No Surrender

No Surrender

‘No surrender’ is to completely surrender. Surrender is realising that escape is not an option. Surrender does not mean to give up. If you are trying to do something, maybe to stay clean from drugs, then using is not an option. It cannot be your escape. Surrender is to stay with what seems impossible, and not to do it alone.



I was thinking about whether or not psychotherapists care about people. Many don’t, I suppose.  They’re rather introverted but they still seem every able to help other people become more themselves – which, in my mind, is all you can do.

But it strikes me that there is a difference between caring for people and looking after them. There’s a certain kind of psychotherapist I have often met who seems vey invested in something about who their client should be. These people don’t care. They look after people.

Looking after people, in the sense I am describing here, usually involves inhibiting them in ways that are not available for discussion. It’s often done secretly or coercively and has a relationship with what has become called ‘co-dependence’. In a way it treats them as mad while the person doing the ‘looking after’ is somehow removed from having to look into their motives with the help of someone else. We are not transparent to ourselves: never.

It doesn’t have to be like this. I might ‘look after’ myself, for example; but even in that there’s a sense I am somehow divorced from myself as I do this. I’m selfish to a point that might extend beyond reason.

Outdoor Eye

Develop your outdoor-eye. That is, every day try and find something special: something you notice, a cat walking across the road in a particular way, a kind of a plant, or a part of a tree, or a strange bird in the sky, or a familiar little bird looking at you. Look into its eye. Life can’t happen without something special.

This is especially true if you’re stuck looking at a screen all day. Screens are predictable and demand your attention because of what you’ve been trained to expect … so look out of the window.

Addiction, Mobile Phones & Bottles (also, cans)

The people responsible for developing social media, making mobile phones, positioning betting machines or marketing alcohol search for any opportunity to hook users in. Content is designed to exploit vulnerability: to find vulnerability in us all.

Mobile phones are not the problem, just as bottles aren’t for alcoholics. It’s the content that matters and, more than that, who’s holding them. What’s inside a mobile phone can be addictive if you need something to be addicted to. There isn’t a magic addiction germ in a text or a Facebook page any more than there is in cocaine, skunk or a bottle of Jack Daniels. Or a Fixed Odds betting terminal. Addiction comes in people. We self-medicate when our anxiety grows unbearable.

Of course there’s another side to this: that the things I’ve just mentioned are supplied by people who seem to be addicted to making money, amongst other things (a look at a the recent President’s Club ball will tell you a more comprehensive story). Money, money, money. The people responsible for developing social media, making mobile phones, positioning betting machines or marketing alcohol search for any opportunity to hook users in. Content is designed to exploit vulnerability: to find vulnerability in us all.

So what can you do? Get angry. Harness your anger like you’d saddle up the Immortal Horses and put your phone down. Stop wiping yourself out. Throw your bottles away.

Anger is the justice emotion: if you don’t know how to get angry, if you feel you can’t assert yourself … life will feel very unfair. You won’t feel part of life. You’ll feel anxious. And it’s anxiety, a reaction to not being present enough in the world (feeling left out, overlooked, ignored, not listened to, a failure, hopeless or any number of similar things),  that leads to addiction.

There are ways of dealing with this. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Crazy May: Mark E Smith, a Genius, is Dead

It isn’t May, it’s January, and my keyboard insists it’s Cray May, nothing Crazy about it. First it started dropping r’s and then it was z’s after I tried to swap the spring thing under the r and z keys to make the r key work.

Mark E Smith, a genius, has died and I listened to some of his songs last night, on the floor, which was probably right. It’s still the same as when I was fifteen. I get ill after one song. There’s too much of what I like in what he did, like orange juice with the water evaporated out of it, super tart I’d imagine, or super sweet, depending on your orange. There was never anything diluted about the Fall.

You’d have to be an alcoholic to make music like that. You’d have to, or it would kill you off at the start rather than at the end. I suppose that’s why most music’s so boring. Survival strategy #1 for geniuses: you make anything amazing and it will probably kill you, so don’t. Either make do with something melodic that doesn’t hide how torn your heart really is,  or do things very occasionally, or you will die. The options for geniuses are limited.

This is why most music is so awful. There are so many spaces to fill. And not only music, I hasten to add. For every book I buy there’s a possible place in a bin. For Each film I watch there’s a likely a wasted half hour, which is roughly how long I think you need to give a film before escaping. People are much the same.

You’d think being good at something would help, not kill you. How depressing. I shall now listen to Live at The Witch Trials.

Why is reading difficult?

As a psychotherapist, formerly as a teacher, and sometimes still as a writer, I have met so many people who have found reading difficult. At points in my life, in spite of my love of reading and of books, I have found it almost impossible.
       It seems fashionable now to try and look for neurological or other, possibly related, organic reasons for why people find reading difficult – such as allergies. It’s easier to medicate something that seems to have a material cause.
       Does this kind of diagnosis ever really help? I’ve met people who can read again, or perhaps for the first time, properly. But the ones I have know, although they feel somehow more free, also seem to have reached a point where something still seems blocked. They can absorb words from a page, but they can’t do things with them that they have an idea they might.
       I can suggest here, very briefly, some things that may be blocking your relationship with written words. All of them are things which can be addressed without medication and outside of a classroom.
       I should add that nobody I have known finds reading easy. Even the most avid reader has to connect with a book and that reader is sometimes the most lucid in being able to describe what can get in the way. For the sake of simplicity I have numbered these thoughts about reading difficulties. I am aware that if you are reading this you may be experiencing some of them.

  1. Dissociation. Reading can be made difficult by the process of dissociation. The feeling of losing one’s place, not taking words in, or not absorbing information is so common it is rarely talked about. The effect of these things happening when you are a student, especially in a classroom, as a very young child, is that she or he will be treated in ways that will leave them feeling ashamed. Shame acts a horrible censor, making it harder than ever for someone to say what they are finding difficult. Dissociation can arise for many reasons. It is highly treatable. There are reading techniques I can recommend for people who find it hard to read more than a few sentences without getting lost.
  2. Getting stuck. To read you need to be able to make connections – associations – that help the text come to life. Some of this can be to do with dissociation; some comes from an unfamiliarity with words that might be rooted in a difficulty to read. Talking and reading out loud to interested people can help. Theres so much more I could say about this, and may in another place.
  3. The audience. Effects of the imagined or real expectations of an audience. Although this it is something of a dissociative process, it’s less directly so. The dissociation occurs not when a book is already open in front of someone, but before the book ever gets opened.  It takes a wonderful teacher, or a very enlightened parent to realise that the reasons why a someone, child or adult, procrastinates, reads the wrong thing, or gets involved in a volatile situation which prevents something getting done is most likely to be connected with a barely acknowledged set of assumptions relating to what will happen if nothing gets in the way. Emotions govern what we do. Thoughts arise out of emotions that are sometimes spectacularly misguided attempts to do a version of the right thing: the right thing by that individual. The thing which will lead to the best path through life for them.
  4. Enlightened resistance. Some children, and some adults, become aware very early on that what they are reading is not what’s good for them, and unlike in the kind of situation I have described in point three, they are correct.
           I was depressed, recently, to see some of the material currently being read as part of an A level syllabus and on an undergraduate English Literature programme. The texts were sentimental, simplistic and brutal. Perhaps in the name of openness, or as a reaction to long-lost censoriousness of emotional honesty, some teachers seem to have lost their protective sense. Reading can be re-traumatising. People who choose not to read something that merely repeats horrors of which they are already well aware need to be rewarded, not punished. Unfortunately terrible things are often written about in ways that remain attached, even if it is barely consciously, to the dynamics that repeat them. Witness the effect, for example, of the millions of journalist’s words devoted to describing why Donald Trump should never be president of the USA. Much of the writing feels frightening and seems part of how the Trump takeover keeps happening.
  5. Poor teaching. I used to teach English undergraduates and was horrified by the number of mediocre students (in addition to a very few excellent ones) who decided to become English teachers.
  6. Our schools. Until relatively recently I was involved in helping children from difficult backgrounds try to receive a good education. What I would recognise as a good education is currently unlikely to occur in an English school.

Debbie Harry Does It

I was really much more interested in antisocial, underground things, and I didn’t want anyone choosing material for me. Debbie Harry

I like Blondie. I could write a book about them; but I found this quote and it seems to say more than I’d ever manage to. It’s from an interview where Debbie Harry’s talking about liking X-Factor. But, would she have taken part? No, she wouldn’t.
       Doing what other people tell you to do, when you could be doing something else, is fucking life up. There will always be things I can’t but do, but all the time I see people getting on with not doing their own thing because: they don’t seem to know their own thing very common; or they don’t see they’re being told to do something; or they want to get something and they’re happy to eat shit until they do.
       Not she (who looks amazing).


or Things You Can Do With Fear.

Sometimes I find people hard to be around and it isn’t easy to work out why. Often I find a feeling that leads me to think of what’s occurring between myself and them as not quite real – that there’s something cartoonish happening, almost. The feeling is of fear, a particular feeling of fear, in the way that the bark on various kinds of tree can be so very different.
        Why am I’m thinking of fear and bark together like this?
        I thrive on this kind of question. It tends to take me to places that my thoughts don’t naturally go. So I think about how, when I was very young, my father used to have a dog that terrified me, that barked a lot, and that back then I often thought about my father as if he were a cartoon. As I got older I started seeing him as he was, but he still seemed to think about me in ways that never seemed to extend beyond something very basic, like a sketch of me he’d drawn once, at a distance. There was something very true about it and something extremely limited. I might as well have been frozen in space: easy to remember and indestructible.
        The fear that I feel around people when I start sensing something cartoonish is going on (and cartoons allow for some very disturbing thoughts to be had amusingly, harmlessly and without getting into what isn’t a cartoon: flesh and blood for example, someone or something so fragile they are real) reminds me that I, the real me, might be the last person actually on someone else’s mind. I suspect that in some way they are very scared and might prefer not to imagine me as more than a glyph.
        Who I am to them remains to be seen … but I feel a degree of confidence that I’m trying to remain open to who they could be.

Note: The dog was given away. The first time, I was told by my mother, the owners returned him because he seemed to be barking at ghosts.