The basis of my thinking
and my work is called ‘radical constructivism’. This “weltanschauung”
(contemplation of the world) assumes that we will never be able to
completely decipher/realize the world. We can only create our own images
(‘maps’) of it. These images are mainly dependent on the possibilities of
our organism (especially our sense organs and our abilities to process the
respective information). Therefore our inner pictures are no 1:1
reproductions of reality – whatever it may be – but the result of chemical
and electrical processes taking place in the dark.
Countless experiments show how little we can
rely on our sense organs. They demonstrate impressively how easily we are
deceived. We complete structures which aren’t there. (Example: the blind
spot of the eye) We project forms and shapes into arrangements, which are
not necessarily there. (Example: we see ‘triangles’, where there aren’t
actually any. With ambiguous illusions, we always choose just one version.
We determine more or less randomly what we consider as the fore- or the
background of our life experience.) Perception is therefore never just a
mere ‘reproduction’ of our environment, but also always the result of an
active mental processing going on within us. In this context we mainly
tend to perceive the ‘information’ that fits to our already existing
structures of cognition.
What we ‘realize’ or ‘know’ has little to do
with ‘truth’. Knowledge is nothing else but recognition. It mainly
distinguishes itself by helping us to survive in our world. It is the
result of successful repetitions which make it easier for us to abstract
from individual cases and to generalize. Knowledge allows us to make
predictions, without guaranteeing us that they will come true. So
‘knowledge’ is something ‘useful’. It has proved useful (viable) in
dealing with those problems, which are important for our survival.
Knowledge induces us to perceive phenomena in a way that they match our
already existing knowledge.
Knowledge cannot be easily transferred.
Everyone has to acquire it himself based on his own experiences. New
‘knowledge’ can only be integrated if it acommodates existing knowledge.
Once existing structures do therefore have a strong influence on what else
can be added to them. (Example language learning: It is easy to learn the
first language. Its structure, however, can already strongly impede the
acquisition of a second language.) ‘Information’ is consequently always
accompanied by ‘deformation’ as well. Once ‘informed’ it is basically
impossible to view the world without the filter of that respective
information. This is possibly the explanation why people constantly
bombard themselves with information (‘beliefs’, ‘convictions’
‘assumptions’). It seems as if this is a more or less subtle form of
‘gentle external manipulation’ – because, if the information succeeds in
entering the other person’s ‘knowledge system’, it will take possession of
his thinking, his feeling and his behaviour.
We randomly pick out single segments
(‘punctuation’, dissection) out of the entirety of the life cycle,
comparing them to each other. On our search for stability we look for
identity, similarity and difference. We are constantly creating
connections between the segments created by ourselves. As a result of our
effort we produce time (= repeated perception of an identical phenomenon)
and space (= simultaneous perception of various different phenomena).
‘Causality’ is a construct which allows us to experience two phenomena as
identical despite them being different, since there is a causal link
explaining the change. It apparently improves our chances for survival if
one can recognize regularities in our experiences. The term ‘fact’ (from
Latin ‘facere’ = do/make) in itself illustrates, that the world (the
‘facts’) is a result of our own actions in the end. What we do, see, hear
or feel has much more to do with ourselves (our own structures) than with
phenomena we imagine to be outside our own selves.
Every person has his very own knowledge, which
is more different from anybody else’s knowledge, than we are usually aware
of or want to be aware of. Unfortunately many people keep holding on to
their wrong presumption that the other person has the same knowledge as
they do. It is plausible, however, that every person has his very own
ideas when it comes to terms like ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘success’ or
‘happiness’. All these terms are deeply connected with our personal
experiences which cannot just easily be presumed or understood by other
people. Whoever uses one of those above mentioned terms (constructs),
cannot expect that the same experiences are evoked in the listener’s
memory as in his own. It all comes down to the following formula: The
receiver decides about the content of a message.
New knowledge always emerges through some kind
of disruption (confusion), which forces us to enlarge or to modify our
existing knowledge. We usually tend to align information and interactions
with our existing ideas and habits. (=to assimilate) (when meeting others,
we assume a ‘typical development). Only ‘disruptions’ compel us to vary
our ideas and habits in a way as to fit better to the respective
disruption and make dealing with it easier (= to accommodate).
Whoever thinks and acts in accordance with
radical constructivism automatically becomes more tolerant towards others.
Since you cannot take anything for granted concerning other people, you
are constantly forced to gain insight into their way of thinking.
‘Meanings’ in particular cannot be presupposed, but always have to be
worked out anew as a common construct by way of often lengthy and
Whoever thinks and lives as a
‘constructivist’, acknowledges that we have to live in a state of constant
uncertainty. This can actually be reassuring, because one must not
constantly and strenuously watch for so-called security or regularity any
more. Since you can’t take anything for granted with another person, life
remains full of surprises and therefore exciting.
For my work as a psychotherapist this means
that I try to get to know the ‘world of
experience’ of my patients
that I try to disturb as often as possible
in order to open up to ‘new knowledge’ or to support development
that I choose and offer new information in a
way that they fit to the existing structures (experiences) as much as
possible, thus being ‘accommodatable’
that I encourage to make new experiences,
because they are the basis for new knowledge (and apparently the nervous
system processes them differently than predominantly theoretical
that I make clear to my patients that they
mainly saying something about themselves, when they attribute certain
characteristics and behaviour patterns to other people.
that I try to get my patients to share my
enthusiasm for constructivist thinking and acting, since it helps being
more tolerant towards yourself and others and also causes greater
equanimity towards ( the mostly unpredictable) life.