Personal Process Work
Personal Process Work, with its focus on the inner life, fosters one's soul development. Personal Process Work may be entered into out of curiosity and desire to explore oneself or due to a troubled soul life. Issues arise and are resolved, and only to be replaced by another, deeper challenge. Personal process work can take one up, or down or back out into life. It always an enriching experience.
Personal Process Work is akin to an exercise regime, yoga or meditation practice, as there is no real end to one's personal process. For many, it is life long journey. Issues or dilemmas that might otherwise run for years, or even a lifetime, are resolved within a matter of months before giving way to a new challenge.
I employ a number of different modalities, including Dream Analysis, Sandplay, Voice Dialogue, Shamanic Journeying and vibrational medicine.
Dream Analysis is a potent modality.
Just as the body knows how to regulate and heal itself, all without our conscious participation, the psyche is also guided by instinctive wisdom.
As Jung has explained, there are two centres to the psyche. In addition to the ego, what we recognise and call ‘I’, there is also the greater Self – a deeper, wiser core that we remain largely unaware of.
A dream is the voice of this deeper Self. When we sleep and dim the light of consciousness, the vision of the Self shines through. We awake with a dream.
Yet the Self speaks in riddles. Dreams are always difficult to understand.
There is a good reason for this. As von Franz puts it, "Dreams don't waste much spit telling us what we already know." Instead, the dream tells us what we don't know. It speaks of what is beyond our immediate comprehension.
Most people profess to not understanding their dreams and thus pay them little attention. The dream is dismissed as the meanderings of the mind whilst asleep. Yet, a dream is never meaningless. As Jung says, “there is no such thing as a stupid dream, just stupid people!”
A dream is a challenge. Pitched at a level beyond our ego awareness, they are difficult to understand but never too difficult. If one makes an effort, the wisdom of the dream soon reveals itself.
We know that a dream has been understood correctly when we experienced an "Aha!" reaction. Suddenly we get it. It is as if a light has been turned on. A dream interpretation that fails to move you is an interpretation that has yet to answer the riddle.
Rather than telling us what to do, a dream points out what we are doing. A dream is a mirror. It reflects our current state. Through the dream, we see ourselves from a new perspective. Given an expanded awareness of ourselves, we modify our thinking and act accordingly. It is in this way that dreams serve as a guide.
To begin, your dreams will focus on your immediate life issues. Issues to do with one’s relationships, vocation, finances and the domestic situation will call for attention.
Once these issues have been addressed and your energy is freed, your dreams will take you on a journey. Freud described the dream as "the royal road to the unconscious". Dreams shine a light on dimensions of your being that have yet to emerge into consciousness.
Dante's Divine Comedy describes the author's entry into a dark forest. Initially, he meets with a guide, Virgil, who leads him down through hell and on into purgatory before handing him over to Beatrice, who guides Dante up through paradise into heaven.
Extensive dreamwork leads one on a similar passage. Following the initial 'clean up' dreams, one soon encounters the shadow, that aspect of one's being that remains undeveloped.
Working with the shadow balances one out. As it was for Dante, it can be a hellish passage. Facing our shadow means facing our demons. Having become conscious of our shadow, we begin the purgatory-like work of addressing our flaws and weakness once we appreciate what we need to learn.
From the shadow and redemptive work, we meet with the anima or animus - the contrasexual aspects of our being (the feminine in a man or the masculine in a woman). While wonderfully rewarding, this phase can feel like a steep climb. Here we must develop aspects of our being even further removed from our original nature. At the culmination of this phase will be found dreams of marriage and sexual union. We marry our opposites within.
This marriage of opposites brings us to a greater whole. Finally, we may encounter the Self. At this point, we are provided with a vision. From here, the way forward requires a creative effort. We are tasked with bringing a new consciousness back down into life.
Working with your dreams is a lifelong process. In showing you specifically what you need to know next, dreams speed you along your way. There is no end to this discovery process, just as there is no end to the ongoing evolution of consciousness.
Working with a Dream Analyst
Working with an analyst provides a second set of eyes - an added light or consciousness. Here your dreams will be pitched at a level beyond both your own consciousness and that of the analyst. As Marie Lou von Franz explained, she could barely understand her own dreams while she worked closely with Jung, as her dreams introduced concepts that even Jung had to struggle with.
If you are to bring your dreams into Analysis, you must begin by recording your dreams, the events of the previous day, and your thoughts on various dream figures or places. Please contact me for the dreamwork guidelines, including a section on improving dream recall.
Depending upon the length and complexity of a dream, it will generally take thirty to sixty minutes to explore.
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 older 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, there is a need to engage the primary voice. Speaking with it until it has nothing left to say. Having exhausted the primary voice, it won’t interrupt the secondary voice, which is a part of 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 that they may not have engaged for years or from characters they didn’t even know existed.
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.
Sometimes all that is required is to be heard. Listening deeply can be enormously therapeutic.
A Self-Oriented Approach
My approach is Self-Oriented. This requires some explanation.
As Jung has explained, there are two centres to the psyche. In addition to the ego, which we are familiar with, 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. However, when we fail to listen, the Self creates the necessary challenges designed to capture our attention.
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 it's 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-strings 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 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.
The Self wins our attention by presenting us with both painful and pleasurable states. It does so to get us thinking. To make us conscious.
As a Self-oriented psychotherapist, sides with the Self. The ego must awaken. Rather than assuage any immediate concerns, it is more important to learn of what consciousness one's issues are calling for.
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 will work in its own way. Jung once explained that the gods have become our diseases. Problems in oneself, in one’s life, relationships, or even one’s physical body, are drivers for a new consciousness.
The challenge 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. A Self-oriented approach promotes one’s growth, leading one through to developing a creative capacity.