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The Old Woman’s Magical Journey: A Tale for Midwinter


As we are

“… Whenever a fairy tale is told, it becomes night. No matter where the dwelling, no matter the time, no matter the season, the telling of tales causes a starry sky and a white moon to creep from the eaves and hover over the heads of the listeners. Sometimes, by the end of the tale, the chamber is filled with daybreak, other times a star shard is left behind, sometimes a ragged thread of storm sky. And whatever is left behind is the bounty to work with, to use towards the soul-making…”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes: from “Women Who Run With The Wolves

Part One

Once upon a time… not so very long ago… lived a woman who dwelt in a world without magic.

Although, from being a girl, she had always wished magic was real, the world around told her she was silly, that magic did not exist, it was just a story and she was foolish to even think that it could possibly be real. Slowly, and because the world said it so often, she came to believe what they told her and she grew up in this no-magic world, learning its ways. In fact, she became as non-magical as everyone around her because she believed what she had been taught; that this no-magic world was the only reality that existed.

After many, many years… so many that the woman was nearing her old age, she walked down a path one day and, to her surprise, saw a tiny breadcrumb of magic lying just where her eyes were looking and it twinkled at her. At first, the nearly-old woman was very surprised. She looked around but no one else had noticed the breadcrumb because, after all, magic did not exist, did it? But there it was – as real as life – a magical breadcrumb that was clearly twinkling at her. She wondered what she should do and, to her even greater surprise, the breadcrumb of magic whispered to her. It said
“Eat me.”

The nearly-old woman had not forgotten her little-girl wish for magic. She looked around again and when she was certain no-one was looking, quickly picked up the breadcrumb, popped it in her mouth and swallowed it down. Then she went on her way pretending as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile the breadcrumb magically burrowed its way into the nearly-old woman’s heart for, deep down, she still truly loved magic.

As the nearly-old woman began ageing into an old woman, she found more breadcrumbs of magic until she had swallowed so many and her heart had become so full of magic, she knew she could no longer live in a no-magic world. So she left it behind her, travelling far and having many many adventures until, finally, she came to dwell in a remote village deep in the countryside. She had found a land where some folk believed magic was real and where her now-magical heart could sing with content. It was far, far away from the no-magic world. Here she lived alone, content in the company of many cats, and she began to learn how to live in a land where life was made of magic.

More years passed.

There came a time, one day, as the days grew short and the nights became long, close to the darkest days of winter, when the now-old woman was going about living her new and happier life, when she heard a thousand voices carried by the wind. They were crying out for help.

“Help us” cried the voices, “Our people are suffering and dying. Our children are cold and hungry; our mothers are poor and weeping, our fathers despair and although we have tried, we cannot stop what is being done to us. Justice, if you exist in the world, find and help us.”

Now the old woman had known cold and hunger, poverty and weeping, and what it was like to try to change what was happening and fail, especially when she’d lived in the no-magic world. The voices sounded as if they came from there and their cries awoke something in her heart. She wished she could help but she didn’t know how or what she could do. So she asked the magic around. Soon afterwards, she spied another breadcrumb on her path, so she quickly swallowed it down and hurried home to learn what the breadcrumb had to teach her.

That night, the breadcrumb showed the old woman why the people had been crying out of help.

“You are correct.” said the breadcrumb, “The cry comes from people in the no-magic world you left behind. They are suffering because no-magic world is destroying them. “.

The breadcrumb said that those in charge of the no-magic world actually knew magic was real but they didn’t want the people to know it. So they lied. They told people magic didn’t exist, that it was foolish and silly to even consider magic was real while, in secret, they were stealing and gobbling down as much of the people’s magic as they could. The more they gobbled, the more they wanted, and this was how the no-magic world slowly grew in size and power. The bigger it got, the greedier it became. No-magic grew extremely fat and filthy rich, becoming exceptionally mean and horribly selfish, endlessly cruel and deeply heartless, especially towards those who might be magic if they thought it could be real. With every lie no-magic told, their power got stronger and stronger until they had eaten up almost all the magic whilst truly magical people, like the old woman, became poorer, hungrier and died sooner in their hopelessness and despair.

Then the breadcrumb showed the old woman that if magic ever really did cease to exist, the whole living world would die too. The cry for help she had heard, said the breadcrumb, was a sign that the world was getting very close to dying.

The old woman was horrified. She understood exactly what the breadcrumb was saying because she had lived it. She knew how painful it was to believe the lies of the no-magic world and she feared for the future the breadcrumb had described. She hadn’t understood she’d been lied to and was horrified by what the breadcrumb had told her about the greed and cruelty of magic thieves. Eventually she asked the breadcrumb, “Is there anything can I do to help?”

Into her heart, the breadcrumb whispered:
“On the darkest of darkest nights, when the world is has breathed out the last of the old year and before it breathes in the birth of the new, in that in-between moment where Sun, Moon and stars cease moving through the heavens – you must journey to the place where all the magic stolen from the world is being held captive. There you might set magic free to help the people whose voices you heard.”

“I will,” said the old woman and meant it with all her magical heart.
And so it happened, on the darkest of darkest nights, when the Sun, Moon and stars had ceased moving in the heavens; when the world had breathed out the passing year but had yet to breathe in the new one, the old woman stepped through her door and out into the night on a magical journey to free the stolen magic for the people crying out for help….
Part Two

“It’s a funny thing,” thought the old woman as she closed the door to her home behind her, “how similar the magical world looks to the everyday world I live in”. She looked around and everything looked just the same, only much much darker. She walked to the end of the road and then out into the surrounding fields, waiting for magic to find her. She didn’t have to wait long.

Suddenly a HUGE wind lifted her right off her feet and high into the air. Just as she feared she might fall, huge wings sprouted from her back and caught the air beneath them. The old woman found herself gliding with the wind!

“Oooooooooh! Now that is definitely magic!” said the old woman, once she’d recovered from her surprise. When she checked, it seemed that both the wind and her wings knew what they were doing and where they were taking her, and because she loved magic, she trusted and watched to see what would happen next.

She rode high in the wind for a while and then noticed that her wings were starting to carry her to the ground. At first distant, but then gradually coming closer and closer, she saw a light in the darkness. As she neared the light, she saw it came through the open doors of an entrance in a rocky cliff. Closer still and she saw a lake below the cliff reflecting the light from the doorway. The wind then softened to a breeze and the old woman’s wings glided her over the lake, where she landed on a stone platform outside the open doors. Once her feet touched the ground, her wings vanished and she stood with wobbling knees, shivering, in the light of the entrance.

Once her knees stopped shaking, the old woman took a step towards the entrance in the rocky cliff and as she did, she saw the tall dark figure of a woman who seemed to be waiting for her. So she slowly walked towards this woman and saw dressed completely in black with a Raven perched on her shoulder. When she stood before her, the old woman bowed because this was a magic journey and she knew she must be respectful to everyone she met there.

“Welcome, Daughter of Humans.” said the woman in black, “You journey to free magic back into your world. This is a very serious task. Do you have the courage for such an undertaking?”

The old woman carefully considered this question and answered,
“My Lady,” for surely, she thought, this dark woman was someone important, “I don’t know if I have the courage. All I know is that I heard a great cry for help from the world of no-magic and my heart calls me to answer. But I don’t know how to free magic. Can you help me?”

The woman in black smiled and nodded. “Come with me,” she said, “You must ask the Lady of this Land. I will take you to her.”

The woman in black turned and led her through the entrance doors into a vast rocky chamber with many doors in its walls. Leading the old woman, she crossed the chamber to another set of huge doors which opened at her approach. When the old woman passed through the doors, she saw she was in an enormous audience hall and, at its farthest end, there sat a woman made of molten fire sitting on a huge stone throne. Together, the two women approached this Lady of Fire and knelt before her.

“Majesty,” said the woman in black, “I bring the Daughter of Humans who seeks to learn how to free magic back to her people.
Daughter of Humans, before you sits the Creator Goddess of Earth Magic. It is She who knows the answers you seek.”

The old woman trembled with terror at these words, for she knew she was far from perfect, and looked down at the stone floor when she felt the sight of the Goddess pierce her, seeing through to her heart and knowing everything about her. But then she remembered the terrible cry she had heard and knew she still sought to help those people.

Slowly she raised her eyes and gazed upon the Goddess of molten fire and saw that her form flowed endlessly in hues of red, yellow, white and black. She felt heat crisp the air around her, filling the air with a scent of cleanness. She had hair of flame and a gown of smoke; her skin was smooth but black as night with seams of deep red, yellow and white; her eyes were the blue-white of the hottest flame; her lips bright, like red-hot coals. All the colours moved and flowed, and when she spoke, her voice was the sound of fire.

“Daughter of Humans, you wish to return magic to humankind?” the Creation Goddess asked.

The old woman nodded. “Yes, if it pleases you, your Majesty.”

“It pleases me.” said the Goddess, “There is a task you can do to achieve this but you must do no more and no less than that which is asked of you. Are you willing to do such a thing?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” said the old woman in a trembling voice.

“Then come. Follow me.”

The Goddess rose from her throne and moving, like fire, she crossed to another set of huge doors that opened at her approach. The two women followed.

Beyond the doors was a cave the size of a cathedral and in the cave, a silvery blue dragon whose colours flowed in the same way as the Creation Goddess. The Goddess moved to the dragon and held up a chain bearing four keys of fire; one black, one red, one yellow and one white, which she passed over the dragons head.

“You must not touch the keys. You must ride the dragon to the place where the keys belong and deliver them to the Guardians,” the Goddess told the old woman, “Do nothing more than that which has been asked of you and which you consent to freely. Do you understand this?”

“Do no more and no less than that which I am asked and consent to, my Lady” repeated the old woman.

The Goddess smiled and, with a wave of her hand, the old woman was lifted up onto the back of the silver-blue dragon. Then with a look of great Love, the Goddess turned to the dragon and said,
“You know where to go. Fly now, my beauty, and return to me when the task is complete.”

The dragon blew a dragon’s kiss to the Goddess, so that her hair of flame flowed out and filled the air behind her. Then it moved to doors at the back of the cave that opened out into this darkest of dark nights.

The old woman clung to the back of the dragon as it flew into the cold dark night. The dragon’s skin felt like the softest and smoothest of leather, warm to the touch, with ridges she could hold on to, but the night air was chilly and became colder the higher the dragon rose into the night sky. As if in response to the chill, and arriving as suddenly as her wings, the old woman found herself dressed in warm furs of white, trimmed with furs of black, red and yellow.

The dragon flew high and then set forth towards the world of no-magic. The old woman watched the sky above and the endarkened land below and she marvelled at the magic she was experiencing. They flew for what seemed to be the longest time until the land below began to change – street lights began to appear, followed by villages, then towns. Finally there appeared a great city filled with electric light. Above the city rode a whirlpool of magic threads of many colours, and the old woman could see these were all slowly being sucked into a dark core in the centre of the city.

The dragon circled the skies above the whirlpool of magic, as if seeking out a particular thread. The old woman watched as the dragon found one of silver-blue, just like the dragon’s own colours. They flew, following the thread’s circling path down into the whirling core. The thread grew in size and as they entered the spinning centre, it became a tunnel through into which the dragon flew with the old woman clinging to its back. The tunnel twisted and turned, bright with the flowing colours of silver and blue, but the dragon flew on and on until the tunnel began to dissolve around them.

As the tunnel disappeared, the old woman and the dragon emerged into a bright, warm summer landscape. The old woman’s furs disappeared with the tunnel and she found they were flying high over a vast green forest. Slowly circling, the dragon descended towards this green earth until, eventually, they arrived at a large open meadow within the forest. Standing in the middle of the meadow stood four huge human statues and the dragon landed close by them.

The old woman looked at the statues: made of stone, the first was black as blackest of earth; the second, red as the reddest of earth; the third as yellow as the yellowest of earth; the last as white as the whitest of earth. Beside each one was a huge box made of the same stuff. Whilst the old woman didn’t know what to do, the dragon did. It approached each statue in turn and breathed a dragon’s kiss over each statue in turn. With each kiss, the colours of each statue came alive and began to flow like the Creation Goddess and the dragon. Slowly each statue awoke, looked around and then saw the dragon and the Creation Goddess’s keys. Smiling, each one reached out and took the key for their box. When the last key was taken, the chain that had been holding them vanished.

Now each magical being, for surely they were no longer statues, used their key and turned the lock, then they opened all the boxes together. All at once, the magic stolen from the people flew from the boxes and out into the world – it filled the air; it filled the skies; it filled the forest; it filled the earth; and it filled the old woman with absolute wonder. It seemed as if the whole world held its breath while watching the magic return… and then the world began to breathe in the magic.

The White Magical Being then turned to the old woman sitting on the silver-blue dragon and, lightly, with its finger, gently pushed a small piece of freed stolen magic into her heart.

“This belongs to you,” said the being “I return it to you, Daughter of the White tribes, from all of us. The voices of despair you heard came from all the Sons and Daughters of all our Earth; the Black tribes, the Red tribes, the Yellow tribes and the White tribes, for our Earth is made of Magic.”

The old woman could ‘hear’ the truth in these words and knew them to be true; magic was so much more than breadcrumbs – magic was Life itself! Without magic, all Life would die. It was a truth so great, her mind could not grasp the enormity it so she thought of the smallness of herself and her actions. She had not freed magic, she thought, magic had freed itself, it seemed to her… but stopped when she realised the White being had not finished speaking.

“We would ask one further task from you, if you are willing?”

The old woman nodded, and then said, “I would be happy to.”

The White Spirit smiled and offered the old woman another key made of a dull grey metal, which she took.

“You will return now through the vortex of magical creation,” said the being, and it raised its hand to the skies. Looking up, she saw another whirlpool of magic but this time threads flowed in both directions in and out of its centre.

“In the middle of the vortex is another locked box. We would ask you to open it. Touch nothing but the key – you must turn the key to open it.”

“May I ask why?” the old woman asked, “For surely you have already freed magic into the world.”

“This box does not release magic, Daughter of humans,” replied the White being of Magic, “This box calls to all who choose to live in a world with no magic. It calls them home. They have a rightful place in the universe but it cannot here for, as you have seen and understood, to be without Magic is to be without Life itself.”

As the final words were spoken, the dragon lifted high into the air and, once again, began to search for the thread that would take them through the vortex. This time the thread was easy to find and they were soon within their tunnel passing through the vortex except… this time there was an opening in the tunnel itself. The dragon flew through this opening and into a space which held a large, dull, grey metal box and stopped close enough for the old woman to reach the lock. She leaned forward and carefully, without touching anything else, placed the key she had been given into the lock. Turning the key, she saw the lid of the box fly open. She let go of the key as the dragon began to fly around the box and back into the vortex tunnel. She listened hard for the call from the box but heard nothing. Then she heard a whisper from the new magic in her heart saying, “That call is not for you.”

The dragon flew and flew. It flew through the tunnel and out of the vortex above the city of no-magic. It flew high in the darkest of the dark night skies. But on this return journey, there was no need for furs; the old woman’s new magic kept her warm. Finally, the dragon began to descend and when they landed, she saw they were in the field above the old woman’s street. The dragon lowered its head so the old woman could slide safely from its back. When her feet were securely on the earth, she turned to the dragon and gave a bow of deep bow of gratitude and respect. Then, standing back, she stood and watched the glowing dragon rise again and fly off into the darkest of the dark night skies.

As the old woman walked slowly back to her home, she saw that her village was also glowing gently with returning magic. And when she opened the door to her home, the old woman knew her magical journey had come to a close… but the world’s journey into magic was only just beginning.

In all the worlds containing magic, this is known as a true story.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
Charles de Lint

Cawfields Quarry, Haltwhistle, Centre of Britain

Cawfields Quarry, Haltwhistle, Centre of Britain. Boxing Day 2014.

On torturing the poor and hungry #ToriesMustGo



I wrote the following blog after reading Jack Monroe’s account of her experience of giving evidence to the All-Party Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty. Before I continue, I would like to make it clear that Jack has not seen, nor given any consent to my posting this and therefore bears neither responsibility nor blame for its contents – that is wholly and entirely mine. I stand by my blog and I’m grateful I’m not the only one to have had a powerful response to the piece. Nevertheless, she only has to ask and she’ll have a no-obstruction removal. Her needs take precedence to mine and I do not want to add to her problems.

Psychological tortureJack Monroe has been fair game for politicians, especially the Tories, since she began using her platform to speak for the hungry poor. In that time, Edwina Currie has reduced Jack to tears live on TV. To her discredit, Sarah Wollaston was vanguard to an attempt to destroy her social achievements following Jack’s point of fact tweet concerning David Cameron’s behaviour. There are probably plenty more but after reading about the treatment Jack was subjected to by this Parliamentary All-Party Inquiry she is, in my opinion, eminently qualified her to speak plainly about the standards of parliamentary behaviour.  The shocking quality contained within the content of her narrative amounts to psychological torture in my understanding of mental health and the treatment of someone clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress.

cameron out 13It is a matter of synchronicity, that Jack’s piece was published the same day as the report into the CIA’s use of torture. Here is Glen Greenwald who is far more knowledgeable on the matter than I.

On the same day, David Cameron visited Auschwitz, which prompted this post from Mike Sivier at Vox Political.  I agree with everything Mike has to say but would particularly draw attention to the following information contained within his piece:

Work capability assessor asked why depressed claimant had not committed suicide | Vox Political, and

The work capability assessment and suicide – a.k.a. ‘chequebook euthanasia’ | Vox Political. You can find more information about ‘nudging’ here.

cameron out 11Finally, it is important to know that there are direct links between the CIA Torture Report and the British government’s treatment of our hungry poor via the psychologists involved.

“Why aren’t you dead yet?”…. on Human Rights Day.

I have drawn my own conclusions.  I leave you to come to yours. For information: I will be raising the matter with my MP since I see he is a part of the Inquiry, which makes this an all-party problem concerning both Houses.

Meanwhile,  here’s my tribute to the courage of Jack Monroe.



Today is Human Rights Day. It’s also the day Jack Monroe went public about her experience of giving evidence to The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger and Food Poverty.

It took a few hours for my feeling response to her piece to make itself known. Emotional intelligence is not like intellectual knowledge. The intellect is a top-down process where the mind goes first and other human responses come later. Emotions are different. They are felt first and float up to intellectual awareness in their own time, hence the time needed to begin to understand both how I was feeling and why. Now I know and my fury seems as if it knows no bounds. To understand why, we first need to consider how Jack described her experience of appearing before this committee:

My head in my hands, choking out words, tears rushing down hot, humiliated cheeks, I raised my head to look at the array of varying expressions looking back from the other side of the room; a Labour MP, two Conservative peers, and a Conservative MP looked back, a mixture of horror and sympathy as I publicly crashed and burned. Fear and humiliation and self-loathing leaping on me like a set of hyenas, as I sobbed: “I can’t even answer my telephone, any more. If it’s an unknown number, if it rings early in the morning, or I don’t know who it is. I can’t even open my own front door. It’s not the same front door, as the one I sat with my back to, morning and afternoon, cowering as bailiffs battered on the other side of it. It’s not the same phone number. It’s not the same front door. I’m not in debt. There are no more final demands, no more red capital letters, no more threats. But … I can’t even open my own front door.”

She continues

I gave evidence at the all-party parliamentary group inquiry into hunger and food bank use in the UK a few months ago, one of over 1,000 pieces of evidence heard by the committee – expecting to recount a story told and retold at party conferences, charity events, radio interviews, to journalists, again and again and again over the past two and a half years. But the APPG wanted more than ‘hunger hurts’. They asked, probed, dug, questioned, opening up the old wounds, and made notes as I trembled in my seat, recalling nights of wrapping a baby up in a vest and a babygro and a dressing gown before putting him down to sleep. Of going to bed shortly afterwards because there’s nothing else to do, and it’s dark, and cold, and you sold the telly, so you go to bed at 7pm and curl up beside him and hold him, because it feels like the only good thing you have. Of being asked, very quietly, by a member of staff at my local children’s centre if a food bank referral form would help us out “for a little while”, as she noticed us having seconds at lunch, and thirds, and three or four sugars in endless cups of tea, of offering to wash up and boxing up the leftovers to take home, away from the eyes of the other mums in the group.

As someone in poverty myself, I can fully understand where Jack is coming from. Each time a brown envelope comes through my own front door, I always experience panic even before usually discovering they are not addressed to me. Whilst my own ‘trauma triggers’ are not the same as Jack’s, they produce very similar responses. We are not alone – there are thousands, maybe millions, of British people likely to feel the same way as we do, each for our own individual reasons. cameron out 2

The roots of the word ‘trauma’ comes from the Greek:  traumat-, trauma wound, alteration of trōma; akin to Greek titrōskein to wound, tetrainein to pierce, and they inform our psychological understanding of what it means to be traumatised.  The traumatised individual is understood to experience the following:

“The essential psychological effect of trauma is a shattering of innocence. Trauma creates a loss of faith that there is any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world, or any safe place in which to retreat. It involves utter disillusionment. Because traumatic events are often unable to be processed by the mind and body as other experiences are, due to their overwhelming and shocking nature, they are not integrated or digested. The trauma then takes on a life of its own and, through its continued effects, haunts the survivor and prevents normal life from continuing until the person gets help.”


In her own words, Jack Monroe meets the psychotherapeutic definition of a woman experiencing post-traumatic stress as a result of her personal experiences of poverty. Under such conditions, it takes a very brave woman to publicly and formally step up to the social responsibility of giving evidence to an all-parliamentary-party inquiry into hunger and food poverty. I have nothing but admiration for this young woman balanced only by my furious professional disgust at her treatment when she did so.

So let’s examine how these parliamentarians treated at least one of the witnesses who appeared before them.

We already know how members of both Houses regard Britain’s hungry poor. For example, the following occurring during a House of Common’s debate on foodbanks in December 2013:

As Fiona MacTaggart, the Labour MP for Slough, described how people battled over end of day bargains in her local Tesco, she was almost drowned out by laughter and jeering from the government benches.

Ms MacTaggart could barely be heard over the braying as she described how the supermarket had been forced to draft in extra security and asked “Isn’t that a shocking sign in the 21st century?”

Labour MP for Copeland in Cumbria, Jamie Reed told The Mirror: “I regret to say the laughter from the government benches says more about this issue than words ever could.”


cameron out 3Not for the first time were reports of the suffering inflicted on the poor met with such disdain by the same government that inflicted the traumas in the first place. So anyone who gave evidence to the Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty knew they were likely to be facing at least some of the abusers who had inflicted their trauma. It carries the same emotional charge that is known to impact the victims of rape when they face their rapist in court in order to secure a conviction. Just like rape victims, the experience can be as bad as the trauma itself… just as Jack described.

There were over 1000 witnesses to that Inquiry. No doubt some were representatives of organisations involved in helping our impoverished hungry. It is one thing to represent such an Inquiry with professional information as, indeed, Jack had planned to do herself: ‘I gave evidence… expecting to recount a story told and retold at party conferences, charity events, radio interviews, to journalists, again and again and again over the past two and a half years.’ This is psychologically

Click pic for source

Click pic for source

manageable – it allows our coping mechanisms to remain in place whilst still imparting the necessary information for an Inquiry to draw formal conclusions without causing further trauma or harm to the witness themselves. But the Inquiry did not permit Jack Monroe her boundaries or psychological protections: “…the APPG wanted more than ‘hunger hurts’. They asked, probed, dug, questioned, opening up the old wounds, and made notes as I trembled in my seat…” Factual information and trauma reporting were not sufficient; these MP’s wanted to see blood and made certain than they got it. If they could do that to Jack, who else did they do it to? What support was offered to these witnesses, after these baying-for-blood poverty and hunger voyeurs had finished tearing them open to reveal the still-bleeding traumas beneath their precarious and fragile coping mechanisms? Were they offered access to counselling or therapy in order to recover from their ordeal or were they, like Jack, sent home with wounds raw and untended? How many were sent back to the very same poverty they were reporting to these parliamentarians that seem to me to be indistinguishable from vampires?

SturdyAlex on poverty tourism

Click pic for source

As a former psychotherapist, I regard this as unethical, unprofessional, improper, dishonourable, unprincipled, cruel and unscrupulous behaviour towards victims traumatised by the same group of perpetrators, now claiming to be undertaking an Inquiry into how bad it has become. It’s as sick as rapists cross-examining their victims in court. In my book, it quite likely amounts to psychological torture. That well-paid, well-nourished, subsidised, all-expenses-paid professionals should demand that their victims bare their wounds for all to see whilst they remain safe, secure and snicker in their ivory tower is obscene. If all those who gave evidence of their personal experiences of hunger and food poverty were treated like Jack, then the perpetrators of the trauma permitted the traumatised no defence, no protection and no support whilst they fed on the suffering of their victims under the guise of ‘collecting evidence’.

Truly, is there anything in the darkest recesses of human ‘nature’ more sickening?

Should any member of this inquiry think to defend their actions towards Jack and the other victims, I invite you to STOP NOW and discover how it feels to be defenceless because if you weren’t perpetrating this abomination, you were enabling it. There is no defence to either. What Jack Monroe described in her column today is indefensible on all levels of interpersonal or social relationship, and it’s high time you learned what that feeling is like because you won’t change until you do.

EXCLUSIVE- “Corrupt, toxic and sociopathic”- Glenn Greenwald unloads on torture, CIA and Washington’s rotten soul - 2014-12-11 16-37-01

cameron must go 2

Why #CameronMustGo marks a decisive change in UK Politics


Worst times of life

Definition of decisive in English:


1. Settling an issue; producing a definite result:the archers played a decisive part in the victory’,a decisive battle’
2. Having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively:she had an image of being tough and decisive‘; ‘he handled the situation in a calm, decisive way’
Oxford English Dictionaries

Saturday 22 November 2014, at 6pm, marked the beginning of a new phenomenon in British politics as the hashtag #CameronMustGo took off into UK’s twitter. Cameron must go sI doubt that either Jon Swindon or Jenny Howarth imagined what would happen next. Usually twitter events that  trend do so for a few hours or a couple of days before the energy abates and other issues move in to take top billing. At the beginning, #CameronMustGo trended within the hour – a result counted as a ‘win’ for creators even when its trending is brief – but this time something different occurred; 24 hours later it was still trending… 36 hours… 48 hours… 72 hours… . By this time, it became clear #CameronMustGo was doing something very different. Now at the time of writing, two weeks later, #CameronMustGo has yet to leave UK’s twitter trends. In truth, no-one could have predicted this – to the best of my knowledge, this is unprecedented in UK twitter history.

The mainstream media only began its reporting around the hashtag following outrage from some, mainly Tories, over Jack Monroe‘s tweet (below),  even though the point had been made before by others long before she posted hers Cameron must go t(My thanks to Vox Political for covering this in detail).

It is worth noting that, as far as the mainstream media was concerned, the phenomenon of the hashtag itself became secondary to reporting establishment fury towards this outspoken lesbian single mother who has actually achieved, by dint of her own efforts, something the Tories claim all benefit ‘scroungers’ should be doing – getting herself successfully off benefits and creating a new job for herself.  As an observer of this twitter ‘row’, it would seem that even this achievement is conditional on the individual silencing their opinions of their social ‘betters’ and when they fail to do this, to expect reprisals, like the attempts that were made to get her sacked from the achievements she had already earned. The conditions being placed upon the socially excluded when it comes to entering ‘mainstream’ society need to be noted because they become relevant later on.

It took 5 days of trending for before the #CameronMustGo hashtag began to be reported.

Cameron must go fThe first detailed response from UK broadsheets came from the Telegraph. There are a lot of problems with this piece, not least that it is filed under Women/Women’s Politics and is written by a woman of colour. For a start, it seemed to me that its author, , had been set up to take any flak the piece received over a problem that had clearly been created by white men. David Cameron’s government has been consistently dominated by rich white men and it’s behaviour is deeply unfriendly to both women and people of colour. Placing a woman of colour in the vanguard of defending the white male establishment against the twitter charges emerging in #CameronMustGo is highly suspect and smacks of the same kind of psychological avoidance suggested by Jack Monroe’s tweet on disability.

Notwithstanding the above, the content of the piece is ‘enlightening’:

‘The hashtag is not linked to anything that our Prime Minister David Cameron has done lately. It isn’t tagged to any particular news story. Nor has it died a slow death since it kicked off on Saturday. Rather unusually for social media trends, it is stubbornly sticking around and just won’t go away….’
‘Is this an honest representation of the UK electorate – suggesting that Cameron has some major issues if he wants to win the General Election – or is just the work of angry left-wing activists who want to take down the PM?…’
‘I can’t help but think that this hashtag isn’t a genuine representation of the British population’s beliefs – it’s something created by left-wing activists who are hoping to use the power of social media to get rid of the Prime Minister. As they said, they wanted it to “go viral”…’
‘…most of the tweets seem to be from people who know each other and they’re all about the same issues such as majority are about cuts to the poorest people in society, large cuts to the NHS, the increasing reliance on food banks, and the increase in the cost of living….’
‘…says Ian Dunt, editor of “Twitter is usually made up of young people, students. That hashtag is the instinctive kick against the dominance of the print media [which is typically more right-wing]. It reflects the way Twitter has a much more left-wing centre of gravity than the written press.”…’
‘“If it was about something then maybe,” says Dunt. “But nothing’s actually happened. The list [of complaints people are sharing] is pretty standard left-wing complaints – they’re all legitimate but they’re not new….’
‘The problem with this hashtag is that it says more about Twitter, and the way we use it, rather than Cameron or the voters. As Dunt says, the social media site does seem to have more left-leaning tendencies, and in this case, it has been hijacked by activists….’
‘It’s not an example of the public getting really involved in politics – if anything it’s the same people using the same hashtag repeatedly to try and get their point across. They’re obviously entitled to do this, but the problem is that all other voices are drowned out….’
‘That’s why this hashtag is nothing more than a mob attack on the Prime Minister – rather than a genuine collection of legitimate concerns by real people with no vested interests.
How you make others feel

So, after an unprecedented 5 days of trending on twitter, those tweeting on the #CameronMustGo hashtag become a mob of young left-wing student activists with vested interests who, despite ‘legitimate’ complaints, offer nothing new or authentically genuine regarding the concerns of real people. Much like the response to Jack Monroe, the overall tone suggests #CameronMustGo supporters should know their place, shut up and go away because they are irrelevant.

Around the same time, the BBC finally reported on the hashtag. Their take looked like this:

‘…People using the slogan have also been targeting The Guardian and BBC Trending to try to get media coverage for the trend – and so boost its popularity further.

So could this be the beginning of a new phase of British ‘hashtag politics’? No, according to Andrew Walker, co-founder of social media analytics company, Tweetminster. “I give it two weeks,” he tells BBC Trending.

He says hashtags can quickly become popular on Twitter, but it’s difficult to keep a campaign rolling, as new catchphrases are coined and catch on. And while social media is effective at influencing local politics, it’s less effective at making a big impact on national politics, where voting behaviour is hard to shift…’

They tried to bury usIn summary: ‘Nothing to see here, move along now. Class dismissed!’

Unfortunately for the mainstream media’s ‘establishment’, the hashtag has continued to trend consistently since then and will meet Tweetminster’s predicted two week deadline today. Given that #CameronMustGo has not done what it was told to do and ‘go away’, how has the media dealt with it since?

There was a fact-checking piece from the Spectator which accurately challenged some of the images being used but here’s the thing about twitter. In my experience, twitter is remarkably self-correcting. Point out that information or images are, in fact, incorrect and the twitter I follow changes its behaviour. I’ve seen far fewer pictures of House of Common’s attendance on the #CameronMustGo hashtag since Isabel Hardman‘s piece was posted which, in my opinion, is a very good thing. If the hashtag is to continue, let it be as factually accurate as possible, and let’s be grateful to Hardman for raising the issue without insulting those tweeting on it. The same cannot be said for others.

Cameron must go 22Yesterday, to mark the hashtag’s fourteen days in the twitter trends, the Daily Mirror – the tabloid that supports the Labour Party – posted this:’Why #CameronMustGo MUST GO – We fact-checked the hashtag that has been clogging up your Twitter feed’. The piece leads with a blog from a journalist with Lib-Dem leanings who finds the hashtag difficult to fathom. The Mirror then goes on to fact-check only 12 of the issues being raised and finds that only 4 are accurate. It fails to suggest that tweeps use twitter’s ‘mute’ function to clear this ‘clog’ from their TL – a simple enough remedy for those with objections.

Given that the hashtag has been covering a multitude of issues, the fact that the piece cherry-picks only twelve points is highly informative. Given that firefighters, police, doctors, civil servants, disabled, people in poverty, poverty campaigners, etc etc have been tweeting accurate facts on it for two weeks is completely ignored. Based on these 12 points alone, the Mirror concludes that the hashtag itself must go. To be honest, I lost my temper when I read it – it was as insulting a piece as that produced by any Tory paper towards those tweeting the direct experiences of the now lethal consequences of Cameron’s government.

The last criticism I saw yesterday came from Guido Fawkes (never let it be said that this blog censors!) who claimed that because #CameronMustGo failed to register in polls, no-one cared about it. I’ll return to this point but first; with such overwhelming all-party consensus from the UK ‘establishment’, how does anyone arrive at a balanced opinion on the matter?

This is how I do it.

Tory preelection promises 2010To begin with, no-one is perfect – no-one! We all make mistakes no matter how hard we might try not to and #CameronMustGo is no exception. The measures I use acknowledge mistakes but focus more on how it is dealt with it once the mistake has been identified. The self-correcting nature of those I follow on twitter – you will have to make up your own mind about yours – means I’m willing to allow for error but I unfollow or block those who persist in knowingly tweeting misinformation. For those who make a lot of mistakes, I use a 50% tolerance measure – to allow for our imperfect reality as people – although the vast majority don’t require this. It is for this reason, I fully support #CameronMustGo, even with factual errors, because the accuracy of the information I see on my timeline falls well within that 50% margin.

When it comes to David Cameron’s government, the Westminster establishment and the mainstream media, however, the balance looks very different. Indeed, the levels of misinformation, manipulation, propaganda and barefaced lies emanating from these sources has become so bad during this government that its hard to know who to believe. Here are a very few examples (believe me, there is a veritable mountain range of factual evidence):

A list of official rebukes for Tory lies

Media Manipulation of the Masses: How the Media Psychologically Manipulates

The Westminster establishment’s margin of error is so high and tests my tolerance so deeply that I have ceased watching Cameron must go mtelevision, listening to the radio and trusting our established media unless or until their information has been cross-checked by more reliable sources. That Westminster now routinely and unethically manipulates what information is available to ‘real people’ is firmly established in fact.

As someone who does my best to stick to facts, the choice between those who, although they make mistakes, are willing to correct/self-correct and those who believe it is perfectly acceptable to persistently lie, mislead and manipulate presents no difficulties at all. For all its inevitable faults, #CameronMustGo points to the possibility that I am far from alone in my choice of who to believe.

The second issue that informs me is that of emotional intelligence (EI), which seems to be profoundly lacking within the Westminster establishment. No-one cares about #CameronMustGo, claims Guido Fawkes. In EI terms, nothing could be further from the truth. To grasp all the infinite strands of information now woven into the hashtag by over a million tweets is a vast intellectual exercise, each subject requiring its own trail of evidence. The intellect has to divide, separate and exclude in order to grasp any particular subject. As a function of human expression, intellect is quite unable to comprehend the whole and, as individuals in a national political setting, we have to rely upon wiser others to fill the information gaps we ourselves have been unable to fully understand. Nevertheless, humanity also functions at a feeling level. We have feelings about being lied to or misled. We have feelings about those who steal from or harm the vulnerable. Our emotions inform us about our vulnerability to abusers and abuse, both in the short-term – like a single-issue hashtag – but also in the longer term if that abuse is repeated over and over and over again. It is our emotional intelligence that is capable of embracing the entirety of the problem when our intellect fails to grasp its enormity.

by Ijeoma Oluo (link in pic)

by Ijeoma Oluo (link in pic)

It is emotional intelligence that underpins the success of #CameronMustGo, just as it informs the black communities in America about their relationship with the police; just as it informs the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled about government attitudes towards them. It informs public sector workers whose jobs provide for society’s needs. It informs women particularly because we are the socially nominated custodians of emotional health and well-being for both present and future. It is also emotional intelligence that is most feared and derided by those who function solely from their intellect.

Emotional intelligence is concerned with relationship – how we relate to ourselves, to others and to the planet we live with. EI says clearly that how we relate is vital to our survival and when we fail to relate, something or someone living dies as a result. Lastly, emotional intelligence enables us to differentiate between those who are anti-ethical to ‘feeling’ from those who are not.

#CameronMustGo is an emotionally-intelligent hashtag. It’s big enough to embrace ALL the social issues created by the Cameron must go 13Coalition, together with all the preceding governments who were enablers of what has already been done to the ‘real public’ under this parliament. It is inclusive where single-issue hashtags are not. It is heart-felt intelligence in the face of intellectual heartlessness. Those who participate in the wisdom of EI fully understand what is occurring when the establishment tries to dismiss the hashtag, even if they might not grasp it intellectually to begin with. The value of #CameronMustGo over the last fortnight is that when tweeps don’t quite ‘get’ what is being shared, they can ask and become informed. The hashtag has been a valuable educator because it has provided a ‘one-stop-shop’ of detailed factual information for those who want it and a tremendous enabler of much-needed emotional expression for people living under a government that seeks to repress anything and everything that fails to make a profit for their corporate friends or themselves.

So when Guido Fawkes claims no-one cares about #CameronMustGo, he could not be more in error; when Radhika Sanghani claims the hashtag does not represent real people, she could not be more mistaken; and when the Daily Mirror says all it does is clog up your timelines, they prove Douglass on civil disobediencethey haven’t the faintest idea about what they are seeing. #CameronMustGo is the reasoned, tolerant and emotionally intelligent response to an establishment that clearly despises all those it places outside its very narrow version of rich white male social acceptance. The levels of publicly expressed disdain, dismissal and class bigotry have been quite extraordinary and alarming.

From an emotional intelligence perspective, #CameronMustGo has been a social media confrontation with the UK establishment over its long-term abuse of the British public. The establishment’s arrogant and high-handed response points to a remarkable absence of self-awareness, regret or – dare I suggest it – repentance. This is the tolerant interpretation. dogend votersThere is a far darker message that needs to be drawn, in my opinion.

If any of those actively trying to shut the hashtag down do appreciate the points I’m making here and still think they are perfectly entitled to do so, then the real people of my country are in very serious trouble because we are dealing with active abusers intent on further harm because they believe they are perfectly entitled to whatever it is they intend to take from us by force.

As any survivor of domestic abuse will tell you, maybe they won’t kill you when you try to change or end such abuse, but the chances are they will. At present, the levels of political abuse inflicted by the establishment upon ordinary people is killing us by the thousands. With the intellectual divide-and-rule control of Westminster over the mainstream media, there has not been an outlet that enabled a sustained coherent collective response from real people about what has been done to us, let alone what they plan to do next. Perhaps it was an issue of timing. Nevertheless, and probably quite by accident, Jon and Jenny stumbled upon the perfectly-imperfect, frequently accurate and often passionate hashtag #CameronMustGo and enabled all of us to bring our voices together and send a message to government that we have had enough of their lies.

Look at what we have achieved on twitter in the last fortnight, against all the odds, and maybe together we can start to appreciate how amazing we really are when we’re listening to each other and not what the elite would like us to believe.


“I try to think”: Exploring ‘personal’ criticism


You can see me

Last month, this comment appeared in the comments of “Extremist: my governments new name for me”:

Are you a disability campaigner or a prophet who understands the universe more than anyone else?. If I was in the government, you would be last person I would consult with. You have no limits, your blog is made up of incessant blatherings and you build nothing. With your “powerful feelings” who else can get an idea edgewise to you?

I try to think

As with any blog, as the account holder I have the choice whether to publish the comment or not; I chose to publish for two reasons. Firstly, there’s a suggestion in the comment that I am unable to hear the ideas of others, even if presented edgewise; secondly, there are some very useful teaching points around personal criticism contained within it and; thirdly; given my present interest in the power of narrative, it would be a shame to pass on such an opportunity.

For clarity, let me first say that  the commenter, “I try to think“, is not known to me as far as I am aware. This means that my observations relate to the comment itself and what it reveals about ‘I try to think‘ at the time of posting. I would like to allow the person themselves the freedom to learn, grow or alter their opinion. If my response was personal, then ‘I try to think‘ is deprived of these opportunities. This is important because one point in the comment alleges I have no limits – separating the comment’s author from the comment itself points to boundaries or limits to my response, thereby demonstrating that this allegation may be untrue, in whole or in part, and leads neatly into matters of projection:

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others.[1] For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.

According to some research, the projection of one’s negative qualities onto others is a common process in everyday life

Projection occurs in the absence of fact or where what is being expressed threatens an individual’s understanding of their reality. Whilst there is always an element of truth to ‘fix’ the projection in place, what is subsequently extrapolated from that truth belongs to the projector and has little to do with the ‘projected-upon’. According to this hypothesis, “I try to think” can only be talking about himself – I’m going to ‘project’ that he is male based upon my life experience. Whilst there are women who express such attitudes, they are rare beasts and they use different weapons; the privileges and assumptions contained within the comment seem to be typical of a certain kind of man:

If I was in the government, you would be last person I would consult with.

Firstly, it is not common for women to imagine themselves in government, yet “I try to think” has no difficulty seeing himself in that role. Additionally, he exercises his imaginary authority by excluding me from any and all consultation, which would effectively disenfranchise my reality from government. His form of ‘rule’ depends upon my exclusion, which points to an assumed privilege that allows him to exclude that which he either doesn’t like or, more importantly, what he doesn’t understand. The comment makes it very clear his lack of understanding:

With your “powerful feelings” who else can get an idea edgewise to you?

This is a clear indicator that issues of emotional intelligence are as excluded as my opinions and points to the reasonable assumption that if he cannot cope with my feelings, he is unlikely to cope with his own. If he had any awareness of his own emotions, he would understand that feelings are responsive; they emerge in response to events around us and are coping mechanisms for human experience. Their ‘size’ depends on either the size of the event or growth in response to repeated events. The powerful feelings expressed in my ‘Extremist’ blog were certainly accumulated – they built up as a result of repeated refusals from those who, like “I try to think“, sought to exclude me from society or community. Expressing these powerful feelings through my blog was a way of respecting and defusing their charge so they didn’t undermine my ability to think. My deepest gratitude to all the other commenters on the blog who actually did understand what I was expressing from their own experience and perspective.

So, “I try to think“, the blog you complain about was actually written to enable new ideas to reach me by defusing those powerful emotions that could, if unexpressed, have prevented this occurring. Emotional intelligence understands that trying to teach someone in excruciating pain is impossible – the pain needs to be addressed first. I note that your ‘critique’ does nothing to contribute to pain-reduction; in fact, you add to it which, in an already painful situation, is likely to do what? Did you think about what you wanted to achieve before you posted it? Does adding more pain to already powerful painful feelings get you where you want to be?

The excising of human feelings is as absolute as my exclusion is from political discourse. Whilst I wouldn’t describe myself exclusively as a disability campaigner, I would suggest that “I try to think” is, excepting that his campaign apparently seeks to disable the disabled even further by excluding us from not only the political but from our emotions as well. In doing so, he actually becomes the ‘prophet who understands the universe more than anyone else’ he accuses me of being far more effectively than I could ever aspire to, although his universe is a place where I would not be permitted to exist.

You have no limits, your blog is made up of incessant blatherings and you build nothing.

He places no limits on who he would exclude because he not only shuts me out of politics, he dismisses me because I fail to be as emotionless as he believes I ‘ought’ to be. Emotions become ‘incessant blatherings’ and I am accused, by his measures, of ‘building nothing’. It is reasonable to conclude that these allegations would apply to anyone – particularly any woman – with powerful feelings. Yet his remarks are filled with his feelings, even if he doesn’t recognise them in himself. His feelings are powerful enough to fully exclude another human being from participating in their community on the grounds that they have blatherings, not feelings – a value judgement if ever there was one – about being excluded from society. If anything is being built here, it’s peoples’ emotional responses to exclusion. “I try to think” contributes only destruction to any creative process that may be occurring on the grounds that it ‘builds nothing’ in his intellectually-excluding reality because he places no limits on his ‘right’ to exclude, up to and including violating my human right to participate in my society on my own terms. My participation is only permitted only through the very narrow aperture of his awareness which judges and excises aspects of self that I consider as being of immense creative value. I may be permitted to ‘build’ only, but on his terms.

In psychotherapeutic discourse, it is understood that whatever someone does to others, they are likely to be doing to themselves too. In this case, “I like to think” could be seen as repressing his feelings to the point of unconsciousness. His comment is about how he feels about his own emotions. If it’s permissible to repress his own feelings, then it follows that it is permissible to repress the feelings of others too in his reality. However, the ‘reality’ of the world is made up of a great deal more than simply that of one man and denying that truth is not regarded mentally healthy.

So, in reflecting on his comment, I find this is my reasoned response, expressed in blog so I don’t need to act it out in practice. This is what I think “I try to think” was ‘building’ in the feeling realms of human nature, whether he was aware of it or not. If he ever reads it (which I doubt), I hope this might enable him to really think, instead of just trying.


Veronica Marsden Remembered

Veronica 072

Veronica Marsden 1 December 1946 – 23 March 2012

Tonight is Samhain, the Celtic New Year, when the veils between the worlds of the living and spirit are believed to thin. It is a good time to remember those who have crossed over.

There are people in this world who have the ability to create real and positive change the lives of others; in my own life, Veronica Marsden was such a woman. It’s difficult to write an obituary for her, not least because she died over two years ago… and I didn’t find out until earlier this month. Whilst there are understandable reasons for this delay, the passing of real time both conflicts with and informs the immediacy of my own grief. It is comforting that such emotional conflicts were the bread and butter of my relationship with Veronica and we always managed to survive them; I see no reason why we cannot survive them now.

I first met Veronica in 1984. My own life had collapsed into a heap of feelings I had no idea how to manage and I’d entered counselling in order to learn. She was part of the Gestalt Studio and the therapist I had met at the counselling centre I was attending was her work partner. Both were graduates of the Gestalt Centre (London) and were embarking on their psychotherapeutic career. They’d created a women’s weekend to which I was invited. Little did I know then that it was the beginning of a relationship that continues to this day, even in grief. What I experienced that weekend led me to enter group therapy, train with the Studio and eventually practice as a Gestalt Therapist myself. The journey lasted 17 years and Veronica was a true companion the entire time. As an exploration of individual and collective emotional dimensions, it was a white-knuckle ride for all of us and finding true companions over such a long haul is rare and precious. Veronica became such a person for me.

Gestalt therapy is one of those psychotherapeutic tools that frequently get maligned within the profession. It’s considered crude in more sophisticated circles and it was being subject to the ‘civilising’ influences of accreditation when I entered it. All these reasons are probably why I found Gestalt suited me best – it was direct; I didn’t have to fit myself into intellectual structures in order to express my deeper feelings; and I could dive as deep as my emotions allowed in order to find a way through the obstructions that beset me. Each time I dived, I came out cleaner, wiser and better able to manage my interpersonal relationships in ways I have yet to find in other psychotherapeutic models even today. What got judged as crude was, in my opinion, simple honesty; what later got condemned as unacceptable was a requirement laid on Gestalt Therapists to be authentic; and what Gestalt eventually taught me was how to be authentically and honestly human, warts and all.

The two trainings created by the Gestalt Studio partners in 1980/90’s were informed by Veronica’s prior experience as a management trainer – she already knew how to devise professional training programmes – and both Studio trainings included unusual additions to the psychotherapeutic at that time. For example: the trainings included learning how to run the business side of private practice. They were also responsive to trainee needs emerging through the process and if the needed response was missing from existing professional expertise, the Studio sought to create it for us. The measures for qualifying were clear and attainable… providing the trainee did the work and because it was Gestalt Therapy, that work was experiential and challenging, sometimes to the point of being absolutely hellish for all of us, trainers and trainees alike.

In the years since my own psychotherapeutic career ended, I have had occasion to walk through a number of real life hells. The training created by the Studio enabled me to emerge as unscathed as any person can be under such circumstances. Veronica and the Studio enabled me to learn the kind of courage needed to survive in hell with my integrity intact. They taught me how to fight fair; how to hold my fire whilst people around me learned the wisdom I’d been taught through their own experience; they taught me how to examine the emotional content of what I was experiencing for factual evidence and respond, rather than react. The Gestalt Studio and Veronica Marsden taught me the survival skills necessary to walk through the hells we make for each other competently, professionally and as an authentic human being. If there is a measure of their training’s effectiveness, it is this: I learned to survive five years in prison without ever breaching disciplinary rules by adhering to the very high standards of ethical conduct they taught me. I have grave doubts that any psychotherapy training today is capable of teaching such skills. Given the very high levels of socially-sanctioned abuse in society today, this failing raises questions about the ability of counselling and psychotherapy to authentically support those targeted for such abuse and leaves me wondering about the purpose of such a ‘qualified’ existence.

The ‘hells’ of our training eventually resulted in formal complaints about my trainers from some of my peers and which were never satisfactorily resolved for Veronica. Notwithstanding this, she never stopped sticking up for her graduates. At the time, the psychotherapy ‘trade’ was in the business of seeking social respectability as a profession; membership of the UKCP being the desired status (which, for Gestalt therapists, required individuals to be professionally accredited by those the AHPP approved of) – whilst Veronica’s own standing was being subjected to investigation, she argued that the faults of the trainer should not be visited upon the graduates. To meet the professional demands of the AHPP, and with two other Gestalt training organisations, she created the Association for the Accreditation of Gestalt Psychotherapists (AAGP). These were the women who accredited me and the way the AAGP was treated by the AHPP was, in my professional opinion, an absolute disgrace. Eventually we all had enough of the abusive avoidances, evasions and behind-the-scenes manipulations, and told the AHPP we no longer wished to be a part of any professional organisation which behaved that way. It was not a case of our failing to meet their measures (whose goalposts kept moving whenever we did meet them); it was a case that they didn’t meet our standards. I still believe it was one of the very best professional decisions we ever made together. Nevertheless, the whole process came with a price tag.

One director of the AAGP, Flora, was diagnosed with cancer soon after we reached that decision. This was followed by Veronica suffering a subarachnoid haemorrhage so severe that she pronounced dead at one point, even though she did survive. When I google the name of the third director, her information is as scant as Flora’s and Veronica’s, which suggests Freda probably experienced something equally life-threatening. Biodynamically speaking, that two out of the three are known to have subsequently faced lethal health consequences speaks to the emotional content of the professional issues they tried to address on my behalf. If Freda went through similar then the AHPP could regard its ‘triumph’ over those they considered professionally ‘undesirable’ as complete, although what it says about the behaviour of so-called ‘humanistic’ psychotherapists is extremely telling.

The stroke ended Veronica’s career in psychotherapy; it also left her childlike and vulnerable. She’d lost none of her wisdom Veronica 075and knowledge but the psychological shields needed to survive the darker aspects of therapy were missing. It was at this point that my own health failed too and I retired into my new journeys through the hells we create for the ‘othered’ in our society. Because I sensed her vulnerability, I withdrew contact from Veronica whilst I was going through them but we spoke to each other before she died.

Veronica hadn’t known I’d been in prison but she didn’t let me down after I told her. I was still someone worth relating to even after I’d shared most of my dark secrets. The only reason she didn’t hear it all was down to my own protectiveness of the defenceless and vulnerable woman I sensed she had become. Eventually, I found a way to address the problems without pulling her into them and it was acting on this was how I learned she had died in 2012.

When someone is living, there is always the chance that our relationship with them can be subject to harm. When someone dies, that relationship transforms to a place where it cannot be touched because it is complete. There are no earthly obstacles that can harm Veronica now no matter how hard some might try. Nor can anyone take my relationship to her away from me. She wasn’t perfect because no-one is and Veronica is just as entitled to her version of 50% ‘shadow’ the rest of us… but she is also entitled to her Light. The human being who was Veronica Marsden had a great deal of Light. It takes Light to not only teach someone how to walk through the experiences of Hell but also how emerge from them. Veronica was someone blessed with a deep capacity for empathy, kindness, compassion, sensitivity and forgiveness, especially for the abused. Her own journeys through the dark side of human experience enabled her to teach me the skills of honourable and ethical survival. The boundaries she enabled me to learn have proved their worth many times over and the theories of Gestalt she taught inform even now but of all the skills and qualities I learned from Veronica, the greatest is gratitude. I am so very grateful to have known her so well for so long. It was one hell of a ride we shared together… and I don’t regret a single moment. The training I received from her and the Gestalt Studio was everything it promised it would be and more because it was authentic, honest, truthful and courageous – just like those who delivered it. Veronica Marsden was one of those women. The professional qualifications I achieved as the result of her efforts are among some of my most valued accomplishments and her friendship is one of my deepest and most honest.

Veronica once talked about her beliefs around death – she believed we were healed of our earthly wounds after death; that we returned to our original wholeness. May it be true for her for she surely earned it here on earth.

So, tonight, I send a message through the veils to a friend

“I love you, Veronica Marsden – always did and always will. Hope your Heaven has turned out to be everything you ever wished it to be… and more.”

#Inequality: Reframing the Narratives of Spirit #BlogActionDay #Oct16 #BlogAction14 #BAD14


This is my offering for Blog Action Day – My hope is I don’t let my fellow bloggers down. This subject is too important.

Blog Action Day

FireShot Screen Capture #1395 - 'Richest 1% of people own nearly half of global wealth, says report I Business I The Guardian' - www_theguardian_com_business_2014_oct_14_richest-1percent-half-global-wealt

Click pic for related article

This is likely to be a long blog, so I invite any new visitors to go make a favourite beverage, tune out the world and settle down for a journey through the different dimensions of equality/inequality. I don’t know all of them simply because I am limited by my individuality and these are global-size dimensions. However, within the framework of Blog Action Day, I can contribute my own unique perspective around the subject of inequality. To get a grasp of how ‘unboundaried’ global inequality has become, please read the Guardian link above. We have to start somewhere… it might just as well be at the top. If anything fits my definition of obscene, it is this. Half our global resources in the hands of the most selfish, egotistical, callous, soul-less criminals the human world has ever seen. In the subjective realms of such unboundaried behaviour, it is important to ‘place’ the perspective of the individual you are listening to – in this space, that’s me

By contributing a global discussion about inequality, it is important to know where to ‘place’ me in this ‘inequality’ hierarchy we all currently ‘assume’ as ‘normal’ for reality. It is important to know that as a 60-year-old white woman living in poverty in Britain, some of my comments, attitudes and viewpoints will be saturated with white privilege. I hope I use it as wisely and usefully here as I did when a psychiatric patient and a prisoner; a woman now forever ‘criminal’ in the eyes of the world according to the UK state and therefore beyond redemption. My psychotherapy Bullingdontrainers told me it was useful to know my place in the hierarchy. Being ‘beyond redemption’ is a class as well as economic aspect of inequality in the UK – where impoverished British people are rendered soulless; of no social worth; a ‘drain’ on society; value limited to toil filling the coffers of the elite; untermenschen; ‘useless eaters’; better off dead. This, highly material, dimension of inequality IRL is assumed as normal, acceptable and desirable within our global mainstream media – the mouthpiece of this predominately white, filthy-rich, male elite. This is the narrative we are forced to live within. It is a narrative of polarity – of haves and have-nots.

In polarity narratives, however, it is important to remember that it is not possible to see the ‘bigger picture’ without hearing from the other end of it.  In polarised dimensions, one side cannot exist without the other: the wisdom of the Tao.

Economic inequality resembles a monetary iceberg in my mind – measuring who lives above the monetary waterline and who does not. There are so few clinging to the top that the slither-down routes are infinite – where our own lives manifest depends on where the hook of life catches you. I’m fortunate I’ve lived at the waters edge for a while – I got the chance to find out what this life of privilege is like. When my failing health and mental health‘ melted my ‘hold’, I slipped below the waterline and into a looking-glass ‘Otherworld’ where everything is turned upside down. What is it actually like to live this ‘side’ of the waterline?  Read what other bloggers are saying about global inequality today. We can slice and dice this stuff so finely – individuals are very good at that sort of thing – until it cuts into questioning our right to the existence. When we enact ideas of inequality to existence itself, we enter the realms of the sacred in my understanding of matters divine.

This is the blog of a spiritual woman; the realms of the sacred are of deep and abiding interest to me and always have been. These dimensions hold great importance and, from my perspective, the soulless quality of the rich elite end of inequality suggests an active presence of matters sacred at the other. With extreme material inequality, there is remarkable unanimity amongst global spiritual wisdom about where the sacred is likely to be found, even if structures take different forms. For example: the only ‘religion’ that specifically excludes all human manifestations of ‘Love’ (however inequality might define it) is that of the global elite – we can see evidence in the policies being inflicted upon us.. Those who do understand that soulful life includes compassion, kindness, humility and other infinite expressions of the sacred human. Here all souls are equal in the eyes of existence; we are measured by our behaviour towards others.

I can cover an awful lot of ground when exploring different narratives around inequality – some will resonate with you, some won’t and others will sound like gobbledook. The narratives that don’t resonate are there for others, not you – or maybe more accurately – not you, not now. They may become useful later on.  I’ve experienced gobbledook turning into perfect sense before now – it’s a matter of experience. It’s also a matter of Gestalt.

Gestalt involves the idea that seemly separated, individual fragments can, when seen from a different perspective or dimension, form surprising and unexpected patterns, or forms – a murmuration of starlings is an example of a living Gesalt. The internal structures of our humanity are also a gestalt – we see this in astrology with the kaleidoscopic symmetries as each individual birthchart presents a unique map of how we plug into the universe by accessing the same energies in unique patterns. We are fractal; a gestalt.

Where we encounter each other is also fractal – where we ‘meet’ will represent the meeting of aspects of self – they cannot, nor should not, be regarded as representative of the individual within until other aspects are permitted to emerge too.

I’ll contribute what I’ve got… your response is your own business.

The thing I like most about Gestalt is its ideas work collectively too: Blog Day Action is likely to be a prime example of this.  I anticipate ‘unexpected’ patterns emerging on the issue of inequality that won’t have been seen before for reasons astrological: Uranus in Aries (collective creative sparking point); Pluto in Capricorn (clearing out the old to create anew); Neptune in Pisces (letting go the spiritually outworn); with these three alone, there are astrological explanations aplenty. The thing is, we’ve manifested the actions of these planets on earth. Those narratives are known. I’m talking about something new, astrologically speaking.

When we talk about global inequality now, the edges of our astrological collective awareness  are no longer governed by Pluto – that power is now in the actions of Sedna (discovered 2003) and her yet-to-be-named companions. The sacred awareness of abused and violated Indigenous women is now firmly in charge of our collective global boundaries. Given the size of this “consciousness” upgrade – Sedna’s orbit takes 11k years, Pluto’s is only 250 – I’d suggest that there is room to include planetary awareness too. I’m speculating – the folk most likely to know the answer to that identify as ‘millennial’. If I have a hope for Blog Action Day on inequality, it’s that this new awareness reveal its presence.

With Sedna, we  exclude the voices of the violated and abused Indigenous women of our planet at our own peril – she is not a goddess to be trifled with lightly. Additionally, being an Inuit Sea Goddess, Sedna falls outside the Greek/Roman pantheon. This points to collective shifts in the collective Water element which allow for complete restructuring of feeling element using different narratives. I hope to see signs of this too with #BAD14. Millennials might be well advised to use some of their heightened awareness when naming Sedna’s new companions – I suggest inviting non-Greek/Roman healing and creation goddesses if humanity is going to stand any chance of surviving but that is for them to decipher; my generation’s expertise ends with Pluto.

This is some of what I know about dimensions of inequality; note that included in those narratives are potential solutions requiring a longer view from an 11k year perspective. If we truly want to transform this present human barbarity that passes for life  into a narrative where the seventh generation of our children is on the right road to knowing our true place on planet earth – one precious aspect of a far greater and more complex gestalt – then we need to start putting those foundations in place now.

The narratives we tell ourselves; the narratives we choose to believe in matters of inequality are not just matters of life and death – they relate to our very existence. The narratives of the elite about those they regard as ‘less than equal’ now involve matters of existence, which in turn relate to creation and destruction. If we look at the energetic effect of the elite end of inequality, the results are destruction – if we fail to shift this collective pattern, we will all die. Simple. We’re well down that road already.

Thanks to Julienne for this picture.

Thanks to Julienne for this picture.

To dissolve and create a truly balanced and sustainable economic paradigm out of the obscenity we are forced to dwell in now, is going to require huge manifestations of  creativity – tuned to planetary wavelengths and sacred to women because these are the deepest sources of creativity we can access on a global level. Our planet is ‘gendered’ to female creative power; the narratives of Sedna and her companions will indicate the healthy route out of this global nightmare. That’s my astrological opinion based upon the patterns linked with Sedna but it is also supported by the Anishabe Prophecy of the 8th Fire.

This is, however, a matter for the Indigenous women to comment upon, not me. I do note the synchronicity.

As a poor woman listening to the UK’s political bickering over my existential social status and value using the elites’ inequality measures, I am already annihilated by  the absence of any compassion for either my peers or myself. The UK’s mainstream media conspires to exclude political narratives that fall outside its very limited perception of reality – nowhere do I see myself represented except as someone to be judged, condemned, controlled and ‘eliminated’ from the welfare statistics preferably through death. In all other respects, I am invisible, ‘unmentionable’, like millions (yes, millions) of others.

Today, we are visible – go have a look at us. See what we really look like; find out who we really are!

FireShot Screen Capture #1378 - 'susie orbach on Twitter_ _At Tory Party Conference to argue for spend on Mental Health_ Ask what they will do about the homeless_ Fuck the homeless is the reply__' - twitte

Turning the world upside-down


one of those days

Earlier this week, I had a twitter conversation with an active member of the Labour Party. I like the woman, even though my cynicism around Labour is running at an all-time high. When she invited feedback, I gave her my honest opinion which, as regular readers of this blog will know, tends to be extremely upfront with both barrels. Bev is the kind of person who values this and I was invited to contribute further. It was at this point I did something that interests me, although I’m sure all traditional advice would have counseled against it. At the time of writing, she has yet to respond, so I thought I’d share my action to see what others might make of it.

In my current society, the ‘norm’ for introducing oneself to others favours the good: a CV will, for example, promote our successes whilst seeking to minimise our failures and failings. Well, whatever the prevailing norms, I have never been able to fit them no matter how hard I’ve tried. When I have tried, I’ve always felt as though I am something of a fraud. It’s not that I don’t have good qualities – I have them in probably the same proportion as any other human being which, if we’re being balanced about it, check in at 50:50 good versus ‘bad’. Whenever I’ve tried to accentuate the positive, the negative in my shadow usually sabotages my efforts, so these days I’ve learned to keep both in view when engaging with others. But Bev was seeking information without the benefit of knowing my ‘history’ and this concerned me. So what did I do? I turned the CV ‘rules’ upside-down.

One of my complaints about Labour is its total failure to engage with our ever-growing population of British outlaws and social exiles. As a member of this ‘class’ for the past 13 years – now fully qualified and accredited – it seemed only fair to her to give her all the reasons why she shouldn’t talk to me in order of importance. My upside-down CV looked like this:

Firstly, I’m a criminal.

Secondly, there are outstanding questions about my past professional conduct.

Thirdly, I’m a benefit scrounger/skiver.

Any one of those qualifies for social rejection in our current political climate and, no doubt, it becomes more alarming to the socially-accepted that I have three. Certainly, its enough to spook the horses! The more I’ve reflected on my actions, however, the happier I’ve become. Here’s why.

Firstly, poor people are more likely to acquire criminal records and I was certainly poor when I got mine. Our present social structures FireShot Screen Capture #1372 - 'Unlike people charged with criminal___ - Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights' - www_facebook_com_blacktriangle11_posts_826517220703586vilify anyone with a criminal record and impose penalties on the poor for being… well… poor. There’s no escaping it. Society has a great deal of ‘understanding’ and compassion for the socially-acceptable (ie: rich) whilst delegating blame, responsibility and criminality downwards. It has to land somewhere and I happen to be someone it landed upon. My peers-in-poverty can expect the same absence of understanding and compassion should they ever transgress the ever increasing number of rules designed to keep us in our place: silent, obedient and invisible.

The general thrust of this style of political social ‘management’ is to judge and shame us. Instead of a balanced 50:50 good and bad, we end up carrying the bulk of the bad and are regarded as having no good in us worth mentioning. Whilst it’s neither true nor factual, we live at a time where truth and fact seem to be firmly gagged and tied-up in the boot of British politics by our so-called social ‘betters’. If someone like me is being invited to share, a ‘negative’ CV like mine is likely to be the norm rather than the exception. Since I happen to value factual truth more than propaganda, it’s actually a relief to be so open.

The other point worth making here is that of management. The accepted way of highlighting our ‘good’ history and minimising or disguising our ‘bad’ leaves those dealing with us at a serious disadvantage. The only way they get to find out about the human messes we are capable of is through bitter experience. When I taught this stuff as a management trainer, I encouraged participants to be upfront about mistakes because they are actually easier to manage. If we know what the problems are, we can deal with them; management decisions are informed and can contain the problem. It’s far more difficult to resolve fuck-ups if everyone is hiding or evading the truth. At least Bev knows what she’s getting into with me – how much more difficult might it be if she had to learn as she went along. My upside-down CV gives her the facts she needs to make educated choices.

The next advantage I identified dealt with what I describe as ‘whispering campaigns’. There’s little or nothing the subject of such campaigns can do because the whispering goes on behind their back and it requires considerable trust between the

Click for original article

Click pic for link to original article

‘whispered-to’ and the ‘whispered-about’ in order to manage it. Such trust rarely exists in new working relationships… unless, like me, you’ve submitted an upside-down CV.

Whispering campaigns have a habit of developing a mythology of their own. For example, mythologies about me have included reports that my claims to a psychotherapeutic career were altogether untrue (but fail to mention what I was supposed to be doing instead) and, of course, there’s the myth of how that career ended. We only get to find out what mythologies are attached to us when actually someone tells us – otherwise we are entirely in the dark regarding the imagination of ‘concerned’ others. An upside-down CV is a remarkably effective remedy. It demonstrates our willingness to address problems arising from our own selves and because the conversation is already opened, it enables the ‘whispered-to’ to ask questions if its a subject I haven’t already mentioned.

I suppose my action could be regarded as ‘risky’ behaviour by those who have an investment in staying hidden, but when I consider the potential pay-offs in terms of trust and relationship, it begins to look more like insurance.

corruption and transparencyFirstly, if Bev is someone who is likely to be spooked by my actions, it saves both of us time and energy. We both learn I’m not someone she’s ever likely to feel safe-enough with. She doesn’t have to engage with someone who spooks her and I don’t have to go through the process of living within the prison of her fears. Because I start from a place of integrity, there’s no requirement for either of us to journey through disappointment and disillusion – a painful journey at the best of times and one I’ve travelled too often to want to do again if I can avoid it. All these considerations point to a win-win for both of us, even if she does decide I’m too hot to handle.

If Bev is someone who can manage these negatives – and they are my most ‘flamboyant’ – then all roads lead up, not down. Her experience of me is more likely to be one of pleasant surprise than horrible shock, which seems only fair to someone strong enough to get over a negative CV like mine. That seems to be much fairer on her than the ‘traditional’ route as someone willing to take a risk with me.

Lastly, there’s a final bonus.

Although I have traveled respectable pathways, my journey through the realms of ‘outlaw’ carry more value and worth to me than anything I did before. Certainly the professional skills I acquired whilst ‘respectable’ paid the bills but they weren’t really tested by experience. Respectability looks like a safe cocoon after the white-knuckle ride I’ve been through. The dimensions of social exile tested the theories I’d been taught and stripped them of middle-class self-delusion. When I claim to speak from the perspective of the outlaw, no-one can question my integrity. Additionally, I not only demonstrate my capacity to fuck-up but I also show how I deal with it, what I have learned, and how I managed my behaviour afterwards. My humanity is authentic and measurable.

‘Nice’ CV’s can’t do any of above, which is something that is really worth reflecting upon. So even if Bev decides I’m someone it’s wiser not to get involved with, I’ve learned something truly invaluable from our contact and I am extremely grateful to her to that.

Blessing others

My only comment on the matter


FireShot Screen Capture #1376 - 'Quotes About Envy (218 quotes)' - www_goodreads_com_quotes_tag_envy_page=2

There is an outstanding matter in my history concerning the professional side of my psychotherapeutic practice that now requires comment, particularly given I have been tweeting to a couple of the profession’s alumni today.

I have not spoken before, nor will I speak of it again after posting this blog, for a number of reasons:

1. It concerns an allegation of professional misconduct with a client.  For me to discuss professional complaints concerning a former client within any forum other than that regulated by the ethics of psychotherapeutic confidentiality is absolutely forbidden.

2. The ‘allegations’ against me are extremely serious and have resulted in pretty much total shunning from my ‘peers’, with one outstanding exception. She may wonder at my silence with her personally but this stuff is so toxic – I felt protective of her vulnerability. I’ll be sending her a copy of this because she’s earned an explanation from one of us; it might just as well be me if no-one else will tell her. Lucky for me she has a fondness for Sagittarian black sheep.

3. I can speak of the allegation itself only as it was reported to the psychiatric unit I was a patient in, in 2003. It was recorded in my ward notes and said (paraphrasing):

“Patient was a psychotherapist but she slept with a client and was drummed out of the profession”

There was no indicator who the source of this information was… possibly… I no longer care to remember but my recall of the allegation is perfectly clear.

This report is factually untrue and the evidence can be checked.

The fact is I retired from the psychotherapeutic profession on health grounds in March 2001. The events that gave rise to the ‘essence’ of this ‘complaint’ occurred in October 2001, some months after I retired with an unblemished professional record. Had the ‘drummed out of the profession’ fiction any truth to it, there would be a record somewhere. In that record would be my defense or mitigation – and since this is my one and only time comment on the matter – that can’t be proven as fact but hearsay. In a profession that claims compassion, acceptance, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness, the projections upon me are remarkably telling. This ‘peer’ group process becomes even more curious when set alongside our shared professional history and  experience. Did they learn nothing from Freda Sharpe?

This group behaviour was present in the psychotherapy profession when I worked within it – I found it in the UKCP; the psychotherapeutic ‘professional’ lynch mob there to protect the ‘sanctity’ of their self-image. There was nothing holy or ‘fair’ in their rejection of my professional accreditors: standards too stringent, was their given reason but UKCP ‘humanistic’ played dirty and responded with silence when confronted on the matter.  I know because I did the confronting.

Fortunately, this was my only contact with the gossip of my behaviour – I am supremely disinterested in knowing any more. That is a problem for those who engaged in it, not me.

A reminder for those peers involved in this ‘lynchmob’ that, as far as I was concerned at the time of this incident in 2001, I was no longer using psychotherapeutic ethics because they were proving to be unreliable in practice. I was doing my best to adhere to shamanic ethics as best I understood them. This involved making copious ‘mistakes’ and is in no way different from the ethics I learned from my psychotherapeutic trainers and accrediters. My ‘learning-through-terrible-mistakes’ was familiar behaviour during our therapeutic experience together. I was also under the impression we learned a very great deal about envy and scapegoating, or perhaps it was only me?

Since my ‘mortal sin’ in 2001, I have had contact with only one of my peers – she and her husband came to visit me when I was in prison; she’s that kind of woman. We knew each other well enough for seventeen years. She commented, during that visit, that I had the air of ‘knowing’ something she didn’t. She was right and this – my once and only comment on the matter – is what I know. I’m curious that she, too, appears to have added me to her shun list. That’s not the behaviour of the woman I knew who qualified top-of-the-class in our training together – I thought she knew better than that; to at least have asked me what I might have to say on the matter but no-one ever did.

No matter how cynical the group process became during my psychotherapeutic learning with my peers, we never lost sight of the Sacred. This ensured the presence of compassion or ‘return’ to compassion through some of our more darker journeys in the Pluto / Scorpio realms. Yet somehow a ‘permanent’ absence of compassion managed to get in and take up residence within the relationship; not so much righteous as self-righteous. As a human being, I have a right to a fair trial; not a kangaroo court set up in my absence and judging on the basis of prosecution ‘evidence’ that fails to accord with known fact. Any psychotherapist who suggests such a process acceptable within the profession requires lessons in Human Rights Law; any psychotherapist needing lessons in Human Rights law for intra-professional problems has an identified and urgent training need. If this is what such practitioners do to each other, what the hell are they doing to their clients?

Whilst I may be disappointed in my peer group, I have a continuing and deep respect for all those involved in my training, development, supervision and accreditation because they delivered on their promises where humanly possible and trusted to the Sacred when they could not. They taught me the value of leaping into the void and trusting that some of the awful situations I experienced were, above all, meaningful. The skills they shared enabled me to spend nearly five years in prison, on enhanced regime and with a clean disciplinary record throughout, all the while confronting abusive behaviour. I was a real pain in the arse, just like always, but within the professional ethical boundaries they taught me. The only time this ever changes is when I am responding to a situation without boundaries or rules. My peers knew of my shamanic activities and intentions before I retired.  The process transforms a potential shaman undergoing initiation which can sometimes look like mental illness to uninitiated eyes  – I honestly thought my peers knew better than to always accept a single narrative in matters of envy.

It is hard not to have some feelings about how things fell out, especially as we can be sure such matters will be whispered in ‘private’ if I don’t drag out those few aspects that can be examined in the cold light of day. I speak now only to depower this particular narrative’s capacity to be an obstacle to my intention. There’s something I’d like to create for the women of my adoptive community and I don’t want this so-called ‘complaint’ to sabotage my creative efforts In this situation. Given that the best defense is no defense in psychotherapeutic confrontations, I can offer facts whilst giving thanks for the ethics empowering me to keep silent in this situation.

That is all I have to say on the matter.


Women Prisoners: Speaking Truth to Power

What a man is like

Sirius Black: the prisoner of Azkaban

About a week ago, Toni Wood, a Criminology PhD student, asked a twitter friend for recommendations to blogs by former women prisoners and I noticed her request as it came onto my timeline. She was wanting material to give to her students. I can resist anything but temptation so, as a former management trainer and formerly “dangerous” woman prisoner with some bitter experiences of research into women prisoners, I bit. Whilst I don’t restrict pawprintsofthesoul to prison issues, there are prison-experience blogs in my archives and one of them threw psychological research of women prisoners to a pride of hungry lions. It’s an interesting test of a criminologist’s character, that blog; how they respond tests their professional ethics on a number of different levels.

Firstly; there is a personal response. Do they believe me or do they think I’m making it up? How do they respond to a former woman prisoner speaking out the way I did in that blog? How would they feel, as a professional working inside a women’s prison if a woman prisoner spoke out that way to them personally? Toni is the kind of criminologist who says “That’s exactly what I’m looking for!” and later, when I inquired of her success in finding blogs, she invited me to guest lecture her students sometime in 2015. This is a CJS (Criminal Justice System) professional I can do business with any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I’ve said yes, providing my heart is up to it – I’ve recently experienced indicators of further heart failure and it’s around the same time of year as the last two times.  Since I can’t assume upon my earthly presence even unto next year, I might just as well start my guest lecturing now.

The second ethical test in the blog is about the kind of power Sirius Black understood in theory but struggled, like many, to put into practice especially with Kreacher. There is a very clear choice to be made in the Criminology ‘biz’, from police to probation, having passed through the courts and, in my case, almost five years of prison; can you see the human being beneath the labels or not? Are you open to learning or are you likely to be unsuited to working with women prisoners? This is a vitally important issue for women prisoners at the moment.

My imprisonment ended with sentence in 2010, just before this Coalition government came to power. The Criminal Justice System may have benefited from having Ken Clarke at the helm for a while but the ravages wrought by Grayling have turned the HMPS Mens’ Estate into a hellhole. I notice a deafening silence from the Women’s Estate (as usual) which will mean conditions are worse and will have deteriorated significantly since my departure. Google “prison conditions, England and Wales” – see for yourself. If Toni’s students have notions about working with women prisoners, let’s make it very plain what you are about to walk into. Whatever you think you know about prison, or prisoners, you don’t – unless you’ve been a woman prisoner. Every woman who has ever been held in prison has a degree-level experiential knowledge of how the CJS really works; long-term women prisoners have experiential doctorates of reality in it and black/brown/foreign national/Muslim women prisoners have the most thorough knowledge of all. They know a great deal more than I do. I hope, by sharing this information, some of my former black women prisoner friends might feel inspired to offer up their own unique dose of authentic reality in order to smash through the inevitable preconceptions people bring to the realms of feminine criminology in England and Wales in 2014.

Let’s be clear on one thing, though. As our tales unfold, perhaps you’ll begin to understand the depth of the truth reported by Baroness Corston, that 80% of women in prison in England and Wales shouldn’t be there.

You students, imprisoned by your tutor to listen to me, are the future for these women. Toni opened a door for me to speak to you. Excuse me while I widen this doorway for all my peers who have something to say too. We’re tired of your tickboxes. They’re too small to accommodate us and remain sane. Corston said the Prison Service was a system designed by men for men. Well, continuing to implement that idea lawfully is going to run out in a few months. Ten years – that’s what Jean Corston gave us to change the prison/CJS system to accommodate women prisoner’s needs. When you get a chance to visit a real prison, take a look around and check out how well you think that plan is working out. Then ask yourself: what are you entering this profession for? To uphold it… or help to transform it? This is the truth I am speaking power to – our future and what you might help us make of ours if you could only learn to be kind.

The best professional, compassionate working standard I was ever was given by one of the very best woman prison officers I ever met (that HMP Low Newton had a huge bouquet of them but there were some stunning blossoms in HMP Durham’s F-Wing and New Hall’s Segregation Unit). We were chatting about the attitude and approach different prison officers had towards prisoners and she told me she treated the lasses the way she hoped all prison officers might treat her own daughter if she wound up inside. Whilst some might bridle at the assumed maternity, remember she was speaking in a deeply patriarchally-cruel environment. We were of a similar mature age too; for me, she was a good friend in need on more than one occasion. Any ‘sins’ committed are forgiven for her simple human kindness and concern. If you are youthful students, agewise (soul-wise is an entirely different matter), you will not be able to get away with that but the women prisoners you encounter will still be in need of the kindness inherent in her intent. If you can’t find it within you to allow the worst prisoner of all at least one chance to show you who she is now, rather than the money-spinning stories you’ve been ‘colonised’ into accepting as true, then you are not fit to work with women prisoners.

We all have our ‘stories’. They are not the same as the ones you believe to be true, especially if you’ve gleaned your notions from the mainstream media. It really isn’t a good idea to put too much faith in our MSM, .especially given the absence of journalistic ethics now seemling replaced by monetary favour, coupled with a crippled and corrupted Justice system overseen by the most right-wing monetary government coup in Westminster I could have thought possible. Ethics is no longer of any particular interest as far as the reach of their intent is concerned. This type of attitude pervades the CJS especially where women prisoners are concerned.

What kind of changes do you think the CJS needs to make to remedy the harm that’s been done? Or, alternatively, you could try something original and ask the lasses themselves what they think they need. Remember, my information is five years out of date – things have changed for the much worse since then.


Oscar Wilde – convicted prisoner

The great UKIP calamity continues with Scriptonite: ‘It’s on, Farage, it’s on’


As an independent blogger myself, I urge ALL of us to read BOTH posts in full.

These are dangerous times… and dangerous measures, like having and expressing our own opinions freely, MUST be taken.

Solidarity with genuinely free-thinking UK bloggers everywhere!

Vox Political


Vox Political‘s comrade-in-blogging at Scriptonite has stepped into the fray, siding with fellow bloggers against UKIP’s attempts to censor us and curtail our freedom of speech.

It’s impossible to reblog Scriptonite, but the article begins: “The UK Independence Party (UKIP) dropped all pretense as a Libertarian party this week when they brought in police and lawyers to threaten bloggers who shared a ‘fact check’ leaflet of UKIP’s policies.  Our response needs to be defiant, let’s get this leaflet around the country and the world” [meaning the image at the top of the article].

You can (and should) read the rest of the piece here.

The most notable part is the following, which indicates the strength of feeling currently prevalent in the blogosphere about UKIP and the appalling behaviour of its members and supporters: “Unless you believe that the nation is truly full of bigots and homophobes who…

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