Psychotherapy must remain the obstinate attempt of two people to arrive at a recovery of the wholeness of being human through the relationship between them
Interviews and Presentations
ATT Mind Podcast with James W. Jesso
Unity Spiritual Community: Blessed Are the Pure of Heart
East Lake Church: Suffering and Forgiveness
Living a life that is truly your own requires courage and practice. Without realizing it, many of us live a life that is focused on survival, as if we’re under threat, as if we’re powerless, helpless, and on our own. Our personality, to a large degree, is shaped by the strategies we employed to survive early failures of love (trauma). This strategy of constructing a personality that is adapted to unfavourable conditions is an intelligent response that serves to get us through a challenging time of life. However, when this survivalist personality continues to take the lead as an adult, (perceiving threat where there is none), we can never live into our potential. This is where courage comes in—to shed the inner survivor and make room for the emergence of a more authentic, vital, loving and adventurous self. Psychotherapy creates a safe space to allow for the emergence of this way of orienting in the world, the way of the heart.
My approach to psychotherapy is influenced by my mentor, psychologist and ethicist, Andrew Feldmar, his mentor and lifelong friend, Scottish psychiatrist , R.D. Laing, and tracks back to British psychotherapist, E. Graham Howe. The foundation of my approach is ethics, attachment theory, and the role of love (caring and compassionate relationship) in healing.
As a therapist it is not my agenda to change anyone. The therapeutic space is first and foremost a safe space where the client can discover who she is when she doesn’t have to prove herself, be good, clever, adorable, or any of the other strategies she learned to employ as a means to gain love. The false self gives way, as trust is healed, to the unique self. With attentive and compassionate regard for the client-as-she-is, the client risks relaxing into each and every moment with a caring other, there to discover what authentically wants to be expressed in a relationship with someone who is not demanding conformity.
The false self is for survival. The true self is for living”
When we are treated with love, kindness, and empathy early in our life, we form a healthy emotional bond with our parents and siblings, which subsequently extends to the larger world. We are able to trust and relax, allowing our unique and spontaneous nature to emerge. We have a baseline orientation that the universe is for us. We proceed with respect for self and others, and find enjoyment in our relationships and work life. We proceed as though we matter, taking ourselves seriously, because we have been taken seriously.
However, when we are mistreated, intentionally or otherwise, trust is broken. Emotional connection with others becomes challenging and threatening. We turn inward and learn to defend our hearts against further hurt. These defences, which once served our survival, now inhibit living in abundance and joy.
In this defended state, we believe that we must continue our vigilant efforts to discern what the other needs from us in order to survive. Unconsciously, we live from the question: “What must I do to be good enough so that I might survive, let alone be loved”? We unconsciously build our personality as a defence against perceived threats, not realizing that this false self no longer serves us.
We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.”
The ethical dimension of this process is coming to the realization that your heartbreak, and subsequent defence system, didn’t just happen. Someone did something to you when you were helpless and dependent. This was an exercise of power, power over rather than the power of being with. When this happens we would rather believe that we are “bad” than that those who were charged with loving us failed. We develop fantasies of being loved that contradict our actual experience. As these fantasies give way to reality, the healing process begins. In the therapeutic relationship we discover what it feels like to be respected and loved as unique individuals. Through the therapeutic relationship we are able to assume full responsibility for our lives.