Monday, 25 April 2016

Hand To Mouth.

I detest the mindset that produces these trite little aphorisms. So lacking in imagination, so devoid of distinction, and so fucking smug. So that's the world summed up, then. If you don't plan you will fail. If you plan you will succeed.

It makes my hair stand on end.

Counselling has a tendency to grab on to any new idea. How many of us took CBT courses so that we could get a job in an IAPT service? How many of us have internalised the concept of 'resilience', so noxious to the lived experience of people who might be labeled 'low achievers' or 'fragile' but who have overcome experiences that would hospitalise most of us? How many of us believe that employment is good for mental health? How many of us bung up 'motivational' memes on our social media professional sites? Ugh.

People who live in poverty learn not to plan. Any plans you make are likely to come to nothing. You learn to curb ambition, not want, endure repetition, not hope too much, learn always to sound positive. Despair comes and goes, it achieves nothing apart from the involvement of authorities who, it is feared and often with good cause, will just make your life worse. There's little point in saving because after bills have been paid you are often in debt. If you're not in debt you might have a whole £10 from your £71 a week left over, and frankly a McDonalds fills you up, is an achievable day out for you and the kids, and you know exactly what you are getting, no surprise extras.

How wise and worthy are those who can squirrel away their £20 a fortnight and live on home grown kale. How much better life would be if everyone was wise and worthy. But life isn't like that, thank god.

Hand to Mouth is written from an American experience which is different from the British. But we tend to take our lead from the US where people can work two jobs and take home less money than they would have from social security benefits. But our attitudes towards employment and unemployment are all too similar: employment is equated with morality and we can see exactly this sentiment in the British narrative. Either you're a Striver OR you're a Scrounger. Either you're a Hard Working Tax Payer OR you just can't be bovvered. You will be considered a better human being if you don't see much of your own children and have less money to spend on them than if you (managed to evade the brutal social security system and) live on benefits. Now that's the same in the UK.

British political rhetoric is  tending towards the American Dream motif: Just work hard enough and you can become rich. Tell that to the women working two jobs. Please spend 5 minutes reading any history book.

I worry that counselling has immersed itself in this nonsense, too. We admire extroverts and are concerned about introverts. We embrace endless voluntary work becauseWork Is A Total Good. Too many of us have explicit goals for clients: how many more of us have less conscious outcomes in mind for clients? We are people living in society and it takes energy to resist the fashions and climate of that society.

How are you feeling about a counsellor swearing? A counsellor voicing strong opinions?

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