I encountered the work of Paulo Freire in 1985, and, in short, it was life changing. Freire’s work, for me, was the missing piece in depth psychologies. His work connects the intrapsychic experience of people with their socio-economic-political-historical context. This connection bursts open an individualistic perspective on psychological health, and underscores the necessity of people understanding the relationship between what they are experiencing and the wider context in which they are living. This understanding then clarifies that insofar as context contributes to or ameliorates individual and community well-being, one needs to be involved with others in changing social structures that make the world—as Freire says—a place in which it is “easier to love.” The psychiatrist, anthropologist, and epidemiologist, Arthur Kleinman in Re-Thinking Psychiatry (1988) proposed a focus on collective trauma, underscoring those conditions that lead to a higher prevalence of psychiatric disorder and everyday misery, and in some instances (such as schizophrenia) to a deteriorating rather than an acute course. Epidemiological studies show an increased incidence of psychopathology in contexts where there is poverty, particularly large gaps between the poor and the wealthy, rapid urbanization that leads to inadequate infrastructure, population mobility, forced migration, family fragmentation, poor and inadequate housing and education, gender inequities, racism, homophobia, torture, rapid social change and social disintegration, war, genocide, chronic violence, unemployment, failures of social and community support structures, and ecological degradation. For Freire dialogical practices are the means by which people can come to understand and critique the social structures that generate everyday living conditions and prevailing ideologies. He called this process conscientization. For Freire group work was imperative so that individuals can understand that what they suffer is not a result only of their own choices and actions, but that their experiences have a social dimension that is shared by many others. The conditions we live under are not natural. Their construction can be understood and then often transformed when people act in solidarity with one another. I began to broaden my study and training in group dialogue from this point on, including the work of Bohm, de Mares, and Isaacs, and trainings in dialogue in the midst of divisive conflict at the Public Conversation Project, as well as council training at the Ojai Foundation. These articles connect intrapsychic dialogue with interpersonal and group dialogue. Watkins, M. (1986). Invisible guests: The development of imaginal dialogues. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. (Paperback editions, Boston: Sigo Press, 1991; Woodstock, CT: Spring Publication, 1997).
Afterword to Invisible Guests — On Holding Holy Converse with the Stranger (PDF)
Watkins, M. (1999). Pathways between the multiplicities of psyche and culture: The development of dialogical capacities. In J. Rowan & M. Cooper (Eds), The plural self: Multiplicity in everyday life (pp. 254-267). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Watkins, M. (2000). Depth psychology and the liberation of being. In R. Brooke (Ed.), Pathways into the Jungian world (pp. 217-233). London: Routledge.
Watkins, M. (2000). “On ‘holding holy converse’ with the stranger: The development of the capacity for dialogue.” Afterword to Third Edition of Invisible Guests: The development of imaginal dialogues. Woodstock, CT: Spring Publications.
Watkins, M. (2003). Dialogue, development, and liberation. In I. Josephs (Ed.) Dialogicality in development (pp. 87-109).Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Watkins, M. (2005). Restorative practices in small group and individual work. In G. Nelson and I. Prelliltensky (Eds.), Community psychology. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Watkins, M. (2009). Restorative practices in small group and individual work. In G. Nelson & I. Prelliltensky (Eds.), Community psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 219-236). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Watkins, M. (2012). Revolutionary Leadership: From Paulo Freire to the Occupy Movement, Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, 4, 2.
Watkins, M. (2016). The Social and Political Life of Shame in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.