Why Listen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why listening matters for wellbeing,
Jus’ lissen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appreciating what comes through

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

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

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

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

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

Psychopathy: Test

Apex

There are moments one dreams of experiencing that I had in October 2018. I had the chance of delivering a lecture to a group of forensic psychology students at the University of East London. The subject was mental Illness and crime. This was the 3rd time of me delivering this lecture and it all came together like the perfect picture. I was given a breakdown of possible protagonists and activists amongst the students. The promise that the group were usually quiet, by the course director Ms Kougiali, was thankfully unmet.

Review Data

EZ Poxy Shimmer

Shimmer

Perhaps it was my brief introduction and experience but the group of roughly 40 students did not let up with comments and questions about the lecture I delivered. They stated as one that some of the material was; too broad, that the stats needed refining in relation to ages, classification of mental illness, the gender of data groups and where the data sources had come from.

Urm note to Michael try harder please!

Winning
I found that I loved the engaging-challenging-rewarding interaction! The buzz of the room felt hard won and not wholly mine – more ours. I have had a number of teaching and lecturing experiences over the past few years starting at University of Greenwich, then as a VL at UEL and recently teaching at a college just outside of London on a level 1 counselling skills course.

Listening

Abstraction Art

Abstract Interpretation

All teaching experiences draw something different from me, there is the all-knowing sage that I aim to be, the old enough yet down enough sharer of counselling mythology, the witty soothsayer sharing what needs to be said for those who have ears to hear. October the 24th was like the perfect blend.

Balance
My style of lecturing is part performance poetry, comedy, debate class, philosophy and counselling pedagogy/theory for balance. My last class with year 2 students at University of Greenwich in May, much of the above was the experience. Teaching/Lecturing appeared to flow effortlessly. It sort of came together as a perfect storm with students sharing, my presentation slides, personal anecdotes of counselling and life experiences all rolled out and accessed by all. That lecture for Greenwich was on What Next? Offering ideas of potential routes beyond year 2.

Forensic Populations
What I enjoyed most about the work with UEL students was that they challenged me and I them! The challenge thrown about the lecture room was the idea of mental illness and psychopathy. Ultimately the idea realised was that many involved in the criminal justice system in the UK if tested and or diagnosed, many may have untreated learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, have experienced trauma, suffer with PTSD symptoms and have a personality disorder, as well as a dual diagnosis of substance misuse or alcohol addiction.

We All Psychopaths 

Seeing Dutch Windmills

Blue Abstraction

Everyone in the lecture theatre if they took a psychopathy test would score something between a low to a high psychopathy score, making us all psychopaths to lesser or greater degrees. That includes you dear reader!

The reflective quality of this realisation hit in the 2nd hour after a number of students offered their opinions on the recent film on Netflix 22nd of July. The film about the impact Anders Breivik had on Norway stirred up some controversial ideas and debate in relation to mental illness and acts of self-preservation.

A student shared that we all have the potential to commit acts of violence that were either based on our beliefs or state of un-wellness. I volunteered to complete a psychopathy test listed here the Levenson Psyschopathy self test. Which takes roughly 5-10 minutes to complete https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/LSRP.php. I scored a 2.9. The scores from this test I see more as an indicator for me, rather than a confirmed diagnosis. I mentioned that I would share my results with the class if interested.

I now do so with you too.

Invite
I wonder what your psychopathy test scores are and what they say about you?

The thing I enjoy most about writing about multi-layered experiences is what others find through reading these posts and then share. If there are other psychopathy tests that are an improvement on the one listed here please share below. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.

Further Reading
The Atlantic
The Independent 
Snap Judgement Science and the Psychopath 
Criminal Podcast The Money Tree

Reflection

Working with service users that have spent time on probation or in prison, a few have reminded me with traits of the below story.

Peace

You may have met people who may have narcissistic traits or display an inability to empathise with another, or view an experience from another perspective other than their own. My aim in this blog, is to offer insight and understanding where possible. I use the name Narcissus throughout this piece of writing to aid personalising narcissistic personality types.

Oppositional

Frank Morris – Small Brown Eyes

The Greek Myth Of Narcissus

According to Conon, Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus who gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked.

Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow.

According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

Inner Turmoil

The aspect that I find interesting about the story of Narcissus and narcissists is that the self image is the one that they protect and adore above all others. The self then is unreal, it is reflection, a mirrored image of perfection that is ultimately flawed as it cannot be attained or possessed, and as such is wanted all the more. A degree of pity and ideas of missed opportunities often flit behind my understanding and observed compassion about working with someone who may have a distorted view of their reality. By their holding so tightly to their view of reality, sometimes with arms, legs, teeth and eyes shut, the world as a whole is considered wrong, bleak, threatening, offering little that can shift their perspective or alter the strangle hold they may have on what they feel is rightfully theirs.

Small window

** Seeing Out Seeing Self

Pain

The pain of being held accountable, of being wrong, of shame and embarrassment, of being made vulnerable and seen as weak or lesser than, is a fear that has a person who may have narcissistic traits to hold on to their distortion that little bit harder and for far longer. The threat of being made small again is too great. Tactics are used to enable self-aggrandizement and remain with a sense of strength (Omnipotence), being right, whole, good, beautiful and powerful, employed at other peoples expense and often their suffering.

Narcissistic personality?

Narcissism produces a distorted self-image, an oversized ego, and a presumption of superiority not based on any real-world accomplishments. Narcissists reveal their feelings about themselves and others through their actions, which are often manipulative and self-centered. Despite the depth of feeling narcissism generates, and the deep-seated insecurity it compensates for, people diagnosed with severe narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) can learn to manage their symptoms and reduce the disorder’s influence over their lives.

Past

Narcissus may have had a number of experiences that threw their idea of self and the world in which they live in disarray at an earlier developmental age. Experiences such as loss through bereavement or home, war, poor relationships with caregivers, poverty, bullying, emotional neglect could support the development of narcissistic traits. The personhood of Narcissus may have been negatively affected by the environment that they were raised in. Developing traits that support a positive view of themselves always, and a lesser view of anyone and everyone else around them. Projecting a view of all that hurt them, into and onto all others and everything else. Denying others their humanity and not recognising their own. Remaining perfect and invulnerable.

Gas Lighting

The term gaslight was coined after the 1944 film of the same name. Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. In the movie, a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. Illustrating the destructive power of gaslighting.

Gas Mask at Altitude

Due to the human capacity for finding purpose and wanting to support others to attain fulfillment and happiness it often occurs that partners, family, friends and colleagues often want to rescue a person that appears to have narcissistic traits. The joke of how many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb fits here. “Ah but the light bulb has got to want change.” For any person engaging in therapy they must see the benefits of change. For someone with narcissistic traits if the problem is with all others then there is nothing to talk about and nothing that therapy can offer… Until…

Recalibration

The challenge for them is in the invitation to begin deconstructing and decommissioning a world view that has enabled Narcissus to win. Be victorious against a past that could have been annihilating for them. Surviving their history would be a closer approximation to their truth if they could trust enough for it to be heard. Dismantling an image, a perspective that has the person beginning to see that the vision they had held was askew is risky.

Staccato

As Jill Scott sang in Love Rain ‘the vibe slipping off it’s axis’ is a useful analogy to describe the destabilization. Slippage is necessary to enable a nobler sight of realism to be perceived and understood. Perhaps the task is not to save but to stand at a safe enough distance. Allow Narcissus to recognise that the image before her/himself is illusion. A visual echo of what once was. The mirrored and always elusive self is unable to be experienced – much like A Picture of Dorian Gray – the perfect imperfect.

*Humorosity

A cataclysmic explosion could be necessary for the change to begin in earnest for Narcissus. Perhaps… With curiosity and double doses of humoured inquiry an attempt to make mild interest of their now – known can be made. Rush not. Pose loose questions less with a sense of interrogation and more with a genuine want to peer behind their curtain. Inviting Narcissus to do so too. For though the subject appears to be laid bare and low due to their expression and expansion, this could either be their first genus of humility or the hard pressed kernel of defiant resistance.

Honouring

What lies at their centre? The aim here is to open chinks in a well-oiled, well maintained armour. The chinks let out as well as let in opportunities for scents of change. The process can be slow. What is to be noted is Narcissus’ recognition of empathy and warmth from themselves to another. Observing fealty and connection for themselves and also what being in honest communion is like. Where, if any differences are felt and what that may be like? Rather than them hearing the familiar self recriminations of blame, of anger, disappointment and fear. Letting themselves out of the prism they shielded themselves from the world – cautiously.

Ignoring the other

Mental and Physical expression

What next

There are a number of choices that could be made in relation to Narcissus. Leave them to attend to manage themselves by themselves. Stay and learn to manage life with them. Leave and attend to the holes that they pockmarked your life with. Stay but be emotionally detached. Leave and heal and be aware of narcissistic tropes. Stay and support them through change. Leave and live well. Stay and enlist others to support their change growth and development.

Attraction

The intriguing factor for me as a therapist is the attraction to Narcissus. Who brings some emotional pain, self doubt, a devalued sense of self, experiences of elation and happiness to the person(s) they are with.

Magnetic

Is there a part of their character that appeals above ones own although harmful? If this were the case what does being with Narcissus offer? Someone who is wicked with their humour? Bringing together a group of charming and attractive friends? Delights of social mobility and acceptance? A sense of  responsibility “If I don’t, who will?”, Does superiority, defiance, charm and wit with moments of crushing lows also become experiences of the person who has fallen for their attraction to Narcissus?

Evaluate with time away: life with and life without. There was a time before when they were not…

Support

A number of therapeutic models may be of use to support someone that has narcissistic traits and close others. Dialetical Behavioural Therapy, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The want to be better, as in the joke above, is to come from them.

Always.

Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one

Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work

Understanding the Mind of

*Humorosity A Michaelism

**Pictures by Frank Morrison