Postmodern Therapies NEWS                11/01/00
(Also known as PMTH NEWS)

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For us, a language is first and foremost someone talking.   But there are language games in which the important thing is to listen,
in which the rule deals with audition.
Such a game is the game of the just.
And in this game,
one speaks only inasmuch as one listens,
that is, one speaks as a listener,
and not as an author.
Lyotard p.71

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Postmodern Therapies NEWS
December 1,  2000

Tiotoling Lives On
Lois Shawver

Last month I told you about tiotoling.  Do you remember? Tiotoling is a new word on PMTH that is taken from Lyotard and means "talking in order to listen."  For a few months now we have been using this word, putting it in the subjectheads  of our postings, asking and offering to tiotol each other.  Everyone seemed enthusaistic for this new word, at least for the time being.  Then, Riet Samuels seemed to call this enthusiasm into question when she asked:

[I]t seems to me, ...there are so many branches of psychology  ...that don't understand other branches. The object relationists [theorists, and the cognitive therapy theorists],the narrative psychologists, and on and on, all have vocabularies that many other therapists don't understand. On this list we are adding yet other words that people not on this list won't understand. ...[are] all these words a necessity?

So, should we coin words on PMTH?  And, are terms like "tiotol" helpful?  Or do they contribute to the word-clutter that makes reading in our field sometimes fairly tedious?  A few of us had an opinion.

My (Lois Shawver's) response was that there is a reason to restrict our word coinage and a reason to let word coinage flower.  I suggested that while coining words can limit the number of people who find our language immediately intelligible, it can also open conceptual realms in a very exciting way.  (See my full response by clicking here).

But what about the word "tiotol"?  Perhaps coining new terms can be exciting, but what about this particular term, "tiotol"?  Is it a good term to coin?   Joe Pfeffer seemed to think so.  He said:

The term "tiotol" has become very useful to me because it is a genuinely new way of looking at the process of therapy

But, Nick Drury seemed to think otherwise when he told us:

I quite like the idea of not adding more terms than necessary...... You say Joe that you couldn't imagine a replacement for 'tiotol', but what of the already well-established phrase 'active listening'?

Active listening?  Whose term is that?  I did a quick internet search.  It's a term in the field of education, popularized, apparently, by Marc Helgesen in his book, Active Listening.

But is "active listening" just another term for "tiotoling"?  My quick review suggested these terms had substantially different meanings.  I like what Joe Pfeffer said in response to Drury so I think I'll quote Pfeffer's response in full:

To me, "Talking in order to listen" has quite a different connotation than "active listening." The idea of tiotoling is, for one thing, intentionally paradoxical, and therefore has the zen like quality I find inherent in so much postmodern thought. In ordinary discourse, we don't talk and listen at the same time. Talking and listening are mutually exclusive activities. Talking in order to listen implies asking the client questions or making comments that have the purpose of increasing the listener's understanding of what the client is saying, and of helping the client be more clear and detailed in what he is saying, perhaps to find new meaning in what he is saying. I think it relates to the kind of emerging meaning postmodernists like John Shotter talk about, where neither therapist nor client knows the "meaning" of what is being said until the conversation is over, and even that is only a stage in an endless process of meaning making. Talking in this sense is creative, not just expressing thoughts that are somehow already there. This gets to the heart of postmodern theories of language.

"Active listening" by contrast implies something more traditionally modernist (if I may combine those two mutually exclusive terms). To me, it means listening for nuances, connotations, feeling tones, "hidden meanings" in what the client is saying. It therefore has definite modernist connotations: the therapist, by listening "actively" for meaning rather than simply passively for "facts," ends up knowing more than the client does about what the client is saying. Such therapists become the "expert" in what the client "really" means. In that sense, I see active listening as more akin to psychanalytic interpretation, where the analyst knows what the client is really saying and the client does not, and the analyst must laboriously explain to the client what the client "really means." I frequently experienced this when I was in analytic therapy. The therapist would tell me I meant something other than what I actually said. I maintained I meant exactly what I said, and who the hell was he to say I meant something else? "Tiotoling," by contrast, implies that the therapist is a co-creator of meaning with the client.

So I still don't think there is a single word in the standard lexicon we could substitute for it. Perhaps others feel differently.

I bought Pfeffer's argument immediately,  and Maryhelen Snyder told Pfeffer that she found his words very clarifying."

Jude Welles said

I agree with the principle that acronyms can be deadly, but also with the genuine specificity of tiotol, and it's usefulness to our conversation. We are trying to develop a process of
communication that is very new, not charted or adequately languaged, and I think this entitles us to some leeway. 

My sentiments exactly.  And, all of this seemed to convince the people who questioned it. Samuels (who set this conversation in motion) seemed to come around.  In her later note, she said about coining terms like "tiotol" :

... you're right, sometimes one has to be more creative (let alone how much fun it is).

And Drury, that had seemed to question the merits of the tiotol word said to Pfeffer:

 I too like the zen-like qualities to
tiotoling, and it's 'not-knowing' co-creative possibilities remind me of
Tesshu's 'no-sword swordsmanship' - the art of not being armed with a
particular agenda.  What triggered the association to 'active listening' for
me was a conversation I had a few days back with a CBT [Cognitive Behavior] therapist, whom when I attempted to explain 'tiotoling' to him ...came back with "ah, active
listening without an agenda".

So, for the time being, there seems to be some consensus.  We like our word "tiotol" -- at least for now.  Perhaps all of this is complicated, however, by the fact that none of our spell checkers catch mispellings of "tiotoling."  Pfeffer even said his spell checker suggested he change the world to "tootle"!  Ugh! 

But let me end on a more profound note.  Towards the end of this conversation  Drury raised the issue of whether brand spanking new words like "tiotol" were needed to convey nuance, or if we couldn't do it by just changing a single letter in an existing word.  After all, Derrida coined his term, differAnce, Drury reminded us, just by replacing one "e" with an "A". 

But, for now, it seems that "tiotol" wins out.  It captures a meaning that many of us feel are important, and I, for one, like the sound of this yodeling, odeling word.

The Death of Books?
Lois Shawver

Picture this:  It's a Saturday night and there is nothing to do.  It's raining outside and your car is almost out of gas.  So you fire up your handy laptop, and surf over to the Glassbook webstore where you find a list of types of e-books to browse.  Literature and Fiction fits your mood tonight.   You page down, looking at the book covers, reading the blurbs about them, and settle on Gillian Bradshaw's new book, Island of Ghosts.  One moment later, and you have made your purchase, downloaded the entire text with your warp speed DSL line.  (All of this is already possible.  Just check it out.)

Then, the easy part.  First, you stretch back in your favorite recliner, then you simply turn your computer on its side and settle back in to read.  Turn your computer on your side?  Yep.  That is the way we are making the transition.  On its side, your laptop can have the feel of a traditional book:

Woops!  That book is "Treasure Island" -- well, you get the idea.

If you don't have your glasses, no problem, you can control the size of the print.  If you don't know a word, just click on it, and your online dictionary will explain it.  If you want to underline or take notes, that is all possible, too.  You lose nothing but your dependence on the way things used to be.

And there is a important advantage.  If you buy your books in this way in the future you will be a reader who can always travel light.  Next time you want to change your residence, no more boxes and boxes of books to carry.  If you want to take a flight to New Guinea, you can carry a library of reading material in your pocket.

A few years ago, what could have seemed more reliable than the corner book store and the university library? But all of these traditions have been thrown up in the air by the internet and how they come down is still anyone's guess.  Instead of traditions, we now have a bushel full of questions. 

And, it is not just leisurely reading that will change.  The change to electronic text is likely to come even more quickly when it comes to scholarly books and journals. Scholarly journals are increasingly out of reach for library budgetsMore and more technical publications tend to be electronic.

Will this revolution happen? Remember, it was in 1456 that the enterprising Johann Gutenberg printed 200 copies of the first book that came off of a printing press.  Just fifty years later there were 1000 printing shops in Europe.  Revolutions like this can happen.

But, will this revolution happen?  I predict it will, but Riet Samuels, Frank Baird, and Jane Whitehead sent me notes saying they were not quite ready for such a revolution.

But, I don't know.  I see advantages.  I want to be able to set up links between this book and that one, go online and collaborate with other readers who are reading certain sections of Derrida, and do a quick search for the passage a few chapters back that I'm trying to recall. 

So, I give progress my permission to march on -- for all that's worth.

Want to Join Us?
Lois Shawver

PMTH is a closed community for professional therapists, as well as scholars, professors and graduate students with specialities related to therapy.  We keep our list reserved this way in order to have a special place for people who are concerned with doing good therapy to discuss their personal issues about therapy in some depth.  We go to other lists to discuss things with people who don't fit this profile.  If you want to invite one of us to a list you're on, there is a way to do that.  Or, if you fit the profile for membership to PMTH, you can do that, too.  Whichever you want, you can write me and tell me, by clicking


This will send a post to me, Lois Shawver.  Tell me of your interest.  If you are looking to join us, also give me a little information about yourself that tells me how you fit the profile for joining the PMTH online community.  And, in either case, .tell me that you got the idea to write by reading PMTH NEWS.


A History of the Term 
Lois Shawver

What is the history of the term "postmodern"?   It's a fairly new word as words go.  But words get invented all the time.  This one has become increasingly familiar within the last 15 or so years, with Amazon books currently sporting about 3000 books on the topic.  It was almost unheard of before that, but not completely.

Where did the word first appear?  In a book on Spanish poetry criticism in 1934!  (Frederrico de Onís used the word postmodernismo in his Antología de la Poesía Española e Hispanoamerica [1882-1932], published in Madrid).  It appeared eight years later when Dudley Fitts gave it an English translation of "postmodern" in his anthology of Spanish poetry.

Then the concept showed its head in 1947 when D. C. Somervell (1947)  offered an abridgment of Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History and held that "postmodernism" was a new historical cycle beginning in, get this!,  1875! 

Some folks say that the poet  Charles Olson spoke of postmodernism in the nineteen fifties, although I was not able to track this down.  But, it was during this decade that a tension began to be created between those who described postmodernism as something positive and those who saw it as a negative thing.  Bernard Rosenberg (1957)described it as someting positive, but Irving Howe (1959)  and Harry Levin (1960) described postmodernism as something negative. 

This tension between the negative and the positive picture of postmodernism continued in the seventies with , Ihab Hassan (1970) celebrating postmodernism while Leslie Fiedler (1971) deploring it.  Later in that decade, a classic book by Charles Jencks The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (1977) joined Hassan, however, to celebrate the postmodern.  Jencks even told his readers:

'Happily, we can date the death of Modern Architecture to a precise moment in  time. , , It expired finally and completely in 1972'.

Jean-Francois Lyotard was quite early in his use of the term "postmodern", well before it became a popular term.  Lyotard published his key text on the subject, The Postmodern Condition, in French in 1979 just two years after Jencks published his book (mentioned above).  Baudrillard and  Jameson did not begin to use the word "postmodern" until the 1980s and by then the term was in more use.

And the situaiton today?  As I said, today the term "postmodern" has become extremely popular, but some folks argue that it is too loose in meaning to be useful.  Personally, I feel nothing could be further from the case.  Loosely defined and ambiguous terms can be very useful.  Take the word "therapy".  It is notioriously difficult to pin down.  Would you give that word up?  Or, if you prefer, take the word "light" and think of using it to mean not only "things light enough to see" but also "things light enough to carry" or even, food to eat when you're trying to "eat light."  "Postmodernism" is no more ambiguous than that.. 

The real test for a word's usefulness, I would argue, is the extent to which the is used -- and with that criteria, the word "postmodern" wins.  I feel it wins because the word helps some of us say today things we long to say.  The term resonates with something in our lives.  And many of us had been searching for a term that reflected our wish to break out of stagnant old traditions.  For some of us,  this term "postmodern" reflects  our new energy as we reach out in a more collaborative quest for a better and more meaningful world.
The source documents for this article were: Hassan (1987) , Huyssen (1990). and Best and Kellner (1991)

Meet Frank and Fran
Lois Shawver

Two new imaginary people have emerged this month on PMTH.   Their names are Frank and Fran.  These are characters we are creating in order to explore methods of de-escalating conflict.  The exercise began with me providing the following transcript between these imaginary people.  Read the transcript in order to understand the problem we have been trying to find ways to avert.

Frank I hate it when you ask such personal questions of  our friends.
Fran: Well, I hate it that you just stand back and don't get involved. It almost seems
like you don't care!
Frank You just seem so nosey!  Don't you realize that people like their personal space?
Fran:  I think they prefer my  style to yours, frankly. They can always tell me to mind my own business.
Frank:  But you put them on the spot.
Fran:  Better to put them on the  spot than just be indifferent to them.
Frank:  I'm not indifferent. I'm respectful. You, on the otherhand, are plain nosey.
Fran: I'm not nosey, I just care about people 

So, you see the potential problem for Fran.  Frank is making demands on Fran  to stop doing something she wants to do.  Perhaps she should stop, but Fran wants a dialogue about it.  She doesn't want to surrender to her partner's demands without his having increased understanding of her issues, or without her agreeing that it would be good for her to change.

So, what is the solution?  Of course, Fran could simply stop asking questions of their friends, but this would not enhance the communication between Frank and Fran. Again, what's the solution?

PMTH took on the challenge of this question and pooled its resources in hopes of finding ways in which Fran could promote more communication and avoid a futile dispute.

In this exercise, the part of Frank was played by Ed Epp.  All of Frank's comments were written by Epp.  The part of Fran, however, was written collaboratively by: Riet Samuels, Jude Welles, Nick Drury, Jerry Shaffer.  I (Lois Shawver) functioned as an editor, mostly choosing between alternative responses when we had more than one. 

Here is what we came up with:

Frank: I hate it when you ask such personal questions of our friends.
Fran Frank, I take it you think our friends don't like such questions. I wonder what leads you to think that.
Frank ...because they look so damm uncomfortable when you get into their private stuff.....
Fran Oh, I suppose they do look uncomfortable, yes, that makes sense to me now. Are you also uncomfortable?
Frank  Naww, I'm not uncomfortable myself. It's just everybody knows that there are certain ways you got to talk to people....or they'll think you are minding their own personal stuff..... I don't think you would like me asking you personal stuff like that, especially when everybody's listening.
Fran Actually, Frank, I really wouldn't mind at all. But that would be a different view than you have, wouldn't it? I'd love to understand your viewpoint. Can you tell me more about the way you feel about this issue?
Frank  what......? am I hearing correctly.... you reallllyyyy want to know how I feel! I got to admit, you are always full of surprises. I'll have to mull this one over.....are you sure you are ready to hear what I FEEL about this issue? (incredulous)
Fran I'm all ears Frank. It sounds, though, like you may have concerns about my hearing about how you feel. Is that true?
Frank .....listen Fran, it's just hard for me to believe that you are ready to understand how much people don't want to you to stick your nose in their business....some of our friends have taken me aside and let me know in no uncertain terms that the way you come on makes them feel over-expsed.....
Fran Wow, I had no idea some people had complained to you. I guess you have a point. Maybe I do go too far with some people. Do you think everyone minds?
Frank may not be everybody, but still, did you catch the look on 'what's her name' last Saturday night at the bowling alley when you bounded up to her asking if she was still having a difficulty with her boyfriend. I caught a glimpse of that pained, embarressed look in her eyes, squiming in her seat....
Fran Did I also have a pained expression when you said how I stuck my nose in everyone's business?
Frank  Did you have a pained look?...... well,....oh, I see what you mean..... well, if this is so, maybe you can understand what those other folks are experiencing....I mean, Fran, maybe there has got to be another way to talk about personal stuff so that people feel more comfortable. And I see your point, you feel put down by me, right....well I'll try to keep that in mind...."
Fran Frank, I think we are really getting somewhere in this conversation. I feel it is important to talk with my friends about personal things. So, tell me, how do you think I can get to talk with people about personal stuff without making them feel uncomfortable?
Frank  You ask, how you could get to talk with people about their personal stuff without making them feel uncomfortable.....hmmm, that is a tough one isn't it?.....from my experience it seems to me that you have to really win their trust.....I think that takes some time...that's my experience anyhow...... how does that seem to you?
Fran Yes, I guess that's very important. How do you decide when you've won their trust?
Frank  How do I decide? hmmmm....that's a tough one.....I guess I just sort of put a lot of things together, I look at the signals, the eyes, the gestures, and so on of the person I am talking to, I listen to what they are saying....very carefully, I listen. Then I guess I just sort of feel moved to move, so to speak, onwards, when I feel a place of comfort and openess... that's how I can see it at the moment.... What about you, have you ever felt that you had "won the trust" of a friend....and then something they said or did confirmed it?
Fran Yes, I've had that feeling of "trust" with people. I even thought I'd won the trust of "what's her name," but I may have been mistaken. Have you ever felt that sense of comfort with someone but afterwards thought or found out that you may have been mistaken?

Do you think Fran is succeeding in converting the dispute into a meaningful dialogue?  I do.  I have studied the dialogue in a bit more detail to try to see how she does that, but I can't escape the feeling that some aspect of her success is escaping me.  I think Fran is succeeding in converting a potential dispute into a dialogue, but how is she doing that? 

Click here to see my initial thoughts, and please do write me to give me your suggestoons.  Write me by clicking here.

A Report on a Postmodern Conference
Lois Shawver

article on the CLS Conference


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