Running Head: PROBLEM SOLVING Problem Solving of the of the Problem Solving Introduction This exploration of reparation is undertaken in the tradition of Group Relations work in which the microcosm of a smaller groups dynamics is explored to increase the understanding of the society of which it forms a part. The fragment or microcosm used in this paper is the therapeutic encounter between a white therapist and a black couple. This brief couple therapy intervention is contextualized by a history of early trauma and more current extreme loss. Although the therapy was not conducted in a formally psychoanalytic framework, the case notes provide a lucid illustration of the dynamics following loss, both historical and immediate.
At a societal level, difference and its history of institutionalization in apartheid is a constant challenge in South Africa: the most glaring difference being between those who have resources and those who do not. There is also constant awareness of the different losses they struggle to make sense of. Many South African couples struggle to survive economically, or even physically, with illnesses such as Aids and Tuberculosis. others are torn between their traditional and new religion, culture, identity, and family structures. Some might face trauma from the high crime rate, the loss of friends and family through emigration and an uncertain future, with the prophetic words of Breyten, Breytenbach ringing in their ears from across the Pacific: If you Can Stand the Loss, Leave S.A. Now (headline in the Cape Times, November 2008).
All change, of course, is typically accompanied by some feelings of loss. (Marris, 1974). The issue of managing difference and loss, most especially when this is extreme, preoccupies many South Africans. In this regard, the words of Charles Waldegrave (2008) come to mind: When you begin to honour different cultures equally, you can expect many cross-cultural collisions. In this paper we suggest that it is in the conscious mourning and reparation following cross-cultural collisions or the confrontation of differences in couple work and in society that the healing of relationships can start to flourish. The differences – death and life, black and white, haves and have-nots can begin to challenge each other in a way which could eventually lead to reflective and responsible introspection, and hence to more grounded reparation. In South Africa, however, this process often seems more complicated.
How married couples live in an engaged and compassionate way in South Africa, when their history has deep roots in painfully institutionalized differences, and traumatic losses impact on them daily?
Purpose of Study
To contribute further to a thinking space about the difficulties faced by married couples inherent in moving towards grounded reparation in South Africa.
In South Africa the process of mourning is frequently blocked by unconscious processes, most especially in times of trauma and extreme forms of loss. This idea arose from their own experience and from the generous thoughts offered by an anonymous reviewer of an earlier draft of this manuscript.
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