I have come to believe that the best therapy is shamanic in nature. It is active, energetic, integrative, cooperative, holotropic. Psychotherapy facilitates something in the client: a growth or development toward wholeness and completeness. Often clients come to therapy at an impasse within themselves. Often their way of seeing and being in the world must shift in order to make room for something new to occur.
I see the path of therapy as unfolding in three stages, though not necessarily one after the other. First, therapy is about increasing awareness across a broad range of human spheres: assumptions about who we are, the roles we inhabit, and our place in the world; our mental and emotional functioning; our true intentions and desires (What we want out of life); our beliefs about others; etc.
The second role of therapy is to understand, question, and improve relationships. How we relate is the core issue here. In our relationships, are we open or closed? Loving or fearful? Generous or stingy? At this stage we not only work to identify our primary relationship style and the defenses we employ to protect ourselves from feeling too vulnerable, we also question the outcomes of the way we relate and determine our level of satisfaction. We come to understand the responsibility we have in cleaning up our act and building better relationships. Here we consider all levels of relationship: to our thoughts, our emotions, our self-concept, our loved ones, co-workers, other human beings, the environment, the cosmos, and even our worldview.
The third level of therapy is grounded in the understanding that each person is an energetic being whose very nature is love and straightforward goodness. Its aim is to awaken the client’s natural capacity to live an ecstatic life, to recapture a delight in being often lost after childhood. The idea here is not to become mentally happy with life by thinking that everything is just hunky dory as it is. It’s not concerned with changing your belief system. Instead its aim is to help each client begin to feel deeply comfortable in their own skin and in the world; to begin to feel vibrancy and joy in the body, all the way to the cells, so that happiness and deep connection to life unfolds in the individual’s experience from the inside out. In this way our lived experience flows out from us and we dance ecstatically through life. We stop feeling at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control. We cease the cycle of acting and reacting to forces in a world we've mistakenly come to believe is uncaring and dangerous. At root, our view changes and we begin to truly live.
Psychotherapy is a profoundly spiritual practice when viewed from this perspective. It is an activity that strives to know the self and life with heartfelt intimacy. This view of psychotherapy roughly correlates with the path of spiritual enlightenment. How the two, psychotherapy and spiritual practice, are alike or different is one of the main themes of this blog. Are they the same thing? If not, can they be? Can they be mutually supportive? Where does one end and the other begin? For me, these are essential questions because I believe both may contribute to removing painful, limiting patterns while restoring a sense of ease and delight to the body and mind. It may be that in our modern age, we cannot engage in one without employing the other to help us maintain balance in our search for a well-lived and blissful (yes, blissful) life.