All posts by guy

The Work (2017) Film

“Nearly 20 years ago, an unconventional program started inside Folsom Prison: Some of Californias most hardened convicts invite members of the public to join them (in the prison) in intensive group therapy sessions” 

Haunting music accompanies the start of this documentary.  Outside the gates of the prison we see the pensive uncertain public volunteers arriving to go inside the prison being told “you are being watched right now”.  Interspersed with prison yard images of inmates in light blue prison uniform and white vests:  razor wire fences and closing steel gates, set against the bright blue Californian sky and the  prison security towers, vulnerability has no place here.  Gang and racial divisions still exist, to be emotional is weakness, and long since forgotten father wounds abound. 

We follow the 4 day  personal journey of each member of the public and several of the black, white, Hispanic, native american, bearded, bandana wearing inmates.  Several small therapy groups go on at the same time within the grey breeze block walls of a large undecorated prison room.   Heavy on seamlessly blended leader facilitation (these are prisoners who may sometimes be unpredictable), as well as peer facilitation,  we follow one group as one by one each man succumbs to his emotions and shows his vulnerability.  We see men who are brave enough to get in touch with their feelings, their emotional wounds, sometimes easily, sometimes through gritted teeth.  Daring to descend inwards and down to their most painful least visited places whilst being facilitated and held by the circle of fellow men, this is  deeply moving and thought provoking throughout.

“Right where your wound, your hurt is…..right alongside that you can find your gold”.   This isn’t a trained white middle class educated listener, but an incarcerated murderer uttering these words.

This is intense,  demanding viewing…….as I watch I realise the wider world is waking up to the possibility that unprocessed feelings may be behind much of the acting out behaviour of men that can be so damaging to societies, to their relationships with others and to themselves.

Ok, a confession, this type of work is close to  my heart……..but 90 minutes later I feel like I’ve been on retreat myself, my outer world receding as I too am put firmly in my own moment of aliveness, in touch with my body,  my emotions, my own “Work”, and the richness, beauty and power of men helping each other to get in touch with their true selves.

Iron John:Men and Masculinity (1990) by Robert Bly

“At a gathering of men in a  huge hall in London in  the 1980’s (Robert Bly was there too).    A man climbed upon stage suddenly and shouted ‘I don’t know how to be a man!’ “.    A few years later this book arrived

Running through this book  is an ancient Brothers Grimm fable about a boy who goes into the forest.  (This tale was selected by Bly as one of only 6 out of 236 Grimm brothers stories that relates specifically to male dangers and triumphs)

The boy wants to do something dangerous. The king tells him about a lake in the forest where men keep disappearing.  The boy investigates and ends up having  to drain the lake, where at the bottom he finds a Wild Man.  The Wild Man has a Golden Ball that the boy has lost.   So begins a relationship between the boy and the Wild Man. 

Picture Source: Wikipedia

Later the Wild Man ends up locked in a cage.  The key to unlock the Wild Man and get back the boys Golden Ball is held under the boys mothers pillow….. the Wild Man tells the boy he needs to steal the key…..(Bly talks openly in the intro about the dilemma of having it under the mothers pillow)

Each of these events is pulled apart in great detail, discussed, and dissected, imagined and pondered  by Bly.  The symbolism of each stage of the tale is related to how men find themselves in modern Western society (ie generally not in touch with their true nature and true selves, perhaps looking for the answer in the wrong places).      It’s a series of gentle thoughtful duly considered wonderings, considered from many contexts and points of view. Bly is a poet and there is Jungian influence in this book. Its part poetry, part discussion, part mythology, part interspersed with modern examples to illustrate and keep it relevant

During my training the general interpretation  of “Wild” from fellow students was ‘out of control’.   Bly uses ‘Wild’ to mean connected to nature, free spirited, aware of his wound, hairy and not bound by convention, more like a Woodman or Shaman than a savage.      

This book is an acquired taste, not an easy read, despite being a bestseller and pretty well known amongst mens work literature.  It’s a book to dip into for a few pages, then ponder. Then come back to it some time later. Each time I’ve looked at it still feels like starting again each time.  Reading the same parts again can harvest a different fragment of the story.  It can be frustrating, and requires patience.   What is he trying to say?    How does he link it to what we actually need to do?   I’ve only made it to the end once, but then maybe that’s me (I’m not a good book finisher but a better starter)

Not one I’d suggest to give to clients in general unless you’ve formed your own view of it first, or they are particularly keen.  Bly is clear that this is about male initiation. And also that it does not exclude gay men.    It is however a remarkably ageless book that does not date like some books based on ideas/times/movements and you don’t have to be into poetry to get something out of it.

Counselling Training Advice

Considering a Counselling Training is a big step with many things to consider.

Financial, emotional, personal, practical.  Much of this can only be learnt when you have already commited to a particular course.   

1 or 2 sessions of discussion about you and your motivations can be helpful to ensure you make more informed choices.

We could make sure you are aware of the following:

– The level of commitment and the demands on you

– Choosing the right modality/type of training

– What you want out of this course now and in the future

– Different routes through training.

– Trainings that are safer bets and trainings that might need to be thought about in more detail

– The balance between Theory and Experiential

– When you gain the qualification what will you actually be able to do and not do?

6 people in your Couples Counselling Session?

What? There will only be 2 adults in the session right?

Wrong. Alongside/Inside each of the two presenting adults is an internalised inner child and an internalised parental figure.

Suddenly things are a little bit more complicated

Person 1 Person 2

Couples sometimes get stuck in the dotted lines positions, where one is having a go at the other one. (Diagram courtesy of The Context of Things)

Couples Counselling aims to get both parties relating along the solid line ie from Adult to Adult. This happens by many methods but the first stage is to realise the unhelpful patterns and why they come about

To book a session

Searching for the Anti-Virus | Covid 19 as a Quantum Phenomenon

Thought provoking article by Martin Winiecki…part of which is below

“I’ve struggled to make sense of what is going on. My suspicious mind wandered around restlessly, examining all theories and possible explanations, yet I must admit: I don’t know what is happening. I do know this is a crucial moment of choice for humanity. In this essay, I will not suggest or discuss “what is going on.” I rather want to invite you into a realm transcending the dichotomy of “objective reality” vs “subjective thoughts/feelings,” which underlies most theories, predictions and calls to action in this crisis. Coming from a spiritually-informed holistic worldview, I entertain the possibility that we as humanity – or some deeper part of ourselves, whether conscious or not – have dreamed this moment into existence as a catalyst for our collective evolution. If that were true, how might we engage and respond? Covid-19 could actually present an unlikely possibility for collective awakening and far-reaching system change

Imagined Letter from Covid 19 to Humans

Interesting Imaginary Letter from Covid 19 to Humans from GratefulWeb. Helps to bring perspective that what should be a relationship of equals is actually an abusive one

Stop. Just stop.

It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.

We will help you.

We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt

We will stop

the planes

the trains

the schools

the malls

the meetings

the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our

single and shared beating heart,

the way we breathe together, in unison.

Our obligation is to each other,

As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.

We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,

to bring you this long-breaking news:

We are not well.

None of us; all of us are suffering.

Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth

did not give you pause.

Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.

Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.

You have not been listening.

It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.

But the foundation is giving way,

buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.

We will help you.

We will bring the firestorms to your body

We will bring the fever to your body

We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs

that you might hear:

We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.

We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.

We are asking you:

To stop, to be still, to listen;

To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;

To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;

To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?

To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?

To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?

Many are afraid now.

Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,

listen for its wisdom.

What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?

As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?

Stop.

Notice if you are resisting.

Notice what you are resisting.

Ask why.

Stop. Just stop.

Be still.

Listen.

Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.

We will help you, if you listen.

Counselling via Skype or Zoom…What is it like?

Everyone has a different reaction, their own reaction to the idea of Counselling sessions conducted on line or by the phone.

For some it’s a turn off and they are not interested, as they consider something is “missing” or its harder to connect.

For some clients it is easier to have online Counselling, again for a variety of reasons. It may feel safer, easier, less pressured, or the technology gives them control

The only way to actually know, would be to have a session and then see what opinion you formed.

Early years support sets a child up for life. It should be a national priority

Guardian Article: In these precarious times, we need something even more ambitious than Sure Start

“What we need, to ensure the mental and physical health of future generations, is something far more radical and far-reaching than Sure Start – nothing less than a revolution in public policy on the early years. We need parenting classes for girls and – crucially – boys built in to the education system; and psychological support for all new parents, to stop damaging patterns being repeated”