Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I came face to face, this week, with the, ultimately expected, fact that I needed glasses. I had avoided an eye test for a year, ignored the occasional blur and the receding periphery of my vision, but, surprising even myself, when I was told I'd need glasses, it depressed me.

I was put out not only by the cost, but by my worry that it would change people's perception of me, that it would, perhaps, even change me - a mask, if you will. I felt as if the real me would be stuck behind these spectacles while people I met made, perhaps even more judgemental than usual, snap judgements about who I was. I was suddenly moving camps from the non-glasses wearing fraternity, to the not-so fortunate. I guess, I now feel as if I am entering a world of disability, and I think that age-gradual-debilitation idea frightens me quite a bit - it's another reminder, along with my back problem, that I am getting old, and like my parent, and grandparents, I'm not going to be able to do the things I used to be able to do (Why then, don't I do more exercise?).

I only realised on sunday, when I attended a get-together at the house of a work colleague of my wife's, that I had a strange feeling of inadequacy around people with glasses. Moreover, my interaction with people wearing glasses have mostly been people in a position of power - either good or bad - who I perceive as being more intelligent than me, and who are mostly serious people - teachers, bosses, parents, the investigator in my brother's case, and all those professional business people, power-dressed in their executive suits.

Of course, over the years, I know that people have mistaken who I am, because of the way I dress, carry myself, or talk, anyway - snob, gay, intellectual, idiot (I at least take pride in being a Jack-of-all-trades) - so, what does it really matter?

It's as if having to grow up, responsibility, ageing; it all combines to mollify my young spirit - something to fight against (I have allowed too much of myself to be moulded by the external stresses of the world already, let me at least keep my vanity)!

Secondary to this, I was presented with a prejudice of mine. My parents received a Christmas card from my uncle, detailing (as usual) the successes of his children over the year. As a family we mock them for this treatment - this is the only communication we receive from them (certainly since the death of my grandmother and the demands my cousin made of my mother to pay him what was rightfully his - oh how I love Christians), and it is all, always, self congratulatory. It makes me feel inferior, but then, the contradiction is that I wouldn't want their lives, I wouldn't want to study politics or law, and step up to the bar. There is some innate part of me that refuses to allow me to like them in any way, their devout religion and the manner in which they have always conducted themselves makes me consider them as the most phoney people I have ever known - that they really think they might get into Heaven and because of my beliefs, I won't, sickens me.

That has to be the core to my belief system, and to ponder that as being one of the fundamental reasons why I have built up my own faith of world view is a scary prospect; not simply because it ultimately is built on a subtle form of hatred and distrust, but, it also raises the question, what would my faith and belief be if I hadn't had them as role-models for all religions? It does worry me that there is a chance that I might be less open-minded (than I am), that I might be ignorant, egotistical, and self-deluded.

But, would I be happier?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I have had an epiphany in regards to the relationship between being a writer and becomming a counsellor. Whilst in my learning I have been taught about the objectivity of the counsellor's role; the stoicism of keeping one's own thoughts and feelings to one's self whilst discussing the issues of the client. I realise that this is a need in writing also.

I get so blinded by my own need to help a reader/listener to understand what I want to say, what I am trying to assert that I have failed to realise, even in my learning that any strength of realisation can only come from subjective understanding, dependent upon the reader/listener's own life experiences. There is simply no point in telling someone what they need to do, what they should believe because their power and their control is removed, is taken away, their right as an equal human being is usurped. Similarly, a writer may be trying to get at a very specific point; John Fowles in the Collector is trying to narrate class difference, JD Salinger in the Catcher in the Rye shows us every teenager at the point in their lives where they are trying to find a place in a world that ultimately disgusts them.

But, the point for these and for other books, as well as the relationship between counsellor and client solely comes down to the analysis of character, the fine-tooth comb over what makes a character tick. In a good novel we are never told what a character is like, we are shown what they think, how the act, and their first reactions to situations before they are able to cover themselves. We see inside of them through the lies they tell us and the lies they tell themselves, the ones they live by - the safety barriers and boundaries they believe they need to live inside to survive.

Counselling requires the same. It is no good the counsellor explaining their position, their thoughts; telling the client what they are thinking or should be thinking - as with writing, this is not only a turn off, but nothing is learnt, their is no process for growth, no moment of understanding. The prize, the awakening never comes from the answer, which is why so many people find themselves interested in stories, in beginnings, middles and ends; more specifically, people need stories of rites of passage - without a full understanding of the journey, the answer is meaningless.

I must bear this in mind in the delivery of my writing, the understanding of my characters and in the delivery of my counselling skills.

Secondary to this was my self awareness upon how racist I am - not in an aggressive manner, but in a stereotypical way. Firstly, I was assisting, in South London pub, at a charity party, and at 2am, was awaiting in the empty pub (whilst the staff cleared up and my friends popped to the local ambulance station to store their equipment) with a large designer bag packed with upwards of £1,800. Two black men walked past the window, and I felt as if they had made an effort to peer inside, at what I thought was the bag. I promptly moved it under the christmas tree while I waited for my friends to return and began to worry about what I would do if one of those men tried the unlocked door, wanted the bag and presented a knife.

As it was, a black gentleman did enter that pub and enter into the toilet - at that time I thought he must know the staff, but after the return of my friends and his re-emergence from the toilet, the staff asked him what he wanted and removed him - I can only make assumptions about what I thought he'd come in for, and perhaps how he had only been scuppered by the number of people.

Secondly, I was watching the film Crash, which regards race relations in Los Angeles, and the ease with which people seem to stereotype; most noticeably two black youths besmirching the rascism they receive, before falling into type and holding up a couple at gun point and stealing their car.

Fear is the reason; Rascism is only the excuse.

I would honestly have felt less worried, standing in that pub window, if two white men had walked past (probably peered inside only because people were in a pub at 2 in the morning - is it a new late night opening pub?), but then if I really think about it, I felt no less anxious by our fifteen minute walk from pub to my friend's flat than I do when I walk down to my local shop - there are no black, coloured, ethnic minority people at my local shops, only white adolescents with nothing to do, alcohol and no boundaries.

I am afraid of the unknown, of what might happen, and it is easier to stereotype so that I believe in some way I am protecting myself - because I think I know what they're like, what I think they're capable of. I label the local kids as "chavs", and suddenly I have encapsulated everything they are and everything they are capable of, and I can dismiss them.

But I realise that rascism is just an excuse for my own insecurities.

We did a task a few weeks back in which we spoke of our initial internal responses to certain character types - and all of them come from our own fears our own insecurities about what these people will do to us physically, about how they will affect us psychologically, about how they may change us or what they will make us endure, before we can return to our comfort zone.

Writing and counselling is about forgoing judgements, is about acknowleding weakness, temperament, possibilities and about embracing difference, change and the many levels of society's supposed structures, about using the fear for self awareness only, for growing and taking control. I have to be prepared for my readers to come to a conclusion that isn't necessarily my own, because as with spirituality, with religion, with politics, people come to decisions based upon their own life experiences, their own subjective understanding; never because someone has told them so.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Missing the class this week bothered me more than I thought it would. It reminded me of the times, as a child, I had gone on holiday with my parents for our two week summer break. I would always be sorry to go because of what I would miss out on with my friends. Not that I didn't enjoy the holiday once I arrived; I always felt a bit down since it was time that I wouldn't get to spend with my friends. Returning home then was one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday.

For me, missing out on just one evening's lesson, is missing out, not on the learning, but the shared experience, the being part of something that brings us all together and gives us something in common.

Those of the group who have missed a few of the lessons through illness have appeared a little detached from the group as a whole, seeming, from my point of view, to feel inadequate compared to the the current counselling skills of others, and generally less likely to interact with the whole group.

Further to this feeling a part of something, I have noticed that unless I situate myself next to someone who is already present in the room when I arrive, others tend to sit away from me when they arrive. It is then only when there isn't enough seating elsewhere that people finally sit next to me.

This bothers me and it doesn't bother me. In so much as I have to wonder whether I put myself across as the friendly easy-going person I think I do, or whether I come across as rather high-maintenance, too energetic, or judgemental. It could very well be that the others feel more comfortable sitting alongside women, or that it is merely the luck of the draw.