Notes on Gordon Wheeler’s Book: Beyond Individualism

Somehow I found this book and purchased the Kindle edition It exactly relates to what I’m thinking about about the moment.

As I’m grappling with psychodrama and the relational paradigm, it is good to find someone who has grappled with this in Gestalt. Gestalt is in some ways born out of psychodrama, though it has from my experience been far more “individualistic”, it is individual therapy in the group, and then there is that Prayer by Perls! I have no doubt that Moreno pioneered a relational conception of reality (see Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele and The Locus of Therapy – Moreno, but that it was still somewhat rooted in the individual paradigm. Perhaps Wheeler & Harville Hendrix came to this specific consciousness separately?

History of the old paradigm

I’m reading it slowly and want to catch the nuances of his version of the relational paradigm. The first section is about the history of the old paradigm – and summed up in the quote below. (Wheeler, 2000, pp 52-53)

Is there no individual at all? Or is it a figure ground thing? Is the old paradigm absorbed in the next? What does he make of Buber? How does his perspective impact on practice?

The Individualist Paradigm

All this is the expression of what we have already begun calling here the paradigm of individualism, a complex and interlocking set of underlying assumptions and hidden presuppositions that has a 3000-year pedigree in the West, running straight back to the Greeks and then forward in a largely unbroken line down through the Hellenized Hebrews, the Christian synthesis and its medieval flowering, the Renaissance with its rediscovery of humanism, the Enlightenment, the 19th-Century age of scientific materialism, and right on down to our own post-modern times. In the process this paradigm serves to unite thinkers and movements as otherwise diverse as Plato and the Hebrew Prophets, Galileo and the Church, Freud and the Behaviorists, or Carl Jung and Karl Marx, all of whom may disagree vehemently and sometimes violently with each other about the dynamics and determinants of human behavior, the direction of history, the motivation and purpose of life, and so on — but all of whom are united at this deeper level by underlying assumptions, taken for granted but seldom articulated, about the nature of the individual self, which is to say, who those individual human beings are who are living that life, and having or creating or submitting to those experiences.
The fundamental propositions of that paradigm, as we have already seen and as we lift them out now for examination, are: 1) that the individual is prior to relationship, and exists in some essential way apart from relational context and connection, and 2) that relationships themselves are therefore secondary, and in some sense less real than the individuals who enter into them, who after all were already there, fully formed, and can come and go from one relationship to another as their own needs and circumstances dictate, presumably without altering their own essential nature. To Plato, as we have said, these propositions must have seemed incontrovertible and probably too obvious to bear mention — as indeed they may seem to us, on some purely logical level anyway, even if we do feel some nagging discomfort with them when they’re presented in this bald way — a hesitation growing perhaps out of living or working with infants and children, out of spiritual concerns or experiences we may have had, from intimate relationship and deep commitments, or just from our everyday experiences of living with and caring for other people. The fundamental separation of one individual’s experience from that of another, which follows directly from these assumptions, would likewise have seemed obvious to Plato — as would Descartes’s classic separation of mind or self from body, which was essentially unchanged from the Greek view, only some two thousand years later. The soul, which is the essence of the person, is individual, eternal, and unchanging — and of course separate from this material world, again by creation, which again closes off developmental or relational questions.
Wheeler, G. (2000). Beyond individualism: Toward a new understanding of self, relationship, and experience (1st ed.). United States: Analytic Press,U.S.

I’ll Make more notes as I go.

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Varieties of Encounter

Facilitating interaction was the dictum I used for the first couple therapy I did. I recall, as an untrained social worker in a hospital being asked to work with a couple who had difficulties. The night before I read a gestalt based book on couple therapy and facilitate interaction was the central practical guide I took away. I could have done worse.

I have written on dialogue and encounter in the AANZPA Journal more recently: The Imago Affair. Let me quote a relevant chunck from that paper as I wish to further reflect on encounter.

Encounter

At their heart, both Moreno’s and Hendrix’s work go beyond technique and are an invitation to a profound experience. The aim of a dialogue is not a specific outcome, nor is it reliant on one method. Here is the section of Moreno’s well known poem that encapsulates the idea of encounter.

A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at you with your eyes
and you will look at me with mine.
Moreno

Harville Hendrix introduced the validation step into the Imago structure with an eye to facilitating just such an experience. It is often taught as understanding or making sense. The lead-in line goes like this: “You make sense. And one thing that makes sense is…” The listener is invited to cross a bridge into the world of the other, and to see what they see, and feel what they feel in that world. Note the similarity to Moreno in Hendrix’s idea.

Buber clarified for me that a “Thou” relationship with others required honouring their “otherness” as an “I” distinct from me and any concepts I might have of them. This required a willingness to look at the world of another through his or her eyes.
Hendrix

Linger on the moments of connection described here:

I will look at you with your eyes (Moreno)

look at the world of another through his or her eyes (Hendrix)

Are they the same?

Both Imago and in the work of Moreno there is the idea of a special meeting. Not just any meeting, but something profound, where you become the other…

How to facilitate, or operationalise encounter is different in the psychodramatic sphere than in the I Imago sphere. They use different contexts for their techniques as well, psychodrama: the stage. Imago: the couple in dialogue and Hedy Schleifer has a variation:  Host / Visitor to the other’s world.

There are techniques/concepts in these modalities that are sometimes akin, but differently nuanced, and sometimes unique to the method. There are other modalities and have techniques for interaction, of importance is the variation of Imago developed by Hedy Schleifer and her husband, and the work of Dan Wile.

My friend and colleague Dan Randow and I are working on describing the varieties of techniques for encounter. Here is a beginning.

Here is a list of techniques/concepts:

Doubling: in Psychodrama

Mirroring — Psychodrama

Role reversal — Psychodrama

Doubling in Imago:  Related to the use of lead-lines

Doubling in Dan Wile’s CRT

Mirroring in Imago

Validating,  Imago

Empathy as used in Imago

Dialogue (Imago)

Host, Visitor (Hedy Schleifer)

 

Notes:

How does role reversal relate to encounter? In role reversal and in doubling you become the other to the best of your ability. You take the physical position of the other, quite literally in role reversal and by being alongside and slightly behind the other when doubling.

Is it useful to distinguish the inter-psyche from the intra-psyche; what goes on in our subjective world and what goes on between us?  Maybe sometimes, all these encounter processes aim at improving the relationship and healing and growth of the individuals at the same time.

 

 

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“Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups” by J.L. And Zerka Moreno

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I managed to get hold of a monograph, Origins of Encounter and Encounter groups. (Moreno & Moreno, 1970). It is a stimulating read. I have just created three separate posts.


Balancing openness with the integrity of the psychodrama method.

Moreno and social science
This monograph has a concise statement that I have not seen before.

Encounter
This is obviously the main theme of the monograph. Useful. Encounter is so central to Moreno’s opus, but it has not been developed well in practice. It was railroaded by the ‘encounter’ movement.

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1970). Origins of encounter and encounter groups (Psychodrama and group psychotherapy monographs, no. 45). Beacon House.

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Encounter

This is the third of three posts based on the monograph “Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups” by J.L. And Zerka Moreno

This is obviously the main theme of the encounter monograph. There is more here on encounter than I’ve seen in other books by Moreno.[Check out Vol 2] Useful. Encounter is so central to Moreno’s opus, but it has not been developed fully in practice. It was railroaded by the ‘encounter’ movement.

I think some clarification is needed, philosophically, for the psychodrama director to enhance practice, and for people seeking greater depth of encounter in their lives. How is encounter related, in practice, to role reversal, mirroring and doubling, how can encounter be produced on the stage and as a phenomenon in life?

A more comprehensive definition of encounter is contained in Progress in Psychotherapy, Vol. I.* “Encounter, which derives from the French rencontre, is the nearest translation of Begegnung. The German zwischen-menschlich and the English ‘interpersonal’ or ‘interactional’ are anemic notions compared to the living concept of encounter. Begegnung conveys that two or more persons meet not only to face one another, but to live and experience one another—as actors, each in his own right. It is not only an emotional rapport, like the professional meeting of a physician or therapist and patient or, an intellectual rapport, like teacher and student, or a scientific rapport, like a participant observer with his subject. It is a meeting on the most intensive level of communication. The participants are not put there by any external authority; they are there because they want to be— representing the supreme authority of the self-chosen path. The persons are there in space; they may meet for the first time, with all their strengths and weaknesses—human actors seething with spontaneity and zest. It is not Einfühlung; it is Zweifühlung—togetherness, sharing life. It is an intuitive reversal of roles, a realization of the self through the other; it is identity, the rare, unforgotten experience of total reciprocity. The encounter is extemporaneous, unstructured, unplanned, unrehearsed—it occurs on the spur of the moment. It is ‘in the moment’ and ‘in the here’, ‘in the now’. It can be thought of as the preamble, the universal frame of all forms of structured meeting, the common matrix of all the psychotherapies, from the total subordination of the patient (as in the hypnotic situation) to the superiority and autonomy of the protagonist (as in psychodrama).” “Summing up, Begegnung is the sum total of interaction, a meeting of two or more persons, not in the dead past or imagined future, but in the here and now, hic et nunc, in the fullness of time—the real, concrete and complete situation for experience; it involves physical and psychic contact. It is the convergence of emotional, social and cosmic factors which occur in all age groups, but particularly in adolescence (Begegnung syndrome); it is the experience of identity and total reciprocity; but above all, psychodrama is the essence of the encounter.”

* The first journal which has the phrase “interpersonal relations” in its title.

(Moreno & Moreno, 1970)

I’m not sure if the reference is to Psychodrama Vol 2, but that does have a relevant passage:

In other words, a process which had operated from the start, parallel to the charm produced by transference, is now coming more strongly to the fore. He sees the patient now as she is. This other process acting between two individuals has characteristics missing in transference. It is called “tele”, feeling into one another. It is “Zweifühlung” in difference from “Einfühlung”. Like a telephone it has two ends and facilitates two-way communication. It is know that many therapeutic relations between physician and patient, after a phase of high enthusiasm from both sides, fade out and terminate, often for some emotional reason. The reason is frequently a mutual disillusionment when the transference charm is gone and the tele attraction is not sufficiently strong to promise permanent therapeutic benefits. It can be said that the stability of a therapeutic relationship depends upon the strength of the tele cohesion operating between the two participants.

(Moreno & Moreno, 1975:6-7)

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1970). Origins of encounter and encounter groups (Psychodrama and group psychotherapy monographs, no. 45). Beacon House.

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1975). Psychodrama Second Volume: Foundations of Psychotherapy (Second Printing). Beacon, New York: Beacon House.

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Balancing openness and integrity of the psychodrama method.

This is the first of three posts based on the monograph “Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups” by J.L. And Zerka Moreno

The psychodrama method is an open system, people add to it and take from it in various ways. In the Australian and Aotearoa tradition we do a lot of role reversal, more than in the US. We have incorporated the focal conflict model as a way of making sense of group process. Role theory includes coping, fragmenting and progressive roles, borrowing from Karen Horney. On the whole we do honour the philosophy of Moreno as the basis for our work. I hope there os room to develop further, especially using sociometric methods to explore the philosophy and new techniques. Also it may be useful to know that there is no exact one way to do psychodrama.

I found this passage recently. The openness is like open source software, it means psychodrama does not belong to anyone. To maintain the integrity of the philosophy it is important to delve into it collectively and show how it is integrated with practice.

It is not so important that Moreno’s school did these things first. That is merely one aspect of the problem. But we want to pierce the vanity and outrageous bravado of our many good friends and enemies Who, under the broad mantle of science, have disowned and absorbed these ideas and are brazenly trying to get away with it. The problem is not “getting a bigger bag of better working tricks.” The problem is far more serious; the disowners undermine a system of thought, a view, a philosophy of the world, a synthesis of methods which hang together and whose break-up produces confusion instead of enlightenment, invite disaster instead of producing cohesion.

Freud’s dilemma was holding his ideas tight to himself, therefore his rejection of everyone who did not recognize his priority and adhere to the dogma: Jung, Adler, Rank, Stekel, Ferenczi, among others. Moreno did the opposite. He is tolerant and devoted to his students. His secret weapon was “giving away” his ideas; his strength lay in letting people use his ideas, encouraging them to try them out, making them their own. There was considerable risk in this; losing the priority claim was only one small part, the deeper conflict arose out of separating the methods from the philosophy. Substitute theories and philosophies are false and misleading, as they abrogate or abort the complete execution of the methods. Moreno’s position was therefore: “Take my ideas, my concepts, but do not separate them from their parent, the philosophy; do not split my children in half, like a Solomonic judgement. Love them in toto, support and respect the entire structure upon which they rest. Make them your own as completely as I do. Role reverse with me and put yourself entirely into my position.” Many have not done this; they have split the children and separated them from their true parent, like the false mother before Solomon intended. But an ever-growing number are becoming aware and the recognition gap is slowly narrowing. If Moreno – continues to make his students aware of this gap, his way may yet prove to be the Winner.

(Moreno & Moreno, 1970)

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1970). Origins of encounter and encounter groups (Psychodrama and group psychotherapy monographs, no. 45). Beacon House.

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Evolution and human behaviour and culture.

So much on my mind – I can’t keep up with it!

Books to read on relationships – “Marriage is the medium”

I have been reflecting on the role of evolution in relationships.

I doubt that marriage was somehow hard wired or ‘natural’ yet what is our pairing history?

I have a hypothesis:

We became human through a process of evolutionary development where we gained an advantage by walking upright, liberating the hands, developing language, having a bigger brain. Some of these processes or all of them, involved us being born as infantile creatures more vulnerable than other mammals. We are born at what  might be a more juvenile stage in other primates. This means that the parents play a vital role in development.  Grandparents do too; an explaining why we live beyond our reproductive life. Through the grandparents the group has a collective memory and redundancy in its nurturing capacity.

Psychologically this can all go haywire, evolution did not provide a fool proof post-natal environment. In fact it may be that what does not kill us makes us stronger psychologically. We have attachment wounds and seek out spouses that offer the possibility for psychological healing, a second go at being nurtured. It may be that the fear of change leads us to seek out partners that confirm our familiar view of the world and ourselves and reinforce it. Or there may be strong out-of-awareness mechanisms that can see the healing opportunity. But for some reason pair-bonds evolve that have the potential for re-living (a hellish time) and then repairing attachment wounds.

Some of this may happen while the partners are young, though I imagine it is more likely in the grand-parent phase of life. It may not have happened a lot, but if a tribe had sufficient elders who were somewhat psychologically healed it would lead to significant advantages for the group. Hence the evolution of cultural taboos against divorce and incentives for staying together.

Whatever the reason for the power of hanging-on in a relationship, there is a process of healing that is possible if there is guidance and consciousness. This healing does not happen if at the point of difficulty in the relationship partners just move on. By staying in the relationship, and becoming conscious the marriage becomes a healing space just like a therapeutic relationship. In fact the therapeutic healing space is a surrogate marriage, it can even be a futile substitute. Marriage becomes an alchemical crucible, where stages of transformation can be facilitated by conscious attention. The evolutionary basis is there but we also have reason and consciousness and we have developed capacity for depth and loving relationships. This cultural evolution can happen much faster than physical changes, and there is currently a rapid shift from individualism to a relational paradigm.

There are plenty of other, less benign forces at work that explain marriage, such as inheritance of wealth and bonding families and tribes, however the healing potential of relationships is also there. Very recently (slowly) we as humans may be ridding ourselves of sexist elements of marriage such as ownership of women by men and becoming more conscious of the healing potential.

With this hypothesis to sharpen and examine I have a pile of books to read on my kindle:

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Darwin’s Legacy: Scenarios in Human Evolution (African Archaeology Series) [Kindle Edition] Sue Taylor Parker (Author), Karin Enstam Jaffe (Author)

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Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing our View of Human Nature

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The Dawn Warriors: Man’s Evolution Toward Peace

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Robert Bigelow was my teacher in 1969 at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. I was deeply influenced by his teaching. It seemed like we were getting genetics 101, but I now see that his insights were very rare, and they did not get a good grip on the orthodoxies. Sone of the details may be wrong or dated – the overall hypothesis makes sense and makes his book a worthy candidate for Peace Studies.

Time I read it again – not on the kindle unfortunately.

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The Meaning of Human Existence [Kindle Edition]
Edward O. Wilson (Author)

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Then a couple by Stephanie Coontz (she is mentioned in an earlier post relevant to this discussion) here :

The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap Paperback – October 6, 1993
by Stephanie Coontz>

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Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage [Kindle Edition – downloaded sample] Stephanie Coontz

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Diane Wolfthal Images of Rape

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A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion
Here is a review: Goodreads

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Sex: A Natural History

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The Evolution of Marriage and of the Family
By Charles Jean Marie Letourneau

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Leonardo’s Brain: Understanding Da Vinci’s Creative Genius — By Leonard Shlain

I like the look of this book.

Leonardo’s Brain: Understanding Da Vinci’s Creative Genius

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Have looked inside on Amazon. I’ll get it one day. Have a few more on my plate right now.

It is an ebook on Google

Brain pickings has more its no 10 on the list.

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Language in couple therapy.

I am highly conscious of the language in couple therapy I do at the moment. I used to use the Imago language in couple therapy for many years. I was resistant to the rather ugly “sender and receiver” words.  Though not as accurate for what was actually happening I preferred talker and listener in the last few years.  However after listening to audios by Hedy Schleifer I’ve shifted to the “crossing the bridge” language of “visitor and host”.  As one client told me, that is a bit fruity, whatever that means.  

The thing is that is not just a change in language, but a whole different mode of being. Sending is a metaphor for posting something into space and it is then received like an email. This is not a metaphor that is very connecting. It also leaves the receiver wanting to respond… it invites reply.  Responding is close to reactivity, and replies are close to argument and debate.  

Host and visitor are quite different.  Each person is having a turn at the same time, one as visitor, on a trip to another land, as a learner, a witness as an explorer a learner.  The other as a host, a presenter, a storyteller.  with this metaphor for the work there is not the same need to coach appreciations… I just say, be a good host and be a good visitor, and immediately they say such things as “Thanks for inviting me into your world, I appreciate you taking the initiative, I know it might not be easy for you.”

In the visit I use the exact mirroring , summary, validation and empathy structures.

In every culture there is some protocol and ritual for crossing the bridge into another persons territory or space.  The protocols for visiting a neighbour apply.  The leave taking can be quite lovely.  I’ve heard people say.”Thank you for having me.”  or more fully, such things as: “Thank you for inviting me, I appreciate you showing me how things work in your land. I will be much more aware how not to stomp on those areas that are so sore.  I enjoyed meeting your little child and seeing how burdened your mother was while she had three under four.”

The language and the change facilitates dramatic enactment.  Show me your world is an action cue for sculptures and role reversals with the social and cultural atom.  

With maori clients and some other kiwis as well I have used some of the concepts from a meeting on a marae. The visitors are: manuhiri and the hosts the, the people of the land, the tangata whenua.

The depth of meaning of the pōwhiri or welcome could well be used to make the crossing into each others worlds more meaningful. For example the concept of Pōwhiri – the Māori welcome carries with it all the richness of the english word dialogue and more: “… po can be translated as a venture into ‘the unknown’ or a new experience, while whiri is derived from whiriwhiri meaning the act or experience of exchanging information and knowledge.

Pōwhiri – the Māori welcome

 

 

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