Saturday, February 21, 2015

Learner Therapist (55) … it takes a village to make a mind

Torrey Orton

February 21, 2015

Parent, sibling, peer, partner… again


On this day 17/02/2015 there were 19 YouTube videos entitled ‘It takes a village to…” to make all manner of things, amongst which make a mind was one. The most noteworthy parallel is “to raise a child.” Villages are in declining supply in Australia, though I’m daily reminded of my roots in something near to a village 60 years ago in Massachusetts. It, Lunenburg, had a population of 5,000 which would count for a medium sized country town here, but felt like a village because within 15 minutes bike ride of my house could be reached every kid in my class in the local primary school and all their siblings older and younger than me. I felt like I knew everyone in Lunenburg, except for the occasional foreigners - soldiers from Fort Devens who passed though on the way to and from the bars of the mill town down the road (pop. 45,000). I subsequently spent 9 years in small educational institutions, secondary and tertiary, in equally small towns in New England. Double villages – residential education and small town environs for the price of one.

What reminds me of this heritage is the feeling I have about knowing people in our neighbourhood which has grown by about double in the last years as the newly minted flats of Studio Nine came onto occupational line. I don’t expect to know them all, any more than I knew all the locals of the old days here. What I do expect is to be able to recognise them and thereby know them for being among us and potentially of us – the locals. At a minimum, responsibility for turd patrol can be expected these days. This is one aspect of a village. Every villager knows the rules and respects them by enacting them. Our ‘village’ is a little more eclectic than Lunenburg or the others were, and maybe still are. So rule recognition and following is a bit more variable than I would like…but “it is what it is” as the saying of resignation and withdrawal goes, which I do not suffer lightly.

I’m drawing this out because it seems to me that we suffer a shortage of village, and certainly of “community”, another of those now empty words invoked anytime politicians want to embrace everyone as if they are beneficiaries of some offer which in fact has highly differentiated impacts for various parts of the putative community. So wither therapy in all this? Increasingly I find myself giving little speeches about our social states in explanation of some of the forces to which patients feel themselves subject as they struggle to right their traumatised lives.

These speeches emphasize, implicitly, the near absence of effectively supportive communities for us and the disproportionate presence of oppressive ones. Those for whom this absence doubled by oppression really matters are the traumatised. We in the therapeutic community know that socialising our experience is a basic way of engaging, normalising and embracing it, but that requires community at the village level. I have some patients who speak of their local “village” as the replacement for families of origin which have abandoned them. For them the village is a pub and its environs, a small shops and cafes street with enough density to be peopled most daylights hours and quite few early dark ones – peopled with recognized others.

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