Harriet Martineau who, from a non-conformist background in Norwich, became one of the best known writers in the C19th. She had a wide range of interests and used a new, sociological method to observe the world around her, from religion in Egypt to slavery in America and the rights of women everywhere. She popularised writing about economics for those outside the elite and, for her own popularity, was invited to the coronation of Queen Victoria, one of her readers
I’m aware as I listen that this is era of the beginning of sociology, and how there is much that is progressive at the time. She came from a Unitarian, English dissenters tradition. Her 1838 How to Observe essay sounds in places like Moreno on methodology.
Interesting from Wikipedia: “she also translated various works from Auguste Comte.”
It becomes evident that the “dark seeds” of “positivism” are present (” see my earlier post) in her philosophy.
Reflecting on the dark side of positivism has led me to entertain that there is another side to it as well. A colleague suggested that Solution Focussed therapy was not really in the positivist/modern tradition because it was so fully client centred.
The mode of questioning seems to be a key component.
What has worked
Are there times when this has been less of a problem?
What did you (or others) do that was helpful?
What is different about the times when this is less of a problem?
What will you be doing in the next week that would indicate to you that you are continuing to make progress?
One small thing you would you do if miraculously your wildest dreams came true?
Appreciatively toned questions of “How did you do that?”
He [Comte] was convinced from an early stage that theory had to precede practice and really believed that the social scientists, the generalists trained by his Cours, would provide a blueprint for a perfect society. It is this that led Karl Marx to be so disparaging of Comte’s ideas, who denied ever trying to write “Comtist recipes for the cookshops of the future.” Marx, in contrast, extended the notion of agency to the common people – for him the proletariat – the new class that emerged from the industrial revolution and the establishment of capitalism – were the people with the history making potential for the future. Comte, as we have seen, had a deep distrust of the masses, and thus, while he started out as a proponent of freedom of speech, he ended up proposing a system in which people were told what to think by an intellectual elite. The very idea of Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat would have been truly terrifying for Comte.
Comte if he were an American today might well have said he could make America great.
Trump is not a crazy narcissist. He is the product of a tradition of thought and practice. It may have started with Aristotle or Auguste Comte. Wonderful philosophers, they transcended superstition in favour of rational thought, but they carried a dark seed: they saw the world as a machine as something we could understand, and manipulate. The machine is also divine when weird mysticism can make more money.
What is this school of thought? I’m calling it Goal Centred Positivism. GCP. The Learning Annex is a significant promoter of the philosophy and the evangelists. Strains of this mode of thinking are everywhere. It needs to be identified and addressed in many professions and many world views.
What is bad about GCP? To name this is harder than it looks. While it has instant appeal in its simplicity and commonsense, it is a lie. Not everything is as it looks on the surface. There are limits to thinking positively. Like in The Apprentice — Trumps (fake) reality TV show there is always one “winner” and many who loose, who are fired, who are losers. Life is not a game. Respect for the roots, i.e. being radical, going deeper, seeing the whole picture, beyond the simplistic goals.
GCP is very American, Napoleon Hill was an advisor to two presidents of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The rise of Trump (may he soon fall) has revealed deep social, political and financial schisms and fault lines. It has also revealed this schism in world views prevalent in therapy and personal growth.
I’m writing this here in my blog that is also about personal development and psychology. This goal centred positivism has brushed many schools of more reputable psychology. It is probably present in some way in most. The most blatant example is Behaviour Modification. It is central the frame works set by insurance companies who fund counselling and therapy. It is so important to distinguish life giving schools of thought from this dark flow. What is the antithesis of goal centred positivism? Approaches that have one of the following ideas at their centre:
Trump represents the power of a pernicious world view, it is important to understand the tradition and oppose it. Opposition does not come easily to the liberal, meaning centred approaches to change. Lets clearly distinguish true personal development from the crass version.
Theory of Roles*
Every role is a fusion of private and collective elements; it is composed of two parts,—its collective denominators and its individual differentials. It may be useful to differentiate between role-taking—which is the taking of a finished, fully established role which does not permit the individual any variation, any degree of freedom—role playing—which permits the individual some degree of freedom—and role creating—which permits the individual a high degree of freedom, as for instance, the spontaneity player. The tangible aspects of what is known as “ego” are the roles in which it operates. Roles and relationships between roles are the most significant development within any specific culture Working with the “role” as a point of reference appears to be a methodological advantage as compared with “personality” or “ego.” These are less concrete and wrapped up in metapsychological mystery.
Role emergence is prior to the emergence of the self . Roles do not emerge from the self, but the self may emerge from roles The hypothesis upheld by many that the genesis of role emergence and the genesis of language are one and the same is not tenable according to experimental role research. Long before language- linked roles emerge in the child’s world, “psychosomatic roles” operate effectively (for instance, the role of the eater, the sleeper and the walker). There is considerable psychic resistance against the intrusion of language in infants and even some resistance against gestural infiltration. There is no reason to assume that the language-free areas are non-human. There is overwhelming evidence that these silent areas are co-existent with the vocal ones on the human level and have great potentialities for independent growth. There may be forms of social communication without gestural involvement. The tele phenomenon operates in all dimensions of communication and it is therefore an error to reduce it to a mere reﬂection and correspondent of the communication process via language.
The roles of the mother, the son, the daughter, the teacher, the negro, the Christian, etc., are social roles ; the roles of a mother, a teacher, a Negro, a Christian, etc., are psychodramatic roles.
The term role itself comes from the language of the stage. Role playing may be considered as an experimental procedure, a method of learning to perform roles more adequately. The present popularity of the term and concept derives from the value it has proven to have as a training device in various social, occupational and vocational activities, and resulted from the initiative which the author has taken in developing them. It is through the study of roles in action that new knowledge about roles developed. In contrast with role playing, role taking is an attitude already frozen in the behavior of the person. Role playing is an act, a spontaneous playing; role taking is a finished product, a role conserve.
* See also “Two Schools of Role Theory,” p. 688-691. (in the same vol of “Who Shall Survive?”)
Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.
Not sure if this really Seneca’s take on Anger. It interesting though. The essential take on anger is that it is the result of holding unrealistic expectations and that more pessimism will help calm you down.
Anger is a philosophical problem with a philosophical solution. Perhaps a bit like CBT?
My philosophical response is that it is not sufficient. Unrealistic expectations can equally lead to sadness and then it is usually framed as disappointment. However there is something to this philosophical take. Our thoughts not the other persons behaviour are at the root of anger.
A fuller take on this idea from Marshall Rosenberg:
In short: Anger is the way we get a signal that there is an unmet need. I think he uses the example of the “check engine light”.
I’m aware of another form of anger that is not really either of the above. Anger at injustice. this is from wikipedia: “Socialism is the flame of anger against injustice.” I think of this being tied in with our fight response, adrenalin rushing to survive against onslaught. This not just in the eye of the beholder as some might say. Inequality, sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression really do exist. There is a good fight. Anger at violation of human rights surely is a good thing.
Question: “How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”
Answer: We can know for sure that our anger or indignation is righteous when it is directed toward what angers God Himself. Righteous anger and indignation are justly expressed when we are confronted with sin. Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.
Makes sense if you think God is against gay rights and women’s right to choose. But it does not make sense in the real world. Investigation is the key to knowing waht is real.
Anger and Psychotherapy
I’ve heard this a lot in my profession:
“Anger is a socially suppressed emotion and people – especially women – need a safe place to get in touch with their anger. Expression of anger leads to discovering the emotions under the anger, being assertive and getting needs met. Anger is not the same as violence.”
The trouble with this is that it does not work like that if the person comes home and thinks it is a good idea to be angry with their partner. In some way anger can easily lead to violence verbal, emotional and physical. Marshall Rosenberg’s principle that other people are not the cause of our anger needs to be taken into the picture more fully than it often is.
It is easy for a therapist to side with the person in front of them. To see their side of the story. Much harder to concretise the “other” in the room with the other perspective.
In psychotherapy with couples the question about the nature of anger is important. It is held by many couple therapists that people who choose to be together in an intimate relationship are in a “horizontal relationship”. The tenet is that as therapists we should not take sides, but be a catalyst to the healing potential in the relationship. From an Imago website:
Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.
In my work with couples I can hold that trust that the couples are equally wounded and that the power struggle can be nasty and that they have equal responsibility to get out of it. Each partner can take full responsibility for the relationship.
Talk so the other will listen.
Listen so the other will talk.
Even when there seems to be abuse of power, it usually does not take long to get to the fear, hurt, powerlessness and vulnerability under the surface. All problems in the relationship are co-created. i.e. the way one partner talks leads to the way the other listens – learn to talk without blaming shaming and criticism. Learn to listen so the other will talk. Even social inequalities can be addressed with this principle. I’m amazed how far I can take that principle in my work with couples. I’m amazed because I don’t think society is an even playing field.
Look at the list here “160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life”. This social inequality seeps deeply onto marriage and committed relationships.
Michael White years ago drew my attention to a Gregory Bateson idea: there are “restraints of feedback and restraints of redundancy” The feed back ones are created on the level playing field.
The other restraint is due to the social values that are the ruin of a relationship.
The biggest problem in couples therapy, beyond the raw incompetence that sadly abounds, is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. That’s partly why stepfamilies and fragile couples get such bad treatment from even good therapists. Stepfamily life is like a morality play with conflicting claims for justice, loyalty, and preferential treatment. You can’t work with remarried couples without a moral compass. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family. The therapist’s moral values are writ large on these clinical landscapes, but we can’t talk about them without violating the neutrality taboo. And for clients, there’s the scary fact that what therapists can’t talk about may be decisive in the process and outcome of their therapy.
I think this is tricky terrain. I think it best to focus on the co-creation of the relationship rather than the unequal society it is born from. That is a value I have because there is a lot a couple can do to address these issues in their relationship IF they can connect.
Still I am pleased to have the “permission” to have values, to weave them in in such a way that I am not seen as taking sides, because I am not.