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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.


Blog. Voices of the Other

Voices of the Other: Drowning in the Sea of Supremacy

(Published 14th February 2019)

I have spent a lot of the past month pondering supremacy. This has come up for a number of reasons (too many to list in this blog), but on the back of last month’s blog I was concerned by just how much we resist the idea that supremacy plays a huge part in all our lives in the Global North. Offering examples which we may all have witnessed. The man who mansplains feminism to women, the white person who explains just what racism is to someone of colour/other, the able-bodied person who knows what is best for someone considered to have another ability, the European who knows just what is best for persons in Africa, or the mentally well individual who knows what is best for the person labelled with a mental illness. From the world of academia to the world of Twitter, my encounters with supremacy can be anything from microaggressions to trolling to outright hate speech and hostility.

Offering some examples of just how much we are embedded in a world of supremacy, I would like to present a few here this month. Firstly, the idea of something being ‘normative’ speaks of the centralising of an experience (be it heteronormative, whiteness, or seen as patriarchally normative). These ideas of what is right, of what is normal, automatically set rules of what is right and what is wrong, and of how one should be. Yet, what these also do is unconsciously recognise the supremacy of that normative experience. And whilst it is there, and whilst many of us see it and recognise it, what is often not raised as an issue is the supremacy and how this power dynamic resides in so much of our cultural thinking.

Another example, economics and supremacy also go together. Logically, the moment where you have a system where one group can only afford one type of universal healthcare, for example, and a minority can afford to fly in the best care possible from whichever part of the world they want, then we live with a world with layers of more than just privilege, we look down upon the other from a position of supremacy.

Supremacy also sits within the psychotherapy. For example, the development stages which form aspects of psychodynamic thought, the idea that the child holds a more self-centric view of the world, one which means it cannot relate to the other, be it mother, another child etc (Weil & Piaget, 1951). This is the type of wound that appears when people regularly start a sentence with ‘if it was me/my issue/my problem, I would do this (and so should you)’. One reason for this is this is a wound emergent out of the child’s failure to negotiate this bridge towards a relationship with the other. This failure then leaves it with a dilemma. The other is there. I do not understand it. How does its presence impact upon my identity? I feel threatened. I therefore need dominion over it.

Supremacy is therefore one of the cornerstones of inequality, and without questioning this aspect, then all we are doing is opening the door for certain others to walk the path towards that same fragile sense of supremacy. It is something that has arisen out of class differences dating back centuries, the patriarchal system that is tens of thousands of years old, to the demarcation of racial differences, or the religious differences which have led to wars. In a way, I could argue here that in this culture we crave suppression, we crave the boot of the supremacist. This is not too far fetched an idea, especially as French philosopher de la Boetie (2015) posited all the way back in the 16th Century or so. For some people therefore, the idea of equality is actually parity with supremacy, and therefore the reinforcement of those same inequalities they initially resisted.

This is one of the reasons why I am, sadly at times, coming to the conclusion that it is almost impossible to dismantle supremacy. From whatever its origins supremacy is a systemic construct which is so engrained within the cultures of the Global North that it drives everything from which children choose to play whom and who also they exclude, to which country chooses to trade with whom and why. It influences and underpins our everyday prejudices moulding them into something that is more than the other, and reinforces that sense of superiority we all seem to need in this culture.

There are those theorists though who, perhaps, offer a route out of this seemingly helpless position as the oppressed other. Utilising the work of Sandra Harding, and Standpoint theory, Harding (2004) lays out a vision whereby those who are basically the Other are best positioned to discuss their own experiences as said other. It is a theory that talks of research whereby the real experiences of the other are not governed by those who have a vested interest, conscious or otherwise, in maintaining their sense of superiority, but by those who are on the outside of the circle.

It is a theory though that has its critics. For example, one of its problems seems to be the idea that if a person is sat on the outside as they other, they should automatically have a story to tell from that position. Whilst I can see where this flaw has come from, what I suspect it does not recognise is that within each of us is someone who also holds a layer or privilege. If identity is intersectional then using myself as an example as well as being black and the son of immigrants, I am also an academic and heterosexual. To therefore talk from that position as the other means that I have to consciously place to one side those aspects of my privilege which might hinder my thinking.

Another criticism of this theory is that it lacks empirical validity. My issue with this secondary criticism of Standpoint Theory is that any theory that is new, or that is philosophical in nature, at least in its beginnings, will lack the theoretical underpinnings for it to gain some type of validity. It is also a criticism that reeks of the same type of scientifically heteronormative supremacy that the scientific community often resides within. So, whilst the theory has its critics, it is also my strong belief that StandPoint Theory also has another function. This function is to redress the unconscious power imbalance that it underlines and is inherent within any type of interaction where the other is present. It is the outsider, it is the lesser, it is without power.

So, to redress this within society is not so much about stripping away the world of supremacy, conscious and unconscious that we all live within. My belief is that to move beyond this is to recognise that this powerlessness bourn out of experiences of otherness in the face of supremacy is only countered by giving myself, our self, our own voice. The Standpoint therefore has a personally transformational aspect that I think is hugely important. One that I think then challenges the worlds of supremacy we live within.

References

de la Boetie, E. (2015). The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. USA: Mises Institute.
Harding, S. (2004). The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader. New York and London: Routledge.
Weil, A. M., & Piaget, J. (1951). The development in children of the idea of the homeland and of relations to other countries. International Social Sciences Journal, 3, 561–578.

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


Shame of the Defeated: Supremacy, Competition and the Other

(Published the 15th Jan 2019)

‘I don’t meet the competition. I destroy it!’

It is a New Year, and I wanted to begin this year with a lesson.

In past blog posts, I have discussed the challenges encountered whilst undertaking such an arduous journey as the completion of a doctorate, especially whilst working and having a personal life. One of the more interesting things I have learnt over the past twelve months (it might longer) is just how many people have chosen to compete with me. I know now that I am an academic, that during the past 15 years I have become a supervisor, a psychotherapist, and a writer. I know that I am blessed enough to share the little I know at conferences nationally and internationally. I am lucky enough to do so much, to have so much, and to recognise that I have certain privileges the likes of which others do not. This lesson though has proven to be one or the more strange in that it I could argue that it has come, for me, out of nowhere. The saddest/hardest part is that many of these people were friends, allies, compatriots, also on what I naively considered to be a journey of self-discovery.

I have written about competition before on these blog pages, and have even discussed privilege, its link to supremacy and shame, but here my thinking goes a bit further (Turner, 2018). In experiencing something so close to home, it has left me with a consideration of just how insidious supremacy and narcissism are, and how competition becomes the means for enforcing these combined positions. How the need of the subject to reinforce its own fragile sense of superiority leads it to compete with the other, and how common and detrimental, and how destructive, this can be for the other, for me and for all of us. It is something that is with us from the moment we are born, to when we enter school where it is reinforced, to how we enter working life, to the partners we choose, to the size of our house, our car, our bank balance.

To show just how insidious supremacy and competition are, a good place to begin is with a consideration of the inception of patriarchy (Biewen & Headlee, 2018). Supposedly constructed over 10,000 years ago, this was driven by many things, one of these being the need to dominate, and to lead. Therefore, to compete. De Beauvoir (2010) recognised this in her many writings. She saw men as needing to dominate women, and therefore, constantly being in competition with them. Offering another perspective, one important realisation of Heidegger’s (2010) work is that ever since the industrial age human beings, beginning in the West but spreading out across the world, have changed their relationship to much of the natural world around them, out of a desire to more than understand it, but to conquer it. This has led to everything from the commodification of our resources, to the assessment and market researching of which demographic will vote for what in which election for power. We have become things. A part of the resource that is the other.

The position of the other in relation to those who aspire towards, or hold, privilege, therefore automatically speaks of the other being less than. Within its inherent narcissism, the supremacist strongly believes they are better than, be they a part of the patriarchy, heteronormative, European, or that they see themselves as racially superior. The link therefore between competition and the objectification, or the stereotyping of the other, be they a minority or the world itself, is therefore obvious. In order for the man, the heterosexual, for humanity to reign supreme over the other, there has to be a need to compete, and therefore to dominate, that which is then made in to the other. This is one of the problems equality politics, in that there is little consideration of just how to mitigate for this drive to compete, this drive towards supremacy, that envelopes cultures in the Global North like an atomic cloud.

Yet, and I need to restate this, competition, by its very nature is not a bad thing. Healthy competition, either with others on an equal footing, or with oneself, leads to mental, emotional, even spiritual, growth. The idea of competition being used to develop those who are the strongest, who are best positioned to lead, sits central to the idea of boarding schools, and has created most of the leaders who run the world. On a more psychological level, when Lacan (Homer, 2007) discusses the idea that the internalised other is oppressed by the tyranny of the ego, he is talking about a type of unconscious competition with oneself to maintain a false self. Yet, all of these, in perhaps their most ideal stations, work best from a more humble position where there is less of the need to destroy the other, and more of a need to compassionately best that which is other to us, whilst still remaining in relationship to it, and avoiding the inevitable consequence of shaming said other.

In their discussion of an internalised shame scale, del Rosario and White (2006) place competition, or one’s failure in said competition, as one of the pillars that leaves the other feeling shame. This is important as there is an obvious, often unspoken, link between the pair; the shame of the child ostracised by their peers, the shame of the colonised, the objectified, the stereotyped. Tying this in with his paper on Shame and the internalised other, Sanchez says that shame is ‘an individual emotion (is) characterized by a feeling of exposure, inferiority and vulnerability’ (2015, p. 182). He clearly recognises the competitive nature of shame, seeing the resultant inferiority as a consequence of this jousting with the external subject.

In my case, I often did not know I was in competition with anyone around me. Or, more importantly, that anyone else was in competition with me. Sometimes in life, it is only when one is at ones lowest, or when something goes wrong, that we recognise just how many people are happy to see us fail, or who want to show us they know more than us. This bathing in a sea of supremacy and competition therefore speaks of supremacy as being more than just structural. It is more even than societal. It is now an aspect of the cultural unconscious. It creates the other all the time, in fact the supremacist needs the other to hold its negative aspects. When the other steps out of being an object for the projections of the supremacist, then this is too challenging for the narcissistic false self of the supremacist; it cannot see its own Achilles heel, and therefore has to compete against and destroy said challenge/inadequacy. Ultimately, supremacy and competition, are aspects of the cultural unconscious that we all have to deal with. Because of our positioning here in the Global North we are embedded within it all the time. This is why it is so hard to be aware of. This is why, when it arises, it can feel so shocking, so surprising, so unwarranted, so unreal.

And that lack of empathy is why it is so painful.

References

Beauvoir, S. de. (2010). The Second Sex. New york: Alfred A. Knopf.
Biewen, J., & Headlee, C. (2018). Men (Series 3): Dick Move. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from http://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-47-dick-move-men-part-1/
del Rosario, P. M., & White, R. M. (2006). The Internalized Shame Scale: Temporal stability, internal consistency, and principal components analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(1), 95–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2005.10.026
Heidegger, M. (2010). Being and Time. New york: Suny Press Ltd.
Homer, S. (2007). Jacques Lacan: Routledge critical thinkers (Kindle Edition). UK: Routledge.
Sánchez, A. M. (2015). Shame and the Internalized Other. Ethics and Politics, XVII(2), 181–200.
Turner, D. (2018). Privilege, Shame and Supremacy. Therapy Today, (June), 30–33.

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


The Gift of Privilege

(Published 14th Nov 2018)

‘Privilege becomes a gift, when we see it as a blessing and use it to help others!’

This has been a busy year for myself professionally. By the end of the year, I should, hopefully, have published five articles on varying aspects of difference, otherness and privilege. Whilst this autumn began with my presenting at a conference on dreams at the CCPE in London, discussing an aspect of my work and how that which we suppress when we are the Other, sits within the unconscious, and is then accessible through our unconscious, and therefore our dreams. This was followed by my being gifted the undoubted pleasure of presenting at the first BME Voices Talk Mental Health Conference, alongside some of the nicest people, and for the most pleasant audience I have met so far in my still burgeoning academic career. Here I was presenting a paper that considered the link between privilege, supremacy, and how these two together can lead to a suppression of the voice of the other. Then, last of all, I again had the pleasure of chairing an evening with the brilliant author, activist, and one of the wisest men I have met in an age, Akala, for the University of Brighton Student Union.
It feels as if this month something has changed for myself, or maybe also within myself. There is a growing awareness of my position within my culture, and also within the world of psychotherapy. A growing visibility, as people both start to see me, and I recognise that I am seen. My thinking about this here in my blog has led me to recognise something important about my career progression; and that is that I now have a certain amount of privilege. A privilege emergent out of my position as an academic, with my community, and also within my profession.
This recognition of my new position is not easy at the best of times (I am at heart a bit of an introvert to be honest, and like my own space), but having carved a good enough professional life for myself, I am happy to be this role, to bear this responsibility as long as I get to retire to my Fortress of Solitude from time to time. What this also means is that there are question marks about what privilege actually is and how it forms, questions that we as psychotherapists need to consider and to answer.
The first point I realise is that privilege is a far more complex issue than a straight forward, this is privilege; it is bad, stereotype. That there are different types of privilege, such as whiteness, and its complex relationship with other cultures and races has been discussed by numerous authors and academics. Yet, as we come to understand this type of racial privilege we must not forget that this is complicated as well by degrees of whiteness that exist within the subject culture, for example, the division of the traveller groups as other, even though they hold the same racial heritage (Bhopal, 2018). From within writings around colonialism, Memmi’s (1974) brilliant text looks at the complex relationship between the intersecting layers of privilege of the colonisers and the layers of otherness of the colonised, offering an intersectional post-colonial narrative around this important subject.
There is a problem with these narratives though. The issue is that they all present privilege as a negative. I myself have written a lot over the past couple of years about the role of privilege, how without responsibility for, and with the craving of power over, the Other we move from a position of privilege to one of supremacy (Turner, 2018). I have talked briefly about cultural privileges, and patriarchy, as just two out of many, and I am currently writing a book where I will be discussing this and other forms of oppressive privileges. What I have not done thus far in my ongoing consideration of privilege is look at the other side; what if some of the privileges that we have are actually gifts to be used within our communities?
This is an important consideration from a number of angles, but there are perhaps two that I will briefly explore in this month’s blog, as I feel they are worth recognising. The first is those privileges, those gifts that we are born with. Like an artist who is able to paint the most beautiful of pictures, or the musician who can create the most melodic music, for some these gifts are not about winning over an other, they are about what can one give to those others that then brings them together, to stand before the painted pictures within Tate Modern for example, or to dance in unison as one listens to Prince play Purple Rain in the Waldbuhne in Berlin, Germany (yes, I have done both!).
Privilege is such a complex immense area, that often times researchers and academics will consider just one of another type of privilege, its intersectional nature (often without naming it as such), and thereby forgetting that systems of privilege cross over, and that power is often there for those of difference, even if their cultural, gendered, or other type of indoctrination, means they do not recognise their positioning as such.
So, much like I have plenty of experience as the other. Much like I have dealt with the stereotyping and objectification of being a black man, or the being marginalised for these same reasons, I recognise that now I have a certain privilege as an academic, and especially as an Academic of Colour, and as a Psychotherapist of Colour. It feels new, this realisation, like when one buys a new set of leather boots and wears them out for the first time, knowing they feel a little tight, but you know they will expand and feel more comfortable the more one wears them (a terrible metaphor, but you know what I mean). Yet, like this realisation, there emerges an increasing responsibility for the other.
For who I am, what I am, what they are, and what help they need.

References
Bhopal, K. (2018). White Privilege: The myth of a post-racial society. UK: Policy Press.
Memmi, A. (1974). The Colonizer and the Colonized. UK: Souvenir Press.
Turner, D. (2018). Privilege, Shame and Supremacy. Therapy Today, (June), 30–33.

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

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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