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

Perhaps

Swimming In
At a local swimming pool another one of my random thoughts struck.

On your marks…
The thought centred on knowing about something before the experience arrives. Almost prescient to an event and being ready when it happens. Does having information early provide either comfort or terror?

Unsuspecting
The event that brought me to my thought was, a boy of about 16/17 who stumbled out of a swimming pool near to my family and me. He walked with difficulty to the poolside near to us and appeared to slump onto his back. The incident happened quietly and quickly at a packed Lido. He began twitching and both of his hands curled into fists with his thumbs pinned inside his hands.

Busy Calm
I wondered what could be happening. The boy appeared calm in voice as he explained to his friend to get help. A life guard arrived moments later and radioed for senior management. The pool was packed and the life guard’s attention seemed split into a number of other directions.

Speed
Management sped over to the prostrate young man and after a few questions with him, called 999. Over the phone instructions were offered to calm and reassure the young man. Within 15 minutes a paramedic arrived and took over. I wondered again about what the boy was experiencing and was transported back to lying on my back on sports day after running my heart out. This was June 1990. I had just completed a 200m final sprint, came 2nd and was to compete in a triple jump event for my class team.

The RACE
Before the 200m I had successfully contested and run against, the school’s favourite and won against him in the 1500m. Back then, something unexplainable was going on and my body was failing me. This was before my 2011 diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. I wanted to get up, run and compete again. 3 events in one day I knew I could do it, but my 16 year old pre-diagnosed body had other ideas.

Primary Attack
I lay prone and incapable of moving for at least 30-40 minutes, on a beautiful summers day, on a school field in Cambridgeshire. A number of people mostly fellow pupils showed concern and asked if they could help. At which I said “No, I’m alright”. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, and was too embarrassed at feeling so weak and powerless to accept help.

AHA!
This then was my first glaring incident of a relapse. It sucked! I can still hear my fear anger and anguished thoughts ricochet around my head. “But this shouldn’t be happening to me? What about my team? I’m not helping us win! What’s going on? What the hell is this?! What’s wrong with me?”

Forewarned
My thoughts wander back to the boy. At this side of the pool lying on his side, pronounced as needing support and not knowing what this mysterious illness is. Perhaps it is or is not MS. Perhaps it is another debilitating auto immune disease that like a thief, a picket pocket, appears disappears and removes slowly, imperceptibly, all that is held dear.

Bliss
Maybe it is better not to know and live with no to little knowledge about a challenging future that could be ahead. Managing an illness that disrupts brain to body connections and renders the sentient being housed in said body mute, captive, ignorant and helpless.

Charlton Lido

Quiet
I remained silent and said nothing. Reluctant at handing to this young man an idea of a future that is largely an uncomfortable unknown – a morass of uncertainty and discomfort. Perhaps it is best I look on and hope that his mysterious twitching and collapse is something more explained like blood sugar levels or early onset type 1 diabetes – rather than an auto immune disease.

Autonomy
I lived for 20 years with a certainty that I was as healthy and as physically and mentally able as I was supposed to be. I would not want to rob another of a chance to live for better or worse in the knowledge that life as they knew it was irrevocably altered and that new designs were to be placed. A life pattern redrawn. At 16 the news might be impossible to digest.

What would you have done?

Resources
Everything is alive Chioke Grain of Sand.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Blueprint for Armageddon III