"A Relationship of Hope Has Been Formed"
Thirty years ago, Dr Farhad Dalal published his landmark paper, ‘Jung: A Racist’. On October 13, the London conference of the Confederation for Analytical Psychology invited two African American Jungian analysts to speak about key issues in US politics, law, culture and therapy, including racism encountered in their training. Jungian analyst Heather Formaini asks, what took us so long?
‘I am therefore we are’ (John Mbiti, 1969)
Why has it taken so long to reach a point where an exploration of the relationship between racism and psychotherapies could be held in London, and its failures held to account? Some of us had to wait exactly thirty years for this. We have been impatient for this conference ever since the publication of Dr Farhad Dalal’s 1988 paper exposing Jung’s racism. And although I now live in Italy, I would not have missed this for the world.
Offered as the ninth Andrew Samuels Lecture, and sponsored by Confederation for Analytical Psychology (CAP) together with the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN), this conference was a first for the UK. Two highly distinguished African American speakers addressed their experiences in a racially divided society, which extended into their training.
This was not a conference that could have drawn all Jungians. Some of us feel that whatever Jung wrote cannot be held to account by today’s standards, Jung being ‘a man of his time’. Others amongst us do not hold to this line, and wish for a public acknowledgement of his ‘misunderstandings’, or even ‘misuse’ of words. For many of us, the time after the publication of Dalal’s paper was not only a period of shock but of horror: we had become used to having the word ‘primitive’ theoretically explained away, as though our pretty heads could not understand Jung’s intention.
Dr Fanny Brewster described, in detail, the challenges she faced and tried to
overcome in an un-flexible and sometimes hostile training institute. How to
question prejudices while staying on the right side of a training group? Until very recently, most Jungian training organisations have been patriarchal in nature, unable to be challenged in any way. The question of race could not be named, let alone discussed. Brewster
discussed her approaches to clinical work and her abiding attention to
dreams, and the Africanist nature of her understandings. Many of us wanted to hear much more about these.
Dr Alan Vaughan’s utterly fascinating presentation pursued a line in the law, indicating the way in which the laws of the US go unheeded in relation to
people of colour. (I have for some years believed that all of us doing this work need to have a solid foundation in the law – I myself now work in courts of law with some outstanding lawyers.) Vaughan referred specifically to the intersections between analytical psychology and US constitutional jurisprudence. His work brought many questions from the floor, one from a young man of colour who works in prison with young
men of colour. Bryan Stevenson’s book on his struggles to gain justice for wrongly convicted prisoners immediately came to my mind.
The day began with a profoundly moving interview, as Rotimi Akinsete from the Black African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN) sat down with Gary Younge, a Guardian columnist who works in the UK and lived for a number of years in the US. This was followed by a presentation of the work of the the Black African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN) from Jayakara Ellis
and Eugene Ellis, featuring a compelling video compilation on the history of racism in
Britain, which gave way to much discussion over lunch. As someone who grew up in a colonised country declared ‘terra nullius’ by the colonisers, I cannot see enough of this history.
Around 170 psychotherapists and counsellors attended this conference, around a third of
these being people of colour.
Impossible as it is to summarise such a complex and yet comprehensive day, it is clear that a relationship of hope has been formed between psychotherapists and counsellors of colour, and those of us who belong to an older order, with others (Helen Morgan, for example, who responded to the lectures) bridging the gap.
Helen Morgan has long been a hero of mine, ever since she wrote about her experience as a white analyst working with a patient of colour (1987). I now experience a great sense of relief that at last we have opened a door, one with the potential to change so much in theory and practice.
African American Jungian Analysts: On Culture, Clinical Training/Practice and Racism was filmed by Psychotherapy Excellence and the digital recording is available to order here.