The Historical and Philosophical Context of Rational Psychotherapy: The Legacy of Epictetus

Views: 947
Ratings: (0)

This book brings together the papers written by the authors over the last fifteen years on the historical and philosophical foundations of Albert Ellis' Rational Psychotherapy (later Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, REBT) and its relationship to Stoicism, especially the later practical form represented by Epictetus. It goes beneath the well known similarities between Stoic "spiritual exercises" and modern psychotherapy, to look at the cause of these similarities. These lie in the conceptual continuities that connect the Stoics and other ancient philosophies with the modern cultural framework underlying psychotherapy.

List price: $27.99

Your Price: $22.39

You Save: 20%

 

9 Slices

Format Buy Remix

CHAPTER ONE. The place of rationality in Stoicism and REBT

ePub

A discursive formation as defined in the introduction may be examined in two ways: by analysing the contemporary usages and interrelations of its concepts and practices; or by studying its evolution. Here we adopt the latter approach by comparing REBT with a discursive formation from Hellenistic and later Stoic philosophy. Using the distinction from evolutionary biology made in the Introduction, we will be asking whether the two discursive formations are truly homologous, rather than just analogous.

In his writings, Albert Ellis often referred to his early interest in philosophy, and to his reading of Stoic writers.

I inducted this principle of the ABCs of emotional disturbance from working with hundreds of clients from 1943 to 1955. But I also took it over from many philosophers I studied from 1929 (when I was 16) onwards … Clearest of all amongst the ancients were the Greek and Roman Stoics, especially Zeno of Citium (the founder of the school), Chrysippus, Panaetius of Rhodes (who introduced Stoicism into Rome), Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

 

CHAPTER TWO. Ellis and Epictetus: dialogue vs. method in psychotherapy

ePub

Having made the case for homologies between Stoicism and Ellis’s REBT, in this chapter we use a more detailed historical analysis in order to tease out other aspects of the legacy, as well as some of the differences between REBT and the more popular CBT founded by Aaron Beck. Some recent commentators have found problems in the scientific status of REBT, which seem not to be present in Beck’s CBT. We argue that this may be partly because they drew differently from the traditions of thought available to them, which appears most clearly in their first published papers. Beck’s were more in the modern medical tradition, whose history forms part of the search for method leading to abstract knowledge and control that has been so powerful a feature of Western culture. Ellis was more discursive in style and drew on the dialogic tradition, in which obstacles to self-awareness and freedom are removed by enlisting the power of reason through question and answer. Socrates and Epictetus are the classical representatives of this tradition, and Ellis’s first paper shows clear signs of being modelled on Epictetus. Later, however, although continuing in this tradition in his personal style and popular self-help books, Ellis also developed abstract models and methods that belong to the medical tradition. His dual allegiance, his attempt to balance distinct discursive formations or language games, has made him vulnerable to criticism from both sides.

 

CHAPTER THREE. The intellectual origins of Rational Psychotherapy: twentieth-century writers

ePub

In the previous two chapters we attempted to establish a homology between Epictetus and Albert Ellis. However, there were important influences on Ellis from other twentieth-century writers, and these need to be considered in order to put the Stoic influence in perspective. They belong to the discursive formations of the time, rooted in the post-Enlightenment urge to put the world to rights and restore the American Dream through individual or political transformation. Ellis drew on a number of popular intellectual movements: operationalism, General Semantics, the holistic theory of emotion, cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis, and the self-help tradition. The pervasive influence of Stoicism cannot be excluded, especially from the self-help writers. Thus, Dale Carnegie, the best selling author, whose How to Stop Worrying and Start Living was published in 1948, took one of his catchphrases (“Our life is what our thoughts make it”) from the Stoic Marcus Aurelius.

Our model of “influence” is of an active seeker of resources, rather than the passive imbiber assumed in some histories of psychology, which treat the passing down of knowledge as like the inheritance of biological characteristics.1 Innovation is a mutual process, since success depends not just on the writer’s rhetorical skills, but also on the audience’s receptivity to what is on offer. Both writer and audience are potentially exposed to the same cultural resources, and the innovator’s skills include an ability to take advantage of the receptivity. A complete account would include investigations of the reception Ellis’s work received, the way this effected his development, the setting up of his own institution, and so on. In this chapter, we do not explore this unfolding over time, but the intellectual resources and his use of them that enabled him to make the transition from psychoanalysis to Rational Psychotherapy during the 1950s.

 

CHAPTER FOUR. REBT and rationality: philosophical approaches

ePub

In this chapter, we develop the argument that philosophical and historical critiques of concepts in psychotherapy are inappropriate unless the context or discursive formation in which they are used is taken into account. In the case of REBT, it is misleading to try to evaluate Ellis’s use of “rationality” by matching it with the concept that has developed in the modern philosophy of science. There is no pure essence of rationality that could enable it to be applied normatively in all contexts. The pitfalls of attempting this were touched on in Chapter Two, and are examined further here by analysing two recent attempts to criticise “rationality” in REBT, by Erwin (1997) and by O’Donohue and Vass (1996). We argue that “rationality” in REBT can only be understood by seeing it as part of a network of categories and practices (a “discursive formation”, as defined in the Introduction) that has evolved over the last forty-five years.

There are two related arguments, one general, the other specific. The general argument is that philosophical debate can be helpful in the development of psychotherapy (and other human sciences), but it can also be a hindrance. It can be a hindrance if the philosophical critic analyses concepts out of context, without careful consideration of how the terms are being used by the therapist. The therapist may then join the debate defensively, trying to justify his or her use of terms against the apparently rigorous standards brought to bear from another discipline. When that happens, the therapy may be guided by philosophical conventions rather than by therapeutic interactions, inappropriately if the understanding of the terms has been inadequate in the first place. This is especially true when the philosophy is ahistorical, and brings to bear supposedly universal criteria for thinking, notably in scientific thinking; if they are universal, well and good, but if they are not, and only appear so, the result is at best unhelpful. This can be guarded against by examining the use of the terms in their historical context. The specific argument, the subject of this chapter, is that this danger has been present in some of the philosophical critiques of “rationality” in Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

 

CHAPTER FIVE. Rationality and the shoulds

ePub

We have argued that a central insight into Ellis’s early thought was to recognise that diversities in all the intricacies of psychoanalysis converge upon a single invariant, the irrational “shoulds”, a pathology he referred to as “musturbation”. This was his lumper, and a new unit of analysis for psychology. But not all “shoulds” are irrational and this chapter is about rational and irrational uses of deontologi-cal words, such as “should”, “ought”, and “must”, referred to as “the shoulds”. Rationality within a discursive formation is taken as a mutual relationship between conceptual schemes and human agency. These are expressed in what Bakhtin (1981, p. 342) referred to as “authoritative discourse” and “internally persuasive discourse”. When the conceptual scheme is in place and its authority transparent, and there is interplay between authoritative discourse and internally persuasive discourse, then the shoulds are perceived as rational. When the interplay is disrupted or suppressed the shoulds are seen as irrational. Breakdown occurs in two main ways. First, it occurs when the effective conceptual schemes are hidden, and the origin of the shoulds obscured. We describe some instances of the latter, from philosophy, psychotherapy, and experimental studies of rationality. Second, in technology and science the mutual relationship sometimes breaks down because authoritative discourse is too powerful, and inhibits interplay. After describing these pathologies, we turn to William James, who drew attention to a repair kit for rationality in his detection of the psychologist’s fallacy. Describing the work of Dewey and Husserl as elaborations of this, we distinguish two essential aspects of rationality: disciplinary expressed in authoritative discourse, and emancipatory expressed in internally persuasive discourse.

 

CHAPTER SIX. When did a psychologist last discuss “chagrin”? American psychology’s continuing moral project

ePub

The starting point of this chapter is Graham Richards’ (1995) claim that American academic psychology includes a moral project present even before the discipline got underway as a modern institution. We accept this, but identify a different kind of moral project, stemming from the radical critique of morality by Ralph Waldo Emerson, rather than the moral aims of Noah Porter and James McCosh described by Richards. This leads to a morality based on (but not reducible to) psychological events, and worked out, not in academic psychology, but in the practical disciplines of counselling and psychotherapy. We trace its elaboration from Freud to the writings and practice of Albert Ellis and Carl Rogers. The critique is of a traditional morality of obligation with its discourse of “shoulds” and “oughts”. A parallel is drawn with a similar (and contemporaneous) critique in moral philosophy.

Richards was writing as a modern historian psychologist, critical of the traditional grand histories that chart a more or less triumphant progress from the Greeks to the present. According to some of these historians, psychology as we know it is an academic institution that began towards the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, there was a break, as psychologists attempted to move away from the philosophical and moral concerns that had previously been dominant, towards a scientific approach centred on laboratory psychology.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN. The social psychology of “pseudoscience”: a brief history

ePub

For separating out the sheep from the goats, one of the key words of the twentieth century has been “scientific”. Scientific practice is good practice, and unscientific practice is bad practice, and psychotherapy has been uneasily aware of this. Psychoanalysis was suspect from the beginning, and more recent therapies have spent a lot of effort in establishing scientific credentials. Ellis presented Rational Psychotherapy as a scientific contrast to psychoanalysis, and at the same time Carl Rogers was attemping to prove scientifically the desirable outcomes possible with person-centred therapy. But why? Why does it matter? What is it about “science” and its condemned shadow “pseudoscience” that has made the words so important? This chapter is about the social and cultural settings of the word “pseudoscience”, an important part of the context that moulded the development of REBT.

Like “paedophile” and “terrorist”, “pseudoscience” has an etymo-logically transparent sense, and during the twentieth century, it was also used with great rhetorical power—in this case to expose publicly a successful activity falsely claiming scientific status. Thus: “The government is using a pseudo-scientific justification of GM to conceal its acquiescence to global, corporate control of key food supplies” (Butterfield, 2004). But from time to time such words have occurred in a more formal, technical sense around a perceived threat to individual and institutional security. It is in the use of “pseudoscience” in these foci of activity that we are interested.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT. Historical aspects of mindfulness and self-acceptance in psychotherapy

ePub

In this chapter, we describe some of the historical conditions that made possible Kabat-Zinn’s (1990) very successful use of mindfulness in his stress management program and the subsequent extraordinary spread of this practice as it infiltrated psychotherapy in all its forms throughout America and Europe. The ground had been well prepared by the non-judgemental acceptance of people and symptoms by Humanistic psychotherapists, and by the increasing assimilation of Buddhist ideas into Western psychology and psychotherapy. There was little new in it, and in some ways Kabat-Zinn’s work has been a brilliant exercise in pure entrepreneurship. He started a bandwagon and other therapists, including Albert Ellis, were quick to jump aboard. This was helped by a useful vagueness in the word. “Mindfulness”, as the translation of the Pali sati, came to refer to both the manualised practice that provides the evidence for its efficacy in the hands of Kabat-Zinn and others, and the more complex process of clear comprehension and recollection that is described in his more discursive writings, and which is similar to Ellen Langer’s use of “mindfulness” in her 1989 book of that name. At the same time, it retained for many its origin at the heart of Buddhist meditation (Nyanaponika Thera, 1962).

 

CHAPTER NINE. Marginalisation is not unbearable; is it even undesirable?

ePub

In some respects, REBT is a marginalised movement. This is not wholly a bad thing. Marginalised movements in psychology and psychotherapy tend to retain their identity, and the writings of their founders continue to exercise an influence. Once absorbed into the mainstream the identity is lost, and the founders are relegated to a past that has been left behind. Movements are kept marginalised when they are at odds with the central, untested assumptions (the hard core) of the mainstream. Many of REBT’s insights have already been assimilated by the mainstream, which is currently an alliance between experimental psychology and CBT. But the mechanistic hard core of the mainstream is at odds with normative assumptions about self-worth held by REBT. As long as that continues REBT is likely to remain marginalised, but will keep its most significant insights.

As a word, “marginalisation” reflects a metaphor twice removed from its source. Margins are edges, away from the centre, and “marginal” has an established use within economics. A marginal group is one that does not share in economic growth, like people on fixed incomes during a time of inflation. Drawing on this usage, marginalisation has a semi-popular application to any movement, group, or individual whose intellectual contributions have little impact on the centre or mainstream.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781781810682
Isbn
9781781810682
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata