Sunday 1 June 2014


In my time I have been fortunate to see some world-class therapists doing live sessions; James Bugenthal, Hal Stone, Tapas Fleming and Asha Clinton the last two both from the energy psychology world.  For the last four days I have been with another from the same league; David Grand who in 2003 discovered a powerful new form of therapy. David trained as an analyst in the early 80's and in 1993 trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming). He later trained in a body therapy called Somatic Experiencing and combined them to make EMDR less rigid as Natural Flow EMDR. In 2003 he noticed with one client that when she fixated at one point in her visual field she processed new trauma and deepened her processing of other traumas they had worked on for a year all in the space of ten minutes. Brainspotting was born.

"Where you look affects how you feel" and your field of vision contains the traumas and fixating on them in the right way allows pure therapy; the processing of the traumas at the level of the limbic cortex, the mid-brain and the brain-stem. This is where all deep change happens because this is where traumatic patterns are stored; way below the neocortex and conscious narrative about what happened. I feel as if I have been witnessing therapy laid bare; the core processes happening before my eyes. I witnessed a session of only about 40 minutes where a person who had absolutely no sense of smell from the age of three, when her grandmother forced her to drink some terrible chemical as a way of stopping her from crying; recovered her sense of smell and came out of a state of frozen terror and dissociation.  The requirement is a very highly attuned therapist; attuned both to the relationship and the neurobiology of the client, and getting the right spots for the brain/body to use its own healing abilities to process the trauma and put it where it belongs; in the past so that the person can be more fully alive and present now and recover a sense that had been completely shut down. The hardest part to teach is mindful, empathic attuned presence on the part of the therapist.

Psychotherapy and neurobiology are coming together; not in a cold scientific way but affirming the central humanistic principles of trust in the process, empathy and deep mindful presence. I feel so priviledged and excited to be part of such a live profession as psychotherapy

Thursday 20 February 2014

Ego, self and regression .

The spiritual world usually has hardly a good word to say about the ego; it is the source of all selfishness and greed. By contrast, the therapy world constantly faces people who have a "weak ego" and tries to strengthen it.  Ken Wilber's map of pre-personal, personal and transpersonal neatly sorts this out as belonging to different aspects of the spectrum of consciousness and his book No Boundary is a simple exposition of the expanding definitions of the self. It is clear that the problem is with the identification with the ego not the ego itself.

The ego is the seat of identity; not necessarily in a very fundamental sense but rather like a passport; it gives some useful information but it isn't exactly the whole story. We all have an everyday identity and ordinary life would be intolerable without one. The ego is also the part of us which can deal with the world in a practical sense; mediating between the "reality principle" on the one hand and the internal world of desires and fears on the other. Our desires may say "chocolate cake now!"; our fears or superego may say "that's not a good diet" and our ego may say; "I'll make a salad for main course and I'll check the cupboard and, if I have the ingredients, bake a chocolate cake for tea later this afternoon.".

Where there isn't enough ego strength then we are prey to terror and regression. The world becomes a frightening place which can easily overwhelm us. It is amazing how strongly people can regress to a place where they cannot function at all. I have seen one person do this recently just from having less structure and finding themselves alone. Adverse, but not life-threatening, situations, can also provoke regression to a primitive child-like place or to desperation and black-and-white thinking.

In therapy which includes a transpersonal dimension, such as tantric psychotherapy; there is work to do in strengthening the ego by reducing past trauma (which weakens the ego) using methods from energy psychology as well as unconditional warmth, empathy and creating a coherent narrative of life. However, tantric psychotherapy using body and energy methods, breathing and touch, supports the move beyond the small self of the conscious mind to the spaciousness of the body and the energy system and towards dissolving into the universe. This is who we really are. It is a quick trip around the spectrum of consciousness.