Whiteboardings

Whiteboardings is a unique collection of poetry co-authored by Howard F. Stein and Seth Allcorn.

As described by the authors, "We co-create poems on an imaginary whiteboard between us as we visit weekly on Skype. We have coined the term 'whiteboarding' as a verb that distills our method, how we work. Its prime values are tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty, emergence rather than directional planning. We imagine the surface of a whiteboard in the transitional, open space between us (a notion derived from Donald Winnicott) and write on it our shared “free associations.” Spatially, this process can be visualized to be located between us rather than entirely within each of us. It feels as if the emerging poem has a life of its own, what Thomas Ogden calls a “third,” ours, neither yours nor mine. From the outside, our way of working appears formless and directionless, disorganized and messy! A poem eventually emerges from not needing to know at the outset where we are going – or even that we are going somewhere. Only along the journey through the unknown do we find the path. Yet the resulting poem feels like an amalgam, unitary, seamless, whole, perhaps even inevitable. The poems we have assembled here are the result of this unique experiment in writing poetry".

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Erasure, intersectionality, and neutrality

The key question raised in this article is: What is the role of the group analyst in responding to societal injustices, othering, and negation as they arise within a therapy group? For our purposes we might ask: What is the role of the consultant, researcher, teacher, or manager in responding to the same? Further, can we have any role at all if we have not reflexively examined and fully articulated the intersectional nature of our own positionality? And, what is the cost if we don’t?

The author highlights the aim of group analysis as providing “a social context where relational styles that are problematic can be worked out in a context that sustains them, enabling an increased ability to socialize and to mature” (p. 504). This is something we cannot do, they might argue, if we defensively maintain the classical position of neutrality.

Instead, we must understand our position relative to the psychosocial unconscious, the position of the individuals within the group, and the position of the group as a whole. A key feature of this understanding is the intersection of multiple identities within one’s own, and others’, standpoint – and the subjective experience of “multiple othering” (p. 499). These twin ideas, positionality and intersectionality, form the basis for the author’s critique of analytic neutrality (p. 500). The argument is that “clinical positionality is inescapable” (p. 504) and our theories and techniques are necessarily value laden.

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The implicit teacher

Perlitz (2019) sets forth the implicit qualities of an analyst (i.e. “the analyst acting and reacting based on her storehouse of relational, procedural memory”, p. 429) that make a difference in how the relationship between the analyst and the patient unfolds. They are both transformed by the implicit relational process that they co-construct. Given this hoped for outcome, the subjectivity of the analyst plays a critical role in helping the patient. In other words, we bring our whole selves to the analytic endeavor, as analyst and as patient. Holding this idea in concert with the compelling evidence that the therapeutic alliance trumps technique in promoting insight and change, it’s not far to the conclusion that who the analyst is must be more important than what the analyst does.

Perlitz notes “Although the general importance of the analyst's personality has been noted, there has been little attempt to delineate specific (italics in original) qualities of the analyst's personality that may be conducive to psychotherapy” (p. 429). Reading teaching through this lens we might ask ourselves – who must the teacher be in order to produce the student? Beyond that, who must the teacher be to produce a learner?

Join us for a discussion of the psychoanalytic approach to teaching at our 3rd biennial workshop entitled: "New Engagement with the Future: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Anxieties and Defenses in Teaching and Learning (about Management and Organizations)". The workshop will be presented online as part of the annual symposium of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations on June 29, 2022 at 6:30am CST.

For more information and to sign up visit: https://am2022.ispso.org/AM22-Workshops

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