Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends

I bought this text several years ago. I had first encountered Narrative Therapy in my Master of Counselling degree and I realised immediately that in a post-modern world, this therapeutic approach could be a valuable way to work with clients. I also realised that it could have considerable value when working with indigenous peoples who were seeking to maintain (or reclaim) their own identity within systems of dominant colonial narratives.

I am working through this text again, in anticipation of my studies in November. Exciting stuff!

A Confession

Sometimes you are aiming for the best person you can be. You spend months in meditation, in living by principles of kindness. You then find yourself in an environment that is not conducive for kindness and tranquility. I have been lucky in my life, as while there have been periods of hostility, I have mostly been surrounded by decent people. There are, however, hostile environments where bullies are able deflect from their incompetence by attacking others. They are, of course, cowards. Bullies always are. They are afraid they will be discovered for the frauds that they are, so they engage in tactics which – if reached the light of day – would bring them scorn, contempt and pity. This is made worse when bullies have power.

How does this relate to Tolstoy and his “A Confession”? Tolstoy was part of the “in” crowd. He was a famous writer who rubbed shoulders with the highest levels of society. He was also, by his own admission, a person who brought suffering to others for his own pleasure. He later felt great shame to look back on these actions. I am reading his “A Confession” and I am not yet to the point where Tolstoy reforms – but I already know that he does. He goes from a life of selfish actions, to giving away his goods to the needy and living by the highest standards.

When I deal with petty, insecure, narcissistic and sadistic people, I try to imagine that they could be better. I pity them, but also realise that there were times when I did things of which I am now ashamed. I ate the flesh of other beings. I was part of enslaving females for what their bodies produced for their children.

Pity the bully, but know they could be better.

Gestalt Therapy Verbatim

When I wanted an introduction to Gestalt Therapy, this book was one of my first acquisitions. When I was a counselling student, I had seen the 1960s videos of Perls, Rogers and Ellis counselling Gloria (these videos are a rite of passage for counselling students). Like most, my first instinct was to support the idea that Rogers was most effective – with Perls insulting and condescending to Gloria (and Ellis – to use a modern expression – “mansplaining”). Although Perls seemed a bit harsh and rude, I sensed there was something more to what he was achieving. So, I began to research Gestalt Therapy (and I have come around to believing that Perls was the most effective therapist with Gloria – a topic for another post).

Other texts are more theoretical. This one is Uncle Fritz sitting in a chair and talking to his students (followers). You might want to read a bit of theory first, so that you can jump into this in a similar mindset to those in the room with Fritz.