WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY EXPERIENTIAL?
A reader asked me this. Here was my answer:
What I mean by experiential is that it is something we experience from the inside. It’s not an idea or a concept we have to learn, rather, I am describing an internal experience as a way of reflecting that experience that others also have and normalizing it and inspiring others when they have it. As opposed to telling people what to do or how they should be. Does this help?
I love questions like this. They stimulate my thinking. After sending my response the thinking continued as follows.
I struggle so much with this blog.
The last thing the world needs is more “coming at them.”
This is a complicated subjective statement.
And also true.
Perhaps I should write more serious work and get a serious publisher and be read in serious situations.
But this isn’t want I am wanting to do.
I don’t want to perpetuate education from the top down. I don’t want to re-emphasize the selection process for authors (or any expression) that masquerades as legitimacy.
I want to facilitate experience. Connectedness. Relationship. Through articulating my own experience. Freely.
And yet what I am wanting to do is problematic. Inherently contradictory.
Here is a quote from my first blog post in January 2015:
The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas writes about a concept he calls the “saying” and the “said“. Once words are on the page they have been said. Once words are spoken they are spoken – also part of the said. For Levinas, the said is tyrannical. The saying on the other hand is alive. As I type these words right now, to you, the many dear friends, colleagues, and people I have yet to meet who will read these words they are alive. When the period is placed they are finished. Once published they will be a tyranny of sorts.
Psychotherapy of course is about speaking. About the saying. It is about finding life, discovering oneself, others, and the world. To write about what psychotherapy is is a form of tyranny over the project of psychotherapy. How dare I tell you what psychotherapy is? How can I speak as if I know what you might need to discover or how you should talk? I don’t know what your life or your therapy is like. How dare I speak of it?
Here’s the problem: There are many people already talking about psychotherapy. They tell us when to get help, how to find the right therapist, how to overcome anxiety, how to deal with family over the holidays, etc etc etc etc. Talk about the tyranny of the said. If those of us who see psychotherapy differently do not speak, we are left with “You won’t believe how this person beat depression in 24 hours with no medication and no therapy – click here!!!” Perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps not. Both are true in the saying.
So the task is impossible. But yet I must try. And I think we must and do try, each in our own way.
Words are overused in our thinking-oriented culture. A certain type of thinking is privileged: “logic” “rationality”. I put these in serious quotation marks.
We are consistently unaware of how our thinking originates from our feeling breathing selves. Our thinking is so much more complicated than we understand.
And the impulse to emphasize body or feelings over thinking as a reaction isn’t the whole answer either.
We are thinking beings. I wonder if we can come to know our thinking. To grapple with it.
Not a runaway train of anxious and defensive rationality but a grappling with ourselves as thinking beings.
What does this mean?
A noticing of ourselves.
What do I mean by what I am saying?
Why am I using this particular word?
Why am I talking right now?
What does it feel like to listen to this person? What are they communicating that is beyond words?
How is what I am saying related to what I am feeling?
This is grappling.
And how can this “one-way” writing of mine be a grappling? How can it not be more force feeding that encourages more runaway trains?
I don’t know for sure.
I come back to what I said in the first blog.
I see a public conversation. A public conversation to which this work of describing experience, the experience of living and the experience of thinking - this work has relevance to the public conversation.
I see a public conversation that needs our voices. From which we cannot step away.
So here I am adding more words to the pile.
And trying to do it in such a way that my readers come back to themselves.
I had a very religious upbringing. I was told what was right and wrong. There was a lot of reading and a lot of preaching. There was not a lot of asking me what was happening for me.
A huge chunk of my life’s work could be summed up as a response to this upbringing. I am continually throwing the ball back to people. A ball loaded with my perceptions and my love that lands in their arms or their lap. And then what?
Ideas are so important. The dialogue and commentary and thinking and talking are all so important.
And experiencing them for what they are, questioning them as we are. Having a relationship with our own thoughts and our own being - this is the crowning achievement.