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Thinking Space

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'Thinking Space' was set up to develop the capacity of staff and trainees at the Tavistock Clinic to think about racism, and other forms of hatred toward difference in ourselves and others. Drawing on Bion's (1962) distinction between "knowing" and "knowing about", the latter of which can be a defence against knowing a subject in a deeper and emotionally real way, Thinking Space sought to promote curiosity, exploration and learning about difference, by paying as much attention as to how we learn (process) as to what we learn (content).This book is a celebration of ten years of Thinking Space at the Tavistock Clinic and a way of sharing the thinking, experience and learning gained over these years. Thinking Space functions, among other things, as a test-bed for ideas and many of the papers included here began as presentations, and were encouraged and developed by the experience. These papers do not seek to provide a coherent theory or set of views. On the contrary they are very diverse and decidedly so, as finding, expressing and developing one's own personal idiom involves emotional truthfulness and is an important part of getting to know oneself: both of which are important prerequisites to getting to know the other.

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12 Chapters

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1: Thinking Space: The Model

ePub

Frank Lowe

“The disturbance of the impulse of curiosity on which all learning depends, and the denial of the mechanism by which it seeks expression, makes normal development impossible.”

W. R. Bion (1959, p. 108)

Thinking Space was set up to develop the capacity of staff and trainees at the Tavistock Clinic to think about racism and other forms of hatred towards difference in ourselves and others. Drawing on Bion's (1962) distinction between “knowing” and “knowing about”, the latter of which can be a defence against knowing a subject in a deeper and emotionally real way, Thinking Space sought to promote curiosity, exploration, and learning about difference, by paying as much attention to how we learn (process) as to what we learn (content). The establishment and design of the forum was determined not so much by theoretical considerations, but by my many years of experience as a participant in and facilitator of “diversity” learning events. This has taught me that the subjects of race and racism tend to arouse strong feelings such as anxiety, guilt, shame, and anger. This emotional maelstrom often created numerous barriers to thinking and learning at such events. These included:

 

2: Race and Our Evasions of Invitations to Think: How Identifications and Idealizations may Prevent us from Thinking

ePub

Onel Brooks

This chapter argues that our identifications and idealizations often make it very difficult for us to think about most matters, including race. So when we think that we are thinking about race and culture, we may not be; we may be better described as engaged in protecting ourselves, our theories, and our subgroup. Psychotherapy can offer us an easy path to thinking that we are thinking when we are not. To the extent that psychoanalysts and other psychotherapists are busy acting out their own tendencies to idealize, identify, and denigrate—their own tribalism, their own implicit or explicit claim to be better than other psychotherapists—they do not give us reasons to be confident in their ability to think about issues to do with race, for they show that they are caught up in the very issues that they need to be thoughtful about.

This chapter is not part of an attempt to construct a theory or model or some set of generalizations about race, racism, and psychotherapy. Indeed, it indicates the author's misgivings about any such enterprise. For even if some interesting and useful psychotherapeutic theory of race and racism could be constructed, the argument of this chapter would still apply to it, in that this theory or model could easily become a way of evading thoughtful engagement with notions of race, ethnicity, and culture and the part such notions play in what we say, do, and believe.

 

3: Between Fear and Blindness: The White Therapist and the Black Patient

ePub

Helen Morgan

This chapter is an attempt by a white psychotherapist to consider issues of racism and how they might impact on the work in the consulting room. There are two main features of this first statement that I want to emphasize by way of introduction. The first is that I intend to explore questions of difference in colour, and not issues of culture. This is not because I believe that matters of cultural differences in the consulting room are not interesting, or that culture and race are not often conflated, but, rather, that there is something so visible, so apparent, and yet so empty about colour that to include a discussion of culture can muddle the debate and take us away from facing some difficult and painful issues. A black patient may come from a culture more similar to my own than a white patient, yet it is the fact of our colours that can provoke primitive internal responses that are hard to acknowledge and face.

Clearly there are many differences such as culture, class, gender, sexuality, and so forth that form divides within the wider society and where the power balance is asymmetrical. But those are the subjects of other papers elsewhere. It is my experience that when the subject of race and psychotherapy arises among white therapists, we often quickly widen the question out to include other issues. It is as if we are trying to swallow up this difficult subject and lose it in a generality of difference. I am always struck by how very hard it is to think about racism, for it is essentially such an irrational phenomenon and yet one that is so insidious and pervasive. Colour blindness, ignoring difference of this nature, is more comfortable, but I believe it to be a denial and a defence against a complex array of emotions that includes anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, and envy. No wonder we do our best to avoid the subject.

 

4: Is it Coz I'm White?

ePub

David Morgan

“Never again shall a single story be told as though it were the only one.”

John Berger (2008)

I come from a rather non-diverse background. Indeed, in the rural area I grew up in, the closest I ever came to racial diversity was via the Black and White Minstrel Show, the film The Blackboard Jungle with Sydney Poitier, B. B. King, Miles Davis, Cassius Clay, and from there to an appreciation of jazz and blues. In fact, it was many years later that I found out that much of the music I was playing on records during my youth was derivative from, or had roots in, black American and Afro-Caribbean culture.

When I trained as a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and psychoanalyst, almost all my fellow trainees were white like me, and the trainings at that time hardly touched upon diversity in the clinical setting. This was something I only gradually became aware of as I encountered patients, and, later, supervisees, who confronted me with the confusing experience of difference. This included both sexual orientation and ethnicity. My own analysis and training had not prepared me as much as I thought to encounter this difference, and my patients now made me aware of my own defensive strategies, which I used to manage this confusion. It is perhaps questionable whether these courses represent tokenism and box-ticking genuflections to a politically correct world, or the beginning of a real change. I think prejudice should be embraced, acknowledged, and explored rather than airbrushed away through well-meaning politically correct conscious-raising exercises.

 

5: Being “Black” in the Transference: Working under the Spectre of Racism

ePub

Jonathan Bradley

The issue of “racism” looms large in psychoanalytic work, particularly where there is a difference of ethnicity between therapist and patient. I have used the term “spectre” in the title to capture the sense of an unpleasant and dangerous presence, whether real or imagined. After exploring in this chapter some issues that arise in clinical work, and particularly where the “racial other” is very much part of the clinical scene, I explore two clinical situations that, though different from each other in many ways, posed great technical problems and issues to do with my capacity as a therapist to understand what was happening.

Farhad Dalal (2012) likens racism to parasites:

Parasites mutate and evolve to mimic the functioning of the host in order to fool the host into thinking that the parasite is a good and healthy part of itself. This leads to the parasite dropping “below the radar” of the defence systems of the host in order to sneak into its body. Once ensconced the parasite leeches on the resources of the host, depleting and weakening it. [p. 3]

 

6: The Complexity of Cultural Competence

ePub

Inga-Britt Krause

There is a tension that is pervasive throughout the social sciences and psychotherapy.1 This tension is simplistic, but also powerful, perhaps because of its simplicity. This is the tension between the view, the attitude, the argument, or the experience that, on the one hand, we, us human beings, are all the same and have little trouble understanding each other. There might be some superficial differences, but fundamentally all human beings share the same psychological make-up. The other view emphasizes that we are different, that even though there are similarities, the differences between us are crucial and in some circumstances make understanding between us difficult, in extreme cases even impossible. We may refer to the first view as “universalism” and the second as “relativism”. The tension between these two views underpins all work and research in anthropology, cultural studies, psychology, sociology, and philosophy and derives from the fact that we must use ourselves to access, explain, and connect with the world around us, including other persons. This tension therefore also pervades all thinking about race and culture, but it is rarely highlighted as fundamental in how to approach what currently is referred to as “cultural competence” (DoH, 2005; see also Bhui, Warfa, Edonya, McKenzie, & Bhugra, 2007; Papadopoulos, Tilki, & Lees, 2004; Singh & Dutta, 2010).

 

7: “Class is in you”: An Exploration of Some Social Class Issues in Psychotherapeutic Work

ePub

Joanna Ryan

Class has the potential to evoke extremely charged and difficult emotions; it can be a determining aspect of early experience; some internalized aspects of class experience can be unconscious; and yet there appears to be an absence of frameworks for thought and discussion within the psychotherapy profession. The innovative work of the last two decades on gender, race, and sexuality within the psychoanalytic field has not been matched by any equivalent attention to class, although Altman (1995) does provide an account of class dynamics in psychotherapeutic work from a relational psychoanalytic perspective. This chapter attempts to open up for discussion some concerns about class within psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It describes a small exploratory qualitative study in which experienced psychoanalytic psychotherapists from different class backgrounds were interviewed about aspects of their own biographical experiences of class, and their perceptions of class-related issues in their clinical work with differently classed patients and within the profession of psychotherapy, as they experienced this.

 

8: Psychoanalysis and Homosexuality: Keeping the Discussion Moving

ePub

Juliet Newbigin

In January 2012, the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) agreed a position statement on homosexuality, which began: “The BPC does not accept that a homosexual orientation is evidence of disturbance of the mind or in development.” In doing this, they were following the example of the American Psychoanalytic Association, who had first drawn up a statement of their own in 1991. The BPC's initiative was accompanied by a conference entitled “Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis: Moving On”. There was a palpable sense of relief among those who attended, and hope was expressed that it marked the beginning of a new era, leaving behind the troubled history of the relationship of British psychoanalysis to homosexuality. The BPC, readying itself to become a body with regulatory responsibilities as part of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE), was seen to be taking an important initiative, bringing it into line with the Equality Act of 2010. This act had introduced “protected characteristics”—to defend the rights of named categories of persons who had been shown to be vulnerable to discrimination by employers and service providers. This Act identified these categories under the following headings: “age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity”. The Act now extended protection to include cases of indirect discrimination where organizations could be shown to have policies that disadvantaged people in the above categories.

 

9: Paradoxes and Blind Spots: An Exploration of Irish Identity in British Organizations and Society

ePub

Aideen Lucey

“The romantic writer says: there is an essential Ireland to be served and a definitive Irish mind to be described. The modernist rejoins: there is no single Ireland, but a field of force subject to constant renegotiations; and no Irish mind, but Irish minds shaped by a predicament which produces some common characteristics in those caught up in it.”

Kiberd (1992, p. lxxvii)

I subscribe to the modernist view that there are many Irish minds, experiences, and versions of reality, as I believe there are for all peoples. However, in this chapter I want to look at something specific—the projections that the Irish can be on the receiving end of in Britain and in British institutions. By doing so, I want to acknowledge that I am addressing just one element of Irish experience.

This chapter is written from my perspective as an Irish organizational consultant working in Britain. It aims to clarify thinking about Irish identity in order to inform consultancy practice as well as to open up a more general discussion about the way in which Irish identity may be used unconsciously in British institutions and society.

 

10: Dehumanization, Guilt, and Large-Group Dynamics with Reference to the West, Israel, and the Palestinians

ePub

Martin Kemp

For many years I have been concerned about the course taken by the conflict in Israel/Palestine, in particular at the denial of the rights of the Palestinians, and worried that Western contributions to the conflict in the Middle East have been misconceived and counter-productive. A visit to the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel in November 2008 both deepened and complicated this view. What had previously been for me an abstract political issue was now peopled. As part of a fact-finding tour with a group of medical and mental health specialists, I was meeting individuals from both “sides”,1 all of whose lives seemed to be defined by the conflict. Our encounters with Palestinians were stressful because their daily existence was overshadowed by the profoundly asymmetrical power relations between themselves and the Israeli state. It was distressing to see the uses to which this power was being put—the checkpoints, evictions, house demolitions, the system of military justice, the incursions of religious settlers into Arab towns. A Bedouin village inside Israel was demolished several weeks after we had been shown around its new health centre. The more recent fate of another village in the Negev was reported as follows:

 

11: The August 2011 Riots—Them and Us

ePub

Frank Lowe

“The condition of the individual-subject is paradoxical. The organizational qualities of the subject demand that we associate antagonistic concepts: exclusion and inclusion, the I, the they, and the it. This requires what I have called complex thinking, which is to say a thinking that is capable of unifying concepts which repel one another and are otherwise catalogued and isolated in separate compartments.”

Morin (2008)

“Whilst we might thirst after the truth, ‘to understand’ is, more often than not to suffer. Thus whilst they might poison the mind, lies preserve us from conscious suffering.”

Paul Hoggett (1992b, p. 61)

The August 2011 Riots started on 4 August in Tottenham, as a result of the suspicious shooting by the police of a young black man, Mark Duggan. The police's failure to engage with his family and supporters who went to the police station for answers became the trigger for the riot. From Tottenham, the rioting quickly spread over the next six days to 66 different areas across England and Wales. Five people died, at least 16 others were injured, and many lost their homes, businesses, and priceless possessions. It was estimated that 13,000–15,000 people took part in the riots and that overall the riots cost the country approximately half a billion pounds. Over 4,000 people were arrested, and about 1,483 were found guilty as charged (Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, 2012).

 

Appendix: Thinking Space Events

ePub

Thinking Space events 2002–2013

2002

Apr.

The Emotional Roots of Anti-Racism: Some Personal and Institutional Reflections. SPEAKER: Andrew Cooper, Adolescent Department, Tavistock Clinic

May

Whose Mind Is It On? Sameness and Difference in Work with an Adopted Mixed-Race Adolescent. SPEAKER: Margaret Rustin, Child and Family Department, Tavistock Clinic

Jun.

The Psychic Geography of Racism. SPEAKER: Julian Lousada, Adult Department, Tavistock Clinic

Oct.

Some Reflections on Work with Refugees. SPEAKER: Maureen Fox, Child and Family Department, Tavistock Clinic

2003

Feb.

Exploring Racism. Between Fear and Blindness: An Exploration of the Relationship between a White Therapist and a Black Patient. SPEAKER: Helen Morgan, BAP (Jungian Section)

Jun.

Some Problems with Psychoanalytic Engagement with Racism. SPEAKER: Farhad Dalal, Psychotherapist, Training Group Analyst, and author of Taking the Group Seriously and Race, Colour and the Process of Racialisation (2002)

Nov.

Some Thoughts about Making Psychoanalytic Trainings in Work with Children More Accessible. SPEAKER: Corrine Aves, Child Psychotherapist, Child and Family Department, Tavistock Clinic

 

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