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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Where are the Boundaries?

This presentation is a deliberately personal response to the theme of this symposium. Personal in the sense that what I shall describe are some of the boundary questions that strike me as currently significant in both my consulting and personal experience. It is not an attempt to be comprehensive but rather a contribution to the debates over the next three days. A debate we will each of us approach from somewhat different perspectives, sometimes with the sense of being on opposite sides of a boundary, certainly from often contrasting senses of where are the significant boundary issues at this time, deriving from the different parts of the world, both geographic and psychic, we each come from.It is probably not an accident that this is the theme of our society's symposium this year when it is being held in the country which can be seen as having, amongst other things, the task of defining a boundary - between Western Christendom and Eastern Islam. I am not meaning by this hypothesis to diminish the very real struggles that Israel faces on a daily basis, but to add another dimension, that of a projected problem of others, a struggle about quite other boundaries. It is the place where the historic boundary struggle between Christianity and Islam is also being fought out. This is some of the weight that Israel has to carry. In relation to this I am struck by the coincidence in time between the decision to create the EMU, a pan-European currency, and the breakthrough in the peace process in Northern Ireland. As if, perhaps, once the European nations took the apparently quite separate decision to abandon their national monetary boundaries, this freed the so-called 'Irish question' of some of its excess baggage of projected concerns about quite other national boundaries between all the European nations. I make this point to illustrate how what seems to be a boundary of one particular significance can quite quickly become of quite different significance when there is a shift in the surrounding context.In using this illustration I am immediately aware that it will be meaningful for only part of the audience here today, and must acknowledge that what follows is inevitably, as they say, 'ethnocentric', and runs the risk of being merely the preoccupations of one Northern European white male. However we have to start somewhere and I see that as part of my task here today.