Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Loveliest Compliment I’ve Ever Received

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Thank you again for your honesty. I drove to work this morning not thinking about all the ‘stuff’ I had to do today but instead thinking about what you have written and what I can change about how I work to make it a positive and useful experience for those I work with. Your insight is of immense value and I hope you know that.

 

Can you imagine knowing someone who could evoke such words from you or, more, being the someone they are written to. It takes my breath away because it’s everything I hope for. I am deeply honoured to have been a part this creation.

 

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Attitudes towards Women within the Criminal Justice System

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Warning: Suicide and other PTSD triggers

 

When I was a prisoner, there were times when the atmosphere on the wing – or sometimes even throughout the entire prison itself – would become so toxic that I’d bang myself in my pad. There were times when I actually asked wing staff to bang me in so I could get away from it. I may be a battler but there are times when all I want to do is get away because my own mental health can’t take anymore. This worked but only to a certain extent.

 

A toxic atmosphere in prison as always very loud and nearly always violent. These are the times when the riot bell keeps going off until I no longer have to ask to be banged in – we all end up on lock-down because it’s the only way the staff can cope. Whilst there are always ‘screws’ in prisons, I was always grateful to the authentic professionals because they dealt with the worst kind of behaviour human beings can display. It may have taken time but it got sorted and those of us who simply wanted to get on with doing our time were able to with some degree of civilisation.

 

Mind you, there were times when even lock-down was a nightmare. Prisoners can still be loud and violent, even if they’re alone in their own pad. Flooding the cell, smashing up the fixtures and fittings, smashing TV’s, playing loud music, shouting at other prisoners, shouting at the staff and simply just shouting. The violence in the atmosphere would trigger self-harming and suicidal ideation amongst those of us with mental health problems, which meant that the pressure doubled on the staff. It could take days to sort out, which meant that if I was feeling suicidal or in need of support, I often had to wait as long for assistance to arrive. I often found myself caught between my own needs and the needs of those who were resolving the problem, simply because I was grateful that they were. My crimes had occurred because no-one stepped in to stop what was happening. I learned, in prison, the behaviour that would set the riot bell off. I learned that, in a healthy community, there were some attitudes that were simply not tolerated and which would incur sanctions if the individual persisted. Through the complaints procedures, I made certain this was applied to both prisoner or staff which was not difficult – staff are lawfully obliged, under Prison Rules, to set a good example too. All I wanted, when the prisoners went FUBAR, was for the Prison Rules to be applied fairly and equally to everyone. That’s not because I want to be particularly authoritarian because I believe some rules need to be broken; I wanted the Rules applied because, when they were, peace broke out. It meant we could get on with making life bearable. I lived on long-term sentence wings for the most part and, in peace-time, we could get our chores done – cleaning, washing, cooking and hanging out together. In peace-time, the staff were able to have conversations with their ‘no-bother’ prisoners that weren’t just about the emotional fall-out living with ‘prisoners-at-war’. We could remember we were human beings together instead of ‘just-doings’.

 

The reason I tell this story is because I’ve just come through a prisoner-inspired shitstorm. This one I wasn’t able to step away from, so I ended up doing exactly what I did in prison. I reported what I was seeing to those who hold positions of ‘authority’, both prisoners and ‘staff’. Because this kicked off outside prison, ‘staff’ in this instance were people who know what it is to hold authority within the criminal justice system that happen to be part of my twitter community, and particularly who have responsibility for enforcing either rules or law in person. I ‘spoke’ to both prison and police officers, together with one leader outside enforcement – none of them had any personal authority to act but they do know how to listen and I needed someone to hear me. In prison parlance, my counsellor put me on an ACTT last Friday. I hadn’t realised that this benefits torture stuff I’m experiencing had gone so deep but I’m way inside my Red Zone and the meter is still rising. I know about the ACTT because she did something afterwards that showed her concern for me and I’m very grateful to her for that. It validates how I’m feeling. The only other time I’ve experienced this has been in prison. An ACTT, for those who don’t know what I mean, is a suicide watch, which can range from four times a day to constant observation – I’ve been on every scale. What the procedure did, in my experience – (I think I’d probably be on around 15 min obs if this was an ACTT) – was to ‘concern’ the professional officers and, again, it showed in what they did.

 

I am so grateful that in this latter-day woman’s jail I find myself in, on an ACTT, the ‘procedure’ still seems work.

 

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That kind of brief check brings a visit afterwards because I’m not only feeling suicidal, I’m expressing fear too. Fear usually comes after I’ve done something that challenges the thinking process of so-called ‘authority’ and attracted some inappropriate or unprofessional comment from a ‘screw’. The screws learned, the hard way, to treat me with respect but there are always those who don’t want to learn. Someone has to stop them but it comes at a very hard price for those who try – ask a prison officer. It means they can hear me when I say I just can’t take anymore and unless this energy stops, women are going to start dying. We’re already cutting up.

 

My friends are expressing concern for me but I appear to have fallen out with quite a few people who didn’t quite appreciate that I really do make up our my mind and reserve my right to strongly disagree with them. They are disagreeing with my conscience and, if their behaviour is being socially condoned, being behind my door seems like a wise place to be. I need to talk because this is how women work through their problems and I am a woman. I refuse to be silenced when, as a desister, I see a very serious problem concerning public protection that isn’t being dealt with.

 

If trigger behaviour like that of Ben Gunn (which involved these women – here, here and was complicated by this ) had occurred in prison, we’d all be heading into deep shit because, in the words of my bestest prison officer friend IRL, ‘the lunatics are running the asylum’. I’ve been told to leave this bloke alone by a number of people but, you know what, they can fuck off now. I’m not going to play this game even if it kills me!

 

As a desister, I want to register a formal complaint with the entire Criminal Justice system about this! Why isn’t his behaviour being reined in? It wouldn’t be permitted on the wings! This is deliberately provocative behaviour and I’m appalled that anyone is colluding with it! Could we please remember what often happens to these so-called ‘predatory’ 13 year olds after a middle-aged man has finished with his statutory-rape fantasies about her! Let’s have some fucking reality in here!!!

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/mar/30/prisonsandprobation.mentalhealth

http://www.newstatesman.com/alan-white/2012/11/women-are-suffering-prison

http://www.howardleague.org/francescrookblog/women-and-the-criminal-justice-system

 

What is this? I hear a great deal about his ‘rights’ but whatever they consist of, they are inhuman to women like me. The Criminal Justice system has been told about this time and time again, and you are still not listening! Let’s have a discussion about who actually HAS any Human Rights in this situation. I haven’t ‘spoken’ to a single woman who agrees with his views about us. When we step out to object to his deeply disrespectful and offensive behaviour, we are subjected to the most appalling responses. Any woman who approves of what he’s been doing is in an absolute minority – we’ve all told him and I bet he’s still not listening (don’t tell me, I don’t want to know – I’m just dealing with the impact this is having on me – I’m on an ACTT, remember).

 

Do you know the thing that worries me the most? It’s this: I’m being told that there are political reasons why this “*removed under threat of libel*” ** seems to be untouchable – I question the standards of anyone involved in such an arrangement and I question them as a desister. I have no doubt that the man has buried himself deeply into the CJS changes going on at the moment and, as a woman, I have the strongest objections possible to that continuing. Not after this. Given his publicly proclaimed ideas about my ENTIRE GENDER his contribution could only worsen conditions for women prisoners. This is why I object so strongly and will not be silenced. Aren’t the women already in the CJS, or caught the aftermath in this concentration camp of a society, suffering enough for you already? How dare any of you point to this criminal as some kind of model of rehabilitation! I don’t give a fuck if he ‘doesn’t know any better ‘cos its environmental damage’. That’s absolute bollocks! I know ex-cons from far more hardened criminal backgrounds who do desistance – they wouldn’t dream of treating me this way. Neither would any of the other authentic CJS professionals! We treat each other with respect even if we can’t stand each other to begin with. I much prefer respect because it continues working in the worst kind of places.

 

In a place like this, the very best staff listened and made up their own minds – we were allowed to tell it like it is, not have to spout some misogynist fantasy. Ben makes out this is the old sex war stuff and what a hero he is. Bollocks! What kind of hero sides with a convicted rapist? Every hero or heroine I’ve ever met is looking out for the victim but is willing, with conditions, to allow sinners to repent – which is desistance in a nutshell. And every quality prison officer knows the procedure for dealing with bigots and bullies – which does not include staying on normal location. Not unless the lunatics are running the asylum.

 

I know I’m going to be hated for this but you know what? Each time I’ve done something like this in the past, the people I wanted to help often told me how grateful they were that I did. I know exactly what kind of prisoner I’m dealing with in this man – he likes hurting people – they come in all genders and they are the ‘few’ women that need to remain in prison as a matter of public protection. I’m not involved in a sex war – I go after women who do this too. He won’t change because he doesn’t want to – he’ll always hold these opinions – and this is the man ‘politics’ is making untouchable? Whoever is involved with this has no business in the Criminal Justice system unless they can wake up and see whats going on here. How dare this man have any traction or influence within the CJS? And exactly what else is being condoned because, one thing is for certain, its got nothing to do with public protection! Not if half the population have to tolerate this level of disrespect and no behavioural sanctions are being imposed!

 

Perhaps it might be worth remembering that the UK is being told – by EVERYONE – that it’s treatment of women is already breaking Human Rights law. This is how it is done – by giving abusers the power to abuse and not stopping them. I think what is occurring here is hate crime.

 

If you could see a way out of this – my fucking ‘reality’ – do let me know because I’m damned if I choose to live with this. And that’s my own moral and ethical judgment as a desister. And I choose to be ‘banged-in’ about it because that’s what desistance is all about.

 

And the biggest thank you to every prison officer who ever caught me in this frame of mind and managed to get me laughing after I’d ranted and so I could remember to cry. This stuff is so hard on every single dimension. It hits me physically, emotionally and instinctively. It makes me hyper-sensitive, touchy, with very sharp claws that I have to use very wisely – in the face of abuse and abusers, we have to be so fucking perfect because they’re so fucking not.

 

Oh, and if anyone wants to check if Ben Gunn’s knowledge about women is reality-based or merely carved out of a bar of prison soap, get him to write about me. He knows exactly who I am. Get him to tell you about this woman and then you can really get to choose which reality you want to live in.

 

Oh, and I’ve already bagsed the Lawful one in the name of desisters everywhere!

 

 

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**

I notice how quickly the world comes in to edit me. As a woman, I believe I can justify the phrase I used in fact, which then makes it fair comment. As a desister, I will take the advice as a way of demonstrating my ability to learn and correct my behaviour. I’m sure I am as regretful, in this instance, as the man is himself – I would suggest he be very careful with his thoughts though. They can kill.

 

#PersonalView: Richard Dawkins and understanding Religion

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As anyone who has come to know me well will be aware of, one of the central themes of my actions grows from my personal spiritual faith. The structure I use is shamanic because it contains the possibility to express my greatest potential as a spiritual being as well as a human one. The shamanic structure I have created for my own personal experience of the spiritual contains the heart of every religion but I will stand alongside atheists when they point to hypocrisy too. My spiritual structure has an honoured place for atheists – every idea about the potential of the spirit world has a place in the mystery of the unknown, especially when it comes to human consciousness. As a result of this understanding, I pay particular attention to the outcomes of ideas emerging into manifestation by way of human behaviour – especially in our contemporary world.

 

Since I began to understand how spiritual energy is translated into manifest form – and science is being remarkably helpful about this at the moment – I have found myself adopting behaviours associated with different religious spiritualities. This is not because I have become particularly religious but because the discipline required manifests a very particular result and one I want to actively contribute towards. At the heart of every religion, bar one, are spiritual disciplines of Love. That’s how it works in my Otherworld. These are my personal perceptions. Nevertheless, I also respond to my perceptions/experience of the world around me too. It seems to me that I am being required to make a very clear choice about the thought-forms on offer. It is reassuring to know that I don’t appear to be alone in this experience.

 

Whilst the experiences I am presently undergoing, courtesy of my government, are undoubtedly grueling and the challenges to my human need for personal growth seem overwhelming, the constant choices between life and death seem never-ending. For example: the reason my spirituality is so structured comes from a visceral knowledge that life can be eternal if I choose it. I want to be a part of that possibility. As a result, this means I must answer challenges and step into new places.This is the Spirit Ground I do my best to stand upon. I do not hide my humanness, nor do I deny the Truth of my Soul, however flawed my understanding of it might be.

 

Today, I will deal with this example of the kind of ‘battle’ so many of us seem to be having to deal with. This behaviour aroused my shamanic passion and I will not let it go unanswered:-

 

 

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As a white feminist, I regard this as the most perfect example of the cruel-white-man-on-cloud religion if ever I saw one. As a shaman, I ask ‘what do these thoughts produce?’. Is this ethical, moral, tolerant behaviour? I know my own answer. This ‘meme’ of Dawkins is the religious face of atheism – more guilty than those at whom it points its finger of hatred. Where is the space for my Muslim friends to become who they truly are? This is the behaviour of all religious thinking – it’s aim is to seize power over others in order to destroy them. Every single faith I have ever come to love has a name for this behaviour.

 

IBSBT3EFCEAEJF5nn psychotherapeutic terms, this is projection. What we perceive in others is merely a reflection of ourselves. I have wondered at my own ability to see this element of human behaviour – it must be in me too. It is – I keep it as a reminder that I am no better than anyone else. Whether I am worse or not depends upon my behaviour and the choices I make. This is how I judge myself and it helps keep me balanced in unbalanced situations. I share these things because I believe other people of spiritual faith, regardless of how they construct it within themselves, will recognise the experience of what I am saying.

 

I know what it is to be regarded in this arrogant and distainful manner and I will not consent to silence. These words are ‘spoken’ to increase hatred in the world and I will not be a part of it. I have met Islam in my Otherworld and She consists of Love, Tolerance, Intelligence, Beauty, Truth and Kindness. This is the same energy that constructs my own experience of Spirituality and I experience it at the heart of every true Faith. It is a spiritual discipline that requires utmost respect for our individual differences and a deep passion for the fruits of our faith-in-action behaviour. There is no evidence of this in the above.

 

IBSJuRv7CUAAEwW7t is my ‘scientific’ opinion that these two atheist priests have decided that Schroedinger’s Cat is dead. As a shaman, I point to the choices made by both and say that this is murder-by-thought. I would highly recommend the belief that the cat is very much alive, however you may care to structure this.

 

It is quite plain that these men are pontificating upon an experience they refuse to have. In which case, anything they say is theory only. Please notice the invitation to ‘believe’ these theories as fact. The ‘facts’ presented are as unbalanced as the minds presenting them. It follows – in the laws of manifestation – that any actions resulting from their ideas will also contain the same imbalance, thereby producing imbalanced consequences. I see no benefit to the world in the manifestation of such ideas because it always results in the death of Innocence. It is the Road of the Guilty and I reject it.

 

Islam does not have to prove Her Heart to me. She is an integral part of my Otherworld and is filled with the mysteries of Truth I have yet to learn. Muslims and I do not always agree but we always learn together. This is my reality and it is how I Love – in thought, emotion and action. This the reality I choose to manifest and I believe the spiritual pathways I utilize are being identified by science, particularly in quantum mechanics and physics. The link between these worlds – as experienced by human consciousness – works through the thoughts and feelings we choose to act upon because they collapse potential and translate it into energy. Each time we make a choice, we strengthen the energy we are choosing.

 

BSSV9QzIYAAyO6LThis is why we must be careful, not only with our actions but with our feelings and thoughts as well, especially if we want to create a world we want to live in… and not have to die for. By all means examine the evidence that comes into our realities but be careful of whom we listen to. Such voices from white male high priests, from whatever ‘religious’ fervour grips their cruel minds, are designed to kill that which is Sacred to Love. This is my understanding and I share it only for comparative purposes. My Truth only.

 

As a friend, I would counsel this: if you experience this type of energy coming into your reality, please be extra careful of yourself afterwards. We are all capable of such behaviour – my awareness of this helps to remind me how I felt the last time I realised I was guilty of doing it and the promises I made to myself afterwards of how I would behave in the future. When we remember these aspects of ourself, we remain balanced.

 

This is a part of my own ‘penance’ – to never be a bystander when my Sacred is attacked.

 

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Proposal for the Experiential Training of Police Officers in Domestic Violence

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Below is a letter written to the police officer who thought the above was a good idea and was willing to take it a little further. It is a letter because this is informal feedback and in no way represents anything official. For reasons that will become apparent, I must remain within the idea stage. The purpose of this post is to flesh out my training Aims and Objectives, so that trainers can know where I am coming from and understand the potential problems that may need to be addressed.

Firstly: I am not – nor ever have been – employed by any police service. I do not know the culture, systems or mindsets. Therefore, anything I suggest needs to adapt to these considerations – my expertise is in human relations, not policing. Where we meet in agreement is in the need for boundaries.

Secondly: despite the fact it can sometimes seem that way to others, I am NOT omniscient.  There will be my own human errors in this and these will need to be identified. If it helps to discuss my thinking further, just ask – otherwise trust your own judgment.

Thirdly: the only reason I am being so pushy around this is because I’ve learned that opportunity is not a lengthy visitor. My own personal circumstances are really quite dire (no exaggeration) and I may not actually be here to see the changes I hope for. Pushing this now is my way of contributing to problem resolutions for all of us and I believe it is my social responsibility to do that in a time-limited situation. You are free to have your own opinion.

Finally: even if this idea doesn’t come off, it may generate ideas for training in other areas using the same kind of model. This is a win-win situation for all of us in my opinion – I sincerely hope you agree.

Dear Lynne,

 Long ago – when I was designing and delivering training courses – I designed one (for the London Borough of Greenwich) on the management of discipline in the workplace. Its aim was to equip managers and supervisors with the skills to manage discipline before it reached any kind of formal stage.

In amongst the ‘experiential’ exercises was a role-play of a manager dealing with a member of staff who has just identified a very serious problem – a gross misconduct issue that might have a number of different outcomes, depending upon how the ‘employee’ themselves handled the situation. It proved to be a crucial component of the course because it illustrated (depending upon how different participants ‘played’ the role) how much discretion and power the manager had in determining action (for information: the particular role in question involved a long-standing and reliable member of staff who had just discovered their ‘addict’ offspring had stolen public funds for which they were personally responsible). The beauty of the exercise was that course participants in that role chose all kinds of ways to deal with it – from saying nothing to telling all, with graduations inbetween. It meant we could look at the impact the employee choices had on the manager in some considerable depth together with the choices/responsibilities now left to them. ‘Results’ went from formal warnings to dismissal). The lowest form of disciplinary action only occurred if the ‘employee’ came clean from the outset. This was because the information allowed the manager to actually manage the problem, thereby reducing any actual harm the problem might cause. When I reflect upon this exercise now, I realise that the key component of that role play was the choice made by the employee’s role. Do they choose ‘family’ or do they choose their public responsibility?

There is a reason I share this illustration with you. I am about to put you in that position. How you ‘manage’ it is your free choice.

You may know this already but I have criminal convictions for Wounding with Intent and Threats to Kill (a police officer) – I was 48 years old and these were my first convictions. It is inevitable that this information is going to be brought to your attention at some point or another and I prefer that you hear it from me. These occurred in 2003 in Hull and, following my initial arrest, the only time I’ve ever returned to that city was for my trial and sentencing. I won’t go back because I choose to desist and I don’t believe I would be permitted to if I did return. I got a seven year sentence which was spent in 2010. From the moment of my ‘crime’, I went into ‘desistance’ mode whilst, at the same time, challenging some of the more abusive systems to which I was subjected. All this should show up on my records.  This is your ‘problem’ and it’s a real life one.

It is inevitable that this issue will raise its head because that is the way society is structured for people like me and what it demands from you is impeccability. Much like the exercise, the only route through to a ‘best result’ requires that we all act in the interests of the public which means we have to put our personal needs aside in favour of the public good. My way of doing this is to be completely upfront with you. You have a personal and public responsibility to protect the public. I have a personal and public responsibility to redeem myself in the eyes of that same public. It’s possible to manage this problem but only if you are fully aware of it.

The ‘system’ is very quick to tell us how to view people in my position. This is extremely useful because it means that, if ‘you’ (the police) are going to listen to some of the training issues I’m raising around domestic violence, you are going to have to model ‘listening outside the box’ from the very outset yourself. One of the things I can guarantee, if this DV exercise goes ahead, is that all those involved are going to have to hear things that present new problems, so my disclosure fits with the process we are thinking of unleashing. Feedback is inevitably going to include things we’d prefer not to hear and haul us onto new ground we’d prefer not to tread. What’s needed is some kind of theoretical framework to hang our experiences on to keep us ‘safe enough’ as we enter this new learning. It’s this ‘safety’ aspect that concerns me the most.

 It’s quite plain – from newspaper reports – that there is a serious problem for victims of domestic violence in making their voices heard to some police officers. I’m going to suggest that this failure stems from an inability to ‘hear’ the emotional intelligence in what is being reported by victims at the time. Some officers – commonly but not exclusively male – cannot access emotional intelligence, for whatever reason, which means they genuinely cannot hear  what more ‘tuned-in’ officers might be able to. Sometimes this is simply because that is the way they are (no blame) or, sometimes, because they have a personal investment in not knowing. The consequence of this inability, however, directly impacts upon the victims. Additionally, there is also the problem of the system itself. So when we are managing the issues being raised by the hashtag, we need to bear all these things in mind. Emotional intelligence – in a setting such as this – needs to be able to sort through the information in a non-judgmental  way – judgment comes later once we’ve collated our evidence. To do this effectively,  we need to put firm boundaries in place.

 For example: let’s start with my boundaries as someone who is advising you on this training exercise.

 Firstly, the circumstances of my crimes closely reflect research on the personal circumstances of many women offenders, which means that I have direct experience of dealing with the police in emotionally-charged situations. We can also see that I experienced a complete breakdown in communication with the police in 2003 and any residual personal stuff must not ‘infect’ what I am attempting to share. The boundary I place on myself, therefore, is that in any advice I give I don’t deal with my own case or promote any personal interests around my case – that was ‘managed’ in 2003 and the sanctions imposed are now spent. It is water under the bridge. This is not about me – this is about improving police services for victims of domestic violence. From my own perspective, this is also about helping women to not end up in my 2003 situation. So, if I refer to my own experiences and anyone has a problem with the illustration I’m using, they are free to ignore it because I’ve already moved my personal stuff out of the arena. If, however, one of my dismissed illustrations becomes a feature of the feedback produced by the hashtag, I reserve the ‘right’ to put it firmly back on the agenda. Emotional intelligence produces information about problems of relationship – it is process rather than content – if my illustrations are about process, they’re valuable to the learning. If they are about content in a process situation, this derails the learning and needs to be addressed by whoever has responsibility for managing it.

 The exercise – hopefully – will raise a whole load of learning issues for everyone but for the exercise to work well, all participants need to be volunteers. It is simply not possible to teach this kind of knowledge to conscripts – if people choose not to learn, that is their responsibility. In an exercise like this, however, conscripts may cause considerable harm to the process because the mindset imposes the same restrictions on those proffering new information as it does on the self. It must be done with volunteers who have a genuine interest in learning otherwise we might as well not bother – it will cause more harm in an already abusive situation and completely undermine the aims and objectives of the exercise.

 For those who do volunteer, there need to be ‘structures’ in place to support them. Emotional intelligence throws up a great deal of useful information, but there is also the danger of ‘overwhelm’ – it becomes too much for those involved. If this is understood from the outset, then safeguards can be provided. The first ‘rule’ here is to have no judgment.

 There is nothing wrong with expressed overwhelm. In fact, it’s a clear indicator that we are desperate to resolve the situation we find ourselves in. The ‘right attitude’ here is to support the individual to work through their overwhelm so we can access the information contained within it. Police ought to have a great deal of experience in managing this – ‘you guise’ deal with overwhelm on an everyday basis and it’s a major part of the ‘field’ in domestic violence cases. Overwhelm is caused by an internal ‘explosion’ of emotion that overrides the intellect temporarily in order to make room for unexpressed or repressed emotion. This is why we have to work with volunteer participants and affects all of us – including me, even now – because it’s how we grow into new learning. The only difference is I have is loads of experience of this process, in both theory and practice, so I’m familiar with what occurs in both myself and others. If a ‘course participant’ is in overwhelm, they need to be moved from the ‘front line’ in order to recover. To leave them there is to emotionally abuse them. Emotional abuse is also ‘in the field’, so we can expect it to erupt on your side of the fence as well as ours. For someone in overwhelm, the best management is kindness. The overwhelmed individual is doing us all a great service because they are experiencing the emotional impact of domestic violence.

 In therapy, this experience is called ‘projective identification’ – it’s where the client ‘projects’ their emotional experience into the therapist, so the therapist actually experiences what the client is feeling but who struggles to express it. The best therapeutic intervention, at this point, is for the therapist to report how they are feeling and ask the client if that’s what they are feeling.

 For officers experiencing emotional overwhelm as a result of this training exercise, there are two possible reasons underpinning it; either what is emerging impacts on their own personal experience or it is the result of projective identification.  Both routes will produce extremely valuable information bearing in mind that those experiencing personal responses may well need some kind of therapeutic support afterwards. Those who catch the projective identification will need good quality debriefing in order to understand the problems being expressed by DV victims.

 Overwhelm is often resolved by listening and respecting what is being said, regardless of how it might first appear. A great deal of overwhelm belongs to not being heard on repeated occasions and each experience of not being heard adds to the problem, until we are shouting or acting out (this was a major feature of my own crimes). Once the overwhelm has begun – remembering we are listening to those who have experienced this, up to and including fear for their own lives or their dependents – it needs to follow it’s own path. Sometimes we – those of us who have been abused – need to actually demonstrate the behaviour to which we have been subjected – so officers involved may find themselves on the end of ‘abusive behaviour’ until the ‘wave’ of overwhelm has subsided. However, if there has been true listening, once this wave has crashed, the emotions fall back and real communication can occur.

 The next stage identifies the thought-forms, systems and processes that fail to hear emotional intelligence. Some of these will be down to dealing with those who cannot hear the feelings of others because they close it down in favour of their own perspectives. This is the abuse and the abuser. Abuse is also ‘in the field’, so it’s highly likely that debriefs will identify abusive problems within the system. There will be issues the police simply can’t deal with because they are systemic. These could be the working requirements imposed on the police; it could be procedures that need revision; it could be people within the system – that’s for you to know. If, however, you are identifying problems that are beyond your control, then they need to be brought to the attention of those with responsibility for resolving them. Remember always – at the heart of this are victims of domestic violence – so obstacles to genuine improvement need to be identified and managed. When police are powerless to resolve the problems, there maybe other ways around the obstacle that can be enacted by the community instead, which is why it would help to have input from DV voluntary agencies too. Bear in mind that our present system frequently fails to listen to emotional intelligence, so social failings are more than likely to be flagged. The benefit of the exercise is in identifying the problems – once that occurs, we are already on our way to resolving them, no matter how long it might take us all.

 If the cycle of experience is working properly, once we pass ‘Erupt & Overwhelm’, what starts to emerge is gratitude. It doesn’t matter how big the problems are that come in your direction – or how seemingly irresolvable they might at first appear – for a victim of domestic violence, with a history of being unheard, the very fact that someone is listening and hearing what is being said makes all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between banging your head against a brick wall and someone opening a door you can walk through. That’s what the gratitude is about. It’s not that we’ve necessarily resolved the problem, it’s that we’ve opened the door to resolving the problem therefore making resolution possible where none existed before.

 In my experience, going through such an exercise can be horrible but, if we reach the gratitude outcome, it becomes a learning which is so valuable it makes it all worth it. I’d use my own crimes and consequences as an example. There is no way I could be as clear about this process without that experience. My ‘mistake’ was to try and teach this knowledge to those who didn’t want to know. Nevertheless, once I was in the system, I was able to teach this to all those professionals who did by inviting them to either deal with or witness me dealing with problems of abuse. It meant I was a problem for some and a delight for others. I always used the system; I was never subject to prison discipline in almost five years inside (and was an enhanced IEP prisoner throughout) and, when I was subject to emotional abuse by a system that couldn’t hear me, I acted out until I was heard. The only times this methodology failed was when I was dealing with those who refused to hear me and behaved as if my emotional intelligence didn’t exist. In those cases, I could usually obtain evidence of bigotry. If my own experiences have any universal truths in them, this should also prove useful to the police in both dealing with abusers and identifying any internal problems you may have.

 What I will say is that if those officers involved in this exercise have to deal with systemic problems in the aftermath, they MUST use the procedures; they MUST cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’; and they MUST put everything in writing. What is produced is evidence and, to the best of my knowledge, that’s what ‘you guise’ specialise in. Somewhere in the paperwork, the problem will manifest where it can be seen and managed by a responsible officer who knows how to manage well.

 How this advice would translate into practical training is for you and your training officers to determine. All I am doing is illustrating what you are going to have to ‘manage’ if you go ahead with this.

 And whatever you might think of me, let me tell you this. The gratitude I feel towards all the Northumbria Police officers I encountered during my journey through the CJS cannot be expressed. I have never hidden my ‘record’ – including my threat to kill (for which I have always apologised) – and they have always treated me with respect at worst and enormous good humour at best. I can count on the fingers on one hand all those who weren’t able to. The greatest asset each one of them had was their humanity. If you like, coming forward with all this information is my way of saying thank you and showing them why they were so good at their job. I use the past tense because I have no reasons to come into contact with the police anymore unless I happen to be reporting a crime (a very rare event these days).

 In closing, I would observe that exercises in emotional intelligence tend to be easier for women than for men but there are always exceptions to that ‘rule’. Part of the problem with DV is a failure in communication – frequently between men and women – where one partner is unable or unwilling to reframe their reality to include the reality of another. In my experience, this problem is likely to emerge within the police too when it comes to deciding what to do with this hashtag idea. If I am correct and there is resistance to it, I would make the following points:

 There is already evidence that emotionally-intelligent communication between disparate groups is emerging on twitter. I’d cite #DearMentalHealthProfessionals  and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen as two very recent examples. There is also considerable evidence that repression of emotional intelligence by government is causing considerable ‘disturbance’ in the ‘Force’ and it is affecting everyone, including the police. So this problem is already becoming conscious within the whole community. Those who try to avoid dealing with it now are only going to have to deal with this at a later date when the ‘overwhelm’ starts being acted out and police are called in to deal with it. Repressing the problem is only going to make it a lot worse further down the line. Training willing officers in the skills of emotional intelligence management may well go a considerable way to opening the door to conflict resolution, even in the most dangerous situations because, if the person in overwhelm feels heard, they will back down because they know someone else – with authority – sees the problem and understands it (agreement is not an absolute requirement – simply that the alternative view being expressed has validity and needs looking at may well be enough – but if agreement is there, that is even better). Additionally, this training structure can also be used to explore other community/police problems, like racism. The more those in emotional overwhelm feel heard, the less your officers are likely to be put at risk from dangerous acting-out by those who don’t. A blanket refusal to countenance such training will put your officers in danger because the community is in danger. This is why I may seem to be rather pushy about this. I would really rather none of us were endangered.

 Much of what this training is about may seem like common-sense to those in touch with their own emotional intelligence and they’re right. However, when common-sense is picked apart to get at the theoretical structures beneath, a great deal more knowledge emerges that your officers might find practically useful, not just for the training exercise, but also for how they improve their common-sense performance. It’s an MOT of emotional intelligence to fill in gaps in knowledge; compare theory with experience; and deepen our ability to deal competently with the problems we are asked to address.

 We’re all going to have to deal with this at some point. I’ve always found that if we volunteer to learn before the tsunami of overwhelm impacts, we are much better placed to ensure the safety of both self and others when that moment arrives.

 What better place to begin than with the police and DV?

 

With very best wishes

 

Dee

Reflections on living with #FootInMouth Disorder

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It’s a feeling I’ve known all my life – it’s called ‘Me and my Big Mouth’. It’s an all too familiar experience: I say something back and suddenly the ‘group hum’ around me falls into silence, whilst I get a ‘well-meaning’ shhhh or “you’re not supposed to say/do/think that” from someone who thinks they’re only in the audience. Well, what’s done is done and I need to honour the woman who did it.

 

It was an interesting experience – going back to re-read it the first time. All I could see was my own racism but then I would be surprised if it wasn’t there – it was a part of the becoming-conscious zeitgeist of the generation I was born into. Rosa Parkes refused to move to the back of the bus a week before my first birthday. It means I was raised as both a part of the problem but with the Spirit of Refusal still powerful in my country. We said No to fascism in the same way we said no to racism in our minds but failed to see that it forms a part of who we – my generation BRar4ZWCQAISl7Y– are. Every generation is time-limited in what we can deal with. I see it very clearly in my own mother as her intolerance levels increase and, now, as I see my own increase too. It is a painful experience but it is not insurmountable.

 

The group process I sought to interrupt by my intervention contains no possibility of redemption or forgiveness. NO human being has the ‘right’ to create an energy devoid of these qualities because to do so is to usurp and corrupt the Law of the Sacred. It does not matter what colours are in play here – this Law holds True in every authentic expression of the Divine I have ever had the privilege to meet, atheism included. I don’t have a problem with withholding or putting provisos on how we – as humans – earn that forgiveness. I do have a problem with unforgiving behaviour – regardless of who is indulging in it. I will not tolerate it with silence – this is why I speak. All I speak is my own personal truth – let others speak for themselves.

 

I am more than happy to ‘check my white privileges‘ – as more than one commenter has already suggested. So tell me: now that I’ve confessed my sins, which way does pathway to redemption lie? What do I have to do to redeem myself? And what does it say about your ‘demands’ if all I can do to achieve this is to cease my existence? There is always a path to redemption in a mentally healthy world – even atheists know that. Those who disagree with me are free to do so in my reality but they also have to leave me alone with my own opinions. I am willing to agree to disagree. I’m more than willing to learn but I find that ability is becoming more difficult as I grow into becoming the past – I’m sure I can ‘book’ myself another lifetime where I get to learn this stuff properly. At the moment, I’m stuck with what

Margaret Beckett - the invisible woman

Margaret Beckett – the invisible woman

I’ve been able to achieve so far. I know I’m only at the beginning but placing me in a projection that allows no path to redemption – a Catch-22 – is not on in my reality. If that is exercising ‘white privilege’ then it’s about time the other Colours of the Medicine Shield caught up with the privileges of their own colours. There are honourable women in all colours – I know because I’ve met you – and there seems to be a consensus amongst the wisest that adding more racism to an already bubbling pot will not cure the problem.

 

No I’m not the way you think I ‘ought’ to be. I’m the way I am when I’m doing my best to make room for new ideas in an aging mind. I judge myself fairly close to death at the present time – whether that ‘death’ be physical or circumstantial – so I place few fetters on what I ‘permit’ myself to say. I might as well go to my death speaking my truth – however ‘wrong’ other people think I might be. The comments arriving on my blog cannot reflect the whole of me – a part of the projection will be accurate. There is a lot I have left to evolve. But the rest? These are reflections of the speaker – these people don’t know me. We are a mixed bag of ‘truths’ – it is what we extrapolate from those ‘truths’ that I question.

 

BQqr0iKCAAA4_XQI’m not talking to those who don’t want to hear me. The world is a big enough place for us to co-exist together, or it ought to be. It isn’t. I’m all for growing the relationship between us but I don’t have to listen to abuse. Abuse is where there is no forgiveness. Whilst there maybe some truth in the need to express how we feel about the experiences we have been subject to, that does not earn us the privilege of abusing others unless it’s for learning purposes only. To abuse for it’s own sake is a hate crime – I have to oppose hate crime, even if I’m the one you are hating. Somewhere in the mob you assemble around me are people capable of waking up. Those are the sisters I’m talking to – and it’s their free choice whether they choose to listen, just as it is their free choice whether they choose to forgive me. This is what haters try to control. They tell us there is only one way to think and we must all agree with them or cease to exist. This is an envious attack. The only answer to envy is gratitude.

 

So, I am grateful to this group process for being such familiar ground as I reflect on BQYSD-wCAAAfdU6the outcome of my foot-in-mouth experience. I have been attacked in this way all my life and I’ve learned that the way to survive it is to be true to myself and what wisdom I can fund for myself in the moment. All I have left is myself. If I am being informed that the only contribution I can make to life is by ceasing to exist – something I have been ‘told’ many times – then this belief needs to be tested. I apologise for your inconvenience but the Great Spirit doesn’t seem to be willing to oblige you. This means I have as much ‘right’ to exist as you. It doesn’t make me ‘better’ but it certainly doesn’t make me worse. If you expect me to collude with yet another power game, you’ve chosen the wrong woman. I don’t agree with you. Now lets see if you can leave me alone. I’ll continue reflecting on my experience and you do whatever it is that is right for you. We met – we taught – we parted. I am very grateful for the lesson because it has enabled me to discover whether some of my old emotional pathways still worked.

 

Often women – all women – are forced into positions where we must carry the consequences of the ‘shadow’ of others. That is what I think this eruption of woman power is about. Responsibility must return to those who are responsible and mutual responsibility begins with mutual respect – regardless of the human being we are dealing with. Nevertheless, we are all emerging from a highly abusive human system and the vast majority of us have been damaged by it in some way or another. It is said, among suicides, that it is not the psyche that wishes to die, it is that the Soul wishes some aspect of Life to die. To perform an act of suicide is to 486106_343164372454404_1533168654_nturn our killer instinct upon ourselves, so I am familiar with this aspect of myself. For those who can sense my killer instinct at work now, please understand this. When it comes to racism – or any kind of bigotry – it’s the system that causes it I want dead; not people. Turning our killer instinct on others only exacerbates our collective problems. If you want my dead body to crow your success over, go ahead! Have it! But you’ll have to join the end of the queue. I’ll die when I’m supposed to die but, whilst I’m still here, I’ve had it with people trying to hurry that process along. It’s a murderous intention and I will have no part of it.

 

The walk across the fields of my emotions back to the light, after an envious attack, always begins with me feeling like a lone survivor in a nuked city. There is nothing left standing or alive, apart from myself. All my emotional nerve-endings are laid bare and, as a child, I could find myself abandoned in this emotional wilderness for long periods of time. The world I learned to inhabit was as monochrome as the TV’s I grew up with. Apart from a very brief experience of ‘life in colour’, I didn’t learn how to leave this world until I was thirty and went into therapy. Over the seventeen years that followed – in both individual and group therapy – I learned that the way back to life is through balance. My internal or psychic devastation is caused by the impact of an idea that I have no worth or that I have committed some heinous and unforgivable sin. The very fact that the idea has impacted upon me actually proves this ‘idea’ false – it is a paradox. Only those capable of walking in balance – no matter how out of balance we may be when this idea-projectile hits – have this experience. Those who launch such ideas are apparently unaffected by them, so utterly convinced are they of their own ‘rightness’. This is what is known as self-righteousness – the inability to BPkBnxwCYAAiAvHperceive and/or repression of another’s viewpoint. True righteousness is only understood through behaviour – self-righteousness is an idea that we know better than other people. Those who are able to experience the devastation caused by ‘cease-to-exist’ ideas are not the problem. What gets shattered is the onset of growth – the shattering represents the ‘death’ experience – we can emerge changed. The real problem, however, is that many don’t because they believe the lie. People who are forced to live in such ideas or ‘memes’ die early, in my experience, because they can’t find their way back to the light. This is what concerns me.

 

In a world that consists of true Love, the shattering caused by ideas that we have no worth must be challenged because they are lies. This is not true. It is not even true in Hell. Our path back to our new wholeness is paved by everything we have said or done on the way into the experience. It doesn’t matter who we are. As far as tumblr_m7f5b0Rgak1qz4d4bo1_500I know, this applies to everyone but for any of us genuinely affected by idea that we have no worth, the way back is through evidence. What evidence can we produce that the heart of this missile in ourselves is a lie? We’re not trying to reach perfect – that’s not possible in my reality – we’re trying to reach ‘good enough’ – the point of balance. This is my way of doing it and it works.

 

Demand, from the ‘voices’ that attack you, that they tell you something good about yourself. If they can’t – they are bigotted and it is reasonable for you to ignore them. Until they can produce evidence of your worth, then they are attacking your existence. Look for evidence in the behaviour of your existence for the truth. Whilst our beliefs don’t have to be true for anyone else but ourselves, the measure of our true worth lies in our behaviour. We’re looking for evidence that we know how to learn from our mistakes. If the evidence is there, then watch for signs of growth to lead you out of the devastation to where your heart needs to take you. Don’t be afraid to own your mistakes – they are our greatest teachers – they are both our way in and our way out because we live them. Our mistakes balance our ‘good’ with our humanity.

 

These pathways may not work for everyone – these are the ones that work for me. They remind me that no matter what other people may think, what’s important is my relationship with what is Sacred. Other people don’t get to define that for me. If we are at all personally responsible – we have to define it for ourselves and then live by that decision. It’s a matter of Free Will. In my reality, that means I reserve the right to disagree with hatred in whatever form it takes. Nevertheless, I strive to agree to disagree because that is a matter of mutual respect.

 

Unless more lessons come from this process, I’ll probably leave the matter here. There are more interesting opportunities for grow appearing on my horizon that could bring practical benefit to sisters in genuine need. Hopefully. they won’t mind if the offer of practical help comes from a white woman’s hand.

 

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Women’s Solidarity is Multi-coloured: Why #Solidarityisforwhitewomen is wrong

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Dear Sisters of the #Solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag,

When I wake up to how I have been silenced – again – I tend to get a bit touchy when others start trying to do the same thing to me. It’s the same if we’ve been abused – in whatever form that abuse takes – remembering that abuse affects us all. There are abusers in every human culture – it’s an equal opportunity problem. In my own experience, there comes a point where some forms of abuse become completely intolerable and I run the danger of behaving very badly. I’m at that point now. I’ve had enough of it. From the looks of it, so have you. I ‘get’ how you must be feeling because my own seem similar. The only difference between us is that I may have more experience in dealing with such feelings than you have. Here’s why.

 

BRVocprCUAAIVRNSpending seventeen years in psychotherapy, three months in a psychiatric unit and nearly five years in prison has a way of leaving me rather ‘sensitive’ to being told who I am. I am a white woman, I am feminist and I tell you this, YOU WILL NOT DEFINE THE COLOURS OF MY SOLIDARITY.

 

You will not tell me who I am or what I am when you know nothing of me. I don’t know where you got your definition of solidarity from but it looks nothing like the one I have lived. I may not have lived my solidarity out where you could see it but it will be recorded in what I did in prison. When my Sisters of Colour needed help, I gave it. If there were problems of bigotry and prejudice – when I was there and could act – I did something about it, even if all that was left was to be a solace and friend in hard times. On those occasions where I appeared to do nothing, that’s because  I was respecting my Sisters’ boundaries. I know it’s true because I lived it. It’s what Sisters of Colours do in those situations: I DON’T CARE WHAT FUCKING COLOUR WE ARE – I CARE ABOUT HOW WE BEHAVE TO EACH OTHER!

 

*takes deep breath and counts to ten*

 

BRYvzp9CMAAVcyQYou ‘youngsters’ are about to make the same mistakes my own generation made. If you do, we are doomed to repeat them. Please stop and think for a minute.

 

If I’m treading on sensitive ground for you and it hurts a bit, then I apologise for that in advance but take a look at where you are on mine. I’m not hurling all my ancestors at you either (yet) – I’m simply talking to you as one human being to another. I am on the edge of an Abyss with you and I’d rather you didn’t fall in, unless you insist. In fact, I’m hoping I can help you climb out but you’re going to have to take that projection you seem to have about white women off me first please.

 

There is a Spirit Rule in Albion (this is where my ancestors square up to your ancestors) that when we point a finger of blame at others, three fingers point back at us. This is a useful tool to have in our awareness because it makes us careful about that we accuse others of being. There is ALWAYS a truth in a psychological projectionotherwise it doesn’t work. To break a projection, however, needs a human being – I’m volunteering in this instance because I won’t stand by and let you make the mistakes we made if talking back to you will stop it. The human race can’t afford such acting out anymore and this kind of unconscious mob-think needs to stop.

 

BQ0scBdCUAAiIrXNo, white women aren’t perfect. We’re not supposed to be. With all due respect, you’re not perfect either. White women have their place in this Medicine Wheel, whether other Sisters of Colours like it or not. This means that my Voice as an Elder has an equal right to be heard as that of Youth! I wish no harm to your fury and rage – that is to be honoured, respected and heard. What I am asking is that you adjust your target. I am not your enemy. Whilst you shoot your bullets at me, your true foe steals your goodness from you. No-one is supposed to be perfect and anyone who claims they are is a problem. That applies across all cultures. Healthy people understand respect, whatever shape, colour, spirit or culture their Spirit inhabits. That’s how I know that Solidarity is not just the property of white women. Solidarity belongs to the Medicine Wheel – She is all-colours.

 

You complain that I know nothing of your non-White experiences but fail to explain how I might correct the problem. How I’m supposed to learn how to do that? Live your life for you? This is not a reasonable demand and I reject it. Only you can live your lives and, from what I can see, you are our future. You are young. You have yet to learn than life has limitations; one of them being that we only get to live the life we are given. As a shaman, I believe that we earn bonus points for good behaviour BQrElk1CEAAvqOjin the Spirit World. The only bonus points we get from bad behaviour come when we learn the lesson and grow up into adults. Growing up is simply part of human experience. So you didn’t get what you wanted from white women and you never will. What you want is not possible in my reality. What I can tell you is that the neo-feminism you describe – which most certainly does exist and is only useful for tab papers in prison – does not apply to us all. I tend to the opinion that if we can’t explain ourselves in simple language, we still don’t know our subject well enough. I believe the women you describe speak only of theory. The feminism I know is the one I have lived as impeccably as it is possible for one individual woman to be, whatever colour she might be.

 

This is what I have learned that might help each and every one of you make up your own remarkable minds. The future is always bigger than the past. What my own generation had to learn seems to be instinctive in you. When I explored feminism I learned from all Sisters who used the same resonance of meaning. When I read outside my colour and culture, I found there were some things I couldn’t hear. Each time I listened, I learned more. I know there are words, spoken and written, that can only be understood within your own experience. The same is true for all of us – no-one gets to live our lives but us. Some experiences cannot even be spoken of. This is true for all of us. We are the sum – or gestalt – of our heritage, relationships and experience. In encounters like the hashtag, we offer certain fragments of ourselves. What aspects of your own self did you consign to the solidarity of white women alone? I saw bitterness, abuse, hurt, betrayal, abuse and envy in many of the tweets. This is good because it is the beginning of wisdom. I also saw erupting fury, biting wit and outrageous passion too. This is wonderful for this is creativity in action. Both Shadow and Light erupt into being and we acquire the ability to make new choices. Somehow, old chains cannot restrain the Spirit of Women anymore.

 

This choice of hashtag is both an error and a catalyst for learning, in my opinion. There are clearly some major issues to be re-understood between us but you may not use your collective power to abuse my white sisters solely on the grounds of bigotry. My true white feminist sisters refuse bigotry as stoutly as I do. We need you to make room in your imagination for women such as me, so we can actually function on our own terms in your experience. We always start with respect for difference, so it’s time everyone else checked their own privileges too. How free am BQrQcCxCEAAGKd6I to walk in your reality on my own terms, provided I walk with respect?

 

This is not about who you are. Who you are is a mystery on the point of unfurling. This is simply about your behaviour. We women have a massive problem in the world coming at us from every direction. Now is not the time for competition about who is valuable and who is not. Now is the time for discovering each other again and what new information your erupting generation is bringing to Women’s evolution. We can’t learn that if you’re busy dismembering colours from our Medicine Shield.

 

I’m not telling you to listen to me. The leaders for this next step in our evolution are to be found with Red Women – these are the prophecies belonging to the Medicine Shield and this is the Wisdom I am guided to heed as Truth. There are hidden secrets in all Colours of Shield Woman’s Wisdom; Black, Red, Yellow and White women and it is our Solidarity that holds us together. It is our humanity that holds us apart so we can see ourselves more clearly. Each one of us is unique. We all hold Wisdom, whoever we are but we can only access that wisdom through our individuality and the care we take of our target when we join an erupting crowd.

 

BQrVJ32CYAAsAFjAll these lessons I teach I learned the hard way. It might look easy but don’t be fooled – the Wisdom of the Medicine Shield is hard earned. People who have honestly come by such wisdom shine with their own authenticity. We know what it is to be both harmed and harmful. What we learn is simple: to treat others the way we would wish to be treated, until such time as one, or other, of us realises the person we are dealing with refuses to learn. It is at this point we find out about the stuff we are truly made of – do we struggle to escape or do we succumb to sleep and numb ourselves off?

 

My Sisters, the face you were showing to white women with your hashtag is a very powerful one for waking people up. Applied in more imaginative and thoughtful ways, but with full awareness of your responsibilities to our future, the powers you wield could benefit humanity enormously but to do this competently requires that you learn from your mistakes.

 

I return your soul fragments to you. They don’t belong to me and are not mine to keep. They are your true source of deep wisdom but be careful because some have sharp edges. I do not need yours – I have my own which seems to be growing well given the experiences I now find myself in.

 

As a parting, and only for those who would choose it; I have placed a Blessing Gift of Love for you in my Otherworld. Just say the word ‘Yes’ to receive it. How it works, I don’t know but I hope it gives us what we all are in most need of, in all individual realities: Love.

 

In Sisterhood and White Solidarity

 

Dee Wilde-Walker

 

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Idle No More UK

Thanks to Julienne for this picture.

Thanks to Julienne for this picture.

Transformation: Entering the Void Point

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Yesterday I faced my fears with courage and entered my latest Void Point with awareness. Whilst walking up to the ‘hole-in-the-wall’, I felt much the same way as I used to as a therapy client walking to my next ‘session’ knowing I’ve done something ‘wrong’. Anxiety doesn’t quite describe this experience but there’s something there that allows for hope. It’s the Uncertainty Principle of Schroedinger’s Cat.

Fritz Perl’s, one of the creators of Gestalt Therapy, used to say that fear is thirty seconds deep. Once that thirty seconds is over, it’s too late to go back. We’ve said the ‘unsayable’, done the ‘impossible’, the energy has started to roll and all that is left to us is to roll with it. Sometimes our worst fears come true and sometimes we get a different response from the universe. Yesterday, the universe gave me a fortnight’s ‘reprieve’ which led, after I had dealt with practical matters, to ‘collapse’. In mental health terms, it’s equivalent to post-traumatic shock. In shamanic terms, I call it Soul Shattering – which is what happens when we go into shock.

On the other side of the Veil of the Void Point, we are similar to hermit crabs transitioning from a too-small shell into a too-big shell we can grow into. The passage between the two is one of excruitating vulnerability. I simply cannot bear ‘old’ behaviour anymore. This is what I have already chosen to leave behind me and the experience of shattering means that I have already moved on. We find ourselves saying or doing things we had previously thought but stopped ourselves from doing. In my case, it was erupting at the behaviour of a neighbour’s child who had just kicked a ball very close to my head whilst I was talking to his father. I couldn’t take anymore and so, today, both my doors and curtains are closed. The world outside has its ‘right’ to be there on its own terms, but I do too. For now, I need to be private – I need to find out more about this new dimension I find myself in.

BQRn0hcCAAI42_WWhenever we move dimensions, the ‘rules of manifestation’ change. This notion is not so strange – the ‘laws’ of physics change when we move into quantum realms too. What a shaman (a ‘transdimensional’ traveller with plenty of air-miles) comes to discover, if they take the trouble to explore the dimensions of experience they find themselves in, is that there are pathways through if you know what to look for.

The path through the experience of the Soul’s shattering is called the Good Red Road amongst the First Peoples of Turtle Island for it is this that creates our portal of opportunity. The portal of opportunity becomes our living path through this new ‘world’.

The other side of the ‘Veil’ is always bigger than the dimension we are leaving. C.S. Lewis described the Spirit of Narnia, at the very end of that series, as being like an onion in which every layer inwards was greater than its predecessor. This is a good metaphor. What also needs to be remembered is that each person’s experience of this process will be unique to them. No-one else can undertake your journey for you and we each get to define it for ourselves on our own terms. Crossing the Veil into the Void Point causes the Soul to shatter because we are growing and our Soul grows alongside us. The egg must be broken; the seed must crack; the babe must be birthed. However, when we enter – or are forced to enter – such a Void point without it ‘meaning’ something valuable to us, we run a far higher risk of mortal death. In my own case, it quite literally broke my heart. I hope to counter this lethal problem via this series of blogs.

Entering the Void is to be on unknown territory but if we believe in a beneficent Universe, then that will be what we create on the other side because our perception creates our reality. When our Soul – experienced as instinct and intuition – is in tune with our e-motions – experienced as feelings, these two aspects of self inform how we think which affects our behaviour. This is why “By their deeds shall ye know them” is a Law of the Spirit World, however you may perceive that to be. When our personal soul harmonises with our feelings, thoughts and actions, we attract others who harmonise at our vibration. The shamans I shared my first Void Point post with all commented on the resonance they experienced, so I’m trusting that my information is as accurate as one human can be on such matters.

Within the Void Point comes a shedding of the old. The egg no longer required the shell; the seed, the husk; or the babe, the safety of the womb. Nourishment comes from the environment and, in human dimensions, Soul nourishment comes from sharing ourselves with others. In my terms, I do this by making myself useful to my heart and trusting my instinct. Writing these blogs is a way of doing this – or initiating new conversations along pathways I can see that have a heartbeat of their own.

BP-8ouhCQAA2lSVWhat I’ve learned, from traversing many a Void Point in the past, is that if we are following the Good Red Road, as best as we are able under extremely testing circumstances, is that what we first allow ourselves to do on the other side marks our pathway back to manifestation. An Initiation such as this collective one so many of us are now finding ourselves in is both a journey into the unknown and a returning to the community with wisdom – it is the monomyth where we become heroic in our own realities. In the recent past, I crossed a Void Point and did this. In crossing this most recent Void Point, I see the potential of that work now being made manifest at a global level. More heroines and heroes are stepping into their destinies, it seems. There is an intuitive response occurring amongst many people that seems to match the deeps of my own experience of our Soul Mine.

If I’m at all correct about this, I believe that in-between the fragments of my shattered Soul – now reassembling into a great Gestalt of me than I was before – dwells the Resonance of the Great Spirit. This has been confirmed by synchronicities and serendipities too numerous to mention in my own reality. They also seem to be occurring in other peoples’ realities too. I have come to believe that all those who have crossed into Void Points in their own lives, and lived, can ‘hear’ this Resonance too in their own way and on their own terms. We are not ‘alone’ in this anymore – our numbers have now crossed a crucial tipping-point. What do we do now? Follow the Good Red Road; follow the Part with a Heart; follow your Passion. Trust that you are part of something far far greater than you could ever imagine and then trust that something with your Soul.

BQrxbuxCAAEMDNcOne thing I do when I cross into a new dimension is to try and make my perception of its dimensions a Mystery so I can grow as great as this Spirit Resonance needs me to be. My real life will continue to remain precarious simply because this is a collective transformation – if I want to make myself useful to this Spirit, I must accept where it sends me because this is what I need to learn.

Did you know the best way to learn is to teach whatever you want to know? These wisdoms and experiences I share with you belong in my reality but I am ‘connected’ to many others. I suspect that in our present social chaos, theorists might like to consider whether this Resonance I am experiencing qualifies as a Strange Attractor. If this is so, then it ought to satisfy the scientists and atheists amongst us. This attractor works through cooperation. This is about as great as I can get my imagination to stretch at the moment but, if shared and understood by many, we can grow this Wisdom and Awareness together.

As always, take what you need from this. What makes no sense to you belongs to someone else. I make no claim to be ‘right’ about any of this for anyone else – this is right for me, that’s all and I always make mistakes. Nevertheless, I am impressed with the evidence my reality is producing.

May the best woman win ;)

May the best woman win 😉

Personal Reflections on entering the ‘Void Point’

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Close-up of a Sun Spot

Close-up of a Sun Spot

 

Possibly tomorrow, but certainly within the next couple of weeks, I will be entering another void point in my own life. It will be a ‘small’ event – whether my ESA50 has been recorded as received by the DWP/Atos. If it hasn’t, I will be penniless. In common with those familiar with this particular experience, my day-to-day anxiety-levels have been increasing exponentially as the moment draws closer. This impacts on every aspect of my existence – many others, in the same position, have died and it’s perfectly possible that I will too.

 

But what is a ‘void point’?

 

A void point (my emphasis) is a critical transition between an old reality and a new one. That which was, has ended. Instead of regretting the loss, you accept the void. This is, for many persons, a challenging undertaking, because in the void point there is nothing that can be done. You must simply be a witness to it, and to yourself, for in this no-man’s land there are no perceptual markers….

If the destructive force is strong enough, the perceptual markers of your former reality may no longer exist. Your home or place of business may no longer be there. You may find yourself dealing with shortages of food and water, and there are any number of variables that can come together to create a state of shock and overwhelm….

The central feature that needs to be identified in the midst of chaos, any form of chaos, is the portal of opportunity.

This opportunity for survival or for a new life may present itself in ways you do not expect. This is because the perceptual markers are no longer in place and your consciousness may not recognize an opportunity when it presents itself.

There is a deep-seated human habit, or tendency, that wishes to conform new realities to those of the past. This would be an unfortunate habit to engage in these situations. (link)

 

In shamanic terms, to enter a void point is to enter an initiation. Life has many initiation points, from the experience of puberty or marriage to death itself but this initiation of mine is a relatively new one. In my own understanding, it marks the end of my ‘recognised’ place in UK society. I am not alone in facing this transition between my ‘old world’ and this new, as yet, unformed one. From what is being reported within the activist’s social media, some two-thirds of the UK population are likely to be facing this too, if they aren’t already within their own void points. The ‘old world’ is represented by the present UK government and, if I have read their intentions correctly, it would seem it is the wish of such folk that people like me should die because we fail to live up to their idea of ‘valuable enough for life’. There are more than enough blogs, including my own, that detail the impact such notions have on their victims to labour the point any further here – that is not what this blog is about. What interests me more is how we, ‘my people’, survive this experience.

 

BOlRzcxCIAAohtuAn initiation is survivable, no matter how lethal the intent that drives us into it. People can be remarkably resilient, provided we have the ‘right attitude’. There’s a great deal of ‘lightworker’ material on the web about this but not all of it is reliable. Indeed, there are many who recommend their methodology but have failed to live the experience of their advice. Without such authentic experience, their guidance is going to be worthless at best and downright dangerous at worst. As someone who has survived these Life/Death initiations on several occasions, I share my own experience now because it might be helpful to others in my position.

 

Yesterday, the critical nipping of my anxieties were starting to drive me into my old familiar patterns of suicidal ideation, so I began to draw upon my shamanic wisdom. It took me a while to remember that I have faced these situations before. I have been homeless (albeit for only a few days) and I have lived without money – by choice – for a three month period. These experiences were hard – be in no doubt about that – but I am still here to tell the tale. So an initiation as cruel as the one planned for so many by my government is survivable – but how?

 

Tom Kenyon writes about this too:

 

The central feature that needs to be identified in the midst of chaos, any form of chaos, is the portal of opportunity.

This opportunity for survival or for a new life may present itself in ways you do not expect. This is because the perceptual markers are no longer in place and your consciousness may not recognize an opportunity when it presents itself.

There is a deep-seated human habit, or tendency, that wishes to conform new realities to those of the past. This would be an unfortunate habit to engage in these situations…

Assuming that you have entered a transition state of consciousness and that you have befriended the void point and are more or less comfortable with the great uncertainty of your situation, this is what we suggest.

Be curious and expect miracles.

By entering a state of curiosity you engage an aspect of your mind that is free to move unfettered by expectation. It becomes very much like the mind of a child, and it is this innocence—which is not the same as childishness—that allows you to enter a vibratory state of consciousness, which greatly benefits you.

By holding the expectation of miracles you release the power of creation within you, and to the extent that you accomplish this you will find increasing incidences of serendipity, coincidences of benefit and unexpected treasures, whether they be physical in nature or mental and emotional.

This combination of curiosity about what will happen next joined with an expectation of miracles will move you rapidly from the void point to a new life, a new creation, regardless of what might be happening for those around you.

During collective transition states of consciousness it is helpful to remember that each person is the creator of his or her own reality, and in the midst of chaos people will make different choices and enter different personal realities.

Do not be swayed by those who enter lower vibratory realms. You cannot save them from themselves. Look upward and live upward with curiosity and an expectation of miracles, and even in the gravest of situations miracles can, and will, occur for you.

© 2013 Tom Kenyon All Rights Reserved www.tomkenyon.com

 

From my own experiences, I can affirm the truth of this guidance. Whilst we remain locked in our old ways of thinking, we close off and shut out any possibility for the new reality that awaits us and this is the danger of failed initiations. Our old ways of perceiving reality are exactly that – old. They are so far past their sell-by or use-by dates that the best thing we can do is discard them completely – something that is far more easily said than done. However, when we can do this, even in very small ways, our experience changes. We may not know where we are in this new reality but waymarkers appear if we wake ourselves to this possibility. Such waymarkers can often take the form of ‘miracles’.

 

BQrElk1CEAAvqOjThe notion of ‘miracles’ has the tendency to evoke what psychotherapists call ‘magical thinking’ – that somehow all our problems will be resolved in one grand gesture of the universe where we ‘arrive’ where we are supposed to be – rather like a Star Trek transporter. This is not been my experience. Far more frequently, miracles consist of small events that pile up, one after another – sometimes with large gaps inbetween. In my life, they have consisted of chance conversations with strangers; the sudden appearance of friends when I am in danger; the unsought ‘gift’ from life of something I need desperately in the moment. They can’t be controlled. They arrive at just the right moment for us to take the next step through our initiation and the only way I know to ‘hurry them along’ is to learn as much about the situation we find ourselves in as possible – and that’s both about the situation and about ourselves, no matter how painful. An initiation transforms us and when we allow with such events to work their changes upon us, we progress. Again, such advice is much more easily said than done.

 

The key to creating miracles is gratitude and kindness. When we are grateful and kind – for both ourselves and others – we are creatively contributing to the transformative power of the initiation we find ourselves in. When we give up controlling where we direct our kindness, but simply act upon the opportunity to be kind as it presents itself to us, we create a ‘kindness desposit account’ that others may draw from. That ‘other’ could well be you further down the line. This is my experience and I only have to look up, around my present home, to see the manifest truth of my words for it exists, in its present form, solely through the kindness and forgiveness of others, most of whom are strangers to me.

 

BQQMXXsCEAAFMZHGratitude and kindness are not commodities to be bought and sold. These qualities come from the soul and are beyond price. Nevertheless, their value is only realised and made manifest when they are acted upon and shared. It is not enough, in my experience, to just raise these qualities in ourselves (through meditation or whatever other means takes your fancy) – we must translate them into what we do. Nor can they be forced. In this present collective initiation, force belongs to the old world. No, these are free choices that we each make as individuals pursuing our personal transformations in our everyday lives, complete with all our resistances and defences against change that prevent us from growing. Our initiation into the new becomes a living process – proceeding step by painful step – as we experience the consequences of both our own choices and the choices of others.

 

These are my experiences of such initiations. They are harrowing and deeply painful as all our existing perceptual markers are torn from us by circumstance but there is a pay-off. What we learn – about ourselves, about others and about the world around us – becomes so valuable that, at some point, we realise we wouldn’t be without them. I know because I’ve done it many times. It doesn’t make it any easier to face the next step of our transformation but it does inform how we can perceive it. Without the harrowing of my mind and emotions yesterday, I would not have realised the need for this… yet the void point I might step into tomorrow remains just that; and I remain just as human in my reluctance to walk the path as I have been before every single transition point I’ve faced in the past.

 

Just because we’ve survived initiations before does not make the next one any easier to face. I wish it did but then, without all my past ‘bitter’ experience, how would I know what a miracle looks like – or even how to best create them.

 

 

Mental Health: New thoughts on “White Devils”

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“And I have been trying to smash her frankness so that she should reserve opinion until she is sure of mine.”

Sigmund Freud about his wife Martha

       “The Life & Work of Sigmund Freud” by Ernest Jones (1953)

 

Imagine this: You start to experience mental health problems so serious you know you need help. Fortunately your circumstances enable you to meet a mental health practitioner of the talking therapies and you take up the opportunity to get the help you need. However, as your talking unfolds, your practitioner begins to frame your experiences within cultural definitions that bear no resemblance to your own experiences of life. What do you imagine this might do to you, on top of your own problems, and what impact is it likely to have on your recovery?

 

These are important questions. Before many mental health practitioners protest that, in their work, they simply listen to their clients/patients, I would ask another question: how can you be so sure? None of us are unaffected by the culture we come from. Our personal cultural assumptions are the bedrock of ego formation and never really leave us, no matter how much we might transform other aspects of ourselves. So when a client first comes into therapy and the practitioner takes their history, the practitioners’ own history is just as important. For example: what if the history of the practitioner’s professional training looked like this?

 

The cultural history of the global mental health movement has its roots firmly in White culture, along with all its assumed privileges. Ask MH practitioners where they would pinpoint the root of their profession and most would point to Freud. There is, however. a problem with Freud: when faced with a choice between his patient’s truth and professional pressure to recant, he recanted. although not everyone agrees with this analysis. It interests me that those who defend the Freudian status quo seem to be predominately male and are probably themselves products of white culture. I point this out simply because women working in the profession recognised Freud’s alleged behaviour from their own experiences of life. Indeed, the issue of a white man’s view of women’s sexuality seems remarkably unchanged, even today, so much so that sometimes satire gives a far more incisive take on the problem.

 

Whilst women have challenged the assumptions of a white male view of mental health, cultural challenges seem to be far fewer. The result means that people of colour or from differing cultures who become ‘service-users’ of a system requiring self-reflection in patients are ‘treated’ by those who stoutly refuse to engage in the same process. Little wonder that such patients develop little or no trust in practitioners of mental health services. True; this might make interesting conference or research material for existing practitioners in the field but it does absolutely nothing to help those actually experiencing mental health problems. For them, all that seems available is more of the same stuff that is the likely cause of their mental health problems to begin with.

 

So what to do?

 

If I return to the history of mental health ‘services’, whilst we may begin with Freud (who was a product of his own culture and time), we continue with those who broke away from his ideas. Jung broke with Freud but, like his mentor, he was also a product of his culture and time – there have been numerous analyses of the inherent racism in some of his ideas. Following on were others who developed their own models of psychotherapeutic assistance: Ferenczi, Perls and Rogers to name but a few. In the 1970/80’s, we saw women like Susie Orbach and Luise Eichenbaum wrest psychotherapy from the hands of men. One of the most significant contributions these women made – and still make – is to frame women’s mental health problems within the context of a patriarchal society. To me, it is this that might offer solutions to the problem of racism and cultural bigotry within existing mental health services.

 

If mental health is to ever truly mean what it says on the tin, existing white cultural assumptions and presumptions on the subject need to be wrested away from the ‘establishment’ by those who are actually experiencing these problems. We need to break with the idea of ‘professions’ because the history of mental health ‘professionalism’ is littered with unspeakable cruelties and abuses towards all those who are non-white or non-male. For white practitioners (like me), it’s time we began to acknowledge the invalidity of many of our assumptions and started down our own road to greater self-awareness because, from what I see in myself alone, much of what we have been doing is directly harmful to those we are hypocritically claiming to assist. For those who have problems with that notion, I would simply say this: if your patient/client were displaying the behaviour you are about to display in response, what would your professional interpretation be?

 

Sometimes a client’s resistance to psychotherapeutic intervention is absolutely appropriate.

 

“If a patient doesn’t fit the book, throw away the book and listen to the patient”

Unnamed Freudian-trained analyst quoted in “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan

 

 

Evolving Peoples of Difference

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Regrettably not satire

Regrettably not satire

A strong woman is a woman at work

cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,

and while she shovels, she talks about

how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens

the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up

develops the stomach muscles, and

she goes on shoveling with tears

in her nose…

A strong woman is a woman in whose head

a voice is repeating,  I told you so,

ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,

ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back…

                                      Marge Piercy – “For Strong Women”

As a child, I grew up in the ‘safety’ of white suburbia. Feminism was not even a word and women activists appeared only as historical figures, dismissed and derided as harridans. Whilst I rejected the ‘womanly ambitions’ being imposed on me by my deeply unenlightened school – marriage and motherhood – there seemed to be few other alternatives available. It wasn’t until my twenties that these possibilities came into view and, for those, I must give thanks to my mother.

I’d already started breaking free of the powerful conditioning I’d been unknowingly subjected to by becoming involved in trade unionism. The freedom to challenge the status quo, even in small ways, had been a personal epiphany and during these changes, sometime in 1979/80, that my mother handed me a fat red-covered book and said “Read this.” The book was “Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism” by Mary Daly. At the risk of sounding trite, it changed my life and I have never forgotten the transformational impact the book had on me. When I identify myself as a feminist, this is the source and well-spring my feminism emerges from.

“There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.”

Mary Daly (1995)

One impact of Daly’s book triggered my interest in the hidden histories of women. I’m deeply grateful to the likes of Dale Spender for showing me – even in part – how knowledge of women had been systematically buried or disguised. I remember well both Daly and Spender’s astonishment when Matilda Joslyn Gage stepped out the shadows and took her rightful place alongside Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. All these women taught me how our history gets buried within patriachal systems and my experience since then points to how little this process has changed.

Feminists who have been struggling to build Women’s Studies course and programmes speak to each other of this eerie experience, seeking confirmation of our own clear memories: “It’s like beginning from square-one.” “It’s like re-inventing the wheel.” “It’s as if nothing had ever happened.” “They seem lobotomised.” “We should have forseen this.”

Mary Daly: Gyn/Ecology (1978)

This tour around my own feminist history has purpose not because it is ‘right’ for anyone else but because, for me, it defines the problems we continue to face even now. With the ability to look back over the last 30+ years, it is quite clear that the Women’s movement of the 1970’s and 80’s failed in our ambitions. Despite all that energy, all that power, the position of ordinary women is now worse than it ever was. Whilst not wanting to detract from the ‘success’ of forcing the Bank of England to keep one – one single woman – on British banknotes, this very fact illustrates our failure. If we had been successful, this contemporary issue would never have arisen because women would be occupying an equal place already. The fact that young women today have had to campaign in such a way says it all. Women haven’t progressed our place in society at – in fact, we’ve regressed.

Given the responses to Caroline Criado-Perez and her supporters’ success, it is not hard to see why.

There is a sea of boiling anger out there because men are taught from a young age that women are here to serve, and then they grow up and discover that women often elect not to do that. Some misogynists—the Rick Perrys of the world—calmly react to this realization by deciding that women’s rebellion is a temporary, feminism-induced insanity, and that the proper legislative pressure plus a good dose of condescension can return them to their natural state of servitude. Some men get a sick pleasure out of stripping away the “illusion” that women are equal and violently showing them exactly how inferior they are. The online troll population has these kinds of characters in it, but the dominant class is men who don’t get the level of sexual attention they feel entitled to from women, and therefore have concocted elaborate, dogged theories about how women are broken, because they cannot ever allow that women have a right not to like them personally. (Or that if they started acting like decent people, maybe they would actually be more likeable.) All misogynists get upset when women are given attention for their talent or skills; it violates their core belief that women are here to serve. This is why writing on the internet while female means getting everything from laughably delusional men pretending to “critique” your writing while barely concealing their rage to rape and death threats. Particularly if your writing is not upholding the opinion that women are inferior servant class.

Amanda Marcotte

As Marcotte points out, this does not apply to all men nor does this behaviour exclude women. It is, nevertheless, the prevailing view of the patriarchal system that currently runs the UK – we need only look at present government policies to see this. But the UK government is not just misogynist – it’s racist, “disablist”, homophobic, poor-hating… the examples of its collective bigotry seem never-ending. Whilst some of us have known this for a while, we can be grateful to Caroline Criado-Perez, Stella Creasey and other campaigners for piercing the ‘disguise’ so effectively that many more are starting to see the problem for who it is. If ever there was an example of the selfish gene in action in our societies, we see it clearly in the misogynistic, bigotted systems that currently pervade our human world.

So what to do? If there are certainties that have arisen from the Women’s Movements of the past, the first one is this. Silence will not work. Silencing is the working tool of the patriarchs designed to dismember our complexity, individuality and variety. Using silence will fail us all.

The second lesson I draw from the mistakes of our past is this: for as long as we try to dismember our individual experience in favour of a single cause, we will fail. Evolution favours co-operation. Co-operation does not equal control. Co-operation – to work effectively – requires difference. Without difference, there can be no co-operation. Without authentic differences between us, we will never get to truly understand the problems we face. Middle-class white women can never appreciate the experiences of working-class women of colours. The able-bodied will never understand the experiences of those who are differently-abled. Men will never understand the experience of women. Communities in one part of the world will have different needs and priorities to a community elsewhere. These are not criticisms, they are facts! It is simply not possible to produce a one-size-fits-all approach to life or living. Nor is it the case that simply because I don’t have the knowledge, wisdom or experience to overcome obstacles, others are similarly ignorant. When we respect difference in both ourselves and others, we open the door to cooperation. In opening the door to cooperation, we evolve.

Where the selfish gene is exclusive, evolutionary cooperation is inclusive. The latter requires everyone to become a part of a greater inter-connected whole where each individual is seen as valuable part of a greater whole. This is what evolution is about and it’s the path I choose. All this blog aims to do is explain the experiences that inform the reason for my own choice.

For two years of wild and sometimes dangerous adventure, I worked and fought alongside vigorous, happy, well-adjusted women who laughed instead of tittering, who walked freely instead of teetering, who could outfast Gandhi and come out with a grin and a jest. I slept on hard floors between elderly duchesses, stout cooks and young shopgirls. We were often tired, hurt and frightened. But we were content as we had ever been. We shared a joy of life that we had never known.

Ida Alexa Ross Wylie