The Multiplicity of Truths
by Anna Velychko
I appreciated the chapter Beyond Dogma by Patrick Casement (1985) due to its relevance to the current online community and its dynamics. Casement (1985) states that human truth is never onesided. I find that most of the “conversations” that happen online are quite constricted for the lack of a better word. I used the quotation marks because I find these conversations to be more as monologues rather than dialogues. People present to be hypersensitive to opinions of others, and they do not shy to intimidate someone online, who do not share the same views and opinions as theirs. I find it genuinely problematic, especially for our younger generation who is growing up side-by-side with technology. It is as of most of us have developed a higher narcissistic vulnerability, which makes it challenging to be acceptant to multiple truths of people’s experiences. Besides ordinary (every day) conversations that we might be having, the topic of the singularity of someone’s truth makes me think of a medical model – psychiatry in particular.
I have attended two events at the Institute for the Development of Human Arts, which happen monthly. The purpose of this monthly forum is to bring together personal perspectives from providers, peers/survivors, family members, and other interested parties to discuss issues and experiences with psychotropic medication, among other subjects. The goal of the forum is to foster productive discussion and to change the perception that only those who work in the field of mental health are the experts in mental health. Medical professionals omnipotence, particularly in psychiatry, came up multiple times in these meetings. I am not sure what are the precursors leading to this authoritative perception of medical providers. However, what I do know is that by remaining single-minded, medical professionals may not be participating in the healing process of the individuals they serve, but doing otherwise. One of the participants at IDHA stated: “It is not the job of oppressed people to educate the oppressor.” Her statement made me think that we need to support each other in becoming more eclectic professionals, who utilize an integrative approach to psychiatry and other professions.
On a level of conducting psychotherapy, it is paramount to be connected to clients on a level that is available to them – instead of solely relying on theories. As a becoming psychotherapist, I have to be remindful of this idea to myself, as I am trying to grasp for theoretical concepts to make sense of the work I do – to make it meaningful for my clients. Casement (1985) mentioned the value of “not-knowing,” which I find truly powerful. The “not-knowing” allows being more present with the client and more relatable (e.g., trial identification) to his/her experiences, instead of looking for evidence supporting a particular theory. I appreciated Casement’s (1985) point on projective identification – intuitive and subconscious interaction between the therapist and the client – as the process of learning from the client. Following the client would allow us, working professionals, to be open-minded to the multiplicity of truths in a therapeutic context.
However, we have to remain conscientious and reflective on our own experiences within the therapeutic work we partake in – to help clients to process unresolved aspects of the past, instead of replaying some unhelpful patterns in a role of their earlier objects. It always fascinates me to think what could potentially happen within therapeutic environments (for the better or worse) when two psyches are involved in this intersubjective process.
It becomes a particularly sensitive topic, as I am reflecting on my own experience conducting therapy. While being a perfectionist, for me it is not easy to let go of the idea that I could be wrong and that it is nearly impossible to be a good therapist at all times. In Negotiating a Personal Idiom Joyce Slochower (2006) makes a connection between practical and theoretical aspects of psychoanalytic work, stating that “theoretical singularity is constraining: by rigidly adhering to a prescribed model, we run the risk of ignoring or negating moments of theoretical inconsistency.” When we value uncertainty, we are less likely to become clinically or theoretically rigid. Though I am still in a mindset of “having the right way of conducting therapy” (to be honest), I feel grateful for the knowledge translated through the work of the psychotherapists mentioned above. Authors’ expertise serves as a reminder of how necessary self-examination and reflectivity within every therapeutic context is.
Casement, P. (1985). Beyond Dogma. Learning from the Patient, New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Slochower, J. A. (2006). Negotiating a Personal Idiom. Psychoanalytic Collisions, Mahwah, NJ: The Analytic Press, Inc.