The Assumptive Worlds of Psychopathy IX: The World of Aspirations
We come to appreciate our own role and that of other people with whom we closely relate regarding the contributions we make singularly and jointly in helping us realize Aspirational images, purposes and values. An appreciative perspective is always leaning into the future. While we appreciate that which has been successful in the past, we don’t dwell with nostalgia on the past. Instead we continually trace out the implications of acquired wisdom and past successes on behalf of our vision of the future. Aspirational opportunities are always leaning with each of us into our potential future. Effective psychotherapy involves the joint leaning of the therapist and client into both individual futures and the future these two people create together in the therapy office.
Appreciation also refers to recognition of the distinctive strengths and potentials of the client. An appreciative culture is forged in the therapy session when an emphasis is placed on the realization of inherent potential and the uncovering of latent strengths rather than identification of weaknesses or deficits. People “do not need to be fixed. They need constant reaffirmation.” (Cooperrider, 1990, p. 120) Similarly, aspirations don’t have to be fixed. They need to be constantly reaffirmed—and this is done by identifying the strengths and competencies that a client can continue to engage on behalf of these aspirations.
Even in a context of competition, appreciation and attention to aspirations transform envy into learning, and personal achievement into a sense of overall purpose and value. The remarkable essayist, Roger Rosenblatt (1997, p. 23) reveals just such a process in candidly describing his sense of competition with other writers. He suggests that the sense of admiration for the work of other writers can play a critical role in his own life:
Part of the satisfaction in becoming an admirer of the competition is that it allows you to wonder how someone else did something well, so that you might imitate it—steal it, to be blunt. But the best part is that it shows you that there are things you will never learn to do, skills and tricks that are out of your range, an entire imagination that is out of your range. The news may be disappointing on a personal level, but in terms of the cosmos, it is strangely gratifying. One sits among the works of one’s contemporaries as in a planetarium, head all the way back, eyes gazing up at heavenly matter that is all the more beautiful for being unreachable. Am I growing up?
Paradoxically, at the point when someone is fully appreciated and reaffirmed, they will tend to live up to their newly acclaimed talents and drive. Similarly, they will live down to their depreciated sense of self if constantly criticized and undervalued. Carl Rogers suggested many years ago that people are least likely to change if they are being asked to change and are most likely to change when they have received positive regard—what we would identify as appreciation.
A final mode of appreciation is evident when efforts are made to form complementary relationships and recognize the mutual benefits that can be derived from cooperation with people and engaging with cultures that are in important ways “different” from us. There is the challenge of increasing differentiation of functions (that we have actually faced for many centuries and in most societies: Durkheim, 1933). This differentiation requires a comparable increase in integrative functions (Lawrence and Lorsch, 1969). This integration is achieved through an appreciative and aspirational perspective regarding the opportunities inherent in diversity (Page, 2011).