Was binge watching Harry Potter over the Chinese New Year weekend, and thought that the ideas of the pensieve and portkeys were useful metaphors to think about conversations we might want to have when working through the process of grief.
The Pensieve Conversation: Tapping on memories for healing
I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.... At these times... I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one's leisure.
The place where I staying, is somewhere in this picture.
My latest adventure has found me in Toronto, where I am involved in a work externship with the wonderful team at Oolagen, a youth mental health service that is influenced by Narrative ideas, not only in working with the people who consult them, but also in how the organisation is run. I have not been able to post much in the past, particularly due to recent busyness in my role as a manager in my organisation.
Since I have slightly more time to reflect on practices, will take a bit more effort to document my adventures here!
One interesting experience I had here was when my landlady, Jane Martin (who's really a very nice lady), brought me along to a Neighbourhood committee meeting, where members of the small community of Winchester were meeting to discuss concerns about the presence of drug related activities in the nearby rooming houses. Pretty impressed about how the community did not practice a NIMBY (Not in my back yard) mentality and instead were keen on discussing ways to ensure that the programmes conducted for residents were appropriately done. They were also keen to be involved in supporting the individuals and families there.
The practice of getting our clients to fill up a non-suicide contract is common in risk management work. Whenever there is a risk of suicide, we tend to be compelled to get our clients to fill up this form, which states that they would not be attempting suicide as it is illegal in Singapore. Often, there is a generic form that social workers would be able to use.
My grouse with the non-suicide contract is that it seems to be a practice that is more focused on "covering our backsides" as opposed to ensuring that our clients are safe. We work towards filling up the forms, and then develop a false sense of safety as long as the form is filled up, because we feel that we have done our part. If anything were to happen, at least we can show others that a non-suicide contract had already been done between the social worker and the client.
One might be wondering why in the world is this Singaporean social worker in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, a specific answer to the question would probably not be found in this post (perhaps a later one). For the time being, will just be sharing certain key experiences worth documenting.
It is easy for us to start dismissing and disliking people. We do it by ascribing labels on behaviours we find upsetting. The problem with labels is that, once placed, we start to be blind to the range of behaviours or state- of-being that lie outside the label's "sphere of influence" (for want of a better word).
Labels can be infectious. Although we tell ourselves that we are going to know the person first before following the label, we are inevitably affected. The moment we see a behaviour that may fit the label, the person's future in our mental schema is set. Perhaps the first step is to acknowledge that labelling occurs as opposed to telling ourselves that we would not be influenced by it.
I am no stranger to this experience, and still very much struggle to see people beyond their labels. However, in my personal experiences, some of my greatest friendships have been made with people whom I had disliked and labelled, but stumbled into accidental ways of knowing different aspects of the person that connected with me.
As I reflected on this accidental turning points in these meaningful and enduring relationships, I thought about possible meaningful relationships I could have made with others who were dismissed by the labels I made of them. How then, can we intentionally make effort towards opening up possibilities for meaningful relationships in life situations where labelling is entrenched?
In our current state with the profligacy of social media. we are more connected than ever. We find ourselves plugged into this superinformation highway where we may assume that facts are quickly accessible. The ability for any individual blogger, news organisation, or interest group to utilise these platforms is rendered relatively barrier-free with the various affordable ways where ideas can be shared and disseminated. Information and research can be unreliable and one sided, even if published by reputable sources.
I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Mary Heath in Australia many months ago who discussed how we can reflect on various dimensions of critical thinking when considering any claim, in the hope of living our lives ethically. Critical thinking serves the function of allowing us to expand our understandings of any piece of information within the various multiple layers of social and power relationships.
Just thought of submitting another reflection on working with family violence. This has been a topic that has held more meaning for me over recent years in practice.
My experience as a social worker has made me realise the complexities of family violence. This work is rendered all the more onerous when as social workers, we have to put on the hat of social justice and determine the level of risk when family violence is present. This risk assessment would involve assessing the intensity of the abuse and how likely it is to happen again. It is also not uncommon for us to have protocols that may include working towards separating the victim from the abusive situation and attempt to influence her to apply for a personal protection order (in the case of intimate partner violence).