Ultimacy and Triviality in Psychotherapy

By Ernest Keen | Go to book overview

Introduction

I have practiced and reflected on psychotherapy, and I have recognized the various levels of seriousness of its talk. Is therapy obligated to deal with ultimate seriousness? Are symptoms mere bothers, to be eliminated, or do they reflect deeper issues, even ultimate issues, with which our patients are not successfully dealing?

The central idea of this book is that human behavior engages ultimate issues, such as good and evil, death, and the never-ending challenge of the question of who we are to become. The experience of such ultimate issues is by no means easy to endure, and human retreat into play and other distractions is universal.

It may be an exaggeration to call such retreats by the name "triviality," but this term has the virtue of indicating the essentially escapist character of much of human experience. Such triviality may be necessary, given the human condition, but it has rarely had a name. Naming it enables us to see how we tack back and forth between ultimacy and triviality. I may go for days without an experience of an ultimate issue, except insofar as I have known that I must dodge an ultimate issue in order not to be overwhelmed by it.

The most common version of ultimacy is the question, "Who am I to become?" Although I worry occasionally about this or that direction in my life, I can usually dwell on various reasons for doing one thing rather than another, neglecting what is most centrally at stake: Who am I becoming in doing one thing rather than another?

I have never met a person whose experience is not approximately the same. The ultimate issue of who I am to become is in fact always

-xi-

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Ultimacy and Triviality in Psychotherapy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • PART I - Theoretical Incoherence 1
  • Chapter 1 - Critical Reflections on Psychopharmacology 3
  • Notes 14
  • Chapter 2 - Neurons and Narratives 19
  • Notes 28
  • Chapter 3 - Explorin Theoretical Incoherence 31
  • Notes 43
  • Chapter 4 - Wider Echoes of the Incoherence 45
  • Notes 58
  • PART II - Ultimacy and Trivialit 61
  • Preface to Part II 63
  • Chapter 5 - Narrative, Coherence, and Ultimacy 65
  • Notes 81
  • Chapter 6 - Discourse, Therapy, and Science 83
  • Notes 93
  • Chapter 7 - Trivialization, Ultimacy, and Discourse 95
  • Notes 107
  • Chapter 8 - Triviality and Ultimacy in Therapy 109
  • Notes 122
  • References 125
  • Name Index 131
  • Subject Index 133
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