“Don’t Give Me Any of Your Shit” | The Unconscious Unconscious | The School of Life… in Schools


I happened upon this video via a share the other day – three psychoanalysts in conversation at the Science Museum some months ago. It’s not a blinding presentation – little stuffy and the quality is not great – but I was really struck by the (near) opening words of the first speaker (around 3:50 in):

‘The unconscious permeates everything that we do in our life, often without seeing it. Why do young people say to each other “don’t give me any of your shit, man,” or why do lovers call each other “baby”?’

I’ve long been a fan of The School of Life, part of whose mission is to demythologise psychotherapy and offer people a ‘mental MOT’. Their view, which I share, is that psychotherapy ought to be something available on the High Street, rather than in some high priestly counselling room.

Too often, psychotherapy is thought of as an extreme measure or a bizarre indulgence. At The School of Life, we believe it would benefit many of us to talk in confidence to an exceptionally responsive person about our private concerns.

At around £60 per hour, it really is an indulgence – and the historic Catholic use of that word is perhaps worth noting. Yet the first quote above goes some way to revealing just how much of the ‘unconscious’ does permeate our language and meaning – yet in, obviously, an unconscious way. Yet this language – of street talk, of lovers – is not the language of the neurotic, but of the everyday.

I’ve been re-watching The Wire recently, and reflecting on some of the time I’ve spent teaching in various London schools – (though none at the level of trouble witnessed in that show) and it’s struck me that this is where the therapist’s work is really needed. If the psychoanalytic community truly believe in their work, then surely they should be doing their best to get therapists into schools and youth clubs. The School of Life are calling for there to be psychotherapy on the High Street… I’d say the High School was an equally important focus. The way that children forge language to their own ends, and with the unconscious yet to be buried too deeply, it would appear to be the best time for good work to be done, to prepare people for the trials of life ahead psychologically, as well as intellectually and socially.


4 responses to ““Don’t Give Me Any of Your Shit” | The Unconscious Unconscious | The School of Life… in Schools”

  1. Jeff Luce

    I will have to watch the vid after work, but your post is very timely for me. At this exact moment we are closing on a partnership between a large therapeutic services company (where I work) and a large county in a large American city (the school system). While my belief is that true impact happens when you help to change family systems, the school setting is hugely important. My experience is that if you can help a kid connect in school, minimize negative behavior, and experience success (often for the first time), that kid’s whole trajectory is changed.

  2. Jeff, I’d love to hear how this goes. Sounds like a very good project – and you’re right, it is about changing the whole trajectory, which if caught early, can be preventative of all sorts of problems later… which sounds like, even with significant investment up-front, something that could end up being cost effective, as the cost in terms of criminal justice and family intervention is so huge.

  3. There already is a huge band of counsellors in UK schools. Place2B have been working in primary schools for years useing playtherapy. There are also a growing number of schools employing counsellors in secondary schools. In Nottingham I work in two schools and I know several other schools who employ therapists. The majority of work in school is within the person-centred Modality or CBT. Also the government have recently extended the IAPT programme to children and young people providing further access to Pyschological therapies directly to young people. The British association of cousnelling and Pyschotherapy are very active in seeking to get more therapists in schools.

    I am very intersted as a Pyschotherapist in seeking to demythologise therapy and create less stigma especsically in my work with men and boys.

  4. That’s good to hear James. Be very interested to hear about how people are working on that demythologising…. partly because I think some of the attraction is precisely the mythology around the unconscious. I’m also very interested in the work people like Kids Company are doing on the neuropathology of poor behaviour and lack of self-control. Seems like in the most difficult cases there needs to be this dual approach.