Having a perspective is a way of describing how we see ourselves, other people and the world in general. What is your opinion of yourself? That is a perspective. What is your philosophy in life? That’s also a perspective. At Sunshine Coast Health Center, we spend a lot of time with clients on perspectives even though we don’t use that term. For example, one of the main therapies we use is narrative therapy. Narrative is another word for story so narrative therapy is designed to help clients heal by paying close attention to their story. A life story is another term for perspective. Your point of view, opinions, attitudes and beliefs are all aspects of your perspective.
At Sunshine Coast, we think how a program works with a client’s perspective is fundamentally important. Our preferred approach is for clients to embrace their current perspective, be open to additional perspectives and, ultimately, to integrate their new perspectives into daily living.
Embracing Our Current and Past Perspectives
Here’s some examples of how we have clients look at their current perspective:
– why do you use drugs? what does it do for you? *
– what is it like to be you? At home? At work?
What we find with many of their clients is that they are surprised that it’s okay to share how life shows up for them. Noone is passing judgment. Many times we find clients are conditioned to say the right thing rather than to be honest with themselves.
Another tendency for clients is to disown their past. We often hear clients say things like, “I don’t ever want to go back to those days. I caused so much pain and suffering. I’m going to put my past behind me and turn over a new leaf.” Unfortunately, testimonial from our alumni suggests that forgetting our past (our personal historical perspective) doesn’t work very well in the long-term.
* Note: many treatment centres avoid this kind of talk because they are afraid it might ‘trigger’ a client into engaging in their substance.
Exploring Additional Perspectives
At Sunshine Coast, we find that clients who are lonely and unable or unwilling to open up are often very open to other perspectives once they get settled into treatment. When they find themselves in an environment where they feel safe and are encouraged to share their perspective, the rest comes quite naturally.
Both eastern and western philosophy encourage this idea of having multiple perspectives. In the west, Friedrich Nietszche developed the philosophy of perspectivism which, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “the theory that the knowledge of a subject is inevitably partial and limited by the individual perspective from which it is viewed.” In other words, it is good to share our stories and opinions because, as a group, we are less likely to have a distorted understanding of ourselves, other people, our addictions, etc.
This is not a new concept. In fact, 2500 years ago the Indian sage Vardhamana Mahavira developed the concept of anekantavada which tells us that “no viewpoint is to be taken as the final, definitive viewpoint because reality itself (and not just our human perception of it) is many-sided.” *
(*) Source: Vallely, Anne (2004). “Anekanta, Ahimsa and the Question of Pluralism“. In (ed.) Tara Sethia. Ahimsā, Anekānta, and Jaininsm, pg. 109.
Integrating New Perspectives Into Daily Living
Staff at Sunshine Coast is careful to remind clients that they need to apply what they learn in treatment. This holds true for developing multiple perspectives. Clients need to continue to have the vulnerability to share their perspective with other, caring individuals. They also need to be open to the perspectives of others, particularly loved ones that may have lingering resentment over what happened before treatment.
Long term, clients may also want to reflect on their worldview. What is worldview? This video courtesy of Randall Niles is a good introductory video on the concept:
Admittedly, staff at Sunshine Coast Health Center do not spend a lot of time on the concept of worldview because so much of our worldview is influenced by factors beyond our control such as technology, our education system, our culture, etc. We believe time in treatment is better spent on psychotherapy, not sociology. However, clients in recovery may want to spend some time being aware of how society influences how they see the world. I will delve deeper into worldviews in a later blog posting.