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.


Competition, Narcissism and the destruction of the Other

(Published 28th May 2018)

‘Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her’. (Lao & Mitchell, 1999)

On the 14th of June 2018, the World Cup of Football kicks off in Russia. As a fan of football, and as someone who enjoys watching sports on the whole, I will be one of the millions of people around the world avidly watching the footballing drama unfolding as 32 teams fight it out to be the winner of the most prestigious prize in football. The two teams will meet, national anthems will be played, and both teams will go out and do their best to best the other, before coming off the field at the end of the game if not friends at least able to swap shirts and appreciate the efforts of their competitors.

When the other is given this type of respect then this type of interaction with the subject deemed better, stronger, faster than they are can be hugely beneficial. This is when the other learns more about who they are, their capabilities, their worth, and also what they have to offer to the subject, be it skills, money, their cultural/gender/other difference and experience.

This idea of competition can be very different though for that which is made out to be the other. For the other in these circumstances, the idea of competition can literally be a life or death event. It can be incredibly scary, can lead to huge amounts of anxiety, and an increased sense of worthlessness, an emotion possibly already present by the very fact they are the other in the first place. The important aspect though is to work out just what it is about their interactions with the subject that seem to lead to such strong feelings and fears.
In this blog though, I seem to spend a lot of time talking about the self-serving aspect of the subject; its narcissism, and its need to dominate the other. When it comes to sports this is no different, but it is tempered. Let me offer you an example. When Usain Bolt won the 100 meters gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, he did so with a single-minded belief that he was the best athlete on the track at that time. With that belief, he ran his race, won, and celebrated his success. What he also did though is the most important part. Before beginning his lap of honour, he went back to his fellow competitors and shook each and every hand there, commiserating and congratulating I am sure. This is the example of a competitor who remembers the relational aspect of being the best, that he can only be the best in connection with the others around him. He doesn’t need to destroy the other, as they are there as motivation for him, as he is for them.

The narcissist thought doesn’t care about the other in this way. The narcissist uses the other as a constant form of comparison, and they hate it if this comparison works against them in any way. For example, this negative comparison will often lead to a sense of envy, which if left uncontained will lead to the destruction the other. For these types, the constant seeing themselves in centrifugal relationship to the externalised other is, underneath the grandiose defence, a painful experience (Zondag, 2005), one where their own fragile sense of self is actually under constant bombardment by the projected presence of other aspects of their identity they have chosen to deny. The competition leads to them destroying that which they deem to be ‘not them.’

The idea of a relationship with the other is anathema to them. For them the other must be destroyed, must be silenced, and must forever be seen as less than. In fact, I often think of the word destroyed as being too mild in these cases, and that for the narcissistic subject the other must be truly annihilated for the worth of the subject to be truly confirmed. They must not just be destroyed. They must actually cease to have ever existed.

From my position as the Other, and through watching this play out in many arena, this competition can take many varying forms. It can come in the form of anything from passive aggressive put downs, to racist, sexist, prejudicial jokes, to the silencing of the other, to choosing to ignore the other, to denying the other its rights. The narcissistic subject competes with the other in order to maintain its own (fragile) sense of superiority, and will do so by a variety of means (including in the sports arena the taking of performance enhancing drugs). This narcissism therefore leads to a flight to privilege for the subject, a privilege that involves their expressing their own pseudo-superiority. It is this that is most frightening for the other, as for the other to survive it has to mould itself to the demands of the subject; for example, by allowing itself to be assimilated, by giving up that which makes it different and unique, or by finding some other means to ‘rid’ itself of its uniqueness (with projecting this aspect outwards onto other others being one form of this shedding of otherness).

So even though I will be rooting for my favourite team during the World Cup (I won’t say who just to save myself from ridicule), one thing I will also be doing is raising a glass of something cold to the underdogs, to the Others of the footballing world. Out of respect, and out of recognising the worth of their otherness.

It is what my humanity, in fact what our mutual humanity begs us all to do.

References

Lao, T., & Mitchell, S. (Translator). (1999). Tao Te Ching: An illustrated journey. London: Francis Lincoln.
Zondag, H. (2005). Between imposing one’s will and protecting oneself. Narcissism and the meaning of life among dutch pastors. Journal of Religion and Health, 44(4), 413–426. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-005-7180-0

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

Contact: Dwight Turner on [email protected] or 07931 233 071 for further details


The Shepherd Boy: Tears of the Other

(Published the 1st May 2018)

There is a mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it and an hour to go around it.

I would like to begin this month’s blog with a couple of stories, the meanings to which will become more apparent as you read down the page. The first one involves one of my experiences at school. When I was around 13 or 14 years of age, I was already finding school difficult. What I now understand to be structural racism impacted upon meant that I found myself losing interest in what I was being taught. The one subject I did enjoy though was English. In fact, it was one of the subjects I excelled at. Yet, one year I ended up with the poorest of teachers, a new teacher so devoid of ability that he managed to suck all of the life out of what had previously been a subject that brought me so much joy. Still I tried to do my best, even given the circumstances. At the end of the year, when the teacher read out my marks, inevitably only got around 55% in my final year examination. “Well done,” that teacher said to me. “I didn’t think you had it in you.” I was left feeling a mixture of shame and surprise at his reaction to my marks.

The second story is actually from my home life. When I was maybe 9 years old, I had already learnt (mostly on my own) the importance of saving my own money if I wanted something in particular. On one occasion, I don’t recall what I wanted to buy, but I do remember that I had saved around £15 out of my pocket money in order to buy it. Yet, when I went to my room to gather the money, I found it was missing. Obviously, I went to my father to complain. Yet, when I did so I was immediately told to shut up, to go away, to not bother him with such trivial matters. Even though I knew who stole the money, I was never able to prove it.

Every 100 years, a little bird arrives. It sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain, and eventually, when the entire mountain has been chiselled away, a second of eternity will have passed.

Patriarchal privilege and supremacy went hand in hand when I was a child. I was painfully blessed with a father who, I suppose, was threatened by mere presence; even though I was not even 10. And yet, there I was, a threat that needed to be moulded, that needed to be broken in the cruellest of fashions. I often wonder if beyond the world of the coloniser, this is one of the ways that the supplication of the other is learnt, in the home, at the hands (the fists, the belt, the slipper) of the familial patriarch.

School followed a more obvious path though. The supremacy of the teacher meant he never had to consider his role in the dip of my marks. He never considered the fact that in the years prior and post, my ability in English lessons was actually quite good, and once I was rid of him I went back to having confidence in my own ability again. There is a power inbuilt within privilege, a power that refuses to be challenged, that refuses to be chiselled away by the beak of a small mere bird, but in its arrogance believes in its own never changing, never altering superiority.

Supremacy, however enforced though, means that the other will always encounter obstacles against its progress, against its success. And like the 9-year-old boy, it often doesn’t even realise it.

You may think that’s a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird.

I haven’t though forgotten about the third story. This one happened during the current Windrush Scandal (“Windrush Crisis: 200 MPs tell Theresa May to enshrine promises in law,” 2018), where literally thousands of persons who had either travelled with the Windrush, or were children of the generation who stayed, have been summarily rounded up for not having the correct papers, and secretly deported back to countries they have little or no knowledge of. Whilst I was standing up for those who have been impacted by the scandal on Twitter, the voices of the right, right on cue, decided to take aim, telling me that I was not a real doctor, that I should also be deported back to wherever I have come from (and a few other things besides).

All of these stories have had an impact in one way or another, and although I am obviously more robust now as an adult than I was an 8-year-old, dealing with the supposed supremacy of the subject, be they that teacher, that parent, or that faceless individual on Twitter. A supremacy that is threatened by mere presence, by my actions, by my ability to do things from an early age that they always believe I shouldn’t and can’t.

Through the tears of the other then, through the sadness of my otherness, one thing remains a constant. A subtle, sharp, driving force. That energy encouraging the path to individuation that kept the 8-year-old going, even when he wept like the boy he was in his childhood room, even as he sat drenched in the shame of his otherness at school, even as he resists the fear and the anger of the right. And he does so because there is a force within him, within the other and therefore within us all who are outsiders, that strives for more, that fights to self-identify, that fights for equality, that rights wrongs and refuses to hide away. A spark that kneels, or chains itself to something meaningful, or writes, or speak, for truth, to the truth.

So, when I look back at these stories, from when I was 8, to when I was 14, to last month, I am staring back down the long route of my personal history, littered as it is by the actions, the supposed supremacy of the subjects, both at home and, more so, out there in the world. I also though see the determined, deliberate, consistent footsteps of a boy, a teenager, of a man, who even if he didn’t know why, or doesn’t know why, has always kept on going. I see the bird whose beak chiselled out the insides of the diamond mountain. So, from where I am, with my qualifications and my achievements, I recognise this is a hell of an achievement, and celebrate that I have always been a hell of a man.

Happy Anniversary from all of us at Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd

Dr Dwight Turner


References

Windrush Crisis: 200 MPs tell Theresa May to enshrine promises in law. (2018, April). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/29/windrush-crisis-mps-theresa-may-enshrine-promises-law

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 [email protected] or 07931 233 071 for further details


Shut Up!: Silencing the Other

(Published 22nd March 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 feel it is important to consider one of the most used forms of control of the other; the taking away of the Other’s voice.

During February 2018, Stormzy, the wonderful Grime Artist, whose work I believe reveals the fire in the belly of change for his generation, performed at the Brit Awards, the annual celebration of music here in the United Kingdom. During his performance though, he made reference (rightly in my opinion) to the Grenfell Tower horrors, and the subsequent failures of the current Tory government to care for the former residents of the towers as he felt they should have done.

The interesting part of this display actually arrived the next day, when the Daily Mail castigated Stormzy for not showing enough gratitude towards his ‘adopted’ home (Platell, 2018). Now, even taking into account the fact Stormzy was born here in the UK, the idea that he is not allowed a voice is an important one when we consider the role of the other, as is the idea of the implied message in the article; that the other needs to be quiet and not speak out against any perceived injustice.

Within these blogs, I have written before about the invisibility of the other in film and media, and this is a similar form of silencing, where the story of the other is disregarded, and the subject distances itself from having to hear the stories of the other as they might change the authenticity of their own. I have also considered this through the lens of the rising #metoo hashtag, and the irrelevant fragility of so many men who felt the need to say not them. It is therefore important for this month’s blog post to again highlight just how the silencing of the other is actually another form of emotional abuse attached to the initial horrors endured by that same other.

Theoretically this is important to consider. For example, in her paper on the experience of Black Germans, Freidrich (1998) talks about silencing as a form of social exclusion, presenting an example where a student is denied a voice when faced with criticism of the quality of her work (excellent) by her teacher. There is a similarity here with those from the Grenfell, and their subsequent struggles to have their voices heard by a council, and a government, that seems to be avoiding their many calls to action.

Another example arises out of Spivak’s writings, who saw the silencing of oppressed groups by those who were positioned to speak for them as a form of oppression, an aspect echoed by Bhabha (Morton, 2003). Levinas, the incredible philosopher, recognised the voice as a call to power. As Hand stated, ‘Levinas first evokes a Platonic world where knowledge is identified with vision, or a Heideggerian world where truth is disclosure, and observes how in each case an ‘economy’ of the same turns the other into a theme, and silences it,’ (2009, p. 55). So if the truth is disclosure for Heidegger, then the story of Stormzy, and the attempts to tell him to Shut up, conversely speak of the subject’s attempts to silence the other, to deny the other a voice which might embarrass it into doing what it should have done in the first place, which in this case would be to care for those of the Grenfell. The lack of self-awareness of those who have criticised him for his performance is therefore more about being faced with a reality they had tried to avoid, together with the shame of their inactions. Then by denigrating the other they hope to once more rid themselves of this shame they feel for their actions. It is a bit like if the other asks to be seen as human, then the subject has to avoid responsibility for another human, no matter that they are working class, from a differing culture, and actually relate to them as if they are their own. Their ability to objectify the other here fractures this potential relationship, and I could argue here actually shouts of an implied sense of privilege and superiority within the subject world in its ignoring, its denigration, in all it’s silencing of the other.

As always, I negotiate these blog posts not just as an academic and researcher whose interest is in the experiences of being the Other, but also as someone who frequently experiences the painful experience of othering, by peers, by friends, by colleagues, and even by partners. Let me offer you an example; when I completed my doctoral studies amongst the congratulations etc. stood out two similar interactions. On both occasions the individuals told me that I should not get too cocky, or too big for my boots. The comments stayed with me, and my consideration of them is that they are of a similar field to Stormzy’s experience at the hands of the Daily Mail. The idea that you have a platform, that you yourself have earned, is a threat to some subjects and their oftentimes stereotypical experiences of the other. So speaking up, or using that platform in order reflect uncomfortable facts back towards the subject is actually, I would argue, a moral imperative. In fact, Said (1993) argued as much in his series of talks not long before his death, that should the other have the platform to speak up and say something important for society, that to not do so threatens stunting the growth of said society in turn. This does not mean these views will be easy for the subject to hear. It does mean they have a responsibility to hear the words said, or sung, and to feel their impact. And it is meant to cause them the kind of guilt, shame, and pain that they can eventually learn from, should they wish to.

References

Friedrich, A. (1998). The “Other” from within: Afro-Germans as Scapegoats for the post-WWII German Society, 1–20.
Hand, S. (2009). Emmanuel Levinas (Routledge Critical Thinkers) (Vol. 53). New york: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2265.2011.00689.x
Morton, S. (2003). Routledge Critical Thinkers: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. London and New York: Routledge.
Platell, A. (2018). Platell’s People: Can’t you show a scintilla of gratitude, Stormzy? Retrieved March 8, 2018, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-5429041/Platells-People-Stormzy-gratitude.html
Said, E. (1993). Representations of an Intellectual Lecture 3: Intellectual Exiles. In Reith Lectures (pp. 1–8). London: BBC.

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] or 07931 233 071 for further details



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