Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

World Reconstruction in Psychotherapy

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

World Reconstruction in Psychotherapy

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to articulate how we, as psychotherapists, can transform the worlds of our clients. In part one of the article, the concept of "world," the dynamics of how worlds operate, and the clinically relevant notions of "problematic worlds" and "impossible worlds" are explicated. In part two, therapeutic recommendations for helping clients to reconstruct their worlds are presented, with special emphasis on problems of grief, posttraumatic stress disorder, and the experience of meaninglessness.

WORLD RECONSTRUCTION IN PSYCHOTHERAPY

Words can transform worlds. Consider. . .

* A mother says to her 16 year old son: "Johnny, the person you thought all your life was your father is not really your father."

* The love of one's life suddenly and unexpectedly declares, "I love you; will you marry me?"

* A doctor says to a patient: "You have cancer, and only six months to live."

* Charles Darwin says, in effect, to everybody: "The world as you find it, including human beings, was not created four thousand years ago de novo; it is far older, and you have evolved from lower species."

This list could go on indefinitely. One could cite, for example, the world-transforming effects on millions of people of the words of Christ, Buddha, Gandhi, Copernicus, Einstein, Marx, and countless others. In these instances, it isn't, to use Hamlet's phrase, just "words, words, words"(Shakespeare, 1914 version, Hamlet Act II, Scene II). These words are about people's worlds, about the total psychological environments in which they conduct their lives. All of these words, heard for the first time, convey news that an individual's or a whole society's world has just been transformed in a very dramatic and consequential way.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the implications of this world-altering power of words for the practicing psychotherapist. As therapists, we are presented with opportunities, through our spoken interactions with our clients-through our words-to reconstruct their worlds for the better. In articulating how we may do so, this paper will proceed in the following way. In part one, the concept of "world," the dynamics of how worlds work, and the clinically relevant notions of "problematic worlds" and "impossible worlds" will be explicated. In part two, therapeutic recommendations for helping clients to reconstruct their worlds will be proffered, with special emphasis on problems of grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the experience of meaninglessness. This work has its origins in a general approach to psychology known as Descriptive Psychology (Ossorio, 1995, 1998), and within this broader framework to an approach to psychotherapy known as "Status Dynamics" (Ossorio, 1997; Bergner, 1999; Bergner & Holmes, 2000).

WORLDS AND HOW THEY WORK

In relating the whole notion of worlds and how they work, a simple heuristic may be helpful in clarifying what is in the end a complicated matter. The heuristic concerns Charles Schulz's famous cartoon character, Charlie Brown. In one episode, Charlie is sitting on the playground eating his lunch. Clearly dejected and with head downcast, he says to a friend who is with him,

"I really wish I could go across the playground and have lunch with that little red haired girl, but (sigh!) I can't because she's a something and I'm a nothing. (Musing.. . .) Now if I were a nothing and she were a nothing, I could go over there. Or if I were a something and she were a something, I could go over there. Or if I were a something and she were a nothing, I could go over there. But (sigh!) Fm a nothing and she's a something, so I can't go over and have lunch with her" (Schulz, 1968).

In this example, Charlie introduces us to his world (strictly speaking, of course, it is only a part of his total world which, for purposes of clarity and manageability, we shall let stand proxy for his total world). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.