“If we were to approach something like schizophrenia as an extreme example of an underlying disease in our society; that those suffering the mental torment are the ones actually taking the knocks for the whole of the culture as they are the ones open to the invisible forces behind the reality we inhabit, then we may see it differently.
This would involve “listening” to what they are saying… However, this doesn’t mean getting caught up in the detail or story of what is being said, as this may just be a whole load of personal and collective fears and paranoia. But, instead, listening in a different way and feeling the energy that is behind what is being expressed. What is the nature of the pain? How is this pain being acted out or being held by the collective at the moment?
We may then begin to understand or deal with some of the underlying causes of the symptoms, both on a personal and collective level. This can mean we get closer to healing many other problems that exist along a similar spectrum, even if they may not be obviously related. We can also get closer to the underlying symptoms of our cultural pathology and psychosis.”
The Heart of Life: Shamanic Initiation & Healing in the Modern World
The shamanic perspective holds some of the antidote to our current cultural blind alleys, because it is in its essence an holistic cosmology, acknowledging the interconnection and interdependence of all of life – what Charles Eisenstein calls ‘interbeing’ – and because it brings in a sense of the sacred – ‘I/Thou’ ways of relating towards each other, towards other living beings and towards our planet. Both these are essentially person-centred concepts, wearing slightly different clothing.
The writer does a lot of work with people with psychiatric model diagnoses, and she resonates with Jez’s comments about the cultural context and underlying meanings: ‘those suffering the mental torment are the ones actually taking the knocks for the whole of the culture.’ This is into the landscape of personal and collective shadow, and the inevitable entwining of the two – both in how we experience ourselves, and in how our culture experiences and defines those carrying cultural shadow for the rest of us.
She also resonates with:-
‘…listening in a different way and feeling the energy that is behind what is being expressed..’
Clearly that is one of the fundamental tasks of person-centred therapy. Therapy becomes meaningful when the therapist is able to come alongside the person they working with, and engage authentically and respectfully with that person’s internal locus, meanings and experience. There is evidence over decades of the efficacy of a relationship characterized by such empathic listening and presence when working with people with – e.g. – diagnoses of psychosis or schizophrenia.
Jez’s book is well worth a read, on these themes, and on our cultural predicament and what solutions might look like. Here’s the book link:-
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling in Exeter since 1994