October 17, 2011
Last week in The Thought Leadership of Fred Newman we played with the Newman play in which Lev Vygotsky and Ludwig Wittgenstein are in therapy with a social therapist (referred to in my last post). I asked folks to break up into four groups and perform the readings of the play in any way they wanted. I said that plays are meant to be performed and that inviting them to perform it together would, I hoped and expected, create an open and creative environment for ensuing conversation. One group broke themselves up into the three characters and commented that it was lovely to hear and relate to multiple Wittgensteins and Vygotskys and Brauns. Another group played with pitch and loudness, and ended with whispering the lines into each other’s ears. There was no shortage of creativity among the groups!
The conversation we wound up creating meandered (my favorite kind) with, in hindsight, a continued focus on what it means to understand and how we create understanding, both as individuals and as a group. Specifically, we spent time speaking about “will” and “motivation” and the activity of doing the unexpected and its relationship to playing like children (what does it mean that, as one participant said, “Everyone was willing to go into the groups and perform”); about reading/performing when you have no idea what you’re reading (the assumption being this is not a good thing, but we questioned that in light of assumptions about what language is); and about the experience of appreciating what they created.
Tonight is the final week. The reading is an article by Newman and Ken Gergen, expanded from an APA presentation the two of them made in 1995. It’s titled, “Diagnosis: The Human Cost of the Rage to Order.” (It’s a chapter in my edited book, Performing Psychology.) I’m looking forward to helping the class with this challenging and important academic piece that argues for a move away from both pictorial and a pragmatic views of language to one of relational activity—and the democratization of diagnosis. Vygotsky and Wittgenstein are, again, characters. As is social therapy, this time with Newman himself.