One of the key working tools of a psychoanalyst is “counter-transference”. An analyst is trained to pay attention to what they themselves feel – because this is a reflection of the emotional state of the client they seek to help. We all do this. What else is empathy? We constantly resonate with the emotional state of those around us. Psychoanalysts undergo about a decade of training so that they can identify the feeling states caused particularly by the client relationship – so that they don’t get caught up with them and react to them.
Unfortunately I’m not a psychoanalyst and have no such training. And so, I’m struggling right now as an Englishman in Scotland. My emotional response to the SNP campaign is unpleasant. It feels like a cocktail of rejection and sadness, with an overarching self-righteous anger. I think that this underlying feeling is a resonance with what the “Nationalist” feels about the “English”. It certainly generates in me an equal and opposite emotional response. It’s why I’m pretty sure that Scottish independence (if brought about in this particular way) would generate an enormous English backlash.
These feelings do me no credit. They are difficult to live with and they isolate me from my wonderful Scottish friends and family. What is there, in lieu of a decade or so of psychoanalytical training? How should one deal with this negative internal state?
It happened that the New Testament lesson last Sunday was from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
So, thank you to the Minister of the Canongate Kirk – for reminding me that our faith is shared across nations and races.
Nationalism and Racism seek to divide us from each other. Resisting that is principally an internal struggle, but it’s a struggle that millions of us share and have done across generations.