Psychological Eclecticism and Nothing

I recall being advised by my then supervisor, about 30 years ago, to look around for a psychotherapy modality that grabbed me and then to learn it thoroughly and not become prematurely eclectic. I followed that advice. Psychodrama was that modality for me and I am steeped in its traditions and have practiced it for decades and hope to do that for a few more.

However I have more than a passing familiarity with a some other fields of practice, I have a grasp of Archetypal Psychology and I am qualified in Imago Relationship Therapy. I have grappled with my multiple perspectives, and have written a paper about my tension with Imago for the AANZPA Psychodrama Journal: The Imago Affair. I’ve been thinking about this more of late.

In my last post I describe an aspect of couple work first in psychodrama terms and then in Imago terms. It is as if there are two languages to describe the same thing. But its not like that. Because the psyche is not a thing. When it comes to things, translation is possible. I speak two languages, my childhood Dutch and English, also learned in childhood. Translation is not that hard. Getting the right nuance is sometimes tricky, but even that can be done. Speaking two psychological languages is different. Qualitatively different. To make my point I need to describe what I think of as the psyche. Perhaps best done with links to earlier posts.


This post quoting the philosopher John Lock – with my small comment on the nature of the psyche – Making sense of psyche – ref John Locke

This one quoting relationship expert John Gottman. Fluid Form

The last post links to the following post where I present more fully that we are not dealing with things. There is no such thing as a person.

If you have followed the links you get the main idea. It is that we create the psyche with language. But we can’t make it as we would wish. There is plenty more on this theme if you search this blog for the term metaxy. Yes it is a weird idea. Its a bit like quantum mechanics – if you think you understand it that means you don’t.

Back to my point about eclecticism. Everybody creates psyche or soul. Everybody. I heard a couple a few years ago talk about their relationship – and agreeing. “You were born prematurely, and I was overdue, that influences our whole relationship, it sums it up.” What were they talking about? It is a poem, a poem that fits their experience. It fits how they parent their children and why one is always late and the other early. But it is not provable in a scientific way. Yet it is not just fantasy talk either. It was so revealing of their dynamics. It impacted on their relationship too… when they are frustrated with each other now they see babies being born, images, their own babies inner and outer, and empathy is possible.

Occasionally there are people who create ways of looking at this no-thing-ness and make meaning of it in such a way they grab a huge following. Freud, Jung, certainly and in my case I was drawn in by Jacob Moreno and the culture and practice he initiated. Harville Hendrix is another such person.

Its not just their language of the psyche, it is their modes of practice, their biography, the institutions they crystalised. They are spokespeople for the evolution of the psyche — they emerge when the time is ready. That is why I think psychological eclecticism is impossible. To get the psyche, to communicate with others about it, to go on a journey to the depths, the immersion in one mode of travel is important. You can travel to London by boat or plane but not both at the same time.

Language is important, as Moreno said:

The analysis of language, useful as it is in itself. It does not lead to any change in behavior. It has to be followed up by methods of action learning which train the pupil to think and act below and beyond the boundaries of language.

Yet… it is wonderful to be bicultural, or multi cultural, but that is not the same as eclectic. When it comes to working with the psyche I go deeper with psychodrama than any other approach. The other learning informs or strengthens my psychodrama work. A bit like how they told me learning latin would help me appreciate English. Ita sit.

Specifically, it is through Harville Hendrix that I have learned to fully grasp Moreno’s idea of the social and cultural atom. The smallest unit of being is is a social and cultural atom, it is a bunch of what Moreno calls “tele”. Strangely, though I have used that idea long before I’d heard of Hendrix it sank home when I was on a workshop with him Auckland last year. To quote from my post:

Relational Paradigm The main theory he presented for most of the day was the relational paradigm. Summed up thus: being as relationship. Thus placing this as a shift in consciousness going beyond the philosophers of being such as Heidegger and Sartre and also Ken Wilbur, who has a heirachy of consciousness that is about individual beings.

“Being as relation, that is a revolution in thinking.”

Harville Hendrix gets it, perhaps Heraclitus did, certainly Moreno thinks like this… it is hard to grasp!

I think Gregory Bateson got it:

Learning the contexts of life is a matter that has to be discussed, not internally, but as a matter of the external relationship between two crea­tures.

And relationship is always a product of double description.  It is correct (and a great improvement) to begin to think of the two parties to the interaction as two eyes, each giving a monocular view of what goes on and, together, giving a binocular view in depth. This double view is the relationship. Relationship is not internal to the single person. It is nonsense to talk about “dependency” or “aggressiveness” or “pride,” and so on. All such words have their roots in what happens between persons, not in some something-or-other inside a person.

Bateson – 1979 — Mind and Nature, P133 — E. P. DUTTON . New York

Later Wednesday, 11 May, 2016

I’m trying to say too much here. There tangle of several ideas:

1. The nature of the psyche as a pattern between people – hence a no-thing

2. The nature of eclecticism and specialisation.

3. The relational paradigm

Sunday, 15 October 2023

I love this post.  It is quite Marxist!

See also Moreno on studying society

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