Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Legs apart, arms by their sides,fists clenching and unclenching, jaws tight and ..... hostility on legs ...

A Youth Work experience.
I am, more than anything else, a Youth Worker.
'Informal Educator' it’s sometimes called.

My experiences have been working in a 
Young Offenders Unit
Youth Clubs
Street - detached Youth Work
any informal context conducting::
Group Work - Developmental group work
Residential Units / Care Leavers / Addiction and Behavioural needs.

I want to share an encounter.
This was a Youth Club evening …………..

The boys were outside...
..... kicking the Youth Club door again.
They were on a suspension from club.
Only a week before they had reached a peak of violence.
They had been smashing numerous car windows and stealing from them.
They then steamed the club swinging iron bars and broken snooker cues.
Then six of them had acquired a scaffold pole and rammed it with force at my office window right next to the front entrance.
All our windows are made of unbreakable glass 

(it was either board them up and live in darkness, or grill them up and create an environment of hostility and defence – 
or this type of unbreakable glass).

It wasn’t therefore the window that broke but the frame had smashed and splintered as the glass bent to allow the metal pole through.
I was upset about ‘Gloria’ my canary! Gloria was caged in my office
and was hit resulting her in flying through my office still in her cage.
She survived.

Now the boys were back outside again, eight of them.
I went out to face the hostility while the club door was locked behind me.
They were only sixteen/seventeen years of age but I faced a barrage of all sorts of abuse and questioning.
Legs apart, arms by their sides,fists clenching and unclenching, jaws tight and teeth prominent, the leaders of the group were frustrated and angry.

I could have stayed with my back to the closed club door and facing them standing my ground. 
That is what I felt like doing. 
It was much harder to wander across the pavement towards them,
through the group of them 
to the kerb some fifteen feet away. 
I felt I had to, though. 

Still chatting in a warm but firm way, I bent down, feet in the gutter and bum on the kerb. 
The boys had moved with me, 
still slagging me off. 
Circling me and kicking stones around with aggression. 

I picked up the pebbles from the gutter and flicked them across the road with my thumb. I felt my back vulnerable as they moved around me like restless wolves.

Before long, however, I was joined in the gutter by one, and then two, until most sat in a line talking while the others crouched in the road facing me, 
only moving when cars were going past. 
We chatted on – and the words became friendlier 
and the conversation more positive – 
that leads into another story, but…

The analysis of this was – I had deliberately taken a non-aggressive body posture. 
I had made myself vulnerable, very hard to do under such circumstances 
(my trained mind told me to do it, my emotions were telling me to run in and slam the door or at least keep my back protected). 

The boys had ‘paced’ me and had followed me into a non-aggressive posture. They had a limited repertoire in dealing with conflict – ‘Fight or flight’ – i.e. fight your way out of aggro – or, if well down the pecking order – damn well run!

I have a larger repertoire and was able to think alongside my strange emotions and decide on how best to steer the situation, 
morally, developmentally, relationally verbally, and non-verbally. 
Emotional Management which I have had to learn to cope.
Emotional Intelligence in real life.

Reading and understanding body language 
isn’t just an interesting subject 
in a hostile environment 
it can be dangerous not to........

Most of all
I love them
I feel deep empathy
I hurt with/for them.
I wanted to develop relationship with each one.

An extract from
'Gutter Feelings'
my first book
New re-published and extended
View or buy here Paperback or Download