1. PROCESS/INSIGHT: While insights may occur during the process of change and may sometimes help to consolidate change the real change agent is what goes on between therapist and client. Therapy is healing by means of an inter-personal process; insight may or might not accompany this process, is not essential, and may even be a hindrance by strengthening defences in some case.
2. CONDITIONED MIND: The mind is conditioned by how its objects are construed. If a person's construal of a significant object changes (eg. he decides my father did love me after all) his life will change.
3. BEING CHOSEN: Survival depends upon being chosen. Throughout life we pass through many situations in which we are chosen or not chosen. These incidents are affectively charged. Talking about them presents varying degrees of difficulty/taboo because of
a) the elements of fear and shame that may be involved
b) the competative advantage given by not showing one's hand
c) the difficulty that we have knowing whether a choice of ourselves by another is genuine or not
4. OBJECT RELATEDNESS
a) The client is conditioned by his objects
b) The client brings this conditioning into therapy where it distorts the therapist-client relationship
c) This provokes a conditioned reaction (samjna) in the therapist which includes an element of "act hunger"
d) The therapist develops the ablility to recognise and unhook (asamjna) from this reaction...
e) in order that her natural reaction to the client be helpfulf) The samja-asamjna position = "one foot in the river and one on the bank", the necessary position to rescue somebody who has fallen in.
5. We did some exercises in which we
a) chose or were chosen
b) looked at times in our life when we were or were not chosen
c) practised talking about things that might be inhibited in social situationsd) practised listening skills
6. We introduced some key Buddhist concepts:
a) conditioning of the mind
b) samjna and asamjna
c) non-self (anatma) "I am not that; that is not me; that is not myself"
d) ordinary delusion - the fact that in everyday waking consciousness we pass from one mild trance to another and this is how we get things done and behave in a smooth manner.
Most of life takes place in some degree of trance (samjna). While it is valuable to develop the capacity to unhook (asamjna) enough to notice what trance is going on, the aim is not to abolish trance formation altogether - it is natural and healthy so long as it is accompanied by an ability to step out when appropriate.
7. We saw how Buddhist psychology is the psychology of how delusion works. As a subject it is distinct from Buddhist philosophy much of which is concerned with extra-ordinary states and ultimate truths. Buddhist psychology is the application of Buddhist principles to the management of everyday life by ordinary people, including the surmounting of dysfunctional life patterns and behaviours.
1. We reviewed the work and topics of Day One
2. BEING IS DOING: We briefly considered the question of being/doing and also of self/non-self. In Buddhism a person is what they do - we cannot understand being apart from doing, which is why insight alone is not enough. If a change has occurred insight may support it, but if a change has not occurred insight alone will not bring it about.
3. FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS: We began studying the Four Truths for Nobel Ones:
# dukkha includes:
i) existential inevitables: birth, dying, aging and sickness
ii) social afflictions: separation, loss, confinement, failure - all of which are situations involving being chosen or rejected
iii) the skandhas, including samjna
# Buddha taught "dukkha and the end of dukkha". "End" in Sanskrit, as in English, has two meanings: end as finishing and end as purpose. In therapy it is simplistic to see the task as being to terminate the dukkha of the client; it is more advanced to see the process as enabling the client to live a life that is meaningful, constructive, wholehearted and right in the midst of this world where dukkha inevitably goes on occurring.
# dukkha is a truth for noble ones - i.e. Buddha also suffers - it is not about never having dukkha, it is about how each instance of dukkha can be risen above and turned to good purpose. The elimination of dukkha is not realistic and may not have been what Buddha meant.
# All the things that Buddha lists as dukkha went on happening to him after his enlightenment. Enlightenment gave him a more constructive way to handle dukkha - it did not make him immune from it.
# If we take the Four Truths as a process starting with dukkha and ending in marga we can see it as a model for therapeutic process in that the client begins from a position of dukkha and aims to be on a path that feels right.
# Traditionally marga is seen as the path to the ending of suffering. However, it is questionable whether marga should be seen as a path toward something, i.e. as a means. Marga can be thought of as an end in itself. If one really does have right vision, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right samadhi, then one has the best possible already: how can that be a means to something better when there is nothing better?
# Siddhartha Gotama did not become enlightened by following the eightfold path; he discovered the path as a result of being enligfhtened. In his case, at least, it was an outcome, an end, not a means. Buddha said that the methods that he used before enlightenment were ingnoble and useless, just as his earlier life of luxury and indulgence had been. For Gotama enlightenment came when he reached a low point. The period of his spiritual search is a series of negative choices - rejecting his family, then his teachers, then his friends - and becoming emaciated and defeated. There then occurred a positive choice, not by him but of him, by Sujata who, in an act of simple minded kindness, fed him. Soon afterwards he was enlightened and his life changed completely. Instead of becoming more and more alone and desperate, he goes forth to help others. His life is completely and suddenly turned around.
# The end of suffering is the eightfold path in the sense that it is out of the experience of suffering responded to in the right way that the path emerges. Dukkha is the root of the lotus and marga is the flower. The root is in the mud and dark and the flower is in the sunshine. The flower, however, is not the result of destroying the root.
4. We did a series of paired counselling exercises which included:
a) examining the effect that one's name has upon one's life; receiving a name being a powerful instance of being chosen.
b) practising listening skills
c) reviewing one's practice with another worker
d) learning to distinguish content from process
e) learning to switch roles swiftly - to go into and out of one's own material as one must learn to go into and out of samjna.
5. CONTENT/PROCESS: We looked at the distinction between:
a) content: what the client talks about, mostly from his "there and then" life in the world.
b) process: what happens in and between the therapist and client in the session
6.SAMJNA: We saw that process is the development of processes of mutual entrancement (samjna) and includes:
a) the emotional responses of the two people to each other and to the material presented
b) the tacit contract that develops between therapist and client
c) "games" and collusion.
7. ACCOMPANIMENT: Therapy is an "accompanying process". The client explores his life and the therapist facilitates that exploration and accompanies the client in it. This means that the therapist must be able to
a) enter imaginatively into the client's story, yet
b) be willing to change and adapt to what the client reveals, not remaining attached to her own image of how life is or should be.
8. IMPLICIT CONTRACT: We looked at the specific pitfall of falling into the kind of tacit contract in which responsibility for the client's life choices passes to the therapist. A client is a human being and cannot be fixed in the way that a machine can be. The therapist needs to have the skills to continue the accompanying process without taking the client's responsibility away from him.
9. LIFE STRATEGIES: It was suggested that we move away from thinking in terms of "problems" and "pathology" and think, rather that how the client lives and behaves constitutes a set of strategies. Each of these strategies formed for some reason that was good at the time. Each strategy has some advantages and some drawbacks. There is not one single best way to live.
1. OBSERVATION: We discussed the importance of developing observational skills.
2. TIME: We discussed the issue of time - her and now plus there and then. The need to be immediately prsent but also to appreciate the longer term.
# Lack of awareness of a past tends tends to generate anxiety; lack of ability to visualise a future tends to generate depression.
# The Four Truths as a process over time
# Tracking of emerging meaning
# Tracking of the therapy process
a) in the session- reading body language and changes in voice- noticing changes and keeping track of what provoked them- noticing when the client's energy is engaged and when it is not- noticing the pulses of activity/speech by the client, how they begin, proceed and end.
b) over the period of therapy- build up of trust- changes in the client's manner of dealing with the same subject
# Counselling as meditation a deux: - placing the object of mindfulness before one, the object being, in this case, the client's issue and the elements that constitute it- being acutely aware of the here and now detail of body language, demeanor, sequencing and interaction- becoming aware of the transformation process taking place over a period of time
3. SAFE SPACE: Counselling is not chat- counsellor's manner needs to convey that this is a place where serious things can be talked about. This means that in learning to counsel one has to inhibit social habits learned over many years that serve to discharge the tension in conversations. In counselling one must allow that tension to remain.- counsellor stays warm yet serious. The safety of therapy is not the kind of safety where nothing uncomfortable is allowed to happen. It is the kind of space where it is safe for uncomfortable things to be experienced and surmounted.
# The therapist needs to have the abilities to- notice what is happening to the client in the here and now- relate this to what is already known- relate it to the process of the therapy- imagine how it is for the client- imagine what the client is confronting in his life situation- have the imaginative capacity to generate hunches about the meaning of what is happening- have the tentativeness to hold those hunches lightly and be willing to change as the client reveals more
4. PULSES: The client speaks in pulses of energy.
# Each pulse of energy is stimilated by an object coming before the mind. Objects that have such power over us are called RUPA. Rupas may be beneficent objects or they may be associated with pain (dukkha). The therapist notices the quantum of energy associated with each rupa.
# When a pulse of energy subsides the therapist might:a) remain quiet and receptive to see what the client wants to bring nextb) refer back to what seemed to have the greatest energy in the pulse just endedc) refer back to the trigger that set off that pulsed) refer back to whatever it was that was drowned by that pulse if the former seems unfinishede) refer back to any other unfinished business from earlier in the session
# The way to refer back might bea) to meantion the rupa (object reflection)b) to mention the emotion attached to the rupa (empathic reflection)c) to summarise the meaning that the rupa seems to have for the client
5. At every point, the therapist has a range of options; some options are more bold, some more cautious; different options will shape the therapy process in different ways; in general, though, there is always more than one possible good option.
6. The therapist is all the time learning from the client, particularly from the client's emergent process which may not always be apparent to the client himself.
# The client is also experientially learning more about his own process
7. TRUST - THE KEY VARIABLE: Successful therapy commonly involves a growth of trust or faith (a) by the client in the therapist and (b) by the client in the therapy process, and this is likely to tranlate into an increase in (c) the client's faith in life generally. Along the way there may be important insights for the client but the therapist should not be chasing after insight or understanding - let it come naturally.
8. KARMA-DRAMA: Life is karma and karma is drama. I am in the drama of my life, but I only have a small part. If I want to understand my life more I must understand the other characters. Each person in my drama has a special light. I learn to see that light. In counselling, the counsellor learns to see the light not just in the client but in the client's significant others too and as she does so the client may begin to see that light too.
9. In this day we did counselling "lab" exercises, working in threes with counsellor, client and observer and receiving feedback. People talked about how their family selected their name. Others play a powerful part in conditioning our lives even from before we are born.
1. My life is a big drama.
My part in it is a small one.
It is important to play my part well for the sake of everybody.
To do that I need to be aware what the others are up to.
At the end of the day, though, I still make my own decisions.
The best decisions are grounded in love,
but love brings many disappointments and setbacks.
To play my part wellI have to rise above them,
love again and love again.
Love, suffering, rise above it, love again, suffer, rise again...
This process is deeply satisfying
but many give up on it
and lose faith
because of the suffering involved.
Suffering is a truth for noble ones
because it is part of loving.
2. The mind is calm when isolated from conditioning objects. Such a state is tranquil and calm but on its own it is not enough for compassion.
3. When significant objects (Rupa) appear before the mind there is an immediate reaction (vedana) of attraction, repulsion or dismissal, in us as in the simplest organisms.
4. If vedana persists it becomes a trance state (samjna) involving affect and act hunger.
5. If samjna persists it gives rise to internal formations, stories, machinations, complexes, mental confections (samskara).
sarva samskara anitya, sarva samskara dukkha
All these internal formations are ephemeral and part of the domain of dukkha.
7. However, in order to help the client it is no good just remaining calm and isolated, one has to be willing to enter the realm of dukkha. This means accepting one's own vedana-samjna-samskara as it happens.
8. # The uneducated person feels samjna and acts it out.
# The educated person feels samjna, represses it, and then acts it out in subtle, mostly unconscious ways.
# The skilled therapist feels samjna, rises above it (asamjna), and uses it as a window onto the reality of the other.
sarva dukkha anatma
all that is real is not self and
the other has a reality (dharma) of their own.
10. But through the reality of the other, further storms of vedana-samjna-samskara are blowing.
11. The samjna in the client (that is being transmitted to the therapist) has its origina in relations that hte client has with his significant others. The client is an other to the therapist, but the therapy has to also include exaqmination of the reality of the other's others. If the client talks about his father, the therapy willo not just be about the client's feelings about the father, it will also include an attempot by the client to understand the reality of the father's life.
12. However for the client to understand the reality of his significant others, he has to take into account the fct that those significant others themselves are under the influence of yet other others. The father's life does and did not revolve entirely around the son. There were lots of other things that made the father as he is. When some of that is understood, the father may be seen in a new light.
13. If the light in which one of one's significant others is seen changes, then one changes. Insight into the life of a significant other may be more potent than insight into oneself.
1. We began with a meditation on dependency.
2. We discussed a number of issues:
# Trauma work, desensitization and the process of grief.
# Although issues may be worked through and cease to be a major obstacle in the life of the client, nothing ever completely disappears. With the right stimulus any issue may be re-evoked later, though, hopefull, by then the client can keep it in perspective.
# The fact that a healthy person has more problems rather than less - the person with psychological problems finds their life impeded by a small number of over-whelming issues whereas the healthy person has a large number of issues.
# An issue is dealt with sufficiently when it has become simply one thing among many and is no longer preventing the client from engaging constructively in a range of life tasks.
# Therapy may, therefore, include both (a) investigation of the major issue and (b) putting it in perspective by attention to other areas of life.
# Occasionally, in the extreme case it might not be sensible to talk about the presenting problem at all.
# What matters is not how well the therapist understands the case, but whether the client makes constructive change.
# The client's problem is held in place by conditions. Change the conditions and the issue changes.
# When a client presents themself to a therapist there is a subtle invitation to the therapist to play a part/role which is a counter-part to a role that the client is identifying with. The therapist needs to notice the feel of his involuntary response (samjna) to this invitation. Rising above it (asamjna) he can find a response which will not play into and may unsettle the structure of conditions that is keeping the client's issue in place.
# Humans are wary of responses at the purely cognitive level - we all know that humans deceive one another and, in mild, socially conditioned ways, do so all the time.
# It is mostly what goes on at the process level that changes the client's life.
3. We did counselling practice exercises in small groups.
4. We discussed:
# the need to let go of one's political views or social agenda in order to do psychotherapy
# the nature of subjective reality - feelings, judgements, perceptions and so on are facts in the sense that it is a fact that that person holds that position at that time. That position may be based on a misperception. Thus it may be fact that X think Y is a bad person when in fact Y is a good person. X's perception and Y's actuality are both part of reality. The mismatch between them can be the basis of a dynamic.
# the position of the person who seems overly concerned for others and how getting a stronger sense of the reality of those others may liberate her/him.
# "mistakes" by the therapist and how they can be a gateway to a more real encounter with the client.
In the morning:
We discussed how the first presentation of a problem is commonly stereotyped and may reflect how the client is trapped in a stereotyped role pattern in relation to significant others. We saw how the progress of therapy may follow a pattern of
1. Trapped -> 2. Conflicted -> 3. Hiatus -> 4. Shift -> 5. Greater realism
We saw how there is resistence to going from stage (1) to stage (2) for both client and therapist and how stage (3) involves a sense of tension and suspense. The therapist needs to be able to remain both solid and engaged, touched by the client's reality yet not panicked.
We discussed again the kind of client who presents as alway thinking about others rather than self and looked at how much of the thinking about others that they do often turns out to be unrealistic. The reality might be that the others in question do not actually need that desgree of attention and are actually capable of making their own decisions and running their own life.
We saw how reaching a position of respect liberates the other person and in the process liberates oneself; and that respect for the other depends upon having an enhanced sense of the other's reality.
We looked at the special cases of autism and schizophrenia as extreme forms of separation from the real world.
We saw how and object related method is a method for the therapist to use, not an instruction to the client. The client is free to express what they like, but the therapist knows thqat the feelings that the client has are mostly anchored in real situations in life and that in general more progress is going to be made if this connection to reality is exploited.
We talked about the necessity of having a deep positive esteem for the client and for the client's others.
In the afternoon:
I completed the presentastion of the theory of the skandhas:
rupa -> vedana -> samjna -> samskara -> vijnana.
We looked at these as like widening ripples on a pond. The encounter with a rupa is the initial splash. Vedana the immediate reaction that may trigger a trance or routine reaction (auto-pilot) which is samjna, which if it persists builds into samskaras (internal formations) which, if they persist become a way of consciousness, a meantality, vijnana.
However, vijnana functions as intention and attention: it conditions future perceptions. Vijnana does not see the world as it is, it sees it as rupa. Thus the skandha process is cyclical and self-reinforcing and takes the person away from reality.
The arhant does not identify with the skandhas. If the skandhas are like waves on water, the arhant identifies with the water rather than the waves; or, if we think of the skandhas as weather, the arhant identifies with the sky, not the weather. He has "big sky mind". The awakened person is the host, not the guest. The arhant just allows the skandhas to arise and pass and maintains equanimity.
The bodhisattva, however, also has big sky mind, but when the skandhas arise the bodhisattva does not just let them go, first he questions them. He knows that they are the gateway into the world of delusion where he/she must do his/her work.
When two people are in psychological contact, the skandha process working in one of them sets up a parallel process in the other, like electric induction. Reading the arising energy in herself, therefore, the therapist can arrive at a deeper understanding of the client.
We saw how the mind responds (vedana) to its object and also how the present response may have been contitioned by many times circling through the skandha cycle.
The present rupa may, therefore, simply be triggering a reaction that was built up in response to an earlier one.
Evoking the present rupa and attending the the vendana and samjna reactions may put the client into a position where recall of the original rupa becomes possible. This may take the client into deep work quite quickly.
We did a meditation on dependency and aloneness (ekagata)
We studied the complete theory of the Four Truths for Noble Ones as explained in the books
The Feeling Buddha; and
dukkha -> samudaya -> kama/bhava/abhava -> more dukkha
in contrast to
dukkha -> samudaya -> nirodha -> marga (the sublime path)
We looked at the idea of Buddha as an ideal therapist.
We considered the case of Patacara, the mad woman, and how the Buddha responded to her, not taking her suffering away, but helping her first to face the reality and then (over a period of some four years) to transform it into a basis for compassion
- The heart is forerunner of conditions. If a person speaks or acts with a good mind, happiness follows. If a person speaks or acts with a bad mind, trouble and suffering follow.
- Why do we not all apply this basic recipe? Because we are trapped in cycles of avidya. We are frightened. Our hearts open a little bit and close a little bit - the fluctuation goes on all day long.
- "He hurt me, he defeated me, he insulted me, he robbed me, he cheated me" If we do not harbour such thoughts we are happy; if we do harbour them we are miserable. This is the secret of living. However, it is not easy for a person to relinquish such thoughts. A person feels justified by them and so clings to them.
- Narcissism as the universal human neurosis: the problem of self. Buddha calls this conceit.
- Avidya as the tendency to judge others by a different standard to the one that one applies to oneself
- Because one sees one's own motives, one tends to see oneself as justified in situations where one would see another as not justified.
- The issue of trust between client and therapist, eg. what to think when the client lies
- The universality of lying as a human behaviour.
- Kohut's idea that it is failures of empathy against a background of a sustained attempt at empathy that create the condition for character growth in the client
- Character growth is indicated by the degree to which the client is able to contain (and not act out) the difficult feelings that arise with dukkha.
- When the client can forgive the therapist's errors it is a sign of character growth.
- If the therapist completely understood the client then the therapist would find it easy to empathise because she would be moved by the circumstances that lie behind the client's behaviour. However, the client may be unable to reveal or even be aware of the information that the therapist needs until the client is in receipt of the empathy. It follows that the therapist has to find it in herself to open her heart to the client even before she knows what it is that is at the root of the issue. For this to happen genuinely it has to be rooted in the experience of having found empathy in such cases before - of having seen other clients who presented with intractable problems that did not immediately evoke sympathy, who, nonetheless, eventually, revealed the root causes, causes that touched the therapist's heart.
- Although we have been talking about client-therapist relationships the same principles apply to married couples and all other relationships that depend upon mutual understanding. A couple might agree to try to validate each others motives and reasons, but in practice they will not always be successful. Humans are frail beings and we have to stay in touch with our own frailty if we are to remain open hearted.
- We looked at the Buddhist psychology principle that
Avidya -> Samskara -> Chetana -> Manaskara -> Nam-rupa
which suggests that although we close our hearts in order to protect ourselves, the effect is to create situations in which objects have power over us. The person with a closed heart generates more rupas than the one with an open heart.
A model of creativity:
1. Creation of a safe space with a boundary delineated in time and space.
2. Three main inputs to this space:
a) Problem soling activity (self-power)
b) Inspiration / new ideas (other power)
c) Challenge (conflict, life issues, necessity, dialogue, dilectic)
The element of other-power is mysterious. When we have a new idea we have no sense of where it came from. We might say that it came from the unconscious or we might say that it was brought by angels, but subjectively it is a mystery. We can sometimes say something about the circumstances in which the idea came but where it came from remains mysterious.
In the case of therapy
1. the safe space is created by:
a) the time/space boundaries of the counselling session
b) the quality of contentration of the therapist that holds the client's attention
2. problem solving activity has a role, but often the client has already exhausted most of the possibilities of this approach. Indeed, in many cases, the client's initial presentation of their issue is in the form of an insoluble problem. The therapist may feel invited to become the expert problem solver, but if she buys into this role it is very likely that she will fail. In any case, there is a danger that responsibility for the client's life shift away from the client.
3. the element of other power is the missing ingredient. The therapist has to have sufficient faith in the process to loosen up the process enough for something new to happen. Therapists of many different schools of approach agree that "trusting the process" is a vital ingredient.
One way in which this model is operationalised in practice can be through the generation of metaphor. The client presents an issue (the element of challenge) and as it is explored a metaphor occurs to either the client or the therapist. The therapy dialogue then continues using the currency of the metaphor
..."So you have told me about your impossible family situation. It sounds a bit like being locked up in a prison"
"Yes, that's just what it feels like - and in my cell the windows are very small"
"So is there any way to get out of a prison like that?"
"We could dig a tunnel - but it might be pretty difficult"
"Yes, there might be ways of tunnelling out."
"I don't think climbing out the window is going to work."
"That wouldn't work."
"No. I guess it would be useful to have some help on the outside"
"Yes, having friends."
and so on...
In the process of discussing the metaphor the client and therapist are having to make more use of their imaginations and they are letting gto of some of the reality constraints that impede thinking about the real life situation. This makes space for new ideas to enter. Perhaps, in this case, the client thinks of a way that he can "tunnel out of" his family situation, or remembers a "friend on the outside" who could be helpful.
Generally, the client will eventually translate the metaphor back into the terms of the concrete situation, but not always. Sometimes simply the creativity of exploring the metaphor itself is enough.
Spontaneity & Cultural Conserve - Moreno
We then added to the creativity model the ideas of Jacob Moreno about spontaneity and "cultural conserve". When something is done for the first time it is spontaneous. This may be coping with a new situation or coping in a new way with a familiar situation. When something has been done many time, however, it is not spontaneous, it is part of the cultural conserve. The cultural conserve is a resource.
Thus the client has a repertoire of old ways of doing things which may not be adequate to the present situation and the therapist may think that this client is somewhat like some previous clients she has seen but this client will not be exactly like any previous client. Each case is a new challenge. The therapist gains confidence through experience but can never expect to reach a state in which they never get stuck. Therapy is a learning process for therapist and client alike.
Segmented Ego - Federn
We also looked at Moreno's ideas of "primary catharsis" and "catharsis of integration" and we related these ideas to the theory of Paul Federn in which the ego is seen as segmented into different zones. These zones can be seen as different samjna where different skandha cycles operate, different samskaras hold sway and different objects are introjected.
Since one zone develops out of other earlier ones, therapy may involve accessing zones of the ego that are separate from those in current use. Learnings in those areas will not automatically translate into change in everyday consciousness. This is why a "catharsis of integration" is needed while the client has access to both zones during the therapy, otherwise learning will not be of much practical use.
We did exercises looking at personal creativity and introducing each other as creative beings.
We discussed the social conditioning we have in relation to talking about other people or hearing ourselves talked about and considered the necessity for the therapist to rise above these socially conditioned feelings in order to be able to discuss personal material with a sufficient degree of objectivity.
Gisho Saiko's Model
We then looked at Gisho Saiko's model as presented in the course handbook and related ita) to Jung's ideas about archetypesb) to Buddhist ideas about duality and non-dualityc) to the idea of vijnana as relating to the "personal unconscious"
We talked about the necessity for the trainee therapist to overcome social inhibitions that prevent one from becoming usefully aware of feelings arising from the personal unconscious that may give access to what is going on in the client.
1. The therapist derives information froma) what the client saysb) what the therapist observes of the client's body language, breathing, tone of voice, facial expressionc) what the therapist feels being in the presence of the client
2. The therapist may, at different times, express any of these three kinds of information, so long as this is done for the benefit of the client and not as a self-indulgence by the therapist.
3. The therapist relies upon her own life experience, but does not become immersed in it. Her concern must always be for the client.
4. The source of the feelings in the client is the client's relation to situations and people in the client's life. These are the significant objects.
5. The perception of significant others is the fuel that keeps the fire going in the client.
6. The therapist needs to be able to monitor whether the "fire" in the client is low, burning stedily, or raging out of control.
7. The therapist needs to have a range of "object related" ways of responding that keep the client's attention upon the significant other and make the image of that object more vivid. As long as the image is vivid the client will feel the relevent feelings and will continue to work on the issue. If the fire goes out - if the client is no longer "warmed up to" that object, then the feelings will fall away and the therapeutic work will dwindle.
Storing of feelings
8. A person has the capacity to put feelings aside when the situation is dangerous so that they can focus on dealing with the situation in hand. The adolescent living in difficult circumstances learns to be tough and appear to have no feelings. The soldier in combat does not feel the fear appropriate to the situation. The soldier experiences the fear when he gets back to a safer place. In a similar way people will "store" feelings, sometimes for years, until they reach a safer place. This produces the paradoxical effect that it is sometimes when the circumstances have improved that the client becomes symptomatic. We had some discussion of the special difficulty of working with adolescents.
Being infected by the client's unexpressed sentiment
9. We discussed how a feeling or thought can arise in the therapist that actually has its origin in the client's unexpressed material. Thus the therapist may find herself feeling judgemental toward the client. This could simply be the therapist's own attitude intruding, but it is also quite possible that the therapist is picking up sub-consciously the client's own self-disapproval. It is not uncommon that what has brought a client to therapy is an internal conflict of a moral nature. In therapy, however, the client might only express one side of the dilemma, leaving the therapist to "hold" the other half. It is easy for the therapist to be misled into identifying with these thoughts/feelings, but to do so is a mistake. The therapist needs to remember "this is not me, this is not mine, this is not myself" it is just something passing through. When viewed in this way it becomes useful material that may help the client or may help the therapist to understyand the client.
10. The therapist tries to understand the pathos and conflict in the client's life situation without falling into judgement or blame.
Conflict is not always pathological
11. In some human situation conflict is normal and natural either because people do have conflicting interests or because it forms part of a natural life transition. The adolescent, for instance, may well go through a phase of conflict with parents during the phase of leaving home. This is not pathological. It wouild be more pathological if the teenager gave up the fight and never managed to make a life of their own.
12. The therapist's job is not to decide the conflict for the client one way or the other, but to be a mirror in which the client can see the competing parts of himself more clearly.
We began with a meditation
In the morning we mostly we revised concepts introduced on previous days:
1. Mind is clear and cognizing
2. Mind is conditioned by its object
3. Objects with power over the mind we call rupa
4. If the construal of the rupa changes the mind changes
5. The immediate impact of rupa on mind is vedana which is either attraction or repulsion
6. If the impact takes hold, vedana becomes samnja
7. Samjna refers to "ordinary trance" - the fixation of the mind and the playing of a pre-programmed routine
8. We looked at the example of stepping on a rope and for a moment thinking it is a snake.
9. Asamjna is the state of detaching from the samjna that is happening. This can be a matter of asking oneself "That is this?" "What is going on?"
10. A therapist needs the ability to have samjna and asamjna running concurrently - "One foot in the river and one on the bank"
11. Sometimes one can teach the client some degree of asamjna.
12. Sometimes you can help the client to change the way the rupa is construed and thus change the domnant trance from a less benign to a more benign one.
13. Changing construal of the rupa is often by facilitating an enquiry into what is really true - if the rupa is a person, that person has a life that is not identical to the client's stereotype.
14. Sometimes the therapist is infected by the samjna of the client and the therapist's asamjna enables her to gain more information about what may be going on for the client but be unexpressed. If the therapist started to feel disap[proving of the client it might be that the client is conflicted about their own position; if the therapist starts to feel hopeless about the client, it may be that the client harbours feelings of despair; and so on.
15. We looked at parallels with Rogers' ideas of unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence.
16. We looked at various questions about how social norms impact upon the counselling process.
In the afternoon we looked at the topic of distancing. This idea is drawn from the arts, especially theatre. To get optimum effect a piece of work has to be correctly distanced. Thus, in telling a bedtime story to a child, if the story is under-distanced and too emotive the child will have nighytmares whereas if the story is told in an over-distanced, matter-of-fact way the child will be bored and not listen or protest that the story is not being read properly. Optimum distance requires just the right amount of emotion and presence on the part of the reader. Similarly with other art forms and with therapy.
The client may be under or over distanced from their life drama. The therapist needs the skill to
a) assess how distanced the client is at any point in time
b) facilitate a reduction or increase in distance
Things that reduce distance include anything that increases the clients faith and confidence in the therapist, use of emotive language and voice tone, specificity of description, use of the present tense and anything that draws attention to the significant object in greater vividness or detail, and imagining the object closer in time or space.
Things that increase distance include anything that causes uncertainty in the client, the use of matter-of-fact voice tone, abstract language, generalization and non-specific description, use of the past tense, distraction away from significant objects, blurring of distinctions and imagining the object further away in time or space.
We looked at how in the normal run of the mill most counsellors spend much time working with clients who have ordinary problems from which they are a little over-distanced. Counsellors thus develop a range of skills in reducing distance. Cl;ients start telling their sotry in a matter of fact way but soon, under the influence of the counsellors care and attention, the client is feeling more emotion and experiencing more vividly. This is appropriate. However, occasionally the therapist works with a deeply traumatized client who may not be able to cope with this reduction of distance and the work may need to proceed by much more careful and slow steps. Again, occasionally, one has a client who is already massively under-distanced and the work consists largely of helping the client to develop the ability to maintain some distance.
We had some review of progress so far and indentified interest in:
1. other power
2. the impact of meditation
3. the state of simplicity
4. the problems of the non-voluntary client
5. personal growth for the therapist
6. dynamics within the student group
7. the need for a therapy that is not grounded in an assertion of self (self-esteem, self-entitlement, self-concern etc).
8. the danger of being sucked into the client's symptom or racket (a racket is a circular self-reinforcing game).
This led on to a review of the First Two Nobel Truths:
primary dukkha -> samudaya (energy/stress) -> kama/bhava/abhava (symptom/racket) -> secondary dukkha
and the need to avoid being sucked into the symptom.
We also looked at the state of simplity/emptiness as asamjna and or complexity/fullness as samjna and discussed how they function in the therapy encounter
All clients are involuntary in the sense that they generally do not want the thing that they need to do. They do want the symptom removed, but do not want to deal with the underlying cause.
On the other hand, all clients are motivated in some respects and it is necessary to identify what motivation the client does actually have.
This led to consideration of the position of the person who breaks social norms and we looked at times when we ourselves have done so.
We did a moving sculpt exercise followed by small groups for debriefing. The moving scupt gives participants opportunity to develop sensitivity to issues of closeness/distance and choosing/being chosen. It also illuminates aspects of group dynamics.
We had two counselling demonstrations and discussed related issues:
a) identifying significant objects
b) progression from less to more significant objects
c) empathy as the basis for timing of interventions
d) helping the client to say what is true rather than what is conventional
e) relating issues from the past to behaviours in the present and assessments of the future.
f) only breaking through the client's natural train of thought when there is a good clinical reason for dong so
g) testing whether the way significant others are initially presented stands up to closer examination.
We began with meditation.
I presented how my ideas have evolved in relation to the ideas of Carl Rogers.
In Rogers' theory, where two people are in psychological contact and one of them exhibits toward the other
a) unconditional positive regard; &
b) accurate empathy; expressed with
then constructive psychological growth may be expected to take place in the other.Rogers called (a), (b) & (c) the necessary and sufficient conditions for constructive change.
Rogers formulated his theory this way in order to facilitate research. He developed rating scales for assessing each of the conditions.
His theory was initially seen as extremely radical. It suggested that most of what took place in therapist training was unnecessary, perhaps irrelevant and possibly even counter-productive. It also deprived the therapist of authority. Only at the very end of his life and after his death did his ideas become widely accepted.
Around Rogers were a group of collegues and associates who developed his ideas. I collected some of the work of these people in my book Beyond Carl Rogers. It was an exciting time with many new ideas being generated. There was controversy about:
a) whether the conditions were always necessary (Jerry Bozarth)
b) whether empathy was always benign (John Shlien)
c) what to do with the client who was not "in psychological contact" (eg, the schizophrenic) - Gary Prouty developed aq form of "Pre-therapy"
d) I wrote a paper called "The Necessary Condition is love"
I was very interested in what relationship there might be between Rogers' ideas and the ideas I was learning in my study of Buddhist texts.
When Rogers was old I asked him if there were anything he would change if he were writing his book again. He said that he thought he may have under-estimated the power of modelling: clients become like their therapists. Clearly also, Rogers saw "constructive personality change" as involving an increase in one's capacity to exhibit the core conditions oneself.
I reasoned that a client in receipt of the core conditions might either:a) become narcissistic, enjoying the attention and becoming more self-concerned; orb) themselves become more empathic and positive learning from the therapist.The latter clients would do much better than the former.
Also, if what is needed is to always be in receipt of the conditions provided by another, then being a therapist might not be a healthy job. Inevperienced therapists do indeed suffer from burn-out from spending much time with unempathic, negative, incongruent clients, but accomplihed therapists get great job satisfaction.
My hypothesis thus became that the position of providing the conditions and seeing them received might actually be the healthiest and most growth promoting position. The need to give love may be stronger than the need to receive it. This might also account for my experience with suicidal clients who become seriously at risk when they have nobody to love.
Unless we love somebody or something life become meaningless. Meaning comes from loving.
If we love then we encounter difficulties. We might rise above them or be defeated by them.
Therapy is sometimes about helping a person to overcome obstacles and sometimes about helping them to pick themselves up after defeat so as to love again.
When the client presents with a difficult situation we are hearing about their heroic effort to continue loving and to succeed in their love. To encourage such a client to become self-concerned and to attend to basic self-needs is misguided. It fails to do justice to the heroic struggle of their life and encourages them toward a style of living that will not give satisfaction in anything but the very short term.
We need to appreciate the client's engagement with the significant others in their life, the struggles and disappointments this has brought, and support them in their attempt to love and love again.
This morning I gave a summary of what has been taught on the course over the two weeks arranging the material around four key concepts:
1. deep confidence - trust in an over-arching or under-pinning process - Big Mind/Big Heart;
2. fellow feeling - the basis of compassion in common humanity - achieving a sense of the profound drama of the client's life;
3. bombu paradigm - acceptance of oneself being a person who has problems and issues as well as accepting the fact that the client's life drama is bound to include setbacks and challenges;
4. object relatedness - all the karma of life involves investment of the heart/mind in projects that go beyond self (marriage, children, career, art, work, religion, political causes, friendships, etc. etc).
Along the way we looked at
1. Love and its disappointments, rising above challenges, loving again
2. Creating a safe therapeutic space
3. Samjna-asamjna - ability to enter into the drama and still stay aware of the big picture; holding the immediate and the eternal.
4. The fallibility of the therapist.
5. The hidden strength of the client.
6. The relevance of doing personal work to becoming a therapist:
a) understanding the client position
b) making progress with own issues
c) realising one's fathomless humanity
7. kama/bhava/abhava: that the circling processes of skandha formation occur at all levels - from the minutiae of everyday appetite up to the drama of one's life-work and key decisions.
In the afternoon we did a series of exercises to review and consolidate learning