Upon This Earthquake I Build a House
by Stephen J.M. Bray
Comments on teaching the foundations of family therapy in Turkey
Turkey the word 'Deprem' refers to that complex phenomenon where the earth
shakes and buildings are shattered often with much injury and death.
uses a parable of two men who each built a house, one building upon rock and the
other upon sand. When the winds and rain come, the house built upon sand falls
but the one built upon rock endures.1
standards suggest than anyone building a house must comply with regulations.
These make dwellings safe to live in even when rains, winds and mild 'deprems'
occur. Of course this has tended to make houses rather predictable in some
elements of their design.
Brand wrote a wonderful book called How Buildings Learn: What Happens to Them
After They're Built which was published in 1994.
saw a film that Stuart made about the theme shortly before travelling on 16th
August, 1999 to Turkey in order to determine if I might be prepared to live
there. I travelled without Irem, my Turkish born wife, by choice, as I wished to
make the evaluation for myself.
On 17th August Turkey experienced one of the largest earthquakes to affect it during the 20th century. By then I had travelled beyond the epicentre and only learned of the news via an English-speaking radio station.
to the idea of earthquakes I attempted to 'mime' to my Turkish mother-in-law and
her aunt an earthquake. The result was entertaining, if pathetic.
I resorted to the phrase book not expecting to find the word earthquake
described. Of course 'deprem' was present, and I was surprised. On uttering the
word 'deprem' my mother-in-law and her aunt let out alarmed screams, and later
asked if I wished to sleep out of-doors?
thought they were crazy!
the next month the Turkish TV stations gave minute-by-minute accounts of
people being dug out of holes. Cameras were lowered into the ground. I never
actually saw a televised account of anyone dying down a hole in the ground, but
then I didn't watch TV all of the time.
When I came to Turkey
the next year I vowed to do 'nothing' for a year, but instead
listen and absorb an understanding of Turkish people and their culture. But this
was not possible, since there were survivors of the earthquake to be cared for,
and volunteers who had worked with those survivors who needed to be debriefed.
took Irem and I nearly three years to wind-up the work we started with the
survivors of the earthquake. We helped to publish the stories of the volunteers,
in the book: One Earthquake: Infinite Awareness2 ~ then what?
to so it came to pass that the Association for Child Guidance and Mental
Health, Turkey (CARE~DER) approached us to train public service workers in
first step was to create a training clinic, which is a place where qualified
clinicians from such disciplines as psychiatry, psychology, social work,
counselling and pedagogy might meet with families and receive supervision.
aim from the start was to offer services to those with low income, such as low income families and
State employed clinicians who receive lower
salaries than those in private practice.
are like a 'family' so we always eat together throughout our clinic. Dolma,
burek, pizza, profiterole, and baklava are all members of our clinic. Also the
boiling urn of sweet Turkish tea.3
Ramazan our therapists, and families are served soup immediately upon the
setting of the sun.
a theoretical training is rather more challenging than running a clinic.
houses, theoretical trainings have to conform to specifications. These are
agreed internationally. The specifications of, for example, an English house will
enable it to withstand the onslaughts of wind and rain, but such designs may not
best be suited to the hotter climate of the Balkans and Middle East. Here they
must also withstand earthquakes.
have to confess to knowing a little of building houses, for as a nine year old
child I watched my father design a house that he imagined would last well beyond
his lifetime. Indeed I helped him to check items on its specification, and to
supervise its construction.
was built upon a raft of concrete six feet in depth! Our specification had
indicated three feet, but the builder made an error and had to make good his
mistake. This house was built to last!
theme of Stuart Brand's book is that as people live in identical homes, the
homes are adapted around the people. It is not up to the people to adapt because
of the confines of their 'cages'.
with this in mind when it came to designing a Theory Course for Family Therapy
in Turkey, Irem and I determined that our Course, like a good house, would follow
International specifications and also learn from those who lived within it.
must be a home that recognizes prejudice, accepts it ĎAs It Isí whilst
compassionately reaching out to prejudiced people including ourselves, the Course
trainers, for each of us is prejudiced in some degree.
covered Muslim women are welcomed; as are mini-skirted Kemalists, Jewish mothers
and even English speaking Arabs who need the help of our interpreters
eat together. We enjoy training exercises together. When the muezzin calls us to
pray from a nearby minaret a room is available in our building for that purpose.
T hose of more liberal persuasions in the meantime smoke, drink tea and chat.4
how It is! We are about to complete our first year and we have learned a great
deal. For example writing eight modules about Family Therapy is a huge
undertaking, but translating each into Turkish and then marking 40 assignments
from students each month is a bigger one.
is exhausted, which is not surprising since throughout the Course she has borne
Amazon, our daughter, at first in utero, and now as the youngest attendee within
father took great comfort from knowing that his home rested upon six feet of
concrete, and died happily at the ripe age of 93. My mother was convinced from
the time of his death that the house was a burden to her, could not be adapted
for use by further family generations, and despite 'evidence' to the contrary
held firmly that certainly Irem and I could not support her there.
I used to explain how I came to Turkey in the summer of 1999. It was a reaction
to her decision to sell the property.
Jesus refers to a 'rock' upon which to build a house, he refers to faith, and
indeed I believed that my mother had little faith in six feet of concrete,
people or the ability for a house to adapt to the needs of its inhabitants.
Minuchin, one of the first practitioners of Family Therapy states: "Man has
memory; he is the product of his past. At the same time his interactions in his
present circumstances support, qualify, or modify his experience." (Minuchin
1974 p. 14).
chose to place my faith in a crisp, focussed, athletic, kung-fu trained,
embodiment of determination. She is the mother of Amazon, my wife Irem. She is
one of the rocks upon which this house of Turkish Family Therapy is built. No
wonder she uncomplainingly translates those modules and marks so many essays
Bateson, a founding father of Family Therapy Theory writes: "Break the
pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all
quality." (Bateson 1980 p. 16).
indeed somewhere ineffable there is a connection between the lessons that I
learned from my Father when I lived as a part of his house, and this Course.
de Shazer a contemporary 'Solution Focused Therapist', does not care for the
word 'Therapy' because it fails to acknowledge the reciprocal nature in the
relationships between the elements of conversations that mark change (de Shazer
1994 p. 5). He writes:
first step in defining the differences between a theory based upon the
family-as-a-system and one based on the therapy situation-as-a-system is to draw
a distinction. To spell out my position . . .
study of the family-as-a-system [a description based on having a separate, objective observer of the
description based on having a separate, objective observer of the
study of therapy-as-a-system [a description that includes the
therapist/observer as a member of the system under consideration."] (de Shazer, 1982)
description that includes the
therapist/observer as a member of the system under consideration."] (de Shazer, 1982)
the Course Irem and I attempt to facilitate the study of 'therapy-as-a-system',
rather than the study of 'therapy' with 'families-as-a-system'
an approach begs a question. In the study of therapy-as-a-system what observes?
Wilbur quoting the physicist Edwin Schroedinger is clear: "The external
world and consciousness are one and the same thing." (p.47). Jalalu'd Rumi
declares: "Existence in time past or future is only in relation to you;
both are the same to Him, but you think them two." (p.81). The question is
whether memory reports a real phenomenon which we call 'time', or whether memory
creates an illusion of 'time. (p.85). Creation is thus nowever, coming straight
out of the Voidness of this timeless Moment-and this creation is not the
creation of things, or material, or of substance, but the creation of dualisms.
(p.88). "Thus," to repeat the words of Schroedinger, "you can
throw yourself on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth and with the
certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you." In other
words, the space between you as observing subject, 'in here' and the observed
objects, 'out there' is absent. (p. 90).
if Irem is earth mother to Amazon, or a rock to me, she is no less Amazon or I
the (apparent) embodiments of Consciousness observing her. Nor is she any less
the students who take part in our trainings and 'dream her up'5
twice a month.
father's house built upon six feet of concrete was within months of the sale
torn to the ground, not by an earthquake, but by a speculator seeking to erect a
different kind of dwelling. Perhaps my mother was right, the old one was unable
so today, as our Course nears completion I start editing all of my notes into a
book, which will be available both in Turkish and English. This book may outlive
Irem, Amazon and I, for Istanbul is a city in expectation of an earthquake. Once
published it will be much easier for people throughout Turkey to train in Family
Therapy. I hope that they will ever eat baklava together whilst doing so, as I
move forward into the next adventure. But of one thing I am certain, in order
for this Course to survive it must, like any good house, and like me, continue
Matthew 7: 24 or Luke 6: 45
This is a translation from the official Turkish title: 'Bir Deprem Sonuz Farkindalik'.
Dolma are savoury delights wrapped in vine leaves. Burek is a light filo-pastry
dish with cheese and spinach. Pizza is an ancient Roman flatbread plate served
with a topping of tomato puree and other savouries. Profiterole is a small ball
of soft sweet choux pastry filled with cream and covered with chocolate sauce.
Baklava are sheets of super-thin pastries filled with the white meat of nuts
marinated in golden syrup.
A muezzin is an Islamic priest who calls the faithful to prayer five times every
For a discussion of 'Dreaming Up' see Mindell, 1985
G. (1980) Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. London: Fontana Paperbacks.
S. (1994) How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
de Shazer, S. (1982) Some conceptual distinctions are more useful than others. Family Process, 21 : 71-84
de Shazer, S. (1994) Words Were Originally Magic. New York: Norton and
A. (1985) River's Way: The Process Science of the Dreambody. London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul.
S. (1974) Families and Family Therapy. London: Tavistock Publications.
K. (1993) 2nd Quest Edition. The Spectrum of Consciousness. Wheaton Il.
Theosophical Publishing House.