This article explores a series of psychosocial and embodied relationalities that emerged between registered solo-practice psychologists and their clients during the COVID-19 social lockdowns that took place in Australia between June and August 2020. Drawing on findings from a larger qualitative research project into Australian psychologists’ experiences of maintaining therapeutic relationships via teleconferencing technologies during the pandemic, I explore the ways in which the relational and embodied experiences of taking therapy online resulted in new ways of working with clients over digital media interfaces such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime. Central to this discussion is an exploration of the ways in which embodied attunement, fears of risk and contagion, and concerns around trust and privacy were negotiated to create new, ‘more-than-human’ relationships between therapists, clients and the spaces and technologies that brought them together.
The idea of ‘plague’ has returned to public consciousness with the arrival of COVID-19. An anachronistic and extremely problematic concept for thinking about biopolitical catastrophe, plague nevertheless offers an enormous historical range and a potentially highly generative metaphorical framework for psychosocial studies to engage with, for example, through Albert Camus’ () The Plague and Sophocles’ () Oedipus The King. It is, moreover, a word that is likely to remain firmly within the remit of public consciousness as we move further into the Anthropocene, to face further pandemics and the spectre of antibiotic resistance. A return to plague also opens up the question of a return to psychoanalysis, which Freud is often cited as having described as a ‘plague’. Psychoanalysis is, like plague, a troubling and problematic discourse for psychosocial studies, but, like plague, it may also help us to work through the disorders and dis-eases of COVID times. In fact, if the recent pandemic has reanimated the notion of plague, the plague metaphor may in turn help to reanimate psychoanalysis, and in this article we suggest some of the analogical, even genealogical, resonances of such an implication.
This article features a case study about the author’s two research encounters with an emotionally reluctant male participant who seemed to experience discomfort and who also made the author feel uncomfortable. To make sense of this mutual experience of discomfort, the article explores the intersubjective exchange between the interviewer and her participant through the application of the psychoanalytic concepts of ‘defence’ and ‘(counter-)transference’. The article argues that the mutual discomfort resulted from the participant’s desire to perform masculinity in ways that fit the Vietnamese hegemonic masculinity and from the researcher’s inability to identify this desire during the interviews. By locating the participant’s engagement with hegemonic masculinity within the sociocultural context of contemporary Vietnam, and investigating the resulting discomfort, the article demonstrates how applying a psychosocial approach to a research relationship can be fruitful. It shows that such an approach can help researchers acquire unexpected insights into the psychological and social meanings of research encounters beyond an analysis of just the text, thus adding to methodological discussions about qualitative interviews.
In this article, I consider role of the television show Derry Girls in providing containment for the unbearable aspects of conflict-related and transgenerational trauma in the context of Northern Ireland. Derry Girls is a situation comedy set during the political conflict of Northern Ireland in the 1990s. The show provides nostalgic, satirical and affectionate observations on the seemingly mundane and at times farcical misdemeanours of a group of young people living out their everyday lives in the backdrop of sectarianism, bigotry and political violence. First airing in 2018, 20 years after the peace agreement in Northern Ireland, Derry Girls offers a forum for experiencing a flavour of life in the height of the Troubles, evoking strong emotional reactions in audiences through laughter, consternation and tears. I consider the role of psychosocial studies in framing understanding of the show as a cultural outlet for and container of societal level trauma and collective pain.
To be disappointed is to be human, to be disappointing is also to be human. This article will invite reflection upon the under-theorised phenomenon of disappointment and its relationship to ‘failure’, to ‘hope’ and perhaps even ‘forgiveness’ (or the lack if it). The central premise is that to engage with ‘disappointment’ in our internal relatedness, and in our interpersonal and social relationships may enable us to re-connect with our own and others’ humanity – and not to do so is to remain stuck, aggrieved, resentful and locked into cycles of reciprocal self- and other-destructive violence and recrimination. The article will seek to explore disappointment as a ‘disturbance of groupishness’ (Bion, 1961, emphasis added), ‘a locationofdisturbance’ (Foulkes, 1948/1983 emphasis added) and a way of structuring the traumatised organisation-in-the-mind (Armstrong, 2005; Scanlon, 2012). The article will conclude with an invitation for psycho-social practitioners to leave our psycho-social retreats (consulting rooms, libraries, classrooms and the like) and, once again, to engage more deliberatively with conversations in ‘public spheres’ (Habermas, 1968).