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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 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


Brexit: The Political Promise of Privilege

(Published 23rd October 2017)

At the time of writing, it’s been well over a year since the United Kingdom voted to Brexit the EU. Since then, we had the long wait before the official letter of separation was submitted in March of 2017. Yet, whilst the negotiations over Brexit have been proceeding for over six months now, it appears that the Tory Government are struggling to make right what was always an impossible cultural manoeuvre, yet have pledged to see this process through to its bitter, and destructive I will add, end. Looking back though, what has become increasingly important to recognise is just how malleable many of the British public were to the doctrine promoted by those on the right of the debate. I myself had many a discussion (sometimes heated) about long waiting queues at hospitals and in the doctor’s surgeries with former colleagues, and about how the removal of immigrants coming to this country would free up the £350 million to prop up the NHS.

Sadly though, what we have seen since this election is increased austerity, together with the growing acknowledgement (if not so much by those politicians who uttered such nonsense) that their promises were false. What is most interesting though, is just how softly so many of us chose to believe these promises, why we are so reluctant to hold those responsible to account, and what this says about ourselves in the process.

Elitism is a phenomenon that has existed for centuries within this country. It sits at the root of many of the major moments in British history, from colonialism, to the formation of the Church of England, to the emergence of the industrial age and subsequently Capitalism. It is its driving force and has often sold itself as the way we should all be; by adopting English values for example, or by buying British or American goods and services. Yet, in order for it to exist it also needs an underclass who would support it, those of us who are willing to buy into the idea that that which is British, American, or European, is so much better, or more worthy of our attention, than that which is African say. Elitism encourages us to believe we are better than the Other, and should have better than the other. We eat more, we buy more, we demand more, and we go to war for more. It is a system therefore built upon privilege and greed.

Psychologically though, the promotion of this ideal, and our supplication before it is troubling. To understand this a Hegelian approach works, in its suggestion that there is an element within us that wants to be subjugated, and to avoid responsibility for our world (Hegel, 1976). Whilst for Fanon, there would be a suggestion that we all hold elements of that which wishes to be colonised, or to be serfs in this instance, within us, and it is this that allows us to follow (Fanon, 2005; Villet, 2011). Our subservience within this power dynamic means we don’t hold the elite to account, because we have already divested ourselves of all power, and therefore all responsibility for their, as well as our own, actions.

It is a system built upon the promise of access to the ideal. This therefore meant that as long as the other played its role, which is to serve, then the potential carrot will continue to be dangled before our noses. Yet, were we to wake up, to become dissatisfied with our lot, then we are problematised, told we are aggressive, encouraged or forced to shut up. Or, as per the leading Civil Rights protestors in the US right now, they are just plain ostracised.

This political smokescreen though masks a few ugly truths. The first one is that in order for the promise of privilege to work there has to be another, an other, out there upon whom the blame for the perceived lack of that echo can blame. In this case, this is where the immigrant other is created and manipulated. The second aspect is that the promise of privilege, the promise of a seat at the supremacist’s table, is a mirage. The echo majority will never achieve a position equal to that of the privileged few at the top of the mountain, because they took years to get there, and the meagre amounts on offer ultimately amount to very little of consequence, being designed more to temporarily satisfy than to truly sate one’s thirst.

Offering another angle, at a recent conference on Boarding School Survivors Syndrome I was struck by the link between the drive towards elite privilege for so many, and the simultaneous psychological destruction wrought upon many of those same individuals by this archaic educational institution (Duffell, 2014; Schaverien, 2011). The difficult part of this though is that these educational institutions have provided the political elite for dozens of generations. What they have also done is provided a beacon, a lighthouse, that has drawn many towards its academic shores, be they from the former colonies, or other countries around the world. All with the same aim, that of gaining the skills to lead, yet with the same unconscious result; that they care little for community and the relational.

This is the promise of privilege that is the title of this blog this month. This is the promise of supremacy over the serf within us all, or of the class echoes (as we are dealing with a type of cultural narcissism here as well). This is the promise gifted to those who look upwards to said elite for guidance. What I hope so many now recognise is that these promises are not built upon a care for said echoes. No, what the promise does do is it returns power over prosperity back into the hands of those who actually hold real privilege. This is important, because as Duffell (2014), suggests, the elite are uncomfortable with being part of the European community because they see no other option than to lead it. So, to be less than its leader brings up levels of vulnerability, fragility if you will, meaning that the easiest route is to absent one from said relationship. The easiest route for those in privileged positions is not to be equal, it is to lead.

Yet, there is a different danger here, and one that we have seen play itself out many a time during my lifetime. When governments populated by the elite promise the working classes anything (be it shares in a previously government owned company, right to buy houses from the council, or anything else), be careful. The short-term gains only go to serve those at the top of the ladder. For example, although the original right to buy schemes from the 1980 brought in approximately £45 billion, a considerable amount of the properties from that time ended up in the private sector where many of these were then subsequently rented out providing an income to those private owners, or the elite (Cole, Green, Mccarthy, & Pattison, 2014). The promise of privilege therefore also serves another purpose; gentrification. One means of moving on the working class in these same post war years was this same promise of something more.

Ultimately, what I am saying here is that there is a self-serving aspect to this promise, but it is not one upon which the working classes should hang their hat. It is one that will only benefit those above them. The only true means of dealing with this is by following a path which is more relational, and involves increasingly diverse income streams for all, a range that isn’t served by the elite, but would be served by interactions with European others, as well as those from other countries.

One that would ultimately mean the end of the failed Brexit experiment.

References

Cole, I., Green, S., Mccarthy, L., & Pattison, B. (2014). Headline Findings from the Evidence Review.
Duffell, N. (2014). Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and the Entitlement Illusion. London: Lone Arrow Press.
Fanon, F. (2005). Black skin, White mask. (M. Silverman, Ed.). UK: Manchester University Press.
Hegel, G. (1976). Phenomenology of Spirit. USA: Oxford University Press.
Schaverien, J. (2011). Boarding School Syndrome: Broken attachments a hidden trauma. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 27(2), 138–155. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0118.2011.01229.x
Villet, C. (2011). Hegel and Fanon on the Question of Mutual Recognition: A Comparative Analysis by. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 4(7), 39–51.

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


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.


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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