the helping is immeasurably changed. I look back at the moment with the yr 9 student and said yes let’s have a conversation, which lead to many more conversations at that school and took me out of Harris Academy to other change spaces including: A boys secondary school, 7 Probation offices, supervisees, a team of Forensic Mental Health Practitioners, 6 prisons and 6 counsellors in Kent and clients in a range of settings including prisons..

I fell in love with the idea of living my purpose: the Artist repackaged. All day and everyday. ‘This Artists Way’ thing is more than most other things I have been before. Parenting can never be bested. However thinking creatively about Psychoanalysis is what I have been climbing towards. Climbing beyond a challenged past. The journey has been difficult and not for the faint of heart. I have crossed ravines and archipelagos never before seen by me, or that I ever knew existed. I have fallen and wondered about not getting back up. Events have brought me to my knees and I have asked for support in being raised back up on to my feet.

Gifts
This path that I chose has not been a bed of roses getting where I have. The challenges are seemingly insurmountable and I have failed many times. However the successes far outweigh the losses. The smiles, the thank you’s, the nods, the hand shakes all make the art worth it. There is still much to learn and to achieve.

Attempting to support service users that appear blocked and fearful of change. Supporting other professionals to grow outside of set protocols and policies to think creatively and act courageously, to support people in their communities. A drug or alcohol misuse dependency should not determine whether that person could or should get access to good psycho-social support and yet currently it does.

As a friend said in 2016 the person should want change, not the set of difficulties they have to continue. I offer that mental health services could be just as solution focused. Offering a label free, diagnosis opposed care centres treating a person with needs – compassionately. Diagnosis can be limiting. Diagnosis can also be explanatory. It is the person that experiences the difficulty that is to be helped.

Mental health support is about offering change along a continuum. Beginning at a super light spot that’s easier to assist a client experience change. Then graduating the person to access support that genuinely alters self-perception by fractions/degrees. The small changes aspect of psychological support is what I feel is most important. Great distances are walked by taking a single 1st step.

We raise we.
Not I or you.
Alone.
A simple singular exchange.

For me it is:
Collaboration,
Connection
Community.

Change
I have opted to include the resources in the body of work. Click the hyper links to take you to other pieces of insightful information. Let me know what you think of this and other pieces below and here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9V9TYQS Thank you.