Cognitive Pearl #028 Tevet 15, 5775 January 5, 15

One of my favorite scenes in the movie, The Wizard Of Oz, takes place almost at the end of the movie. Dorothy, the tin man, the lion, and the scarecrow have killed the wicked witch of the West. They are holding her broom as they plead with the Great And Powerful Wizard to grant them their wishes. They still haven’t realized that this great wizard is a silly charlatan, who has used social psychology to rule over a land of midgets. Who revealed the fraud? Toto the dog! The humans, with their intelligence, could not see the holes in the story; they were seduced into believing that they knew what was what. Toto, though, lacking all of those seductive human social and psychological vulnerabilities, could see the truth and reveal the liar for who he was.

This scene reminds me of how political ‘power over’ systems control and rule over those who are subordinate to them. That is why engaging the politically silenced into treatment is done with a basic cognitive tool: destabilizing the sense of certainty that makes the power-over-me appear so powerful. For sure, the abused child or wife or the employee who has been taken advantage of have really been told that a new balanced arrangement in the relationship is impossible. Or the depressed client has seen with his own two eyes how cruel and confining the world can be. But such ‘hearings’ and ‘seeings’ alone can do little to trap us. It is our imagination, fueled by fear and our psychological vulnerabilities that traps us in prison and irons. Our job is to point out the inconsistencies in the narrative. We ask questions. We make observations. We look for moments when the client felt a measure of freedom and then we work with the client to repeat those moments and to expand on them.

Enjoy the snow everyone!