NUMBER 571 • 17 AUGUST • PERSONAL INTEGRITY
It is not easy to feel a whole and individual person unless one feels secure in a known environment. Yet one is unsure and cramped if the world seems to have stopped and there is no stimulus to continued and interested learning. So what follows partly takes forward the argument of chapters 2 and 3 by applying holding and nurturing more specifically to individual circumstances so that damage to integrity due to residential life is prevented; partly it shows how change to a new situation, though stressful, can be educational i.e., draw out new aspects of the child’s potentiality: and partly it recognizes that healing (or therapeutic) provision is an essential part of the positive task of residential units.
‘Integrity’ is in danger of becoming a fashionable catchword in popular moral-cum-psychological usage. Prior to its loose usage as a synonym for ‘honesty’ it expressed basic moral and psychological ideas of wholeness and soundness. These are values which must be found and expressed in life and larger social institutions as in family life if moral development is to occur. Integrity is a keyword in the title of Anthony Stan’s book The Integrity of the Personality (Storr, 1963) and yet, interestingly, he does not attempt to define it. So the most we do here is to consider some of his comments, which taken with others, will provide a background to later discussion.
Writing of the psychotherapist’s task, Storr says (p. 30): His basic aim is to help his patient lead his own life more completely, without trying to order that life for him or to convert the patient to his own frame of reference. For brevity we can call this the aim of respecting and allowing self-determination. Obviously this is more feasible with adult patients than with dependent children: the notion that one can, or should, permit children complete self-determination is quite unreal and false. The therapist intervenes in the patient’s life and the residential unit intervenes even more so. But essentially the intervention of parents and residential units should be directed to making real understandable choices available to the child at a level at which he can genuinely choose, thus encouraging his capacity ‘to lead his own life more completely. In discussing the aim of ‘maturity Storr refers to ‘mature dependence’ as used by Fairbairn to characterize the final stage of emotional development. Fairbairn, (1952) says:
‘What distinguishes mature dependence from infantile dependence is that it is characterized neither by a one-sided attitude of incorporation nor by an attitude of primary emotional identification. On the contrary it is characterized by capacity on the part of a differentiated individual for co-operative relationships with differentiated objects.’ (‘Incorporation’, ‘primary emotional identification’, and differentiated’ are quite complex technical terms in this passage. Rather crudely they can be explained thus: ‘incorporating’ means a ‘swallowing-up’ of the other person as if he or she had no important existence apart from oneself; ‘primary emotional identification’ means a losing of oneself in the other person as though one’s own ego had little importance; a ‘differentiated individual’ means a person who knows of various aspects of himself as different, sometimes conflicting, but as essentially all part of himself and no other.) This may seem a long way from discussion of the immediate needs of deprived children but the link is in Fairbairn’s reiteration of the child’s basic need to be loved ‘as a person’. This aim we can briefly call developing the capacity for mature relationship. Again it is easier to see this in adult terms than with children whose developmental stage in making relationships may be at one or other of the early levels. Nevertheless the aim and the developmental stages which must be worked through to reach it should be clarified by any worker who takes upon himself the responsibility of intervention in the lives of other people as a professional job.
‘Wholeness’ and ‘soundness’ imply mental health as well as self-determination and mature relationships. So we must add some notion of mental health which includes coping with the real world of physical objects as well as managing one’s inner life and one’s relationships with other people. Jahoda (1958) summarizes the literature, clearly and identifies six main areas where indicators of positive mental health can be specified. These are: Self-awareness and attitude to the self; maturation, direction, purpose, self-actualization; integration; autonomy; perception of reality; environmental mastery. Jahoda discusses each of these areas extensively and suggests criteria for inferring positive or diminished mental health together with appropriate conditions for observation in each area and sub-area. The reader is referred to her full account or to a discussion of it in Balbernie (1966, ch. iv).
Integrity covers more than ‘positive mental health’ for it implies a respect for and readiness to deal with the particular combination of areas of positive mental health, areas of development from health at one stage to health at the next stage, and areas of actual ‘sickness’ which characterize each and all of us as persons.Respecting and allowing self-determination; developing the capacity for mature relationship; encouraging positive mental health: these three aims characterize provision which develops and maintains personal integrity. In everyday practice we also have to recognize, with Storr (1963, p. 47) that ‘disparity of endowment by no means precludes, though it may make more difficult, the kind of relationship which I should call mature’. Also that ‘such a concept of personality and of interpersonal relationships is an ideal which is never wholly attained, for the development of personality seems to be a continuous process which is never completed.’ (Storr, 1963, p. 49).
This very brief discussion emphasizes that residential work (or indeed any other form of social work) is never a value-free applied technology of the social and biological sciences. Paul Halmos (1965) makes this fact very clear, and we should take great care not to evade or deny it, more especially as our applied technology becomes more effective in operation.
Beedell, C. (1970) Residential life with Children. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp 54-57
Storr, A. (1963) The integrity of the Personality, London: Penquin.
Fairbairn, W. R. (1952) Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality, London: Tavistock.
Jahoda, M. (1958) Current Concepts of Positive Mental Health, New York: Basic Books.
Balbernie, R. (1966) Residential Work with Children, London: Pergamon.
Halmos, P. (Ed.) (1965) The faith of the counsellors, London: Constable.