BMcC Ed.D. dissertation:
Communication: The social matrix of supervision of psychotherapy (1994; UMI #9511056)

Professor Robert O. McClintock, Sponsor
Professor Robert P. Taylor

Professor Rene Arcilla, Examiner[1]
Professor Emeritus Maxine Greene, Examiner


This dissertation is organized around detailed study of communication interactions between supervisor and supervisee in psychotherapist training. This particular communication arena is selected for study because of its exceptional communication-theoretical richness.

Psychotherapy supervision consists of conversation in which an expert on interpersonal communication (the supervisor) helps an expert on interpersonal communication in-training (the supervisee) develop his or her interpersonal communication skills. Their talk primarily attends to the supervisee's communicative interactions with patients in therapy, which the supervisee reports to the supervisor. It can also attend to the talk which thus arises between supervisor and supervisee, itself. The dissertation thus explores the study of communication, from the perspective of distinguishing persons' self-examination of their own current communicative interaction, versus their examining external communication situations and events.

The dissertation approaches this task via micro-analysis of verbatim examples of supervisor-supervisee conversations, taken from the literature of theory of supervision. The examples are examined to discover effects of inattention to the ongoing communication interaction. I then offer alternative communicative moves, at key points in the conversations, to show how the interaction could effectively attend to itself. The rescripted interaction is examined to show pedagogical and broader social benefits which can plausibly be anticipated as a result of greater self-reflection in communication.

A specific instance thus is presented of the mundane feasibility of Edmund Husserl's project of the universal transformation of human existence through the infinitely renewed rational reconstruction of all aspects of life -- another formulation of which is expressed in the text of William Ellery Channing's Baltimore Sermon of 1819:

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thes. 5:21)

This is offered as something which may appeal to persons to try to actualize and further in their own everyday activities, both in the particular pedagogical situation of psychotherapy supervision (with attendant benefits to patients' therapy), and elsewhere. The proposed paradigm, which I call "self-accountable conversation," is elaborated as a critically defensible, existentially meaningful option for individual and social living in the present, often called "post-modern," age.

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Chapter 4: Conclusions

The text on this page is unchanged from 1994. It shows my thinking and prose writing style in 1994, before subsequent years of often meaningless and distressing computer programming work made me largely forget who I was. Hopefully just forgotten but yet recoverable, not irrevocably destroyed. [Formatting of the text has been fixed up for Wiki. LInks in the text and images aside the text are add in the present webpage. I have deployed some "free association", as annotations, not modifications, to the original, ported text.[2]. If you read only one thing here, make it be: Click here

Winnie the Pooh. United Nations ambassador of Friendship (5 August 1997). Pooh does not thrive in a fast paced environment, nor does Pooh wish to do so. Life is good when you can take time to savor the time.

The Itinerary Completed

We have followed a path through three stages. In the first stage we examined the place of communication in human existence, the place of conversation in communication, and the place of self-reflection in conversation. In the second stage, we surveyed kinds of communicative interactions to which supervision in the training of psychotherapists gives rise. In the third stage, we applied the theory elaborated in the first stage to the practice described in the second: we analyzed communicative interactions which in fact have occurred and proposed ways the situations could have been handled differently. Our essay (attempt) has moved in the space opened up by attention to the ever further penetrable but ultimately unfathomable connection between the transcendental and the teleological, i.e., between conditions which must be satisfied for there to be experience (inquiry, etc.) at all, and accomplishments which potentially make experience satisfying [howsoever "satisfaction" is understood in a given case].

The main conclusions I have tried to draw have been to raise questions. I mean this in two strong senses. (1) I propose that the most consequential conclusions to which we arrive are the questions we ask:

[A person's basic assumptions, even when] they are not stated, find expression in the forms of his questions. A question is really an ambiguous proposition; the answer is its determination. There can be only a certain number of alternatives that will complete its sense. In this way the intellectual treatment of any datum, any experience, any subject, is determined by the nature of our questions, and only carried out in the answers.... In our questions lie our principles of analysis, and our answers may express whatever those principles are able to yield. (Langer, 1957, p. 4; italics in original)

Our answers may include only what our questions allow for (sometimes, of course, for whatever reasons, the questions change).

And, (2) I propose that a form of social life oriented toward the process of questioning has, by that very fact, decisively -- and differentially -- determined the overall substantive shape of its unfolding. A person or association of persons open-endedly committed to questioning everything has no fixed qualities, "specific defenses, attitudes, functions or... any other structural property, but [is] characterized exclusively by... responsiveness to rational, verbal communications which do not contain more than interpretations" (Eissler, 1953/1980, pp. 394-6).[3] The presence or absence of such an orientation cannot, however, be read off from syntactic classification of manifest content of speech acts, but only by becoming familiar with the spirit (the metacommunicative context) of persons' communicative interactions. Jacob Bronowski relates that the physicist Niels Bohr "used to begin his lecture courses by saying to his students, 'Every sentence I utter should be regarded by you not as an assertion but as a question'" (1973, p. 334).

Instead of studying [whatever] through the lens of an unwittingly subjectively constituted objective (third-person, spectatorial) dichotomy between facts and values, I have endeavored to bring into greater awareness the existentially given (first- and second-person, engaged) mutual implicature of facts-in-values and values-in-facts (Ruesch & Bateson, 1951, pp. 179-80), in which the here foregone alternative (objective, third-person study of [whatever]) is contextualized as an alternative. Focal attention to reality has its role in life, the more so the more urgently circumstances impinge on us. But while such comportment may seem to be straightforward (the agent feels he or she is directly dealing with the things themselves), we have seen that it takes for granted and unquestioningly applies an extensive complex of generally dubitable and frequently dubious presuppositions (Hall, 1981, passim).

We have looked inward, not merely introspectively, but in a world-open sense of trying to see what we are doing "here-and-now" ("self-reflection"), in an attempt to orient ourselves to what's really going on (Husserl, 1950/1973, pp. 156-7). It is perhaps useful after all to describe such an undertaking by an intimidating label such as "a hermeneutics of facticity," to help hold in mind the eschatological significance of the "here-and-now" -- its depth, which makes sense, for instance, of John Caputo's otherwise trivializing distillation of Heidegger's philosophy into the assertion that "all that is called for in a given situation is to make the best of it" (September, 1989).

The self-reflective turn opens up the "it" of the given situation to include its givenness, and, indeed, its givenness for and to the -- in each case: "my" -- self as an inter-locutor in the ideal community of all possible speakers and hearers, for whom the openly all-inclusive horizon of everything is noetic correlate. This ontological situation was explored in the first, theoretical section of the dissertation. The particular social situation in which it was explored, in the second and third parts of the dissertation, was interaction between supervisor and supervisee in psychotherapist training: a usually unostentatious 45-50 minute weekly meeting of two usually unnoteworthy individuals (one of whom hasn't yet even earned a degree, much less "made a name for him or herself"), wherein, when the interaction goes well, the two usually slouch informally in facing chairs and speculate about the trivia of some other people's lives.

What we hopefully accomplished has been to see ways to realize the abstract potentialities of the theory in the concrete circumstances of this practice, as a model for how to go about doing the same in other -- especially other equally quotidian -- areas of life. We saw how the interactions between supervisor and supervisee could easily have no more inner than outer richness, so that, for the participants to become aware of some exciting event in external reality would definitely liven things up, as a distraction to which they would spontaneously turn with, at most, moral ambivalence (guilt over not attending to what they should be doing). On the other hand, we saw how these very same tedia vitae could be transfigured into engaging epiphanies of insight and nurturing moments of mutual recognition by the participants attending to their own ongoing process.

Suppose (e.g.) the supervisee had been reluctantly tolerating a client because the client had been assigned by the institute's training committee, and, in consequence, even though the supervisee finds the client sullen, boring (etc.), the supervisee feels constrained to stick with the case to pass the requirements of the training program. One day, the supervisor remarks to the supervisee that the latter's discussion of the case seems perfunctory, and asks if the supervisee is only treating the client because he or she feels they have to. Suddenly, the supervisee may find him or herself taking a genuine interest in the supervision, an interest which then spreads to include also an interest in the client whom the student now sees as in a predicament similar to his or her own [(e.g., if the client was remanded to treatment as a condition for parole, etc.)]. --Far from depending on any enhanced external stimuli, this constructive process can fuel its vitality precisely through the obstructive attributes of the client which had previously been a source of discouragement and a drain on the supervisee's energy.

The itinerary we have followed is not completed. Contextuality has no end: each new communicative act ipso facto brings into existence its nonthematized metacommunicative frame (this content can be thematized only in a subsequent communicative act which, in its turn, produces its unthematized metacommunicative frame...). And the a priori (transcendental) [pre]constitution of experience has no beginning: we can never get behind what appears (the attempt to do that can result only in further appearances...). Paradoxically, however, the itinerary set forth may be complete in a synoptic way, somewhat like specifying f(0) and f(n+1) completely defines a recursive function [although here, as in the computer game of "life," the values the function assumes for particular n's may be unanticipatable prior to actually working them out, and, when discovered, surprising], or diagonalization provides complete instructions for generating a real (uncompletable) number. In any case, this dissertation is only an itinerary: a map, and an invitation to go on a journey (a path to take in the journey of life). As such, as I proposed in my introductory remarks, it cannot be compelling, but it hopefully is not arbitrary[, and, even more hopefully, it is appealing!]. Pursuant to the performative tension I have argued is intrinsic to self-accountable conversation, I propose that to examine to what extent and in what ways what one is doing [whatever it is] may be arbitrary intrinsically provides grounds for such activity meriting being considered not arbitrary.

This dissertation aims to offer a contribution to orientation in the only place in which we can ever find ourselves: "the tenuous webs of conversation" (Boulding, 1956, p. 45), of talk and self-talk, in which, [in each] here and now, we are. It offers an "image of elaboration, situating [what is given] in a space which is neither... empty... nor... filled to overflowing [suffocating], but a ventilated space, a space which is neither that of 'this is meaningless' nor that of 'this means that' but one of 'this may mean that'" (Green, 1975, p. 8).

Some Reflections on the Broader Context

The preceding inquiries into the communication dynamics of the supervisory relationship in psychotherapist training have, if I have been even partly successful, shown ways to make the communication in this relationship (and, by extension, in other relationships in life) more richly conversational.

In each of my rescripted examples, the participants not only learn something about psychotherapy, they also become wiser persons (including as psychotherapists). And the particular kind of wisdom they acquire, unlike much that derives from misfortune, enriches appreciation of constructive and satisfying possibilities of living (joy), as well as ability to cope with suffering (sorrow and pity). The communicants' habitation of their communicative home is enriched, in its here-and-now actuality and their expectation of its future potentialities. In each of the rescripted examples the participants would, through their interaction, establish more rewarding, more supportive relationships in which to live from henceforth.

There were strategic reasons for limiting my focus in this dissertation to this very narrow and rather "out of the way" part of the communicative world. Foremost was the prospect of affecting the real social world. As I stated at the beginning, my primary interest here is not to produce theory but to operationalize it, i.e., to give some appealing possibilities better opportunities of happening in my own and others' lives. Most pedagogical reforms require institutional action, which I take to be beyond my power to effect (if I had power to shape a psychotherapist training program, I would have produced a different kind of dissertation[ as stated earlier, this dissertation is in a way the outcome of my failed attempt to shape a psychotherapy program from the position of student rather than Dean, or even faculty member...]). For supervisors and/or students to try out -- and, I hope, reap significant benefits from -- the suggestions I make herein, requires "only" that, as individuals, they attend to what transpires in the supervisory situation(s) in which they are already engaged. By felicitous coincidence, it also seems to me the potential payoff of these proposed "simple," no-cost changes for the effectiveness of psychotherapy training (both the process and its outcome, i.e., the quality of therapy to which it leads) may likely exceed that of many kinds of elaborate curriculum reform (etc.). Of course the present suggestions also offer hints how they could be made even more effective by being integrated into curriculum, etc. Communication theory [instruction based, e.g., on Ruesch and Bateson (1951), Hall (1981), Habermas (1968/1971, 1983/1990), Wachtel (1993)] could be accorded a central place in the curriculum. Classroom interactions between teacher and students (another asymmetrical communication structure...), no matter what the particular material being studied, offer many opportunities for self-reflective learning.

Another reason for choosing to focus on the supervisor-supervisee relationship in psychotherapy training is the potential social "multiplier" effect: Psychotherapists spend their professional lives modifying other persons' (a.k.a.: patients') communicative orientation in life. Enriching the therapists' own communicative orientation will likely have constructive effects on all those other persons (the clients), and, in a further trickle-down effect, upon the persons with whom the latter in their turn will interact more productively due to their growth through therapy.

The question arises as to the role of self-reflection in the making of man's conversational home. All conversation has a self-reflective aspect (or, to use William James' term: "fringe" (see, e.g., Wild, 1963, p. 46)), insofar as the structure of mutual recognition requires that each participant be aware of the other's awareness of his awareness that each recognizes the other's recognition of their mutual recognition (etc.). Conversation is always "in a way" self-reflective, if only to the extent that a participant implicitly realizes he or she must refrain from "pressuring" the other if there is to be conversation (as opposed to strategic interpersonal interaction) (this is similar to Heidegger's notions that [wo]man is the being whose existence always includes a pre-understanding of the nature of being, and who is not an entity but rather the clearing in the midst of being in which entities can manifest themselves as being).

I am proposing, however, to raise this (what we might call) communicative ecosystem to a disciplined undertaking which persons thematically pursue in a cumulative way, i.e., to constitute it as science[4] ("communication ecology"?). There are basically two reasons for this proposed reorientation: (1) to maximize and maximally secure the goods of conversation, not only against the vicissitudes of the social unconscious, but also because these goods are emergent (they do not exist in the world unless and until persons produce them), and (2), in our present cultural condition, where anything that is not constituted as a "science" tends to be disregarded, unfunded and fall out of existence, to see to it that the massive research endeavors of our society nurture rather than inadvertently undermine their own base, which, I have argued, is conversation. Merely by studying everything except conversation, we may squeeze conversation out of life.

Thematic study of the conversation-we-are would be a good in any place and time, but in our present historical moment, when we are massively modifying our communicative ecosystem, it has a methodological exigency for securing the self-reproduction of our social life which does not seem to be being given anywhere near sufficient attention. We devote many resources to telecommunication but few to metacommunication, many to studying virtual reality but few to studying the structures of the Lifeworld, many to multimedia but few to deutero-learning, many to affirming diversity of cultures but few to confronting how we are determined by our own culture, many to deconstructing texts but few to reconstructing the conversation we are[5].... It is not just an [empirical] issue of redeploying person-hours from group-A to group-B tasks; it is more consequentially a[n ontological] decision whether to consciously situate the one group of activities in the context of the other. In fact they are so situated even if we don't think (recognize) they are, because "everywhere that communication happens, language not only is used but is shaped as well" (Gadamer, 1981, p. 4). The transformation -- and reformation -- I am urging is another step in the infinite [and not inevitable!] task that where anonymous-factical process was (and still is), there responsible action shall be.[6]

With good luck, good conversation can nurture persons "naturally." In a recent article on mentoring in psychotherapist training, one person nominated as a good mentor by two of his former students, Prof. Emeritus Earl Koile (Univ. of Texas at Austin) reflects (Koile, 1993) on the mentoring relationship from the mentor's perspective. He mentions such general attributes as joint immersion in a challenging task, with student and mentor having high expectations of each other:

Our energy and motivations are high and often tinged with excitement and anxiety. The outcomes are unpredictable. A former student, now a colleague, expressed the feel and flavor of the process: "Your expectation was that I would join you on the high wire. I didn't know what it would be like. I would tell myself, 'It's scary, but exhilarating . . . and I'll do it.'" (p. 11)

Koile also gives a specific example of a particular supervisory technique he favors:

In training and supervision I like to use what may feel like failures---missed cues, botched responses---to teach and demonstrate recovery skills. Practicing these skills becomes fun; refining them builds confidence and empowers trainees and experienced therapists alike. In this climate where we are free to fail and recover, the freedom to learn usually thrives. (p. 11)

It seems difficult to fault such an approach. The main critique from my perspective, and I hope Koile would not disagree with me, is that the learning experience will be most compelling when the "failure and recovery" is most fully experienced in the supervisory session instead of only being talked about vis-à-vis the therapy situation, i.e., when the words involved are evidence for their own meaning, truth and value. On the other hand, for this wisdom to be "merely" implicitly metacommunicated (deutero-taught) already accomplishes a great deal.

A more consequential problem, is helping assure that supervisors do this kind of supervision and that supervisees expect it (to help assure they get it, and, when they do not get it, to clearly see what is happening to them instead, in order to be able to cope effectively with their misfortune). Occasional testimonial statements are not likely to be highly effective in this regard. As Heraclitus said (Fragment 2): "...although the Logos is common the many live as though they had a private understanding" (Kirk & Raven, 1957, p. 188).

Thematized, disciplined and institutionally cumulative work is needed. When any part of life is thematized as a discipline, it changes its place in life, and, consequently, modifies the overall constellation of life in general. (Example: All humans prepare and eat foodstuffs; modern nutritional science changes, in varying gross and subtle ways, not only what people eat, but the activities in which they engage vis-à-vis alimentation, including, for one entirely new phenomenon: that some persons now spend large parts of their lives investigating how to improve nutritional practices and training other persons to do this, thus constituting a new autonomous sphere of life.[7]) By repositioning self-reflection in psychotherapy supervision into scientific (i.e., thematically self-elaborating and self-correcting) discipline, I aim to increase its constructive potential, as well as its social visibility and influence.

I have indicated the outlines of a basis in theory of communication for the critical examination and reconstruction of all aspects of social life. All social life is grounded in conversation; that ground itself can be made a subject of conversation. There is research to be done here, but it does not take the form of finding out "what people in fact do." Instead it takes the form of reporting the process and results of "trying to do the best we could." Or, to be more precise, even when [persons deem that] an appropriate object of study is some aspect of "what people do," each such situation also generates a correlative possibility of studying "our" choice to do that study as an instance of "trying to do the best we could," as an aspect of the empirical undertaking's transcendental accounting for itself.

...[T]he self-forgetfulness of investigators devoted to objective methods is often surprising. Every statement about the behavior of things necessarily contains an implicit reference to the behavior of the observer, no matter whether we are dealing with scientific experiments or everyday occurrences. (Straus, Natanson & Ey, 1969, p. 63)

As Edmund Husserl and his followers have shown, the pursuit of this work of grounding is an infinite task, in which persons understand themselves to be rational precisely in seeking to be rational (Husserl, 1954/1970, pp. 340-1), always again attending to the transcendental context for each situation as it passes from present event to sedimented accomplishment:

...a progressive transformation that ultimately draws into its orbit all ideas proper to finitude [i.e., pre-reflective immersion in any given pattern of life] and with them the entire spiritual culture of mankind... [--] a revolutionizing of all culture... that affects man's whole manner of being as a creator of culture.... This takes place in the form of a new kind of practical outlook, a universal critique of all life and of its goals.... whose aim is to elevate mankind through universal... reason... on the basis of... constant reflectiveness... and thus to transform it into a radically new humanity made capable of an absolute responsibility to itself. (Husserl, 1965, pp. 163, 164, 169, 181) I said, mankind understanding itself as rational, that it is rational in seeking to be rational; that this signifies an infinity of living and striving toward reason; that reason is precisely that which man qua man, in his innermost being, is aiming for, that which alone can satisfy him, make him "blessed".... (Husserl, 1954/1970, pp. 340-1; italics in original)

To approach supervision of psychotherapist training or any other communicative interaction as self-accountable conversation is a "deutero-proposition." Just as human existence in general is not necessary, so too, conversation in particular is not necessary, although I have argued that human existence is possible only to the extent that conversation supports it (the minimum required "level" of support in a particular situation need not be honorific).

Ruesch and Bateson (1951, pp. 178-82) stress that every message has a double aspect of reporting what-is (a.k.a.: "fact") and also urging the transformation of what-is in a certain way (a.k.a.: "value"). Persons' socialization need not disclose to them this "transcendental clue" to the opening up of the cultural unconscious. If, by whatever vicissitudes, a person's socialization does make him or her aware of this, then they may discover they have a tool to begin to decode and demystify the rest of experience ("the image"; the communicative social matrix), and even recover its productive ground in the originary event of symbolization: the event that we, in naming a thing, are the place where what-is manifests itself as being. As I argued above, conversation can sustain itself, qua conversation, on any "content." Louis Kahn said:

All material in nature, the mountains and the streams and the air and we, are made of Light which has been spent, and this crumpled mass called material casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light. (Lobell, 1979, p. 5)

All content, potentially, belongs to conversation.

The thrust of this dissertation has been to make conversation an issue for conversational life: "The thematization of some aspect of experience places that experience in a horizon of expectation" (Natanson, 1973, p. 205). If, to restate this proposition in simpler words, I have "let the cat out of the bag," so that, after having read this dissertation, persons will no longer be able to not see certain performative discrepancies between the talk in which they engage and the context in which they engage in that talk -- and the attendant opportunities for life which otherwise would have been missed and missed out on --, and if, in consequence, persons develop an increased interest in being on the lookout for such mystifications of experience in all the interstices of the communicative interactions of daily life, and if, in addition, I have enriched their sense of the comforting and even appealing possibilities of communication, I shall have accomplished my purpose.

Conversation: Building For Dwelling[8]

In the light of the foregoing considerations, the biblical story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4) seems to ask to be reinterpreted as persons' constructive and appropriate aspiration to be fully human:

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as men migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (Metzger & Murphy, Eds. 1991, pp. 14-5)

These persons did not propose to take over the universe, but only to establish themselves as peer interlocutors in universal discourse (somewhat analogous to the way every user in a computer communication network needs a "Logon I.D."). As in Ferenczi's story about his nephew[9], they sought to prove themselves equal to God only in fantasy ("the image"), not in force (mass times acceleration). Neither did some of them, as bosses, act communicatively among themselves as co-subjects to make a plan in which others, as workers, would participate only as objects of their strategic communication. The story does not say that some persons as co-subjects of conversation designed a great symbol of humanity for other persons, as objects, to build in a communicatively asymmetrical social world which would be a performative contradiction of its symbolic self-representation. According to the story, persons said to one another, come let us build for ourselves a home [city] -- which, as I proposed above, is the resolution of the defect at the heart of the ancient Greek conception of the polis, where the "we" depended on the labor of [excluded, objectivated] others to produce itself as space of speech and action (conversation).

In our present social situation where the weight on society of maintaining and coping with side effects of large engineering projects has in many cases more than offset the relief from burdens upon life which those undertakings initially lifted from our (or our predecessors') shoulders, the aspiration of building a tower to heaven, or even maintaining the skyscrapers we have already erected, must appear ambivalent. Even the idea of a great radio transmitter broadcasting "our name" to the heavens (we have been broadcasting "I Love Lucy," etc. for over half a century already...) must appear equivocal in light of recent questions about health effects of non-ionizing radiation.

In any case, we have already built many cities and towers. The builders at Babel could have finished their city and tower and then God have confused their tongues. Since we "[wo]men in the age of technology" (to borrow Arnold Gehlen's phrase), no more made the world than those first Babel-onians, we can never be sure any efforts will be enough to protect us from communicative collapse. Just as much as in primary oral cultures, we, in the present age of fiber-optics and CD-rom, depend on the unbroken oral (and even kinesic: Fingerspitzengefühl) transmission of meaning from one living person to another, lest all our great libraries and computerized data repositories come to confront us in the same "dumb" way as the Egyptian hieroglyphs appeared before Champollion (God need not leave us a Rosetta stone this time) (see, e.g., Kuhn, 1970, p. 47; Feyerabend, 1987, p. 111).

The story of Babel suggests that, if there is a chance for mankind to become fully human (to transcend that transitional form "human nature" toward self-accountability, i.e., to go beyond factical [(i.e., happenstance, i.e., ultimately meaningless)] meanings to accountably grounded meanings), conversation directed to objective ends is not likely to be enough. If the persons at Babel had a chance, they would have needed to self-reflectively cultivate their own conversation, in addition to that conversation dealing with the issue of designing the architectural edifice in which the conversation could occur. Having prepared for a possible confusion of tongues, they might have been better able to cope with it when it hit them.

Even this will not be sufficient to guarantee success, and it may not be enough to accomplish success, but it at least exhausts the resources we can bring to bear to try. It is not a question of major engineering projects, at least in their engineering dimension (although that too is important, just as case management is important in psychotherapy). It is an issue of self-reflection in all communicative interaction, insofar as it is where persons "are at the time," including when they are engaged in engineering activity in technical workplaces (e.g., the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center), and also everywhere else (as urged above), from the boardroom to the bathroom, and, most important of all in the "training of children" (Husserl, 1965, p. 174), where culture reproduces itself. I have proposed a way to do this in the particular communicative situation of supervision of psychotherapist training, which I hope is sufficiently quotidian to suggest how to go about trying similarly to transform other areas of everyday life.

Whenever two or three are gathered together in His name, The Word of God is present [(Matt. 18:20)]. Wherever you go, you will be a polis[(Arendt, 1958, p. 198)]. A city is not a physical edifice but a certain kind of conversation which needs a physical edifice in order to exist:

The city is the place of availabilities. It is the place where a small boy, as he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do his whole life.

...The city, from a simple settlement, became the place of assembled institutions. The measure of its greatness as a place to live must come from the character of its institutions, sanctioned by their sensitivity to desire for new agreement, not by need, because need comes from what already is. Desire is the thing not made, the roots of the will to live. (Louis Kahn, in Lobell, 1979, pp. 44-5)

The 17th century analog to interplanetary travel (à la the film "2001," etc.) was the long-distance sea voyage, for instance, the Jesuit missionaries who went to China and who not only would never return to their native Europe, but, only with luck, might send a letter back home and get a response after several years. The first men on Mars will be much closer to home. One of those earlier space travelers, Matteo Ricci, wrote (ref. lost) that in order to go on a great adventure a person does not need to leave their home town [(this follows the Medieval monastic notion of: "peregrinatio in stabilitate")]. Husserl, Bateson, and Freud (and, of course, others) traveled farther than any merely astronomical adventurer, for they did not merely change their place in the world; they changed [the ontological structure of] the world -- or, in Boulding's terminology, they changed the image of the image. Ultimately everything depends on conversation, and no matter how far one explores the content, one need not have made any progress exploring the medium (i.e., making the medium not only be the message but also be represented in the message; to make proto-learning and deutero-learning coincide).

["Not yet and yet already" (Broch, 1945/1945, p. 61, my translation, from suhrkamp taschenbuch 296, p. 60).] The discourse in which persons share the world with each other, in living and in dying, is, it seems to me, the real "final frontier,"[10] and always-at-the-same-time our real home. I hope the study of self-accountable conversation which I have herein presented has illustrated and explicated this simultaneity of persons' fully being-at-home in their communicative here-and-now and also being-on-their-way toward unforeseeable further advances, in a way that may both inspire persons (e.g., yourself, my reader) to seek this and also help them -- help us -- effectively go about accomplishing it. Conversation gets interrupted; it has no end.

The word by way of preface which seeks to break through the screen stretched between the author and the reader by the book itself does not give itself out as a word of honor. But it belongs to the very essence of language, which consists in continually undoing its phrase by the foreword or the exegesis, in unsaying the said, in attempting to restate without ceremonies what has already been ill understood in the inevitable ceremonial in which the said delights. (Emanuel Levinas, "Totality and Infinity", 1961/1969, p. 30)

AFTERWORD: TOWARD A PLACE FOR STUDY in a world of instruction...

In "New Scientist" magazine, now many years ago, there was a cartoon about Albert the Laboratory Rat. Albert was sitting in the Lab Director's chair, popping positive reinforcement cookies. His right front paw was resting on a little button, which enabled him to administer electric shocks to the now former Lab Director, whom Albert was studying through a one-way mirror The Director did not seem to be enjoying the role reversal.

 Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt
Teacher:   Tell me who did what when in the story you were assigned to read last night.
Student:   If and when I find some reason to read that story, I will read it. If and when I find some reason to make the effort to find out the details you just asked about, I will do that. What are the reasons you think that story is worth reading? What are the reasons you think those details worth finding out? What are the reasons you think those details are worth me telling you about, since you apparently already know them?
Teacher:   So I can find out how well you did the assignment.
(--Apocryphal, 13Oct02)

Five Years Later (December 1999)

Looking back on endeavor which is fading from my memory, I continue to believe that both my dissertation itself, and the process of producing it, were valid and perhaps even in ways exemplary. The title of this page: "Toward a place for study...", is a quotation from the title of an article my dissertation sponsor, Professor Robert O. ("Robbie") McClintock, wrote in 1971, about 12 years before I began my Teachers College course of studies -- 24 years before I completed it. I think (and feel) that Professor McClintock's essay says much that remains valuable: Like some other texts which have been most helpful to my studies, time has not passed it by, but rather it remains part of a past which our present still has not yet reached to.

Here, I wish to add some of my own thoughts about the social and personal praxis of study, which, as Rabelais -- to whose work Professor McClintock introduced me -- said, is the proper activity of persons.

Some things I need[ed] to facilitate my studies

My schooling, prior to my Teachers College studies, was almost unrelievedly inimical to me. Different strokes for different folks. --There may be no other person in the history of the human species who had the same educational needs as myself; in that case, I would still say: "Please! For yourselves, may you have the educational environment that suits each of you! But let me also have what suits me!" Assignments, tests, grades... all hurt me. (One of the main things I learned in that "place called school" was: avoidance -- to not voluntarily take courses from teachers who gave long reading lists and graded stringently.) Everything I learned under the conditions I experienced, under oppressive circumstances at St. Paul's School for Boys, Brooklandville, Maryland, and, more indifferently, at Yale, was mostly despite my experiences as a student in those institutions. (I shall speculate, below, about an opportunity I may have missed, at Yale, due to my misfortunate -- what I have come to call: categorially deprived childhood, one of the best moments of which -- and I am not being ironic here -- may have been when, in "the second grade", I accidentally stabbed myself in the palm of my hand with a pencil, because in that moment,more clearly than usual for me at the time, I experienced distance from my immediate experience.)

My Teachers College doctoral dissertation, however, was different in a better way. What I needed as a growing child, I finally got as a middle-aging adult. Let me once again thank my dissertation sponsor, Professor McClintock, for making this possible -- for it is only due to his not intruding in my process of writing the dissertation, and keeping others from intruding in the process of getting it approved, that I was able to do it.

I have a phobia of libraries: the thought of going into the "reserve book room" as an undergraduate, to read texts which I could not keep in my possession, and from which, even worse, I would need to scribally copy text which had already been committed to type plates (aka: "take notes"), frightened and depressed me. My finally approved, but entirely self-defined dissertation topic had a bibliography small enough for me to purchase (sometimes: photocopy) almost every text I used. I was long since tired of being jerked around by teachers' curricular agenda. Even at Teachers College, in pursuit of checking out the feasibility of one dissertation proposal, despite the fact that I had completed the "course requirements" for my degree, I encountered a professor who told me that, to get certain background I needed to do the dissertation, I should take her course -- which would have meant more coerced assignments and being graded yet again (Oh, yes: and also paying more tuition for something I didn't feel appropriate).

In the process of producing my dissertation, I did seek help from experts (I hope I am not a "know it all"!). I was able to avoid altogether having to interact with members of the Teachers College faculty, which would have exposed me to a wide range of impingements due to their potential coercive power over me. I found experts not associated with "my school"; I paid them mutually agreed fees for their services (I also got some free help, e.g., from Professor Emeritus Louis Forsdale, who had retired from Teachers College and was now my peer friend, and Dr. David Bruce Robbins, whom I knew in his official role as IBM corporate psychiatrist[11]); and, if either they or I decided the relationship had ceased to be productive, we could simply part company, with no expectation of what had happened between us affecting me getting my degree -- beyond, of course, the ways in which the interaction had furthered my studies.

To pursue self-selected study themes, with all the books I needed "around me" to write in as I pleased but not have to copy from ("my books"), under the guidance of persons who had no ability to hurt me (e.g., by giving me a bad grade which might adversely affect my prospects in life), but with whom I would engage in freely contracted relations... -- all these are things I needed, and which I believe would have optimally facilitated my personal and intellectual growth ("Bildung"), from early childhood. As said above, however, misfortunately I only got these things when my education was almost done and my life more than half over. Few persons ever get such an opportunity, and, as one person put it: Graduate students frequently pick a dissertation topic because it fits into their faculty advisor's aganda, they do the work to get the degree, but it means nothing to them, and they never give any further thought to "their" dissertation topic once it has served its purpose of enabling them to graduate. On the other hand, I paid a price: The degree I finally was awarded, a Doctor of Education in Communication in Education, has proven pragmatically useless: Truly, it was virtuous activity which was its own reward, for, five years after I got the dregree, I still have to earn my living ("reproduce individual and species life") by working as a computer programmer. One might say that I got a rich person's education (for the love of learning as an end in itself) even though I was not rich (need to "earn my living"). (How I wish my "business card" -- as I believe I once read about Susanne Bachelard -- could read simply: "Independent scholar".)

A [possibly] missed opportunity

I continue to believe my dissertation had (still has) social value: Especially, it could serve as a Fodor's guide to help interns in the helping professions negotiate their internship process. (1) This has not happened (except, maybe and unknown to me, for a few students who may have discovered my dissertation on the Internet). (2) In the years after I completed the dissertation, there have appeared in the public arena texts which have said [at least some of...] the same things I said, including a lecture by Dr. Otto Kernberg, and a book (available on the Internet) by a person who experienced the process of psychoanalytic training in prestige institutions (instead of a bottom-of-the-barrel training institute like the one I attended). The possible missed opportunity is this: At Yale, there was one teacher, Professor John Wild (1900-74; one of the persons who introduced Existentialism and Edmund Husserl's transcendental phenomenology to America[12]), whom I believe genuinely liked me. When I asked him to write a recommendation for me when I went out to get a job after dropping out of Pennsylvania State University's Ph.D. program in philosophy (due to being "shell shocked" by my schooling...), Professor Wild wrote a recommendation in which he said I had been one of the best students he had since several years. To me, personally, he had said that he liked the way I applied ideas to life rather than just shuffling jargon words abstractly like most of his graduate students. He also expressed his disappointment that I had dropped out of graduate school, because, he wrote: My Ph.D. would have enabled me to be a free man.

I liked Professor Wild, too. But I was so scared at Yale (afraid of getting a bad grade and finding out what "or else" it would lead to...), that the best I could imagine doing was occasionally talking with Professor Wild after class, and, once, asking him, after he had delivered from a podium a lecture on the nature of freedom to a class I in which I was enrolled: "Excuse me, Professor Wild! But how can you lecture to us on the nature of freedom when you are going to give us an exam at the end of the course and grade us?" I seem to recall that he replied that he was going to retire in a couple of years and that I should know that he meant no harm. (I will never know, but hypothesize that Professor Wild "saved my ass" on my undergraduate comprehensive examination, upon which Professor Paul Weiss wrote: "Puerile", but for which I nonetheless received: "Honors with exceptional distinction".) --It never even dawned on me that I might apply to Yale's graduate program in philosophy, to study with Professor Wild (who might have become my Robbie McClintock 25 years earlier?).

The topic of my Teachers College Ed.D. dissertation in Communictaion in Education would have likely applied, mutatis mutandis, to a Yale University Ph.D. dissertation in Philosophy. I think there's a chance John Wild might even have approved it. And, when he retired to the University of Florida (Florida State?), maybe either he would have helped me find another sponsor at Yale, or I could have gone with him? Two things seem fairly likely: (1) A Ph.D. dissertation from Yale would probably have had a better chance of having social impact to improve our culture, and, far more important, (2) A Ph.D. degree from Yale at age 25 would, as Wild said, have made me a free man: Instead of having to divert my energies to earning a living in activity not contributory to my interests and aspirations, I could have earned my living furthering those interests and aspirations, for both my own satisfaction and to contribute to "our culture". To repeat: This did not even have a chance to happen, because I did not have the ideas (the: categories, see above) to conceive it. Also, I was suffering from chronic debilitating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) fears, of which whom I now call: "The them" had led me to be ashamed of myself and hide from public view and which caused me to be "distracted" so that I was not good at/for anything, while I should have been rubbing them in the faces of the people who caused me to have them and they should have fixed the problem before they caused it in the first place. I speak now so that my "upbringing" (childrearing) -- which surely brought me [to somewhere...], but equally surely, except by inadvertance and unintended side effect, did not raise me up -- shall happen never again to anyone.

What I still have not found

I have sung the praises of my Teachers College dissertation advisor, Professor Robert McClintock, sufficiently, that I can imagine the teachers at the psychoanalytic training institute (Westchester Institute for Training in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy) where I experienced the case study material for my dissertation, saying: "idealizing transference", etc. To this, I have two responses: (1) At the Westchester Institute, as long as Reverend Lyman Hartley remained at the helm, I was largely protected from the faculty's resentment toward myself in particular, and their petty thralldom in incestuous institutional politics before either teaching or healing, in general: Reverend Hartley even enabled me to have a self-chosen training supervisor (Reverend Robert Svenson) who was unaffiliated with the Institute, and who, consequently, like the persons I consulted for my Teachers College dissertation, did not have coercive power over me. Alas, Reverend Hartley retired before I graduated, and thus, I became yet another maverick healer ostracized and thereby wounded by the psychoanalytic autocracy. But, even more important: (2) Even Professor McClintock did not give me all I wanted. I would have liked to have weekly leisured conversations with him, to elaborate my dissertation with his active empathic guidance. This I did not get from him, nor have I elsewhere found it. And, to drive this spike into the vampire's heart, as he himself has said to me and I have to sincerely agree even though I don't like it: I am probably by far the better off for it, because if he had coddled me I would never have risen from the ashes more or less by myself. I do not like having to be honorable, but it is what it is and fasten your 5-point harness because we are all going down, separately or together. Even such persons as my independent psychoanalytic supervisor, Reverend Robert Svenson, and my former teacher become friend, Louis Forsdale, did not fully satisfy my need for a peer study community: what, even if it did not have such a lovely physical embodiment as King Gargantua built for Friar John of the Hashes: the Abbey of Thélème, would be at last a true homecoming and home for me (and for you, my reader?). Jesus said -- please factor out the mythological alienation in the biblical quote, and substitute Edmund Husserl's: "transcendental subjectivity [which] is intersubjectivity", for: "my"/"I" --,

"...where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20)

IBM means: Idiots Become Managers

Linda Hopkins, "False Self: The life of Masud Khan". This book is either magisterial or magisterially cooked up. But that does not matter because reality is just something for us to play with, but first we must deal with it playing with us so that we can try to put it in its proper place which is to give us toys to play with.

In IBM I had one manager who was an idiot and another who was a Gestapo SS Officer. But not all my IBM manager were idiots. At Westchester Institute for Training in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, I encountered a bunch of intellectual dwarfs who sometimes emitted correct statements from their oral orifices but never coughed up any valuable erroneous ideas or fantasies (or cared about the one I risked offering them). They had a library of books that might as well have been graphite radiation-absorbing bricks in the atomic pile under Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, as far as they were concerned. I had one training supervisor whose psychoanalytic toolkit included (1) unearned self-importance and (2) flat out l-y-i-n-g. I was excommunicated by stonewalling for ideological deviance and asserting personal self-accountability instead of being a good little 2-legged student-sheep and kowtowing. As always, every adult is a Gift from God who is always above reproach, is always right and can do no wrong, every kid is a target of opportunity in their free fire zone, and every naughty child should thank his (her, other's) betters [the adolts] for loving such a worthless, ingrate wretch so much as to deign to take him out. Bang!

Apparently the deceased (Dr. Herbert Holt) and the to be recently to be departed (Reverend Lyman Hartley) were rats leaving the sinking ship whether they knew it or not. But the residuum, who were generally my intellectual inferiors, got one very important thing right, or maybe I somehow got it right and am falsely attributing it to them in 20/200 hindsight: Winnicott was where it was at, for psychoanalysis. "The holding environment" -- that persons need nurtuting, safe space in which to develop and thrive -- is a crucial idea, for psychoanalysis and for living in general. They preached but did not practice this. In parallel, from a lady psychotherapist who was for me a mixed bag (at 5'2" she drove a big Audi 5-speed, but also once she told me there were a lot of older women who would love to have very lonely me and she knew at least one but she did not make any introductions, thanks a lot) → this therapist introduced me to Masud Khan's books. The main thing I got out of Winnicott is that I could greatly benefit from a nurturing, not suffocating or abandoning mother. And, out of Khan, that a therapist can fix patients by throwing his [the therapist's] money at the problem to buy off the patient's victimizer. There was no Playing in the Reality of WI, unless I wanted to "play" the psychoanalytic training institute equivalent of prep school body-contact sports.

What didn't they know and why didn't they know it? Presumably they were not hiding anything because there is nothing an empty head to be hidden.

Why was there a problem? Because birds of a feather cover for each other. Admitting Winnicott messed up would have been to acknowledge they themselves were not perfect and all adults are perfect; only kids sin and so the adults are entitled by God's (Freud's) 11th commandment to snoop on the kids (trainees') sex lives and every other thing the helpless little creatures do or even imagine, but the kids are not allowed to expose what the parents do or do not do under the covers. The first rule of their kind of psychoanalysis is: Thou shalt honor thy father and mother (incl: the training institute faculty creeps). Œdipus wanted to murder his father who had tried but botched murdering him [Œd.] as a baby? And Œdipus wanted to screw his apparently very sexually desirable mother, concerning whom he had no idea she was a relative, after knocking off a would-be vehicular homocider? Give me a break! As an employee at Brill Publisher agreed with me: I should have rescued / liberated (aka: stole) more books from their library, besides the one which was the basis for my doctoral dissertation: Bateson and Reusch, "Communication: the social matrix of psychiatry". Gregory Bateson? Well, Professor Louis Forsdale was a friend of Mary Catherine Bateson (or was it Margaret Mead herself?), and I understand his kids played with her kids or something like that.

What would Masud Khan thought of Martin Kossover LCSW? The Prince and the toad. I had almost completely forgotten psychoanalysis thanks to Dell/EMC's partial destruction of my soul, but Linda Hopkins' book is providing a kind of renewal and rebirth for me. Not done yet, and she may be setting Prince Khan up in the early chapters to tear him down (or for him to self-destruct thanks to a thankless social world in which he was stuck living) in the last chapters. I do not know and I do not much care, because a big mind's errors are often more valuable than a small person's objectively correct sentences. Bourgeois prigs rarely get put in their place; Kahn could do this to insignificances like a psychiastooge who thought Kahn had to be lying about having wealth, because, I hypothesize, that small man could not accept that anybody could be better than him. Or when the bourgeois dwarf Anna Freud asked Khan if he could handle 2 child patients and he replied that since he had managed 25,000 peasants he would be able to handle two children. People need to learn to respect their betters, like my perp school teaches and the WI prigs should hav erespected me (and maybe some other of the students in the latter place, too), As Frederich Nietasche said: The Last Man has sunk so low that he can no longer even despise himself. They put me off at the wrong stop when I was born, but I never mistook it for being the right one. As I have recently learned Ludwig Wittgenstein thought: Most people are not worth much. Eppur si muove.  

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  1. "The amount of flack you will get from somebody is proportionate to age. The older somebody is the more they understand where they are in the world. But the young people are trying to show the old people how smart they are, so they'll be vicious. So whenever you have an opportunity to have an examining committee of all people with gray hair, that's what you want." (MIT Professor Patrick Winston, "How to speak")
  2. There is a dictum in psychoanalysis: Everything is grist for the mill..
  3. I feel there is a resonance between Eissler's characterization of a "hypothetically normal ego" (p. 394), here, and the protagonists of Robert Musil's [suggestively] named novel, The Man Without Qualities (1930-1932/1954). Perhaps this dissertation suggests how Ulrich and/or Agathe would have dealt with the training situation, had they decided to give a try at becoming psychotherapists.
  4. By the word "science", I am here referring to a certain kind of self-perpetuating and self-elaborating institutionalized social praxis, without regard to the question whether a particular instance of that kind of praxis (a particular so-called "science") produces a particular kind of validities. The salient attribute here is the focus of social energy on a clearly delimited domain of systematic research, not the appropriateness of having constituted that domain as a focus for research.
  5. Again, I emphasize the distinction between objective study, as contents of the conversation-we-are, of communicative events which occur (i.e., which are not the communication event which the conversation-we-are is), versus self-reflective self-study of the conversation-we-are, in which self-examination those contents' roles as objects may be critically evaluated. (Note: Since writing this, I have found my phrase "the conversation we are" used in Gadamer, 1965/1975, p. 340).) Playing with the title of Fischer's article (1970), one might propose the maxim: "Every testee a co-evaluator!"
  6. "Wo Es war, soll ich werden" (S. Freud, 1969, p. 68); see, e.g., Ragland-Sullivan, 1986, p. 12.
  7. For example, at Teachers College, there is a department of Nutrition Education which "[s]ince its founding in 1909... has maintained an emphasis on training persons capable of serving as translators of the findings of nutrition science to a variety of publics" (Teachers College Columbia University 1989-1990, 1989, p. 326). This description shows how such disciplines elaborate themselves not only "horizontally", i.e., by advancing knowledge in their object domain, but also "vertically", by constituting meta-levels of appropriation of that knowledge, in this case, e.g., training "translators" to facilitate persons in other parts of the social world to make use of it.
  8. I have borrowed this phrase from the title of Heidegger's essay: "Building, Dwelling, Thinking" (1971, pp. 143-161).
  9. Sandor Ferenczi wrote, in an essay evocatively titled "The Adaptation of the Family to the Child": I am reminded of an incident with a little nephew of my own, whom I treated as leniently as, in my view, a psycho-analyst should. He took advantage of this and began to tease me, then wanted to beat me, and then to tease and beat me all the time. Psycho-analysis did not teach me to let him beat me ad infinitum, so I took him in my arms, holding him so that he was powerless to move, and said: "Now beat me if you can!" He tried, could not, called me names, said that he hated me; I replied: "All right, go on, you may feel these things and say these things against me, but you must not beat me." In the end he realized my advantage in strength and his equality in fantasy, and we became good friends. (Sandor Ferenczi, "Final contributions to the problems and methods of psychoanalysis", 1955, p. 75)
  10. "The final frontier" is, of course, part of the epigraph of the television series Startrek: "Space: the final frontier." Hermann Broch's two most important works, The Sleepwalkers (1931/1947) and The Death of Virgil (1945/1945), each conclude with an image of one variant of what I am proposing instead as the ultimate horizon of human existence. The Sleepwalkers ends with the image of a man being called back to life by the community at the point where he is about to kill himself because he failed to carry out his responsibility to the community: "Do thyself no harm, for we are all here!" (p. 648). "The Virgil" (as the latter work is fondly called) ends with Virgil dying in a redemptive communication event: "It was the word beyond speech" (p. 482). Both these open dimensions, of the elaboration of co-subjectivity and its extremity, seem to me unsurpassable.
  11. Dr. Robbins even gave me, entirely unsolicited, a photocopy of a journal article which was useful for my dissertation. I was on medical leave of absence due to my interaction with my then first line manager, Dr. Don Holmes Nix, who had apparently, among other things, told the IBM medical department that he feared I was going to harm his idoor-outdoor cats. I lived in a room I rented from a probably drug-addicted aging registered nurse who worked at Sing Sing prison, across the street from his house, with a view in easy range of a cheap rifle with a low budget scope.
  12. "Yes, I had read John Wild's essays back in the early 1960s, found them interesting, but also found them oversimplifying. Wild, however, had the great merit of encouraging and promoting interest in the phenomenological classics and in this way helped bring about the emergence of a whole new dimension for the Anglo-American philosophic world." (Prof. R.B., personal email, Dec04)

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