Certainty: Beachcombing

‘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.

Discovery: Herein

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.

Close Up: Pebble face

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.

Sunswept Imaginings

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

Images
Cover Photoby Christian Holzinger on Unsplash
1st Inlay Discovery: Herein photo by Mia Nicoll on Unsplash
2nd Inlay Close Up photo by Cristofer Maximilian on Unsplash
3rd Inlay Sunswept photo by Zeny Rosalina on Unsplash

Perfect Storm: Never

Never
I had thought that my last post on the experience of CoViD19 would be my final one. That post looked at the fatigued experience of when will the Lockdown end and things return to something that’s near normal? But something as cruel and life affecting has appeared on the horizon and I am drawn to look at this too. This post is serialised.

Resource
Kehinde Andrews 20 positive ways to bring about lasting change

Image
Cover photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash

Perfect Storm: Intro

The events of the past few weeks coincide with events over the past few months. They appear to have met and produced a swell of human reaction and protest that would have been hard to imagine last year or even 20 years ago. The following few posts will discuss these ideas further.

Resources

Brené Brown discusses with Ibrahim X. Kendi How to be an Anti-Racist

Re-imagining Loss pt 1

What if there were more than 5 grief stages to processing loss or death. A recent conversation with the Black men’s therapy group helped me to revisit a long held belief and choose another way to be with loss.

Staged and known
Kubler Ross invites us to imagine the process of managing grief in a range of steps or *awareni that one encounters. The original 5 are useful to frame the experience of being bereaved. Discussing Loss and Bereavement with the introduction to Counselling course for Black Men group, other stages were discussed and arrived at organically. The group not only challenged the 5 previous well known stages but provided reason why further stages may need to be added.

Avoidance
Denial presents shock as a 1st step of the process of encountering the magnitude of loss. A person can attempt to deny that death has occurred. Watching the 2nd season of New Amsterdam a hospital employee is invited often to review their grief process which is firmly rooted in denial. I will choose not to spoil the exploits of the new season of a well told hospital drama. The ending of the 1st season of New Amsterdam was a true shocker. The 2nd season has continued to enthrall me, and was filled with most of the emotions and experiences of the Kubler Ross model of processing grief Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance.

Trading Places
Bartering is another of the initial experiences of processing death. I know I visited this state when I finally admitted to myself that my mother was dieing. This was back in 1993. I bartered my own life away for the sake of hers. To who better than God. I wanted to trade places with her, that if she was left to live that I would attend church and believe like no other Christian ever has before.

I vowed to give up my adherent addiction to comic books, to stop playing basketball, even attending university for the vain hope that my mother could continue to draw breath. Bartering as a stage is pure psychotic belief in one’s own unrealised potential to make the impossible real. It’s a stage close to madness. I ask, for what good reason would the universe listen to my small offerings? There is no significant pay off universally. To what end? Really? What changes if one entity is exchanged for another? Sorry. No deal.

Fury
Then we arrive at Anger. Now this delicious unrelenting energy giving force of furious energy makes all the other feelings of emotional turmoil seem like a breeze. Paltry. Ineffective. Like Meh! Anger at death is another psychotic experience where we can lose ourselves in rages of senseless fury. Arguing with others (family) friends and loved ones (partners) and ourselves for all that they or you could have done more of to mitigate/stop the deceased from dieing. The point here is you or I don’t have those superhuman powers. Ours is to love. Be consumed by the hurt that our sense of attachment has brought us into intimate contact with. And recognise that there is little left to replace us with the person who has gone.

Depression as a stage of bereavement is a deep and slow part. Life looks different once in it. But we are not supposed to stay here.
Loss Hurts

Pressed On
Acknowledging the hurt can bring us into the uncomfortable 4th stage of the grieving process. Depression. This stage can be unpredictable slow and long. It can also be a dark stage. Ideas both alien and life threatening can enter ones thinking. Behaviours like self-harm, self-isolation, suicide, drug misuse, reckless acts that increase risk to self and others appear to make sense. This stage is a hard one to navigate. Don’t do it alone. Find others to help. Speak to friends. Speak with the one who has gone. Write them a letter, sing them a song. Visit their favourite place and say what you dared not to before. Feel the feelings and recognise that they ebb and flow, wax and wane. Depression isn’t the final destination it’s the wet dark space we get to sometimes pass through. Usually to get to another space. A brighter place. It took roughly 2 years for me to move beyond this stage.

Release
Acceptance is often seen as the final stage to the Kubler-Ross grief process and supports the person who is grieving to come upon a sort of deliverance. Some speak of the light at the end of the tunnel. I found acceptance to be like the weight I was struggling under, lift off of me in gradual stages. Which met the time I left Cambridgeshire and returned to London, the city of my birth. I felt hopeful and excited finally, about the possibility of what had the potential to be.

Resources
Griefcast a Podcast with Cariad Lloyd
Grief Encounter Cariad discusses grief with Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE

Images
Metropolitan City of Rome Mike Labrum@labrum777
Pressed On Paulo Silva selfvisionstudios.wixsite.com/home

Togethered Learning

Educational Misses

Frank Morrison’s Art I have long admired. This work is titled as Arithmetic. The pose of both students is emblematic

The state of education

My eldest son aged 11, came home from school recently and shared that he had concerns about his experiences that have troubled and alarmed me. As his father I want nothing more than to protect and shield him from the shadier elements of London living. I realise however the contradiction as I write, because I have worked in prisons for over four years. I have also worked with vulnerable people on the margins of society and that live in the shade for over 8 years. Deepening and grading my perspective considerably.

Working for almost 4 years with Together a National charity that supported service users and probation officers and courts in London. Together’s highly skilled team of practitioners provide mental health support and psycho education to service users involved within London’s criminal Justice System. 

‘*Shade is a factor of life, it precedes and follows light.’

An Event Horizon
Shade and Light – Event Horizon

Transfer

My son has moved from a well-resourced primary school with a committed PTA (Parent Teacher Association) with middle class values and expectations to a secondary school that whilst being in the same neighborhood seems to not be as well supported. The commitment the school has appears geared to raising it’s educational achievements as a secondary school. The social and emotional development of it’s pupils seems to have been overlooked. The documentary called School emphasises what the lack of investment and resources has meant for secondary schools across the country.

Aggress

My son reports that nearly every day there are playground fights and his year group are involved with something called “violating” other pupils. A form of engaging negatively with another pupil that shames them and makes them either react aggressively or retreat from social engagements. Which can have a huge social impact on students – limiting the scope of making firm social connections and friends and bearing witness to the challenges of inner city life.

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons on Netflix is a phenomenal expose on growing up ‘Othered’ within a country that does not want to accept it’s involvement with the systematic destruction and demonisation of several groups of people and their cultures. Ghetto Rage is a topic of interest John mentioned that I will further investigate and write about soon. 

Refuse

As a 40 something year old man I don’t understand the culture of school being a site for malevolence and cruelty committed by pupils as vulnerable as peers of my son’s against fellow pupils. Being assertive is a factor of living learning and growing. Bullying as part of systemic form of disorganised peer oppression troubles me.

My son simply does not want to go to his school or participate in any of the senseless acts of pseudo violence, passive and active forms of aggression
as a result, or other acts of hyper masculinity that seem to have besieged his year group. What is going wrong I wonder with state education? Why are young women and young men acting in harmful ways to other children and themselves and what can we all do about it?

Switch

I doubt I will be able to find the answers in this piece of writing however I can raise my concerns and offer ideas of possible ways forward. I wonder if a member of parliament’s child were attending my son’s state school what they would think/see/feel?

I am disappointed that the choices we are left to think through are: exiting the school, non-attendance and living with a sense of anxiety that has grown in my son and through our family. The social development versus academic achievement focus appears to have been the split that this school has made.

The thinking I have is that the school has grossly under estimated the effect that the focus and pressure toward academia could have on it’s key stage 3 and 4 progression results and overall exam achievements. A
socially and emotionally balanced pupil could perform 
academically better. Not just at exams but in life also. 

Something Else

Perhaps another way is to be found with education that invites collaboration, communication and creativity. Few children my son included are without the curiosity to look for answers or create story’s that make sense of the worlds that they inhabit. For their, our children’s, worlds are different to ours. They face challenges that are new for the planet, maybe we should be teaching all differently…  

Resources

Akala and Education

TES Small Schools Work