From 2010 onwards I began to write articles for the Institute of Developmental Transactional Analysis (IDTA) Newsletter. Those newsletters are readily available for anyone to see on the IDTA website – www.instdta.org or if you want to go straight to the newsletters click on http://bit.ly/2rYizZS. The following is therefore an updated summary of what I wrote in an article about Making Meaning (Hay, 2010).
At the time, I had recently compiled a reflective enquiry project as part of my studies for an MSc in TA Psychotherapy. This got me thinking about how we do make meaning, and how our own versions of meaning-making may impact on our clients, whether these be in therapy, organisational or educational settings.
I was prompted to the choice of topic because I was moving from many years steeped in classical TA, where Berne told us to share the theory with the client, into relational TA, where the focus is on how we can work with the process that occurs when clients unknowingly seek to recreate their early scenes so they can reach a different conclusion. Although this sounds like it would only apply to psychotherapy, my organisational background meant that I could easily see how really listening to someone in an organisation could often make a huge difference to their perspective – hence the increasing demand for coaching – and how in an educational setting a teacher might easily have a therapeutic impact on a pupil just by listening to them.
When I had been told years ago that I was a post-modernist, I had to ask what that word meant! I came to understand that it means that I am someone who believes that there are many ways to understand our world – as opposed to modernism where the belief is that there is only one truth. I realised that this explained my reluctance to apply diagnostic labels – not just because Berne cautioned against it but because it imposes on an individual the way in which the world is constructed by others. I knew, for example that there were many culturally based problems with the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) and that diagnoses changed when the DSM was reissued, rather like the ways in which fashions change over time and between cultures.
In a special issue of the Transactional Analysis Journal (TAJ), Allen & Allen (1997) suggested that the constructionist therapist (constructivism being similar to post-modernism) would aim to help clients conceptualise themselves differently. They wrote of the 'last permission' which they described as being allowed to make meaning for ourselves rather than in the way that we were taught to do so as we were growing up. I add to this that it is also about enabling individuals to make meaning in their own way – it is not just that they make a different meaning but that they are able to change the way they approach the task of meaning-making.
It was many years later that Summers & Tudor (2000) extended Allen & Allen’s ideas into cocreativity – we help clients re-conceptualise through the creation of something new that comes into existence as we interact. This means, of course, that something new comes into existence in the practitioner’s head as well as in the client’s head.
In the original article, I went on to comment about the impact of culture and how our culture as practitioners might match or differ from the client’s culture, pointing out that we need to bring such differences into conscious awareness lest we over-identify with some clients or misinterpret the meaning-making processes of others.
I suggested that we asked ourselves the following questions:
We need to pay attention to our own meaning-making lest it ‘leak’ into our clients minds as we cocreate.
In my next blog I will present the rest of the article, with my suggestions for how we need to develop our skills of reflection and how some of this needs to be done in supervision.
Allen J & Allen B (1997) A new Type of Transactional Analysis and One Version of Script work with a Constructionist Sensibility Transactional Analysis Journal 27 (2) 89-98
Hay, Julie (2010) Making Meaning. IDTA Newsletter 5:2 7-9
Summers, G &Tudor, K (2000) Cocreative Transactional Analysis Transactional Analysis Journal 30 (1) 23-40
© 2018 Julie Hay
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