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Perspectives on Psychotherapy


I've had a passing interest in psychotherapy for a long time, partly as a result of friends and family having suffered from mental illness and also because I've come to realise that there's a more positive and generative way of helping.  Psychotherapy is commonly thought of as a healing process for those that are mentally ill.  It's this perspective of 'fixing the broken' that often perpetuates the feeling of  'brokenness'  of those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of therapy.   

Instead of a process of 'healing the sick' we can see therapy (and, I suppose, education) as Michelangelo did when carving a marble statue.. of removing the chippings to what is already there and perfectly formed.[1]  The chippings being our fears and doubts about who we really are and what we are capable of.  From this perspective we see a process of transformation that renders many of the practices of modern day psychotherapy redundant. 

But transformation from what to what? 

From one who see themselves as constrained by the world and subject to its 'slings and arrows'  to one who sees and delights in the world as her playground.. who knows the Universe as effect not cause, and a brilliant canvas to express and share our Self in whatever way we choose. 

I've long thought that the perspective and state of mind of those in the healing professions is the one of the prime movers in the effective recovery of a 'patient'.  I get the feeling that Carl Jung instinctively knew this too, although it's largely unrecognised in modern day practice.  In going through some old notes I came across these three perspectives from different times and places.  I know they sound a bit  'new agey'  but I guess it's not easy to talk of such things in terms that are not. 

From Carl Jung - 

The decisive question for man is:  Is he related to something infinite or not?  That is the telling question of his life. 

Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change.  In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.

You have to make the unconscious conscious, until then your life is directed and you will call it fate."

From a lecture by Wolter Keers in Gent (sent to me by Ray Sender) - 

I had a meeting yesterday evening with a group of psychiatrists and psychologists.  There I defended the proposition that there is only one psychic obstacle and that you can reduce all of psychology and psychotherapy, and all psychiatry to that one obstacle.  That one problem is that we have forgotten that we are love. 

It was told to us when we were little that we got love from our mother and father and so on.  And when it all maybe went wrong later in all sorts of ways, we discovered that we had not received enough love.  And so love became for us something like a sack of potatoes that you can give and get in a big sack or a small sack and the like.  This has nothing to do with love. 

What we actually are is the most humble of all humble things, that in which everything arises.  That is the light itself.  Nothing is more ordinary, common, everyday than that light;  we have known nothing except that.  Love is the discovery of myself (the light) in the other;  the recognition of the Silence that I am in the other.  That is love.  Love cannot be given to anyone, you cannot get love; you can't make water wet, because water is wetness.  Neither can anyone give you love, no one can receive love from you, you can only recognize love in yourself and you can recognize love in others. 

The moment that it happens, there is naturally no other anymore, because you indeed recognize in other, in the most literal sense, notice well, in the most literal sense; yourself.  I never speak to anyone except myself, and you never hear anyone except yourself.  I cannot underline enough how literally true this is.  Love is to recognize yourself in the other, in what you unjustly saw as 'an other' until that moment.  But it is yourself that you see there because there is only one Self.  There is only one light.  There is only one love.  The recognition of yourself in the other, of the Silence that you are in the other, of the light that you are in the other, that is what we call love. 

It is not a question of giving, it is not a question of receiving, it is a question of recognition.

From  A Course in Miracles, Workbook lesson 107 [2] -   

What can correct illusions but the truth?  And what are errors but illusions that remain unrecognized for what they are? Where truth has entered errors disappear.  They merely vanish, leaving not a trace by which to be remembered.  They are gone because, without belief, they have no life. And so they disappear to nothingness, returning whence they came.  From dust to dust they come and go, for only truth remains. 

Can you imagine what a state of mind without illusions is?  How it would feel?  Try to remember when there was a time,-- perhaps a minute, maybe even less -- when nothing came to interrupt your peace;  when you were certain you were loved and safe.  Then try to picture what it would be like to have that moment be extended to the end of time and to eternity.  Then let the sense of quiet that you felt be multiplied a hundred times, and then be multiplied another hundred more. 

And now you have a hint, not more than just the faintest intimation of the state your mind will rest in when the truth has come.  Without illusions there could be no fear, no doubt and no attack.  When truth has come all pain is over, for there is no room for transitory thoughts and dead ideas to linger in your mind.  Truth occupies your mind completely, liberating you from all beliefs in the ephemeral.  They have no place because the truth has come, and they are nowhere.  They can not be found, for truth is everywhere forever, now. 

When truth has come it does not stay a while, to disappear or change to something else.  It does not shift and alter in its form, nor come and go and go and come again.  It stays exactly as it always was, to be depended on in every need, and trusted with a perfect trust in all the seeming difficulties and the doubts that the appearances the world presents engender.  They will merely blow away, when truth corrects the errors in your mind. 

When truth has come it harbors in its wings the gift of perfect constancy, and love which does not falter in the face of pain, but looks beyond it, steadily and sure.  Here is the gift of healing, for the truth needs no defense, and therefore no attack is possible.  Illusions can be brought to truth to be corrected.  But the truth stands far beyond illusions, and can not be brought to them to turn them into truth.

Three perspectives that come from three very diverse sources.  But they are not that different are they?   

Stress seems to arise in our lives when what we think we want and what we really want are discordant.  Perhaps one way or another we all want to just reconnect to the love we think we've lost.  A true therapist can help bring clarity here by being a witness to the alternative.. by helping us see that nothing got lost, we just imagined it did and then started to look in all the wrong places. 

Notes: 

[1].. To quote Michelangelo, "The best artist has that thought alone which is contained within the marble shell; the sculptor's hand can only break the spell to free the figures slumbering in the stone."

[2].. The dialogue in ACIM invariably provokes strong reactions in people (just scan the Amazon reviews), particularly with regard to the source of the material.  But if we can get past any resistance we have to the religious terms used, I think this is probably one the most advanced psychology and most powerful transformation texts ever written.

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Welcome.....     

  • ..this blog stems from a recognition that our true nature is far more creative, loving and unlimited than we could possibly imagine... and it transforms everything... a practical, generic solution to all our problems.

    These are just my lesson notes as I try to  be true to that recognition... and  learn to fly.  So it's quite possible that everything here may be wrong.

    Thank you for visiting.  Email (to Nick Smith) is always welcome.

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