The Assumptive Worlds of Psychopathy IX: The World of Aspirations
In essence, I am suggesting that the therapist who fully appreciates the aspirational potential of her client has raised this potential by seeing him in ways that neither he himself nor those who care most about him might have seen this client before the therapist offers her astute appraisal The therapist is not just “seeing” her client, she is seeing her client in a manner that enhances her client’s own sense of self-worth and elevates his aspirational potential. The valuing has occurred because the intersubjective reality that is created between therapist and client includes not only a broader appreciation (as in the Lawrence narrative) of “the situation” (circumstance) in which the client finds himself outside the therapy office, but also a closer appreciation of the “situation” created by the two of them in the therapy office.
From yet another perspective, the process of appreciation concerns our recognition of the contributions that have already been made by another person. The narrative offered by the client—highlighted in what is now called narrative therapy (White and Epstein, 1990)—becomes a leverage point for recognition of achievements already identified by the client: “I appreciate your recounting of efforts you made in getting that important project off the ground.” “I appreciate the way in which you have approached your wife about your shared financial struggles.” “I appreciate the honesty with which you have talked in this session about your fear of losing your son’s trust.” We catch people “when they are doing it right”—rather than focusing from a deficit perspective on catching people “when they are doing it wrong.’
Sometimes, beyond the therapy office, this sense of appreciation is reflected in the special recognition we give people for a particularly successful project. It is also reflected in the bouquet of flowers or thankyou note we leave with that significant other person in our life. However, when this form of appreciation is the only kind provided, then it typically leads only to praise inflation, praise addiction or the tendency to keep important people in our life permanently in a needy and, therefore (ironically), one-down position (Kanter, 1977). Appreciation can instead be exhibited in a more constructive manner through the daily interaction between ourself and these other important people in our life. Furthermore, this appreciation can be modeled in the way the therapist and client interact. It involves mutual respect and active engagement, accompanied by a natural flow of feedback, and an exchange of ideas. More specifically, appreciation is evident in attitudes regarding the nature and purpose of specific relationships—for we create a new reality in all the important relationships we form in our life (not just the relationship formed in the therapy office).
These are the three most common uses of the term appreciation. We appreciate other people through seeking to understand them, through valuing them, and through being attentive and thoughtful in acknowledging their ongoing moments of aspirational realization. The term appreciation can be engaged in three additional ways that are each distinctive—yet closely related to the first three. They all move us even closer to a fuller understanding of an Aspirational perspective on psychopathy and to an appreciative strategy for addressing the challenges associated with this psychopathy.
Appreciation can refer to the establishment of a positive image of one’s future. This mode of appreciation resides at the heart of an Aspiration model. We grow to appreciate our own aspirations by investing them with optimism. We invest them with a sense of hope—and hope is healing (Lewis, Munzer and Bergquist, 2021). Furthermore, this personal hope about our own future is coupled with the valuable role that hope potentially plays in our society. Once again, aspirations should always be grounded in a broader appreciation for the situation in which we find ourselves. “[A]ffirmation of the positive future is the single most important act that a system can engage in if its real aim is to bring to fruition a new and better future.” (Cooperrider, 1990, p. 119) Each of us, therefore, must be “not only concerned with what is but also with what might be.” (Frost and Egri, 1990, p. 305)