The importance of the boundary between belonging and detachment also shed light on the consultation work we began in the FWA. An early consultation with a group of physiotherapists found me endeavouring to act out the fantasy of omniscient detachment. Our review of the work revealed how inadequately we had assessed the problem the physiotherapists brought to us. We were ready to tell them how to do their job – unready to help them with the anxiety and discomfort of their job. To help, we had to allow ourselves to be drawn into a relationship with them where we could become confused, uncertain and sometimes inadequate, but where we could know and feel something of their experience of their work. I imagine it was no coincidence that my first effective consultation work was with the clergy, where my personal involvement in the work was most evident.
Those who believe that social work is more of an art than a science may be interested in Ruskin’s account of this boundary. He distinguishes three classes of perception: “the man who perceives rightly, because he does not feel, and to whom the primrose is very accurately the primrose, because he does not love it. Secondly, the man who perceives wrongly because he feels, and to whom the primrose is anything else but a primrose; a star, or a sun, or a fairy’s shield or a forsaken maiden. Lastly there is the man who perceives rightly in spite of his feelings, and to whom a primrose is forever nothing more than itself – a little flower apprehended in the very plain and leafy fact of it, whatever and howmanysoever the associations and passions may be that crowd around it.”