‘All-healing, all-consoling thought’: ‘Fruitful conversation’: The heart of psychotherapy


All-healing, all-consoling thought

‘Fruitful conversation: the heart of psychotherapy 

Anthony Stadlen

Copyright © Anthony Stadlen 2020

What Thomas Szasz called our years of fruitful conversation’ (Szasz, T. S.Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared, 2009: ix) began in 1982 but intensified from the beginning of the twenty-first century until his death in 2012.

In early 2010 we were discussing, as so often, what is authentic psychotherapy.

On 8 February I mentioned Samuel Becketts translation of a maxim of Sébastien de Chamfort:
 Ask of all-healing, all-consoling thought
 Salve and solace for the woe it wrought.
I wrote:
 ‘I was startled by this. It says everything about mental illness.
Szasz replied:
 ‘Yes, it is startlingly to the point. [...] Is this a piece of that truth modern, scientifically-enlightened man cannot afford to acknowledge? Cannot be fitted into a cause-and-effect model.

Szasz died on 8 September 2012.

John Heaton was my first teacher of phenomenological psychotherapy in the early 1970s. He remained a colleague and friend.

On 18 November 2016 he gave a talk on Beckett and Ludwig Wittgenstein at the Society of Psychotherapy.

I wrote to Heaton, asking if he knew the Chamfort/Beckett maxim. I told him of Szasz’s response to it. I commented:
Chamforts original maxim is much feebler and more long-winded. But Beckett goes right to the heart of the healing that true psychotherapy facilitates.
Heaton replied:
I do know it well. I entirely agree with Szasz so thanks for telling me of it.
Heaton died on 3 May 2017.

Szasz, Heaton and I agreed that psychotherapy’ as practised today is largely a technologised pseudo-discipline: a travesty of what it might be.

But we also agreed that this does not preclude an authentic psychotherapy, hinted at by Samuel Becketttranslation, above, of Sébastien de Chamfort; by John Heaton’s book The Talking Cure (2010); and by Thomas Szasz’s answer to a question from Angela Buxton in his seminar Addressing Your Questions (Inner Circle Seminar No. 117, 16 September 2007):
‘Psychotherapy is one of the most worthwhile things in the world.

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