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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Concentric Rings in the Desert - Kuwait 1991

3RRF and 127 (Dragon) Battery ended up staying in Kuwait after the Gulf war was over for reasons I won't go into. During this time I was tasked to send some of my men back into Iraq to pick up ammunition that we had ground dumped.

On the day in question my guys had their trucks lined up by the highway waiting to deploy, at the same time the highway was busy with convoys redeploying back to Saudi Arabia to prepare for the return trip home.

As I was watching my men I could see that their morale was very low, indeed as was mine, because I suspect like them I did not want to stay any longer than I had too, all I wanted to do was go home and see my wife and kids.

I started to think to myself how can I pick up their morale? I could not give them any money and say here go down the pub, there were none or why not head of to town for a while, again there were none to be found.
Something extreme was called for.

So on an impulse I stepped out from my camouflage net and I shouted over to them "what’s wrong with you bunch of miserable looking f***ers". They looked at me startled, I guess wondering what the hell I was on about.

So I shouted again look you lot, "do you know what, not one of you is big enough to take me on" again they looked startled. Then little Robo stepped forward and said he would take me on, I replied "is that it, you send out the smallest guy you can find, you bunch off w***ers".

At that moment they looked around at each other and collectivity they said "let's get him" as they ran towards me I ran into my truck and looked myself in laughing at them calling them names, the truck rocked from side to side as they tried to open the doors, some climbed onto the cab roof and tried to rip open the canvas covering the commanders hatch.

Eventually they succeeded in dragging me out of the cab, throwing me to the desert floor they jumped on me and proceeded to kick the crap out of me, in playful way but enough to let me know they were willing to go there with me. In fact some stuck the boot in quite hard perhaps that was payback for something, who knows and I did not really care, as I gave them permission to do it anyway.

After it was all over, we all had a good laugh about the situation and then they set off on their task, which I might add was not a pleasant one. One of the things they encountered out there was they saw eagles and other birds of prey on their migratory route, stopping to pick up limbs etc as a source of food.

So what’s my point here? Well about a week to two later I was heading into Saudi with my driver and a mate of mine was coming the other way, he flagged us down and as we pulled up alongside to each other, he had a BIG smile on his face and he said "I hear your guys kicked the shit out you, you knob etc, etc" and off he drove laughing in the way that squaddies do.

I looked at my driver smiling and said, "isn't that amazing, that the fight is still having a positive effect on people you where not even there weeks later".

This is clearly a case of extreme man management but now I believe it had real time therapeutic value. Would I have done that in peace time? Of course not, the extreme situation required an extreme answer, it could have gone badly wrong who knows, all I cared about was the welfare of my men and that's all I had available to me at the time and I would do it again or at least something similar.

I have shared this story with civilian managers who had real trouble understanding it, but still, why should they understand, there is no need for them to understand.

Monday, 28 September 2009

I want to do it my way first...

While working in Spain I had the privilege to work with a young man who had anger issues (see The Chaffinch and the Young man's Anger) over a period of a week. One the first day we went up into the hills to one of the national parks.

With addictions I always like to start with 'Meet a Tree' this is a really good game for getting someone to see that there is something more powerful than ourselves without taking them too far out of the box that it would freak them out to the point that they may not come back again. We agreed that this would be the exercise to start with, having explained the rules to him. I took him blindfolded through the woods to a tree that I had chosen before we had even started. It is worth noting at this point that the woodland we were using was about 100 x 100 metres containing the same species of tree which were all roughly the same girth and distance apart from each other. To all intense and purposes it would be difficult to tell them apart without a blindfold.

There is no rush to this game it is about getting results and not necessarily about finding the tree although that is also part of the process. We spent about 15 - 20 minutes walking through the woodland in all different directions; I do this so that he could not tell where he was by using tracks or sources of light through the trees.

On returning to the start point I removed his blindfold and asked to find his tree. He said that he wanted to do things his way, I said fine go ahead, he proceeded to search the edges of the woodland trying to identify his tree, this simply means that he was in his head, he did not want to let go of control and he was not quite in a position to trust me yet. What I did at this point was to ignore him and let him get on with what he believed was right, as for me I got my binoculars out and did some birdwatching, but in my peripheral I was paying attention to what he was doing, I was watching his body language for clues to what he might be thinking and feeling.

After some time he decided to come over to me and ask for some help in finding is tree. I showed him how to connect with his heart as this is the key to finding his tree, his head would not help him, as it would lie to him based on how he views the world around him. He got into peripheral vision and off he went through the woods sensing where his tree might be.

Some 20 minutes later he left the woodland crossed a track and approached a tree that was standing out on its own from the rest of the wood; it was also a different species as well. He moved slowly and kind of knowingly towards it and when he touched it he smiled, turned to me and said "this is my tree", he was of course correct. After we processed the events that took place we started to head back to the rehab and then came the Chaffinch...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Adventure therapy key in battle against...

I came across a web site (see Politics) which has various short articles on the effects of adventure therapy. The one I found very interesting was about eating disorders. While I have had limit experience of working with eating disorders, (see The Drum Stalk working with families and addictions, para 13) I found my experience to have similar results found in this piece of research.

Politics: Friday, 11, Sep 2009 12:00

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP): Adventure therapy key in battle against disordered eating

By raising levels of self-confidence and motivation for change adventure therapy is a valuable tool in the treatment of women with eating disorders.

This is the finding of research by Dr Kaye Richards and colleagues which will be presented today, Friday 11 September 2009, at the 5th International Adventure Therapy Conference. The event, hosted by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), is taking place from 7-11 September at Pollock Halls, The University of Edinburgh.

The research examined practical ways of working therapeutically outdoors with women who suffer from eating disorders. It also assessed the extent to which participants taking part in an adventure therapy intervention benefited psychologically from the process.

After completing the intervention most participants showed evidence of increased motivation for change, sustained rejection of negative behaviours and thinking patterns related to eating, more positive attitudes to body image, and greater self-confidence and self-awareness. All of these changes meant that their disordered eating symptoms reduced as a direct result of the intervention.

The findings therefore indicate that therapists can work effectively with troubled eating in the outdoors and that such work speeds up the therapeutic process.

Dr Richards said: "This is the first adventure therapy research project and intervention to have been designed specifically for the treatment of women with eating disorders in the UK. It illustrates how working therapeutically outdoors can be used as an intervention and the role it plays in addressing the psychological issues related to disordered eating. It also highlights some of the practical and ethical issues of working in this setting and offers a platform for the future development of research and practice in adventure therapy."

For more information please contact: Alison Croft, BACP Press & Public Relations Manager, on 01455 883342 (office), 07989 416665 (mobile) or or BACP Media Consultant, Phillip Hodson, on 07961 401685 or