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Shifting preferences – solution focus, focusing, and deliberative democracy.

I’ve been a bit busy to write blog posts for a while, but I’m hoping that the things I’ve been busy doing will be the subjects of posts over the next week or so. Starting with this one, about something I was doing yesterday.

I was having one of my monthly sessions with fellow solution-focused conspirator, Rob Rave, during which we were conspiring more than ever to bring an embodied focus to our solution focus, by means of Focusing (it was a very focused session!). Rob – following the excellent manual written by Ann Weiser Cornell – was being the listener while I focused, which involved paying attention to my body and what it might be telling me, after I had begun with the stated hope of becoming a little calmer at the moment, in the face of all I have on in the next few days.

It is becoming ever more fascinating, the more we delve into these processes, and the thing that fascinated me the most yesterday – in particular because of some unexpected links with my current philosophy reading – was the shifts I experienced in what I was hoping for. As I listened to my body (wonderfully assisted by Rob, whose advocacy of the Cornell book has made it a must buy) my initial desire, of becoming calmer, morphed into a sense of needing to be more alert, alive and ready for action. This shift in awareness of what I needed at the moment naturally shifted my immediate desires for myself and noticing this shift made the (solution-focused) focusing session more than useful enough for me. And here I am today, writing my first blog post for well over a month! Maybe I would have anyway, but…

My current philosophy reading that I immediately made a link with is about the relationship between democracy and liberalism. I have been struck by the ideas within deliberative democracy and public reason, whereby people’s preferences are formed through reasoned deliberation, and not seen as given, and fixed, prior to their expression. The former involves public activity, and preferences and desires are seen as shifting and influenced by interaction with others, while the latter is private, epitomised by the voter secretly depositing the record of their ‘prior preference’ in the ballot box. It made me think again about what is happening between client and therapist when the client answers the question: “What are your best hopes from this?” I am aware of how the client’s hopes can be created within that interaction, but I have to question how much I tend to see them as fixed from that point onwards. Whereas I experienced the shifting of my preferences during my session with Rob, and this shift alone was useful to me.

And finally I am reminded as I write this of Milton Erickson (I think it was) saying that therapy consists of two people in a room trying to figure out what the hell one of them wants. It can be unexpected, how one gets glimmers of what such wonderful-sounding aphorisms might mean.

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Guy Shennan Associates

Guy Shennan Associates

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