Monday, October 27, 2008

Ideas for a New Vocabulary

By Lynn Hoffman

Chris Kinman and I are exploring a postmodern vocabulary that fits with the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, who have given us the pair: Rhizome (decentralized) vs. Tree (hierarchical. The Internet is a rhizome too, billions of bits floating in an electronic colloid. Here are some more pairs:
  • Rhizome vs. System

  • Assemblage vs. Narrative

  • Webwork vs. Network

  • Sharevision vs. Supervision
    (see The Sharevision Group, Northampton)

  • Cloud-linked vs. Theory-linked
    (see “Cloud Computing” on the Web)

  • Starfish-structure vs. Spider-structure
    (see Ori Brafman and Aaron Beckstrom’s “The Starfish and the Spider”)

  • Aliveness vs. Health or Stability
    (see Kinman’s “Territory of the Alive”)
  • Gift-oriented vs. Problem-oriented
    (see Kinman’s “Confluences”)

  • A few ideas based on my correspondence with Clarke Millar:

  • “Collecting what Gathers Momentum" vs. Creating a Collection

  • "Floating Summer Midges"
    (Clarke Millar used this image to talk about ideas as if they were airborne swarms and schools. Again, a cloud-form)

    Example: “Family Therapy” just put out a "Genogram" of the family therapy pioneers, and I am in it. Rather a nice page with a picture and a biography, and I am in the midst of all the other First Midges, in the floating Midge Cloud.” (email from Lynn Hoffman to Clarke Millar)

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Idea and an Offer from Lynn Hoffman

On-Line Reflective Consultation

By Lynn Hoffman

What is “Online Reflective Consultation”?

It means that the consultant joins as an “outsider witness,” in Michael White’s sense, with a therapist who wants a supervision experience but does not live nearby. That makes a line dance troop of the consultant, the therapist, and the person or family she is working with. Other people and creatures, real or imaginary, can be online reflectors too.

How does it work?

First, the therapist emails the consultant and enlists. She describes the situation she is working on and what she wants help with. The rules are that any messages from consultant to person or family will go through the therapist, who shares them at her discretion. Likewise, if the person or family wants to respond back to these messages, they must do so through the therapist. The consultant may not get between the therapist and family or take over unless circumstances demand it.

What does this process look like?

A Moebius Strip, where top and bottom are always shifting into each other’s space. The consultant takes the therapist’s hand, the therapist takes the person or family’s hand, and their responses to the consultant close the loop, which then goes on looping. We try to conduct ourselves “without rank,” as the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin puts it, since this style of working emphasizes collaboration.

What are my credentials for offering this kind of consultation?

See Biography and Bibliography sections for information on my 45 year journey through the field of relational therapies. This year, having some new ideas about online consultation, I renewed my AAMFT Approved Supervisor credentials. Although AAMFT prefers face-to-face supervision, I found out that in cases of geographic hardship, it can be half and half. Currently, I am offering online supervision to a therapist in Canada who is getting the face-to-face requirements in the city where she teaches.

What are the possibilities for writing about Online Reflecting Consultation?

An online exchange is archived automatically, so that with the appropriate permissions, one can create a story out of the work that has been done. Names and other identifiers can be changed and the print-out of the story can serve several purposes:

1. As an honoring testimonial for the person or family to keep.

2. As a paper which can be part of the qualification of the trainee.

3. As an article in a collection about Online Reflecting Consultation. In this
case, the consultant would be the main author.

What has been my previous experience in doing and writing about Online Reflecting Consultation?

From 1993-2004 I was part of psychologist Lois Shawver’s Postmodern Therapy Newsletter, a very literate online conversation having a connection to psychology, philosophy and therapeutic practice, and offering a periodic magazine.

From 1999-2001, I worked online with Gisela Schwartz, a psychologist from Austria, as a one-person “reflecting team” for several of the families she was seeing in her practice, and we put together stories about two of them. These will be published in “The Rhizome Way,” an online publication being assembled by myself and Chris Kinman, who is a community consultant in Vancouver, Canada, and a present writing partner. (See

From 2002 to 2004 I was invited by Lois Shawver to join the online faculty for the online Professional Development program as part of a Master’s Level course in Discursive Therapy offered by Massey University in New Zealand and Calgary University in Canada. This experience proved to me that it is possible to connect with people online using embodied language that has the power to move participants in unexpected ways.

I am also putting together the story of “Nina’s Box,” which tells of getting past a “stuck point” in a year long therapy. The therapist, Olga Sutherland, worked with me and her client, in a kind of three-way braid, for several months. At the end of this time, Olga had to leave for another city, and transferred her client to another therapist. But this client, on her own, decided to make a “healing box” out of bird’s eye maple and gave it to her therapist as a parting gift. This golden, beautifully made box amazed us all.

To whom am I offering this experience?

Practitioners who want a time-limited exposure to what some of us have called “Sharevision,” which is a horizontal, collaborative approach combining practices from the late Tom Andersen’s body-oriented “Reflecting Process” and ideas from Michael White’s poststructural “Narrative” orientation.

Trainees who need an experience of Online Reflecting Supervision with an Approved AAMFT Supervisor, and can complete the face-to-face time where they live.

Students in health and service fields who would like to enlarge their repertory by taking part in discussion groups focused on new ideas like “The Rhizome Way,” or by joining temporary reflecting teams for selected therapy interviews.

Other topic suggestions: “Notes on Sharevision,” - “Evidence for the Gutenberg Century,” - “Gregory Bateson and Ecologies of Mind,” - “Webwork and Netbuilding in Online Consultations”- “Decentralized Starfish Structures on the Internet” - “The Nature of Paralogical Conversations.”


If anyone is interesting in taking Lynn up on this offer, feel free to contact her at:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Becoming Animal

I fear the animals regard man as a being... seriously endangered by the loss of sound animal understanding...

I play with the words of Nietzsche. For something emerges which is hard to expose within the carefully crafted, academic works of other philosophers, but is not at all difficult to discover amidst the rhythms and rhymes of the poets. It makes repeated appearance in Blake and Coleridge, Whitman and Pesoa. It also appears in the poetic-prose of the likes of D. H. Lawrence and Herman Melville, and later in the diverse explorations of Gregory Bateson.

What is it that appears? Follow Nietzsche through a few of his poems.

First of all... he bemoans the clock.

Around my neck, on chains of hair,
The timepiece hangs – a sign of care.
For me the starry course is o’er
No sun and shadow as before,
No cockcrow summons at the door,
For nature tells the time no more?
Too many clocks her voice have drowned,
And droning law has dulled her

Nietzsche is not calling for a conservative movement here, not a return to simpler days when the cock crowed to wake the farmer, and the stars and moon told of the coming seasons. No! Nietzsche is, however, calling us to ourselves, to who we are, yet who we repeatedly deny that we are. Nietzsche is suggesting that we are not distinct from nature; we are inescapably connected to the animals, to the seasons, to the hedgerows, to the sun and the streams. If we do seem separated from all this, it is an artificial separation, yet it is also a violent division which leads nowhere but destruction. And the ways of this heartless separation – including the imposition of blind law, distinct from any connection to nature, and an insistance upon a spirit of submission -- he clearly despises.

I hate to follow and I hate to lead.
Obedience? No! And ruling? No indeed!...

I hate to guide myself, I hate the fray.
Like the wild beasts I’ll wander far afield....
Instead of obedience, he becomes a wild beast! Yes... he becomes! As Deleuze would say, Nietzsche becomes a Becoming Animal...

Not a return to nature. No... but a Becoming forward toward nature. There is no need for a return, for our yesterdays were no more connected to a real world of sun and sky, fish and frogs, weeds and insects, than is our today. There is nothing to return too, instead this is a Becoming.

We see this Becoming in the next poem, where Nietzsche becomes a serpent. Not a serpent in the tradition of Western thinking -- the evil, conniving snake which deceives first the gullible woman and then the weak man – and an obvious misogynist man at that. No, this serpent is what it is, it moves through the rocks and the grass, it sheds it skin, it Becomes into newness, and it eats the food the earth provides. This serpent is real. It is even vulnerable to the violences of the human hand and foot. No emblem of evil here! Nietzsche not only loves this animal, he himself, through the words of this poem, Becomes this animal. And, we also, if we are able to read without interest in the narrow violations of evaluation and judgment, become this serpent. We Become the Becoming animal...

My skin bursts, breaks for fresh rebirth,
And new desires come thronging:
Much I’ve devoured, yet for more earth
The serpent in me’s longing.
Twixt stone and grass I crawl once more,
Hungry, by crooked ways,
To eat the food I ate before,
Earth-fare all serpents praise.

It is in this place, the place of the Becoming animal, that the powers-at-be loose their grasp. It is, for Nietzsche, in Becoming serpent, or mouse, or dog, dragonfly or tiger that a freedom and a joy emerge. For in the world of the snake, there is no more sin, no more God, no more king or queen, no more dominance of governing authorities, no more underlings to govern... but there is the grass to crawl through, one’s skin to shed, a feast of the earth to eat. Nietzsche cared not to call for either rigid structure or chaos; he created a world antithetical to both the Nazi and the anarchist. But he did call for an awakening of the animal, the animal whose influence we cannot escape, the animal which could be the serpent or could be the dove, but the animal which we dare to Become.

How strange this all appears. So removed are we from the creatures we share this world with, from the very creatures we are and we can become, that such concepts seem strange and utterly bizarre. Yet, perhaps, never before in our history has the Becoming animal been so required within our lives. We destroy creatures and the worlds they move within not because we are hungry, not because we, like the tiger and the hawk, desire to hunt and eat, but because, on the contrary, we are separate, distinct, disconnected from almost everything living. Let us Become that spider, that fly, that migrating songbird, that salmon, that disappearing shark. Let us become the hawk, the owl, the worm. Let us become Nietzsche’s serpent, and in so doing, discover the beauty and power of Becoming not just animal, but also wonderfully human.

Friedrich Nietzsche (2006). The Gay Science. New York: Dover Publications.