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Showing posts from July, 2013

Soul Calling

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On my early morning walk today I bumped into three magpies in the park – one for a girl, two for a boy, three for sorrow….? Oh dear, I thought…where is that coming from I wonder? Didn’t have to wait too long to find out. 
Back at home, a call to a much loved friend immersed me in conversation about abandonment, bereavement and rejection. But this was not something new, it was old and deep~seated. “I can even feel it in my bones” she said. Those feelings had been triggered by a random incident.

Robert Johnson tells of the wounding of the masculine and feminine feeling function – a wounding of the soul – “probably the most painful wound which occurs in the Western world.It is very dangerous when a wound is so common in a culture that hardly anyone knows that there is a problem. There is a general discontent with our way of life but almost no one knows specifically where to look for its origin”.[1]
The origin of the wound lay deep within the psyche. It is the grief of the broken heart sep…

Who is the Real You?

I am still exercised by my recent foray into the underworld of psychiatry. Nowadays words such as 'mad' ‘insane’, ‘crazy’ and ‘lunatic’ refer to an extreme state of mind embedded in pathology, where the disintegration of our mental state causes the individual to manifest behaviour that is habitual, compulsive, maladaptive and anti~social.
The above words are generally avoided as classifications of mental states in favour ofa broader classification of personality disorders which cover a range of dysfunctionality, including specific diagnosis of mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar.
But who and where is the real person behind these medical classifications? How did they get here? Can they ever be reclaimed? Is what’s going on with Dean nature or nurture or both?
All children are indoctrinated by what they learn from significant adults in their lives – whether these adults are in government, churches, or in the home. They act out, or dramatize the terror held in their un…

A Contemporary Tower of Babel

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The mental health system is a contemporary symbol of the Tower of Babel, where individuals speak in tongues – the disorganised speech of the schizophrenic – that no one else can understand; they ‘hear voices’ that no one else can. The mental health system is essential in the mad and chaotic world we all, in one way or another, participate in creating.
            After two~and~a~half years of deep immersion in the wreckage of human capital, especially that of young people, evident in the South African townships, my ability to ‘hold it together’ came under enormous strain. The despicable and inhuman State~sanctioned apartheid system, which legitimised cruelty, torture and other violent abuse, appealed to humanity’s basest instincts.
By the time I returned to the UK in 1998, I was mostly standing beside myself. I was suffering from post~traumatic stress. Instead of going into therapy, I decided to train as a therapist; much the same thing really, except that at the end of it I had a prof…

Psychiatrist, Avenger & Me

Dean in the Underworld, Act 2
Yesterday found me back in the mental health system, sitting in a room with Dean and his Advocate waiting for the consultant psychiatrist. I am impatient and curious. How many of my stereotype boxes will he fit? At last, there he is, 10 minutes late. His first words were addressed to Dean: you’re sitting in my chair.
I’m in observer mode today.
The doctor asks for introductions, he had not met me and Advocate before. He’s eyes linger on me for a few seconds. I can see that his curiosity has been peaked.Dean had been immersed in the system since 1999 (which I didn't know until today) and he had never seen or heard of me before. Who am I? What is the nature of my relationship with Dean and/or his family? Why have I suddenly appeared after 14 years? The doc does not actually ask these questions but I can see them written on his forehead.
I offer the barest bones of information. All he needs to know is that I regard myself as an aunt of Dean’s (a very Cari…

Far From the Madding Crowd

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Health warnings issued (at 32.2C or 89.9F, normal for many places) but here roads melt, train lines buckle, grass fires erupt, and 650 dead in nine days.Oh my god is this really happening in Britain? Does this prolonged heat wave mean the globe is warming wonders sceptics? Nah; can’t be true, especially if you tell me its manmade…makes me feel guilty, so I have to go into denial. Anyway, it was as hot as this in the 1980s says sceptic.
After months of gloomy greyness, and limp summers, the glorious sunshine is welcomed by me.And I am grateful for a Victorian brick house, which defies insulation, with its sash windows easily forming vectors of cool air. Nevertheless, the sun is blistering and quite treacherous from about 1100 to 1500. I’m not complaining but my body is, especially my heart.
Look forward to opportunity to get away from the heat~trapping concrete jungle that is inner London. Soon heading off to one of my two most favourite locations in England…Devon; the Lake District bein…

Taken your Reptile to a Football Match Lately?

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My last post, A Racism that Lusts After the Kill, referred to the reptilian brain ~ one aspect of our Triune Brain[1] ~and its powerful impulses. As the oldest and deepest section of the brain structure, akin to that of birds and lizards, the reptilian brain holds deep-seated ancestral or primordial memory; it harbours all our phobias and generates our greatest nightmares. It plays a crucial role in keeping us alive.
This primitive part of the brain controls our survival and reproductive instincts as well as our fear, vengeful, attack, anger and aggression responses. It governs our flight, fight and freeze (or hide) impulses.It is the home of the tribe and its territorial behaviour, where loyalty and tribal honour towers above all else, even love.

The reptilian brain's 'kill', revenge and retaliatory impulses are satisfied and indulged in ‘theatres’ of war, where it is ‘legitimate’ to defend ourselves against attack, even those perceived as only a future possibility, in ord…

A Racism that Lusts After the Kill

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman verdict, an image of Martin Luther King Jr. in a hoodie has been circulating on social media.Said to have been tweeted by former Obama advisor, it has taken the internet by storm over the past few days, receiving over a thousand retweets.[1]

Compare the Zimmerman ‘not guilty’ verdict with that of a black woman in the very same State, sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting her husband during a violent confrontation. Her lawyers invoked Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law (the Zimmerman defence) yet the jury sided with prosecutors in deciding the woman’s actions were not in self~defence. [2)]
It reminds me of an old and sometimes dark place, that I stepped away from some years back. I have ceased being actively engaged in, metaphorically speaking, hand~to~hand combat around racism, particularly with those key agencies (the 3 P’s) in the criminal justice system – police, prosecutors, and prisons; and I'm not forgetting the j…

Shadow of the Wounded Healer

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Dean in the Underworld: Act I Scene 5
In the previous scene the Caregiver, now turned Gatekeeper, had just indicated that there were no medics around to give Dean a prescription for lessening the after effects of anti~psychotic drugs. The Mediator must now move offstage, and make way for the Clinician to deal with the situation.
In medical terms a ‘gatekeeper’ is a health care professional, such as a GP, who is the patient's first point of contact with the health care system; they assess the degree of urgency of a patient’s needs and facilitates the individual's further access to the system.
The gatekeeper to Dean’s access needs some encouragement to do the right thing. It’s time for the Clinician to engage and use her specialist knowledge as leverage. Her manner is deceptively mild and unruffled.
Since this is a psychiatric hospital you must have a doctor on site or on call somewhere in the vicinity, Clinician says. All anti~psychotic drugs act on the part of the central nervous…

The Wounded Healer

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Dean in the Underworld: Act I Scene 4
Symbolic of the archetype of the Wounded Healer, the National Health Service (NHS) is not only incapable of healing itself; it is also unable to heal others. It can only cut away the diseased parts, while allopathic drugs help to manage, but mainly mask, symptoms.
In Greek mythology Chiron, renowned for his skills and art as a healer and physician (which made him the patron saint of these vocations) was unable to treat an incurable wound.He was therefore known as the 'wounded healer'. Down in the psychiatric under-world, where I have been with Dean, Caregiver is about to administer his medication. He seeks assurance as to whether the prescription for the drug to counteract the side effects of the anti-psychotic medication –dizzyspells, extreme drowsiness, cramp, stiffness, and weight gain – is ready.
Caregiver says there is none scheduled for him today, and she expected him to have some left over from the previous month. Caregiver wants to kn…

Fuss and Frustration

Dean in the Underworld: Act I Scene 3
The psychiatric hospital has morphed into the Underworld; that’s more fitting to the darkness that has engulfed Dean, a world full of shadows.
Dean’s Avenger aspect of personality is filled with righteous indignation, with some justification. The NHS bureaucracy has reneged on its stated intent to replace his laptop apparently damaged by another patient on the ward when he was last sectioned. There’s a story here but we won’t pursue it for now; maybe some other time.
As far as I am concerned, replacement of the laptop had not ever been in doubt, only the manner of payment. I had agreed that payment could be made to my bank account and, as requested by the NHS, Dean had provided written authorisation for this to be done. Apparently Dean’s Post Office account is only valid for receipt of his benefits, and no other payments. Why? I’m sure there’s a good reason other than a dysfunctional bureaucracy making life unnecessarily wearisome and frustrating.
I w…

Masks and Personality

Dean at the Psychiatric Hospital: Act I Scene 2
I am still here with Dean and I am watching the various masks of his personality emerge in relationship with the masks (representing archetypal patterns of behaviour) others are wearing.
In early theatrical productions masks were used to depict the different ‘persona’ portrayed by the players. As such this represented a pretence, not the true character of the person.Nowadays the term persona has lost its connotation of pretence and illusion and has come to symbolize the individual’s observable or explicit personality traits.
Our inner mental states can show up in the world as other people, and some of us end up caring for or getting entangled with our various selves through other people. It is a salutary lesson for the healer, teacher or caregiver, in their various guises, to identify their own wounded soul in another person, or group of people, or section of society. So our masks wear us and, they turn up in the world wearing other people…

Bedlam Begins

Dean at the Psychiatric Hospital: Act I Scene 1
A few days ago, I was on my way to meet Dean at his residence in order to accompany him to the psychiatric hospital, from which he was released a few months ago after being sectioned, yet again.Dean has issues with everyone in the mental health system: his doctor, those who did his assessments, his care co-ordinator, his advocate, and even the solicitor who represented him in a tribunal case against the system. I smile; I had better gird my loins then.
Dean says he does not necessarily want me to resolve his problems with the mental health system; he wants a witness to observe his treatment, to see that he is not as paranoid as he is labelled. Dean has been embattled, and on his own within the system for several years. It’s fair to say he is quite angry.
Today, we are going to meet the advocacy support person; Dean also wants me to be present when he has his monthly anti-psychotic medication via injection.No big deal, that’s pretty straigh…

Madness and Human Chaos

During my time training and then practising as a psychotherapist, I have studiously avoided engaging with the chaotic world of those diagnosed with a serious mental health problem, especially those who are prone to psychosis.
To tell the truth I am alarmed and unsettled by the personality that has become so fragmented that it tends towards pathology. I think this stems from the fact that my own brother was diagnosed as schizophrenic and we had no choice but to have him sectioned. Unfortunately he died at the age of 20 something after having thrown himself in front of an oncoming train. Thank god our mother had died by then, or that would surely have killed her.
The event was so disturbing, even the thought was traumatising, that I was simply unable to go to the morgue to identify his body. I remember the Sunday morning when two policemen knocked at the front door to tell me that Zan had commited suicide and how it had happened.I stood staring at them for a good few minutes, said thank y…