The Completion Compulsion

‘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.

Mosaic In Colour

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.

RBG  Light Circles

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.

Pool Patterns


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.

Golden Shimmer

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.

*Stacey is a pseudonym to protect their identity.

With thanks to Kate Bowler and Joshua Isaac Smith for words of encouragement and support to write the above.

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

Images
Theme: Patterns
Cover photo Blossom by Nighthawk Shoots on Unsplash
Colourful Mosaic photo by Max Williams on Unsplash
RBG Circles Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash
Blue Pool Pattern Photo by Marek Slomkowski on Unsplash
Gold Leaf photo by Susan Gold on Unsplash

Primary Colours of Psychotherapy.

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.

Colour: Storage

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.

Shades of Red

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.

Pebbled Yellow

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.

Indigo Swirls

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.

Be Water

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.

Blue: Cotton Candy Clouds

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

Images
Cover photo Paint Brushes photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash
Light Box Corridor photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash
Yellow – Red Sheds photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Red Art Slick photo by DAVE NETTO on Unsplash
Yellow lead photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash
Rainbow Corridor photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash
Blue in water photo by Adrien Ledoux on Unsplash
Blue Water photo by steffi harms on Unsplash
Blue/Pink Sky photo by Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash

*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.

From Psychotherapy with Love

The feeling of love experienced or expressed in the psychotherapy ‘room’ is a complex dynamic to encounter. I will attempt to analyse this phenomena and my experiencing of a profound and surprising blossoming in the counselling relationship.

For All Time

Fission
During training at Greenwich University to become a counsellor, we (students) were advised and taught about the growing of warm intimate feelings between client and counsellor, warned of the dangers of developing a relationship that is based on unseen and unknowable factors. That drive powerful ingredients and are most often used as a catalyst to the counselling dyad. Like a nuclear physicist, carefully bespectacled, be-gloved and radiation suited – mindfully managing radioactive substances as though all errors could, end not only the experiment but her life and the lives of many.  And so this last development in healing is to be handled with care.

Defying Gravity
Recently I learned that in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy the client is in part ‘supposed’ to fall in love with their counsellor. Thus recreating the powerful and intimate connection a client may have had with primary care givers. Evolution of intense feelings are a bi-product of meeting with one person and sharing intimate, hidden aspects of ones life with a trained professional week after week, at times for years. Psychotherapy can be a significant challenge for those, who find being open, congruent, honest or trusting of themselves or another an uncomfortable and at times a painful invitation to encompass change. The other outcome is that a client is to also fall out of love and humanise the counsellor. Finding fault where once there was none. The client potentially can then enter the final phase of support. Looking to gain perspective on granular aspects of living life alongside another, who is willing to also acknowledge all aspects – comparatively-realistically-compassionately.

In This Together

Flowering
Before a client enters the counselling room, there may have been past experiences of hurt. Vulnerability being squashed or vanquished by those appointed to care, however these carers did not, could not. And so the person who takes their seat across from the counsellor is rightfully wary. The past has taught them to be alert, to any hint, that any form of harm, insult or embarrassment is met in a formerly used similar self-protective way (Friend, Fight, Flee, Freeze). In time the furtive eyes – dart less. The slightly scrunched body posture unfurls. Petal like. They are able to hold gazes more and then, they really speak. In this place, at these times there is almost a oneness in communication between counsellor and client. It feels like flight. A sense of trust is establishing itself and the distance between the people in the room disappears…

Heart Glitter

Transpersonal
An encounter with a client left me floundering last year. They said just before our session came to a close, “I Love You, Man.” I believed I knew what they meant. They were affirming that something important and meaningful was being recognised in them and that they found this emergent quality both beautiful and surprising. Returning the sentiment with a depth of feeling, by not just saying the words was the difficult part for me. I have been inside these moments of heartfelt connection before. They always surprise and invite me to think about what the counselling work has been able to begin attending to. Like a Doula bringing to life, to light – the unseen…

Transact
With the client I hoped that my words and commitment to the challenging work we were engaged with were enough. Simply saying in a constricted, halting way ‘I love you’ would not have conveyed honestly the depth of feeling I hold for the work and for them (clients). I floundered because in the transaction something of equal value is to be offered in the moment. This is a societal lesson. Anything less seems unfair. There was little time left at the end of the session. I knew that a rushed offering would lose the content and meaning of the message. In that moment I may have smiled and nodded and shown my appreciation. Hoping that a felt sense of mindful embrace would convey my connection to them and to the work. The fear, my fear was that I couldn’t bring balance to the exchange. That would be my work to walk with and process in counselling supervision.

T-Shirt Advice

Scent Sense
We could look at the meaning of the word love specifically in the psychotherapeutic space. However, love has more than a romantic application. I believe that just like the term therapy, there are layered and have multiple reasons and applications of both words use. “I Love You” is an expression of appreciation, recognition, a felt sense of something significant and a not easily identified pleasant sensation. I love you is an acknowledgment of a connection beyond a simple like. There are probably 7 billion expressions, interpretations and mis-understandings of the deeply intimate and connection filled word love. In counselling the relationship between those engaged in the process is similar to a friendship, or of a student and mentor. These relationships are anything but simple and yet remain complex and beautiful at the same time.

Unknown Terrain
Having worked in a range of settings the idea of liking those who sit in the chairs or in the now virtual rooms opposite me has grown. My former prison supervisor, now friend, Anne Willoughby,  advised that whilst you might find working with some of the clients difficult to connect with, and they you, aim to find one thing about them that you are curious about, that makes you smile internally, that you can like. It could be the clients trainers, jeans, the way they talk or an aspect of their face. Grow your appreciation of who they are from that point. This tool given back in 2010-2011 has grown to generally appreciating all clients I have the opportunity of working alongside. I realise that the expression and experience of love is tentative, risky, containing a power dynamic that has unknown elements buried deep within it’s catacombs. The equation consistently asked by a healer is; are they, am I, are we, ready to explore this wild landscape? Often the answer given is – Yes!

I Got Your Back

Art
If projective identification, mirroring, transference and counter transference are the tools that support a clients’ self – entity to realise themselves. In and amongst a list of items of what the client throws out against the canvas of counselling/psychotherapy. The job, my job, is to gently return the disguised and dislodged parts of themselves back to them, in piecemeal fashion and slowly in procession. The client then can appreciate their full picture of themselves as I and close allies do. With congruence, compassion and yes, a deeply resourced, well informed and suitably intentioned – Love.

Resources
I first came across the word Doula a few years ago at a training event. Since then I have been struck by the necessity of the role and the idea of what a Doula does. The link takes you to a website about Doulas.
There was something about the episode of the Stoop that took love on an interpretive ride. Polyamory was discussed in an open curious investigative fashion. I enjoyed the multiple discoveries made.
Brené Brown’s, Atlas of The Heart book and short podcast series about Atlas of the Heart with her sisters, is both informative, searingly honest reflections and often hilarious. The mini series is a great companion to the beautiful and well crafted work of a modern sage.
This is Love and The Magpie of Heart Mountain is a phenomenal story of love found in a hard place and at a difficult time in an American’s History.
When I heard that President Obama had his own podcast with his friend Bruce Springsteen, I was intrigued to find out what these two men would talk about. I have been entertained and  surprised from what I learned about both as they reflect on their lives. The podcasts are reflective in what they invite the listener to witness. Love appears as a character connecting their stories to the past and future.
The Stoop Podcast – Polyfree
A Sisters Book Club Series Atlas of the heart
This is Love The Magpie of Heart Mountain Renegades: Born in The USA
Our Unlikely Friendship
Images
Photo inspiration – glowing feelings.
Cover Photo Love Sign Hands photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo ‘Benched Together’ by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo ‘Family Time’ by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash
3rd Inlay photo ‘Love Hearts Glitter’ by freestocks on Unsplash
4th Inlay photo ‘T-Shirt Design’ by Brian Lundquist on Unsplash
5th Inlay photo ‘Lean on me’ by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

It’s About Healing: Beyond Therapy

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.

Sunset Hills

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.

Reframe Change

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.

A Wall of Hearts

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…

Holding Mariposa

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

Images
Theme Healing
Embrace Painted Sky photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
Sunset Hills photo by Jakub Kriz on Unsplash
Shift Happens photo by SOULSANA on Unsplash
Rainbow Heart photo by Jiroe on Unsplash
Holding Butterfly photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Encounters of the 3rd Kind

The recently released Netflix documentary about extra-terrestrials and sightings/experiences with Aliens from different star systems has intrigued me. I have watched the 1st episode. The ‘proof’ I found to be highly speculative and annoyed my appreciation for investigative journalism. The encounters I am choosing to write about below are largely to do with being seen as alien, treated as inhuman, and the consistent ever prevailing idea is that of ‘I’m not racist but…’ Actions, silence and inaction shout far louder than words ever will, I have found…

Post Racial Canada?
With the event of George Floyd’s highly televised murder, over a year ago at the time of writing. I want to write about and discuss a few observations in relation to Anti-Black Racism. As a panelist for True Roots we discussed and reviewed personal learnings from George Floyd’s death. I wrote about some of my observations in this post here.

From the Escarpment – Downtown Hamilton

Interrupt
Since moving to Canada in February 2021, I have been fortunate to have been welcomed to the country with warmth and acceptance largely mostly by friends and family. As a people Canadians are largely known as polite and considerate. Incidents over the Summer and Fall have invited me to reflect on the idea of Canada as a culturally conscious country. A country aware of it’s misdeeds of the past temporarily pouring energy into correcting colonial errors, currently.

Lost Time
On a Saturday in May, whilst having a challenging and rewarding conversation with my brother-in-law KW, we wanted to know the time. Becoming aware of our possible lateness to a side hustle meeting we were to attend that afternoon. We both were watchless and phoneless, leaving these time telling devices at our respective homes.

The Plan
We both had the idea of asking park users if they could tell us the time. We were sat on a park bench overlooking Locke Street North, at Victoria Park. The day warm and sunny. We nodded at a watchless baller as he casually strolled towards the now open Tennis, Basketball courts and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA). CoViD19 had meant that outdoor public meeting spaces had been closed. We spotted a few passers by who may have a time piece with which to inform us of the time. A White woman with ear buds in, we initially waved down to ask the time, kept jogging past us.

Dodge Ball Training
A young White couple approached the park from a neighboring street and were wearing watches, we noticed. Arms bare. Black watches clearly visible on their left and right arms. KW and I smiled warmly as we knew that the answer to our questioning of what time it was, would soon be given. No sooner had we spotted them and begun to make it known we would like to avail them of their timed devices, they abruptly, awkwardly, averted their path of approach to the park. Choosing instead to spend more of their time pointedly avoiding us.

Telepathy
The couple made no eye contact with us or with each other. In an invisible way, both communicated to the other that evasive maneuvers were to be fully employed with immediate execution! We found their rebuke both upsetting and hilarious. KW suggested that they would prefer the chance of being run over by passing cars, rather than spending time talking with us. Our loud and raucous laughter followed them as they made their way across Victoria Park. Our laughter was intended to have both time withholders, absconders, carry our pain of their insult a few steps farther.

Buzz off
Similar to the sting of racism: Death by a thousand cuts of micro-aggressions, vicarious trauma and barely held unconscious bias, dry walling and avoidance could also be added. The nefarious strategies employed by some, holding fast to the Zero-Sum game of White Supremacy.

Paranoia
I am convinced that whenever I am standing beside another Black man in perceived ‘White’ space, something indigestible occurs. The experience is like a ticking clock, or a hissing gas cannister. Disguised, thrown quietly and released. Discolouring a scene and creating a stench, that has me wanting escape taking whomever I am at speed – away. Moments such as these are not uncommon. It is riding an elevator and not one person making eye contact or speaking with you. It is riding a public transit vehicle and whilst either sat or standing with space either side or all around you. Other passengers doing their best to avoid, minimising interactions with you in any way possible. Recently I visited a Pizza place in Hamilton. It was a Friday. The place was heaving. University students populated the place like it was a Happy Day’s film extra party. I started to get a sneaking feeling of not being wanted there! The feeling crept over me as I stood with my brother-in-law waiting for our takeaway pizza’s to arrive.

Wood Fired Oven

Litter
The feeling, like a gas cannister’s smoke, rose in me to the point where all I wanted to do was swiftly exit like I was dough from a woodfired oven. I had already noted all fire escapes. The one to my right seemed the closest. The door had disabled push buttons to support the hydraulics swing easier. Dissecting what I experienced is akin to the casual everyday racism some othered communities describe. The inherent, unspoken awareness of feeling unvalued, disrespected, alien was unwanted and came as I questioned if this was actually happening? Another effect of casual everyday racism. I questioned KW if I was losing it or were we being pointedly avoided and ignored by other patrons seeing and deciding that they did not want to see us.

Share
‘Their avoidance is more to do with fear’ Explained Kike at a recent dinner party. ‘Some White people are scared that they will say the wrong thing and be called a racist.’ We laughed at the *ludicrousity of the idea. Glad to have friends who get it when we talk about our experiences of walking while Black in the 21st Century. Her husband Rohan shared an experience he had of buying a bottle of wine at an LCBO. Being advised by the teller after explaining his need. Wanting to buy a nice bottle of wine for a friends housewarming, was shown to the more ‘affordable’ bottles. Rohan explained that he had to keep it moving. Bypassing the teller’s chance to access an education of his presumed White privilege. Helping to revise his narrative that all Black men are poor and struggling – missed! Discussing these moments of insult, pain, reflection and action offer us chance to collect ourselves. Not lose it, as James Baldwin has previously stated, ‘To be a Negro in this country (the U.S.) and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, all of the time — and in one’s work’. We talk amongst ourselves about the nonsense of persistent othering to release and find some semblance of peace. Until…

Precarious
The Pizza place experience transported me vicariously to the 1960’s, as a freedom rider in the deep American South, but remained in Hamilton, Ontario. No I was not racially abused. No punches, kicks and hot coffee weren’t thrown at us. The sense of fear, sense of loathing and being held as different from, was the feeling. Pizza place held the low-level hum of perceived danger and threat. I am left to wonder from whom to whom? If KW and I were wearing balaclavas, held sawn off shot guns, I might be able to understand. These choices of clothing and heavy jewellery aren’t something to be worn to a Pizza Party in Hamilton . However, the potential for riot or moment of unexplained group violence felt present and yet wasn’t.

New v Old
With the group of students met at Hamilton’s new Pizza place, my sense of hope for a future that could position Black, Brown, poor and White alongside each other – viewing self as equal almost evaporated. The reality – the structure of White supremacy is built amongst institutions that inculcate all to persist within an unfair, unequal tiered system that *inferiorises some and positions others as better than. My brother-in-law and I walked into a surreal reality and remained. We both could have left. The metronome of time for a moment was affected. We are not to know of if a recognition of difference happened after we left.

Off Balance
The experience of racism and behaving in racist ways is less burning crosses in people’s lawns, violent police encounters, Dixie/Confedarate flag waving, Nazi salutes, but this almost unseen, unnoticeable, fear response of being amongst, but being held outside from – is another form of attack. A deafening silence of avoidance is anti-black racism. These moments are cannonised alongside many other experiences of racist behaviour that upset, invite questioning and provide little answer. To the White couple who appeared to walk in fear of KW and I, sitting on a park bench, you invited us to see ourselves as felons, we are invited to see you both as merely ignorant racists. I reject both simple notions. To the White patrons of said Pizza place, we walked into on a frenetic Friday night, unlike Sam Cooke I cannot see ‘Change Gone’ Come’, so easily. Too much is at stake to topple the edifice of White Supremacy, But the structure, must fall! Axe, Dynamite, and instruments of mass change at the ready and are simontaneosly striking.

And so agitated – I write.

Script Change
An ‘alright mate?’, or ‘hi, how are you?’ goes a long way to normalise, welcome and settle an always on guard, tired patron from vaulting. We wanted to feel welcome, appreciated and seen by others in the Pizza place. An impenetrable wall was erected long before KW and I arrived. My hope – make rubble from the wall in decades and not centuries.

Bigger
There is always a larger story and it will be artfully portrayed. The movie – One Night in Miami however fictionalised, captures the meeting of four great Black men. The film highlights the coming together of diverse ideas for a similar goal. Sam Cooke and the many others who have sang, drawn, painted, sculpted, rapped, danced, voted and played will see better days. The future is not solely in the hands of all woefully unaware, ill prepared, under-educated students. The future is also in ours and our daughters and our sons and the grandchildren’s and theirs. All is potential. The only game being played is an infinite one with all arriving eventually at justice.

Resources
Sam Cooke I offer ‘Change Gon’ Come’ as a useful beginning to examine perspective. Present belief in relation to messages left by those who came before, for those who are to follow. Sam invites hope amongst his visceral intoning of pain.
Jennifer Mullins is interviewed by the Team at The Melanated Social Work Podcast about her ideas to Decolonise Therapy this episode is simply magic. Jennifer uses a number of personal experiences to share how she became the therapist she is. Aware of the precipice she walks along and who she can support, dancing along its fine edge.
George’s podcast as a politically and socially aware wordsmith. George’s oration of his and other writers/poets/rappers words are insightful in relation to the stories being told, silenced and presumably killed off. There is a sense of humour and irony in George’s ability to offer verse in this episodes’ telling of the 60s.
Resmaa Manakem I have listed this link in a previous blog. I highlight the podcast episode’s relevance here, in relation to a socialised White group, externalising others and parts of themselves because of a projective identified need. It being far easier to outsource internalised conflict – ‘Hurt people…’
Michael Kiwanuka and his Black Man Living… The line that stands out for me is ‘And I’m not angry and I’m not mad’, I wonder if Michael is answering James? I also doubt Michael’s not being angry and a little on the edge of sanity. I know I definitely am.
Ibram X Kendi This link in this blog is to a powerful podcast that looks at sport, journalism and the intersections of race and politics. The podcast makes use of observing the idea of White culture admiring, using and monetising Black culture and yet not respecting valuing or awarding equality to Black people wherein conflict arises.
One Night in Miami featuring four legends of Sport, Music and Theology/Philosophy is an understated film. The movie highlights for me the sense of possibility that perfumed the 60’s air with hope.
The Final link allows the feeling that rose up in me after the Pizza place experience a home. The injustice, the fantasy of finding retribution within annihilation feels like a fair exchange as Staceyann suggests burning.
Sam Cooke Change Gone Come
Decolonise Therapy interviews Jennifer Mullins
Have You Heard George’s Podcast Ep 24 The Sixties S3
Resmaa Manakem interview with Christa Tippett On Being
Michael Kiwanuka Black Man in a White World
Robert Glasper on Fuck Yo Feelings feat. Andra Day, Staceyann Chin Endangered Black Woman

Images
Cover photo by Yasmin Dangor on Unsplash
Hamilton Mountain view photo by Vivek Trivedi on Unsplash
Wood Fired pizza photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash
Pizza Boxes pizza photo by Kristina Bratko on Unsplash
Thin Crust photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash

Internalised Racism – Missed It

I have continued with the theme of Internalised Racism offering a personal insight of how I recognise what it looks and feels like with this blog.

Miss Hit
What is missed by projecting outward on to others, what we cannot stomach? We could benefit from further understanding ourselves. This point Dr Dwight Turner invites us to spend time with. Projective Identification (P. I. ) is a self protecting act, but the act cannot fully protect the persons who expel what they cannot tolerate in themselves onto others.

It creates in the object projected upon, a sense of fear and loathing. Deficits of self-worth, self-esteem, anxiety and low mood. Manifestations of the disdain are re-presented by the subjected upon persons internally/interiorly and to others who resemble or behave in similar ways to them.

Here my attempt is to match P.I. and Internalised Racism as cousins. In essence those who are treated by a nationally sanctioned power structure; unkindly, unfairly, with prejudice, do not have the power to represent their hurt to those who hurt them. The hurt people observe the hurt in themselves internalise it and project this hurt on to others who appear similar to them. Both Zed and Daniel offer useful interpretations in last week’s post.

Division
An early experience I can remember that woke me up to what internalized racism is was being bullied at primary school by two Caribbean girls. I can’t exactly remember what these 2 girls repeatedly said to me. Something like ‘Smelly little African boy’. The resemblance was of a hatred that was borne as a result of my father – African. His genes a part of mine. This an undeniable truth. I could not make sense of their disowning of our joint cultural heritage and obvious visible similarity. My skin – brown like theirs. My mum was from the Caribbean too, so were we not the same? Not to them.

Power Over
This experience of internalised racism was one I could not comprehend at the age of 6. The bullies dislike was a felt sense of wrongness. Mine. Possibly theirs too. I assume (now), that these two sisters felt a sense of power and a feeling of entitlement.

Brené Brown discusses the concept of power over, as opposed to power with, or power amongst. The Caribbean for me was well represented amongst my friends. Culturally, London and the UK of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, Caribbean influence was acknowledged and appeared valued.

Music, Slang, Fashion all influenced by children of migrants from the Caribbean. Bob Marley and other reggae stars were regularly heard on stereo systems across the estate I lived on. My world – Tottenham High Road and Wood Green felt like mini slices of Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts, Dominica, the Grenadines. The homes we visited, the shops and grocery stores, the foods we ate were of mostly Caribbean and West African flavour and influence.

Norf
My awareness of racial and cultural understandings arrived late, like the 243 bus to Wood Green , or the 321 to Seven Sisters. The raising awareness job is a lifelong one, but peaked when I moved out of London to Cambridgeshire in the mid 80’s. The North London Estate I grew up on was filled with newly arrived immigrants from a great collection of African, Caribbean, Asian and European countries. These two girls would sneer at me whenever our paths crossed at school or on the estate. They, whispering to each other and cutting their eyes in my direction as if their waspish looks could make me disappear. Their disapproval didn’t make sense to me but left an invisible mark. That of being disliked by others for a seemingly senseless and unknown reason. I became distrustful of persons who cast unkind and disparaging looks my way.

Resources
Ursula Rucker performs Innocence Lost. The line that stands out is missed hit. The resonance is palpable as this poet intones an all too familiar story. The Roots woke me up to the power in poetry.
Hana and Leila discuss in detail the insults that are thrown back and forth between Africans and African Americans.
I thank Kimberly Cato of True Roots who passed on the Halton Voices video. Sameera discusses with guests what Internalised Racism is.
The Stoop You Called Me African What?
Diverse Perspectives conversations with Sameera Ali, Leena Sharma Seth, Mifrah Abid

Images
Cover Photo Lee Junda

Group – Challenges

In this post I am reviewing the experience of difficulty and the danger of being in group.

Good Enough
My initial training as a counsellor at Morley College in 2006 was my first-hand experience of group. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was the tutor whose warm guidance offered everyone on the course a sense of what being a counsellor looked and felt like. Ian challenged, heard, listened, appeared unendingly wise and somewhat of a humoured story-teller. A bit like Dr Ezra in Group, or how I imagine Irv Yalom to be in treatment groups. Intelligent, patient, resourceful and poignant with insights that arrest as much as they inform.

Follow Up
The 2nd therapy group experience had, was the experiential group. First year of the MSc programme at University of Greenwich. I joined a year after finishing the Morley introduction course. The experiential group was a new yet familiar experience. Similar in essence to the YouTube show Group mentioned above. Fellow students, I and a facilitator would talk about our experiences with the course. The blend of our learning and our personal lives alongside how we were inadvertently becoming more consciously aware of the counsellor waking up in us, were frequent topics of discussion. The discussion was the object we pulled and played with. It was neither mine nor theirs. This object was the groups and seemed to change in form, and colour and vitality when members were not present.

Not Group Therapy
The Experiential group was like group therapy but not. The facilitator generally offered observations of the group process as if they hung from the ceiling. Aloft. Looking down from their elevated experienced height. Infuriatingly. Never laughing at our juvenile forays into this new world of Counselling and Psychotherapy. We moaned about how we were finding timing impossible to schedule alongside work commitments, life commitments (what life) and how we were finding it hard to fit it all in with the incessant always present uni work commitments. Diabolical and yet somehow achievable or so we were lead to believe.

Games Seen, Lost and Won.

Tempered Smiles
They the facilitator, were able to somehow with mirth offer reflection as if they were remembering their time, in our place – struggling. To make sense. To make it all fit. To make it all work. I became bemused by it all. A defence? Possibly. When I became a facilitator of my own experiential group a few years later, I vowed that I wanted to be a little more helpful. But a process group does what a process group needs to do. Process and work out for themselves the up from the down. The necessary from the useless.

Group in Prison
The third group experience arrived as a result of an idea generation. How to support more people in prison therapeutically? The answer. Group!
Myself and a very experienced counsellor friend came up with the idea of wanting to support men come to terms with their grief, whilst inside away from family. Listening to Griefcast for a few years prior, inspired a question that only beginning a group could answer. Could a grief counselling group be effective in prison? How will a counselling group work in prison? Will the group experience be effective for the men in a category B prison?

Answered
We began the grief therapy group at one of the prisons I worked at in Kent in February 2019. The answers to the questions were: Yes a counselling group will work. The How – took planning, and advertising, and discussing the idea of the group with officers, and clergy, and education, and with clients that expressed a need for the group – a soft sell. The operational lead for the NHS foundation trust we worked for at the time, was enthusiastic about a grief therapy group starting. With their guidance, we began the bereavement group. The first few appointments were difficult to engage with for a number of reasons: Finding a location was a challenge. Arranging for clients to attend was another hurdle to overcome.

Grief is an unwelcome visitor for anyone.

Witnessing
For these men, encountering grief alongside serving time in prison increased the level of challenge significantly. Despite these challenges the group grew and stabilised until the Summer break in 2019. Men found that they could share long held pains. The facilitation of the men sharing happened as a result of support and stabilising interpretations by the counsellors and by other men within the group. The level of insight and willingness to encourage other men by fellow persons in prison was the rare quality of compassion myself and my co-counsell witnessed frequently.

Coloured Defiance

Companions
Some meetings we were left wondering how the group had supported much of the repressed pain to be released. It was like from a pressure valve – slowly. At other times supporting the talking felt like walking a tight rope. Going too fast we all fell. Going too slow – not much happened and still we fell. Boredom, distraction, avoidance, telling other unconnected stories that felt familiar. All to leave the specter of Death and her willing companion Grief alone. Unfortunately I left the prison in October 2020. My hope is that the Bereavement group continues in some shape and form.

Resources Explained
Thank you to Anne Willoughby for sharing Prison Break on BBC Sounds. The aspect of death and dieing is a constant factor to life. Experiences end. This too is also considered death. College behind bars is a wonderful testament to endeavour and to dare greatly. These men and women dare greatly and are both punished and rewarded. Philosophy Bites overviews the life of Spinoza who thought about the existential aspect of dieing. Code Switch Podcast shared the tragic story of Claude Neal. There is a chilling reminder of what constitutes group mind and group decision in relation to the podcast episode and the article that follows.

All things come to pass.

Eventually.

Resources
College Behind Bars – Netflix
Prison Break – Podcast
Philosophy Bites Podcast – Spinoza
Remember Claude Neal: A strange and bitter crop Ben Montgomery article: Spectacle https://www.tampabay.com/spectacle-the-lynching-of-claude-neal/
Code Switch Remember Claude Neal: A strange and bitter crop Claude Neal: A Strange And Bitter Crop : NPR : Code Switch : NPR

Images
Cover Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash BW Basketball
Photo by Lerone Pieters on Unsplash Lone Hoop
Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash Colourful Basketball

George Floyd Rememberance – True Roots Conversation

Kimberly Cato asked: Did the public lynching of George Floyd impact you in any way, and, if so, how have you or your life changed this last year?
My response – Yes, the public lynching of George Floyd and killing of Breonna Taylor impacted me in a way that the many others killed by law enforcement had not. Not since Rodney King’s filmed brutal battery by LA police in the 90s had I been so affected by such visible hatred. At first I chose to make my writing pay attention to how I was managing his death and the avalanche of information that followed. Perfect Storm was my first homage to his (George Floyd’s) memory…

Transformation
Writing offers me a chance to process disturbing and triggering information in a way that takes it past the point of the information being personally held, upsetting and re-traumatising. (It means) I have done something with it and so it’s transmuted into something digestible or more favourable – useable (to me).

George Floyd Mural Perpetual Energy

Objectification
I recognise myself as a healer, a storyteller, a writer, an artist – someone who has a responsibility to support more to achieve a state of balance and stability. My writing aims to do this in as personal and as objective a way as I can. I claim the heuristic autoethnographic process whilst studying my masters degree, as being a chief influence for this form of writing style!

Diversity Spaces
Last year I was living in the UK working amongst a number of prisons as the lead counsellor for an NHS healthcare trust. I delivered training on White privilege alongside my colleague PK. It was there I witnessed the not so clever slight of hand that White colleagues would raise. The UK does not have the same issues with race that the US does. I would argue that it perhaps the UK has it worse – Hidden – Insidious – Deadly. The UK hides behind an idea of class, education, history – Wilbur Wilberforce and being a force for good.

Denial
A White member of clinical staff stated whilst we engaged with the White Privilege training, that they had not seen the news about George Floyd and the protests and that they were not aware of the global mass awakening. From here I realised that logic, reckoning and knowledge were not going to be enough to support those with their eyes and mouths wide shut to change. I would need to seek a relational experience for those who claim ignorance, to either step in to the arena or take a seat closer to the edge of the action.

Light Art Energy

Energy
Rasmaa Manakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book as a loan from Hamilton’s Public Library. Rasmaa notes that there is an energy in the words we all speak that links us to our past and those that came before. As a seeker I am interested to know more about this partially invisible yet felt substance to our lives that scientists, psychologists and those working in varied fields including art and religion often speak of.

This point in time, this present history is where universal change occurs. Both are frightening necessary and exciting.

Resources
Resmaa Menakem’s Interview
Uncomfortable Conversations
Forbidden Fruit Podcast – The Knowledge of Trauma
The Untold Story Podcast – Policing
Resistance – Coach G

Images

Cover photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
2nd photo by munshots on Unsplash
3rd photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

True Roots

Today’s blog is littered with links. The conversation about how Anti Black Racism affects me needed to be sighted amongst a wealth of material. Hopefully the writing has helped bring new thoughts and *awareni to the top of your mind.

On Wednesday 28th of April, Kimberly Cato of True Roots Counselling Services hosted her 4th True Roots conversations about being Black in Canada. For me, it was about being a citizen of the world now that I live in Canada. I drew references from my experiences of being a UK resident of over 40 years. The True Roots conversations each month centre on a specific topic related to being an African Canadian, African Caribbean and an African American living in North America. Guests have Zoomed in from African nations and the conversation feels like a truly Diasporic experience. The topic on the 28th was on Racism’s Impact? As a panelist, I also wanted to put my thoughts to ‘paper’ to share what these effects are in their fullness. I am not one for taking space when other guests have as much to share. So here on this blog I can get my thoughts together in a reasonably focused way.

Racism is an ongoing system of trauma

What is Anti Black Racism to me?
Anti Black racism is to me the video footage of Rodney King’s brutal attack by 4 police officers and the upsrisings this caused. It’s visceral nature and experience was an early experience of vicarious trauma for me. I was in Peterborough England. Rodney King I felt was me. His attack I felt could happen to me at any moment. I was 17 at the time.

Anti Black racism is to me the innumerable amount of Black women and Black men permanently negatively affected by racist ideas, policies, practices and structures that affect Black people’s lives.

Anti-Black Racism is the experiences of the Windrush generation of migrant workers arriving in Britain and not being allowed to buy or rent homes by White landlords.

Anti-Black Racism is the unwritten double standard and gall of the British nation to not welcome their rearguard support with more than disdain and mistrust amazes me. Those who arrived, invited by Britain to help rebuild the UK after the 2nd world war were criminalised before entry to the UK. Part of the commonwealth community but provided visitors status only. My parents came to Britain a few years after the Windrush as economic migrant workers and were maligned as inferior to British natives along with other Black and Brown people journeying from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.

Anti Black Racism is Red-lining in the US, that observes racial, social and educational segregation and separation of racialized groups (a politically endorsed and semi legal enforced apartheid), Blacks (African American) Browns (Latin X, Indigenous, Asian) and poor Whites kept away from the middle and upper class upwardly mobile and wealthy Whites.

Anti-Black Racism is the central cause for the civil rights movement in the US and is similar to UK representations of seeking justice, brought to light by the small axe films by Steve McQueen.

Anti-Black Racism is the Steven Lawrence murder and Mark Duggan killing and subsequent police cover ups. The sentiments that fuelled the UK uprisings after Mark’s death in 2011.

Anti-Black racism is to me, Black and Brown people’s murders at the hands of law enforcement across the globe. Anti-Black Racism was partially involved in the world’s response to George Floyd’s murder. The will of the people being heard as if waking up, out of a dream, after 100 years of being fed government sponsored lies (about Black and Brown people).

Anti-Black Racism is finally seeing things as they are for the many who are living outside of the comforts of privilege.

Anti-Black Racism is the simple statement that Black Lives Matter and the upset this movement and statement causes some White people.

Anti-Black Racism is a remotely conscious belief that Black life – does not matter. I am left with the idea that even after George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many more famous and still being uncovered lives lost on account of being Black, that a Black life is valued as lesser than a White one. How many White male mass shooters are shot and killed by law enforcement after a heinous attack on a school, or at a place of worship? How were the marauders of the Capitol Building in January managed? Were these marauders to be Black, LatinX or Muslim what would the response from law enforcement have been?

Lift as we climb

How does it manifest itself in either your personal or professional life? 
⁃ Anti-Black Racism manifests as insidious jokes classed as micro aggressions but are anything but small. Micro Aggressions are like hidden time bombs, or radio-controlled missiles with delayed or variable incendiary devices. Generally, when the bomb or missile detonates there be no witnesses save a single casualty – the unwitting and unwilling recipient.

⁃ Anti-Black Racism looks like – work colleagues who are friendly one moment and then can utterly silence forget and *invisibilise you the next. Coming to quick awareness when another in their social class, or racial group enters or strikes up a malignant conversation, drowning out what you were saying. Talking to other (usually White colleagues) as if you aren’t there, or that you wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly understand what the topic being discussed is. Even when you do and show that you understand or are interested in sharing your ideas, the sense of disbelief, the mocking sneer and invitation for you to further disembowel for the group’s amusement is often the beguiling response.

⁃ Anti-Black Racism is being outed as ‘other’ when you are doing one’s best just to do well or simply get by with little – no attention. Definitely not negative attention.

⁃ Anti-Black Racism is the idea and misrepresentation of yourself as only your race. Culture, gender, sexuality, religion, class, nationality, physical and mental capacity be damned. The narrow view – not identified as a complex intersectional human being. Other groups exist in the world constantly within a multi-directional/intersectional lens.

Quickly Vanishing

Do you see it’s impact in your sphere of influence, if so what does it look like?
⁃ Yes I do. I had a great conversation with my friend, a Ghanaian Indian woman recently. We both formerly worked for Oxleas NHS Foundation trust and formed the Diversity space together alongside two other Black male colleagues. My friend recently was awarded a promotion to her role after only 6 months as a lead social worker based in Kent, and is now the Team Manager and Service Lead. The role expands and increases the number of staff that are directly influenced by her and has also increased her budget. She had worked at Oxleas tirelessly for 2 years and saw a number of junior colleagues (White), advance in their careers many times before her.

⁃ A Black male Canadian friend, a counsellor and educator working in Peel educational district shared his experiences of ‘micro aggressions’ he had experienced earlier in April 2021. He shared that recently he was classed as being a bully, for standing his ground and for speaking his mind to a White woman.

Dr Clare Warner working at McMasters University as the Senior Advisor, Equity, Inclusion and Anti Racism Student Affair’s lead is working determinedly to begin supporting McMasters Sports Dept to begin tackling Anti-Black racism. The conversations we have throughout the day are about culture change and systemic racism that predates her role within the institution. Clare shares with me her experiences of building alliances with a number of Black student groups and Black faculty at McMasters, to work towards change within the university’s anti Black racism agenda. Conversations at our home are lively.

Flavoured Support

What strategies do you use to address Anti-Black Racism in your life?
Meditation is a good source of making time to de-bug from the daily negotiation of the experience.

I read, I write, I comment on other’s feeds looking at and addressing Anti-Black Racism, I show support to initiatives by donating time and resources. I support groups like Kwanda that are doing amazing work internationally with the African Diaspora. BAATN.org.uk is another organisation I wholly endorse and support.

Talking/hearing with family and friends about these difficult ‘world put to order concepts’ are fulfilling, rewarding and encouraging. New ideas surface to age old problems and I find these conversations a wellspring of energy.

I listen to a number of podcasts that feature Black/Brown people including The Stoop, Code Switch, Ear Hustle, What’s Ray Saying, School Colours, Resistance, Nice White Parents, Forbidden Fruit and el hilo. Each show feeds me useful information and help to galvanise my efforts to continue the struggle. All of the shows listed above, raise points for reflection and change on the topic of Anti-Black Racism. 

Ibrahm X Kendi’s book ‘How to be an Anti-Racist’ was useful to frame the dynamic of recognising the time we are living amongst as is Dr Dwight Turner’s book ‘Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy.’ Reading Aiko Bathea’s Open Letter to Corporate America and her interview with Brené Brown were hugely insightful about the steps we could all take to improve.

Forming Black lead group spaces that challenge the epoch of time we are living in – like Oxleas Diversity Space in England from October 2019 – October 2020. Forming and running a Black Men’s Therapy Group in South London in November 2019 and running this until June 2020 was a great experience for me and my collaborator Sheila Samuels. We witnessed Black men come together grow, learn, challenge and open doorways to healing.

Linking with Black critical thought leaders and change makers such as Dr Clare Warner, Evelyn Myrie, Terri Bedminster, Kimberly Cato, Kimberley Evans, Dr Dwight Turner, Rohan Thompson, Rotimi Akinsete, Yannick Yalipende and Wayne Reid is a huge spiritual, psychological, physical and emotional resource for me personally.

The article ‘Whiteness on the Couch’ by Natasha Stovall was a watershed for me. Here a White woman examines what it is to support other White people who don’t recognise their privilege is a useful resource to read. 

Ultimately it is about recognising that I have a small part to play within a larger whole. My role is to actively work on bending the arc of history’s events towards justice – for…

Resources
Aiko Bathea’s Open Letter
Brené Brown and Aiko Bethea

Images
Cover photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash
1st photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
2nd photo by yang miao on Unsplash
3rd photo by Benjamin Blättler on Unsplash
4th photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

Why Listen?

I have enjoyed listening to a number of podcasts in the last few years. The blog below looks to share some of what I have gained from these audible gems during the lockdowns. These podcasts are packed with moving stories and open us up to feeling. Again. To start, I wanted to share why I turned my attention to listening…

I listen
It’s because of those that came before. Uncle Gilly (Gilbert Drakes) was the orator, story-teller, the pork knocker, the originator, the historian. Whenever he would pass by our home in North London, it was about the joy he was able to spread. I can remember my aunts and mum giggling like school girls at another of his scandalous tales. 

There is Joy in Every Story.
Attempt to remain close to this idea

Balance
There was a delight in how he and they saw the world. Immigrants from Guyana. Pain and struggle were mixed in to these tales too. But there was also a resilience of hoping and waiting for the children – to get what their hands had yet to grasp. Listening somehow flavoured and coloured, picture framing my memory. Everything was sepia hued and sunny and flavoured with coconut ice drops and golden syrup, fried plantain, roti, dhal-puri, cook-up-rice, fried dumplings, curried everything, mauby and ginger beer.

Loss
Listening is something I have enjoyed for a very long time. Recently my family (C,C,P) asked questions from the ‘If Questions for the Soul by Evelyn McFarlane and James Saywell book and was asked, If I could only keep one of the 5 senses which one would I keep? My ability to hear would be the one I would be most sour about losing.

Divine Choosing
So why this blog? Why now? Well I have been delighting in a few of these podcasts and a Netflix show during a prolonged lockdown experience. The shows below and links have offered me something so divine, I just had to share.

White Lies – Jim Reeb was a preacher that travelled to the deep South of Selma Alabama with two other white clergymen. This was after hearing Martin Luther King Jnr’s call to support the civil rights movement. A few days after his arrival in Selma, Jim Reeb was killed. Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley investigate this cold case. Why should we hold time for this story? Code Switch introduced this podcast to my always questioning and receptive ears. The story and investigations are carried out respectfully by the two reporters and deliver a highly crafted story that leaves me with a few more questions than answers. Such as: Why did it take so long for justice/the truth to be realised? How could a community of people double down on Jim Reeb’s death and claim innocence and carry on with life with little conscience? Does culpability and crime turn all who try to hide from justice, into guilty weakened criminals? Is it more complicated than that? Why listen – primarily because the two men are exhuming something so relevant to the time we are travelling through currently.

What’s Ray Saying – I was introduced to Ray Christian III from the Moth Podcast. Ray shared a poignant story of growing up, poor black and in the South (U.S.). He won a Moth story slam and appeared to leave a crowd speechless. A good story can do that, as well as thrill. A story can invite crickets to be heard – as all goes pin drop quiet. Ray Christian invites us to journey with him through a number of tough, life changing experiences. Enabling him to fashion a moment of learning for us the listener and for himself – the story teller. Why listen – Ray has a way of sharing his truth in a frank and honest way that stuns and shouts ‘put down what’s unnecessary. The barriers you hold are not going to work against these heartfelt stories!’

Why listening matters for wellbeing,
Jus’ lissen

Unlocking Us – I have long been an admirer of Brené Brown’s work. This was after reading her manifesto for change within an organisational context in the book Daring Greatly in 2016. I was surprised and elated to hear that Brené Brown was going to be joining the podcast pantheon in 2019. Unlocking Us pulls no punches and has provided me insight to see how a concert hall invites and also leads an orchestra or choir to lift it’s roof. Because Brené has done and is continuing to do much of the heavy lifting of personal self enquiry, when she asks an exquisite and illuminating question, only the truth can be offered from her guests. The structure of the space created, invites it to be filled with honest open beauty. Why listen – the list of journey people interviewed on Unlocking Us are simply a star studded cast of world leaders of thought and are daring to be themselves vulnerable. No show has disappointed yet.

Suave – This man’s story is the pivot point of why I have missed working at a prison. David Luis Suave Gonzalez was classed a super predator, emotionally and educationally retarded, illiterate and sentenced to life in prison. He was 17 when the offence happened. Suave was shared on the Ear Hustle podcast. The crime he committed and is in full acceptance of, is discussed as well as the circumstances of Suave’s life. If we were to widen the lens and take in environmental factors and a number of systems we would recognise that his choices were limited due to the oppressive violence of poverty. Why listen – in as little as 3 episodes the full character of Suave is revealed and I notice the teen and man he still is. A tough exterior, poised, articulate and deftly funny and incredibly vulnerable. Knowing him fully is what we are invited to do.

Serial Season 3 The Cleveland justice system. An unjust system or a criminal system of justice? Sarah Koenig presents on this wide searching season on the hunt for stories that present the justice system in Cleveland in all its gory detail. S3S does not disappoint as what takes precedence is an idea a colleague shared a few years ago, Gandhi is said to have said that the worst form of violence is poverty. What continues to be portrayed are a number of poor choices, that lead to poor outcomes for individuals, communities and a city involved with a few epidemics: drugs, guns, murder, poverty, education and a city being mismanaged. Why listen – This season is high art in as raw and as open a way that an artist can depict a crumbling system of mistakes. Serial season 3 simply delivers.

School Colors from Brooklyn Deep – Mark Winston Griffith and Max Freedman look into the changing experiences of a school in Brooklyn, New York. The spoken line of ‘whenever Black people have something good, it’s always taken away from us…’ resonates strongly from the opening intro for me. The lament from the singing choir leader’s falsetto during the intro, let’s me know this is going to be hard listening but worthwhile too. Why listen – the story telling is phenomenal. The sound design brings you in to touch – where each character is speaking from. We the listener understand and share their perspective. School colors is as insightful as You the Netflix show.

Resistance – follows the rise of protests in America and elsewhere after the murder of George Floyd. Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jnr follows activists and leaders into the uncivil war of activism. Saidu shows the world that the unlawful killing of Black and Brown and Trans people matters. This podcast was found whilst I tuned in to This American Life podcast. Everyone is involved in changing the landscape, whether they want to recognise it or not, and the young people who are out there within the resistance are saying it’s enough and it has got to stop! Now! Why listen – The event of George Floyd’s murder being caught on camera and then shared around the world had a tectonic effect on a large number of people. The protests that came after were iconic. It simply makes sense to remain aware of how resistance will continue to inform and shape all global societies.

Nice White Parents – Chana Joffe Walt investigates a curious event of a school in, again, New York marching towards equality for its students and taking a number of wrong turns to achieve a school centred idea of reform. This was early C19 June 2020 Lockdown listening. The hours whiled away. What do the parents have to do with it? Well, the money/investment/resources follow a specific group of interested parents in relation to this school and how they feel these resources should be used. Nice White Parents podcast presents a story on repeat. Power-over is generally problem fueled. Some appear to not want to learn this difficult truth. Power with, yields unimaginable returns for the many. Many who have come before have said voluminously the same. Why listen – because the arc of these stories, scratch at an impregnable one way glass that looks out on success, education and the misnomer of all attaining their dreams.

Dare to Lead – Brené Brown’s book on what makes a good leader is called ‘dare to lead’. I am yet to read it as the book is on order at my local library. I am however devouring her second podcast series. The guests she interviews are encouraging, daring, inspiring globally renowned leaders and invite us to think about ourselves in new ways. The stories told are deeply touching and have made me listen to a few episodes more than once. It is one thing to have questions about what a good leader is and how they behave, it is another to hear *inspirators offer their pearls of wisdom that are immediately accessible and with only one cost – time. Why listen – there is a treasure trove filled with useful informative life changing advice in every episode.

Appreciating what comes through

Canine Intervention Netflix
Jas Leverette is simply a watchable engaging and deeply thoughtful and remorseful man. The story about his first dog… I thoroughly enjoyed the community, friendship and opportunities Jas is able to share with those who may not be offered a second chance at life, within his company. Jas offers the viewer a hugely inspiring cast of characters that invite empathy and compassion in equal measure. My wife who has a fear of dogs watched a number of episodes with me, it’s that good. Canine Intervention is a show that looks at a young man’s skill at working with dogs, not just that, as well as how he trains people how to care and look after the dogs they live with.

Jas is in his element training, discussing and supporting owners to understand and completely revise their approach to make space for their dogs in their lives so that they, the owners are trusted to lead. What I enjoy about Jas is his sense of play, his commitment to his family and the joy he has at his craft. Wanting to help the many who may have fallen into unhelpful habits with their dogs, learn something new about themselves and how to live well with the newest member of their family. Why watch – the stories themselves are complete packages of healing, growth and restoration. I look forward to season 2!

Answers
So why do I listen? Too so much? For so long? Too so many? If a story is an invitation to journey with, to see and experience like another does. If a story is like an invisible tie that binds us all, to earlier simpler times, where moths fly, then I am always in a place of learning and teaching and sharing and growing and all in good time saying goodbye. For each of us has a heroine’s story to tell, with a beginning, a middle and a fateful ending.

Resources
White Lies Podcast
What’s Ray Saying Podcast
Suavé Podcast
Serial Podcast Season 3
School Colours Podcast
Unlocking Us – Brené Brown
Nice White Parents Podcast
dare to lead – Brené Brown
Canine Intervention Netflix

Images
Cover photo by krakenimages on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by dusan jovic on Unsplash
3rd Inlay photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash