Σάββατο 16 Ιουνίου 2007
Creating a Safe Space for Groups, leading to Hope, Peace and Creativity in Life
Presenting Address for HOPE in GA,
Dr. Sabar Rustomjee, MBBS; DPM; FRANZCP: Fellow of the Royal Australian New Zealand college of Psychiatrists, Senior Lecturer and Course Co-Ordinator Master of Group Analytic Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Psychoanalytically orientated Individual and Group Psychotherapist and Psychiatrist, past president of IAGP.
Firstly I congratulate you Margarita Kritikou for the foundation of HOPE and steering your organization safely and bringing it to being the honorable and well respected organization it is today. I also congratulate the executive body, and all members of HOPE. It is my greatest pleasure to be with you today.
It is with hope and inner peace in your hearts that you all named your organization HOPE. I give all of you my heartfelt blessings and wish you greatness and glory in your future.
Similar to all of you, I grew up with Hope and Peace in my heart too. Herewith are the words of some of the great writers and poets whom I greatly admire, and who have always re-fuelled hope for me in my darkest times.
I will start with the words of Richard Lovelace, the 17th Century poet who in his memorable poem in 1649 has always had a great peaceful effect on me. He wrote to his loved one when in prison:
To Althea from Prison
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take,
That for a Hermitage;
If I have freedom in my Love,
And in my soul am free;
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such Liberty.
If a man in prison can ‘enjoy such liberty’ with the freedom of love, surely this is a model of Hope for humanity to follow. It certainly has been my model in life.
One can understand ‘quiet and innocent’, meaning ‘peaceful in one’s mind combined with other innocent and harmonious thoughts, where each note strikes the right chord, with an absence of aggression and manipulation. The quiet leading to a feeling of inner peace and without repetitive noisiness as symptoms of discontent which were either received from or projected onto others to destroy all peace of mind.
Another similar feeling that has stayed with me forever is from the immortal poem Abou Ben Adam, where Abou suddenly awakens at night and sees an ‘Angel writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adam bold’ So on asking the angel what was being written, he receives the reply, ‘with a look made of all sweet accord, ‘The names of those that love the Lord’. When Abou discovers he is not in that list.‘Abou spoke more low, but cheerily still and said, “I pray thee then, write me as one who loves his fellow men”,’. The next night the angel reappears,
‘With a great awakening light, and showed
The names that love of God had blessed.
Lo! Ben Adam’s name led all the rest.’
This poem is similar to Lovelace’s one , both of which value, ‘minds quiet and innocent’, a lifestyle of living with ‘exceeding peace’ within one’s mind, with the overwhelming wish to ‘enjoy liberty’ of being able to love freely, the desired one. It also shows acceptance( of the list the angel wrote) with Ben Adam speaking‘ more low,’ but is nevertheless ‘cheerily still’ , and is able to request another wish, namely to be among those who loves his fellow men. This is evidence of the Hope that remained in his heart.
I am referring to Hope here as a fundamental feeling which springs from within. It feels like a strong inner conviction, which when combined with determination, stops any form of giving up.
As George Eliot said, ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’
I came across these poems in my school days.
I was a simple young girl then. In a self analysis at present of that time period, long ago, I realize ,that I have always respected myself no matter how lonely or lost I ever felt.. Hence I also appreciated those who respected themselves.
I also always had hope for my future. I guess along with Hope springs Courage, Determination and Optimism. Abou Ben Adam shows how important it is to be flexible, while at the same time keeping one’s ideas intact and not compromising them.
We all need to be clear that consolation and hope are entirely different from each other. Consoling comes from another person. It may well be helpful, but may also be superficial or ‘fake’ as described by I. Murdoch, (1985)
I have enjoyed a great love for the poet William Wordsworth, especially his poem ‘Daffodils.’ I am quoting some of his lines below, which for me too has wonderful reflections of warmth, hope and inner peace. I have always lived with an inner conviction that provided one constantly tries one’s best to do what is right for others; good things will certainly come to you as well. Wordsworth suddenly came across the wealth of the field of ‘golden daffodils’.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills.
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
I gazed -and gazed- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
I feel the lines “When all at once, I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils” reminds me of Wilfred Bion’s thoughts of being ‘without desire and without memory.’ If we work and live our lives with rigidly preconceived thoughts and tunneled vision, we are restricting ourselves considerably, and may well never come across the thousands of dancing golden daffodils, both in our lives as well as in the life of our groups.
Nelson Mandela writes
‘As we let our light shine, we consciously give other people the right to do the same.’
Sure, it needs to be our ultimate aim to let our light shine, like a beacon on a dark night, and/or ‘leave footprints on the sands of time.’
I would like to share the story of a client of mine with her permission. It is an often seen occurance.
Parasitism in Family
‘A’ is a beautiful, intelligent migrant lady in her 30’s, who settled in Australia from a relatively underdeveloped country, after marrying a wealthy Australian man she loved. She was extremely kind and generous, phoned her siblings almost daily, and kept sending her family back in her home town numerous , expensive gifts, got their homes painted, etc . However, she only went very rarely to visit them, which seemed a bit strange at first until she confided in me that every time she went, she would come back, severely depressed, with considerable fatigue and hardly able to walk, feeling cold all over in her body, and could not even look after her own children for the next month or so. This was seen by me to be true after she went to see her parents and siblings on one occasion when one of them was sick. She would wear thick fur coats to keep herself warm, while her hands remained icy cold even on a relatively warm summer’s day!
I think the psychopathology is clear to see. There was intense envy from her siblings, who would humiliate her all the time in subtle ways she could not recognize. I started her in a therapy group, but once again, similar to her being in her family group, she could not tolerate it. She would stay awake most of the night wondering and rehearsing what she would tell each group member to help them. She also became paranoid about one member who was in a professional career and spoke she said with ‘words too difficult to understand’, and so she felt inferior to her. In the matter of a couple of weeks she began to loose weight, and was very relieved when I discussed with her the possibility of leaving the group, which she did after giving due notice. She left the group on pleasant terms. She has continued to see me twice weekly for the past 3 years and improved greatly. She holds her husband and children together now. However she may take many more years to strengthen up so she can protect herself adequately with her dysfunctional family.
The Strangler Fig Tree
The way she fell apart reminded me of trees in North Australia who literally fall apart once a Strangler Fig Tree invades them as a parasite. The seeds of the Strangler Fig Tree are carried by birds or the wind. It then becomes a parasitic host on the nearby healthy tree, and eats up the entire inside, splits the host tree into at least 2 parts, leaving only a dried up cold exterior. (I have pictures to show you.) All the warmth and goodness of the host tree has been destroyed totally.
Destructive Envy at Work
So I believe my patient ‘A ‘ could shine her light and goodness for her sibs to see, but only when at a very safe distance away from them, otherwise out of envy they would tear her apart. For example, in supposed good humor, on the last day of her visit, as soon she was making her way to leave, one of the sibs said to her, ‘Well, good bye to bad rubbish’. This was naturally very traumatic, after she gave them a lot of her money and good wishes!
Parasitism in Organisations and the Power of Truth.
Learning through Experiences.
Certain organizations, which I have known, are relatively very small. They have lengthy 4 year seminar programs plus additional supervisory and personal therapy requirements. This is both in Individual and Group therapy associations. Hence they do not get members graduating very quickly and there is continuous ongoing strain on the more experienced members of the training committee who carry the whole training program. A certain newly graduated member, ‘P’ suddenly developed a craving for Power. This person also had hardworking abilities and so the senior tired out members accepted most of the offers given very gratefully and without question. The person also gratified many older members by doing chores for them not connected with work. Along with this came the lust for destruction of the existing committees of the association. In P’s official capacity as, ‘helper to the secretary’, P succeeded in changing a number of relevant committee minutes, obviously hoping to become the sole person directing activities with maximum power. The committee realized what was happened but seemed to become too lifeless to do anything. H. H. Dalai Lama says ‘hatred and negative anger are real destroyers’. It is possible that the senior members recognized their own negative anger towards P, which at that time destroyed their own abilities to be constructive. ‘P’ then took over as treasurer of the association, and the association started going into large deficits. (The work of secretary was now taken on by someone else.) ‘P’ finally attacked the training program trying to turn trainees against senior trainers. The senior members then sprung to life as the training program meant a lot to them all. New strong leaderships now emerged and even members who had so far ‘turned a blind eye’ gave the training committee all their support and strength. Once all of the above was made transparent through open and truthful confrontation of P, it took almost another year for the organization to regain respect and stability. It is interesting that it took a major organizational crisis to resume healthy functioning.
A feature of ‘P’ was excessive aggression, loud attacking tone of voice, blatant lack of logic, intense hatred and envy towards everyone who earned more than P, unlinked illogical, beta elements (as described by Bion) were always present, there was denigrating of everyone else, along with a feeling of entitlement always that as P had put in ‘x’ number of hours work, hence P was entitled to everything and more! P also tried to make everyone else feel guilty, as to how lazy and inefficient they all were. However all of P’s attacks never took seed and the host association survived and thrived. It was P’s greed in going too far, that made the process clear.
We need to realize that nothing happens in isolation, and that there were many related factors. Leadership of the Association already being very weak at that time was a big contributory factor. As described above, initially the senior leaders could not put limits on P’s destructivity. A myth also prevailed at the time, which was re-inforced by P and which was, that without P, the association would collapse. Those who believed this myth did not want to be part of a sinking ship and led them to stay away.
With the relatively recent 9/11 bombing and other atrocities, it feels helpful at least to myself to read the words of H.H.Dalai Lama.
Dalai Lama writes, “If any one disturbs my peace of mind, I can escape by locking my door and sitting quietly alone. But I cannot do that with anger. I mean, ‘negative anger’. Wherever I go it is always there. Hatred or negative anger is ultimately the real destroyer of my peace of mind, and is therefore my true enemy.”
Sowing seeds of Terrorism and carrying through vengeful actions.
I recently read a book ‘The Tamil Tigress’(1997) Although it is fictional, it resonates very vividly of so many examples of terrorism which either we have read or continue to be exposed to by the media. The example in the book appears to be so typical of how vengeful seeds are planted and executed through a human mind, which at one time was innocent and devoid of such intense hatred . Once the seed is planted , like the strangler fig tree, it takes a firm hold through repeated exposures to similar traumas, either by hearing various similar accounts from others of unbearable trauma, resulting in only one avenue- namely the wish to avenge at any cost, the atrocity of the Other. We, the bystanders then start to live a life of near constant fear. Is there ever going to be a really miraculous peaceful resolution to all terrorism? Will it be in Iraq or Sri Lanka or somewhere else? Yet sadly so far the same events have continued, waxing and waning from time to time.
Nevertheless, rather than adopt passive resignation, it is useful to carry hope and compare all these factors to the strong leadership in certain countries at certain times, and how united efforts combined with love trust and respect for an authentic leader, produces results.
The leadership of Mahatma Gandhi is one such example.
The place of strong and wise leadership of M. Gandhi and the practise of Non Violence.
The Salt March 1930.
Growing up in India, I could not help but marvel at how brilliantly Mahatma Gandhi’s authenticity and strong leadership, worked at obtaining independence for India through Non Violence. One example (long before I was born) was in Indian history books. Gandhi openly defied the British government’s Salt Act which allowed only the British full monopoly over manufacture and sale of salt along with a levy charged to all Indians. It also prohibited all Indians from making salt. In March 1930, Gandhi along with 78 Indians from his Ashram marched to the sea, after giving adequate warning to the Viceroy of his full intention for Civil Disobedience in that he was going to make salt illegally. He requested ‘a real conference between equals. He also mentioned in his letter that the Viceroy earned 700 rupees a day against the Indian average income of 4 annas (cents) per day. The viceroy chose not to reply. Gandhi wrote back ‘On bended knee I asked for bread, and I received stone instead!’ He and his followers marched for 24 days at 10 miles per day and finally reached the sea! Every village they passed through the 200 mile walk, cheered them triumphantly. Webb Millar of the United Press, an American correspondent sent reports of what was happening and distributed them widely globally. These reports were on the front page of important newspapers around the world. Gandhi reached the sea, purified himself by bathing in the sea water and then gathered a handful of salt and returned to his followers. The police were called in. All protestors were physically assaulted by the police, and ‘skulls fractured methodically’. ‘There was no fight, no struggle; the marchers simply marched on till struck down.’ Gandhi saw this as a symbolic act well worth the demonstration, and similar to the Boston Tea Party. The walk was compared to the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem and parts of the New Testament were read out! Gandhi was jailed a few days later as expected. The police had not dared to touch him physically during the march. The event triggered an escalation of national pride and brought unity among Indians that they had fought bravely for their independence and with total non violence. Gandhi also felt, this act had paved the way for the future of India. Independence came later in 1945.
The good outcome is that Indians today do not resent the English people at all. Even during the British raj, they mainly resented the actions of the Government, and fought hard for their self respect, rather than accept a beggarly, dependant existence from the British raj. [Shirer,W. (1979)] There was nothing hidden in any of Gandhi’s actions.
Gandhi wrote of the British government,
‘They may torture my body,
Break my bones, Even kill me.
Then they will have my dead body and not my obedience.’
Also later he wrote,
‘I may be a despicable person, but when truth speaks though me, I am invincible.’
Finally, let us now look though my power point regarding facing the Harsh Realities of Life. It shows that a cause worth fighting for, needs determined united effort with containment.
As a child, and later an adolescent in India during this period, I felt so proud of Gandhi, especially his command of the English language which when combined with his legal experience, found the British unable to do anything else except give India its rightful independence.
Anyone with Inner peace carries within them light and warmth. We accept the white dove as a symbol of peace, carrying the light and the warmth of the sun. Maybe the dove is chosen as a non aggressive bird. It is not that the color white in itself is superior or inferior to any other color.
In my internal world, every cloud has a silver lining. The silver shines out from all around the cloud even when the cloud is hiding the warmth of the sun!
Inner peace and Hope most of all are born from long standing underlying feelings of being a worthwhile human being who values integrity, truth and love.
Although I was a lonely and sad child after my father’s death, my mother’s love and respect for me paved the way to have good internalized parental models (imagos), to keep developing good internalized objects and Always Keep Hope Alive.
Frederick McCubbin’s painting ‘The Lost Child ,’ is a painting I came across only last month.
McCubbin is a famous Australian impressionist. One does not know what prompted him to paint this young girl- obviously lost in a forest of young beautiful bright blue gum trees surrounding her. She stands straight and upright, holds her hand to her eyes, but she is not crying. She has a huge pocket full of mushrooms she has picked before she gets lost. There is nothing forlorn or pathetic about the girl, nor about the gum trees. In fact a twig in front of her is broken, which could lead to her being found. This painting to me showed her inner strength and Hope even when the girl appeared to be lost. It is thought that there had been a real incident of a girl like her a couple of weeks earlier in Australia, who had been lost and later found which may have influenced Mc Cubbin.
Here is my first personal experience of a Transparent Median family group which inspired me about group processes from a very young age.
My mother had been an Indian prior to her marriage and had been very close to her brother, hence her decision to leave Sri Lanka after my father’s death when I was aged 5. She asked her brother to go back with her to Sri Lanka to sell all her assets. He agreed on condition she paid his travel fare. She apparently agreed then and later accused him of being greedy. He then called a combined family group including myself (against my mother’s protests that I was too young!), and explained to all of us the facts as he knew them. I have always admired his courage and his respect for my sister aged 12 and myself aged 5, mainly to clarify to us as well as to all his own children that he had not done anything wrong. As he had 12 children this became a median group, where he was willing to answer any question. It was a most productive group experience. I loved my mother in spite of knowing she had been wrong. It was a group without any malice or any anger from my uncle and only based on truth.
My new life in India, gradually took me to a feeling of peace within myself, and I became determined to follow in my father’s footsteps as a doctor. The main issues which helped me were my religion as a Zoroastrian, believing in righteousness, thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and doing good deeds for all. The optimism of the Zoroastrian religion with the absence of the fear of being exiled to eternal Hell, helped me to accept and respect it. I felt I belonged to a respectable religion. Reading Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, as well as Freud’s and Nietzsche’s descriptions of Zoroaster’s views of the relative innocence of the Pale Criminal-the one who already suffered guilt prior to the crime, helped me to respect Zoroaster all the more.
The Role of Gender based issues in Zoroastrians.
It is of interest to know that the Zoroastrian female was highly respected in the Kianian period 2000 BCE to 700 BCE. They held their heads up high, could own and manage property, could be a guardian to a son disinherited by a father. Women could even be appointed as a judge.
During the Achemenian period 558-330 BCE, the role of the woman changed, and they were considered inferior to the male. Kings could marry several wives.
In the Sassanian period 226AD-651 AD, the status of females rose again. They could own property and even become queen in the absence of male successors!
It is a matter of pride and joy to know how advanced civilization was in that er
THE POWER OF TRUTH
Self Respect. My next aim was now always to be true to myself. My father had written in my autograph book, Shakespeare’s words,
‘To thine own self be true
And it shall follow
As the night the day
Thou shalt be false to no man.’
I used this experience and many others when I was voted president IAGP.
Jay Fidler, one of IAGP’s founding fathers, was brilliant in defusing tension with good will and humor in organizational meetings. He taught us that at the start of a president’s term of office, there is always unrest, with power play for the position of ‘who really rules’, and ‘who is the puppet.’(my words, not his.) It is from the start, that confrontation of any untruths is necessary, or else it is easy for a rebellious, parasitic member to push a chairperson out of the chair, on some pretext and continue to make a mockery of the whole meeting.
Despite teething problems, I was more than happy with my term as President IAGP 2000-2003.
The above are examples where a clear understanding of the dynamics makes all the difference, and peace and hope are able to be restored.
I will end with the words of Emily Bronte
‘No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere,
I see heaven’s glory shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.’
In conclusion, I take this opportunity to thank all of you, very sincerely for all the support given to me during my presidency. It is all of you especially Margarita who made the difference
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2. Hunt Leigh- Abou Ben Adam.
3. Wordsworth, W .Daffodils.
Selected Poems. Ed P. Reddick (2002) The Folio Society.London.
The Classic Treasury of best- loved Children’s Poems. Ed. (2005) Virginia Mattingly. Courage Books. Running Press.
4. The World Book Encyclopedia, (1978) Vol, B, C, L and W. World Book, Child-craft Int. Inc. USA.
5. Mandela, N. (1994) Long Walk to Freedom. Abacus, UK.
6. Mc Cubbin, Frederick. (1886) Lost. Oil on canvas painting, National Gallery of Victoria.
7. Bartholomeusz, D (1997) Tamil Tigress. National Library of Australia.
8. A Zoroastrian Tapestry, (002 ) Art, Religion and Culture. Ed Pheroza Godrej and Firuza Mistree. Mapin Publishings. Grantha Middletown USA; Art Books Int. Oxon UK OX 7.
9. Shakespeare, (1623) W. Hamlet. Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published Ifaac Iaggard and Ed. Blount.
10. Gandhi, M.K. (1989) A Thought for the Day. Translated, Edited and Published by Anand Hingorani. Gandhi Series. C 18/Dmunirka, New Delhi, India.
11. Blomfield, OHD. (1983) Parasitism. Projective Identification and the Faustian Bargain.
12. Bronte, Emily Jane (1846) No Coward Soul is Mine The Penguin Book of English Verse. Ed, Hayward J. 1956. Penguin Books.