Are mental patients carrying the shadow of their nurses?

Posted on March 21, 2011. Filed under: Ethics, Jung, professions | Tags: , , |

BBC today reports on University of East Anglia research which suggests that mental patients’ reduced life expectancy is attributable to physical attributes like diet, smoking, lack of exercise and high alcohol use – see

Mental health nurses \’set bad example to patients

The research suggests that patients are mirroring nurses’ life styles but apparently with high mortality rates. Can’t help wondering if the patients are somehow paying the price for rejected or denied behaviours in nurses? This would be classic collective shadow dynamics in Jung’s view, or a cultural complex, as Singer and Kimbles (2004) call it.

Will try and get hold of this report and the other recent research into the treatment of the elderly by their ‘carers’. An over-attachment to images of the angelic nurse has a lot to answer for, it seems – for nurses, of course, as well as their patients. And how can they or any other group with such responsibility begin to address the ethical issues raised here, if the reality is invisible?

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can you do ethical PR for unethical countries??

Posted on August 3, 2010. Filed under: Ethics, professions, Public Relations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

London PR capital for makeovers of dodgy countries

Today’s Guardian (see link) runs a big expose of the PR industry’s expanding market of re-branding for countries with appalling human rights records. It shows details of work done for Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and others, contrasting the PR statements with those from Amnesty and UN sources.

The PR people offer the usual defences – ‘we’re like lawyers’; ‘as long as I’m comfortable’ ‘my job is to assist communication not judge them’ ‘nobody’s perfect’.

As set out in the article these look specious to put it politely and there are real problems with these lines: for a start PR does not resemble the law at all, though many ethicists claim a legal approach to ethics (esp. US- based on First Amendment arguments). There is no courtroom with equal  rights for prosecutors and defenders, no public defence lawyers, rules of evidence etc. It’s more like a back-alley fight, no rules.

Likewise the use of ‘comfort’ as a moral indicator is only valid if one is convinced a real moral struggle precedes the conclusion.

But what moral responsibility do communicators have for clients? Should there be a list of forbidden clients? Even though the UK government is doing business? Should PRs run boycotts when other trade is permitted? Should they aim for higher standards?

There is a conundrum in that PR often claims to ‘serve society’ , citing many examples of how communication aids understanding, motivates communities etc. But at the same time it asks to operate just like any other business.

The problem, surely, is that PR ethics is a complete mess, with minimal reflection, just a grab-bag of excuses and slogans, lacking any sense of the internal contradictions of these statements.

It would be more consistent to operate as a business, free to serve any client no matter how noxious, and abandon the claims to ethical standards. But that would jeopardise the ‘professional project’ the claim that the profession is entitled to trust and autonomy because it operates on ethical lines.

So what would a really ethical PR do?

I am not convinced that ethics lie in the client’s activities – whether its oil, tobacco or repressive regimes. What matters is that the communication is ethical – an outcome unlikely to be achieved if the client is looking to conceal or distort its central functions. I would like to see PR people turn down work because the client wants to withhold important information from the public, whether the client is Saudi Arabia or Amnesty International.

I also think we need to support investigate journalism like the Guardian piece because that’s the best defence against ignorance = maybe the PR profession should pay a tithe to support the exposure of their own deception?

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getting there

Posted on July 25, 2010. Filed under: Ethics, Jung, main themes, PhD stuff, professions | Tags: , , |

finally feel I am heading towards the final stages of the thesis. Two meetings yesterday with supervisors (staggered for logistical reasons) who are v happy with the chapter I wrote last week on another visit to St Deiniol’s.  Things are coming together….

Chapter 8 brings into play all the themes of the thesis: professional ethics, Jungian ethics and their relation to each other, and begins to sketch what a Jungian approach to professional ethics would actually look like. There was a time writing it when I thought this is where the drums will roll, the velvet curtains will part – and the stage will be empty. But no; this is what I discovered:

  • professions could choose to drop their claims to be ethical and ‘serve society’ – claims which have little substance in reality – this would be an ethical improvement as the charge of hypocrisy could be dropped and the illusion of ethics abandoned. price they’d pay would be loss of  the professional kudos, the social status that is gained in exchange for alleged professional ethics, so more like to face external regulation,
  • OR they could step up to the claim and  actually engage with the complexity and conflict involved in any attempt to live ethically, but particularly challenging in the Jungian approach because it means facing the shadow aspects of the profession, bringing to consciousness the hidden impulses, temptations and abuses that have congregate under the surface of that particular grouping
  • this will require moral leadership, but as Jungian  theory makes clear , the group may actually embody the leaders’ shadow aspects making it v hard for the leaders to see what they are hiding from themselves – a facilitator may be needed; lay members may see the situation more clearly
  • An ethics advisory forum cd provide the space for free debate an the airing of ‘cultural complexes’ – the Other may be a rival profession but could be an internal group, ostracised by gender, race, sexuality or background – or by an occupational sub-grouping (eg broadsheet vs tabloid journalists; foreign vs arts correspondents)
  • There will not be a new code: this is about process rather than right/wrong acts. It will entail living with uncertainty: holding the contradictions; not knowing. This will distress those who expect to be told exactly how to behave and are unwilling/unprepared to take responsibility for their own ethical being – hardly surprising when everyone else is playing the blame game. But I think many already experience this; identifying it may be helpful and welcome
  • the question of whether a separate ethics for professions is necessary is I think answered by suggesting that the base for all professional ethics is human ethics, not an elevated sense of moral superiority. Quite the reverse; it is because certain complexes will have built up in groups and professions that they have a particular responsibility to ensure maximum awareness of the shadow dynamics of their group.
  • have also found tremendous academic richness in juxtaposing Jungian and other ethics, exploring however briefly the points of contact and divergence with Asian ethics, post modern approaches and particularly virtue ethics. No space/time here, but juicy stuff… tbc
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Interesting article from BP advertiser

Posted on July 9, 2010. Filed under: professions, Public Relations | Tags: , , |

This article appeared in Advertising Age and raises several interesting issues about ethics, personal and professional responsibility. The writer wrestles with his past involvement as copywriter for BP and current catastrophe in Gulf  of Mexico. Interesting that he ‘bought’ the original campaign – as I have done in the past, then wondered at the degree of identification with a set of arguments. I suspect self-persuasion and ego-defences kick in and this article reveals a damaged ego (the ID with dying pelicans for example). There are also interesting comments from others who have clearly shared the experience.

Will be useful material when I go to Aberdeen as part of a session on PR ethics for PRs in the oil industry!

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The professional psyche

Posted on June 4, 2010. Filed under: Jung, PhD stuff, professions | Tags: |

End of my stay at St Deiniol’s library, during which I have not achieved the tasks I listed at the beginning of the week. But no sense of failure because the space and time here allowed me to see an idea that has been lurking beneath my draft chapters: I am proposing that a profession can be conceptualised as a psychic entity, with an ego, persona, shadow and the possibility of integration. The literature supports this – eg Abbott 95 on professions as entities defined by boundaries, and others on the developmental process of professions – though some Jungian caution against over simplification of parallels between micro (individual) and macro (collective). But the chapter I thought I’d tidy away on Monday has gained from this explicit approach – it was buried in earlier drafts – and the arguments are clearer, even though it’s taken all week. Having worked til 2am making this case on Wed night, spent yesterday reading Hauke (2000) on Jung and the postmodern which dismantles such an argument. But not entirely – so today I aim to take on board these caveats while discovering the possibilities opened up by this new concept of a profession.

So, many thanks to this quite residential library that has given me the silence and space to think and work – booked again for July.

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Approaches to professions

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: Jung, PhD stuff, professions, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Useful supervision session this week. Just dithering about what to do next.  We talked about chapters on professionalism – before and after viewing the subject through a Jungian lens. Have had to teach myself a great deal about sociology in order to describe impact of Durkheim and Weber on concepts of profession in society. Interesting to discover in the later chapter the links between them and their contemporary Jung – a concern about the loss of the sacred from the world, the over-emphasis on rationality and the objective. Durkheim and Jung share more characteristics than do Weber and Jung, it seems as Weber is more clearly rooted in a Marxist perspective and much more interested in power relations than Jung ever expressed. Society is the locus of struggle and contested identity for Weber, where the psyche is the main field for Jung. Nevertheless, interesting overlaps of interest. Even found a terrific paper connecting Bourdieu and Jung, v v useful as Bourdieu’s conceptualisations of professions honours the inner world as well as outer constraints. (Also planning major research project on communication aspects of an anti-obesity campaign using Bourdieusian framework).

But current chapter 3 is a ‘smorgasbord’ of approaches to professions = x says that, y says this. Have set it all out as part of my own learning process but need to claim the topic and drive a narrative through the raw material. Actually always enjoy this stage of writing – the sudden authority when I sense I actually do know what I’m talking about. Not there yet, though – still waiting for that command to emerge.

Here’s an attempt to summarise my intent:

There are multiple perspectives on the role of professions in society, from those that simply describe what people do in certain professions (trait approach) to those who see professions as a power struggle for status (power approach). The latter group is of course the most interesting but it is complex and contradictory, comprising social constructivists, new institutional theory, neo-Marxist approaches, Bourdieu on social capital and habitus, Goffman on professions as performance. My approach has been to briefly describe each of these and the purpose of that is to ‘map’ the field of professional studies. This is particularly important for two reasons: one, the different perspectives inform varying claims to ethics, which are examined in the following chapter; and two, the later chapter which looks at the impact of a Jungian approach on current theory and practice needs, I think, to engage with a wide range of existing concepts. I sometimes think I could have made life easier by taking one theorist and comparing with Jung but needed to educate myself in these areas first.

So, chapter 3 sets out overview of professions; chapter 4 looks at varying approaches to professional ethics; 5 explains basic Jungian precepts; 6 sets out individuation as a basis for an ethic; 7 relates Jungian approach to professionalism; 8 considers what a Jungian professional ethic would look like.

As to progress:

3 and 7 are in rough draft but need to add material on professional identity formation and moral leadership

5 and 6 are pretty much done

4 and 8 are just notes

Plus case study to do and conclusion.

Hope to have full rough draft by end July – but still a tall order!

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ethical conflicts in practice

Posted on March 31, 2010. Filed under: Ethics, professions | Tags: , |

Reflecting on the  questions raised by the impact of a Jungian ethic on professional practice. The purpose  is not to create a blueprint, checklist or new set of codes. It is to begin a discussion about building a bridge between the theory explored in the thesis and the lived world of professional ethics. This is not about an artificial divide between theory and practice; indeed it argues that practice is currently impoverished by the absence of workable theory. Illustrative comments from practitioners testify to the gap between the ideals or theoretical ethics promoted by professional bodies and leaders in the discipline and the conflicted experience of ethics among ordinary practitioners. For example Peter O’Malley writes:

the Code of Professional Conduct of the Canadian Public Relations Society… preaches that ethical professional conduct for public relations practitioners has something to do with promoting “honesty, accuracy, integrity and truth” in public communications. While this notion might be truly inspiring, it nonetheless ignores what public relations actually is all about — namely, the advocacy and dissemination of the partisan viewpoints of those who engage our services, for the benefit of those who engage our services.

Accessed 30/03/10 from

I disagree with this characterisation of  PR but it is a dominant one and describes a great deal of practice, whereas the idealised ethics describe… something else. This thesis hopes to start a new debate about the relationship between stated and lived ethics; it also renews a debate found elsewhere about the relationship of the individual to the profession in regard to ethics. Is the practitioner to consider their morals a private affair to be left outside the office door, or located in their whole being and therefore indivisible? Which parts of a practitioner does an employer or client own and control? Which aspects does an employee/contractor – and particularly a professional, with claims to independence – surrender to the client?

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Durkheim & professions

Posted on November 8, 2009. Filed under: professions, Uncategorized | Tags: |

More or less finished drafting chapters on professions and professional ethics. Interested to discover how much material can be found to support the idea of a psychological approach to professions – and ethics – alongside the sociological studies which have tended to divide into those who find professions to be part of the ballast supporting social structures (like Dukheim) and those who accuse them of self aggrandisement to secure their own power (eg weber, Larson, Friedson).

While my sympathies are mainly with  the latter,  I found Durkheim rather surprising – usually characterised as a functionalist, conservative – don’t disagree but was interested by his concern for psychology and spirit – he shares many concerns with Jung – the withdrawal of the sacred from  everyday life; the loss of meaning and the importance of looking inward for value. Talks about collective consciousness (not unconscious) too. He, Jung and Weber were born within a few years of each other. Sense of connections between European thinkers. And how wide their thoughts were, ranging across disciplines in an inspiring manner that highlights the conservative silo-based structure of contemporary academic discourse.

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