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.
What a Summer of Self-Care Means for The Other
(Published 10th July 2019)
At the time of writing this month’s blog, I am aware that a very many of my followers on Twitter, Facebook and through my website would see themselves as different, or the other, in some way or means. I have also watched an increasing number of people on twitter, people who often stand up for social justice, express their need to take some time off from social media in order to deal with the demands of standing up for not just oneself but for many, but also to deal with the vitriol and ire aimed at them by so many faceless individuals.
Being the other a tough. What I mean by this is that by truly being the other, and not being an echo for a subject, there has to be a huge shift in personal perspective in order for this to become established. It involves the (re)emergence of a sense of self-identified self which is separate to the subject. It also involves the echo risking the punishments of the subject should it refuse to be projectively identified with said shadow of the subject.
As I have written about before, there is a cost to being the echo; be it neurological, psychological, physical or spiritual. Holding the hated split off projections of a subject is difficult enough for psychotherapists. For this to happen on a group/collective level suggests that we, the other, all live encased in hate, like a bee in amber.
What this also says is that Identity, or more importantly the fixed ego identity of the subject, together with the ability to maintain said egoic structure, also contains within itself a sense of privilege. Within this aloofness of the subject is also the additional privilege that they might rest whilst the echo holds its othernesss at bay, being the shadow for said subject at all times. The reasoning being that to become said other is to risk stretching free of the amber, to risk being themselves, to risk freeing themselves of the hate aimed at them.
For the other, what this means is there is a daily struggle to survive within an environment not their own. Not only do they have to fine means of negotiating white spaces, men’s spaces, heteronormative environments, ableist spaces, or any other arena where they would be marked out as the outsider. Some of that survival means learning how to deal with the constant barrage of hate aimed at them for being different. This could be by finding adaptive ways of being, for example, be they by building up a double consciousness in order to survive the experiences of negotiating these spaces, or by becoming said echo to serve the subject, thereby entering into a contract whereby part payment is a sense of safety, however temporarily.
Regarding double consciousness, Du Bois wrote about the phenomena ‘it is a peculiar sensation this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity’ (1903, p. 5). Although written over 100 years ago, this sense of always having to doubly be aware of oneself in order to keep oneself safe is still as much a factor of life for the other now as it was then. A very recent paper on research into the experiences of Muslim women utilised this idea as a means of understanding their struggles in negotiating American spaces (Johnson, 2019).
The tricky nature of engaging with environments not of ones own is obviously not just located with the politics of race. The prevalence of hate crimes against the other means the other often has to find ways and means to negotiate the contempt and pity of said subject. This could be anything from same sex couples not holding hands in public, to women adapting their dress in male environments, to those with disabilities hiding these away. Often these adaptive behaviours are enforced upon the other so as not to draw unwanted attention and aggression, yet also on many an occasion these adaptations serve as no shield at all (Haider, 2016; Litvinova, 2018; Yeung, 2016).
This enforced doubling up of consciousness is at the very least tiring, at most it is a form of self-harm which when one does so continually can lead to all kinds of psychological, physical and spiritual distress as previously stated. Then when one is engaged within the very real struggle to self-identify, the issue of the shadow of said subject rises to the surface and the struggle begins. How dare they stand up for themselves, those uppity… (I will let you fill in the blanks, as no matter what the otherness there will be a similar type of phrase aimed at said other)…
I remember on one occasion in my therapy many years ago, saying to my therapist that I often felt I could be more myself when I was walking around the streets of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, than I did when I walked the streets of West London, where I was born and raised. My therapist back then asked me why that might have been, and back then I did not have an answer for her. I now know that feeling a sense of safety, that the European otherness of the black aspect of my intersectional identity was an acceptable aspect of my identity whilst I travelled through East Africa. I had no need to repress it, to don a hoodie in an attempt to hide it. I could be myself without fear of retribution. It is one of the reasons I always found returning to London post holidays so difficult, as I often felt that my journey through the customs gates at Heathrow airport not only involved the checking of my Britishness in my passport, but also returned to me the cultural straightjacket of my echoism.
So, as I write this month’s blog, I recognise that for myself the need, nay, the importance of resting in my own space, amongst my own people, or even just on my own on retreat, are some of the ways and means that I personally have to readjust back in to myself during these long months of multiple adaptations. Over these summer months I therefore wish the same for all of those who follow this page. For all of you who are The Other.
Du Bois, W. E. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. USA: Amazon Classics.
Haider, S. (2016). The Shooting in Orlando, Terrorism or Toxic Masculinity (or Both?). Men and Masculinities, 19(5), 555–565. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X16664952
Johnson, A. (2019). Throwing our bodies against the white background of academia. Ethics in/of Geographical Research, 108. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12568
Litvinova, D. (2018). LGBT hate crimes double in Russia after ban on “gay propaganda.” Retrieved September 14, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-lgbt-crime/lgbt-hate-crimes-double-in-russia-after-ban-on-gay-propaganda-idUSKBN1DL2FM
Yeung, P. (2016). Brexit: BBC journalist called a 'n****r’ as post-EU referendum race hate crime spikes. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/trish-adudu-brexit-bbc-journalist-eu-referendum-race-hate-crime-a7115476.html
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
Discovering Dignity as the Other
(Published 1st June 2019)
As this is my birth-month I thought I would once more publish a more personal blog, beginning with this dream:
“I am taking part in a swimming medley relay race. I am aware that I am not the greatest swimmer, but I only have to do the first leg of my medley. I am the only competitor of colour, everyone else is white and male. The race starts, and I am in the middle of the pack as I come to the end of my leg, but then I realise my colleagues have abandoned me, and I have to keep on swimming out of a sense of dignity for myself. As I swim though, I get better and stronger, learning each new stroke in turn, and even when I see a white man in my lane, I realise I am doing quite well. The last lap is the back stroke, and I realise I am actually quite good at this stroke, turning like a professional. As I end the swimming race, I realise I have actually won.”
Although this past 12 months has held many positives professionally, it has also been an incredibly difficult year for me personally. Life changes have meant a total re-evaluation of many areas of my personal life, including those I have in the past chosen to call friends. There are always lessons to be learnt along the way though, and the above dream, from the end of March this year, when I was in the midst of a lot of drama, highlights some of the more psychological aspects of these life changes.
As the dream symbolises, one of the toughest things about Being The Other, comes with staying ones course, even whilst dealing with those who cause one problems, and the abandonment of those who are there to support. All the while whilst maintaining one’s dignity. In the unconscious denial of the same rights as every other competitor, there is an internalised privileging of the subject. Even within the dream, this reinforcing of the superiority of the subject is designed to provoke. It is as if the enemy wants the other to be riled up, to constantly fight, to react, in order to reinforce its narrow visions of just who the other is and justify their own fear of the other. It will get in the way, it will block, deny entry for those who would support the other in their desire to succeed.
Although unconscious, this pattern is fairly common in the fight for social justice. So also is the ability of the other to act with dignity when faced with superior forces when confronted with the oppressive power of the Subject. From the suffragettes chaining themselves to the gates of parliament (Beauvoir, 2010), to Martin Luther King’s marching for voting rights (Kindig, 2015), to the numerous marches Harvey Milk undertook to protest for gay rights (Van Sant, 2008), where the fight has found its grounding, and eventually succeeded most of all is when it has been delivered powerfully, consistently, but always with dignity. This is not to say there is weakness in this approach, or that the other does not fight back. Quite the contrary. Yet, the other does so by using the most powerful weapon that it has in its arsenal; dignity.
Dignity, in its root form, speaks of being able to self-identify, to recognise that one is entitled to respect (Lebech, 2004). It is the recognising that one is human, that one is not less than, that one is not inhuman, and therefore that one exists as an entity in one’s own right. Where the struggle starts though is when the fight is made to be about gaining that respect from those not willing to give it. This is a major flaw in the striving for dignity, I believe. As per the dream, dignity for those who truly have it emerges from within, and emerges out of the trials and tribulations endured. It is like a star burning brightly but in the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Even though its light might take a trillion years to reach the Earth, it will eventually, and it does not resist, or doubt this simple fact. It does not need another planet, a trillion years away, to justify its existence.
As discussed in Kant’s work ‘Human beings simply have this value (of dignity) in virtue of being human,’ (Sensen, 2009, p. 311). This is an important distinction. For the other, their humanity has often been denied by the Subject. Yet, for those of us who are other and who recognise our own civilisation, (re-)discovering one’s own dignity is one curative against the dehumanising impact of systemic internalised supremacy.
For myself, that swimming race towards individuation and decolonisation has always been a constant. A long race, often conducted upon my own, often without the support of pseudo-friends who talk a good game but are often more about getting in my way and proving themselves superior to myself than of any actual use to myself in my personal journey. For example, in my early 20s, I had the pleasure of living in Berlin, Germany for several years. During my time there, and with the help of several American colleagues that I met along the way, I found myself drawn towards writings about the Civil Rights struggles in the USA, but also in the United Kingdom. I watched the movies (X, Spike Lee’s classic movie which is rarely on screen here in the UK, was a favourite), and read numerous books about the black experience of being the other across the Global West. I revelled in being the other whilst I served abroad, which although at times difficult, and at others lonely, meant I often enjoyed the experience. That inert sense of dignity was burning dimly within even way back then.
Finally though, this religious quote touched me; ‘thus God calls on one man, one nation, to be different in order to teach all humanity the dignity of difference’ (Sacks & Rosenthal, 2003, p. 6). There is a dignity in being different, and the dignity of the different, when held with strength and humility, I believe serves to remind the Subject of the of their actions towards us, whilst returning them to a state of humility, and eventually maybe also to a state of humanity.
“Any man that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.” Nelson Mandela.
Beauvoir, S. de. (2010). The Second Sex. New york: Alfred A. Knopf.
Kindig, J. (2015). Selma, alabana, (Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965). Retrieved May 2, 2015, from http://www.blackpast.org/aah/bloody-sunday-selma-alabama-march-7-1965
Lebech, M. (2004). What is Human Dignity ? Maynooth Philosophical Papers, (2), 59–69. Retrieved from http://eprints3.nuim.ie/392/1/Human_Dignity.pdf
Sacks, R. J., & Rosenthal, J. H. (2003). The Dignity of Difference : How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. Carnegie Council, 1–12.
Sensen, O. (2009). Kant’s Conception of Human Dignity. Kant - Studien: Philosophische Zeitschrift, 100(3), 309.
Van Sant, G. (2008). Milk (p. 1). USA: Focus Features. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1013753/companycredits?ref_=ttfc_ql_5
This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my ongoing exploration into The Other
Endgame: The Saviour and the Other
(Published the 3rd May 2019)
This month I want to talk about the link between the saviour complex and narcissism. My ideas are not new, but are prompted by the stories which have flooded the news recently of volunteers and workers rushing to Africa, to Asia or to South America, to go and build huts, or to dig for water. Workers who are then angry that their one week, one month, or 3 months of effort has not been rewarded by such ungrateful natives. This was something Freire (1970) noted in his works, pointing out that the saviour, in his case based around concepts of whiteness, was built upon an ideal of supremacy, that only the saviour knew what the other might need.
The simple fact that these people look for gratitude, says so much about the narcissistic nature of these endeavours, but the saviour is not just based around whiteness. In my view, as a psychotherapist, the saviour is a concept hidden within us unconsciously. It is a distortion of the hero archetype, which when wedded to the narcissism of the person, or culture, or gender, then transforms it into something which needs validation for all the good deeds which it feels it has done. On a more individual level it is seen in the parent who chides the child for all that they have done for them, expecting father’s day or mother’s day cards for example, the effort of parenting is one done on the behest of the parent. The distortion arriving with the simple factor that the child did not submit a request to the parent to parent them, with a list of requirements as such, and that parenting, good enough parenting, is about being in service to one’s children.
There is something else about the argument against the Saviour, white or otherwise, that people tend to miss. That as much as the saviour speaks of wanting to help, by their own narcissistic need to be that saviour, what they are actually working towards, is to actually consciously/unconsciously keep the other in their place; subservient, less than, in need of the saviour to rescue them.
The reality of the organisations behind the saviour, from the charities to the governments, is that if they were really interested in providing assistance then they would have humbly helped to alleviate any suffering generations before today. The example of the cultural narcissism of the West therefore needs the suffering of the other as an object against which they can project their heroism. The other is weaker, the other needs rescuing, only I can therefore help them from the pit of suffering they have found themselves within.
The saviour is not just found in these instances. The most obvious place to find the Saviour is in film and media, where stories abound of the man, normally white, who rescues the woman from bad guys, the minority from a life of poverty with the gift of a chance at a better life on a sports field, the city of New York from alien invaders, the universe from the annihilation of half its inhabitants. The list goes on and on and on...
The most interesting aspect of being in a world full of saviours is when you are on the receiving end, when you are in the thrall of the saviour. It is also often difficult to recognise this symbiotic behaviour because often these types of people present as friends, or as those who will support you whenever you need such. Then comes to time to ask, informing those around you of what you need, there are denials, and one is told that you do not really know what you need. That only the saviour can truly know this. This is as recognisable when it comes from governments and other major institutions and their treatments of so called third world countries, as it is for the individual looking for help from those who one would call friends. A brilliant example arises out of David Cameron’s visit to Jamaica back in 2015, where when asked to atone for the evils of slavery, he instead promised the Jamaican government money to build a prison (Riley-Smith, 2015). The dark brilliance of this simple example is that not only does it reveal the narcissism embedded within the saviour complex (that the British government knows best), but also we witness the inherent racism in the suggestion of a prison to keep all the bad black people locked away.
Yet, let us turn this around. This is important as there is another subtle danger though in that as the Other we do not always recognise how complicit we have been taught to be in relation to this saviour. Be it that we are women waiting for the prince to come and rescue us from the tallest spire in the castle where we are held hostage, to persons of difference waiting for those in power to grant us the rights we so crave, the saviour needs one subtle thing from us in order to make us complicit; that of our patience that they, and only they, can make right what is wrong in our world (even if it is they who manufactured such dissonance in the first place). A brilliant example is the conscious post-colonial complicity of my own ancestors who travelled to the United Kingdom holding in their patient palms the promise of better life in the motherland.
I’ve written here in the past about the ‘Girl Who Waited’ and how insidious it can become to overly trust the saviour when they promise to do something for us, to save us. Their waiting disempowers us whilst their promise disavows us of our agency. And as I walk towards the latter edges of middle age, I re-recognise just how strange a thing it is to wait to be saved; something I have known from time to time, but something that it is so easy to forget in cultures so embedded, so built upon, cultural narcissism.
Ultimately, the saviour is an aspect of the supremacist that is often not seen as such and is therefore little talked about. But it needs to be. It needs to be witnessed in all of its grotesque anti-glory, with the light cast upon it so it can no longer hide in the shadows, seemingly doing the such good work it craves to be admired for. Similarly, for the other to truly engage with the civil, gender, or other rights that it so correctly fights for, the internalised saviour has to be conquered, has to be wrestled with and disempowered, in order for us to take care of ourselves. In order for us to grow.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. UK: Penguin Books Limited.
Riley-Smith, B. (2015, September). David Cameron told to “personally atone for slavery” as reparations row mars Jamaican visit. The Telegraph2, pp. 1–2.
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)
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)