Paul Gordon on art, complexity & ambiguity

This extract is from a recent acquisition to the library here, ‘The Hope of Therapy’ by Paul Gordon. He describes it as “an argument for… therapeutic freedom” as an essential element of creativity. His premise is that therapy cannot meaningfully be reduced to techniques, formulas or conceptions of ‘best practice’, but is ‘rather an art or a craft’ – which comes into being in the moment, in relationship, and in our willingness to surrender our need to know and define.

This resonates with us at this service. Such a conception of therapy differs fundamentally from those more in keeping with received/prevalent psychosocial ideas about “mental health”/psychiatric “knowledge” – the disorder and diagnosis model – and also has relevance for continuing debates about regulation of psychotherapy.

The writer is in the process of reading Paul’s book, and there will be further posts. Here’s a taster, about art, ambiguity and complexity: –

“Art at its best, like therapy at its best, reminds us of and provides a space for the inherent complexity and ambiguity of life. It challenges any tendency to simplify, to smoothen, to flatten, to reduce. It insists, as Hopkins so marvellously puts it, on “all things counter, spare, original, strange”, in recognising what MacNeice beautifully called the “incorrigibly plural” nature of the world, to induce “the drunkenness of things being various”.

Fiction is of particular relevance here. The work of the novel, Milan Kundera says, is the apprehending of the real world – it was a way to get at “the soul of things” Flaubert said – and in this regard ambiguity is key. Kundera gives the example of a very short story by Hemingway, “Hills like white elephants”. A man and a woman sit in a railway station and talk about her having an abortion. From the few pages of dialogue we, the readers, are able to imagine so many different stories within this one. The story does not tell us what to think and passes no judgement. Fiction’s spirit for Kundera is that of complexity. The novel (or short story) subverts or tries to subvert the human desire for a world where good and evil can be clearly distinguished. It says things are not as simple as you think. The novel, Kundera claims, dealt with the unconscious before Freud, the class struggle before Marx, and practised phenomenology before phenomenology – “What superb phenomenological description in Proust who had never even heard of it”. And yet the novel is never a philosophical or political treatise. Indeed, it is a-philosophic if not anti-philosophic, “fiercely independent of any system of preconceived ideas”. Neither proclaiming nor judging, “it questions, it marvels, it plumbs”. Above all perhaps, the novel tears through “the curtain of pre-interpretation”.

The Hope of Therapy – Paul Gordon

Here’s the book link:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994


This entry was posted in cognitive, communication, creativity, cultural questions, external locus, human condition, interconnection & belonging, internal locus of evaluation, meaning, non-directive counselling, organismic experiencing, Palace Gate Counselling Service, Paul Gordon, perception, poetry, political, psychiatry, reality, regulation, relationship, surrender and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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