The client predicament
"Suspense, the worst of evils, was at length determined by the ministers
of death, who executed, and perhaps exceeded, the inhuman mandate of
Theodoric. A strong cord was fastened round the head of Boethius, and
forcibly tightened till his eyes almost started from their sockets; and
some mercy may be discovered in the milder torture of beating him
with clubs until he expired. But his genius survived to diffuse a ray of
knowledge over the darkest ages of the Latin world .."
- Gibbon (39: Gibbon, E., The decline and fall of the Roman
Empire:, abridged version)
The 'soul deadness' experience
The perplexity system presents itself to the client activist as a
maddeningly difficult obstacle to the equilibration of his/her
personal situation. Self-expression is aversively conditioned
('channeled') and the stigma experience
(40: Goffman, Stigma)
is reinforced by way of economic discrimination due to the
implausibility of maintaining employment. His/her
exercise of imagination is discouraged or channeled in the direction
of 'adjustment', so that role expectations lend disrespect to
creative activity and stimulate attacks on account of its being
considered originary irrationality of behavior. The client,
under subjective pressure, lacking an explicit rational justification
for the 'internal tools' of creativity, has little capacity to
cope with pejorative objectification.
The attitude and social reinforcement that
categorizes/objectifies the client at the very point of creativity
itself presents a peculiar, direct block for self-development. The
impropriety of the topic of self - here identified with
the recurrence of madness - leads to a
narrow and rigid reification, while neglect of the tropes of self
promotes 'blind spots' of underdeveloped personality.
(41: res/verba) The ostensibly 'primal'/'limbic'
predilection (mentioned above) of the mad
personality at these points is to present itself poorly, to appear
irrational/explosive, and to be liable to excess, disorder, and
heedlessness. There arises a kind of dynamical 'power vacuum' of
personal expression that needs to be 'made reasonable' in everyday
The stress from attack, the degradation from brainwash, and
the emotional wallow in 'soul deadness' that the client experiences
lead to hard choices around the creative modality. One approach
is to get into florid (and lucid) metaphors of Vision, to exhibit the
exuberant creative reach of the likes of Hildegard von Bingen or
William Blake. A more commonplace alternative is to bog
down in confusion and illusion deriving from peculiarities of
"education, habit, and accident."
(42: Bacon, F., Novum organum) Yet the
identification/articulation of the poorly grounded condition of
the ambiguous talent/defect of madness has subversive
implications for the
'information commodity' thought norms of the perplexity
system.(43: Foucault, M., Work/m.i., tr. Stastny, P.)
Thus the topics, the commonplaces, of client creativity arise
in an irrational social condition and will have to be
reshaped/aliased in the antecedents of rationalistic thought.
(44: Marx, K., Economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844)
We could view it that the 'mandate' of creative insight/expression
comes side-by-side with the prodigious obligation of resolving
intense confusion reasonably. In contradiction with the
way that the perplexity system challenges personal integrity and
deadens the soul, the client-centered perspective
must be nourished and the 'soul' protected. The potential
accomplishment of social construction is to 'shine the light in' and
help define, structure, and nurture the growth conditions of client
creativity meaningfully and productively.
Living in proximity to the manifest irrationality of the
frame of the madness experience is in the first place a vulnerable
social condition for the client. In our competitive society, how
then can we afford any reasonable expectation to the client that
his/her voice will be heard, or insight/conviction have impact?
the typical criterion of institutional discharge being social
conditioning to 'docility', the client has a reasonable
expectation of being misconstrued! Behavior identified in
framework as 'incorrigible' may likely in fact amount to a kind of
beleaguered hard-headedness, combined with a sensitive or
visionary quality which is problematically productive in
(46: Dennert, E-mail message; 47: Sacks, O., Awakenings)
Many believe in effect that 'wickedness' (the root meaning of
'illness'), 'malingering' as it were, is the bottom line nature
of client irrationality. An
alternative model may be found in the idealism of Boethius, who
wrote a visionary text that captured the pathos of the feudal
experience while he was awaiting execution at the hand of the
Ostrogoth Emperor Theodoric:
Boethius (d. 524) was the leading Roman intellectual of his era, a
time when the Ostrogoths ruled a fallen Western Roman Empire.
His pure but impolitic activity as Senator was deemed treasonable,
apparently due to its opacity to the barbarian Ostrogoth ruler
Theodoric whose credulity was strained. While awaiting execution
in prison, he wrote The consolation of philosophy,
which became one of the great inspirational texts of the medieval
and Renaissance periods. The 'mad' or irrational character of
his life's resolution is symbolized by his eyes nearly popping
out as he was garroted by the executioner.
(49: Gibbon, E.)
The dilemma that Boethius faced in full rationality was so deeply
irrational that it serves as metaphor for the way that the 'bizarre'
client experience reflects an impacted social opportunity.
Isn't the problematic of conventional 'solutions' to madness
- exorcism, punishment, medical insult, control - a dilemma of
provider limitation and despair, irrational response being pitted
against terrible predicament?
In extremis, the client loses coherence or measuredness of
being, so that habituation to this situation, even if 'symptom-free',
leaves people with little to lose but their disempowerment.
(50: Marx, K., and Engels, F., The communist manifesto)
This implied revolutionary paradigm may lead people to think to
challenge and confront perplexity, but that the dreadful social
consequences which will likely obtain, give pause. A creative
person may invoke the spiritual implications of seemingly obvious
insight, take the risk, and hope to transcend obstacles, still
client status obstructs the capacity to deter being controlled.
(51: Siebert, A.)
The harsh choice of amputation of one's
Vision is put against the dangerous alternative of making oneself
available as a target of the social reaction against unwieldy
In sum, the 'performance' problem clients face leads to a
conflict-driven instability in the 'theater' of
perplexity-driven boundaries for social arrangements and norms.
To master the irrationality, to transcend the 'melodrama', and to
become accountable to the issues of imagination, the client must
choices surpassing the normal operational limits of personality.
To put in question the core rationality of the society at a moment
in history cannot but have a quality of folly about it; it creates a
drama larger than life.
(52: Erasmus) As Grassi puts it, "only on the basis of myth can
ideas attain their full dramatic significance,"
(53: Grassi, The primordial metaphor: 54) and
professional collaboration will generally be necessary to
render this successful.
Disconnection and perplexity
The opening conventionally presented for engaging such
vulnerability and confusion is to 'tinker' with a rationalist
'information' construct in order to patch its mismatches. The
perplexity system, with its habituated lines of thought, renders the
vague images from its other as disconnects lacking rational
While clever rationalization may provide approximate
'explanation' as remedy to conceptual confusion, yet in principle,
this is of limited scope and does
not bring out the ontological difference. (55: Grassi) The expression of
clear insight, of "correct" interpretation,
(56: Melanchthon, P.)
is commonly not readily available from the rationalist perspective,
the consequence being a deficit in sensitivity.
When rhetoric consists of an exposition on the topics of the
'information' model, expression will be thus confined within
the logic of dialectic. Since the impact of this is likely to be
perplexity enhancement and limited articulation, we may prefer rather
to draw on targeted expressions of our inchoate sensitivity, as, the
perspectives of Melanchthon.
(57: Melanchthon, P.)
Due to the leaden quality of habituation effects, we are bound to
find difficulty in working
around or re-cognizing our informing rational constructs. The
contrary possibility is that social constructionist ideation could
help to sensitize us to "the crucial, but fleeting events through
which, in practice, people get to know each other."
(58: Shotter, APA Summary)
"Among these dark Satanic mills,"
(59: Blake, W.) that is, in an
atmosphere of manipulation and habit-provoking stimuli, the
application of sensitivity is blunted, suffers and may atrophy. The
creation and reinforcement of habits of insensitive conceptualizing
inflates stale rhetoric and subverts people's sense of well-being:
In a disintegrative process the obvious and 'reasonable' gets
confused as the focus shifts to blaming and habituated response.
The extreme case of insensitive conceptualizing is catastrophic
involvement variability, leading toward the dissociation of
personality and fragmentation of the unitary self.
(60: Mead, G.H., MSS; 61, Haan, N., Coping and defending)
The 'spin' of fugue and self-destruction promotes the breakdown of
critical self-conscious behavior, thus, an environment where the
effects of such as 'fighting words' and obscenity flourish.
(62: 'fighting words')
What comes about is an originary perplexity, a naked interface with
what Edgar Levenson calls 'reflexive mentation'.
(63: Levenson, E, The politics of interpretation)
Verbal abuse or 'fighting words', the language of attack,
exploits this hyper-rational and under-emoted circumstance,
undercuts critical thought, and hypocritically diminishes
responsiveness. The 'low-functioning'
behavior, the 'soul dead' state liable to result from this experience,
provides a likely final outcome for the impacted individual
adjusting to the culture of perplexity.
A client subject to reinforced perplexity is vulnerable to
dysphoric experience, but there are likewise dangers from an
inappropriate helping process. A supportive environment by itself
is not a sufficient cushion, if the politics of the support
challenges the sensitivity,
or again, if the sensitivity is fostered and yet the context does not
root it sufficiently. Thus, the method
of psychosocial rehabilitation aims to develop capacities and
sensitivities, yet has restricted impact when not well articulated as a
challenge to the values of the perplexity system. In general, a
policy of raw empowerment is perplexing, while a policy of
accommodating prevailing system values is 'disconnecting'
and besides that impractical on a large scale.
(65: Albee (1990), J. of Mind and Behavior)
With the client's opportunity for a wholesome life trajectory so
precarious, with the core sense of self challenged,
(66: Ofshe and Singer) what is to be done against these
disruptive and diversionary influences? It is scarcely sufficient to
expect people to realize themselves in habituating low-functioning
symptom management regimes where they learn to cope and
adjust! People's chance to mobilize their imaginations is
surely limited, when their insight is challenged, their
constructive efforts attacked, and there is scant room
for a life that 'makes a difference'.
(67: Whitman, W.)
In fact the need is to change the 'master terms' of such a life
(68: Derrida, Of grammatology)
and in so doing alter and upgrade the philosophical context and
practical meaning of the client's involvement with the world.
But if the client's sensitivity is encumbered, frustration ensues,
the living of being/doing becomes more difficult, and finally
intersubjective experience degrades. Neither (1) social conditioning
nor (2) a pill fixes is likely to help free up this sensitivity, let
alone uncover a socially adequate solution for its unhampered activity.
Interpretation from traditions that themselves certify or derogate
sensitivity as 'irrationality' can provide an historical framework
for rationalizing sensitivity and constructing a social
justification for it. From an
'archaeology of knowledge' of the forgotten and/or neglected topics
of madness and its social control we can hope to construct new
empowerments for sensitivity.
(69: Geel; 70: Foucault, M., The archaeology of knowledge)
Assuming that the perplexity system is too well entrenched to
encourage the prospects of a direct challenge, we look toward
a less inflammatory and more intricate strategy for change.
(71: Gramsci, A., Prison notebooks)
It's not by challenging system values head-on, but by the
conversation that brings the topics retrieved by 'archaeology'
back to present social levels, that we open social and
political clearings. There are lower social costs associated
with the 'nibbles' of mobilized client creativity backed by
a structured and rooted challenge to habituated values, than
from one that predominantly threatens. The opportunity for
hermeneutic skill, therefore, is to uncover the ways to connect
with and support the client voice, and advocate in an
historically framed way that challenges to the capacities of
(72: Cushman, P., Constructing the self,
For a way out of the client predicament, the suggestion
is to irritate artfully the surface of the social interface
with the clients - those involved in madness -
and increase society's sensitivity. The
counter-culture opening, such as the 'be-in' or the
'flea market', provides a
metaphor for the social positions
where alternative values may be expressed and new threads
of social being may develop. Early client activism has
developed the "consumer speaks" conference
as a kind of privileged favorable opening, but this
has yet to emerge in a form can deconstruct the
conflict and bonding of habit.
(73: Phelps, A., Sonoma client empowerment training,
Given the liabilities of madness as well as its social
impediments, we need to privilege favorable openings
- and we need the technical capacity to take on the
RECAP. The reader needs to recognize that the standpoint of the
client activist is distanced because it is particularly prone to
misinterpretation and behavioral stereotyping. What isn't defined in
terms of clinical enhabitations like labeling
(74: Scheff) tends for coping/rhetorical reasons to define itself
in a 'politics of identity'.
(75: Sampson, E.E.)
The tempting 'word-game' of identity renders
critical insight shallow, because it fails to address the need for a
perspective on the productivity of the client activist role. The
articulation of this perspective has to be constructed so that there is
originary opportunity for client-driven self-definition that is not
however reducible to the homilies of perplexity.
A clearing for social construction