How Old Were The Stranger Things Actors In Season 1 Thickening Narrative Therapy Through Existential Psychotherapy

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Thickening Narrative Therapy Through Existential Psychotherapy

Once upon a time, right now. The past has been written from many perspectives, but the future is still empty and right now is being written. Narrative therapy is a form of therapy that uses a narrative or story as a way of looking at our life situations. We look for the crack in the lens that tells us an alternative way to perceive our predicament. Not changing the story, but telling it from a different perspective. Narrative therapy respects these stories and yet accepts that each view is imbued with meaning, predetermined by family, society, and culture as the “correct” meaning. Existential therapy focuses more on the individual attitude and focuses on the “now” rather than the past or the future. It, in turn, ​​explores boundaries and expansiveness. The four main areas of inquiry in existentialism are meaning (vs. meaninglessness), freedom (vs. closure), death (vs. life), and isolation (vs. inclusion) (Yalom, 1980). Narrative therapy and existential psychotherapy can help fill the gaps left by each other. Contains past, present and future time and gives meaning to both individual and collective attitude.

The term meaning has eluded philosophers for thousands of years. Giving a precise definition has proven to be almost impossible. The way we use meaning is a thread that runs through most schools of psychotherapy. The view of narrative therapy is that meaning is not self-evident, nothing is full of meaning, but it is an interpretation of experience. That interpretation takes place through the theory of social construction of reality. Accordingly (:”The social construction of reality”, 2009):

“The central concept of the social construction of reality is that, over time, individuals and groups interacting in a social system form concepts or mental representations of each other’s actions, and that these concepts eventually become accustomed to the actors’ reciprocal roles. When these roles are available to other members of society to participate and play , reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalized. In the process of this institutionalization, meaning becomes embedded in society. Knowledge and people’s perception (and belief) of what reality is becomes embedded in the institutional fabric of society.”

A more general way of expressing this is that through language, symbols and interactive dialogue we give meaning to experience. First comes the experience and then that experience is filtered through these cultural transactions, which then creates the interpretation. Just because we see the color blue, it is only “blue” because that has been a given meaning that has occurred in a cultural context. A quick formula for meaning in narrative therapy is experience and interpretation equals meaning.

One of the central tenants of existential psychotherapy is Sartre’s oft-quoted phrase “existence precedes essence.” Meaning is personally constructed, compared to socially constructed. There are givens, like we all die, that we all have to face. Meaning is then personally constructed within this framework. Since we will die at some point in the future, what does the present mean? This meaning is believed to come from the individual. We become a more honest or authentic person when we acknowledge this limitation, but ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it? First there is just being, as in the present moment, and then we create an essence from it. The importance of existential psychotherapy is usually related to common beliefs, such as the question “what is the purpose of life?”

A central theoretical movement in narrative therapy is to pay attention to what is called the sparkling moment. When the client relays the story of what brought him to the therapist’s office, the Therapist listens for a part of the story that contradicts the main story. A story that tells a different picture of being that we prefer, for example if a client tells a story about depression, the Therapist listens to an event or a time when there was no depression. Telling this alternative story in narrative therapy is called “rewriting.” The therapist can also help with this by evoking the so-called “remembering conversation”, where the main focus is on the identity of a significant person from the past who has greatly helped to influence the client’s life. This could be a friend, lover, parent, musician or even a writer.

To help the client on this path, the therapist must remain in a detached and non-influential position. They can do this by helping the client “thicken up” the desired story by encouraging details rather than having a thin description of the event. For example, instead of saying the weather is nice outside, ask questions about why the customer thinks it’s nice outside. What are the smells, the air, the feeling, do they remind you of something? The therapist would do well to keep in mind the rich history of existential psychotherapy to help condense the desired way of being.

Existential psychotherapy has a rich history of how we use what Howard Gardner called multiple intelligences. According to Wikipedia, they are bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, naturalistic, intrapersonal, visual-spatial and musical intelligences (“Theory of multiple intelligences”, 2009). Howard Gardner has proposed a ninth intelligence, which would be existential intelligence. Existential intelligence would consist of the ability to question the larger things of life, such as death, life and possible spiritual meaning (“Theory of multiple intelligences”, 2009). Narrative therapy also embraces this concept of multiple intelligences, even if it is not obvious. The therapist is encouraged to explore together with the client the best possible way of expression. This could be music therapy, writing therapy or even art therapy. Existential psychotherapy together with humanistic psychotherapy has historically promoted the understanding of the whole, also from a research perspective. The therapist does not come from an expert role, but from an interest in a genuine person or a phenomenological approach. In order for us to be fully present in this approach, the intelligence from which the customer works best should be the path of further development.

We are forever in the temporal now, but we are always focused on future plans, worries, hopes or even dreams. Likewise, when we are not focused on the future, we are focused on the past. The past focused on our worries, our shame, even our doubts. This is usually the domain of narrative therapy. It is linking a series of events over a period of time and giving it meaning. Narrative therapy struggles with this moment. It posits a center or self as opposed to the Buddhist notion of no-self. This attitude of the self refers to the state of the observer studying or remembering the story. The concept of no-self contradicts this position and has no observer, but this is now temporal. The concept of existence is present or becoming (like a flower opening into what it could be). Existential psychotherapy respects the past and the possible future, but the main source of temporal time is now. James Bugental calls this the living moment (Bugental, p. 20). Although in the stage of rewriting and thickening the story in narrative therapy, this existential attitude can prove to be very informative. It could also be used in the problem-filled phase of storytelling. If the client seems stuck on the effects or judgments of a particular event, ask what seem to be the current feelings, thoughts, smells, etc. to clear the blocks. Staying in time, there are many aspects that could be looked at, for example the current kinesthetic experience. This is one possible way to help with the stuck problem.

Existential psychotherapists try to narrow down four different dimensions in the creation of meaning. They are freedom, death, isolation and meaninglessness (Yalom, 1980). Each of these dimensions can be constructed as a continuum. Freedom would have two extremes. At the other end of freedom would be the complete restriction of all freedom. There is no choice whatsoever, like being chained to a dungeon. The other end would be complete freedom, as in libertine philosophies, everything goes without restrictions. Existential psychotherapists argue that each of us falls somewhere on this continuum. In order to move, to find relief in our struggles with mental illness or pain, we need to come to an individual understanding of where we are on this continuum right now and where we would like to go or what we would like to become. For example, if we feel that we have too much freedom for the sake of unbridled pleasure, we may need to move a little further along this continuum to gain more restraint to help us balance. There are no right or wrong answers, but what the individual feels is appropriate. To help thicken the recommended way of being in narrative therapy, this theory may appear to limit meaning. This meaning is created by the Therapist and the client, but I argue that if we use it as a map, it can help us focus.

This opinion piece is not intended to be a position based entirely on a theoretical position. The author acknowledges that both narrative therapy and existential psychotherapy both come from very rich philosophical but very different backgrounds. Few philosophers have attempted to examine the parallels between postmodernism and existentialism. If you look for connections, those connections can always be found, in a small detail, but each philosophy is really a different project. A therapeutic attitude or posture is a completely different thing. Narrative therapy does not only use postmodernism as a philosophical background, and existential psychotherapy does not only use the strict philosophy of existentialism. Instead, these philosophical backgrounds are an applicable way to use these different therapeutic attitudes in trying to help heal our mental illnesses. As Foucault stated in his last known interview (William V. Spanos, p. 153), “For me, Heidegger has always been the essential philosopher… My whole philosophical development was determined by my reading of Heidegger.”

What are the future directions for summarizing narrative therapy with existential psychotherapy? In the first narrative therapy, it would be good to find out more precisely what is meant by thickening the desired story. What does it mean to make this story more real or focus on the big stories? A more philosophical discussion of the idea of ​​meaning is needed because both forms of therapy have a primary focus on creating meaning, but they just come from different perspectives and different projects. One may also ask whether these two different treatments are as compatible as the author suggests they are. If not, why not? And is there a way forward?

As this story (theoretical positioning) ends, it is important to remember that these are questions and not absolute truths. The story can still be changed by adding subtle details and reducing distractions. One thing that can be said is that narrative therapy and existential psychotherapy are strangers walking the same road.

References

1. Bugental, James FT (1999). Psychotherapy is not what you think: that psychotherapeutic commitment to the living moment. Phoenix, Az.: Zeig Tucker & Theisen Publishers.

2. Social construction of reality. (2009, July 8). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:46, 8 July 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Social_Construction_of_Reality&oldid=301080937.

3. Spanos, Williams V. (1993). Heidegger and Critique: Restoring the Cultural Politics of Destruction. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

4. Theory of multiple intelligences. (2009, August 4). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 16.07.4 August 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Theory_of_multiple_intelligences&oldid=306033977.

5. Yalom, Irvin D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. New York: Charters.

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