Monday, June 29, 2009

"Words As Symbolic Communication In The Healthcare Setting"

In an excellent article, "Words As Symbolic Communication In The Healthcare Setting," Christopher Bear Beam writes about his experiences as a hospital chaplin and as a patient and how he has used general-semantics notions to help himself and others. He notes:
Today, after a number of years of doing this work, I have concluded that those people who work in the field of the Healing Arts often are not equipped with the understanding of how their words are symbolic forms of communication having great import in their client’s minds. Since they are often seen as the experts in the field (this is starting to change as healthcare moves to more of participatory process, but there still are huge gaps in its practice) there is a primary accountability for taking the lead in communicating in a healthy way. I guess what I’m also saying is that it would be helpful for medical professionals to learn the principles of General Semantics that would give them more tools to work with in dialoguing with the people they serve. Another way of saying this is that it would give them a supportive means of symbol making that leads to more healthy outcomes.
As a veteran physical therapist and general-semantics scholar/practitioner I heartily agree.

The entire article is worth reading, printing out, and studying. And I don't mind that he plugs my wife's and my book Drive Yourself Sane: Using the Uncommon Sense of General Semantics, Revised Second Edition. 8-)

Read Words As Symbolic Communication In The Healthcare Setting

Friday, June 19, 2009

"The Language of Confusion" by Rabbi Yonason Goldson

I'm guessing that this commentary by Rabbi Yonason Goldson will probably offend some of my readers in some way. So be it. I find it interesting and pertinent to this blog so am posting a link to it here. Rabbi Goldson contends the following: that 60 years later, Orwell's dystopian vision is more prophetic than ever.

A snippet from his essay:
"Teachers, be careful with your words," warns the Talmud, "lest the disciples who follow you will drink of evil waters and die." When the waters of wisdom become polluted with confusion and contradiction, it is society's youth who will pay the price through the erosion of moral clarity and moral principles.
I think Korzybski would agree to that. I know I do.

Here's the link for those who have an interest: The Language of Confusion

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

General Semantics-A Theory of Metacognition

In an article entitled Bridging the Research-Practice Divide: Using General-Semantics in Physical Therapy Practice I wrote the following which I still think applies. I shamelessly quote myself:
General-semantics constitutes a theory of metacognition, a working theory of how humans construct their perceptions, beliefs, theories, etc. Metacognition, thinking about thinking, has traditionally been considered part of the branch of philosophy called epistemology, the theory of knowledge.

Over the years many philosophers such as Plato and Descartes have speculated and theorized about how we know what we know. These theorists lacked much empirical knowledge of the human nervous system, psychology and other relevant areas of knowledge such as how scientists and mathematicians actually behave in order to gain knowledge. As a result their views were often riddled with untenable assumptions such as that of a `mind' separate from a `body'. Among other things, what distinguished Korzybski from these theorists was his effort to bring to bear studies in neuroscience, behavioral/social science, natural science, mathematics, linguistics and other fields to develop a scientific and thus up-to-date and open-ended, applied epistemology.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reflections about Reflections

Korzybski would usually wrap up the lecture part of his seminars by reciting several quotes related to self-reflexiveness, one of the central formulations of his system. Self-reflexiveness involves the notion that you can make a map of your map, talk about your talking, abstract from your abstractions, 'think' about your 'thinking', etc., ongoingly.

Korzybski presented these favorite quotes of his in the unabridged version of a paper General Semantics, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Prevention, which he delivered at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Cincinnati in 1940. He wrote:
'It should be noticed that in human life self-reflexiveness has even "material" implications, which introduce serious difficulties. Professor Cassius J. Keyser expresses this very aptly: "It is obvious, once the fact is pointed out, that the character of human history, the character of human conduct, and the character of all our human institutions depend both upon what man is and in equal or greater measure upon what we humans think man is." This is profoundly true.

'Professor Arthur S. Eddington describes the same problem in these words: "And yet, in regard to the nature of things, this knowledge is only an empty shell--a form of symbols. It is knowledge of structural form, and not knowledge of content. All through the physical world runs that unknown content, which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness. Here is a hint of aspects deep within the world of physics, and yet unattainable by the methods of physics. And, moreover, we have found that where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature. We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the foot-print. And Lo! it is our own."

'Dr. Alexis Carrel formulated the same difficulty differently, but just as aptly: "To progress again man must remake himself. And he cannot remake himself without suffering. For he is both the marble and the sculptor." '