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.
Freedom of Speech and the Other
(Published 24th Sept 2018)
Over the summer months we have here in the United Kingdom witnessed numerous public figures espousing their views then, when there is a backlash, using the caveat of ‘Freedom of Speech’ to protect themselves. From Boris Johnson’s ‘Post Box’ jibes, to more recent discussion of the racism endured by Serena Williams’ following her expression of anger at the US Tennis Open, commentators have felt the need to say what they want without any recourse to retribution. Personally, as a person of colour, and as someone who is comfortable identifying as the Other, the idea that I have the same rights to speak up as someone of the majority culture is actually more of an idea, and less of a reality. I could recount numerous times where my opinions as a POC have been silenced by the majority, not necessarily because I was wrong, but more often because what I said challenged their right to speak up and to be seen as right.
Freedom of speech is a concept that goes all the way back to the time of Socrates, who stated 'If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind... I should say to you, "Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you," showing how much more he valued his right to free speech. Whereas in 1215 the signing of the Magna Carta is often seen as a cornerstone of liberty in the United Kingdom. Often used as something to emphasise one of the benefits of living in a free democratic state, freedom of speech has therefore become culturally engrained here in the West, something that has not really changed much since its inception and discussion by the Greeks and the Romans.
This month though I feel a little as if what I am about to say is obvious, and yet it still needs to be said. My blog this month is prompted by a couple of factors; firstly, the naïve idea that freedom of speech is a universal right, and that everyone has the right to say what they want, when they want (which is already a distortion of its initial meaning, which involved recognising the responsibility that the speaker has for others around them). The second is a consideration of what happens when freedom of speech is combined with a sense of privilege and entitlement. This is important to recognise as it is really quite obvious that freedom of speech in its original forms was always intended as a tool for those of substance and power to use over those they saw as beneath them. The failure to recall this aspect of freedom of speech also sits at the heart of why this edict is actually so oppressive for the other. This them bring up the third aspect, in that the freedom to protest against unfair treatment, to kneel, to march, or to even blog, is a act of speech, or expression, that is also covered by this edict, but is one that when used by the other (as it often is), then it is quite regularly silenced as inappropriate or judged as wrong.
The tying of freedom of speech to freedom of living is problematic for obvious reasons; firstly the injunctions placed upon the Other meaning they were often not allowed, or encouraged to speak up. For example, women needed to hold their tongues and know their places, persons of colour or difference were not seen as free, and were therefore denied the same right to speak up for themselves. In the past, many minority groups would often have to endure horrific punishments for daring to speak up, their progress hindered by the privileges afforded to those who have inherited such power. I could list many examples, but a perfect one emerges out of the paper by Kubrin and Neilson (2014) who point to the underlying unconscious biases, in this case around race, as a reason for these differences in approach to the freedom of artists to express themselves.
This therefore leads to another important point, the fact that freedom of speech is intimately tied to power; from the power to express a narrative, the power to control the collective narrative, the power to disrupt or even erase the narratives of the other. This is something we see today in the manipulations of the press and of a supposedly free press.
In this discussion of freedom of speech there is I feel yet another layer which builds upon that of the idea of power, which is the idea of rightness. As I have discussed in this blog in the past, and in some of my academic articles, there is a narcissistic element to privilege which adds an extra dimension to any discussion with the other. So when freedom of speech, power and privilege combine, the need to be right then means the other has to be wrong, and forced into a position of shame accordingly. A perfect example of this is David Cameron’s ‘calm down dear!’ comment in the Houses of Commons, a statement aimed to horribly defeat the other by putting her down and simultaneously shaming her. The shame aspect is important here as the privileged/narcissist has, in their unconscious comparison with the other, already decided that they need to be better than. They struggle with losing, and their freedom of speak up on a subject, then becomes a conflict, a competition to best the other.
I recall watching on television not so long ago persons of difference, be it that they were discussing race, gender issues, sexuality or some other form of difference, being berated, silenced, and often put down, by persons of the majority, sometimes women, but more often men, as they expressed their experiences of being the other (I would love to list them all here, but given that there are just too many then I suggest for the reader that a quick search on YouTube would present the reader with evidence of just what I am talking about). So, whilst for many of us the freedom to speak up also includes the ability to listen, to hear our conversational companion, so we enter into a relational colloquium from which most of us might learn something, for those who seem to be fighting to maintain their rights to speak freely what they actually mean is they are fighting for their privileges, meaning someone else has to lose.
Kubrin, C. E., & Nielson, E. (2014). Rap on Trial. Race and Justice, 4(3), 185–211. https://doi.org/10.1177/2153368714525411
This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my ongoing exploration into The Other
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
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)
Exposing Transpersonal Privilege
(Published 23rd June 2018)
Over the past few months I have written a couple of published articles on racism, supremacy and privilege (D. Turner, 2018; D. D. L. Turner, 2018). Amongst all these ideas, one aspect of privilege and prejudice that I have neglected to discuss is that held within my own modality; the position of privilege within the transpersonal.
It is worth noting from the beginning that privilege is a very complicated topic, and one that is often rooted in recognising that patriarchy or whiteness are culturally sanctioned expressions of said privilege. Yet, privilege is intersectional, meaning it is much more than that, and within its intersectional nature can encompass anything that situates itself as normal, as right, or as the one. This therefore means that ableism and heteronormativity are considered as forms of privilege, as are many other of the social constructs we have collectively built around ourselves to make our own lives easier or better, whilst simultaneously gifting ourselves power over the others created in our wake.
The transpersonal therefore is no stranger to this social construction of normality. For example, it is worth noting that the transpersonal has often found itself dominated by the voices of white men, those who we have collectively looked towards as the guiding principle within the transpersonal (Wilber, 1996). The directives here have taken the transpersonal along a singular route, and challenges to this, whilst few, have often found their messages blunted by the predominance of supporters of said patriarch (Ferrer, 2000; Washburn & Ph, 2003).
Secondly, I myself have, both here in these blogs and also in articles, been critical of the marginalisation of spiritual voices which should be essential pillars of any understanding of the collective nature of the transpersonal. This privileging of the transpersonal, together with the separating out of the spiritual other, is I feel hugely detrimental to the movement, and speaks of a strong egoic need to use the other to spiritually self-identify, an issue that has been raised in Seifert’s (2007) interesting article questioning the absence of Christian pluralism in favour of a type of privilege that marginalises other ways of worship.
My own criticism of the transpersonal though is less to do with the inherent narcissism that it has unfortunately, in parts, fallen in to (Braud & Anderson, 1998). My criticism is also to suggest that the transpersonal, in following the sadly well-worn route of adhering to the supposed wisdom of the patriarchy, has privileged certain aspects of the spiritual over others. There are numerous visions of the transpersonal that sit without the norms of religious patriarchy (Byrne, 2012). Yet, these voices are often marginalised, not just by those at the pinnacles of the transpersonal, but by the multi-gendered mimics who find comfort in their own spiritual disempowerment, yet simultaneously gain their power from the creation of the transpersonal other.
This has an impact upon how we, say, conduct research within the transpersonal. As a qualitative researcher I recognise there is something quite powerful in watching those who would not necessarily be considered spiritual by the gatekeepers, use their skills, their learnt techniques, to delve into the depths of the unconscious and bring back something worthwhile for us all (and my respect goes out to them always). Yet, this is not an easy process. Whatever the struggle, the inherent potential of transpersonal research when it follows a personally transformative route, comes with benefits for us all. For example, Sela-Smith (2002) considered the difficulties in conducting such research, recognising, I believe, that bridging the spiritual to the earthly was very difficult, potentially painful for the researcher, and yet could offer untold insights from the depths of the unconscious were it to be conducted with courage and commitment to personal change.
The idea that the transpersonal other, as I designate this position, has nothing to offer the mainstream transpersonal are not only extremely arrogant, but are also built out of privilege. Looking at the position of the transpersonal other through a post-colonial lens, Said (1993) recognised the importance of the intellectual other, and its role informing said subject of its flaws and potential, reflecting back that which it refuses to witness, good or bad. The privileging of the transpersonal denies the potential creativity and spirituality which resides outside of the mainstream, reflected by the same transpersonal other, a position which offers an important challenge towards those individuals who arrogantly work so hard to definitively define what the transpersonal, in fact what spirituality, are for us all.
So, my overall idea here is that, from within this position of privilege, where the spiritual world is given preference over the material, there is the sense that the transpersonal has at times turned its back upon the rest of the world, neglecting to add its voice to fights for civil justice, gender rights, the struggles of Brexit, or the other pressing earthly issues of this time. This seems at the very least odd, at the very most quite angry and aggressive, given that the transpersonal, in its ability to reach into the depths of the unconscious for reason and knowledge, has the power to add something quite special to all of these debates.
In fact, the transpersonal, I strongly believe, has a moral, nay spiritual, obligation to bring back whatever knowledge it has gained from the depths of the unconscious and use it for the betterment of those considered (or judged) as less fortunate, less conscious, or less woke. In sometimes removing itself to the fringes, or for some the placing of itself above the rest of the population, the transpersonal becomes a narcissistic refuge. An identity, where the idea of an engagement with the earthly other becomes fraught with fears, ignoring the fact that the feared external other is also the fertile ground of spiritual self-development. To avoid this neo-colonial pitfall, perhaps those within the transpersonal therefore need to recognise the impact of their sense of spiritual privilege, and get their hands, minds, and souls, a little dirty.
Braud, W., & Anderson, R. (1998). Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences. USA: Sage Publications Inc.
Byrne, J. (2012). Why I Am Not a Buddhist Feminist: A Critical Examination of “Buddhist Feminism.” Feminist Theology, 21(2), 180–194. https://doi.org/10.1177/0966735012464149
Ferrer, J. N. (2000). The perennial philosophy revisited, 32(1).
Said, E. (1993). Representations of an Intellectual Lecture 3: Intellectual Exiles. In Reith Lectures (pp. 1–8). London: BBC.
Seifert, T. (2007). Managing the Tensions of Spiritual Plurality WHAT IS CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGE? About Campus, May/June, 10–17.
Sela-Smith, S. (2002). Heuristic Research: A Review and Critique of Moustakas’s Method. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 42(3), 53–88. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167802423004
Turner, D. (2018). Privilege, Shame and Supremacy. Therapy Today, (June), 30–33.
Turner, D. D. L. (2018). You Shall Not Replace Us!: White Supremacy, psychotherapy and decolonisation. Journal of Critical Psychology Counselling and Psychotherapy, 18(1), 1–12.
Washburn, M., & Ph, D. (2003). Transpersonal Dialogue: A New Direction. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 35(1), 1–19.
Wilber, K. (1996). A Brief History of Everything. US: Shambhala Publications Inc.
This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my own post-doctoral research project into our experiences as the Other
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 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 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)