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Alex is also a client, but not a therapist. He has started attending a local meeting of Adult Children of Alcoholics. In the California city where she goes to college, she is a radical feminist; on visits to her Midwestern home town she is a nice, sweet, square, conservative girl. The therapist asks her when she feels most like herself.

Understanding Self And Others In The Postmodern World hardcover

All these people are shoppers in the great marketplace of realities that the contemporary, Western world has become; here a religion, there an ideology, over there a lifestyle. They, and millions like them, browse among a vast array of possibilities and in the process change not only their believes but their beliefs about belief-their ideas about what truth is and where it is found. Some enjoy the freedom that can be found in this, some try to escape from the freedoms and some are nearly destroyed by it.

Meanwhile, new products keep arriving at the marketplace.

Postmodernism and modern philosophy

Without quite noticing it, we have moved into a new world, one created by the cumulative effect of pluralism, democracy, religious freedom, consumerism, mobility and increasing access to news and entertainment. A new social consciousness is emerging in this new world and touching the lives of all kinds of people who are not the least bit interested in having a new kind of social consciousness.

We are all being forced to see that there are many beliefs, multiple realities, an exhilarating but daunting profusion of worldviews to fit every taste. We can choose among these, but we cannot choose not to make choices. Prophets of modernism used to predict that, with progress, old beliefs would simply wither away.

Some contemporary prophets of neo-primitivism, fresh from a weekend of shamanistic drum beating, actually express their hope that the old beliefs will triumph and the modern ones will disappear. What does seem to be happening is that belief itself is changing.

Introducing Post-postmodern Missiology

People do not so much believe as have beliefs. Look back over the brief anecdotes above—the stories of Jerry and Alec and Beverly—and you can see them moving through different belief systems, cultures, lifestyles, inhabiting them in rather tentative ways. They underlie family conflicts and identity crises; they generate deep uncertainties about what—if anything—is real. The shopping is playful for some, deadly serious for others.

People sample from the postmodern smorgasbord of belief systems looking for The Truth and hope it will help them to discover their own True Selves.

Love and Anxiety in the Early Postmodern World of Margaret Atwood’s Dancing Girls

Confused by the staggering variety of beliefs from which they may choose, clients come to therapy hoping for some sure guidelines. But frequently the therapist is as confused as they are. The premodern mind, whatever its pains and sorrows, saw itself mirrored in every detail of its world. There were psychic anchors everywhere in the myths that explained the cosmos, in the environment of signs, symbols, and metaphors that gave form to thought; in the rituals and customs that shaped decisions and action; in the social organization that assigned to every person a clear role and reason for being.

It is quite impossible for the contemporary mind, no matter how strong the romantic tug in that direction to return to such a pre-modern consciousness. We can playfully explore primitive ritual and art, but we do it with a 20th-century awareness of other rituals, other art forms, other ways of being. Nor can we ever truly understand what it was like to live in a world in which people did not have to choose what to believe—indeed, could not choose—what to hold valuable, how to be. As long as there was limited contact with outside influences bringing different realities, premodern societies remained stable, some persisted relatively unchanged for thousands of years and produced generation after generation of individuals congruent with their cultures.

Modern civilizations formed larger and more complex social structures, usually containing people of different cultural heritages. Increasing mobility and urbanization put more and more people in proximity to others with different beliefs and cultural traditions.

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Issues of pluralism began to invade daily life, and modern civilizations invented all kinds of rules and arrangements—civil rights, separation of church and state, ghettoes, apartheid—for managing difference. Religion, values and worldview ceased to be integral parts of the social environment and became matters of individual choice and conflict. Most people formed allegiances to some sort of institutionalized belief system, such as a religion or political ideology, which served as their primary definer of reality. Belief systems battled one another, and a great intellectual movement—the Enlightenment-attempted to establish a new universality based on reason.

In the Western world, the modernizing process also brought increasing individualism. The person became the chief container of value, replacing the premodern sense of self as part of a unified whole that extended from individual to community to cosmos. Autonomy and freedom became vital issues in the lives of individual and societies. There was a paradoxical catch to this. In order to qualify as an autonomous, modern individual, you had to adjust to the norms of modern civilization, and this meant taming some of the wild energies that had been allowed to run free in emotionally laden rituals and ceremonies of premodern civilizations.

Attaining to the model of the modern self involved repressing unacceptable thoughts, feelings and desires. Some of these could be projected back out onto others who took on special roles as feared, despised social outcasts; heretics, deviants, lunatics, subversives. Hyde, the madwoman in the attic—who embodies this preoccupation with the unacceptable even unthinkable aspects of human nature. There was always a certain tension between the needs of the self and the needs of society. Psychoanalysis was an extension of the Enlightenment, in some ways its most ambitious effort.

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Freud describe it as a science. He encouraged the belief that he knew how the mind worked. Psychoanalysis became yet another belief system. To train as a psychoanalyst was to be socialized into that belief system, and to deviate from its doctrines was to be regarded as wrong. Yet despite the doctrinal differences, there was agreement about certain core issues, including the task of psychiatry to create a well-adjusted person ; the role of the therapist analyst, doctor, teacher, sometimes disciplinarian ; and the objective status of the theory upon which the therapy was based.

There was also agreement about what the well-adjusted self, the successful product of therapy, was like: rational, consistent, autonomous, moderate and as feminist analysts point out suspiciously male in habits and thoughts. Above all, the healthy self was an integrated self, and not a psychic battlefield of warring tendencies. Psychoanalysis has gradually evolved away from its preoccupation with adjustment and toward a greater emphasis on identity without abandoning its tendency to equate mental health with integration; the self may have parts, but they had better fit neatly together.

As time went on, schools of therapy proliferated: Freudian and neo-Freudian, behaviorist, humanist, transpersonal, cognitive. So have therapeutic professions—clinical psychologists, marriage and family counselors, social workers, alcohol and drug counselors—generating still more schools. Some of the schools of therapy are more or less compatible with one another and can be selectively blended by the eclectic practitioners, but many work from irreconcilably different ideas about the psyche. In the bewildering world of modern psychotherapy, then, schizophrenia may be described by one authority as a disease of the physical brain, by another as a result of dysfunctional parenting, by another as completely nonexistent.

It is ironic, and to many prospective clients of psychotherapy rather disturbing, that a profession that purports to produce integrated selves is itself so fragmented. A society enters the postmodern age when it loses faith in absolute truth—even the attempt to discover absolute truth.

Few expect that one truth ought to work for everybody. Irony is endemic to postmodern times. Traditionally irony has been regarded as a mild form of sarcasm that implies a disbelief in what appears on the surface to be true. For philosophers, the supreme ironist was Socrates, the wise man who played at knowing nothing.

The person speaking ironically implies something entirely different, even opposite, to his or her actual words. Richard Rorty, the leading philosopher of postmodern America, offers a challenging description of the person who understands and accepts the conditions of life in this era.

Irony becomes a survival strategy in a world of constant uncertainty. For Beverly, the radical feminist-nice girl-airline passenger, this would mean that the rhetoric and agendas of the women at the university, the traditions of the folks at home and, for that matter, the rituals and mannerisms that go with airplane flight are all only vocabularies that work perfectly well in their contexts but do not have to be regarded as universal.

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Being an ironist also means-and this is the more frightening part-letting go of the idea of a True Self that is the same in all contexts. In some ways, most of us already think that way. After her parents were divorced, her mother moved with the children to San Diego. After she graduated from the University of Colorado, she moved to Alaska to work on a fishing boat, and then to Wyoming to become a ski instructor. Now Connie is working on a geological-survey vessel in the Antarctic, and is engaged to a man living in Portland, Oregon.

Fred is a neurologist who spends many of his spare hours working to aid families from El Salvador. Although he is married to Tina, on Tuesday and Thursday nights he lives with an Asian friend with whom he has a child. This can be disorienting to some. A theory of multiple socially constructed selves provides a way for those living in a Postmodern world to adjust to the reality of their condition.

All rights reserved in the original. Those who developed Postmodernism tended to be associated with the radicalism of the 60s. While Postmodernists are infatuated with race, gender, and class, it would appear that race and gender are not easily classified as social, but biological.

Michael Heiser — Understanding The Post-Modern, Neo-Pagan, Post-Christian World

See Questia, April 19, Postmodern Psychology - Learn More!