Splitting off parts of myself for the allure of peace has been a way of coping with adverse events. This piece of writing I am setting myself the challenge of introducing a little-known aspect of myself. The aim to smooth re-integration and aid a hopeful release. All in 800 words or less. I am speaking of my shadow also unknown as my internalised sadist.
Why Now As you may have noted throughout this year (2022) these blogs are mini-pscyho exploratory stories where I hold an experience up and inspect carefully. The idea of the shadow and sadism follows two important conversations had with my supervisor and another with Joshua Isaac Smith. Who highlighted that whilst we hold sadism in our psyche we also suppress – fearing sadism’s strength to maraud through everyday functioning.
Corrupting With TV shows like House of Cards, The Wire, Game Of Thrones (GOT)and You, sadism reaches an honesty that is captivating, and yet also confusing. We find ourselves caught between wanting the best outcomes for those we develop an uncomfortable kinship. Perhaps with recognition of our own sociopath, psychopath, narcissist, sadist. Wanting these characters to thrive or overcome challenge, possibly relieves our trapped shadow selves. Witnessing them act out our suppressed desires offers us release. Safe, in that although acted by external bodies we recognise ‘the act’ as our unexpressed desire. Reich and Erikson offered psychoanalysis an understanding of human development. They wrote of the journey from childhood to adulthood. Exposing the infant to stages of human maturation that include masochism. The idea of sadism intrigued me enough to offer Joshua a metaphor. My Sadist locked in a submarine 20,000 leagues deep. Never to released.
Narcissist, Psychopath, Sociopath, Sadist I have written earlier of psychopathy and narcissism but not of sadism. The revelatory aspect I want to explore is the reason I had, locking my sadist and shadow away. Fear is a motivator. To act in ways that protect others and self. Healing not hurting people, another important factor that drives me. The sadist is willingly aware of the harm they cause. But also finds pleasure witnessing others suffer. We could argue that helping professionals, working with those who are in cycles of pain, may ‘enjoy’ relieving a suffering helpee. Could the wounded physician also be a healing sadist? My fear is if I were to bring to berth the submarine with it’s cargo of 1. What terror could I then be releasing? Better to have the sadist permanently held at an uncompromisable distance. Surely…
Association A vessel not only large enough but also capable of causing nuclear destruction I felt a fitting metaphor. The internal – mirroring the external. It is Bruce the Great White shark, losing his temporary control on his blood lust in ‘Finding Nemo’. Marty and Dory narrowly escaping being eaten. Bruce and his friends swimming away. The scene of the mines blowing up. The idea of why I have housed sadism out of harms way succinctly caught in the clip below. But in so doing, am I holding back an explosive yet necessary part of myself.
Volley Return Could there be a physical outcome to a once experienced trauma? A destabilising event at an earlier point in my life had me hold horror, anger and confusion. I learned to keep these emotions hidden. I didn’t have the words. Acting out with aggression brought unwanted attention including punishment and questions. Choosing instead to let imagination find balance, not justice. Seeking vengeance against ‘them’ was not viable. Perhaps here the passive aggressive 1000 tiny paper cuts method was given life. In admitting that I sought retribution satisfies the angry part still left in me. Psychology has offered understanding settling the disquiet of what happened.
Rigidity What is the cost to a person continually suppressing their internal shadow or sadist? Do we become rigid and inflexible in thought and physical presence. And also somehow short changed in how we engage with the world? Has the submarine not only caged a part of myself I have little trust with, but also magically ensnared my body too? MS is in the mix here as well. Possibly the cause for the inflexibility lies first with a psychological cage that has then become a physical extension.
Shade Clients are given chance to struggle with their shadow. Beneath the umbrella are the parts of the self that others and society have said are undesired, not valued, wrong, nasty, cruel, ugly. We may have decided, to disown and live on as though they aren’t important. They are. The challenge is to collect parts discarded and make use from them. Each disowned piece contains a lesson or memory that leads to growth and change.
Wobble My internalised untrusted self the sadist is an unrefined being. Potentially with the power and will to burn everything I value down into ash. What I have failed to recognise is the energy of the former submarine dweller. The positives of balancing sadism with acceptance. A combination of understanding, compassion and concentration might equal the might of sadism. The drive to achieve justice of past hurts mercifully, is a journey I am now willing to take. I fear less the power of the sadist in me. Appreciating more what this fire offers – an uncertain balance.
Resources Stutz, this Netflix film offers us a chance to look at the inner workings of Jonah Hill’s psychiatrist and the tools he has shared with Jonah to support his growth. One tool I picked up was on the waiting to be vindicated. Never going to happen. Ever! So what now? Well… In Finding Nemo The shark scenes with Bruce Marty and Dory draw parallels between Sadism, Masochism, Psychopathy, Narcissism and sociopathy as well as group support. Wilhelm Reich links to a Wikipedia page overlooking the discoveries and ideas of Reich. Code Switch looks at past American presidents whose policies, words and beliefs affected race locally and globally. Tthe podcast intrigued me to observe what absolute power offers sadism. Jemele Hill shares her multiple stories with the Questlove crew who chop up what using your voice and being politically and socially active can change at a community and country wide level. Stutz a film by Jonah Hill Finding Nemo The Name’s Bruce Character Analysis by Wilhelm Reich Wikipedia Code Switch Podcast: Is Trump Really That Racist? Quest Love Supreme Podcast: Jemele Hill Pt 1 and 2
‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ Viktor Frankl
A few years ago an interesting idea blossomed. The thought, to interrupt the want and wish to complete an idea or action. A few experiences helped to solidify these concepts. I will detail below. Explaining thoughts like these, are useful to those interested in psychological models. Also those interested in relieving unhelpful ruminative thoughts.
IOM The Case of Ms. Snow. For a few years I worked as a forensic mental health practitioner for Together for mental wellbeing. My role at the charity changed a number of times. I began working with one probation service in Greenwich (Jan 2015). In May/June 2015 I supported 6 probation services. The Probation service NPS/CRC (National Probation Service/Community Rehabilitation Company) were adapting to a new model of resource management. As a result the NPS contract with Together changed. ‘Doing more – with less’ was the theme of the new contract. After a year of supporting Probation services in Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Merton and Sutton, I transitioned to working within the Southwark probation service. The new role was to support in partnership with Probation, Police, Housing, Substances and Rehabilitation and employment. I provided the mental health arm of support to individuals involved with the IOM (Integrated Offender Management) programme.
Messy Ms. Snow a probation officer was a ‘conversational’ courts assessor. We held a fast friendship. Discussing the challenges the service users faced and how IOM and probation were aligning to provide improved health outcomes. Ms. Snow was particular about her work-station organisation! Post it notes, coloured pens, pads and computer set up just so. With impish glee, I took great pleasure in re-arranging a few items at her desk. I had an idea of how much the rearranging offset her equilibrium. Ms. Snow also shared in making a mess of my workspace in a similar way too. I wasn’t as organised or as particular about my workstation. Her efforts often caused me to smile. It’s the thought that…
Re-Arrange I would disturb Ms. Snow’s station and then leave to meet a client and on returning note what was disturbed in my area too. Without fail Ms. Snow’s arrangement of her work area would return to pens and note pads and post it notes – to as they were before my involvement. We joked about her compulsion to restore ‘order’. We laughed about my need to increase entropy. An uneasy alliance formed about the balance between order and chaos. Her need to reassemble and my want for disorder. 2 adults acting like children in a serious setting, professionally shepherding adults facing significant difficulties. The idea for the Completion Compulsion was borne in that space. Chaos curiously can invite/inspire order.
Non-Compos The irrationality of tidiness, or the discomfort caused by presumptions of messy work stations/offices/cars/bed/kitchen/living rooms is linked to an idea of messy space = messy mind. ‘An indicator of instability or a ‘marker’ of mental illness, some assume. Ms. Snow and I joked, laughed and made fun of her near incessant need to bring order to what appeared as chaos. A representation of the organisations and people we were working amongst at probation and Together, perhaps. An experience at a staff lunch emphasised the want for both order and completion. A common phrase was said by me which began something like ‘No smoke without…’ or ‘Sticks and Stones may break my bones but…’ As you read these words I wonder have you chosen to complete these well worn phrases? Was there an involuntary sigh as you recognised that leaving the phrases incomplete draws attention to something agape in you, unsatisfactorily incomplete? If so, you are now aware of a compulsion to complete. Because not closing the loop is often discomforting.
Unusual Another example of a completion compulsion arrived whilst working 2 years later as a counsellor at a women’s prison in Kent. The client recently convicted. Troubled by the nature of the crime they were accused and sent to prison for. They found accepting the circumstances of being in prison impossible to bear. The crime they were sentenced for, far outside of their ‘regular’ life experience. This will not be a blog proclaiming their innocence or guilt about the crime accused and sentenced for. The blog is a piece of writing explaining how we (both *Stacey and me) were on course to interrupt her thought patterns.
Unsupported At our first and following meetings, an exploration of Stacey’s past was uncovered. The complicated details of her education, schooling experiences and friendship networks were shared. Ideas of her being a wall flower, bullied, disliked and unsupported by peers. We unpacked what her relationships with friends and teaching staff were like. Departures were another group of people observed. Either she had left them or they had moved away from her. Her current experience of being bullied at the prison by other detainees – a reminder of her past and an uncomfortable undeniable truth about her present. Intrusive thoughts, depression, low self esteem and a waning sense of resilience were discussed and carefully explored.
Projection We talked about patterns of behaviour and associated ideas Stacey held about herself and the past. The intrusive thoughts were linked to her disbelief about being sentenced and about the accusation that brought her to prison. Her dislike of prison. Being away from her family. Confronting difficulty daily. Her life at East Sutton Park, these aspects of her new world she was dissociated from as she had been understandably in her past. A dislocation of how her life was supposed to have turned out Stacey was barely willing to face. It was here that the interruption was to be placed. Starting with a simple game of recognising a patterned hand clap was the launch point of creating something safe and new.
Play Why a game? Most games are fun to play! There is a sense of learning and enjoyment in game play. The 1,2, 1,2,3, 1,2,3,4, 3,4 hand clap is immediately recognisable. Stacey smiled as she recognised and then was able to complete. The next part of the completion compulsion game is to start the pattern of the 1,2, 1,2,3, 1,2,3,4, and not clap the 3,4 part of the pattern. The reason for this is to support tolerance of non-completion. Recognising that surviving the compulsion, is part of building an awareness to interrupting a way of being. The magic of the completion compulsion took root. What was introduced for Stacey was a new cognitive pathway and a resilience to trying something new. The game part makes the completion compulsion accessible and immediately recognisable. She smiled with concentration as she aimed not to complete the pattern. Her feet tapped out the last part of the pattern after 15 seconds.
Sigh We laughed at how this challenge was offered and at how silly the idea of not completing left her feeling. After a few more attempts we were able to breath through the conflicting need of not completing the pattern. When Stacey identified that she could choose to either ignore or complete the compulsion she was able to live inside a paradigm shift. A woman free of the obligation to only see herself as a prisoner, as a person cast out from society for perpetrating a crime. But also to appreciate that she was a creative, able to interpret written material and support others with reading and writing at the prison.
Bi-ped I was later taught in 2019 EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing). Engaging a client with bi-lateral stimulation (clapping, tapping, walking, lateral eye movements or saccades) changes neuro-pathways in the brain. Establishing a validity of cognition helps to embed an alternative way for a client like Stacey to perceive themselves anew. Interrupting the compulsion to complete a familiar upsetting pattern, is key to establish and access ideas of choice, space and alternative possibilities.
Applause There are unseen rewards for completing a pattern. We are rewarded by a hormone feed of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins when a recognised pattern is successfully achieved. For example: the door was shut after using it, the sentence complete, the thought pattern arriving at it’s pre-imagined end.
Abrupt Some degree of discomfort is caused when the pattern is disrupted. When the pre-destined arrival at the ‘end’ is unmet. If you can, think about calling a tele-service for banking, telecommunications, TV, Insurance or other customer experience. Passing amongst the laborious numbered steps to finally, eventually speak with someone. The service alerting you of how long the call may take until you speak with a representative. As a loyal customer, you are mentally prepared for the 5 – 30 minute wait. You’ve made time for this. The annoying music has clicked through convincing you of progress being made. Just before the call is about to be patched through to a real live person, the line goes quiet and next all that is heard is dial tone.
Livid If like me you’re already stretched patience breaks and you begin hurling abuse at the company, and the rubbish telephone service offered, an awareness of the completion compulsion is present. Mainly because of the call not going the way you had planned. The eventual end of the conversation has been hi-jacked. The choices that someone in this position is left with are to leave the call to another time, call again immediately, rage fueled or to vow never to engage with this service again!
Battle The reward arrives once completion of the action is met. After the tenseness of the situation is passed, a relief then fills the space that was formerly occupied. The feeling can be heightened with either food, drink, a good conversation, laughter or movement. But the reward arrives after survival of the event. Such a strong word to use to describe tolerating a moment of low stress. However it is like a micro battle of wills and wants. To have the thing sought one has to travel through the mire to the other side. We could put up walls, convincing ourselves that we don’t need the service. But the uncomfortable truth is that we recognise the importance of whatever the service is and yes, do still need. So once more back into the fray.
Relief The completion compulsion idea is to learn tolerance of discomfort and disconnected completion. We have a pre-conceived patterned ending in mind. Reward hormones are queued up waiting to bathe the brain with feel good rewards. A peak moment of stress. Followed by an intentional interruption. The usual ending averted. Instead – a period of non-activity, of waiting, or long held moments for curiosity to brew. Asserting another possible wanted completion. Preferable to the interruption. An alternative could be as readily accepted as a proposed pre-planned expected outcome. A positive cognition is what we want the mind to begin accepting. Then allow the ‘happy’ bath of the brain to commence.
Metamorphosis For me, returning to the women’s prison a fortnight later, Stacey shared that there had been a change to her intrusive ideas. Speaking with family outside of the prison a shift in perception had started. Stacey and her family were lodging an appeal about her conviction. A spark of prevailing had begun to be established. Stacey had started a difficult transition to appreciating herself as a person in prison. By interrupting a pattern of thinking a newer cognitive model could be inserted and made use of. She had been able to challenge those who were making things difficult for her in prison. A visible change was noted as we completed our work after 6 appointments. Stacey appeared satisfied with how she was viewing her past, present and future.
Arrivé A simple game of moving things around on a desk turned into a game of interrupting thought completions in Stacey’s mind, resulting in a new way to appreciate herself and her life. The Completion Compulsion initially is to bring to awareness the need to close a loop. Don’t! Wait. See what else arrives…
@calm There is a gap between every heart beat, breath, event and response. Not only does choice exist in the space between but also a powerful awareness awaits #meditation M.O.
Resources I have cast my resource net wide to offer a useful collection of ideas in relation to interrupting our usual pattern of success arrival. Code Switch podcast features an in-depth episode from The Nod featuring unknown celebrities who should be household names. In light of the recent events in Buffalo, I wanted to offer another story of Black life, filled with glamour joy, some tragedy and restitution. From Criminal an unknown story of a man’s choice to create state wide change. Interruption of a status quo is how Dr. Dudley E. Flood engaged with segregation and changed the experience of schooling in North Carolina. The Happiness Lab features Dr. Laurie Santos considering how intrusive thoughts can be redirected in this episode of The Happiness Lab. I end with Dr. Brené Brown’s interview with Adam Grant and the benefits of remaining with an idea past it’s natural conclusion point and reconsidering an initial viewpoint. The highlight for me was when Brené spoke about the Priest and the Prosecutor. There being a fear about the Politician and what they can do with words. Code Switch ft The Nod podcast They Don’t Say Our Names Enough Criminal podcast The Boycott The Happiness Lab podcast Don’t think of the white bear Brené Brown and Adam Grant Think Again
‘To know that at our core there is a knowing, resourced, patient, wise, unbroken peace that lies awaiting rediscovery – the truest magic. The reason to search…’ M.O.
The interesting thing about the psychotherapist is that ‘they’ often cannot tell of what they do behind their closed doors. It mostly is clarifying talk between counsellor and client. A conversation unlike other noise making conversations. The information held between them is confidential. The psychotherapist can speak about process, the results of the work, the deep hole either avoided or climbed safely beyond. This is one of those types of stories.
List There are a few reasons I wanted to write this piece. My ongoing fight with MS, the war in Ukraine, CoViD19 and living while Black. The current uncertainty of life appears to have increased an awareness of the sense of the known/unknown. A few nights ago, I thought about the possibility of the next global conflict, detonations and an ensuing Nuclear Winter. Sleep evaded me as a result of spinal discomfort, an outcome of the slow creep of Multiple Sclerosis.
Hiding Discovery often takes place when one is looking for something else. The long-hidden coin, key set, file, ear ring, and memory, often are found whilst excavating randomly. Almost like the item was waiting for you to venture along this path. Jumping out and surprising! The interesting thing about certainty and beachcombing is what is found. Something is always found! The ‘what’ remains a mystery until discovery.
Modelling A few years ago I wrote about a few of the mental models a counsellor/psychotherapist may use to support clients. These models offer both in the relationship, a frame with which to make the dance of support, seem regular, measured, predictable. Anything at any moment can usurp a care planned recovery. The mythic return to the ‘normal’. Most of the time, the complex and intimate nature of the counselling relationship, can wrestle a surprising memory or event from sabotaging the ground already made. The memory used to germinate understanding, the processes covered and the journey that lies ahead.
Tanktown Beachcombing is a mix of imagination and discovery. The analogy used to support both of us as we walk across ‘their’ ‘our’ joint landscape. For me, it is a pebble beach. Like many around the world such as Brighton, or Tankerton. Beaches I used to visit, with friends and later with family. Now these beaches are mind wanderings, used to explore what the ever-active mind of my fellow beachcomber brings to shore. The most surprising find ‘mindfully’ beachcombing with a client, was a netted live WWII sea mine. Current global crises afloat in our subconscious.
Inside Out The rankling honesty of the current war in Ukraine – upsetting the idea of peace globally, presents us with the uncomfortable. Some profit from upset, others perish. Can we as a species continue to externalise the fight within, the paradox of being human, without facing dire consequences? The war within looks at all we throw amongst the shadow and stride knowingly away from: Shame, failure, contempt, weakness, anger, fear, loneliness, hate. Remaining in a state of uncertainty is to engage with continual discovery and loss – Beachcombing. Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, uncovers more of our emotions in a clear, earnest and relatable way. Atlas of the Heart supports us to understand ourselves more and with courage, congruence and compassion take the hidden into the light.
Wherever You Go Living in a body of culture, as a Black man, the uncertainty of further experiences of vicarious trauma visiting are constant. The global dominance of Western culture has continued to be called into question, thankfully. Before Breonna Taylor’s and George Floyd’s murders, uncountable attempts were offered by many to re-course, the river of assumed White body supremacy. The West evaluating, assessing, characterising art, science, faith as pagan, primitive, tribal, with no value, demeaned the Global North also. Traditions long practiced, new to the West’s limited understanding (the enlightenment era) of the planet and the people’s living in the global South. In an attempt to silence and squash uncertainty, millions lost their lives to conquest and land theft. Many more, descendents: rebuilding, reclaiming, restoring.
Dumbfounded The pandemic has outlived most projections of how long it ’should’ last. Has the reality of what we are still globally lurching through, begun to reawaken our sense of wonder, fear, and an awareness of how small and powerless we are? 20th/21st century humans, somewhat knowledgeable and yet also unknowingly vulnerable. Humans never really were in control or as omnipotent as had once been thought.
Thought Less I thought with age (me nearing 50) that knowing more would accompany seniority. The philosopher Socrates’ idea of ‘I know, that I know nothing’. Makes more sense to me now. We, convinced by assuredness, that knowing affords us safety, a life, decency, respect, wealth, luck, faith, security has not for millennia been valid. Life does not arrive with a 100% guarantee of anything other than at some point… Death. To beachcomb is to dare, to risk, to lose, to give up hope of ever finding anything worthwhile and still meditate whilst moving. Laughingly picking up finds. Placing sea worn wood, stones, fossils, glass either in bags to take home or carefully back onto the beach.
The aim to willfully, amble alongside others and humbly discover…
Resources A brief explanation of the resources. There are times I feel that the best part of writing these missives are the moving parts that the above grew from. Talking While Black from This American life is I presume a take on the blog series Walking Whilst Black. The episode observes 3 experiences of Black Americans, encountering racism and policies being written to erode the use of critical race theory or any discomfort caused by discussions about difference. A case of seeking to remain willfully ignorant. Certainty is a part of the musical art form – Jazz. There is timing, time signatures, a mood being worked through and produced. With Alice Coltrane’s music, a sense of uncertainty is also apparent on Turiya and Ramakrishna. A meeting of Eastern and Western influences, holding you in their sway as Alice plays piano. The music invites both promise of delivery and holding a refrain, with each note curiously working at the space between. Prentis Hemphill discusses with Patrisse Cullors imagination, discovery and making way for something different. A joyous conversation. Brian Cox and Robin Ince and guests discuss amongst other things quantum mechanics, the Block Universe, Time, Free Will and entropy. The idea of not knowing, the idea of uncertainty and someday being close to answers I found reassuring to listen to. The last reference perhaps could be moved to the top of the references list. The conversation is enjoyable for what it reveals, Brené Brown talks with Father Richard Rohr on the topic of uncertainty. Father Richard Rohr is able to be profound and humble at the same time. The concert hall of Brené Brown – allows both the music and the silence to rebound. Encapsulating whilst the teaching resonates. When truth is heard, it is also felt… Alice Coltrane Turiya and Ramakrishna Finding Our Way with Prentis Hemphill and Patrisse Cullors Entropy Infinite Monkey Cage Uncertainty Unlocking Us with Brené Brown and Father Richard Rohr pt 1
The thought behind this blog is to attempt answering a clients question. As an artist using the spectrum of human experience to express high art – they asked if as I say psychotherapy is a refined art “what would be the primary colours?”
I wonder what your answer would be? As you can see below my answer encompasses a psychotherapeutic journey.
Thread The question is profoundly simple and yet also confoundingly complex. In essence what are the three counselling theorems that I primarly reach for? The primary colours of the artist’s palette are Red, Yellow and Blue. In the light spectrum the primary colours are Red, Green and Blue. From 3 primary colours, a million more colours are created.
Artiste As an integrative counsellor, the question caused me to pause for a number of reasons. I was invited to see myself as a painter of notoriety. Palette and brush in hands, peering curiously from behind an easel and canvas occasionally, at the subject being depicted. What would be my Red, Yellow, Blue? What does integrative really mean? Which three of the many counselling and psychotherapeutic approaches would I say are primary? Hence the blog. The answer – arriving later.
Bespoke An integrative counsellor is often trained to use more than one counselling or psychotherapeutic approach to support the person(s) engaged in the work. Counselling approaches can include and the list provided is by no means exhaustive: Person Centred, Humanistic, Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural, Solution Focused, Problem Centred, Transpersonal, Internal Family Systems, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, Culturally sensitive, Transactional Analysis, Game Theory, Attachment Theory, Trauma informed, Music Psychotherapy, Art Psychotherapy, Movement and Dance Psychotherapy. The list is near endless. Somatic Abolitionism is a very recent interest. Invited by Kimberly Cato to immerse myself into. When asked what my Red, Yellow and Blue for counselling and psychotherapy are? After several years in the world of counselling and psychotherapy, a few colour wheel associations are made.
Red – Assessment I am drawn in by the experience of developing a sound relationship with the person(s) sitting in the *‘chair’ opposite me. The vibrancy of the unsure, questioning, circling of the two who soon will be engaged in the psychological rumble that is psychotherapy – is the red of the colour wheel for me.
Runway Assessments are: Potent, energetic, immediate, open, raw, honest. The assessment is not specifically an approach of psychotherapy, but it is a significant and an important factor. Assessment is how the process of counselling is begun. In the assessment which is a two-way engagement, the client and the mental health professional enquire of the other what work is to be engaged with, and how the content of what is discussed will support both to enable growth, change, development and healing to be happen. The counsellor is assumed to be the one with power/knowledge. The opposite is more often the case. The client holds their entire story. The impact and the meaning of their life’s challenges being lived with. These choices and decisions lie between, to be understood and reviewed for newer formations and meaning to arrive.
Internalise Together counselling aims to address the parts of the story that are useful, syphon away parts of the story the client is to grow from and implement gathered learning.
Yellow – Person to person From my initial training at Morley College and then accessing the integrative approach at University of Greenwich, I was rooted in the person-centred understanding of counselling and psychotherapy. Carl Rogers the giant, I the infant beginning in the profession. Measuring myself against the Rogerian model. Psychodynamic persuasions had yet to seduce me into an understanding of the shadow aspects of a person’s (client’s) psyche, or mine. I enjoyed staying amongst the lit and topside overstanding of what a person brought in to the counselling space. The surprises were wan of the danger and risk of the Id, Ego, Super Ego, the exchanges amongst transactional analysis, I danced free from the drama triangles of the Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor, the super consciousness of the internal supervisor observing the Transference and Counter Transference were also moderately subdued.
Inspirator Outside of congruence, unconditional positive regard (UPR), empathy, compassion and non-judgemental listening. The way in, to support another appeared straightforward with person centred approaches to counselling. I looked forward to playing a role that supported others to access improved *awareni of their mental health. The readying myself and mental preparations were not too dissimilar to the other roles I held of being a Basketball Coach, and a learning mentor. The precontemplation and readiness to perform as a compassionate collaborator were a wardrobe I was already somewhat familiar with.
Educate Then in the 2nd year of counselling training I met 2 experiences that would forever change my appreciation of the counselling landscape. Counselling in a large London prison. And a client that I met in this prison I have renamed ‘Laos’. Person centred counselling had for me a limited reach when it came to working with some men in prison. I remember reflecting with my supervisor, the notable Anne Willoughby, that my usual approach of nodding and paraphrasing did not seem to be working with Laos. He mocked me during our 2nd meeting by asking ‘Are you really just going to sit there and nod all the way through this, repeating everything I say?’ Either I was not getting him, or he was not getting me. Possibly both. AW and I decided to put our minds together, as is the case in supervision. The aim is to summarise and re-direct the approach being taken. If something is not working, figure out what it is and change it!
Icarus Accessing psychodynamic perspectives of the inner child, internal family systems, drama triangles, being aware of transference and counter transference all helped to build a resourced, close, understanding of who I was meeting. A fuller story of the person I was counselling came to light. Once I began processing Laos’ from a perspective of ‘seeing’ his life’s history. A number of significant chapters opened up: Laos was a person that came from a family with wealth. He was given the metaphorical keys with access to explore all elements of his younger life in the countries and cities he and his family moved to. Following his father’s career. Laos had a privileged background. He was privately educated. Teachers were aware of his intelligence and gift with mathematics. He suffered experiences of abandonment and loss. Travel became an escape for him as was alcohol and substance addiction. Survival was mostly what he was able to hold on to.
Sliding Doors My work with Laos became a transition point. Through which I became an integrative counsellor adapting my approach for every person I would support subsequently. For Laos I believed he woke up in me the sleeping dragon. A counsellor able to straddle the psychotherapeutic world of person centred counselling and the forever developing one of the psychodynamic-neuroadaptive psychotherapeutic world. He experiencing his world as cavernous, treacherous and risky. I imagined, that he needed to know that his counsellor was just as resilient, resourceful, daring, hungry and as courageous as he.
Blue – Mystery The advent of CoViD19, the various lockdowns and multiple stages of locking up and unlocking, me moving to online only counselling provision and supervision has changed all aspects of how I meet clients. Petruska Clarkson wrote about a heightened experience in the counselling relationship. For some who work in a number of differing professions, describe the experience of being in flow. When a counsellor has a perception that they have crossed into a knowingness that is beyond them Clarkson would call an experience like this – transpersonal.
Oblique With a question, a look, a smile, a tear, a non-verbal cue – some ‘extra’ communication lies between the counsellor and client. It is like the room alive to the presence of the two or more in the room share an experience that is beyond what both have known of themselves before. At times these moments are fleeting, sometimes they stay around for many minutes. The fear being, that a mistaken word, a misstep, will evaporate the hush that has descended. It is like magic. A few friends who have kinesthesia have spoken about seeing sound, tasting colour. That letters and numbers have their own distinct flavours or colours. Being in the hush is like this knowing what is possibly unknowable. These moments offer a profound connection.
Escaping All types of performers tune in to mystical moments such as these. When they say things like ‘I was feeling the vibe’ an experience of transcendence is amongst them. Wrapping those who watch them spellbound and amazed as if time and space are immaterial. The feeling: stars and rainbows, tingly and unexpected in a way that is as awe inspiring as it is brief. Leaving me questioning did that really just happen? It is the lecturer who instead of reading off of her screen, begins pulling apart one concept in the hope that the class can keep up. They mesmerised and amazed. Hoping that every lecture will be as electrifying and as delicious as this. It is the podcaster who feels their way through a difficult moment with guests. They then finding something golden that all who hear what is being shared – are forever changed.
Be Water Bruce Lee has been reported to have said that Water is an important element to be aware of. Changing to meet the environment it experiences and yet still remaining itself. The following sections are continuations of the Blue theme – peering beyond the horizon.
The Score Bessel Van Der Kolk’s ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ was an important book to have read. Bessel characterised his appreciation for body focused psychotherapy, or body focused treatments as a way to support those who are living with trauma. The writing of ‘The Body…’ is to offer understanding of the process of realising the release what has been trapped in the body offers. Bessel’s book assisted me in appreciating that talking as a form of treatment has it’s limits. Whilst the mind is helpful in making sense of events in time and space, there are restrictions in what can thoroughly be relieved. Some parts of memory do not have the words. These moments are either pre-verbal, somaticized knowledge or lie in parts of the body that words are useless at describing. Psychotherapy, counselling, C.B.T. D.B.T. are all useful up until a point, then words falter. I am interested in what comes after the words. This for me is Blue…
EMDR In 2019 I trained to use EMDR. I had a long-held interest in wanting to use Eye Movement De-Sensitisation Re-Processing to support clients. I came across EMDR as a result of Bessel’s book and my training at Greenwich. I was intrigued to know more of how bi-lateral stimulation could support someone who has experienced Small t trauma and Big T trauma to live beyond principle events. The trainers Barbara Lerch and Joshua Isaac Smith carefully wove personal narratives of using body based and specific bi-lateral stimulations with clients. Their stories about the impact for clients were surprising and initially I found unbelievable.
Past/Present One client I supported at a prison in Kent helped me fully appreciate what EMDR does. They were a survivor of war in Afghanistan. Going to school amongst a country wracked by war. Daily trips to the store, friends houses were a series of gauntlets ran. Living with the constant fear of being shelled, surviving mortar attacks, passing through bloody scenes, witnessing people dieing and hearing cries of the injured and scared. The belief they held, was that they were still in the war. That they were still in Afghanistan. Every loud shout. Every gate being slammed in prison, brought them immediately back to scenes and memories from their past.
Crane Stance By inviting the client to observe 2 important concepts of self belief and what they would preferably like to believe about themselves, is a key component in the change dynamic when supporting a client using bi-lateral stimulation. EMDR training instigates a theoretical imbalance that clients are to address and rebalance themselves with. The result, an experience of Capoeira – expertly and nimbly turning a hard to reach fact into a reality. By experiencing both the past and a future the client would prefer to live in. An undeniable shift had taken place. When the work was completed their smile and their sense of disbelief was felt, as they dizzily left the room. The successful outcome was experienced as a shedding of an old heavy armour. Walking beyond with something flexible and better suited to the life they were now to live.
On Being Kwame Opoku a Balham based counsellor introduced me to the phenomenon that is Resmaa Menakem. I have been fully immersed in his body focused message and shared a few of his interviews on previous blogs. During a conversation with Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast Resmaa shares a number of his findings and what he invites those that he works with to understand about the world we are living in. There is a cost to continue speeding through the experience of life with blinkers on and what slowing down feels like. There are emotional and historical charges due up for release. We would do well if we pay attention to generational wounds, traumas, remembering’s, suppressions and not just talk about them but somatically be in the process of healing with them. For me the Blue here is wrapped in a Brown of the earth and of the spirit body. The cover art for My Grandmother’s Hands invites pause to understand the content of the book and the journey left to travel.
Equine There is a part of me that is nervous releasing this nascent idea here. But I have thrown other ideas forward that have either been held by you, questioned by you, but not laughed at or ridiculed. So I will remain courageous and share an insight. Reading 40 Million Dollar Slaves, William Rhoden offered a wonderful perspective of those who were brought to North American shores, against their will, being instrumental in animal husbandry. There was a line in the book that described an integral part of how African people were able to commune with livestock and specifically horses. Mr. Rhoden didn’t write this, but there was an implicit idea that being compared to a beast of burden had some people in bondage, appreciate the lives of the creatures that they worked with in a way that was spiritual. Mr. Rhoden went as far as to say that African Americans were excellent horse trainers, riders and jockeys because of an embodied knowledge.
How High An idea fixed itself to the back of my mind in 2016 of working with horses after reading the book. 2 more celluloid presentations arrived in 2021. The first being High on the Hog Netflix documentary and The Harder They Fall Netflix Cowboy movie. A Cowboy instructed Stephen Satterfield, that of course Black people were amongst the first Cowboys! ‘Where do you think the term Cowboy came from?’ My jaw hit the ground and fireworks spread across the screen for me. The ‘oh, of course of it’. The ‘hiding in plain sight of it!’ The dastardliness of it! Men and Women of African descent were cowboys.
Finally On an episode of Queer Eye S6 ep. Snow White of Central Texas (yes I know, yet another Netflix show) the ‘5 change agents’ visit a Texan farm. The farm introduces children to animals. Both guests and farm dwellers received a therapeutic outcome from visits. As part of the redesign the owner of the farm experiences equine psychotherapy themselves! Leigh the equine therapist shared an insight that ‘horses do not speak in language they speak in energy!’ On hearing that, my interest in animal assisted psychotherapy peaked. Equine psychotherapy is something I will look to pursue in the future. This the last instalment of the primary colour Blue, I am to daub across the canvas of psychotherapy. I have a suspicion further interests will maraud…
Rainbow And here my foray in a psychotherapy painted landscape that began with 3 primary colours has ended with a colour palette that extends to both Infra Red and Ultraviolet. A simple question asked by a client has turned into a 2000 word long read. Conclusion: as an integrative psychotherapist I am interested in the blending of approaches to support the process of healing. Red – Assessment, Yellow – Person Centred/Psychodynamic, Blue – for me, looks like this – EMDR – Somatic Abolitionism – Equine Psychotherapy…
I wonder what your primary colours could reveal…?
Resources Israel Anthony artist extraordinaire and a hell of a chess player! I have played him and lost a number of times. This is a link to his website. Resmaa Menakem’s website on Somatic Abolitionism. Here Resmaa shares his vision of what his training offers participants. Bruce Lee is known for his incredible skill at Kung-Fu and little known for his appreciation of philosophy. Bruce Lee offers his interpretation of being fluid. EMDR links to the EMDR centre London where I completed my training. Barbara and Joshua are phenomenal exponents of the application of EMDR. Brazilian Capoeira offers a short clip of the Brazilian Art form/dance/self defence fighting style/political movement. A link to Dream Winds horse training website. For animal assisted psychotherapy training in Ontario. On Being – Notice the Rage, Notice the Silence interview with Krista Tippett and Resmaa Menakem talk about his book ‘My Grandmother’s Hands’ and about the idea of the human body being constricted – primed and ready for fight, flight and freeze. Wu Wei Wisdom with Alexandra Lees and David James Lees discus healing the inner child. Thank you for Kate Bowler for recommending this podcast. The conversations between Alexandra and David are enlightening and humorous. The Happiness Lab I thank a number of sources for alerting me to, a client and Dare to Lead by the Brené Brown team. I have been resisting listening because I doubted that a podcast could provide a probable path to happiness. There is something here for me about expectation, arrogance and beginners mind. Glad to be shown my errors and unlearn. On Being Podcast Krista Tippett with Resmaa Menakem – Notice the Rage, Notice the Silence Wu Wei Wisdom Podcast – Inner Child Therapy The Happiness Lab Podcast – Dr. Laurie Santos – You Can Change
*Chair I used to work with clients who were in the same room as me. Before the pandemic. Now we are separated by considerable distances and yet able to meet by the marvels of modern technology. 2 Chairs in 2 very different spaces.
When Marlon James the author of Black Leopard Red Wolf offered at a book signing in 2019, that ‘It’s about healing’ he presented me 2 insights in one. This is often the way with the wise. A single sentence containing as many meanings as one wants to ascribe.
Own Self As a writer, Marlon James’ books have invited a sense of closure to misremembered, misrepresented pasts. Stories about Black Africans living in *Diasporan lands are often exotified embellishments. Built upon lies that fall from colonisers mouths and minds as if fully formed. Tall tales have positioned the African in precarious positions and amongst endangered real and imagined landscapes. With diminished ability of self governance, self determination or self improvement. Placing white saviorism in the middle of a mistaken history. Cut stories, as though ripping a past in half could interrupt it’s eventual and inevitable realisation. We see beyond the lines painting the African either in unfavorably bad light or out of the picture. Here I am remembering the last episode of High in the Hog 4 part documentary and ‘The Harder They Fall’ movie.
Simmering The insight Mr. James highlighted was that by writing (creating) we can access healing and that by telling our stories in our own way within language from cultures adopted, we add to the healing pot. There is something about seeing the words and art that you think, being pulled from you and thrown across a page (such as this), a scroll, a wall, a canvas, caste in clay, poured into jewelry, or a clothing design made, into a picture or a film or piece of music, a dance, a move in sport. The spark of that inspiration is then left to affect another. Witness and harness it to their own end.
Re-calibrate Therapy has become almost a lesser than activity. Synonymous with celebrities doing the work to move beyond past harmful experiences. Healing has meaning and therapy seems to encompass everything from Osteopathy, Neuropathy, Light and Sound assisted treatment and, I have been found guilty to be using the abbreviation too, in Walk and Talk Therapy. (What I was later to learn is that ecologically enhanced/assisted psychotherapy can alternatively be used. It’s wordy though.) The term therapy is an abridgement. The argument I am presenting is about meaning making. What we mean when we say therapy – is treatment. Engaging with another trained in the art of psychotherapeutic/psychoanalytic treatment. A form of healing involving a client discussing with a trained professional. Supporting pain from their past to be assuaged.
Upended Two representations have recently been offered on TV, that psychotherapy is a tool used to ruin or invite in a healer’s unrest. The two cases I am choosing to highlight here are characters bent on utterly destroying each adherent. My concerns are about two shows ‘Hypnotic’ Netflix, and ’The Shrink Next Door’ Apple TV. There are clear boundary issues that are crossed and transgressed in both. I wonder if they ever really existed for the therapists involved? My concern is that a mislaid belief about psychological attempts at healing will be unconsciously accepted as truth. In turn then, the bent towards accessing additional support will be interrupted. The seemingly global succession of mindfully engaging with some psychological intervention willfully overturned.
Complex Because – for me healing is a multi modal and multidirectional phenomena. Healing travels into the past, amongst the present, and supports an understanding and use of the future – simultaneously. I mean that when a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist, healer is supporting an individual or a group or a couple they are working amongst and with a range of differing and sometimes competing factors. Healing can include the client’s history, family, intimate partners, work patterns, associates, aspirations for the future, sleep, diet, exercise, rest, entertainment and past experiences. In couples and with group the experiences everyone brings to a healing encounter can be magnified. With group support the experience is as if another living entity is involved with the process as with the people involved – almost.
Where There Is Light Then there are the shadow aspects clients don’t wish to bring to therapeutic encounters. Both Carl Jung and Freud called this the Shadow Self. The Shadow Self is the part of ourselves we do not want to own or claim we know, because of it’s often distasteful, deplorable desires and dreams. Previously I mentioned Smaug the Dragon in the Hobbit as a depiction of the mortal dilemma. As humans we are as impressive as the Dragon, as deep and as cavernous as the dungeon Smaug inhabits and as precious as the horde of gold the Dragon rests upon. When we can embrace all seemingly separate parts of ourselves then…
Laboring Healing is to recognise all parts of the individual including the split off shadow aspects of the self and support a repair that has hurt persons hold all aspects of themselves carefully, with kindness. As mentioned before if we cut parts of ourselves off, we are doing a disservice to our whole being. We cannot fully access who we authentically are. If a part of ourselves is forever banished we spend energy on the look out for the usurper to return and disrupt. We perpetually anticipate the interlopers inevitable resurgence. Perhaps we are to address healing as an ongoing active engagement with no predetermined or presumed end. Like a story without conclusion. Perhaps what Marlon James was introducing as the concept of healing, is to be continually tilled and tended to as soil…
It is all about healing!
Resources The Mindful Cranks podcast introduces Manu Bazzano who supports an idea of mindfulness, meditation, psychotherapy and letting oneself go. Hana and Leila presenters of The Stoop podcast look at accessing psychotherapy and what causes some members of the Black community to either seek support or not. Eldra Jackson offers his story in this TED talk as a way to describe what happens when a trauma is denied exposure and the opportunity for healing to take place. Stormy Monday explores the music habits some persons in San Quentin prison use to look after themselves. The Mindful Cranks with Manu Bazzano The Stoop On The Couch TED Talk Eldra Jackson Masculinity Ear Hustle Stormy Monday
I continue thought on being something other in the psychotherapeutic profession. Whilst the experience is singular, I know I am not on my own.
The Problem A problem halved, is a problem that is shared. Or so we are told, and a few believe. Many hold to a sense that they alone carry the burden of their thoughts and worries. Often withholders are surprised by what happens when they begin to discuss concerns with a trusted other. At times the trusted other is an outsider to their lives. Strangely, anonymity helps entrust the listener and the sharer to intimately examine past and present hurts. This – the relationship between counsellor and client, coach and coachee, mentor and mentee, perhaps also teacher and student.
Taught The experience I have had of being othered has been a part of the caring profession for as long as I have been aware of the double standards held within the profession. Caring and caring less about those who are identified as other. Therapy is to be an experience of supporting individuals, groups, organisations observe the problem(s) and provide support in moving into the beyond. Completing my training as a counsellor at Uni of Greenwich, I have grown increasingly aware of the long held and embedded ideas that accompany being Black and working in the psychological profession. By omission of African, Asian, and global community influences and contributions to the psychology profession, an unspoken idea remains prevalent of Black and Brown bodies delivering care. Some notions may include identification of African Diasporan practitioners as inferior, incapable, unintelligent, possessing poor communication skills, lacking in technical ability and seen as a low quality substitute compared to qualified ‘professional’ (White) mental health practitioners.
Difference Stratified At most – 6 weeks worth of teaching for the 3 years I was at Greenwich, involved an awareness of Gender, Race, Religion, Age, Culture, Class, Economic status, Education, Sex (G.R.A.C.E.S.). Millions of topics relating to equality were lightly grazed. I am grateful for being introduced to BAATN in my second year. I had no awareness that BAATN existed, and have enjoyed what I have learned from being a member.
Standing Amongst I once described being at one of BAATN’s men’s gatherings as being not only seen, but heard, understood, recognised and valued. My presence was accepted as amongst. A hugely significant and powerful moment of realisation for me. Ralph Ellis’ book Invisible Man offered a useful frame to know what a Black man might experience beyond the sanctity of his home.
Pscyhotherapeutic Beginnings The profession I am a part of is yet to appreciate Black people as amongst and belonging alongside difference. The understanding I have is that a supremacy is incapable of holding a compassionate view inside a nihilist agenda. Europe birthed an idea of psychology that was largely Eurocentric, built on Greek foundations of Philosophy. For me, the link to African (Egyptian) beliefs and traditions is undeniable. The contention I have relates to the progression psychology has taken since the 19th century. Becoming centred and refined on an understanding that gaining more knowledge of the subconscious, will reveal our path to healing. But as the ancestors invite us to be aware, to truly know self is to also be aware of our physical nature too. The body has as much influence on how we think and feel as does the subconscious. The investment made to dust off the research into psychedelics and psilocybin, invites a further leap from mind singularly to mind body and spirit connections. Is this not where those in Middle Earth centred some of their beliefs and understandings of humans living on the planet eons ago? How have we lost this information and what has made ‘Psychology’ the purview of a select few Frail Pale Male Stale people. Freud the genus but the belief in the European model of therapy being best, has many other global traditions behaviours and practices scrapped and made to be valueless muck.
Prometheus I am in a part of the book ‘Work Won’t love You Back’ by Sarah Jaffe, where the author looks at intimate labor and observes how largely Black and Brown women are treated in professions that care for others professionally. I wonder if the inbuilt label of being classed as unskilled and unvalued is also cast upon Black and Brown mental health professionals? We aren’t what the model of a highly skilled professional in text books looks, sounds and behaves like. It is at the institutions that change is to happen. What is taught, how it is taught and by whom it is taught has got to change. Informed this week that Wales is to introduce Black History teaching to all of it’s curricula will in Wales address the change that is to happen globally. The West did not travel the globe liberating people from eternal darkness. The West plundered the Global South for it’s wealth and plunged nations and billions of people into a modern form of windowless shadow. The gloom that persists is the one that hides the light of realisation from plain sight and holds to high ransom (debt, imprisonment, indentured labour, substandard education, threat of war) for those seeking to enlighten the masses.
Over and Under Engaged in similar work a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist a belief is held, that roles such as these are the purview of White highly skilled, highly educated women and men. Caring professions in the West are heavily over-represented by a main ethnic social and class group. That deliver services to ever over-populated people represented by G.R.A.C.E.S groups, in institutions. Schools, Child and Adolescent Services, adult education and prisons are a small list of a mismatch between the numbers involved in delivery and receipt. Observing mental illness and support on offer at hospitals, residential short and long stay facilities, psychological interventions in the community, again I am struck by two experiences of over representation by those providing care and those on the receiving end of it. I wonder what those who provide care to those receiving care believe, think, feel about their knapsack of real or presumed privilege?
Supervision Attending an online supervision group I note the welcome received, (tight, brief, a hint of something undefinable yet all too present). Generally I like to arrive early to the meetings. I hear and regard the effusive positive welcome and list of accomplishments other therapists are lauded with. A warmth, recognition of something similar/familiar, a thing not spoken but still wholly palpable. I understand we like people who in some way mirror ourselves. When met with a frequent experience of being unconsciously or consciously reviled a weathering happens. Aware of the apparent unconscious bias I say nothing of the discomfort these experiences cause. I do not want to be the rabble rouser. The upstart, bringing contention and upset, where others feel sanguine. But some degree of psychological pain experiencing the deletion of my attendance happens. I am at a loss of how to make use of the feeling so as to experience this edition of supervision well. A better solution may be in non-attending. Or showing and saying little (another form of non-attendance), or even being the one who throws each meeting into necessary checking of insults felt and throwing hurts back to be managed by the group. An hour or 2 is not enough to fully disgorge the malcontents held, and I wonder what ultimate good is caused?
Always Seen, Often Ignored Being othered and feeling an inconsequential value within the counselling psychotherapy profession is a common experience I note. Being the only Black person, nay the only Black man (on screen) at a meeting of mental health professionals is a scene on repeat. I am shocked less by these moments. There can be little comfort in solitary confinement. The scene (me alone or to be counted amongst a smaller population of global majority attendees, alongside a larger whiter group of people) has presented itself many times before. The threat of being discovered as not as good as, pointed out as the fraud or made the subject of biased judgement lurks peripherally. One is unable to hide in plain view.
Intimately Labouring What would I like to happen instead in group? Would platitudes, and over ingratiating welcomes make me feel better about attending mostly White gatherings? For me, the change would be about a sensate shift towards feeling less at the wall, clamoring to flee. Fearing attack from an unknown assailant. My preference that all at a space, potentially, are unknown unknown allies. That are doing the emotional, psychological, spiritual work to lessen the sense of distance between G.R.A.C.E.S groups of people, of which I place White people amongst.
Canvas The sense of attending a space where all in attendance are (un)consciously aware of the lack of representation from Global South communities could reduce unease. The challenge ahead is staying with the sense of discomfort. The *taughtness of an environment in time will lessen. Even when the experience is incredibly difficult. It’s the example of my Spidey sense going off at the Pizza Place, letting me know that an unknown foreign agent (fear) is malevolently spoiling an experience. The deciding factor, an awareness that perceived difference does not make anyone lesser or should jettison them from a room. If a space is filled with curiosity and a willingness to make it beyond – to the other side of the challenge then mostly all are usually lifted further along. A new path of awareness can be engaged with. An appreciation of the complex richer connections made across aisles, ages and other forms of perceived stratification and otherings enhance learning. To be applied by continually evolving professionals.
Therapy Today The latest edition of BACP’s counselling magazine Therapy Today (October 2021) offers a wonderfully rich complex yet balanced review of Black therapists engaged in changing the psychological landscape of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. ‘On the shoulders of giants’ the title of the magazine, looks at a range of professionals. Offering examples of the many women and men who have battled to steer important changes made for the improvement of the profession. My reasoning is ‘But we all have hearts, minds and bodies with which we think, feel and move with’ and so a mass experience of living whilst human can be identified, installed and ideally utilised for the fulfillment of all.
Resources The term allostatic load was the first time I recognised what prejudice, othering and the effects of racism are for Black and brown bodies is medically noted as. Code Switch podcast, discusses what Weathering is and how it can affect people. An earlier blog listed the second link. Black (African American Psychoanalysts) speak of their experiences, training and working with members of the public. When I first watched the documentary I was both affirmed by what these esteemed colleagues discuss and also slightly dismayed. An inherent sadness is present within the pride of being a Black Psychoanalyst and the reality this title holds a mirror to. The link to the Podcast takes you to BAATN’s site. listing the richness of the Black African And Asian Therapists Network Podcast series of talks and presentations. The highlighted episode with Arike and Eugene discusses what steps training organisations could take to become globally influenced, engaged and representative of, in relation to psychological teaching. The podcast was both encouraging and conscious of the work still ahead for many colleges and universities staff students and graduates. The last resource may have been missed in the shuffle. Listed amongst the resources discussing a Pizza shop experience. Jennifer Mullins discusses her journey to become a therapist the learning she experiences in both the class room and most importantly outside of the institution are both inspirational and illuminating. Black Psychoanalysts Speak BAATN Podcast Creating Partnerships Training With Organisations: Lets Talk About Race Decolonise Therapy interviews Jennifer Mullins
Further Reading I am yet to read the Race Conversation by Eugene Ellis and Black Identities, White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago. My listing them here is to highlight that I am still learning and growing. Race Conversation in Psychotherapy by Eugene Ellis Black Identities White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird by Dr Dwight Turner
My Summer season of writing has definitely taken a bent towards topics that involve racism writ large. In this post I am looking to establish ways forward, beyond White supremacy. The system corrupt and broken is to be erased, like a Buddhist Monk’s manadala, in the rivers of time and re-written. For me this onward journey is about revolution. Those who identify with a Frail, Pale, Male, Stale (F.P.M.S.) aesthetic and outlook on life are to be discarded like the idea of the baby and the bath water. The infant, the tub and the water we are all swimming in is diseased, poisoned and grows corrupt crop.
Light in Illness Another way of living – benefitting all – makes sense to begin insisting on. I have had these ideas since I was about 4 years old. Sick with a bad cold having an out of body experience, where I felt like I was experiencing what those who take the mushroom Hiawatha report. A sense of overwhelming love, compassion and connectedness with all. Taking time away from the machinery of work can support learning in a way that grows awareness. I have spent the last month, August, unwinding, watching a wide variety of TV shows and movies, as well as reading and listening to podcasts. The most recent book ‘Work Won’t Love You Back’ by Sarah Jaffe that I will attempt to summarise in a following blog, has stretched my appreciation of the month spent taking time back.
Capitalism kills If the organisation of work is ultimately a largely European concept. A system turning humans into labor devices. Transforming raw materials into something profitable, for other human’s consumption and monetary wealth. Can we then, identify the paucity and fallibility of both work and capitalism overall? It will take for all, to dismantle the current appeal of getting (buying) more, working more, earning less and feeling bad about how little we possess. Other’s (F.P.M.S.) largely benefit from those at the lower tiers of the system. Tirelessly working at pulling from the hearth both product and illness. The whole system completely depends on those at the very bottom of the pyramid to support the shaky construct.
Strangled Ingenuity, time, creativity and sensitivity are mangled lost and drained from the human who is tethered to the machine of work. What are the alternatives? We need to work to pay the bills, the mortgage, clothe and feed the children and the family, to make peace, or take our piece from life. How can much be enjoyed whilst one hand is in the noose tied to the unequal system and the other tied to hypocrisy lies and corruption? For how much longer can the system continue to rip the essence of life from bodies that are on the planet for so much more?
Mis-direct I ended last weeks post by inviting critical thinking. By becoming analytical of all we experience and are investing time with, we can start to imagine and build something different. One of the films I have enjoyed watching that then linked to a few other Netflix documentaries was the Biggest Little Farm, Kiss the Ground and Fantastic Fungi. The book The Hidden Life of Trees (still to be read!) shows how symbiotic, integrated natural systems all support the living organism to function. What has caused humanity to lose sight of our role of our interconnectedness and stewardship of the resources our planet has? Did seeking financial gain, interrupt our curiosity playfulness and wonder? Did capital gains limit our human potential and wanderlust. Some who are (F.P.M.S.) appear to know how to control and manipulate the masses with ever increasing ideas of potential risk, loss, and death. Queue: War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death.
Ride Side Saddle The alternative to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse could be Emotional Intelligence: Critical Thinking, Emotional Awareness, Compassion focused teaching and learning. To move beyond a persecutor, victim rescuer triangle. We can live at the space of the observer. From a position of remaining compassionately aware, choices to behave differently whilst living can be applied. Outcomes could include benefitting the planet and each other with kindness first, as opposed to judgement.
Supportive Sources ‘Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti has a number of parallels with the African ethic of Ubuntu. Published in October 2020, the encyclical has drawn attention to the social consciousness on solidarity between different members of society based on social-interdependence. The African concept of Ubuntu largely refers to inter-connectedness within humanity and between its members, and asserts that “my humanity finds its fundamental definition through your humanity.”
This definition of Ubuntu is founded on three fundamental values. First, that humanity is essentially designed to co-exist in a cosmological friendship; second, that the core values of humanity cannot only be realized through the recognition of the intrinsic pristine nature of the other person’s humanity; third, that humanity is designed to safeguard and realize the common good that binds it together.
The cosmological friendship within the concept of Ubuntu puts emphasis on relationships and mutual co-existence. In other words, one’s humanity is only fulfilled through a relationship with other closely connected human beings, as well as with those who are remotely connected. This concept of relationship in a sense implies a cosmological friendship that grounds itself in a communal attitude working towards the development of the society. Source: article on ‘Fratelli Tutti’ and ‘Ubuntu’ on Cosmological Friendship in La Civiltà Cattolica’firstname.lastname@example.org
Baton Pass My father-in-law Dr G Warner sent the above to me, as a perfect illustration of Ubuntu. Humanity looking after the whole human community because overall we benefit from compassion kindness and sharing. We always have. We could still. As a human-doing we perhaps get snagged inside the doing part, rather than the being a part of a living planet. The 3 paragraphs above, (italicised) offer an understanding and a way to begin experiencing our planet Earth differently. The answers for ending White supremacy as Martin Luther King Jnr said ‘are along the long arc of time, that bends towards justice’. However we can begin speeding towards the bend by, willfully engaging, interrupting and destroying White supremacy’s hold over us. Moving from pure observation to questioning and persistent resilient activists. The journey ahead is not going to be easy. But I feel that challenging journeys are by their nature both life changing, life affirming and infinitely more interesting. The River Runner documentary on Netflix is testament to this idea, another of Summer’s offering.
Resources Resmaa Manakem discusses below in detail, revolutionary thought and how to engage with healing and then appreciating cultural wealth. Kori Carew discusses a number of challenging and revolutionary ideas about Listening, Having Curiosity, Being Vulnerable, Engaging in Action as well as Belonging and becoming aware of community, in Kori’s T.E.D. talk she understands and shares insights about Having Courage to do what is right even whilst this may disrupt everything. Tricia Hersey introduces a wonderful insight about the mechanism of capitalism and how to fight back and win. Baratunde Rafiq Thurston discusses ideas about deconstructing racism that involve breaking headlines into 4 components – Subject, Action, Target, Activity. He shares his reasons as to why his approach provides clarity. Lastly Brené Brown Interviews Dr. Susan David on the need for improvement of appreciation of language, interpretation of feelings and compassion. Ultimately the idea is about a community of humans that can use language to truly see, understand and hold self and others compassionately. Those who push at the limits of possibility and what seems impossible are the free radicals who invite others to imagine beyond the horizon. As mentioned above, The River Runner captures this idea very well. Resmaa with Charlemagne and Angela On the Breakfast Show. Kori Carew Ted Talk Tricia Hersey Rest and Care as Tools for Liberation Baratunde Rafiq Thurston How To Deconstruct Racism Brené Brown and Dr. Sarah David Dangers of Toxic Positivity
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
Beginning Initially the idea of reading ‘It’s Not Always Depression’ was approached with some resistance. I was asked to review the book by Dionne and Victoria of The Counsellors Café Magazine. Here is my review a few years too late, but ties in with my earlier writing on Shame.
Depression as a topic can be viewed as an uncomfortable and difficult concept to investigate. In fact I was actively avoiding the topic. Choosing to dive right in I discovered that with guidance depression may not be the root cause of an individuals story. Hilary Jacobs Hendel has written a wonderful book that explores and explains emotion. In an accelerated way Hilary is able to discuss the effect of trapped emotions and their impact toward the person they reside within.
Internal ‘It’s Not Always Depression’ combines story-telling and science (neuropsychology and neuroscience) in a way that is compelling to read. Whilst reading the book we are able to exhume ones’ experience of the self and our internal family systems (IFS) and examine encounters we had at earlier times of our lives.
Big T and little t Hilary Jacobs Hendel is able to use her work as a psychotherapist to share the experiences her clients travel through to arrive at a better understanding of themselves and ultimately their story. We meet women and men that have had challenging experiences at different times in their lives. Hilary explains that these events can be viewed as big T and little t traumas. Big T traumas frame an event as overwhelmingly significant and life changing. Little t trauma shares the idea of accumulative experiences that lead to cognitive defences being set up by clients to be able to manage daily – dangers and discomforts.
Transition For me, prejudice in all forms and racism in particular are mis-labelled as little t traumas. I feel that all forms of oppression are potentially big T traumas. Oppression discrimination and racism viscerally affect the persons viewed as other and directly affect the way’s in which these persons live or don’t get to live. Remember Breonna Taylor, Jean Charles De Menezes, Mark Duggan, Pyriscience shares a list of BIPOC deaths in Canada.
Core I.d. By the middle of my reading ‘It’s Not Always’, I became aware of an awakening in me and was surprised as I thought I had buried certain memories. I came to recognise my core emotions of: fear, anger, sadness disgust and shame. I caught sight of myself as a child and a large T trauma that had happened for me at the age of 7. Moving through the change triangle I witnessed core feelings and thoughts that inhibited the core feeling – ideas of I shouldn’t feel this way any longer, perhaps I deserved what had happened, I didn’t understand why this thing was happening to me at that time and no one would have believed me if I were to tell. Using the change triangle I identified and accepted the feeling of shame. A disquieting emotion. I recognised the defences I had put up to protect myself and kindly understood how they had protected me but that they were not necessary any longer.
Collaborate Clients and therapists could read this book either together or individually as it offers a wealth of knowledge and understanding about the human experience. Hilary Jacobs Hendel explains the use of AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy) and her involvement with Diana Fosha’s work.
Accelerate Hilary Jacobs Hendel’s writing is accessible and informs how a therapist using AEDP and the Change Triangle, can support a client gain insight and create change that is transformational. The book offers readers chance to ask important questions about emotions and identify experiences of small t or large T traumas. From recognising the trapped pain of earlier experiences, readers are invited to begin working to reclaim and rewire the memory and release associated emotions. Using the change triangle supports dynamic change and acceptance of a newer reclaimed identity.
Daring Greatly The invitation Hilary shares with us is to live in an openhearted state as often as we can and of being our Authentic Selves as much as we dare.
I wanted to revisit the story of invisible wounds that are carried with us into adulthood. To look somemore at where Jill’s story ends and how and why Mos Def’s story begins. The reason: Psychological concepts live in us and are always present. Love Rains offers not just insight but also understanding.
Jill Scott Now me non clairvoyant and in love, Made the coochie easy and the obvious invisible. The rain was falling, And I couldn’t see the season changing, And the vibe slipping off its axis. Our beautiful melody became wildly staccato. The…rain…was..falling…and…I…could not…see..that…I..was…to…be Plowed… And sown and fertilised, and left to drown in his sunny afternoon, Cumulus clouds, 84 degrees,
Wide open, wide, loose like bowels after collard greens. The mistake was made, love slipped from my lips, Dripped down my chin and landed in his lap, And Us became nu. Now me non clairvoyant and in love Made me the fool You were never true If you didn’t want me, ah, you should have let me know All you did was make a mockery of Something so Incredible, beautiful I honestly did love you So
Immature What then? Both hurt, but for two differing reasons. What follows is time healing and recovering from that pain of loss. Until it is met again and perhaps both can learn how to survive the intimacy and complications that romantic love can bring. For some, men can be less emotionally aware, less in tune with body-mind-emotion connections. Men can feel that shame and fear are the same and do not spend time investigating to understand their differences. Until an adulting experience happens. They are met by circumstances that force change. Then they do. Then they can. Then they will. Willingly facing the denial of their first hurts and begin the process of healing.
Throne Making Mos Def’s piece blew me away when I first heard it. It still does. No poem before or after had ever exalted and re-set the Black woman so perfectly, I wanted to possess and inhabit these words and the intention behind them, to make right the many centuries of wrong hurt blame shame and pain. This too is my shame. In a word I am sorry for the wrongs that I and my ken have brought to you. I want to make peace with you: Queen.
Mos Def: I stretched my arms towards the sky like blades of tall grass. The sun beat between my shoulders like carnival drums. I sat still in hopes that it would help my wings to grow, So that I could really be fly. And then she arrived, Like day break inside a railway tunnel, Like the new moon, like a diamond in the mines, like high noon to a drunkard, sudden. She made my heart beat in a now/now time signature. Her skinny canvas for ultraviolet brushstrokes; She was the sun’s painting. She was a deep cognac color; Her eyes sparkled like lights along the new city. Her lips pursed as if her breath was too sweet and full for her mouth to hold. I said, “you are the beautiful, distress of mathematics.” I said, “For you, I would peel open the clouds like new fruit; Give you lightning and thunder as a dowry. I would make the sky shed all of its stars like rain, I would clasp the constellations across your waist and I would make the heavens your cape, And they would be pleased to cover you. They would be pleased to cover you, May I please cover you? Please”
Heady For me there is little in the way that speaks of adoration and reverie to honour or emits love much better than this. The poem can be interpreted as if to say I am sorry – and somehow yet, still more.
That an idyll can be obtained and brought about between Women and Men in this tale. ‘I see you, have loved you, am in love with you. With you, greater than I could ever be without you. And for that, I will share all that I am and more with you.’ That’s what I interpret in Mos Def’s verse.
The story in the remix offers a safe turn around to what is a well-known and pre-destined ending to love: Loss. Defeat. Endings.
As a result of the Kaemotherapy counselling offer, a number of Black women have been accessing my free workshops on 21st century mental health. I’ll write up my findings about the workshops soon.
Supporting Black women and men have become primary targets for my therapeutic support. There is great work to be completed and I am glad to have found a role that leads to overall wellbeing and health for more people. Resources Goddesses of the Roundtable Healing The Father Wound Brené Brown Unlocking Us Podcast Ask Me Anything Tony Porter T.E.D. Talk A Call To Men