Identity

I recall a social work teacher I had saying the main purpose of the training was to develop the professional identity of a social worker. I liked that idea. Especially once I saw that as a social worker I embraced a set of values, a body of literature and a community of practice. We valued a social systemic rather than individual approach, this meant seeing the world in quite a different way to, say doctors whose only systems were the human biological ones, who could make individual diagnosis but not social ones. Even better it distinguished us from psychologists, who adapted the medical model to the psyche, enviously creating a system of diagnosis based on the medical one.

Maybe it was a good thing at the time. There were variations on the theme, there were Christian social workers who I did not identify with and radical social workers who I did identify with. This blurred the edge between personal and professional identities. My family was not strong on identity. Atheist/Agnostic Dutch/Australian, humanist left rather than right. I must have craved a more defined identity as my first forage into this realm was to be able to say ‘I am a bushwalker”. In Sydney at the time, for me it had an almost religious existential meaning. Value words included intrepid, nature, hard, travelling light. It distinguished us from mere tourists, and I’m sure there are still people around who are part of that circle, and have let it define them to some degree. Now, 56 years later I retain some of these values. I trained first as a teacher but did no embraced the identity. Bushwalker softly morphed to mountaineer – but I saw it as an extension of my BW ID. Traveller was another extension I aimed to embrace, Peter Pinney style (See my blog post) but I was too much of a settler.

Philosopher, hippie, marxist were all on the journey. Now I’m writing a paper: “Being a Psychodramatist.” I don’t think I’ve landed in a fixed place. Identifying with groups and activities is one thing, belonging to a community is another, being conversant with a philosophy of life… All ok and maybe steps in the developmental pathway. As a trainer in psychodrama I want trainees to become psychodramatists, not just learn some techniques. To that end it is good to hold fast to a tradition and to embrace it. Not to cling to it, not to hide behind it. And the value in this particular tradition is that it is aware that the tradition is a conserve and that from a conserve we warm up to spontaneity and creativity. That is – from the old to the new.

Lynette Clayton wrote about the personality emerging from the roles we enact. Maybe it is also right to say that it emerges from the identities we embrace. Hmmm maybe the identities are things we discover in our selves, and then embrace. Over identification with a philosophy or group is a form of narrow mindedness, yet to be forever eclectic and skeptical is just confusing.

We need to develop an ego, personality, self, identity – all words, all useful especially in their respective philosophies. And there are stages of life for each.

In Erikson’s scheme

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson’s_stages_of_psychosocial_development

“The teenager must achieve identity in occupation, gender roles, politics, and, in some cultures, religion.”

Thankfully he adds somewhere that this phase can go on for many years. And it is also clear that in his scheme there are many identities, professional being just one of them.

I think I developed a stable professional identity, did not get there till well into my 30s though. I see it as a cluster: psychodramatist, psychotherapist, counsellor, philosopher. Within that identity there is a lot of scope as well:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Psychological Imperialism

Turns out Trump does not write his books.

In a way it does not detract from the pernicious psychological philosophy that is Trumpism.(I wrote about it here) He does not build his hotels either. And the ghostwriter Tony Schwartz, is now ashamed of his collaboration on the first book “The art of the Deal”. When I saw the list of book titles on Amazon by Tony Schwartz I assumed he was a perpetrator of the same philosophy – GCP – goal centred positivism, or psychological imperialism, or what Marx called idealism, the same standpoint a colleague called “The idolatry of quantitative methods in the teaching of psychiatry”. And I think maybe he was, maybe he still carries the dark seed.

But Tony Schwartz is more complex than just reading the titles suggests. Judging a book by its cover is a bad habit of mine. I still have not read one his books but I have listened to one of his talks on YouTube. It seems he understands one of the hallmarks of the “positive thinking” philosophy, the denial of the “shadow”. He even quotes James Hillman quite well on the need to embrace the shadow (though Hillman could not embrace his own). To accept what is, not just what you desire. He certainly is afraid of a Trump presidency.

Schwartz claims he wrote “The Art of the Deal”. I imagine that what is said in the Guardian is more the case: “In it he translated Trump’s coarse ramblings into charming straight talk”.

I have some hypothesis I’ll continue to investigate.

Schwartz attributes the problem with Trump to his “character”. He is a champion of the philosophy that Trump is a narcissist and a baddie. If he was a goodie then his positivism would be ok.

Trump is a victim at the success end of the American dream. He embodies ideology that is much larger than him, an ideology at the heart of the superstructure of the capitalist system. The rags to riches myth is meant to keep workers in their place, working hard, while they remain poor. Occasionally one of the rich believes the myth, that it is his own character that makes him rich.

Belief in being the biggest, the greatest, the best, the most successful etc. does “work” to some extent. I can imagine the US booming in the most crass and vulgar way, till it crashes and burns and maybe takes the world with it. It is not just Trump, he is the product of a system rotten at the core.

Harriet Martineau

470px-harriet_martineau_by_richard_evans

I’m listening to Melvyn Brag & guests discuss:

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.

Solution Focussed

Solution Focussed Therapy

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?

Exceptions

What is different about the times when this is less of a problem?

Future-focus

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?

Compliments

Appreciatively toned questions of “How did you do that?”

Do more of what is working

More on Questioning:

http://www.familytherapy.org/documents/IntimacyQuestioning.pdf

Marx & Comte

The wikipedia page on Comte I just linked to in my last post saw similarities between Marx and Comte.

Not so as revealed in a more careful reading:

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.

Theory of Roles – JL Moreno

Quote from “Who Shall Survive?” pp 76

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?”)