15. Weird Therapists?

Like many professions when you witness a group together they take on powerful characteristics. 
Therapists are similar – perhaps like artists, musicians, authors the world is seen as fluid, full of colour, shapes, impressions. Led by the irrational, feelings, & connections. A celebration of the unknown remaining unknown. Humans dwarfed by the natural, metaphysical, space, infinity.

In the digital world of 2024 no space no time. Everything on the quick click. Scroll, short cut. Easy balm. Everything has to be evidenced and known. Calibrated for efficiency and consumption. Led by the rational, facts, & outcomes. We all benefit from this world: but pros and cons.

With therapists the pleasure of speaking to another about the essence of the self. Defenses recognised identitfied unresolved: but sometimes able to navigate around. To speak freely to others about ourselves is a rare priviledge. But more or less possible with colleagues and strangers?

The real world is not like this. How do you relate to the world with a sensibility that doesn’t fit? The human dilemma of how to relate the personal to the social. Do you stick to your version of the world and bear the clash? Do you relate to the world strictly through your own vision? Authentic Integrity. Strange weird?

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14. Billionaire Art

Billionaire Art? Can Art change the world? Can Art improve the world?
Art is personal. We know music, art paintings, objects. They are present and from the past. Childhood shapes.

Gallery visits. First time listening to pieces of music remain. Where when and with who.
Yet a large part of art is an industry fuelled by wealth. The wealthy buy art for love and investment. Mainly investment? It is a sleight of hand for the wealthy to say that artists are crucial to the world. They become benefactors of artists to offset their wealth. Like a carbon footprint.
To use their resources to benefit others is not wealth: it’s a loss of wealth.

Humans bolster their world to the idea they want to have of themselves. Art makes billionaires acceptable, cuddly, interesting. The way they want to be seen.

Did Andy Warhol or the Beatles change the world? Post war emanicipation? Music functioned as an open secret of ownership. We had music that only belonged to us. Not to our parents. It was radical, shocking, avante garde. It separated as into a new generation. Music formed us. Other things will separate newer generations. While music now has become mainstream which generations share.

Each generation has similar anxieties. Who are we? What makes us different? How we do what we want with what’s left? Do our values align with those presented to us?
Art for Art’s Sake

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13. Life of Shame

This article describes a life of shame from a daily dread of anxiety and fear. Not happy reading.
Commonly many come to therapy to be changed, fixed, resolved. The idea to wrestle with is that we are created, have experiences and are landed with ourselves. The attrition of relating to others is to be resisted. We defend to protect ourselves, our perceived weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.

Our families shape us. We are motivated by what we are not aware of. Finding ourselves through the labyrinth of our minds is resisted at every step.

Into the therapy the clients go through a transition of depression. The hopelessness around being unable to change hits. We arrive at adulthood and are presented with a contract for life which we see we have signed with our signature. We know we didn’t sign it, didn’t agree to it: but there it is. We didn’t ask to be born.

Market economies give us demographic ages to sell us products and services. The reality is that we are a person in our teens & twenties who lives added years of experience. We don’t significantly change. We don’t become wiser.  If we are clever – and we generally aren’t  – we learn to manage ourselves and give up to the personalities that we are given.

Something of a success might be that we can use our talents to give us a life, while accepting and accomodating our less than parts of ourselves. A learning that the person we are given is good enough.
Surrounded by others who are aiming to change.

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12. The English Patient

The English Patient opens and closes with the shot of the desert from a plane loking like the surface of the brain.
The English Patient (Count Almasy) has forgotten his name and identity aka Sam.

The English Patient tells the story from the hot desert of a romance with his friend’s wife Katharine. On their first meeting she mocks the English Patient for his writing with no adjectives. With this comment she sees something familiar: a withdrawn cold man: a template of control, self discipline, and using himself as a tool of production.  And a man looking for some sort of salvation, fixing, completeness by a woman. The empty space that aches to be filled. Katharine appeals to his writing, drawing, singing. They dance.

The English Patient’s unconscious trying to protect him from his fear of Katharine goes into a flght flight response. He fights with her husband trying to expel Katharine from the desert. He refuses her offer of putting her sketches in his notebook. Obligation belies dependence. They flew in by plane with no flight/escape out. He is stuck in the desert with his fear of her. But it is not his fear of Katharine that propels him. But the familiar fear of his own (aka Sam) early trauma attachment with his mother nursed by nannies. A familiar babyhood fear in his preverbal life.

Once the defence is breached in a sandstorm: the fever is in. She is angry with him: for pushing her to this. Women can relate to men as friends more? For the English Patient she is the space filler: the trauma soother: the wound balm. The Supersternal Notch. Katharine declares a love of her husband. The English Patient declares a hatred of ownership: telling her she should forget him – trying to wrestle back cold control after being rebuffed.

Then comes the threat of the love withdrawal. The English Patient becomes desperate, longing for a Katharine the English Patient cannot have: the English Patient becomes unboundaried, angry, vengeful, rude & insulting. Out of character & control such is his fear of returning to the original trauma version of himself.

“I have to teach myself not to read too much into everything. It comes of too long having to read so much into hardly anything at all …..”   The English Patient 2:06:30

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11. The Death of Amr

Amr Abdallah.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

On the morning Amr Abdallah was killed, he woke before dawn to say his Ramadan prayers with his father, mother, two younger brothers and aunt, in an open field in southern Gaza.

“It is You we worship and You we ask for help,” they prayed. “Guide us to the straight path — the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked Your anger or of those who are astray.”

It was dark. They made their way back to their tents. Their old life was gone — their village, Al-Qarara, their house — built with the money Amr’s father saved during the 30 years he worked in the Persian Gulf — their orchards, their school, the local mosque and the town’s cultural museum with artifacts dating from 4,000 B.C.

Blasted into rubble.

The ruins of Amr’s home

Amr, who was 17, would have graduated from high school this year. The schools were closed in November. He would have gone to college, perhaps to be an engineer like his father, who was a prominent community leader. Amr was a gifted student. Now he lived in a tent in a designated “safe area” that, as he and his family already knew, was not safe. It was shelled sporadically by the Israelis.

It was cold and rainy. The family huddled together to keep warm. Hunger wrapped itself around them like a coil.

“When you say ‘Amr’ it’s like you’re talking about the moon,” his uncle, Abdulbaset Abdallah, who lives in New Jersey, tells me. “He was the special one, handsome, brilliant, and kind.”

The Israeli attacks began in northern Gaza. Then they spread south. On the morning of Friday, Dec. 1, Israeli drones dropped leaflets over Amr’s village.

“To the inhabitants of al-Qarara, Khirbet al-Khuza’a, Absan and Bani Soheila,” the leaflets read. “You must evacuate immediately and go to shelters in the Rafah area. The city of Khan Yunis is a dangerous combat zone. You have been warned. Signed by the Israeli Defense Army.”

One of the leaflets dropped over Amr’s village.

Families in Gaza live together. Whole generations. This is why dozens of family members are killed in a single air strike. Amr grew up surrounded by uncles, aunts and cousins.

The villagers panicked. Some began to pack. Some refused to leave.

One of Amr’s uncles was adamant. He would stay behind while the family would go to the “safe area.” His son was a physician at Nasser Hospital. Amr’s cousin left the hospital to plead with his father to leave. Moments after he and his father fled, their street was bombed.

Amr and his family moved in with relatives in Khan Yunis. A few days later more leaflets were dropped. Everyone was told to go to Rafah.

Amr’s family, now joined by relatives from Khan Yunis, fled to Rafah.

Rafah was a nightmare. Desperate Palestinians were living in the open air and on streets. There was little food or water. The family slept in their car. It was cold and rainy. They did not have blankets. They looked desperately for a tent. There were no tents. They found an old sheet of plastic, which they attached to the back of the car to make a protected area. There were no bathrooms. People relieved themselves on the side of the road. The stench was overpowering.

They had been displaced twice in the span of a week.

Amr’s father, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, fell sick. The family took him to the European Hospital near Khan Yunis. The doctor told him he was ill because he was not eating enough.

“We can’t handle your case,” the doctor told him. “There are more critical cases.”

“He had a beautiful house,” Abdallah says of his older brother. “Now he is homeless. He knew everyone in his hometown. Now he lives on the street with crowds of strangers. No one has enough to eat. There is no clean water. There are no proper facilities or bathrooms.”

The family decided to move again to al-Mawasi, designated a “humanitarian area” by Israel. They would at least be in open land, some of which belonged to their family. The coastal area, filled with dunes, now holds some 380,000 displaced Palestinians. The Israelis promised the delivery of international humanitarian aid to al-Mawasi, little of which arrived. Water has to be trucked in. There is no electricity.

Israeli warplanes hit a residential compound in al-Mawasi in January where medical teams and their families from the International Rescue Committee and Medical Aid for Palestinians were housed. Several were injured. An Israeli tank fired on a house in al-Mawasi where staff from Médecins Sans Frontières and their families were sheltering in February, killing two and injuring six.

Amr’s family set up two makeshift tents with palm tree leaves and sheets of plastic. Israeli drones circled overhead night and day.

On the day before he was killed, Amr managed to get a phone connection — telecommunications are often cut — to speak to his sister in Canada.

“Please get us out of here,” he pleaded.

The Egyptian firm Hala, which means “Welcome” in Arabic, provided travel permits for Gazans to enter Egypt for $350, before the Israeli assault. Since the genocide began, the firm has raised the price to $5,000 for an adult and $2,500 for a child. It has sometimes charged as much as $10,000 for a travel permit.

Hala has offices in Cairo and Rafah. Once the money is paid — Hala only accepts U.S. dollars — the name of the applicant is submitted to Egyptian authorities. It can take weeks to get a permit. It would cost around $25,000 to get Amr’s family out of Gaza, double that if they included his widowed aunt and three cousins. This was not a sum Amr’s relatives abroad could raise quickly. They set up a GoFundMe page here. They are still trying to collect enough money.

Once Palestinians get to Egypt, the permits expire within a month. Most of the Palestinian refugees in Egypt survive on money sent to them from abroad.

Amr awoke in the dark. It was the first Friday of Ramadan. He joined his family in the morning prayer. The Fajr. It was 5 a.m.

Muslims fast in the day during the month of Ramadan. They eat and drink once the sun goes down and shortly before dawn. But food was now in very short supply. A little olive oil. The spice za’atar. It was not much.

They went back to their tents after prayers. Amr was in the tent with his aunt and three cousins. A shell exploded near the tent. Shrapnel tore apart his aunt’s leg and critically injured his cousins. Amr frantically tried to help them. A second shell exploded. Shrapnel ripped through Amr’s stomach and exited from his back.

Amr stood up. He walked out of the tent. He collapsed. Older cousins ran towards him. They had enough gas in their car — fuel is in very short supply — to drive Amr to Nasser Hospital, three miles away.

“Amr, are you okay?” his cousins asked.

“Yes,” he moaned.

“Amr, are you awake?” they asked after a few minutes

“Yes,” he whispered.

They lifted him from the car. They carried him into the overcrowded corridors of the hospital. They set him down.

He was dead.

Amr in death.

They carried Amr’s body back to the car. They drove to the family’s encampment.

Amr’s uncle shows me a video of Amr’s mother keening over his corpse.

“My son, my son, my beloved son,” she laments in the video, her left hand tenderly stroking his face. “I don’t know what I will do without you.”

They buried Amr in a makeshift grave.

Later that night the Israelis shelled again. Several Palestinians were wounded and killed.

The empty tent, occupied the day before by Amr’s family, was obliterated.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

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10. Lizzo Quits

LIzzo quits and then doesn’t.
To this day we still see people of difference – race creed colour body shape attacked on social media.
We appear to find other intolerable. We have to attack to the point where it goes away.

To compulsively repeat we are hard wired genetically to seek out the familiar. We are drawn to others who we feel safe and comfortable with. Anything else is deemed a threat.

We are taught that we shouid be inclusive, welcome the other, tolerate difference. Ultimately in the modern world we feel different. As our hard wired brain outside our village of origin treats everything as a danger.

To challenge this as teenagers we can feel different to our families, and rebel against them. Could this be the confines of nuclear families? Would we feel different in our villages of origin. Where there would be many versions of familiar safe and not so safe depending on our preverbal experience. But in the village we might not have to be brought up by parents after the initial months.

To be aware of our hard wired brains we might have more impact on our intolerances and prejudices.
Back to LIzzo ….

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9. Colin Murray Parkes

Dr Colin Murray Parkes (1928-2024) was one of the prominent personalities in the understanding of Bereavement.

Born into loss, this was my path into the helping professions. We met at the London Hospital in the 1980s, where he had set up a Bereavement Service for patient’s families. This was a new initiative, on the back of his hospice work. Like a lot of experts he was modest, and had no sides to him. He had the knack of describing quite complicated things in a very simple way, with a kind of truth and humility that perhaps we as a training cohort might not have had.
He was very supportive of us all and really believed people having open access to bereavement therapy in a time where this was not fashionable.

He contributed to the beginning of the Hospice Movement by setting up Saint Christopher’s Hospice world-renowned Centre in South London for palliative care & training. The UK is still the leader in hospice care.

He described the idea of grief being ” the price we pay for love”. This set off a way of thinking new and ground breaking at the time: however obvious. He contributed with teams of professionals to support the bereaved in the large scale accidents of the era: creating a body of research & theory.

In every work life there are a few key figures who enthuse us with their natural intelligence in our work and personal lives.
Thank you.

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8. Sabotage Shame

Sophie a 25yrs old Eastern European woman emailed me over a period of weeks to start therapy. I would offer her a space: then she would cancel: disappear then recontact some time later. She asked to have the sessions on the phone. She started by talking about her friendship with a man she met at work: which she went on to sabotage. She wanted to know why.

She found herself at the pub on a Friday evening with a group of work colleagues including this man. The group was going well when the man asked her in front of the group whether she would want to go with him to his friend’s birthday party which other work colleagues were going to. She felt embarrassed, frightened, said no, excused herself to go to the toilet. And went home.

Over the weeks I learnt about Sophie’s abusive past: an alcoholic father, a depressed mother, and her escape to the UK from her family. Slowly she unpacked the sabotage. She came to the idea that for her to be in any relationship with a man is shameful. Her perception was that at work nobody knew about the friendship until it was exposed in front of her colleagues. To deal with the shame she sabotaged the friendship.

Sophie talked about the friendship with the man. In hindsight she recognised that the man felt very known to her. They spoke easily, & quickly together: which she thought in hindsight was over familiar. She was surprised that she didn’t see this at the time. A social transference.

Shame teaches to behave in social groups: to keep our darker sides in. So in perception if our vulnerabilities are exposed to others, judged negatively we are shamed. Early experiences can carry forward shame, which bursts out exposed to the social group.The possibility of shame was illustrated by Sophie’s reluctance to start the therapy, and the choice of no gaze on the phone.

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7. Private School Sam

A beginning …..
Sam a private school man presenting with his girlfriend threatening to end their 2 year relationship if he doesn’t speak to someone. He works in the City, and is a Sports Club captain leading a competitve team in a private school sport. He has a full timetable where being productive is essential.

Sam is a charming handsome man with an easy attitude to life: as though nothing bothers him. He is respectful and polite with the smooth presentation. His persona feels like a steel egg. Nothing will touch or reach him. His attendance is poor: he gives notice at the last minute, or DNA. But he still comes with a vague attachment to the therapy. He assumes that I am going to break into the steel egg with heavy gear. He went to private boarding school aged 7 years old all the way through to 18 years old. Then onto a top University where he studied sciences. He recalls his childhood and school experience as good: he can’t complain.

Conversations with Sam are to convince me that his template of control, self discipline, and using himself as a tool of production is the way to go. I agree with him. Not out of technique but authentically agree that these traits have made him successful. These traits are good to have. He is a leader: he dominates and controls. His template is efficient, effective and winning. I have learnt that reassurance of the steel egg is crucial. Any attempt to break in is seen as an attack & defended.

In the room he invites/provokes me into conversations with stories and situations where control, & discipline win the day. I listen: being present and supporting his template. To start we both ignore the elephant in the room – the reason he is coming – his relationship with his girlfriend. The transference is to play me into thinking that all is well, he has no feelings about anything, so we can end. My counter transference is to want to end with him, while feeling seduced, irritated, bored, but in pain. One of my tasks is to hold Sam’s painful feelings he cannot bear. In doing this I show that his feelings are bearable, and that someday he might risk taking them back.

To prevent the taking back Sam controls the session by filling it with stories of the template success sometimes angrily, petulantly, sadly, reluctantly. He wonders what he is doing coming here. Is it productive. At times I feel his fondness for me: that there might be something familiar between us which is both inticing, and revolting.
But he and I still hang on …..

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6. Private School 2

and to continue ……. sitting in front of these lovely private school men is an exercise in an unequal duality. The smooth presentation dominates, an occasional glimpse of the boy behind comes through. Even though the boy is only glimpsed he is perceived as breaking down the smooth presentation. Fear of the boy breaking through initiates therapy to strengthen the smooth presentation.

The wish is for the therapy to maintain the norm. The norm being that the smooth presentation working efficiently, to the point where the private school man operates in similar systems like the City, Legal Professions, Sports clubs etc. When the presentation begins to break down (illustrated in the extreme film American Psycho) the private school man can be driven mad trying to maintain the presentation.

To be presented with the notion that the boy breaking through might be unstoppable is terrifying for the private school man. Sometimes they are not convinced. The smooth presentation remains, and he moves onto other treatmentshoping for a bolster of the smooth presentation.

At the start male discussions around concepts, ideas, knowledge, of different thinkers, approaches, philosophies are discussed. Then narratives around life events, family, partners, then childhood with a sprinkling of feelings emerge.
Long hard dull boring repetitive work. No answers, solutions, actions or behaviours. But a slow noticing of the child behind: leading to a slow reveal where the child can sit alongside the smooth presentation joining up a whole person. Where all parts have legitimacy, and influence. The Magic.

 

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