Why Therapy, Why Me?

Angel Falls and Therapy Choosing me

Therapy Why Me? Angel Falls

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.

Recolonization

An Historical Past

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.

Guinness Seeping

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 Kwame Nkruma Mausoleum Park

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?

Opaque past

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?

Fierce

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.

Alchemy

Why Me Why Therapy - Providing knowledge to feed generations

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.

Talking Therapy as Hip Hop

Power in Poetry

Music Therapy

My life partner CW happened to say a profound statement as we watched The Defiant Ones. She said ‘Rap is talking therapy.’ I was struck by the fundamental truth of her statement and tried not to confuse or complicate it.

Gutter Rainbows seeing the beauty in the everyday

Beauty in the everyday – Gutter Rainbows

Continuum

I wanted to write this blog as a bridge to offer a larger idea. Pulling current protagonists and icons of Hip Hop culture, and also pooling disparate experiences of music and psychology along onto a continuum. From the Podcast Code Switch, Jean and Shereen often ask ‘What song is giving you life?’ I thank them for the saying and the idea. My answer…

Analogy

To Pimp a Butterfly ends with a prophetic poem that depicts the human struggle in, Mortal Man. I grew emotional whilst listening. Possibly due to the idea shared above with thanks CW…

To: Kendrick Lamar – I witness your genius and the power in your words.

‘Damn
I wanted to read one last thing to you
It’s actually something a good friend had wrote describing my world
It says…

“The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it

A Cocoon hiding potential

The Cocoon from To Pimp A Butterfly

Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak
And figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city
The caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas start to take roots
Such as going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations
That the caterpillar never considered, ending the eternal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different
They are one and the same”

Metamorphasis

The beauty of the poem is the perception of a human reality seen through the changing experience of a creature that begins life in one form and earth bound and yet ends life in another and is benefitted by flight.

As analogy the three stages of growth brings to mind crime prison and freedom, infancy life and death. The analogy may arise due to the 8 years I have supported people involved with the criminal justice system in the UK.

Podcasts like Criminal, Ear Hustle, Burner Phone Podcast, books such as Are Prisons Obsolete, The Lucifer Effect, True Believer and documentaries such as the 13th, Teach Us All and Zeitgeist have increased my curiosity and want to develop solutions to the disparity between caterpillars and butterflies.Purple Butterfly

Interview List

There exists a long list of people I would love to interview on behalf of the Counsellors Cafe Magazine (TCCM)

3 Hip Hop Artists that top my list are Dr Dre, Kendrick Lamar and Logic. The former and the latter have been featured in 2 Netflix shows titled The Defiant Ones and Rapture. Both artists convey in rhyme and through living – the joy and pain of life and unparalleled successes.

Dr Dre’s experiences of betrayal loss and meteoric success has been artfully portrayed in the 4 part documentary The Defiant Ones. The hidden pain in his visage is as palpable as his iconic headphones and influence on the music scene.

Logic was an unknown for me, however his story is not only incredible and inspiring and captivating but also immediately recognisable. His idea of breaking psychological concepts down into songs that encapsulate a swathe of people across the US, clarifies his genius. The song 1-800 and the slogan EVERYBODY worn on hoodies, is about you me and everyone that we know. His message is beyond insightful. It takes us to sheer brilliance and has rightfully endeared him to millions.

Giving Life

To answer Shereen and Gene from above: a few years ago Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talmbout was THE SONG! What the hell you talking about (IVERSON) put the feeling of the unlawful killing of African-Americans by the hands of law enforcement into a visual and auditory format that is powerful and justified. Right now the song giving me life is Robert Glasper’s Maiden Voyage/Everything in it’s right place that is giving me life.

Kendrick happens to be for me an outlier, a Nubian poet powerhouse who’s instep with the universe is perfectly poised. The poem above is from the album to Pimp a Butterfly. The aim would be for the interviews to enrich the known world with their visions, their story to support the many caterpillars encased in their cocoons to emerge…

That Thing You Seek.

Zen 1

I finally visited Zenubian on Hither Green Lane after many years living in Lee and had an experience that I had not thought I would ever encounter. Peace.

A slowly widening appreciation of a still, quiet, that seems hard to find in our busy 21st century lives.

I have been researching a counselling space, to begin working outside of my home office. I had contacted Zenubian in April to enquire about a counselling space, and was invited to see their therapy rooms. Later I had chance to look at some of the other venues that they have. Zenubian is a shop selling art, wall hangings and other intricate objects to decorate your home, your office, or a meeting venue with.

Blown Out

Have you heard of the term Burn-Out before? I believed it to be likened to a unicorn sighting, something I would not experience. I first heard the term used after becoming a learning mentor as a helping professional in 2004. The term burn-out is used as warning to those who stretch themselves beyond their limit and still attempt to bridge the gap impossible. It describes someone who has gone out like a flame on a match – leaving a used up embodiment of lost potential.

The Denial

I am not keen to say that I have burnt out, been singed – definitely. I am able to recognise that I have been doing too much. Lecturing, counselling, supervising, and working a full-time job. I have had some of these roles for over three years. I had not appreciated how physically, emotionally and mentally demanding they all are. I went from a human being to a human doing. I was unwilling to bear witness of the fact that I was pushing and pulling and stretching myself beyond my limits. I lay the denial at the feet of my illness. MS the 2011 diagnosis that continues to offer a number of distasteful morsels in haphazard and uncoordinated fashion. I have been unwilling to admit defeat or disability and have attempted to be an Uberman.

End Game

After watching the beautiful and heart wrenching film End Game a thought struck me. The thought arrived as a Dr who had lost both of his legs (below the knee) and an arm (above the elbow) after an accident said something for me that was life changing and life affirming. B. J. Miller MD “When I stopped comparing my new body to my old body… .”

In essence the who I became after the diagnosis was attempting to replace the who I thought I should be now. I have been chasing after him ever since – an illusion.

Energy

Walking into the communal space at Zenubian was strangely familiar, almost like walking around Georgetown Guyana in 2004 (a family reunion), or visiting Harlem in 1995 and hearing Dick Gregory speak, laughing along with men and women that looked like me at the community centre there, or attending BAATNs conferences and most recently watching the Black Panther movie.

The communal space at Zenubian was for me like a celebration, a collection a concentration of energy. The space had wooden floors, brick walls displaying wonderful art, a ceiling. However the vibe of the space offered something unique to me. The space offered peace, it settled me like not many other experiences have recently, that thing that I did not know I was looking for.

As an aside I have been working with a supervisor for 4 years, and he has been my largest supporter of my blending psychoanalysis, psychosynthesis and sensate experiences. As a result of his tutelage and generous supervision skills I have engaged with knowledge that is embodied, that has supported learning about life as both construct and illusion. Trusting more an innate awareness.

Peace is

I have struggled with the idea of peace for a long time. Some suggest that we must fight to attain peace. That it is the human condition to struggle and wrestle with ourselves and others. It appears that even inside oneself we are not at peace. The battles, the wars, the conflict that we encounter on a daily basis between ideas of right and wrong, the ideas of good and bad, even uncomfortable truths to a number of our human experiences have us not at peace.

Zen 2Walking in to the communal space at Zenubian was like a revelation. It was the thing that I had not sought. Chris Voss would class this the Black Swan of a negotiation. I had not recognised I had been negotiating with myself for as long as seven years!

For me the communal space at Zenubian was a place I could allow my spirit release – that felt peaceful, relaxing, comforting, and unusual – as it is for me so precious an experience. I get it now B. J.

There are moments in meditation when a sense of peace arises – where everything is as it ought to be. These moments are rare and yet what happens after the many hours, days, months and years of practice feels justified like repayment for the effort.

We arrive there. We come to, a place – at rest.

Home.

Chris Voss’s Tactical Empathy and Peter Singer’s Effective Altruism team up

blue-masque-2.jpg

Flow state thinking

An interesting blending experience happened after I listened to two of my favourite podcastsPhilosophy Bites and Pod Save the World. One was the thought that both ideas appeared similar and could be done to support those who through no fault of their own are facing unsurmountable challenges. The other was is there something here about listening for the solution in a way that supports a peaceful outcome. Tactical Empathy merged with Effective altruism…

A definition of both Tactical Empathy and Affective Altruism follow.

There are plenty of ways to get what you want in a negotiation — kicking and screaming, threats, and bribery among them. But perhaps the most effective strategy is one that’s pretty counterintuitive: Focus on what the other person wants instead – Chris Voss Author of Never Split the Difference.

Or  “Tactical Empathy” is the ability to share someone else’s feelings while executing a specific plan to achieve a particular goal. LEO Hearted T-shirts

Affective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to benefit others. Effective altruism encourages individuals to consider all causes and actions and to act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact, based upon their values. Wikepedia

Blending

The first podcast is a 15-20 minute show discussing our responses to those in need with Larry Temkin on Philosophy bites. The second is an incredible story of a reporter Arwa Damon who was under siege in Mosul for 28 hours, her rescuers bravery and her desire to support Syrian refugees.

I had the chance to listen to both podcasts within a few days of each other and arrived at a similar point. Both podcasts discuss: tribalism, humanity, decision making and a desire to better understand choice that affect us the individual and the choices we make/could make that effect humanity.

Choice with Others in Mind

Interestingly the ideas of tactical empathy and effective altruism were discussed by both Larry and Arwa. For Larry there was the experience of appropriately understanding choice and making decisions that ultimately serve the greater good. One could look and feel bad for a period but the delay to look after a larger number of people is the better outcome for the many.

The idea of effective altruism or tactical empathy is a challenge to our sensibilities, compassion, recognition of the plight of fellow humans. There are a number of stories Larry Temkin discusses throughout the podcast that nudge a few uncomfortable ideas towards our awareness. The $5,000 watch and the drowning child was particularly distressing and also informing.

Links to Social Responsibility

Previously I wrote about the School to Prison Production Line. The need for interrupters to change the direction, influence and flow of the components that can produce those that make up a forensic population taps into the idea of tactical empathy and effective altruism. By putting the needs of a disaffected displaced over represented group of peoples alongside our own, perhaps even before, then significant derailment of the production line can and will occur.

For Arwa the understanding I arrived at was a sense of compassion that even though one might live in an area affected by conflict, war, and civil unrest. Life is still lived. A birthday is still celebrated, a new visitor treated like a very welcome guest. Arwa’s description of her experiences with the people that were able to offer her a safe place to hide from threat of capture and death are ‘clutch’ moments. If we were to apply tactical empathy and a degree of critical thinking to Arwa’s story we would note that her job was to collect a story. The story became about her survival.

Tactical empathy – effective altruism. Two concepts that are in mind as a continuum. Arwa setting up a foundation recognises that her efforts to raise awareness and create change for the many she had to organise her thoughts and other people to offer more. The Return to Mosul documentary and frying an egg appear as a reminder of humans caring about other humans.

The Call

The aim here then, could be to encourage critical thinking, being aware of our altruistic natures and when necessary use tactical empathy to listen and create change for self and others.

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/4/8/a/48a779ee34e742f3/Larry_Temkin_on_The_Obligations_to_the_Needy.mp3?c_id=20122623&expiration=1524205451&hwt=73d3eb9c2a810f74954eaf8cd6b13f30

https://crooked.com/podcast/turkey-and-28-hours-pinned-down-by-isis-with-arwa-damon-2/

Deliciously Displayed Information – Podcasts

Growing up the radio was a constant source of information and music Radio 4, Radio 2 and Capital Radio were usually the go to favourites of the household. Moving to Peterborough in the mid 80’s that changed to Hereward Radio. What follows is a brief overview of the podcasts that have brought music, information, entertainment, humour, ideas, and education to my hungry ears. Podcasts are like audio jewels presenting content in digestible chunks like mini books.

My aim with this blog entry is to entice you, the reader, to try a few of them if you haven’t  already. If you like what you hear, drop me a line and the podcasts know your thoughts. This can be done either at their website main pages or at their itunes/soundcloud pages. A brief summary of how I came across each show and what the podcasts are about follows. I did not know what a podcast was when given an iPod Touch for a Christmas present in 2006. I began investigating what they were and how I could get my ears onto some of them. iTunes was a great source for listing what the world was listening to.

Those that I listened to initially seeking humour, satire and information included Answer Me This, Russell Brand, Dave Gorman, and then

This American Life thisamlife

The first show I listened to back in 2006 captivated me for a number of reasons. The stories that were told were human, raw, spellbinding and real. The content seemed refreshing and asked questions of the listener and of the protagonist(s) that the parts of the story discussed. Ira Glass introduces many of the shows which have headings like: The Perils of Intimacy, Getting away with it, and Infidelity and many many, more. Ira has an inquisitive yet authoritarian style of delivery when crafting each show. It’s like he has a secret box which he is inviting you the listener to peer inside. The fact that he has the box I have never questioned, nor the fact that it’s wonders he is happy to share…

The Moth Podcast the-moth

Was the 2nd Podcast show that I downloaded and got into. After one show finished I began rabidly searching for the next! The shows are captivating and have the ability to stay with you for a while. The premise of stories told without notes at first was simply an unbelieveable concept, but as I have continued to listen I have not heard papers rustle or been aware of teleprompters and so am accepting of the tag line.

As a former performance poet, it is possible to hold a group of people in sway for up to 10 minutes if the delivery offers the audience a fullness that cannot be experienced elsewhere.

My favourite story is a tale of attending a Baseball game: Look out for ‘Where’s Murphy’ There is something rich endearing and poignant in this and many of the stories I have heard over the past 10 years. There are moments whilst riding various forms of public transport I have laughed out loud or fought back tears and even let them fall when feeling ‘devil may care’. Sometimes the feelings the stories evoke are too much to hold.

Black Girls Talking

I have had the pleasure of listening to Alesia, Ramou, Fatima and Aurelia for a few years now. My search for black podcasts back in 2012 was frustrated in that I could not find many. Stumbling across Black Girls Talking podcast was a fortunate happening. I had tried to get into the black guy who tips but found the content and delivery laborsome. I enjoy the women’s conversational sharing of views on; culture, beauty, ethics, race, feminism and a Black American Women’s perspective about the world.bgt-banner

Their delivery is quick witted, intelligent, funny, and enjoyable. I grew up with 3 sisters and can understand other perspectives that are dissimilar from my own. The beauty information BGT discuss, I find useful, not for self application but to be aware of concerns from a Black woman’s point of view. As a result of the BGT podcasts I was intrigued to watch Magic Mike. Which I enjoyed and I did not think I would. BGT discussed the 2nd Magic Mike film but I wanted to see what they were comparing the newer version against. BGT nailed the psychological elements of the 1st MM film and so when I eventually watch the 2nd film I will watch in anticipation of what BGT highlighted.

Blanguage blanguage

I was introduced to this show as a result of BGT. Who ran an additional show on other shows in the podcast universe that might be of interest to listeners of BGT. Both Iman Xashi and Daniel Arthur offer listeners many things to think about from a Black British perspective. I enjoy both presenter’s energy, shared perspectives on topics relevant to the black diaspora and that they do not always agree. Which is a point of interest in hearing 2 presenters voluminously discuss their points.

Melanin Millennials melanin-mille-podcast-image

I was invited to listen to Melanin Millennials by a friend who was to be interviewed by the duo in March 2016. Satia and Imrie discuss a number of topics from a Black Female Londoners perspective each week in a humorous and insightful manner. The Millennial concept is an interesting one for the show. Arriving in the 21st century has presented a number of different understandings about the world in which we inhabit. The Internet has grown to be a phenomena unprecedented in terms of it’s reach and how it shapes the world. Aspects of intersectionality are discussed which for me offers another perspective. The show is topical fast paced, pulls no punches and offers listeners an insight to two unique perspectives about the multifaceted complex and wondrous world in which we live.

Invisibilia

Another NPR show lead me to discover Invisibilia, was Hidden Brain. There have been 2 Seasons of excellent story coverage, investigative reportage and quirks of human nature have hooked me to this podcast. Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel have entertained and provided an informative format to see behind the Wizard of Oz curtain and ponder on the inner workings of our minds and the world around us. The Personality Myth, The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes, Frame of Reference are great shows. The Flip The Script episode has remained a stand out show. The presenters have gone to great lengths to review stories that are immediately interesting and the idea behind flipping the script was that non complimentary behaviour can save lives. I look forward to the 3rd Season.

Code Switchcode-switch

Gene Denby, Shereen Marisol Maraji, Kat Chow, Adrian Florido, Karen Grigsby Bates discuss and share views on race and culture experienced in the US. Code Switch for me was found as another introduction by Hidden Brain. I have understood Code Switch as rapidly changing between various forms of speech modulation in various social interactions as a necessary function of being a person living in an ever changing world. Code Switch go much much farther to explore the intersectionality of race. From President Obama to the murder of Alton Sterling and A Letter From Young Asian-Americans To Their Families About Black Lives Matter. This episode is very touching and catapults the idea about the relevance of socially constructed boundaries and how useful and useless they are. The Podcast does not hide from difficult material, does not portend to answer the multifarious questions that exist about race in America. I enjoy the multifaceted experiences of the presenters, their nuanced understandings of being ‘othered’ in America and what they foresee happening in the era of Donald Trump’s presidency and the impact he is already having at all levels of American lives and the rest of World.

Serialserial

Serial was introduced to me by D who now has a podcast that I avidly listen to Broad Waters.

Season 1 of Serial is about the story of a 17 year old boy who is convicted of killing his girlfriend. The point of interest is Adnan Syed currently sits in jail and may or may not have taken her life. The 12 episodes cover in detail, aspects of the case of Adnan Syed and whether he may be the wrong person sentenced for Lee’s murder. The telling of this story is rich, complex and captivating. If there were time I would go back and listen to the show again.

Season 2 is an emotional piece covering a DUSTWUN of a soldier leaving his post, being captured by the Taliban, held hostage for a number of years, the political football his case becomes, his escape and eventual return to the US, and the public scorn he faced as an infamous returnee. Season 2 is a phenomenal story that uncovers a number of important elements about the US military’s efforts to find Bowe Berghdal, errors in judgement that may or may not have lead to fatalities of colleagues of Bowe’s, and some small successes. There was little coverage in the UK on this case but Serial are able to clarify and raise the importance of the story.

The Infinite Monkey Cage timc

Stumbling across this podcast was a revelation 6 years ago and has continued to amaze me. Robin Ince and Professor Brian Cox masterfully interweave quantum theory and physics with humour in comparison to just about everything else on the planet. I look forward to each show like I used to look forward to the Christmas Lectures on Channel 4 as a year end learning experience.

The Infinite Monkey Cage invites 2-3 guests from within a particular scientific field and a comedian to discuss the topic at hand. The comedy arises from the ludicrousness of scientific thought in that it too can be imaginative. Robin Ince also parodies Brian Cox which is often humorous and offers the listener an opportunity to reflect on the often complex information. An article I hope they discuss in the future is http://www.theearthchild.co.za/quantum-theory-consciousnessmoves-to-another-universe-after-death/

The TED Radio Hourted-radio-hour

Technology Entertainment Design is what TED stands for. The podcast is a treasure trove of ideas, impassioned story-telling and innovative ways of overcoming adversity. Every episode centres on a theme, and the presenter Guy Raz interviews each TED talker. In each interview Guy is able to dig deeper into each story and offer the listener to gain a fuller understanding behind each talk. As a Counsellor I enjoyed hearing The Act of Listening which explored what happens to the person who listens to the other. Other episodes that caught my imagination have been The Power of Design, Nudge, What Makes Us -Us, Shifting Time, Why We Lie and Extra Sensory. If I were to be honest, all shows present something unique and interesting from a wide range of human experiences.

Philosophy Bitesphilo-bites

Thinking is a past time that many people are engaged with daily. Finding a podcast that delved into philosophers from all over the world was a fascinating find as it brought ideas that I had barely thought about or vaguely heard. What is a Woman, Stocism and African Philosophers were spellbinding editions to the long list of interviews with philosophical teachers. The enjoyment gained from listening to new ideas is the feel of the mind being stretched into a nuanced awareness that impacts the way I interact with the world. After hearing different, interesting and astounding information my thoughts are nudged in new directions. This is what learning could be about – being okay with not knowing everything and humbling oneself before insightful ideas.

Piano Jazz Shortspiano-jazz

Mariane McPartland was a famous Jazz Pianist. She is joined by guests from around the Jazz world to play popular favourites and little known pieces. The show is a teaser for a longer show and the show both disappoints and thrills due to it’s 15-20 minute length. Sarah Vaughan, Nora Jones, Grover Washington Jnr and Patti Wickes all share interesting annecdotes and music with Mariane. I have enjoyed the interviews and the music played albeit for the short time the show is on for.

Satellite Coaching Loungesatellite-ife-coaching

Is dissimilar to other podcasts that interview and discuss with clients matters of import. Rebecca Gordon is able to dive in to the heart of the person being interviewed to access deep reflective personal stories that affected them, created change for themselves and others and as a listener invites an opportunity to look inward and identify what could be worked on next. Look out for interviews with Dr Shani, Joy Langley and Andrew McDonald all who share their vision, experience in the particular field of work and offer insightful reflection for the listener to begin reviewing where change could be applied to their lives. Listen with a journal so notes can be taken and applied, or discussion points raised with others.

Hidden Braininvisible-brain

Shankar Vedantam hosts a show about the inner workings of human psychology. What drew me to the show was Shankar’s youthful enthusiasm for the subject being discussed. Another feature I really enjoy about Hidden Brain is Shankar and Daniel Pink hosting stopwatch science. Which uncovers in four minutes a gigantic amount of information in a fun and engaging way. There are many things that could be learned as a result of listening to the show one example of which looked at the scientific process which could be viewed as flawed. In that no two scientific experiments produce a similar result under test conditions in different times or different places. Another episode looked at musical Savant syndrome and how Derek Amato became musically gifted after an accident. Invisible Brain presents useful information in a way that invites gentle questioning of the world in which we inhabit.

Microphone Checkmic-check

Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kellie host a music show in relation to the development and nuance of the art form that is Hip Hop. Ali is a member of a Tribe Called Quest and Frannie is a Hip Hop journalist. The two blend knowledge about the subject, enthusiasm and great interviews offering insightful reflections for listeners. I began listening to the show as a result of Hidden Brain’s Shankar Vidantum mentioning Microphone Check as a worthwhile show to check out. Look out for Saul Williams discussing David Bowie and Martyr Loser King. A concept that has inspired Art, Music and a Book. With the respect built as a result of listening to one show I trusted Shankar’s advice and downloaded Microphone Check and have enjoyed every episode ever since.

The Science of Successscience-of-success

Matt Bodnar has crafted a worthy list of great podcasts filled with content that has the ability to entertain and make significant impact to a listeners way of being. From the intro tune through to Matt’s opener about the show and the ideas he will be presenting the learning opportunity is made apparent. The enthusiasm with which Matt shares information and the fact that he is well versed in what he has gleaned from thinkers, orators and current entrepreneurs opens a window to accessing something useful with every podcast. 3 stand out shows for me were with Rory Vaden, Vishen Likihani and Mark Manson. All discussing shifts in thinking that lead to big results for an individual.

Broad Watersbroad-waters

I had an idea a few years ago about listening to a show with 3-4 black men from the UK discussing topics that mattered to them. Finally the show exists! The 3 men, Q, D, and Ruze immerse themselves with difficult, challenging and thought provoking ideas. Look out for United States of Trump which discusses in a humorous and inspiring way US UK and European politics and how the shape of the political landscape will create change for many of the world’s citizens. Broad Waters termed after the North London Housing estate in Tottenham is a delight to listen to as the men are willing to engage with complex material and argue a point to near exhaustion in an intelligent and engaging way. If the 3 men were to have a live event I would book a front row seat.

Fighting Talkfighting-talk

Has been a long standing show that I have listened to. I began listening 5 years ago for the humour and folly of the contestants and presenters. Fighting talk is a show about sport that has 4 enthusiasts answering questions that the host presents to them. They are scored for their answers given which accumulates to the grand finale. Two of the highest awarded contestants get to fight it out by presenting an argument that the host dreams up at the end of the show. The question is called defend the indefensible and the answers by contestants have to be completed in 20 seconds. I can only imagine how uncomfortable the person being asked to speak on a topic that is against their principles may feel, and be on record for sharing! It would be like asking an esteemed psychoanalyst to refute the importance of Freud or Jung’s ideas. Colin Murray is by far the best person for the job, as he is a phenomenally impassioned sports commentator and guests appear to work well with his quick delivery and caustic remarks. If sport from a UK perspective interests you alongside comedy then Fighting Talk could be a good choice for entertainment on the commute to work.

The Black and Asian Therapist Network Podcast baatn

I would be remiss to not mention BAATN’s podcast which ran for a few years and that I sorely hope returns. As a member of BAATN, I was intrigued to find out about more of the training that BAATN has been involved with over the past few years. Eugene Ellis has an open and smooth way to introduce and discuss topics such as A Critique of the Diversity Movement, Attachment Theory and Working with Black Families, Transcending Intergenerational Trauma and Creating Partnerships with Training Organisations: Let’s Talk about Race. There is a curiosity to the podcasts and a willingness to share the journey thus far and how much farther there is still to travel. I look forward to the show’s return.

Moral Maze moral-maze

D from Broad Waters introduced me to Moral Maze. The podcast introduces to the debaters on the show a challenging idea such as A World Without Down Syndrome or Moral Imagination and Migration and interviews panellists that discuss their ideas with the debaters who then ask questions in relation to the moral position of the idea and how this then affects the individual, and the world. The first few episodes took some getting used to. The format, arguments and caustic questioning jarred my sensibilities. I got used to the rapid display of information in 4 episodes. The argument often gets heated and lost in intellectualisms. However what can be found as a result of the multiple presentation of ideas are thoughtful flexible understandings of competing associations with what is morally right or wrong. A stand out episode was Legalising Drugs which was a thoroughly engaged piece of reportage as the guests debated from all sides of the argument. Johann Hari was a phenomenally astute respectful and very listenable guest on the Legalising Drugs episode.

Alternative Introduction

In the last 10 years the industry of Podcasting has grown. I have gained a wealth of knowledge as a result and most of the information I can access share, think on and internally make use of. For me it’s about the refraction of the depth of the information gained, which is ever changing. The aim would be to develop the information from the podcasts into units of use for self and others. Listen to and Watch this space…

Oscar Grant III – Marcus Isaiah – Viktor Frankl

FRUITVALE

MICHAEL B. JORDAN stars in FRUITVALE

Recently I watched Fruitvale Station the movie (June 24th 2016). A few of my friends Gromyko Dumuje and Thomas Keenan mentioned the story a few years ago, and how it invited them to feel, sad, angry, disappointed and frustrated. I had held back on watching the movie because I was not looking forward to experiencing some of the identified feelings myself.

In short, I was surprised that I was swept away by how I felt in relation to how Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of a young man who was attempting to turn his life around and how his efforts were ultimately halted. I came across Michael B Jordan in the film: Chronicle and was spell bound by his relaxed affable nature in the movie. The next notable appearance of Jordan for me was in season four of Friday Night Lights. I am to write a piece on the effect that Friday Night Lights had on me. B. Jordan’s acting was notable as Vince the quarter-back. His human struggle were immediately identifiable and I applauded his successes and bemoaned his disappointments and failures.

I had not realised that he also was a character in The Wire called Wallace. There is much I had forgotten about the Wire apart from Season 4. The story of the group of young men whose lives all went in various surprising directions. The Wire was the ultimate experience of creating a TV script that leapt out from the screen and stole hearts. Season four of the Wire was the first time I came across the term Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Which could be a pre experience of personality disorder in teens. Treme was the next TV show that held me in it’s rhythmical and complex sway. Friday Night Lights (FNL) has been the latest story to fully captivate me. The story telling and character portrayal are movie calibre in quality, complexity and delivery.

Oscar – Marcus

Getting back to Fruitvale and what touched me about the story, was me recognising the similarity of Oscar Grant’s story and a young man I worked with in a London Prison. Marcus Isaiah (Not the man’s real name) was a 25 year old black male who grew up in London but was from another city in England.

Marcus Isaiah

Marcus was a footballer and enjoyed playing football (Soccer). At the age of 12/13 he was scouted by a large London football club and placed on their player pathway to access good coaching, regular football games, nutrition advice, support with homework and possible pathways to playing with a premiership team.

I met Marcus in my 2nd year at the London Prison I volunteered at 2011-2012. At the assessment meeting Marcus stated that he did not want any psychological help and that he was fine as things were. He had recently been in a fight with another male who had since been moved to another house-block. He was shaken, and visibly stirred by the event. Marcus appeared to be trying to adjust to life in the prison, and also to the fact he had been in a physical altercation with another and that his life at our point of meeting appeared bleak. I agreed to not ‘therapize’ Marcus and check in on him within a week.

Pausing to reset

The decision to pause support and give chance for Marcus to re-evaluate if the support was needed was useful. When I returned and checked in with Marcus, he appeared a little more settled and ready to begin in some therapeutic engagement. He expressed that he was feeling stressed and that talking with someone about it, he may find useful. It is possible that being non-committal offers possible clients engaging in therapy, an out if the therapy does not resolve the identified concerns. They then can say that therapy didn’t work and will not allow themselves to be too disappointed with the end result. We agreed to meet for 6 weeks with the possibility of review and extension if necessary of more sessions.

The lull of the street

Marcus described how he had been taken into custody and of elements of his past. He talked about his footballing career. At the age of 15 being a difficult time to negotiate the draw of the street or playing football. The tension to maintain both due to relationships away from the football pitch Marcus found impossible.

Invitations to chill with friends and associates, and be into what they were into, he acquiesced to. He shared during a therapy meeting that a choice to follow friends ultimately was his largest mistake. He started not attending football practice, talking back to his coaches when he did attend, and his football playing suffering as a result. The people he was around were into moving drugs and also smoking weed. Marcus had also started to use and found that football was less appealing than being around friends and associates and making fast and easy money. Football appeared to be the longer route to gaining the success he felt owed to him.

Background to Marcus

Marcus grew up in a single parent household. He lived with his sister and a parent. The pressures of living in London and witnessing how hard his parent was working to make a hard life liveable appeared to make his decision to make money quickly more appealing than staying in school and attending to his football career. Marcus had a number of negative experiences with Police which could have been viewed as a wake-up call which he was unwilling to answer. The excitement of one game appeared to have been replaced by the thrill and risk in another.

Choice

Similarly to Oscar (Fruitvale) who appeared to have come to a realisation on his own and had tried to turn the corner on his past. Marcus was aware that the former life he had lead was over. Marcus talked about how he would like to be when he was released. He thought about the people he had been spending time with in the last few years. Not one of these friends/associates had visited him in prison. Moving cannabis and weed and getting paid, Marcus now thought was not worth the risk for himself and for those he was connected to including his parent and his sister.

Self Iso’

During our 3rd meeting Marcus described in a poignant and charged way that he had stopped his girlfriend from coming to see him. He was not sending out any more VOs (Visiting Orders) making it almost impossible for her to schedule a visit. His intention was to end their relationship and sit out the time he had left in prison by himself. His parent and sister were also vetoed from attending the prison.

Marcus appeared to be self-isolating in order to minimise the impact of not being able to live with those he cared about. I have witnessed this act a number of times and the consequences of self isolation were short lived and did not deliver the desired effect of stopping the anxiety and reducing the sense of stress in relation to thinking about those who remain in the community.

The Charge

We discussed the reality of what he was facing and what this may mean for the people in his life. Marcus was being held on suspicion of carrying a firearm with intent, possession of illegal substances with intent to supply and driving offences. If found guilty Marcus was facing 2-6 years of life in prison. Marcus maintained his innocence and shared the story of how he was caught by the Police. The arrest sounded painful, provoking of a fear response and highly embarrassing.

The officers who arrested Marcus believed him to be carrying a firearm and were armed themselves. After a chase through the streets of a Southwark neighbourhood, Marcus was dragged over a wall, pinned to the ground, his arm was brought up behind him whilst the arresting officer knelt his full weight on Marcus’ shoulder. Months after the arrest, his shoulder back and arm were still causing him much pain. Studies have shown that extensive periods of pain management lower a person’s mood and can increase their likelihood of developing mental illnesses like depression.

Marcus’ Identity

In Marcus’ case his low mood after being arrested and hurt at the scene of the arrest, detained and entering custody, facing the possibility of years of incarceration was escalating a number of negative associations for him. By Marcus removing people from his life, he was attempting to jettison the feeling aspect of himself. Wrapped up with what Marcus felt needed to be held away from him, was a felt sense of who he was. We could call it Marcus’ Identity: The who he really is. By denying those he cared about access to him and he to them, Marcus could be seen to be arresting his emotional development. By engaging in therapy there was a chance that the attempt to move into a primal state of being could be averted.

Oscar’s frustration (Fruitvale) was witnessed three times during the movie.

  1. The prison scene: where the other prisoner expressed anger after a space infringement was unknowingly crossed. Oscar feeling violated on his turf by a known aggressor in a place he did not want to be in. His mom being present to witness him be verbally abused she also being verbally assaulted. Oscar attempted to stand up for himself in the only way he knew how. Shouting and looking to stop the words from causing further harm. Oscar tried to get at the other prisoner. This act cost him the visit. As he was physically restrained and his mom walked out on him. Adding further hurt to the harm caused by his own actions – Abandonment.
  2. When back in the community Oscar attends his former work place and asks his manager to give him back his job after he had been fired. This scene is coupled with Oscar showing a customer his ability to help another by giving her his grandmother’s recipe for fried fish. A selfless act of reciprocity.
  3. The fatal scene on the train ride home after the New Years celebration where the guy from the prison is also on the train. It get’s ugly quick. However no guns are pulled at this point. Permanent Exit.

Complex – simple

Those who are incarcerated attempt to split themselves into smaller more manageable versions of themselves. Marcus was on his way to achieving a simpler version of himself that would be able to manage the prison system and all that it threw at him. Meeting me gave him a chance to check through this self diminishing plan again.

Oscar and Marcus shared a number of similarities. They were both brilliant young black men. Who had ideas of what living well meant to them in the contexts of their young urban lives. They both attempted to provide for themselves and their loved ones, by the means they found available at their disposal.

Both Oscar and Marcus held views of themselves and of the world around them that included breaking laws and being aggressive. Their reasoning could be as a result of the experiences they had whilst growing up. Both men came from single parent homes, poverty appeared prevalent for both males. Opportunities to move beyond the circumstances of their families appeared to have been derailed either by themselves or by circumstance. On some level I could perceive that both Oscar and Marcus had been beaten by an unforgiving system that was intent on further stripping both men of their dignity and self-respect. This being the case they made choices that affected their civil liberty, their lives and the lives of others.

Recognising the gap in the wall

The point of change for Marcus arose as we entered the 4th meeting and he asked if there could be any meaning to his life. ‘Like what is my life about now? More of this shit? I’ve had it with prison and with being in here.’ He asked if there was another way it could have been or could be as he could not see it. I asked if he read, and then told him about Viktor Frankl the Viennese Psychiatrist, Philosopher, Psychotherapist who survived concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Marcus seemed genuinely shocked and intrigued by the story of Logotherapy and Frankl’s ability to rise from a very dark moment in history. I believe that what hooked Marcus was hearing a story as bleak as his and identifying himself with an internal revolution. I told him about what I remembered from the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and wondered if he would like to read it?

I doubt that I have ever been more surprised or pleased to share a book! I read the book with a general interest as to how a man who nearly died in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia could at the end of the war return to his native Vienna in Austria and accept that people he knew may have turned him and other Jewish people over to the German authorities to perhaps die. His wife, mother father and unborn child all died at the hands of the Nazis.

Logotherapy

When I read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ in 1997 the concept of acceptance was a distant thought, compassion even more remote. On passing the book forward to Marcus I was gaining ground on acceptance and compassion as a concept was also being closely followed. The book was a catalyst for me in seeking change and for providing me with answers to an age old ache ‘Who am I and what am I to do with the who I am?’ I was able to fashion meaning from another’s wisdom and insight: Viktor Frankl. In passing the book forward I was attempting to assist another reconstruct themselves with a picture of a young disenfranchised man: in a new progressive light.

I was to meet Marcus for a 6th appointment a month after the 5th appointment had taken place. I called in to the houseblock’s control room to check that Marcus had been invited to stay on his spur for the appointment. I was told that he had gone to court and had been released from there. I tried to hide my joy but I am sure it was witnessed by the officer at the control desk. I was happy that a young man who had made some unwise choices would get a second chance. For the remaining years I worked at the prison I did not see Marcus return. I can only hope he is doing well and I wish him a peaceful journey

Baking: Failure – Success

The Journey into Counselling 2014-06-01 10.39.03

In May 2015 I presented my counselling journey to 3rd year students who were coming to the end of their MSc in Therapeutic Counselling at University of Greenwich. I was invited to speak with the students by the then course director Victoria Alexander.

Since completing the course in 2012 I had wondered if I would ever receive the esteemed call to present my counselling journey to students. Speaking as an Alumni, I imagined would be a mark of success. It was – but not in a monetary sense. I had, at last, arrived as a mental health professional and that was worth acknowledging in the least for myself. From completing the course, it had taken 3 years to get to a point where I felt I had ARRIVED.

When I was a 3rd year student I looked forward to meeting alumni who had completed the course before me and listening to their stories. In 2011 I was expectant of listening to personal stories that would inspire me to have incredible success as a counsellor.

Pinpoint moments

During my time on the Greenwich course there were a number of moments that stand-out. My Interview with John Lees, the first day of the MSc course, attending art therapy/drama therapy experiences, realising that I had adapted from one approach of counselling – person centred, to being an integrative counsellor. This event happened during my second year of the MSc and I will write about Laos (not the clients name) in a later Blog.

Other memorable moments include; my first counselling client that attended their appointment. I practiced in a GP surgery in SE London. My 2nd counselling placement at a Prison and my first client once there. Failing a submission piece during the second year of the course and having to repeat a piece of work and resubmit, oh the shame! Entering the 3rd year of the course, engaging in a difficult conversation with a lecturer – John Nuttall on a delicate issue, completing year 3 and looking towards the top of Canary Wharf Tower on an evening in June from where I live in Lee, and whispering to myself we’ve done it, acknowledging the support of my wife throughout the three years.

The presentation

With the group of students met in 2015, I shared the beginning of my journey as a youth worker – basketball coach, which lead to me becoming a learning mentor and then to the world of counselling.

I spoke as though there appeared to be a plan, but that would be me being presumptuous. The path to become a counsellor opened up the further I travelled along its over grown route. With each move there appeared to be a logical next step which developed, honed and remodelled my sense of enquiry. The book by Scott M. Peck A Road Less Travelled highlights the difficulties and treasures of working in the field of psychology. I happened to read the book at least 10 years before I began my training.

Creative practice

At the end of my presentation a number of questions were asked in relation to what life is like now as a counsellor/mental health practitioner. I was able to share that for me as a professional the experience is of being creative. I shared that I had attempted to bake and bring to the presentation a sourdough bread. The bread was to be used as a symbol. Sharing the growth and development of the journey I had undertaken. I was asked by a student ‘what the lack of being able to produce a bread represented?’ My response was for them ‘to think about my lack of bread and get back to me.’ In truth I did not have a good enough answer and used wit to escape the students question.

Bread = therapy

I have been working on my sourdough culture for a little over three years. It began when I received a book for Christmas by Dan Lepard the ‘Hand Baked Loaf’ in December 2011. I bought a few Kilner jars and started as Dan had suggested. I found it difficult to throw out much of the leaven on the 6th-7th day as he suggests, but overcame my reluctance to discard hard won yeast for the greater good of the bread. The yeast culture has been successful in helping me to produce a range of breads, pizza bases, focaccia and pain aux chocolate in the 3 years I have been baking in this way. I have also had a number of failures where the leaven has not produced bread that has not risen or has not had the aeration (big air holes) that a good sourdough should have.

Getting it wrong

A better response to the student’s question of my failure to produce a bread for the group, could have been to discuss the reality of failure or of not being successful when making interventions or assessments with clients. Whilst failure is an uncomfortable experience the effect of not reaching a particular point with a client can also be useful in providing information.

Getting things wrong can be of use for a therapist. I learn the strength of the alliance between me and the client, and the resilience of the therapeutic engagement. In most cases there is a point for reflection. “Was that interpretation useful now, for them?” “Would a senseate reflection be of use here, how did that story go, could it be of use, now?” I also get to refocus, so as to aim interpretations close to the person’s growing sense of awareness most of the time.

The other outcome is the person being supported finds a way forward which informs them of their resilience and that their counsellor doesn’t have all the answers!

Sharing concepts of not getting it right in therapeutic encounters with clients, with the student in question, could have helped to deliver the analogy of not producing my bread. ‘My bread is similar to working with clients, I don’t always get it right. With time, patience, be willing to accept the failure (lack of understanding, miscomprehension, miss timed interpretation) as a reason for the therapeutic work at times missing the mark, and continuing to offer support for successful outcomes.’ This is what I would liked to have said.

The future

Continuing after a mis-step in the counselling contract can result in a better result in therapy. For me and sourdough breads the aim is to create great artisan breads like those at Gails Blackheath, Brickhouse Bakery, and E5 Bake House. Alchemy occurs in therapy and can be achieved with bread.

I am glad that I have pursued the effort of crafting a good leaven that will produce great bread. Without the many failures I could not have appreciated the inevitable successes.