Fromm’s Fear

Rushing blurred light-lines

Drawn towards a

Brooding mass: this torrid storm.

And there, in potent space,

The shadow shape of them,

As yet unknown, unheard,

But felt with all the feel

Of stranger’s prickly touch.

I dare not,

Dare not go inside this

Labyrinthine dusk,

To tempt my waxy wings

In hubris heat.

Perhaps it’s better here

Playing hide and seek with fear

Under the mattress springs

With other dusty things.

Yes it is better here

With blood beat in my ear,

Where all the harm I do

Is done to me, not you.

 

 

Writer’s PostScript
For any who haven’t read Erich Fromm’s book ‘The Fear of Freedom’ – (Die Furcht vor der Freiheit, 1941) –
it is a really good book about the difficult balance we all face between wanting to be free to make choices but feeling overwhelmed and frightened by too much choice/responsibility. It is just as relevant to politics now, as it was when he wrote it in 1941. My poem is about the way that this fear applies to individuals too. In particular, it is relevant to my situation at the moment returning to the workplace. I am really torn between a renewed sense of liberating confidence and the familiar self-doubt and anxiety that has dogged me for years. I wonder if it rings true for anyone else returning to work after a long break or taking on new responsibilities. Thanks for reading!

Change

When did I leave that urgent dark,

That plays a tune

On crisscrossed bark

To play amongst the coloured lights:

Sweet honey bees

On whimsy flights?

 

Today I run through blossom trees

And skip through waves

With sandy knees.

All grinding discord left behind.

Discarded bones: a

Stranger’s mind.

 

I like to think there’s nothing lost,

That day is gain

And night is cost,

But still a something lingers there

Of longing, grief

And musey flair.

 

How do I keep the richest thread,

If gritty truth

Is left unsaid?

I fumble through to feel for gold

In shifting sands that

Dreams unfold

 

And one day, at my fingertips

(Electric thrills and

Tummy flips),

I’ll find a way to join the two:

My summer yellow,

Winter blue.

Look Inside

My value is innate.

I know I cannot lose it.

I will not give it up.

It is not mine to give.

 

My worth is at my core.

I do not need to prove it.

I cannot give it up.

It is not mine to give.

 

So I can look you in the eye

And hold your gaze across our tears,

Across our differences and years.

 

For every person holds from birth

A rich, unchanging,

Human worth.

Mat Leave

Watering can, little shoes,

April sun, baby blues,

Wet socks, soggy flowers,

Tired eyes, long hours.

 

Chubby cheeks, half-formed words,

Drone of cars, songs of birds,

Deepest love, smothered rage,

Silent protest, mother’s cage,

 

Eager eyes, sticky hugs,

New to nature, eating bugs,

Scraped knees, mummy kiss it,

‘When it’s gone,’ they say, ‘you’ll miss it.’

 

In fresh air, short of breath,

Should he nap? What if: cot death?

Filled nappy, teatime tears,

Guilt, resentment, shameful fears.

 

Fences, hedges, walls divide

So many of us trapped inside,

Feeling we are not enough,

Scared to say we find it tough.

 

I find it hard. How do you find it?

Do you ever wish you could unwind it?

Do you cry on cold baked beans

And plug your babies into screens?

 

Join the club. Come and share.

There’s others like us everywhere.

When we hide our fear and pain,

Depression smugly smiles again.

Helpless

Fierce garish horses trotting

Up and down with groundhog rage;

Paint chipped and reins long-handled,

Chasing nothing in their cage.

 

There’s something in the chiming

Tinny clatter of the songs

That speaks of childhood toys and

Rocks like parents’ well-loved wrongs.

 

And so she rides again, enduring

Sickness all the while,

Because it isn’t home without

That raw nostalgic bile.

 

There’s no use telling her to

Change the route of her old horse

Because she’s bound, with it, to

Take the same old dizzy course.

 

If only we could stop it:

Take her arm as she stepped down

And show her all the other ways

To play in this wide town.

 

If only we could stop it:

Take her gently by the hand

And show her she could live a

Life much sweeter than she planned.

 

A life that feels so strange at first

Without the seasick dance,

But one where love and happiness

Will grow with half a chance.

 

Now in the nightmare lights

We just slide by in coloured streams.

She slips from rescue reach,

Like whispered words from fading dreams.

Separation

In the falling dust:

A baby cries her mother’s tears,

Cradled in soft sheets,

Haunted by her mother’s fears.

 

In the dewy grass:

Curling toes that clench each blade

Totter to the slide,

Climb the ladder, unafraid.

 

In the classroom roar:

Unsure where to go from here,

Scared to run and play.

Taut hands holding Mummy near.

 

Kiss me once and go!

Give me back my fears at last.

They are not for now.

Let us leave them in the past.

 

Kiss me once and go!

Time we both found our own way,

Chase our own bright dreams.

We’ll feel smaller if we stay.

 

Kiss me once and go!

You have your own path to tread.

But you must come home.

We’ll share stories before bed.

 

In the friendly gloom:

Plan adventures, wild and free.

Cradled in soft sheets;

You are you and I am me.

Dear Sultan

If you woke up, still you, but gay,

You’d be the same in every way.

No less rich or strong or bright,

No more wrong and no more right.

You’d still feel joy, excitement, fear;

You’d still grow older every year.

You’d still know love, and cherish those

Who wiped your tears and kissed your nose.

You’d still have interests, hobbies, jobs.

You’d still feel grief’s chest ache wrench sobs.

The only difference might well be

In who you love: the they, she, he.

And yet you, Sultan, have declared

That those, who only love have shared,

Deserve to die.

And when they do, they must feel pain:

Bone-breaking, cracking, smashing rain

Of stone that flies until you fall.

Until there’s no love left at all.

I see you; but I do not see

Your heart and your humanity.

Something Rotten

Smug in the trappings; wisdom and time,

Smile like a child’s plastic jewel.

You finger our lives.

 

Gilded treatment hides the reaching rot,

Leaving only musty cloying

Damp to warn us off.

 

Smile and smile and still be a villain:

Hidden in clothes of congruence.

Wolf walks in wax wool.

 

Delicate footwork skates thin ice.

Mask slips; screech within

And fall into the pain of unloved skin.

Depression

I just forget it’s you that pulls me down.

I sometimes think it’s me, that I am bad:

A useless mother, weird, a waste of space,

A coward: lazy, pointless, going mad.

 

I just forget that you wait in the wings

For your first chance to sing about my faults;

You wait with sweaty palms and gritted teeth

To mock me, shamed, before the real adults.

 

Then, suddenly, you speak your words in flames,

They dash across the blank grief of my mind.

Your drawl, smooth and familiar, shrinks my spine:

And fondled, touched, my memories unwind.

 

With glee, you fling my laughter to the dogs;

Achievements, skills are torn, mocked and defaced.

You hop and dance and kick salt in old wounds;

You push away the ones I once embraced.

 

So under this internal, cruel abuse,

I cower, cringing, knocking my scarred knees

And, jeering, spitting, come your playground friends:

A crowd of puffed-up bullies. Angry bees.

 

The first is Shame, who laughing, climbs my back

And, forceful, presses down my thumping head.

She covers my white eyes with rancid claws

And calls to Guilt, who comes with heavy tread.

 

Before them, I am naked and alone.

I search blind for a person I once knew.

But, sickly sweet, it’s Suicide who comes:

Seductive, painting death in a new hue.

 

So sudden is the onslaught, I am lost.

Her subtle voice, that slides beneath my skin

Is leaking poison, spreading, gaining ground.

It wants the very root of Self within.

 

I stop. That core is fragile but it’s mine.

To build it I’ve worked hard on self-reflection.

It’s taken years of honesty and pain

And anxious re-starts when I lost direction.

 

I will not give it up, despite your taunts,

Although you’ll hide it from me for a time.

For I have grown within a seed of hope:

And from it springs a ladder I can climb.

 

You told me I was making their lives worse.

You told me just to leave the life we shared.

But now I’ve found the friend within myself.

We will outgrow you. Soon you will run scared.

Lie In

Click and drop of water pipes,

Slightly off the beat,

Startles silence, cracks the hum;

Sacrifices sleep for heat.

Plaintive howl of aeroplanes:

Tired, waiting to land,

Dragging those who fled the grey

Back again from sun and sand.

In musty air, the gentle speech

Of ones who seem to know

About the world and politics

And how things ought to go.

But in my bed, I stretch my feet.

I wriggle my hips down.

I am the queen of duvet-land;

The pillow is my crown.

And, just for now, it sinks away:

The complicated stuff.

This sleep-soft world is all there is

And maybe that’s enough.

Hook

No I could never wash myself enough.

I do not wish to be a British girl

And yet I’ve had the good of empire wealth

Hard won by others’ hands and others’ health.

So in complicit luxury I kneel

And kiss the feet of those we used to steal.

 

In sweaty filthy dark we chained you down

In service to our tastebuds and our crown.

We trod you underfoot with polished heel

And gave you numbers so as not to feel.

 

No ‘sorry’ now could ever bring to life

Your children or your grandpa or your wife.

No ‘sorry’ now could ever make you feel

The way you did before he made you kneel.

No ‘sorry’ now could ever bring back days,

Or clothes, or food, now lost to British ways.

No ‘sorry’ now could take back words that stole

Your childhood; spray paint insults take their toll.

No shame, or guilt, or ‘sorry’ now could clean

Our monied hands of their blood-sugar sheen.

 

And even now I sit in candied bliss,

In clothes that maybe felt the slaver’s kiss

And drink my tea and wonder where it grew

And if the one who grew it got paid too.

We tend to think of slaves as those who died

Long long ago, brought here by whip and tide.

But slaves are kept in farms and brothels here

They live today in pain, exhaustion, fear.

 

No I could never wash myself enough.

I do not wish to be a British girl.

And yet, if I’m to take rich empire gains,

Then I must wear its rancid greedy stains.

It is not much to pay for what we took,

So I will hope to hang from history’s hook.

 

I do not wish to be a British girl,

Great Britishness: it makes my white toes curl.

Poem: Quiet, in bed

In grey tablet light

Hands twitch, clawlike,

Waiting to free write,

Itching to ink white,

Held in the gap.

 

Held in the taut gap:

Wait shake, where words

Cry out from shut trap,

No keyboard soft tap.

Can it come out?

 

Can it come help out,

Free me, take me

To new space, weight free

Floating to safety?

Words that fit right.

 

Words that have real bite,

Taste, smell, hear, touch,

Gaining fresh insight:

Gut real and skin tight.

Ink holding dreams.

 

Ink holding wild dreams.

Stanzas rocked by

Milk arms of my themes,

Safe in my rhyme schemes.

 

Firelight and moonbeams

In my pen.

The Pub

Eaten into dark beams,

The breath of those

Both strange and same.

Beer-soaked wood is sticky

With long tired relief

Of workdays old

And in the grimy folds

Of cracked-seated chairs

Sit our short lives.

Warm light, as though flame-shone,

Enfolds us like a

Mother’s happy myths.

Amongst the heated noise

A shared mad question

Of our purpose

Hangs and waits in amber

Whilst we laugh. For some

It waits through tears.

And left to feel the vain

Weight of knowing first,

The pub endures:

Feeling in its bricks, which

Crumbling hold, the quick

Of mortal joy.

For still we come to play,

And maybe always.

Finding in her years

The truth of our days.

Poem: Am I mother?

Some days are made of coloured paint.

I can follow you to your world.

I am light and made of stars

And it is warm and smells of

Gran: pavlova, sugar aprons.

 

You look like you should,

With flying hair, eyes dancing

And the fiery

Strand between us

Glows and holds.

 

On other days, the silence

Cloys and rings against

Your clamour. How to hear

Your world through all the

Jangle of my own.

 

I feel so far from you:

Lost in my loud breath.

I ache under my ribs

To know the glow again.

I knew you then.

 

When I am lost and broken,

Don’t you wait.

Go off and play, please,

Dance and sing

And I will find you soon.

 

Then I will hold you close

And wait in fear.

For it will come again

And take all I hold dear.

Poem: January Blues

My pen is stuck on a January day

When the splurge and flat of clouds

Hovers like

The edge of thought. Twiggy trees, sad and brown

Stand defeated. Words which once

Flew are caught.

 

A new year and we will, should, must feel the

Bounce and flip of stomach hope.

But if you

Can’t, then swim through last year’s deadlines of the mind:

Lost to urgency, tar-stuck

In artist gloom.

 

In all the rustle scrunch of Christmas wrap

We dropped our threads and now search

For split ends.

We watch The Briefcase Ones who stand tall in

Their stripes and see our slow start

Through their business lens.

 

But since this only highlights business cracks

Against the sky shard metal

Of the funds,

It fails to show the human need for art.

Paint’s perfect imperfection

Money shuns.

 

And so, uncertain, we must take our time

And know that meat is richer

And more tender for slow cooking.

We turn our minds but gently

To the page and trust it will

Hold riches for the looking.

Shopping for a Therapist

For many people in England, talking therapy is something you have to wait weeks, months, even years to receive on the NHS. For others, however, paying for therapy is an option. But when you go looking for private therapy, how do you find it? What are the potential pitfalls or advantages of shopping for a therapist? I am not claiming to be a great expert in the subject, by any means, but my experiences of receiving therapy and studying to become a therapist have given me some thoughts on the subject, which I hope might be helpful to other people.

When I first needed therapy, I didn’t know anything about it. I had no idea that there were different models to choose from or, more importantly, that therapists vary hugely in their natural competence and their training. I have now had various therapists who have received different training and work very differently to one another. More than one have been genuinely helpful and one in particular has supported me in transforming my life to be richer and more meaningful. The more I have learnt about the field of counselling and psychotherapy, the more I feel that it is a world that needs to be explained to society. There needs to be transparency about how to access therapy and how to choose the type that works for you. If you have the luxury of choosing your therapist, then you need to know how to find a good one.

Key Points:

• Shockingly, there is still no government body that regulates therapists or counsellors. This means that people can set themselves up as a practising therapist without any qualifications. They may not have received any therapy themselves and their motives for helping may be dubious. It is therefore very important when you choose a therapist, that you do it through an accrediting body, such as the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) or the UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy). It is also advisable to ask to see the therapist’s qualifications when you first meet them; any therapist working within the ethical guidelines of these bodies will be happy to show you their qualifications.

• I am going to use the words counselling and psychotherapy interchangeably. Although there is debate in the field as to the differences between these terms, to all intents and purposes they are forms of talking therapy which do similar things. When you choose a therapist, it is more important to look at the therapist’s experience, qualifications and what they say about their own practice, than it is to worry about the terminology they use.

• The therapist themselves and the relationship you develop with them are key to the success of therapy. Choose someone who seems to ‘get you’ and with whom you feel comfortable.

• No therapist can ‘cure’ your mental health problems by themselves: the best results in therapy come when the client works together with the therapist and commits to the process. For this reason, try not to give up straightaway. It can be scary starting with a therapist: after all, you might not have shared your feelings with anyone before, especially not a complete stranger. Plenty of people do give up after one session. But it’s worth giving a new therapist a few sessions to see if you might be able to work together.

• The therapeutic process can be cathartic, reassuring and helpful. Sometimes, however, you might have to feel uncomfortable emotions in order to truly process them and this can be scary. If you have developed a good relationship with a therapist but it starts getting too heavy and painful, you might want to walk away. But try, instead, to share this with the therapist. They are there to provide a safe space for you to explore these difficult thoughts and feelings, so if you’re not ready to do that, it’s ok to say so.

There are many different types of talking therapy- too many to mention here but I will attempt to describe some significant ones.

 

• At the moment, the NHS mostly recommends CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is for a number of reasons. It is partly because it has been shown to be effective in certain clinical trials and partly also because it is a time-limited form of therapy, which is therefore cheaper for the NHS and easier to structure because they know how many sessions each person will get. If you haven’t tried CBT before, it is worth trying it. It is particularly useful if you do not wish to talk about your childhood experiences, but you do want to learn some new strategies for improving your wellbeing. I can only talk for myself but I found CBT really helpful for my OCD and for my anxiety but much less effective when I struggled with severe depression. However, different people respond to different types of talking therapy differently. The key is to be curious, try things and see what works for you.

Psychodynamic counselling explores the way in which your childhood experiences have formed an unconscious pattern of feeling and behaving that continues to occur throughout your life. Expect a therapist who might be reserved and does not give much away about themselves. Possible positives: if you’ve had enough of advice or had your fill of structured sessions with homework to do, then this might be for you. The therapist is likely to sit back and listen a lot, giving you space to explore your own problems and find your own way out of them, with the goal that this should be an empowering experience. Possible criticism: strictly psychodynamic therapists might seem cold and unfriendly. Sometimes it might feel like there is more of an unhelpful power dynamic in this sort of counselling- with a reserved expert quietly analysing and a patient at the receiving end of a mysterious treatment.

Humanistic therapy was developed as a backlash against the more deterministic outlook of psychoanalytic and behavioural approaches. It takes an essentially optimistic view of humanity: that every individual has intrinsic self-worth and that every human has the capacity for personal growth and fulfilment in life. Possible criticisms: may take longer to see results than with CBT. Possibly easier to avoid the most difficult bits of your past, which might need dealing with at some point. Possible positives: you are likely to find a warm, welcoming therapist, who treats you as a fellow human, struggling with shared human difficulties. Also, if you develop a good therapeutic relationship with your therapist, then you will feel safer and more able to take risks to explore difficult stuff in your own time and when you’re ready.

• An integrative therapist will draw on lots of different models to offer you therapy that is tailored to your individual needs. Possible criticism- jack of all trades, master of none. Possible advantages: will not make your complicated human situation fit their rigid model. Should not come with a preconceived idea of what exactly will help but work collaboratively with you to help you understand your difficulties and ascertain what you want to achieve through therapy. This is my preferred model and the one that I am studying, since I believe it gives me the best opportunity to treat each person as an equal and an individual.

There are so many other models and they are all interesting but I know that it can be overwhelming to have too much choice. If you need any more information, these pages can be helpful:

https://www.rethink.org/resources/t/talking-therapies-factsheet

https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/

https://www.bacp.co.uk/

I wish you the very best of luck finding a therapist. Good therapy is out there. When you find it, given time, it might enable you to transform how you feel about your life.

Family Christmas

Seems so strange: the way we all

Expect perfection once a year.

Resist change: stay neat and small.

No self-reflection welcome here.

 

Play the game by the same rules,

Your place set in our house of cards.

Do the same: frogs to home pools,

Tricked by the past’s power. Bauble shards

 

Mirror us in distortion.

New angles to shine: double light.

If only we had their truth:

Their way to sparkle: broken, bright.

 

No need to fit the old mould.

Rather build beauty in new skin.

We can find warmth in the cold

If we allow our real selves in.

 

To find love we must accept

Ourselves and others in true form.

Do not fear to be different.

For that is how babes all are born.

Poem: Good Therapy

You take all the threads

The knotted and tangled threads

And tease them out.

Slowly, frustratingly,

We work.  We pull and push and

Struggle to find

A bright reflective

Stream of thought that clarifies 

And breaks the chain.

It comes all at once,

Resonating deep in my 

Gut: it just clicks.

It’s not just sense.

The grind and click of logic

Replaced by the

Purity of feeling.

Like cold water on my wrists

A truth spreads its

Electric tendrils

Through my veins. The past, my life,

Enthralled by a 

New hue. Like a child

With a kaleidoscope, I

Can only gaze,

Wide-eyed, and wonder.

Framed by this transformative

Idea, my life

Looks alien and

Unfamiliar. It hurts:

Loss of a firm

Perceived sense of I.

There is fear there, uncertainty.

There is hope, too.

Because through this new

Window of perception I can 

Jump. Not to fall. But

To fly, expanding

My beautiful half-formed wings:

Imperfectly free.

 

Poem: Semantics

How the words work: matters to me.

The way they sound, where they ought to be,

The tone of voice, the click of tongue,

The silence when the words are done.

Tell me you didn’t hear, that it doesn’t matter,

That I’m over-sensitive, that it’s only chatter.

But how the words work matters to me.

The space they find; the space they leave.

 

Phrases echo in my head;

They catch and pull like knotted thread,

Stroking others long-forgotten,

Old, enchanting or half-rotten,

Showering me with painted rain

That, dancing, sings an old refrain

In new language; or leaps away

Inviting me to come and play.

 

But, like sweet sirens on the rocks,

Words call me to Pandora’s box,

Leading me to wander blind

Towards a labyrinthine mind.

To wonder what the speaker meant

Is poisoned by my temperament.

I worry and I follow breadcrumbs

Cold, alone, until the witch comes.

 

Far better now to look instead

At what the words spark in my head.

Why the language resonates,

Why it flatters or berates,

What that comes from, who and why,

Why it makes me laugh or cry.

Then I need not be just reader

Rather, find the page and feed her.

 

Words are power, gavel, sword,

Music, danger, peace, discord.

Sometimes darkly rich, intrusive,

Sometimes maddening, elusive.

Whoever spoke of stones and sticks

Had never felt the stabs and kicks

Of lifelong, inbuilt, guilt and shame

Every time you hear your name.

 

Now I own words, they can’t claim me.

I am learning to be Amy.

Who am I and what am I doing here?

Featured

Hi, I’m Amy and I’ve started this site to share some of my writing. You should expect: lots of poetry, fiction, rants, thoughts about mental health, vague attempts at sketches, ideas about feminism, responses to the news and a general eclectic mix of stuff in which you might be interested. I write because it find it therapeutic.  Hopefully some of it will resonate with you in some way, even if you disagree with me on things.  Thanks for reading.