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“Relentless restlessness…”

I recently read this fab article by Holly Williams: ‘How Björk has helped me heal from heartbreak’ – concerning the author’s relationship with Björk’s 1997 album ‘Homogenic’ and its ‘remarkable remedial power.’ To me, there’s always been something beautiful around the idea of an artist’s creative output exerting an empathic healing quality far outside its own parameters, and this article prompted me to reflect on my own journey with Björk over the years. In the past few weeks, I have been particularly drawn to the 2007 track ‘Wanderlust’:

Björk – Wanderlust (Vulnicura Live)

The lyrics marry well with the landscape I find myself in now – embarking on a journey into full-time therapy provision, to also incorporate therapeutic writing group work. Drawing on David Byrne, I might ask myself ‘How did I get here?’ – and surprisingly, there is a fairly simple answer. Like Björk, I have in my adult life always been drawn to a need for movement and space, where new ideas, ways of being, experiences and so on can take seed and grow – pretty in keeping with the dictionary definition of ‘Wanderlust’ as ‘A strong desire to travel.’ 

The phrase she uses, ‘relentless restlessness,’ perhaps contains something of a double-edged quality – on paper at least, the idea of being ‘relentlessly restless’ might not sound too comfortable, but it is the core ethos behind this that speaks to me – not so much a sense of nomadic rootlessness but a liberating state of always being open to the next step of the journey and the challenges it may bring. When she says ‘I feel at home whenever the unknown surrounds me,’ there is a sense of unbridled possibility and courageousness – to stare a path shrouded in fog in the face and not only keep walking, but to do so with joy, anticipation, even a sense of belonging.

I am reminded here of the innumerable journeys I have been on with my clients over these past several years, and how their willingness to take those steps into the unknown (often so terrifying to start off with) are the foundations of every single thing they will subsequently build in their inner and outer landscapes. At some point or other, the fear may indeed morph into something closer to what Björk describes – comfort in the movement, even a sense of adventure as the path continues to evolve and new features pop up along the way. I suppose this is my hope for myself now, too – but of course only time will tell what the landscape will look like in the years to come. Whatever it may be, I am heartened that its origin lay in a spirit of creativity and movement… or, simply put, wanderlust.

Simon

Creative & Reflective Writing Group for Therapists – starting September 20

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A new venture! On the back of my studies in creative writing for therapeutic purposes, I am hoping over the next few months to trial a 6-session writing group designed specifically for counsellors/psychotherapists. The principle aim would be to provide a creative peer outlet in which to explore both the personal and professional sides of being a therapist – a mix of individual creativity, self-care and reflective practice.

After core training there isn’t always a huge amount of courses, workshops, etc. available that focus on personal development for therapists so this group would hopefully bridge that gap a little, while giving space to reflect on professional development also.

There is a flyer with more detail below – click the orange text to download as pdf. If you are interested, please get in touch! First session will (hopefully) be Sunday 20 September at Insight Matters, 106 Capel St, Dublin 1.

Creative + reflective writing group flyer

Simon

A Pride Poem

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It’s been a long time since I published much on this blog, which is interesting considering that I have been writing for enjoyment and nourishment in my spare time probably more than ever. A lot of this is down to the creative/reflective/therapeutic writing studies I have been pursuing. The course I am currently doing, a Practitioner Certificate in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (or CWTP, for those who like acronyms), has brought in on a few occasions an old Japanese friend of mine, the haiku. I always had a fondness for these little fragmentary moments, as well as their slightly longer sibling, the tanka.

The haiku traditionally comprises 3 lines and 17 syllables, in a 5-7-5 pattern (i.e. 5 syllables for line #1, 7 for line #2, and 5 again for line #3). The tanka builds on this foundation and adds another 2 lines, each containing 7 syllables (a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern), bringing it up to 31 syllables in total.

What I always loved about these poems was their fierce individuality in capturing a feeling or mood or moment in time – the language I might gravitate towards to try and pinpoint the essence of one of these will be so unique to me that no one else, no matter how similar in character or personal history we might otherwise be, will be able to transmit that sense in quite the same way, simply because they are not me, and vice versa. These tiny poems’ particular ability to highlight the beauty of diversity in our human experience is, to me, very special.

In a nod to Pride, I am dedicating this knowingly rebellious 32-syllable (!) tanka to the celebration of diversity and wonderful, unapologetic uniqueness:

 

I don’t care to be

textbook. Don’t care if I am

lumpy and bumpy.

Appreciate the info,

but I’ll form myself this way,

thanks.

 

Be proud of yourself.

Simon

Workshop! Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Wellbeing (Sat 21 March 2020)

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I am delighted to announce that myself and author Claire Hennessy will be holding another collaborative workshop on ‘Creative Writing for Self-expression and Wellbeing,’ on Saturday 21 March. I can’t believe this is our fifth one already!

Location: Big Smoke Writing Factory, Harcourt Street, Dublin 2

Time: 11:00 – 16:30 (including lunch break)

Fee: €80

No previous experience of writing is required and while sharing of work is welcomed, it is not expected.

Students on PCI College’s BSc (Hons) in Counselling & Psychotherapy can count attendance as 4.5 CPD hours, which can be put towards their mandated workshop hours in the personal development category.

For further info or to  book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:

Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Wellbeing

Incidentally, earlier this week I completed a short Children’s and Y.A. fiction course at Big Smoke (as a participant this time). Based on the group’s interests there ended up being quite a focus on picture books, which was a wonderful way to connect with that ‘inner child’ power of imagination – and even better to be able to do so in collaboration with like-minded adults. The magical creativity of visuals such as the below, from Tao Nyeu’s ‘Wonder Bear,’ should never be just for kids!

 

Simon

Workshop! Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Wellbeing (Sat 21 September 2019)

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I am delighted to announce that myself and author Claire Hennessy will be holding our fourth collaborative workshop, the slightly re-worded ‘Creative Writing for Self-expression and Wellbeing,’ on Saturday 21 September.

Aside from being less wordy, the shift in the title from ‘Mental wellness’ to plain old ‘Wellbeing’ also reflects some research findings that indicate a link between expressive writing, emotional regulation and the body’s immune system (this BBC article offers a handy summary: The puzzling way that writing heals the body).

Over the course of our first three workshops, the message from myself and Claire has been the same – expressing oneself through the written word is an easily accessible, uniquely satisfying and emotionally rewarding pursuit that demands nothing more than pen, paper and an open mind. We use a blend of writing forms to encourage participants to explore and expand their emotional vocabulary, offering a supportive environment for creative experimentation and sharing.

Participants training or working in the counselling field may find exercises potentially useful in their practice, particularly around the use of imagery as a tool to further understand the client’s unique frame of reference. The writing forms outlined may also be incorporated into the practitioner’s own self-care and reflection routines – a happy crossroads where professional imperative and personal enjoyment can meet and mingle.

Location: Big Smoke Writing Factory, Harcourt Street, Dublin 2

Time: 11:00 – 16:30 (including lunch break)

No previous experience of writing is required and while sharing of work is welcomed, it is not expected.

Students on PCI College’s BSc (Hons) in Counselling & Psychotherapy can count attendance as 4 CPD hours, which can be put towards their mandated workshop hours.

For further info or to  book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:

Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Wellbeing

 

To conclude, a little haiku I just wrote about therapy:

What seemed so heavy

It might bury me alive

Is now my armour.

 

Simon

Workshop! Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Mental Wellness (Sat 23 March 2019)

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I am delighted to announce that myself and author Claire Hennessy will be holding our third ‘Creative Writing for Self-expression and Mental Wellness’ workshop on Saturday 23 March.

As before, it will take place at Big Smoke Writing Factory (Harcourt St, Dublin 2), and aims to marry myself and Claire’s dual passions for creativity and good mental health. Various writing forms are used to explore and expand one’s emotional vocabulary, offering a supportive environment for creative experimentation and sharing.

Participants training or working in the counselling field may find exercises potentially useful in their practice, particularly around the use of imagery as a tool to further understand the client’s unique frame of reference. The writing forms outlined may also be incorporated into the practitioner’s own self-care and reflection routines.

The workshop will run from 11am to 4:30pm, with a lunch break. No previous experience of writing is required.

Students on PCI College’s BSc (Hons) in Counselling & Psychotherapy can count attendance as 4 CPD hours – if this applies to you, just flag with me on the day and I will organise an attendance certificate.

For further info or to  book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:

Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Mental Wellness

Please feel free to share with anyone who may be interested!

Simon

Punk Rock Doesn’t Give a Shit about Your Inner Critic

I’ve been listening to a lot of punk recently, bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Bikini Kill. This is a natural progression from the punk that has populated my music taste since I got into the Stooges and the Ramones at the age of 17 and never looked back. Punk can be almost simultaneously silly and serious, political and personal, high-stakes and throwaway, but whether it’s the Sex Pistols seeking to dismantle the monarchy, Kathleen Hanna refusing to let anyone dictate her choice of best friend, or the Replacements advocating running a red light, the common thread is nearly always some overarching element of rebellion.

There is a great clip of punk-precursor legends the New York Dolls playing BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973 (watch it HERE). They perform ‘Looking for a Kiss,’ a swaggering sneer of a song that draws on the badass attitude of ‘60s girl group the Shangri-las, filters it through the glam rock of Bowie and Bolan and then coats liberally in NYC grime. As with the entirety of their Todd Rundgren-produced self-titled debut album, it is a defining moment in the evolution of not just punk, but rock music in general. And yet at the end of the performance, host Bob Harris appears and dismisses the band as ‘mock rock’ with a self-satisfied smirk. This kind of reaction is exactly what punk exists for. It says, we may not be as proficient as those beardy musos over there or have a ton of 12-string guitars, mandolins and Moog synths colonising our stage but we believe in what we’re doing and we won’t let you tell us otherwise. In other words, a giant fuck you to the status quo and a clear message to it that things are changing and it better watch its back.

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So what are the benefits of a punk attitude from a therapeutic point of view? To me, whether it tangibly feels like it or not, therapy itself is often an act of rebellion, particularly when it comes to things like self-worth and the desire to live authentically. You’ve been raised in a certain environment. You believe you should be and act a certain way. You’ve internalised messages about yourself from the people around you. You end up believing some of these even though they are self-critical and have a corrosive effect on your self-esteem. You’ve learned what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the eyes of social and/or family norms. You fear what would happen if you were to step outside of these. You self-censor. Or, you mentally challenge these ideas and then feel guilty for it. You cultivate an invisible and deeply personal antenna that alerts you to when you have committed a transgression. You listen to the little voice from your past that tells you that you’re bad, stupid, weird, awkward and unworthy of love. You get stuck in a place that isn’t authentic to what you actually want for yourself, and life goes on around you. Damn.

BikiniKill

What does punk say about all this? Punk challenges you to say NO. Punk challenges you to identify a status quo that no longer serves you and stand up to it. Punk challenges you to be and act and do in a way that feels right for you. Punk challenges you to be visible and unashamed. Punk challenges you to get angry for what you’ve gone through and put up with and settled for and had to listen to and then channel that feeling into creating something better for yourself. Punk challenges you to be friends with who you want and to consign the people and things and inner voices that hold you back to the trash can. Punk challenges you to be goofy and stupid sometimes and just go with it. Ultimately, punk challenges you to resist, rebel and reclaim, and this is what also makes therapy punk. So the next time your inner critic starts up with its usual cyclical crap, maybe try reaching for your inner leather jacket and shades and tell it where to go. Or to quote Minor Threat:

Before you take another crack
And slap yourself on the back
Before you tell me what you heard
And sum it up in one word
Before you start talking shit
Before you throw another fit:

THINK AGAIN.

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Simon

Workshop! Creative Writing for Self-expression and Mental Wellness (Sat 15 September 2018)

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Following the success of our first foray into the world of co-facilitation, I am delighted to announce that myself and author Claire Hennessy will be holding another ‘Creative Writing for Self-expression and Mental Wellness’ workshop on Saturday 15 September.

As before, it will take place at Big Smoke Writing Factory (Harcourt St, Dublin 2), and aims to marry myself and Claire’s dual passions for creativity and good mental health. Various writing forms are used to explore and expand one’s emotional vocabulary, offering a supportive environment for creative experimentation and sharing.

The workshop will run from 11am to 4:30pm, with a lunch break. No previous experience is required.

Students on PCI College’s BSc (Hons) in Counselling & Psychotherapy can count attendance as 4 CPD hours – if this applies to you, just flag with me on the day and I will organise an attendance certificate.

For further info or to  book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:

Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Mental Wellness

Please feel free to share with anyone who may be interested!

Simon

You are queer enough

Fab blog post from Karen Pollock on the exclusionary processes that can exist even within communities that have an innate sense of being “outside” – and affirmation on how to stand up to these.

Counselling in Northumberland

The idea of there being only one way to be queer, and that there is a hierarchy, where some people are better queers than others seems to permeate the LGBTQ+ community. It reminds me of the concept of “trueness” which is sometimes discussed in the Kink community (and of course no community exists as an island). True subs, or dominants, believe they have found the one and only way to do BDSM, and can often be found online telling everyone else where they are going wrong. I believe the label comes from the idea of there being “one true way”. One of my tutors, Olivier Cormier-Otaño recently used the word Queerarchy, and I recognized that process of exclusion, othering, and group forming which it seems even those communities which have direct experience of exclusion are not immune to. 

This kind of behaviour is not limited to kink or LGBTQ+ people however…

View original post 556 more words

Workshop! Creative Writing for Self-expression and Mental Wellness (May 19th 2018)

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It will be my pleasure on Saturday 19 May to co-facilitate a one-day experiential workshop with long-time friend, old work colleague, and fabulous writer Claire Hennessy. Taking place at Big Smoke Writing Factory (Harcourt St, Dublin 2), the day aims to marry myself and Claire’s dual passions for creativity and good mental health. To quote from Claire’s post on the Big Smoke website:

This one-day experiential workshop… is ideal for anyone interested in creative writing as a tool to help express themselves and as an activity that can contribute to mental wellness (as well as being fun and rewarding in its own right).

Co-facilitated by writer Claire Hennessy and counsellor Simon Forsyth, this workshop invites participants to engage in a variety of exercises with an emphasis on:

  • demystifying creativity
  • finding a vocabulary for emotions
  • becoming more comfortable with committing words to the page
  • sharing (if so inclined) creative work in a safe and supportive environment

No previous experience is required.

For further info or to  book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:

Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Mental Wellness

Please feel free to share with anyone who may be interested!

Simon