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November 26, 2005


Gentle Evening Thoughts: Starting Points

Gentle Evening Thoughts
The first commentary in this series of discussions serves as an introduction to the general perspective on the relational analytic process that is advanced in the sequence of narrations that will follow. This perspective was born primarily from an encapsulation of my clinical experience.

I'm not convinced about whether in emerged at the very beginning or not, but it seems as though in many aspects, almost as far back as I can remember in my career as a therapist, I have been working in a certain way with my patients.

The purpose of this writing is to provide a conceptualization of that way of being a therapist. It strives to clarify the implicit principles and underlying assumptions that have been at work in the process as I experienced it. Of course, in reality, it has not been that simple or that linear. There have been a multitude of external influences--personal, professional, theoretical, and cultural--that have shaped my clinical experiences. For example some of the theoretical influences have included the contributions of Merton Gill, Irwin Z. Hoffman, Donnel Stern and Stephen Mitchell.

Secondly, just as unformulated experiences generate the creation of principles, so too have the principles, once becoming explicit, shaped my manner of working and my way of construing what I was doing. As with the chicken and the egg, there is little sense in trying to determine which came first. In addition, in both directions the connection is not simply an instance of cause and effect. There is a space between the source of influence and its significance, an area in which one is present taking an active role, as a subject making choices.

The unformulated aspects of clinical experiences are ambiguous; there is more than one acceptable way to organize a set of principles that fits them, and consciously or unconsciously, one is "choosing" among them. Obversely, the principles, once clarified, are not inflexible. There is wide latitude in the manner that they may be put into practice. The particular path taken, in turn, promotes a new current of unformulated or implicit impressions.

The remarks in the initial (1/11/2005) brief commentary, Gentle Evening Thoughts, began by setting a context for the note, "In solitude." Underlying the reference to solitude is the distinction between being alone and feeling lonely, which is to feel desolate and miserable over aloneness. The lonely one feels friendless, a loner and a loser. Feelings of inadequacy engender an emotional state of shame.

Where one has developed the capacity to be alone, solitude takes on the power to be creative, the ability to promote renewal and regeneration, and a sense of hope about the future. William Wordsworth fittingly portrayed this vision of solitude, seen from this self-enriching perspective:

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

Wordsworth, taken from "The Prelude."

The initial remarks also refer trying to determine strategies to cope with a significant conflict in an important area of work. However, "trying" to determine is somewhat like "trying"to remember. "Trying" to remember, in fact, usually makes actual remembering almost impossible. It is usually the case that when one moves on to some other activity that what one was trying to remember almost spontaneously comes to mind. That was the case in this discussion, where throughout the efforts to develop strategies to manage the significant conflict in the external world of work, my thoughts periodically returned to some of my own interpersonal experiences earlier in the day, and slowly the words to clarify those experiences began to emerge.

As this growing awareness emerged, my admiration in turn deepened for the welcoming acceptance of uncertainty as a crucial element of the path leading to a sense of compassionate understanding. Embracing the value of a solid recognition of uncertainty is enhanced by a capacity to tolerate the feelings of anxiety, or fears of possessing potentially inadequate resources to master the challenge, which are aroused by the inevitably constituent ambiguities characterizing our initial perceptions of concepts that others so easily reify or accept as realities. This internal reminder of the pivotal significance of the acceptance of uncertainty opened a door, which in turned helped me to become more creative in developing the strategies that were needed to face the external work conflicts.

This recognition and welcome acceptance of uncertainty is one of the foundations of the analytic model that this sequence of discussions hopes to clarify.

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