Helping Odysseus return home. Part I

Part I: Assessment from Adlerian Perspective

A Greek hero, Odysseus, a strong and charismatic leader, hasn’t yet come home to Ithaca, after the Trojan War. The strongest traits of his character are intelligence, courage, and confidence in his authority. However, these very traits may be the reason why his return journey home is prolonged beyond imagination.  He had, indeed, encountered many troubles on the way home. He had faced danger over and over. Many times luck just does not seem to be on his side. Yet, one cannot help but wonder if there is some connection between his adventures and his efforts to seek glory.  So, at this point, Odysseus is referred to us for an assessment, in order to find out if there is any way we can help him to get back home.  If indeed there is something that we can do to help Odysseus to return to his family, his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus, then I would suggest assessing his situation from the perspective of Adlerian Therapy.

In our first session Odysseus confesses to us that he was enjoying his luxurious life with Calypso on an exotic island, but eventually he wanted to return home to his wife.  Odysseus admits that his wife cannot compete with Calypso’s beauty, yet he feels home-sick and therefore, he left the island. He says he thinks of home all the time. However, his prolonged stay at Polyphemus’s cave, where he was enjoying free milk and cheese, caused him and his men to be trapped in the cave when the Cyclops suddenly returns to his own cave. The chain of unfortunate events that followed after, seem to be linked to this episode. After Odysseus managed to blind the Cyclops and free himself and his men, Odysseus felt compelled to reveal his true name to the Cyclops whom otherwise would never have been able to identify Odysseus as the one who blinded him. It was this gesture of bravado which caused Odysseus’ subsequent problems with Poseidon, the father of the Cyclops.

As an Adlerian therapist I am starting to notice Odysseus’ desire for recognition, significance and superiority. This could be related to the fact that the pleasures of leading a simple life can never match the excitement he experienced of being celebrated as a great leader during the Trojan War. It may be hard for Odysseus to adjust to a normal life afterward. In order to attain the same excitement which he previously achieved through praises for his heroic acts, Odysseus is now searching for more adventures to seek glory and to give his life renewed significance.

Adler’s argument, the creator of Adlerian Therapy is that “The stronger the feeling of inferiority, the higher the goal for personal power.” The psychological movement toward a fictional final goal of personal power that compensates or relieves this feeling of inferiority creates conflict between the client’s private logic and common sense.  Even though Odysseus may not feel inferior to others per say, he may somehow feel inferior to who he was before, and even more he may fear that others do not recognize his superiority anymore as they used to during the Trojan War. Therefore, now Odysseus is compelled to show his grandiosity in one way or another, according to Adler, “All these attempts to strive for elevation, to want power, must according to nature be considered as a form of striving for superiority or dominance.”

This assessment in Odysseus’ situation fits the Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy (CADP). The therapist’s challenge is to predict what particular goal is moving the client and towards what imagined end point. The answer to these questions will in fact explain the client’s emotional state and the internal logic that leads the client. Assessment for the purpose of the client’s movement begins immediately at the first contact therapist has with the client. Adler often stated that, “Every movement has a goal.” Therefore, having assessed Odysseus’ case as a case of striving for recognition and more power, my goal as an Adlerian therapist then is to help Odysseus view his situation from a different perspective. My goal for this client would be to encourage him to find a solution for his return home by reshaping his idea that he has about feeling less significant when he returns home.

To be continued…


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