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Thou shalt not be aware

ImageI was talking with a friend recently who mentioned a friend of hers. Her comment was “He’s just like you,Terry. He brings his work into everything.” The friend of my friend in question was a psychoanalyst so I guess we may well share somethings in common. What struck me about the comment was that it was made with a hint of disapproval. My thoughts about psychoanalysis should, she implied, remain in my counselling room with my patients. They didn’t belong in the pub on a Sunday evening-or, presumably, any other evening.

In my last blog I wrote about the ways in which many of my students seem unwilling or unable to allow their Sunday thoughts to come into the ward with them-except, occasionally, to worry about the role of demons in mental illness. Given the wealth of information about both the sacred and the profane to be found in all holy books,  this seems to be missing a vital source of information. We have Kali, a dangerous and destructive mother goddess who combines both Light and Darkness; in judaism we see Yahweh destroying his enemies as well as caring for Israel; in Christianity we have  Jesus and Satan. All good examples of the way in which Light and Shadow are both linked-despite the wishes of some to keep them separate. Yet for many there is still a wish to keep some kinds of knowledge special or holy. (I find this to be strange-to want to put some knowledge in one box whilst putting other knowledge in another box. My local hospital used call it’s cafe after Jimmy Savile as a small recognition of the work he did for their patients. Now the name has gone, along with any reference to him. But for all his badness, he nonetheless did raise a lot of money for the spinal unit. So why not keep his name as a reminder of the dangers of boxing off knowledge?)

To return to my friend’s comment, I have never seen a distinction between my “clinical thinking” and my “everyday thinking”. I am as curious about why I behave as I do as I am about why my patents behave as they do. I am as curious about the way in which my university runs itself as I am in the way my Quaker group operates. And for me the most interesting and useful way to do this thinking is by using psychoanalytic concepts. An organisation represses aspects of itself that it cannot tolerate. In the same way individuals repress knowledge they do not want to acknowledge. With repression comes denial, defence, oppression and tyranny-both corporately, nationally and personally. Like an annoying Jack in the Box who refuses to stay in his box, so the repressed insists on popping up in all manner of unwanted places and occasions.

Perhaps my friend was not being critical with her remark and I may well be over sensitive hearing criticism where none was meant. This notwithstanding I shall continue to bring my “work” into my “everyday”. Because knowledge is freedom.  As the writer Isaac Asimov commented ” If knowledge can create problems, it is not though ignorance that we can solve them.”

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