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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.


Blog. Lord of the Flies Quote

The Psychology of the CoronaVirus, Part 1: Being Jack

(Published 22nd March 2020 )

As always, a story to begin with.

I first read Lord of the Flies when I was maybe 11 years of age. Even though the book was a classic of English literature, it wasn’t the type of book that I would choose to read, the choice was made for me as it was part of a school English lesson. I was, and still am, drawn towards Fantasy novels, sword and sorcery, the hero’s journey, the collapse into the pit of despair to emerge out onto the other side changed, more solid, a hero.

The past couple of months have seen the spread of the horrific CoronaVirus around the world. At the time of writing on the 21st of March 2020, there are presently 1 billion people worldwide on lockdown, whilst 300,000 cases have been confirmed with 13,000 deaths whilst 96,000 people have recovered (source: worldometers.info/coronavirus. Here in the United Kingdom, there have been 5000 cases, with 233 deaths, whilst pubs, bars, clubs, universities, and schools have all been told to close and people have been told to self-isolate and stay at home.

Yet whilst in other parts of the world, there seems to have been a more methodical approach to this chaos, here in the West something different seems to have taken a hold, and it is the psychological basis for this which I am interested in touching upon this month. For example, during this period though, there has also been an incredible increase in people ‘panic buying’ seemingly essential goods. From toilet rolls, to pasta, to fruit and vegetables and meat, the shelves of most of the major stores have been scrapped bare of even the most basic of items. Prices have gone up for other items, the availability of items bought online has meant deliveries are delayed or cancelled, and there seems to have been an increased level of profiteering by those who have raised prices on other things, medicines, which people would need during this time.

The CoronaVirus is not so much the cause of the panic we are seeing around the West. It is the lack of direction from those we ask to watch over us, from those we nominate to be our political parents. Whilst in other cultures, the political systems have led to a greater sense of leadership and direction, and therefore a sense that the people know how to follow, that they are safe in the hands of their leaders (even if their leaders are malevolent in other more insidious ways. No political parent is perfect. Power always corrupts).

Returning to the book, The Lord of the Flies was first published in 1954 by the a author William Holding (Golding, 2012), and was made in to a shockingly vivid film back in 1964 and later remade by MGM (Hook, 1990). The story is based around a group of shipwrecked schoolboys on a coral island. Initially, the boys enjoy the freedom that their situation provides them, freedom from their parents, from rules, from the structures of society and their culture. Later though, the boys form gangs, and their initially idyllic paradise turns into a nightmare of conflict and death. In their interesting analysis of the book and the films, Li and Wu (2009) rightly point towards the roles of the main protagonists as being markedly different from each other. Yet it is the primal id of savagery and dictatorship represented by Jack which destroys both the goodness and saintliness of Simon, and the intellect and rationalism of Piggy. This then leaves only the civilisation an democracy represented by Ralph which is almost chased away and also destroyed, with Ralph/Democracy only being saved by the arrival finally of the adults.

This is the nature of the political system we reside within, and it is best understood through the eyes of psychology as attempt to recognise just what has happened to those of us who have descended down into the depths of primal despair, and basic Freudian psychology is extremely helpful in recognising some of the more primal aspects at play here (Freud, 2014). In this absence of the superego, the vanishing of that which would have regulated our interactions with the world beyond ourselves, then leaves nothing more than a raging Id to take command and to dominate. The Id doesn’t care about the other, it doesn’t care about the rules, it only cares about what it wants, what it can gain for itself. It is by its very nature acting out its own narcissistic fantasies of domination and eternal life.

The book therefore reflects society’s politicised distortion of Darwin’s survival of the fittest (Morehead, 1999). In its more contemporary versions, Darwin’s ideas though have formed one of the pillars for eugenics, the idea that certain races, or groups, or classes etc, are superior to others, and that this must remain so (Saini, 2019). Leaving a whole country to raid the shops, stockpile toilet paper, pasta and other seemingly unconnected items, feels just like those children left on the island to fend for themselves. There is a seeming fallacy within Capitalism that we should all be free, that we all should have the right to express ourselves how we want, go where we want, buy and have what we want, even do what we want (often even if it is illegal). This even formed the basis of the idea that post Brexit that we should be able to set our own laws and control our own borders (Boffey, 2018). This, the bare shelves, the panic and anxiety versus the seeming abject irresponsibility of those still frequenting bars and on the tubes and buses in their hundreds, are symptomatic of a capitalist system that thrives on the absence of rules. That lets a whole of the British Isles act as if it is on the same free space without parents as Jack, Piggy, Ralph, and Simon.

Yet, there is a way out. And at this point I am going to make a massive statement. Much like the Plague is an archetype of change (see the Bible for example), the Political I am increasingly aware is an archetype of self-regulation and an inner ethical authority. It is a movement away from the superego and its cultural conditioning, meaning that the more individuated we become, the more aligned with this archetype we become at the same time. This is the shift away from the collective anxiety of the West where capitalism advocates for a freedom which is not only unhealthy, but also unrealistic, towards a more personally ethical politic where there is a solidity and a security within oneself. A security sourced from within, and in line with a similarly solid sense of self as to those on the same but also different path of personal growth.

Lastly, I am a psychotherapist, and have been one since I qualified some 15 years ago. At a team meeting someone a valued colleague commented upon how calm we were given the chaos all around us, in the wider community which only mirrors that of the world beyond. Now, I can understand the anxiety, and can understand how this addictive need to self-regulate through the obtaining of things, is driven from living in a paradise with no rules. To all the therapists, psychologists, and others in the helping professions, those who have a connection to this inner regulator, to this inner ethical political parent, even if you, like myself, can feel the pull of addictive anxiety towards an acting out with pointless purchases and hording or conversely with a seeming narcissistic invulnerability in the face of the annihilating force already amongst us

I am in no way saying that I am perfect, that I am winning this initial internal struggle; at times I feel like Jack, I self-annihilate and I let myself down also. What I am saying is that I am not waiting for our invisible leaders to tell me what to do when I already know what this is. I will take responsibility for my actions, ethical actions, and I myself will calmly work towards these. I will listen to the internal rule book I already have access to. And I will trust it to guide me.

During these darkest of times I hope you will let it guide you to.

References

Boffey, D. (2018, November). Empire 2.0: the fantasy that’s fuelling Tory divisions on Brexit. Guardian Online, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/08/empire-fantasy-fuelling-tory-divisions-on-brexit
Freud, S. (2014). On Narcissism. London: Penguin Limited.
Golding, W. (2012). Lord of the Flies. USA: Faber & Faber.
Hook, H. (1990). Lord of the Flies. USA: Metro Goldwyn Mayer.
Li, X., & Wu, W. (2009). English Language Teaching On Symbolic Significance of Characters in Lord of the Flies.
Morehead, D. (1999). The Psychoanalytic Quarterly Oedipus, Darwin, and Freud: One Big, Happy Family?, 68(3), 347–375. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2167-4086.1999.tb00537.x
Saini, A. (2019). Superior: the return of race science. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

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


Blog. Bell Hooks Quote

Entitlement versus Hope in the Age of Brexit

(Published 10th of February 2020)

‘A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts’ (spoken by Vision, Russo & Russo, 2019)

I often choose to write my blogs over two separate hours, either a couple of weeks or a couple of days apart. Recently, it has made more sense to draft these blogs closer together, especially given the immediate political context of the times, and just how much this has both impacted upon myself, and therefore my work. This blog is no different. Writing this between the 31st of January 2020 (which will now be known as BB – Before Brexit), and the 9th of February 2020 (which will now be known as AB), my thinking here takes into account the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Economic Union after some nearly 50 years of joint working and cooperation, and attempt to see spot .

The most beautiful aspect of being a part of Europe for myself, was less the sense of community, but more the idea that as a minority I had a voice, and even if it was not totally equal to those around me, there was a sense that it had power, that it had worth. What is most prevalent in the run up to this Brexit is not just how much the right wing has found their voice, their rage and aggressions, but how far they have gone to silence previously prominent vocal minorities in the same moment. From Laurence Fox and the tired reverse racism argument, to Alastair Stewart and his Shakespearean quote calling someone an ape, the fear and rage of the right that its freedoms, of speech, or action, of supremacy, have been dulled by a Europe which has made it accept migrants from all over the world, is the greatest piece of political misdirection I have ever witnessed or even read about in history books. I have in the past written about the drive towards supremacy which these political times have at their centre, so I will decline to do so here. What I will say though is that living in an age of Systemic Supremacy, that it was always going to react against any challenge to its firmly embedded, generations old, grandiose sense of worth.

Yet how did Systemic Supremacy work its magic. Well, one of the ways it did so was by weaponizing both entitlement and hope. From those who sought hope within the rhetoric of Brexit to lift them out of the mire of lives blighted by the politics of austerity, to professionals whose financial means meant that choosing separation from the EU mean this cultural shift will not impact upon them as much as many others, to expats living abroad who in voting for separation from Europe are then happy to go back to living their lives within their self-created bubbles of an idealised mini-England upon the Costa del Sol or somewhere else. This is a time where hope was about something more, be it a better life, better financial conditions, or a better standard of retirement within.

The enticement of entitlement and the potential of privilege for so many included buying in to crossing that rickety bridge between hope and entitlement. The cost though was that entitlement in this instance held a price, in that it would also involve a ridding oneself of the tensions around having to experience the other. A good example of this emerges out of race theory, were as Di Angelo states ‘self-image engenders a self-perpetuating sense of entitlement because many whites believe their financial and professional successes are the result of their own efforts while ignoring the fact of white privilege’ (2011, p. 61). This idea that financial success leads to privilege, and therefore entitlement and white safety, is echoed across the board when it comes to experiences of the other, especially with the Brexit enforced wedding of privilege and entitlement. Di Angelo is right to hint at the blinkering of the subject when it achieves its entitlement, and the weaponization of hope also involved the depressing of any concern for said other, of any responsibility.

This unholy union though is not just limited to the political though. Here, as per all of my recently blogs, I will restate that the positioning of the political is an echo of the personal, and also the internal. For example, in my entanglements both professional and personal, being on the damaging end of another’s demands of entitlement is something I am witnessing more of; from being told of the Subject’s supposed right to say and speak to myself however one wants to, the their entitlement to special treatment from me as practitioner, professional, or lecturer, to their need to express the right to abuse, criticise, however they want to.

The impact though is markedly different to how things were merely months ago. There is no account taken of any possible feelings that I might have within this relationship. I should just suck it up, I am impinging upon someone else’s freedom of speech if they are not allowed to just speak their mind to me, or I am being a snowflake if I complain. There is barely concealed hatred underneath this interaction, and experiencing, feeling, or even internalising a lot of this is especially difficult.

One of the costs though is that the other will often feel silenced. The silencing aspect of enduring the entitlement torrent raised by Storm Brexit is an oppressive aspect of othering referenced in other blogs, so I will not do so here (Kinouani, 2020). Suffice to say, I speak from experience when I express how personally painful it is to be increasingly treated like a modern day Stepin Fetchit within my own life. It is an experience designed to break the spirit, for me to ultimately know my place and play my role. The psychological impact though of this type of racism is that of sleepless nights, horrific dreams, and an incredible anger, an anger projectively identified with, I will argue, although like any projection there will be always be a hook hidden within my own psyche which is home.

The catastrophe of Brexit for myself, and many others, therefore is not just the lack of safety I now feel in a place I have served during a time of conflict, that I have chosen to raise my family within, and that myself and my parents at one point chose to call home. It is the enforced othering of myself into a position I long since grew out of by those whose need for entitlement and privilege aggressively drives them to oppress, suppress, and therefore depress the other.

Yet, even I have hope. This is not the hope for personal gain and privilege and entitlement though. For the other though hope is an ever more strange emotion in that it requires a belief in one’s actions which stretch a way beyond and in to the distance into the unknown. Hope here walks hand in hand with its unseen twin, faith, and a belief that one’s actions are true, that one’s words and deeds are moral and ethical, or offering a metaphor ‘"The branch," said Pascal in the seventeenth century, "cannot hope to know the tree's meaning."’ (Pascal cited in Yalom, 1981, p. 424). When we lose this version hope though, it is as if one is bereft of more than just faith; one has lost a future, any sense of something better, something desired, a fantasy of how things might be. One is ultimately left in the bleak barren landscape that is the present, that is the here and now. This type of hope, is the hope in a better future, the hope our ancestors had for us, a hope borne and unshakeable against the storm of hatred and entitlement that is our time After Brexit. A hope the fruits of which I will not witness because I will be long gone, but within which I still believe.

‘Hope is essential to any political struggle for radical change when the overall social climate promotes disillusionment and despair, (Bell Hooks, 2008)

References

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
Kinouani, G. (2020). Racial Trauma, Silence and Meaning. Retrieved February 7, 2020, from https://racereflections.co.uk/2019/04/20/racial-trauma-silence-and-meaning/
Russo, A., & Russo, J. (2019). Avengers: Endgame. USA: Walt Disney Studios.
Hooks B. (2008) Talking About A Revolution. USA: South End Press.
Yalom, I. D. (1981). Meaninglessness. In Existential Psychotherapy (Vol. 32, pp. 645–646). US: Harper Collins Publishers. https://doi.org/10.1176/ps.32.9.645

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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