"The biggest hoax the devil ever made was to convince the world that he doesn't exist." Remember the famous movie The Usual Suspects? Kevin Spacey, a cheap scammer, a bit stupid and lame, is interrogated by a policeman who investigates a criminal boss named Keyser Soze and the whole film flows following the narration of events provided by Spacey. Only in the last minutes of the film do we assume - suddenly and at the same time as the policeman - a new point of view, which completely overturns the perception we had up to that moment.
So, when the policeman realizes that the protagonist has invented the whole story using the writings on the bulletin board of the police station as a starting point, we cannot help but feel displaced, fooled ourselves and watching Kevin Spacey alias "Keyser Soze" walking away limping from the police station and that, little by little, begins to walk normally, we realize that we have been misled by the only point of view taken up to that moment, just like the policeman.
Paul Watzlawick states: "The belief that the reality that everyone sees is the only reality is the most dangerous of all illusions".
It may seem surprising at first glance, because each of us is used to seeing only what he considers "his own reality", that is, the one he observes from his own point of view and which is limited to a single interpretation, usually the one he considers as the most reasonable or as the most usual. Actually - and pardon the pun! - we never deal with reality, but always with images of reality, therefore with interpretations of it, which we build from the point of view we take to look at it.
Professor Keating, played by Robin Williams in The Fleeting Moment, standing up on the desk, encourages his students to do the same by telling them that it is precisely when you think you know something that you have to look at it from another perspective. And this is where restructuring comes into play.
In the 70s Paul Watzlawick defined restructuring as changing the background or conceptual / emotional vision in relation to which a situation is experienced, placing it within another frame that is well suited, if not better, to the facts of the situation itself. completely changing its meaning. In other words, restructuring means recoding the patient's images and perceptions of reality in many different ways, guiding him to change his point of view of reality experienced as problematic and making him experience different sensations and perceptions with respect to that reality.
Restructuring does not change the concrete facts, but the meaning that the person attributes to those facts. This will lead him to react differently to them and, therefore, to the inevitable change. But we still have to go back in time - and precisely in ancient Greece - to find in the doctrine of the antithesis, developed by a sophist named Protagoras, the forerunner of the restructuring technique. It was Protagoras, in fact, who showed that the same topic, approached from different points of view, can lead to different results.
Returning to the present day, it is common experience when watching numerous films, to experience that - depending on the point of view taken - one ends up by discover completely different realities from those he thought he knew. Think of the supernatural thrillers The Sixth Sense and The Others. In the first, only at the end do we discover that Bruce Willis - who plays the child neuropsychiatrist eager to help the little protagonist - is actually one of the dead that the child sees around him. In the second, in the same way, for the duration of the film we believe that Nicole Kidman and her children live in a haunted house, only to realize at the end that in reality the ghosts have always been them.
And when, at the end, we see "the new reality" of the stories told, we can no longer consider "true" what we have perceived up to that moment. In the American pink comedies we see another example of restructuring: the one in which the ugly duckling becomes a swan, that is, one is born a nerd and one dies Angelina Jolie. An example of how to become a femme fatale starting from questionable aesthetic bases is provided by Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. The protagonist, changing her haircut, losing a couple of kilos, replacing the felted sweater with a fantastic Chanel suit and, finally, leaving her boots for a pair of Louboutins, shows us that restructuring one's image is child's play.
Okay, we should point out to the writers that making a beautiful woman look ugly is much easier than turning an ordinary mortal into a goddess. Unfortunately in the "real" world if I don't wash my hair they stay dirty, if I don't put on the concealer you can see dark circles and especially if I don't do some sport I will hardly stay in shape. But we women want to believe the same and in fact we all want a pair of Louboutins!
Restructuring also passes through language, the choice of words which are a vehicle for change. JL Austin taught us that “to say something is to do something”, therefore words generate effects directly in the material world and in human relationships. Think of Liz Taylor's line in Mirror Murder: “Honey, you look like a birthday cake! Too bad everyone has already taken a slice! ”. Still, Woody Allen is a true master of delivering ironic, and sometimes sarcastic, restructuring of relationships through language. In Annie and Me he states, “A relationship is like a shark. That is, it must constantly move or it dies. And I think what we have in our hands is a dead shark ”. And again: “My wife and I have been happy for twenty years. Then we met ”.
In Brief Strategic Therapy we use the restructuring technique whenever, without denying the patient's perception, we want to guide him to wear new lenses to look at his reality and to react to it in a more functional way. As Giorgio Nardone reminds us, this is the strategic attitude towards human problems. Restructuring is a technique therapeutic which uses the fact that all rules, all second order realities, are relative, that life is what it is said to be. We can, at best, only adapt in the most functional way to what we perceive.
All this is perfectly summed up in the letter that, in a hospital bed and on the verge of death, Cate Blanchett feels wish from the love of her life, who died before her in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
“For what it's worth it's never too late, or in my case too early, to be who you want to be. There is no time limit, start when you want. You can change or stay as you are, there is no rule in that, we can live everything for the best or for the worst. I hope you experience everything to the fullest. I hope you can see amazing things, I hope you can always have new emotions, I hope you can meet people with different points of view. I hope you can be proud of your life and, if you realize you are not, I hope you find the strength to start from scratch ”.
Dr. Francesca Moroni (Official Psychotherapist of the Strategic Therapy Center)
Gallo G. (2014), Love is not a film, Imprimatur publisher
Nardone G. (1991), Suggestion, restructuring, change, Giuffré Editore, Milan
Watzlawick P, Beavin JH, Jackson DD (1971), Pragmatics of human communication, Astrolabe, Rome
Watzlawick P. (1980), The language of change, Feltrinelli, Milan