Psychotherapy is territorialized in fairly standard ways. The process has a name: counseling, therapy, analysis, treatment, coaching. The participants have titles: therapist and client, analyst and patient, counselor and counselee. There are the diagnoses and the drugs. There are varieties of praxis: ego psychology, Lacanian, ratio-emotive. The “sessions,” usually scheduled and of fixed duration, are conducted in an office. There are the fees.
But there are other ways of dividing the territory. In my work on Genesis I put forward some constructs for understanding the act of human creation. If we think of therapy as a kind of interpersonal creation, then these constructs might be relevant. Here are the most important ones:
A reality is a way of making sense of phenomena, a way of ascribing meaning to our experience of some part of the world. Human experience is interlaced with untold numbers of realities. Each reality stretches itself across a whole array of phenomena; each phenomenon can participate in an array or realities. So, for example, a field of flowers can be meaningful as a subject of a painting, as a source of pollen for bees, as discrete instances of various species of plants, as a relatively unobstructed terrain for setting up a picnic, etc.
A strand is an abstract property of a reality that links phenomena together on a single dimension. In Genesis 1, “light” is a strand: a property of phenomena that affords visibility for a human onlooker, arrayed in a continuum from darkness to brightness. Strands come into conscious awareness through a cognitive process of separate-and-name.
A void is a set of phenomena that does not participate in a reality. A nihilistic void has degenerated from a previously meaningful organization into chaos; an emerging void has never before been assembled into a meaningful array. Voids are relative: various phenomena might already participate in multiple realities, but they might not be assembled into a unified collection whose commonality might be defined by a reality not yet formulated.
An interval is a limited duration of time, either continuous or intermittent, during which someone participates in a particular reality. Inside an interval, a person understands the meaning of phenomena in terms of a particular set of strands that together constitute a reality.
A portal is a place or procedure by means of which someone makes the transition from one reality to another. In transubstantiation, the priestly act of consecration is the portal by means of which the bread and wine make the transition to the body and blood. This is a transition not of the stuff but of the systems of meaning — the realities — in which they participate. So the phenomena of bread and wine pass through consecration from the shared reality of bodily nourishment to the shared reality of communion. The stuff doesn’t change; the realities for making sense of the stuff change.
Using this small set of alternative “psychological objects” I propose over the next few installments to reterritorialize psychotherapy.