A Veteran's Re-Adjustment and Extensional Methods by Alfred Korzybski (1945)

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  • 8/2/2019 A Veteran's Re-Adjustment and Extensional Methods by Alfred Korzybski (1945)



    By ALFRED KORZYBSKI *Director, Institute of General Semantics, Chicago

    Author of Manhood of Humanity,' The Science and Art of Human Engineering, E. P.Dutton, 1921; 2nd ed., Institute of General Semantics, 1946 and Science and Sanity,' An Intro-duction to Nonaristote/ian Systems and General Semantics, Science Press Printing Co., Lancaster,Pa., 1933; 2nd ed., 1941.

  • 8/2/2019 A Veteran's Re-Adjustment and Extensional Methods by Alfred Korzybski (1945)


  • 8/2/2019 A Veteran's Re-Adjustment and Extensional Methods by Alfred Korzybski (1945)


    A VETERA.N'S RE-ADJUSTMENTters and in general hospitals. That theywere employed with success is demonstrated by the fact that psychiatric evacuations from the E11ropean Theater wereheld to a minimrnn.Korzybski' s paper, together with the ac-tual report of the use of general semantics by a veteran, points to the next important step in the employment of theseprinciples-the reconversion of the re-tllrning soldier, sailor, or marine. Throughthe use of grottp therapy large numbersof individuals can be t1ained iu extmsional methods, and this t;pe of trainingshortld prove of value to any individualwho has suffered from the searing contactwith actual warfare, the problems inherenti11 his displacement from his previous en-vironme111, or the general trials and tribulatiom resulting from forced adj11Stmmtin the armed services. Sttch individualsmay not present overt symptomatology butwould nevertheless be benefited by aknowledge of extensional methods whicb1flould res11lt in a better understanding oftheir problems.Korzybski' s paper indicates the value ofthese tecbniq11es and sho11ld be carefullystudied not only by psychiatri.rts b11t byall persom concemed with the tremendo!ISproblem of the readjustment of the re-I ttming veteran.JTHE following case report on himselfby a Pacific war veteran is most re-vealing for our work. This veteran was astudent in Professor Elwood Murray'sclass in general semantics in the University College (evening division) of theUniversity of Denver. He was dischargedfrom the army because of his 'nervousdisability,' the sort of reactions describedin this report. The veteran attended onelecture a week, and his class paper waswritten at the end of ten weeks. ProfessorMurray is Director of the School ofSpeech and the author of a book and a

    number of articles on speech personalityand general semantics. He also lectured ongeneral semantics to the medical staff ofthe military Fitzsimons General Hospital,to the staff of the Psychopathic Hospital,University of Colorado Medical School,and the faculty of Colorado Woman'sCollege.We are desperately short of psychiatrists and we will continue to be thatway, as it takes a long time to train aphysician to understand 'mental' difficulties. The main point in connection with

    general semantics, or, if you wish, a nonaristotelian orientation, is in the fact thatnon-medical men giving group classroomtraining in scientific method can conveythrough extensionalization (i.e., evaluating in terms of facts), constructive techniques which do work. The following re-port of this veteran, who was the onlysurvivor of a Japanese bombing of agroup of fifteen of his buddies, is mostinstructive.The importance of non-medical, scienti fie methodological training for extensionalization must be emphasized here. Inour work we are striving for neurologicalthalamo-cortical integration through sci-entific method alone, which occurs empirically, if the students are willingenough to co-operate and work. This particular veteran did co-operate, and tookhis retraining seriously. Without medicalhelp in the narrow sense, he did improvesteadily, and probably will recover com-pletely. He is probably not psychiatricallyill but jllst naturally disturbed. We willhave to deal with large numbers of suchcases with a very restricted number ofavailable psychiatrists. In our records we

    haYe a number of similar communicationsfrom all battlefronts about the benefits de-rived from studying extensional methodsthrough Science and Sanity, etc., whichmight be called 'bibliotherapy.'

  • 8/2/2019 A Veteran's Re-Adjustment and Extensional Methods by Alfred Korzybski (1945)


    ETC.: A REVIEW OF GENERAL SEMANTICSIn many ways such results should be that in a non-aristotelian re-training weexpected because modern extensional are dealing with method alone which anymethods are prior to any science, medicine individual can apply by himself in anyand psychiatry included. It is not acci- life situation or profession without medidental that the greatest modern scientific cal help, or with it if necessary.achievement, the release of atomic energy, Probably almost any psychiatrist couldwas not accomplished by physicists alone have helped this disturbed veteran. Howor mathematicians alone but by joint ever, this would probably require timeefforts of specialists in those fields, epitom- consuming individual work not applicableizing the physico-mathematical methods of to group or classroom non-medical use.finding the relations between map-terri- Let me repeat that this veteran is probablytory, to use our language. On human not psychiatrically ill; he simply reacts aslevels we find their expression in psycho- most living human beings would react to

    somatic trends, which present initially his experiences, which certainly were notserious methodological difficulties similar happy, to say the least. On the battleto the notion of space-time in the history fronts one cannot help but see the deadof relativity. and dying, hear the screams, curses andHowever, the principles are very sim- prayers, smell the blood and stench ofpie, and extensionalization can be con- decaying flesh, etc., and so feel personallyveyed even to small children, also to the indescribable terrors of war. Thesegrown persons who get into evaluational horrors become impressed on our nervousdifficulties. Let us recall that in general systems and so naturally we respond tochildren are born extensional, and we them for some time to come.eventually do endless harm by training In practice it will probably appear thatthem in intension, for which they usually the veterans returning from the Pacificpay the price later in life. Non-aristotelian front will present different problems thanextensional methods are not a medical those rehrrning from the European theaterdiscipline, but any psychotherapist in re- of war. So far psychiatrists have not paidtraining the patients in adjustment to enough attention to these differences,'facts' or 'reality' must knowingly or un- which would be instructive and educaknowingly depend on some sort of ex- tiona!.tensionalization. In practice it is more I speak from my own experiences as aefficient and adequate to start with an veteran of World War I. In many waysentirely general technique for extension, my experiences were similar to and comwhich also remains valid in classroom use parable with those of many of my colby non-medical educators. Medical men leagues. I could go through practicallydo not need to be apprehensive, since paragraph after paragraph of the veteran'sgeneral semantics has nothing to do with report and show normal similarities, difmedical problems as such. Physicians who fering only in degree. Let me explain theapply the new methods find that they type of some of these reactions. In Worldsimplify their own professional tasks. \Var I aeroplanes and bombings wereThey are able to reach their patients child's play as compared with those ofsooner and with less effort, since they be- \Vorld \Var II. On the .Eastern front thegin on neutral and general grounds which Germans mostly bombed the generalinvolve the important factors of thalamo- staffs, other headquarters, some bridges,cortical integration. It must be stressed railroad centers, etc. The bombings were


  • 8/2/2019 A Veteran's Re-Adjustment and Extensional Methods by Alfred Korzybski (1945)


    A VETERAN'S RE-ADJUSTMENTcomparatively innocent in the first twoyears of the war, yet there was a curiouspsycho-logical reaction quite natural andnormal at first. We often felt that theaeroplane was 'just over our heads,' whichwas seldom true. Even today when Ihear an aeroplane is passing over me, Ifeel similarly, and without being disturbed I still cock my head a little-notunconscious by now of such accidents asoccurred to the Empire State Building inNew York. The veteran of this report isat present disturbed by planes. This issimply natural, since he returned recentlyfrom the front. But of course a friendlyplane in the United States is not the samething as an enemy plane anywhere on thebattle fronts. By extensional techniqueshe is learning not to identify them.To give another example, I had to dealvery often with artillery fire, includingheavy guns. I got accustomed to it andartillery fire did not bother me at all.Not so with machine guns, or 'typewriters,' as they called them here; Idid not like them, as I had seen too muchof what they can do, and I still do not likethem. Even at the Petawawa provinggrounds in Canada when observing theeffect of high explosives, I seldom sat inmy dugout but sat instead on the surface.I remember vividly how I was 'on thecarpet' before my superior officer after asplinter smashed my table and telephone.I had to listen patiently, but when thesermon got too lengthy I simply asked mysuperior where he sat when he formerlyperformed my task on proving grounds.He got quite embarrassed and admittedthat he also sat outside. I saluted and lefthis office. He never bothered me again.The reader should not fancy that my be-havior was foolhardy ; with training onelearns how to dodge high explosive splinters. But I treated shrap