Entering the Final Year- the last run

Can you believe it?

Looking back at my first post prior to joining this course, it’s surreal where I am at now. It has been a long journey  tinged with lots of sweat, tears and uncertainty. I remember scoffing at tutors when they said ‘this course is going to test all that you have’, thinking that they are a bunch of dramatics. I mean, how hard could it be?

As my views matured, I begun to gain a more realistic picture. The course not only asks you to be an excellent therapist, you’ll have to be a doctoral level researcher and academic too. It asks you to address excruciatingly painful unresolved issues. It asks you to carry your clients difficulties whilst managing your own anxieties of being a trainee. To top it off churning out essays and research is a given part of the course. It certainly brings to fore and augments the self doubts and criticisms that you try so hard to bury and forget. In the race to the finish line, our cohort have lost half of its members, people whom I’m sure the whole cohort holds dear to their heart. All of them were incredibly passionate about the field. In the past, I believed that determination is the root of all success, as long as you try your best, you’ll get there, but it seems that in reality, it’s much more complex than that. One can’t help but feel slightly jaded in the face of all that.

Having said that, you can’t help but look back and think, did I really do all those things? Was I really capable of those things? It takes a holiday to realise how much pent up tension I have held within me. I may be somewhat jaded but definitely more settled in my confidence.

M

What’s selective feminism? Are we guilty of it?

‘Be a man, fix the light bulb’- This is a phrase that I’m certain some self-confess feminist may on one or more occasions throw out to their male friends or partners.  Admittedly, I have been guilty of it myself although I am a strongly proponent of women’s independence. And if you’re fortunate enough to have a male partner like mine who isn’t afraid to challenge me, and simply retorted, ‘what’s this about ‘being a man’, how would you like it, if I say ‘be a woman, cook my dinner’. It struck me. His comment makes sense.

So, do some of us practice selective feminism? Are our whims merely a call for attention by women? Do women secretly crave a man who complements your dress and buys you dinner? If so, are we being hypocrites? Do we even dare to call ourselves feminists? Perhaps, now more commonly known as the ‘f’ word. Where is the line? Is it a minefield for men, if women practice selective feminism? What is the consensus?

I support equality in the workplace, and breaking glass ceiling. I am also a strong believer in women’s determination and independence in supporting themselves. I have no qualms with professions such as strip dancers nor escorts, although some may deem it as objectification of women and strongly oppose it. However, equality in general? I don’t know… Perhaps, it has something to do with the way each of us are brought up? For me, I come from a family where traditional gender roles are practiced, moreover non-traditional ones are not avoided too. Household chores are carried out by my mother, moreover, she is also a managing director of a successful company. She would constantly say, ‘as a woman, you must know how to cook and take care of your family’. On the other hand, my father is the outwardly stern figure, who does all the DIY around the house. However, he would occasionally go food shopping and make meals. So, for me, domestic duties are second nature, however, I will never be content with being a stay at home mom. Does that make me less of a feminist? If feminist are not defined so, what exactly is it?

So going back to one of my earlier questions about selective feminism being a potential minefield for men. They may feel more than ever, that they cannot understand what goes through a woman’s mind. Obviously, there are some comments that are outright sexist , and no further thought needs to go into challenging them. But there are some, where, they may have a logical point, but somehow, they sound strange. For instance, recently, I spoke to someone who commented- ‘women should be excluded from the front line, they bring down men, when conflict happens, men have to take care of them, it’s dangerous. Men naturally have better stamina, physique, this is undeniable’. I was stunned, there is some kind of truth to it, but at the same time, the way it was expressed, was distasteful, I felt. Perhaps it was something about the neglect in recognising individuality. This is perhaps similar to the infamous popular notion that ‘all men are rapist’ because ‘male has more testosterone and greater sexual appetite, this is undeniable’. I am certain my male friends, wouldn’t enjoy this accusation and assumption of an universal nature.

(For those who are interested: I proceeded to challenge the idea of  ’front line’  with more modern warfare especially in Iraq and Afghanistan and that women are perhaps more than ever suited for this profession if they so wish. Also, I would imagine that policy makers would consider standards which must be met in order to proceed. Obviously, such topics doesn’t go down well around the dinner table. )

Perhaps, fundamentally, if conflicts in conversations were to be avoided, sensitive topics needs to be approached with care.  It is imperative to recognise that the feminist movement has a long history and alot has been fought for and achieved. It has not been an easy road. Gender stereotypes (Persaud and Brugen, 2013) and inequality still exist whether one likes it or not. Moreover, as with other ideologies, individuals are on different points on this spectrum. It is not a black and white scenario. Furthermore, it is an ever changing concept  There are even talk of a 4th wave of feminism (James, 2013) :

I always say, women have brains and uteruses, and are able to use both. (Karen Brady)

I find this quote particularly relevant,

You can flout traditional feminist conventions and still be a feminist. Feminism is about freedom of choice (Georgia James, 2013)

Equally, I feel that sexism towards men is not acceptable. Feminism has long had a bad rap because of anti-men sentiments, some individual feminists do, but not all.

I find this quote rings true to my idea of feminism:

I would also add that we all have choices. Do what you love first. I know many women who broke the glass ceiling but years later, had no children or even a partner in life. So, it’s my opinion that we all have to consider the realities of where we want to be and what we are willing to give up for it. It’s also OK not to be in the boardroom, but have a equal-paying job and live a balanced life. (Mary Buffett, 2013)

I would like to end this entry with a quote derived from Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean in’ taken from Buffett (2013). I find that it espouses the idea of equality well:

Feminism never meant that 50% of the jobs of any company should be distributed to women because of their gender; it meant that women should have an equal shot at any positions based on their abilities, regardless of their gender.

M

Reference

Buffett, M. (2013) Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and the Rise of Fourth Wave Feminism. Retrieved on 10th September 2013 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-buffett/lean-in_b_2902325.html.

James, G. (2013) Is this What It Means To be a Modern Feminist. Huffington Post. Retrieved on 10th September 2013 at  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/07/11/modern-feminism-definition_n_3582876.html#slide=2686103

Killerman, S. (2012) 5 reasons why so any people believe feminism hates men and why they’re not true. Everyday Feminism. Retrieved on 10th September, 2013 at http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/12/6-reasons-why-so-many-people-believe-feminism-hates-men/

Persaud, R., Brugen, P. (2013) Psychologists find female success is bad for romantic relationships. Huffington Post. Retrieved on 10th September 2013 at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-raj-persaud/female-success-is-bad-for-romantic-relationships-_b_3878694.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

Difference between shame and guilt

As you may have already gathered from my previous post, the meeting between friends from my university days have prompted many thoughts in me. Today, I received an email from one of my friends and I was surprised by the unease and resistance I felt towards some of the words he used. More specifically on words like ‘shallow’ and particularly on ‘shame’. I then realised that this is not the first time, ‘shame’ has come into our conversations.

The first time it was mentioned, was in relation to the common practice of continual financial support from ones’ parents, which in practice could go on almost indefinitely. He expressed that he doesn’t mind his girlfriend (wife now) using her parent’ money even after marriage to support daily spendings. Upon further discussion, I put across to my friend that I would like to be financially independent of my parents once I completed my doctorate. And that I have been plagued by guilt for some time now for relying on them for such an extended period of time. To this, he reacted strongly saying that he doesn’t think it is shameful for his wife to be using her parents’ money. I was taken back and immediately clarified that I am not judging her and it hasn’t crossed my mind to think about it as shameful. A debate ensured. He was unconvinced that I don’t think it is shameful. Putting some of my therapeutic skills into practice, I clarified that the word ‘shameful’ was a concept that he brought into our conversation. Whilst I can see how it could be seen as shameful having been brought up in an Eastern society myself, in this particular context, I felt guilt rather than shame towards my parents. We left it at that and I didn’t think anymore of it.

My partner and I have been talking about marriage for some time now and he recently proposed to me on a romantic hot air balloon flight and indulged me with a dreamlike engagement ring. In a conversation with this friend of mine, he felt that my partner’s actions have put him to shame, as he felt he did a very simple proposal. This time, I was very interested in the word ‘shame’ and could feel a strange resistance towards it. It also stood out for me as I haven’t heard this word for a very long time. Yes, we read about it in psychological literature and interestingly it is usually associated with the Eastern culture, furthermore in my personal experience of conversations with clients, course mates or colleagues the closest emotion/ concept that have been brought up is ‘embarrassment’. Shame is rarely mentioned.

Following this thread of thinking, I did some research online and found an abundance of journal articles on this. One in particular stood out for me- ‘Cultural Models of Shame and Guilt‘ by Ying Wong and Jeanne Tsai. According to a review of the literature carried out by them, there is a fundamental consensus that shame and guilt is a ‘moral’ emotion. Thus it is experienced when an individual perceived that they have done something wrong. Moreover, shame is experienced when one perceived that others have evaluated their actions to be wrong/bad, whereas guilt is experienced as a result of an internal evaluation when the individual him/herself perceived their action to be wrong/bad. All these made sense so far considering Eastern’s collectivist vs Western’s individualistic society. Moreover, the article went on to propose that guilt and shame are similar to each other and in collectivist cultures, the difference is less pronounced. Guilt and shame are often used together. In addition to that, guilt and shame are context dependent. Guilt is expressed when a general code of conduct has been violated whereas shame relates to situational context. Thus shame is a more appropriate emotion than guilt in some context. It has also been suggested that it is a valued emotion in non-Western cultures as a response to failures and prompts self-criticisms which drive individuals to success. This makes logical sense to me, but somehow, it’s still niggling me. For me, it sounds like a shame-induced self-motivation suggests that we are driven to success based on goals established in relation to others. Yes, we all exist in relation to the other, but the scale of balance between self and other is a delicate one. I have personally found living my life to familial and societal expectations a tiring one.

Its’ prevalence is well documented. Research (Li et al, 2004) found that there are 83 shame related terms in a Chinese dictionary and 113 shame related terms. This puts into perspective the salience of shame. It was also found that, parents in Chinese culture are more likely to use shaming techniques to educate. Moreover, research has found that shaming in American schools have harmful consequences for students whereas for students from collectivist cultures, it appears to be self-motivating (Reasoner, 1992). Thus Wong and Tsai (2007) proposed a cultural sensitive model to working with clients in psychotherapy, where eliminating shame and/or guilt may be counter productive.

Having lived in the UK for more than 10 years and perhaps due to nature of psychotherapeutic, perhaps I have become more individualistic in my way of thinking. On reflection, my resistance towards the concept of shame is perhaps due to its focus on the negative impact of others perception towards oneself. Perhaps having seen the devastating effect of stigma, which I find to be similar to the concept of shame, I am hesitating to endorse it. I remained unconvinced that it is productive although it inevitably exists and needs to be worked with. Perhaps, it is a matter of perspective and it an emotion that could be harnessed for positive self-development.

There’s such a thing as appropriate guilt, just as there is appropriate shame.  Being able to tolerate and not be overwhelmed by them is a sign of mental health. (Burgo, 2011)

A very interesting article and talk by Dr Brene Brown on shame, guilt and addiction.

Someone experiencing guilt will say to themselves, “That was a really stupid thing to do. I wasn’t thinking.” In contrast, someone experiencing shame will say, “I’m an idiot. I’m such a loser.” In other words, guilt focuses on behavior while shame focuses on self.

M

Reference

Burgo, J. The difference between guilt and shame. Accessed on 27th August 2013 at http://www.afterpsychotherapy.com/shame-and-guilt/

Li, J., Wang, Q., Fischer, K.W. (2004) The organisation of Chinese shame concepts. Cognition and Emotion 18, p767-797

Reasoner, R. (1992) Pro: You can bring help to failing students. What’s behind self esteem programs? Truth of Trickery? School of Administrator, 49 p 23-24, 26, 30

Wong, Y., Tsai, J. (2007) Cultural models of Shame and Guilt. In J.L. Tracy, R.W. Robins, & J.P. Tangney (Eds.) The self-conscious emotions: Theory and Research (pp 209-223). New York: Guilford Press

I’ve learnt, but what does this mean?

I used to be tremendously afraid of conflict. And through months and months of talking it through with others, I have been constantly faced with one question: why am I so afraid of pissing people off?

Yes, it makes sense to avoid conflict, to maintain good relationships, but we are fundamentally very different individuals with very different opinions and ideas- so why would I expect that conflict will never exist? What was it that stopped me from engaging in conflicts? A desire to please others? A fear that I would be overpowered? An anxiety of not seeming to look like a ‘woman’?

I came to a realisation that I am experiencing what seems to be a gender identity crisis- What does being a woman means? What does being a woman who comes from a collectivist to an individualist culture means? What does being a woman who was brought up to do wifely duties yet studying a doctorate at the moment means? How does this impact on the people around me who may have perceived a big change in me, the M pre-doctorate and the M during-doctorate. The M who used to smile sweetly and politely but now stands up for her beliefs.

It has been an interesting journey so far. I recently got engaged, and some of the comments I received in my engagement card was to ‘be more submissive’, or ‘you’re sensitive’. More recently, I realised that, when I expressed my opinions vehemently, my male friends started leaving the table for a smoke or look around uncomfortably (Except for my fiancé who would debate to death with me). To clarify, I am in no way blaming them, merely very interested and curious at this phenomenon! The feedback I received was that I was behaving in a ‘sensitive’ manner. Am I? I acknowledge that when I feel very strongly about something, I can feel blood rushing to my face, my eyes flaring up and I respond with fervour. Moreover, I feel that I can take what is being said to me, and respond to it accordingly. I don’t feel at all uncomfortable in being challenged unless comments becomes personal – which I feel becomes the case a lot of the time. Topics tend to veer off to comments on personal attributes or quality rather than about the subject/topic itself. This is when I get defensive, which perhaps I should reflect on.

This anxiety where I will ‘piss people off’ and it’s a huge no no took alot of conscious effort to work through. It hasn’t come easily, it has taken years of confidence cultivating. It has served me well in my field especially, it had allowed me to publish, to present my opinion and ideas.

Perhaps, my male and even female friends are not used to this different me, perhaps it’s something about being a woman within a collectivist culture, perhaps it’s me coming across as defensive- it remains to be examined.

Last but not least, perhaps something to bolster recent knock-backs.
http://www.policymic.com/articles/46107/10-things-women-are-afraid-of-but-shouldn-t-be/597301

M

Remembrance Day. Why poppies?

It’s November 11th, Remembrance Day. A day to commemorate the valiant ones who fought in WW1 and subsequent wars. But one thing have always remained a mystery to me, why poppy?

Poppy is a flower that grow naturally in Western Europe. Apparently, after conflicts were fought on the fields during the Napoleonic wars which damages the soil condition, the only plant that were still able to grow were the red poppies. They surround the bodies of fallen soldiers and grew on their graves. But its significance as a memorial symbol came about a poem by war surgeon John McCrae’s ‘In Flander’s Field’.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

(Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Flanders_Fields)

The poem which was written from the perspective of the dead thrusts hope to others to live on.

Did you know that the Remembrance Poppy is different in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to the ones in Scotland? The ones in Scotland are curled and have four petals with no leaves whereas the ones in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the poppies have 2 petals, a green paper leaf and are mounted on a green plastic stem.

Reference

BBC-Remembrance- Why the Poppy? (2012). http://www.bbc.co.uk/remembrance/how/poppy.shtml. Accessed on 11th November 2012.

PPD: vehicle for self realisation or torture?

The concept of Personal and Professional Development Group (PPD) was not entirely new to me when I first started this course. I had a similar experience back then when studying for my masters, although that was for a shorter period of time each week. The PPD group I’m in now is for 1 and half hour and as far as I know, it seems like PsychD courses in other universities have similar groups although it may be smaller in terms of number of people in the group. For those who are uncertain what a PPD group is, basically, it’s a group where you are free to say whatever you want and bring whatever issues that you want to address, in a group that is. The idea is that the dynamics in a group is different from say one to one and obviously the people in the group are individuals in their own right with their own ideals and expectations. Therefore what you may get to experience is an array of responses to what you bring and hopefully that will help you in your personal and professional development.

Sounds pretty straightforward right?

Easier said than done.

Without compromising the confidentiality of the group I am currently in, the only thing I can say is that, be prepared to be challenged- at a personal level. Scary, but I suppose better out than in. It’s a good place to experiment your responses as well.

A thought though, why is a group needed if a challenge is to be made at a personal level to a specific someone? Is there a cultural difference where social niceties are more prevalent here and therefore a boundaried space is needed to say things that you wouldn’t normally say due to social constraints? Thinking about where I come from, I suppose we have been known as ‘rude’, because one just address things in a more direct manner between peers.

M

Give me my Choo!

A late night entry after having a look at my bank account -descends me into a state of panic and self questioning. It hits me again, maybe more than ever how expensive this course is and how time and mind consuming it is. A part time job is out of the question for me, I don’t think I can handle it with placements (3 days a week), lectures (2 days a week) plus readings, assignments, and doctoral level research. Sigh. My partner said today (after looking at his dwindling bank (yes, him too) account as a result of supporting me on living expenses), ‘you better be earning a decent amount after you graduate cos you had some pretty expensive education’. Will I be earning a decent amount? Well what’s decent? I’m sure it’s nothing compared to bankers and accountants. Would it be self defeating to say that I’m not in it for the money considering my infinite materialistic wants and desires to possess pretty and decadent things? I can’t decide. I’m sure this is just a phase… but at the moment, Jimmy Choo is beckoning me… making me wish… want…

Imagery helps, doesn’t it

Recently I came across this image and thought of saving it. It’s always been helpful for me (as my memory generally sucks) to visualize things. Like when studying the brain anatomy and chemicals during my undergrad..it’s obviously a very limited representation, but check it out:

 

~A.

Stage II => chaos!

Well, the second year of University has started, and thinking about it – a whole month has passed already!! Time definitely flies when there are things to be done! Good thing is that the complexity of this academic year seems manageable (so far). However, what has been on my mind lately is that my schedule is so chaotic and trying to piece things together takes so much time and energy out of me. Here is how my situation is currently – I have 2 counselling placements, each is relatively far from where I live; my lectures this year are only once a week, but we have those 4-5 additional intensive blocks of training where we need to attend uni every day for a week or so. This means traveling back and forth to Glasgow and rescheduling everything else that has been planned for the week – like clients’ appointments, supervision,personal therapy…life…and finding time to fit them all in.

I think i have been handling things well for the past month, but what seems to be the problems now is that i need to find another placement. This should be within an NHS organization, like a GP surgery or clinical department where I could exercise CBT (finding one will be a tough job and i’m dreading commencing the search). I already started using the approach with a client, who requested it in one of my established placements. Using Person-centred approach and then CBT..with CBT still being very fresh for me…well, to be honest things are starting to feel a bit messy. Imagine using person-centered approach for a day with clients and then the last client is my CBT client. I think the impact CBT has had on my practice already is that I’ve become more directive with my person-centred clients, my patience has changed!!!..I need to find the balance somewhere in between I suppose. I find it much easier being directive, following forms, giving out home-task etc., thinking logically instead of exploring my clients’ problems in depth…arrggg. I might explore that in another post. My tutors recommend that we don`t try to integrate things yet, until we feel comfortable with each approach on it’s own. I’m kind of wondering whether this makes sense to me..as the approaches are so different from each other. Anyways, this is my struggle at the moment.. still very fresh so I suppose I need some time to find myself and see what sits with me at this stage.

I’ve been reading a lot of research lately, I kind of like it.. (soon coming up is an intense quantitative research block which may change my positive attitude towards it though). I have also been offered to publish my lit. review in one of the Counselling Psychology journals. I’m pretty pleased with that and now have to work on preparing that review, putting it in a more presentable shape I suppose.I’m impressed how M. managed to keep this blog running last year, while so many things need to be done..like assignments, log books etc.(I didn’t mention those above but lets put it this way – the D.Psych course just doesn’t  leave a gap for you to breath).

Tc!

A.

Is it doable? Yes it is!

Congratulations to A for having a smooth year in terms of academic work and for progressing into 2nd year! Well done! You most certainly have been doing the right things, keep it up!

I’m pleased to say that I am allowed to progress into 2nd year too with a condition of resubmitting my process report and sitting for viva before July 2013! So, it’s not all too bad. But this will mean that I will have to draw from A’s self discipline as I will have an extra 2 piece of work to prepare in year 2 on top of the hefty amount of assignments and impossible deadlines we have. I count 7 assignments, in the space of 9 months, not too bad, about 1 a month not including the 3 day placement and placement related activities – actually does sound like a lot doesn’t it especially including the 2 extra piece of work I have to resubmit, makes it 9! Woohooo!!! Woohooo!!!! This feels like… I feel like I’m starting to float… losing my mind. Ok, KEEP CALM (funnily, I bought a colleague of mine the Keep Calm and Carry On mug, maybe I should get one too). Well, to be fair, we had 9 assignments on our 1st year and what more it’s the 1st year where everything is new and you feel absolutely deskilled. So, if that can be ploughed through, this can be. Hoohaaa! Power!

The point I’m trying to make here is that, somehow it is a common misconception that a doctorate is not difficult, one just has to write a piece of research, attend a few lectures here and there and ta da! you’re a doctor. But let me tell you that is not true for a PsychD, apply for this doctorate with a realistic view that you must be prepared to sweat it- blood and tears and trust in delayed gratification (pay-wise). But the immediate reward of self development and satisfaction is immense.

M.

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