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Anglo-Saxons and ID development

Friday, March 14th, 2008 @ 12:53 pm
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Posted in  Literature, Quotes, Reading, Reflexivity

Something that seems to emerge in my PhD research is that many British (or Anglo-Saxon) people i dialogue with in research interveiws and elsewhere appear to have a difficulty in holding into awareness issues related to cultural identity etc. I compare that with my own case where, coming from Greece, a culture thathas been masively invaded and as a result our cultural identity has been repetitively attached and under threat, issues of cultural identity maybe (just maybe) come out more easily and accesible in our process (althouh, still, many of my Greek fellows appear also to be ‘sleepy’ or ignoranmt about this whole area, vaccilating from extreme nationalistic views to total dismiss of heritage or anything relevant in the name of being ‘european’ = good enough). This is a very controversial issue.

Coming back to the Anglo-saxon bit though, i have been reading this book for a book review:

Thomas, A. J and Schwarzbaum, S (2006) Culture and Identity: Life
stories for counselors and therapists. London: sage

I quote sth on page 75 from that book:

“During a multicultural counseling course, it is not unusual for
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant students to be the last to acknowledge
that racism, bigotry, and discrimination still exist, in part because
these are experiences they tend not to have. The ethnic identity of
White Anglo-Saxon Protestanty might remain weak or not relevant for
most of the person’s life. It might take a significant event to
change thatm such as intermarriage, a move to a less homogenous part
of the country, or exposure to workplace or classroom diversity.
These events sometimes force White Anglo-Saxon Protestants to examine
their identity as they confront the issue of difference, sometimes
for the first time in their lives. When confronted with difference,
some White Anglo-Saxon Protestants may begin to think that their
sometimes exaggerated individualism, stoicism, work ethic,
self-control, or isolation are consistent with White Anglo-Saxon
cultural traits. Clinicians need to be aware of their ambivalent
discomfort, if or when it surfaces, as they work with their ethnic
minority clients and are encouraged to explore the influence of their
ethnicity and ethnic socialisation on their own identity development
and functioning”

This seems to echo dialogue i have had with two Anglo-Saxons (in britain, both male), William and Colin. In an email exchange i have had with them, Colin responded by:

“The nature of white ethnic identity is so elusive to those in which it inhabits that often they cannot even think what it is!!!!! Probably because they have never had to think about it- having always enjoyed the majority role”

William responded by:

“I think your lack of hostility towards me enables me to explore something that I would not in a more challenging situation.BUT I’ll stay with child like naïve curiousity. At the end of the day it is about meeting (or not) however contextualised”

thinking about the whole matter at a later point, i found myself writing to William the following thoughts:

“it seems that different cultural groups, regress or ‘throw’ stuff of their story (and hence their self and identity, individual and collective) for different reasons. Let’s say that those that historically had POWERFUL positions (like those who have colonised or have done some harm, like Germans etc etc in the name of some hypocritically well constructed rational for power), they tend to store unconscious data in their cultural identity out of GUILT. On the other hand, those that have historically suffered invasion, misuse of power, abuse, for 400 years until less that 100 years ago!) are storing in their unconscious data that has to do with the VICTIM mode and a deep urge to defend rights, freedom etc but not having the FINANCIAL/POLITICAL power to survive the giants, even in the today’s society of EU and UN etc, where power imbalance is still there, although preached differently.when in the counselling room, those things operate at an unconscious level. For example, i see that no matter how much I love our Turkish colleague, i can see that it would possibly be very dangerous if it was to ever be her client ( i am not sure how my victim heritage in relation to the Turks would sit safely and authentically with her Turkish heritage that to my eyes she has completely romanticised and maybe suffers at a human level cause HARM is still being done in our island – Cyprus – but the Brits and Americans disguise it to justify their base there etc etc)……..excuse me about all the words, not sure if they are right….but counselling is a POWERFUL activity that activates all our transgenerational stuff and all this gets indeed activated, cant be avoided…do u see?”

Reading the above, i see that my research has a political dimension attached to it and am aware of the fact that i do not wish to get caught into the ‘power dynamics’ inherent in it but also speak out the possible power imbalance that gets activated in our cultural backgrounds, when not treated with respect, honesty and humility – and all this can be present in the counselling room in so much subtle ways (i can confirm that from both client and counsellor position)

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