Family Therapy beyond Postmodernism: Practice Challenges Theory

By Carmel Flaskas | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

The narrative self and the limits of language

The last two chapters have explored concerns with reality and truth in the use of postmodernist ideas. This chapter takes as its focus the idea of self, how it has been reconceptualised in postmodernist narrative thinking and some of the questions that may be raised about this.

Though the concept of self has been heavily trawled in psychoanalysis, psychology and psychiatry, historically there has been a vacuum in systemic therapy. Indeed, it has only been in the move to social constructionist and narrative ideas that we have seen the start of an interest in theory of self, and the beginning literature so far is not all of a piece. A number of writers have addressed the specific theme of the self of the therapist (Hardham 1996; Hildebrand and Speed 1995; Paterson 1996). There has also been an interest in the idea of culture, personhood and the self (Krause 1995), and in the construction of the gendered self (Hart 1996). In developing his version of narrative therapy, Michael White (1991, 1993, 1997) has been writing of practices of the self and the centrality of lived experience, while Harlene Anderson (1997) writes of the 'narrative self' in her development of postmodern ideas and collaborative language systems therapy. Robert Rosenbaum and John Dyckman (1995) have argued very strongly for a fluid and relational concept of self as consistent with constructionist and contextualist thinking, and Mona DeKovan Fishbane (2001) explores relational narratives of the self within the broader shifts to relational perspectives.

In considering the ideas of self that flow from social constructionist theory and the metaphor of narrative, I would like to map the postmodern narrative self, with its ideas of self as relational, always fluid, and existing in narrative form. These ideas open a

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