Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Jill Freedman and Gene Combs: Narrative Therapy

... the beliefs, values, institutions, customs, labels, laws, divisions of labor, and the like that make up our social realities are constructed by the members of a culture as they interact with one another from generation to generation and day to day. That is, societies construct the “lenses” through which their members interpret the world. The realities that each of us take for granted are the realities that our societies have surround us with since birth. These realities provide the beliefs, practices, words, and experiences from which we make up our lives, or, ... “constitute our selves.” ... we see how the stories that circulate in society constitute our lives and those of the people we work with. We also notice how the stories of individual lives can influence the constitution of whole cultures—not just the stories of people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, but also those of people like Pocahontas, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, and Tina Turner, as well as the stories of ordinary people whose name we have never heard. (Freedman and Combs: 16-17)

This conception of self is at odds with the skin-bound container with fixed contents (resources) that we had previously conceptualized. ... If we were really to adapt these new ways of thinking and perceiving—which we wanted to do because of the kinds of therapy they support—we would become responsible for continually constituting ourselves as the people we wanted to be. We would have to examine taken-for-granted stories in our local culture, the contexts we moved in, the relationships we cultivated, and the like, so as to continually re-author and update our own stories. Morality and ethics would not be fixed things, but ongoing activities, requiring continuing maintenance and attention. (Freedman/Combs: 17)

What is important here … is that change, whether it be change of belief, relationship, feeling, or self-concept, involves a change in language. … Meanings are always somewhat indeterminate, and therefore mutable. … Meaning is not carried in a word by itself, but by the word in relation to its context, and no two contexts will be exactly the same. Thus the precise meaning of any word is always somewhat indeterminate, and potentially different; it is always something to be negotiated between two or more speakers or between a text and a reader. (Freedman/Combs: 29)

Freedman, Jill and Gene Combs. Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., 1996.

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