Stretching to Fit – Procrustes Style!

We talk a lot about our ideas about what makes us humans tick. We also tend to get ideas, hunches, or intuitions as to what is going on with our clients – even ourselves!

Without getting into a debate about where all this comes from – or whether we are right or these are simply assumptions – let me share a story about Procrustes.

Procrustes was one of those Greek mythical figures. As the story goes he was a thief who operated between two frequently traveled cities. He would invite travelers to sleep in his iron bed.

iron bed photo:  HPIM1117.jpgIf the person didn’t fit exactly he would either stretch them to fit or cut off part of their legs so that they would.  Guess he was convinced that one size fits all! Procrustes finally got his comeuppance when Theseus (a Greek hero like Hercules) made him suffer the same fate as his victims.

The morale of the story here is that one size, or one theory, does not fit all; that Procrustes certainly caused harm when he attempted to make his “clients” fit what he thought they should fit into.

Bill O’Hanlon, who developed Solution Oriented Therapy, quotes a colleague as saying, “Whenever I get a hypothesis about what is going on with a client, I lie down until it goes away.” Good advice. Hopefully though, he’s not lying in Procrustes’ iron bed.

I am not adverse to using our hunches or our intuition – they can be very useful; I’m not even opposed to being directive at particular times. Most often, however, checking out that hypothesis, that intuition, that hunch, with the client to assure it “fits” him or her at that moment in time offers a terrific opportunity for feedback – for you and for your client.

 

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Ann Adams