Practical Examples Of
Significant Psychological Change

In Fiction & Non-Fiction
Gibbs A. Williams, Ph.D.

For those who are interested, you are invited to share material that aptly describes the process of struggling to overcome internal or external obstacles resulting in significant psychological change.

A link is provided below for you to add your foresense, 4 cents, or for sense.

One source of this material is found in fiction. An example of this is a recent critical review of the Harry Potter phenomena.

On Harry Potter

New York Times · 11/30/99
by Richard Berstein

"To Bettleheim the conflict between Cinderella and her step sisters represents the intense sibling rivalries that children feel and the fears that these rivalries give rise to. Fairy tales, with their eventual happy endings, point a way out for the child who otherwise, Bettelheim said, has no hope "that he will be rescued, that those who he is convinced despise him and have power over him come to recognize his superiority."

In the early stages of Harry's story the disadvantages he feels are partly recapitulated outside his home. After he learns that he is somebody, the son of famous sorcerers, Harry goes off to Hogwart's school of Wirchcraft and Wizardry. There he discovers that other students all seem to know more than he does, that they are insiders while he is the quintessential outsider.

One boy in particular is the head of a small gang that picks on him. A teacher seems intensely and for no good reason to dislike him. But gradually Harry emerges as an independent figure whose talents and skills are widely recognized. The rest of Ms. Rowlings first volume shows Harry assuming his true identity, gaining the courage to overcoming obstacles and winning a battle against the adversaries of his ancestors.

Harry's story, in other words, with its early images of alienation, rejection, loneliness, and powerlessness leading to it classically fairy tale ending, contains the same basic message that Bettleheim described in The Uses of Enchantment. It is " that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence - but that if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious." "Morality is not the issue in these tales," Bettleheim said, "but rather, assurance that one can succeed." Such assurance comes in many ways that adults often do not understand, but Ms. Rowling's Harry Potter seems to provide it.

Another source of this subject matter is the spontaneous reports of patients who after struggling with their own struggles occasionally do make significant psychological changes. Representative of this type of material is the recent comments of L - a patient who has been receiving psychoanalytic psychotherapy for many years.

One source of this material is found in fiction. An example of this is a recent critical review of the Harry Potter phenomena.

The Case of L

Therapy Session
Gibbs A. Williams, Ph.D.

The Case of L
L is a patient, who like many patients I have worked with was, on the surface, a solid citizen. She was high functioning, happily married, an altogether decent person. Her major difficulty was that she persistently experienced herself as less of an authority than merited by her actual experience and age. In short, she compulsively projected her final authority to external objects, thereby often feeling that she was always lesser than ''that authority'' than an equal to.

The following material is an example of L in the midst of a revolutionary turn in her attitude towards herself.

Upon leaving her last session L looked directly at me and saying the she was feeling much better about herself now, than when she came into the session. I asked her to think about why this was so and if she did actually feel better abour herself, to please let me know why. At the beginning of her next session, responding to my challenge, L related the following overview {concerning the talking cure and significant psychological change}.

Here, {in this therapy room} unlike by myself, I can talk out, think out, what's really in my heart and then giving voice to it, makes it real. I can't avoid or deny it. I was accepting what was really in my heart. I knew if I really didn't follow up on it I would lose self-esteem.

These few words confirmed L's life-long struggle to take her own experience into full account - treating it with the utmost seriousness and respect. This is not a new idea for either her or myself, as we have discussed this countless times over the course of her extensive therapy experience. What is new, is her growing sense of the reality of these ideas applied to herself. Change for L has meant gradually interfering with and reversing the life-long habit of putting others authority first and her following their lead.

L commented: ''I really heard you when you said, I am responsible for my own self esteem.''

In other words, there is little control as to what happens to a person whether exposed to internal or external forces. Additionally, there is relatively little control as to what our feelings and thoughts are with respect to what happens. But, we have a great deal of potential control as to what forces we wish to recognize. Determining what significance if any, they have for us and how we choose to act on them. This process is the operational definition of attributing meaning to our own experience. I believe that is what Keats means by the frequently quoted line from his poem Ode to a Grecian Urn:

"To thine own self be true then thou canst be false to any man."

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