The Central Importance of "Contradiction"

We have been using "contradiction" as a concept in our counseling for some time, but I think we are only now beginning to realize what a basic and unifying concept it can be.

Our working definition of what we mean by "contradiction" has been: "Contradiction is anything that allows the bearer of a pattern (the client) to perceive the pattern as not present-time reality."

Any pattern, contradicted sufficiently, turns to discharge.

We have talked about the possible sources or forms of contradiction in three categories:

(1) The environmental factors in the counseling situation;

(2) The actions, attitudes, appearance and demeanor of the counselor, and

(3) The actions, attitudes, appearance and demeanor of the client herself or himself.

All of these areas merit continuing exploration towards finding additional, more workable, and more effective contradictions.

The spectacular results that occurred in late 1990 and early 1991 with the exchanging of roles in recordings of mistreatment have pulled my attention toward probing the role of contradiction more profoundly. The results have made me hopeful that a major world-wide improvement in the effectiveness of counseling can take place within the next few months.

The experience of exchanging roles in a mistreatment distress pattern began with asking a woman client to threaten her male counselor with a statement, "I'm going to hurt you physically, George!" and continuing to repeat "I'm going to___," "I'm going to___," "I'm going to___," filling in and completing the sentence with all the details she could think of of any possible kinds of physical harm that she was threatening the counselor with. This worked spectacularly well, apparently because nearly every woman has endured (or feared) physical harm from a male, and to exchange the roles brought powerful discharge very quickly and the rapid emergence of material from occlusion without special effort. The beginning discharge was often or usually laughter but was followed almost immediately with vigorous trembling a form of discharge that many clients have found hard to begin.

After much experience on this level, a female client was asked to threaten her male counselor by saying, "I'm going to abuse you sexually, George," followed up by repeated, "I'm going to (the details of the abuse).." with equally spectacular results.

Many other variations on the exchanging of roles in the pattern can be developed. Additional contradictions can be added. For example, I have been very cheerful, relaxed and welcoming to the client's threatening of me, and this additional contradiction has seemed to enhance the discharge remarkably well. I have had it also work well with certain clients to have them "threaten" me with becoming completely responsible, completely loving, or completely powerful in a positive way. "I am going to discharge so thoroughly and counsel you so well that our relationship is going to become completely safe, trusting, and supportive." "I'm going to ___."

Many other vistas for the more deliberate and more skillful use of contradictions open up. One example of helping a client to contradict the usual difficulty in taking initiative is to have the client commit to asking the counselor repeatedly, "Why do you love me (like me) (admire me), George?" For the client to ask this question in itself puts the client on record against the selfinvalidation and frees the counselor to create an endless series of additional contradictions to the invalidation, even with a stranger (relying on our basic knowledge of what a human being is like).

The pattern in its very nature is a rigid, unthinking, inflexible entity. We can deceive ourselves otherwise (because the pattern appears as a mask of the person) and slip into the mistake of arguing with the pattern rather than contradicting it. In effect we treat the pattern as if it were a flexible, human entity.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to slip into a patterned concern as to whether or not we are "good counselors" or set up in our minds rigid standards for comparing ourselves to other counselors and for comparing other counselors to each other.

I think it's good to remind ourselves that the pattern is a rigid entity, waiting inflexibly to be contradicted and turned into discharge. All of its "defenses" are necessarily rigid. Remembering this, our thinking can become much more effective in proceeding to the dissolution of the pattern. We are not challenged artists faced with an almost equally crafty opponent. Our own emotions of selfinvalidation or self-praise are not being invited to participate. We instead can think of ourselves as skilled artisans. Sometimes we wire up an array of silicon chips accurately. Sometimes we restore a precious painting by an old master by removing yellowed varnish or reinforcing weakened canvas. Sometimes we are looking at a rigid pattern attached to a fellow human being, knowing its rigid content, calculating a series of contradictions to it, offering or applying the contradictions and watching the resulting discharge.

There will be creative, flexible intelligence involved in the recovery process, but the crucial factor will be the client's flexible intelligence. I think we will do better in the counselor's role if we realize that what is expected and needed from us is the skill of a good mechanic. We'll help the pattern reveal itself, note its rigid characteristics, create many kinds of contradictions to them, and apply them. We will organize and involve the client to contradict the distress in the first place and add our additional contradictions as we find the opportunity.

Will our counseling as a result be "unemotional" and "unloving"? I hope it will be unemotional in the sense that we do not intrude any of our distress into the session, but I do not think it will be unloving. I think that love and intelligence are actually two facets of the same concept and that nothing could be more "loving" than the motivated-by-intelligence decision on the part of a counselor to expertly contradict and assist in discharging every single distress of her or his taken-for-granted-to-be-deeply-loved client.

Harvey Jackins


Last modified: 2016-12-20 06:43:20-08