Will The “Real” Third Wave Please Stand Up
The Third Wave In Psychology
I recently read that in the world of psychology they are referring to a ”third wave” … i.e.: Positive Psychology.
Stunning after more than a hundred years at it the psychologists have decided that the way forward is to look at what works in people’s lives to help them!!!
So here’s a breif history on that side of the fence (very, very brief …) …
The first wave was psychoanalysis and all the psychodynamic movements that emerged from the original work and variations on it from Sigmund Freud onwards.
The second wave was cognitive therapy, later called cognitive behavioral therapy – CBT, including the variations there as well, starting with Albert Ellis’ rational emotive therapy – RET, and as popularized by the work of Aaron Beck as well.
The entire behavioral/cognitive therapeutic model led to the short term “solution-based” therapies that are so popular and prevelant today, such as Solution Focused Brief Therapy – SFBT by social workers Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg.
What makes SFBT unique in this list is that it’s part of the third wave of pyschological therapies … those focused on positive psychology.
Yep … that’s it the third wave in psychology is focused on the idea that fixating on the problem and analyzing it may do more harm than good, and that even simple things like positive affirmations may do more good than the traditional psychodynamic approaches to therapy.
This is especially true when they are combined with strategic appoaches to changing beliefs and behaviors … like guess what??? NLP!!!
NOTE: Humanistic Pyschology is often referred to as a third wave of psychology after psychoanalysis and behaviorism by those looking at the approaches to therapeutic work. There are even those who will point to Transpersonal Psychology as a fourth wave. IMO this would put things like NLP and Mindfullness into the fourth wave category.
”Another Round Please!”
So then NLP is the real Third Wave!???!!??
Nope sorry …
Because in NLP there was a movement about waves too, where the first wave was of the founders … Richard Bandler and John Grinder. And, there was all the stuff they were doing from the early to mid seventies.
Then there was a kind of second wave of NLP with all of the stuff that came about afterwards, like the patterns developed by Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Robert Dilts, Will McDonald and that crew (there were more of them than I care to list, I’m just choosing some who wrote books early on as examples). Then there was timeline therapy that Wyatt Woodsmall and Tad James started promoting. There were even the distinctions that Richard pointed to later on himself, like submodalities (with Will McDonald).
John Grinder points to New Code NLP as an innovation. Roye Fraser who I worked with closely developed the Generative Imprint model. Michael Hall shifted to his Meta-States model and started presenting his style of doing NLP as NeuroSemantics. All of these could arguably be called third wave NLP as Michael Hall has said about his own work. Some folks however would say they are a second wave of NLP and that what I’m referring to as a second wave was just an extention of the first wave of NLP.
NOTE: Roye once said to me that he and his own work were the second wave of NLP, and then he referred to me as “the third wave in NLP” … a rare but deeply appreciated compliment coming from him.
So even within NLP we have folks refer to a first wave and then came the others that took the early work further … wave after wave.
So Is There A “Real” Third Wave?
IMO there really is no definitive “third wave” per se … only wave after wave after wave of subtle distinctions where we can draw arbitary points of demarcation like G. Spencer Brown’s “Laws of Form” lines that create boundaries that create entire new universes.
However I ain’t gonna leave ‘ya hangin’ …
When we look at the work of the cyberneticists, like Gregory Bateson, we can see a different way to demarcate the territory. (It would be interesting to see where the folks who decide which wave different styles and approaches to changework fall into would place Alfred Koryzbski’s work with General Semantics … you know “The map is not the territory.” guy.)
For me cybernetics lays out a clear path to thinking about waves in a truly systemic manner, i.e.; hierarchically arranged.
There are what can be called “First Order Cybernetic Systems” that functionally operate directly on the content in the system, i.e.: feedback loops that exist at the level in which the intervention or control system is operating. For example to warm up a room adding some form of heating to it … a fire in a fireplace, hot water heating, warm air heating … Adding heat to the room by whatever means is used is a first order intervention/solution.
In a human system the same idea applies in first order systems of intervention, i.e.: working directly on the “problem” or “issue” to be solved, e.g.: dieting to lose weight, lifting weights to get stronger, eating fiber to improve digestion and elimination … or the principals of Scientific Managment as designed by Fredrick Windslow Taylor
There is also what are Second Order Cybernetic Systems where the change happens at the level of the control system, not the content that is changing in the system. In other words in a second level cybernetic system the feedback loop operates at a level above the system that is being operated upon. In human systems this could be something like, providing a reward for desired behaviors such as paying more for good service instead of asking for it … or the idea of using indirect motivation, like Charles M. Schwab writing the number of heats produced in his steel plant on the floor of the factory in chalk without saying a word after the day shift finished their work, only to have it rubbed out and replaced with a seven by the night shift after they found out what the six on the floor meant.
In a second order cybernetic system the process that is used to manipulate content is the focus of attention. For an individual this distinction can be said to be about the difference between what you think about and how you think about what you think about, or content and process distinctions. Cognitively based interventions are largely or entirely first or second order interventions by default, given they work on content, albeit by different means … i.e.: directly or indirectly.
In order to talk about waves of intervention in changework it would be interesting to use a cybernetic model to define at what level is the change taking place, e.g.: content or process, where a first order systems like psychoanalysis tries to address the meaning of content by directly analyzing it with the patient/client. We could make the arguement that NLP is a second order system by virtue of the way it begins by ignoring content and working at the level of process to shift how the content’s meaning is generated.
When the content and it’s meaningis the subject of change it’s by definition almost always a first order intervention. When you are operating at the level of process to shift the meaning of the content in question it would be by definition a second order of change.
So can there be a third order of changework???
If we continue to use the cybernetic model to explore what a system of changework interventions might look like I’d argue ”ABSO-F#%KIN’-LUTELY!!!”
(NOTE: I learned the art of inserting vulgar expletives into words from a guy I worked with on some summer construction jobs in my youth I think of today as Louie F#%KIN” Bennunchi … a valuable early lesson in communication IMO.)
Now here’s the question …
Did you have a response to the way I wrote what I wrote in the sentence or two above now that you think about it?
If you did then I manipulated the context of our conversation by manipulating the way you thought of me, even if only briefly. This is an example of a beginning to a third order of cybernetics, i.e.: shifting the context so that the meaning created within it changes by default.
This approach could be called an extreme use of relational interaction, where the intention held by the change artist is to manipulate the client’s experience by deliberately controlling the perceptions the client has of them as the change artist, the interaction, the context, process and content … most significantly altering the way they experience themselves.
(NOTE: FWIW this is the basis of the way I work with clients … so if you don’t like it you’ve been forewarned!!!)
Literally the relationship becomes the mechanism for shifting the way content is processed so that the way a person experiences themselves in relation to the context shifts as well. So in the way I’m framing what can be thought of as third order interventions the distinction is neither one of what or how, but a focus on who. Literally the intention is to shift “who” is interacting with the system and the content contained within it despite the specific process used, i.e.: by virtue of the “who” becoming different the nature of the meaning, affect and effect of content and process shifts by default because it is a different person interacting in the system.
To say it more simply …
The way I work at a third order of cybernetic intervention is to force my clients to behave the way they want to be behaving in relation to others and the issues they are dealing with in their lives by forcing them to deal with me from that position, often without them realizing that this is the structure of what I’m doing … a pre-conscious or transconscious shift in themselves that is ontological, i.e.: they way they are being in the moment of our interaction. – Joseph Riggio
So there I’ve said it now …
This is the basis of the MythoSelf Process model of working with clients … and it is specifically organized to change the access to desired behaviors and behavioral responses beyond any change in consciously thinking or feeling differently before creating the outcome that is intended.
Of course there’s more … like how do I do that, and the way it becomes stabilized at the level of the autobiographical narrative so that my clients experience a change in their epistemologies too (the model and ground of how they think about what the experiences – their functional mythology, or mythic form that filters experience) … but that’s for another time now.
This however is the basis of what I’ve been developing and doing in my Foolish Wisdom workshops, and that I’ll be presenting for the first time explicitly in the “Your Implicit Self: Awakening Sensory and Situational Awareness” training here in Denmark this weekend and next week.
I gotta say I’m really looking forward to your comments on this one …
Joseph Riggio, Ph.D.
Architect & Designer of the MythoSelf Process and SomaSemantics
PS – There still time to check out the workshop and training in Denmark … while there’s still time and seats left there’s not a whole lot of either … so take a look now: