Postmodern Therapies NEWS                08/31/00
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                           Kill the urge
                                      Urge the Other
                                                  or kill the Other
Jude Welles,
PMTH, 08/21/2000

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What to Do with Our Urges
Lois Shawver

Our quote today is a passage from Jude Welles' post that struck me as interesting.  I'm not sure I understand it entirely, but it inspired me to think a bit, and perhaps it will be worth a little of your thought, too/

Here's the quote again:

Kill the urge
     Urge the Other
           or kill the Other

First, you need to recall what an Other is. You can click through to our dictionary, but I'll also tell you here.  It is the voice in your mind that evaluates you.  You may also hear this voice in other people.  In other words, if I enter a room and think people are thinking poorly of me,  then a postmodern might well describe this situation by saying that the criticism I imagine receiving is the voice of my Other.  This phrase doesn't imply belief that there is really a little man sitting in my mind. It is simply a way of talking and thinking, a language game, so to speak, that is sometimes useful.

Back to the quote: Kill the urge, Urge the Other, Kill the Other. The context being considered, might be illustrated like this: Suppose I want to do something but an inner voice says I really should not do it.  In that case, I have three options for dealing with my urge.  I can kill the urge (or try to do so), I can urge the Other (that is urge this inner voice to get off of my back), or I can kill my Other.  Now killing the Other is not killing a real person, it is quieting the inner voice that evaluates me.

So, what I think this means is this: If I want to do something that I think I shouldn't do, I can try to stop wanting to do it, I can try to convince myself that it is okay to do it, or I can try to snuff out the inner voice that tries to evaluate me if I do it.

Let's try it out with an example.  If I want to buy a new car, but I feel I really shouldn't do it, I can try to kill the urge to buy the car, I can try to convince myself that it's okay to buy the car (urge the Other to go along with it by arguing my the reasons ) or I can try to snuff out the voice of the Other by saying that the Other is all wrong, the values are wrong, the goals are wrong, and not bother to try to convince my Other.

Interesting options because I sometimes want to do things my Other woud forbid.  Should I respect the Other anyway?  Sometimes my Other has pretty unreasonable ideas.  Maybe I should try to kill it sometimes?  Is that possible?  Can one kill one's Other without killing a part of oneself?

I don't know.  Langsdorf says that the Enlightenment model of science inclines us "to hear the voice of the Other as if it were the voice of the Self" (p.86)  Work that through carefully and I think you'll see that if we have constructed a modernist concept of self then killing the voice of the Other (perhaps an echo from our childhood that told us not to put our elbows on the table) feels like suicide.  But the postmodern reconstruction of conscience, I believe, allows for a flexible growth in one's ethical postures that develops through conversation and exposure to other people's contexts and ideas.  It is not committed to an unchanging ethic that was planted in one's childhood.  It allows for consciousness raising.  Within a postmodern experience, such an evolving sense of conscience is not suicidal.  It is growth.  It is an optimistic recognition of new possibilities for better ways to live. 

Perhaps this is a fourth possibility.  We can kill the urge, urge the Other, kill or the Other, or let the Other evolve. 

Well, that's how I see it, and that is what Welles  quotation inspired me to think.  What does it inspire you to think?

Langsdorf, L. (1997) Uneard voices from unknown places.  In M. Huspek & G. P. Radford. Transgressing Discourses: Communication and  the Voice of the Other. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. 

My Adventure into PMTH
Jude Welles

Until not so long ago I was pleased and satisfied to call myself a psychoanalyst.  After a great deal of work and study, I had achieved a certain acceptance in the analytic community, including serving as a director of training for an Institute of the International Psychoanalytic Association. At some point in the last several years, I began to realize that it had been a long time since I learned anything truly new from the literature, and that the old discussions and debates I had taken part in had, for me, become lifeless and repetitive. At length, I came to the conclusion that for me the analytic tradition had reached the point where there was too much to conserve, too  much to lose, and ultimately, not enough to hold on to.

My theories and my practice had moved further and further from what I was used to calling psychoanalysis. I was deeply influenced by the works of philosophers of science, and narratologists, and beginning to apprehend the immense implications of this second cognitive revolution. As I dropped some of the analytic constraints, and focused on the narrative aspects of promoting change and development, the culture of my consulting room transformed. Old roles dropped away, new ideas hatched and were nurtured, deadlocked  therapies came unchained. In short, the geni was not going back in the bottle.

 I understood that many years of my time and energy had already been dissipated in a futile struggle to change the analytic episteme enough so that I could continue to fit in where I no longer really belonged. When I resigned from the Institute it was with the intention of clearing my mind, and finding the wherewithall to create a new theoretical base consistent with the treatment principles I believe in and practice. I expected this to be a very lonely struggle.

 That's where I was wrong. In the course of finding my way in the web, I found the Post Modernists.

 I got the impression of a community of excitement and interest. Here was where intellect flourished - it reminded me of the early days of  psychoanalysis, and the best parts of graduate school - the passion  to  know, and to talk , and the great pleasure of searching with  intensity  and integrity.

 I was lucky enough to find a certain online community (PMTH) with a listowner named Lois Shawver who invited me in.    Accepting her invitation, I joined a game I didn't already know, and found myself feeling a bit like Alice, a bit like Gulliver, and  a lot like a child at a new school. The first thing I noticed was that the local language was quite different than what I was used to. For a long time, I couldn't be sure if we were saying the same things or different things. I found myself experiencing some confusion, some defensiveness. I was never sure at first, if I agreed, or disagreed out of true ignorance or based in my own formed beliefs. This soon became quite fascinating. Lacking certainty, but finding safety, I began to learn useful things about myself. I saw myself holding assumptions I did not know I held. This was quite convincing to me, in much the same way certain therapeutic interventions have been illuminating and  intriguing.

  Val Lewis and Joe Pfiffer  and Judy Wintraub and Kilian Fritsch are the first voices I am coming to know. All of the conversationists represent and contribute diversity in life and professional experiences, such rich and well considered ideas. They are, at the same time, both human and  breathtaking in their generosity. In this conversation I find enough sameness to feel part of things, and enough difference to learn that which I don't already know I need to learn.

  I was wary of joining. I joined. I got engaged. I am engaged. It is very satisfying. At some point I decided to check in with psychoanalysis again, to see if what changes had taken hold during my absence.  Is there a postmodern psychoanalysis? Is there a semiotic psychoanalysis? Not exactly, but maybe soon.   The climate of International Psychoanalytic  Association (IPA) has changed a great deal. I am considering congratulating them -- from a postmodern distance.  I think I have found an intellectual home.

Following Our Bliss 
Lois Shawver

On 08/19/00 I (Lois Shawver) posted the following note on PMTH. 

Has anyone other than me noticed that it is much easier to write online than it is to write a paper?  Anyone want to speculate on why that is?

Lots of people, as you will see, had something to say about that.  I will share some of the highlights with you.

Jerry Shaffer said:

Because papers are forever.

That seemed right to me, but I thought there was more to it,  so I said: 

Any other ideas?

And Lynn Hoffman responded

It's easier because online you are writing into a relationship, even when you don't know the people who may read what you write.  It's more like a conversation, except (luckily) you can also edit.

Then, Saliva Bava  brought up the fact that writing is different depending on whether one writes with one's hands or on the computer.  Sometimes it is easier one way than another.

And Dave Markham, responding I think to Hoffman, talked about the dialogic aspect of his own writing being inside his own head. His point, I believe,  was that the dialogic aspect that makes writing easier when we write online into a relationship can be simulated in individual writing if we allow ourselves to have a second inner voice.  Markham recently wrote an interview of himself this way and he is thinking of rewriting it  by leaving the questions out so that it is more publishable.

Mel Snyder said she also felt as though she had two voices in her writing brain and she reminded us that Socrates did, too, with his "daimon", a "voice" of intelligence outside the already known.

Joe Pfeffer said "Speaking for myself, I have a true feeling of being in conversation when I'm writing online.  It's really closer to talking with someone than to "writing a paper."  Pfeffer pondered if some of all this writing on PMTH could be turned into an article.

Jude Welles suggested we might not need to edit to take out the dialogic aspect of our conversation.  She said, "I begin to think we don't need to stay shackled to the ways of writing we learned in grad school." And she cited several people who had broken with traditional writing styles.

Val Lewis commented that if we broke with traditional writing styles and wanted to publish it, "The New Therapist might be a place to start."  She added, "I'm sure John Söderlund  would be delighted." (John Söderlund is the editor of the New Therapist).

Myself, (Lois Shawver) I was still thinking of Shaffer's initial comment that traditional writing lasts longer than online writing.  I asked if this was really accurate in these days when libraries were no longer buying many books and more likely to have a computer with access to the internet and online databases.  What does the future have in store?  Maybe things that are put on the internet will be copied and copied and copied and the books that are now in the library will lie in ruins.  It has happened before that the last copy of traditionally published books went out of print and were lost forever.

On another line of thought, Tony Michael Roberts seemed to be thinking about how much easier online writing was in that online we could follow our bliss more, rather than writing what we had outlined.  He said, "...[S]o often in my life, following an urge I could not justify at the time takes me to a better place than I would have ended up if I had done what made rational sense given who and what I had always been and done before.

I identified with Roberts comments, although I didn't say anything.  But Jude Welles spoke up.  She said, 

"Jude feels the urge to tell Tony about her theory of meaning.  I (the one on the keyboard) hear's the voice of my Other say, "Get outtahere, no way. Are ye daft, darlin?) {You see, the voice of my Other has a notable, if shifting, ethnic quality} Other continues "Come on kid, you call that a theory? In ten years, yeah, maybe you can call it a theory." Jude has reached a familiar and annoying three option choice point in the 53 year old mental conversation with the Other. Kill the Urge or Urge the Other, or Kill the Other. Time passes. Jude mutters "Forget about it" like a native born Soprano. The Other nods, sagely, and strolls off, leaving behind the strains of Johnny Mathis singing "It's not for me to saaaaaay" So, Tony, whatta you think? This Joey the Bliss, is he from the neighborhood?
[emphasis mine.]

Roberts responded responded, saying:

Yah, I think so. 

Maryhelen Snyder then said

What a lovely phrasing, Jude, of the "three option choice" we give ourselves in regard to the Other (whether internal or external): Kill the Urge, Urge the Other, Kill the Other.

Then, Tom Strong, commenting on Roberts thoughts about following our bliss said, 

If we cling to our stories of our- selves we'll only get more of what is consistent with those stories - kind of making us predictable and non-improvisational.

To which Roberts responded by saying, 

Exactly. The story line is a sort of straight line of inertia based on what we expect to happen next based on what we think has happened so far in our lives.

Isn't that a wonderful converational path?  I think, on PMTH, there is a lot of this following our bliss down the paths of our unpredictable dialogic exchanges. 

Thanks for such a rich answer to my question folks!  Or, in other words, thanks for the paralogy.  I needed that.


Expect the next issue of 
Postmodern Therapies NEWS
October 1,  2000

Want to Read Other 
PMTH NEWS Articles?
Lois Shawver

Would you like to look over past issues of PMTH NEWS?  There are a total of 29 past issues of PMTH NEWS available.  If you click here you will be able to see what articles were include in which issues and be able to click through to the articles that most interest you.

If you don't find what you want, then I suggest you do a search.  You can search every page of all our issues, plus all the links, if you will go to the search engine in the upper lefthand corner of this issue of PMTH NEWS.

APA 2000 
according to Riet Samuels
Lois Shawver

Riet Samuels  from PMTH went to the APA (American Psychological Association) convention this year.  She was impressed with the number and quantity of presentations, and had to make some selections. 

Her selections will be ours because, in this issue of PMTH NEWS, she will provide us with a glimpse of her choices in her articles below as she leads us through some of the more interesting things she saw and heard. 

I think you'll be pleased with her choices because her interests seem to resonate to me with the interests of most therapists excited by the possibilities in our postmodern times.

(This convention took place August 4-8, 2000 in good old Washington DC.)

APA Symposium with 
PMTH Presenters
Riet Samuels

Choosing between literally thousands of presentations at the recent American
Psychological Association Convention was no easy task. Nevertheless, I managed to go to a few dozen meetings and one of those allowed me to meet three PMTH subscribers: Lois Holzman, Tom Strong and Sheila McNamee.  Holzman was the chair of the meeting and a discussant along with Will Wadlington.  Strong and McNamee were presenters along with Dan Friedman. 

The presentation was called, Improvising Partnership through  conversationˆ„ medicine, therapy, teaching and theatre.  I found the papers all very postmodern but also provocative and useful.  I will provide you with a brief overview that captures what I personally found most interesting and important in these papers, but there was much more that they said.  I suggest you read my overly brief summary statement and then click through with the link to the actual paper. 

First, Tom Strong began the program with a paper on language and chronic illness that built on important ideas introduced by John Shotter, Sheila McNamee, Kenneth Gergen as well as John Heron.  Like the authors he builds on, Strong challenges the notion that language  merely serves to represent the world (truly or falsely) and focuses our attention, instead, on the way in which language shapes our personal relationships.

Specifically, Strong suggested that chronically ill people often develop ways of talking about their pain that becomes highly routinized and ossified so as to become just an old story for those around them. In this situation, it is helpful, Strong suggested, to assist people in re-languaging their illness by helping them explore a range of unvoiced possibilities, that is possible ways of talking about their illness that are implicit in their illness situations.  Doing so appears to invite a different and perhaps preferable responsiveness from others.  (Click here to read complete text of Strong's paper.)

In her paper (called Teaching as Conversation, ) Sheila McNamee suggested that there are ways to make instruction more spontaneous and conversational.  She explained that the instructor can facilitate such improvisational conversation in the classroom by creating conversational space that interrupts and avoids participants assuming abstract positions or relying on overly ritualistic ways of talking.  To make the conversation more improvisational, she helps convert theories into stories and students are encouraged to personalize and elaborate these story-ideas by telling their own.  In this way, teaching can take place within a context of dialogue relationship building.  Click here to read her paper in full.

Dan Friedman, who is a member of the Castillo Theatre in New York, presented a paper called "Theater as Conversation." His idea was that a play can be improvisational when each participant builds on the comments of the another to create a new experience.  By building on each other's comments the participants create a conversational (non-narrative) way of experiencing things that can, at times, even bring the audience into the play.  The audience, for example, might even be invited to come up with a different ending to the play.  As you can see, this is a radical reorganization of traditional theatre and serves to deconstruct the black and white division between onstage and offstage performance.  (Click here for paper)

Will Wadlington (of Penn State University Park) commented that the examples wake us up from our "institutional slumber" as discourses are welcomed in which a person doesn't know what he/she is going to say.  On the other hand, Holzman's  comments emphasized that the roles described in these APA presentations (therapist, teacher, performer) were quite opposite to the traditional expert versions of these. They each helped us learn how to provide a welcoming discourse in which iit becomes easier to take risks and explore new types of conversation. Improvisation is acceptance so that people can learn to risk exposure, shame and vulnerability.

Humanity at the Digital Crossroad
Riet Samuels

In addition to going to the APA conference on improvisation, I attended several meetings about the role of the internet in psychology. By far the largest event was a 3-hour long Town Hall meeting called: Humanity at a Digital Crossroad--Psychology's Role in a Converging Internet Culture. It was sponsored by the APA Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice and chaired by Russ Newman of APA's Practice Directorate. Participants included Mara Liasson, the White House correspondent of National Public Radio and Phil Noble, the president of Politics Online, amongst others. 

Most of the participants in this meeting championed the opportunities the internet affords, but disadvantages were listed as well, including information overload, disinhibition (because one is not face-to-face with the person with whom one communicates), not having emotional cues, and the issue of virtual addiction preempting satisfying relationships at home. Psychologists are not yet prepared, some said, for what were called "internet-enabled pathologies" such as adult bookstores, casinos, and cybersex. 

Some people thought online therapy would eventually take over and there would be no face to face therapy.  Author Paulina Borsook made a good point, however, when she noted that in spite of predictions television didn't completely replace the radio. 

However, when the audience of hundreds voted on five questions involving the role of psychologists and the internet (we had been given little machines to punch and within a minute graphs would come up on the giant screen in front of us), the results were from 78%-98%  thought that psychologists could be helpful in internet services and education. (It went too fast for me to write down the individual questions so please don't ask me.) Among the pluses were the flexibility of time and access to limitless knowledge.

Online Therapy Symposium
Riet Samuels

Another symposium was Innovations in Practice--On-Line Therapeutic Interventions and E-Therapy. It was co-chaired by John Grohol of Mental Health Net and Storm King of the International Society for Mental Health Online (ISMHO). Yvette Colon talked about her online group with cancer patients and told us that many cancer patients prefer to remain anonymous while self-disclosing and like it that they can be on 7 days a week. However, it is time consuming for the facilitator, and she has five groups waitlisted right now because of not having enough social workers. John Suler of ISHMO gave a presention about their online clinical case study group and said not to underestimate the subtlety of the written text. Storm King talked about the unique advantages (scheduling, greater self-disclosure, good for remote areas, good for people with physical disabilities and social phobia) and disadvantages (ethical and legal considerations, confidentiality issues, assessment difficulties, not suitable for extreme psychopathology).

John Grohol mentioned the report of the Surgeon General who wants to facilitate this "state-of-the-art" therapy and reduce financial barriers. For example, the Telehealth Improvement Act of 1999 says in part:

If, with respect to a report submitted..., the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines that States are not making progress in facilitating the provision of telehealth services across State lines by eliminating unnecessary requirements, adopting reciprocal licensing arrangements for telehealth services, implementing uniform requirements for  telehealth licensure, or other means, the Secretary shall include in the report recommendations concerning the scope and nature of Federal actions required to reduce licensure as a barrier to the interstate provision of telehealth services.

Keep in mind here how diverse the requirements are in different states, e.g., there are quite a few states where one can call oneself a psychologist with an M.A. whereas in others there are postdoc hours, licensing exams, etc.

My conclusions from these three meetings is that online therapy is likely to happen.  Many, many people are interested and the APA seems to be behind it at this point.  Personally, I'm curious to learn how it all turns out.

 Performance in 
Therapy and Research
Tom Strong

Performing meanings? Performing research?

What does it mean to perform meaning or perform research?  Interesting terms, but what do they mean?

Lately, a few participants in the PMTH conversation have been speaking of ˆ¨performanceˆÆ.  In this conversation, they are talking about what goes on between people as people coordinate and construct their meanings. When we do this, our performance oscillates between communicating in accustomed (rather script-like) ways and between communicating improvisationally.  Usually, we perform with a mix of both traditional and improvisional responses.. 

When we respond improvisationally, each turn in conversation brings a response, which itself invites responses from our conversational others. Performance, in such conversations, speaks to the many interactive possibilities we play out together as we communicate with each other. 

Yet, how could research, as Jerry Gale suggested, be a performance? 

Saliha Bava pointed out one way: the published results of research prompt a chain of responses as readers speak to and about what they read. This performance invites other research to be undertaken which invites more responses, and so on. 

Therapy is another arena of performance.  At least, I (Tom Strong), have been interested in looking at the performance of meaning between clients and therapists as a research topic unto itself. How, for example, do people respond to an invitation to describe their concerns in terms of a particular discourse? Where does the conversation go from there? 

Talking about performance and therapy, performance is a core metaphor to the work of social therapists (check out the writings of Fred Newman and Lois Holzman) who remind us that we are constantly improvising our lives, even if we use our improvising abilities to uphold existing social meanings and patterns. Related are the social poetic ideas of John Shotter and Arlene Katz, who highlight how oriented we are to the familiarities of our lives, losing sight of our improvisational abilities to be struck by, and creatively responsive to, opportunities where new meanings and interactions could be possible. 

At the heart of the performance view is the notion that we are active agents participating in creating our social meanings, events and order - by our responses to them. For people drawn to narrative metaphors, this is the difference between thinking of meanings in terms of stories, or seeing them created in the interactions involved in storytelling. 

Performance is a rich metaphor that suggests our practices and meanings find their new meanings in the responses of others, or, in what John Shotter calls the ˆ¨flow of lifeˆÆ.


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