Creative Connections & Client Communications
Counseling Insights, August 31, 2004Corollary Thinking
Corollary thinking is exposing a thought that is companion to a thought already presented; the new thought follows naturally usually into a new, even opposite direction. –If we have the thought that the world is round, a corollary to that could be ”Well, that means we can never fall off!” or “Then, if we go around non-stop, we’ll end up at the beginning!”
Two days ago, I was called out to the back of my home here in the desert outside of Scotsdale AZ. There was a four-foot long fat snake poised on some lawn gravel trying to determine its next coil of action. It had been inadvertently flushed from a thicket of thorny Bougainvillea.
It looked like a rattlesnake, with brown diamonds in the skin, a conical head, but there was no rattle on the tail. –However, in that moment of human ineptness, we lost track of the snake as it slithered away to where no one could follow.
The snakebook pictures told us it was a “Gopher snake,” that purposefully imitated the rattler but was basically large, fat, and harmless.
Whew! --But now, I needed a rationale for losing the snake, for letting a scary image go on to live another day, and another, and another. I could NOT let my mind say, “Wow! We’ve got to be careful around the pool. Where could it be? It could sneak up on us, and….”
I adopted a corollary idea instead: “We have lots of gophers, and they are a pain with their holes, etc. That’s why the snake is here, and probably has always been in these hunting grounds for centuries. The snake locates the gophers and eats them. The snake is our friend. Long live the snake.”
A nasty, abhorrent image of the snake (to me) was transformed into a welcome supportive idea. I found comfort out of a scary, unknown situation.
I have a client –an internationally well-established fine artist with New York studio—who lost his son twenty years ago in a car accident. This trauma played all too easily into my client’s palette of manic-depressive reactions, which had plagued him for almost all his life.
In the course of our consultation discussion, my client said perhaps four or five times that, every single morning, he awakens and knows his son lives no more.
What is there to say to that thought, that depressive, life-stopping statement? How does that thought color my client’s day to follow … and the days after that? What has happened through that thought over twenty years?
We planned a follow-up discussion, and during that time together, I waited for just the right moment to present what I hoped would be a helpful corollary thought for the situation. –My client said, “Then when Ray was killed … and Gee!, I think about his dying every single day…” and I replied, softly, firmly, “Jack there’s another way to look at this.”
“You are acknowledging Ray’s death every single day. You could acknowledge his lifeinstead … You could, every single day, celebrate that he had lived … and that he is with you every day now, still: working, imagining, creating with you. You could affirm your son THAT way. THAT’s uplifting … for you both!”
Well, you could have heard a pin drop. This was revelatory for my client. As simple as it sounds now after the fact, this turnabout of perception –this corollary to the dismal depressed confirmation he had routined for two decades— was a lightening bolt of illumination!
This suggestion, this observation opened his skies, and he was overwhelmed with it.
AND it has stuck. My client and I have talked since several times, and he reminds me and himself of this turnabout thought every time. You can hear it in his voice. His work has improved. His planning is clearer … etc.
This type of corollary thinking is closely related to “Is the glass half-full or half empty” argument, of course, but the root of it is emotional and causal and it is not argumentative. It is natural in its occurrence. --The thought of Ray’s death allowed the thought of Ray’s continued life to come into being. The father could remember Ray living as an extension of who he was.
Corollary thinking is also related to the “What would it be like if” question therapy [See The Creative Astrologer, pages 61-119, especially page 79].
After showing keen interest in a pattern of behavior, the astrologer can ask the client, slowly and clearly, “I see you want to help me understand the problem, and I am going to need your help further. [Think through the subtle power of that statement.] Let me ask you something quite specific: just relax and even close your eyes if you wish, and think for a moment, what would it be like if you never ever felt again--except to the degree that is normal for us all at one time or another--if you stopped feeling that you were unlovable, that you were worthless, especially in your present relationship that’s so important to you? What would it be like? How would you feel?”
Or: “How many times … really … how many times does it take to tell you you’re unattractive before you believe it?” and then the perfect follow-up: “What are people seeing? What should they see instead?”
Can you feel the power of those questions? Stop talking. Wait. Listen. Think of the effects being stirred up here!
Or: “You’re having this difficult, difficult time with your father, and we realize it’s because he supposedly was unfair with your mother, and that’s why the divorce took place. That’s what your mother told you, and that’s that. You’ve kept that opinion now for some twenty years! What if that’s not the whole story? Why is it really so important anyway? What if you simply stopped thinking in those terms about your father and let him live a little bit as the man, as the dad he wants to be with you? What might change then?
And the final wrap-up of corollary thinking and the artful question is the therapeutic thrust of these techniques: no event has value until your client gives it value. The astrologer can help with this so effectively. Please think about this long and deeply. You will be enriched as well.
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Next Update: September 30, 2004