Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.
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When I wrote The Scots Crisis of Confidence over ten years ago I deliberately wanted to get away from the idea of the divided, Jekyll and Hyde Scot – the notion of a pathology at the heart of Scottishness which I thought clichéd and didn’t bear scrutiny. Yes, there was a tendency to extreme black and white thinking and polarization but this was different from some kind of divided self.
Given that I wanted to normalise and depathologise the commentary on Scotland, I was then intrigued, and somewhat taken aback, when a few months following publication I met up with Jock Encombe. Jock is now an occupational psychologist in Edinburgh but he had worked for many years in the NHS in England as a psychotherapist. What he found interesting about my analysis of Scotland is that (unwittingly) it completely corresponded with how Cognitive Analytical Therapy - the theoretical framework which he used – diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. Jock took a piece of paper and drew a diagram. I can’t put my hand on it at present but here’s what I remember: you grow up in a cold, unloving, critical world and life feels bad so you hanker after a perfect world which is sweetness and light. When the world doesn’t correspond with these expectations you go back down the doom loop to where you started. Toing and froing in this way from negativity to utopian longing you miss out on inhabiting the real world where real change happens and where there is the prospect of improving relationships, satisfaction and growth. That was uncannily like what I argued about Scotland in The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence.
I was fortunate enough to meet the writer Ewan Morrison at the Ullapool Book Festival earlier this year and we met up for lunch a few weeks ago. He had read The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence and was quite taken with my analysis so I told him about Jock’s comments. Ewan has an interest in Borderline Personality Disorder and has now written a very interesting, and erudite article for the Guardian which is worth reading. I think it is a very fresh perspective on Scotland that may go some way to describing why Scotland has a particular problem with addiction.
What I forgot to tell Ewan over lunch is that in the first edition of my book I had written much more about the topic of the divided Scot than in the second edition, which he read. To incorporate new material into the second edition I had to drop one chapter and decided to omit the one largely on this theme as it was probably not that interesting for the general reader.
In this chapter, one of my arguments, following Jung, is that literature in general, but particularly fantasy literature, may well be ‘compensatory’. In other words, it means the opposite of what appears on the surface. All the Scottish literature about divided personalities and dualities is generally seen to be about weak political identity and the failure of the social realm in Scotland. My argument is that it is a reflection of a society with an overly prescriptive culture where one size fits all and there is a problem with individuality. ‘The tartan corset’ is how I describe it.
I don’t know what Ewan Morrison will make of this argument if he reads the omitted chapter which is still available online. But I think he has opened up an interesting line of analysis in his Guardian article. In the present climate he will no doubt get stick for it, but I completely share his view that improvements in people’s lives will result from their relationships and individual development and not simply from changes in political structures.