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Dwight Turner Counselling 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.


COVID-19: The Psychological Torture Hidden Within Lockdowns

(Published 5th January 2021)

I think I have written this beginning at least three times since the beginning of January 2021. This new year, as many of us try to affect a cognitive and existential distance from such a horrible last one, was supposed to be a new beginning, a new start, the first steps along the road towards the exit of this pandemic. Yet, here we are in the United Kingdom, under a third national lockdown, prompted by rising infection rates influenced by the mutation of this Covid-19 virus so it has become more infectious, more dangerous to us all.

Looking back, during the first wave of this pandemic, when the lockdowns were first instituted, many considered the experience of being inside to be just like that of being on a spiritual or meditation retreat; that one has a bit of time to turn inwards, one eats perhaps more healthily than one did before for a short time, one watched ones dreams, meditated, prayed and did other psychologically affirming things, all in preparation for coming out the other end a more complete person. The newness of that lockdown, and the spring which rolled in to summer, meant that there was a cheerfulness attached to it; we applauded the NHS on the doorsteps, we baked banana bread, we zoomed and WhatApp-ed with our friends and colleagues and thought nothing of it because we all assumed we were going to be free by the summer. What it also hinted loudly at though was our shadow side. Lockdown brought out the anxious and selfish need to horde goods from our fellow humans (toilet roll anyone?), and it raised the spectre of our instinctual reversion to gendered roles in the home and an increase in domestic violence (Dib et al., 2020). Ultimately for all the kindness of some it has even brought with it an unprocessed harshness in others and in how we relate to each other.

Then the autumn happened. Rates started to rise after we were all lulled to Eat Out To Help Out, that national drive to respread this virus all around the place like thick British butter on an even larger and thicker British sized piece of bread. And as we edged towards autumn we were forced into a second national lockdown, with the nights drawing in, the cold winds blowing in from the north, and the rain keeping all indoors that bit longer. This time the true reality of lockdowns hit for many, their subsequent length, depth and seemingly unending nature bringing with them a sense of anxiety, depression and occasional suicidality, experiences often only hinted at during those first couple of heady months.

This more realistically realised impact of these increasing lockdowns should not be underestimated. In Greece, just this month, there have been reports of the increased levels of mental health distress, culminating in rising suicide rates because of these lockdowns (Fountoulakis et al., 2021). More specifically, the Daily Telegraph (Unknown, 2020) recently reported the that impact upon the BAME of entering numerous lockdowns had led to increased levels of depression, broken sleep and addictive behaviours as just some of the consequences out of many.

In doing research for this blog, my intuition led me to consider lockdowns in connection to the prison system. Prisons by their very nature are designed to assist, or to force, a convict to reflect upon their actions and repent upon ways deemed unfit by said society. Lockdowns therefore have the same psychological impact should the individual wish that. Although obviously anecdotal, many of my friends and colleagues have reflected to me upon their lives pre-lockdown as now not fit for purpose and are actively considering the ways they could change things post-lockdown (spending more time with family for example). But like anyone who has become institutionalised to the world pre-Covid-19 there will be those who will resist this change. Like a psychological defence, they will act out more, use their addictions more, fight against the change more, and struggle to recognise that the world they were borne into has changed beyond recognition in a matter of a couple of years.

Taking this a stage further, we could view lockdowns through the lens of a Supermax, a prison system whereby people are kept confined for up to 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, that one hour of exercise being the only time to see the sky, to feel the wind on one’s face, to meet or see other people. Yet, Supermax prisons come with their own mental health difficulties, problems which are unsurprisingly similar to those being reported already across Europe. As Haney (2003) reported upon how supermax prisons where people are locked away for the vast majority of the day on their own have inbuilt mental health problems as well, again with rising levels of suicidality, and self-harm.

Now this blog is not do denigrate lockdowns, as I am as happy as I can be at lockdowns and all of the measures implemented to contain the spread of the virus (whilst I am also not a fan of anti-maskers, anti-lockdown protests, or any general denier of the toll this pandemic has taken upon us all). Where I have a huge concern is in the upswing in psychological distress brought on not just by the existential crisis embedded with the arrival of Covid-19, but also hidden within the torturous way lockdown has been implemented.

Lockdowns by their very nature bring with them an unnatural enforced means of living. Yes, they are a tool yes designed to keep us safe, but they hold within them major flaws in their rapid creation and inception, flaws which will do nothing less, in my view, than invite the horsemen of the mental health apocalypse riding over the horizon whenever we exit this hell on earth. There is a darkness which has arisen in many during this period, myself included, a shadowy side of our own personalities which has had to come to the surface during this period. Lockdowns, as well as the existential crisis of Covid-19, means that many of us psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists are busier than ever before working with the psychological distress brought on by the sudden stop lockdowns have prompted, and the wider world needs to be aware of this.

As a final personal perspective, a brief story about us, or myself as a practitioner. Late one recent evening down here on the coast I found myself so full up and angry at the state of things that I eventually felt an overwhelming need to just stand up in the driving rain and bellow at the waves as they rolled back and forth before me, feeling a real deep-seated need to express my frustration and anger at the current psychological state of the lockdown world, to release the horsemen War within. I needed this release as even I have found it challenging to be alone at home day after day, maybe with my child, maybe not, sat on a sofa or at my dinner table to work, maybe venturing outside to the shops, yet more often than not I don’t. Sometimes, even I find that this time can weigh heavily upon my head like a crown of bricks fashioned together with mortar. Yet, whilst my call to King Canute was my own means of expressing this rage, it is essential that we all find our individual means of surviving what is coming during these painful winter months ahead.

For example, I know though that I am lucky that for me it is a short drive out in to the countryside, or a short walk to go and sit by the sea, echoing Pouso et al (2020) who discussed the importance of being able to access outside spaces during this lockdown. Yet, whilst I hold this gift, for many others though they will need an increased level of psychological assistance to get through to the end of this pandemic, especially given the mental health challenges located within enforced lockdowns. We need to be aware of this, not only for ourselves, but for our clients, families and friends.

Especially as Winter is Coming…

Take care

Dwight

References

Dib, S., Rougeaux, E., Vázquez-Vázquez, A., Wells, J. C. K., & Fewtrell, M. (2020). Maternal mental health and coping during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK: Data from the COVID-19 New Mum Study. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 151(3), 407–414. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijgo.13397
Fountoulakis, K. N., Apostolidou, M. K., Atsiova, M. B., Filippidou, A. K., Florou, A. K., Gousiou, D. S., Katsara, A. R., Mantzari, S. N., Padouva-Markoulaki, M., Papatriantafyllou, E. I., Sacharidi, P. I., Tonia, A. I., Tsagalidou, E. G., Zymara, V. P., Prezerakos, P. E., Koupidis, S. A., Fountoulakis, N. K., & Chrousos, G. P. (2021). Self-reported changes in anxiety, depression and suicidality during the COVID-19 lockdown in Greece. Journal of Affective Disorders, 279(October 2020), 624–629. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.10.061
Haney, C. (2003). Mental health issues in long-term solitary and “supermax” confinement. Crime and Delinquency, 49(1), 124–156. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011128702239239
Pouso, S., Borja, ., Fleming, L. E., Gómez-Baggethun, E., White, M. P., & Uyarra, M. C. (2020). Contact with blue-green spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown beneficial for mental health. Science of The Total Environment, 756, 143984. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143984
Unknown. (2020). BAME people are hit hardest by depression during lockdown. The Daily Telegraph, July, 2020–2021. https://search.proquest.com/docview/2419580438?accountid=9727



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


Crossroads Burning

(Published 3rd December 2020)

‘Our Very Strength Invites Challenge (Russo & Russo, 2019)

It goes without saying 2020 has been an extraordinary year. A global pandemic, worldwide lockdowns and travel restrictions, whilst infection rates and deaths in the majority of the First World countries in the Global North have risen in waves to levels unseen for several generations. Alongside this there have been successes where countries like New Zealand and Taiwan have worked hard to contain the impact of this virus, bringing their communities together as they fought the virus.

Here in the UK though the disparate response to the coronavirus has involved the unwitting sacrifice of so many in order to minimise the impact upon the financial status of those at the top. So, whilst we have increasing data on the health inequalities already experienced by Persons of Colour, LGBTQ, and the disabled, for example, these have therefore been exacerbated by the pandemic, and are in danger of becoming issues which will not find purchase in any governmental consideration of how best to respond the impact of the lockdowns etc upon said communities.

For example, Black Lives Matter showed up just how much racial distress there has always been laying just under the surface of Global Northern culture. The barely concealed tensions between groups is now out in the open; so those who lifted themselves free of the boot of oppression have been met by those who have been vocally, or even silently, complicit in the oppression of racialised others. For me, the BLM movement brought with it a force majeure within the unconscious compliance of many which had been enabled transgenerationally over the centuries. Any awareness of the systemic racism which then doubly impacts the black communities is in danger of being ignored by the current government’s refusal to recognise racism as a societal factor, and even its drive to manufacture ‘black’ voices to deny the importance of works such as Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.

This though does not just impact the black community. According to the BBC (Lungumbu & Butterly, 2020) gender roles have reverted back to levels not seen for a generation, and there has been an increase in women reporting greater levels of depression and other mental health conditions. This has been mirrored by the LGBTQ community who have reported greater levels of isolation and heightened concerns about substance misuse during this period, amongst other areas as well (The LGBT Foundation, 2020).

For those most wedded to their privileges, be they white, wealthy, able-bodied, heteronormative etc, in a Darwinian system where survival of the fittest is the mantra of a culture, they will more often than not inveigle their way to the top of the ladder, whereby they stay clear of the pandemical, racial, or equality, floods engulfing those beneath them. There is a comfort in the reversion back to the enmeshed collusion with the annals of systemic oppression of the other. So whilst many have reverted back to the patriarchal positioning of their fathers and grandfathers, others have recloaked themselves in whiteness’ culturally manufactured embrace. Conversely, more have found created chaos in the need to use Pride Month to vocalise their anti-Trans sentiments. In order for each of these, and many others, to work though there has to an other to re-marginalise, to reignite a war against, an opposition recreated to hate, to ignore, to fear, whose existence one has to deny. My view of these non-micro, but actually horribly aggressive and calculated attacks upon the other is that they are driven, in part, by the existential threat the pandemic has wrought against these typologies of egoic and cultural supremacy.

This fight against the other is horrific and pronounced right now, and why would it not be thus. The cultural pause created by the pandemic meant that so many of us had the time to stop and take stock of our lives. So whilst many realised that running on the capitalist treadmill was actually killing us, and whilst many others saw the oppression of the others for the first time, yet more realised that the reality they had built around themselves, a reality which afforded them not privilege but positions of supremacy which bolstered their identities, was being threatened by this said cultural staycation.

The idea therefore that we are all wading through this chaos together is therefore a bit of a nonsense. It does not mean that the other is all alone during this time. What it does suggest is that the other needs to find other others, that a banding together of those who have been on the outside is the best means of protecting ourselves from despair’s bony finger of solitude, meaning we come together to wade through these rising waters together.

There are challenges within this, but there is also a glimmer of hope. Whilst that first wave of pseudo-allyship performed by so many, individuals, companies, and countries, has now given way to the reality of those who are truly onside with the Civil Rights of black people, versus those whose very living depends upon the oppression of our many to them ‘coloured’ selves, this here now is the time we as black peoples find ports of safety within this endless turbulent sea of systemic oppression. I watch as this Second Wave approaches, where those embedded within the drives to challenge systemic oppression ask for assistance from myself and the many others whose voices had been loudly silenced before but who now shout it loud, proud and unfettered from the rooftops.

I always end a blog with a personal story, and this year’s one is no different. Whilst this year has been in many ways very powerful and productive for myself, there have also been moments where I have had to cut myself adrift from those whose racial myopia has caused me personal pain. This I have done with some sadness, but also some relief, both at the realisation of the pain I endured in order to reside within such cultural, or work related, constructs, as much as at the growth potential gifted to myself by such a deep seated separation from my racialised persona. The upside is this creates space for so many new friend and allies who for now I will travel with. As we exit the hell that has been 2020, this is the gift I remind you all of.

Take care

Dwight

References

Lungumbu, S., & Butterly, A. (2020). Coronavirus and gender: More chores for women set back gains in equality. BBC News2. https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-55016842

Russo, A., & Russo, J. (2019). Avengers: Endgame. Walt Disney Studios.

The LGBT Foundation. (2020). Hidden Figures: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the LGBT+ communities in the UK (May 2020 - 3rd Edition) (Issue JUne).

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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