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Samurai Therapist

“The training of family therapists has similarities to the ancient training of samurai warriors. Miyamoto Musashi, a master samurai of the fifteenth century, described the techniques of survival in combat, some of which are startlingly close to the techniques of family therapy.

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He talked about “soaking in”: When you have come to grips and you are striving together with the enemy and you realize that you cannot advance, you ‘soak in’ and become one with the enemy…

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You can often win decisively with the advantage of knowing how to ‘soak’ into the enemy, whereas, were you to draw apart, you would lose the chance to win.” When the samurai cannot see the enemy’s position, he must “move the shade”:

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“You indicate that you are about to attack strongly to discover his resources. It is easy then to defeat him with a different method once you see his resources.”

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Comparing these techniques with therapeutic joining shows that, although therapy is not a martial art, the therapist, like the samurai, must let himself be pulled and pushed by the system in order to experience its characteristics.

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The training of the samurai, too, was a training for spontaneity. Only if the sword was a continuation of the arm could the samurai survive. The attention to detail that the samurai considered essential for achieving spontaneity was extraordinary.

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To become a master, he had to train as a warrior for three to five years. Then, having become a craftsman, he was required to abandon his craft and spend a number of years studying unrelated areas, like painting, poetry, or calligraphy.

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Only after achieving mastery in these different intellectual endeavors could a warrior go back and take up the sword, for only then had the sword become a continuation of the arm. He had become a samurai because he had forgotten technique.

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This, clearly, is the meaning given to the concept of the spontaneous therapist. Technical expertise does not admit uncertainty; a skilled craftsman is certain of his craft.

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Therefore, a therapist invested in mastering techniques must guard against becoming too much the craftsman. He could become so enamored of his ability to join two pieces of beautiful wood that he failed to realize they were never supposed to join.

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Fortunately, the therapeutic system inhibits craftsmanship by pushing the therapist to experience and respond from within. Reality can be seen only from the perspective that the therapist has in the system.

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As a result, reality is always partial, and any truth a half-truth. Techniques so painstakingly learned must therefore be forgotten, so that, finally, the therapist can become a healer.”

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