Posted in Blog

Sisters

When things began to fall apart in my career and my personal relationships, I decided that I wanted to seek out new friendships but I was mindful about what type of person I was looking for.

As a disabled person of colour, I’m a double negative minority and the people I was surrounding myself with were not getting that, which was why we were falling out.


I needed sisters of colour around me.


There were actually some sisters that I already knew and I just drew closer to them. They saw me hurting and didn’t even wait for me to come, they just reached out and rang; For example one of them, I hadn’t even seen or spoken to in seven years, reached out on social media after seeing everything I’d been through. When we finally spoke on the phone the other day it was like we’d been talking every day! We’re making plans to meet up soon and we’ve been keeping in touch on WhatsApp.

One sister, I call my little sister. She has been with me through thick and thin. We’ve known each other for years; she was there through the heartache with my family. We started Teacher Training together and we were supposed to make it to the finish line together. She stood by me while my childhood best friend disappeared and I continued to cheer her on regardless of my own situation. Now she’s an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) and we talk on the phone for hours about my woke-ness (she prayed for it!) most weekends and I listen to her tales of teaching teenagers (which I surprisingly don’t miss! LOL). She bought her first car this weekend and I am SO PROUD of her. I can’t drive, you’d think I’d be jel right? Heck no! She saved up for the car, bought it herself ❤️


And then there’s my Bumble Bestie; I just cannot believe I met a sister through a frickin’ app! And one I have so much in common with! Music, art, film, fashion, politics. We’re both in interracial relationships, therefore we both understand the struggles of becoming woke after falling in love and therefore the emotional battle of being constant educators; We both also had very similar traumatic childhoods, almost parallel. I do not think I could longer go a day without talking to her.


I’ve realised that in life, you really do need friends that you can connect with and relate to. It means so much for your self-concept. Before, I was so lonely that I would surround myself with anybody and I would call these people my best friends but they didn’t know me. They didn’t know when I was really happy, sad or really suffering.


Now I have friends I can go to when I’m feeling suicidal because I’ve had multiple focal onset seizures all afternoon and can’t get out of bed.

Or when my partner has accidentally said dumb shit about structural racism and thinks I’m overreacting to his comments.

Or when I’ve been able to go for a jog for the first time in a year.

All of my sisters are with me for all of my seasons. 


Posted in Blog

The Social and Cultural Construction of Psychology: The Relationship Between Mind, Society and Culture

Representation Matters

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All persons are embedded in and form part of their own culture. The students in this class reside in different regions of the world, but also form part of different social groups and have different sexual preferences. Some live in urban areas whilst others are rural dwellers. Some are deeply religious, and others are secular.

Yet, most psychologists have received their education and have conducted their research and professional practice in a largely male, White, Western, mostly urban middle-class context. Further, the vast majority of research has been conducted in what some humorously call WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic) cultures, doubtfully representative of humans as a whole.

Throughout the history of psychology, theories that were postulated and researched in Europe and North America have been imported and taught directly in other culturally different areas of the world without substantial modifications and local adaptation.

As Wendy Stainton Rogers remarks, psychology tends to operate:

‘almost exclusively in a strange monocultural world of people-like-us, where anything different is seen as alien and exotic’. It is built upon a profound misunderstanding: that experiments conducted by people from a particular worldview on people who share the same worldview can somehow tell us anything about universal human qualities’.

This is an overgeneralisation, as in the past decades a growing number of psychologists are adhering to society’s general critical perspective..

Social constructionists argue that each one of us has to be understood within our specific culture, context and language. The particular qualities of the social practices, beliefs and institutions of our time and place, they suggest, give rise to different ways of thinking and behaving. Language plays a critical role in social constructionism: it shapes what we know, selectively filtering our attention and determining what we can say.

Through different mechanisms of social influence, prevalent cultural views and values highlight certain features of objects, situations and relationships, and promote them to a meaningful quality, whilst others are ignored or undervalued. Applied to our discipline, this implies that the prevalent views in psychology determine which dimensions, aspects, etc., can be extracted from reality and become the object of psychological investigation – and also which dimensions, aspects, etc., will remain invisible.

One of the most commonly criticised aspects of prevalent or mainstream psychology is its individualistic orientation – arguably the result of a conception of psychology as the study of individuals, as opposed to disciplines such as sociology or anthropology. Whilst it is true that interactions and the social context are present in many theories and research – particularly in social psychology – many argue that it is still an individualistic approach. The discipline still largely sees the behaviour of abstract individuals as the response to a given environment, rather than apprehending the subjectivity of concrete human beings living in historically determined societal conditions.

The individualistic orientation in psychology is hardly surprising in a field dominated by the Western ideals of autonomy, independence and self-fulfillment through individual achievement and material acquisition (Cushman, 1995). In a world characterised by the privateness of individuals isolated from one another, societal relations may appear in the form of natural relations amongst things.

This has a deep impact on many aspects of our work. For instance, already in 1971 William Ryan criticised the ‘blame-the-victim‘ politics which, by blaming individuals for their widely shared problems and legitimising only individual solutions, makes people less likely to advocate social change.

Further, these ideals are not ‘exportable‘ to many communitarian social groups around the world, and to cultures whose values prioritise interdependence, family solidarity and mutuality.

But individualism is not the only Western-White-middle class-male value explicitly or implicitly supported by mainstream psychology. Social class is, for most theories and research, invisible or inconsistently conceptualised and reported. Research areas considered as ‘feminine’, like educational psychology, are often assigned lower status. Ethnic minorities are often equated with lower socioeconomic status, and class-based analyses, when conducted, tend to neglect gender inequalities.

Gender

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References

Cushman, P. (1995). Constructing the self, constructing America: A cultural history of psychotherapy. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Ryan, W. (1971). Blaming the victim. New York: Pantheon Books.   

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