34 Chapters
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CHAPTER FOUR: Zen and the art of pinball

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

This is, for me, a very satisfying paper. I used to be pretty good at pinball when I was much younger. And I think the application of pinball to philosophy has been underrated. Why does it just have to be archery or motorcycle maintenance? I like how the principle is illustrated by such an accessible means. I am also proud that it was quoted on a website devoted to all things pinball!

“You know the theory of destiny: that we are destined to do what we do? Well I don’t agree with that. We are destined to be where we are; what we do with it is ours”

(Said by my younger son when he was eight years old)

Suppose you’ve never seen a pinball table before, and come across one for the first time. Stripped of all the flashing lights and noises, what you see is a large bagatelle game, most of which operates automatically. It seems the only control you have is the spring-loaded plunger and two flippers. If you then try to play the table, you discover that most of the movements of the ball are entirely random and out of your control.

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Chapter Six

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

6.1 Theory: life and death: what ends?

In this chapter, I want to explore the meaning of life and death, the interplay of continuity and discontinuity. In other ways to approach selfhood, the question can be much simpler to answer. If we have an ‘immortal soul’, then that doesn't die, while our body does. If we are purely material, then when our material body dies, we are simply gone, living on only in our works and other people's memories of us. Yet we have in this approach a much more complex relationship between self, body and environment, and the questions similarly become more complex, and, I would add, more interesting and even intuitive once we adjust to the unfamiliarity of the language.

So our first question here must be: what is life? What is the difference between a living being and a dead one? The answer within the approach taken in this book has to be that life is an emergent level of organisation of the material field. That is, life is not some separate ‘spiritual substance’ to matter, it is rather an organisation of matter to produce behaviours which are consistent with the laws of matter, and which also has its own laws which are not derivable from the simpler level of organisation. The analogy I gave is to the running of a car, based on the organisation of the engine, and always consistent with the physical workings of the components, but with its own characteristics once the engine starts.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Response to “Intercultural aspects of psychotherapy”

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

I pondered whether to include this. In some ways it is not fair to include a critique of a paper that people have not seen. However, the subject of the invisibility of assumptions about race, class, sexuality, and culture is an important one. Where therapists take for granted that our professional assumptions of openness to diversity are to be imposed on clients as the only acceptable cultural assumptions, we are paradoxically losing our openness to diversity. Yet, otherwise, we are facing people whose life choices, while valued in their community, are uncomfortable for us to face. The act of defining those whose ideas run counter to ours as psychologically disturbed has a long and dishonourable history.

Ihave been sent a copy of the above paper by the Intercultural and Equal Opportunities Committee, and I want to raise with readers of The Psychotherapist some concerns I feel about it. Essentially, while I am very glad this paper has been produced, I would hope from an organisation committed to psychotherapy something less standardised, and more willing to face some of the really difficult questions round “equal opportunities”. I do not see this here, particularly in writing about class, race, culture, and sexuality. Rather, I see some culture-bound assumptions being treated as if they were objective.

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Chapter One

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

Now the “self” cannot be understood other than through the field, just like day cannot be understood other than by contrast with night. If there were eternal day, eternal lightness, not only would you not have the concept of a “day”, you would not even have the awareness of a “day” because there is nothing to be aware of, there is no differentiation. So, the “self” is to be found in the contrast with the otherness. There is a boundary between the self and the other, and this boundary is the essence of psychology. (Perls, 1978)

If there is no other, there is no I. If there is no I, there s no one to perceive. (Chuang Tsu, 1974, p. 25)

Who am I?

For over 2,000 years, people have been struggling with questions concerning the nature of our being. What is the nature of self or mind, or consciousness? What is the relationship between these and body? Are they two separate kinds of things (dualism) or aspects of one thing (holism)? Is there a difference between people and animals, and what is it? What happens when we die—is there some form in which we continue to exist, even after death? Do we have free will, and if we do, how can this emerge in a scientifically lawful universe?

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CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: Body and character as a field event

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

In 2001, I became involved in an advanced summer training programme with an international group of Gestaltists, where we looked at Gestalt theory and its practical application from our different theoretical and cultural perspectives. I gave a lecture in the first programme on self-formation as an ongoing process. In the second programme in 2002, I gave this lecture at the Gestalt Therapy International Network summer programme in Mexico, which was to look more at how self stabilises.

The idea I want to put across is that the “somebody” that I am being is a field event. It is not just my event. There are things that I do to stabilise myself, there are things that the field does that keeps self stable, there are things that my environment does that stabilise self, and I want to maybe point out some ways that each of these happen. I am going to do this at two levels, so I shall talk about the first level, and then I shall say something of the opposite in the second level. So, I hope that somewhere between these two levels, you can gain some kind of a sense of the way I am talking about it. To put this in context, last year in our workshop we talked about self as created at the contact boundary: the immediacy of self. Our theme this year is more about stability of self, so it is a kind of balancing up, and that is what I want to talk about. To give you some kind of idea of what I mean about the field dependency of body and character, I would like you to try an experiment: I would like you to pair up with somebody and stand at a distance from the other person and notice your experience of your body and yourself, and then move slowly towards each other and notice with each step how that experience changes. Philip’s has already changed massively—and then move away and notice how your experience of your body changes just as you do that. So, could you try that just for a few minutes …

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