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Dancing at the Frontier: liminality, chaos and change. À habiter un monde liminaire EFTA Paris 2010 60 years of family therapy, 20 years of EFTA … and after? New ways for systemic practice Hugh Jenkins Institute of Psychiatry, London, and independent practice 30 October 2010

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dancing at the frontier liminality chaos and change
Dancing at the Frontier: liminality, chaos and change

À habiter un monde liminaire

EFTA Paris 2010

60 years of family therapy, 20 years of EFTA … and after?

New ways for systemic practice

Hugh Jenkins

Institute of Psychiatry, London, and independent practice

30 October 2010

www.hughjenkins.com

ventris@dircon.co.uk

30 minutes a time exercise in the impossible
30 minutes! A ‘time’ exercise in the impossible?
  • What are boundaries?
  • Two stories
  • What is time?
  • Being out of time? The instant?
  • Ritual / rites of passage
  • Ritual and time – a clinical example
  • Process of therapy: time and boundaries.
a frontier boundary to measure time
A ‘frontier’ / boundary to measure time
  • What is the nature of this line?
  • “Camberwell is ‘later’ than Greenwich.”
  • “Budapest is ‘later’ than London”
  • “London is ‘earlier’ than Timisoara, which is ‘later’ than Budapest”

Meridian line, Greenwich, London

change and time aristotle
Change and time. Aristotle
  • ‘Not only do we measure change by time, but we also measure time by change, because they are determined by each other.’
  • Aristotle (1999) Physics. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 109.
boundaries and timelessness1
Boundaries and timelessness

‘A boundary separates two zones of social space-time which are normal, time-bound, clear-cut, central, secular, but the spatial markers are themselves abnormal, timeless, ambiguous, at the edge, sacred. … The crossing of frontiers and thresholds is always hedged about with ritual, so also is the transition from one social status to another.’

Leach, E., (1976) Culture and Communication: The logic by which symbols are Connected. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 35.

when time boundaries become confused
When time boundaries become confused
  • ‘Shaul explains that the seminal historic event in every settler child’s early education is the 1929 massacre during the riots against Jewish immigration to Palestine, when 67 Jews were slaughtered in a single day - although 435 survived after being sheltered by their Arab neighbours. … (H)e recalls how he saw an elderly Palestinian woman … greeted by settler children throwing stones at her. “I said to a child of about 10, ‘What do you think are you doing?’ He said, ‘Do you know what this woman did in 1929?’”.’

(Emphasis added)

  • MacIntyre, D., (2008) A rough guide to Hebron. The Independent Magazine. 26 January 2008. 18-25.
what is time augustine of hippo
What is time? Augustine of Hippo
  • ‘What then is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.’
  • Augustine of Hippo (1961) Confessions. London. Penguin Books. 264.

Augustine of Hippo. 345-430 AD.

what is time j m e mctaggart
What is time? J.M.E. McTaggart
  • ‘I believe that nothing that exists can be temporal, and that therefore time is unreal.’
  • J.M.E. McTaggart (1927) the unreality of time. In: Le Poidvin, R., and MacBeath, M., (Eds.) The Philosophy of Time. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 23-34.

J.M.E. McTaggart. (1866-1925)

the instant plato
The instant - Plato
  • ‘“The instant seems to signify something such that changing occurs from it to each of two states. For a thing doesn’t change from rest while rest continues, or from motion while motion continues. Rather, this queer creature, the instant, lurks between motion and rest – being in no time at all – and to it and from it the moving thing changes to resting and the resting thing changes to moving. … But in changing, it changes at an instant, and when it changes, it would be in no time at all, and just then it would be neither in motion nor at rest.”’ (Emphasis added)
  • Plato, (1997) Parmenides. 388.

Bust of Plato. c. 428-347 BC

nature of the present augustine of hippo
Nature of the present - Augustine of Hippo
  • ‘… it is not strictly true to say there are three times, past present and future. It might be correct to say that there are three times, a present of past things, a present of present things, a present of future things. Some such different times do exist in the mind, but nowhere else that I can see. The present of past things is the memory; the present of present things is direct perception; the present of future things is expectation.’

(Emphasis added)

  • Augustine of Hippo (1961) Confessions. London. Penguin Books. 269.
ritual and boundaries
Ritual and boundaries.

‘Ritual defined in the most general and basic terms is a performance planned or improvised, that effects a transition from everyday life to an alternative context within which the everyday is transformed’

Alexander, 1997: 139. In: Bowie, F., (2006) The Anthropology of Religion. Oxford. Blackwell Publishing. 140.

boundaries and rites of passage
Boundaries and Rites of passage
  • ‘Thus although a complete scheme of rites of passage theoretically includes preliminal rites(rites of separation), liminal rites(rites of transition), and postliminal (rites of incorporation), ….’(I
  • Gennep, A. van., (1960 [1908]) The Rites of Passage. (Trans. Vizedom, M. B., and Caffee, G. L.,) Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 11.

Janus, the god of doors (thresholds). Vatican Museums.

time boundaries and the unconscious
Time, boundaries, and the unconscious.
  • ‘There is nothing in the id that could be compared with negation; and we perceive with surprise an exception to the philosophical theorem that space and time are necessary forms of mental acts. There is nothing in the id that corresponds to the idea of time; there is no recognition of the passage of time,and - a thing that is most remarkable and awaits consideration in philosophical thought - no alteration in its mental processes is produced by the passage of time.’
  • Freud, S., (1991) Volume 2. New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. London. Penguin Books. p. 106.

Sigmund Freud.

memory
Memory
  • How and what do we remember?
  • How does this link to our experiences of time in the present?
  • What happens to our time and awareness of our boundaries of self?

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)

slide16

Memory relived: Caitlin’s experience - ‘the same logical point’.

  • When Caitlin (39 years old) becomes enraged with Peter who has turned his mobile phone off as she goes to collect theatre tickets, her anguish, and rage are as if she has been abandoned, just as she has felt abandoned all her life by her father (physically) and her mother (emotionally), and also physically by her mother who died in a fire in a garden shed 6 years before. Her boyfriend becomes ‘unsafe’ for her; she becomes the 4 year old child; and time stands still, except that the rage and terror of the child are in the body of an adult.
the past as present
The past as present
  • ‘Past, present, and future are united in a single reflexive loop, … the present holds a special position in this loop. … (N)o problem can exist outside the present. … It may happen that a particular event - a betrayal, an error, a war, a loss - can acquire total dominance. Despite the passing of time, it colours present events and rigidly determines future possibilities. It is as if the self-reflexive loop has split to become a linear, deterministic chain: the event “which has passed” has a huge influence on the present and future without itself being altered by them.’
  • Boscolo, L., and Bertrando, P., (1993) The Times of Time. New York. W.W. Norton. pp. 100-101.
slide18

Ritual and performance - Edmund Leach

‘In ordinary culturally defined ritual performance there is no ‘composer’ other than mythological ancestors. The proceedings follow an ordered pattern which has been established by tradition - ‘this is our custom’. There is usually a ‘conductor’, a master of ceremonies, a chief priest, a central protagonist, whose actions provide the temporal markers for everyone else. But there is no separate audience of listeners. The performers and the listeners are the same people. We engage in rituals in order to transmit collective messages to ourselves.’

Leach, E., (1976) Culture and Communication: The logic by which Symbols are Connected. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. p. 45

the process in relation to time boundaries is relatively complex
The process in relation to time boundaries is relatively complex.
  • Early each evening, Jane was to plan the nightmare she thought she expected that night, based on the previous night’s dream, or the one she most feared.
  • Then she was to write down the nightmare, in detail - and in stages if that helped.
  • She was to read it aloud on her own, - this being the ‘performative’, externalising part.
  • She was to do this in the spare room upstairs.
  • When she had done this, she was to do something pleasurable, (options discussed).
  • She was to go to bed, after a relaxing bath, earlier than was her habit.
the ritual time place and boundaries
The ritual – time, place, and boundaries.

The process in relation to time-frames is relatively complex.

Jane:

  • consciously planned a future event, her future nightmare, - itself an unconscious process;
  • wrote it down now in the present. Then she
  • read the future nightmare aloud, bringing it under her present control in order to
  • relegate it now, to the past, from a future that had not yet happened.
slide21

The ritual – time, place, and boundaries.

  • What appears to happen is that in the later future she does not experience the nightmare out of her control, because it is now already in the past, and is experienced as under her conscious will.
  • Ultimately this helps establish the expectation for the immediate future, a new pattern in the present, that will survive spontaneously into the long-term future and begin to change her future-present relationship now, with her traumatised past.
rites of passage victor turner
Rites of passage - Victor Turner
  • ‘(W)e are presented, in such rites, with a “moment in and out of time”, and in and out of secular social structure, which reveals, however fleetingly, some recognition (in symbol if not always in language) of a generalised social bond that has ceased to be and has simultaneously yet to be fragmented into a multiplicity of structural ties.’
  • Turner, V. (1995 [1969]) The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure. New York. Aldine de Gruyter. 96.

Ritual circumcision.

slide23

Jane’s confusing time boundaries in therapy

The opening, general question was:

HJ. “What were some of your experiences of being in the therapy room, especially with regard to your experiences of time? You remember that I sometimes said that bringing you back into the present, when you seemed to disappear, was a bit like pulling you back in at the end of a rope!”

Jane.“There were times when I wasn’t in the room. It was a bit like watching T.V. and it goes from one camera to another, it was seamless, it would slide. I was never aware of the transition, this was before we did BMW, and I would suddenly become aware of what was going on, and suddenly I was in a different place; the sights and smells from a different place and time. There was never any thought, ‘how can this be possible’. I couldn’t think this isn’t possible because I was with Hugh, or that I was now a lot larger than then.”

[The Breathe-Mantra-Write (BMW) exercise was developed with Jane to help her manage her times of acute panic – in the street, at work, in church, elsewhere. The three slow breaths-in was something she could do immediately, and would have an immediate calming effect. The mantra was one that Jane devised for herself. It was: “I’m in control and I’m OK”. The writing was a way to help externalise all that would be going on in her mind, but needed a place where she could write without drawing attention to herself. She kept an exercise book with her for this purpose.]

slide24

Later on:

“It was like being in a dream but still awake, it was terrifying because of the scary things that were happening. It was a re-enactment of what used to happen. Somehow it seemed to be worse than it had been in the first place; it seemed more frightening than it had been at the time. I would end up where I had been before, a moment that was leading up to a bad bit that I knew was going to happen, when before, in the real time, I didn’t know beforehand exactly what was going to happen.”

“It was like reading a book that you have read before and only part remember. At that moment, I could see the future and that made it seem worse than it had been. I was not aware of you in the scenario while experiencing the terror. I was completely oblivious of that.”

slide25

Continued:

In the sessions “I would eventually be aware that the therapist was talking to me. Sometimes it would feel like it was hours and hours, because I could be aware of being in a different place, and yet complete scenarios would be replayed. The whole thing would unfold and the whole thing would be re-enacted, and it would seem at the same time it was real time.”

slide26

Continued:

We discussed an incident during one of the early sessions of therapy, when as she was unable to put her story into words, and still not beginning to know the extent of her abuse, I asked her to represent her family using a coloured felt tip pen of her choice and paper. Jane had the pen in her hand.“I got the pen in my hand. I couldn’t hold it properly (she was holding like an infant grasped in her fist). I’d obviously got the task. It was like my brain was refusing to work out what to do. Then I thought, I know what I can do, but I couldn’t get my hand to do anything. It was like my brain was saying, ‘I won’t think about that, we’ll think about something totally different’. It seemed like it was years, absolutely ages. I’d got the pen in my hand, it wasn’t going to play the game. I was running through all the scenarios of what happened in the past, and trying not to let myself go there. I was trying to keep hold of where I was. What you asked me to do was pulling my brain back to where I didn’t want to go.” (It took about fifteen minutes to make a single mark on the paper.)

slide27

'Cyclical time' - patterned

1

2

6

3

5

4

‘Linear time’ - durational: ‘direction of cycle’

1 2 3 4 5 6 1i 2i

Far Past Near Past Present Near Future Far Future

Logical and temporal points: implications for time and psychotherapy.

negotiating boundaries
Negotiating boundaries.

‘My most vivid memories … are of times when I participated in and/or observed the intricate negotiations that occur between clients and therapists around their relationship boundaries.’Roberts, J., (2005) Transparency and self-disclosure in family therapy: dangers and possibilities. Family Process. 44: 45-63. p. 46.

Horseshoe to keep out the Evil Eye, and catch luck.

slide29

Overall course of psychotherapy: boundaries as a rite of passage.

Separation Liminal/Transformative Re-incorporation

The overall context of psychotherapeutic treatment is a Separation-Liminal- Re-incorporation (S-L-R) sequence.

Key. S = separation. L = liminal. R = re-incorporation.

slide30

Individual sessions of psychotherapy: stages.

Individual psychotherapy sessions within a period of treatment:

L L L L L L L S R S R S R S R S R S R S R

Individual Individual Individual Individual Individual Individual Individual session session session session session session session

Interval Interval Interval Interval Interval Interval

Transitions are seen as the intervals between sessions, but also a time and place for transformation. Transformation is intentional and necessary for new values to emerge and for change to occur.

Each S-L-R sequence represents an individual session: a momentary separation from the mundane world. The intervals between each psychotherapy session become another kind of liminal period, out of time, from each psychotherapy session. Figure and ground change constantly.

Key. S = separation. L = liminal. R = re-incorporation.

slide31

Psychotherapy: whole and parts.

Separation Liminal/Transformative Re-incorporation

The overall context of psychotherapeutic treatment is a Separation-Liminal- Re-incorporation (S-L-R) sequence.

Individual psychotherapy sessions within a period of treatment:

L L L L L L L S R S R S R S R S R S R S R

Individual Individual Individual Individual Individual Individual Individual session session session session session session session

Interval Interval Interval Interval Interval Interval

Transitions are seen as the intervals between sessions, but also a time and place for transformation. Transformation is intentional and necessary for new values to emerge and for change to occur.

Each S-L-R sequence represents an individual session: a momentary separation from the mundane world. The intervals between each psychotherapy session become another kind of liminal period, out of time, from each psychotherapy session. Figure and ground change constantly.

Key. S = separation. L = liminal. R = re-incorporation.

representing time immanuel kant
Representing time - Immanuel Kant

‘We represent the time-sequence by a line progressing to infinity, in which the manifold constitutes a series of one dimension only; and we reason from the properties of this line to all the properties of time, with this one exception, that while the parts of the line are simultaneous the parts of time are always successive.’ [Emphasis added.]

Kant, I., (2003, [1781]) Critique of Pure Reason. Houndmills. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 77.

slide33

Edie’s story: - (interview, Shinui Institute, Tel Aviv, 1998)

HJ.“… What, if you like, the time loop that goes on here is a replay of different loops from different parts of your experiences.”

……………………………

Edie.“That definitely, that connectedness, is the loop of our past and our present, and where we’re going, it’s becoming more clear to me all the time, and as (pause) Uhh. ….. Simultaneously, I’m trying to (pause) understand and truly accept Mordechai for the way Mordechai is. ….. I’m very stubborn, I’m finally beginning to get it that he just … doesn’t have the need to talk, like I do. Umm. And I’m slowly learning how to truly accept that.”

slide34

Edie’s story – cont’d.

HJ.“If, and I know your mother only died fairly recently, but if your mother, you could hear her voice in your mind. What advice do you think she would be saying to you, right now, about this, how you could handle this, handle yourself and handle this in your relationship? What would her voice be in your head?

Edie.“I like that question. Her advice would be: ‘Edie, be yourself. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Continue to have the courage.’(pause) It would be, what, ..… her spirit talks to me now in a very different way than her words spoke to me when she was alive. She’s speaking with me now at the level I always wanted her to.”

slide35

Narrative means … time …

‘In striving to make sense of life, persons face the task of arranging their experiences of events in sequences across time in such a way as to arrive at a coherent account of themselves and the world around them. Specific experiences of the past and present, and those predicted to occur in the future, must be connected in a lineal sequence to develop this account. This account can be referred to as a story or self-narrative. … Since all stories have a beginning (or a history), a middle (or a present), and an ending (or a future), then the interpretation of current events is as much future-shaped as it is past-determined.’ (Emphasis added.)

White, M., and Epston, D., (1990) Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York. Norton. 10.

slide36

Stories about events that are recounted and which are known and have a future

Behaviours / actions / events

influence

Emotions

Feelings

Meanings

Beliefs

g

o

v

e

r

n

Over time, stories become part of scripts - ‘how things are done’ / ‘how relationships are’

Scripts become incorporated in myths which are disconnected from the original events and time - as finished stories, being fixed and having no future, - now out of time. They give meaning and authority, becoming part of belief systems

Adapted from: Jenkins, H., (2006) Inside out or outside in: meeting with couples. Journal of Family Therapy. 28. 113-135.