Prisoner Self-Help

tools for healing, changing, growing

Archive for the category “Inspirations”

My Journey of Change

By Trevor Tacey www.realchangesforlife.co.uk 

One of the main memories that I remember really well is lying in bed, and I might hear the pigeons cooing and even feel some sun on my face… I would stretch and slowly open my eyes and BANG! I suddenly realised where I was and this was the first day of another sentence and everything that went with along with that.

In my earlier sentences it didn’t cause me as much grief because I was just an angry junkie with a chip on my shoulder the size of a house who just saw prison as an occupational hazard! That’s just the way I felt about myself. It was a “dog eat dog” environment, and self-preservation was the order of the day. So all I had to do was get through the day, and that’s all that mattered. I had cut off any connection to Trevor pic with a falcon portrait.JPGmy outside world other than the odd mate that would come and visit me or my brother. So my self-preservation was not only the external environment of the prison but my internal environment. I had an ex-wife and two children and it had been an extremely painful split, so I refused to see them.

I could put on a front and behave as if nothing bothered me, but every night anger, guilt and shame would do a dance together until I could finally escape into sleep.

I didn’t think much about how what I was doing affected my family. I just thought “What I do only affects me, so what is the problem?”  That all came crashing down on that first sentence when my Dad died, and the priest came into my cell one night to tell me. After he left I just smashed the cell to bits I didn’t know what else to do with all these feelings that I had tried so hard to stuff down for so long! I was 22 years old and it was the first of many sentences.

The latter ones were more difficult because by then I had remarried and with three lovely children and here I was some thirty years later after the first sentence in the same place! Only now I had all the feelings when my young son or daughters would ask me on a visit “When are you coming home Daddy?” It was like a cut to my heart and I would also wonder if my wife would wait for me this time?

I could go on and on but the point is that not only did I not have any tools to help with these feelings, but because of that I would be acting out on that anger, sadness and frustration. So I would find myself in front of the Governor or down the block and losing remission.

If I had been able to find some help to calm these negative thoughts and emotions, like some of the self-help techniques on this website, it would have been a godsend to me in at those times. I would have tried anything for a little peace and some hope for the future. I thought my life would always be that way but it was a lie. Eventually, I learned about techniques like these, especially EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) in 2004. It is 2019 now and I have been in recovery for 22 years and not seen the inside of a cell for over 30 years.

I now work with other people drug and alcohol problems. I still have my wife and children around me and much more.

All you need to realise is that your thoughts and feelings will dictate your reactions and outcomes, so if you can learn to calm them in any way your life will become easier.

Trevor pic in the garden.JPGTrevor’s struggle with drugs started when he was 16 and lasted over 30 years, during which time he was in and out of prison. In 2004 he came across EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which really helped his recovery and healing, and soon after that he trained in this therapeutic approach and started supporting other people struggling with addictions, which he continues doing to this day. Trevor’s website is www.realchangesforlife.co.uk

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Fear of Emotions

by Masha Bennett http://www.practicalhappiness.co.uk

Most of us are scared of our emotions. Some of them may seem unacceptable, wrong, even dangerous. We spend a lot of time and energy on suppressing these emotions, hiding them even from ourselves and definitely from other people.

It is not surprising that our emotional world can seem confusing, challenging, and sometimes threatening. Our parents could only teach us what they knew themselves – and many of our parents and grandparents had also learnt to be scared and ashamed of their feelings. Knowingly, and most often unknowingly, they pass this learning onto us. They cannot give what they have not got. And we will pass this fear and shame around emotions to our children, unless we heal, unless we learn otherwise.

The truth is that every emotion has a function, a useful purpose in our mind/body system. Emotions give us vital information on what is happening in our world, and how we need to act in response to it. It is just a signal from our body, from our nervous system. For example, running a high temperature means that there is inflammation in the body, and you need more rest to allow the immune system to fight it. When you are thirsty, your body is letting you know that you are getting de-hydrated. When you feel your bladder is full, it is a clear sign that it needs to be relieved. These are common and understandable signals from your body, that demand certain action.

When emotions arise, they also carry information, just like the physiological signals above. When we feel scared, it is a signal of a real or possible danger, which helps us to keep ourselves safe. The difficult bit is that often the danger can reside not in the present, but in the past – in our memories, flashbacks, dreams of the traumatic or frightening things, maybe from a long time ago. And sometimes the fear can be in the future – in our worries and thoughts about the things that could go wrong. In both cases, our nervous system may respond with fear and anxiety, as if the danger is current and real – even if it is long gone, or is just an idea of something that could happen in the future.

Oil painting - Crying for Mother Earth

When we feel sad, it usually indicates a loss of some kind. If the loss is significant (for example, loss of a person close to you, your home, your liberty), the body will actually need to adjust its physiology to adapt to the new situation or environment without that person, or a job. This can result in slowing down, loss of appetite, apathy, disturbed sleep, and other symptoms that are associated with grief and depression.

Anger is one of the most misunderstood and maligned emotions. In itself, there is nothing wrong with feeling angry. It is a signal to let you know that someone or something has crossed an important boundary, or that a value you hold dear has been infringed upon. Sometimes feeling the anger may feel overwhelming and frightening. Sometimes the way we act upon our anger can cause terrible consequences, where we may harm others or ourselves. However, the response to the emotion is not the emotion itself, and we can learn to understand and manage our anger in a way that is healing, protective and creative. After all, many projects and charities that have been set up to fight injustice, discrimination, cruelty, indifference, are likely to have started off as someone’s anger, as rightful indignation about some wrong in the world.Oil Painting - Oya Goddess of the Storm

When we cannot fully feel, understand and accept our emotions, they tend to come out anyway, often in unexpected and damaging ways, no matter how much we learn to suppress them. These emotions may come out as explosive outbursts, or as panic attacks. They may show themselves as physical symptoms, or depressed mood. We may feel unbearable shame about having those “unacceptable” feelings, and shame itself acts as a “wet blanket” and stops us from feeling, connecting with people, and taking the right actions.

This short video explain how to notice and name the emotion you are experiencing, and how it may be helpful.

To conclude, here is a poem from the 13th century Persian poet Rumi, The Guest House.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(Translated by Coleman Barks)

The two paintings are by Masha Bennett – Crying for Mother Earth, and Oya, Goddess of the Storm

Masha Bennett is a UKCP registered psychotherapist in private practice, specialising in psychological trauma and addictions. She has worked for a number of years within the UK criminal justice system, including running a drug rehabilitation programme in a women’s prison, and offered psychotherapy to staff and patients in the National Health Service. Masha teaches trauma awareness, therapeutic and self-help tools to professionals and general public and has delivered training across Europe, Asia and Middle East. Her website is  www.practicalhappiness.co.uk.

Innocent man re-building his life after 20 years in jail

Frankie Carillo was falsely convicted of murder when he was just 16. Twenty years later, the eyewitnesses admitted that they had lied. Now Frankie is making a new life for himself, has become a student and is beginning to develop a relationship with his son who was just a baby when his father was wrongly convicted.

See a video of Frankie talking about re-building his life on the BBC website.

 

 

How to Hug a Tree

by Masha Bennett http://www.practicalhappiness.co.uk

When I include this exercise in my courses and personal development sessions, many people are reluctant to try it. But virtually everyone later reports that that it was a profound and healing experience..

If you have access to a real tree, that’s great. If you don’t, you can still do the exercise in your imagination. Think of a tree that you know – or you can make one up in your mind. Then go through the following steps, slowly, with no hurry, trying to maintain an attitude of curious openness…

1. Approach the tree slowly.

2. From some distance, notice the shape of the crown, the way the branches reach out to the sky.

3. Take in the colours, different shades of green, the texture of the foliage, how the leaves are intricately positioned, to allow in as much sunlight as possible.

4. Notice – what do you like most about the tree? And is there anything you don’t like – are there any flaws, perhaps some damage to the branches, gaps in foliage, anything that is not pleasing to your eye?

5. Come closer, touch the tree trunk, feel the bark gently underneath your palm, your fingers. Is it rough, or smooth? Warm, cool?

6. Lean on the tree trunk, allow it to support your body.

7. Optional (I really like this bit):  put your cheek on the bark, really allow that sensitive part of your to feel the tree’s outer skin.

ash_tree

8. Put your arms around the tree – depending on the size of the tree, your hands may or may not meet on the other side of the trunk.

9. Close your eyes and focus on your physical sensations and your emotions. Feel the energy of the tree (it is a very large energy field of a very large organism!)

10. Spend a few minutes just quietly noticing whatever you are experiencing, without trying to analyse or judge it

11. You may like to ask the tree a question – out loud, or in your mind perhaps. Wait for the answer. This may come as thoughts, images, physical sensations, an awareness, insight.

12. Let go of the tree trunk slowly. Thank the tree.

You may now feel energized, or perhaps a little emotional, or possibly calm and peaceful. Whatever it is, it’s the right thing for now. You can now take your new insights, the new energy, the new connections with you.

Try this with different trees – and if you can, try it both with a real tree and a tree in your imagination – the experience will vary but will always be healing and enlightening.

Masha Bennett is a UKCP registered psychotherapist in private practice, specialising in psychological trauma and addictions. She has worked for a number of years within the UK criminal justice system, including running a drug rehabilitation programme in a women’s prison, and offered psychotherapy to staff and patients in the National Health Service. Masha teaches trauma awareness, therapeutic and self-help tools to professionals and general public and has delivered training across Europe, Asia and Middle East. Her website is  www.practicalhappiness.co.uk.

Are You Hanging Onto Old Wounds?

by Andy Hunt www.practicalwellbeing.co.uk

A man walks into a bar with an arrow sticking out of his chest.

He walks up to the astonished barman and asks for a beer.

The barman stares in disbelief at the arrow poking out through an old check shirt encrusted with dried blood.

He asks: “What the hell happened to you?!”

The man, rolling his eyes, says ” What does it look like? I was shot in the chest with an arrow!”

“Does it hurt?”, says the barman, staring at the arrow while pouring the beer.

“What do you think?”

“Why don’t you go to hospital and have it taken out and get yourself patched up?”

“No! I’m not letting any doctor take this arrow out! That the job of the evil S.O.B who shot me. He’s the only one who can take the arrow and the pain away!”

“That’s stupid!”, says the barman, “You should have someone remove that arrow and patch you up. I’ll phone a paramedic, you could be free of that problem in half an hour”.

“No! You don’t get it! Only the man who shot me can make this right, I’m waiting for him to come to me on bended knee and apologise for what he’s done, he can take out the arrow and then we’re done. He did the damage, he can make it better”

The barman studies the arrow noticing how old and tattered it looks, some of the feathers are missing, the wood is stained and splintered. He also notices that the mans shirt is old, ragged and dirty.

“When did you get shot?”

“20 years ago! … one of the worst days of my life!”

“What!!! You’ve been walking around with an arrow in your chest for 20 years! Are you nuts!”

Indignant the man says: “No, I’m in pain, can’t you respect my suffering?”

“Yeah, but 20 years!”, pointing at the arrow, “Doesn’t that cause you problems?”

“You bet. It hurts like hell, I have to avoid revolving doors, and can’t do press-ups, it’s a real nuisance”

“And you’re waiting for this guy to come and take the arrow out?”

“Yeah”

“Isn’t that unlikely, I mean he did shoot you in the first place. Why would he want to help you?”

“He should do it! It’s only right that he should make amends for what he did”

“Do you know where is he?”

“Yeah. In the cemetery. He’s been dead for seven years”

“What! How can he take the arrow out if he’s dead? You need to get someone else to take out the arrow”

“No way, that’s his job! I’d rather go to my grave suffering than let him get away with what he did by having someone else take this arrow!”

“You’re crazy! You’re holding onto this pain waiting for someone who will never come to make it all better”

“You don’t understand”, says the man finishing his beer, “Nobody ever does … “, putting down his empty glass he leaves the bar (being very careful of the swing doors).

Andy Hunt is a therapist, advanced practitioner and trainer of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and master practitioner and trainer of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). His website is www.practicalwellbeing.co.uk

How to Get Over Grief

by Pete Michaud www.petermichaud.com

I was 21 years old when my dad killed himself.

Dad had left after a big fight with my mom. I had been talking to my mom for the whole week he’d been missing, and that morning was no different. I had to hang up with her to go to class, and I called her back afterward to keep her mind busy while we figured out where dad was driving to.

A man picked up the phone and asked who I was. The detective passed the phone to Mom when I told him I was her son, and that’s when she told me they’d found Dad at a reststop a few miles outside of town. His body baked for 2 or 3 days in the back of his Denali before someone found him. His toxicology report told me what I already could’ve guessed: cocaine, narcotic pain medication, and a bottle of red wine.

My family had been normal. In his youth my dad had been wild, but he was sober since before I was born, he was a middle manager at a major corporation. He was a good dad, always joking, everyone liked him.

Pete MichaudWhen we lived in Mexico, he decided to have a taste of the old times while he could, and he got just a little coke. Five years later, his body rotted in the back of an SUV at a rural Ohio reststop.

The news literally knocked the wind out of me and knocked me off balance for a moment. That’s why people need to sit after news like this. I remember the exact view I had when I fell into my office chair, looking at my wife at the time, who immediately understood what I’d heard on the phone. Grief instantly struck her face as she fell back onto the couch. She, like everyone else, loved my dad.

A couple of numb hours later, I picked up a video game controller and pretty much didn’t put it down for the next three days. When I stopped playing, I’d start crying.

Reimagine

Grief is the process of reimagining what your life will be like now that something or someone you expected to be part of it, no longer will be.

You had one idea before your dad died, or before your husband left you, and now that idea doesn’t make sense anymore because those people aren’t in the picture anymore. They aren’t there, and the needs that were being met by their presence will no longer be met by them. Your subconscious goes into overdrive, deep down into the recesses of your brain, and has to tear that whole future narrative out from the root.

That whole process hurts like hell, and we call it grief.

I flew to my parents’ house to help with the funeral, and I was busy for about a week. I felt nothing really, I was just doing things like writing the eulogy, and arranging flowers and that sort of thing.

Someone had picked up a Stevie Ray Vaughan CD to play at the funeral, as that was some of my dad’s favorite music. I popped it in to figure out what song to play. I was sitting on my mom’s couch when “Life Without You” came on, and I lost my shit. I bawled like a heart broken toddler.

Distracting myself felt better than sitting and dwelling on my dad, that’s for sure. But remember what all that pain is for: it’s rebuilding the mental image of your life.

It’s identifying needs that used to be filled by someone, going through the pain and fear of feeling that those needs will no longer be met, then connecting with new resources to get those needs met in lieu of the departed.

So all those video games, busy work, alcohol, long work hours, only serve to slow down and stop the process of grief. You’re trying to make it go away, but the way you’re doing it is just making it stay longer.

Take breaks from the pain if you must, but let the tears, rage, and desperation flow through you until it’s said its piece. Then you’ll be free.

Pete Michaud is a catalyst. He accelerates change by pulling you toward the ingredients necessary to transform, and pushing you away from anything that keeps you static. Pete’s website is www.petermichaud.com

Sources of information and support

Cruse Bereavement Care is a UK charity offering information, counselling, practical advice and support with bereavement and grief. In Northern Ireland Cruse provides specialist Prison Support Services as well as services in the community.

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide provides emotional and practical support to those bereaved by suicide of a close relative or friend.

The Compassionate Friends offers support for parents, grandparents and siblings after death of a child or children.

From Hurt to Wholeness

by Michael Mallows

Hurt – Hate – Hope – Healing – Wholeness

Inevitably,  the elements overlap and intertwine, and no matter how hard we’ve worked, or how far we’ve come, it is always possible to relapse, which doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to start over!

Hurt is the pain we carry, like a burdensome thing, as a result (or so we tell ourselves) of our past; all the betrayals and abuse, the rejection and ridicule, the physical assaults, all psychological as well as psychic blows. And the shadow of the past might be very long indeed because it probably echoes not only our own childhood, but that of our parents and grand-parents, and beyond.

Hate is usually externalised in our contempt and disdain for others. We talk to or about the bosses or bullies who have caused us distress. We build walls against people who are different, we treat children with disrespect, we betray the partner we cheat on. Blaming them (or our past) is a smoke screen for the deeper hurt and the greatest hate – that we are out of love with who we think we are, as evidenced by the countless ways in which we treat ourselves unkindly or even dangerously! In short, when ever we treat others in ways that demean or degrade them, we reveal how we really feel about our selves! 

Hope by definition, hope is wishful thinking; if we have it already, hope is redundant! We hope for something that does not yet exist. When we focus on what’s wrong with other people, hoping they will change so that we will feel better about ourselves, we are not paying attention to our own faults and failings. This is hardly surprising if we don’t really like ourselves very much, which is evident in the way we deny and delude ourselves that the problem is caused by other people – past or present – and we are only the effect. If we have nor resolved, let alone recognised how our sense of self is riddled with feelings of inadequacy, hurt and hate, then hope is already contaminated.

Healing will only truly start when we recognise our meanness of spirit – to self and others, when we acknowledge our spiteful thoughts and gossip, when we admit our narrow minded prejudices, when we take responsibility for our vindictive acts and attitudes.And we can heal deeper wounds if, in the moment that we hurt the most, when we believe, and others agree, that we would be perfectly justified in retaliating, in seeking revenge, in hitting out with words or actions, in getting our own back by making others suffer, if, in that moment we choose not to seek vengeance or retribution.In that fleeting moment, even though we are hurting, if we go against the habit of hurting back, we have transcended the terrible weight of personal and collective history.We have chosen to act from a wellspring of love (even though we might still feel hateful), and to create a little and yet a vast space into which we and others might choose to grow.

Wholeness requires that we include rather than exclude other people, even if they are not as we would wish them to be. We treat them as we would like to be treated and would treat ourselves if we were filled with self-validating self-esteem. In this place, we become exemplars of the way we’d like to world to be. We stand as the possibility of love where, all too easily and all too often, we have previously been willing to hit out, to hurt, to hate, ‘just to teach them a lesson’! The lesson they learn when we pass on our hurt and hate is hopelessness in a bleak world because what we do is what we teach. And everything we do says who we think we are! If the above does not apply to you, you might anyway find it a useful frame of reference when you listen not only to what people tell you, but what they don’t say.

Michael Mallows is a psychotherapist, supervisor, trainer, consultant, author and expert on adoption. He is developer of SET (Social Effectiveness Training) and CRAFTY Listening. 

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