Monday, February 02, 2004

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)


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