Noticing What is Precious: Exploration of “Absent but Implicit”

The following is a excerpt from my new Book Understanding Pain, Anger and Fear: Michael White’s Absent But Implicit.

In the context of everyday conversations, it is all too common to hear expressions of complaint, pain, frustration, worry, and/or anger.  In our culture, we are quick to point out what we don’t want and what we don’t like.  These expressions, and the thoughts that go with them, plague our lives, infiltrating our minds and our bodies, making us feel lonely, helpless, scorned, despairing, and even physically sick.

absent but implicitThese expressions have the potential to depress the speaker as well as bring down everyone listening.  When expressed, the belief becomes its own little truth:

This isn’t fair! Why does he have to treat me this way?  I can’t catch a break. 

Nobody understands.   

When thought and expressed, it becomes the way it is: “I am guilty.”  This truth status limits any movement outside the proclamation, thus exacerbating the predicament.  It is definitive: I am miserable.  And that is that.  Period.

How would we hear those complaints differently if we knew that in the shadows of them, there was something that person held precious?  “I am miserable” is a thin statement, but it can tell multiple stories for those who double listen.  Michael White (White, 2000) invites us to double listen, hearing both the expression and what’s absent from the expression but implicit in its meaning.  The preciousness is not publicly stated in “I am miserable,” but that doesn’t mean it is not there.

Absent But Implicit

What is absent but implicit about complaining that you are miserable?  That you wish you weren’t.  It is a desire for another way of being; for example, being happy.  The desire for happiness is being held precious.  This already invites a new view of complaints.  But White takes it even further.  He asserts that if we desire to be happy, we must know something about being happy.  There must be some knowledge or familiarity with it for us to know we want it—some time in the past that we either felt it or observed it in someone else, or we wouldn’t know that we wanted it.

To know misery is to know its opposite, happiness.  One cannot exist without the other.  Without knowing happiness, misery would feel, well, neutral.  We only understand misery as it is different from happiness and happiness as it is different from misery.  Understanding this can make all the difference in how to position ourselves in our complaints…Read more! 

The Understanding Pain, Anger and Fear: Michael White’s “Absent But Implict”, is chuck full of examples to bring this idea to life.  While originally meant for therapists, it is a must read for counselors, teachers, authors, parents, and anyone in a relationship.   Only $7.99.

Other absent but implicit articles: Irrational Fear or Skills in Safety,  MLK: Addressing Your Anger, Scared vs. Sacred, Let it Go, Let it Go, Let it Goooooo!, More Tricks and Tactics of Letting Go.

14 thoughts on “Noticing What is Precious: Exploration of “Absent but Implicit””

  1. Jodi, you’ve piqued our interest with this excerpt! I thought of the yin and yang concept as I read about misery and happiness. A very interesting concept indeed, lady! 🙂

  2. This is a very interesting way of looking at things I suppose with almost anything if you scratch below the surface you will find that there is a flip side and some more understanding to be had but with something as responsive as emotion people can rarely seperate themselves enough to look deeper!

  3. Pingback: Narrative Practice & the Future of Work – Charlotte Sometimes Blogs

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