Friday, February 20, 2004

Michael White Video

I just finished watching Michael White's video, Best of Friends, and found it fascinating. I was struck by several things:

  • I have been thinking of "story" as a part of a person's narrative or meaning you can capture in a neat paragraph or block of text (that's the writer in me) but "story" as Michael works with it is a more organic, entwined entity. A story might have many (dozens?) of different paths you could follow--there may be any number of different entrances.

  • I recognized the reflecting and summarizing skills I've been learning...

  • I began to sense from a bigger picture where he was going and how he was gently managing the conversation within a specific framework designed to reinforce the alternate story the couple presented, meet their goals for being in the session that day, identify new learnings that they can continue to build on after the session, and ask the couple to predict how these new learnings might help them in resolving the presenting problem that brought them to therapy.

  • He made a point to predict that he felt their predictions would come true.

  • He also said several times he'd like to be present when they continue their dialogs with supporting family members (mothers and grandmother)

  • He discovered who would be influential in helping the couple rebuild their friendship (the husband held as an ideal the friendship between his parents) and asked what the mother would say if she were there in the room and they told her they were working on their relationship. When the answer came that she would be affirming and supportive, he made a point to continue to include her in the conversation and ask the couple to have that conversation with her to bring her into it.

  • He very gently helped build a support network for this couple's new emerging story of themselves.

  • I found how difficult it was for me to listen and understand from this "big picture" place--I kept wanting to key off of individual words and lead the conversation in perhaps a mistaken direction. In CPE I am learning where I am "invited in" to a story, but I might try to open a door on a key feeling word, "I get really frustrated when he does that." "What's that like for you, when you get really frustrated?" instead of understanding where we are in the path of discovering the couple's story.

  • In the segment where the reflecting team was talking about the session just conducted (didn't Minuchin originate this format?), I started to get frustrated because I felt the therapists were missing things I saw. I noticed the way in which the communication patterns were created around power and powerlessness--I wanted someone to address that. But as I reflected on that issue, I also saw that I was thinking "perpetrator and victim" (which probably comes from my own stuff) and not being open to the couple's presenting problem and the story that was helping to create and ultimately change it.

Desire and Temptation

Continuing to think about Karen Horney's NPA personality theory...I know this is only loosely attached to narrative but it is attached. I was writing in my journal this morning about the three characteristics: Narcissism, Aggression, Perfectionism. People with these characteristics predominating are seeking different things (so the theory goes):

  • People with strong narcissistic tendencies are driven by a desire for glory.

  • People with strong aggressive tendencies are driven by a desire for power.

  • Perfectionistic people are driven by a desire for perfection.

After further reading, I identified myself as an NP, a person with narcissistic and perfectionistic characteristics. Deep inside, I know my goal and desire is perfection. I see the narcisstic tendencies in myself too. But deep down, that quiet, unexpressed desire is to be as close to perfect as humans can reach (transformed into the likeness of Christ), and ultimately see and know God. Sounds grandiose, doesn't it? But I know it's true. :)

My thoughts continued on to the theological connection with all this. Each of us, no matter what type, are seeking something we believe we lack. But Glory, Power, and Perfection belong ultimately only to God, so in our unconscious (and sometimes conscious) seeking, we are trying to get for ourselves what really belongs only to God. It seems to me that this very seeking re-enacts the taking and eating of the apple, over and over again, deep within our very beings.
Yesterday when I reflected on letting God have the Glory, Power, and yes, even Perfection and then loving him and trusting him enough to give me whatever he chose to give me (we've all have circumstances in which we felt glory, power, and perfection), I felt a deep internal change, a profound peace.

This morning, I wondered where Jesus was in all of this. If he experienced everything we experienced, does that mean he struggled with his own desires for Glory, Power, and Perfection? I thought of the temptations. When the tempter said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread," it seems to me he was being tempted with Power. When the devil prompted him to throw himself down and let the angels save him, perhaps he was struggling with Perfection (perfect trust, perfect belief). When he was taken to the mountaintop and promised the kingdoms of the world, the temptation might have been for Glory. (This could also have been for power, but Jesus' words in answer: "'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" say to me that he was saying "Glory only to God"). [Matthew 4:1-11]

Mark doesn't state the various temptations...he just says Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Luke reports the same three temptations Matthew gives, but reverses the order of the last two.

John begins with Jesus' public ministry and doesn't include the temptations at all.

Interesting thoughts...whatever their application might be. :) I like the idea that Jesus may have struggled with the same characteristics that divide us from true union with God. I like even more the knowing that he overcame them. (Yes, I hear my desire for perfection there!) :) k

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Narrative Interventions for Narcissists?

I find myself thinking and thinking about narcissism and the other character types (as defined by Horney) and wondering whether there is a narrative intervention that would be suited to each type. Would a narcissist (seeking glory, according to Horney) benefit from a story in which the protagonist yearns and tries for glory and then finds it? Or finds something better in place of it? (such as grace?). What about the agressive type (Horney again)? Would a protagonist rising to power, or failing to achieve a sense of power but finding something better (like peace) be helpful? And with the perfectionist type, would a story of patience, tolerance, affirmation--or the achievement of true perfection--be most helpful?

Perhaps there is not a direct correlation and I guess I am assuming here that the character type somehow needs to be "fixed." Maybe narrative interventions in this sense would be most helpful when we consider what is driving the patient (a quest for glory, power, or perfection) but tailor the narrative to the resolution of the presenting problem, whatever that might be. I'll think of specifics, but in the meantime, do you get my question?

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Speaking Out of the Silence

I love your connection of the Quaker tradition and the narrative aspect of noticing what's missing in a person's story. That's very powerful for me. I'm not sure when "what's missing" will show us regularly for me...I'm still struggling to hear and receive and notice and feel and allow myself to register all that's simply going on. It's a lot to take in! But I have my mind and heart and ears open for it, so I believe sooner or later it will come. :) k

You know what else...something from those messages we get about what's okay and what's not about us (from class today). You got the message that artistic wasn't okay, and I got the message that silly wasn't okay. I've become aware that part of my connection with feeling misunderstood is feeling "silly," which has much more emotional impact on me than the word would imply. Feeling silly is worse than feeling stupid--it's "ignorance with intention to charm"! :)

Childlike and Goofy

That's an interesting question. Childlike and goofy is okay, unless behind it is a kind of self-deprecating buffoonishness that is meant to put others at their ease. Although I think in theory that's fine if it's authentic, in practice it runs the risk of sending others the message that you can't trust them to relate to you as a safe, respectful adult. In the long run, I think tenderly taking each other seriously, embracing each other generously with humor and good-will, is more honoring of two adults traveling along together on a road. But of course, I'm also a kid who never had a childhood. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Regarding your impression of some of White's letters being childlike and goofy--that's kind of where most of the work we need to do emotionally and developmentally is found, don't you think?

Monday, February 16, 2004

Hi Katherine,
Your comments about the unspoken elements in a story seems to fit right with your experience with the anger issue family. It seems like, at least when you are with them, that their anger is an unspoken element in their story, for whatever reason. It may be that they can't accept it, it might be that you are a minister and therefore someone that they have to protect, or it may be that they are just overwhelmed and numbed out and don't even know they are feeling those things. But, for whatever reason, their is a part of their story that is unspoken and which you may hear in other ways, but which may or may not be available to them in their relationship with themselves at this point, or with you. So, there is a challenge here to seen what you can hear speaking out of their silence (the sort of thing that your tradition speaks much of). Of course, one shouldn't make assumptions, but as I was saying earlier, you were picking up something emotionally when you were in the room with them, and that is data that you might want, in this case or when it happens in other cases, to take note of and be curious about when you see the people in subsequent meetings.
Getting to Erikson, I have always found his stages helpful in a general way of looking for what seems to be the sort of thing that is usually going on with a person because of where they are in life at the time that I meet them. Of course, it is not always foolproof, but the developmental tasks of coming to the ability to trust, be autonomous, take initiative, be industrious, for indentity, intimacy, productivity, and meaning have a validity, in my perspective, that is hard to quarrel with. I know that it is popular to criticize everything that hasn't been written since yesterday as male oriented, and to some extent that is true, but at I think that if you make a few adjustments in the order of the stages, perhaps that men do identity first and intimacy second, while women might do intimacy first and identity second, it seems to be a helpful way to think, particularly because it discusses human development as a function of the nature of relationships. Maybe one could put Erikson alongside Carol Gilligan to get a balance but still maintain the stage development principle. I would be interested in hearing what the objections are that others have been making, so that we might discuss them a little.
I think that what White and Epson did with letter writing may be exactly what counselors are doing nowadays with email contact. I am aware that I now maintain contact with therapy clients in Washington on a fairly regular basis, because there are several of them that I used to see twice a week when I was there all the time. Drawing on the narrative approach, I ask them to send me narrative descriptions of what is going on with them while I am away so that when I come into town and meeting with them they don't have to spend all their time bringing me up to speed. What seems to happen though is beyond just getting information. When they have to construct a narrative that they put into an email, they are working through issues by trying to communicate them. It is the narrative way of thinking. They are constructing their story in order to email it to me.
That is probably enough for tonight. I need to come up to Indy tomorrow to meet with the licensing board. Me may be in the same neighborhood for a while.

Michael White, notes pp. 77-127

Interesting ideas I've found in my readings this week:

  • In a discussion that compares the logico-scientific and narrative modes of thought: "arguments convince one of their truth, stories of their lifelikeness."

  • On the same topic: "The narrative mode of thought, on the other hand, is characterized by good stories that gain credence through their lifelikeness. They are not concerned with procedures and conventions for the generation of abstract and general theories but with the particulars of experience. They do not establish universal truth conditions but a connectedness of events across time. The narrative mode leads, not to certainties, but to varying perspectives. In this world of narrative, the subjunctive mood prevails rather than the indicative mood."

  • Certain "mechanisms" recruit the reader in "the performance of meaning under the guidance of the text." These mechanisms "subjunctivize" reality--(1) presupposition (creating implicit rather than explicit meanings); (2)subjectification (depicting reality through the protagonist's eye); (3) multiple perspective (viewing the world through a set of prisms simultaneously).

  • "Lived experience in the "vital" consideration, and the links between aspects of lived experience are the generators of meaning."

  • The use of letters in narrative therapy. Both White and Epston use letters as a way to continue their work with clients. Epston writes about letters of invitation, where he works with the family to create a letter that invites a person who is refusing to come to sessions. White uses a technique to touch in with clients, reminding them of their work and asking strategic questions to keep them working. I was struck by the simplicity and honesty of their letters, although some (of White's, especially) seem a bit childlike and goofy. I guess the most important thing is their honesty and willingness to cross conventional boundaries. I like the idea of being able to reach across the boundary of distance and let another know we're continuing to remember them and the "problems" they're "influencing." I have used this method unknowingly in email, when I've continued to stay in touch with someone I've known through pastoral care. But I do agree with the authors that receiving a card or letter in the mail, address to you with only your name on it, has a way of making a person feel special--the intentionality and effort of the contact makes a difference.

Note: I haven't begun reading 101 Healing Stories yet...I'm behind on my own syllabus! I hope to get caught up in the next few days... :) k

Friday, February 13, 2004


I wonder whether Erikson's work can be helpful in listening for key story themes in people of different ages. For example, if I'm talking with a teenager, based on Erikson's developmental tasks, I could listen for stories about identity and role confusion; with a young adult, the tension between intimacy and isolation, and so forth. It helps me to have my ear tuned to patient's ages and possible developmental tasks. One person I'm working with now is 78 years old and has terminal lung cancer. She has decided to stop chemotherapy. Her life is a tapestry of colorful stories. I can hear her doing a life review and stopping and touching the losses she has experienced. This is consistent with Erikson's development task of integrity versus despair in the older adult.

Michael, what do you think of Erikson's stages? Do you find them helpful or limiting, or something else? One person I talked to felt Erikson had a good start but came from a male-focused perspective...I don't know much about other personality theorists, but I thought Erikson might help me have a bit of a framework for understanding the stories I hear. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Stories and Air

I'm fascinated by White's "unique outcomes" and Savage's "unspoken elements." Both are talking about the importance of what's missing when we tell our stories. White believes that people become stuck in their stories--they are limited by other peoples' stories about them or unable to see possibilities in limiting stories they've adopted about themselves. I can't do anything but sit in this hospital bed or His depression is controlling my life--and there's nothing I can do about it.

Savage says that underlying all the themes in a person's story are meanings opposite what's being stated, and the person is always in a tension between the two. Yesterday I was connected to her; today I'm not or He 's having trouble believing I don't have long to live can mean I know I'm going to die.

I'm amazed that there is so much information in every encounter--there are multiple levels of communication going on all the time. I have known this for years but it is hitting me in a new way. The amount of data and emotion is astounding. We tell about ourselves literally all the time. We want to be known. We may think we hide; we may think we have control of what we communicate about ourselves, but we don't, thank God. I think that's because we truly want to be known.

I have been trying to tune my ear to hear peoples' stories, to grasp what's under them, to minister to the need that presents itself. But it's another level of challenge to be conscious of the air around us, to sense what's not being said, which alternatives haven't been explored, where stories are blocking the possibilities that might emerge if they could be named and invited out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Hi Michael,
Your insights amaze me here--thank you for opening the horizons for me! I have continued to work with my CPE experience and have learned a lot about it. In this CPE experience, I told about something which I'd never said out loud before--it was about a very frightening experience I had when living on my own, managing a store in Mishawaka. After my break with my family at 16, I was beginning to feel as though I was "making it" and keeping myself safe. My employees thought I was in my mid-20s (although I was only 18) and I was doing a good job running the store and keeping my life in order. But I had almost no experience with men at that time and accepted a stranger's invitation to dinner one night after work. When he took me back to my apartment, he forced his way in and refused to leave. He made advances and I refused, finally he looked me coldly in the eye and said, "I could rape you if I wanted to." Reliving that story--the absolute horror I felt deep inside, the panic that I hadn't created the safe life for myself I thought I'd created, the frightening thought that one decision--or one person--could come into my world and dismantle everything--was really emotion-packed for me. I'd only thought of it once or twice in 25 years and had never said it aloud to anyone. The anger that came up after I shared that story felt like part of that experience...I felt vulnerable, exposed, like I'd made a choice to put myself in danger and let others I didn't know into a place that I probably should have protected.

Over the next several days, I experienced a sense of my own brokenness and vulnerability in a new way. In the past I have worked through things honestly as they came up, but I had never experienced my story--and the many themes I saw there--as a whole. It was overwhelming. And very sad. But I felt divinely supported to be working at this level with myself in this way and found, as I've found before, that healing for me is a process of opening (asking for God's help) and receiving (grace, light, and peace) and that, having received something new about myself, I emerge a little more real and full (like the Velveteen rabbit) from the experience. Going to this place--and being able to really feel the feelings, as opposed to patching myself up with bandages and moving on--made a change in the way I am on the unit. I am more aware of where some of my wounds are and know that there's still a sense of brokenness that exists in me. It feels good to know that. I know others feel the same things, and it seems important for me to know they are a part of me and contribute to the way I understand and connect with others, myself, and God.

I also felt your observation about groups being a challenge for me was right on. I realized in that experience how hard it is for me to trust people beyond a certain point. I had always attributed my independence to my kind of "misfit" or "mystic" approach to life--thinking I seemed to look at life differently and see different things than a lot of people saw. I think this ability to see and think for myself is a benefit of not having a lot of input from others early on, but the liability side is that although I tend to want to minister to those who feel alone and unloved, I have rarely been able to let others into that place within myself. I have consistently turned to God for that. So when I find myself in a group, going anywhere deep and real is new territory for me. I'm not sure I've experienced a sense of "okayness" in a group where I didn't feel like I had some kind of ministry of comfort, direction, or support to offer. (In other words, I think I have seen my role in a group as functional and not something filling, welcoming, or supporting for me personally. I do much better one-on-one, where I think I have a better chance of being understood and the sharing seems safer.)

I was blown away by your response about the man and the family with anger issues! Maybe I WAS feeling their numbness and confusion. I can see so clearly what you describe here. Thank you for opening my eyes to the many ways to experience another's story. This is very important. I wonder if one of the challenges of working with narrative is that not everyone is going to be able to communicate in such a way that it makes objectifying the "problem" possible. Is there a way to help a family like this express their story in a way that they can externalize it? Or is simply being in "the belly of the whale" with them the best we can do?

Thanks again for these wonderful thoughts. :) Katherine

Monday, February 09, 2004

Hi Katherine,
I guess several things have struck me in your posts over the past several days. One is how emotionally stirred up you have been as you have been moving into your CPE experience. It seems that a lot of it has to do with being in a situation in which you don't know the ropes and are learning as you are going along, along with being in a situation in which people are experiencing very difficult things that are upsetting to them, and to you. Along the lines of your goal of learning the narrative approach, I wonder if you have placed this story in a larger narrative our your life as yet, or how what is going on is fitting, or not fitting, into something familiar? It seems to me that the circumstances of the present are pullling very powerful feelings out of your inner self at this point, and along the line of knowledge and power, it may be helpful to try and place those feelings as a way of knowing them and yourself more fully.
Along with that, I find myself curious about your reaction to the experience of putting yourself out in the midst of the CPE group and coming away feeling as if you wish you had not--feeling like a guinea pig or as if you were violated in some way. Again, this story--that of taking risks and being disappointed or feeling used by also have a history that would grow, and then perhaps, change, in the telling and revising. Whether or not you should have self disclosed as much as you did early on seems less important, from a training perspective, than what you learned about yourself from the experience, and how this you might want to evalute and revise the character that you are, or might reflexively play, in this drama called CPE training as you explore your place in the group. Since I know something about your history, I am put in mind of your detached family in which it was every man, or woman, for themselves, and how the challenge of how one joins and belongs to others in a mutual way my be getting kicked up in this experience. When you did what you did in the group, what were you aware of wanting from the experience, and how did what you get compare to that? And, how familiar is that?
With respect to the dying man and his family and their anger issues, it is not unusual for people, particularly under the difficult circumstances that these people were under, to just not be able to bring what is in them to the place of revealing it. I don't doubt that they were all struggling with issues of anger. Going through what they were going through, who wouldn't be? At the same time, not knowing what to do with it or how to put it into words, as seemed to be the case, was all they could do. It may be an important learning to realize that in facing crisis or death, people deal in pretty much the same way that they have always dealt prior to facing crisis or death, and right until the end and beyond, that is all they can do. When you are their chaplain, you may be called upon to accompany them through want seems to be a completely ineffective and cut off experience which does not feel satisfying to you, yet it is all they can do. The challenge becomes to honor peoples' resistances and failures as well as their self disclosures and successes, and to try to perceive the ways that they tell you their stories in other ways other than putting them into words. If you think that this man and his family told you their story in some way in what they did, it may be interesting to reflect on how that happened. For example, you came out of the experience feeling numb. You didn't approach the situation feeling that way, so might it be that this man and his family got you to experience what their world was like at that particular moment by creating a situation that would cause you to go numb, just exactly the way they had gone numb, and being numb, were unable to really tell you anything about themselves. You came away numb and confused, and perhaps in that knew exactly what was happening with them.
Anyway, something to think about. Some patients will never move out of whatever defense or distortion they are in, but that doesn't mean they won't get you to understand their world--they man just do it a different way.

Thursday, February 05, 2004


Funny how all these things in my life are swirling together. It feels as though it should be that way. Like there is no separation between my classes, my work, my life, my relationships--it all swirls deliciously into one and there's a sense of the Divine in that. The book we read this week in Spiritual Formation brought a new understanding of myself as Protector. I keep testing the word to see whether it's true--or to find out whether there's a truer word--but that one still holds. As I return to the stories I posted Tuesday, about Russ and Nathan, I can see that I wanted to protect Russ (and myself) from feelings of abandonment; I wanted to protect Nathan (and myself) from the feeling of being flawed, unlovable, unsalvagable. Yesterday I wanted to protect Pam from her deep disappointment in herself; I wanted to protect Debra from her hunger; I wanted to protect you, Michael, from losing a joy (your gift of art) that others in their woundedness would take from you. It occurred to me this morning that protection for me involves also the desire to give something--I wished I could give Russ a sense of belonging; Nathan compassion for himself; Pam a sense of grace and mercy; Debra peace; and you freedom for joy and discovery.

Interesting learnings. I feel like I'm coming to know myself--and the fabric from which my stories spring--in a new and deeper way.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


One of the things I'm learning in CPE is about the intrinsic nature of our interrelatedness. We think compassion is compassion and that in itself it is a good thing. I agree. But when we look closely at what sparks our compassion, I'm finding that it may have a whole lot more to do with us than we know. When I was concerned about Russ's inability to see the face of God (he saw a "blank spot" and couldn't imagine what the face of God would look like if God were pleased with him), I agonized over not wanting to "leave Russ in that place." I wanted so much for him to feel belovedness. I wanted, for him and for God, to do something to open up that flow of giving and receiving love. As I got closer to those feelings in my individual supervision time, I discovered that what hurt me so much about Russ's situation is that one of my biggest fears is being abandoned by God. I can't fathom how I could have existed without God--and God's absence in my life is unthinkable to me. Precisely because it is unthinkable to me, I was alarmed when I heard it in Russ's story, and I wanted to change it. To protect him, or me?

Similarly, in another CPE time, I wanted to protect Nathan from himself. He's only 25, a quirky seminary student from a Disciples of Christ school. He dresses a bit like he's come out of the movie Grease and has a kind of innocence about him. He's the youngest of five and is used to being treated like that. I fall naturally into the mothering role. During his verbatim, he was very hard on himself about a few typos. I felt his self-criticism was harsh and found myself dwelling on it, wanting somehow to gently suggest he stop putting himself down, like I would do with my own sons. But as I looked closer at myself and my reactions, I discovered that what sparked my feeling is really my own struggle with my own internal critic. I've learned some difficult lessons about how to be kind to myself, how to let myself be human (imperfections and all), and how to motivate myself without harsh criticism. His sharpness with himself triggered the old feelings in me. I do care about him and about Russ, and I do wish them both belovedness and peace. But it's odd and strange and a bit spooky that the point at which I was motivated to reach out to them had more to do with me than them.

Monday, February 02, 2004

First Known Death

Today I found out in morning report that a man I had visited last week died suddenly over the weekend. Thursday morning another chaplain came up to me and said she'd heard in morning report that the patient in 6801 had asked for a priest to provide communion and to help him with "anger issues." I was feeling a little shaky that afternoon (emotional stuff coming up in CPE) but took a deep breath, checked in with a quick prayer, and felt like the thing to do was meet the challenge head on. I walked into the man's room and saw him stretched out on the bed. His wife sat in the recliner by the window. She looked anxious; he looked restless.

I introduced myself as the chaplain on the unit and he motioned me in and said hello. I told him I generally come around and say hello to everyone and see how things are going. He said, "Well, I've been really anxious," and he and I talked a bit about his treatment, the waiting, the worry, and home. He was from South Bend, which is several hours north, a town I lived in 20 years ago. We talked about the snow and joked a little bit. His wife joined in but was a bit reserved. I left the room after 10 minutes or so, pleased that his "anger issues" seemed to have dissolved into a very understandable anxiety. When I added my notes to his chart, I saw that the priest had been to see him earlier that morning.

Today in morning report Nan asked for prayers for his family and said they are all struggling with anger related to his sudden death. I felt a kind of numb shock. It seemed strange that someone I was talking with only four days ago was now dead. I wished I had known what to say or how to say it that might have helped prepare him or...or what? Or something. Something meaningful. Something helpful. But there's nothing to be done now, except prayer for the family. And that's not a little thing.

I found myself wondering about the passing of the anger from the man to his family. I was reminded of the way family systems work. I will look for an opportunity to talk with Nan more about her ministry with this family at the time of the man's death. I'm interested in hearing more about this from a systems standpoint, but I'm not kidding myself. I'm looking for answers, too.

Michael White Is Amazing

I have been reading Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends as the primary text for this course because the other one I'd selected (Narrative Therapy in Practice) doesn't have the depth or breadth I expected. This definitive book is written in the words and from the experiences of two of the founders of narrative therapy, so I feel I'm in good hands. I intend to read half the book this week and half next. Already I have found more than a dozen confirmations of what I "feel" in story--both my own and those I hear from others. Here are some of the more profound ideas I have found in the text so far:

  • He mentions Korzybski, which I love. I discovered him last year. Amazing.

  • He bases much of the value he places on narrative therapy on the applied work of Foucault--knowledge and power.

  • Bateson drew White's attention to a "much neglected dimension"--the temporal dimension.

  • White was interested in how people organize their lives around specific meanings and how, in so doing, they inadvertently contribute to the "survival" of, as well as the "career" of the problem. Problem has a life of its own. Proposed a mechanism for externalizing the problem.

  • Quote by Bruner: "Some experiences are inchoate, in that we simply do not understand what we are experiencing, either because the experiences are not storyable, or because we lack the performative and narrative resources, or because vocabulary is lacking." [1986]. I would add to that "or because we have no one with whom to share it and make it real or re-membered." Years ago a friend and therapist told me that much of my childhood seems "unreal" because I had no one there to share it with--no one to help make it a real experience for me. This supports Vyglotsky's ideas of learning and development as well.

  • BIG IDEA: People come to therapy for help BECAUSE they need help telling their stories! According to White, people are often stuck in stories constructed by others or controlled by rules they may or may not recognize. By listening for "unique outcomes" White helps people get in touch with the alternative stories, the richer experience of themselves, they are missing. This brings more life and light into the story and sets the person free to explore new alternatives.

  • I love the idea of the "normalizing gaze." I've seen that look!

  • Externalizing practices: (1) Relative Influence Questioning involves (a) mapping the influence of the problem on the person and (b) mapping the influence of the person ON the problem.

  • Interesting: Choate's idea of "idea units"--short-term memory can contain only seven English words and changes every two seconds (pg. 36). Writing potentially provides for an expansion of the information that can be processed in our short-term memory at any given time.

  • Look up: Burton's "The Use of Written Productions in Psychotherapy" (1965)