In my recent post on Men and Addiction I described some theories and ideas that influence my approach to working with men who struggle with addiction. The most significant of these ideas are inspired by addiction specialist Dr. Gabor Maté, who’s perspectives on the causes of addiction go somewhat against the grain of traditional thinking on the subject. This engaging short illustrated video is a great introduction to Gabor Maté and his work with what he calls the Hungry Ghosts of addictions.
The words, sounds and images in this short film weave together to create something that touches me deeply, deeply, and gives me consolation at this time of crisis and uncertainty.
I have watched it about a dozen times now, and this morning for the first time this year. As I watched I saw out of the corner of my eye the blue tits returning to the bird feeder outside my living room window for the first time since last summer when my neighbour chopped down the tree that was growing nearby. In those moments I was touched by the meaning of the words of David Whyte’s Blessing poems, the everyday miracles that can sustain us if we allow ourselves to listen carefully enough, to see with our eyes fully open.
As this article explains, the music in the film contains elements taken from one of the oldest audio recordings ever made of traditional Irish music, recordings made on wax cylinders over 110 years ago.
On my walk to work this morning I spotted this very uniquely decorated van. I’ve never been much of a fan of Elvis but the song lyrics displayed in the window really grabbed my attention.
“Walk a mile in my shoes
Just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes”
As I stood there on the pavement reading those words they seemed to me to be a powerful call to empathy and compassion, an invitation to withhold judgement until we’ve really considered things from other people’s perspective. I immediately Googled the lyrics and found this fantastic video of Elvis performing the song live in Las Vegas in 1970.
Upon watching the video, I was immediately curious and moved by the words Elvis shares before the music starts, so I Googled them too, and discovered that they’re from a Hank Williams song.
“You never stood in that man’s shoes or saw things through his eyes or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies. So help your brother along the way, no matter where he starts, for the same God that made you, made him too, these men with broken hearts.”
I found the full version of the Hank Williams song on YouTube and was moved once again by this stark reminder of the destitute place that many broken-hearted men eventually end up.
This version performed by Johnny Cash is also really worth watching.
According to the Autumn 2018 rough sleeping statistics produced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, a shocking 84% of rough sleepers in the UK are men.
I’m strongly reminded of the work I do with A Band of Brothers, mentoring young men who are in or close to being in the criminal justice system. Many of these young men have never had any experience of a positive male role model and do not know how to help themselves escape from the difficult life situations and self-destructive patterns they’re stuck in.
These men may not be broken-hearted yet but many of them are just clinging on, only a hair’s breadth away from being swallowed up by a system that will either break them or make hardened criminals out of them.
Today I feel strangely connected to a lineage of men, including Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash (who famously performed in Folsom Prison where the remarkable 2017 documentary The Work is also set), who feel a great empathy for their fellow men, their brothers, knowing that while in many ways the scales of our society are tipped in the favour of men, in other ways they really are not.
This lovely short film tells a very personal story about how a young man suffering with anxiety and prone to panic attacks discovers a new universe of relaxation, safety and a feeling of groundedness as a result of listening to ambient music at home and on his headphones as he makes his way through the world. In a society that can often feel relentlessly busy and stressful, it’s simple practices like these that enable us to slow down enough to be able to check in with ourselves and get a sense what’s going on for us underneath all the noise and static.
This TED talk on vulnerability by shame researcher Brene Brown has been watch over six million times – and for good reason! Based on many years of research, in the video Brené explores the way in which our ability to courageously express our vulnerability in appropriate ways enables us to become more resilient to shame, develop clearer boundaries in our relationships and begin to experience what it’s like to live wholeheartedly.
Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night thinking, “Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
Further reading on vulnerability
Transactional Analyst Richard Erskine talks about his research into the fundamental things we need to experience in our relationships in order to feel okay. This short video is aimed at counsellors and therapists but I think there’s also a great deal here for those who are struggling to figure out what may be missing from their lives and from their relationships.
This short video of couples counsellor Harville Hendrix explaining how we choose our partners and how we can achieve connection, safety and stability in our relationships is a really insightful watch! Recommended viewing for any couple who experience struggles in their relationship (i.e. ALL couples!).