Wisdom

Snapped that off my Kindle – it is a chapter title half way into Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral – by Mary Doria Russell –  Amazon

I thought, wow that is well worded. Google:

“So on they fought like a swirl of living fire –
You could not say if the sun and moon still stood secure,
So dense the battle-haze that engulfed the brave
Who stood their ground to defend Patroclus’ body.”

Book 17, Illiad

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Their filthy heart

“The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws.  That’s just the way it is.  This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last.  You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake.  Love is something different.  Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart.  Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate.  Love is hard.  Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.”

 

This is an internet thing, everyone quotes it.  Attributed to The Great Kamryn whoever she is.  Famous it seems for this one quote.  Or is there more to it?  Maybe in some library of physical docs?

Anyway, I like it.

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Invisible threads

http://inthemessy.com/tag/advent/

“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”

The space between is invisible – we can only talk about it in metaphor e.g. “broken heart”, “bound together”, “muddy path” and here as “sympathetic fibers”. Not only do we use metaphor, we can use images and symbold – rings, hearts. And in psychodrama we have the simple act of concretisation: place people or objects at a distance to show where they are in your life. Distance becomes visible and conveys meaning.

The quote above from https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3500800.Henry_Melvill (not the Moby Dick man) seems to be saying that our actions can live after us and multiply. Then come back as karma. And then impact everyone. Be careful what you say and do it can reverberate into the future.

I think of this as Moreno’s sociometric matrix. Sympathetic is a nice word there with its roots in symphony – all the parts of the network working together.

The network of course is a physical metaphor for something unseen, the space.

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Background

http://melvilliana.blogspot.co.nz/2011/09/finest-thing-herman-melville-never-said.html

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Lenin used the concept often

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/7thconf/24c.htm

All humanity is thrown into a tangled bloody heap from which no nation can extricate itself on its own. Though there are more and less advanced countries, this war has bound them all together by so many threads that escape from this tangle for any single country acting on its own is inconceivable.

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The Social Constructivist Movement in Modern Psych

The_Social_Constructivist_Movement_in_Modern_Psych

Kenneth J. Gergen 1985

To Read.

Question: Do they really think there is no individual?

I thought it was radical to say that the relationship has the individuals rather than individuals have a relationship. That still means there are individuals.

Must read it.

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Community-Based Research: Creating Evidence-Based Practice for Health and Social Change

This is an interesting and valuable paper and link to kindred spirits. Something to integrate into my long paper on methodology.

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00001388.htm

Community-Based Research: Creating Evidence-Based Practice for Health and Social Change

Marcia Hills, R.N., Ph.D.

Jennifer Mullett, Ph.D.

Community Health Promotion Coalition
University of Victoria
Victoria, BC, Canada

Paper presented at the Qualitative Evidence-based Practice Conference, Coventry University, May 15-17 2000.

Evidence-based practice usually refers to gathering quantitative data upon which to base decisions about what constitutes effective or efficient practice or what is sometimes referred to as “best practices”. The authors argue that, when gathering evidence about practice concerning people in communities which is often the case in the health sector, different evidence is needed and, consequently, different methodologies and methods for collecting that evidence must be used. In this context, the notion of basing practice on evidence raises the question “what do we accept as evidence upon which to base our practices that involve people in communities?”

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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.”

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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.

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From Auguste Comte to Donald Trump

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.

The dark seed grew with all those American “think positive” evangelists: Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Werner Erhard (now Landmark Forum) Tony Robbins and for many years now, Donald Trump.

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:

Love
Person
Natural
Relationship
Collaboration
Meaning
Empathy
Ecology
Spontaneity
Revolution
Equality
Progress
Dialogue
Soul
Dialectic
Environment
Long term
Depth

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.

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Anger and Relationships

Alaine De Botton on anger:

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.

There are a couple of traps here though. Take this site:

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.

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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.

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Angry Couples

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.

Male Privilege

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.

Therapist’s Values

William Doherty is very good at seeing and responding to the social forces that mess up relationships. His book Take Back Your Marriage, Second Edition: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart is excellent. All about the restraints of redundancy to use Bateson’s impossible jargon.

In the psychotherapy Networker he advocates:

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.

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