The 3rd World War a Theory: Coronavirus

It is possible that we as a world are facing the largest global threat to our ongoing human survival since the 1918 flu epidemic and WWII. COVID19 has been termed a pandemic, an unprecedented global emergency, and a war.

The threat is a protein that once it invades/infects its host, reproduces and causes illness and worryingly death. It is the death part which is indiscriminate and strikes down neighbourhood’s and nation states. I am reminded of documentary’s on WWII and buildings being blown apart and communities destroyed. We all have been unwillingly called up to fight, NOW.

Warning: this is a dive into a few associative ideas I have to support and manage the current crisis. The aim is to provide useful ideas and a brief overview of some media I have consumed that help me position this existential threat.

Cat Theory
A theory of Schrödinger’s cat I shared with a client to support their accepting and reconstructing their ideas of the unknown that is the COVID19 strain of the flu currently turning the world on it’s head. Loosely I presented the theory of a dead/not dead cat in a box as a way to help assimilate a challenging awareness of the pandemic that is COVID19.

The virus reminds me of a fungus (David Attenborough presents entomopathogenic fungi) that affects insects. Over a period of days these insects become cadavers that help spread the fungi’s spores to other unsuspecting insects to create other fungi. Nature is ridiculously clever. In a similar way, an invisible assailant is causing all that we hold in our world experience as important and precious, being torn down and irreparably altered.

Schrödinger’s Theory
And so to the Theory of Schrödinger’s cat. The theory is that we imagine a domestic house cat. The tabby is placed into a box with a radioactive isotope. I should say that, at no point was this experiment ever carried out. This is a thought experiment, inviting our human minds to hold two opposing ideas at the same time. Like in quantum theory where light is made up of particles and acts as a wave at the same time. The radioactive isotope is wired with a timer that releases the poison at a specific but unknown time.

Unknown Paradox
The question to be answered is, is the cat dead or alive? For a scientist or an inquisitive person like my client, questions are posed about the amount of radioactive isotope and the resilience of the cat? Other questions could also include whether the cat had food or water to sustain itself and how long the cat is in the box for? 24 hours is the length of time I gave as my answer. I think for the thought experiment the answer was an hour and yes there was enough food and water to sustain the cat for 24 hours in my example.

Both
Now to answer the question and bring this level of questioning full circle. Point the question at the deadly virus that is irrevocably changing the world. Because we cannot determine the effectiveness of the radioactive isotope. Nor the resilience of the cat. The answer to the question about the wellbeing of the cat, is, that the cat is both dead and alive. Simultaneously. It is neither dead nor is it alive. We would have to open the box and see for ourselves. Up until that moment we are to hold both ideas as probable correct answers.

Is it quantum theory?
I went a little further with the example of Schrödinger’s Cat and COVID19 with my client. Globally we are in the boxes of Known Unknown’s and the box of Unknown Knowns simultaneously.

The threat for all of us is the factor of not knowing. Can we know what will happen along the continuum of getting the virus or evading the virus and not becoming unwell? No we cannot. Looking at the examples of nation states like China or Italy, we can observe the effectiveness of what these countries have done. Locking down an entire nation and restricting movement appears to have slowed the infection rates. China as a country is believed to be beyond the worst of the crisis. Italy is approaching the worst experience of the crisis: total numbers of people who were infected dieing from the illness reaching it’s daily/weekly peak. The rest of the world are 2-3 weeks behind Italy..

Rat-a-tat-tat
If we were to contract the virus we would move into the known and unknown boxes. We would know that we could potentially become unwell or seriously unwell. It is the extent of the unwellness that we would not know. The ‘what would happen next’ would also remain unclear. Uncertainty is the point of concern for nation states at the moment. The same concern also extends to families and individuals as of 28th Mar 2020 (date of writing this piece). It is possible that public hysteria, panic and paranoia begin knocking heavily on our rational thoughts door now. If we open this door we could be beset by many many concerns.

Choice
If we open the door and accept the state of unknowing, what then? If we keep the door shut and stay with what we know about the virus, would this for both the short and long term be better?

Here are 2 outcomes from many other possibilities that could cancel out panic hysteria and paranoia. We could learn to accept what is or deny what is.

Lake Matheson – The Unknown?

Managing what can be controlled is moving into the 1st box of known knowns. Which feels comfortable and we are inherently confident with a certain future.

Inhabiting the 2nd 3rd and 4th boxes are unsettling, scary and invite destabilising ideas. These are the boxes of the Known Unknowns, Unknown Knowns and Unknown Unknowns.

All Better Now
Seeking information at this time can be seen as a wise move however there is an avalanche of confusing and conflicting information at this time. Pod Save the World share a new podcast that provides a bi weekly update on the Coronavirus.

If you can, reduce anxiety, reduce social media use, isolate, socially distance yourself when out, eat healthily, keep fluid intake up and aim at maintaining positive virtual connections with friends and family. One thing that is a known known, this experience of War will pass. Our world will change. It has to. Living from then on, in a changed world is a Schrödinger’s cat outcome: lying in the last box of the Unknown Unnowns – Exciting and yet Scary.

Open The Box!

Resources
Brené Brown Podcast FFT’s
Bill Gates – WWIII
Podsave The World Coronavirus Reality
Marios’ Video fwd
Netflix Pandemic
This Day in Esoteric Political History from 99% Invisible – We Have Been Here Before

Images
Title Photo by David East on Unsplash
Lake Matheson Photo by Jingwei Ke on Unsplash

Sticking With It: Challenge

Writing short little epithets, as seen below, after completing a 10-minute meditation has been a part of my meditation practice for just over a year. After nearly 400 days of continual practice with the Calm app, I am open to continue with the learning and growing. Recognising that I have an inquisitive and restless mind has been testing. Finding a practice that reduces anxiety has been useful for me to develop a better understanding of myself. The practice of 10-15 minute meditation every day also supports maintain my focus at this challenging time of World History.

Wise words
The quote from calm that inspired this post was – ‘Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away’ by Pema Chodron.

My response
@calm ‘Noticing that challenges are made to be overcome and they are as much ‘How’ as they are ‘When’. Ask for guidance or help when needed #meditation.

To the quick
The example of the short quip above, is an effort to show that I understand the difficulty of not turning in the opposite direction. Away from the source of uncomfortable challenge. Making a fail safe leave plan when things get tough. Like now!

Healers
There is an attempt to take the quote and re-interpret Pema Chodrin’s words. I then offer both the quote and my interpretation as a support. You may have seen the quote/remix on various social media spaces I inhabit. The quote/remixes are also a way to share that, should someone want access to mental health support I know of many who could be of impactful assistance.

Challenge as a bridge

Target 400
After 395 days of consistent daily meditation practice and a solid bombardment of information about the Corona-virus/COVID-19 pandemic. My need for meditation happens to be both an escape and a cure to return the mind to a steady hum. I have found the practice to be a salve.

Reset
The hype, hysteria and hyperbole of the disease and recognisable human responses including denial, panic buying, hoarding, frequent information fly wheel gathering, does little to aid our capacity to find a level state of mindful yet calm awareness. In fact it is often quite the opposite.

How
To overcome a challenge is a request to understand what it is and how it may affect things for you, family, friends and colleagues. See the challenge as a problem to solve. Aim at becoming creative and communicate with others about what the challenge is and see if others have met/experienced a similar difficulty and what they did? Rarely are you the only person to have faced a problem like it. Accepting advice could be an appropriate way to make it to the other side.

When
That can all depend on you. Running away from the challenge usually puts the difficulty off for an undefined length of time. But, it will return. It usually is an universal phenomena. ‘Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today’ was a saying my mum would say to me. Possibly her mum may have said it to her too when she was in her teens.

Train
It would be understandable to remove yourself from a challenge for a short time, build up the necessary skills, strength, understanding and then return and overcome said problem.

Result
The outcome for getting beyond the difficulty is the learning we gain from doing so. Being a life-long learner and a perpetual student of life supports growing past false limitations, possibly put in place by others. Apply understanding and continue honing, growing and improving. I believe growing after facing adversity is one of the best achievements of our lives. Becoming a therapist is a part of that story for me, but so is becoming a father, supervisor, lecturer, writer

Resources
Tom Bilyeu Impact Theory: Agent Smith
Science of Success with Jim Kwik

Images
Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash
Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

Investment in Therapy pt 3

I have been hinting throughout the previous 2 blogs that there are times when our brains do not support us to live well. There may be a number of reasons for the mind to act in a dubious way towards you. The reasons can include past thinking patterns, current or present living situations, nutrition, lethargy and using the body less often doing light exercise, relationships with others and a host of other experiences can negatively affect the mind.

Out to Get Us
The effects of the mind becoming an agent looking to undermine and derail us are similar to agent Smith in the Matrix. Agent Smith tried to finish Neo unsuccessfully many times. The effects of a mind becoming unwell are well documented.

3 Types
The point I am driving at is, by accessing the support and resources of someone else’s mind, (final flight scenes in the Matrix) can help someone who has entered a negative thinking pattern to realign those thoughts!

Tools in thinking approaches can be used to review what aspects of a person’s experience can be altered, left behind or actively engaged with to create a better now and future. C.B.T. and D.B.T. (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) E.M.D.R (Eye Movement De-sensitisation Reprocessing) are 3 therapeutic approaches that have been shown to have positive outcomes for a wide range of people who present with depression and anxiety and altered thinking patterns who are unable to re-route to have healthy thoughts.

Social for a reason
As social creatures we learn and gain ideas from others all the time. We have existed in a teach and learn from others for millennia. In therapy whilst some of the work is on you to figure things out for yourself, having a professional with you can help jolt the mind to begin thinking new and amazing ideas/thoughts/beliefs.

A coach or mentor will actively challenge you to think bigger or directly upset how you are viewing the world you live in. The aim in therapy/coaching/mentoring is to support you begin expanding and testing new thoughts.

The fear of engaging in support, could be that a person can stay thinking the thoughts they had originally. Remaining – Stuck. With a Flat affect. All around morose.

Exhibit A: It is about You
Then again the visit to the GP. The IAPT appointment happens or you make a last ditch attempt at seeing that therapist friends advised you to see.

You vampire like swoop to the transport to get you there just on time or a few minutes late. Mumbling at reception your request for the appointment with Ms D or Mr S. Your buzzed through and then…

Therapy begins.
Slowly at first.
One session.
An introduction.
The assessment.
You of them.
(Will this work?)
Them of you.
(Not sure, well, maybe?)
A feeling out of them, you, the space.
Do they really listen?
Have they really understood?
You test them.
Can they handle the real reason of why you came?
They sort of pass.
This could work!
The 59 minutes pass and
They politely intuit that
Your time with them is
Over. With a nod,
A slight
Smile, they say “See
You, next week?”
As though unsure of what
They have unleashed.
Not exactly the Cracken,
A distant cousin. The
Bracken? Maybe. As if on
A washing line you
Return and something
Begins to lift…

Slowly…

Exhibit A continued
The investment appears a sound one. The spring has returned. There’s renewed confidence. It looks brighter now. How did that happen? What trickery is this? Some call the experience of feeling renewed and invigorated, therapy. Others healing.

Whatever it might be, it feels good all the way to the bone. If you can cast your mind back to the last time you felt like this? Free. Happy. A willingness to be patient. Filled to the brim with energy. Spontaneous. Taking careful risks. Life before was a feeling of seemingly limitless time. This may have been before. You may have been younger then and that thing, those things hadn’t happened…

Therapy/Healing/Mentoring/Coaching/Consulting can help you to arrive at spaces that can make you want to try again.

We could ask is this a worthy investment…?

Resources
Tim Ferris interviews Brené Brown
Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu Keynote Speech 2016

Images
Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

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.

Do or Do Not

Impossible-Possible

Procrastination

I have been walking and talking with a client for 6 months and one of their main concerns is with procrastination. As modern human beings especially now with a large swathe of things to distract us (TV, Newspapers, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Pinterest, Messenger, Google Play, Netflix, Podcasts, Sport, TV on the Go, TV Now, LinkedIn plus countless more) and interrupt us, procrastination often arises as a theme within my counselling work.

As the client presented a number of different scenario’s that had them procrastinating – out of the blue I recalled a saying I had not heard in many years. ‘Do or do not do there is no try.’ The saying from Yoda made us both laugh and it could have been – the light Spring air and fresh budding trees in the park, but I was slightly taken aback by this uncanny recall and wisdom from a film I had watched many years ago.

Innate Wisdom

Many before me have stated that walking and talking in open air environments invigorates the senses and mind in ways that supports new neurological connections and psychological associations to form. I can remember the corner of the park we were walking through and the slight buzz when the important sensate reckoning was about to burst forth – “Do or Do Not Do…”

There was something about the discussion with this client which reminded me of conversations I have had with other clients, students, colleagues family members and friends about the concept of doing or not. I recognise dilemma and fear and the encounters that invite either failure loss and psychological pain of defeat. When trying we are making an attempt. I have clumsily described trying to pick something up with another walk and talk client. In essence the stick that I attempted to pick up remained lodged on the grass. The client saw what I was attempting to illustrate laughed and we walked on. Trying is an attempt to get something achieved. Doing is completing the task.

Two Choices

Perhaps there is chance to see that there are two choices that one can make whilst procrastination strikes, “do or not do” Yoda has said. The client who suggested that their procrastination was affecting their ability to get a certain task completed has choice. They debated about their effectiveness that was being prolonged and deflated as a result of the procrastination, it was also running their energy store to zero. We discussed a number of strategies that could be employed to support decision making and thought about timelines to support tasks being completed. By the end of the appointment an idea of progression had begun to form as well as the Yoda saying ‘Do or Do Not, there is no Try…’

Purposeful Procrastination

Rory Vaden has a book titled Procrastinate on Purpose that I am to read soon, as I would like to make better use of time to procrastinate with. Another concept I am getting used to is the idea of the Leaky Brain by Jeff Goins he of the ‘Real Artists Don’t Starve’ book.

Perhaps there is something more to being caught in thoughtful dilemmas.

https://youtu.be/BQ4yd2W50No

Is Counselling a Good Thing?

Argentine Tango

If it leads to dance… Possibly

‘As Counsellors and Mental Health professionals our role could be seen as Judge Jury and Executioner I shared with a group of Introduction to Counselling students at University of Greenwich in March’

The idea came as an afterthought to a slide which shared the below idea…

Psy-professional dominance

“…the psychiatrist, along with his psychiatrically orientated satellites, has now usurped the place once occupied by the social reformer and the administrator, if not indeed the judge…”

(Wotton,1959.pp.17)

Judge

The idea that we do not judge our clients for their actions, thoughts and circumstances of their lives is mostly I believe true. However as therapists we do make assessments and with that comes some degree of judgement.

How willing are we as therapists to engage with clients and the narratives they share of their lives’? By proxy we are judging! For me the idea is an uncomfortable reality, however it undoubtedly appears as a truism. The wise, and flexible in thought Irvin Yalom in his book ‘Loves Executioner’ shared views about 10 clients he worked with. Wherein lies sometimes excruciatingly honest judgement from him about clients. For example: Penny in the chapter The Wrong One Died was so affected by her past that elements of it were forgotten. Penny’s story stood out for me primarily because her ascent was incredible.

I did however make judgements, about her realisations and towards the end of her story the surprise was tear provoking, moving and surprising as she began to accept what therapy has been able to deliver. A truth well hidden (suppressed) – once seen (recognised) and the pain associated with it had chance to be released the experience offered Penny chance to grow!

As therapists we hold a non-judgemental line with our clients, that attempts to not judge choices of clients but circumstances that they are found within. To this end we judge vicariously choices made and the set of circumstances clients find themselves in. Penny is a great example of judgement by proxy.

The Jury

As Jury we sit, stand, walk and run with clients for hours, inviting them to make more informed choices about themselves. The deliberations seem never ending, the 2nd guessing, the moving ever backward, sideways, and forward before the breakthrough and release. We as therapists prepare the case, a case, our case, formulate the reasoning behind the whys of what lead circumstances to be as the client finds themselves embroiled within, and prepare, re prepare, and wait and hold and offer possible other ways of seeing a set of circumstances.

What we wait for is the lights to come on and the internal glow of re-framing, reclaiming and enlightenment. As an integrative therapist, these moments are worth the wait and the clients patience, as a testament to their resilience and outward growth. They are hard fought for – similarly in the jury’s quarters where arguments ensue, the fight and wrestle for a client is an internal and elemental battle. As therapists we enjoy the battle and the multiple defeats as I view that just further along, the small reprieves and then the striking of gold await. Leaving the jury’s quarters with a verdict whilst hard won, are so so precious.

The Final Act

Executioners execute and we do, for we let die old ideas a client holds of themselves, relationships, careers, family, money, their pasts, identity, food, love, self-esteem, weight, culture, age, sex, and country. We cease the battle once the client begins a journey anew – renewed.

Faith in self – restored, assuages the pain of growth. I have been fortunate enough to witness the act of resilience many times. This is the therapists chalice. This be the raison d’etre of why we do what we do. We resolve something with each struggle, every fight, every loss and every victory. As long as we remain true of ourselves, (congruent) to the work, to the process and to the client – we as a team ultimately win.

A brief tale of The Argentine Tangoist. I had a client a few years ago that I enjoyed working with. They were a trained psychotherapist and could share with me the approaches I was using to support them as we worked. I viewed the work like a daring dance! The dance was like none other that I had been involved with before. It was quick and slow and brief and intricate. I was lost to the spin at times as were they. The work with the Tangoist lasted just over 10 sessions and then as quickly as the work started it ended. Poof! Just like that over. It was chess of the highest order (I am a beginner) and I lost and won and was amazed by their skill. The sense of growth and loss has become a new narrative of mine. One that I have a grapefruit sensation – lingering. As executioner we too can be opened up to the unknown. Here too lies learning…

I have clients where the battle has raged for a while and then peace bursts forth once a realisation or a truth is found. Undeniably the light is perceived by the client – growing from obscurity to clarity and thus, battle weary but ready, strike new ground with renewed faith in their victory. After many years of searching as an artist, poet, basketball coach, youth worker, learning mentor: Counselling and Psychology found and claimed me.

There is something about this work I love – for it blends art with science and the unknown.

Fruitvale Station meets Psychology

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