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I’ve noticed impatience creeping in in several areas and I wonder what that says about us.  As a counsellor I need to be patient with my clients as developing trust or bringing about healing takes time – there is no cheat.

 

3 examples of our struggle with waiting:

 

  • I enjoy listening to review shows and am pleased that they do give notice if they are about to reveal too much by signalling “spoiler alert”.  Last week I was listening to a very reputable review show podcast where John Hamm of Mad Men was being interviewed.  The whole point seemed to be to guess as much of the future of the show as possible.  By the end of the interview I knew how many series might be ahead and what the ending screen shot might be.  Try as I might I can’t now get this image out of my head.  It was totally unnecessary.  The interviewer was obviously not a fan and someone who had researched the series and probably feels they could write something similar.

 

  • Sometimes even if we don’t seek the information before hand we might get it anyway.  I am tired of hearing on the news that someone important is going to give a speech tomorrow and this is what will be said. When I have a vote to impact the future then let me know otherwise I can wait until tomorrow to find out.  More recently we had that with the budget.  (As it happened being given so much information beforehand meant that people were more alert to what had not been leaked).  It does raise the question as to when we engage with what is going on: before it happens based on expectation or after it happens based on reality?

 

  • My third example is the publication of the report looking into the causes of last summer’s riots.  I was surprised to hear on BBC’s Newsnight that the report’s authors would not be joining the discussion because of their anger that it had been leaked.  The panel was good enough but that did not seem to be the point. Here is a report that has taken so many months and effort to explore all the possible causes of a very unusual and sad incident and it’s been snatched out of those who did the work.  It’s like designing, making and packaging a most original gift and having a stranger break open the wrapping and rummaging inside. It is such a difficult exercise anyway because many people do not wish to know what caused it they just don’t want it to happen again.  We all have our preferred perspectives that blame individuals, families or society for problems.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could demonstrate delaying gratification rather than a ‘must have it now’ approach? I hope the report is given the attention it deserves by all of us and look forward to hearing from the people who carried out the research.

 

A recent award nominee shared how angry she was when someone asked about her acceptance speech.  She wanted to enjoy the glow and excitement of being nominated. I hope that more of us can develop an ability to wait and hold uncertainty.  What do you think? Do you always want to know what is coming up or would you like to be surprised when things happen?

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As I get older I really appreciate the opportunity of a new year.  It gives me a chance to reflect on how I spend my time, looking back, looking forward and in the present.We do not need to feel overwhelmed by setting unreachable goals.

 

It could simply be an opportunity to change our direction slightly.  This could be as simple as being more adventurous or having more fun or keeping in touch with more friends.

 

If we’ve had a difficult year, then maybe just keeping going is achievement enough.

 

 

A new year can be a chance to reconnect to our heart’s desire for our life.

 

If you have not read it yet, my book An A-Z for your life is a good way to start exploring different aspects of who you are and what you want from life.

 

For 2012, I would like to keep many things as they are but there are a few things I’d like to change.

For me:

  • More writing
  • Less over thinking
  • More exercising
  • Less rushing around
  • More meditation/quiet time

Is there anything you would like to change?

Please leave your comments below to share your hopes for 2012.  Thanks

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I am surprised that the government are thinking of allowing cameras into court.  It seems so unnecessary and once it starts it would be difficult to reverse.  The trend will be for cameras in more places.  As a judge asked recently, “what would be the purpose?”  Is it a deterrent or a way of informing the rest of the population?  It is unlikely to serve as the former and the population already have access to information about how the courts work.  Does witnessing sentencing give us confidence in the system or encourage us to sit in judgement of others where we then imagine we know everything about them.

 

Justice has always had to be seen-to-be-done so nothing has changed.  Is it that we have no trust in professionals anymore?  Do we now need to see the shame, pain and humility (or arrogance) on the guilty person?  What’s next, public flogging?  There are many conspiracy theorists out there that need to see everything before they can believe it, and pandering to that is not the way to take our communities forward.

 

It seems to be that it is already difficult for ex offenders to make their way back into being a fully paid up member of society and public labelling of their image cannot help that problem.  Also, so many offenders are young people who may be able to turn over a new leaf but with limited positive experiences of life and poor expectations from society they might become less likely to reform.  When we’ve heard of their crimes and seen their faces the mental image stays with us.  Although willing we may find it just too difficult to give them another chance.

 

My fear is that it would be like having the OJ Simpson trial on a continuous loop.  There will also be barristers playing up to the camera, auditioning for their cameo role or mini series.  Maybe instead of justice being done we end up with a downplaying of the complex nuanced aspects of a case and the overdoing of visual aspects and easy sound bites.  Have we not got enough real problems to sort out in our communities without putting limited resources into a whole new policy and procedural setup?

 

This seems to be about demonstrating the punishment to those involved in the recent riots.  We seem to want to put people into boxes and not allow for change, personal development or transformation.  We seem to be so focused on shame and punishment that we’ve forgotten about rehabilitation.

 

Our attention needs to be focused on reducing recidivism rates through better use of rehabilitation, education, guidance, therapy and mentoring.  People need a reason and a hope to try to improve their lives and being globally known, as an offender will not help their motivation for change.

 

The whole experiment might backfire with offenders getting more street-cred the longer their case is seen in the media.  Notoriety may be its own prize and provide opportunity to be recruited for bigger jobs on the inside.

 

There is such a potential for negative impact when there is no harm in leaving things as they are.  People will still be convicted and the details will be in the newspapers and anyone of us can go to our local courthouse to observe if we fancy it.  Nothing needs to change.

 

Footnotes:

  • Broadcasters would benefit; as here is another reality show they do not need to script or be creative with – it writes itself.  And they may be able to raise advertising revenue to meet the interests of their audience.  Security alarms anyone?

 

  • Many, though not all, barristers and judges may like to be seen in their best light – all dressed up and clever and authoritative.

 

  • As the audience we struggle to keep our reality and fiction separate at the moment.  Actors get heavily criticised when they take on difficult challenging roles.  Life imitating art and art imitating life will become even more indistinguishable. No harm is done by leaving things as they are.

 

What do you think?

 

Race and therapy

I felt honoured to be asked to speak to a group of therapists about working with difference, focusing on African Caribbean clients.  The whole process of preparation and execution has been really instructive.

I wanted to share my 7 steps on this part of my journey as it may trigger something for others:

1.  As an African Caribbean counselling student I felt I had to struggle through the training without that part of my identity being included.  We were very good on ancestral characters but these seem not to link to real world experiences of differences.  The training was very holistic and addressed many parts of my growing self and included thoughts, behaviours, imagination, spirituality and body awareness but no aspect seem to address how it might feel to be a black female in the white female world of therapy.  The male minority and gay minority (all white) felt able to voice their feelings around their experience.  I imagine encountering staff who mirrored those aspects of their identity helped this; there were no black members of staff.

2. Since graduating I have explored my growing sense of what it means to be a black female counsellor – in my personal life, in the community, in group therapy, with clients, with other black female therapists.  With other black therapists there is some mirroringso I get my thoughts and feelings reflected back and this deepens my awareness and growth.

caribbean queen

3. With group therapy and peer support there is a long-standing, mutually agreed, confidential set up.  We share our individual struggles and we are supported and challenged.  They do it to me and I do it for them.  This involves great trust and highlights our awareness of who we are now and our continuously deepening individual and relational journeys.

4. Being asked to do this talk meant that the subject of race and therapy is more acceptable as a discussion topic to the profession in general and is no longer unspoken.  By agreeing to do the talk I would now break my silence on the subject, practiced so well during my training. Back then I felt it best to leave it off the agenda rather than force the subject onto people who were, on the whole, not very interested.  I did not wish to make people feel uncomfortable or guilty and knew it would be a lifetime’s journey into this and other parts of me.  It is not possible to explore everything in 3.5 years and therapists continue in personal development outside of what we do for our clients.

5. So now I find I am being given space and voice and I have given myself the same.  But what does that mean?  Am I now the black expert?  Could I possibly speak for all African Caribbean people and their experience of therapy?  Is it about migration, family structure, education, housing, racism or slavery? Where do I start and what do I want them to know, understand and experience at the end?

6. I prepared as best I could, given conflicting ideas of what I wanted to achieve.  I arrived to an all white audience as I had imagined.  Who were they and why had they come when other chose not to?  I feel exposed because they know who I am and I am about to let them into some very personal experiences, thoughts and feelings.  Although there are theories and concepts, this subject is personal to me, and not just delivering continuing professional development.

7.  There were so many ways it could go.   Here is what happened:

a) I prioritised engagement and discussion as I wanted to know where they were in their experience of difference and what queries they had.  I’ve sat through too many equality sessions where people attend because they have to but they take away nothing.

b) I wanted an honest style where people would feel able to ask anything they wanted. I guess I chose education and authenticity over being challenging.  For me a lot of therapy is about raising awareness and connecting to unconscious thoughts, feelings and beliefs so this is what I could facilitate here too.

c) My desire to be open and responsive meant that I paid less attention to structure and this is the area to improve for the next talk.

So this whole process has been very helpful for me, and I enjoyed facilitating the session.  It feels very much like a moment in time, a turning point. How do you relate to the differences you find in the world?  Have you been silent on something then decided to speak up?  Leave a comment below to carry on the conversation.

How I nourish my body

As counsellors we are sometimes accused of focusing too much on feelings but how we feel about our bodies influence how we take care of this precious gift.  I recently watched a documentary on wounded ex soldiers trekking to the North Pole and was reminded of what our bodies can do.  I discuss this in my book An A-Z for your life.

How do we nourish our bodies?  How do we decide what to eat and drink and what to say “no!” to?  For some it is all about taste.

A recent blend: kale and raspberries

You may eat the foods you were raised on, replicating recipes from your parents.  I do a bit of this but I now live in a different part of the world, in a different time and a different household.  Plus with increased indoor living, stress, technology, pollution, central heating and ageing my bodily needs must now be different.

How do I optimise what I feed my body?  Is it a combination of taste and heritage?  The health guidelines recommend 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, plenty of water and not too much alcohol, caffeine or fizzy drinks.  My diet is close to this but I have a few niggling health issues that have no medical solution.  I am convinced that fine-tuning what I eat and don’t eat is the answer.  Diets tend to be about slimming and I have never really dieted.

I have been thinking of making some changes to what I eat to see if it improves my health concerns.  Some months ago a friend loaned me a book about eating for your blood type and I find the arguments very convincing.  It seems to be scientific and by relating to specific blood types I can be sure that it takes my body chemistry into account.  This feels much safer than just choosing something that is in vogue but based on different body types, or genetic background than my own.  Apparently, our blood type go back further in our ancestry, and is a more useful key to our optimum diet than race or current environment.   Alongside this I’ve been reading up on green smoothies and raw food.  Incredibly these are compatible and imply some overall truth.

Having read the book on blood type I am very keen to try tweaking my diet towards the optimum for my blood type.  I don’t claim to understand all the science behind it but I do know that some foods are more easily digested than others.  I am not yet ready to give up meat but I do love fish and vegetables so these can be part of the majority of meals.  Probably the biggest difference is being able to be more specific about the fruits that are best for me, and those that are not as good.  A few of my favourites will be shelved whilst I try this out.  It’s my first attempt to follow some sort of diet and feels like a big commitment to trust my body’s nourishment to this approach.  A wide range of foods are included: – carb, veg, fruit, fish, greens, red wine – so this is not particularly difficult.  If I link my reading on green smoothies and raw living this is not so much a change of what is eaten but how it is prepared. What will be cooked, juiced or blended? It is less about menu and more about recipe.

As a holistic practitioner I am intrigued that it also targets the most suitable exercises for different blood types.  It suggests, for example, that those with blood type O would benefit from eating lots of meat and undertaking high energy exercises whilst for those with blood type A, being vegetarian and practicing gentler and more meditative exercises such as Tai Chi and Pilates are likely to be beneficial.

So how do you nourish your body?  We are all making these decisions everyday.  Does it depend on taste, family background, cost, convenience or public health information?  

 

Recently I’ve enjoyed Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Old Vic. I had seen several Shakespearean productions although not specifically this play.  It was a brilliant production directed by Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey was great in the role.  The team wanted the audience to fall in love with the dialogue so the performance covered an absorbing 3 hours!  They gave us enough time to get hold of the setting and the characters. Kevin Spacey as Richard III was captivating and charismatic.  He was also bitter, angry, manipulative, egocentric and altogether not a nice person.

 

A couple weeks later we went to see Butley with Dominic West.  This is the story of a university professor and his relationship with his mentee over a period of time.  I am a big fan of Dominic West and his acting was superb.  During the play we find out about the lengths and depths of their relationship, the other people in their lives and gain some insight into the changing power balance between them.  Although it is possible to feel sad for Butley and the situation he finds himself in, one is not really drawn to him.  He is bitter, angry, repressed, emotionally blind, lost and emotionally cold.  It was quite a sad ending in that the character seemed resigned and hopeless.

 

I was very disappointed with the ending in Butley. I don’t think I need an upbeat happy ending. Also, characters don’t all have to be nice because that is not realistic, but is it too much to hope for depth and transformation?  I wonder if this will become a new criterion for the plays I choose to see.   It may be that I expect more from the theatre than from the film industry.

 

Have you seen any plays recently and how did you relate to the characters?

I saw Marianne speak at Alternatives in London a couple days ago and wanted to record something here.  At this time when there is so much conflict and stress in the world it’s good to have other voices.  She does not ignore the problems but talks of us needing to come together to find a new way to unite good actions and have a positive impact.  Marianne is wise, confident, charismatic and caring.  I am amazed at how she can speak of God and not sound religious but spiritual.  In the Q&A that followed she showed great empathy to those asking difficult questions, wanting guidance on working through their painful experiences.  Very moving.

This is not so much a summary of what was said but noting the aspects that resonated:

  • We find God through and in each other
  • We can value the differences and separateness of our embodied selves but would do well to recognise ourselves as spiritual beings also
  • Our assignment is to be our authentic selves and take responsibility for our lives 100% of the time
  • We may already know what we feel called to do in life so now it’s about taking action

Do any of these ideas resonate with you?

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Last week the government introduced a new crime website – www.police.uk – where we can find out the level and type of crime on every street in the U.K.  This is meant to keep residents informed with what is going on in their area.  It should also help us to keep the police accountable for how they spend their time. This information has always been available but it was a bit more complicated to find before and less publicised.

It’s great if we all have more information so we can help our communities to be safer and better places to live.  My worry is that it will have the same impact as school league tables – www.education.gov.uk/performancetables

There were always schools of varying success but once school league tables tell you that your local school is on the bottom of a list then you will look for a school at the top of the list.  Many house moves have occurred to facilitate access to better schools.  Similarly there have always been varying amounts of crime but once these lists are compiled then the differences will be clear, and lots of individual decisions will probably lead to more low crime and high crime areas, with a lot less in between.

I hope that I am wrong and we continue to have diverse communities where we look out for our neighbours and work with the authorities to keep our communities safe.

It is true that some people have a fear of crime that is out of proportion to reality and finding that crime is lower than they think should be helpful.  However there are others who don’t want to think about the reality of crime and believe it wont happen to them and for those these statistics might increase their anxiety.  As a counsellor I know that such anxiety affects people differently and needs to be worked through.

So, how do you feel about having such information available to you?  Will it help you be more involved in your community/neighbourhood scheme?  Is it just a tool to spy on people you know in other areas of the country?  Is it all a cunning way to get us involved before more cuts?  I’d love to hear what you think about it – please leave a comment below

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The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome.

and say, sit here. Eat

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

“Love after Love” from COLLECTED POEMS 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC

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Film: Inception

I very much enjoyed watching Inception recently. The concept of the film is very intriguing as it proposes that we can infiltrate peoples’ dreams with ideas and convince them that the ideas are theirs. When said out loud it is hard to believe that this is possible – surely we all know what is our idea and what ideas we have picked up form others, don’t we? I have to admit here that it is not always clear: many of our ideas and actions are influenced by several people.

This is why advertising works. When faced with a new idea, in the correct package, we embrace it and buy in to it.  In the past we may have been able to trace our purchase to a particular iconic advert – Nescafe, and Boddingtons come to mind, but we now consume so much media that we can’t always remember where or when were presented with an idea. Human nature is social and we want to build relationships and feel we belong.  Allowing other people to plant ideas in our minds can help that process.  We do need to share our ideas and have them grow and evolve.

Maybe the only thing to take from this is to monitor what we watch and listen to. If we surround ourselves with negative input and half-truths then that will affect our view of life negatively.  If we surround ourselves with hardworking, engaged and forgiving people then our life would be very different from the previous scenario.

Another aspect of the film was about what we store in our unconscious, and how that has an impact on what we project onto the world. So, we think our unconscious is fully hidden but sometimes our behaviours say what is really going on underneath.  But how do ideas get into our unconscious?  Well that has been built up over time and through our life’s experiences.

Having watched the film I feel very aware of how fragile our mental health can be – and proud that I allowed myself to trust the film and go on the journey. I did not know how it would end but was very relieved by the ending. (It was completely absorbing and I don’t think it was because I was on a flight.)

At one point it transpires that one of the leading women enjoyed regular trips of fantasy which eventually lead to her losing her grip on reality.  This is not entirely surprising.

The movie also demonstrates: standing by your word, taking a leap of faith, and doing your best to hold on to your family. These are great values that we can all respect whilst recognising the challenges therein.

Another theme being explored in the movie is that of being haunted by your spouse after they’ve died or, you could say, struggling to put to rest the memory of a beloved spouse. It seems a theme Leonardo Di Caprio is keen to explore as it also underlies his other recent movie Shutter Island. Again issues of reality and fantasy are explored and we come to the thought that what is real depends on our perspective?

Have you seen the film Inception and how did you get on with it?

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