Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Redwork"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, based on the "surrender" square in my 1-23-16 card for the Valentine's Day Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, and directly follows "Blackwork."

Warning: This poem covers some intense territory. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. There is emotional angst, therapeutic art, bad tape in Shiv's head, because the inside of Shiv's head is always a warning, and so is his past, low sense of self-worth, confusion over people treating him decently now, asking for help and getting it, references to past incidents of child abuse and other child harm, references to self-injury and other negative coping skills, Shiv's teachers were moronic assholes, impaired memory, and other angst. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your taste and headspace before reading onward. However, this is the middle piece between "Blackwork" and "Whitework" so it's pretty important to that triptych.


Shiv had been drawing for days,
and nobody had bothered him about it.

Even at inspection time, Mr. Vanburen
just glanced at the papers and pencils
scattered over Shiv's desk and said,
"Please clean those up first. Dr. G says
that therapy stuff is private. Do you want
Dr. Bloch or Ambrose to check it for you?"

"Rosie," Shiv said, confused by
the sudden appearance of a courtesy
that nobody had ever shown him before.

The inspection had ended with praise
instead of punishment -- which made Shiv
uncomfortable -- because he hadn't gotten
into anything he shouldn't, for once.

With Ragno mostly out of the loop,
it was too hard to get scoots, and
there wasn't anyone else that Shiv
considered reliable right now.

Besides, Dr. Bloch kept him plied
with those terrific nicotine suckers,
and all the other projects kept Shiv
too busy to make trouble from scratch.

When Shiv took his binder to Rosie,
the counselor asked, "Is this just for
inspection, or do you want to show me
anything to talk about today?"

"I dunno," Shiv said, shuffling in place.

Rosie was probably too much of a pussy
to pick on him for drawing sick pictures, but
then again, Rosie was a nice guy. Shiv had
seen enough shit in his life and didn't need
to go slopping it all over someone like that.
Rosie might have a target on him, but
that didn't mean Shiv had to help.

"All right then, just the basics,"
Rosie said, and started flipping briskly
through the pages to make sure that Shiv
hadn't covered them in death threats or
escape plans or some other crap.

That got Shiv thinking, though.
"If I wanted -- could you maybe --"
his tongue tripped over ideas that
his head hadn't quite committed to.

"Is there something I could do for you?"
Rosie asked, looking up to pin Shiv
with his warm, bright eyes.

"Some of the art therapy exercises are
meant to be printed on pages," Shiv mumbled.
"Like the prompt squiggles, and the ones with
longer instructions. Only I don't want to send
them to the public printer, god, I'd just die
if anyone saw them lying around."

He knew that some of the staff had
private offices with their own equipment,
and even if it cost him a favor, that was better
than running stuff through the public printer
that the inmates had to share.

Shiv could have asked Dr. G to bring more,
but he didn't want to wait that long.

The art exercises helped keep
his hands busy and his head empty,
and he was going through them as fast
as a chain smoker went through cigarettes.

"Shiv, you actually have to ask me
for something before it counts,"
Rosie said gently, closing the journal
over his fingers to mark the place.

Then Shiv remembered:
asking for therapy earned points,
and he was running low, what with
the craft room and yard time and all.

"I need some, uh, pages printed of
art therapy exercises, in private,"
Shiv said. "Could you maybe ...
do that for me after this?"

"I'd be delighted to help you,"
Rosie said, giving him a wide smile.
"How many pages, and what kind?"

"They're on here," Shiv said,
lifting his tablet. "One each of
these five, and then five copies
of this one with the frames on it."

He liked the frames, because they were
fun to color around the edges, and he
could put anything inside them.

"Ten points per page, but I'm only
paying you once for the frames,
not all the duplicates," Rosie said.
"So what does that come to?"

Shiv needed a minute to work it out
on his fingers, hiding his hands so that
he wouldn't get smacked. "Five tens
and one more is sixty," he guessed.

"Good job," said Rosie.

Shiv let out his breath in relief. "Yeah?"

"Sixty it is," Rosie confirmed. "I'll print out
your therapy pages as soon as I'm done
approving this." He turned back to the binder,
then added, "You're sure making me work
for a living today, Shiv. I'm pleased
to see that you've found some kind
of therapy that appeals to you."

The hell of it was, he actually had.
Talking hadn't ever made Shiv feel
anything but worse. Drawing made him
feel -- well, not better, because nothing
could do that -- but less bad, maybe.

So Shiv collected the stack of
new therapy pages from Rosie
and went to work on them.

He did the one about drawing
his mood (less angry than usual)
and the one about drawing his job
(lots of knives, now that he knew he
wasn't likely to get bitched at for it).

He drew the memory of his best day,
a camping trip with that family who
liked to go outside all the time.
That hadn't sucked much at all,
except when it rained buckets and
they insisted on going anyhow.

The next exercise called for his worst day,
and Shiv had so many worst days that
it was hard to know which one to pick.

Then he remembered what Rosie said
about choice paralysis, and some embroidery
he'd seen that was only red on white.
Redwork, it had been called.

Shiv had done a lot of redwork of his own,
but it meant a different thing on the streets.

He had red in his art supplies, all right.
He had one pencil the dark red of old blood
and another orangey red like mud with blood in it.
He had a gel pen the color of fresh blood.

He had a silver gel pen too, bright
and metallic like the side of a knife.

So Shiv drew the mud and the blood
and the death. He drew the world
as he had seen it, as he had felt it,
all sharp edges and screams.

He drew with the red ink
flowing under his pen like blood,
and the silver chains binding it all together.

He drew until his hand hurt and
his head was dizzy and he started
to feel like he might get sick.

There were wet spots on the page
and that couldn't be good.

So Shiv wiped his face with his sleeve,
and then he went to lie down for a while,
curled around his pillow and under his blanket
as if that could make the world go away.

It almost helped.

Later on, Shiv went back
to the worksheets with the frames,
because he wanted to try something happier --
only he couldn't think of anything nice to put
in them, so he just colored in the frames.

At their next meeting, Dr. G said,
"Ambrose tells me that you've been
doing a lot of work on self-help exercises
from the art therapy files. Is there anything
you'd like to share with me, or would you
rather keep that private for now?"

Instead of answering, Shiv dodged
with another question. "Did you
bring the creme pastels?"

He loved those things, no matter
how he tried not to. They felt
like drawing with lipstick, but
they blended a lot better.

"I did indeed," Dr. G said with a smile.
He unpacked the pastels and the big paper.
"Cover the work space with butcher paper first.
It's your turn to clean up if we mark on the table."

So Shiv carefully laid butcher paper over
a wide area, taping down the corners before
fastening the art pages over that.

"There's a kind of embroidery called redwork,"
Shiv said as he sorted out the red pastels.
"I've been thinking about it lately."

"You're feeling red today?" Dr. G said.
"Usually you go for the blues. It will be
interesting to see where the red takes you."

Interesting. Not 'troubling.'
It still made Shiv wary. He had
gotten in trouble too many times
for drawing the wrong things.

"You don't care?" he said,
suspicion sharpening his tone.

"I don't mind," said Dr. G. "You can
draw whatever you feel like drawing.
We can talk about it, or not, whichever
you prefer. Maybe I'll try some red
today too, if you're willing to share."

Shiv hunched over his little pile of pastels,
then grudgingly pushed them into the middle,
although he didn't mix them back in with the others.

Nothing good ever lasted for him.

"Now what have I told you about suspicions?"
Dr. G said. "What can you do when you're
not sure about something, or someone?"

"Test it," Shiv recited.
Dr. G was like a broken record.
Simon and Tolliver said it too.

"Test it, and then we'll know," said Dr. G.

Shiv knew damn well that drawing his feelings
could get him in trouble. He couldn't even
hit back, because Dr. G was connected.
But he could still talk, which meant he could
slice the hell out of that fancy reputation.

"Do you have something in mind,
just in case I'm fibbing about how safe it is
to draw whatever you feel like?" Dr. G asked.

"Yes," Shiv said, jerking his chin up.

"Good," said Dr. G. "Now that we've got a plan,
let's get started. "I'll give you first choice of the colors,
since I'm just coming along for the ride."

That made it easier for Shiv, in an odd way,
because at least then he wasn't alone
in spilling his guts out on paper.

His fingers itched to start working,
already twitching toward the first pastel,
this one a bright fire-engine red.

He used it to lay out the framework
of the picture in little criss-crosses,
like the embroidery he remembered.
Red wiggle of river along the bottom
of the page, red streaks of tree trunks
rising up the edges, and red pool of blood
where a rock had been thrown a bit too hard.

Shiv put down the bright red.
Dr. G picked it up.

Shiv took a purpley red and began
making shadows along the river,
recalling the silk-swirl of the water and
the sleek round shapes of the stones.

He went back for a pink to do the highlights,
bumps on the tree bark and little riffles
of wavecaps on the river.

Ambrose had been right; sometimes it was
easier to do more with less. It was still hard
for Shiv to surrender to the process, though.

The child-sized body by the river
wasn't even colored in, just implied by
the shape of the stones and shadows
around it, the way the blood spread from it.

Shiv couldn't remember what Billy
had looked like anyhow, and hadn't even
been allowed to stay long enough to see
whether the gash would leave a scar.

Better just to leave it a blur,
like most of his memories were.

A loud honk made Shiv look up.

"Sorry," Dr. G said, honking into
his handkerchief again. "I didn't
mean to distract you. I just
needed to blow my nose."

Shiv frowned, rubbing his fingers
over the silky texture of the pastels.
"I thought you said these creme ones
didn't make dust like the chalk ones
that I used to have in art class."

"They don't," said Dr. G.
"I was just crying."

Startled, Shiv took a closer look
at him. The older man's face was dry,
probably from the handkerchief, but
his eyes were pink at the edges.

"Why were you crying?" Shiv said.

"We're drawing sad pictures today,"
Dr. G said, like it was nothing to be
ashamed of that he'd been crying
over nothing. "My home town is ...
a bit of a mess right now."

Shiv looked at Dr. G's picture.

It showed sharp triangles reaching toward
the center, like shards of broken glass. Some
of them had little stick figures drawn inside them,
or between them. Dr. G really wasn't much of
an artist. Shiv could still feel how upset he was,
though, just looking at that picture.

Maybe he wasn't crying over nothing, after all.

Shiv traced along the edges of his picture,
but it was basically done by now.
"Sucks about your town," he said.

"Yes, it does, but drawing like this
makes me feel a little better," said Dr. G.

"Even though it's a crummy picture?" Shiv said.

Dr. G chuckled. "Well, I'm not planning
to hang it in a gallery," he said. "Art can be
for fun, for decoration, for therapy, for sale,
or just to show how you feel. There are
lots of reasons to make art, and all of them
are valid. If you could get anything
out of it, what would that be?"

To be seen.

The thought leaped
into Shiv's mind just like that,
whole and unbidden.

He remembered all the times
that he'd try to draw out his feelings,
only to be told that it was wrong, and
so he'd found other ways to fix himself,
the cigarettes and the cutting and the gangs.

"I guess ... just to have someone
look at it and not throw a fit,"
Shiv said slowly. "That's all."

"Well, you'd have to sit up and
let go of it then," said Dr. G.
"So far I've only gotten glimpses
when you've switched colors."

Shiv realized that he was
hunched over his page, one arm
curled protectively around the paper.

Stretching, he leaned away
from it so that Dr. G could get
a good look. Shiv couldn't help
worrying, though, a nagging itch
as he watched emotions
flicker over Dr. G's face.

Sorrow. Concern. A brief flash
of anger, there and then gone like
an autumn leaf swirling away in river water.

"I see a lot of red here," said Dr. G.
"Trees and stones and a stream.
You're pretty good at drawing,
despite having rotten art teachers."

"What makes you think
they're rotten?" Shiv asked.

"The way you act about art," Dr. G said.
"You expect to get punished for it.
That's terrible teaching, Shiv.
It is the opposite of helpful."

"Oh," said Shiv. It gave him
a squirmy feeling inside, when
Dr. G agreed with him, kind of
like when he had to ask Rosie
for help. He didn't know
how to feel about that.

"Is this blood?" Dr. G asked,
peering at the pool in the corner.

"Yeah," Shiv said, dropping his head
so that his bangs fell forward
to hide his face from view.
"It was an accident, but ..."

But nobody ever believed him.

"Accidents happen," Dr. G said simply.
"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No," Shiv said at once.
It had been a long time ago,
but that didn't mean it couldn't
get him in trouble all over again.

"Okay," said Dr. G. "I don't know
about you, but I'm in the mood
for something happier now."

"I never know what to put,"
Shiv muttered. "I keep ending up
with more crud pictures, or
just the colored frames."

"You don't have many happy memories
to draw on?" Dr. G said. "That
must be frustrating."

"Yeah, I keep trying to draw stuff
like from when we went camping --
birds and flowers and all that --
but it's hard to remember," Shiv said.

His hands still strayed to the random pile
of pastels, seeking out pinks and yellows
and oranges in search of a vague memory.

"Your childhood is a little fuzzy?"
Dr. G asked, frowning in concern.

Shiv's childhood was mostly fuzz
with a few smooth spots, and that
was fine by him. He knew that he
wasn't missing anything good.

"I guess," he said.

"Maybe it would help if we
had some reference pictures,"
said Dr. G. "Do you remember
anything else about that flower?"

Shiv looked down and realized that
he'd made a few overlapping loops
of peach and pink on a fresh page.

"It was on a cactus?" he said.

"Cactus flowers can be complicated,"
said Dr. G, fiddling with his tablet.
Then he turned it around, showing
a grid of different flowers.
"See anything familiar?"

"Hey, that's it!" Shiv said, sitting up.
"The one in the upper left corner,
on top of that flat cactus."

"That's prickly pear," Dr. G said,
flicking the tablet to make that image
fill the whole screen. "There you go."

"Don't you need one?" Shiv said,
staring hungrily at the picture.

"No, I'm not that ambitious," said Dr. G.
"I'm going to draw a meadow full of wildflowers.
I think I can do that from memory."

"Must be nice to have a whole head full
of happy memories," Shiv said enviously.

"It does help handle the hard times,"
said Dr. G. "Maybe we can get you
some better memories too."

"In here?" Shiv said dryly,
waving at the locked door
of the prison craft room.

"Or somewhere," Dr. G said,
turning his attention to his picture.

Shiv worked in quick sweeps of color,
sketching in the petals of the blossom,
all soft sunrise shades of color.

He used the green to map out
the big cactus pads, coloring them
with the flat of the stick and then
blending in blue-green shadows.

Next he picked up the harder pastels
to add streaks to the petals and
the stretch lines on the cactus pads.

"No thorns?" asked Dr. G.
"Those are important, you know.
Cacti grow thorns to protect them
from animals that want to eat them."

"I don't think that this will go small enough,"
Shiv said, frowning at the thick stick in his hand.

"Use the pencils," Dr. G suggested.
"They blend with the pastels, remember?"

Shiv had forgotten; he wasn't used to these yet.
He used the black pastel pencil to add thorns.
It made the cactus look much better.

Dr. G's picture was a riot of
pink and purple, yellow and blue,
all held together by green streaks of grass.

"That's pretty," said Shiv. "It looks
like a quilt." One of his foster mothers
had quilted, or then again, maybe it
had been a grandmother instead.
He couldn't recall which.

"Your cactus got me thinking about
dryland environments," said Dr. G.
"They can go for years without water,
so brown and barren that they look dead,
nothing left but thorns and stones."

Shiv felt like that inside, sometimes,
as if he were made of thorns good for
nothing but stabbing people.

"But then it rains, and the next day or so,
the whole desert bursts into bloom," Dr. G said,
a faraway look on his face. "Our camping trip
got rained out, and so I worked myself into
a mighty fine sulk about it. But then I saw this --"
He tapped the colorful picture. "-- and it was
the most magical thing I had seen."

"Are we still talking about flowers?"
Shiv said suspiciously. You couldn't
trust shrinks to stay on topic.

"Do you want to be?" said Dr. G.

"Yeah," Shiv said quickly.
Flowers were safe. Even cacti
were safe -- he liked sharp things.
Emotions, not so much.

"All right," said Dr. G. He
twiddled with his tablet again,
bringing up an information page
that he read from as they added
a few more details to their pictures.

So Shiv learned about how long
a desert could go without rain, and
why they bloomed all at once,
and what kind of critters came
to turn the flowers into fruit.

He put in a butterfly and a little lizard
licking at a blue puddle of water
underneath his cactus.

He even learned that prickly pears
were edible and you could make
jelly out of their fruit.

"Soda too," Shiv said suddenly.
"I remember that one -- nobody else
liked it, but I thought it was terrific."

"I bet Dr. Bloch could get you some
if you asked," said Dr. G.

"Yeah, if I wanted to owe him
a favor, which I don't," Shiv said.

"So save it for when he asks you to do
something you'd rather not do but won't
refuse outright," said Dr. G. "It's only fair
to bargain for something that you really like."

Shiv didn't like prying questions,
and Dr. Bloch had asked more than
a few of them. Might be worth the bother
for a bottle of prickly pear soda, though.

"Maybe," said Shiv. "I'll think about it."

"That's all I ask," Dr. G said,
picking up a brown pastel to add
a shadowy deer to the edge
of his meadow -- or maybe
it was an antelope.

Shiv penciled in the last few lines
on his lizard's tail, then sat back.
"I'm done," he declared.

"How do you feel?" Dr. G asked.

"Not too bad," Shiv said.
"Sometimes when I do this,
it just about makes me sick."

"That can happen," Dr. G said.
"If you're drawing really heavy things,
it helps to end with something lighter."

"I just went to bed with
my blanket," Shiv admitted.

"Did that work for you?" Dr. G asked.

"Yeah, eventually," Shiv said.

"Then you did the right thing, and you
should keep that in your toolbox," said Dr. G.

"I guess," Shiv said. He hadn't
thought about it like that before.

"How long did it take for you to settle?"
Dr. G asked. "Were you still queasy?"

"I dunno, half an hour to an hour, maybe?"
Shiv said. "I felt fine after that."

"What did you do next?" said Dr. G.

"Got up and colored some of the frames,"
Shiv said. "They're fun, even empty."

"See, that means the Microfyne isn't
addictive," said Dr. G. "You reach
for it when you need it, and then
put it down when you're done."

"Huh," Shiv said. "I guess so."

"How do you feel about my response
to your art?" Dr. G asked next.

"It's fine?" Shiv said. He'd talked
more about flowers than feelings.
That was ... fine.

"So now you know," Dr. G said,
spreading his hands above
their collective work space.
"Are you ready to file these?"

"Yeah," Shiv said, carefully peeling
the tape away from his page so that
he could slip it into the folder
Dr. G held open for him.

Then Shiv realized that the butcher paper
had slipped in a couple of spots, letting
smears of color onto the table. "Shit."

"It's your turn to clean up,"
Dr. G said calmly, handing him
a pot of cleaner and a rag.

Shiv scrubbed tentatively at the table,
but sure enough, it cleaned right up.

"Good job," Dr. G said when everything
was put away, and Shiv didn't think
he was only talking about the cleanup.

Shiv was surprisingly okay with that too.

* * *


Confidentiality is crucial in order for therapy to work, but regrettably, L-American "protections" are so full of holes that many people do not feel safe talking with a therapist. Fear of exposure is one of many reasons why people don't seek treatment or refuse to talk in treatment. Teens in particular tend to hate therapy, because it is almost always forced on them, which rarely helps and often hurts. T-America is somewhat better, particularly in terms of limiting who can see a therapist's client information -- which is why random guards can't inspect Shiv's personal therapy materials, and why Travis is protecting boundaries that Shiv doesn't even know should be there. How much you should tell a therapist depends on you, them, and your challenges. Another issue is that therapists are taught to break down client resistance, which is only sometimes helpful. A different option is silence, which Ambrose uses quite skillfully. There are ways to cope with a breach of trust in therapy.

are easily damaged by child abuse or neglect. You can see how damaged boundaries cause problems for Shiv, a situation not helped by other people continuing to ignore his. Abuse survivors may need help understanding personal boundaries. Here are some tips on respecting people's boundaries and helping survivors by setting healthy boundaries for them.

Positive discipline includes many techniques such as redirecting toward acceptable options. It may help to praise good behavior. However, some people dislike praise due to inexperience or negative experience with it, and need to work on accepting praise. Shiv has rarely heard praise, and when he has in the past, it was usually a trap or a backhanded insult. So now he finds it confusing or vaguely threatening.

Art therapy can be an effective type of counseling. There are art therapy pages to try at home. This one is a page on jobs. Doodle prompts inspire fresh ideas. Here's a comparison of different ideas in visual form. Learn about the circle game. Picture frames are fun to color. This one has Celtic knotwork. A set of frames can describe a person. An exercise on wishes combines writing and art.

Counting on fingers is still a matter of debate, but it is crucial for kinesthetic learners who need the tactile step in order to progress to doing math in other ways. Restraining children's hands can also be a form of abuse. In Shiv's case, when adults punished him for trying to learn in ways natural to him, he concluded that they're assholes and fuck that math shit anyway. So now he can barely count at all, and hides it to avoid attracting negative attention.

Some worksheets also include drawing. These involve drawing how you felt about something and where you feel emotions. Here's a batch on dealing with anger. Learn how to do a body scan for feelings using this body map.

Other worksheets focus on memories. Remember summer, a bad day, a good day, rain, and so forth. Here is a half-and-half page for art and writing. This workbook for teens focuses on dealing with trauma.

Here is a workbook using the Inside Out model of feelings as characters. This page invites sharing a memory for each emotion. This page of emotion spheres is part of a game about emotions.

Redwork is a type of embroidery typically done on white cloth, although occasionally you may find red-on-red or other backgrounds in the same style. It can be done in freestyle embroidery or cross-stitch.

Wetwork means killing, such as murder or assassination, usually for hire or some other criminal job. Within a criminal context, redwork means bloodshed without fatality. Shiv isn't a murderer; he just likes to cut people.

There is a growing tendency to pathologize human functions. Oppositional defiance disorder is a good example of that, commonly used on adolescents whose needs or desires frequently conflict with adults who have power over them. But it's only a real disorder if the person cannot distinguish between shared or conflicting goals, has nobody they respect enough to follow, and cannot follow guidance they consider in their own best interest. If they're just fighting against people they disagree with, well, everyone does that; it's normal and healthy to pursue your own goals when someone else is trying to block you, so long as you don't choose methods that hurt you or someone else. Childhood is not a mental disorder, and in fact we need defiant people. They're the ones who protect against the horrors of "just following orders." This is just one of many things in Shiv's files, and I have yet to find any accurate record of his actual problems beyond the early documentation of abuse and neglect. He obviously doesn't have ODD because he looks up to Boss White and is even starting to find some other folks he'll mind. But when Shiv is surrounded by idiots like he has been most of his life, reasonable self-defense can seem "crazy."

Blending with pastels may make use of reds like the Unison Pastels Reds or fire colors. Shiv seems to enjoy drawing with just a few closely related colors because it cuts down on the visual "noise" of sorting through a large pile of supplies.

Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, tends to create suspicious and insecure people. These are often accurate feelings in the original context, but abuse often impairs judgement so the survivors can't adapt quickly or easily to new circumstances where those feelings no longer apply. There are ways to check whether your suspicions are valid. Cognitive Behavior Therapy excels at identifying and debugging inaccurate thought patterns through tools such as thought records. It also helps to process triggers in a more analytical way. In a relationship, trust usually evolves over time, and it is prudent to test for integrity before trusting your weight to that support. Shiv is suspicious to the point of hostility, but it's because people have usually proven unreliable in his life. Reliable ones are new and he doesn't know how to handle them yet.

Drawing together can be a fun family activity or a revealing therapeutic experience. Shiv does not feel comfortable as the object of attention, but shift it to someone else -- or even work alongside each other -- and he opens up a little instead of remaining tight as a frog's ass.

Drawing with lipstick is a creative activity that explores a different texture than most art supplies. It's the closest I can come to describing Terramagne-American creme pastels. They're not greasy (oil) or dusty (chalk) like our types of pastels.

The passive exonerative includes such classic constructions as "mistakes were made." It's a way of evading blame by avoiding active verbs. It can indicate something that a person did deliberately and now wishes to escape the consequences, but it also appears frequently in regard to accidents or at least unintended outcomes.

Crying has many benefits, but it raises issues for men and boys who cry. In fact, all genders can handle sadness badly, especially if scorned for showing it. However, it is okay to cry and real men definitely do it. This is a sign of strength, not weakness. Graham is formidable, and may feel uncomfortable emotions, but he is comfortable with having and expressing them. This is a big improvement over Shiv bottling up his feelings and then cutting himself or hitting people. He really doesn't understand emotions, or what to do with them, or how to react to other people's feelings. It's all confusing to him. If you look closely, there are places in a few poems where you can see Shiv repressing the urge to cry so firmly that he doesn't even register it. Some people lose the ability to cry when they need to; there are steps to help regain it.

The issue of therapists crying can be complex and controversial. Although it's often a sign of empathy, it makes some clients feel awkward. In this case, Shiv definitely feels awkward and confused about Graham crying -- but it's a good example of healthy emotional processing, and Shiv hasn't had many of those.

The need for attention is fundamental to human interaction. It is one of many reasons why people create art, and indeed, the observation that all art is valid. One reason Shiv misbehaves so dramatically is that, most of the time, it's the only way people would acknowledge that he exists.

When teaching children coping skills, it is essential to avoid stifling their expressions. When positive coping skills are quashed, negative ones tend to emerge, because people need ways of dealing with stress. In Shiv's case, the suppression of healthy emotions and outlets has led to things like self-harm, smoking, and gangs. There are ways to avoid negative coping skills and address trauma.

Defensive body language includes curling the shoulders in a protective gesture. Despite Shiv's showy belligerence, there is a lot of hidden fear underneath it, especially when touching on topics from his childhood.

Traumatic experiences can lead to memories that are blurry, full of holes, or outright blank. This is particularly true in cases of sexual assault. In child abuse, it can be an adaptive response. Impaired memory of childhood is a major red flag for abuse. Graham is being discreet about his response, but this has made him more certain than ever that Shiv has been tormented extensively and a lot of his behaviors stem directly from that damage.

Cactus flowers are beautiful and complicated.

Prickly pears can bloom in many colors, even on the same plant. Their fruit makes tasty jam or soda. Learn how to draw a cactus and a flower.

Drylands come in different types. Their plants adapt to scarce water, and may live for months or years without rain. Then when it does rain, the desert bursts into spectacular bloom all at once, and the pollinators come out.

Student-directed learning uses a stimulating environment to inspire motivation. While Graham would love for Shiv to talk more about himself and to learn socially positive things, Graham doesn't really care what Shiv chooses to explore as long as something coaxes him out of his shell. If Shiv wanted to talk about hotwiring cars, Graham would go there, although not to the extent of teaching him how to break laws he doesn't already know how to break on his own. Dr. Bloch damn well knows that Shiv is going to turn anatomy lessons toward hurting people, but calculates -- correctly -- that the damage will be less than that caused by blind flailing. If a supervillain is prone to cutting on people, it's definitely better for him to know where NOT to aim because it could cause crippling or fatal damage. Here are some activities for self-directed learning and tips for student learning.

Negotiating in relationships is an important part of building trust and aiming for shared ideals. The prison uses a point system; Dr. Bloch and Graham both trade for favors and supplies; and these are all different ways of teaching attachment-damaged inmates more about the give and take of healthy relationships.
Tags: art, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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