Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Hope and Reality: Bridging the Gulf

Originally posted on March 17, 2011

The Theme for the 2011 conference of the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, held from April 28 – May 2, is “Bridging the gulf between hope and reality: Putting our ideals into action.”  The theme also relates to the fact that the conference is being held in Clearwater, a suburb to the west of Tampa, Florida, and right on the Gulf of Mexico. (Get it? “Gulf.”) Here are some of my thoughts about this theme:

The gulf between hope and reality can be bridged by becoming more conscious of what you hope and what is reality. Humans aren’t real good at doing either, or even being more than moderately conscious.

What if half of what you hope is foolish? Some of it involves unrealistic expectations, sometimes because you have no sense of what you think you’re wishing for—like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz movie singing, “If I only had a brain, I could while away the hours conversing  with the flowers…!” Some of what you hope for requires pathological denial of the fact that there are opposing forces or trends, or that it’s going to take a lot of commitment and work. Some of it is quite realistic, and you should also expect that you will be willing to work to achieve it. Some of what you want will first require some wise discrimination as to which of the aforementioned elements need to be separated for or purged from other hope elements. So hope is not a single thing—as it can seem to be, given a single, simplistic word—but really involves a lot of different actions. Bridge building requires a great deal of not just skills in engineering, but also realistic skills in obtaining the resources and lining them up effectively.

Still, we must continuously differentiate between the impossible and the merely very difficult. So what we’re about is the use of Moreno’s methods—he was the man who invented psychodrama and was also a major pioneer of group psychotherapy back in the late 1930s—; but in a larger sense, Moreno was part of a general cultural movement towards making that which was implicit, buried, not-yet-articulated, more explicitly conscious. Although Freud was by no means the only person who noticed the operations of the unconscious mind, he is given credit as the most vociferous pioneer in opening to the implications of this discovery. And although Moreno differentiated himself from Freud—his emphasis on action, social psychology, creativity, etc.— whether he would admit it himself, his overall goal participated in this larger movement toward helping people become more explicitly conscious of what had previously been more unconscious or subconscious, not yet given voice, sometimes not even within one’s own mind.

Hope can be a mixture of unrealistic expectation and wise active faith. Part of consciousness involves adding to Reinhold Niebuhr’s dictum to seek the strength to change what one can change, accept what one cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. Happily, we have a rich set of tools for achieving this. I’m proud to be witnessing to these methods and concepts in the service of evolving human consciousness in the 21st century.

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