Exploring the Use and Misuse of Race in the Clinical Situation

Book tickets

Organised by:

British Psychotherapy Foundation

24 April 2021

Time: 11:00 - 12:30

Price: £15

Location: online


This event is part of the continuing series of topical public events organised by bpf Wessex.

There is a continuing question over psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy’s social, cultural and clinical place. The brutal killing of George Floyd has brought this question to the forefront of our minds. What intra-psychic and interpersonal processes are at play? Narendra Keval’s paper attempts to cast some light on some of the predicaments and challenges of engaging with these complex and difficult dynamics in the clinical situation.

Our preoccupations about difference in the form of ethnicity and race, including racism are always present in subtle ways in the privacy of our daily thoughts, feelings, imagination and dreams. This is sometimes overlooked by an assumption that such matters are to do with being a person of colour when the reality is that we are all ethnically located and speak from that cultural positioning regardless of our skin colour or backgrounds. However, engaging with the significance of these deep structures of thought and feeling in the consulting room often evokes excessive anxiety that can obstruct thoughtful and sensitive scrutiny about the nuances of these preoccupations in the unconscious, what is being grappled with and communicated by the patient.

In this paper, Narendra Keval explores how race emerges in the patient’s mind and the psychic functions of these preoccupations that differ from one moment to the next. These movements can flow from a sense of curiosity that signals a wish to explore and deepen the relationship to the self and others, through the creative use of the analytic setting to a misuse which involves a retreat into a racist state of mind where destructive impulses aim to thwart and damage the self and others. This means discerning what state of mind is at play is a fluid matter that becomes particularly challenging as it will depend on the content and emotional atmosphere of the clinical situation, what feelings are provoked and evoked at any given moment. He will suggest that these states of mind can co-exist to varying degrees in individuals, groups and organisational/societal life, creating particular kinds of predicaments and challenges in how we engage with them.

About the speaker:
Narendra Keval is a Psychoanalyst, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist and a Consultant Clinical Psychologist. He specialised in clinical work with patients suffering from complex personality disorders in a range of settings in the NHS and currently works in full time private practice. He is a visiting lecturer at the Tavistock Clinic, London and has been a visiting speaker at Psychoanalytic training institutes in the UK, Cape town, South Africa, Washington and New York. He is a member of the British Psychoanalytic Society, Tavistock Society of Psychotherapists, British Psychoanalytic Council and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. His book Racist States of Mind: Understanding the Perversion of Curiosity and Concern was published by Karnac Books in 2016.

Book tickets



Find out more about upcoming events.
Read more