Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Postmodernism and the Sacred: Reclaiming Connection in Our Greater-Than-Human Worlds

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Postmodernism and the Sacred: Reclaiming Connection in Our Greater-Than-Human Worlds

Article excerpt

This article addresses the many faces of postmodernism and offers the critique that postmodernism taken up in. a particular extremist way can tend to sacrifice the sacred, the spiritual, and the recognition of our "greater than human" worlds in a quest for the particular. In response to this critique, 1 speak to a postmodern family therapy practice that is informed by values of connectedness, community, and communion; enacted through love and pragmatics; and committed to recognition of our obligation to ecological practice.

To reclaim is to recall or bring back. I speak of "reclaiming connection" as recalling the right to acknowledge connection, meaning, and community. It is the prerogative, in an era that is fraught with particularity, to claim a commonality, a communion, and a sacred and spiritual unity that ties us to each other as humans and intimately ties us to a world that is greater than or certainly more than human Abram, 1996). It is the privilege to reconvene and summon a tentative and "larger-than-me" meaning, significance, and connection about that which is mysterious, sensual, and unknown.

In this article, I address and am addressed by) postmodernism, poststructuralism, constructivism, social constructionism, and "bring forthism." I offer a synopsis of the critique that has been proffered in regard to some of these stances as well as my own experience of finding my particular but connected human way in the practice of family therapy. Out of this discussion, I submit the notions of community, communion, and connectedness; examine how these can fit with a postmodern practice; and discuss how these bear witness and exact a duty and obligation in therapeutic work with families. The reconciliation of postmodern ideas and spirituality calls for a balancing of particular commitments. This does not necessarily imply a conflict, nor does it suggest that marriage and family therapists are suffering angst in this rapprochement. The intention of this article is not to offer "proof' of the place or relevance of spirituality in therapeutic work, nor to critique current practices, but to open the topic of spirituality once again for discussion, reflection, and recognition.



Postmodernism is an era, a cultural movement, a social condition, a belief system, and a way of being in and understanding the world. The end of a belief in one single worldview, it is "a resistance to single explanations, a respect for difference and a celebration of the regional, local and particular" (Jencks, 1992, p. 11 ). It isa worldview with contributions from philosophy, literature, art, culture, film, architecture, media, economics, politics, social sciences, feminism, science, and religion. At the heart of postmodernism is pluralism: a belief in multiverses and multiplicity, implying that there are as many ways to understand and experience the world as there are people who experience it. Postmodernism is about multiplicity, plurality, and indeterminacy. Postmodernists argue that all human experience is particular, local, and culturally constituted.

Postmodernism, particularly deconstructive postmodernism, is seen as a mode of cultural analysis that seeks to uncover the social construction of "taken-for-granted" beliefs or universals. It pays attention to the ways in which concepts or "truisms" are culturally constructed and posits that, essentially, meaning itself, as an essential structure, does not exist. Rather, meaning is particularized, relative, and mutable. Modernist claims of mastery evoked, in particular, the French theorist Lyotard's recourse of a critique of metanarratives or grand belief systems that contained a universal acceptance of reality. Lyotard ( 1984) described postmodern knowledge as a refinement of sensitivity and tolerance of difference.


There have been many areas of distinctions within postmodernism that have taken up, with varying emphasis, these notions of constructed reality. …

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