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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


CONRADIE, Karlien. The aesthetic disposition as psychotherapeutic quality in a mainly apathetic, digitalised environment. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.4-2, pp.976-991. ISSN 2224-7912.

The psychotherapeutic space is characterised by, inter alia, empathetic participation, that is, sensitivity for the problematic nature of the existence and meaning of everything. The aesthetic disposition is a demand made on the therapist to be receptive to la condition humaine in an existential manner. In this article, I contend that in the face of an unbridled digital culture, the above-mentioned psychotherapeutic quality may be threatened. Furthermore, I scrutinise the nature of this concern in the light of interwoven theoretical and philosophical approaches, and of examples from poetry and literary prose. It is suggested that the training of postgraduate psychology students in general and educational psychology students in particular who have grown up with digital media ought to be reviewed. When online digital media become the predominant tool with which meaning is unlocked and interpreted it probably says something about the way people approach their world epistemologically and ontologically. In this regard, the ever-expanding digital consumerism, characterised by utility and immediacy, increasingly serves as hubris through which humanity appears to be doomed to collapse. This collapse would not necessarily mean the disappearance of Homo sapiens, but rather refers to an impoverishment of the function of language and thought in humankind's pursuit of meaning creation. Recent research contends that the rapid hybridisation (that is, the fusion of human being and android/machine) to which humankind is exposed occurs at the expense of certain knowledge-gaining and meaning-creating functions. One of these functions is the search for coherence by means of in-depth interpretation frameworks in order to steer away from chaos and fragmentation at the social and personal-psychological levels. Specifically, it concerns the impoverished role of language and thought as vital conditions for the articulation of the fine network of nuances of events and experiences. A predominantly digitalised culture in which the rich register of personal experiences is hardly given a place can lead to the ontology of existence being reduced to filtered, instant experiences and knowledge fragments stripped of their essential nuances. Another factor contributing to indifference in the context of the psychotherapist's thinking actions is the inherent fragmentation of the profession of psychology. This often makes it difficult for therapists who pursue the humanistic principles of solicitude and endeavour to fathom the greatest depths of humanity, to position themselves simultaneously within various social systems. Gardner believes "an effective counsellor must radically change his or her perspective on a client throughout the day, viewing the client first through the client's own eyes; then through the eyes of a legal authority or insurance entity; and possibly even through the eyes of a particular agency or school, whose own policies may differ widely from the counsellor, client, or payer" (Gardner 2016:88). According to Gardner, the orientation of metamodernism, characterised by continuous movement and reform, can serve as a conciliatory paradigm to deal with fragmentation and conflicting contexts peculiar to psychotherapeutic practice. She illustrates this fragmentation with reference, in particular, to the one-dimensional reliance on "neo-medical strategies" (Gardner 2016:89), namely rigid treatment plans, diagnostic criteria and DSM1 codes and categories, as opposed to a humanistic approach characterised by human autonomy and integrity. It is suggested that metamodernism as an attitude becomes a way for the educational psychologist of positioning herself in ambivalent environments by means of a to-and-fro movement between conflicting contexts and metaphysical issues related to psychology, such as good/evil, male/female, conscious/unconscious, psychological distress/prosperity, rather than a total rejection of boundaries as in postmodernism. In this article, with reference to several theories in philosophy and psychology, analytical literary discussions and recent information science research findings, I endeavour to gain clarity about how the culture of digital media relates to the need for an aesthetic disposition, specifically as a psychotherapeutic quality. In considering this, I explain how art as a direction indicator of the aesthetic disposition can be applied to advance and enrich the thinking of the psychotherapist and educational psychologist.

Keywords : educational psychology; psychotherapist; aesthetic disposition; ontological grounding; self-transformation; digital-media culture; apathy; attentive presence; empathic sensitiveness; artistry.

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