In his Poetics, the Greek philosopher Aristotle put forth the idea the play should imitate a single whole action. “A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end” (1450b27). He split the play into two parts: complication and unravelling.
On the first day of training in Imago therapy Maya Kollman characterised a couple relationship as “A microcosm of the universe trying to repair itself.” In different words psychodrama includes the same idea, the therapeutic tele is in the group, not in the director.
And there is qualitative evidence for this… A group, or a couple, once the connection is established and there is a warm up, will hum its way to more and more enabling solutions. I see it so clearly in psychodrama groups – each drama assists the whole group in a quest that is finally resolved. The terminology of ‘disturbing motive’ and ‘reactive fear’ is used to describe this process. Even this naming implies that it is the ‘disturbing motive’ that arises first and the the ‘reactive fear’ is simply the obstacles of the cultural conserve that need to get out of the way. CC is a term from the Canon of creativity
There is a layer of conserved coping that is somehow “man made”, the reactive fear, which is usually followed by flight or fight i.e. Criticism and blaming or avoidance. There is another layer – the universe trying to heal itself. Lets just call it eros or love. Gt the crap out of the way and the love will come through.
We just need to get out of the way.
Both psychodrama and Imago have the philosophy that the therapist is the catalyst, simply providing a few tools, like dialogue, or the 5 instruments so the eros can emerge.
Dialectical materialism is similar. There is a striving in the world call it God if you are so inclined or as Marx & Engles did – call it nature. Things turn into their opposites. Slavery was the means of creating the time for some to create civilisation. Slavery is the antithesis of civilisation.
I’m reflecting on the relationship between letting it happen and making it happen.
The inevitable can be helped along.
We are agents in the healing of the universe. i.e. in its progress. Towards eros.
We can make it worse or better. If this is a dead end it will proceed towards the omega point in some other way. The universe does not care, but it won’t stop its evolution, its development, its progress. These words are teleological.
We make history but under conditions of our choosing.
Surfing. We can but catch a wave or miss it.
Anyway, if we assume that a group or a couple is “A microcosm of the universe trying to repair itself.” then we are assistants to that process.
Thats what Marxists are too.
Strange that the right who advocate market forces somehow believe in the benign power of the market. Leave alone. Marxists might trust the market too if it was alive in a society that was free of the distortions of the capitalists. It would tend towards each to his needs. Just like in couple therapy – in my room I have to be a strong dictatorship of the eros forces. We fight the cultural conserves (part of the current cultural forces) of blame – attack and control.
“EFT sees distress in relationships as centered in the loss of secure emotional connection, and that a negative cycle or “dance” is established when that loss of connection is experienced. These cycles are often characterized by anger, criticism, leaving, or appearing indifferent, to name a few. Once established, these cycles can crop up over the slightest issue, and over time be corrosive to the bonds of trust and security in the relationship. EFT aims to help couples stop these negative cycles by first identifying and mapping out this cycle, then helping couples identify and articulate their needs and clarify their emotional signals in a way that helps their partner to have greater understanding, compassion and responsiveness.”
Imago Relationship Therapy has the same philosophy. It comes to it this way:
“Our essential state is that of relaxed joyfulness and empathic connection.
… we protect ourselves with maximizing and/or minimizing defenses and also block the expression of our basic functioning (thinking, feeling, sensing, and acting). These defenses disrupt the flow of our pulsating energy and disrupt our essential state of relaxation, joy, full aliveness, and connectedness.”
Karen Horney in Our Inner Conflicts – A CONSTRUCTIVE THEORY OF NEUROSIS – W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York 1945
“Compulsive drives are specifically neurotic; they are born of feelings of isolation, helplessness, fear and hostility, and represent ways of coping with the world despite these feelings; they aim primarily not at satisfaction but at safety; their compulsive character is due to the anxiety lurking behind them. Two of these drives—neurotic cravings for affection and for power—stood out at first in clear relief and were presented in detail in The Neurotic Personality.”
“Imago shifts the focus from the self to the relationship and posits “relationship” as fundamental reality of which individuals are derivatives. To embody this paradigm shift, partners must shift their focus from their own need gratification to the needs of the relationship. The paradoxical outcome of that counter-intuitive shift is that such a sacrifice will insure the satisfaction of their needs in a way that was not possible when the focus was on the self. When the couple becomes partners rather than opponents in the project of creating and enacting their dream relationship, they create a thriving relationship. This perspective rests on the assumption that human beings are intrinsically relational, that the human problem is relational rupture, that all emotional symptoms are expressions of relational anxiety and that relational repair is the only and sufficient path to human well being.”
Beauvoir, Francine; Crapuchettes, Bruce. Getting Back The Love We Had: Forty-Two Answers To Real Questions From Couples Who Feared They Were Losing Their Way (pp. 4-5). Kindle Edition.
Got me thinking about the story of the cave. Ordinary people are fooled. Only certain elite trained people can see the world properly. They are enlightened. At one point they mention that knowledge (according to Plato) is not “bits” but that at a certain point there is a whole shift to a new mental state. It reminds me of spiritual enlightenment. They use the word ‘enlightenment’ in the podcast.
I think a qualitative shift in knowledge is possible. But it is not in the state of mind, that makes the shift. Something has been discovered, it is based on evidence. It can be taught, e.g. The world is round – species evolve. That is not a new state of mind, anyone can learn these things. There is “common wisdom” (maybe as old as this stuff in Plato) that ordinary learning won’t do the trick, that we need to go through some spiritual process of cleansing, saving or sitting and that there are special teachers. Plato certainly raises the right question – what is knowledge and what is belief, but his answers are not convincing, and maybe pernicious.
“We need a new state of consciousness before the world can change.” I hear that a lot. This spiritual answers seem wrong, yet Marx also talked of class consciousness. Certainly we need thorough study and knowledge. But the paradigm shifts don’t happen to “us” they happen as science, and social science discovers more about the way the things and people work. Then people need to be taught that stuff.
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?”
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.