Therapeutic work and yoga teaching should always be empowering, in my view.
What do I mean by empowering?
I mean that people find autonomy and the capacity for self-healing, creativity and optimisation of their potential. I mean they find themselves as equal co-creative partners in the human experience.
My view is that therapy can create dependency in clients, not independence. I really loved my therapist, he died recently of cancer. The process of being with him dying was profoundly touching and was in itself a teaching. So I’m not knocking therapy or the relational experience that can occur so beautifully in the therapist client dyad. My therapist became my mentor and my friend. I was there at his death bed and I loved that man. An important, powerful and influential relationship in my life.
I view the therapeutic process as having key stages.
The first key stage is assisted witness consciousness.
Assisted witness consciousness?
Yes the key therapeutic benefit of yogic meditative practice is witness consciousness. This is the capacity to rest in one’s observing self and see-feel the sensations, emotions and thought patterns of body-mind in expansive awareness space. This gives us choice in which of these living qualities, which sensation, which emotion, which thought pattern to pour our life energy into. This process neither represses or suppresses any of these experiences, it is a question of wise discriminative awareness. Which choice serves us in our greater and evolving good and which choice serves humanity and all beings in our collective and evolving greater good?
This is one of the key practices of meditative development.
The second (or perhaps first?) key practice is the deeply humanising experience of compassion focused practice. We open the heart and connect our livingness to the livingness of all beings. We choose goodness, ease, wellness, joy and peace for all beings, without exception, everywhere.
There are other key practices in yogic meditative development however these two directly relate to therapy and what I’m communicating in this Blog.
In my view, when a client is caught up in the drama and suffering of their personal experience, caught in the psycho-emotional drama of trauma, relational suffering, and core issues of personal worth and de-optimised potential they cannot easily access either witness consciousness or empathic human connection.
The therapist then has the possibility of acting as witness consciousness, as the open empathic heart for the client. This they can do until the client accesses their own witness consciousness and empathic heart.
When we see this key role of the therapist as holding the deeply human space of clarity and connection for the client then the therapeutic process is one of gradually finding meditative awareness. Therapy is the early phase of waking up.
Another view of therapy is that it is educative. It can help us understand the key stages of our psycho-emotional development. It helps us see and understand these phases of development of our lives and the kind of meanings we created during those phases in response to life’s challenges. The meanings we created can be body patterns, emotional patterns, thought patterns, narratives, beliefs and identities. The relational and educational elements of therapy can help us clearly see, undermine and uninstall any unhelpful and unhealthy (for ourselves and all beings) pattern and replace them with healthier patterns and liberating identities. We find our way to our optimum potential.
Again this is assisted meditative development.
This also brings me to the next issue.
Problem fixated therapy risks pathologising the client. Regression or as I sometimes call it psycho-emotional archaeology, is useful in as much as it helps clients see how they made up dysfunctional body patterns, emotional patterns, thought patterns, narratives, beliefs and identities.
It can help us see how in the experience of disempowerment, we made up these responses to make ourselves feel safe or make sense out of those complex experiences and disempowered states.
When this structure of self-protection and meaning-making is seen and understood, the role of regression is largely done. The client is on track to being their own therapist.
Continuing to see what is wrong focuses life energy on this pattern. I’m not talking about ignoring unhelpful patterns, I’m talking about overdoing regression, overdoing the focus on analysis, overdoing exploration and archaeology of emotional patterns, as this over focus then wires up people’s life-energy into those negative patterns. Once we get that we made up those dysfunctional patterns and once we get that they have somatic, emotional and cognitive facets and are essentially whole body-mind experiences, we just need help to unweave them.
We don’t need to continue focusing on the pathology or necessarily on the content of the experience, we need to focus on how to unwind the patterns, how to focus on solution and to focus our life-energy on finding and achieving our optimal potential.
Arguably this is a shift from problem focus to solution focus that is another aspect of effective therapeutic intervention.
Does this solution focused therapeutic approach facilitate the client to liberate themselves?
My view is yes, with a big proviso. When this therapeutic process is an assisted progression through understanding, understanding that we crafted our pain, suffering, complex meanings and personal dysfunction from the weave of life circumstances and that we did this when we experienced our selves as less than empowered.
Therapeutic cut and pasting, where we try and overlay good feeling states on top of the unresolved dysfunction simply creates experiential sugar coated shit. We still feel shit deep down inside and we paste an enlightened smile on our face. This is classic ‘spiritual bypassing’ and is also a common feature of some therapeutic interventions.
This organic process to human awakening of arising clarity shifts us naturally from problem focus to solution focus. We knew that what fires together in synaptic patterns, wires together. This movement as we take responsibility for our patterns leads us inexorably into optimal potential and a focus on weaving and integrating this into our lives. The role of the therapist here is to shift from empathic, assisted witness consciousness to facilitate responsibility, to a role as mentor, coach or even guide as as each individual awakens to their creative power and responsibility for their life and their role in the lives of other beings.
So as a therapist and yoga teacher I’m always trying to put myself out of business. I’m seeking the therapeutic clarity, enhanced responsibility and empathic awakening of each one of my clients and students.
The prosocial translation of this process will see a resolution of our social issues as we shift from the drama triangle of oppressor-victim-rescuer in our own psychology and in our social psychology into the mutual empowerment and responsibility of the roles of the empowerment triangle. These include
- nourishing, serving and sharing
- protecting, caring, stewarding
- creating, dreaming and manifesting
And we recognise it is us who will do the work and this good work will be done by us as individuals pulling together, it is collective co-creation.
it may be helpful to realise that the paradoxical institutions can never ultimately remedy social problems unless they too work to putting themselves out of business. Otherwise these institutions merely perpetuate the problems. To put it simply, police need criminals to be in business. Social workers require social victims. Therapists need clients with pathologies. Politicians need crises and economic disasters. Religions need fear of death.
So this translation of therapeutic process to prosocial process is highlighting the solution.
The solution of an organic shift from being a victim of circumstance to one of radical responsibility and mutual empowerment.
Radical responsibility is where we all take full responsibility for our bodies, our emotions, our cognition and awareness, our relationships, our communities, and our ecology and economics.
This is the path of social awakening as mutual empowerment and collective freedom.. from therapy and cleaning up our pathology and shadows to waking up to our co-creative evolutionary role in the human species and in the web of life.
I’m excited by what is possible.