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Opening Hearts: a Paralogue

Opening Hearts: a Paralogue

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Published by: christopherkinman on Nov 11, 2009
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09/15/2011

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OPENING HEARTS: A PARALOGUE
ByLynn Hoffman, Gisela Schwartz, and the “Transforming Mother.”Lynn’s Introduction: Why do I use the word Paralogue for this story?When Gisela and I began to write back and forth about the people shewas seeing, I was reading French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotardabout postmodernism. This was a concept that he made famous bydefining it as “incredulity to metanarratives.” Lyotard went on todescribe a “postmodern” conversational style. In the paragraph below,he suggests how it differs from the usual forms of Western argumentor debate:"For us, a language is first and foremost someone talking. But thereare language games in which the important thing is to listen, in whichthe rule deals with audition. Such a game is the game of the just. Andin this game, one speaks only inasmuch as one listens, that is, onespeaks as a listener, and not as an author. It is a game without anauthor. In the same way, the speculative game of the West is a gamewithout a listener, because the only listener tolerated by thespeculative philosopher is the disciple.” This compressed notion swelled inside my mind. What did Lyotardmean by the emphasis on listening? What was so special about “agame of audition?” And most of all, how was such a process to bethought of as a “game of the just?” I had long wanted a way to talkabout a style of communication founded on the qualities of what I callmy Three Pillars of Wisdom: Goolishian and Anderson’s “Not Knowing,” Tom Andersen’s “Reflecting Process,” and the “Outsider Witnesses” of Michael White. These ideas have been helpful in creating sustainingsocial webs.Another inspired concept used by Lyotard was the term “paralogy.”Originally, “paralogy” was a Greek word defined as “nonsense,” sinceit carried the sense of bypassing or “going outside of” logic, but thatwas exactly what Lyotard wanted. He felt that postmoderns needed away of speaking that was not tied to an if-then causality, and did notinsist on any one “truth.” This form of discourse would valuecollaboration over competition, and would respect contradictionsrather than trying to get rid of them. Taking this thought further, I feltthat the type of online exchange that Gisela and I were experimentingwith could then be called a Paralogue rather than a Dialogue or aMetalogue. Gisela agreed with me, so that is what we did.
 
Gisela’s Introduction: Why do I call this story “Opening hearts”?One day while driving home after a long day in my office, whilethinking of the many clients I work with, I wondered how I coulddescribe my work with them? The question I always put to myself is:"How to help people to open the doors to their hearts? How toencourage people to start their journey by perceiving- feeling-suffering- and at last feeling relief and new hope.? How to show themthat it is better to feel and acknowledge the pain in their life instead of overriding it, by doing too much, being too ambitious, or just ignoring itand letting the body suffer?" Sometimes I realize I have to behave “asif” I were a mountain guide who is telling people that when they feelpanic they must focus on the first small step in the present, not lookingaround, only being aware that each foot stands firm on the ground. Mytool is the trust people develop in my guidance and theiracknowledgment of my capacities as a guide.So it fit well, when I read a few weeks ago in a research periodical thatpsychotherapy is like talking with a good friend. But what is themeaning of "like talking with a good friend”? It is the word "like" thathas to be defined. “Like” doesn’t mean you are a friend. It meansrather, “You talk to me "as if "you are a friend.” My opinion after somany years of accompanying people on their journeys is that I am apartner in a "therapeutic friendship" as well as a guide in rough timeswhen the waves go up and down. But as our Transforming Mother willshow us in the following narrative, even if a relationship in everydaylife is stopped, it can continue on another level, perhaps a spiritualone.So let us look what shows up behind the doors.  THE BEGINNING This story began in February 2000. Mrs. R. was sent to me in Austriaby her general practioner after the suicide of her 21 year old son. Myfirst impression was: this woman is falling apart and I am not sure if therapy and medication can help her to put all the different parts of her soul and body together again. Shortly after beginning my journeywith her, I asked her if she would mind if we included a colleague whowas also a mentor, teacher, and friend of mine, Lynn Hoffman, so thatwe would have more than one heart and one mind to accompany us.She agreed. I put the same question to Lynn and she too agreed. Sowe three started our journey together through very hard and dry andoften dangerous terrain.
 
When I described the way Mrs. R. was feeling to Lynn, she began torefer to her as our “Desperate Mother.” After a little more than a oneyear, there had been changes that led Lynn to call our mother a “SadMother,” and then a “Transforming Mother” and as usual, I told Mrs. R.what she said. These changing titles marked a process which wassteadily flowing from one place to another and is still evolving. The following is an email exchange between Lynn and me thatchronicles the principal stages of this journey in the hope of sharing itwith our colleagues. It is put together and written with the permissionof my client who, in the meantime, has crossed many mountains anddeserts and has opened doors to new meanings in her life.By reading further you will find that there are different stories involved.One is about her son, their love and disappointment and long farewell.Another is the one about her relationship with her husband and how itchanged. Other stories include the changes in her relationships withher own mother and with her daughter. Finally, this chronicles thebuilding up of new friendships, new interests and, maybe mostimportant, a new relationship with her body. Here begins the firstinstallment.12.02.01Dear Lynn: Yesterday I had a first talk with a woman, my age, whose 21 year oldson committed suicide by hanging himself three months ago. I sawand heard how much she was struggling to keep herself together.During the session I had again and again the feeling she would fallapart. At one point she said: “When I am standing at the grave of myson, I have the feeling that my heart has gone into the grave withhim.” I remembered your telling me about a case where you spoke of a mother and son who were like “two beating hearts with the sameblood supply,” and where it could have been disastrous to sever a vein.Here it seemed as if a vein was already severed and I couldn`t see howshe could get her heart back. Can you help me out? She knows thatwe work via e-mail and welcomes your joining us. Our nextappointment is in a month.13.02.01Dear Gisela: Thank you for tell me about the woman whose son killed himself. Thatis so terrible that my spirit fails me in even thinking about it. It isuseless to tell her to put the grief behind her, as that`s not possible. The only hope I could find was that she said that her heart joined his in

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