M'Unchhausen's Pigtail, Or, Psychotherapy & ""Reality"": Essays and Lectures

Paul Watzlawick, Author
Paul Watzlawick, Author W. W. Norton & Company $19.95 (286p) ISBN 978-0-393-02825-6
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
The quotation marks in the title matter; for systems therapist Watzlawick of the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., reality is no absolute, but a construct, or ``interpersonal convention,'' built of ``first-order'' facts and the ``second-order'' meaning ascribed to them. Thus, in his example, the first-order reality of a red traffic light is the combination of the color we call ``red'' and the thing we label ``traffic light''; its meaning is ``stop and wait.'' Quoting philosophers Wittgenstein and Epictetus, anthropologist Gregory Bateson, cybernetician Heinz von Foerster and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson, among others, Watzlawick ( The Invented Reality ) takes a hard line against ``classic, linear-causal'' psychiatry while presenting his case for a behaviorist approach to psychotherapy, in particular, systemic therapy with its focus on what is happening within a relationship rather than on why it is happening. Though Watzlawick's prose can be convoluted and vocabulary obtuse (``scientificity,'' ``enantiodromy''), his controversial arguments, especially when illustrated by case studies, are provocative and frequently persuasive. (June)
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