Critical Thinking

In this chapter we take a look at the ways critical thinking can contribute to our practice. Narrative practices invite us to be curious about where our ideas come from and their effects. Here we look at some of the theoretical assumptions of narrative practice, ways we can strengthen our critical thinking, and how this can influence our work.

 


 

Critical does not mean destructive, but only willing to examine what we sometimes presuppose in our way of thinking, and that gets in the way of making a more livable world”

Judith Butler reference

This paper by Mary Heath begins by defining critical thinking and setting out a personal history of the author’s journey toward becoming a critical thinker. Some dimensions of critical thinking are outlined, together with questions which might allow readers to apply them to specific contexts.

Critical Thinking | Mary Heath

 


 

An invitation to talk about privilege from Salome Raheim

The relations and practices of power that influence our lives are often invisible to us. If we do not proactively look at how relations of power operate to create advantages for some and deny these advantages to others, it hinders our work as therapists and community practitioners. Without examining the operations of privilege, we are unable to see the circumstances that create constraints on other people’s lives. We are unable to appreciate their daily efforts to work and live in the context of these constraints, or to resist them.

Furthermore, we are unable to see how our lives are made easier. We think that the ease with which we are able to operate in the world is the norm and become oblivious to the fact that everybody’s life is not like our own.

What is more, unless we routinely examine the operations of power and our place within these operations, we fail to notice how we are liable to inadvertently impose our expectations, our cultural ways, our ways of thinking, on the people with whom we work. These impositions tend to diminish those who consult us, and they are destructive to the good work that we wish to accomplish.

This examination and deconstruction of the operations of privilege improves our practice as therapists and community workers. It is only when we recognise what people are up against that we can notice and invite people to richly describe their stories of resistance. It is only in examining the operations of privilege that we can become more aware of the potential for our practice to have negative consequences of inadvertently marginalising and diminishing people’s lives and subordinating their stories.

This work has a particular resonance for those of us who are from marginalised groups. Examining the operations of power and privilege renders visible the constraints upon our lives. It helps us to understand that these constraints are not due to individual deficits, group deficits, or cultural deficits. The problem is not located within us. This lessens the influence of shame and makes resistance more possible.

In the following pages, we have enclosed a range of exercises that we hope will assist in exploring these issues further.

Please open this new page to read on.. : An invitation to narrative practitioners to address privilege and dominance

 


Narrative Therapy and Community work are considered Postmodern and Post-structuralist in theoretical orientation. Here Leonie Thomas helps us make sense of what this might mean and focuses on a few areas of Post-structuralism while offering some answers to commonly asked questions.

Leonie Thomas Post-structuralism Reading


 

 

For Reflection

What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you?

 

How might your practice be different on account of your engagement with these materials?

 

Do you have any stories or sayings that keep you connected to ‘critical thinking’?

 


 

Please now respond to these questions in the forum below! Please include where you are writing from (City and Country). Thanks!


This Post Has 143 Comments

  1. EdaUtku

    Eda from Sydney, Australia

    “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
    -Martin Luther King

    This quote connects me to critical thinking as does the concept of “hevel” from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. Hevel means vapour or cloud and is a metaphor for life. Three things are true, time moves forward, all is chance and we will die. When I think about this, I find the humility to connect and bear witness to another’s struggles.

    My practice will be one that understands the tremendous heartbreak of not ever feeling fully heard or seen by one’s family. I was estranged from my parents for thirteen years because of the frustrations I experienced with our inability to relate to each other. The pain of having experienced Islam, being from a non Anglo culture in Australia is something I understand and felt very sad that I couldn’t communicate to my Anglo Australian partner until recently.

    I have a question. Does anyone else watch films like The Matrix and Star Wars from the antagonist’s point of view to see how good and evil are relative concepts? I can easily argue that Darth Vader is the tragic hero of all Star Wars episodes and it’s the goodness / humanity within him that saves the day.

  2. Kannika

    After reading On Critical Thinking by Mary Heath, I think critical thinking can be an equivalence of being open-minded or acceptance. Or when we don’t rush to judgement or prejudice against others. I feel in every generation, there are progresses that have been made, makes it distinguished from their previous generations. Changes are constant and that is why we can’t hold on too tight to our ‘truth’. Critical thinking allows us to pose questions and examine the ideas which exist, with respect and fairness. Political Science-wise, this can be also be called a democratisation, a process where people’s differences are celebrated and living in solidarity is valued. I can see why it is an important part of Narrative therapy.

  3. Kelvin

    I appreciated Leonie Thomas’ succinct comparison of Structuralism and Post-structuralism as it distilled a few things that have been floating around in my mind. I say this recognizing, however, that I need to hold her ideas as illustrative of part of a larger story rather than being the larger story.
    I also appreciated Mary Heath’s article on critical thinking. I so appreciated that her humility crystalized what had been an “as yet unformed question” out of a general sense of uneasiness I have had for years. Namely, “Can critical thinking create a new privileged group–e.g., those who have the insight to challenge privileged stories?” Mary Heath’s article reveals that humility saves those who engage in the prophetic act (i.e. critical thinking) from the vices of arrogance and hubris.

  4. Chrissy Gillmore

    Kia ora from Aotearoa New Zealand.

    This isn’t new material, but I must say I forget this information because I think I’m definitely still learning to experience this. It was sobering reading some of the information, and I know as a cis gender, pakeha/Caucasian woman, I have white privilege in my country and I have also experienced what it’s like to some extent to be excluded, disenfranchised. My experience as one who has been through trauma myself has disenfranchised me as I have learnt through time to hold my inner child’s hand. This is an internal experience that was passed down to me from my family having experienced assimilation in Canada too. So I think that some disenfranchisement can be intergenerational too. Some may not be ‘current’. I have learnt to hold my inner child’s hand and learnt to elongate my spine internally because I truly believe that shame can be passed intergenerationally too. My family were poor, ‘low-class’ immigrant farmers who left Hungary with no English after the first world war. There was immense shame from my mother for having this status, and of which I have experienced myself. Some experiences of privilege and power may be felt too, internalised from generations back. I know my time in New Zealand and learning about te ao Maori has taught me this. So sometimes our stories may curl and fold further back then we may know; as our stories of being heroic too.

  5. Ladan

    I enjoyed reading Mary Heath’s article on critical thinking. I appreciated her inclusion of her own personal experience which allowed to spark a readers own experience that they may not have considered. An individuals ability to critical thinking helps them understand themselves better. This is achieved though the understanding of having an open mind and being curious.

  6. alexandra.m.cameron@gmail.com

    Bringing up these topics and critical thinking always reminds me of the purpose of my work as a social worker. Being able to understand how history and society has worked against so many people is so very important to understanding how we can work together to overcome problems. Being competent and aware of our own privilege and biases is only the beginning to fully understanding what marginalized communities and individuals go through. This also hits home, as some previous commenters mentioned, the state of our society as a whole during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  7. Manmeet

    I am Manmeet from Punjab, India. Mary Heath’s article on critical thinking has made me understand how I matured as a person and as a counsellor. By sharing her personal account, she has simplified the concept of critical thinking for a lay person to understand. For me it means to have a non-judgmental attitude while listening to clients.Through the project on privilege, I got an insight about my privilege as an educated woman, and hence have more responsibilities towards helping create a better society. Post-structuralism by Thomas Leonies has affirmed my experience of counselling because it has theoretically grounded how I adapt counselling (changing language, dialect) to my clients’ cultural context.

  8. jguest

    I have spent a lot of time thinking about privilege and how it impacts how we engage with others in our relationships. I was very grateful for the ongoing discussion that Salome Raheim et al began. One of the struggles I have had is how to engage with people who do not see their privilege–how to begin to help them think critically and even as I think those things to engage with my own thoughts about those people and my responses to them. I found some of the questions presented around this issue very helpful. I also appreciated the implications for therapy in a poststructural world by Leonie Thomas and colleagues helpful. The idea that we can recreate ourselves and continually change and improve is beautiful.

  9. marguerite

    marguerite sligo ireland
    Yet again, a thoroughly engaging chapter.Thank you.
    Being open,mind and heart, without ego to see , hear, recognise, acknowledge and evaluate our thinking and beliefs. Be aware of our responsibility to self reflect and hear constructive analysis from others too to improve how we communicate.We need to be courageous in part- taking in the uncomfortable conversations to allow growth and insight, understanding and compassion.

  10. rebel.diamond01@gmail.com

    Bianca, South Australia.
    I feel critical thinking is a way of looking at things with a clearly lens, being able to take all aspects, angles etc into account. It is about being open-minded, open-hearted, genuine and holding space for change.
    I feel using this allows for a safe space to be more open and willing and hold space for another

  11. Carol Tsang

    Hi, Greetings from Hong Kong. I think that critical thinking is a process to become more mature. It is a kind of discernment that helps people to discern where the matters came from. There is not about judgement, it is related to think about one’s determination and decision. If you are a therapist, you might have responsibility to let the people who came to consult us to be able to find another option under their circumstances. I practiced not to judge people’s own views or their own problem but I will discern and I will not let their thoughts and decision to influent me. I will respect them at the same time I can also choose not follow their ways of thinking. I have one story to share. I respect my indian friends and we always share our life stories, religious, attitude at work etc. We truly respect each other. It helps to build a strong and trustworthy relationship. We still have our own judgement to make any decisions and we let each other to take a time to think different ways. It not only blesses to our friendship and it also increases the knowledge of different fields by sharing ideas.

  12. princessburt@yahoo.com

    Jennifer, Ontario, Canada
    Critical thinking for me is continually challenging myself to think outside the box. To consider looking at the situation differently or from the perspective of the client. The COVID pandemic has taught me that the my privilege as a healthcare leader is now more than ever evident in the opportunity that I have. I need to remain vigilant to check in with myself and to be sensitive and empathetic to the needs of others from the perspectives from their lens.

  13. Rebecca

    Rebecca from Singapore. To me critical thinking, is being genuinely curious without assumptions or biases. I especially resonate with the concepts of privilege and power. After reading about privilege, I realised as a young social worker, even though I was not married and had no children, I did come from a privilege position of education when working with low income families. I realised the many mistakes I’ve made when speaking to them even though I thought I could empathise because I am from a low-income family as well. It really makes me more careful to think before I intervene and there’s a humanistic sense to really treat every human as equals.

    The essay on post structuralism also connected me to critical thinking especially in how helping people deal with social norms. This is so applicable now to the social media where people feel the pressure to match the so-called ‘perfect’ lives shown on social media.

  14. imalaviya@gmail.com

    even though critical thinking and post-structuralism are very broad and deep perspectives, they have been beautifully introduced here. i loved engaging with the content and to be able to ask myself some questions about where i stand, how my privileges might be different than that of my colleagues and how i can be more cautious while working with people who consult us as well as learn from my own self reflection constantly!

  15. Lee Nellis

    Excellent. This is the most concise explanation of post-structuralism I’ve seen. I like the blend of personal and professional experience in the piece on critical thinking. As others have commented, this is also very timely!

  16. dokgregory@yahoo.com

    Erik Gregory, Boston, MA USA

    I am glad that there was a reiteration on the term critical..a word that has taken on a negative connotation in modern English language. At his core, it is about an analysis of the merits and deficits of a matter or situation and something that we should all engage in wiht a celebratory approach.
    The importance of checking assumptions was nicely reiterated in Leonie’s article. As we “co-author” narratives we can have undo influences with not only unchecked privilege but also unchecked assumptions. It brings us back to giving the authorship to the client with “What do you think should be done?”

  17. Veronica Figarella

    I believe critical thinking requires being a constant observer of what is happening to me, and to the person who is consulting, during a therapy session. I feel encourage to be even more open to the ways a person feels about telling their story and being even more careful about the objective the person wants to achieve in a consultation. This material on privilege has helped me to be even more observant of my reactions, or lack of them, to people´s problems and concerns, and has inspired me to be more open and compassionate in my sessions.

  18. Anita

    Critical thinking is understanding through a lens that is informed by an open and genuinely curious mind.
    The project on addressing privilege and dominance was insightful and provocative and really made me examine the words power and privilege deeply, both as an individual and a professional. Just being cognizant of critical thinking , privilege and understanding the context of narrative therapy in post structuralism is helpful to introspecting about who you are as a therapist and is bound to change you in some way.

  19. Mercy Shumbamhini

    I am Mercy Shumbamhini, from Harare, Zimbabwe. I appreciate Mary Heath’s article on critical thinking and I liked the inclusion of her own story and personal experiences. For me critical thinking is about having an open mind, open heart and open will. It is the ability to listen to others without judging them, the ability to download past patterns and ideas and to see the world with fresh eyes and wonder. Critical thinking has made me reflect on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus has not only harnessed a new sense of solidarity in our world today but has also exposed social structures and hierarchies that place marginalized populations/societies/communities in harm’s way. From the project on addressing privilege and dominance as a practitioner, I feel that I am invited to co-create with others a warm and caring community where everyone feels accepted and at home. Thomas Leonies’ article on Post-structuralism is very significant and it challenges me as a therapist to question the taken-for-granted ideas and assumptions in my society.

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