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true self?

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  • james tan
    chris, u have correctly pointed out a possible limitation in gestalt therapy. there is a very famous gestalt prayer, devised by perls: i do my own thing and u
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2002
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      chris,

      u have correctly pointed out a possible limitation in gestalt therapy. there
      is a very famous gestalt prayer, devised by perls:

      i do my own thing and u do ur own thing.
      i am not in this world to live up to ur expectations,
      and u are not in this world to live up to mine.
      u are u, and i am i,
      and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
      if not, it cant be helped.

      pretty individualistic, huh?
      this attitude has its plus, and perhaps minus.
      let me just dwell a little on its minuses, as u have pointed out yourself.

      for one thing, this prayer was actually 'misused' and get printed on a
      t-shirt, and ironically, signed by....guess who? the manufacturer signed it
      as adolf hitler. this is the ironic twist/interpretation to the prayer.

      indeed, this prayer, which to a large degree is representative of perls'
      gestalt therapy, sounds like a shallow slogan tt reinforces the development
      of narcissistic and egocentric individuals who have very little reason to be
      concerned with others. no shoulds and oughts, taken to its extremes, is what
      u have got in hitler, and all the more terrible if he possesses great
      military power under his command. on a lesser scale, u may have rapist or
      murderer, and other anti-social criminals, as u suggested. if there is
      totally no oughts and shoulds, what happens to social responsiblity? is
      there any evidence tt human beings can live in relatively harmonious &
      secure societies if social EXPECTATIONS & approval are rejected as
      consequences for helping to direct human behaviours? perls did not advocate
      anarchy when he devised his gestalt prayer, but what he did assume, i
      believe, is a certain socislisation already done in individuals, some
      so-called human decency. i have doubts about the effectiveness of gestalt
      therapy on undersocialised individuals, such as psychopathic prisoners or
      hardcore rapist. freud said, where the ego is, let there be id ! the naive
      gestaltist would like to deny tt there are indeed biological impulses tt can
      overwhelm both the individual's mental well-being & the social order. how
      would gestaltist treat paranoid & other patients whose ego process (the
      ability to cope realistically with the demands of id and society) are in
      danger of being overwhelmed by murderous rage? encourage more rage? gestalt
      seems more appropriate for growth seeking adults than caseload of patients
      tt includes people barely able to hold onto their sanity, including those on
      the verge of going crazy or commit suicide, let alone able to be mature,
      self-supporting, whole human beings.

      what perls believed is that if people are left to their organismic valuing,
      they will actually NOT become rapist or murderer. for perls, organismic
      impulses need not be controlled but need to be completed. seeking food when
      hungry and sex when aroused are NOT dangerous to the indivdual; rather,
      completing these organismic needs is what helps create an individual. being
      an individual seems to be a 'obsessive' concern of perls. he is pretty
      concerned that an individual is more than just being a social role, or being
      a social role totally at the expense of being an individual. he would
      challenge ur typical strict islamic community where all women cover inches
      of their skin so tt man will not be led to temptation and women to
      immodesty: he will argue tt impulses, such as for sex or food, are a
      biological source of motivation & direction tt allow individuals to rise
      above a social role or religious expectation. these biological sources of
      self-direction are relatively CULTURE-free or RELIGION-free, & individuals
      can trust in their bodies, rather than social conformity to an 'insane'
      society, to lead them to a healthy life. if people are raised to trust the
      messages from their own bodies, we COULD have a society of free & fulfilled
      people who let each other BE rather than a society of rapers and ravagers.
      perls have such trust in the integrity of our organismic valuing and
      self-regulation.

      concerning ur past contention tt there is no true self or fragmented self,
      and that there is metaphysical basis in some of these psychological
      constructs. actually, psychologist do not really bother themselves with
      philosophical basis, they are content if a man is able to love and function
      and live more happily and cope with their living problems more effectively,
      and their (psychotherapists) job is bascially to facilitate towards such
      goals. research has shown that therapy is effective towards the goal they
      intended. when the psychologists say 'true self' and 'fragmented self',
      these concepts are based on clinical experiences, and such constructs have
      predictive/clinical values in understanding the 'psychical plagues' that is
      bugging the patients; such understanding contribute to the helping process,
      statistically shown. that is all that counselling psychologists are
      concerned with. although i myself understood sartre's "existence precede
      essence", i have my own understanding & a certain degree of reservation of
      it. is man totally free to consciously determine his own behaviour? are
      humans basically rational, directing their behaviour through reason? human
      person is best understood by looking the whole person? people generate their
      own behaviour internally? OR NOT? experience says that it is all a matter of
      continuum, not a case of either/or. existence precede essence? not quite. i
      reiterate sartre's bad faith: it is generally characterised as a refusal to
      recognise what i am, namely, a being who is both a FACTICITY and
      transendence. thus, bad faith does not solely consist in denial of one's
      transcendence in order to flee anguish; it MAY also consists of the denial
      of one's facticity & overemphasis on his transcendence. i strongly believe
      there is also a certain essence (facticity) in being human, so that the more
      one closely conform to this essence, the more happy or effective one can be,
      as a human. one of these 'essences' is that human function as a gestalt, and
      NOT as a fragmented individual, that he can find most enjoyment in Existenz.
      between existence and essence, i postulate them on a continuum, and find
      that a optimal understanding of human is somewhere in between these two
      extremes; at least, this is how i find to be the case when i deal with my
      clients. i believe there is a certain human nature beyond his freedom. gee,
      i am not sure if i understand sartre differently from u, chris. nowadays, i
      am more incline to merleau-ponty with his emphasis on the body (rather than
      sartre's seeming emphasis on transcendence).

      james.

      From: "Christopher Bobo" <cbobo@...>
      Reply-To: WisdomForum@yahoogroups.com
      To: "Wisdom Forum" <WisdomForum@yahoogroups.com>
      Subject: Re: [WisdomForum] true self?
      Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 08:01:00 -0700

      James:

      Thank you for the references. From what your first post said about Perl, I
      thought his ideas seemed very correct and worthwhile, but from your second
      post, I'm beginning to have doubts.

      You said:
      >>'true self' as it is used in psychology can also mean a certain
      organismic
      valuing process, a ongoing process in which individuals freely rely on the
      evidence of their own senses for making value judgements. again, this is in
      distinction to a fixed system of introjected values characterised by
      'shoulds' and 'oughts' and by what is supposed to be right and wrong. this,
      by the way, is where i find religion 'unhealthy'. really, at this pt, i am
      not sure if religion is good or bad. on the one hand, take christianity for
      example, there is a lot of shoulds and oughts: better to dig out ur eyes
      than to lust a woman with them: perls would have said this is the very
      origin of neurosis, even if the biblical passage is meant figuratively; in
      fact, it is precisely meant in the figurative or metaphorical sense that
      perls responded!! if that someone literally dig out his eye balls, it will
      be a medical problem (plus psychological ones as well, i suppose): the
      lusting eyes that we are told not to own, when really it is so very our own.
      all the shoulds and oughts that want us to conform and change into the image
      of christ. perls would have said this to tom, dick or harry: BE tom, dick
      and harry, dont try to be anybody else, not even christ. if u are an
      elephant, then u ARE an elephant. a rose is a rose is a rose. if u are
      chris, then u are not christ! for ur sake, dont try to be christ when u are
      chris!!! when i was in saudi arabia, i see along the streets many beggars
      with their hands (at the joint) chopped off. why? because the islamic
      (moralistic) rules say that ur hand ought to be chopped off because u ought
      not to steal and u did (in moment of greed, hunger, malice, whatever). perls
      would not call saudi arabia home, that is for sure. on the other hand,
      religion is psychologically satisfying because it provides a eternal
      framework for man, thus satisfying his existential needs.<<

      So, it seems okay we some one discovers that their "true self" is that of a
      rapist, child molester or serial killer. You seem to say that they should
      just be what they are, to heck with "shoulds" and "oughts". Here again, I
      don't think that this is right. We have no true self to which we can go and
      say "Eurekda, I've found it.", we shape ourselves by our actions and make
      ourselves to be what we are. If the self begins as nothingness, or a blank
      slate, which I believe it does, then we write the stories that reveal
      ourselves, we do not find that already written for us.

      Although you have said that psychology is not concerned with metaphysical
      systems, what your words reveal is that psychology has a host of
      metaphysical notions and commitments that it fails to acknowledge as
      metaphysics. Psychology offers up "archetypal engeries", "true selves",
      "ids, egos and superegos" and "gestalts" seemingly without recognizing the
      metaphysical nature of these theories.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: james tan
      Sent: Monday, September 02, 2002 2:37 AM
      To: WisdomForum@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [WisdomForum] true self?



      hi chris,

      i have not come across wittgenstein in any of my psychology reading. perhaps
      his so-called psychology notes are actually more philosophical in nature?

      i may be wrong here, but even in discussing 'self' among students of
      psychology, we are more concerned of it as a construct (and function), and
      dont really inquire into its metaphysical status (too elusive). we use such
      construct to predict how a 'normal' and 'healthy' human being will function
      and feel. for example, karl jung defined it as archetypal energy that orders
      and integrates the personality, an encompassing wholesness out of which
      personality evolves. sigmund freud has a construct call the 'ego', which, to
      him, is the central controlling core of the personality mediating between
      the id (primitive, instinctual needs) and the superego (civilised,
      moralistic elements of the mind). carl rogers use the concept of self to
      refer to the organisd, consistent, conceptual gestalt composed of
      perceptions of the characteristics of the 'i' or 'me'& the perception of the
      'i' or 'me' to others and to various aspects of life, together with the
      values attached to these perceptions. gestalt in the sense that we are
      perhaps biologically hardwired to perceive a 'i' when it comes to organising
      the life of the body u are now living in/with (but this way of speaking is
      as if there is a 'you' who possess a body (split), whereas the gestalts
      psychologists tend to think that u ARE that body), and whether there is
      'really' a 'i' or not is just too elusive. let's just say that we feel as if
      we have a 'i', so that it is 'i' who is typing to u, and not someone else,
      and 'i' know it, feel it, choose it, at least for this moment in time. it is
      gestalt available to awareness although not necessarily in awareness. it is
      a fluid and changing process (and if a 'i' is construed/understood as
      something permanent as such, something that survive death to stand before
      god for moralistic accountability, then it doesnt seem to be the case;
      phenomenologists basically think that the 'i' & body is inseparable, so that
      there is no meaningful talk of 'i' when the body is rotting/decomposing or
      being cremated; ie, the 'i' perish together with the body, just as the
      computer screen goes off when the plug is pull), but at any given moment it
      is at least partially definable in operational terms, such as one's
      attributes, temperament, character, abilities, faults, etc.

      what did perls mean by 'true self'? take for example, u love strawberry
      favor ice-cream; but u have a very stubborn and strong-headed girlfriend who
      insisted that u love chocolate chips ice-cream (the one that she loves). u
      know that she would feel offended if u disagree with her, which is the last
      thing u want. in this situation, sometimes, some people would actually
      'introject' and begin to think he really like chocolate chips, he purposely
      keep away from awareness that he really likes strawberry because that will
      save him the 'hassle'. in this sense, he is not being his 'true self',
      confluening in order to avoid painful risks of pissing off his girlfriend.
      now, ice creams and girlfriends are really just variables for life's
      situation, and the variables could well stand for other things. but
      'girlfriend' in this case is representative of someone whom u would want to
      please, mainly because u have learned (or being conditioned) that this
      someone (or even society/culture) is able to provide u with conditions of
      self-worth. again, we come back to the psychological concept of self, we
      have things like self esteem, self efficiacy, self confidence, etc, all of
      which are useful constructs for us to 'evalute' a man, in terms of his
      ability to be happy or function in a social context. and we could also
      'play' with these 'variables' to 'adjust' him to be more effective in
      living, so to speak. that is, they serve a function, and we 'bracket off'
      its 'actual reality'; unless u wish to walk down to the philosophy
      department.

      'true self' as it is used in psychology can also mean a certain organismic
      valuing process, a ongoing process in which individuals freely rely on the
      evidence of their own senses for making value judgements. again, this is in
      distinction to a fixed system of introjected values characterised by
      'shoulds' and 'oughts' and by what is supposed to be right and wrong. this,
      by the way, is where i find religion 'unhealthy'. really, at this pt, i am
      not sure if religion is good or bad. on the one hand, take christianity for
      example, there is a lot of shoulds and oughts: better to dig out ur eyes
      than to lust a woman with them: perls would have said this is the very
      origin of neurosis, even if the biblical passage is meant figuratively; in
      fact, it is precisely meant in the figurative or metaphorical sense that
      perls responded!! if that someone literally dig out his eye balls, it will
      be a medical problem (plus psychological ones as well, i suppose): the
      lusting eyes that we are told not to own, when really it is so very our own.
      all the shoulds and oughts that want us to conform and change into the image
      of christ. perls would have said this to tom, dick or harry: BE tom, dick
      and harry, dont try to be anybody else, not even christ. if u are an
      elephant, then u ARE an elephant. a rose is a rose is a rose. if u are
      chris, then u are not christ! for ur sake, dont try to be christ when u are
      chris!!! when i was in saudi arabia, i see along the streets many beggars
      with their hands (at the joint) chopped off. why? because the islamic
      (moralistic) rules say that ur hand ought to be chopped off because u ought
      not to steal and u did (in moment of greed, hunger, malice, whatever). perls
      would not call saudi arabia home, that is for sure. on the other hand,
      religion is psychologically satisfying because it provides a eternal
      framework for man, thus satisfying his existential needs.

      i wouldnt know if we have a self in the metaphysical sense, but it does seem
      we do have a sense of self.

      perls got those ideas of neurotc styles through his clinical experiences, i
      guess. but i did hear he was influenced very much by existential
      philosophers. and though i believe there are empirical evidences, i guess
      they (those defence mechanism) started out as constructs.

      james.

      ps: just in case u are interested in the references, i attach it as word
      document.




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