Prisoner Self-Help

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My Journey of Change

By Trevor Tacey 

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


Prison “Postcode Lottery” for Women

Prison Reform Trust has published the figures from the analysis of court data, showing the disparity for imprisonment rates for women in different areas in England and Wales.

You can find further details here:

Fear of Emotions

by Masha Bennett

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

Your Mental Health in Prison

The Mental Health Foundation have published a helpful free guide to looking after your mental health in prison,

It offers some tips on self-care and basic information on how you can improve your wellbeing even in the difficult circumstances of being in jail.

The guide can be downloaded from the following page on the MHF website:


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