A while ago I read this enlightening book “Social construction: entering the dialogue” by Gergen & Gergen. It made a lasting impression on me. This book questions perspectives and brings new ones.
Social constructionism was new to me at that time. Since then I have come to know social constructionism as a philosophical approach or a stance that sits very well with me. Social constructionism asserts that there is no objective reality ‘out there’. We construct our world c.q. meaning through our collaborative activities. How we construct it depends on who we are, what we have lived through; our past. And since ‘our past’ differs per person we are bound to construct reality differently. And that is okay. We should all agree on the facts, but we are all entitled to our own values. That is what I particularly like about social constructionism; the fact that it acknowledges individual perspectives. There is not one transcendent ‘truth’, but there is truth within community.
This type of thinking creates so many opportunities for transforming problems and overcoming pain, for if we can construct meaning it also means that we can deconstruct meaning. If bad feelings or pain are the result of bad constructions, and since none of them are ‘true’, then they can be replaced through re-storying. Restorying is such a powerful instrument. When we suffer from a problem, it often has to do with the fact that we constructed a narrative of success for our life. E.g. ‘by the time I am 30 I will have a management position’. The anguish starts somewhere around our 29th birthday, when we realise there’s only one year left to reach that goal. And if at 30 we have not reached that management position we experience failure, and so we suffer. Re-storying helps us to create a new narrative for our life by conceptualising the path of our life in a more livable way.
If you take a minute and think about what this implies, you’ll realise the potential of such a stance. To me it means that the majority of problems are solvable. We just need to change the narrative we have created for ourselves, our organisations, our world.
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