Certainty: Beachcombing

‘To know that at our core there is a knowing, resourced, patient, wise, unbroken peace that lies awaiting rediscovery – the truest magic. The reason to search…’ M.O.

The interesting thing about the psychotherapist is that ‘they’ often cannot tell of what they do behind their closed doors. It mostly is clarifying talk between counsellor and client. A conversation unlike other noise making conversations. The information held between them is confidential. The psychotherapist can speak about process, the results of the work, the deep hole either avoided or climbed safely beyond. This is one of those types of stories.

List
There are a few reasons I wanted to write this piece. My ongoing fight with MS, the war in Ukraine, CoViD19 and living while Black. The current uncertainty of life appears to have increased an awareness of the sense of the known/unknown. A few nights ago, I thought about the possibility of the next global conflict, detonations and an ensuing Nuclear Winter. Sleep evaded me as a result of spinal discomfort, an outcome of the slow creep of Multiple Sclerosis.

Discovery: Herein

Hiding
Discovery often takes place when one is looking for something else. The long-hidden coin, key set, file, ear ring, and memory, often are found whilst excavating randomly. Almost like the item was waiting for you to venture along this path. Jumping out and surprising! The interesting thing about certainty and beachcombing is what is found. Something is always found! The ‘what’ remains a mystery until discovery.

Modelling
A few years ago I wrote about a few of the mental models a counsellor/psychotherapist may use to support clients. These models offer both in the relationship, a frame with which to make the dance of support, seem regular, measured, predictable. Anything at any moment can usurp a care planned recovery. The mythic return to the ‘normal’. Most of the time, the complex and intimate nature of the counselling relationship, can wrestle a surprising memory or event from sabotaging the ground already made. The memory used to germinate understanding, the processes covered and the journey that lies ahead.

Tanktown
Beachcombing is a mix of imagination and discovery. The analogy used to support both of us as we walk across ‘their’ ‘our’ joint landscape. For me, it is a pebble beach. Like many around the world such as Brighton, or Tankerton. Beaches I used to visit, with friends and later with family. Now these beaches are mind wanderings, used to explore what the ever-active mind of my fellow beachcomber brings to shore. The most surprising find ‘mindfully’ beachcombing with a client, was a netted live WWII sea mine. Current global crises afloat in our subconscious.

Close Up: Pebble face

Inside Out
The rankling honesty of the current war in Ukraine – upsetting the idea of peace globally, presents us with the uncomfortable. Some profit from upset, others perish. Can we as a species continue to externalise the fight within, the paradox of being human, without facing dire consequences? The war within looks at all we throw amongst the shadow and stride knowingly away from: Shame, failure, contempt, weakness, anger, fear, loneliness, hate. Remaining in a state of uncertainty is to engage with continual discovery and loss – Beachcombing. Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, uncovers more of our emotions in a clear, earnest and relatable way. Atlas of the Heart supports us to understand ourselves more and with courage, congruence and compassion take the hidden into the light.

Wherever You Go
Living in a body of culture, as a Black man, the uncertainty of further experiences of vicarious trauma visiting are constant. The global dominance of Western culture has continued to be called into question, thankfully. Before Breonna Taylor’s and George Floyd’s murders, uncountable attempts were offered by many to re-course, the river of assumed White body supremacy. The West evaluating, assessing, characterising art, science, faith as pagan, primitive, tribal, with no value, demeaned the Global North also. Traditions long practiced, new to the West’s limited understanding (the enlightenment era) of the planet and the people’s living in the global South. In an attempt to silence and squash uncertainty, millions lost their lives to conquest and land theft. Many more, descendents: rebuilding, reclaiming, restoring.

Dumbfounded
The pandemic has outlived most projections of how long it ’should’ last. Has the reality of what we are still globally lurching through, begun to reawaken our sense of wonder, fear, and an awareness of how small and powerless we are? 20th/21st century humans, somewhat knowledgeable and yet also unknowingly vulnerable. Humans never really were in control or as omnipotent as had once been thought.

Sunswept Imaginings

Thought Less
I thought with age (me nearing 50) that knowing more would accompany seniority. The philosopher Socrates’ idea of ‘I know, that I know nothing’. Makes more sense to me now. We, convinced by assuredness, that knowing affords us safety, a life, decency, respect, wealth, luck, faith, security has not for millennia been valid. Life does not arrive with a 100% guarantee of anything other than at some point… Death.
To beachcomb is to dare, to risk, to lose, to give up hope of ever finding anything worthwhile and still meditate whilst moving. Laughingly picking up finds. Placing sea worn wood, stones, fossils, glass either in bags to take home or carefully back onto the beach.

The aim to willfully, amble alongside others and humbly discover…

Resources
A brief explanation of the resources. There are times I feel that the best part of writing these missives are the moving parts that the above grew from.
Talking While Black from This American life is I presume a take on the blog series Walking Whilst Black. The episode observes 3 experiences of Black Americans, encountering racism and policies being written to erode the use of critical race theory or any discomfort caused by discussions about difference. A case of seeking to remain willfully ignorant.
Certainty is a part of the musical art form – Jazz. There is timing, time signatures, a mood being worked through and produced. With Alice Coltrane’s music, a sense of uncertainty is also apparent on Turiya and Ramakrishna. A meeting of Eastern and Western influences, holding you in their sway as Alice plays piano. The music invites both promise of delivery and holding a refrain, with each note curiously working at the space between.
Prentis Hemphill discusses with Patrisse Cullors imagination, discovery and making way for something different. A joyous conversation.
Brian Cox and Robin Ince and guests discuss amongst other things quantum mechanics, the Block Universe, Time, Free Will and entropy. The idea of not knowing, the idea of uncertainty and someday being close to answers I found reassuring to listen to.
The last reference perhaps could be moved to the top of the references list. The conversation is enjoyable for what it reveals, Brené Brown talks with Father Richard Rohr on the topic of uncertainty. Father Richard Rohr is able to be profound and humble at the same time. The concert hall of Brené Brown – allows both the music and the silence to rebound. Encapsulating whilst the teaching resonates. When truth is heard, it is also felt…
Alice Coltrane Turiya and Ramakrishna
Finding Our Way with Prentis Hemphill and Patrisse Cullors
Entropy Infinite Monkey Cage
Uncertainty Unlocking Us with Brené Brown and Father Richard Rohr pt 1

Images
Cover Photoby Christian Holzinger on Unsplash
1st Inlay Discovery: Herein photo by Mia Nicoll on Unsplash
2nd Inlay Close Up photo by Cristofer Maximilian on Unsplash
3rd Inlay Sunswept photo by Zeny Rosalina on Unsplash

Dawning Realisations

Alternative Action

3 ways out

During a conversation with a friend in Toronto: Canada this year (2018) they said “I have to have at least 3 ways to get downtown”

“What do you mean?” She was asked.

“Well I can’t rely on one way to get there. If the subway isn’t working I can use the tram. If the trams aren’t running I can use a taxi.” H stated.

“What about the buses?” I asked.

H looked at me shook her head and smiled. “I’d rather take a cab. Buses are unreliable. They come when they want. The schedule. The schedule is no help. It’s just added frustration on top of the insult of waiting…”

Snowy Taxi

Toronto Taxi

I had little experience of Torontonian buses apart from Go Transit to Toronto from Hamilton. Buses in London I could offer as comparison were at times unpredictable. I nodded and laughed to show I knew her frustrations.

The other comparison I made was managing anxious thoughts and low moods. What strategies do I employ when I recognise that a state of anxiety, or *pissedoffedness was imminent? What were my 3 exit routes to safety and a better state of mental well-being? Using Denial, Anger and Getting the Hell Out of here, has limited effects. The fire often still rages.

Years ago (1993) as a student at DeMontfort University, I would head to a basketball court in Victoria Park in Leicester and perfect my shot. The release of the ball at the right moment sending it sailing towards the hoop offered something towards appeasement, release and calming. This the summer after my mothers death… I knew little of the effects of grief and depression and found a way to self soothe that became a coping strategy: Basketball.

Basketball was an amazing outlet for me, many years later 1999 – 2011. Coaching gave me the chance to order a team of basketball players around on a court. Another useful way to channel energy. Coaching was a constructive activity for me and the players I coached. Coaching offered discipline, direction, focus and purpose for all. Later still summer 2005 talking therapy opened up as a way to let compressed thoughts chance to be heard and space to breathe. Sharing stories, for that is what Therapy can be, was helpful. And so began a journey I am still travelling.

The exits to better feeling that I use are:

Stopping and listening
Making a choice
Talking
Acting

Stopping and listening

A friend once said in order to change direction one must first stop. First notice the feelings that are stirred up. Listen for the emotions that are engaged in choosing to fight flee freeze or friend the situation. Usually there are many emotions all clamouring for the mic and anger seems to come out on top every time for me. It’s easy red energy gives chance to assert myself.

Pause

Take stock, uh oh this feels something like anxiety or anger or frustration or some other butt ugly emotion. Trailing behind it – dastardly thoughts that lead to impulses and actions that can direct one to regret guilt and shame.

The Way Out

Heading Up

Make a choice

Choosing from the list of Byron Katie’s The Work I make a choice to feel better. I engage in self-soothing acts like rubbing my arms, self-hugging, rubbing my hands gently together like I do when washing hands, rubbing my  head, going for a walk either physically or imaginatively to gain peace and serenity. The aim to give oneself space and some time out. Choose to accept and honour the discomfort. This is the hard part and the best part of the work. The discomfort is showing something that needs to be acknowledged! Denying and ignoring the hurt allows it to fester and grow. Honouring allows recognition of what ails thee and a possible release and easing of the pressure. I am learning that honouring the feelings and pausing is a mighty act. It interrupts the patterns of what usually follows. Choosing rather than impulsively acting can make a huge difference. The I am getting out of here is a choice. Which direction to travel?

Supply Clouds

Reading the chimp paradox by Professor Steven Peters has helped to identify that ‘Mandeville’ my Chimp is at the root to ill feeling and malignant thought. A book recommended by Jonathan Scott several months ago as a must read. Life changing were his words of advice about the book. I wholeheartedly agree!

Another partner to the ill feeling dynamic is my inner child. Mandy the Chimp is powerful but my inner child is like Tetsuo in Akira. Apocalyptic with rage and temper. Finally binary thinking helps the justifying thought that I am right and they whoever they are, are wrong. Completing the off balance set up.

Think

Be decisive and take action. – Gain perspective on the situation. Once clear it could be easier to make choices that best support self and or the situation. The route away from here is questioning, patient compassion. The strategies used invites my brain to move the energy away from Flight Fight Freeze Friend responses and engage with thinking.

The Bus

Towerbridge at Dusk

3 Ways Downtown Bus, Cab, Walk

Soothing ‘Mandy’ and the child is another important task. Once they have said all that is in them to say and have calmed right down. I can begin the questioning. Colour things in more. Invite doubt and gain answers. Here then lies truth peace and a possible way beyond the discomfort and disquiet. A solution to long held outmoded strategies that don’t get you downtown but waiting at a bus stop for a bus that’s way behind late, overcrowded when it eventually does arrive and with a driver with A WORSE mood than the one you had. Getting on to that bus possibly is not going to be the safest journey, for you, for the driver or the other tired, frustrated passengers…

Be Still

Distance yourself from the situation and walk away physically/mentally with the aim to cool down. Imagine a glass of water with ripples gradually becoming still. Even better the water becoming thick with ice. Get creative with the ideas that offer solution. These arise once the noise of the confused anger has begun to calm. Listen and hear well. Generally the voice is quiet, offering advice and guidance. It rarely yells. Adrenaline is a useful energy component. It invites movement, if redirected it can be used to support mind functioning by thinking clearly and acting with purpose to solve seemingly insurmountable and threatening problems.

Talking

The next part of this bus journey is to speak to another, a friend a family member, a trusted colleague, talking activates higher functioning of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is a power house generating imaginative ideas and surprising solutions. Tapping into this part of the brain directs energy to support growth curiosity and enjoyment. Bringing a clear direction forward out of thin air where once only a wall blocked the passage. The first conversation we often have is with ourselves. The next could be with a trusted other. Mentors, Coaches, Hypnotherapists, community and faith leaders, and a host of other objective agents can help to dispel the negative and increase awareness to creative and affirming solutions. With a clear plan or decision in mind something different can be created. Generally I feel better with a solution rather than confusion.

Airborne

Acting – In Flight

Acting

This is the last part of the bus ride. Make a choice/decision as to what you would like to do in relation to the set of circumstances that invited disquiet.

Recently I was driving home from work and opted not to get caught in a traffic jam that would have angered me, and made getting home much later. I chose to take a side road. I went through new areas of a town I knew little of and saw landscapes and scenes that I felt lifted by. I was able to get back on route in less time than if I had sat in the jam and in a much better mood.

What detours can be made in life and what might be achieved when we take them?

Life is simple it’s just not easy.

I am slowly learning to accept what this saying means.

Getting there…

 

Two items of interest

TED Radio Hour
https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/529942522/a-better-you

The Science of Success Podcast
https://www.successpodcast.com/show-notes/2017/6/28/the-shocking-truth-about-talent-what-it-means-for-you-with-geoff-colvin