Lightmind Extract 025

01Jan08

MarkDavid 1.24.05
Hi julian.

This is a nice riff on transference. And I am a therapist (or post-doc in training in any case), so I empathize with aspects of this view of course.

But you must also understand that the notion that people regress in some kind of total fashion in the process of therapy to the point that they are are incapable of moral choices and can’t be held as somewhat responsible humans beings is fallacious. That is a reification of some important theoretical ideas which actually describe a more subtle and more two-way process. This is true unless the incident actually involves a child, in which case the client actually is pre-moral and a parental-type relationship actually exists.

This is not to say one isn’t fragile around boundaries, more that you don’t treat or see your adult clients as children.

It would be fine, in my mind, if we were to take the standards of therapist relationship to the guru arena. But the standards as they are understood now are essentially green meme–the powerful therapist and helpless client. This green meme stuff can’t hold the paradoxical and difficult truths about humans. It is one-sided and almost always involves a lot of emotional thinking.

Much closer to the truth is that therapists and gurus are still human beings, regardless of how they represent themselves or others do. Both have bodies, needs, and choices. And while blame might not be equally assigned in most cases–Ramesh is more guilty in a sense than those who chose to be with him–it does not make his adult partners absolved from responsibility.

In fact, think about it this way–actually what you might do as a therapist (are you one?). An adult client comes to you who actually slept with Ramesh. They were not forced or raped or blackmailed. They were enthralled by the teacher and he made an offer and there you go.

Now what you NOT do with the client is to say to this person “You were under powerful transferential feelings and had no control” or “You cannot blame yourself because you were helpless”. In either case, or in any variation of these cases, you are disempowering the client, keeping him or her from actually growing or healing. You are actually, in that view, trying to impose a parental relationship.

Rather, you need to work on the client’s own responsibility for his or her own choice. Why did they choose that? How would they avoid it next time? Also, paradoxically, what did they perhaps like about it and why? Chances are a part of it benefited them somehow and they need to grapple with it. Now, of course, this work would neccesarily contain an examination of childhood and perhaps similar transference issues will happen with the therapist, and that can be commented on and worked through. But the transference issues are not deterministic, they aren’t pavlovian in the average person.

Anyway, I think to deny people responsibility for their actions is to deny them their humanity and their growth. Liberal culture–and psychology has an exceedingly liberal culture–has a serious issue balancing this with its hyper-sensitivity and the need of many therapist to feel as if they are helping the “needy”–hence the wish to see the client as victim only. This partiality shows up in all kinds of insidious ways.

Mark

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