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Burman - Emotions in the Classroom and the Institutional Politics of Knowledge

Emotions in the Classroom and the Institutional Politics of Knowledge
by Erica Burman

 The Manchester Metropolitan University

 

      We now live in a temporal and cultural context in which emotions have changed places with reason to become an explicit, legitimate topic of discussion, of intervention, of manipulation and instrumentalisation. From being that which the modern rational unitary bourgeois subject strenuously denied or warded off, in the inexhaustible postmodern search for new technologies—for managing oneself or others—the repressed has been returned from the margins to a new and central market niche. No longer the opposite of reason, emotions are now seen as its indispensable ally, which—as the books on topics such as ‘emotional intelligence’ indicate—are amenable to application and technologisation. Emotions have even become separable from the people expressing them: for where once the notion of ‘emotion mapping’ would have evoked cognitive psychoeducational training, it now describes the superimposition of film star’s faces and reactions onto the stunt people performing their actions in best-seller movies.  

    This might sound like a cynical place to start for a feminist academic committed to acknowledging the emotional character of research, teaching and learning processes; and a psychotherapist facilitating groups to explore their covert emotional tensions and themes. But we cannot ignore the broader socio-political conditions that foster the emergence of such academic and therapeutic contexts. Rather, these rarefied arenas are themselves perhaps merely the more exclusive places for the practice of the 'psy complex’ (Rose, 1985, 1990), with TV talk shows and shrink thriller films and self help manuals forming the popular cultural climate for attending to, managing and improving one’s 'self’ and relationships (see broader discussion in Squire, 2001).  

    But there is one further element in this complex cocktail of current cultural continu­ities between definitions of therapeutic and educational knowledge that I want to mention before moving on. This is the elusive presence and absence of ‘gender’—and here we might also want to consider how gender is typically foregrounded to stand in for other characteristics of ‘otherness’. The clichéd association of women and femininity with the emotional is often taken as symptomatic of all that has been othered by the normalisation of white, middle class Euro—US experience within psychological, legal and bureaucratic models (e.g., Pateman, 1989; Broughton, 1988; Walkerdine, 1988), giving rise to claims of women’s ‘different’ voices (Gilligan, 1982) or gender-specific relations to ethics and politics (see discussion in Bowden, 1997). Within psychoanalysis ‘hysterical’ women occupy a unique role in its epistemophilic generation (Moi, 1989), while Lacanian formulations position the analysand as speaking within the discourse of the hysteric (Fink, 1999).  

    Clearly we are now a long way from fixing feminine genres onto women (as the recent cases of men murdering as a result of unwelcome disclosures on the Jerry Springer Show testify). Indeed talk of the feminisation of labour itself highlights how the casual, part-time and flexible conditions that characterised women's work now affect men too - whether portrayed as the elite privilege of the home-based freelance executive or the hourly paid casual labourer.  That such patterns of work are also highly racialised (with African-Caribbean men being recently reported as one of the groups least likely in Britain to have full-time stable employment) only highlights the mobility and fluidity of such gendered cultural contents, for signficant political-economic reasons.

    This is the broader landscape in which I want to situate my discussion of links between therapeutic and educational discourses and practices. I will move on now to focus on more specific continuities between developments in therapeutic and educational practices. As will become clearer, my aim is to highlight areas of ambivalence and tension within each arena rather than to warrant the superiority of one over the other. Indeed my argument is that we do not solve the underlying problems by exchanging psychotherapeutic for educational discourse--but may even thereby obscure some key issues. My attention to gender issues is overdetermined by my drawing of examples both from academic practices within women’s studies and feminist research, and of feminist approaches to group and individual therapies.  But I will suggest that there are particular reasons why these form particularly relevant arenas for my topic.  

    Even though, or rather precisely because, I am far away from its therapeutic and educational practices, the principle resource I will draw upon for theoretical critique and interrogation will he Lacanian. While Lacan was neither profeminist nor immune from the very issues of institutional authority he rigorously critiqued ( Macey, 1995; Roudinesco, 1990)), he offered a trenchant critique of the role of  the discourse of the University as standing in key structural tension with that of Analysis (Lacan, 1969—70; Verhaeghe, 1995; Fink, 1995).  I see this as particularly relevant or evaluating the current climate of rapprochement between education and psychotherapy.    

Topics and process: common terrain    

    The traditional story of the relationship between academic and therapeutic arenas is that each is what the other is not, and therefore contests and challenges the other. This has traditionally given rise to a cosy polarisation where each leaves the other to get on with its work, except for the interventions of the effectiveness researchers, or the growing number of academic enthusiasts of therapy.  The positivist, empiricist view of scholarship and research treats emotion as that which should be excluded or avoided—as 'bias’(Banister et al., 1994). Yet paradoxically this 'disinterest’ leaves distance and even hostility as the dominant—albeit covert-- emotions structuring research and writing. fostered by the competitive individualism of liberal meritocracy that structures education. Feminist commentators on psychological research—that paradigm of pseudo­science (Weisstein. 1971/93; Tavris. 1993 )—have long pointed out how objectivity is a particular form of subjectivity, not its opposite (Holl way, 1989) whereby “the use of the third person ...  [is] . . . a hiding place’’ (Walkerdine, 1998, p. 59).  

    In asserting the inevitable presence of emotional commitment and interest, feminist researchers both draw upon and share some common ground with psychotherapeutic thinking. Indeed commonalities (as well as tensions, Kitzinger and Perkins. 1993) between feminist and psychotherapeutic projects have been widely noted (Bondi and Burman, 2001; Burman,1995; Ernst and Goodison, 1981; Heenan and Seu. 1998).  

    Confessional TV may be rewriting second wave feminism to read 'the personal as political' as a personalisation of the political rather than a politicisation of the personal as a means of empowerment and social transformation (although as Squire, 2001, points out we should not be too quick to dismiss the multiplicity of subversive as well as regulatory readings and resources even this offers). Yet the attention to subjectivity in educational contexts has been profoundly destabilising and exposing of the workings of power within it. We know from school contexts how emotions typically only become noticed or thematised as ‘difficulties’ and are usually inextricably associated with behavioural and learning ‘difficulties’ whose identification often only deepens the pathways of pathologisation and segregation that children and young people experience (Billington, 2000; Salzberger-Wittenberg, 1983).  

    Hence while the ‘hiding place’ of subjectivity-as-objectivity is central to the maintenance of traditional power relationships of, and surrounding, academic practices, psychoanalytic ideas have offered generative and inspirational resources for the analysis of the processes and effects of such occlusions. Responding to the general crisis in political and textual practices of representation, the reflexive turn within the social and human sciences has spawned whole genres of situated, discursive and perspectival modes of writing and research practices, in which psychoanalytic ideas have a privileged—albeit not always visible—place (see, e.g., Hunt, 1989). Post-colonial, feminist and cultural studies criticism all draw heavily on psychoanalysis, albeit partially (in its double sense of being both selective and motivated). They use psychoanalysis in particular to expose the techniques and mechanisms of ‘othering’ (whether around structures of racialisation, class, sexuality or disability). Currently (although I do not want to overestimate their impact on the still-supreme discourse of science that rules social science research), handbooks of qualitative inquiry and feminist research are highlighting the political imperative to theorise the role of one’s own unconscious processes underlying dominant academic/knowledge-generating practices (e.g., Denzin and Lincoln, 1995). This includes recommending the analysis of conflicting fantasies of self and others mobilised within research encounters as a means of negotiating and interpreting the dynamics of identification, difference and power relations involved.  

    So, to give you some practical illustrations of this, let me talk about two very different interventions within our postgraduate women’s studies course. I warrant my focus on this educational arena not only because it consumes the bulk of my work, but also because I believe it exemplifies—although in perhaps a more intense way—dynamic processes happening in all academic contexts, albeit often less amenable to attention. Moreover, as will become clearer, the tensions and ironies within the project to become a Master (in the sense of gaining an MA) in Women’s Studies may well be a relevant resource for other incipient Masters students within psychotherapy.  

    Over the eight or so years that the MA in Women’s Studies has run at MMU we have become aware of two divergent sets of difficulties that our students encounter (that we might perhaps ascribe as ‘emotional learning’ in the problematised sense I have identified—and here we might relevantly pause to wonder: difficulties for whom? Us as teachers, or (only) them as students?). The first area concerned managing contexts of disclosure within classrooms and within coursework. Students, in the course of a discussion or in association to course material, sometimes disclose personal experience that (a) they might later regret or feel exposed by; or (b) might feel this has not been supportively received by the group since it highlighted an area of structural and contested difference between group members; or alternatively (c) might inadvertently touch unhelpfully on some area of distress for another group member (notice how I am now within the register of problematised ‘emotional experience’ discourse); or finally (d) treat the course as their group therapy and relate to all reading and discussion in this frame.  

    In terms of assessment,  the desirable and typical process of planning and executing a piece of written work (whether essay or dissertation) is one where the emotional-political involvement functions to motivate and sustain the work  Nevertheless there are times when this involvement overwhelms the task so that the academic quality of the assessment becomes secondary to its role as a containing vehicle (or transitional object in Winnicott's, 1975, sense) for the management of emotions (see my discussion in Burman, 2001a).  Our staff team now take great pains to make clear at the outset that we do not evaluate personal experience, but rather we assess what students do with this in their written work.  But notwithstanding this, within a context of vulnerability--especially where this has been heightened by disclosure of insufficiently processed material- there is ample scope for a misreading of a negative academic evaluation as reflecting a response to the type or form of disclosure of the experience.  

    From such 'experiences', and drawing also on our own experimentation with modes of writing and discussion of accounts of experience (prompted by, but going beyond, our engagement with Frigga Haug and others' method of 'memory-work' (Haug et al., 1987)), we have made two quite divergent interventions within our programme.  The first was to highlight further the use of experience as a textualised resource - both in our analysis of the reading and within discussion- and beyond this to add to our profile of courses a module in 'creative writing' which explicitly teaches as a craft practices of writing experience.  Here we might note one point of broader relevance to return to later:  that, following Haug et al., we were flying in the face of most feminist and therapeutic thinking in advocating a distance from personal experience, rather than only promoting the strategy of 'owing' it as 'personal'.  This was not only to safeguard or foreground the academic task (which otherwise becomes caught up in all the shame of failure as well as exposure), but also to maintain the covertly therapeutic character of the political-academic analysis.  For indeed 'protected' in such ways, both might well be sustained; knowing one's place by displacement, to resituate it within a broader context.  In Haug et al.'s (1987, pp. 45-46 words:

However important it may be for women to speak and write of themselves as 'I' and thereby to register a protest against the pressures on them to leave their own selves out of account - to attempt, that is, to find a place for themselves within the categories of abstract and impersonal thinking-we believe that it is nonetheless essential to use the third person in memory-work.  Writing about past events is almost impossible, unless we have some way of distancing ourselves... By translating our own experiences into the third person, we were enabled to be more attentive to our selves.  Thus the gaze we cast today on our selves of yesterday becomes the gaze cast by one stranger on another.

Secondly, and as a correlative to creating pedagogical contexts to address the 'emotional experience' of learning at a distance, we instituted (as an accredited module1) an experiential group for students to explore the issues emerging for them individually and interpersonally through their engagement with the degree.2  Feminist Group Dynamics, as the module is called, ran for the first time in 1999-2000, and there is no doubt in my mind that it functioned as an invaluable and challenging place for all of us involved in it, fostering analysis of the classed and gendered dimensions of engagement within higher educational processes, and involving key interrogation of the modes, meanings and diverse authorities of feminist practice possible within University settings (Coulson and Bhavnani, 1990, Burman, 2001b).

   These are the kind of the pedagogical dilemmas that brought me into my training as a group analyst; and which now support my thinking and practice (or at least remind me of what I cannot do, c.f. Foulkes, 1986, p. 5).  But having spoken of how the potentially therapeutic discourse of ‘emotional experience’ enters Universities, now let me change hats to talk a little about how educational discourses operate within psychotherapy. Are there reciprocal gains, or does one predominate at the expense of the other? In particular I want to highlight a cluster of questions around writing, authority and institutional practices of knowledge generation and interpretation.  

Knowing and non-knowing

  I must admit to arriving at my psychotherapy training expecting an induction, including a tour of the building, and a handbook of material about the course (which indeed there now is—more of that later). The response to my expressed expectations taught me not to repeat them. But the period of my training has been politically transitional, with a marked shift from hostility and suspicion around educational discourse and devices to their positive promotion within demarcated aspects of the programme. Indeed it could argued that—as an academic as well as experientially based training—both features should be attended to. Hence there is a new climate of openness and negotiation around curriculum and practical arrangements that, arguably, fits well with a consumer/client, rather than patient/analysand, model.  

    This reflects developments at a national level within the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP), where the discourses of transparency and accountability figure strongly—albeit within a frame of political struggle to establish the credibility of psychotherapy as a profession. In this academic accreditation now features as both strategy for the registration campaign and as independent goal. Psychotherapy becomes gathered into the educational arena through subscription to the overarching contemporary governmental discourse of ‘lifelong learning’, and subject to evaluation and updating through (now compulsory) practices of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).  

    Here by virtue of two occupational hats I find myself now wearing a third. I am currently involved in a subcommittee of another psychotherapy training institute, in which I am supposedly helping develop a CPD policy for that institute in accordance with UKCP requirements (UKCP, 1999). Moreover I find I am accorded ‘expert’ status as an educational advisor, and this is valuable because the UKCP’s formulation of frameworks of regulation of training ‘standards’ and ‘outcomes’ are all cast within educational discourse.  

    What in reality I bring to such discussion is, however, a profound suspicion about the workings of the discourses of transparency and accountability within educational contexts. Not that transparency is not a desirable goal, but rather that claims of transparency often obfuscate rather than clarify processes of accountability. Both feminists and Lacanians would dispute the political neutrality of knowledge. Hence the feminist commitment to reflexively situating processes of knowledge-production to reveal—and therefore render available to challenge—its partiality of interests. Lacan, in particular, contested the possibility of full or complete knowledge, preferring a conception of analytic truth as structurally incomplete and elusive, as half-said, exemplified by the enigma.    

The truth, I tell you, can only be stated through a half-saying, and I gave you a model of it in the enigma ... For it is truly thus that it is always presented to us, and not certainly in the state of a question. The enigma is something that presses for a response in the name of a mortal danger. (Lacan, 1969/70, Chapter 7, p. 75)

The enigma of course stands against the quest for transparency, as manifested in documents specifying criteria, outcomes and processes.  For theses grids of description (and associated practices of monitoring) live a political life of textuality and representation that stands apart from, as well as claiming reference to, specific instantiations.  They inhabit the domain of bureaucracy, of administrative practices of power, that typically function to mask rather than reveal structures of personal responsibility.  If we draw upon Lacanian critiques, their superimposition upon psychotherapeutic training goals threatens to reconstitute these in at least two ways.  Firstly, the discourse of 'transparency' is vulnerable to the charge of constitutive impossibility - for in claiming to offer transparency it obscures how its structure occludes features of that which it surveys.  Secondly, it invites a reading that confers false certainty and fixity on its claims to knowledge (see also Parker, 2001a, 2001b).

    While the UKCP discussion paper has recently been ratified (its AGM was in March, 2001), it represents key changes of significance in the status and representation of psychotherapeutic knowledge.  For in the very elaboration of 'descriptors' that claim to provide a means of evaluation of different trainings according to general criteria, we enter a domain of bureaucratic discourse that has long prevailed within Higher Education.  Indeed this is part of its rationale:

 The Generic Level Descriptor, the modes of assessment and assessment criteria are all couched in terms which match postgraduate university provision in comparable courses. (Evans,UKCP, 2001, p. 18)

Training emotions

If there's one thing that psychoanalysis should force us to maintain obstinately, it's that the desire for knowledge has no relationship with knowledge... A radical distinction, which has far-reaching consequences from the point of view of pedagogy - the desire to [k]now is not what leads to knowledge.  What leads to knowledge is ... the hysteric's discourse. (Lacan, 1969-70, p. 12)

Psychotherapy trainings have long been the butt of argument and serious jokes about their persecutory conflation of training as therapy (Kernberg, 1996).  Lacan puts forward a polemical analysis of the position of the student, that he intentionally generalises from the student of the University to that of the psycho-analytic training institute.  He is particularly scathing about the Discourse of the University and its overlap with the Discourse of the Master, seeing the pursuit of 'science' or knowledge-in-general( as opposed to the partial, limited singular character of analytic knowledge0 as always vulnerable to instrumentalisation and therefore to bolstering prevailing power structures.

Truth is only a question, as has been known for a long time, for the administrators ... Is this discourse [of truth] good, or is it bad?  I intentionally pin it down as the university discourse, because it is in a way the university discourse which shows him [the subject] where he can sin, but it is equally, in its fundamental disposition, the one that shows what the discourse of science assurs itself of. (Lacan, 1969/70, Chapter 7, p. 75)

This account generates some fruitful questions.  Does a greater subscription to an educational discourse help ward off this potential dynamic of terrorisation?  Or does it rather add to the panoply of power tactics available where 'experts keep us on their best behavior' (Phillips, 1995, p. 15).  Lacan describes the paradoxical position of the student, the one who studies as also the 'astudied' to highlight how the student is caught within the master/slave dialectic of the production and power relations, in this case of the pursuit of (human) science truths, iwith 'command' substituting for 'truth'.

The student feels 'astudied'.  He is 'astudied' because like the worker ... he has to produce something ... The unease of the astudied is ...that they are all the same requested to constitute the subject of science out of their skin, which on the latest account, seems to present some difficulties in the zone of the human sciences.  And thus it is that, for a science so well founded from one aspect, and so obviously triumphant on the other, triumphant enough for it to be qualified as human, no doubt because it takes humans for humus, things that make us land on our feet again, and make us tough what is comprised by the fact of substituting the pure and simply command, that of the matter for/at the level of truth. (p. 77).

In these ways educational practices position the student as an empty vessel in need of training that precisely wipes out preceding knowledge and compels acquisition of proffered techniques instead (and indeed the introduction of compulsory education was designed to fulfil this function, Hendrick, 1990).  Hence the categorical imperative from the master to 'keep on knowing' fixes the student within the panoptical landscape of subjectification to the Master.  It is this double-sided model of the subject (as subject of, and subject to, knowledge) which generates echoes of Foucaludian analyses of self-regulation to these training practices.  

Don't think that the master is always there.  It's the command that remains, the categorical imperative, 'Keep on knowing'.  There is no longer any need for anyone to be there.  We are all embarked, as Pascal says, in the discourse of science.  (Lacan, 1969-70, p. 77)

On the other hand, we might develop Lacan's conception of the trainees as the 'astudied' in more critical or emancipatory directions.  For according to a Kojevian Hegelian analysis, the Slave has access to knowledge from which the Master is structurally excluded.  This poses a further interesting question.  Does this mean that those positioned as subordinate within training structures have available to them knowledge of structural limits of such total systems as schemes of training evaluation that the administrators of them cannot have?  Feminist academics have long subscribed to this point of view in highlighting political practices of accountability that lie beyond the academy (Wise, 1997; Harding, 1993).

Institutional issues:  mastery in psychotherapy

Now I should make clear that I am not opposed to psychotherapy courses claiming or upgrading to 'Master's level.  While I might have regrets about the further penetration of the institutional authority of the acadmey, this is clearly a lost battle.  With academic inflationary rates being what they are, professional trainings currently designated at Certificate and Diploma levels clearly carry less authority than they used to, so that now not only Masters but also Doctorates are on the agenda.  Thus with this acceleration of the accreditation economy fuelled by market competition, one can only wonder what will come next.  I will mention four reservations:

(i)  Form/content as a false opposition that naturalises the first even as it specifies the second.  It is hard to disagree with either the enterprise of, or the specific formulation of the training descriptors put forward within the UKCP proposals.  But this in itself is a matter of concern in terms of the ways ideologically-ridden categories of evaluation can become naturalised.  So, for example, the division drawn between 'person skills' and 'context of practice' reproduces the individual-social split which abstracts and reifies qualities of interaction as pseudo-cognitive 'skills' that can be individually owned and wielded, that both feminists and some forms of psychotherapy would problematise (Dalal, 1998; Harris, 1987). 3  But the dominant discourse of 'professional learning' and demonstrable 'educational competences' overrides such reservations, and privileges instead a bureaucratic discourse more reminiscent of job descriptions than of psychotherapeutic exploration.  

(ii)  The insidious expansion of the discourse of the university makes it difficult to elaborate positions of evaluation from outside it.  More importantly, the obviousness or normalisation of this university discourse threatens to remove from discussion questions of power and authority that the analysis of transference foregrounds (and on which radical claims for the subversive character of psychoanalytic practice rest, e.g., Maguire, 1995; Benjamin, 1988). Its totalizing structure renders such analysis only as pathology— as deviance or dissent. We need a space to ask such questions as: who regulates the regulators, and how do we apply the call to analyse how the transference to training institutions fuels compliance (as analysis within distnct training cultures are now highlighting, e.g., Marten. 1999: Phillips. 1995)?

(iii) Centralising authoritv. There have been many other expressions of reservations about the centralisation of both academic and ethical regulation within one statuatory body (House, 1999; House and Totten. 1997; Figlio, 2000; Parker, in press). There can no doubt that this is one key aim of the UKCP for the discussion paper ends with the comment

The UKCP also needs to take note that there are national bodies either being set up or already in place to ensure quality of provision and of ethical practice. It is therefore incumbent on UKCP to retain initiation and control of the process.  (Evans UKCP, 2001, p. 18: my emphasis)  

Here the demand is not for the sufficiency of the approach to the task but for power over its administration. However understandable this may be as a political project. it is clearly located within the discourse of the master:

a real master desires to know nothing at all—he desires that it work (Lacan, 1969—70, p. 12)  

(iv) Defensive practice. The socio-political context for regulation and evaluation is principally legislative. Indeed the UKCP discussion document is prefaced by comments asserting the need to be proactive in responding to the shift from a ‘trust me to a show me culture’ (Evans/UKCP. 2000, p. 5). In Lacanian terms the Law is the pure discourse of the Master. We know the consequences of such punitive legal versions of accountability in terms of fostering defensive forms of professional practice. The presumption of adversarial contestation polarises and closes down areas of ambiguity, overlap and uncertainty, that in the first place can covertly censor, or render incapable of expression, key features of therapeutic process (Bollas and Sundelson, 1995).  Secondly, it highlights mastery over subjection (to knowledge) and therefore privileges conscious, rational, controlling knowing over emotional or retroactively understood forms of psychoanalytic truth.

There where I am thinking I do not recognise myself, I am not, it is the unconscious.  There where I am, it is too clear that I lose myself. (Lacan, 1969-60, p. 75).  

Warding off a merger

in wanting to leave the university discourse one implacably re-enters it.  (Lacan, 1969-70), p. 45)  

I have come full circle in my discussion, from arguing for the relevance of the psychotherapeutic discourse of emotions within the educational arena of Higher Education, to problematising the extension of the discourse of the University via academic accreditation processes into psychotherapy training.  I neither want to claim that these discourses are separate, nor that they are equivalent in their practice within the different arenas.  Neither that we can dispense with them, nor that we should not connect them.  Rather I want to highlight some shared dilemmas and features that both can usefully attend to, and that their juxtaposition illuminates.

    So I want to end with one point of contrast and alternatively one of connection between psychotherapy training and educational practices.  Firstly, educational practices maintain their therapeutic character by remaining largely covert:  the attention to process is subordinated/motivated by the outcome.4  Analysis of reflexive processes in research is prompted by the struggle for ethical-political adequacy in warranting knowledge claims; rather than to benefit personal insight( which may arise as a secondary gain, so to speak) - in this sense parallelling the use of countertransference to support therapeutic work.  Research relationship/processes involve conflict, challenge and discomfort (and if they are 'easy' then that 'rapport' or connection itself demands an equal critical scrutiny for the practices of privilege and power confirmed within this).  So analysis of structural tensions can be usefully informed by analysis of emotional sequelae of that conflict.

    Secondly, therapeutic practices threaten to irretrievably transform their underlying models by subscribing to educational discourse, especially since this seems to confer false certainties on its claims to knowledge.  The rationalist discourse of generalisable, exhaustive knowledge (what Lacan derides as the discourse of the university) needs to attend to the relations between action and its account.  I have discussed this in terms of strategies for promoting safer exploration of 'experience' within educational contexts, but nevertheless this may be one 'lesson' that warrants transposition across educational and therapeutic arenas.  For it applies to the promotion of critical, textualised analyses of the forms of knowledge rendered available for scrutiny and assessment within psychotherapy training, and extends also to the proposed structures for regulation of psychotherapeutic training.  In both cases, writing, as the academic mode of representation, threatens to occupy a privileged place.  We need to beware of a potential for a confusion of task in the evaluation of clinical accounts that links to problems of account-evaluation I described in relation to women's studies assessment:  as an assessment, not of (therapeutic) competence or experience but of the candidate's capacity to account for (or textualise) that activity within a particular genre that is not equivalent to its context of origin.

Conclusion

I have been arguing that ‘emotional experience’, like ‘emotional learning’, is a bureau­cratic oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. I have suggested that we might regard this as speaking of institutional interests in managing, rather than only expressing, affects; of a domestication and putting to work of passion and unreason. For as soon as we experience’ emotions they become transformed, theorised into something else; the very rendering into ‘experience’ institutes structures of distancing and redescription. From my discussion of educational interventions within women’s studies I have proposed that such distancing can be useful pedagogically and therapeutically. However I also suggested that—unless these practices of representation and textualisation are themselves subject to critical analysis—they, like educational practices, also run the risk of undermining the self-critical character of psychotherapeutic training and practice.

 

Correspondence: Erica Burman, Discourse Unit, Centre for Women’s Studies, Depart­ment of Psychology and Speech Pathology, The Manchester Metropolitan University, Hathersage Rd, Manchester M13 OJA, UK. Fax: + 44-161-247-6394; E-mail: e.burman @mmu.ac.uk

  Notes

[1] Thus, it could be argued, recapitulating precisely those problems that form its rationale, but alternatively also providing the context in which these could be legitimately explored as an emotional and political issue.

[2] Hollway (1993) describes a similar project—although informed by a different psychoanalytic framework.

 [3] It is also therefore likely to advantage those practitioners who are (a) already highly academically qualified     and versed in academic practices; and (b) in managerial/Ieadership positions—i.e., medically qualified psychiatric consultants.

[4] Indeed Salzberger-Wittenberg et al’s (1983) book is concerned with the importance of teachers’ and educators’ understanding of emotional issues in learning, rather than with facilitating explicit interventions—which thereby make sufficient intervention in supporting students and teachers alike.

 
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House, R. (1999) 'The place of psychotherapy and counselling in a healthy European social order: a commentary on Tantum and van Deurzen', European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health 2 (2), pp. 236-243.

House, R. and Totten N. (eds) (1997) Implausible Professions:  Arguments for Pluralism and Autonomy in Psychotherapy and Counselling.  Ross-onWye:  PCCS Books.

Hunt, P. (1989) Psychoanalytic Aspects of Fieldwork.  London: Sage.

Lacan, J. (1969-79) The Other Side of Psychoanalysis:  Seminar XVII, unpublished text established by J.A. Miller, translated by R. Grigg.

Kernberg, O.  (1966) 'Thirty methods to destroy the creativity of psychoanalytic candidates, International Journal of Psychoanalysis 77, pp. 1031-1041.

Kitzinger, C. and Perkins, R. (1993) Changing our Minds - Lesbian feminism and psychology.  London:  Onlywoman Press.

Macey, D. (1995) Lacan in Contexts. London:  Verso.

Maguire, M. (1995)  Men, Women, Passion and Power:  Gender Issues in Psychotherapy.  London:  Routledge.

Marten, R. (1999) 'Power, institution and group-analytic training', Group Analysis 32 (2) pp. 207-216.

Moi, T. (1989) 'Patriarchal thought and the drive for knowledge', in T. Brennan (ed) Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis.  London:  Routledge.

Parker, I. (2001a) 'Lacan, psychology and the discourse of the University, Psychoanalytic Studies 3 (1), pp. 67-77.

Parker, I. (2001b) 'What is wrong with the discourse of the University in Psychotherapy Training', European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health 4 (1), pp. 27-44.

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Roudinesco, E. (1990) Jacques Lacan & Co:  a History of Psychoanalysis in France 1925-1985.  London: Free Association Books.

Salzberger-Wittenberg, I., Henry, G. and Osborne, E. (1983) The Emotional Experience of Teaching and Learning.  London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Verhaeghe, P. (1995) 'From impossibility to inability:  Lacan's theory on the four discourses', The Letter 3, pp. 76099.

Squire, C. (2001) 'The public life of emotions', International Journal of Critical Psychology (launch issue), pp. 16-27.

Tavris, C. (1993) 'The mismeasure of woman', Feminism & Psychology 3 (2), pp. 149-168.

United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (1999) Continuing Professional Development:  principles and requirements for member organisations.  London:  UKCP.

Walkerdine, V. (1988) The Mastery of Reason.  London:  Routledge.

Walkderine, V. (1998) Daddy's Girl.  London:  Macmillan.

Weisstein, N. (1971/1993) Psychology constructs the female:  or The Fantasy Life of the Male Psychologist (with Some Attention to the Fantasies of His Friends, the Male Biologist and the Male Anthropologist), reprinted in Feminism & Psychology 3 (2), pp. 195-210.

Wilkinson, S. (1988) The role of reflexivity in feminist research.  Women's Studies International Forum 11 (5), pp. 493-502.

Wilkinson, S. and Kitzinger, C. (eds) (1996) Representing the Other.  London: Sage.

Winnicott, D. (1975) Through Paediatrics to Psycho-analysis (a reissue of Winnicott's Collected Papers (London:  Tavistock Publications) with an introduction by M. Masud R. Khan.  London:  The Hogarth Press; and New York:  Basic Books.

Wise, S. (1997) 'What are feminist academics for?', in L. Stanley (eds) Knowing Feminisms.  London:  Sage, pp. 120-131.


Originally published in Psychoanalytic Studies, Vol. 3, Nos. 3/4, 2001.  This article has been reprinted with permission.

Erica Burman is Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the Manchester Metropolitan University.  She is author of Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (Routledge, 1994), co-author of Challenging Women: psychology’s exclusions, feminist possibilities (Open University Press, 1995) and Psychology Discourse Practice: from regulation to resistance (Taylor & Francis, 1996), editor of Feminists and Psychological Practice (Sage, 1990) and Deconstructing Feminist Psychology (Sage, 1998) and co-editor of Discourse Analytic Research (Routledge, 1993) Culture, Power and Difference (Zed/UCT Press, 1998).  She is currently working on projects concerning intersections between gender, culture and models of psychological therapy provision and practice, including attending to the role of representations of childhood and memory within these.  She is also a group analyst.

Emotions in the Classroom and the Institutional Politics of Knowledge
by Erica Burman

 The Manchester Metropolitan University

 

      We now live in a temporal and cultural context in which emotions have changed places with reason to become an explicit, legitimate topic of discussion, of intervention, of manipulation and instrumentalisation. From being that which the modern rational unitary bourgeois subject strenuously denied or warded off, in the inexhaustible postmodern search for new technologies—for managing oneself or others—the repressed has been returned from the margins to a new and central market niche. No longer the opposite of reason, emotions are now seen as its indispensable ally, which—as the books on topics such as ‘emotional intelligence’ indicate—are amenable to application and technologisation. Emotions have even become separable from the people expressing them: for where once the notion of ‘emotion mapping’ would have evoked cognitive psychoeducational training, it now describes the superimposition of film star’s faces and reactions onto the stunt people performing their actions in best-seller movies.  

    This might sound like a cynical place to start for a feminist academic committed to acknowledging the emotional character of research, teaching and learning processes; and a psychotherapist facilitating groups to explore their covert emotional tensions and themes. But we cannot ignore the broader socio-political conditions that foster the emergence of such academic and therapeutic contexts. Rather, these rarefied arenas are themselves perhaps merely the more exclusive places for the practice of the 'psy complex’ (Rose, 1985, 1990), with TV talk shows and shrink thriller films and self help manuals forming the popular cultural climate for attending to, managing and improving one’s 'self’ and relationships (see broader discussion in Squire, 2001).  

    But there is one further element in this complex cocktail of current cultural continu­ities between definitions of therapeutic and educational knowledge that I want to mention before moving on. This is the elusive presence and absence of ‘gender’—and here we might also want to consider how gender is typically foregrounded to stand in for other characteristics of ‘otherness’. The clichéd association of women and femininity with the emotional is often taken as symptomatic of all that has been othered by the normalisation of white, middle class Euro—US experience within psychological, legal and bureaucratic models (e.g., Pateman, 1989; Broughton, 1988; Walkerdine, 1988), giving rise to claims of women’s ‘different’ voices (Gilligan, 1982) or gender-specific relations to ethics and politics (see discussion in Bowden, 1997). Within psychoanalysis ‘hysterical’ women occupy a unique role in its epistemophilic generation (Moi, 1989), while Lacanian formulations position the analysand as speaking within the discourse of the hysteric (Fink, 1999).  

    Clearly we are now a long way from fixing feminine genres onto women (as the recent cases of men murdering as a result of unwelcome disclosures on the Jerry Springer Show testify). Indeed talk of the feminisation of labour itself highlights how the casual, part-time and flexible conditions that characterised women's work now affect men too - whether portrayed as the elite privilege of the home-based freelance executive or the hourly paid casual labourer.  That such patterns of work are also highly racialised (with African-Caribbean men being recently reported as one of the groups least likely in Britain to have full-time stable employment) only highlights the mobility and fluidity of such gendered cultural contents, for signficant political-economic reasons.

    This is the broader landscape in which I want to situate my discussion of links between therapeutic and educational discourses and practices. I will move on now to focus on more specific continuities between developments in therapeutic and educational practices. As will become clearer, my aim is to highlight areas of ambivalence and tension within each arena rather than to warrant the superiority of one over the other. Indeed my argument is that we do not solve the underlying problems by exchanging psychotherapeutic for educational discourse--but may even thereby obscure some key issues. My attention to gender issues is overdetermined by my drawing of examples both from academic practices within women’s studies and feminist research, and of feminist approaches to group and individual therapies.  But I will suggest that there are particular reasons why these form particularly relevant arenas for my topic.  

    Even though, or rather precisely because, I am far away from its therapeutic and educational practices, the principle resource I will draw upon for theoretical critique and interrogation will he Lacanian. While Lacan was neither profeminist nor immune from the very issues of institutional authority he rigorously critiqued ( Macey, 1995; Roudinesco, 1990)), he offered a trenchant critique of the role of  the discourse of the University as standing in key structural tension with that of Analysis (Lacan, 1969—70; Verhaeghe, 1995; Fink, 1995).  I see this as particularly relevant or evaluating the current climate of rapprochement between education and psychotherapy.    

Topics and process: common terrain    

    The traditional story of the relationship between academic and therapeutic arenas is that each is what the other is not, and therefore contests and challenges the other. This has traditionally given rise to a cosy polarisation where each leaves the other to get on with its work, except for the interventions of the effectiveness researchers, or the growing number of academic enthusiasts of therapy.  The positivist, empiricist view of scholarship and research treats emotion as that which should be excluded or avoided—as 'bias’(Banister et al., 1994). Yet paradoxically this 'disinterest’ leaves distance and even hostility as the dominant—albeit covert-- emotions structuring research and writing. fostered by the competitive individualism of liberal meritocracy that structures education. Feminist commentators on psychological research—that paradigm of pseudo­science (Weisstein. 1971/93; Tavris. 1993 )—have long pointed out how objectivity is a particular form of subjectivity, not its opposite (Holl way, 1989) whereby “the use of the third person ...  [is] . . . a hiding place’’ (Walkerdine, 1998, p. 59).  

    In asserting the inevitable presence of emotional commitment and interest, feminist researchers both draw upon and share some common ground with psychotherapeutic thinking. Indeed commonalities (as well as tensions, Kitzinger and Perkins. 1993) between feminist and psychotherapeutic projects have been widely noted (Bondi and Burman, 2001; Burman,1995; Ernst and Goodison, 1981; Heenan and Seu. 1998).  

    Confessional TV may be rewriting second wave feminism to read 'the personal as political' as a personalisation of the political rather than a politicisation of the personal as a means of empowerment and social transformation (although as Squire, 2001, points out we should not be too quick to dismiss the multiplicity of subversive as well as regulatory readings and resources even this offers). Yet the attention to subjectivity in educational contexts has been profoundly destabilising and exposing of the workings of power within it. We know from school contexts how emotions typically only become noticed or thematised as ‘difficulties’ and are usually inextricably associated with behavioural and learning ‘difficulties’ whose identification often only deepens the pathways of pathologisation and segregation that children and young people experience (Billington, 2000; Salzberger-Wittenberg, 1983).  

    Hence while the ‘hiding place’ of subjectivity-as-objectivity is central to the maintenance of traditional power relationships of, and surrounding, academic practices, psychoanalytic ideas have offered generative and inspirational resources for the analysis of the processes and effects of such occlusions. Responding to the general crisis in political and textual practices of representation, the reflexive turn within the social and human sciences has spawned whole genres of situated, discursive and perspectival modes of writing and research practices, in which psychoanalytic ideas have a privileged—albeit not always visible—place (see, e.g., Hunt, 1989). Post-colonial, feminist and cultural studies criticism all draw heavily on psychoanalysis, albeit partially (in its double sense of being both selective and motivated). They use psychoanalysis in particular to expose the techniques and mechanisms of ‘othering’ (whether around structures of racialisation, class, sexuality or disability). Currently (although I do not want to overestimate their impact on the still-supreme discourse of science that rules social science research), handbooks of qualitative inquiry and feminist research are highlighting the political imperative to theorise the role of one’s own unconscious processes underlying dominant academic/knowledge-generating practices (e.g., Denzin and Lincoln, 1995). This includes recommending the analysis of conflicting fantasies of self and others mobilised within research encounters as a means of negotiating and interpreting the dynamics of identification, difference and power relations involved.  

    So, to give you some practical illustrations of this, let me talk about two very different interventions within our postgraduate women’s studies course. I warrant my focus on this educational arena not only because it consumes the bulk of my work, but also because I believe it exemplifies—although in perhaps a more intense way—dynamic processes happening in all academic contexts, albeit often less amenable to attention. Moreover, as will become clearer, the tensions and ironies within the project to become a Master (in the sense of gaining an MA) in Women’s Studies may well be a relevant resource for other incipient Masters students within psychotherapy.  

    Over the eight or so years that the MA in Women’s Studies has run at MMU we have become aware of two divergent sets of difficulties that our students encounter (that we might perhaps ascribe as ‘emotional learning’ in the problematised sense I have identified—and here we might relevantly pause to wonder: difficulties for whom? Us as teachers, or (only) them as students?). The first area concerned managing contexts of disclosure within classrooms and within coursework. Students, in the course of a discussion or in association to course material, sometimes disclose personal experience that (a) they might later regret or feel exposed by; or (b) might feel this has not been supportively received by the group since it highlighted an area of structural and contested difference between group members; or alternatively (c) might inadvertently touch unhelpfully on some area of distress for another group member (notice how I am now within the register of problematised ‘emotional experience’ discourse); or finally (d) treat the course as their group therapy and relate to all reading and discussion in this frame.  

    In terms of assessment,  the desirable and typical process of planning and executing a piece of written work (whether essay or dissertation) is one where the emotional-political involvement functions to motivate and sustain the work  Nevertheless there are times when this involvement overwhelms the task so that the academic quality of the assessment becomes secondary to its role as a containing vehicle (or transitional object in Winnicott's, 1975, sense) for the management of emotions (see my discussion in Burman, 2001a).  Our staff team now take great pains to make clear at the outset that we do not evaluate personal experience, but rather we assess what students do with this in their written work.  But notwithstanding this, within a context of vulnerability--especially where this has been heightened by disclosure of insufficiently processed material- there is ample scope for a misreading of a negative academic evaluation as reflecting a response to the type or form of disclosure of the experience.  

    From such 'experiences', and drawing also on our own experimentation with modes of writing and discussion of accounts of experience (prompted by, but going beyond, our engagement with Frigga Haug and others' method of 'memory-work' (Haug et al., 1987)), we have made two quite divergent interventions within our programme.  The first was to highlight further the use of experience as a textualised resource - both in our analysis of the reading and within discussion- and beyond this to add to our profile of courses a module in 'creative writing' which explicitly teaches as a craft practices of writing experience.  Here we might note one point of broader relevance to return to later:  that, following Haug et al., we were flying in the face of most feminist and therapeutic thinking in advocating a distance from personal experience, rather than only promoting the strategy of 'owing' it as 'personal'.  This was not only to safeguard or foreground the academic task (which otherwise becomes caught up in all the shame of failure as well as exposure), but also to maintain the covertly therapeutic character of the political-academic analysis.  For indeed 'protected' in such ways, both might well be sustained; knowing one's place by displacement, to resituate it within a broader context.  In Haug et al.'s (1987, pp. 45-46 words:

However important it may be for women to speak and write of themselves as 'I' and thereby to register a protest against the pressures on them to leave their own selves out of account - to attempt, that is, to find a place for themselves within the categories of abstract and impersonal thinking-we believe that it is nonetheless essential to use the third person in memory-work.  Writing about past events is almost impossible, unless we have some way of distancing ourselves... By translating our own experiences into the third person, we were enabled to be more attentive to our selves.  Thus the gaze we cast today on our selves of yesterday becomes the gaze cast by one stranger on another.

Secondly, and as a correlative to creating pedagogical contexts to address the 'emotional experience' of learning at a distance, we instituted (as an accredited module1) an experiential group for students to explore the issues emerging for them individually and interpersonally through their engagement with the degree.2  Feminist Group Dynamics, as the module is called, ran for the first time in 1999-2000, and there is no doubt in my mind that it functioned as an invaluable and challenging place for all of us involved in it, fostering analysis of the classed and gendered dimensions of engagement within higher educational processes, and involving key interrogation of the modes, meanings and diverse authorities of feminist practice possible within University settings (Coulson and Bhavnani, 1990, Burman, 2001b).

   These are the kind of the pedagogical dilemmas that brought me into my training as a group analyst; and which now support my thinking and practice (or at least remind me of what I cannot do, c.f. Foulkes, 1986, p. 5).  But having spoken of how the potentially therapeutic discourse of ‘emotional experience’ enters Universities, now let me change hats to talk a little about how educational discourses operate within psychotherapy. Are there reciprocal gains, or does one predominate at the expense of the other? In particular I want to highlight a cluster of questions around writing, authority and institutional practices of knowledge generation and interpretation.  

Knowing and non-knowing

  I must admit to arriving at my psychotherapy training expecting an induction, including a tour of the building, and a handbook of material about the course (which indeed there now is—more of that later). The response to my expressed expectations taught me not to repeat them. But the period of my training has been politically transitional, with a marked shift from hostility and suspicion around educational discourse and devices to their positive promotion within demarcated aspects of the programme. Indeed it could argued that—as an academic as well as experientially based training—both features should be attended to. Hence there is a new climate of openness and negotiation around curriculum and practical arrangements that, arguably, fits well with a consumer/client, rather than patient/analysand, model.  

    This reflects developments at a national level within the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP), where the discourses of transparency and accountability figure strongly—albeit within a frame of political struggle to establish the credibility of psychotherapy as a profession. In this academic accreditation now features as both strategy for the registration campaign and as independent goal. Psychotherapy becomes gathered into the educational arena through subscription to the overarching contemporary governmental discourse of ‘lifelong learning’, and subject to evaluation and updating through (now compulsory) practices of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).  

    Here by virtue of two occupational hats I find myself now wearing a third. I am currently involved in a subcommittee of another psychotherapy training institute, in which I am supposedly helping develop a CPD policy for that institute in accordance with UKCP requirements (UKCP, 1999). Moreover I find I am accorded ‘expert’ status as an educational advisor, and this is valuable because the UKCP’s formulation of frameworks of regulation of training ‘standards’ and ‘outcomes’ are all cast within educational discourse.  

    What in reality I bring to such discussion is, however, a profound suspicion about the workings of the discourses of transparency and accountability within educational contexts. Not that transparency is not a desirable goal, but rather that claims of transparency often obfuscate rather than clarify processes of accountability. Both feminists and Lacanians would dispute the political neutrality of knowledge. Hence the feminist commitment to reflexively situating processes of knowledge-production to reveal—and therefore render available to challenge—its partiality of interests. Lacan, in particular, contested the possibility of full or complete knowledge, preferring a conception of analytic truth as structurally incomplete and elusive, as half-said, exemplified by the enigma.    

The truth, I tell you, can only be stated through a half-saying, and I gave you a model of it in the enigma ... For it is truly thus that it is always presented to us, and not certainly in the state of a question. The enigma is something that presses for a response in the name of a mortal danger. (Lacan, 1969/70, Chapter 7, p. 75)

The enigma of course stands against the quest for transparency, as manifested in documents specifying criteria, outcomes and processes.  For theses grids of description (and associated practices of monitoring) live a political life of textuality and representation that stands apart from, as well as claiming reference to, specific instantiations.  They inhabit the domain of bureaucracy, of administrative practices of power, that typically function to mask rather than reveal structures of personal responsibility.  If we draw upon Lacanian critiques, their superimposition upon psychotherapeutic training goals threatens to reconstitute these in at least two ways.  Firstly, the discourse of 'transparency' is vulnerable to the charge of constitutive impossibility - for in claiming to offer transparency it obscures how its structure occludes features of that which it surveys.  Secondly, it invites a reading that confers false certainty and fixity on its claims to knowledge (see also Parker, 2001a, 2001b).

    While the UKCP discussion paper has recently been ratified (its AGM was in March, 2001), it represents key changes of significance in the status and representation of psychotherapeutic knowledge.  For in the very elaboration of 'descriptors' that claim to provide a means of evaluation of different trainings according to general criteria, we enter a domain of bureaucratic discourse that has long prevailed within Higher Education.  Indeed this is part of its rationale:

 The Generic Level Descriptor, the modes of assessment and assessment criteria are all couched in terms which match postgraduate university provision in comparable courses. (Evans,UKCP, 2001, p. 18)

Training emotions

If there's one thing that psychoanalysis should force us to maintain obstinately, it's that the desire for knowledge has no relationship with knowledge... A radical distinction, which has far-reaching consequences from the point of view of pedagogy - the desire to [k]now is not what leads to knowledge.  What leads to knowledge is ... the hysteric's discourse. (Lacan, 1969-70, p. 12)

Psychotherapy trainings have long been the butt of argument and serious jokes about their persecutory conflation of training as therapy (Kernberg, 1996).  Lacan puts forward a polemical analysis of the position of the student, that he intentionally generalises from the student of the University to that of the psycho-analytic training institute.  He is particularly scathing about the Discourse of the University and its overlap with the Discourse of the Master, seeing the pursuit of 'science' or knowledge-in-general( as opposed to the partial, limited singular character of analytic knowledge0 as always vulnerable to instrumentalisation and therefore to bolstering prevailing power structures.

Truth is only a question, as has been known for a long time, for the administrators ... Is this discourse [of truth] good, or is it bad?  I intentionally pin it down as the university discourse, because it is in a way the university discourse which shows him [the subject] where he can sin, but it is equally, in its fundamental disposition, the one that shows what the discourse of science assurs itself of. (Lacan, 1969/70, Chapter 7, p. 75)

This account generates some fruitful questions.  Does a greater subscription to an educational discourse help ward off this potential dynamic of terrorisation?  Or does it rather add to the panoply of power tactics available where 'experts keep us on their best behavior' (Phillips, 1995, p. 15).  Lacan describes the paradoxical position of the student, the one who studies as also the 'astudied' to highlight how the student is caught within the master/slave dialectic of the production and power relations, in this case of the pursuit of (human) science truths, iwith 'command' substituting for 'truth'.

The student feels 'astudied'.  He is 'astudied' because like the worker ... he has to produce something ... The unease of the astudied is ...that they are all the same requested to constitute the subject of science out of their skin, which on the latest account, seems to present some difficulties in the zone of the human sciences.  And thus it is that, for a science so well founded from one aspect, and so obviously triumphant on the other, triumphant enough for it to be qualified as human, no doubt because it takes humans for humus, things that make us land on our feet again, and make us tough what is comprised by the fact of substituting the pure and simply command, that of the matter for/at the level of truth. (p. 77).

In these ways educational practices position the student as an empty vessel in need of training that precisely wipes out preceding knowledge and compels acquisition of proffered techniques instead (and indeed the introduction of compulsory education was designed to fulfil this function, Hendrick, 1990).  Hence the categorical imperative from the master to 'keep on knowing' fixes the student within the panoptical landscape of subjectification to the Master.  It is this double-sided model of the subject (as subject of, and subject to, knowledge) which generates echoes of Foucaludian analyses of self-regulation to these training practices.  

Don't think that the master is always there.  It's the command that remains, the categorical imperative, 'Keep on knowing'.  There is no longer any need for anyone to be there.  We are all embarked, as Pascal says, in the discourse of science.  (Lacan, 1969-70, p. 77)

On the other hand, we might develop Lacan's conception of the trainees as the 'astudied' in more critical or emancipatory directions.  For according to a Kojevian Hegelian analysis, the Slave has access to knowledge from which the Master is structurally excluded.  This poses a further interesting question.  Does this mean that those positioned as subordinate within training structures have available to them knowledge of structural limits of such total systems as schemes of training evaluation that the administrators of them cannot have?  Feminist academics have long subscribed to this point of view in highlighting political practices of accountability that lie beyond the academy (Wise, 1997; Harding, 1993).

Institutional issues:  mastery in psychotherapy

Now I should make clear that I am not opposed to psychotherapy courses claiming or upgrading to 'Master's level.  While I might have regrets about the further penetration of the institutional authority of the acadmey, this is clearly a lost battle.  With academic inflationary rates being what they are, professional trainings currently designated at Certificate and Diploma levels clearly carry less authority than they used to, so that now not only Masters but also Doctorates are on the agenda.  Thus with this acceleration of the accreditation economy fuelled by market competition, one can only wonder what will come next.  I will mention four reservations:

(i)  Form/content as a false opposition that naturalises the first even as it specifies the second.  It is hard to disagree with either the enterprise of, or the specific formulation of the training descriptors put forward within the UKCP proposals.  But this in itself is a matter of concern in terms of the ways ideologically-ridden categories of evaluation can become naturalised.  So, for example, the division drawn between 'person skills' and 'context of practice' reproduces the individual-social split which abstracts and reifies qualities of interaction as pseudo-cognitive 'skills' that can be individually owned and wielded, that both feminists and some forms of psychotherapy would problematise (Dalal, 1998; Harris, 1987). 3  But the dominant discourse of 'professional learning' and demonstrable 'educational competences' overrides such reservations, and privileges instead a bureaucratic discourse more reminiscent of job descriptions than of psychotherapeutic exploration.  

(ii)  The insidious expansion of the discourse of the university makes it difficult to elaborate positions of evaluation from outside it.  More importantly, the obviousness or normalisation of this university discourse threatens to remove from discussion questions of power and authority that the analysis of transference foregrounds (and on which radical claims for the subversive character of psychoanalytic practice rest, e.g., Maguire, 1995; Benjamin, 1988). Its totalizing structure renders such analysis only as pathology— as deviance or dissent. We need a space to ask such questions as: who regulates the regulators, and how do we apply the call to analyse how the transference to training institutions fuels compliance (as analysis within distnct training cultures are now highlighting, e.g., Marten. 1999: Phillips. 1995)?

(iii) Centralising authoritv. There have been many other expressions of reservations about the centralisation of both academic and ethical regulation within one statuatory body (House, 1999; House and Totten. 1997; Figlio, 2000; Parker, in press). There can no doubt that this is one key aim of the UKCP for the discussion paper ends with the comment

The UKCP also needs to take note that there are national bodies either being set up or already in place to ensure quality of provision and of ethical practice. It is therefore incumbent on UKCP to retain initiation and control of the process.  (Evans UKCP, 2001, p. 18: my emphasis)  

Here the demand is not for the sufficiency of the approach to the task but for power over its administration. However understandable this may be as a political project. it is clearly located within the discourse of the master:

a real master desires to know nothing at all—he desires that it work (Lacan, 1969—70, p. 12)  

(iv) Defensive practice. The socio-political context for regulation and evaluation is principally legislative. Indeed the UKCP discussion document is prefaced by comments asserting the need to be proactive in responding to the shift from a ‘trust me to a show me culture’ (Evans/UKCP. 2000, p. 5). In Lacanian terms the Law is the pure discourse of the Master. We know the consequences of such punitive legal versions of accountability in terms of fostering defensive forms of professional practice. The presumption of adversarial contestation polarises and closes down areas of ambiguity, overlap and uncertainty, that in the first place can covertly censor, or render incapable of expression, key features of therapeutic process (Bollas and Sundelson, 1995).  Secondly, it highlights mastery over subjection (to knowledge) and therefore privileges conscious, rational, controlling knowing over emotional or retroactively understood forms of psychoanalytic truth.

There where I am thinking I do not recognise myself, I am not, it is the unconscious.  There where I am, it is too clear that I lose myself. (Lacan, 1969-60, p. 75).  

Warding off a merger

in wanting to leave the university discourse one implacably re-enters it.  (Lacan, 1969-70), p. 45)  

I have come full circle in my discussion, from arguing for the relevance of the psychotherapeutic discourse of emotions within the educational arena of Higher Education, to problematising the extension of the discourse of the University via academic accreditation processes into psychotherapy training.  I neither want to claim that these discourses are separate, nor that they are equivalent in their practice within the different arenas.  Neither that we can dispense with them, nor that we should not connect them.  Rather I want to highlight some shared dilemmas and features that both can usefully attend to, and that their juxtaposition illuminates.

    So I want to end with one point of contrast and alternatively one of connection between psychotherapy training and educational practices.  Firstly, educational practices maintain their therapeutic character by remaining largely covert:  the attention to process is subordinated/motivated by the outcome.4  Analysis of reflexive processes in research is prompted by the struggle for ethical-political adequacy in warranting knowledge claims; rather than to benefit personal insight( which may arise as a secondary gain, so to speak) - in this sense parallelling the use of countertransference to support therapeutic work.  Research relationship/processes involve conflict, challenge and discomfort (and if they are 'easy' then that 'rapport' or connection itself demands an equal critical scrutiny for the practices of privilege and power confirmed within this).  So analysis of structural tensions can be usefully informed by analysis of emotional sequelae of that conflict.

    Secondly, therapeutic practices threaten to irretrievably transform their underlying models by subscribing to educational discourse, especially since this seems to confer false certainties on its claims to knowledge.  The rationalist discourse of generalisable, exhaustive knowledge (what Lacan derides as the discourse of the university) needs to attend to the relations between action and its account.  I have discussed this in terms of strategies for promoting safer exploration of 'experience' within educational contexts, but nevertheless this may be one 'lesson' that warrants transposition across educational and therapeutic arenas.  For it applies to the promotion of critical, textualised analyses of the forms of knowledge rendered available for scrutiny and assessment within psychotherapy training, and extends also to the proposed structures for regulation of psychotherapeutic training.  In both cases, writing, as the academic mode of representation, threatens to occupy a privileged place.  We need to beware of a potential for a confusion of task in the evaluation of clinical accounts that links to problems of account-evaluation I described in relation to women's studies assessment:  as an assessment, not of (therapeutic) competence or experience but of the candidate's capacity to account for (or textualise) that activity within a particular genre that is not equivalent to its context of origin.

Conclusion

I have been arguing that ‘emotional experience’, like ‘emotional learning’, is a bureau­cratic oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. I have suggested that we might regard this as speaking of institutional interests in managing, rather than only expressing, affects; of a domestication and putting to work of passion and unreason. For as soon as we experience’ emotions they become transformed, theorised into something else; the very rendering into ‘experience’ institutes structures of distancing and redescription. From my discussion of educational interventions within women’s studies I have proposed that such distancing can be useful pedagogically and therapeutically. However I also suggested that—unless these practices of representation and textualisation are themselves subject to critical analysis—they, like educational practices, also run the risk of undermining the self-critical character of psychotherapeutic training and practice.

 

Correspondence: Erica Burman, Discourse Unit, Centre for Women’s Studies, Depart­ment of Psychology and Speech Pathology, The Manchester Metropolitan University, Hathersage Rd, Manchester M13 OJA, UK. Fax: + 44-161-247-6394; E-mail: e.burman @mmu.ac.uk

  Notes

[1] Thus, it could be argued, recapitulating precisely those problems that form its rationale, but alternatively also providing the context in which these could be legitimately explored as an emotional and political issue.

[2] Hollway (1993) describes a similar project—although informed by a different psychoanalytic framework.

 [3] It is also therefore likely to advantage those practitioners who are (a) already highly academically qualified     and versed in academic practices; and (b) in managerial/Ieadership positions—i.e., medically qualified psychiatric consultants.

[4] Indeed Salzberger-Wittenberg et al’s (1983) book is concerned with the importance of teachers’ and educators’ understanding of emotional issues in learning, rather than with facilitating explicit interventions—which thereby make sufficient intervention in supporting students and teachers alike.

 
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Originally published in Psychoanalytic Studies, Vol. 3, Nos. 3/4, 2001.  This article has been reprinted with permission.

Erica Burman is Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the Manchester Metropolitan University.  She is author of Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (Routledge, 1994), co-author of Challenging Women: psychology’s exclusions, feminist possibilities (Open University Press, 1995) and Psychology Discourse Practice: from regulation to resistance (Taylor & Francis, 1996), editor of Feminists and Psychological Practice (Sage, 1990) and Deconstructing Feminist Psychology (Sage, 1998) and co-editor of Discourse Analytic Research (Routledge, 1993) Culture, Power and Difference (Zed/UCT Press, 1998).  She is currently working on projects concerning intersections between gender, culture and models of psychological therapy provision and practice, including attending to the role of representations of childhood and memory within these.  She is also a group analyst.