Conservation of Ambivalence: A Post-Modern Approach to Symptomatic Behaviour in Human Systems

By David P Fourie.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Current post-modern articulations of systems theory emphasize the self-organization and autonomy of living systems. From this perspective the presence of symptoms in a system indicates that the conserved autonomy is of an ambivalent nature embodying the system’s striving for an ideal way of living and the simultaneous failure of this quest. The traditional format of psychological treatment typically opposes the symptom and allies itself with the idealistic pole of the ambivalence, discounting and thereby threatening the system’s ambivalent autonomy. This often strengthens symptomatic efforts to conserve the ambivalence. Treatment can circumvent this trap by means of careful questioning. In this way the symptomatic ambivalence can be approached respectfully and allowed to disassemble itself “spontaneously”. The purpose of this paper is to show how symptoms can be seen as reflections of a conserved ambivalent autonomy and to describe the questioning process theoretically and by means of a case example.

Keywords: Self-Organization of Systems, Conservation of Ambivalence, Symptoms as Reflections of Ambivalence, Questioning, Reframing

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.225-230. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 535.158KB).

Dr. David P Fourie

Professor, Department of Psychology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Dr. David P Fourie is professor of psychology at the University of South Africa. His research interests are in systemic theory, psychotherapy and hypnosis. He was instrumental in the development of a systemic approach to hypnotherapy in which many of the traditional views of hypnosis had to be re-examined. His overall approach is therefore post-modern, and psychotherapy is viewed as a conversation in which meanings and attributions of meaning can change through dialogue. Careful questioning is a respectful form of such a dialogue.

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