Facing your own Prejudice

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Dr.Dot
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Facing your own Prejudice

Post by Dr.Dot » Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:28 pm

We have a wiki on Prejudice and Reflective Practice, I was just looking at and remembered about how I had to face my own prejudices during my LD placement.

I had never really worked in LD before and the whole thing felt a bit 'squirmy' to me before I started, but I had no idea why, I was just a bit blocked and defended I think. Anyway, I found myself amidst this system, that I was finding quite toxic, experincing more emotions than I had in either of the placements that came before. I was swinging form anger (actually more like rage) to sadness, dispair to ambivelance. I still didn't really know what was going on, I was so defended to the fact that I, a liberal, Gaurdian reading single white (middle class) female, could be prejudiced toward any group in society.

Then, I was in a large unmentionable supermarket store, and saw a family shopping with an adult with Downs Syndrome, and found myself thinking "oh look there is a person with Downs Syndrome, that's nice".

I got to the car and then thought "THAT'S NICE?, what the F**K, I don't think oh, there is a gay man/Muslim/[insert any group here], that's nice!!!!"

So there was set a moment of reflection that set me on a journey of realisation that I was prejudiced, it was a bit of a shocker to me...niavely, and took me another month before I could take it to supervision.

I'll cut to the chase now, for a bit, and say that is was really a transformative thing to reflect on and I realised that I am really quite prejudiced about quite a lot of things, and that it leaked out quite often. I guess that's why knowing what you prejudices are is so important. Having been brought up in a culture of PC all the way, I was never really given permission to express or explore it, so it was the first real time that I had.

Anyway, anyone else had this sort of experience?
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?

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eponymous85
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Post by eponymous85 » Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:55 pm

What a brave post dorothy! It's interesting that being raised in a 'liberal' environment can be just as stifling but in different ways. I share this experience - prejudice has always been something to be silenced, not explored.

When I first worked with people with psychosis I admit feeling more than a little apprehensive, partly due to the highly risk averse environment, but also due to my own prejudice. I'm glad I took the opportunity to challenge those views and thoroughly proved myself wrong!
The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many layered thing.

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Post by miriam » Sun Sep 20, 2009 4:40 pm

I've been thinking a lot about this post over the last few days, and wondering about my own prejudices.

In some ways, I feel very lucky to have been brought up in a diverse social culture (with the full variety of socio-economic status, race/ethnicity/religion, gender, sexuality, age, lifestyle, employment, etc), but its only now as an adult I can think about how active a decision that must have been for my parents. As I might have mentioned, my parents grew up in South Africa. Although for some people the idea of white South Africans brings a stereotype of racism, actually my parents left the country in order to avoid doing armed service because they didn't believe in the regime, and had a friend who was tortured for reading banned literature and socialising across racial boundaries. So, for them to be so aware of race yet bring me up to be 'colourblind' must have been an active decision. I think for my part it has made me a little naive about people's experiences if they are in a minority and face discrimination, as I have never seen skin colour as being any more significant than height or hair colour as a descriptive characteristic of someone. I know I made a member of the council admin staff squirm by asking to be put through to someone I had not met, whose name I had forgotten by describing him as 'sounding like a black african man'. I still haven't figured if I was being non-PC or if they were over-sensitive!

Similarly, my family history is that my great great grandparents fled from Russia (maybe now one of the eastern european states) due to persecution of the Jews. The relatives they left behind were assumed dead, and they had to adopt a new translated name in order to fit in with the new culture. My parents then stepped away from that culture again, by coming to the UK and no longer practising or identifying as Jewish. I've been brought up as atheist/hippy whilst they carry the heritage of being from a group that has been subject to prejudice and persecution. I guess I carry some of this culture shift in my beliefs, in that I tend to view people who have a large amount of religious ritual or restrictions in their life as being a bit narrow-minded (but also a bit vulnerable, as I think the more evangelical/orthodox religions and cults can be quite patriarchal and disempower women and children), although I have had this view challenged quite strongly by religious colleagues :D

I've also got a really strong work ethic, and place a high value on education, because of my family heritage. My grandparents grew up where the family lived in a single room. My grandad had to study by torchlight whilst his Dad slept, as he worked night shifts, but it allowed him to obtain skilled work, and that generation to support my parents through university, and them in turn to support me and my brother. My mum's dad died before she was born, so her mum brought her up as a single parent at a time when working women were quite unusual. I think that has carried through to my mum being the main wage-earner in my family unit, and to me working very hard (eg adding private court work to my full-time NHS work). As a result I'm not very tolerant of people who don't put in the effort to achieve their aims. For example, I can't understand why people would get into credit card debt, as I don't spend what I haven't earnt, and would find ways to earn additional money if this was needed. I think the same kind of pattern probably shows through in my forum persona, where I am much more prepared to offer support to people who appear to be putting in the work themselves, but can be quite short with people who appear to want to be 'spoon fed' without effort on their own part.

The other bias I do think I can recognise I hold, which can be unhelpful to my professional role is that I'm not very sympathetic to self-pity. I really enjoy working with people who have tried, within their resources, to make the best of a bad hand (whether in terms of their biological make-up or their life experiences) but I can be impatient with people with mild problems who view these as disabling. As such, I have always chosen to work at the complex end of the spectrum rather than with milder problems where some of the clients can appear to me by comparison to be "worried well". I don't know exactly where this comes from, except maybe that my grandparents would never have moaned about their lot in life, so I guess an attitude of just getting on and making the best of things has become my norm.

Hmmm, that's more reflection than I expected! I don't suppose its of that much interest to anyone else, unless people have been wondering "what makes that miriam so snappy in response to some things and so helpful in response to others"?!?
Miriam

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Post by Lisa Lou » Wed Sep 23, 2009 8:57 am

I had a "diversity training day" recently which I approached with a bit of a "not this again" attitude. I didn't have high hopes for this training session.

However it was a fantastic session in the end, one f the most useful pieces of mandatory training I've had. The crux of what the trainer wanted to get through to us was that we all have inbuilt prejudices, and these are very hard to change, but what matters is your behaviour on the outside.

It sounds so obvious, but this gave us a forum to openly discuss our own prejudices. The trainer showed us a picture and gave a small piece of information and asked you to rate how tolerant you would be towards that person on a scale of 1 (intolerance) to 5 (total acceptance). She then gave more information to see how your attitude changed.

So for example in one pic, there's a guy in a wheelchair and we learn that he's 22. We rate our tolerance. We are then told that he is currently on trial for drink driving. Interestingly we are not told if that is the reason he's in the wheelchair.

Anyway I found this a really useful exercise and the setting gave me the courage to admit to my own prejudices - I had to mark myself as pretty intolerant towards this guy because he was in a wheelchair, purely because my experience of disability thus far has been very very limited and I know in myself that I would possibly find it difficult to be non-patronising in this context. Most people originally rated their tolerance high for this guy and lowered it one notch when they found out about the drink driving. However I openly admitted that I had marked him low to begin with, and explained my feelings on the matter. And lo and behold people started nodding and murmering agreement and a couple of other people explained similar thoughts. In the end we all felt comfortable enough to talk frankly about our similar feelings in a wide range of contexts.

I feel that this session has freed me to acknowledge and be upfront about my own weaknesses, and given me the courage in my own character that I'm not a bad person, I just have work to do. And that's ok :)

Lisa
~ The most important things are the hardest things to say ~

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Post by rox » Fri Sep 25, 2009 3:03 pm

I attended 'Equality and Diversity' training a couple of years ago where we were given a really uncomfortable exercise. As groups we were each given 'a diversity' (e.g. black person, gay man) and had to write down as many insulting slang terms used to describe people in this category as possible.

It was pretty horrible - we were all embarrassed and (presumably because of the embarrassment) there was lots of giggling, which made it worse.

I don't remember what the point of the exercise was - maybe something about how many negative terms we pick up on even though we might find them repugnant? And I still don't know whether my feelings about the exercise were a logical response, or whether they indicate some kind of emotional immaturity.

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Post by eponymous85 » Fri Sep 25, 2009 8:42 pm

Wow Rex, that sounds pretty full on, I'm not sure whether I'd be comfortable participating in that! Not really sure I understand the purpose of putting people through that either.
The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many layered thing.

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Post by rox » Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:09 am

I'm sure an explanation was given, wish I could remember it! But there's usually more than one way to make a point, and I wonder whether that way was the most appropriate.

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Post by miriam » Mon Nov 02, 2009 4:00 pm

I've been thinking about this issue again, and reflecting on what impact being a mother will have on my NHS and court work. In some ways I think it gives me a bit of realism and perspective about what expectations are reasonable (can anyone ever prevent stains on baby clothes, for example?) as well as making me more sensitive to the impact of both poor care, and having a child removed. It is interesting to try and work out what aspects of my internal image of 'good parenting' are in fact norms from my own middle-class white upbringing?

How do other parents find this affects work, if at all?
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Post by Dr.Dot » Mon Nov 02, 2009 5:13 pm

Impacts greatly for me. But its not just being a parent that bites me it is also how I was parented. I find it really very difficult to work through parents, and tip toe on eggshells about the impact they are having on their children, when the child is the one I am working for, trying to make little steps into insight when they have pathologised their child which functions as a renunciation of their own stuff and responsibility, and heir for of their child. There are certainly grades of neglect and I wouldn't get too alarmed about quite a lot of stuff if I felt the the parent was trying to attend to their responsibilities. I can be pretty prejudiced indeed of parents when I am working with children below adolesence, and even more so when I am working with parent of kids with an LD, which is probabaly projection (i.e my original post!). When the kid is my customer I need a fair bit of time to reflect on this stuff so I now whats mine and whats not. Or should I say what anyone would find difficult. I identify/empathise with the kid, not the mum/dad. My expectations of parents are about equal to the expectations I place on myself , which isn't OK, being a middle class lefty, with enough money to live on without eating beans on toast everyday. But I do have a relatively high tolerance for what some people may view as neglect (e.g. stained clothes and clothes a bit too big, because I have been much less well off, and less 'well' than I am now), if and only if the parents are having a really tough time themselves, but know it.

However, when I am in AMH, I identify/empathise with the parent, and I know what a hard job it can be, and can validate that. But I am more able to get some movement in how their stuff is impacting on their child. It is more open to discussion, as the dynamics of their relationships are likely to be impacting on their emotional and psychological well-being, and therefore can be intergrated into therapy....that said I would have no qualms in contacting child protection if I thought it appropriate.

Being a parent certainly does give you a different lens in which to view the world, the outside and your own. And I now I can't work with kids, because of it. But that's me.
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Post by astra » Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:31 am

I think the flip side of this can be how work affects my parenting. Sometimes I go home and just want to hug and play with my daughter because something at work has reminded me that that is just so much more important than the other stuff (OCD clients bring that out in me particularly). But also hearing about other people's childhoods helps me to put my own parenting shortcomings into perspective. It helps me realise I'm not a bad parent for shouting now and then, or not being home 24/7, or letting her have MacDonald's now and then. When I see the amazing adults who have survived horrifically abusive or neglectful childhoods and are somehow holding things together and getting from day to day I realise my daughter will be OK and I'm doing an OK job with her.

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being/becoming a parent

Post by hettie » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:13 pm

I am very sure that becoming a parent has an impact..... it’s a cliché but you never really appreciate the parent/child bond until you’ve experienced it. I distinctly remember spending the early weeks with my son tucked under my chin and my jaw often clenched up with the intense emotions of love I felt for him. Now (he’s 2 and number 2 child is due in feb) when I come across child/parent issues in my work I often have thoughts of prejudice/unhelpful reactions..... Basically they all run along the lines of how could they/how could you parent like that. The unfortunate truth is a great many of my clients problems (both in my work with couples and in a tertiary service with individuals) involve some aspect of parental neglect/abuse. I have learnt to be able to put aside those thoughts (I find thinking of less helpful or abusive parenting as a psychological problem handed down with it’s own reasons for existing a helpful way of doing this). I do still get days when I find it all rather overwhelming. And I definitely monitor my own parenting/ enjoy the simple interactions I have with my some even more through doing the work.......but then that’s just my take on it and you may have a completely different reaction. Congratulations btw :D

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Post by whitian » Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:07 am

the discussion which diverged from the personal reflections in this thread has been moved to here

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