Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
3 & 4 September 1996, Johannesburg, South Africa
Applications and special contexts
surgical decision-making in BRCA1 mutation carriers
Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge, CAMBRIDGE, U.K.
My paper differed from many of the other papers I heard at the conference to the extent that it focused more on individuals' perceptions of their bodies, or at least their at-risk body parts, whereas the other papers I went to seemed to focus more on the body from the perspective of the other. In terms of how my work fits in with research in general, the following: There are no published studies of the psychosocial implications of prophylactic surgery for women who have a family history of these cancers. There is only one ongoing study of prophylactic mastectomy in the UK and a couple in the US. At the moment there is no research on prophylactic oophorectomy; I am trying to get funding to do it. In terms of studies of therapeutic surgery there are very few qualitative studies of the implications of mastectomy and hysterectomy.
Between 5 and 10% of cases of breast and ovarian cancer are attributed to an inherited disposition. The risk management options for women who are at increased risk of developing these cancers, because of their family history, include screening and prophylactic surgery - oophorectomy or mastectomy. This paper reports preliminary findings of a an interview study of women who have attended genetic counselling because of a family history of breast/ovarian cancer. Case studies of premenopausal women currently considering the surgical option and women who have undergone, or rejected, mastectomy/oophorectomy are presented. It will be argued that decision-making about prophylactic surgery involves consideration of the implications for social, personal and sexual identity.
Between 5 and 10% of cases of breast and ovarian cancer in the United Kingdom are caused by an inherited predisposition. It is estimated that carriers of BRCA1 mutations have an 85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, whilst their risk of developing ovarian cancer may be 60% or higher (Easton et al., 1995). At the present time women who think they may be gene carriers because they have a family history of these cancers are referred for genetic counselling, where their risks of being a mutation carrier and developing cancer are calculated and risk management options are discussed. There are two ways in which high risk women can manage their risk of developing these cancers. Firstly, they can have their body annually screened for signs of breast and/or ovarian cancer - they can have a vaginal ultrasound plus CA125 blood tests or mammography plus a breast examination, respectively. These screening options have both medical costs and benefits. The costs are complex. Firstly, there is no evidence that screening is effective in high risk groups; cancers may be missed, or occur during the interval between appointments. Secondly, some of the procedures are themselves risky, for example, there is a high false positive rate, particularly in ovarian screening, and this may result in women having to undergo unnecessary exploratory operations. Similarly, the use of x-rays in mammography carries with it a cancer risk which may be increased in certain high risk individuals. The benefits are simple, screening may pick up cancers at an early stage when the prognosis is good, thus reducing the risk of dying from cancer. The second risk management option available to these women is to take steps to decrease cancer risk by eradicating the sites where cancers may develop. These women can have prophylactic surgery - a bilateral oophorectomy or mastectomy. The benefits of this option are fairly obvious, removal of these tissues decreases the risk of cancer. However, as it is impossible to guarantee the removal of all the ovarian and breast tissues there is a residual risk of developing cancer following surgery, and at the present time nobody knows how high this is. With regard to the costs of prophylactic surgery there are medical risks associated with both procedures, such as anaesthesia, post-operative complications and problems with hormone replacement therapy or breast implants. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, it is widely acknowledged that there maybe psycho-social costs of adopting this form of risk management. Using data collected during an interview study of high risk women who had made or were in the process of making decisions about prophylactic surgery this paper presents an analysis of women's perceptions of the psychosocial implications of this form of risk management. The data reported below were collected during a prospective study of women attending genetic counselling because of a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer. This is part of a larger project which explores lay explanations of inheritance and the influence of this pre-existing knowledge upon individuals' understanding of the Mendelian explanations of genetics that are provided during counselling sessions. The issue of prophylactic surgery was not one of the areas we were specifically investigating in this project, however, it often arose during discussions of women's experiences of counselling, and as the project progressed I became very interested the way these women perceived this option and the questions it raised for them. This paper is based upon data gathered in face-to face interviews with 41 women who had attended genetic counselling 6 weeks earlier, and one woman who had had a prophylactic mastectomy 18 months earlier. The mean age of the sample was 40 years (range 22-59 years). None of the participants were being treated for breast or ovarian cancers or had had cancer in the past. Only one women had attended genetic counselling for cancer before. Nineteen women had a family history of breast cancer, 13 ovarian cancer, 8 breast and ovarian cancer and 2 breast and either uterine or stomach cancer. It is supplemented by data gathered during observations of genetic counselling sessions and in semi-structured telephone interviews with 35 of the original sample 12 months after they visited the clinic. The face-to face interviews were fairly open-ended, but we made sure that the following themes were addressed: experiences of counselling, family history, risk perception, risk management, understanding of inheritance and general health behaviour. The follow-up telephone interviews were semi-structured and focused upon satisfaction with genetic counselling and risk management during the interim period. A grounded approach was used in the analysis insofar as emerging themes were identified in the women's accounts and these were subsequently refined through a process of comparison. Discussions about risk management during genetic counselling None of the participants either had or were offered genetic testing during the course of this study. Thus, risk management recommendations were based upon the counsellors' estimation of a woman's risk which was calculated on the basis of the type of family history she presented. With three exceptions all women were recommended to continue with or start screening programmes. Surgery was discussed in thirty four consultations and in nine of these women were asked to seriously consider having a prophylactic oophorectomy in the future. Discussions of mastectomy were much less directive, counsellors stressed that they could not make recommendations about this option. Risk management following counselling When we interviewed them six weeks after counselling, with one exception, all the women intended to adopt some form of risk management and seven intended to obtain a referral to discuss surgery (3 mastectomy and 4 oophorectomy). With two exceptions, all the women we interviewed twelve months later had either undergone or arranged some form of screening and four had had a prophylactic oophorectomy plus hysterectomy. Two women had talked to a breast surgeon about prophylactic surgery but had decided not to proceed any further for the present.
Women's perceptions of the surgical option? There was a difference in the way that the counsellees perceived discussions of oophorectomy and mastectomy during counselling. Reactions to the suggestion of oophorectomy were much more muted, and none of the women were surprised that this option had been discussed. Indeed, many of those who had been recommended to think about having this operation said they would consider it when they were older, once their ovaries had served their purpose. Many of the women acknowledged that there comes a time when their ovaries would cease to function, and at that time there was less reason to keep one's reproductive organs. Prophylactic mastectomy, on the other hand, was perceived as a much less obvious course of action. Many of those who had not heard of this before they came to counselling were shocked that the counsellor had mentioned it. As one thirty five year old woman said: " I thought that was quite bizarre because I would never dream of doing that. Never. I mean that to me is quite abhorrent, it really is. ... - It's like cutting your legs off in case you're going to get run over by a train, which is crazy." (GC07) Those who were aware of this option before the consultation, including those had come with the intention of discussing prophylactic mastectomy, acknowledged that it was a "big step" or regarded it as a "very drastic" or "radical" way of managing risk.
Reasons for rejecting or having prophylactic surgery For nearly half of the sample oophorectomy or mastectomy was not regarded as a viable option. These women rationalised their rejection of surgery in three ways: Firstly, - it was perceived as leading with the negative. The view that " if its not broke don't fix it" was frequently repeated. Many women said that removing healthy tissue was not acceptable or that it was tempting fate, they said they were they were healthy now but might not be as a result of surgery. Some women observed that even if one had breast cancer one would not necessarily have a mastectomy, therefore to remove healthy tissue was just overreacting.
A second contrasting theme emerged in the interviews which can be described as defeating the object of the exercise. Some women viewed cancer as ultimately uncontrollable. Thus, prophylactic surgery was perceived as a waste of time. These women did not believe that it would prevent them from getting cancer, they reasoned that following surgery the cancer would just develop somewhere else. As a twenty five year old woman said: "She did say about having my breasts taken away completely, but to be honest I think that's defeating the object if I walk round with no tits, you don't need to. ...If you're going to get it, it'll only come up somewhere else because it's one of them things. Cancer's not a thing, it's not like a cold. You've got a chance of getting it or you won't. It's either there or it's not. Now, if it don't come up in the breast and there's nowhere for it to come up, it will come up somewhere else and it won't be as easy to find." (GC26) Finally, some women talked of the social and financial costs of surgery, the fact that having an operation and the subsequent convalescence would interfere with their role as wife, mother and/or breadwinner. These women felt that their social obligations meant that they just could not, rather than would not, consider this option.
Two main reasons for undergoing prophylactic surgery were described by those women who were either currently making a decision to proceed with prophylactic surgery or who said they would seriously consider surgery in the future.
Firstly, many of the women who came to counselling talked of their obligations to others to find out about their risks and do something about them. For some women undergoing prophylactic surgery was seen as the only way of fulfilling these obligations, As a forty two year old woman who was considering a mastectomy said: " I feel a terrible sense of responsibility towards my young children and I'm virtually willing to do anything, if it really would guarantee there wouldn't be a problem" (GC 33) Secondly, the women who were willing to consider this option perceived themselves to be in great danger - they believed they would definitely develop cancer at some time thus, surgery was seen as removing the fear of cancer, as giving them more of a chance. As a 23 year old woman who was also considering a mastectomy observed: "Yes, you know, it is radical but if it takes away that fear, then that can only be a good thing. Because otherwise the fear will get you in the end." (P11) Similarly, a 36 year old woman who had a hysterectomy following genetic counselling said: "Well I knew it was a big operation, but I knew that by having it that would take away that fear, the fear of getting cancer there" (GC25) In addition, some women talked about other benefits of oophorectomy and hysterectomy namely, the fact that they would no longer menstruate or that the operation would relieve current gynaecological problems. As a twenty nine year old woman said, referring to her heavy periods, "...as far as I'm concerned I'll be glad to see the back of them". (GC29 ) The implications of prophylactic surgery Women who were considering prophylactic surgery and those who were not, talked of the negative implications or costs of this form of risk management. Firstly, when talking about mastectomy many women talked of the problems with breast reconstruction. Some were so worried about breast implants that they said that if they ever had to seriously consider this option then they would not have their breasts reconstructed.
The onset of menopause post-operatively was perceived as the main cost of oophorectomy. All women irrespective of age or parity acknowledged that because oophorectomy results in the immediate cessation of fertility it was only a viable option if a woman had completed her family, all said that the decision to have this operation would be much more difficult if that was not the case. As one thirty six year old woman said following her hysterectomy: "I think if it had been ovaries pre having the kids I'd have felt really differently, now I couldn't care less about my ovaries."(GC25) Age appeared to be an influential factor in how the other side-effects of the menopause were perceived. Women in their early to mid forties were less worried about entering the menopause. They had all completed childbearing so fertility was not an issue, and all had a greater familiarity with the effects of menopause. For this group the costs were seen as the physical side effects, for example, potential weight gain and regulating Hormone Replacement Therapy. The younger women, those in their twenties and thirties, were much more negative about the menopause. Many said that they were worried that they would age prematurely and become "an old woman " if they had an oophorectomy. In contrast to the older women younger women focused upon the psychological side effects of menopause.
Thus, the fear most frequently expressed by this group was that having this operation would have a negative effect upon their personality, many thought they would just have permanent premenstrual tension as a thirty one year old woman who had decided not to have an oophorectomy explained: "...'cos I talked with [my husband] about it and I said to him, "you know, when I'm pre-menstrual I' m a bitch, I'm such a cow, I'm awful to the kids, for 48 hours when I ovulate I'm so awful to live with - if I had to have both of my ovaries removed would you still love me while my hormone replacement was being sorted out?" And we talked for hours about that because that was one of the things that frightened me, if they took my ovaries out I would go into immediate menopause ... And that really frightened me, that I would be so difficult to live with, I would put stress and pressure on my family." (GC01)
The view that menopause resulted in personality change, or even madness, was frequently voiced by these younger women they talked of people they knew who had become "unbalanced" following the menopause as a twenty seven year old woman said: "I've seen a few people go through the menopause and some of them it's sent completely off the rails." (GC17) Finally, women talked about the implications of prophylactic surgery for gender identity and their image of themselves as a sexual being. Both breasts and ovaries were described as "womanly bits" and losing them was perceived as a threat to one's femininity. A 29 year old woman taking about the loss of one's ovaries and uterus said "...a lot of people think they're not part woman if these things happen to them " (GC22) Whilst another woman who had undergone a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy at thirty nine years said: "It felt very threatening to be a woman with no breasts, it really did I think, before I had it done." (GC47) The ovaries' role in defining gender identity was seen as bound up with their reproductive and hormonal functions - the ability to reproduce was perceived as part of being a woman. thus the feminine body was seen as related to the maternal body. A forty one year old woman described her feelings about her ovaries as follows: "I like that feeling in there. I know they're inside me, and I like it there, and I like the eggs being there. I like that, it feels very womanly." (GC47) A thirty one year old woman expressed similar sentiments : "You have your ovaries, and they are for producing eggs to make babies, and if they're wasted every month that's part of nature's cycle. But some women, when they have hysterectomies have terrible sadness because they think, oh well I'm not a full woman any more because I haven't got a uterus or a cervix or ovaries, and it does cause people emotional damage." (GGO1)
The ovaries role in producing hormones was also seen as crucial in preserving gender identity as a thirty one year old woman said about ovaries "... they give you all the hormones that you need and you are a woman...". (CO) Prior to having a hysterectomy one thirty six year old woman said "... you don't want to lose your ovaries because you think I might become a man." (GC25) The role played by the breasts in the social construction of gender identity was a frequent theme in discussions of mastectomy. As a forty one year old woman noted : "I think there's also a society thing of the way a woman's body is perceived, and I don't think men are immune from that. And the way women are looked at, like a physical thing, and the breasts are a very important part of that." (GC47) The view that breasts are public displays of one's femininity was repeated throughout the interviews and was most clearly articulated by another forty one year old woman who commented that: "Our society's vision of feminity is not tied up with what's inside, it's what's on the outside." (GC08) It was this external-internal or public-private dimension that ultimately differentiated attitudes towards the different types of surgery. Having your breasts removed was regarded as much more radical because it was public, consequently if these women had to make a choice between them then they would choose to lose the ovaries before their breasts in every case. As a 25 year old woman observed: "Your boobs you can see, and if my ovaries are still there or not makes no difference, because nobody else can see them. My boobs everyone can see and I know they're there, and if they weren't there that would be part of my sexuality gone. But my ovaries if I had my ovaries removed now, and couldn't have children well that would bother me, not as much as having my boobs removed." (GC35) A similar point of view was articulated by a thirty six year old woman before she had her hysterectomy, she said: "... when I go topless it's not really going to notice that I haven't got any ovaries, but it sure would if I didn't have any tits, wouldn't it?" (GC25) However, it wasn't just the fact that their bodies might look different to others following surgery that worried these women, for they did not just regard their breasts as things-for-others. Mastectomy constituted a threat to personal identity - removing one's breasts was perceived as losing a part of oneself in a way that removing one's ovaries was not. This was clearly related to the fact that one's breasts were external. They were visible not only to others but to the women themselves. Some women said that it had taken a long time for them to become comfortable with the fact that their body differed from representations of the idealised female body and that overcoming the fact that they looked different from the perfect woman had meant that they had developed a special relationship with their breasts - they defined their uniqueness. Many talked of how their breasts were fundamental to the image they had of themselves as a sexual being , they saw themselves as busty or flat-chested whilst others said they used their breasts to create an image of themselves for others, for example, they were known as a "cleavage person", if their breasts were removed they felt that the persona which they presented to the world would be fundamentally altered.
The role played by the breasts in defining one's identity is vividly illustrated in a forty one year old woman's account of how she had felt following her prophylactic mastectomy. "What did I feel I had lost? Um... a lot of my femininity. A part of my body. My breasts to me were a very important part of my body, very much linked with my mum and the relationship I had with my mum. .. And my breasts were something I'd only begun to like about myself in the last couple of years before I took that decision. ... yes, it's like my breasts were part of the deepest part of me, and the outwardly feminine part ..." (GC47) Following surgery this woman had a complete breast reconstruction, however, although she acknowledged that she still looked like a woman and that her reconstructed breasts were more aesthetically pleasing than the original ones, she experienced a deep feeling of loss, which was related to the fact that she felt compromised as a sexual being, she said: "I'm beginning to be very aware that if I have a new relationship, I'm not as I seem. Physically I'm not as I seem. And I'm not sure how to handle that, and there's an obvious difference in somebody who is like physically complete, and basically in some sense I'm not physically complete."
Finally, it must be noted that despite their acknowledgement of the negative implications of this form of risk management all the women who had undergone prophylactic surgery regarded it as one of the best things they had done. Although some were still suffering from the side effects of hormone-replacement therapy or menopause and the woman who had a mastectomy had lost the sense of feeling in her breasts, all those who had managed their risk in this way perceived prophylactic surgery as removing a life-threatening risk - as far as these women were concerned they no longer had dangerous bodies. In conclusion, this study raises interesting questions about the relationship between the physical body and gender identity. Analysis revealed that these women perceive the body parts associated with sexuality and reproduction (breasts and ovaries) as having a different meaning or value, insofar as they play a different role in the construction of gender identity. Ovaries were described in terms of their hormonal and reproductive functions, thus, the maternal and hormonal body were associated with gender identity in these women's accounts. Breasts, on the other hand, were described as publicly displaying one's feminity, in this case gender identity was related to the sexual body. The fact that ovaries were perceived as internal and private body parts, whereas breasts were seen as external and public, meant that removal of these different body parts was viewed as compromising gender identity in different ways.
Nina Hallowell has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from the University of Stirling and a D.Phil in General Linguistics from the University of Oxford. She was a psychology lecturer at De Montfort University from 1991 -1994. She is currently working as a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge on a research project which investigates the psychosocial implications of new genetic technologies.
Centre for Family Research
Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
University of Cambridge
Free School Lane
Cambridge, CB2 3RF
Avoidance coping stategies for minimizing the impact of HIV
"Help is the Sunny side of Control."
Centre for Health Policy, Department of Community Health and South African Medical Research Council
A qualitative study was conducted in order to gain insight into HIV positive patients' conceptions regarding appropriate coping behaviours. Unstructured interviews with 27 HIV-positive patients at the Johannesburg General HIV outpatient clinic in South Africa were conducted in order to elicit participants' descriptions of their coping behaviours. Findings suggest that the dominant tendency reported by participants is to favour avoidance coping over more active coping strategies. In this regard, avoidance coping is seen to include the rejection of negative ideation regarding HIV, and the attempt to present oneself as a normal rather than an HIV infected person. The preferred coping strategies reported by participants can therefore be seen to fly in the face of HIV/AIDS counselling theory, which assumes the beneficial effects of active or attention as opposed to avoidance coping. Implications for the management of the disease by way of counselling and other supportive interventions are considered. It is argued that counselling may often be a place of struggle until counsellor and client develop a shared understanding of what it means to cope with HIV.
HIV infection is generally understood to present a formidable challenge to health care institutions, and to contemporary societies, in general. In fact, it is arguable that HIV control functions as a test case for the very suppositions upon which modern society and in particular, modern forms of social control, are based. This is because HIV infection is not presently controlled by way of external factors impacting upon the individual, such as the incarceration, or alternatively, the medical cure, of carriers. In consequence, ultimate responsibility for the control of the disease falls to the individual, as a matter for internal control. That this is fortuitous with respect to a new disease called HIV is why it presents a test-case for the limits of contemporary forms of social control. The increasing extent to which the individual in modern society is responsible for the control of all aspects of self, including the body, is clearly documented by Foucault. The operations for the development of individuals competent to this task are essentially psychological ones. Failures on the level of social control are therefore addressed accordingly as psychological failures. Increasingly, the management of failures in the social production of responsible citizens is therefore addressed by psychology/counselling, ultimately in conjunction with the law. In the case of HIV infection, however, society has been presented with a threat for which, in the production and re-production of individuals, it has been taken unprepared. We may have hoped that with the requisite information at his or her disposal, the individual was already sufficiently constituted to secure control over HIV disease. The extent to which the contemporary individual is ready and able to internalize this new responsibility, has however, proved limited. Instead, an almost infinite array of attempts to displace responsibility for the control of the epidemic onto others has been displayed. We have even banded together as groups again in order to displace responsibility onto other groups. Only with great effort has global society begun to succeed in relegating any further or ongoing transmission to the category of individual deviance, and in handing over any further resistance to psychology for the necessary interventions to be made.
HIV/AIDS and the care of the self.
The psychological self, or "identity" is constituted, by way of a set of culturally-specific operations, in relation to the body. This relation is, for the most part, transparent. However, any illness experience, or experience of threat to the body, brings the question of the relationship between self and body to the fore.
In contemporary western society, the responsibility of the individual for the management and care of self, both mental and physical, is heightened in direct proportion to increased gains on the level of the individual's "freedom of choice". As our relation to the world is increasingly a matter of choice, so our own well-being is increasingly our own responsibility. Territories previously conceived of as external to the self: for example, events in the mind such as dreams and events in the body such as sickness, are increasingly perceived of as being attributable to the self. To the extent that different diseases implicate aspects of the body and/or mind for which we are responsible to greater and lesser degrees, different diseases also implicate the self to differing degrees.
However, their can be little doubt that, in relation to HIV, the self is construed as being maximally responsible on a number of levels. With those exceptions fittingly identified as "innocent victims", we are ourselves responsible for getting and having it and we are responsible for keeping it (or not passing it on). We are also responsible, in the interim, for minimizing and controlling its impact upon our bodies and our selves. In fact, there is hardly any aspect of HIV infection for which the individual is not held accountable by himself and others. As a terminal disease, however, HIV/AIDS presents a particularly strong threat to that very self which is responsible for its management. The injunction for self-care, previously ever- present, is now, therefore, vastly intensified. Fight the disease with a compromised immune system, and fight it with the full force of your remaining psychological resources. Fight it until, and then prolong, the end. Thus we are invited to engage in a prolonged and heroic battle against certain defeat. The modern tragedy and the modern hero are born. The AIDS victim is no more. You are yourself the enemy, but in fighting your self-made destiny; you are redeemed.
In AIDS: A Guide to Survival, Peter Tatchell's approach to resisting AIDS is premised on an "holistic" approach to health: The idea that illness is not a problem which is localised solely in a particular part of the body, and that it is not a purely physical thing; but that the mind, body and emotions are interrelated and interdependent parts of the person which interact to cause sickness and wellness. This understanding of health corresponds with a notion of healing as a process which should treat the person, not just the disease; and treat the deep, underlying roots of the illness rather than its superficial symptoms.
"Sickness is not simply something external that 'happens' to people as passive objects. People often participate in the process of sickness by negative attitudes, expectations and actions; by low self-esteem and self-confidence; by lack of a purpose or motivation in life; by guilt, depression and stress; and by inadequate diet, relaxation, sleep and exercise. In all these different ways, people contribute to undermining their mental and physical defences against disease. This increases the likelihood of HIV infection developing into AIDS and decreases a person's chances of resisting and surviving the AIDS syndrome and its opportunistic infections and cancers." (p54).
"Being positive is Positive".
In a book entitled "Being Positive is Positive" the author referred to simply as Elizabeth, provides us with an example of someone who has a highly developed and expanded interpretation of the inter-relation between self and disease.
In the first instance, she attributes her infection to psychological and moral, rather than physiological, origins:
"In modern society, disease is an unpleasant malfunctioning of the body which has to be overcome as soon as possible. ... But disease can also be seen as the materialization of a conflict or problem in our emotional, intellectual or spiritual "body" which we fail to recognise and treat and which later shifts to the physical level."
As a result, Elizabeth sees her HIV infection as a necessary 'warning' or internal challenge, rather than as an external threat:
"I think a disease, or the threat of becoming sick in the case of HIV-infected people, can also be seen as a great chance to reflect on our way of life, to ask whether we feel content and balanced in the important aspects of our lives or whether we would rather change something to live more happily. I have often wondered what I may have done wrong so that my body has had to warn me by threatening to become seriously sick. I haven't come up with any clear answers. I enjoy the process of becoming more aware of what I am doing and how I am doing it though."
Elizabeth proceeds to explore two aspects of her personality which she feels were implicated in her infection. The first of these was doing what other people expected from her, rather than what was best for her:
"For instance, I slept with many men without really enjoying it, just because they wanted to and I didn't have the courage to say no."
In this way, the sexual origin of HIV infection is construed as a failure on the psychological level of self-assertion, rather than understood in terms of the physiological route of HIV transmission alone. It is for this reason that Elizabeth can compare her disease to cancer:
"...typical cancer patients are those really 'nice' people who put all their energies into pleasing others instead of listening to their own needs and desires to be nice to themselves."
The other aspect of her personality which Elizabeth feels was implicated in her infection is her "intellectual" tendency to perceive the world in a negative way:
"I just didn't maintain an optimistic outlook on life and the world."
To the extent that HIV infection has facilitated these realizations, Elizabeth feels that it has had a very positive effect on her personal development. It is for this reason that she endorses the view that "Being positive is positive" and suggests that "AIDS means Accelerated Inner Development."
HIV infection also means that changing these aspects of her personality is now a matter of critical necessity for Elizabeth. She argues that whereas people who are not threatened by AIDS have the "choice" between "happiness" and "desperation", HIV- positive people do not have this choice, if they are to fight the virus effectively. In the following quotation, Elizabeth's understanding of the interrelation between happiness, psychological well-being and physical health is clearly elaborated.
"You have the choice: You can concentrate on the negative aspects of life and be desperate, or you can concentrate on the positive aspects of life and be happy. ... However, I think for a HIV - positive person it is a matter of survival. If we don't fill ourselves with positive energy, our immune system will lose its strength to fight the virus."
Here, the relation between happiness and physical health is a direct one, in so far as "positive energy" strengthens the immune system.
Paradoxically, HIV infection has, however, made "being positive" somewhat easier for Elizabeth. By forcing her to come to terms with her fears, including her fear of death, her HIV infection has made it easier for her to confront the challenges she has failed to overcome before.
"It [HIV] means that I am no longer afraid of death and that by overcoming this fundamental fear, I have become less fearful in general. Once the fear of death has lost its importance, all of the other horrors seem minor."
Counselling: The Role of Narrative in Self-Care.
According to Arendt, narratives are about acting and suffering. They are about doing something and what happens as a result. The therapeutic plot is one in which the actor must then go out to battle, so to speak, against adversity, actively incurring more suffering in a fight to overcome damage, both to himself and to his body.
It is generally assumed that the search for meaning in events is itself a coping strategy which leads to increased self-mastery over a situation.
"We make as well as tell stories of our lives and this is of fundamental importance in the clinical world. Narrative plays a central role in clinical work not only as a retrospective account of past events but as a form healers and patients actively seek to impose on clinical time."
It is for this reason that so-called "avoidance-coping" or "denial", through which the consideration of stressful events is blocked, is considered to be minimally adaptive. It is also considered self-evident that the way in which people understand events such as illness will determine both the extent to which, and the manner in which, they will cope with their disease. It is for both of these reasons that counselling is considered to be a necessary aspect of the care of people with HIV.
The extent to which psychological well-being, or coping, implicates a constructive search for meaning on the part of the HIV infected person devolves upon the extent to which HIV infection is seen to impact negatively upon an individual's identity or definition of self.
In this regard, two critical losses are incurred. Firstly, the fatality of the disease presents a fundamental threat to the continuation of the self or the projection of the self into the future. Much of the meaning of our lives is derived by deferral, and dependant upon projections into the future. Terminal illness inevitably generates a narrative loss; the task of counselling is to accomodate a new body and to create a plot in which the 'ending' towards which one strives invokes a sense of what it means to be 'healed' when one will never be 'cured', such that the central role of hope in structuring the meaning of the present can be regained.
Secondly, the representation of HIV/AIDS in society has consistently been geared towards distancing and isolating the disease as "other". When the "other" becomes salient to our definition of self, there can be little doubt that this presents a substantial threat to positive representations of self to self.
It is for this reason that the re-definition of self and a full consideration of the relation between HIV and self is seen to be required. Counselling provides the framework within which the arduous work of re-narration (negotiation, assimilation and incorporation) is effected. "History-taking" is no longer diagnostic. Rather, hearing/constructing the patient's story becomes an important aspect of therapeutic intervention. In the counselling exchange, we learn what we are like, what our experience is, how things are with us. (Taylor, 1986).
Elizabeth's narrative graphically illustrates the kind of subject which counselling constructs; one who examines herself. Silverman (1990) argues that what this ultimately suggests is that counsellors face subjects whom they themselves have constructed.
To view HIV/AIDS counselling as part of a progressive (World Health Organisation) programme of 'enablement' or 'empowernment' must not blind us to the broader cultural agenda of which it is also a part; the control or regulation of problematic behaviour by way of an incitement to speak. (Foucault, 1979).
Centre for Health Policy
Department of Community Health
P.O Box 1038
MINDSCAPES: Embodiments of souls
University of Zimbabwe
Arising from the discussion following the presentation the question was raised as to the possible therapeutic effect or implications of mindscaping. One questioner made the comment that it should not make much difference whether the painting was more of the artist's mind or that of the subject - the therapeutic value could still be significant. The author agreed that there seemed to be potential therapeutic implications and that these became evident from early on in the mindscaping process - the subject became very much calmer and more relaxed as the project developed, and even today she regards the whole process as one which was beneficial to her. According to Bee, Michele told her that she talks constantly about the experience and how good it has been for her. Her mindscape now hangs in a central position in her living room and she enjoys discussion about it with any friends who visit. Mindscape painting seems to be a natural combination of my work as a psychologist and life as an artist. I intend developing it both as a scientific experiment, and as an artistic tool for exploring the minds of anyone who wishes to engage themselves in such endeavour.
This paper examines the nature of abstract-surrealist art and proposes a conception of art involving among other beings the "embodiments of souls". For the artist-psychologist, this means going beyond the blinds of collective mentality into the worlds of individual minds. The author's abstract-surrealist mindscapes (to be shown) contrast with "more understandable" art in the same manner as existentialist-phenomenology contrasts with neo-behaviourism. Attention is drawn to the nature of the status of cognitive psychology within the currently emerging but as yet unnamed psychological paradigm: Despite its recognition of mind, is cognitive psychology blinded in any way by its overreliance on strictly empirical procedures? Is it neglecting the "logic of illogicality" and thus ignoring a powerful creative tool? When painting mindscapes the artist-psychologist enters the minds of his subject-models using intersubjective qualitative research methods. The resulting mindscapes facilitate self-understanding and serve as a creative psychological tool. Social representations have become a dominant theme in the post-modern world of instant communication. Paradoxically people are no longer individuals: they are part of the ongoing massage. Hence some subjects find themselves unable to comprehend their mindscape, a portrait of their own minds. They have lost the capacity for seeing that which is not obvious. Given this understanding - through the artist-psychologist - they may experience a deeper understanding of their own reality.
This paper examines the nature of abstract-surrealist art and proposes a conception of art involving among other beings the "embodiments of souls":. For the artist-psychologist, this means going beyond the blinds of collective mentality into the worlds of individual minds.
I realise there are several thorny points here e.g. what is the meaning of 'soul', is collective mentality knowable, are minds ever wholly individual, and is it really feasible to paint a mindscape? Added to these, what exactly is meant by abstract-surrealism? I will begin with the latter question, since it is probably the easiest to answer. In doing this it is necessary for me first to refer briefly to my experience and development as an artist.
My first three paintings were done in the early flush of adolescence (around 1936/37), oil on plywood. I had read about surrealism and seen some works of Dali, and all three of these first paintings were crudely surrealistic. I took them to the art class at school for the new art-master to see, but before he did so they were appropriated by an elder boy who really liked them and I never saw them again.
My next attempt at painting began as my first marriage was disintegrating. There was a very powerful urge within me to paint and it was this hitherto unexpressed creative impulse that led me inexorably to divorce. I could not be creative within the context of marriage. Despite being a moderately successful neuropsychologist, I had an overpowering need to paint, to get to know artists and their modes of living, and indeed to be an artist myself. I had to do this with very little money, a rented garret in Wolmarans Street in the heart of Johannesburg, and some paints, brushes and plywood. The results were exciting. The first five abstract paintings of this period which I submitted to a student's exhibition at the University of Witwatersrand were accepted.
This led to a series of exhibitions in Johannesburg and Durban and to a period of painting in South Africa, Ghana, USA and Nigeria lasting from the late fifties to the end of the seventies. It was during this time that I began to develop the style which later I would call 'Abstract-Surrealism', discovering only recently that this term was already in use. Thus John Griffiths, in his paper 'Movements in Abstract Art (see Papadakis, 1987) refers to abstract-surrealism, defining it as "searching the individual and collective unconscious for arbitrary form, eliciting forms from formless dreams, or co-operating with the essential dream work of an inchoate world". Interestingly he cited two artists - Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) and Antoni Tapies (1923-) both of whom indirectly influenced my own development, in the sense that I saw them as painters whose work I thought important and significant.
My own definition of the work that I do is similar to that of Griffiths, but in the case of Mindscapes my painting aims to portray aspects of another person's mind through the process of interacting with that person, asking questions that I think are significant, and detecting cues pertaining to the nature of that person's mind and soul. I shall discuss these procedures in more detail shortly.
For me, abstract-surrealism serves to help understand the irrational. You can't do this by making it rational. You have to be irrational. Some people would say that this is an absurdity. It is probably a logical absurdity but logic is not what we are concerned with - which is living and experiencing the world as it really is - a kind of phenomenological transcendentalism. By observing the world of people one can understand how much of human existence is irrational in the profoundest sense. Abstract-surrealism portrays these absurdities by converting them into interrelated visual forms depicting the complex mysteries of soul and spirit.
Picasso rejected abstract art on the grounds that it is a "bag into which the viewer can throw anything he wants to get rid of" (Gilot & Lake, 1965). He believed that you cannot impose your thought on people if there is no relation between your painting and their visual habits. What he did was to present realism by simply jumbling up all the parts in order to "make it impossible to escape the questions it raises". Picasso's approach in my eyes was his realistic depiction of parts of a whole arranged in unexpected ways, a visual demonstration of relativity theory in artistic action. This is simple logic. And the interesting result of course was his incredible impact on the art world. One might now question why? The answer is simple - with extraordinary skill he fragmented everyday reality and rearranged it according to the multidemsional logic of cubism. In some senses he was a visual Einstein.
While Picasso made an incredible impact on the pre-1960 art world, obviously now the world picture is quite different. Almost everyone today knows in one way or another the prevalence of absurdity - or contradictions of logic - in the contemporary world.
The present near universal condition of poverty, war, ethnic cleansing, child rape, abuse of women, etc is a function of total irrationality, which clearly is now more fundamental than rationality. Which brings me to an autobiographic consideration of the paradigm shift in psychology which took effect in the sixties, with the collapse of neobehaviourism and the emergence of the twin streams of humanistic and cognitive psychology.
It was early in 1961 that I was attracted to Ghana to join a new research institute there. Apart from being immediately impressed by the social warmth of the many people I met, I was able to travel over most of the country, especially the southern half, conducting a variety of studies of infant and child development, helped in each town or village by a student from the university of Ghana who lived in that town or village. I do not intend here to go into details about this research, other than to comment on the resultant overwhelming impact on me of what I came to call the social intelligence of traditional Ghanaian culture (Mundy-Castle, 1968b, 1974).
Put briefly, my proposition deriving from this research, supported later by psychological research in Nigerial rural areas, was that traditional West African cultures saw the cultivation of social intelligence as more important than technological intelligence, the opposite being the case in western cultures. This difference between Euroamerican and traditional West African conceptions of intelligence seems very much to be the result of the divisive effects of literacy, yielding contrasting culturally mediated developmental scripts.
Literacy and the schooling that goes with it entails and engenders individualism, with the result that co-operation in school classes (called cheating) is inevitably penalised (Greenfield in Greenfield & Cocking, 1994). Perceptual wholism - as assessed by Gestalt Continuation test results among rural Ghanaians in the early sixties - is slowly if at all transformed into analycity by school-based literacy, suggesting that technological intelligence is analytic thinking removed from its larger social context (Mundy-Castle, 1968a, l991). This decontextualisation is at the root of the independence scripts favoured by western nations, contrasted with the interdependence scripts of many third world cultures (see Greenfield & Cocking, 1994). The former give rise to a greater emphasis on co-operative social intelligence, the latter on technological intelligence, with associated encouragement of analytic thinking, individualism and competition.
Forgive me if I seem to be straying from the mindscapes - I am not. What I am drawing attention to is that the characteristics of social intelligence favoured by traditional African and other third world cultures fits the newly emerging post-positivism paradigm far more closely that the old positivist paradigm, which so long dominated western psychology, politics and economics.
This is evident in the following characterisations, adapted from the work of
Guba and Lincoln.
POST-POSITIVIST POSITIVIST PARADIGM
Mutually causal Linearly causal
My reason for contrasting these two paradigms is that in my own case as I grew up in England between 1923 and 1941 I found myself quite alienated from my own culture, unable to fit into social situations, to behave in the right manner and so on, and felt somewhat like an emotional cripple, compensated by some bodily skills like running and fencing. The prevailing values of social life seemed wholly wrong. The result was a form of underground rebellion against all in authority and all that smacked thereof, resulting in being caught in and even confessing to unlawful acts with associated mental and corporal punishment. It was my perception of this unformulated paradigm of the future, reinforced by the avant garde artists and poets of that time, which ultimately convinced me that I too was an artist, and that was how I would live and act.
In this process may be seen the forward-looking nature of the artist, whose works often anticipate in a not-easy-to-understand manner what is likely to be easily understood in the future. Art goes beyond the present, and in so doing excites hostility, especially between powers in charge and those who know they (the powers) are barking up the wrong tree.
Abstract-surrealism, like other comparable artistic approaches (visual, verbal, musical, etc.) is revolutionary in the sense that it demands throwing away old preconceptions and opening oneself to the unexpected without fear, guilt or shame.
Collective Mentality, Individuals and the Soul
Recall the questions raised at the start of this paper - what is collective mentality, is anyone truly an individual, what is the meaning of soul? I will now try to give some answers so as to help understand just what the idea of a mindscape implies.
My first assertion is that mind is a process, which, so far as we are concerned, is primary in the universe. Indeed I would argue that it is inherent therein, and part of God's big bang.
Concerning collective mentality, two streams of thought are important - social representation theory, adapted by Moscovici (see Farr & Moscovici, 1984) from Durkheim's notion of the collective mind, and the work of the Russian linguistic school, notably Volosinov/Bakhtin (see Sinha, 1988; Wertsch, 1991).
Moscovici's social representations are not unlike Kuhn's (1962) notion of scientific paradigms. They are systems of values, ideas and practices which serve to establish a meaningful order within people's social and material world by providing codes for sociolinguistic exchange. Social representations are created and recreated by people in interaction with each other, especially during conversation and dialogue as well as through the media. They exist not in any individual's mind, but in the world of social discourse. They prescribe what people should talk about, how they should do so, and how they should conduct themselves according to social situations, in the same way as a scientific paradigm dictates, for example, about what and how psychologists should talk with each other and do their research. I recall the peculiar looks I was given long ago (circa 1955) in America when I said to a group of eager neobehaviourists that I wasn't all that impressed by the work of Skinner, and that anyway I believed any self-respecting psychologist would be wrong to disregard the fact of our minds.
The message of the Russian linguistic school bears similarities to that of Moscovici - social psychology is not located anywhere in the "souls" of communicating people but entirely and completely in the word, the gesture, and the act. "Individual consciousness is not the architect of the ideological superstructure, but only a tenant lodging in the social edifice of ideological signs ... the reality of the inner psyche is the same reality as that of the sign ... the subjective psyche is to be localised somewhere between the organism and the outside world ... the organism and the outside world meet here in the sign" (Volosinov/Bakhtin, 1929 - see Sinha, 1988).
Meaning is central in the sociocultural approach to mediated action. Who owns meaning? Answers range from "no one" (deconstructionist) to "particular individuals". Bakhtin's approach lies between the two, being grounded in dialogicality - there are always at least two voices (Wertsch, 1991).
The conclusion here seems to work against the idea of anyone being an individual per se. All our psyches are functions of discourse with others. Nevertheless, I believe that each of us makes our own interpretations of the collective voice - we are in one way the same, but in other ways unique. And it is on this unique quality that I try to focus when creating a person's mindscape. For me this is their individuality. This is their soul.
The mindscape on display at this conference is that of a young mother of three - Michele. I met her in 1993 and had a friendly contact with her through my partner, Bee. Before I began the painting I spent many hours observing her, questioning her and generally interacting on several levels. Part of this interaction required her to respond to a set of questions. She seemed to enjoy the whole experience and participated in each session with confidence and enthusiasm. These were the questions I asked:
1. Tell me your worst experience.
2. Tell me about the memory that gives you most pleasure.
3. What is your favourite pastime?
4. Food and drink - what kinds are favoured?
5. How important are:Sex, Security, Love, Family, Health, Looks/Appearance, Attraction Level?
6 What do you consider is your life role?
7 Are you more...
spiritual than logical?
orderly than disorderly?
emotional than withdrawn?
warm than cool?
open to others than closed?
complex than simple/straightforward?
8 Do you prefer to operate according to your beliefs (belief-oriented) or according to facts (data driven)?
9 Which of the following statements do you believe most? Give reasons.
a. "The whole is more than the sum of its parts"
b. "The best way to understand complex things is to analyse them into simple constituents (or parts)".
10. Here are two word lists. Say the one in each pair that you like more or that you feel is more important - giving your reasons:
cultural/artistic etc. philistine/materialistic
(not fixed in (of definite scope or
character,. nature - limited in time,
extent etc) space or character)
11 What is your favourite colour? What colour do you like least?
12 Picture preference: (24 works of the artist were shown for sorting into 4 groups according to preference.
13 Colour layouts - Two different layouts using the same colours - one orderly and fragmented, the other unitary.
From her responses I sensed that Michele had a very strong personality although there were interesting contrasts. On the two word lists she was equally split between the post-positivist and positivist categories (dissimilarity, holistic, materialistic, social, determinate, individualist). When shown the two different colour layouts she chose the unitary layout, possibly because it was more wholistic and coherent.
When she chose her picture preferences she reinforced the impression that I had already gained from a previous interview. She is very maternal - the memory that gave her most pleasure (question no. 2) was the birth of her children. She also chose pictures with bold colours, which seemed to echo her strong personality. The maternal pictures she selected are very simple line drawings, the rest full-colour, complex compositions.
Having completed the study, I then got down to painting the mindscape. When I paint I divorce myself from the reality around me and immerse myself in the reality of the picture. It is almost like going into a trance, but I am actually observing what I am doing and monitoring it and directing it to some extent. To me it is as if I am floating in a visual stream of consciousness, directing my flow with subtle movements of my hand.
I had wondered what reaction I would get from Michele when I showed her her mindscape. She too had wondered what would happen if she did not like it. At one point she visited my house and commented to my partner that I seemed to be abstracted. "Of course," Bee replied, "he's painting your mind!" Michele's reply to that was "I feel quite naked ... stripped bare". It was a feeling which she was not uncomfortable with (and which led to an interesting denouement later).
Then come the unveiling, the first viewing of her mindscape. I was immensely relieved when she exclaimed "Oh wow! I love it!" and immediately telephoned her brother to come and view the painting.
She loved the central area of light - to her it was a spiritual sign for the future. Her past was a dark blue, shaded area at the top of the painting and she recognised complexities in an area of finely detailed, interlocking lines. These complexities go back to her early twenties when she left her parents after an altercation about her lifestyle. At this time, too, the man she felt she was destined to marry died under extraordinary circumstances. She recognised the unfinished lines at the bottom of the painting as suggesting freedom of future directions in her life.
Michele is very happy with her mindscape. She wants to "just sit and explore it". She asked me if I thought mindscapes could be a means of psychotherapy and I replied that the thought had occurred to me too. I am looking forward to discovering how she relates to it after a time. It is interesting to note in relation to her "feeling naked" comment to Bee, that at the formal handing over of her Mindscape to her at a function in her home, Michele felt the need to strip. She disappeared into an adjoining room and reappeared - minus clothes, but skilfully concealing herself by holding the painting in front of her whilst being photographed by a male friend of the family.
My next mindscape is scheduled. This time it will be a Shona woman with a PhD in psychology. It will be interesting to see how the mindscapes differ because they are very different people.
Gilot, F. & Lake, C. (1965) Life with Picasso. London, Nelson.
Greenfield, P.M. & Cocking, R.R. (Eds) (1994) Cross-Cultural Roots of Minority Child Development. New Jersey, Erlbaum.
Kuhn T. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Mundy-Castle, A.C. (1968a) Gestalt continuation and design copying in Ghanaian children, Ghana Journal of Child Development, 1, 40 - 63
Mundy-Castle, A.C. (1968b December) ...---... Paper presented at a workshop in social psychology, the Makerere Institute of Social Research and Syracuse University, New York.
Mundy-Castle, A.C. (1974) Social and technological intelligence in Western and non-Western cultures, in S. Pilowski (ed), Cultures in Collision, Adelaide, Australian National Association for Mental Health. Reprinted in Universitas, Legon, University of Ghana, 1974, 4, 41-57
Mundy-Castle, A.C. (1991, June/July) Commentary and discussion. In P.M. Greenfield and R.R. Cocking (Chairs), Continuities and discontinuities in the cognitive socialisation of minority children. Proceedings of a workshop, Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Representation, Washington. D.C.
Papadakis, A. (Ed) (1987) Abstract Art and the Rediscovery of the Spiritual, London, Academy Group Ltd.
Sinha, C. (1988) Language and Representation. Hemel Hempstead, Harvester-Wheatsheaf.
Wertsch J.V. (1991) Voices of the Mind: a Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action. Cambridge, Harvard University Press
Alastair Mundy-Castle, Professor of Psychology, graduated from Cambridge University in 1948 after serving as a flying instructor with the Royal Air Force during the 2nd World War. He went on to study electro-encephalography with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa and published many papers in leading international scientific journals, including Nature. In 1961 he moved to Ghana, serving as Principal Research Officer with the Academy of Sciences in Accra, working on the introduction of a total approach to health in developing countries. He moved to USA in 1967 to take up a three year research fellowship with the distinguished and versatile Jerome Bruner, then Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard University. He later spent many years as Professor of Psychology at the University of Lagos, and is currently serving as Visiting Professor at the University of Zimbabwe. On the artistic side, Mundy-Castle has held exhibitions of his unusual paintings in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, America, England and Zimbabwe. He has works in private collections in all these countries as well as in Spain, Holland, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, Scotland, Germany, Canada, Switzerland and Fiji. Here is an academic who believes that "art and science are one" and there is no doubt that his art has been influenced by his psychological background. Other significant influences on the development of his art and philosophy are artists Paul Klee, Jackson Pollock, the South African artist Douglas Portway, writers James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Malcolm Lowry, and philosophers John Wisdom and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
49 Kent Road
Dialogical space, differance, and desire:
conversations on the margins
Centaur Counselling & Consulting Services, Vancouver, Canada
If one posits therapeutic conversations as a text which continuously unfolds through the process of dialogic intercourse, then the exploration of the margins of this text--as a source of knowledges as to what shapes, informs, constitutes, and restrains the spoken text--presents as a viable therapeutic exercise to deconstruct the dominance of the problem-story. Such knowledges from the margins of the spoken text are those discourses that not only specify what has been said, but--more importantly for the dissolution of problems--alludes to that which has not yet been said. By evoking conversations from the margins, differential knowledges can be brought forth in a serial deconstruction of the dominant problematic text.
Let us space. The art of this text is the air it causes to circulate between its screens. The chainings are invisible, everything seems improvised or juxtaposed. The text induces by agglutinating rather than by demonstrating, by coupling and uncoupling, gluing and ungluing rather than by exhibiting the continuous, and analogical, instructive, suffocating necessity of a discursive rhetoric [Derrida, in Kamuf, 1991;p4.].
Stories of lives and/or relationships beset by problems cast a luminescent shadow - the shadow of the possibility of the problem's negation or non-existence. Even if the problem has been lifelong in its duration, a person entering therapy does so on the basis of - at the very least - the desire for her/his life and/or relationship(s) to be somehow different from how it is or has been to date. It is hence useful to invite persons into a more thorough exploration of their desire for difference, contrasting the idea of their desire-realized with the problem story, and entering these differences which make a difference (Bateson, 1979) into the overall narrative of meaning the person has of their life. Such ideas of a difference which make a difference may be little more than the possibility of a non-problem narrative, what White and Epston (1990) might call an "alternate story". The task of the therapist is to be able to straddle these lines that separate the possible from the realized, the virtual from the actual, and to move freely between and among these domains of contrasts and contradictions.
2. PROTEST AND DESIRE:
Persons enter into therapy as the advancement of a protest against a problem (or series of problems) which has to some extent negatively had impact upon their lives or their relationships. Whatever the initial concern persons present in therapy, it is not the concern per se which leads them to consult a therapist; rather, it is the desire for change, a desire for the realization of a different way of being/relating, which compels persons--as a form of protest against the presenting concern--to enter therapy. It will be advanced here that 'desire' no longer be considered in Platonic or Freudian ideas of desire as the expression of lack, but rather as the productive force that sweeps throughout all assemblages of semiotic and existential registers (Deleuze and Guattari, 1977, 1987) that "is an active, non-referential linear flow" (Perez, 1990;p54).
There are two reasons for this. First, to conceive of 'desire as lack' is already to conceive of a state of affairs that at the time of conception does not 'exist'. However, the instant it is conceived as that which would satisfy a perceived lack (or absence) it becomes what Derrida might refer to as an 'absent presence'. This writer believes that the Deleuzean concept of the 'virtual' is a parallel idea to Derrida's 'absent presence'. Although the concepts of 'virtual-actual' and 'possible-real' will be discussed in more depth in the following section, for the sake of positioning this discussion, to conceive of an absence is to produce the possibility of that 'object' (in a loose sense) of desire. Hence desire is production (i.e. creative, constitutive, positive) in that by virtue of its terms of reference it forges a link from the absence of the present to the possible existance of an alternate present or future, thereby bringing that which is desired 'into' existence as a 'possible world'.
Second, desire is to understood as positive in that, according to Deleuze and Guattari (1977,1987), desire is the mobile force of attraction (connection, in desiring-production, the 'connective synthesis') as well as repulsion (in desiring-production, the 'disjunctive synthesis') : "Desire constantly couples continuous flows and partial objects that are by nature fragmentary and fragmented. Desire causes the current to flow, itself flows in turn, and breaks the flows" (1977;p5). In this sense then, desire runs throughout the entirety of existence being the flow which connects all the chains of desiring-machines, which are themselves breaks in those flows that connect and are the connections which cause the flow itself to circulate and connect. Unfortunately, to more adequately explore this second positive aspect of desire will require a detour that is too far afield from the present discussion.
We might say that persons entering therapy do so from a position of desire, in a manner analogous to Hewitt's (Hewitt, in Roussopoulos, 1986) anarchic declaration:
... [W]e must think and act according to this necessarily utopian ideal [of liberation]. It is a question of living creatively, of creative fictions, necessary fictions that are not divorced from the realm of rational possibility [p169. Original emphasis].
3. DESIRE AS THE MARGINS OF THE ACTUAL:
Protests against the dominance of problematic personal narratives are born from desire. We take as our starting point the description of desire as advanced by Deleuze (in Boundas, 1993); ):
... [T]he appetite [desire] is nothing else but the effort by which each thing strives to persevere in its being, each body in extension, each mind or idea in thought [p72. Added emphases].
In pursuing this line of thought, when a person enters therapy they seek a change. In the language of the narrative or textual approach, a person is under the oppressive dictates of a dominant problematic discourse. We can infer that the presenting problem--as a narrative organization of a person's lived experiences--is getting in their way of being or relating in ways that are more preferable to the present status quo. Often persons have a vague idea of what things would be like once the yoke of the dominant problematic is removed, and when asked (as in the so-called 'Miracle Question') are able to construct a world wherein the problem no longer exists.
We can say that persons have entered themselves into considering a possible world that did not pre-exist their expressive construction of it. Moreover, through the processes of relative influence questioning (White, 1989, 1995; White & Epston, 1990) this possible world becomes a non-localized space that is made use of as a perspective from which to reflect on the real effects and closures of the problem-story. White (1989, 1995; White & Epston, 1990) refers to this 'possible world' as an 'alternate story'.
An alternate story is a vantage point that shadows the margins of the actual (problem) story. The alternate story stands to continuously deconstruct the problem's strangle-hold on 'news of a difference that makes a difference' (Bateson, 1972) by opening up the contradictions of alternate meanings generated through re-evaluations of lived experiences. We can hence determine two 'spaces': first, the closed space of the real or actual (i.e. the problem description); and second, the deconstructive possibilities of difference (i.e. the alternate story).
Much has been written about the 'problem space' (for example, Friedman, 1993; Gilligan and Price, 1993; McNamee and Gergen, 1992), and so this will be dealt with only very briefly here. What is the central concern of this discussion is the possible world of the alternate story, since this is what is here being identified with the idea of the margins of the text.
3.1. The Problem:
As the point of departure, we can consider the problematic as a body, idea, meaning, and/or narrative which
... jeopardizes my cohesion, and tends to divide me into subsets, which, in the extreme case, enter into relations that are incompatible with my constitutive relation (death) [Deleuze, in Boundas, 1993;p72].
The problems that "jeopardize cohesion" include - although are not necessarily reducible to - the entire gamut of concerns persons present in clinical settings. Such problems may be thought of as constraining and limiting the range of action options available for persons to access, options that open up space to engage in performances of meaning that do not include the problem-frame . When the problem-frame is dominant, there is a gradual diminishment in the range of differences, both qualitative and quantitative, which signify information. Life begins to seem the same, day after day, and any news of a difference that might make a difference becomes overlooked; the problem-frame begins to exclude any information that contradicts the primacy of the problem-frame, and compels persons to notice only that information which can be included within the limits it demarcates.
This exclusionary effect of problem-frames is evident in how persons present themselves as the problem: "I'm depressed", "I'm dysfunctional/codependent/violent/an alcoholic/abusive/ anorexic", "my life is falling apart"; and in how the problem is described in absolutes: "I'm always crying/angry/sad", "nothing ever goes my way", "I keep on screwing up", and so on. Problems are therefore limitations that persons experience as somehow restraining them from doing something other than that specified by the problem-frame: "I can't leave him", "I don't know what to do", "I'm stuck/confused/lost/giving up".
The problem-frame is very seductive: it reterritorializes hitherto established meanings arranging such meanings in problem-specified (or determined) hierarchies and juxtapositions which are self-confirming and self-supporting. Using a mathematical analogy, problems may be seen as a rogue Mandelbrot sequence (fractal formula) that replicates itself into infinity, filling all of its spaces with itself such that it begins, after a while, to overlay itself in multiple levels in precise order. Problems are specific densities of saturation. It would appear all lines of flight lead back into the nexus of the problem, such that the problem proliferates and migrates (Madigan, personal communication, August, 1993) into other, seemingly unconnected, areas of one's life and relationships. It is sometimes hard, especially for a person taken by such a proliferating problem, to see any limits to the problem's influence and presence.
3.2. The Margins:
The change that persons desire which brings them into therapy is always a change from the "real" or "imagined" embodiment of the problem-frame. The problem-frame has succeeded in bringing the person to the point of being cramped: they are tired of the homogeneity of their lives and relationships under the tyranny of the problem-frame, and desire the diversity of the non-problem-frame--what is here referred to as the 'margin'.
Deleuze (in Hardt, 1993) provides us with a way of speaking of the margin. He introduces a term 'virtual' which is to be understood as "... a chaos of chance which impinges upon us as an imperative ... in the form of a question" (Bogue, 1989;p65). A client--even through approaching therapy as an option--is posing the question 'Can 'x' be different?' To consider, even momentarily, that circumstances could be different is to consider the world from the perspective of the virtual; it is to bring the virtual into play.
However, the virtual is not to be mistaken as abstract and indifferent being, but rather as "... a self-differentiating difference that establishes relations of 'proximity' (or difference) between terms" (Bogue, 1989;p153). The client in considering an alternate story is considering a relation of difference--s/he considers what is not presently occurring. What is not presently occurring allows what is happening to be held out as a relation of difference, such that the two can be compared. In simple terms: if we were unable to conceive of difference, civilization (for better or for worse) would not be as we know it today. Moreover, difference is a distinction between this and that (Spencer-Brown, 1994), a way of 'framing' differences, which, as Bruner (1990) suggests, is vital to ordering the world and basic to the survival of humans as a species. The virtual may then be conceived as the relations of difference, rather than the terms that are different.
The virtual is that which is in a process of perpetual becoming--immanent and yet, by definition, not-yet present--not an existent.
To borrow from the language of 'schizo-analysis', the problem-frame might be phrased as the conjugation of flows which induce stoppages in these flows, "... a point of accumulation that plugs or seals the lines of flight, ... and brings the flows under the dominance of a single flow capable of overcoding them" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987;p220). This conjugation (problem-frame as a restrained flow) is contrasted with the 'connection' of flows, which are augmentative and boost the escape of such flows (evoking alternate possibilities of arrangements).
The margin is thus in the domain of the virtual, and waits in the wings of the stage upon which being plays out its drama. The margins of a text refer to what Bakhtin calls the "unfinalizability" of any discourse. Bakhtin (in Morson and Emerson, 1990) describes unfinalizability by advancing that
Nothing conclusive has yet taken place in the world, the ultimate word of the world and about the world has not yet been spoken, the world is open and free, everything is still in the future and will always be in the future [p37. Original emphases].
Desire is hence the production, the bringing forth, of the marginal, the unfinalizable, such that it exists in the realm of possibilities as an alternate to the exhaustive presence of the problem.
The upshot of this is that problems are the exclusionary effects of the dominating actual; the actual squeezes out the recognition of other possibilities (the margin). In effect, problems retreat from--'deterritorialize'--the openness of the world (of possibilities), turning in on itself (reterritorializing), gradually becoming dry and dusty, tired and spent, and in the end, representing more of the same problem-frame experience ('overcoded'). As the person becomes increasingly captivated, held in check, by the solemn weight of the problem-frame, their hope, their joie d'vivre, diminishes and other possibilities become further beyond their reaches, even the reaches of their imagination.
It is the recognition of the margins, the unfinalizability of the world, of all experience and meaning, that births the protest that constitutes a person's entrance into therapy. Such a recognition of difference beckons one from beyond the limits of the present, the slow death by suffocation of the problem-frame, and awakens 'news of a difference that makes a difference', eliciting a deterritorialization of the overcoded flows of the problem such that new connections can be made, and alternate stories (possibilities) enter-tain-ed.
4. NEWS OF DIFFéRANCE THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE:
What is said is never all that can be said (Bakhtin's 'unfinalizability'). With any description there is generated the possibility (here referring to beyond the limits of the present) of other descriptions. Our mistake is to take the description as that which it describes (which is the 'Representationalist' perspective that Rorty  takes to task). Descriptions fall into the category of 'language-games' , which are instruments for particular uses (Wittgenstein, 1953). To borrow Korzybski's now famous dictum "the map is not the territory", we can advance with Baudrillard (1983;p2) that:
The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory--precession of simulacra--it is the map that engenders the territory and ... it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map [emphases in original. Added modification.].
Representationalism presupposes that there is an equivalency between signifier and signified. Descriptions of experience, when taken to be the experience as described, create the traditional dichotomy of subject-object: the subject is said to experience that which s/he describes, and in this way, experience becomes an object of itself, to itself. We then end up with what Dennett (1991) describes as the "Cartesian Theatre", "... a metaphorical picture of how conscious experience must sit in the brain", a magical place "where it all comes together" (p.107).
We are what we feel/think: the feeling/thinking does not happen apart from the descriptions thereof. The feeling/thinking does not dance on the stage of the 'Cartesian Theatre' awaiting an audience to experience it. Language does not represent events as in a commentary; rather language is the activity that it describes. We have been focused on the notion that language describes something other than itself. There are no objects of subjective scrutiny. When we go 'inwards' we experience a sensation (e.g., pain): the sensation is not separate and apart from the experience of 'it'. When we tell others of our pain, we are no longer speaking of 'our' pain, but rather of our description of pain. Heidegger (1971;p66) explains this by reference to the experience a poet undergoes with language:
Th[e] relation [between word and thing] is not ... a connection between the thing that is on one side and the word that is on the other. The word itself is the relation which in each instance retains the thing within itself in such a manner that it 'is' a thing [Added emphasis].
Heidegger (1993;p217) in a now famous quote, writes "[l]anguage is the house of Being. In its home man [sic] dwells". Rorty (1991;p35n18), in discussing this quote, reads this as a 'warning' "... against trying to get between language and its object, plus a further warning against trying to get between language and its user [added emphases]".
Maturana and Varela (1992), adopting a radical constructivist position, suggest that language 'brings forth' a world, "... not because language permits us to reveal ourselves but because we are constituted in language" (pp234-35. Added emphases).
In making use of Korzybski's dictum as a point of reference: representationalism, which gives rise to the fallacy of the 'Cartesian Theatre', is a Rylean (1949) "category mistake", in which the map is said to be equivalent to the territory that is mapped. What is being argued here is rather that the map is the description - in language - of the territory, which is itself a description of an experience. Descriptions can only ever describe themselves through reference and recourse to a meta-description, a description of a description, which falls down the slippery slope of self-referential paradoxes and infinite regress. Hence the mind is postulated as a black box, a simulacrum, which is the aggregate of signs which attest to its own existence: an image. The mind, even as a concept, is irrational: as an image, it is an image of an image which is then taken as real. However, when teased out in this way, the mind is emptied of anything but itself and, like a wanton helium balloon, floats off into the conceptual stratosphere. As Varela, Thompson, and Rosch (1991) suggest "... there is nothing extra on the side of mind or on the side of the world to know or to be known further" (p.225).
4.1. Dialogue and Discourse:
Bakhtin (cited in Morson & Emerson, 1990;p57) advances that
A reified model of the world is now being replaced by a dialogic model. Every thought and every life merges in the open-ended dialogue [p.57. Added emphases].
Dialogue is social. We may consider it as the circulation and distribution of conventions, traditions, perspectives of the world, and 'truths'. Dialogue is the material from which we construct our worlds (and our selves) with others. Morson and Emerson (1990;p.50) emphasize: "... dialogue is not a[n] ... act of combination but is itself the starting point".
The descriptions of our world are drawn from sociocultural conventions - that is, descriptions (and hence all notions of a 'reality') are political in that descriptions involve the simultaneous operations of power/knowledge. Foucault (1980) spent a major part of his career attempting to answer his "... question of what governs statements, and the way in which they govern each other [p.112. Original emphasis.]."
Descriptions are drawn from the available discourses, which specify what can and cannot be said and who can say what about what. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) write of 'order-words', which not only specify a command, but also order (arrange) relations according to the codes of the order-word. Discourses, and their offspring descriptions, are products of power. Foucault (1980;p119) clarifies that this power
... needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression.
Power specifies and constitutes the cultural discourses from which we draw the descriptions of our lived experiences. Let us not fool ourselves: such discourses are both captivating and persuasive, pervasive and yet located in no one fixed point:
There are two kinds of restrictions on human liberty - the restraint of law and that of custom. No written law has ever been more binding than custom supported by popular opinion [Catt, in Tanner, 1970;p92. Added emphases.].
"Custom supported by public opinion" is the 'soul' of discourse. Discourse becomes so deeply entwined with 'the way things are', that we no longer even notice its omnipresence, its all-pervasiveness. Discourse is somewhat like the water fish live in and which lives in them: just don't ask the fish to tell you about it! As Maturana and Varela (1992;p234) explain:
[S]ince we exist in language, the domains of discourse that we generate become part of our domain of existence and constitute part of the environment in which we conserve identity and adaptation [Added emphases.].
To consider a non-discursive world without making use of language to describe it, is to submerse oneself in an infinite regress. It may even be finally impossible to conceive of a world outside of language, and hence, the discursive practices that specify the terms of that world.
4.2. Deconstruction and Différance:
Deconstruction is a way of enabling us to expose the multiple layers, influences, constitutive and restraining effects of discourse. The movement of différance is deconstruction. Deconstruction - a term popularized by Derrida - is often easier to explain by what it is not than by what it is. Deconstruction is not an analysis, a critique, nor even a method (Derrida, in Kamuf, 1991). Deconstruction refers to a project in which, through which, and by which a word or discourse is taken into its interiority and its entire ensemble of significations are laid out as specifications of what the word refers to in its given context. Deconstruction also refers to a project by which, in which, and through which a word is taken on its exteriority, and the ensemble of what it does not signify are exposed. Hence, deconstruction provides a means of obtaining a 'vantage point', as it were, from the margins of the text. In this way, a tension between affirmation and negation are revealed as constitutive of the word in its given context. Deconstruction lays a concept open to its positioning on high tension 'fibres' that span the abyss of negation between the twin cliffs of affirmation. It submits a term to an exploration of what restrains it from becoming-other, and simultaneously what it itself restrains from becoming. This writer reads Derrida from the Nietzschean perspective that concepts are always a 'resting place' along a nonteleological journey; that is, as partial closures ('conjugations' in schizoanalytic phrasology).
Deconstruction is evidently far more than a simple unpacking of the constitutive assumptions of a given word or discourse. It is also, importantly, a revelation of the displacements of other non-constitutive assumptions. Différance is the movement of deconstruction, the simultaneous "play of differences" (Derrida, 1981;p26) which function within a network of terms to produce meaning. It is further the deferral of any final or fixed point at which the meaning relationship with the extra-linguistic world is determined. To put this a different way, différance and deconstruction seek to lay bare the text beyond the text (that is, the margin), by confronting
... the actual and always self-interested use to which this meaning is put and the way it is expressed by the speaker - a use determined by the speaker's position (profession, social class, etc.) and by the concrete situation [Morson & Emerson, 1990;p359. Original emphases.].
Meaning is as much generated by the terms themselves as by "[w]ho speaks and under what conditions he [sic] speaks: this is what determines the word's actual meaning" (Bakhtin, in Morson & Emerson, 1990;p359. Original emphases).
To tack this back towards a therapeutic context, the politics of discourse are found in the starvation of the anorexic, in the descriptions of herself as "unworthy" if she takes up "too much space". These are descriptions that have entered into her personal narrative on the backs of such gendered discourse as the silencing of women's voices, the tentative extension into the world of men of her right to exist, the proscriptive and prescriptive directives from the patriarchy as to the form of her physical existence which governs her appearance, her weight, her energy and renders her a "docile body" subject to the patriarchal gaze. The politics of discourse are to be found when men have assaulted their female partners, such action being made permissible by the discourses that specify women as the property of men, as inferior to men, as objects upon which to transcribe their 'manly' rage, as nurses for their 'psychic' wounds who may be subjected to punishment for 'failing' to live up to such expectations. Even with such descriptions of oneself as "depressed", the politics of discourse are evident, be it through the idea that one is always to be "happy", "successful", "able to deal efficiently with one's own problems", and the like, and that hence one has somehow failed to make the grade measured (in part) by the unctuosity of the media-portrayed 'happy life'.
If we hold fast onto the notion that our descriptions are both true statements about the way things truly are as well as the only way that such things can be spoken about, we are left with very little room to maneouver. If, however, we take what has been advanced thus far as valid - that is, that all dialogue is an unfinished attempt at describing our experience, and that such descriptions are more or less constrained or revealed by the availability of sociopolitical discourses - we can begin to explore the gaps, the contradictions, the tensions, the paradoxes of a person's dialogic world. That is, through minimizing our assumptions that we know what people mean when they advance descriptions of themselves, their relationships, and their lives as this or as that, we can begin to deconstruct the closed-endedness of the person's presenting problem-frame.
5. FRAMES AND LOOPHOLES:
It will be remembered from the earlier discussion that problem-frames tend towards closure and rigidity; they suffocate and slowly crush a person's hope and joie d' vivre, somewhat like the moving walls of the cinematic House of Horror which slowly and inexorably close in on - to the point of crushing - the intended victim.
Through the deconstructive movement of différance we can listen to the stories persons tell of their lives, listening for both what is said (and how it is said) and for what is not said. The not-said is, like the relationship of desire to that which is desired, virtual: it marks the borders of the said; it lays a trace of the text beyond the actualized text. It is not the negation of what is said, nor is it even an affirmation. Rather it is the margin of the spoken text which simultaneously both limits and expands that which is already spoken. The not-said lies at the spaces between words: it is that realm of black boxes which are tropes, simulacra, used to stand-in for complex arrangements and assumptions, which always point back to themselves in self-referential parity. The not-said is the purlieu of the said, which when ventured into expands the domain of that which is and can be said. The not-said is the deterritorialized said. By bringing the not-said forth, we reterritorialize it, and mark "lines of flight" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1977) which leak from under the limitations of the said. Rorty (1991), in writing of Heidegger, alludes to what Bakhtin would term 'loopholes':
Beyond the world made available by your [emphasis in original] elementary words there is the silence of other, equally elementary, words, as yet unspoken [p.46. Added emphasis.].
These 'unspoken' words refer to the margins of the spoken text, which Derrida (in Rorty, 1991;p.92) understands as "... a weave of differences of forces without any present centre of reference". The task of therapy is to bring forth this other text, to expose "the weave of differences of forces", so as to allow such weave of differences to open space for news of a difference that may make a difference vis-a-vis the domination of the problem-frame.
Bakhtin provides us with a useful concept--'loophole'--through which margins may be brought forth from the realm of the 'not-yet said' to the realm of the said. White (1989, 1995; White & Epston, 1990) have advanced a 'technique' that they refer to as 'externalizing' internalized discourse. It is this writer's impression that although White does not explicitly mention Bakhtin, in order to externalize a problem, one recruits ideas of 'loopholes' to undermine the singularity of the dominant story.
In conversations with persons who require therapy, the therapist attends to not only what is being said--in terms of descriptions about the person's life, relationships, and sense of who and what they are as persons--the therapist also pays attention to what is not being said: the unspoken assumptions, the hidden closures, those tiny fragments of information and desire which--somehow--have managed to escape (or which have not been convinced by) the totalizing effects of the problem-frame.
It is by standing at the margins of the spoken text, listening for both the spoken and unspoken texts that a "double description" (Bateson, 1979) is advanced of a person's story. The therapist listens for and to the polyphonous chorus that overlays each and every description that the person offers about her/his lived experience, paying attention to those parts of inferred experience that have evaded capture by the dominant (problem) frame of reference. The therapeutic task is to bring these fragments of inferred experience to the attention of the person concerned, inviting the person to provide meaning to these fragments and to the ability of these fragments to have avoided capture for so long. This is the process whereby the virtual is brought into a direct--and sometimes confrontational-- relation with the actual, exposing the actual as but one of a potentially infinite range of descriptions and meanings available for the person to perform. This is not limited to 'reframing', although the technique of reframing is certainly derived--at least in part--from the realization of polyphony.
Conversations from the margins are often conversations about those aspects of one's experience and life that one tends to overlook. In the narrative literature (White, 1989, 1995; White & Epston, 1990), these marginal realms are referred to as 'alternate stories'. These marginal(ized) aspects are so often obscured by the predominance of the problem-frame that it is as if they become invisible, and all that's visible is more evidence of the problem. Problems appear to work on a specific circular logic that although tightly woven is never completely closed. The task of the therapist is to listen for what has not yet been said, the loopholes in the text and to play with the meanings persons bring with them to describe their experiences.
Traditional therapies too often take the text not as a limit, but rather as an exhaustive totality and seek to effect therapeutic change through an investigation into the causes of the person's 'complaint' about the arrangements. Hence the person is seen as the site of change (interior structures, or systemic configurations of gender/generation, etc.). However, when we understand the 'text' of dialogue as a limit (overcoded conjugation) on the flow of possibilities, and describe this limit as a restraint, we face the infinite range of possible arrangements of the terms that constitute the text. Therapeutic questions then begin from a perspective that asks after how this particular arrangement dominates, and what such arrangements exclude. The overcoded conjugated flows (the problem, identity, reality) can only be deterritorialized from a serious attention to following the leaks, the escape lines, of the alternate stories which reterritorialize on possibilities and differences (i.e. the margins). Always we ask 'what are the connections?', 'what connections are yet possible?', and 'what stops those alternate connections from being effected?' The assumption is always that the possible (the margin) hovers around the actual (the text), marking the text as territory colonized, and inviting persons to explore the hitherto uncharted territories of the possible.
Through bringing the margins into the therapeutic text, the limits are displaced and the organizational frames (narratives) are widened to become more inclusive. This is the opposite of the operations of the problem-frames, which tend towards closure and a centrifugal gravitational pull that codes everything according to its own significations. Indeed: "Let us space"; let us circulate air between the dusty closed blinds of the problem frame, because all that has been said is not all that can or ever will be said.
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1. Often this desire for difference is vaguley formulated. One technique, the Miracle Question--developed by the Milwaukee solution-oriented brief therapy group (de Shazer, 1991)--is an approach to assisting persons to clearly define their goals (or desires). However, the elegance and efficacy of the so-called "Miracle Question" lies not so much in the peripheral effects of goal definition, "positive thinking", or self-fulfilling prophecies as it does in the entering of these desires into the sociolinguistic domain; that is, a bringing forth of the person's desire-realized into the consensual linguistic reality of the public sphere. The expression of a desire enters that virtuality into the co-constructed "form of life" of therapy in which its actualization becomes the focus of the therapeutic "language-game" (Wittgenstein, 1953).
2. Following Bateson (1979) and White (1989,1995) and White and Epston (1990), these 'impacts' are to be considered the results of restraints. Briefly, restraints arise through a stressing of 'negative explanation' (Bateson, 1979; White, 1989) such that the focus is on 'what is prevented from occurring' and 'what prevents 'x' from occurring?' A positive explanation would emphasize 'what makes 'x' occur?' It is this writer's contention that by asking after restraints an investigator (scientist or therapist) must simultaneously hold ideas of both the realized present (the restraint) and the possibility of alternate 'world' that includes that which is being restrained.
3. The present space and scope of this discussion does not allow for a fuller treatment of the complexities of desiring-production. The Deleuze and Guattari collaboration on 'Anti-Oedipus' deals extensively with this process, an understanding of which positions an entrance into the rest of their radical poststructuralist 'theory'.
4. "This possible world is not real, or not yet, but it exists nonetheless: it is an expressed that exists only in its expression. ... China is a possible world, but it takes on a reality as soon as Chinese is spoken or China is spoken about within a given field of experience. This is very different from the situation in which China is realized by becoming the field of experience itself" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1994;p17. Added emphasis.).
5. Goffman (1974;p10) describes frames as those "... definitions of a situation [which] are built up in accordance with principles or organization which govern events - at least social ones - and our subjective involvement in them".
6. de Shazer (1991;p73) provides a clear explanation of 'language-games' as "... culturally shared and structured activities that centre on people's uses of language to describe, explain, and justify. Language games are activities through which social realities and relationships are constructed and maintained".
7. Deleuze and Guattari (1987;p203) take the position that "... politics precedes being".
8. This is the approach taken by a host of therapists and writers, and might be best summarized as the 'not-knowing' approach that has been attributed to Harlene Anderson and Harry Goolishian.
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Story-telling and the socialization of rural pre-school children
in times of social change
Mary van der Riet
Psychology Department, Rhodes University
As a work in progress, the paper does not cover an intensive analysis of the stories collected. This seemed to be what the audience expected. It covers, more fully, an outline of the dynamics of social change within a particular rural context, and how adults see the role and process of story-telling in this climate. Issues raised in discussion at the conference included the value of recording stories which children might not find useful. The paper addresses this concern in that the fundamental essence of the stories still serve as the place where cognition is "situated". Thus, there is value in linking the form and content of this version of "teaching" with that which goes on in formal contexts such as schools. In addition, children are more responsive to the stories when the medium of communication is more modern. Thus, televised versions of the stories might be a way of retaining the value inherent in the intsomi.
The tradition of night-time story-telling to young children exists in many cultures and forms a key part of socialization. The ntsomi (story told at night) is told to Xhosa children in rural areas of South Africa. The content of these stories has a high moral emphasis, reflecting norms and values which parents wish to impart to their children. Increasing trends towards urbanisation have an effect on the ability of rural parents to predict and know the future environments of their children's lives. Research has indicated that rural parents are aware of the consequences and repercussions of rapid social transitions and adopt various strategies in socializing children in response to this (Gilbert, Nkwinti & van Vlaenderen, 1992). A study conducted in rural villages of the Amatole Basin, ex-Ciskei, examined the iintsomi, to ascertain their role as mediators of skills or attitudes for managing rapid social change. Oral stories were collected and recorded. Focus groups of parents were asked to reflect on the meaning of these stories, and the import of lessons learned by children through the stories. Discussions on how these stories equipped children to meet the challenges of rapid social change were conducted. The paper suggests that parents assume varying degrees of active management of the process of change, and that this impacts on the way in which their children manage the same process.
Story is the inevitable and necessary result of social interaction, of the need to narrate oneself and each other in never-ending fictions... Without stories we could not survive; without stories we would be disoriented; without stories we would be lost; without stories we lack assurance as to who we are or who we could be.
Stories are one of the first cultural constraints on the nature of selfhood.
cited in Miller, Potts, Fung, Hoogstra & Mintz, 1990
If we believe that a person's mind can only be stretched by books, we deny the wings which the oral traditions, storytelling, has been giving mankind for thousands of years and is still giving Africa.
THE INTSOMI - THE FANTASTICAL TALE
Kwahlala kwahlala kwayintsomi
It was long ago, it was long ago, it became an intsomi.
A distinction can be drawn between the Xhosa intsomi, and the ibali in terms of content, function and degree of truthfulness. The ibali is usually a true story about events which have taken place recently or historically. As the Chief of the villages in the study commented,
Long time ago there were no books. There must be old men, but I would put aside the old women. Just outside the kraal, old men used to stay and sharpen their spears. During that sharpening, one old man would tell a story of the olden days, and go on, and on, and on. Sometimes they were telling history or the origins of their people. The other people will ask him questions. That's where they will gain knowledge. Even then they are going to tell their own children.
The intsomi falls under the category of a folktale - what Morris (1989) calls the fantastical tale, stories with powerful images of fictitious creatures. Iwara (1989) suggests that "African Folklore (is) a medium of socialization combining individual creativity and the collective wisdom of a people, and addressing the moral and social needs of the community concerned" (p.278). The key function of the intsomi in the social fabric of Xhosa life is attested to by the taboos which surround it.
This paper addresses a particular form of story, the intsomi, stories told by adults to children at night-time. Thus the focus is not on the more frequently researched figure of story-teller in the community who entertains young and old at large gatherings (Moropa, 1986, Scheub, 1975), neither is it on the figure of the praise-poet, often described as purveyors of a community's history and traditional heritage. The focus here is on the parent as socializer, as the agent who draws the young into an understanding of the network of beliefs, values and traditions which sustain a particular way of life.
During previous research conducted by the author into the nature of parenting in times of social change (Van der Riet, 1993), parents laughed when asked about the stories which they told children. "Uyakuphuna impondo - if you tell tales during the day, you will grow horns" was their response and they refused to be drawn any further. On enquiry, various Xhosa speakers provided the following explanations. Firstly, the telling of the intsomi has a social function. When the family lives in a one roomed hut, it assists the parents in managing the limited space. Stories are used to get the children to go to sleep and provide some privacy for the parents. As one parent commented:
In the olden days, the grandmother used to sleep with her grandchildren. It was a norm that when the grandmother is on this side, and the mother and father on that side, the children sleep in between. In my view I think it was necessary for the children to have to sleep first ... Then they were not able to listen to any discussion of these older people.
Secondly, in a rural context children play outside and might roam quite far away from the homestead. The promise of story-telling in the evenings lures the children back home at the appropriate time. One parent comments
Yes, this story telling helped us to be at home early in the evening so that we did not miss the opportunity of hearing the stories. Children were saved from committing wrong things.
Thirdly, the content of the intsomi is about the "spirits" and beings which abound during the night. Night-time therefore provides the appropriate containment for stories with this content. Thus, if a parent tells an intsomi during the daytime, it loses its hold on the child, and its social function is invalidated.
Why study stories?
It is argued in this paper that one studies stories to explore the relationship between mind and culture. In addition, it can also reveal the forces of change at work in a particular community, and how people respond to this change. Nicolaisen (1990) argues that "we tell stories because, in order to cope with the present and to face the future, we have to create the past, both as time and space, through narrating it" (p.10). Although stories told to children are not the central focus of much of the literature, the concept of the importance and role of the oral tradition is a well researched area of African Languages, Anthropology and Linguistics. A strong motivation for this is that, as Finnegan (1976) suggests, a study of the oral literature of a people represents a study of their views. Mtuze (1991) argues that "the folktales were never meant to be overtly didactic but they, nevertheless, have some covert educative function" (p.67). Scheub (1975) comments that the oral tradition is the "means whereby the wisdom of the past is communicated to the present" (p.16). This generates a psychological question: what are the mechanisms which allow for the communication of this wisdom? Unfortunately, most psychological theory tends to focus on theories of the individual. Gilbert (1989) has argued for the need for a theory of the social-individual interface. A socio-cultural perspective on development provides an appropriate framework for exploring this dynamic by explicating "the relationships between human action, on the one hand, and the cultural, institution, and historical situations in which this action occurs, on the other" (Wertsch, Del Rio & Alvarez, 1995, p.11).
Bloch's (1991) assertion that "cultural anthropologists know that they cannot get at culture directly, but only through observation of communicative activity, verbal or otherwise, natural or artificially simulated" (p. 183, Author's emphasis) is a significant one. A socio-cultural framework explains the value of communication and activity. Activity as a unit of analysis has become increasingly important in studies on the social formation of mind (Wertsch, 1981; Leont'ev cited in Kozulin, 1986) because it `captures' the social formation of mind. In fact Vygotsky comments that "socially meaningful activity...may serve as an explanatory principle in regard to, and be considered as a generator of, human consciousness" (cited in Kozulin, 1986, p.264, Author's emphasis).
The Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition has described activity as "socially assembled situations which provide cultural contexts for action and problem solving that are constructed by people in interaction with each other" (cited in Mistry, 1993, p.208). That is, one cannot study activity separate from its context. Development, and coming to know, is thus assumed to take place through the individual's engagement with others in the activities that contribute to daily life within the cultural community. These "communities of practice" (Lave, 1993) guide, direct, control, and give meaning to activity by providing affordances for individual thinking and learning (Gilbert, 1995).
Thus the telling of stories, as a communicative activity, is a significant site for the exploration of how activity provides the cultural contexts for action and problem-solving. Schieffelin & Ochs suggest that it is through communication within the family and community life that children "develop a system of cognitive structures as interpretive frameworks and come to share to greater or lesser degrees the common value system and sets of behavioral norms of their socio-cultural group" (cited in Heath, 1989, p.367). It follows that a study of communicative activity directs us to look at an activity which occurs between people, within a community of practice. Mistry (1993) suggests a focus on the "the values involved in determining the appropriate goals and means, the intellectual tools available...and the institutional structures,...within which the interactions take place" (p.208).
Inherent in this view are the central tenets of the socio-cultural perspective on cognition. Vygotsky suggests that higher psychological processes are direct reflections of social processes in which the child participated at an earlier stage (1978). Higher mental functions are thus social in the following senses (Langer, 1987):
* the child's learning is mediated by his/her form of interaction with the world, by the use of signs and psychological tools which are culturally embedded. The form of higher mental functions therefore depends on the communication from one generation to the next;
* through these social relationships the child internalises this tool use and comes to regulate his/her own activity. The act of mediation, of using culturally specific signs and symbols to stand for something else, actively and fundamentally changes cognitive behaviours;
* in addition, children learn the activity in a social setting in which cultural interpretations are embedded and communicated by other members of the society. Thus with the internalisation of skills is the internalisation of the socially or culturally accepted way to evaluate the meaning and relative success of that activity.
This framework, proposed by Vygotsky (1978), conceptualises "the mechanisms by which culture becomes a part of how each person thinks, learns, and relates to others and the environment" (Langer, 1987, p.5) and provides flesh to Geertz's (1975) notion of culture, and Shweder's (1991) concept of cultural psychology.
The telling of stories provides a cell of activity in which we can observe the social formation of mind. By analysing the interaction between, in this case, adults and children, one can unravel the relationship between mind and culture. It is this theoretical framework which can explain how folktales are intended to have a "salutary regulatory effect on society; enforcing or supporting family discipline and tribal custom ... (and upholding) conduct that is for the good of society and the welfare of the community" (Malcolm, cited in Mtuze, 1991).
In effect, it is the study of the cognitive socialization of the child where socialization is defined as "the process whereby children are initiated into the activities, beliefs, values, etc. of their parents and other members of the society with whom they interact" (Miller, 1989, p.157). He argues that children whose actions are regulated in particular ways internalise a set of rules that prescribe or define the set of rules that characterise the society in which they live.
A further benefit of this particular focus is that a study of a "cultural ... activity can illustrate how (it) changes, adapts and transforms, how it is used as a resource" (McAllister, 1994, p.130). Langer (1987) argues that literacy has social origins in that the practices of literacy are "embedded in a cultural way of thinking and learning" (p.5). It follows that the cultural framework of stories will have an impact on the construction of thinking. However, story-telling as a cultural practice also changes over time. A critical question, and one which is very difficult to evaluate, would be whether and how a change in this activity impacts on cognition.
It must also be acknowledged that the process of cognitive socialization is not unidirectional. Children are active participants in their own socialization, not merely passive recipients (Rogoff, 1990). Toren (1993) argues that children's knowledge does not develop in a straightforward way towards the adult endpoint. In fact she discusses cases in which children's knowledge `inverts' adult knowledge such that their knowledge is not simply `less than' the adult version but is, in effect, opposite to it. She argues for an active child who assimilates a given society-culture with a framework that the child developed from within (cited in Furth, 1994). Parents are neither the only, nor the most important, models in a child's life. The endogenous curiosity of children about the social world plays a part in their being active in that it allows us to grasp why child and adult belief systems do not always converge (Hisrchfield, 1994).
This research was a qualitative, process-oriented study. The researcher returned to two villages used in a previous study (Van der Riet, 1993) in the Amatole Basin in the Middledrift District of the former Ciskei. Contact with the residents occurred through the pre-school. Because of previous responses to the question of the intsomi, the researcher had to find a way to circumvent the "taboo". Residents were therefore informed that the stories were being collected to form a book for pre-schools which could ultimately generate finances for the pre-schools. This will take place as a consequence of this research.
Stories were collected initially from people identified as willing by the pre-school teachers in each village. Pre-school teachers were asked if they knew of anyone who could provide stories for the book. These people were men and women between the ages of 17 and 83. At a later stage, residents who had heard about the process volunteered their stories in verbal and written form. The age group expanded to include children from the age of 9. Approximately 43 stories were collected, although some of these were different versions of the same story. Men told 17 of the stories and women told 26.
Initially individuals were called to the creche to tell their stories. After telling their stories, the participants were asked to reflect on the lessons children would learn from the story. This took the form of a semi-structured interview. At a later stage, the researcher requested that a group be formed to tell stories and discuss these. The formation of these `focus groups' differed in each village. These focus groups were asked to reflect on what children learnt in the stories, and what role stories play in developing competence in different contexts (rural and urban). All data was recorded on video and audio cassettes. Data was transcribed in Xhosa and then translated by one Xhosa speaker. The translation was then reviewed by another Xhosa speaker.
Three sets of data were generated: data in the form of the stories themselves, reflections on these stories, and data on the role and function of story-telling. Different levels of enquiry have accessed three main sources of interpretation and provided a preliminary analysis. Parents' reflections on the stories were examined in relation to the analysis of two educated, Xhosa speaking, urban subjects. In addition, themes in these stories were related to literature on themes in Xhosa stories.
The aim of the analysis was to generate an understanding of the nature of the community of practice of rural pre-school children. To do this, a basic content analysis was conducted, bearing the following questions in mind:
a) what social processes are the child participating in?
b) what is the nature of the social setting, and its cultural interpretations which are being communicated to the child?
c) what are the ordinary practices, the "authentic activity" (Brown, Collins and Duguid, 1989) of this particular culture as expressed in the stories?
d) what rules and values are being internalised by the child?
As this is a work in progress, it is acknowledged that the analysis below is a preliminary one and may not address all of these questions.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The data will be presented and discussed in terms of the general issues which emerged. An overview of the content of the stories is followed by a discussion about the lessons inherent in the stories. These lessons have been categorised in terms of the values and rules which children learn. That is, it is a reflection of how children are meant to "be" in this particular context.
The data from the interviews and focus groups is presented under the theme of the dynamic of change. Parents' responses to this dynamic are discussed in the light of present day story-telling practices. In addition, the nature of culture as a dynamic force, and the capacity of rural residents to invent new traditions, are discussed. Some of the implications of this form of communicative activity for education are reflected on.
Content of stories
Many stories have a journey theme in the course of which, outside of their familiar context, the actors encounter a challenging situation which they have to manage. This is also commented on by Morris (1989). Alternatives motifs are children left alone at home, who have to draw on their own knowledge to confront strangers or unusual happenings. Other sites of the stories are the home, or at work in a rural environment where the actors have to perform a task and something goes wrong.
The story-line frequently draws on the symbolic eg. those who are banished or who run away may drown, or disappear in the river (the home of the ancestors). These people sometimes reemerge with extraordinary powers, to threaten or assist, the living. A subtext to the Siyolo story is that of not treating water nochalently: do not disturb those who live under the water, be respectful. The appeasement of negative forces, or gratitude to positive forces for assistance, is demonstrated through the sacrifice of a cow. Feasts and rituals (initiation, weddings) are common, although less central threads to the story.
Three stories of the 43 collected were atypical. One was a close replica of the biblical theme of the prodigal son (Nyana wolahleko - The Prodigal Son). Another (Amadoda amathathu - The three men), which involved discrepancies between the actors' abilities and their actions was used to assess a child's level of development, as one parent says, "to find out whether they understand or not".
Generally, one could agree with Ngacangca that
conservatism, which encourages adherence to and preservation of accepted norms, forms one of the dominant images depicted in folktales. Virtues contributory to good behaviour and successful marriage are always praised. Vices which result in social conflict are decried. (cited in Mtuze, 1991, p.72)
However, the third atypical story reflects actors managing non-rural situations. EkaJita, (Jita) was told by a woman who had been a domestic worker in an urban area. She has obviously drawn on her own life experience and the story epitomises the link between urban and rural contexts, South Africa's concern with race (black/white), and maids and madams. The story is about a white girl (Jita) and is similar to the themes of Snow White and Cinderella, although this is not necessarily done consciously. The narrator comments that "this story reminds me of the (biblical) story of Abraham". The wicked stepmother orders the maid to kill Jita. The maid assists Jita in fooling her stepmother, and Jita escapes. She disguises herself as a Xhosa girl, and is told to seek work, armed with the urban wisdom "Only after the ninth house will you find work". She finds work at the tenth house and proceeds to lead a double life as white girl at dances, weddings and tennis parties, returning to her job and her disguise. A man falls in love with her and she eventually confesses to her true identity.
The stories fall into six general categories in terms of their actors:
* animals (cats and monkey; snakes and mice; jackal with wolf, dove, hare, lions and baboons);
* animals and humans (baboons, bird or unspecified forest animal taking child; birds warning humans; humans milking birds; jackal tricks human)
* humans and the fantastical (ghosts, giants and river beasts)
* humans as the fantastical (cannibals, giants);
* humans (members of families, a group questioning an individual)
Generally the human actors are ordinary people, although a few stories contain mention of royalty in the form of a king, chief, or princess. Generally, one could agree with Neethling (1991) that "characters... (in folk tales)... operate on a symbolic or metaphorical level, becoming allegorical types" (p.83).
One parent comment that a "good" story, is one which has a lesson for children. These "lessons" in the stories can grouped into four main themes.
The development of personal characteristics
One parent commented that the objective of story-telling was to "teach children to be independent in life". This involves the development of certain personal characteristics. One parent suggests that stories serve as a model for future behaviour:
Sometimes you tell the children these stories so that they can fear a certain situation. Sometimes the child may want to play near the river and the parent isn't there.
Children, particularly in the animal stories of the Jackal and the Wolf (Udyakalashe nomvolufu), are exhorted to think about what it is to be wise. The Jackal is cunning, but sometimes other animals are more astute. A parent reflects that:
Some of the stories teach them not to be like the Wolf who is always deceived by the Jackal. Some of the stories teach them to be the Wolf who deceives the Jackal. The child will choose which side to take, that of the Jackal or that of the Wolf.
Various animals are deceived into feeding their young to the Jackal. The message here is not to believe absolutely in anyone. Wolf's greediness leads to his downfall. Jackal gets what he wants by being crafty. Another parent comments that one learns from the Jackals' behaviour that there is a need to "control yourself in whatever you do, limit yourself". A story in which baby mice play with baby snakes and are then scolded by their parents contains the message: keep to your own role, do not mix with those who are your enemy. As one parent comments: "It teaches children to be careful in life, because s/he might be playing with fire".
Several stories contain encounters with giants or beasts. This use of fantastical creatures to embody evil emphasises the moral of the story, for example, how "greed and jealousy can break the bonds of family and community" (Morris, 1989, p.95).
Not all the norms in a community are necessarily conservative in a negative sense. Ukumkani nentombi eyayimphekela (The King and his girl cook) is a story about a King who orders both a very special and a very bad meal. His cook provides tongue on both occasions implying that "talk" can be both good and bad. Thus those in a subservient position can show their wisdom too.
Relationships within the family
A dilemma faced frequently by mothers in a rural context is what to do with their children when they have to work in the fields or fetch wood in the forest. Their negligence is punished when their children are taken by animals or beasts. One parent reflected:
Children should not be left alone without guaranteed safety wherever they are.
Mothers must be responsible. They must take care of their children. She must not just leave the child carelessly.
In fact some of the lessons seem to be directed either at children as future mothers, or as lessons to adults on parenting:
The story (Inkosikazi ibhek'ehlathini nomtwana - The woman goes to the forest with her child) equips mothers with planning and tricks to survive in life.
In commenting on Iinyokana neempukwana (The baby snakes and baby mice), parents have this to say:
A child who knows a lot always gets injured and the parents have to answer. Generally this story makes the child clever so that the parents don't have to answer tomorrow (or be accountable)
The parent has a duty to care. Sometimes the mouse, which is the mother, might not be the one who comes to the young ones, but it might be a snake and it eats all the young ones. This story makes the children clever.
A fascinating subtext to several of these stories is that the husband, who beats his wife and calls her lazy when she wants to check on her child, is depicted negatively. One parent commented:
It also shows that the stubbornness of menfolk is not correct. It outlines the importance of listening to/ recognizing the views of women or mothers because they are proper human beings who are as normal as males are. Their views and suggestions should be respected by everybody.
Another parent comments
It teaches that the children should not be left alone because the enemy might come around. It is about the parents caring for their children, not just the mothers, but fathers and mothers. The children are thrown into the dam by the big birds because the father did not care about the children. He was concentrating on earnings from the field.
Another (male) parent comments that the lesson is that
the man must take care of his wife. He must not hit her with a hoe when she wants to look for the child. Now the man even regrets that the child cannot be found.
Perhaps this is an example of what Mtuze (1991) comments on as the occasionally subversive nature of the stories, which seem to challenge "those in power" usually men. Women, he suggests, tells more stories because they use this medium as a warning "to those in power from those who suffer... to draw attention to certain social inequities" (p.69). As the tellers of these stories were both men and women, it is not easy to find support for this assertion.
Another example of gender role socialization is that of the main character in Siyolo (Siyolo), a girl, flees from the beast her father sacrificed her to, and eventually seeks help at the place of initiation. As a female, she is not supposed to go to this place. An initiate directs her to his mother. Siyolo seeks refuge there and is, both literally and figuratively, taken into the care of by the initiate's mother, another mother, as happens in marriage, and she eventually marries the initiate. Her reward is that a village is named after her.
An interesting theme in some of the stories is the negative portrayal of some members of the family. In this fantastical world fathers can sacrifice their daughters, mothers can be cannibals, stepmothers can be cruel. One parent commented about Siyolo:
The story teaches us that the children are not safe under the guidance of some parents. Sometimes that is caused by the fact that one of the parents is a coward, either the father or the mother. In this case the father sacrificed his child to save his life from the beast. The story also teaches that some children are absolutely safe under the guidance of their parents eg. the woman and her son, the initiator who assured Siyolo about his mother's protection.
These stories also suggest to children that they should look beyond their biological parents. If their parents are unable to care for them, as is the case in of Abatshana (The nephews), they should still respect those who raise them. Thus, the notion of respect for one's elders has its limits. However, cruelty to family members in the form of a wicked first wife's actions towards a daughter is sometimes punished directly, but more often the banished child is given powers by the ancestors.
One story (Isigebenga - The Giant) seems to be a directive to children on the proper relationship with in-laws. A visit to an older married sister has sinister undertones when the children discover that their brother-in-law is a giant and will eat them. The parent's reflection on this story was that:
it is important for brothers and sisters to visit each other quite frequently, but they need to understand that they might not be as welcomed by their in-laws as they will be welcomed by their brothers and sisters. It also tells them to take heed of the advice of their brothers and sisters at their houses. It is very important because they (the brothers and sisters) know the conditions under which they live with their partners at their houses. The brother and his sister (in this story) were saved from the cruelty of the giant, their brother-in-law, by listening to the advice of their (married) sister.
A second level interpretation of the story, by an urban, educated, Xhosa reveals that parents might not be able to achieve the necessary distance from their context in order to interpret it:
Siblings are strongly discouraged from staying at their sister's marriage home. It is feared that some misbehaviour may occur causing a disgrace between the two families. Two families bonded by marriage must maintain strong protocol and keep sufficient although warm distance. The brother-in-law is turned into a cannibal so that siblings fear their brother-in-law; the emphasis is to make them respect them and in-laws in general. They are not supposed to know how badly their daughter is treated ... and they are not supposed to influence their daughter/sister about her situation.
Relationships amongst people
In this theme, "an attempt is being made to retain a particular kind of relationship between the community at home and the world beyond it" (McAllister, 1991 p.136).
Almost all of the stories involving humans demonstrated that rescue from awkward situations comes from other people. The lesson here is that individuals often cannot help themselves and need to turn to the broader community for assistance. One parent reflected on uMvulazana (Mvulazana):
The story teaches us that the children or even adults can get assistance from people that they have never met before. We learn that someone should not suffer because one does not know the people around one. More importantly, the story teaches that the children must trust adults as well as they trust their own parents in terms of getting assistance and that it is not always the case that they might end up being soft targets of those who do not care about the safety of children.
However, assisting someone else should not be done rashly. When a man assists a snake in escaping from under a rock, the snake turns on him. A parent reflected on this:
This story teaches that one should be careful of helping people who might turn out to be enemies. These stories are setting examples while teaching the children not to help anyone at random.
Commenting on a story in which the friends of a Princess fail to assist her and she is swallowed by a beast (Inkosazana - The Princess), a parent said:
The story teaches the importance of providing help to those who need it and that it is bad for someone to deny help to people especially if that is caused by laziness as the ladies did to the princess because they were lazy to go back to the river with her to look for her blanket. Laziness and mercilessness have bad results as the story shows. The girls were all killed when the king learnt that he nearly lost his child because her colleagues were lazy to go back to the river with her.
Occasionally individuals extricate themselves from situations by being ingenious. For example, in Inkosikazi ibek'hlathini nomtwana (The woman who goes to the forest with her child) a mother whose child is taken by a forest animal, fearing her husband's wrath, gets the animal to swallow her and then lights a fire inside the animal, killing it.
A major theme, and one echoed most frequently in parent's reflections on the stories was one of obedience to your elders. The Chief commented on the overall purpose of stories as helping in "making these children respectful". Children who obey, and accord respect to their elders, are rewarded. Those who do not, are punished. This is a similar theme to that revealed in children's nursery rhymes where a girl dies because she does not obey her elders (Van der Riet, 1993). Underneath this injunction is the belief that respect for one's elders brings good fortune. One parent reflected:
This story teaches us that to listen and take orders is rewarding. Sikhulumakathehi and his colleagues were saved from being butchered by a man and his wife because they carefully listened to the advice and carefully followed the orders that they were given to save themselves from being killed.
The use of stories as a disciplinary tool was also mentioned: "When they do not listen you tell them about the giant in the olden days. This generation is too clever".
Another lesson which appeared in two stories (Iikati ezimbini - Two cats, and uMajeke nomthi wembotyi - Majeke and the tree of beans) was that seeking outside mediation in a dispute can worsen the situation. The mediators are portrayed as crafty tricksters and one is left with the feeling that it is better to solve disputes oneself. As the narrator of this story commented "They should have done it for themselves".
Children, particularly girls, are also warned not to go on journeys alone because of the consequences of meeting up with the archetypal "bad man". In two stories (Inkosazana - The Princess and Umntwana ohlala ngasehlathini - The child who lives near the forest), a girl makes a journey on her own, meets up with an animal who, in one case becomes a beast, and in another an old man. In both cases the threat of molestation is present. Girls seem to be being given problem-solving role models for similar situations which they might encounter.
Mtuze (1991) also comments on the gender-related emphases in stories:
The story-tellers, normally old women entrusted with moulding the characters of the younger generation of both sexes at the crucial formative years of their lives, always seem to stress exemplary conduct and self-sacrifice more in the case of girls, than in the case of boys ... Although the general message `respect your elders' seems to apply across the board, it seems, when contextualized for the purposes of a given story, that it is always the young girl who stands to lose an eligible marriage partner if she fails to display certain basic attributes such as kindness, humility and self-sacrifice ... In traditional society, it was important that girls be subjected to this `training' in survival strategies as they were the future custodians of the revered social values. In this way, the storytellers drove the point home that whereas males often depend on brute force to achieve the more difficult objectives, females use tact and self-sacrifice. In so doing, they attain the same goals at no personal risk to life, honour and integrity. This, especially in the eyes of the young listeners, should be construed as putting the women on a par with men, if not on a plain slightly higher, as the storytellers invariably valued brains more than brawn (pp. 68-69)
However, perhaps from a more Western perspective, this kind of emphasis seems to be a determined effort to put women in their place.
Relationship with the animal world
In a true Aesop Fables sense, the stories serve as explanations about animals and their behaviour. For example, in Ibali leenyamakazi (The Story of the wild animals) children learn why some animals have short tails, and why the owl does not sleep at night.
A key theme in this category is that of the negative consequences of ignoring the advice and demands of the animal world. Birds, particularly, seem to play a supportive role, in one case warning a mother that her children are in danger (Amangaba-ngaba - The albatross). The father does not take heed of this warning, and the children are spirited away. In three stories (uMvulazana - Mvulazana; uNomvula nengabangaba - Nomvula and the bird; Isele namakhwenkwe - The frog and the boys), a frog rescues a child from the water and delivers him/her home. However, the frog demands a sacrifice and holds the child hostage until this is performed.
Birds are also saviours. In one story (Abatshana - The nephews), a bird assists children stranded in a tree being chopped down by a cannibalistic mother, by making the tree stand up again. In another instance, birds can be milked (Intaka yobisi - The bird that produces milk). The subtext of these stories has an environmental message: take care of wildlife because they may provide assistance to you in times of need. One parent commented:
My mother once said to me `Look my son, don't ever spoil a bush that you used once as a shelter, because tomorrow you'll want to use it again'.
This theme extends to the importance of taking care of your livelihood, one's livestock as in Umalusi nodyakalashe (The shepherd and the Jackal).
One parent commented on the healthy wariness for nature which these stories instil in children:
The stories narrated to children are meant to show the children that some creatures in nature might be very dangerous, but sometimes the stories show that these creatures are not always dangerous. The examples given here... are giants and snakes. The snakes, in particular can be very dangerous if conditions are such that they have to defend themselves from provocation by people.
The dynamic of change
The darkness of Umaxesha okhanyo (the time of enlightenment)
Our children are saying that the days of darkness have gone. Enlightenment has come. The parents who still believe in old days must stay in darkness.
It is difficult today, we are living during the time of enlightenment.
They (children) do not want to be controlled, to listen when you tell them do this, don't do that...It was the time of darkness. Once you talk of olden day things you are trying to take them back to the darkness. (Chief, 83 year old)
Social change can be said to take place on numerous different levels. Legislative, political and institutional change has an abrupt, more immediate effect as with, for example, the creation of the homeland system. McAllister (1991) comments that in the 1980's legislation in these homelands attempted to transform the pattern of land use by dividing rural locations or wards into arable, grazing and residential units, fencing grazing camps and fields, and grouping homesteads together into fenced village-like settlements. This had the effect of disrupting the social organisational principles which held rural communities together. It also removed the responsibility for land use and allocation from the community, depriving it of its autonomy in this regard, and substituting a bureaucratic process for a social one. Homeland "independence" also lead to poor planning and greater impoverishment.
In addition to these forms of social change in rural contexts there are other, perhaps more insidious, forms of social change. For example, the introduction of formal education and the increase in the value of skilled and semi-skilled work in urban areas which increases the importance and value of this formal education. This exerts a pressure on non-literate/oral communities to seek out formal education which, in itself, has further consequences. Ong (1982) argues that "by storing knowledge outside the mind, writing and, even more, print downgrades the figures of the wise old man and the wise old woman, repeaters of the past, in favour of younger discoverers of something new" (p.41).
Mtuze (1991) has remarked on the effect of these changes on rural life-style.
Social and economic pressure force women to leave their homes and seek new fortunes in towns and cities. This exposes them to all the temptations and the frustrations of urban life... Back home, especially in the rural villages, this has lead to a discernable change in the traditional life-styles of women. Whereas it used to be taboo for them to enter kraals, milk cows, inspan oxen and do many kinds of work normally set aside for men, they suddenly found themselves having to do so. (p.68)
Parents in this research community seemed ambivalent about this situation, describing it as the age of enlightenment, but talking negatively about it. The impression is created of a sense of resignation to a process which they cannot control. The Chief was adamant that the change was negative and corrupting. The "civilization of the west" is what prevents parents from having time to tell stories. He commented that this "civilization" has lead to the abandonment of many things. It has even had an effect even food preference:
Our food was fresh, green food, not these chicken pieces or tinned stuff... if you can compare our bodies with men of the olden days, there was no man who was as thin or tiny as I am. Those men were tough. When the food of the white people arrived, people became tinier ... We buy beef. You can imagine when that beef was tinned, you do not know when. Perhaps its been there for years.
When he asked how this happened, he responds:
Whatever is introduced by a white man is good. Do you know isangcosi, the mealies that were stored in the granary? That stuff was rich in vitamins. We left these. We took biscuits because they are sweet. If one was to give our grandchildren the isangcosi, they will say that it is smelling. They will not eat that. That's how we are treating our culture.
He does not hold much hope for the role of stories, seeming to refer to a broader disintegration of society as it used to be. At the question of whether these stories play any role in the reassertion of tradition, he responds:
Not at all. They are just dreams. In the olden days people were proud of their clans. If you would say for instance the AmaHlubi people do not do such things, even a child would not like to do it. In our days nobody is interested in or proud of his/her origins.
It is evident that what McAllister (1991) says about particular areas of the Transkei can be said to occur in areas of Ciskei too: a certain lifestyle is under ever-increasing threat from various quarters. The old lifestyle has become difficult to sustain and has given way to a "secular, urban influence" (p. 131).
Increasing relaxation in laws governing residence in urban areas, plus the unproductiveness of the rural area, increase the effect of migration for both men and women - their sense of security is no longer in the rural context, it is in the towns. Older people in the villages of the Amatole Basin seem to see the negative influences of the towns, and the additional dependence on money for existence in that context, more clearly than younger residents.
Critical questions can be asked about the extent to which rural residents can and want to sustain their rural niche. Gilbert, Nkwinti and Van Vlaenderen (1995) argue that different types of rural tenancy have different degrees of security and consequently affect strategies of parenting. African parents in a deep rural context who have control over their own land seem to have a more pragmatic view of change. This was evident in this research. One parent commented:
There is nothing wrong with civilization, but it is we, the black people who move away from our culture and adopt other people's traditions. Civilization does not force anyone to change from his/her tradition. It is a person who chooses to adopt a Western way of life. I live here according to my father's tradition. I will never change and nobody will every change me in doing what I learnt from my parents. My children will do as they want to do after I die. Nobody can stand in your way in what your parents taught you... According to our tradition we condemn their (rural people's) stay in towns. Yet, they help us in many ways, as we help them... People learn what they don't know from those who know at their work places, from those who still maintain their way of life as taught by their parents. Stories teach people about things they do not know.
However, African farm labourers on white commercial farms are less willing to impart their own knowledge to their children as they do not want their children to stay on the farms. This type of research leads us to ask the question of how sustainable life in the rural villages of the Amatole Basin is, and whether or not parents should attempt to sustain it. On a cautionary note, Spiegal and Boonzaier (cited in McAllister, 1991) comment that the idea of tradition can be used by those in power to justify and facilitate domination, and this is precisely what has happened in South Africa. By portraying Africans as `traditional' apartheid was rationalised.
Present day story-telling
It became apparent during the course of the research that adults and children in the Amatole Basin rarely engage in story-telling these days. There were different opinions about why this was so. The most frequent response was that parents "do not have time". They argued that life was difficult in the particular conditions of the Amatole Basin, and that they were tired in the evenings. They seemed to imply that life, long ago, was easier, but that current conditions had worsened, and life was more stressful and strenuous. In addition, changes in economic status has lead to changes in living arrangements. One parent comments:
Today the child has got his own room, and so has the mother. They only meet in the kitchen. When we're finished eating, we disperse. The child goes to sleep anytime. During the olden days it was necessary for the grandmother to make plans for the children to go to sleep.
Another of these physical changes is the move to using paraffin and gas instead of fires:
When we grew up, there was a rondavel. All the family was there. If it was winter, there was a fire. When we were coming home from school we stayed around a fire. Cooking, heating, everything was done on the fire and we ate around the fire. After all that we would go to sleep. But now enlightenment has arrived.
There were some parents who disagreed with this reasoning, arguing that parents were at fault for no longer telling stories. They suggested that parents have neglected their responsibilities:
It's not really the town children who have a bad influence, it's the way parents have raised their children. Education is not the bad factor, if the arrogance is there before one is educated, education makes it worse. Education is important, you can't do anything without it.
Other parents denied that they were responsible arguing that the children were at fault for not wanting to listen to the stories. They commented that children are arrogant: "They think they are clever, but they are stupid", and feel superior to parents "Children do not want to listen to olden days life. Old people to them are outdated or are lagging behind", and lack respect. Children were described as lazy and disobedient: "They just want money without working ... they want the ease of things without the work". Parents argued that their children found television and radio more interesting:
Times have changed. In the olden days we used to listen to these stories from our grandparents. Today, our children have got no time. They are always scheduled for T.V. programmes, and radio. They'll tell their grandmothers to stop telling them these stories because a certain programme is going to be missed. Enlightenment has arrived.
Children of these days want to look at rugby, wrestling and boxing. They do not have time for stories. They only want to listen to things or activities of their choice.
In one of the villages, there are three televisions and the owners of these televisions allow children and adults to come and watch them, clearing the television room out especially for this purpose. This is resisted by some parents: "I don't want my grandchildren to watch (the) Bold and Beautiful" (an American television soap opera currently on South African television). It is interesting to note that even though the children are aware of these different forms of modern media, their stories did not seem to be overtly influenced by them in terms of form or content.
One grandparent seemed to accept the children's response to story-telling quite pragmatically:
Why should they listen to stories? Their main focus should be on their school work, it (story-telling) does not help them.
We are prepared (to tell stories) but now because they do not need them, we become lazy to tell them, even if they need them.
This raises a crucial question about the value of "wisdom" from the past. What form and content of knowledge will assist children in developing competence to deal with the immediate and future environments? Does this desire to return to traditions have other motives?
On the question of whether children suffered from not hearing the stories, parents were generally in agreement. They seem to refer to a consequent breakdown in children's perception of their community and civic responsibilities:
The child rearing of these days is not the same as the olden days because in our olden days one would be punished by a stranger. In these days even if you use your hand to hit the child when punishing him you'll be charged (with assault). In the olden days even if a child sees cattle in the fields, s/he would take them out. S/he wouldn't say: "Its not the cattle of my home, there's no point in chasing them out of the field". If a child did not do that in the olden days s/he would be punished by a stranger and another punishment will be given to him/her at home.
It is the parents who are at fault. We left the traditional ways of doing things. A child of these days can even shoot someone. You cannot even charge him for that because that would have no direction and end up being ignored by the authorities
The value of lessons in the stories
Parents were generally of the view that the values and lessons inherent in the stories were of use to children in any setting:
It doesn't matter whether children are urban or rural, the lessons of the stories will still apply.
Those who have missed this life have missed a lot. This is the start of life, they have missed a lot. The child is like a plant that you have to prepare and take care of...
INVENTING NEW TRADITIONS
Within this context it is important to recognise, as McAllister (1991) has with ritual, that cultural activity is used, manipulated, changed and created by people in response to a variety of factors, including economic and political realities both within the rural areas and emanating from outside them. In addition, "what we refer to as `culture',`custom' or `tradition' is not static and unchanging, but provides a resource which can be drawn on, manipulated and used to pursue goals, often of a political nature" (Spiegal and Boonzaier cited in ibid, p. 130). Ong argues that oral cultures adapt by "sloughing off memories which no longer have present relevance" (1992, p.46) and, citing Packard, notes that "oral traditions reflect a society's present cultural values rather than idle curiosity about the past" (ibid p.49).
Heath remarks on the way in which American black families taught their children in the tumultuous and insecure times subsequent to slavery. "Children had to learn from an ever-shifting network, continuously adapting through considering when to apply, discard, reform, and supplement facts and skills that others transmitted to them" (1989, p.367). Perhaps this is what parents and children are currently doing in South African rural areas.
It is interesting to notice the effect of social change. The decline in story telling is one consequence, but the change in content of stories is another. Perhaps this is a way of "managing" the social change. For example, there are stories which are definitely from a rural context and refer to activities which take place there (Amangaba-ngaba - The albatross; Intaka yobisi - The bird that produces milk; Umalusi nodyakalashe - The shepherd and the jackal) and then those which incorporate images and events from urban and rural contexts (EkaJita). Then there are those which are heavily influenced by formal education - pure, simple, with strong morals, and no subtleties (two examples are those told by the pre-school teacher: Umlilo - Fire, and the other on the importance of attending school uLizo noNomalizo - Lizo and Nomalizo). Another, more subtle indication of the process of social change is that when there are examples of two stories with similar plots, the older residents tended to imbue their stories with more references to rituals. For example, uMvulazana (Mvulazana), told by a 76 year old woman contains references to sacrifice, feasts and kings or chiefs. Whereas Isele namakhwenkwe (The frog and the boys), is told by a 44 year old woman without these references.
Implications for schooling/preschools
Langer (1987) argues that people need to learn the kinds of literate thinking engaged in by the local and larger society; but,
literacy cannot be detached from specific socio-cultural contexts... Students from a variety of cultures and subcultures are expected to understand and learn many new and complex ideas and to interpret them as the teacher does... interpretations and meanings that are contiguous with literacy in the students' first language and first culture are ignored, as are cultural differences in way of learning and assumptions about learning.... (p.13)
It could be argued that these kinds of stories lead to a particular literacy, a particular "way of thinking". Analysis of these types of literacy will assist educators in deconstructing the learning history with which students might enter formal education contexts.
Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989) state that often the practices of contemporary schooling deny students the chance to engage the relevant domain of culture, because that culture is not evident. They argue that school activity is often not authentic. Authentic activity is important for learners "because it is the only way they gain access to the standpoint that enables practitioners to act meaningfully and purposefully. It is activity that shapes or hones their tools ... " (p. 36). This has two implications. One is that schooling must embed tasks in familiar activity, and allow for the social construction of knowledge by providing for appropriate and authentic collaborative processes. Mistry argues that it would be easier and more effective if children could learn to read using texts that utilise narratives based on their culturally valued narrative structures and styles (1993). Secondly, there is a need to find out what an authentic activity for a rural youth culture is. Perhaps the use of modern technology in tandem with the form or content of knowledge inherent in the stories is a way forward. Children (and adults) were enthralled by the stories when the researcher provided a television and replayed both adults and children telling their stories.
A further advantage would be that the use of the intsomi would make a particular "cultural aesthetic more accessible to those of us who did not hear Iintsomi as children at the feet of our mothers and grandmothers ... we can make this tradition comprehensible for those South Africans whose education was predominantly `Western European'..." (Morris, 1989, p.91). As one parent comments:
they are helpful in both contexts because an urban child may visit the rural area. He can know the dangers, or lifestyle, of the rural areas. For instance, to work in the forest in the rural area is not the same as walking in the streets of the townships. These stories are helpful in both contexts especially to us black people who live in bad conditions because you don't get whites living in such conditions.
In a rather controversial article, Tötemeyer (1992) decries present day society's emphasis on books as the only means of enlightenment. "Many of the things which books can offer a child, the oral story can also do for him [sic]: His imagination can be stimulated by the fire-side tales of ogres, witches, cannibals, talking pots, crocodiles and snakes, her [sic] sense of beauty can be developed by the ntsomi which is a far better vehicle with its perfect synthesis of word, music and movement than the book can ever hope to be" (p.38). However, she qualifies this by arguing that although traditional storytelling still has an important place in society, an oral literature alone cannot "widen the horizons of modern youth enough to meet the demands of the future. Story-telling based on print could provide an answer" (ibid).
McAllister argues that ritual
dramatise the social norms and values on which social organisation is based.... By placing social practice in its normative cultural context, (it makes) meaningful the reality of things such as everyday co-operation and the division of labour between men and women. (It provides) a `frame' within which members of society are able to portray their socio-cultural system, to reflect upon it and reaffirm it. ... (It makes) the principles that operate in everyday life tangible and salient, and invest them with value, thereby reinforcing and perpetuating them. (McAllister, 1991, p. 138),
With regard to the specific ritual of story-telling, is it not then expedient to explore the notion of what is relevant to African youth today, so that for example, young children in preschools can utilise material which reflects their experience and with which they can identify? In this way, becoming literate would not mean to become alienated from ones' social norms and practices and the gap between school and home contexts could be bridged.
Financial support for this research project was provided through a research grant from Rhodes University, Grahamstown. The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the following people in translation, transcription, editing and advice on the Xhosa life perspective: Rolly Dumezweni, Sicelo Dyira, Pearl Yona, Nomfundo Gushe, Gugile Nkwinti, Sean Field, Ursula van Harmelen.
A list of stories is attached in the appendix. A selection of these stories is currently being compiled into a children's book for use in formal and informal education settings.
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APPENDIX List of stories and narrators
Izimfobo ezibini - The two hunchbacks 54
Ibali ngabantwana ababini - The story about two children 20
Siyolo - Siyolo 44
Amangaba-ngaba - The albatross 53
Inkosikazai ibek'ehlathini nomtwana -The woman goes to the forest with the child 78
Intaka yobisi - The bird that produces milk 38
Umalusi nodyakalashe - The shepherd and the Jackal 80
uJan noJans'denge - Jan and stupid Jan 48
Igqabi lenkosi - The Leaf of the King 19
Ukumkani nentombi eyayimphekela - The King and his girl cook 78
Udyakalashe nomvolufu - The Jackal and the Wolf 80
Udyakalashe nomvundla - The Jackal and the Hare 80
Udyakalashe nomvolufu - The Jackal and the Wolf 15
Udyakalashe nomvolufu - The Jackal and the Wolf 42
Utat'othanda inyama - The man who loves meat 13
Ukubhaqwa kwezimba 23
Isithembu/ intlantsi yakwamakumtu - Polygamy/The spark of Makumtu 19
EkaJita - Jita 44
uNondindi noMvulazana - Nondindi and Mvulazana 48
Iikati ezimbini - The two cats 83
uMajeke nomthi wembotyi - Majeke and the tree of beans 44
Iimpukwana neenyokana - The baby mice & the baby snakes 53
Inyokana neempukwana - The baby snakes and the baby mice 65
Umakhulu - The old woman 78
Isele namakhwenkwe - The frog & the boys 44
uMvulazana - Mvulazana 76
uNomvula nengabangaba - Nomvula and the albatross 35
Umfazi nendoda behlakula emasimini-The woman & the man ploughing in the fields 63
Umntwana ohlala ngasehlathini - The child who lives near the forest 22
Inkosazana - The princess
Nyana wolahleko - The prodigal son 41
Amakhwenkwe - The boys 54
Amadoda amathathu - The three men 60
Utata nabantwana nomama (Imfama) - The Blind man 34
Ihobe - The dove 60
Umvolufu nodyakalashe - The Wolf and the Jackal 10
Udyakalashe nehobe - The Jackal and the dove
Udyakalashe nengonyama - The Jackal and the Lion 23
uGugu noNyadada - Gugu and Nyadada 20
Nomahamle - Nomahamle 54
Isigebenga - The giant
Abatshana - The nephews 35
Ibali leenyamakazi - The story of the wild animals 35
I have a Masters degree and lecture in the Psychology Department at Rhodes University. My current project, which has the makings of a PhD, is the compilation of a book of Xhosa stories for children. Other areas of interest are the role of psychologists in development; the origins and cognitive development of academic literacy; and the resources inherent in the management of social change.
A discursive analysis of schizophrenic speech with mystical features
Schizophrenia and Mystical or Religious Experience
Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand
The driving motivation for a study into the areas of overlap between the schizophrenic experience and the mystical experience, is a simple one. The attempt to understand, or to connect meaningfully and powerfully with the individual suffering from schizophrenia, has become a real, clinical necessity. Clearly, the near impossibility of maintaining contact with another person, constitutes a primary feature of the psychotic world. If any process of 'individuation', existential growth, or inner transformation is to occur, it will be activated by and will unfold within a precious interaction with another human being. The use of the word 'precious' above, expresses a valuing of the individual's experience, and his/her position in the world. Perhaps the greatest insights and glimpses of truths are gained only when the essential pre-requisites of humility, respect and openness in the face of another's experience, are satisfied . It is only with this stance that the undertaking to understand the individual with schizophrenia begins successfully and with much hope and promise.
Perhaps a possible first step towards understanding the schizophrenic experience would be to parallel it with another relatively 'normal' or universally occurring experience (that is the mystical, religious or spiritual experience). Where overlap is found between what the individual with schizophrenia may experience and what the relatively 'sane' and spiritually aware individual may experience, a valuable meeting place for the two individuals is found. In a sense, contact already pre-exists in the points of congruence between the two states. Once the instances of co-incidence or similarity have been explored, it would be useful to inquire why the two states of being were so diametrically opposed or split. 'What silently pervasive power or prevalent thought-structure does this schism, difference, or opposition maintain and advance?', or alternatively, 'What power or thought-structure put the schism or division into place and continues to do so?' These would be the pertinent and enlightening questions to ask .
First let the overlap between the psychotic state and the mystical-religious state be presented. At the heart of the schizophrenic condition, there seems to lie a strange contradiction. On the one hand there may be a sense that the individual with schizophrenia has no integrated, core or anchoring self. Instead of serving as an centre to which all the threads of the self may traced, the individual with schizophrenia seems to have a self that disperses outward, where the fragmented parts float disjointedly among the events and persons of the world (Sass, 1994). Jung(CW 3:508), described the dissociation of the schizophrenic's self as "a mirror broken into splinters" which cannot re-integrate back into psychic totality. Even the most intimate and personally immediate thoughts and inclinations seem to emanate from some external source(s) or foreign soul(s) - "...they can go into your subconscious mind and make you think the way they want you to think..." (transcribed interview,1995).
Yet on the other hand, the self of the schizophrenic may appear as pre-eminent and all-powerful. His/her consciousness seems to be positioned at the very epicentre of the universe with all the layers and strata of existence constituting it as if it were some ultimate solipsistic deity (Sass,1994) - "...I am Queen of the Netherworld..."(transcribed interview,1995). The individual with schizophrenia may believe that s/he "can read another person's thoughts", or that s/he owns a "power to heal" illnesses of the psyche (ibid).
We therefore seem to be confronted with what may appear to be the very paradigm of strangeness and irrationality. Individuals displaying schizophrenic symptomology may claim to have limitless powers, yet are completely impotent and ineffectual in the most basic areas of human functioning. They may claim to be God himself and yet have difficulty owning anything of themselves at all.
This strange contradiction in the 'being' of the individual with schizophrenia - where s/he may move from having no self at all to being the Ultimate Self - seems to be described in some instances of Eastern thought. Zen Buddhism will advocate that one must negate the self in order to realize the self (Suler, 1995). Understanding this enigmatic advocation entails delineating two 'orders' of the self.
On the one hand, there is the self that is to be negated. It is the self that is so inwardly-focused that it is deluded as to its own sense of omnipotence and invulnerability. Modern (western) (wo)man's hyper-reflexivity is aptly described by Foucault in The Order of Things(1970) as a self-deceiving pre-occupation with, and over-valuing of, the phenomenon of his/her own consciousness. That part of the self that is to be negated, sanctions the idea that the world and its events comply with the demands and conditions of human knowing. Thus the self that should be negated is the self typically characterized by a 'transcendental narcissism' where human consciousness is placed in a position of primacy over the world. This order of self may be exaggerated to reflect the state of psychosis where the individual with schizophrenia imagines him/herself to be some 'higher organizing principle' in the character of a deity. The individual with schizophrenia has arranged the world according to his/her own perception and understanding to such an extent that s/he ultimately self-creates a new, alternative or substitutive reality to this, concrete, consensual reality.
On the other hand, the self that is to be realized is the self stripped of all its pretensions and self-glorifications. It is the self that does not cling to 'concretized' experiences, that is, to personal symbolic objects, to self-defining labels and roles, or to personal ritualistic behaviours that provide the individual with a false sense of self. The realized self is released from worldly circumstances, historical locations and cultural influences. It is pure Awareness, pure Subjectivity, pure Consciousness, pure Truth (Wittine, 1995). It is true to say that the individual with schizophrenia may temporarily display no 'clinging' behaviour , having forfeited all attachments with the external world or with consensual reality. In this way s/he mirrors the realized self of the mystic.
However, it would be untrue to say that the individual with schizophrenia has attained pure Awareness, or pure Consciousness like the mystic. The loss of a sense of self experienced by the individual with schizophrenia is so fundamental and profound that s/he experiences objects and people around him/her as if s/he were those objects or people. The protective barrier between inner and outer no longer exists and as a consequence everything appears to the schizophrenic in essence and with great immediacy. All relevant objects physically outside the schizophrenic, become the schizophrenic - "I take everything to myself..." (Kepinski,1978 cited in Wrobel,1990:105) - "Phil said he did not know what smoking really was and he felt that whatever part of him he had burnt up and flicked into the ashtray might be important. He thought he should eat the ashes in order to give his body a chance to put the ashes back together into whatever they had been before, and then return it to its necessary position in the body."(Ogden,1980:524). The connecting link between an external object and internal human consciousness, is the concept, meaning, or signification attached to and implied by that external object. This connection between external object and internal consciousness that exists through meaning, is lost for the individual with schizophrenia. Objects and experiences without their attached meanings, are what confront the individual with schizophrenia.
The mystic's loss of self implies something different to the schizophrenic's loss of self. The process of self-negation or loss of self for the mystic is described as follows. The mystic's self, that is the 'ground of his/her individual being' establishes contact with, and engulfs, the greater essence of life, that is the 'ground of universal being'. The mystic's self becomes Self (this is drawn from the Hindu Upanishads text, cited in Wittine,1995:293). In contrast, the schizophrenic has no sense of 'individual being', making contact and integration with the 'universal being' impossible. The individual with schizophrenia seems to have neglected the intermediate step in the process of self-realization, the step that is the recognition of one's individual self. S/he has progressed pre-maturely and has simulated the stage of integration between 'individual' and 'universal being' in his/her approximation of the qualities of a 'universal being'.
Thus far, a comparison has been made between the schizophrenic's experience and the mystic's experience. The instances of congruence and overlap as well as the instances of disjunction and fracture between the two states have been explored. It would now be appropriate to use the similarities between the mystical and schizophrenic experiences as a basis for a contrast with modern society. If transcendence of the enculturated, or socialized self is a phenomenon observed simultaneously in the schizophrenic and in the mystic, what does this say of modern society which is the location where this common act of transcendence occurs? The remainder of this paper will attempt to address this issue. The double-order or duality within the self, that is, the co-existence of (the mystic's) self-to-be-negated (or the absence of self in the schizophrenic), and (the mystic's) self-to-be-realized (or the 'omnipresence' and 'omnipotence' of the schizophrenic), presents the self as internally inconsistent and internally contradicted. Indeed internal inconsistency and psychic imbalance seem to be prominent features of the normalized, socialized modern soul . His/her exterior appearance that communicates with, and borrows a sense of identity from society (this is aligned with Jung's 'persona' concept, CW 8:305), is not balanced with an equal psychic concentration on his/her personal interior that houses his/her soul and spirituality. A psychic deficit in the area of the inner self that is spiritual results from a corresponding psychic over-investment in the outwardly-orientated area of self that complies with a controlling social order. Thus modern society fosters a psychic imbalance both within the self of the schizophrenic and within the self of the normalized, socialized being.
A culture or society that downplays or shuns mystical or spiritual experience in order to ensure that its ethos or logic of rationality, objectivity and scientific reasoning remains intact, may receive the following response as exemplified by the socialized individual and the schizophrenic. There may be a need to turn inward, to withdraw socially, to become more reflexive, to allow for idiosyncratic pre-occupations. All this bears witness to an unwillingness or an inability to conform to and fulfill the standard expectations and norms of modernity. Instead, a yearning for some kind of subversion or escape is observable. Where the individual with schizophrenia achieves this escape through the creation of an alternative reality that opposes the dominant, consensual reality, the mystic may adopt a different strategy. The mystic's strategy follows using Zen Buddhism as an illustration. It is the state of inner duality and internal instability that Zen Buddhism seeks to address. The dialectic between the inner-oriented and outer-oriented psychic systems or orders of the self, is possible only by the very fact of the two systems opposing each other. Since it is this opposition which causes disharmony and imbalance within the self, Zen advocates a 'union of opposites'. This will yield a mutual interaction of the opposing systems along a 'middle path'(Jung,CW 7:329). Thus, whereas modernity promotes a system of thought that is built upon a logic of difference and opposition between entities, a more spiritually inclined thought-system operates according to a logic of union and interpenetration between entities.
Herein may lie an opportunity or an available 'space' for the individual with schizophrenia to begin a process of inner growth, renewal and transformation. Should the individual with schizophrenia succeed in balancing, or more accurately, merging in equal measure, his/her self-created, alternative reality (which would display spiritual features) with this, consensual, grounded reality (which reflects an ideology of rationality, reason, predictability, and the subjugation of the social subject), then s/he has in fact transcended the opposition and dichotomy between the two worlds. Similarly, should the individual with schizophrenia succeed in uniting the contradictory characteristics of a 'nothingness' of self and an 'allness' of self, then s/he has in fact transcended a major defining characteristic of the pathology of schizophrenia. In these ways the individual with schizophrenia does not compromise his/her being and existence by denying the legitimacy and reality of his/her schizophrenic experience, an experience which may signal a spiritual exploration and investigation of reasonable and comprehensible origins.
Foucault, M. (1970). The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. London: Routledge.
Jung, C. G. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. From Volume 3: The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease, On the Psychogenesis of Schizophrenia (1939). From Volume 8:The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, On the Nature of the Psyche (1947/1954). From Volume7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious (1928).
Ogden, T. H. (1980). On the Nature of the Schizophrenic Conflict, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 61:515-533.
Sass, L. A. (1994). Civilized Madness: Schizophrenia, Self-consciousness and the Modern Mind. History of the Human Sciences, 7(2) : 83-120.
Suler, J. (1995). In Search of the Self: Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Review, 82 (3) : 407-426.
Wittine, B. (1995). The Spiritual Self: Its relevance in the Development and Daily Life of the Psychotherapist, in A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practise. (Ed.) Sussman, M. B. New York: Wiley Interscience.
Wrobel, J. (1990). Language and Schizophrenia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Department of Psychology
University of the Witwatersrand
Funding cuts - resulting in creative and imaginative solutions
Mrs. H Jones, Sr. Lorraine & Mr Hamel
A panel of four will give:
a) A short history of Nazareth House since its foundation in 1894 in Johannesburg.
b) The services provided for through fields of welfare, namely
- the aged
- mentally and physically handicapped
- children in need
Finding positive and constructive ways and means of raising funds to suppliment our diminishing government subsidies so as to continue our work.
A resident will relate how the recent changes have affected the elderly in Nazareth House.
A sister will explain our work with children in need, and how the parents are assisted with reconstruction.
Nazareth House, the "Home with a Difference" was founded in 1884 to serve the Homeless, Disabled and Abused human casualties of the sprawling mining camp, that was Johannesburg.
From a humble impoverished beginning and serving over a century of complex years of wars, lack of finance and accomodation, Nazareth House, as an institution, has most certainly helped to foster the thriving giant that is Johannesburg, as we know it today.
Providing services for three fields of service, namely Aged, Children and mentally handicapped is a gigantic task, with current economic circumstances and limited resources.
The reduction in subsidies has also been necessitated by the fact that only limited funds are available for this purpose, and that the government requires that the needs of marginalised communities also be addressed.
University of the Witwatersrand
As our global society continues the shift from modernity to postmodernity one of the central areas that it questions is the body of truth and understanding. More and more it is being argued that truth is determined by cultural and historical conditions, brought about through the interaction of individuals on a day-to-day basis. This paper will argue that this is indeed not the case, and that truth and the indivudal understanding of reality is determined, not through the processes of social interaction and discourse, but rather by the individual's conscious awareness of the self interacting within nature. It will abandon the western philosophies of social constructionism and postmodernism and focus on some of the core components of age old eastern philsophy. Through exploring various themes it will highlight the importance of the Individual Being, exisiting within a particular moment, free of the interaction and interpretative bias of the world created by our interaction with others. Thus a radical departure from both modernism and postmodernism to a new examination of the body of truth and knowledge.
Crowd psychology and social control
Department of Psychology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
Foucault writes that a bio-politics of the population was effected by supervising the species body "through an entire series of interventions and regulatory controls". This operation of power is very different from the negating function of sovereign power as it is productive: of knowledge and subjects. In this paper I discuss the way in which new so called unbiased theories of crowd psychology (by Reicher, and Turner & Killian) are linked to a series of controls and interventions in our society. By analyzing the Goldstone commission's report on violence and public demonstrations, I show how this new understanding of the crowd makes possible `democratic' and bureaucratic strategies of discipline and control. Instead of being subdued by force (the police) the contemporary crowd is to monitor itself.
The formation of a subcultural identity, exemplified in rave culture: Postmodern candy floss or a possible solution to the failures of a modern world?
The contemporary Rave culture - a subculture infused with conflicting discourse and dilemmas of power and anarchy -finds itself surrendering to Foucaults pastoral power. The presentation would comprise of a discourse analytical study of the rave advertisements, rave tickets, that are intrinsically infused with ironies. Various discourses of power, conformity, contribute toward the hypocritical, yet fascinating, core motivation toward the configuration of a rave cultural identity. An obsession with technology, is discussed in intense comparison with desires to recreate a ancestral tribal past (that reverberates through the worship of man-made musical form). The importance of hallucinogenic drugs experimentation, and the belief in a global community through the enigma of the cyberspace, are ideas that the presentation will attempt to demystify.
NO 2 CASTLE MANSIONS
13 FLORIDA ROAD
VREDEHOEK, CAPE TOWN
James Dawson & Jo-Ann Scott
University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
This paper was part of the requirements for our Research Methodology course in Psychology Honours. The conference, being a qualitative research methodology conference, was ideally suited to the presentation of our paper, even more so than the piercing of body parts (hint hint). No known research has been done to date on the particular behaviour displayed by people while riding in elevators. This study uses grounded theory to investigate such behaviour, including the relationships between variables such as the distance kept between occupants of a lift and their communication. It also looks at differences between these variables in business and residential elevators. We have found that behaviour displayed by elevator occupants follows a theory of "lift etiquette", which proposes that people share mutual understandings of the type of behaviour which is expected and acceptable to engage in.
This study used grounded theory as a qualitative research method for investigating the behaviour displayed by people in elevators. Grounded theory involves the discovery of plausible relationships between concepts or sets of concepts not previously connected, and proposes systematic statements of these relationships. Data for the study was collected by observing the behaviour of people riding in lifts in apartment and office blocks. These observations were then coded into concepts and categories.
Analysis of this data led to the development of a theory of "lift etiquette", that is, that there exist accepted ways of behaving in elevators. People tend to position themselves closer to the "comfort zones" (back and sides) of the lift, and stand so as to allow for maximum distance between themselves and others. Most often orientation will be towards the front of the lift and attention directed at the floor, the level indicator above the door or at conversants in the lift. Communication between females was observed to be of a more intimate content and that of
males of a more casual nature. When one does something out-of-the-ordinary, such as facing the back of the lift, verbal communication decreases and nervous behaviour (eg. fidgeting) increases.
More extensive grounded theory research would reveal more conclusive evidence, hopefully capable of confirming or rejecting this epoch-making hypothesis.
Both of us are Psychology Honours students at UN, Pmb. James has a B.Soc Sci (Economics and Psycho) and Jo a B.Com (Accounting and Psycho). Current projects: James: "Neuropsychologic and Encephalographic measures of alcoholic hangover" (unpublished) Jo-Ann: "An investigation into the link between exercise addiction and self-discrepancies, anxiety and depression among female aerobic exercisers" (unpublished) No other published articles as yet.
2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
critical methods society - www.criticalmethods.org - [email protected]