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Racism has played a major role in the development of western societies, and although there has been progress towards racial equality, it remains a repressed organising principle in our culture and forms an unconscious part of our psyches, identities and relationships. This paper contends that as a result of this history there exists within the psyche a complex about race that is usually hidden, rarely explored and largely unanalysed. The race complex consists of feelings, images and beliefs, consciously and unconsciously held, which seems to autonomously influence our attitudes and behaviour and can obstruct or disturb our relations to reality.
Although psychoanalysis has concepts and tools that can develop our understanding of this complex, psychoanalytic training organisations have historically failed to think about race and racism in the training of psychotherapists. Consequently, a psychotherapy culture has been inherited, which mirrors the wider culture, one in which race within the psyche is a largely unthinkable subject and is an unanalysed part of most therapists' minds.
In this paper, I will draw on clinical and other material to illustrate the race complex, and propose that the profession needs to create a non-judgemental environment where resistance towards thinking about race and racism in oneself is better worked with in order that greater personal and professional understanding of race in the psyche and in our relationships can be achieved in our profession.
Frank Lowe: ie is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and Head of Social Work Adult Services and the Adolescent & Young Adult Service at the Tavistock Clinic. He has published several papers on race and psychotherapy and edited Thinking Space: Promoting Thinking about Race, Culture and Diversity in Psychotherapy and Beyond (Karnac 2013). He was given an award for psychoanalysis and diversity by the British Psychoanalytic Council in 2015 for establishing 'Tottenham Thinking Space', an open therapeutic group for Tottenham residents following the 2011 riots.
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Telephone: 07789 545908
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