Borders and Walls: Facing the Other
Deadline for submission: April 15, 2022
“The great challenge of this century . . . is that of understanding the other.”
– Charles Taylor: Dilemmas and Connections
“Nothing that is human … can do without the idea of the alien, to protect itself.”
– Adam Phillips: Terrors and Experts
In this issue of Voices, we explore the borders and walls we erect in our minds and with each other — barriers we use to turn ourselves into strangers. Inner and interpersonal forms of estrangement are unavoidably linked. Those we alienate may be our friends, enemies, family, professional colleagues, larger community, people diverse from us in any number of ways, or strangers that represent disowned parts of ourselves.
From micro level to macro, facing what feels alien can stir up diverse feelings, including fear of loss of identity, power, or pride; helplessness, ignorance, or vulnerability; feelings of superiority or guilt, of failure, shame, or self-loathing. Facing the other can be met with varying forms of resistance: scapegoating, aggression, othering, projecting, sub-grouping, etc.
Consider your own experience and that of your clients: What are our borders and walls for, what are they meant to protect us from, what and who are they designed to exclude? How do we use them to prevent us from understanding the other? How do our inner and interpersonal barriers mirror actual borders and walls between neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries? What are we afraid of in the other? What are we disowning in ourselves when we reject the other?
We are hard-wired to seek connection, and through connection, communion. Yet we repeatedly default to behaviors that distance us from the other. As we examine our cherished borders and walls, our profound attachment to our distortions, and we begin to imagine what it’s like being someone else, we are changed. Estrangement, when challenged, may be replaced by feelings of kinship or fellowship we have tried to disown.
For this issue, consider how these dynamics show up in your life and practice. Consider, too, how large and small group process can facilitate facing the other and breaking down walls.
Voices welcomes submissions in the form of personal essay, research- and case-based inquiry, poetry, art, cartoons and photography.