“Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” -Pablo Picasso
This is a very powerful concept and one of my favorite quotes. Its interest lies in the questions it raises.
If a lie reveals truth, is it really a lie? And how then do we judge the liar? Is it ethical to lie when the goal is to lead rather than mislead? Is it OK ever? Never? Only when it works?
Does this mean artists are liars? Are they people who invite truth without ever expressing it?
One of the great things about truth is that everybody’s got one! When practicing artistry, which truth is relevant?
In the therapy world, Strategic Family Therapists are devoted to Picasso’s perspective. They use a technique called paradoxical interventions. The therapist makes you promise to obey without question, then assigns an absurd sounding task which seems more likely to worsen the issue than cure it. In practice, if the client follows through, this frequently breaks down resistance and precipitates healthier outcomes. When done skillfully (perhaps artfully) this is a very effective technique.
Instead of dealing with you openly they mislead you to a solution. It sounds odd, but it’s done thoughtfully and very carefully. Nonetheless, it does beg the question: Is it appropriate for a therapist to lie to you if it helps you find the truth?
What if it helps you find and comprehend your truth? Isn’t this the job of a therapist?
It truly is.
Fortunately, paradoxical interventions are only one of many ways to get there.
And that’s no lie.