This article originates in a free associative extended reflection on what the author sees as the many faces of our relationship to transience in Western culture. It begins with the image of plastic flowers in graveyards, wild flowers pushed to verges and marginal spaces, women, migrants and transient communities. Our relation to life, death and their relation to movement and limitation are key aspects being reflected on and taken up for further analysis. The result of the free associative experiment is to invite reflections on the Freudian concepts of Eros and Thanatos and revisit the highly controversial question of whether these should be viewed in terms of a dualist or a monistic understanding. What is being presented here is a way of working with free associations outside the consulting room and group processes, using free associations as a reflexive research tool within a psychosocial hermeneutic approach.
This article takes its starting point from aspects of the author’s biography and her experiences of supervising students who have in common experiences of being so-called ‘parental’ or ‘parentified’ children. Bion’s work and biography are used to understand how working autobiographically on difficult experiences can offer containment based on learning from experience and how these efforts link to key aspects and practices of psychosocial studies. Experience, theory and practice are presented as intertwined. The premature development of parental children, with its gains and losses, provides a thread through the article that also leads to aspects of psychosocial pedagogy as a relational practice. Ethics of care are seen as providing a facilitating environment where autobiographical writing and reflexive practice add depth to learning and development. Winnicott and Benjamin’s work contribute to outlining a relational pedagogy suited to psychosocial studies, which brings external circumstances in relation to the internal world of both learner and educators, in terms of theory, ethics and practice.