Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Systems Approach in "Art"

(This blog was originally posted on January 16, 2016)

(Spoiler Alert: I reveal an important plot detail in this blog. Please
do not read this essay if you plan to see the it!)

What would you do if one of your best friends spent a fortune—€100 million to be exact—to invest in a painting? Not just any painting, mind you; this one is a white pallet painted white and features a bunch of tiny diagonal white lines all the way across. The artist is famous for his Avant Gard subjects and this piece is characterized (in the catalog, anyway) as a “one-in-a-million” collector’s item. Be that as it may, anyone’s willingness to pay so much money, let alone actually liking the painting—is beyond your comprehension. But this is exactly what your friend has done, and all hell has broken loose.
This is the plot of Art, a comedy by Yasmina Reza and currently running at The Old Vic Theatre in London. It stars Tim Key (Yvan), Paul Ritter (Marc) and Rufus Sewell (Serge) as three longtime friends whose relationship literally melts down when Serge purchases the painting in question. Somehow, an essentially blank canvas sparks new and reignites old resentments. Petty irritations with each other (and their respective romantic partners) bubble to the surface until Marc makes a stunning confession: he always considered his friendship with Serge as one of mentor and mentee. He cannot understand or even forgive Serge (the mentee) for drifting so far out of his influence to have bought, let alone actually like that painting, an attraction that Marc doesn’t even understand. Needless to say, Serge is stunned and hurt to learn about the true nature/basis of his relationship with Marc. Can this friendship be saved?
This dilemma is best characterized through the Systems Theory model. Here, changes in one person’s behavior can affect the basic structure of the relationship or system with other people in the relationship, thus creating resistance within it. Even a tiny change in the social/emotional system will affect every part of the entire system. In other words, you cannot separate one component of the system from the sub-total or entire system.
In Art, the presenting issue is one friend’s (questionable) investment in a painting. However, the true conflict is actually each man’s perceived lack of control over the personal areas of their own and each other’s lives in contrast with their successful professional ones. According to Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D., no matter what a person’s problem or issue happens to be, the systems approach infiltrates all areas of therapy. Even if only one of these men sought hypnotherapy to work through this conflict about Serge’s painting, it would have to be dealt with within the context of the person’s friendship with the other men. Therefore, the hypnotherapist must address components in his work, relationships, family past, the hypnotherapy he is receiving, plus specific aspects of that conflict in the friendship. Unless these other issues are taken into account, the overall therapy won’t be successful and only the issue being addressed in therapy would be “treated” (improved or eliminated) without achieving genuine resolution of the conflict, Dr. Kappas warned.
A final caveat: In legal, ethical and practical terms the hypnotherapist would not and could hypnotize Serge to stop liking the painting unless he wanted to do so. To remain friends with him, Marc and Yvan need to accept their friend’s attachment to the painting or their relationship will eventually, naturally dissolve.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit
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