In my fifty plus years of practice and working with about five hundred clients, I have had only two people come and say the following: “My life is going very well. I am quite satisfied with my work, relationship, friends, inner life, and I want to grow further and explore my potential.” If you are one of these rare individuals, I will be ready to welcome you. However, I am also ready to welcome the vast majority of you who are coming with a problem that is weighing heavily on you. In fact, you may be suffering so badly as to have lost hope and joy, wondering what the point of life is anyways. Yet, what I know from my long years of personal and professional experience is that overcoming suffering and healing are best accomplished through orienting the suffering self towards learning and growth. Thus, if you are coming with a pressing issue as most do, you and I together will ‘use’ that issue as a gateway to transformation that will help you unlock the stuckness and move forward and facilitating your growth towards your increasingly authentic, natural, and whole self. While this may sound mysterious, or even impossible (from where you stand and see), I can assure you that this process will become progressively obvious to you as we work together. My promise to you is that I will provide you with the best possible opportunity and experience to learn and grow. I will bring myself fully present with the background of my knowledge and experience gathered over five decades of working in depth and breadth with my clients.
I offer an approach to personal and relationship psychotherapy and counselling that is different from what is usual these days: “fixing,” “brokenness,” “getting rid of,” “problems,” finding “solutions,” “conquering unwanted parts of yourself,” and so on. Most counselling is focused on alleviation of suffering and wound healing. Of course, I too see these as part of the counselling process. However, I don’t see pain, suffering, and life problems as things to get rid of. Rather, I see them as a pointer towards your potential; for, what is impairing you innately drives you to reach towards a potential, just as a flower rises towards the sun. I believe that this shift in perspective and approach, namely, moving from wound healing to potential optimization within holistic functionality of being, is the most effective, powerful, and sustainable way to attain suffering alleviation and healing. I should add, this latter does not mean that you will not feel the full range of afflicting emotions. It just means that you will not be possessed by them in an untoward way. You will have your feelings and emotions rather than their having you and rendering you helpless and thrashing about.
Many who come to me tell me that they want to get back to how they and/or their relationship used to be before trouble began. I tell them that this is not possible. I do not tell them this to cause further despair. Rather, I point to the more fundamental change that can occur in their identity. That the ‘unwanted, ‘uninvited,’ and ‘horrible’ feelings that are now their lived experience have always been lying beneath the surface, and that the views they have of others (or themselves, too) as mean, horrid, evil, and so on are part of the root system of those life negating feelings and thoughts that they are experiencing. This is not to suggest that some of what is seen in others is not there. However, the innerwork of transformation is about our change to a more enlightened, awakened, and alive way of being, and coming to terms with what can be changed in the outer world and what cannot.
Getting to the root system and facilitating its ‘untangling’ and renewed growth process, will lead you to find increasing meaning, purpose, and vitality in life. I go about facilitating such process by exploring three related questions with you: 1) what is your full potential; 2) what is in your that is in the way of moving towards that potential; and 3) what is the good intention that lies hidden in the shadows of your difficult experience. Our work together will be to go into that material and uncover the life energy in you that has been suppressed, at least to some extent, for a very long time.
Given that a picture is often worth a thousand words, let me give you a ‘picture’ by way of an example of an inner work process (my own actual experience), and part of what you will learn how to do on your own that will eventually allow you to do some inner work on your own:
I have had an unhappy experience with another person. I felt upset and hurt. Later I am sitting on my own. I am recalling the experience. As I recollect, the feelings and dialogue come into focus in my inner world. At first I am replaying the dialogue. Then my focus shifts to my chest/heart area. I feel an anguish there. It is quite intense. I am close to tears. I can also feel heat; heat of anger mixed with the anguish. I stay with these emotions. I am curious about them. I have associated thoughts, “that was not fair,” “I didn’t deserve that,” “I wish I had said, (numerous statements come to me), “I feel lonely, and alone,” “nobody understands me.” The last one hits a particular chord. Suddenly a memory emerges. I recall as a teenager feeling quite distraught. My mother was trying her best to help me. As a teenager, I did not see her intention to help. I only ‘saw’ that she was not helping me. In retrospect I can see she had no idea what my experience was and about the world my teenage self inhabited. I was living in a different world than the one she grew up in as a child of immigrant parents. I screamed at her, “You don’t understand me! No one understands me! I am extremely upset and unhappy. I see now that she was, also. As I pursued this inner work I was completely in those moments my teenage self. Only now I am also able to ‘see’ myself, and further, I could see my mother and ‘know’ her distress. For a moment my focus shifts again. I want to understand my mother more fully than I was able to as a teenager. I want to know her and to be known by her. How basic—my longing for connection to this very significant person in my life.
I put myself into her place. ‘As my mother,’ “I am looking at my boy and he is suffering. I can feel a great pain in my heart. He is very important to me. I want to alleviate his suffering. I feel helpless.” This latter statement touches something deep inside me. I have shifted back into my reflective self. I understand her anguish better and I also have insight into my feeling in the interaction that triggered me into strong feelings. The feeling of hurt and anguish have roots in my early experience, which does not negate the recent ‘unfair,’ ‘unjust,’ hurtful events of the triggering experience. However, the strength of my reaction tells me it is about more than that experience. As well, my insight into my mother and her felt sense of helplessness informs me about the depth of helplessness and victimization I felt in the situation I described above. I had a quick flash of memories of my mother being in situations where she felt she had no power. She inadvertently modelled helplessness and victimization for me. I feel more relaxed and somewhat cleansed. I have learned something about myself, the nature of others, how my strong inner reactivity is a sign that this inner reaction is beyond the present experience. I have more possibility of being more present, clear, and ready to respond rather than react when another and similar experience occurs in my life, as it surely will.
There is more to be said here about knowing of others, the relational field, culture, and the world atmosphere. This scenario hopefully offers you an insight into what you might learn to do, over time, to facilitate knowing yourself, others, and the world in a clearer way, and becoming more of who you truly are in your full potential humanity. I may offer you an idea as to what you can learn to do for yourself, which simultaneously benefit others and your particular corner of the world. The surest way I know how to solve problems is to become who you authentically are. Having that kind of clarity and groundedness ensures an integrated clarity of mind, body, emotion, and life force energy, and facilitates an ability to ‘know’ the world in its fullness as it is, which increases the likelihood of knowing what is required.
My diverse and deep background in numerous psychotherapy approaches, my study of eastern philosophy and practices, and my extensive study of theory and research have all informed and formed me to encounter you as a unique human being who is in the process of increasingly emerging as an authentic being. Our work together will be appropriately collaborative, and I will be constantly fine-tuning to meet you in just the right way in each moment, and to the best of our combined abilities. To paraphrase the words of the famous Swiss psychiatrist, who founded analytical psychology, C. G. Jung (1875 –1961), ‘When the doctor sits down with the patient, all theories must be forgotten and the doctor must learn the theory of the person in front of him or her.’