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Research Blog


As part of my ongoing research into understanding psychotherapy and human nature from a cultural perspective I will be writing a monthly blog. If you would like to sign up for my quarterly newsletter detailing the latest news from Dwight Turner Counselling (including news of the latest blog entries) then feel free to enter your details on the side of this page

Please note: older blog entries are collected together every 6 months at the base of this page.


Repositioning Race: I Am Not Your Other

(Published 20th February 2018)

Continuing my exploration of the identity of the Other, and how the other is formed by its relationship to the Subject, this month I want to talk about a challenging subject, the identification of race for the Other, and how problematic this has become.

When Dalal (2012) discusses the formation of self in his article, he does so using an interesting metaphor of the man who on a desert island builds two places of worship. When he is rescued, he is asked by the captain of the rescue ship why the need for them both, to which the previously shipwrecked man says, ‘this is the one where I worship, the other is the one where I do not.’ Within psychotherapy, ideas about the construction of identity have followed similar paths often using the idea of a dualistic lens as one where, for example, children gain a sense of their identity by splitting off that which it believes it is not into the unconscious, or projecting these same aspects of self onto the other (Mitchell, 1986; von Franz, 1980).

Formations of race follow a similar pattern I will add here. Questioned by many authors over the years, the idea of race a follow a culturally constructed route, tied together with pseudo-science and outdated religious doctrines. For example, the excellent series of podcasts by Scene on Radio discuss in some depth the formation of whiteness and its projected relationship to black racial identity, challenging many of the stereotypes and historical narratives that have held racial identity together for so long (Biewen, 2017). The wonderful philosopher, Appiah (2016) echoes this approach, recognising the stereotypes and painful othering of the cultural other necessary for these structures to exist at all. In doing so, what they both recognised, I will add here, was that in challenging white identity, this in turn separated some people from their need to identify against the other, thereby also freeing the other in turn.

Challenges to this idea that identity is governed from the centre have been raised from within feminist literature for probably a generation, with the questioning of the positioning of the other by the subject, being the start point, I would argue here, for a reimagining of the identity of feminine (Beauvoir, 2010). Yet, when we consider the idea from a racial perspective, this drive to self-identify as a cultural other is often seen as problematic by those who identify as the racial other as set up by the subject, and as threatening by the subject themselves out of the fear they will lose their identity in the process. Whilst I am not so concerned with the subject, for the racialised other there is an important reminder that given their identity is colonially constructed, built out of the need for the subject to bind two disparate cultures together. So for the racialised other, as one awakens to this realisation one must also recognise the flawed nature of ones identity in its prescribed format.

What I am ultimately saying for myself in this blog, and as a start point for others from the diaspora, is that it is time to really question what it is to be a person of colour, what it is to be black, what it is to be black and British etc, etc, etc. This questioning takes our identity out of the hands of the subject, and returns the power of ourselves to self-identify back where it belongs. I know I have done so, or at least began the long psychological process of doing so, by looking within at my dreams and reconnecting with my sense of otherness to find a more authentic sense of black-ness, one not fashioned as a mirror for that same subject to project upon to.

At this point I would like to present a dream I had a couple of years ago which underscores the theme of this month’s blog beautifully. The dream emerged during one of the periods of my doctoral research into otherness when I was looking at my own experience of being the other. the dream involved my walking through a cave. I’m being pursued by a white man, I don’t know why but I am wary of him. As I walk through the cave though I sense there is a cloudy ‘entity’ ahead of me. I duck into a side tunnel and let the white man walk past to seek me out. I then hear a terrible cry as the ‘entity’ ahead devours the white man. I walk on down the passage, but now the entity has disappeared, nowhere to be seen.

There is a common belief that the decolonisation of the other is only in the mind. It is not. It is also in the psychology, and in the unconscious experience of being othered. The importance of this dream explores aspects of this, I believe, and shows that only by an engagement with one’s own sense of psychological difference can one then begin to move out of the shadows of otherness and stand free from the projections of the subject, an other in one’s own right. This is not an easy process though. As the dream suggests it is painful, and fraught with difficult feelings. Yet, it is this rite of passage that one has to go through to truly stand alone, an other, not their other (Baldwin, 2017).

References
Appiah, K. A. (2016). Mistaken Identities: Creed, Country, Color, Culture. Reith Lectures.
Baldwin, J. (2017). I’m not your negro. UK: London: Penguin Classics.
Beauvoir, S. de. (2010). The Second Sex. New york: Alfred A. Knopf.
Biewen, J. (2017). Seeing White (Part 2 How race was made?). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://www.acast.com/cdspodcas/how-race-was-made-seeing-white-part-2
Dalal, F. (2012). Thought Paralysis: The Virtues of Discrimination. London: Karnac Books Ltd.
Mitchell, J. (1986). The selected Melanie Klein. London: Penguin Limited.
von Franz, M.-L. (1980). Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology. UK: Open Court Publications.

This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my ongoing exploration into The Other

Contact: Dwight Turner on info@dwightturnercounselling.co.uk or 07931 233 071 for further details


Perfect Storm: Envy, Shame and the Other

(Published the 22nd January 2018)

For the next two or three months I want to use this blog to build upon a theme, and that is the close interaction between the Subject and, or towards, the Other. I want to look at what drives it, what maintains it, and the cost to standing outside of this oft little understood interaction. This month’s blog is therefore the first attempt at recognising this relationship.

When at the peak of his powers Eminem (2005) wrote ‘I’m the subject of a lot of envy’ many people were puzzled by what he might have meant by such a simple statement. Here was a young man who had by this stage had two massive hit albums, was co-produced by one of the greatest producers of his/our generation, and the world was seemingly at his feet. Yet, there it appeared as if he had to endure something being thrown at him by his peers, something which bothered him enough to write such a powerful set of words and incorporate them into such a powerful mosaic of a song.

Success though does bring with it detractors; these will be people who might do anything from lay down bars dissing Eminem for some imagined slight, to undermining him either personally or professionally, to actively seeking him out for some type of physical confrontation. What I believe these detractors are expressing is, I will argue here, a mixture of shame and envy at their own comparison with a man who probably doesn’t know half of them. It is this interesting dynamic which is the subject of my blog for this month.

Looking at envy, Klein (Smith, 2008) discussed envy and as being the punishment of both the self and the other, by the mere presence of that which is envied. The odd thing about this is that that which envied does not often consciously know it is being envied, or even those who envy it. Often the subject of the fantastical projection only becomes aware of the envy when they step out of the position they have been placed upon by said subject. Their driver for this step will often have nothing to do with the subject as well, with said envy seeming coincidental to their success or growth.

Shame is also a part of this construct. The shame of the envious that they are not seemingly able to measure up to their own fantastical ideal, an ideal maintained by the presence of an other they see themselves as superior to. Existentially though, Shame is not seen as a totally negative emotion. Williams (Sánchez, 2015) spoke of shame as being an emotion that connects the internal with the external world, and the other. He saw shame as having the potential to positively drive an individual forward towards a greater relationship with that which they are ashamed of. My sense is that he is right in his assertion, but that when shame and envy merge, there is a perfect storm of emotions that needs to be contended with carefully, less they become destructive either for the self or, in this particular case, for the other.

This is where the aggressive aspect of the subject, micro or otherwise, emerges here, out of this combination of shame and envy. This is because the pairing of these two emotions, when not contained, are just too powerful for the envious to contain within themselves. They have not learnt to be with these emotions, others have not taught them as much, so they are left with no wish to learn from said emotions (Bion, 1985). This is an important positive aspect of envy. It there as much to show the subject what their hearts desire is, as much as it is to point the way to said desire via the projected ideal held within the other. The mature therefore uses its envy as a guide, as an arrow pointing the way along the yellow brick road to the emerald city of success. The immature subject does nothing more than drop the MOAB onto said city thereby destroying it.

Conversely, for the other, one means of remaining safe is by keeping one’s head under the parapet, or hiding one’s light under a bushel. What this does then is one is able to avoid the potential projectiles that might be thrown in its direction. It remains safe, keeps itself safe, and is seen as safe and unthreatening by the subject. What it also does though is suppress any type of growth, causing itself considerable psychological harm.

It is this combination of envy and shame which I would argue even drives things such as cultural appropriation, where the subject subsumes aspects of whichever other culture it judges as desirable into itself, discarding though the other parts it does not need (other than to still project upon). The subject’s desire for, and envy of, and shame that is it not as like, the other leads it to either try to own it or to destroy the other in its entirety. Conversely, another example emerges out of capitalism and the drivers which presuppose that those who are without wealth and privilege are less than those with, therefore promoting a sense of worthlessness in the less moneyed other, a sense it strives to escape out of the position of being less than. So, in the other’s reluctance to hold their otherness, their drive to be like the majority, to gather towards itself the privileges of the subject, what they are ultimately doing in idealising said subject is denying their own potential, masking it in the singular potential presented by the subject.

The reason for this month’s blog though is that it is a personal plea to all those who have taken aim at me in my first year since I completed my doctorate. The microaggressions, the large brickbats in fact, have been noted and parked. I have had everything from letters to face to face comments, the general gist of which has always been ‘don’t get above your station.’ One of the reasons for these prejudicial comments is, I strongly believe, the envy and shame of the subject, which, as I have already explored in this month’s blog, is actually nothing to do with myself. When the other makes it their concern though, or in psychotherapeutic language, when they identify with the projection, is when they suppress themselves to fit in with the subject’s fantasy ideal. By standing up, by completing my work, by just being me, I wasn’t doing so in order to offend, Billy, Claire, or Denzel. I was actually doing so in order to please me. So, the fact the cost was always going to be that Billy, Claire and Denzel’s projections suddenly became shaky, and threatened to return home, is not really my problem. It is though my gift, if they are willing to accept it. The returning gift of their potential, the returning gift of their future growth.

As touched upon briefly in this month’s blog, next month I will be expanding upon my ideas about the mimicry/echoism of the other in relation to the subject.

References

Bion, W. (1985). Container and Contained. Group Relations Reader 2, 127–133.
Eminem. (2005). Curtain Call. US: Polydor Group.
Sánchez, A. M. (2015). Shame and the Internalized Other. Ethics and Politics, XVII(2), 181–200.
Smith, H. F. (2008). Vicious circles of punishment: A reading of Melanie Klein’s Envy and gratitude. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 77(1), 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2167-4086.2008.tb00339.x

This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my Research Project conducted via the University of Northampton and the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education (CCPE)

Contact: Dwight Turner on info@dwightturnercounselling.co.uk or 07931 233 071 for further details


The Male #Metoo: Narcissism, Liberal Guilt, and the Other

(Published 24th November 2017)

It’s not very often I write about so current and so alive a topic as the one I will be discussing in this month’s blog Yet, it is with a heavy heart, and an angry eye, that I feel driven to academically, and metaphorically, express my irritation over one aspect of the news that dominated social media over the past six weeks.

When in September and October allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the film producer suddenly erupted, a torrent of further allegations against men emerged which has been astonishing, but yet also not surprising, to witness. From New Zealand to New York, with the accused being shop workers to politicians, to other movie stars and film makers, women have come out on mass from all strata of societies using the social media hashtag #metoo to shoult their anger, frustration, and solidarity with each other around this very difficult issue.

Now, the aim of my blog this month is less to act as an ally for those women who have rightfully decided enough is enough (as I am not sure they need me to be that to be honest). The ideas within my blog this month is to explore the penchant for a good number of men to suddenly shout #Metoo, not so much because they have been abused, but because theirs is a need to be seen in solidarity, even if they did nothing to stop the abuse when it was occurring.

A perfect example emerges out of a story in the Guardian back in October when the Weinstein allegations initially broke, where the actor Colin Firth spoke out about his shame at not having done anything to protect or help a fellow actor who had told him a story about her treatment at the hands of the film producer (O’Carroll, 2017). This was no isolated case, as other actors, directors, and men in positions of public prominence have also come out to speak about their regret, sadness, and shame at what they knew was happening but did nothing about.

These opinions, although seemingly well meaning, I strongly believe to be hugely problematic, and really need to be challenged. The most obvious question for myself has always been, if women mattered so much before, then why weren’t you, those of the liberal majority doing more to alleviate so much of the pain and suffering you are now cognitively recalling? Why didn’t you speak up? And what was going on within yourselves that you failed to do so? Although I have regularly spoken about narcissism, echoism and other aspects of our culture, what I have not done is look at the role of the liberal within a culture of narcissism.

What I mean here is where you have a culture of narcissism, one of the means of maintaining control over the other is by subtly undermining the other repeatedly, until the narcissist struggles to recognise they are doing so, or the other barely even recognises it is being done to them. Given the cultural structures that one is born into that defines one as the other, the oppressive nature of these structures, the abusiveness that is also contained within these implicit messages/orders of how to be, of who to be, are never challenged. Therefore, the emotionally abusive nature of cultural narcissism, be it for the overt misogynist or for the liberal, is often so engrained within the culture that unless one removes oneself from it for a good period of time it is often not seen for what it is. It is like two opposing stars unable to escape the pull from a black hole in space.

For the liberal though, my reasoning here is that there is a fear that these liberal men, who are also in important positions of power, in their self-purported ‘#metoo-ness’ actually purposefully dilute the full impact of the sledgehammer of a message women are giving them. Instead of truly sitting with the shame of their (in)actions, instead of listening to the message that they have done wrong and need to put something right, these men pass the blame on, say they are sorry and sidle off into the shadows, shed of any guilt.

This is nothing new though. The irritating nature of the #alllivesmatter movement when the Black Lives Matter organisation rose to prominence is similar, although never the same, and was another type of liberal endeavour to disavow itself of any blame for the mistreatment of the cultural other. The Weinstein allegations, the rise of black lives matter, and the subsequent mainly internet based movements for both which were, and still are, about the raising into consciousness the abuses suffered by the other, together with the public shaming of the perpetrators. For the overt misogynist, whilst he might speak of his contrition this will just galvanise him to assert his perceived rights and privileges. For the liberal though, this public reveal is too much, with this public shaming bringing up its own defences which are to disappear, disavow, or show a false type of solidarity with the other whilst doing little to change the behaviour of a lifetime. The fear of the liberal is that if they were to truly stand back, to truly allow these movements to fully unfurl in all their pain and glory, then they would have to deal with their own shadows, and I suspect one of the reasons for this is that it provokes a huge amount of shame and guilt within them.

Bannerji’s (2000) paper discusses the liberal agenda as being driven as much by the need to implement supremacist political policies as those from the right, but with this being done in such a covert fashion that it is difficult to challenge. Yet, when James Baldwin (2017), the activist and writer once said ‘the liberal is someone who thinks he knows more about your experience than you do,’ although in his context he was speaking very much to the struggle of African-Americans in the liberal USA, his words could very much be used to express the same liberal attitudes towards women today.

The inability to sit with this shame and guilt, to be with it and learn from it, by immediately identifying as other, actually becomes part of the problem. Whilst they often try to identify with the other as an ally, what they also seem to be doing is acting to disperse the rage of the other at own abusive treatment, passive or otherwise. As we look at the Black Lives movement, and its continued struggle to affect change both in the USA and the UK, whilst we look at the continuing drives of feminism to affect change across the Global West, it could be argued that one of the reasons why this very change then becomes so slow, is not so much because of the role of the oppressor, but is because the liberal has, maybe unconsciously but often on purpose, done just as little to change a system they were born in to, and are a part of.

I would therefore dispute their willingness to change this system, and would be very wary of the liberal agenda towards #metoo-ness. Be careful. It’s not what it purports to be.

References

Baldwin, J. (2017). I’m not your negro. UK: London: Penguin Classics.
Bannerji, H. (2000). The Paradox of Diversity: The Construction of a Multicultural Canada and “Women of Color.” Women’s Studies International Forum, 23(5), 537–560. https://doi.org/10.1227/01.NEU.0000028086.48597.4F
Hayley, A. (1965). The Autobiography of Malcolm X (q). New York: Golden Press.
Leighton, S. (n.d.). ARISTOTLE ’ S ACCOUNT OF ANGER :, (section 1), 1–23.
O’Carroll, L. (2017, October). Colin Firth expresses shame at failing to act on Weinstein allegations. The Guardian, p. 1. London. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/13/colin-firth-expresses-shame-at-failing-to-act-on-weinstein-allegation

This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my Research Project conducted via the University of Northampton and the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education (CCPE)

Contact: Dwight Turner on info@dwightturnercounselling.co.uk or 07931 233 071 for further details


New YouTube Channel: Being The Other

Being The Other (press the name to be taken through to YouTube) is a channel by the Other, for the Other. Based upon my own doctoral studies, this channel seeks to challenge some of the narrow stereotypes around the experience of being the other, offering a newly developing perspective on experiences as the other.

Please subscribe, follow us on Twitter or Facebook under the same title and I look forward to working with you.


Blog. researchblogoct14tomay15

Previous Blogs

Blog entries from Oct 14 to May 15:

Oct 2014: The Other PT1: Kristeva, Power and the Other
Nov 2014: The Other PT2: When Echo needs to speak up!
Jan 2015: The Other PT3: The problem with the assimilation of the Other
Mar 2015: The Other PT4: Outsider, the Genius
May 2015: The Other PT 6: Encounters with the Other within the global marketplace
Feb 2015: ICON: The black superhero in the Superhero Age


Blog. 6 month blog entries Apr 14 to Sept 14

Blog entries from April 14 to Sept 14:

April 2014: Sozinho - the quest for intimacy
June 2014: Copa de Monde Brazil: An Afrocentric perspective
May 2014: Cosmospirituality - (Part One)
July 2014: Afro-Spirituality explored (Part Two)
Sept 2014: A post-colonial exploration of our Afrocentric identity (Part Three)

This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my Research Project conducted via the University of Northampton and the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education (CCPE)

Contact: Dwight Turner on info@dwightturnercounselling.co.uk or 07931 233 071 for further details



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