Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

General Semantics in the Practice of a Consulting Psychologist

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

General Semantics in the Practice of a Consulting Psychologist

Article excerpt

IT IS NOT MY FUNCTION, I feel, to repeat general formulations of neuro-semantics. Rather, I would like to answer the queries of a certain number of professional people interested in applying techniques of general semantics. These people usually say, "I understand these formulations, but how would I apply them in a particular case?" It is this 'how' or methods that I would like to talk about.

The group of people with whom I have found that general semantics techniques work the most rapidly and efficiently and with whom I have been able to rely on general semantics exclusively in therapy, are the people with frank, open conflicts. For instance, the kind of person who comes in and says, "Such and such is bothering me. What am I going to do about it?" With such people I have, of course, used most of the principles and techniques described by Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity, relying especially on training in consciousness of abstracting and use of the extensional devices. I believe that this should be done in its entirety whenever there is time. Unfortunately, in life there is generally not time, and I have developed some of the following ways of using the techniques whenever a rapid extensionalization is needed.

A number of people come in with a problem involving a specific 'hurt' and with few other general personality complications.

Case 1:

J.A. reported that he was happily married, had a good job, and enjoyed his social life. In fact, everything in his present situation was very fine, but he worried about his wife's 'past.' His wife's 'past' boiled down to the fact that she had had sexual relations with another man in 1929, several years before he had married her. I asked him to write out how he felt about this. Here is the crux of what he had to say:

   To me a girl who has committed an immoral sex act is incredibly foul
   and unclean. It is a thing once done that can never be atoned for.
   There are no reasons to justify it and no punishment adequate. She
   should be stamped out as one would a horribly repulsive snake ...
   There is this leprous sore on her body which no amount of pretending
   will eradicate.

Because of circumstances, this man was able to see me only two hours a week for four weeks. I spent the opening two hours in explaining to him levels of abstraction and in showing him how to write and talk in lower, more differentiating levels of verbal abstraction. As soon as it was evident that he knew the difference between high inferential levels of abstraction and more differentiated levels, I put him to work on his own problems, re-writing his 'thalamic' outburst about his wife's 'past' in extensional terms of what had actually happened. The strong language he used previously simmered down to "organism X in 1929 had sexual relations with organism Y." With the formulation of the problem in these terms, his 'feelings' were greatly altered, his whole evaluation was changed, and at the end of eight hours, he felt there was no longer any 'hurt' existent. I have seen him ten months later, and he reports no recurrence of the problem.

Case 2:

C.S. could not seem to understand general semantics formulations and exhibited a condition which would ordinarily be labelled "dumbness." I was trying to help her with a severe depression. I asked her to write down for me what she was saying to herself when she got up in the morning feeling depressed. Here is some of what she wrote:

   I am so damned fat I can't move, I feel like a stuffed toad, and look
   worse. My house is positively filthy and I can't stand it. I have to
   go to that crazy party tomorrow and I haven't a decent thing to put
   on. My hair and nails need doing. My car is about to fall apart. I
   doubt if I can make it. Barbara phoned and said her heart is broken.

I was able to show her what is involved in extensionalizing problems on lower levels of verbal abstraction. …

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