LATEST NEWS ON THE WORKSHOP
The exciting workshop on the carnivalization of therapy, led by Brian Kaplan and me in March, is coming on apace. An entry has appeared in the Gestalt News and Notes, which goes out to hundreds of therapists worldwide. A nice item, complete with photo, has appeared in the EUROTAS Newsletter, which goes out to hundreds of therapists in the European Transpersonal tradition. A nice piece has appeared in the AHPP Newsletter, which goes out to humanistic therapists in the UK.
Applications are coming in, and it looks as if this is going to be a bit of a star attraction. It quite unique, opening up areas not covered in the standard offerings by the likes of the BPS, the BACP, the Tavistock, the WPF and so forth. It is really saying that we are often too cautious in sticking to what we already know in therapy, and that a good look round is in order.
It must be healthy to challenge the idea that empathy will get you everywhere, or the idea that the Unconscious is a sort of sacred cow, or the idea that one tradition is always enough. By turning everything topsy-turvy, as in a carnival (Bakhtin’s idea) we can get a breath of fresh air blowing through our existing practices, which so easily get stereotyped and too predictable.
If you want to know more, just email email@example.com, and more will be revealed.
January 22, 2017
A NEW WORKSHOP
One of the great events of 2016 was, for me, the Dialogical Self conference in Lublin. I found myself proposing a completely new take on the theory, bringing to the fore the idea of a carnivalistic approach to therapy. In a carnival everything goes topsy-turvy, all the established truths get questioned, nothing is not untouched in the end. This was a radical vision, and I felt quite inspired by it.
By coincidence, I then happened to meet Brian Kaplan, who has been using the challenging approach often labelled as Provocative Therapy for many years now. Anyone interested in this approach can see examples of it on YouTube, conducted by Frank Farrelly, who originated it. Brian and I had some exciting conversations, where we found that we had much common ground. We talked ourselves into a resolve to launch a combined workshop, where the ideas of provocation and carnivalization could be demonstrated and explored. Anyone interested in these ideas could see and experience them in action.
The workshop will take place on Sunday the 26th of March next year, in Hampstead. A flier is now available, setting out all the arrangements, obtainable from inforowan.com. Brian Kaplan is a medical doctor working with a whole-person approach, and he and I seem to see the world in ways which sometimes similar, sometimes complementary. This is a real opportunity to blow away the cobwebs of psychoanalysis, person-centred and CBT approaches, and expose ourselves to the genuinely fresh.
December 11, 2016
Last night I was coming home on the tube after seeing a play in the West End. I had an Evening Standard, but no pen, and I like to do the crossword on the journey home. I saw a shop on Leicester Square – one of those shops full of tourist tat which one never normally sets foot in. I thought – perhaps they sell pens – maybe I can buy one there. So I went in through the very narrow doorway, and saw a man behind the till. I asked him if they sold pens, and told him I wanted it for the ES crossword. He looked at me for a moment, all wrapped up because it had been raining, and then broke into a smile. He picked up the pen he had just been using, and held it out to me. ‘How much is that?’, I asked. ‘No, no, just take it!’, he said. I thanked him very much and left the shop.
I thought that was a kind act, thoughtful and helpful. And how unexpected! I just want to mark the spot, so to speak, so that it is not forgotten. Perhaps it may inspire someone else to do something similar. Anyway, there it was, and I appreciated it very much.
November 17, 2016
What is this passion for passwords? So many sites where I might want to buy something ask me for a password. They usually offer to help me create a password by sending me an email. Then I have to find the email site, and create the new password. Then I have to go back to the original site, if I can remember what it was, and enter the new password. This happens with perfectly ordinary shops with no special pretensions to fame or uniqueness, and I find it very annoying.
What on earth is the point? If I go into a shop on the hight street, they do not ask me for a password: the fact that I want to buy something seems to be quite enough. They do not sit me down and grill me about my identity and my right to purchase their goods – I just walk in, buy something, and leave. Why not with a website?
I hate passwords. If I am asked for a password I usually leave the site and try somewhere else for what I want. It just seems like a kind of bullying to me – won’t play unless you play by my stupid rules. I can understand that if I use a site very often, and they know me well, a password would be quite convenient for both parties, just to make sure that I who I say I am. It would be saved and automatic, and I would not have to enter it in more than once. I don’t object to that – for example, my Amazon account works in that way.
But for every twopenny company to ask automatically for a password before they will do their duty – that does not make sense at all to me. Death to passwords, I say!
October 25, 2016
This year, I thought it might be interesting to see what would happen if I tried to put the deep and important insights of Meister Eckhart into language which is accessible not only to Christians, but also to others. Here is my first attempt.
ECKHART translated into Wilber terminology
On entering the Causal, the main thing we notice is the absence of things. But we must not fall for the idea that we have given something up. We have not given anything up at all, except illusion and make-believe. We have now got instead a deep awareness, an unwavering pivot, a true opening.
We are now not engaged in doing, inly in being, and accepting. We are watching and waiting, not grasping at all. We are not here, we are everywhere.
Whatever we do now is not ours, it does not belong to us. We have to get out of the way and let be. This brings true peace. We now have to wait, and let be, and learn.
August 18, 2016
MY BIG CV
I had a big CV. It had: Degrees and qualifications; Appointments; Honorary appointments; Offices held; Publications: Books; Translations; Co-written or co-edited books; Chapters in books by others; Papers in refereed journals; Papers in other journals; Other publications. It went on – page after page – substantial – impressive – worthy.
And today I realised that I would never use it again. Never again would I apply for a job. Never again would I have to wait for someone else to judge whether I were worthy, were qualified, were OK.
Of course it was really obvious, not a great surprise. I had not had a boss since 1980. I had been an independent consultant for all that time – and described as such on my conference badges or whatever.
But somehow the realisation was a sobering thought. There was a sadness about it, as though I were really losing something of value, which I had spent many hours honing and perfecting. It was sort of letting go of a support, even if it were a support I didn’t need any more. I was on my own.
Of course I am not on my own: I have a wonderful wife who I have been together with for almost 40 years; I have children and grandchildren from a previous marriage; I have a house; I have friends and colleagues to meet and rely on and enjoy. I am very lucky.
But that was the thought for today. A sad thought. A thought which just came to me out of the blue, out of nowhere.
August 9, 2016
I FORGOT MY MEDITATION
Today I woke up
I forgot my meditation
How could I forget? The day was fair, the sun was warm, the poems were flowing – well, that was just it
So many new sights
So many new thoughts and feelings
So many distractions
Please forgive me
Please make if OK
Please don’t think I have forgotten
Today I did it properly – today I did not forget
Here I am, back again
In love with the Goddess
July 25, 2016
12 July 2016
LAUGHTER IN THERAPY
As far as I know the major research on laughter in therapy was conducted by that great theorist of the humanistic approach, the late Alvin Mahrer (1985). In his 1996 book he says: “Experiential therapists may not be wildly emotional of feeling in their actual lives. They may not be screamers or hard laughers. But in the session, they must be able to have strong feeling. They must be more open than the patient to strong feeling, and to just about any kind of strong feeling… You must allow yourself to undergo pain, hurt, turmoil, anguish, all kinds of bad feelings. In the same way, you must be able to undergo strong good feelings. You must be skilled in undergoing scenes, moments, opportunities of absolute silliness, whimsy, laughter, clowning, rollicking, giggling, and chuckling.” p.175 (This injunction is followed by no less than twelve references to the research literature, including the classic study of 1984 by Mahrer and his wife.)
Before that there was the amazing work of Eileen Walkenstein, who had a completely fresh and unboundaried approach to therapy – full of real humour and fun.
Not well enough known or referred to is the exciting work of Frank Farrelly (Farrelly & Brandsma (1974) which is still being carried on in London by Brian Kaplan. This approach relies a great deal on being open to the incongruous, the quirky, the unexpected. Brian even creates badges for his clients to wear, with humorous references to their supposed problems.
It seems to me that this is a serious challenge to therapists here, whatever their labels or persuasions. Are we bringing into the session the full range of our own capabilities, or are we making a quite restricted choice of what to reveal? Are we allowing our full range of feelings to come into the session, and encouraging the client to do the same? Are we noticing the incongruous and the quirky, the surprising and the funny, and allowing it into the session?
July 12, 2016
12 JUNE 2016
CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE BRAIN
I find it very annoying when people try to make the brain prior to consciousness. If there is a problem of how the brain relates to consciousness, this problem can only be solved by going to a level beyond both of them. The eye of contemplation – also described as the gaze of higher or deeper consciousness – has to be accessed if we are to tackle the brain/mind conundrum.
My own favourite way of putting this is to say that consciousness uses the brain, much as a violinist uses a violin. This makes it easy to say that brain disease of various kinds can put up obstacles to the free flow of consciousness, making it hard to maintain an even keel. In other words, the brain can get in the way of consciousness, but it certainly cannot produce consciousness.
Ken Wilber has said that what we are talking about here is the ultimate question of the relation of Emptiness and Form, Infinite and finite, Spirit and world. In all these cases there is a living process of change and development, exchanges of inner and outer, the interpenetration of opposites. These are easy ideas for a Taoist or a Sufi, but harder for a regular scientist.
The idea that the brain comes first is a typically materialist view, and we have increasingly been finding this inadequate. It is even inadequate for quantum physics, which has no pretensions to spiritual superiority. Of course many people have pointed this out, and I have no need to pick out Wilber particularly as an authority. But come on! It is just ridiculous to say that the brain comes first and consciousness only later. Newborn babies, and even the foetus in the womb, are conscious already, as much research shows, long before their brains are developed much. If you don’t believe this, have a good read of Stan Grof, who has spent 50 years researching it.
It was Elmer and Alice Green who coined the concise statement that ‘all of the brain is in the mind but not all of the mind is in the brain.’ This makes perfect sense to me, but it would be a pain for a standard brain researcher to get his or her mind round it.
Perhaps all this is a bit abstract for some people, but I think it is an important issue, and well worth some agony of appraisal.
June 11, 2016
WHAT KIND OF SCIENCE FOR HUMANS?
5 JUNE 2016
A terrible thing happened when the psychologists decided that psychology was a science. I remember the rejoicing that took place in the British Psychological Society when, some time in the 1980s, psychology was formally admitted into the official list of sciences!
The problem is that most science, because it deals with things and processes and ideas rather than people, can happily use a logic which is entirely suitable for that purpose, which which is no good for understanding or dealing with people. It is called First Tier thinking, and is based on a logic which starts off with statements like: A is A; A is not B; nothing can be A and B at the same time. It goes on to say that every statement is either true or false. This does very well with normal science, though it does run into difficulties at the quantum level. Technically this is called formal logic: it can also be called Aristotelian, Newtonian, Cartesian or Boolean logic. It is the basis of all our computers, where 1 and 0 is all you need.
For dealing with people, however, we need to move on to Second Tier thinking, which starts off with statements like ‘A is not simply A’ and ‘Something can be A and non-A at the same time’. This is a different kind of logic, but it is what we need if we are going to deal with people. If a client comes into my therapy room and I say – “Adam is Adam” – that is completely uninspiring – it leads me nowhere. But if I say instead – “Adam is not simply Adam” – more possibilities open up. In other words, real change is possible here. Technically this is called dialectical logic. It embraces contradictions and paradoxes: a man can be a heartless brute and a sentimental slob at one and the same time: a woman can be a caring mother and a cruel slut at one and the same time. People are like that – complex beings who cannot be summed up in a single phrase. And if psychology tries to deny that and persists in using First Tier thinking, psychology is mad.
Unfortunately, it appears that academia finds it hard to admit this simple truth. Science has to win the day. But science itself is not just one thing. There are two kinds of research in the psychology of people – quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research has had huge success in establishing itself as the method par excellence for dealing with people in psychology. But qualitative research, which does not use numbers very much, produces results which are much more interesting, and much more human.a
June 5, 2016