Dorothy Rowe – Part two.

I am currently reading The Successful Self- Freeing our hidden inner strengths by Dorothy Rowe. I already wrote about her process of laddering. Rowe is a Pyschologist and writer who writes clearly about how we structure our worlds. I came across a passage last night that almost completely sums up the territory I want to explore in Not a Séance.


As individuals the more we insist that the structures we have created are absolute and solid reality, the less freedom we have to change them. The more we see that the structures that we have created are structures, the greater insecurity we shall feel, but with that we have the knowledge that if they are just structures we are free to change them.

The need to see our structures as solid reality can blind us to the fact that other people see things differently from us.. This can lead us to think that anyone who sees anything differently from us is either mad or bad, or perhaps both. Because how we experience our existence and the threat of annihilation is so basic to your structure we can assume that everyone else perceives their existence and annihilation in the same way. This assumption lies at the root of most of the discord between people……


Inspirations – Dorothy Rowe and Laddering.

Yesterday in Hospital Friends Charity Shop I found a copy of Dorothy Rowe’s The Successful Self. Rowe is a psychologist and writer who particularly focusses on depression. Much of her work focusses on how we structure our views of the world and create meaning. “She has shown how we each live in a world of meaning that we have created out of our past experience”

I got to hear her speak in 2011 about Depression and Creativity at an Un-Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University organised by Arts for Health and Greater Manchester Arts Health Network. I found her fascinating and particularly connected to her laddering technique which is introduced in a chapter called “Which Reality do you prefer/” in The Successful Self. Rowe describes laddering in the following way:

When I teach a psychology class about the structure of meaning I often, as a demonstration, call for some volunteers to go through a process of questioning which demonstrates how the most trivial of decisions which we make is based on a series of judgements, each more abstract than the one preceding it,and all ultimately dependent on a judgement about the nature of the individual’s sense of existence

I would like to use the technique in Not a Séance in a simplified form as I think it encourages you to  very quickly uncover unconscious beliefs and values.


Laddering: an example from my breakfast.

Whilst in a clinical context laddering might be prompted by a statement by a client, it can also be stimulated by asking someone to think of three types of the same thing. In The Successful Self Rowe uses the examples of cars books and food.  I will show an example from what I had for breakfast and will put Rowe’s questions in bold.

Give the names of three foods

Avocado, egg and pitta bread

Can you tell me one way in which two are the same and the other different?

Egg and avocado are natural, pitta bread is processed.

Which do you prefer?

I prefer the natural foods.

Why is it important to you?

I like things to be natural as I think they are healthier and more authentic

Why is that important to you?

When things are healthy and authentic its easier to connect with the world

Why is that importat to you?

Because feeling connected means that you are more open to experience and feel more alive and able to understand more.

Suppose the conditions of your life changed and you were unable to experience your life in this way?

I would feel very isolated and down and not see much point in anything.