‘Compassion for the body will be a cornerstone of the person centred therapist’s spiritual discipline but so, too, will be an acceptant and empathic response to his or her inner world where conflicting voices and a confusing array of configurations may well be in residence. The person-centred therapist needs to be patient and unafraid of the family within, especially when they seem to be at each other’s throats. The temptation for the therapist to ignore discordant inner voices or to refuse to acknowledge troublesome parts of himself or herself will be as great as it is for many clients. It is, after all, much simpler in the short run to filter out those tiresome aspects of the self which seem to impede clear-sightedness and a firm sense of direction. The spiritual discipline of the person-centred therapist should serve as a warning and as a defence against such wilful censoring. To encourage clients to be courageous in facing the seemingly conflicting aspects of their own being and to be equally attentive to them all will have about it a hollow ring, if the therapist is intent on tuning out from certain of his or her own configurations because they are too inconvenient.’
The Mystical Power of Person-Centred Therapy: Hope Beyond Despair
The writer feels a small impulse to tweak the wording – for ‘inconvenient’ she finds herself reading ‘frightening’. We tune out because we are fearful. That’s the case whichever of the two chairs in the therapy room we may occupy from time to time. And we meet our fear and support our expansion by offering the core conditions to ourselves.
From our perspective at this service, we cannot accompany another person to a depth greater than we are able to undertake – so as therapists, we assume explicit or implicit responsibility for attending to our own process work, awareness and holistic well-being (as Brian is discussing in this part of his book). We may do this through reflection, supervision, personal therapy, spiritual practice such as meditation, embodied work, mindfulness, peer support, continuing learning….there are countless ways, and a case for having many of these resources at our disposal.
We might also make sense of what Brian calls ‘spiritual discipline’ in terms of developing and attending to our own inward supervisor, our own ethical and process compass, a deeply held commitment to personal awareness and growth – which includes visiting painful or frightening inward places along the way – manifested in our lives as the moment-by-moment practice of presence (or returning to presence) with our organismic experiencing.
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter