HE.S.T.A.F.T.A. - Scientific Society of Mental Health Professionals


The fifth issue of the magazine is devoted to meaning as a necessary condition for our mental existence in life and therapy.

Paolo Bertrando in his article “Surviving in psychiatry as a systemic therapist” talks about the quest for the role (and hence the meaning) of a contemporary systemic therapist in psychiatry, and concludes that his contribution lies not in the provision of sure answers but, on the contrary, in an attitude of always questioning and dealing with dilemmas away from certainties.

The same quest for the multiple meanings that surface through the recognition of the self’s many inner voices provides the context for “Many inner authors: Practical comprehension of the ‘polyphonic self’ in psychotherapy training” by Athena Androutsopoulou. The paper presents an exercise used for trainee therapists to understand Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic self in order to be able to reinforce the therapeusants’ ‘new voices’ (and meanings) for a new coherent narrative to emerge.

The need to attribute meaning to the unpredictable events during or around the therapeutic session is examined in “The therapeutic relationship and the unpredictable in the ecology of the family session” by Kia Thanopoulou and Katia Charalabaki. By incorporating the unpredictable in the therapeutic process and give it meaning through the power of the therapeutic relationship “the therapist gains a new freedom to focus less on the ‘corpus’ of the therapeutic narrative, i.e. the products of the collective therapeutic course, and be more open to exploiting its ‘by-products’.”

Next comes an approach to the existential aspect of meaning for man in Evangelia Andritsanou’s “‘Life… full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. Macbeth and Shakespeare: moral versus active nihilism”. Macbeth “appears as a man without free will and incapable of the expe­rience that is a major condition for existence: guilt”, as a result of which he ends up, as the title suggests, with a Life without meaning. On the contrary, Macbeth’s author, Shakespeare, gives meaning to his life by transforming personal pain and guilt into creation.

The next paper, “Systems – Centered Training with Couples: Building Marriages that Work” by Yvonne Agazarian and Susan Gantt, also centres on the quest for meaning, this time in another field: in the conflicts and difficulties of couples in the system of marriage. By explaining the difficulties as entrapment into dysfunctional roles, the aim is to highlight and liberate the couple’s powers so as to build a closer and more satisfactory relationship in their marriage.

In his paper “Tennessee Williams’  The Glass Menagerie ” Sotiris Manolopoulos refers to the process of creating meaning for man within the world, i.e. the process of creating relationships. The author says that the purpose of impulses is suspended when in our relationship with the other we succeed in the transition from passion to an investment in the feeling of tenderness. When this does not happen, as is the case in  The Glass Menagerie , the result is regression and void, the absence of meaning, the insufferable reality from which the heroes are forever running away.

Katerina Matsa’s book  Humiliation and Shame. Drug Addicted Women  was triggered by an attack against the meaning of existence for drug-addicted, seropositive women, a political act of extreme barbarity when they were publicly exposed by ministerial order in the spring of 2012. According to Dimitris Kokkalis in his review, “the book is an attempt at resisting the dangerously spreading socio-political barbarity which affects our lives”, an attempt at restoring meaning and life attitudes, not just for these women but for “everyone, because it embodies human values such as solidarity, sharing dysphoria through verbalization and trust in the human capability for active formulation of the social terms of existence”.

Finally, the book  The Art of Being a Couple. A Systemic Approach  by Virginia Ioannidou, presented by Katia Charalabaki, is “…about the types and forms of life as a couple, its hardships, dysfunctions and crises [...] as well as about couple therapy and mediation”. By making use of theoretical knowledge and clinical case studies, therapists as well as the general public to which the book is addressed are helped to give meaning to life and improve “this most intimate of adult relationships—that of a couple”.

We believe that the process of searching for meaning, its multiplicity and its complexity is highly topical in a time when monophony and linearity threaten to block the way to new quests, in therapy as well as in life.

The Editing Committee

Read the next article:

ARTICLE 2/ ISSUE 5, October 2014

Surviving in psychiatry as a systemic therapist

Paolo Bertrando, Psychiatrist and Family Therapist, school Centro Milanese di Therapia della Famiglia, Milano, Piazza S. Agostino 24, 20123, Milano, Italy
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