‘Dearly beloved – we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life.’

Prince-Purple-Rain

Above, the opening line to Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy,’ which also kicks off his iconic 1984 album ‘Purple Rain.’ Last week saw a lavish remastered reissue of the record, the main draw for fans being an excellent bonus disc of previously unreleased songs that plays like a long lost album. In celebration, here is a link to an article of mine that was previously published on PCI College’s website:

Disenfranchised Grief and the Music Fan

I discuss the concept of disenfranchised or unrecognised grief, and how this connects with fandom in the context of the above-average number of celebrity deaths last year. Grief and loss come in all shapes and sizes – all should be respected the same way.

Enjoy – purple crushed velvet optional…

Simon

‘I never want to contribute to the corrosiveness of wanting someone to stay hidden.’

Gay Pride flag

The final article posted to coincide with LGBTQ Pride comes from musician, writer and actor Carrie Brownstein. In a particuarly poignant excerpt from her memoir, Brownstein relates the story of her father, who came out as gay at the age of 55:

Carrie Brownstein: ‘No Normal’

I think this is a beautifully observed snapshot of the effect coming out can have not just on the person themselves, but also on family members and loved ones. Furthermore, the context is still more common than many realise. On the first Thursday of every month, Gay Switchboard Ireland provide a confidential Married Men’s Group, ‘a peer support group for men who are, or have been, married or in a long term opposite sex relationship and who identify as gay, bisexual or feel attracted to other men.’ Further  details are available here:

GSI Married Men’s Group

I particuarly like the line:

The truth was a satellite, the picture getting clearer, circling and homing in, and then he was close enough to touch it.

I think this could be applied to any number of peoples’ experiences of therapy, regardless of what has led them to it – the sense that the process of exploring and being supported in that exploration is slowly unravelling a mystery or knot in the client’s life. Though initially confounding, ultimately her father’s decision to come out allowed Brownstein to finally meet him at a core level that had previously eluded her. Being true to one’s gender or sexual identity is far from easy for many people, but when Brownstein says ‘Now there is someone to know’ of her father, she reminds us of the huge rewards that can await if we have the courage to step into ourselves.

Wishing all readers a happy Pride!

Simon

Carrie Brownstein is a founding member of seminal art-punk band Sleater-Kinney, as well as co-writer and star of hit TV show Portlandia. Her memoir, ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl,’ was published in October 2015.

‘I was pushing myself creatively but I was still nervous to order at a restaurant.’

Anonymous_gay_pride_flag

In the second of three posts honouring Gay Pride – here are a couple of articles on two gay men who continuously make waves in the alternative/indie music scene, while displaying the sort of honest humanity that goes hand in hand with the process of counselling.

Firstly, Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, talks sexuality, anxiety, and the transformative power of long-term relationships…

Perfume Genius interview: ‘Everything I do is rebellious’

…and below, Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear offers a touching tribute to George Michael, who helped him name and then step into his true self.

Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste on George Michael’s Coming Out: ‘He Helped Me Make the Decision to Never Hide’

I think both pieces highlight the sense of support/community that music and inspirational musicians can provide to those who otherwise feel like they are a bit on the outside – a feeling not at all dissimilar to the experience of being truly heard and listened to by a counsellor who doesn’t judge or tell you how to live your life.

One final article to follow tomorrow.

Simon

Perfume Genius’ latest album ‘No Shape’ was released in May of this year; Grizzly Bear’s ‘Painted Ruins’ is expected in August.

‘There truly is no weakness in admitting you need a hand through the darkness.’

Anonymous_gay_pride_flag

This being LGBTQ Pride week here in Dublin, I’ve decided to post a few articles that marry pride with my personal passions of music and issues related to counselling.

To start, here is a good little article about the mental health of young people featuring Tegan Quin of Canadian musical duo and queer icons Tegan and Sara:

Tegan & Sara on mental health: ‘Being a young person can be overwhelming – it’s normal to struggle’

As well as being something of a cherished institution for their musical output (which has become increasingly high profile in recent years), the pair are tireless advocates for LGBT+ rights.

More to follow in the coming days!

Simon

Tegan and Sara’s latest album ‘Love You To Death’ was released in June 2016. 

Self Care #1: ‘Cool Velvet’

Stan Getz 'Cool Velvet' album cover

I recently had the pleasure of teaching a class on Personal Development, and my students and I spent a good deal of time discussing the concept of self care – what it means, what it looks like, how often it is engaged in, and so on. One thing that became clear quite early on was just how variable the answers could be, depending on the individual. For me, self care is about showing myself that I matter – that I deserve a break – and acknowledging that I can give that to myself, if I choose to and then make the time to do it. Sometimes easier said than done, but absolutely necessary to get the batteries recharged and not get overwhelmed by everything life brings – particularly important in the world of counselling and psychotherapy.

So, how do I practice self care? I aim to make this the topic of several posts here but the first port of call is usually music. By which I mean, really listening to music – lying back with my headphones (the same ones I bought in Japan in 2004) and letting the sounds spill over me, connecting with them as they do so. I have a very broad taste in music but right now I’m finding an album called ‘Cool Velvet’ by jazz saxophone legend Stan Getz to be particularly rewarding. Some might find it syrupy but to me the melding of sax and strings on this record is nothing short of heavenly. Here’s a taste:

Stan Getz – ‘It Never Entered My Mind’

Getting lost in these melodies is as therapeutic for me as taking a long, hot bath might be to someone else – whatever form it takes, the end result is hopefully a calming so palpable you can almost see the stress rising up and out of you. Doesn’t that sound good? And yet for many, self care sounds too much like ‘being selfish’ to be properly entertained, which is a very real shame. More on that another time.

For now, I might finish this particular post with an invitation for anyone reading to share or reflect on a song/album/piece of music that offers them that same feeling of nurturance or recuperation as I’m currently getting from ‘Cool Velvet’ – and why do you think it has this effect for you?

Simon

The Persona & Shadow of Being Gay

Gold mask on black background

In the final year of my counselling studies, I wrote a dissertation called:

‘Coming Out or Staying In?: The Persona & Shadow of Being Gay, and its Relevance to Psychotherapy in Modern Ireland.’

This work sought to map the concepts of Persona and Shadow, as put forward by Carl Jung, onto the lived experience of being a gay man or lesbian in modern Ireland.

The Persona can be seen as a mask that we wear to navigate through society and interpersonal relationships, while the Shadow is like a private backroom full of things that we would rather most people not see. For me there were many parallels here with the experience of being gay, so, inspired by people like Panti Bliss and Ursula Halligan, I decided to explore further. With the Marriage Equality referendum of May 2015 as its backdrop, the piece examined concepts such as internalised homophobia, ‘passing’ as straight and coming out, from an Irish perspective.

Some months later, I was honoured to learn that my work had been selected to receive PCI College’s annual Martin Kitterick Award for academic excellence for 2016. An edited version was subsequently published in Éisteach, a quarterly journal published by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP).

You can read this shortened version by following the link below:

Éisteach Winter 2016

All comments welcomed!

Simon