Dwight Turner Counselling in Paddington, London

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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.


The Complex within White Supremacy

(Published the 19th August 2017)

Let me begin this extra blog with a dream I had on the day of the American election in 2016. The dream involved myself walking down the road home in West London, where I was raised. I am with a friend. As we make our way hurriedly back to our street, three white men in white t-shirts jump down off their doorstep and approach us. They ask us what we are doing out so late as there is a curfew and we shouldn’t be on the streets as we are black. We’re terrified for our lives, as we know what will happen next if we provide the wrong answer. The men look at us and then start to pummel us into the ground. It is then I wake up with a start.

When Brexit happened, and then the shift to the right in American politics followed it, I remember getting into a conversation with a former colleague (a brexiteer) about my own fears for the future. The conversation turned into a fairly heated argument where I was given that regular rhyme ‘get over it! We won, you lost! Now just be quiet!’ We are no longer friends, and that person is not missed in the slightest. Now, I could talk about the need for power involved in the ‘just be quiet!’ statement, linking this back to the supremacists perspective where the other is not allowed a voice or is afraid to express one, such as discussed by Kristeva (1994). Or, I could discuss how my position as the other involved a futile fight to make such a rigid narcissist see my perspective and, more importantly, acknowledge that even if I was not right that I had the right to one, which is a central tenet to the rights fights of the past century for women, cultural and sexual minorities. Yet I won’t on this occasion, if only because other voices have already taken up this struggle, including on a regular basis myself. What I will say for this month is that watching everything unfold in the US this month, I am not proud to say that, as per the painful dream above, I am one of those people who saw what was coming next.

The Charlottesville riots have been well documented over the past few days. The saddest incident being the innocent protester from the left died at the hands of a white supremacist who got into a car and took his anger at the other out on a crowd of defenceless people (Wilson, 2017). The shocking scenes of angry, mainly male, faces their rage at the other and at the imagined threat towards their supposed superior position etched clearly for all to see. Yet, even though I am here in the United Kingdom, we should not be so naïve as to believe similar can not happen here, as it has already begun. When we recall the impressive image of Saffiah Khan standing up for another woman who was being abused by members of a far right group, we start to see the fear etched upon the faces of some of the majority in the face of the other (Horton, 2017). It is only the level of aggression that is different.

To understand some of just why this level of fear and anger has burst free from its unconscious confines a psyhotherpeutic perspective is important. To begin with, Diangelo (2011) termed this white fragility, where even the minimum amount of stress caused by the appearance, the recognition of, or the rise, of the other, becomes intolerable, leading to an increase in secondary emotions sent to compensate for such a threat. These emotional responses would therefore include such things as anger, rage, etc. From my position as a psychotherapist, I would in addition argue that this fear is formed out of an immense amount of insecurity, insecure feelings which the ego of said members of the majority then protects itself against. Insecurity brought on by the rise of minorities, a black President of the United States, the end of colonialism together with the solidifying of a Europe into one economic block, and/or the movement of refugees from warzones towards Europe. Then when the other the other appears, so does the shadow of the supremacist, where it has to face all the abuse and hatred meted out on said minority. Another root involves the inability of the majority to recognise their own humanity. This lack of humility, in fact it is a fear of being less than perfect, is one of the reasons why so many of these others have been treated so badly in the past, why there have been mass incarcerations, genocides, the illegalising and marginalisation of the other, and the slavery or cultural and gendered minorities. These all work in conjunction to maintain that sense of superiority of said majority.

But there is a route to change for those willing to walk it, albeit I might add an imperfect one. It is not impossible to correct a cultural myth by a close consideration of the historical impact of one’s actions. For example, the denazification of Germany after World War II led to this cultural acknowledgement, and although not in any way perfect this means a whole culture has been educated about their atrocities and feels the shame and guilt of their actions (Taylor, 2011). The problem here is that whilst this programme was enforced by the Allies, nothing similar has taken place amongst the other colonial nations of the Global North, and in fact here in the UK the political policy has been one of the suppression and denial of these same atrocities (Cobain, 2016). The problem here is without any type of re-education process these types of factions will keep on rising up to take their imagined rightful place at the head of the cultural queue.

So, my message this month is not so much for the other, and it is not really for those of the far right who have taken up arms in fear of the other. No, this month my focus is on those of the majority who are silent right now. Those who have been watching what has unfolded across the US this month (this 18 months if you include the election), and around Europe over the past two years, and have done little to nothing. My message is this. Educate yourselves. Read about that which has been hidden from you out of a form of Cultural Narcissism, where the belief is that Europe and America are Supreme and that you can do no wrong. Read about the horrors of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, read about the unbroken line of wars waged by Europeans over the past 100 years, read about the conflicts in Malaysia, Partition in India and Pakistan, the origins of the Vietnam War. Just read. Learn about your past in the way you made a whole nation in 1947. Then take a look into your own hearts, and if you feel no shame, no guilt, no horror, ask yourself why.

Ask yourself, what is it about your cultural identity that has made you such. And ask yourself how you are any different to those men in Charlottesville, to the men marching in Birmingham this spring, to the men in my dream.

References

Cobain, I. (2016). The History Thieves. UK: Portobello Books Ltd.
Diangelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54–70. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/CSWAC/Documents/CSWAC/Research articles/White fragility.pdf
Horton, H. (2017). Saffiyah Khan reunited with woman she stood up for against EDL.
Kristeva, J. (1994). Strangers to ourselves. Columbia: Columbia University Press.
Taylor, F. (2011). Exorcising Hitler: The occupation and denazification of Germany. UK: Bloomsbury Publishing plc.
Wilson, J. (2017). I was in Charlottesville. Trump was wrong about violence on the left.

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.


The Dr Dances: A psychotherapists personal blog on becoming a Doctor

(Published 22nd May 2017)

This month I wanted to write a more personal blog post than usual given the difficult global events of the past 12 months, and as it is important to recognise when something positive has come into one’s life. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I was recently awarded my Doctorate at the end of my personally driven 5 ½ year project to ascertain and understand the unconscious experience difference, entitled ‘Being the Other’. It is a project I am very proud of, and one that has fuelled my passion for this page during the 3 years since this blog’s inception. Discussing the other, and giving the other a voice, is also something I will be continuing to do for the foreseeable future as well with additional YouTube and Facebook pages providing a continuing forum for the other as the world shifts unsteadily around the issues of difference and diversity.

This research project though has not been without its difficulties. From the start, there were the obvious reactions against my undertaking such a training; put downs, minor aggressions, and other incidents often hit like little barbs. Sometimes, it was hard to know where these were coming from, or why. The strangest thing about these is the impact they had along the way. Given this was a study about difference and being the other, what these actually served to do was to make me exactly that; the other. So, to borrow from the words of an Eminem (2005) track, The Way I Am ‘they feed me the fuel for the fire’, meaning all they eventually served to do was propel me forward to prove my haters wrong. What I should acknowledge though is one thing, a relevant question in the shadows that deserves an attempt at an answer. Just how does doing a PhD in psychotherapy change you as a therapist, or even more broadly as a person?

Well, professionally completing this undertaking has gifted me the chance to work in academia at a prestigious university, where I have the chance to take my research forward and build upon it in some, as yet undetermined, fashion. Along the way I have also presented at conferences both nationally and internationally, and published over half a dozen papers on my research and my ideas. These are not the experiences of someone who has not changed or developed as a therapist. These are obviously some of the means by which this research has given me back my voice, my sense of self, my authenticity. There is change therefore, in my even being on the field of play, and with my scoring my first goal(s) as a doctor of psychotherapy. Whilst there are a few good doctors of colour within my field, I know I am joining a rare breed (one even more so I strongly suspect within the ranks of the transpersonal). The importance of this should also not be underestimated given that before I became a psychotherapist, in fact when I left school at 16, I departed with no more than 3 ‘O’ Level qualifications, was working in Safeway, and really had no idea of where I was going to end up. To find myself now working within an academic setting is a huge shift, a major achievement, and I have a duty to myself and others not to deny that.

Culturally, there has been humbling recognition as well. In 2014 I had the pleasure of taking part in ‘Black Men on the Couch’ as part of the Stereohype festival in Stratford. The event involved my ‘interviewing’ Paul Cannoville, the first black footballer at Chelsea FC, about his experiences during this time (Canoville, 2008). Although not a therapy session as such, it was still interesting to watch him talk about his experiences of racism from the home fans as much as the away ones, and of his being told that his goals didn’t count as they weren’t scored by someone white (the ironic comparison in experiences has not escaped me). Whilst, in 2015 I was invited to take part in the documentary ‘Looking for Love’ (Shabazz, 2015), an important, funny, and informative exploration of love and relationships within the Black British community. Both, events were humbling and important for myself in the recognition of not only my experience, but also my burgeoning position within my own cultural community. And when I write about being the other, I often do so with one eye on how my community might view my words and experiences.

Next, onto a personal level now. A large section of my research involves a heuristic exploration of what it was to be the other, my own relationship to otherness (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, 2002). Where this was important though was that for heuristic research to be fully effective one tenet is that it has to change the researcher (Moustakas, 1990). This it has in many varying ways, some subtle, some less so, but all leading to my taking a more dominant, less culturally submissive path in my own life. To expand this just a little, there is a move from being a token, where one is inauthentic but allowed to play the role given it by the majority, to playing a more active, more authentic, role that is often most threatening for the majority. I will probably write more formally about this in an article at some point, but I now strongly believe that a route to decolonisation for a minority is to explore, understand, and reconnect with one’s own experience of being the other. This is the means to free oneself from the chains of psychological slavery (Akbar, 1984).

As a final point, and without making this month’s blog too dry, I would like to end with some stats that I have come up with whilst procrastinating and not writing up my thesis (a common theme for PhD students, and something I used to do just to drive myself a little bit more crazy than I probably already am). With all the checks and balances universities have in place in the form of regular supervisions, transfer and research proposal seminars, a project like this cannot be undertaken as a hobby. It’s just too big, and it needs commitment, and perseverance as the days of an individual taking 10 years to complete a doctorate have long gone. From my own perspective, this study therefore needed its own dedicated time and space to flourish. A very rough estimate reveals that I studied for 15 hours per week, for 45 weeks of the year. So, over the 5 ½ years this meant I undertook 3795 hours of study. Now, in order for me to maintain my UKCP registration as a psychotherapist I have to complete 250 hours of Continued Professional Development (CPD) over each 5 year period of my registration, with no less than 20 hours in any one year (UKCP, 2015). That means that I have completed,… well I tell you what, you can work that out for yourselves!

So, returning to the theme of this month’s blog, bringing all this together, the one thing that was always going to help me to succeed was simply faith. Faith in my project. Faith in my incredible supervisors. The faith of those who made me keep going. And finally, faith in myself. And the results presented here, which are just a few of many, underline the sheer amount of work that has gone into gaining my doctorate. The completion of this many hours of personal development, together with the desire to understand my own and others human nature, and the recognition of the personal cultural struggle in overcoming such prejudices, is a hugely important factor within all of this. It is hard to see how I couldn’t be so much more than I was after all the pain, struggle, and effort that has gone into this study. A struggle I do not regret. Yet, one that I could not have completed without the help of many people, including, last but not least, yourselves the readers of this blog.

So, this month's blog is for you.

Cheers

Akbar, N. (1984). Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery. USA: New Mind.
Canoville, P. (2008). Black and Blue: How Racism, Drugs, and Cancer almost destroyed me. London: Headline Publishing Group.
Eminem. (2005). Curtain Call. US: Polydor Group.
Merleau-ponty, M. (1962). The Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge.
Merleau-ponty, M. (2002). The World of Perception. London and New York: Routledge.
Moustakas, C. (1990). Heuristic Research Design, Methodology and Applications. UK: Sage Publications.
Shabazz, M. (2015). Looking for love. UK: Verve Pictures.
UKCP. (2015). UKCP Policy for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

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


Reframing White Fragility: A personal exploration of the unconscious experience of meeting the other

(Published 24th April 2017)

I have recently returned from a break in Turkey with my family, a beautiful country, with good people, good food, and good weather. Whilst there though, I was struck by my reaction one very important factor, a reaction that meant I had to spend some time sitting with myself to understand what I was actually experiencing. What happened was quite simple, and centred around how friendly everyone was towards my daughter. Still under two years old, and the apple of her father’s eye, I was struck by how much attention was showered upon her; from those wanting to talk to her, pick her up and play with her, to those who would come and sit with us and wanted to feed her whilst myself and my wife were sat right there at the dining table. My daughter loved the attention, and I should strongly state she was in no way under any threat, but watching this interaction between her and not just the Turkish nationals, but also those from Eastern Europe, Russia and Germany, had me feeling quite anxious at times. As a researcher, and as someone who asks questions of my own experience, I was left with the obvious one this month of why was I so nervous? And how is my reaction connected to my research into being the other?

Then, whilst I was there in Turkey, I had a dream on the 16th of April which I believe is relevant. The dream went like this: I am at a gathering with Calum and Patricia (who in this dream are fellow PhD students and have recently completed their own studies). We are in a bar somewhere celebrating our successes. As we finish and get up to leave, we exit out onto a busy street, with cars rushing by in both directions. The others say their farewells and we all head off in our separate directions. As I turn to leave though, I am accosted by three men of colour, two of whom I know are named Aeolus and Sisyphus. They attack me and steal from me, killing me in the process. I wake up puzzled by the dream.

This dream made an interesting connection to my holiday dilemma I feel for several reasons. One of the first things I should state though is that I know nothing about Greek Mythology, so unless I am recollecting some memory from my childhood days that I have blocked out as it was, perhaps, too traumatic, then I suspect something else to be at play this month. Something that makes this dream especially important. This dream was an act of the collective unconscious giving me some important information about my anxiety. Why do I think this? Well, firstly, my lack of knowledge about Aeolus and Sisyphus meant I had to spend a couple of hours reading up on the mythology behind them. This meant that I firstly discovered Sisyphus’ connection to the underworld and his attempts to avoid death, and his father Aeolus’ ability to control the winds (Unknown, 2017a, 2017b). Secondly, the link to my PhD on difference and the encounter with the Other is implied here by the presence of fellow PhD students who have also completed their studies. And lastly, I am a prolific dreamer. Since 2002 I have probably recorded (and this is a rough estimate here) some 2500 dreams. Dreams played a large part in my PhD research, and I have had dreams like this about mythology before where things are changing and I am about to die, or at from an alchemical perspective my egoic sense of self is (Hamilton, 2014). What these do though is they always lead to a period where I’m challenging of my own conscious scripts.

What the dreams do not do though is explain my initial anxiety over the treatment of my daughter. This is where the discourse around Whiteness theory then becomes useful, but not necessarily for the reasons one might think. For example, considering White fragility which emerges out of this discourse, this is often raised as a point where the Western majority becomes anxious during any interaction with the other (Diangelo, 2011). What the majority then does is act regularly with overt aggression towards the other, or just as often passive aggressively, to drive the other away or in an attempt to control it. The problem with these ideas is they are posited as being emergent only from a majority culture, and say little of either how this system of whiteness, where Whiteness is more than supposed racial bracketing but to do with a system of power over the other, becomes internalised by those raised within its confines (Ahmed, 2007). They also say little about the unconscious conflict the other undergoes when raised within such an environment, a conflict between the internalised narcissism of the majority and the unconscious other which is attempting to make one wake up.

It is this grandiosity which I was challenging I feel in staying with my anxiety and allowing my daughter to just enjoy her meetings with the cultural other. So, whereas many of my British compatriots found the experience of meeting a culture where family still means so much difficult, although not perfect I did my best to allow my daughter to experience a different cultural experience, something which I hope she will learn from as she grows and interacts more regularly with the other. To explore further, in the more individualised culture I live within there is an immense fear of the masculine; for example, children are taught about ‘stranger danger’ on a regular basis and issues of abuse and abduction are a regular occurrence in the news (Aboud, 1988). Where these other cultures are more family and community based there is an allowance for the position of children as central to the collective project. What I mean by this is children do not have their parent’s cultural anxieties projected onto their every interaction with other adults, as these anxieties are mitigated by the abundance of other close knit family members, community members and elders. This does not mean abuses do not happen, because they do, and it would be naïve of me to ignore this. What this means is that the burden of safety is passed outwards to more trusted adults than just the typical nuclear family, or increasingly the single parent family, of Western Europe. So, what we forget is that white fragility is more than just that. It is a cultural fragility caused by both the encounter with a cultural other, yet also preceded by an over-identification with one’s own cultural norm. It is when these two come into contact that the anxiety, and therefore the conflict ensues.

The most interesting point in this story though centred around two more short stories that bracketed my break in Turkey. The first one was witnessing the white ‘Englishman’ sitting by the pool reading a book entitled ‘England for the English’ whilst surrounded by Germans, Russians, Asians and Turkish people. The second one was the lovely taxi driver from Pakistan who collected my family from the airport and who, without any prompting from me I should add, regaled us with stories about the importance of family and community and his own connection to both on our journey home. In looking at both these final stories, they show me just how conflicted, and how difficult a balance I have to strike, between living in a land where the family unit is becoming culturally singularized and where I am therefore seen as a threat. To one where the cultural collective means safety and community, and brings with it affection and care.
For my daughter, I know which one I would choose.

References

Aboud, F. E. (1988). Children and Prejudice. Basil Blackwell Limited.
Ahmed, S. (2007). A phenomenology of whiteness. Feminist Theory, 8(2), 149–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464700107078139
Diangelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54–70. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/CSWAC/Documents/CSWAC/Research articles/White fragility.pdf
Hamilton, N. (2014). Awakening through dreams: the journey through the inner landscape. London: Karnac Books Ltd.
Unknown. (2017a). Aeolus. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeolus
Unknown. (2017b). Sisyphus. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus

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


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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