In this special issue, we continue a conversation that began with a 2019 Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society (APCS) conference panel focused on the relationships between mothers and daughters. The panel arose from recognition among the first four contributors to the special issue – Lita Crociana-Windland (2022), Marilyn Charles (2022), Leslie Thompson (2022) and Sophie Savage (2022) – of the crucial importance of relationships on development. All four of us are women and have developed a way of working together that we realise has an origin in our personal histories of mother–daughter displacements. In writing and delivering our articles, we could recognise common themes that seemed important to consider further.
Through our work for the panel and the conversations that ensued, we could recognise ways in which our histories, and their impact on us, had affected who we are, not only as people but also as professionals. In particular, we saw that the importance, for each of us, of the mother–daughter relationship in our own life had given rise to a particular form of supervisory and mentoring relations, which is the focus of the first article in this special issue. In that article, Lita Crociani-Windland (2022) opens the conversation by exploring ideas regarding psychosocial pedagogy as a relational practice, predicated on ethics of care.
Our fifth contributor, Erica Galioto (2022), was inspired to take up our theme in her own paper presentation for the next APCS conference in 2020 as a response to what we had presented, resulting in her inclusion here. Overall, the work presented has a psychosocial transdisciplinary perspective. In addition, it is intergenerational and transcultural, in terms of geographical locations and professional focus – academic, pedagogical and clinical.
In spite of the importance of primary relationships on all subsequent development, there is a relative lack of exploration of the complexities of the impact of mothers on daughters in relation to teaching, learning and professional growth. Each contributor has different experiences to share and varying insights into the dynamics of this particular relationship. The autobiographical contributions explore enabling and disabling influences as we embody, grow alongside and hold differing connections with our mothers.
As we recount our experiences, we each offer our psychoanalytic and psychosocial translations that unearth some of the processes involved in such close and familiar relationships between mothers and daughters. It becomes evident across our contributions that the concept of ‘self’ has been shaped by the intensive formative experiences with our mothers. How we have each chosen to academically research such relationships binds us together and invites others to reflect on the impact of the maternal on their own development and, most importantly, to consider how these insights might constructively affect their own teaching, supervisory and mentoring relationships.
As a result of our experiences, both personal and professional, we are advocating for a pedagogy that values and respects these insights. The contributors are at different stages in both life and academic careers. This special issue, formulated in relation to the values being espoused, is held together with care and pride by our intense investment with one another and with all those who might be affected by our work. Such professional and personal relationships relate to our formative ones in a special way. What we are presenting and discussing is the embodied reparation of those formative relationships, achieved through attention to the quality of engagement with one another in the learning process. We offer a model of pedagogy that recognises the importance of formative relationships in shaping one’s sense of self and possibility, in relation to the abilities that come from facing challenges and learning from them.
The articles offered aim to frame a particular psychosocial pedagogy that has emerged as a form of supervisory and mentoring relation, where different aspects of personal and professional experience have been brought to bear. The special issue is structured as a multivocal set of reflexive accounts, or in musical terms a ‘quartet’ piece, based on sharing and utilising life lessons in reparative ways, leading to what we have termed an ‘intimate pedagogy’, responded to by others.
Developing increasingly complex understandings of our own maternal experiences and their impact on our lives has led to a reflection of the value of those lessons, as we consider how to not just thrive ourselves but also to encourage those whose lives we touch to also thrive and develop their own potential. In this way, the exercise of exploring our own histories alongside those of our co-contributors has acted as a transformative and creative process within our supervisory and mentoring relationships as well.
In these articles, a deployment of different levels of experience is outlined with reference to social pedagogic and psychoanalytic concepts. Our shared understanding is deployed in the service of pedagogic rather than therapeutic aims.
The first three articles offer biographical experiences that share some commonalities. The theme of disabilities features in all three, although experienced from different positions: sibling, daughter and protagonist. In two of these there is an aspect of becoming a parental child when a family member is disabled and of experiencing ‘courtesy’ stigma. The third speaks to the particular ways by which mother and child become a unit of survival in a childhood mostly spent in hospital settings. What emerges is the power of circumstances that are outside of one’s control to affect lives and identities, development and role expectations. The fourth and fifth articles show that even when disabilities or illnesses are not a complicating factor, mother–daughter relations, attachment and sibling relations can have their own complexities.
This biographically based research approach is also important to Michael O’Loughlin (2022), who has responded to our articles with his own biographical account of his difficult childhood experiences and the importance of working with them in his academic practice. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Cummins (2022), another seasoned mentor and supervisor, responding to our contributions, reflects on our own reflexively based articles and similarly contributes from her own experience. She adds to ideas of mothering her own notion of childing, marking ‘the emotional work done by the child’ in support of the parent’s wellbeing. Along with repair and generativity, Cummins also considers the roles of envy and competition in supervisory relationships.
What unites these articles and responses is our willingness to learn from experience, to engage with it in a way that can acknowledge the social and psychological in a psychosocial ‘binocular vision’ (Hinshelwood, 2013) that can in turn illuminate and be illuminated by sociological and psychoanalytic theories. In that sense it is multidisciplinary and multidimensional, crossing personal and social boundaries, professional and pedagogic. As academics we think, teach and write, and what we are advocating here is the importance of a pedagogical and collegial practice that does not hide behind a professional ‘objective’ distancing of relationships with our students and colleagues. What we aim to encourage is a relational openness that reflexively engages with experiences, so as to deepen understanding that may be of use to others.
The engagement with psychoanalytic concepts opens the way to understanding and working through at a personal level, while also enriching the practice and academic fields dedicated to a deep psychology of the self. Too often, psychoanalysis forgets the wider context and environmental influences on our lives, although increasingly field theory and psychosocial perspective are affirming the profound impact of people, culture and context on the evolving human being. The impact of embodied experience is critically important, including the unvoiced opinions and biases that can have a devastating impact in relation to individual and collective differences. In this collection of articles and biographical experiences, the impact of physical impairment and the social attitudes they might elicit are very much in evidence.
Psychosocial studies gives us the possibility to think about the interconnections between external and internal worlds, seeing them as constructed and constructing of both. This is why we see the personal as an important aspect of a psychosocial pedagogy, not because it allows us to tell our stories, but because by understanding and learning from experience we can also widen knowledge that can be of benefit beyond our own individual lives; knowledge that may start to give us purchase on the deep entanglements between individual and social dynamics.
The global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus is not specifically the focus of any of the articles, but is a good example of the entanglement of social, political, ecological and individual milieus and their consequences in terms of wellbeing, ranging from physical and psychological to economic and workload effects. It has been a challenge to complete this special issue, as academic work has increased paradoxically in both intensity and isolation by having to adapt to new remote working practices, and managing periods of heightened anxiety and illness, either directly affecting our team of authors or those close to us, including the spike in mental health issues among our students. We live in precarious times, not only times of pandemic, but also climate emergency, war and rising inflation. These have an effect on both personal and professional lives and practices. We hope that the articles in this special issue will invite you to think even more deeply about your impact on those you encounter in your professional lives, to take even more seriously the impact of our own being and becoming on those whose development we hope to encourage.
We would like to thank our students, our mentors and supervisors, our responders, as well as Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society and Association for Psychosocial Studies members and conference participants for encouraging us to get this work into published form.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.
Charles, M. (2022) Childhood and memory: the river running through us, Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 15(2): 116–24, doi: 10.1332/147867321X16575379449182.
Crociani-Windland, L. (2022) Mothering, caring and educating: learning from experience and psychosocial pedagogy, Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 15(2): 87–97, doi: 10.1332/147867321X16575387662320.
Cummins, A.M. (2022) Voyages around mothers – departures and returns, Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 15(2): 140–6, doi: 10.1332/147867321X16575215381863.
Galioto, E.D. (2022) Autotheory and the maternal: my impossible mother–daughter separation, Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 15(2): 125–33, doi: 10.1332/147867321X16572042649285.
Hinshelwood, R.D. (2013) The Tavistock years, in N. Torres and R.D. Hinshelwood (eds) Bion’s Sources: The Shaping of His Paradigms, 1st edn, London: Routledge.
O’Loughlin, M. (2022) Giving form to a life: the significance of autobiographical exploration, Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 15(2): 134–9, doi: 10.1332/147867321X16575256709558.
Savage, S. (2022) Intensive care, autoethnography and solidarity, Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 15(2): 107–15, doi: 10.1332/147867321X16575526838203.
Thompson, L.M. (2022) Becoming my mother’s eyes, Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 15(2): 98–106, doi: 10.1332/147867321X16575248408155.