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I’m often asked how I work. What method or techniques do I employ? I’m of the firm belief that it is who you are, and not what you know, or how you work, that heals. Irrespective of the tools you might have, one cannot guide another down any path one has yet to travel oneself.
Prior to entering into analysis with a therapist, you want to know whom you’re getting involved with. What is the state of their being or psyche? Are they a good fit for you? Is there resonance?
These are all fair questions, which I aim to answer here.
As a practitioner, I would describe myself as a Self-Oriented Psychotherapist. This requires some explanation.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche explains the workings of the Self as follows.
Behind your thoughts and feelings, my friend, there is a mighty lord, an unknown sage—it is called Self; it dwells in your body, it is your body.
There is more wisdom in your body than in your intellect.
Thy Self laughs at ego, and its proud prancing. “What are these prancings and flights of thought to me?” it asks itself. “A by-way to my purpose.”
I am the leading-string of the ego, and the prompter of its notions.”
The Self says to the ego: “Feel pain!” And thereupon the ego suffers and looks to how it may put an end to such suffering. In this way, it is made to think.’
The Self says to the ego: “Feel pleasure!” Here the ego rejoices and wonders how it may often rejoice. And in that made it is made to think.
The Self wins our attention through presenting us with both painful and pleasurable states. It does so to get us thinking. To make us conscious.
Following Nietzsche, Jung also postulated that there are two centres to the psyche. Along with the ego, which we are aware of, and call ‘I’, there is also the greater Self – a deeper, wiser core that we remain largely unaware of.
The greater Self lights the way. Healing takes place when we follow its lead. When we fail to listen, however, the Self creates the necessary challenges designed to capture our attention.
The ego can be terribly lazy. In Michael Angelo’s The Creation of Adam, the Lord and his angels can be seen actively reaching out toward Adam, while Adam lazily reaches back. Fighting for greater consciousness, the Self pushes for our attention, while the ego makes only a minor effort to engage in return.
As a Self-oriented psychotherapist, I side with the Self. The ego must awaken. I’m more interested in what is required of you, than in assuaging any immediate issues or concerns.
Take, for example, working with a state of depression. The standard practice here might be to try to get the person to think positively, or to develop some strategies to help them overcome this negative state.
A Self-oriented approach takes another tack. Instead of seeking to rid the person of the depression, another approach might be to open to the depression. Talk to it, play it out, get to know it better. Amplify it even. Oftentimes we need to go down before coming up. Seeking to escape such a passage only serves to prolong the agony. It need not be this way. When one willingly embraces a negative force or archetype, it quickly transforms. The dragon sits on a treasure. To find his way up through to heaven, Dante had to journey down through hell.
With the Self at the centre, one’s approach to psychotherapy is profoundly altered. One looks to enter more deeply into the required process.
This may be considered an unorthodox approach. Standard psychotherapy offers no notion of the greater Self. It is as if mainstream psychology has yet to undergo its Copernican revolution.
Originally it was thought that the Sun revolved around the earth, until Copernicus explained that it was the earth that revolved around Sun. Later Galileo would look through his telescope and prove Copernicus right.
This was not a popular discovery. Although Galileo invited others to look through his telescope to see for themselves, the church fathers refused to do so. They would not tolerate such heresy and Galileo was made to recount his observations.
Jung is to Nietzsche, what Galileo was to Copernicus. Jung offered proof. Available to all, if one would only look within. By conventional standards, Jung is also considered a heretic.
The Self works in mysterious ways. Problems in oneself, in one’s life, relationships, or even one’s physical body, are drivers for a new consciousness. Jung once explained that the gods have become our diseases.
The role of the therapist is to identify the new consciousness looking to come through. What aspect of one greater being has been denied and has turned negative? What is behind that symptom, that bad fate, relationship difficulty or problematic state?
Jung also explained that "Free will is the ability to do gladly that which you must do anyway". Ideally, we don’t need to be dragged toward a new consciousness. When we welcome our challenges, our path is much simpler. Enjoyable even. Self-oriented psychotherapy promotes one’s growth. Once initial issues are resolved, people will often stay on with their process. Inevitably new issues will arise, but so too does a creative capacity.
To engage the Self, I use a range of modalities including dreamwork, sandplay therapy, voice dialogue, shamanic psychotherapy, process work and mindful counselling.
Dreams take you on a journey. Freud described the dream as the royal road to the unconscious. It takes you in. Each dream is pitched at a level just beyond one’s sphere of consciousness. Not so far that its incomprehensible, but enough to stretch you. A dream is never meaningless. Jung said, “there is no such thing as a stupid dream, just stupid people!” That is, a dream points to what we are ignorant of. When we work with a dream, and spend the required time with it, its meaning hatches.
Here the role of the dream analyst is to provide a second set of eyes - an added light or consciousness, that may be used to cook the dream and bring out its meaning. Dreamwork is a very powerful modality - rocket fuel for one’s personal process.
In working with dreams, I have noticed that it takes only three, correctly interpreted, dreams to discover the Self. By correctly interpreted I mean the dream’s message is rendered clear and unambiguous. Where you get the message, and there is an ‘Aha’ reaction, so much so that the hairs on your arms may stand on end. No 'Aha' reaction means the riddle of the dream is not yet resolved.
The first dream interpretation, and ‘Aha’ reaction, curbs one’s scepticism toward the dream. One thinks “Maybe dreams are meaningful after all”. Or possibly it was just chance. Either way one’s interest is piqued.
The second dream interpretation, and ‘Aha’ reaction, gets you thinking. "How is it possible that there is something that knows me better than I know myself?"
The third dream seals it. After three Aha reactions, one is convinced. This can be like a conversion experience. Through personal experience, one now has a direct appreciation of something greater than oneself. In olden times this might be called God. In depth psychology, it is termed the Self.
Not everyone dreams. Or, at least, not to begin with. This proved to be a dilemma for me. My desire to work with people, in a manner that engaged the creative unconscious, was thwarted by a lack of dream material on the part of clients.
At this point, I was instructed by a dream. In the dream, Dora Kalff, the founder of Sandplay therapy, handed me a gift and instructed me to train as a Sandplay therapist and thereby join the guild of psychotherapists. So, I did.
In my early twenties, I had worked with a sandplay therapist, who was also a Jungian analyst, she had trained with Dora Kalff. Thirty years later I was back again and did two more years of my own sandplay therapy. My earlier analyst, having now retired, gifted me her collection of sandplay figures. One could say it was meant to be.
Another powerful modality is Voice Dialogue. Voice Dialogue involves giving expression to various aspects of oneself, be it the critic, the hero, the mother, father, child, controller, rebel, fighter, pacifist, clown, wise old woman or man, the witch, thief, wounded one or healer etc. Any number of figures may come forward. It’s simply a matter of shedding one’s inhibitions. In voice dialogue, one needs to get into character. Those who have studied drama or acting take easily to this approach.
First one must engage the primary voice. Speaking with it until it has nothing left to say. Having exhausted the primary voice, it won’t interrupt secondary voice, which is a part the person that has not been heard to the same extent. Having similarly exhausted the conversation with the secondary voice, one can move to the third, fourth and even fifth voice. From the second voice onward, the dialogue starts to get interesting. People hear from aspects of themselves they may not have engaged for years, or from characters they didn’t even know existed. To anchor each voice, I use a range of pillows.
Process Oriented Psychology
Other techniques, which tap the depths, include role-playing, feeling into symptom or addiction, or exploring an edge. An edge is where a slight incongruence enters into play. Someone might be explaining themselves and, for a moment, appear uncomfortable or will look away. That moment can mark an edge. Rather than allow the discourse to continue, coming back to that moment, or edge, proves to be much more fruitful. With sufficient sensitivity, edgework quickly unearths key issues.
Counselling & Mindfulness
Sometimes all that is required is to be heard. Listening deeply can be enormously therapeutic.
Psychodynamic Astrology & Homoeopathy
I’ve also an interest in astrology and homoeopathy.
One’s astrological chart serves as a map of the psyche. It points to the various archetypal forces active within a person.
How astrology could possibly work remains a riddle. We’ve still no rational explanation. Yet it works. For a reading of your horoscope, you will need to provide your date, time and place of birth.
Like astrology, homoeopathy is another modality without a plausible explanation. Yet again it is immensely useful.
Homoeopathy is particularly effective in releasing trauma that has been locked in. This trauma may be mental, emotional or physical. I could be the result of a prolonged and difficult period in one’s life, a time of overwork, overstudy, abuse, the denial of one’s creative self, from living in fear or from self-censorship. A carefully selected remedy serves to release and resolve such ingrained states.
Background & Training
In my youth, I developed an interest in martial arts. This led to an interest in meditation and eastern spirituality. This meditation practice resulted in a greater recall of my dreams and I developed an interest in dream interpretation. My dreams have guided me ever since.
As a university student, I entered into Jungian Analysis out of ‘curiosity’. My personal process led me through a series of crisis, which were both difficult and rewarding. That’s how it works. I began running dream classes and groups in the late 80s.
In the mid-90s I wrote a psychological commentary on The Lord of the Rings and drew upon the guidance of such mentors as Marie Lou von Franz and Robert Johnson, who encouraged me in my creative pursuits. Later I established a clinic and bookstore in Byron Bay.
At the age of 33, a dream instructed me to stop working as a therapist and teacher. So, I stopped. Instead, I was required to become more worldly. To this end, I pursued a career in IT. Ten years later my dreams now suggested that I should return to my former vocation as teacher and therapist. For many years I resisted the call, the relented. I completed a MA in Anthropology with a focus on Cultural Astronomy & Astrology, trained in Sandplay Therapy and Process Oriented Psychology and am currently furthering my training at the C G Jung Institute, Zurich.
My personal path continues to be my own analysis and dream work, mediation practice and discourse with my inner figures.
Fees & Charges
Depending upon what you are looking to explore, sessions may be one-off, a block of six or so, or ongoing. Ongoing sessions typically require that you commence recording your dreams.
Sessions may be weekly, fortnightly or twice weekly (where required).
My rate is $150 for 90mins or $100 for the hour. Student discounts are also available.
An initial 30min consult is available free of charge. This is required to gauge whether it is right that we work together.
Get in Touch
If the Self-oriented philosophy and approach resonates with you, feel free to reach out. I welcome the opportunity to discuss any queries you might have.