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October 2021

Performative statements and the will: Mechanisms of psychotherapeutic change

Journal/Book: Amer J Psychother. 1999; 53: Belfer Educ Center, Room 402 Albert Einstein Coll Med 1300 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, NY 10461-1602, USA. Assn Advan Psychotherapy. 483-494.

Abstract: Performative statements are much discussed in the philosophy of language e.g., by the linguistic philosopher; J. L. Austin, where they are distinguished from descriptive statements. Whereas the latter merely describe a current state Of affairs from an external standpoint, performative statements enact a new stare of affairs merely by being spoken, as when a minister pronounces a couple married during a wedding ceremony. Performative statements are words and deeds at the same time. They are special kinds of statements, requiring certain unique circumstances and relationships so that they can function validly. Leston Havens has made the connection between the ability to make performative statements and the setting of psychotherapy. He has asserted that performative statements are an important part of the psychotherapeutic repertoire and may be an important force in bringing about psychotherapeutic change. In this paper; I try to locate the mechanism by which performative statements may achieve this effect, suggesting that this occurs by means of influencing the patient's will directly. Performative statements work on the will, much as descriptive statements influence the intellect. Philosophical ideas about the will, like Aristotle's notion of weakness of will, may explain some of the phenomena of psychotherapy! including resistance.

Note: Article Ghaemi SN, Massachusetts Gen Hosp, Dept Psychiat, Harvard Bipolar Res Program, 15 Parkman St, WAC-812, Boston,MA 02114 USA


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