Positioning theory, narratology, and pronoun analysis as discursive therapies

Rom Harré and Mirjana Dedaić

in Discursive Perspectives in Therapeutic Practice

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592753
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754715 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Positioning theory, narratology, and pronoun analysis as discursive therapies

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We have set out several aspects of discursive psychology, each of which can find a place as a source of techniques and inspiration to those who use discursive therapies. 1) Much of social life is ordered by implicit schemata, the content of which we can express as rules—with various levels of coercive force. Sometimes the schemata are offered as explicit instructions. However, whatever their status, rules are human constructions. What can be constructed can be deconstructed. No one ever need be a cultural dope, a rule-slave. The most important cases for discursive therapy must surely be those where someone mistakes the force of the rule, taking advice for coercion, for example. 2) Life is lived as, and in the framework of, narratives. There are story lines that are so firmly embedded in a culture, and which endlessly repeat themselves to us, that we cease to notice, if we ever did, that there is nothing inexorable about them. A new story line could always be lived and told. From the nursery through the folk tale to the popular soap, these tales seem to have a kind of necessity about them, but we must remind ourselves, they are just stories. However, they can be fateful. 3) What one does is shaped by the interplay between what one is capable of and what is acceptable in the local moral order. Locality may be ethnicity, it may be social class, it may be profession or job, it may be age group or religious affiliation. The study of this interplay reveals positions, clusters of rights and duties, within which people are trapped. Change the story line and the trap is sprung open. Positioning theory also tracks the many ways that positioning is refused, accepted and, in Sabat's fascinating case, subverted. The story of the stepmother's rite de passage illustrates the enormously important point that many different story lines with associated positionings can be underway at any time and within the very same conversation. Clearly, an important part of the work of the discursive therapist is to help to highlight the most constructive and life-enhancing reading that can be made available to the participants. 4) Finally, there are those little words that are scarcely attended to but which are hugely important as the language of life unfolds in everyday conversations. Multiple personality syndrome can come to be seen as a matter of the uses of pronoun grammar. Furthermore, one can hardly be unaware of the fatefulness of the use of pronouns, the most socially loaded of all the parts of speech. 5) Discursive psychology has much to offer the discursive therapist.

Chapter.  10294 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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