In the last 20 years my work has gradually moved out of the therapy room into community and organisational spaces and wherever my life took me. The conversations and listening spaces I co-created in a therapy room with people who were courageous enough to face themselves, deserve a space in our public life (not social media however, because an essential element, the direct transfer of human emotional energy, is missing and this limits the collective sense-making). What takes place in a therapy room is the exploration and re-negotiation of our two basic needs of “belonging” and “becoming”. Our cultural institutions have become lopsided in their focus on “becoming” and “self-improvement” while the need to belong has been drifting into shadowland and ended up in the therapy room.
Crafting spaces and containers for conversations which are free from the labels of wrongness and correction is an art. Like it is with every art form, we get better in it the more we practise. “To harvest the promise of the future” we need to practise the art of convening groups and cultivate conversational intelligence in all private and public areas of our lives. This is one of the ways how art and politics merge and how we become environMENTAL activists.
“If the group is an art form of the future, then convening groups is an artistry we must cultivate to fully harvest the promise of the future.” — Jacob Needleman
More therapy is not a solution to humanity’s crises. It perpetuates the illusion that we as individuals have a problem and do not cope. Putting the burden of insane societal structures back to the individual is our culture’s collective “gaslighting”, perpetuating the illusion that something is wrong with the person not coping. This of course swallows up their political potential. If caring for ourselves, each other and the planet is not part of our economic structures we must simply call this insane. If the most “successful” people are successful because they serve a destructive system, can we call them sane? If we try to stay or become healthy against the backdrop of a life-alienating societal and global structure which keeps us isolated in our bubble it can only create more suffering, as we can see happening everywhere around us.
“You would be surprised how seldom it occurs to people that their problems are not their fault. By focusing on fairness and justice, a patient may have a chance to find what has so frequently been lost: an ability to care for and stand up for herself. Guilt can be replaced with a clarifying anger, one that liberates a desire — and a demand — to thrive, to turn outward toward others rather than inward, one that draws her forward to make change.”
Richard Brouillette, a former community organizer and psychotherapist in New York.
(edit May 2021: I quesiton “the focus on fairness and justice” as described in the quote. Having an equal (fair and just) piece of the poisoned cake can’t be the aim. The practice of psychotherapy, however needs to be questioned as part of baking a bigger and bigger poisoned cake)
Why Therapists Should Talk Politics
"I'm meeting my boss later," my patient said. "I'm worried she's going to tell me I'm not pulling my weight, and that I…
The world of “diagnosing and treating” has to dissolve into structures of “connecting and creating”. There is a need for people who offer therapy and those who seek it, to create an “un-pathologising” common ground where the regeneration of the planet is part of the story. It does not matter which side you are on in a leaking boat. The pseudo-psychology which is running rampant has caused people to blindly accept labels for themselves and/or their children and to tag each other in order to achieve some short lived order or to justify the drugging into numbness. The unconscious obsession to look at “what is wrong” with us or others is fuelled by health and education industries and their unquestioned self-improvement ideology. In the experience of “never enough” we become bottomless barrels, consuming products and services which will distance us from ourselves and each other further. This keeps us from developing the political potential and awareness of our social field, which our time is calling for.
What if everything is right with us?
With you ?
With all our children?
Where are we putting our attention in this moment ? Where attention goes, energy flows.
Bringing attention to what is alive in ourselves and the world around us will energise us and will make us aware that we have to alter our engagement in our social and economic realities. This is often the biggest obstacle, but isn’t the life of future generations worth the effort?
What if we are in a “trance of self-aversion”? The myth of Original Sin and the resulting shame is carried by us on such a deep level that we do not even realise how we participate in deadening systems and that it is we who energise them. No matter what we do to feel alive in such a system - it will make us feel….well, dead inside. What if this is what makes fascist systems flare up all over the world ?
What if we are challenged now more than ever to love the darkest places in ourselves and come together down on earth, dropping the mask of perfection and achievements.
We are about to find out that Eve never “sinned”. Although some of us have laughed at it all our lives, we might not have realised the power of this meme in our collective history.
A story where we could only choose between being “good” and submissive or being “bad” and rebellious has infantilised humanity, never growing up to talk back on eye level to whoever it is who puts us into paradise (and idealises us) to only throw us out of it again (and demonises us).
What if, after all, we are here to plant our own apple trees and to indulge in the pleasure of sharing our apples freely, expanding our guilt-free knowledge of interbeing apple by apple.
As Eve Ensler says to all the Eves at the end of her 2014 Bioneers talk:
“Eat your apple. Eat your fucking apple and share it with your Adam. Share it with all the Adams of the world”