Whereas other creatures would generally be primarily located in physical space, humans also need to be located in the symbolic/grammatical medium of linguistic space. For development of autonomy, the self needs to acquire an effective voice in the community. In turn this requires a capacity for the individual to be able to represent her, or himself in an interpersonal environment. Communicative exchange is the basis for the experience of significance in life. This involves analogical representation of personal feeling, using the medium of language. Growth of self involves differential processing of positive and negative affect. Inclusion and collaborative engagement are the basis of well-being, rather than the satisfaction of drives.
In therapeutic conversation there is a co-construction of text by therapist and patient. The language of this therapeutic conversation is crucial: it is both the mode and evidence of intervention. This paper explores the language of the poetic in this context, which is associated with the non-linear, analogical, right-hemispheric form of language outlined in the Conversational Model (cf. Meares et al, 2012:27). This style of conversation is associated with a change in the form of consciousness and cohesion of self (Meares, 2012; Meares et al, 2012).
This paper examines a clinical case in which Heidegger’s work took a central role, where a confluence of Conversational Model and Heideggarian ideas assisted in a current engagement in psychotherapy. In this case, Heidegger’s work functioned in two modes. Firstly, as a shared play-space between my patient and I where analogical relatedness could develop. Secondly, Heidegger’s work also functioned as a literal model for being-in-the-world that over time became integrated into the conversation. This is an example of fit, intersubjectivity and fellow-feeling. Heidegger’s concept of existential authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) derives from that which is owned. If affect is innate, then it is arguable that this is the essence of that which is owned. By engaging with the affect of our patients we are engaging on a fundamentally authentic level.
While verbal art has been regarded as the quintessential expression of what a community shares in a “collective consciousness”, equally it has been studied as the harbinger of experiential innovation. Language affords the chief source of interpersonal solidarity AND a semantic laboratory for what is incipient or even weird (outside the ken of ‘normal folk’). This polarisation of functions can in some cases be explained by changes of artistic taste – mediaeval poetry in Europe was appreciated in terms of its ensemble of standard cultural motifs – e.g. roses, blood, courtesy… Other eras, like our own (in English, at least), have given value to novelty and invention, as well as to highly marked linguistic constructions.