Together until hats and Sabres, scarves and Ammo belts tilt and Fall or thrown Down! Bullets In psychological Psychobable we blew Others away Like Chaff!
Youdashing and Daring and me Quiet, dismissive, assessing. Our foes dodging and Careening to get ‘way From your shots. My warnings.
Sparing none. Killing With kindness and Flare. Tragedy and Trauma. Both lived Brushed off, scarred A little, and so knew Our enemies Well.
Not versed and Unable to battle Similar. Spat ‘n Cursed ‘n had to Let us Pass undeterred.
But harm they Did. Blatantly. Traps. Audaciously, withering with Lies and supported by Cavalry and legions of Followers, sheep, braying, Stinking others who Thought we were Outgunned by seniority.
Pseudo superiority. They Shot down, we battle Weary. Back to back. Butch and Sun Dance. You slim and Deft and defiant. Confident. Me heavy and Slow, somber looking. Attached to thinking. Acting mute.
Throwing all, silent Fingers of vengeance and Despised eyes of Demise, a Phoenix rises From ashes and So warned they Burned. Mightily. We Still laugh at their Moxie and With our children tell Of bravery in Battle, little big stories.
Inspired by your tracings of invisible marks and rememberings of days past EK.
My first introduction to American football happened as a result of Grid Iron on Ch4. I was already an enthusiast of Basketball and Football became a new sport to invest time with and learn about. I enjoyed the UK based commentators attempt to over explain the rules and various decisions that occurred throughout the game. This was in the late 80’s.
Due to Colin Kaeparnick’s non signing with a team last season I chose not to watch any NFL games. I am vaguely aware of the winners of last season’s Super Bowl but am not as up to date with trades and new signings for this season. Netflix and Amazon have been my go to’s.
Offering my NFL starved eyes initially Friday Night Lights – then Last Chance U, All or Nothing, Undefeated, Coach Snoop and QB1. Marching Orders has been a late addition to my TV watching that I have been fascinated by. The show has little to do with football as they perform for themselves and in competition with other bands. Each Last Chance U features a marching band intro and I have been impressed with their discipline and timing.
Netflix show Marching Orders
In my experience great leadership can lead teams to phenomenal successes and some devastating defeats. As a former Basketball Coach I recognise the want for excellence from all, all of the time. The reality is that excellence and perfection are not always possible, no matter how much it is wanted, worked for or at times wished for. A number of years ago I had a moment at a London Youth Games tournament when for 30 seconds I lost it with my basketball team. I lost sight of what we had come to do, play well, play for enjoyment and play as a team. The Hurricanes had worked so very hard to get to the games and the 1st game had been a great example of what I enjoyed about coaching. The first game was a narrow defeat but they had gained learning from the experience and looked to have fun throughout the game. I had felt that they were ready to take on any other team and play well.
Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor’s advice.
1st Quarter Defeat
The second game out they were losing to another team within the first few minutes of the 1st quarter by 15 – 2. Stunned, appalled and amazed at the swiftness the other team from Westminster were dispatching us with, I called a time out. I wanted to rally my team and interrupt the flow of the game. In the time out my words were incendiary and raw coming from a place of hurt, anguish, disappointment and guilt. My ire was intolerable and according to the team lifted the roof on Crystal Palace’s main hall and painted it an array of colours. My several words of profanity put me in reach of Last Chance U’s Buddy Guy and Jason Brown coaches.
The need to perform well and win against insurmountable odds must be a chip that gets inserted into a coaches sub consciousness at some point during their lives. The Hurricanes had trained well. The drills we had covered over the months leading up to the London Youth Games I and my co coach believed would provide them with chances to play well, be versatile, flexible on offence and decisive on defence. The pain of disappointment came as I realised that for some this was to be their last youth games. That their Basketball playing potential was not going to be realised that day, or any other where I were to coach them. The reminder of the story book ending slipped out of sight that afternoon. But life as always continues.
Last Chance University Season 3
2 Shows and Out
Season 3 of Last chance U has underwhelmed me. I enjoyed the first season, it offered a behind the scenes look at another coaches habits and team building capability. The Editing of the episodes watched may have miss represented Coach Brown’s input with this season’s show.
In season 2, Buddy’s past crept in and derailed his attempts at claiming inter state championship victory. A punishing disappointment that he seemed unable to let influence his decisions and mood. Coach Brown in season 3 appears to have not read the coaches charter. I find it difficult to watch his players be screamed at repeatedly with no information to guide their overall improvement. The coaching staff do not get off lightly either as they are viciously hurled abuse at. My mental health antennae have turned to on and I am starting to see Coach Brown’s ire as unsavoury and dehumanising. I had not foreseen that such poor management, poor leadership and an unstable personality type could rip a team apart as resolutely as Coach Brown’s had.
I am dismayed at the latest instalment of Last Chance U, yes it was never supposed to be as neat and as sewn up as Friday Night Lights, however I held out for something redeemable. A quality to the calibre of Coach Brown that young men were willing to put their hearts minds and bodies on the line for. Initially the spark and committment and energy was there but as pressure mounted Coach Brown started to retreat into a concentric circle pattern that had him be isolated, unlikeable and lacking connectivity. Good leadership drives hard, has unrelenting standards, knows how far to push and be pushed and then offer to those who they work with all the accolades and praise when they achieve what they are due. Marching Orders band director Donovan Wells is a great example of a person who is willing to have vision and inspire others to achieve it and not lose the respect of those he is working with. Once the likeability and the ‘I will run through that wall for you coach’ is gone, the team is lost and the game is over before it even began.
Quarter Back #1
To lead one should be willing to listen to all voices especially those that dissent. An element in disagreement may perhaps with revision could support attainment of goals desired. I feel that a good leader, coach, counsellor, mentor, should be willing to be led. Leaders cannot know all, do all or be all. At times it would be best to sit still, listen and learn.
The Hurricane members that I am still in contact with have forgiven my ire and curse words of that then. I am thankful of their resilience and patience with me. It has become a “remember when Coach Mike…”
Laughing plays an important part in dislodging, dissolving and supporting growth. I saw little laughter in last Chance U season 3, unless at the expense of Coach Brown. I am happy that I didn’t permanently damage the Coach player relationship with my team. I lost my temper and not the team.
Working in the criminal justice field for over 7 years I thought I had a good level of knowledge about supporting service users. Attending a round table discussion in January at Cookham Wood young offenders institute in Rochester changed my idea significantly. The Managing Director of Resolve Consultants invited attendees to ‘stay with the looseness’ and attempt to find solutions to end youth violence. The resilience, purpose, energy and passion of Mr Roberts is an awakening, that has inspired 2 poems that follow Pt 1…
The Other Half of Me
You are the
To my Pippen
The Mozart to a
The stable meets the mutable
The visible to
The bold brass
A Soleil brilliant
To a twinkling
The trumpet to
My breath, my
Air, my aria
To your song
The Dance – slick
To my silent Rhythm and
The key to a
Lock that is
Unwilling, unyielding to
Let loose and
Might not be
Like the shot
My time is
Made up of,
The realisation of why I became a counsellor I had thought for a long time was because of a delayed and complicated grief of my mother’s passing in 1993.
Reading the TIP guide for trauma Informed Practice training, I attended recently delivered by Eva Roussou, I recognised a fundamental interest that drew me to provide healing encounters and environments with clients. The TIP guide illustrates that trauma can be Intergenerational and Historical. When I think about my family, my sisters and I, and then the countries my parents originated from – Guyana and Ghana I am unable to think past their colonial pasts.
The Colonial Building Guyana
Both being immigrants and relocating to the UK in the early 60s, they possibly both experienced a number of personal hardships including finding accommodation, finding work, becoming British Citizens, maintaining familial links both in their new host nation and overseas. Adapting to a new culture, adjusting to different ways of seeing themselves and others like them and 1960s England, engaging with environmental hostilities and relearning that their knowledge and education from their homelands may not have prepared them for all they were to encounter in High Wycombe and then London.
I never met both of my maternal grandparents or my grandfather on my fathers side of the family. What I am vaguely aware of from both parents was that Inter-generational trauma and Historical trauma seeped into their raising of me and my sisters. Physical punishment as well as emotional distance was a part of their parenting styles.
Ghana’s 1st President National Park
Throughout the TIP training a nagging awareness kept pulling me back to a number of experiences where non trauma informed reactions from parent to child were observed. Ripping furniture, dropping bottles of Guinness as I failed to jump a wall – smashing the bottles and cutting both hands, sliding down newly carpeted stairs were all met with physical punishments. This being the 1970s, Childline was a deterrent bound to the future. This being raised on a North London housing estate with other immigrant families. Not entirely an unfamiliarity, using corporal punishment as a way to discipline children. Historical trauma? Colonial histories?
TIP invited me to think about the experiences that both parents may have had with their parents and then back to the idea of Historical trauma. Was what I and my sisters lived with a result of my Great Grandparents experience of the trauma they had encountered: families being torn apart, physical abuse, neglect, kidnapping, unexplained disappearances, negation of human qualities or feelings, disease, death, addictions? How do I make sense of these half imagined but sensed intuitions and then make use of them to support self and then others?
Listening to www.baatn.or.uk podcast on family constellations was illuminating and solution forming. I recognise that my journey is about setting things right for my children – underscoring the then and the now. Remembering that I and they are living in a different time. James Oliver invites us to be mindful that we are going to make mistakes as parents. The aim for me: impart a willingness to my 2 children, to move on and up with all the necessary parts from their collected histories. As a parent I am to be compassionate, resilient, patient and with an unending and unconditional love that supports their growth ability interdependence and independence fiercely.
Supporting communities to fish
As a therapist I am to continue adventuring the boundaries of counselling to support others.
Remaining creatively inquisitive and humorously engaged with the alchemy of change.
Fractals For as long as I can remember patterns have fascinated me. From simple designs like parquet flooring and tessellation to radial patterns of nature’s fractals, all offer a representation of our world and known universe that support understanding and for me a degree of comfort.
Splicing Media Whilst listening to Invisibilia, The Science of Success, Two Guys On Your Head podcasts and watching The Alienist Netflix show, links below, a thought struck about the need for pattern recognition. The interest for me seems to span from an aesthetic (how things look) to the psychological (how our minds interpret information). Questions arise about our need to rapidly recognise patterns and what use we then make of the recognition. The Two Guys episode does well to explain and expand on the idea.
The Invisibilia episode reviews a woman’s attempt to change her life pattern and asks if we too are able to stop and make different choices that support growth and positive outcomes for our lives.
The Science of success episode shares insights on nonverbal communication, micro expressions, and how as humans we can be better at detecting lies with columnist Vanessa Van Edwards.
The Two Guys on Your Head podcast, the doctors of psychology discuss the problems that can arise from seeing things in our minds and not just with our eyes. In essence they reference pattern matching in an artful way.
Art Meets Science The Alienist has fascinated me too, I started watching the show in late April. I find myself keenly interested primarily as the protagonists are using patterns to solve crime. The show demonstrates how forensic science and forensic psychology may have come into effect.
Forensic Science Heritage
Albeit in a fictionalised 19th Century New York. Here too a pattern seems to emerge as a stellar team of individuals search for clues and hidden meaning of their own behaviors, and of that of the person responsible for the multiple homicides. The aim of casting the search net so wide, is to understand and stop the person responsible with all accessible means at the investigators’ disposal. What also interests me is that the depiction of late 19th century New York appears to be a close representation of our modern 21st century lives.
Patterned Living The realisation that we are living amongst a number of forming and reforming of continual patterns such as algorithms has had me in a state of wonder ever since I read Eric Hoffer’s True Believer in 2008. Themes appear in all four of the media samples mentioned above which include: attraction, guilt, authority, liberty, sexism, addiction, class and passion. History has a habit of repeating itself as Eric Hoffer has suggested.
We tend to use patterns to help us recognise things as diverse as migration, seasons, crop cycles, stock and share prices, rhythm and bpm, music, clothes, travel, festivals, meals, traffic, weather, sleep and waking cycles and psychological patterns marking the stages of life we all pass through. There are a possibly a million more patterns of life that I will have missed.
Counselling Patterns As a counsellor the pattern of therapy I find, is similar to that of a story, there usually is a beginning, a middle and an end. At times the beginning and ending can happen in a single appointment. Caleb Carr’s Kreizler series I am intrigued to start reading, as it has inspired the Alienist TV series. Usually the book is read first then I watch the adaptation later. Here I am able to witness a break in my own pattern of behaviour.
Pattern Matching On a common level we interpret a number of cues to inform ourselves about our lives that include; faces, sounds, smells, tastes, all call upon our ability to make use of a range of stimuli. A face that smiles we could view as friendly, a loud screech of tyres helps us recognise that something on wheels either was braking or accelerating, pleasant aromas of food or scents could alert us to a range of pleasing experiences someone may soon have. We recognise these as a result of experiencing them before and unconsciously process and store them. Once recalled, through action or thought we pattern match and behave almost automatically, almost without thought.
Pattern recognition is a way of interpreting information to support our understanding of what is likely to occur. My fascination with simply being aware of patterns enables me to make more informed choices. To make use of the patterns mentioned what would it be like to become a detective/scientist/artist for a while, curious enough to find out the patterns that involve your life and make sense and meaning from them.
In essence I am enjoying the psychological battle unfolding in the Alienist (episode 5 at the time of writing) as the characters recognise their strengths as a team and some of their weaknesses. The attempt to solve the mystery of the serial killer is a case of playing field chess in fog.
It is a game.
It is baffling and unseen players could move pieces that inspire the win and also the loss.
As in life, the aim is to live well amongst a seemingly ever unfolding pattern.
‘As Counsellors and Mental Health professionals our role could be seen as Judge Jury and Executioner I shared with a group of Introduction to Counselling students at University of Greenwich in March’
The idea came as an afterthought to a slide which shared the below idea…
“…the psychiatrist, along with his psychiatrically orientated satellites, has now usurped the place once occupied by the social reformer and the administrator, if not indeed the judge…”
The idea that we do not judge our clients for their actions, thoughts and circumstances of their lives is mostly I believe true. However as therapists we do make assessments and with that comes some degree of judgement.
How willing are we as therapists to engage with clients and the narratives they share of their lives’? By proxy we are judging! For me the idea is an uncomfortable reality, however it undoubtedly appears as a truism. The wise, and flexible in thought Irvin Yalom in his book ‘Loves Executioner’ shared views about 10 clients he worked with. Wherein lies sometimes excruciatingly honest judgement from him about clients. For example: Penny in the chapter The Wrong One Died was so affected by her past that elements of it were forgotten. Penny’s story stood out for me primarily because her ascent was incredible.
I did however make judgements, about her realisations and towards the end of her story the surprise was tear provoking, moving and surprising as she began to accept what therapy has been able to deliver. A truth well hidden (suppressed) – once seen (recognised) and the pain associated with it had chance to be released the experience offered Penny chance to grow!
As therapists we hold a non-judgemental line with our clients, that attempts to not judge choices of clients but circumstances that they are found within. To this end we judge vicariously choices made and the set of circumstances clients find themselves in. Penny is a great example of judgement by proxy.
As Jury we sit, stand, walk and run with clients for hours, inviting them to make more informed choices about themselves. The deliberations seem never ending, the 2nd guessing, the moving ever backward, sideways, and forward before the breakthrough and release. We as therapists prepare the case, a case, our case, formulate the reasoning behind the whys of what lead circumstances to be as the client finds themselves embroiled within, and prepare, re prepare, and wait and hold and offer possible other ways of seeing a set of circumstances.
What we wait for is the lights to come on and the internal glow of re-framing, reclaiming and enlightenment. As an integrative therapist, these moments are worth the wait and the clients patience, as a testament to their resilience and outward growth. They are hard fought for – similarly in the jury’s quarters where arguments ensue, the fight and wrestle for a client is an internal and elemental battle. As therapists we enjoy the battle and the multiple defeats as I view that just further along, the small reprieves and then the striking of gold await. Leaving the jury’s quarters with a verdict whilst hard won, are so so precious.
The Final Act
Executioners execute and we do, for we let die old ideas a client holds of themselves, relationships, careers, family, money, their pasts, identity, food, love, self-esteem, weight, culture, age, sex, and country. We cease the battle once the client begins a journey anew – renewed.
Faith in self – restored, assuages the pain of growth. I have been fortunate enough to witness the act of resilience many times. This is the therapists chalice. This be the raison d’etre of why we do what we do. We resolve something with each struggle, every fight, every loss and every victory. As long as we remain true of ourselves, (congruent) to the work, to the process and to the client – we as a team ultimately win.
A brief tale of The Argentine Tangoist. I had a client a few years ago that I enjoyed working with. They were a trained psychotherapist and could share with me the approaches I was using to support them as we worked. I viewed the work like a daring dance! The dance was like none other that I had been involved with before. It was quick and slow and brief and intricate. I was lost to the spin at times as were they. The work with the Tangoist lasted just over 10 sessions and then as quickly as the work started it ended. Poof! Just like that over. It was chess of the highest order (I am a beginner) and I lost and won and was amazed by their skill. The sense of growth and loss has become a new narrative of mine. One that I have a grapefruit sensation – lingering. As executioner we too can be opened up to the unknown. Here too lies learning…
I have clients where the battle has raged for a while and then peace bursts forth once a realisation or a truth is found. Undeniably the light is perceived by the client – growing from obscurity to clarity and thus, battle weary but ready, strike new ground with renewed faith in their victory. After many years of searching as an artist, poet, basketball coach, youth worker, learning mentor: Counselling and Psychology found and claimed me.
There is something about this work I love – for it blends art with science and the unknown.
An early memory from primary school, was of drawing frequently. I loved drawing, painting, sculpting and running sprint races. I had dreams of becoming an artist. I knew nothing of art or of the art world then.
I remember sharing with my mum in year 3 that I wanted to become an artist and she in her infinite wisdom, said something along the lines of “Artists don’t make that much money.” Re-remembering this experience I’ve come to realise a few truths,
The aim of life, in my mum’s world, was to make money. I would add she was not materialistic, more a pragmatist.
Becoming an artist was a dreamer’s activity (guilty as charged – I was a dreamer, what child isn’t?), and as a result could not be for me. Our world (mine, my mothers, my sisters) was made up of hard realities.
To give context – the time I had my epiphany in year 3, was in the late 70s and money was scarce. We lived on a council estate in North London and didn’t have much. We lived on the top floor of a block of flats. Often the lifts did not work as a result of vandalism, and the council not repairing them. Aged 7 I had thoughts that I could engage in an artistic career. Earning a good living was not an issue I had previously thought much about. In my mother’s view of the world money was a constant concern.
Everywhere we could see was a panorama of concrete. Mum worked as a nurse. Dad was between two worlds. London and Ghana. He worked as a civil servant, and a representative of a Ghanaian political party. He was often away in Ghana for long periods of time. Life from my mum’s perspective was a disillusioned experience, difficult and practical. There was little space or time for the aesthetics of art and appreciations of creativity.
The conversation about becoming an artist had a profound effect on my idea of what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was to have further conversations with my mum about what I could do with drawing as a profession. We came across Architecture as a possible profession that utilized my creativity but could offer me a long and productive career. I imagined what life as an Architect would be like; Drawing buildings and spaces in a range of techniques, using different perspectives to show my vision. I knew little of the technicalities of what being an architect was, but knew that drawing was a part of what an architect did. I wanted to do that. Draw!
Fast forward to September 2016
There have been a number of experiences I’ve had over the past couple of months that have helped me to begin crystallising my identity as a counsellor. One of those experiences was watching a show called the Chef’s Table. The first episode in this series on Netflix observed a man by the name of Massimo Batturo a famous chef in Italy. I was able to witness a remarkable journey. Massimo’s transformation is so different in places to my own story. The multiple successes and failures so rich and complex that in parts his story resembles my own. So much so that I could see myself on his vibrantly filled exuberant passage . A light that I was unaware of, switched back to on for me. This illumination was a warm pleasant and welcome surprise.
Waiting for me
As I have travelled along this path of becoming a counsellor/psychotherapist I have looked for moments that could take me home, to a warm embrace from my life partner, to a large bowl of pepper soup by my elder sister, to a big A-ha moment where I recognise like in moments of de ja vu that I have been here before, or that I remember a particular profound and beautiful experience: such as witnessing a colleague break into a smile after tasting a slice of one of my home baked loaves of bread. Moments like these are not lost on me.
With Massimo I recognise the inner child and the sense of wonder at the world and all that there is in life to uncover. I feel the same way about working as a counsellor/Forensic Mental Health Practitioner for Together for Mental Wellbeing and as a visiting lecturer at Greenwich University as an experiential group facilitator. The feeling of discovery in each of these moments I will describe as like that of a prospector or an alchemist finding gold. The gold I am looking to uncover with a client or a group is their light switching to on – when they say “I can see it now!”
For Massimo hiding beneath his grandmother’s table as a boy away from his brothers teasing. Watching her cook and learning from her, started for him a journey of innovation within the field of cookery and chef mastery that honed his craft like few others before him: his gold. Chef’s table observed his travels and uncovered his passions, the struggles and how things began to coalesce in his life once he returned to Modena. Happy accidents like dropping a lemon tart started in him a journey of exploration-to find the thing! (My words not his). The ultimate, the zenith in his mastery of cooking experience.
Massimo and Lara Gilmore visited art galleries in New York at which Massimo was indifferent to. He made me laugh as he described the pigeon piece which in one moment an installation changed Massimo’s idea of himself, arts and his life’s work.
Completing my G.C.S.E.s and leaving secondary school I went to an art college in Wisbech. I attended with the view of completing a spatial design BTEC course. My view of becoming an artist had changed to that of becoming an Interior Designer. My wish to become an architect changed as a result of a conversation with my secondary school’s careers advice service. The conversation observed my lack of mathematical skill that would be necessary for becoming an architect. The careers person also observed that I was good with my hands (even though they had not seen me in Design Technology). Becoming a carpenter would be an equally rewarding career. This conversation disillusioned me further and invited me to think in terms of achievable goals. My final shift of career paths was to become an interior designer.
This from a boy who grew up on a ziggurat in North London. Attending art college was fantastic. It brought me into contact with new ideas, a wider group of artistic people, art history, photography, set design and a new appreciation to design in my life.
I knew little of the arts before I attended Isle college. I was invited to think about composition, texture, light, colour, depiction, balance, true representation, balance, organisation and frame. I developed an affinity for landscapes and fell head over heels for J.M.W. Turner’s work my favourite piece being the fighting Temeraire.
I believe my trajectory on this psycho-therapeutic path has been pointing me to a distant experience: Art. Massimo helped me arrive at this realisation. I had wondered when and if this moment would ever arrive.
I feel that the next part of my journey is already unfolding in unpredictable and thought provoking ways: Walk and Talk Therapy, Baking Therapy, Basketball Therapy. Often the work of a counsellor/psychotherapist bursts with so much life, complexity, colour and difficult experiences clients share. The effect of which can be fractious jarring and uncomfortable. The work can also be heart-warming, hilarious and humbling.
By viewing my work with clients as a canvas that is an ever changing palette of colour and texture I feel that I am closing the gap between where I am within the profession of psychoanalytic thought and my original goal of becoming an artist. The work then is a compositional piece that lives, breathes and carries itself forward in new and exciting ways long after we have stopped working together, with it’s many layers and qualities continuing to develop, separate, coalesce and define the self. I am attracted to the living art of working in a way that explores the unimaginable, bravely and without compromise.
The prospect of living and working as an integrative therapist holding an idea of myself as an artist could be seen as a threat to what came before, however I am witnessing a sense of discovery to approaching my work as a collaborator to a human canvas that is ever changing.