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"It is relatively easy to produce suffocating, sterile, oppressive, depressive, or frightening interactional environments.  Correspondingly, it is possible to create enabling, empowering and trust-enhancing conversational contexts. " Eero Riikonen (p.142)

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McNamee & Gergen's Book
Early in the week  I read Sheila McNamee and Kenneth Gergen's new book called Relational Responsibility.  I loved this book.  They continue to try to find ways to talk that will help us construct better lives. 

So, I put mailed a review of the book to the PMTH list.  You can read it here,) and I invited people to respond to it.  The review brought three immediate positive responses to the book.  Let me give you a sample of what these people said:

Riet Samuels said:

I definitely want to read the book. And I love the term "relational responsibility." It's so true that often we cannot separate out whose responsibility it is. It reminds me of the saying, "When two people fight, they're both right."

Tom Conran said

I use the concepts of the text in a mft ethics class and the students seem to appreciate it. 
The text's emphasis on conversational supplementation of meanings is perfect for therapy.  The chapter on child abuse is a good application, and much appreciated by me since I work with abuse issues every day.

Lynn Hoffman said

 Sheila [McNamee's] and Ken [Gergen] "relational responsibility" seems to be another way to bring back agency. ...I am glad to be experimenting with alternative [forms of agency]. I haven't read their book, but I shall get it and read it forthwith. 

Read the Shawver Review of this book as posted to PMTH

Lynn Hoffman on Reflecting Teams
Today, I give you an imaginary interview that Lynn Hoffman has put together to help us understand reflecting teams in the orginal sense that the inventer, Tom Andersen. ascribed to this concept. Do read it, it will give you an indepth feel for what Andersen meant by Reflecting Teams. 

However, let me add a word to Hoffman's account for this PMTH treasure:  My favorite description of the Reflecting Team was given by Hoffman in another context when she portrayed the Reflectng Team as a new flying machine. (See Hoffman's  Foreword to Andersen's book by that name.) 

That was written a few years ago.  Since then, this flying machine has taken off.  Many a therapy has been fostered by the presence of a reflecting team.

Klaus Deissler Speaks about Social Poetics

Klaus Deissler is a new PMTH subscriber.  He will also be publishing a book with Sheila McNamee shortly. His work to date is mostly in German, but today I bring you a an article of his in English, and I provide you with the following notes about that article. (Click here to read the article.)

Deissler tells us that clients invent themselves in therapy by transforming their worlds by talking with therapists. Their ability to do this comes about by exploiting two kinds of conversation in ordinary language.  In one, people try to understand themselves (comprehensive conversation) and in the other they invent themselves. 

These conversations occur in what he calls poetic moments. Poetic moments occur in ordinary language, too, but less frequently than they do in therapy.

As an example of a poetic moment, Deissler describes such a moment in the therapy with someone he calls Mr. Kern.  Mr. Kern, said in therapy that his wife was dominant and that because of her dominance he ˆ¨escaped from confinement of their relationship for days at a time.ˆÆ  During this time he would travel until he ran out of money.

In the therapy, Deissler tried to present this client with a positive transvaluation of these excursions so Deissler asked if it was perhaps the case that some men who took ˆ¨ˆ´time outˆ‚ could be looking for erotic adventures.ˆÆ This reframing seem to reach what Mr. Kern called the heart of the matter and dissolve the problem.

Deissler uses this example to explain how comprehensive understanding leads to creative understanding.  He says, ˆ¨I am convinced that these kinds of poetic moments occur in each everyday conversationˆñPsychotherapy, however, differs from everyday conversations; one of those differences is that in this conversational form,poetic moments are supposed tooccur morefrequently.ˆÆ

To talk about such moments, Deissler uses the term Shotter and Katz use, ˆ¨social poetics.ˆÆ  He says four things are true about such social poetics:

1) Social constructions are produced in 
2) The communication requires certain bio/psycho/cognitive
    devices which are produced in language.
3) These communications produce 
    commonalities and differences in our social constructions.
4) These communications give meaning to 

Deissler also talks about the way distinctions emerge in conversation and the way comprehensive and creative understanding can merge, and he gives additional examples, and he tells us that he thinks these poetic process are lured out by supportive measures that therapists take towards their clients that allow them to risk vulnerability.

There  is much else in his paper.   He uses concepts I feel are quite compatible with those we use on PMTH, although they sometimes have different names.   For example, I believe Deissler also introduces a concept that sounds much like  the Lyotardian concept of a differend.  He also talks about the way in which therapy works by generating ˆ¨wonderˆÆ or what we often call aporia.  And he even speaks of  the importance of doing something PMTHers might call generous listening

I think you can see that Deisslerˆ‚s work speaks straight to the heart of topics we discuss on PMTH and I believe his statement of them contribute his own creative slant to our culture's evolving ideas about where to go with therapy inour postmodernera.

Online Therapy

The conversation on online therapy has pushed to the background for a while as we take up different topics.  I supose that is the way of conversation.  One never wraps things up completely.  I believe it is still a hot issue, though, and that it will come up for us again.  Also, do watch for 
John Söderlund article on this topic in the New Therapist.


PMTH Conversation with
Richard Rorty

Last edition of PMTH NEWS I told you that Richard Rortysent PMTH an unpublished  paper to read.  The idea  was that we would discuss it among ourselves and then give him some questions.  It is unclear whether Rorty is actually going to join us to discuss these questions or whether we are going to mail them to him.  The possibilities are being brokered by Jerry Shaffer

Well, we did discuss this paper, and we found it quite interesting.  A big issue was whether Rorty's ideas were parallel to some PMTH ideas.  Were they the same?

But how would Richard Rorty know?   Let me talk about it a little and perhaps we can get clearer about it.

Rorty's terms are "conversability" and "stubbornness". "Conversability," Rorty defines as "the virtue of listening to other people in the hope that they may have better ideas than you do."  Stubbornness is "the courage to stick to [your] guns--to hold on to their central insight, the truth as [you see] it."  Wisdom, Rorty holds, is the proper balance between conversability and stubbornness.

The more or less parallel concepts A popular concept on PMTH, "generous listening."  (I thought about changing the term last week, and a number of people protested, so I agreed not to do so) and "pagan voice."   (click through to the links to get the definitions.)

Are they the same?  It seems to me that they address the same issue, in a vague way.  Generous listening seems close to "conversability."  The generous listener may speak but speaking is in order to listen.  It might amount to asking questions, or suggesting that people continue.  Is this the same as "conversability"?  We need Rorty to discuss this with us.

And, the pagan voice can be stubborn.  But recently we have introduced a new concept on PMTH, the tempered pagan voice. The tempered pagan voice says what she thinks but finds less rude and crude ways to do it, looks at ways to frame things so that they can be heard.  But a tempered pagan voice could be stubborn, too.  Still, the pagan voice need not be stubborn.  Perhaps it could be a voice that speaks with two minds  (I am thinking of the McNamee and Gergen suggestions)?  Why not?   A pagan voice could be tentative, especially if it was tempered.

So, it would be best if Richard Rorty would come to  our group and hash this all out. The question is if our idiom is the same as his.

At any rate, the people here who have read Rorty generally seem to like what he writes. I certainly do, and it would help to have more direct conversation about these things.

Another thing I think we would like to know is a little more why Rorty rejects the label "postmodern."  It is clear why he wants to be labeled a "pragmatist," but why not postmodern, too?

Question of the Day
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created the concept of a language game?
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My New Book Proposal

About a month ago I decided to do another book proposal.  Having published only one book (thank goodness I have one) and having submitted many, I know it can be hard to get a contract.  Many of you know that, too.  So, I wanted to gather the support of my PMTH friends and consult with them about it. 

Let me share with you the part of that conversation that had to do with titles for the book.  I gave the list 5 suggestions:

1. Tools for the Postmodern Therapist
2. Invitations to Postmodern Therapy
3. Invitations to Postmodern Language Games
4. Postmodern Language Games for 
5. New Postmodern Language Games

Nick Drury suggested , Language games of postmodern therapists. Both Lois Holzman and Jen Andrews preferred Invitations to Postmodern Therapy. Manfred Straehle and Rob Doan suggested the The Postmodern Therapist. Hershey Bell suggested The Postodern Primer.  Riet Samuels, George Spears and David Haddad all choose, Tools for the Posmtodern Therapist.

In the end, I sent off the proposal (yesterday evening, quite late), sailing it like a missle through the magic space of the internet, arriving on the editor's desk this morning.  What did I name it?  I decided to go with:

New Tools for the Postmodern Therapist

As the book is proposed, it will talk about the kind of things we talk about here, paralogy, pagan voices, generous listening, things like that.

If you're a reader and you have a suggestion, please do write me.  Titles are never final until the book is in print.  Just click here to send me a private Email.

PMTH When the Days Are Not Quiet

In the last edition of PMTH NEWS, I told you about a quiet day on PMTH.  We have those occasionally, but of late we have been prolific.  The average number of posts has been about 30 per day. We are also increasing our numbers.  There are now 152 subscribers to PMTH.  We seem to be growing at about the rate of 10 people per month.

So, I think times are good on PMTH right now, but I can remember lists where there was an ongoing good feeling and then something went terribly wrong.  It could happen to us, too, I suppose.  Thus my choice of the quote above by Eero Riikonen.

Let me assure you, though, that because we are so prolific, and getting so large, there is no way that PMTH NEWS can do more than give you the merest sampling of our discussions.  Alas.

There was another conversation this week, but we are still in the middle of it.  It is too soon to write it up.  But I will tell you a little about it.

Judy Weintraub, Hershey Bell, and Harry Korman are explaining their ideas about what the concept of "accountability" means.  Here is what I am getting from this conversation:

Accountability is a way of relating once someone has complained that you have had a negative effect on her experience.  You are accountable if you accept that that is so, express your sadness that it is so, but do not mean by this that you are to blame.

I am not clear enough to go further even yet.  But that's my take on it.  Maybe I can give you more next time. 

What do you think "accountability is"?  Click here to write me and let me know. 


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