Borders and Walls: Facing the Other (Summer 2020)
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.
Editor(s):Carla Bauer, LCSW
Psychotherapy Amidst Pandemic (Winter 2020)
Call for Papers
Deadline for Submission: August 15, 2020
Coronavirus. Covid-19. Words unheard of just weeks ago are now at the center of our lives, fundamentally changing life as we know it. We are living in unprecedented times, navigating uncharted territory, as our communities, our country, and the globe adapt to a changed world order.
There have been epidemics before, pandemics even, but never on this scale, in this age of mobility and technology. Even as world-wide mobility uniquely challenges virus containment, modern technology allows us to stay connected – working even – across distances, in ways that would have been impossible in earlier pandemics.
Therapists who have never before done telehealth (maybe even vowed never!) are now working from home, seeing clients exclusively via video platforms or phone sessions. In addition to direct technology challenges – dropped connections, distorted video or audio – there are other limitations: We can read facial cues, but lose additional body language. We can no longer wonder, “What does that foot want to say?” But there are also positive surprises: Some clients actually open up more in the comfort of home or the perceived safety in distance. We face new boundary considerations: Not only do we get a new view into the homes of our patients, but they potentially get a glimpse of ours as well. Perhaps they learn more about our families as we balance working from home with the demands of having children at home. For many clients, pandemic heightens anxieties and fears, triggers past trauma, or traumatizes anew. For others, it begets new relationship and life stressors stemming from work adaptations or unemployment, home-schooling, isolation, confinement in unbroken proximity… And we deal with their issues against the backdrop of our own heightened anxieties, fears, triggers, and stressors, as we live the same trauma. Therapists and clients alike are creatively exploring new ways of remaining connected in isolation – not just with each other, but across our lives. Zoom is the new Facebook!
For this issue of Voices, consider your pandemic experience: What have been your challenges in working from home? In living amidst pandemic? What has surprised you? What anxieties and fears have confronted the person of the therapist and made it harder (or easier) for you to support your patients? What feelings have emerged: What are you grieving? What are you celebrating? What have you learned about or confronted in yourself? Consider what your dreams reveal about how you are processing pandemic. Consider, too, how pandemic experience has impacted your stance in the world and your concerns on other global issues – healthcare, climate change, etc.