Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Appreciations (17) – I am a universe, and you are, too

Appreciations (17) – I am a universe, and you are, too

Torrey Orton

December 15, 2009


This all started a few years ago when I was trying to think of a way of representing the nature of my feeling/thought contents. Being scientifically under-developed, I imagined feeling/thought bits carried around by neuro-bits of some sort. Whatever the mechanism and processes, I envisaged them all being connected to each other directly or, indirectly through one another. So my brain, and the consciousness it supports and in return reconfigures, is a great nest of filamental connections always in touch though not always activated. Therefore it is meaningful to say, as I daily do in therapy, that it doesn't matter where a conversation starts it can always get where it needs to eventually, and will but for intentional blockages.


Whenever we talk about people, what do we have to take into account explicitly to make meaningful remarks about any part of the whole? First off, we need an image of a person, so I'm going for a universe. Each of us is a universe. All of us, then, is a universe of universes…wherein lies a geometrically enlarged complexity for thought, feeling and action. Neither is viable without the other – individuals or collections of us.


The implications of this image for research in my area of practice are many. The most central for me at the moment is caution about the public claims made by researchers about understanding much of anything. Each little research announcement (they are made almost daily hereabouts) in the health, education or economy domains to name three biggies, increases fragmentation of public understanding. I would like to see a publication which reported the life span of "research" claims in these three domains. Most obvious would be claims about good health and how to create and sustain it. Education gets regular play with competing claims for effectiveness, often intensely so, and no shared ground on which we might build reasonable policy or testably improvable action. As for the economy, its fates are on view for all to interpret as they can.


At the moment, much publically reported "research" considers the typical individual universe more like the classical homunculus representing the human sensory apparatus: great hands, feet and face, little else of visible note. Presumably there's a mind, but usually more honoured for its malleability than its originality or integrity. Certainly not a universe, but perhaps a good image for marketing and its close sibling behavioural economics.


A starting place for the known contents of the human universe would be the knowledge map "based on electronic data searches in which users moved from one journal to another" (see here) plus world cultural history (especially the arts). You may prefer the Britannica or Google as an image of our universes. Whichever, they share the fact of your being able to get to anywhere from anywhere within them.


As a therapist, I am often aware of how little I do or can know of my patient clients. Any one would take a lifetime to know, as I would for them, and still be nowhere near complete. So I am working on partial images and outlines of lives, occasionally sharpened as a particular pattern or filament is highlighted and attended to again and again, as so often they must be to be engaged, understood and changed, a bit!! But, still only partially known.


Perhaps this is why we know our patients best as relationships between us through which our universes get entangled and so visible to us. This is so equally for everyday social, work and intimate relationships, too. Keeping our perceptual windows open wide and often enough to allow the most of universes in is obligatory, though unenforceable!


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