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RRC and Integral Consciousness: Bringing New Life and Energy to the Practice of Psychotherapy

The coming together of Integral consciousness and psychotherapy in many ways is a “marriage born in heaven.” The four of us, Mary, John, Roz and Howie, are very experienced psychotherapists practicing successfully for many years. We realize we had been moving toward this integral identity long before we had a name for it! Rather than attach to one approach to psychotherapy, we have always chosen to integrate the best of different schools into our work with individuals and couples. Not so much being eclectic as studying and practicing different approaches in depth. Sometimes we would do this over many years until we acquired mastery or at least expertise in a particular area, thus continuing to expand and deepen in our lives and work. We embrace the awesome reality of evolution in consciousness and culture, as well as in the physical world as part and parcel of our integral understanding and development.

RRC and Integral Consciousness: Bringing New Life and Energy to the Practice of PsychotherapyOne of the most significant outcomes of practicing psychotherapy in an integral context is the growth in consciousness in the psychotherapist. As the psychotherapist is able to hold more integrally informed perspectives, their internal experience of the moments of psychotherapy deepens and expands. The “holding environment” with individuals and couples gradually becomes more loving and whole. Transformation (changes in levels or stages of development) as well as translation (expanded understanding and change in presenting situations or issues) becomes possible sooner. The therapist is able to see more of reality and help clients to do so as well.

At the Center for Integral Psychotherapy in Denver as part of the Relationship Resource Center, while we have been around forever, we also continue to evolve. As we embrace evolution in consciousness and culture, we both transcend and include older as well as current ways of viewing psychotherapy in our world. We are deeply grounded in many approaches to psychotherapy, benefiting greatly from our many years of experience and practice. To this we introduce the novelty of a new stage of development. This Integral stage, which is emerging out of modern and post modern consciousness, is beginning to bring new life and energy to the practice of psychotherapy. We are already experiencing this vital energy in our lives and our work and want to continue to share this with all of you.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Why Psychotherapy Is Undervalued in Integral

Shadow Work and meditation are methodologies in Ken Wilber‘s quadrant I, and shadow work is also a methodology in quadrants 2 and 3 (His AQAL map). Both meditation and shadow work help maximize the function of the human brain, and both methodologies deal with “stuck” places in the brain and in human consciousness. Integral Life Practice recognizes the importance of 3-2-1 shadow work as a methodology that was not available to most of humanity prior to the last century. However, neither was psychotherapy.

individual vs. relationalThe difference between psychotherapy and shadow work is that shadow work is primarily done by the individual – by HIM OR HERSELF – while psychotherapy is always RELATIONAL. With psychotherapy, you recognize that you need someone else to help you with your growth process; that at some places in your growth process towards more adult functioning and integral consciousness, you CAN’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN!

This, we believe, is a shadow of integral. It is too often hyper-individual reflecting the masculine bias of most of its proponents for intra-psychic methodologies and downplays or undervalues the relational or feminine component of what is often required to transcend and include in quadrants 1 and 2; that is, a quadrant 1 and 2 inter-psychic methodology, integral psychotherapy.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Into The Wild: How to Successfully Venture the Road to Step Family Relationships

In his excellent book, INTO THE WILD, John Krakauer tells the true story of a young man who ventures into the wilderness of Alaska woefully unprepared. He didn’t even have a map of the terrain that might have saved his life.

This is unfortunately the situation of many, if not most, stepfamilies starting out. They embark on this amazing and daunting adventure of stepfamily life without guidance or even a map!

The statistics on the breakup of new families that think they have to go it alone and are not coached represent a national tragedy. One out of two new stepfamilies break up within the first two years. In contrast, stepfamilies that are coached and supported have an excellent survival rate. The Stepfamily Association of New York reports an 85% success rate with families that seek out coaching and counseling.

With this in mind, the Relationship Resource Center of Denver wants you to be aware of its ongoing commitment to stepfamilies. For many years we have helped parents and stepparents recognize and resolve the difficult status issues that are part and parcel of stepfamily formation and are not addressed even in the current literature on stepfamilies. (We plan to remedy this soon by publishing our work on status issues). We are breaking new ground in counseling stepfamilies and are excited to share our knowledge and experience with you.

journeyIt is important to realize that most stepfamilies starting out have little or no idea of what they are getting into, and they can really benefit from counseling and coaching. Many people who are stuck in pain because they have been floundering and become lost in this difficult territory, possibly for years, can also use wise and compassionate stepfamily counseling. We encourage you to let us be your experienced and caring guides on your stepfamily journey.

It can be very helpful to remember, you are not crazy, even if living in a stepfamily makes you feel like you are at times!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Positive Effect of Mistakes

Sometimes my goal or simple wish as a counselor is not to make too many mistakes. It is easy to make subtle mistakes of saying too much or too little – usually too much. Mostly listen, stay with the flow, hold a safe container for the individual or the couple in the room, love them and myself as much as possible.

aspects of counselingI hate making mistakes and usually it is the main way that I really learn. So while making mistakes is good for my learning, I don’t want to make too many of them, especially when they effect others. Speak up, tell the truth with love as best as I am able, have the courage to say what needs to be said. Over thirty years of practice is helpful, and I still make mistakes of talking or leading too much instead of following the flow of energy in the room and following content down the rabbit hole.

Mostly I feel like I have been useful to the people I have just been with. Sometimes I don’t. Do no harm, I follow religiously. At the end of the day, I am deeply grateful for my work and for the people I work with. I am truly blessed. I prefer to own my mistakes rather than shove them under a rug. Besides, no rug would be big enough anyway.

What mistake that has occurred for you turned out to be the best lesson you learned?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Resentful Men: Power Dynamics in a Relationship

If, as I discussed in an earlier article, men are trained to be entitled (one-up) and women are generally trained to be (one-down) in this culture, why are men so often resentful in their intimate relationships?

This question addresses an insidious dimension of the state of intimate relationships in this culture.

Men, most often in the one-up position in this culture, are trained not to SEE the power dynamics in an intimate relationship, and women are trained not to SAY anything about the power dynamics in their relationships. When an individual’s entitlements (usually the man’s) are finally challenged, they often become angry and then RESENTFUL. “You’re crazy!” or “How dare you criticize me!” is often the initial reaction to an entitlement challenge. Part of the upset may be that the woman went along with her partner’s entitlements without challenging them for a long time. The unequal power arrangement was the “normal” state of things, even if the woman was resentful and unhappy. The traditional marriage contract was often we are one (and I am the one for the man) and yes, we are one (and you are the one, for the woman). This agreement is usually unconscious until the “we are one” myth is challenged and debunked!

coupleIf the woman begins to find her voice and starts complaining about her partner’s entitlements (sometimes louder and louder) and moves to blaming her partner, he is likely to become more and more resentful as well as entitled. Men often feel entitled to leave energetically and emotionally if they don’t like what’s going on, rather than talking about problems in relationships. Sadly, men are usually more unconsciously accepting of being lonely and disconnected in relationships than are most women. And then they wonder why a woman chooses to divorce them rather than stay in a situation where she is more lonely in the relationship than out of it.

So, in summary, many men get angry and resentful at the point where a woman begins to confront their unconscious entitlements. He may truly believe she has no right to do that or she has no right to do so in the WAY she is doing it, which is by yelling, complaining or blaming him. He has a point. Her complaining is not an effective way to bring about the change she wants in the relationship. Instead of complaining, she needs to find out if she has leverage with him meaning finding out whether he cares enough about her to make some changes in his behavior that she requests or, in some instances, demands.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Getting In Touch With Our Feelings: Men vs.Women

I have written about how men are often out of touch with their needs, wants and feelings, and how this underlies taking entitled positions as well as other problems they may experience in relationships. Initially in counseling, they may have a great deal of denial about the significance or even the existence of traumatic experiences in their life, especially when they were very young, even infants.

If a man is willing to consider even the possibility of unresolved childhood trauma but can not feel it, he may be willing to hear me when I share with him that I am feeling his pain in a conversation we are having. He may be willing for me to reflect his pain back to him, thereby validating the importance of his getting in touch with his packed away feelings as an opening into his heart.

man and woman embracingWomen often do this unconsciously for men that they love, but since they do it unconsciously, they may not insist that a man then feel his own pain, and instead take his unresolved stuff on as their responsibility to feel and to manage for him. A man may then stay unconscious and continue to act out his painful feelings and early trauma in ways that are destructive to himself and others.

The bottom line here is that we may compassionately feel another’s pain and unconscious feelings, but we can not do their work for them. Paraphrasing something Carl Jung once said: “Enlightenment is not just about basking in the light. It’s about making the dark conscious.”

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A Better Alternative to Addictive Attractions

In the waning years of the Roman Empire, the citizens of Rome were given free bread and entertainment in the form of bloody circuses involving wild animals eating people, and gladiators fighting each other to the death. In this way, the leaders of Rome in its decline managed to keep the population under control with free food and spectacles to minimize the possibility of dissension and revolt. I guess they figured that a populace satiated on circus entertainment and free bread would be less likely to make waves or protest the decline of the general welfare. A bit chillingly like today with much of TV being mindless crap, and obesity stemming largely from empty calorie fast food approaching epidemic status.

Why is it so hard to resist the siren song, the addictive attraction of mindless entertainment and plentiful, empty calories?

I think, in large part, the empty calories and entertainments fill the emptiness, the void of meaning, that many people feel in their lives.

barren image

We live in a time when meaning is a scarce resource; one that is not readily available in the culture at large.

At the Relationship Resource Center, we don’t offer free food and spectacles, but we do address the lack of meaning our clients may be experiencing. We see this work as one of the most important services we can offer, and one of the reasons that we believe psychotherapy and coaching really matters.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Holding the Gold: Claiming Your Inherent Value

Sometimes a person comes in for counseling and needs us to “hold their gold” for them.

doubt vs. beliefI am indebted to Robert Johnson, the famous Jungian analyst, for turning me on to this important realization. It is not uncommon, as counseling progresses, that a person may not be able to claim his/her own inherent value.

What this means is that initially they are not ready to see the treasure that they are, and they unconsciously project their “gold” or their wonderful qualities onto their therapist. They may be caught in the vise of self-hatred, and no amount of trying to convince them of their own worth can initially dissuade them from their negative self image.

 

The challenge for the therapist is to “hold this gold” until the rightful owner is ready to claim it.

It can be tempting to hold on to the disowned gold of the other. The therapist must be ready to make the transfer back to its owner as soon as he/she is ready. It is extremely helpful, indeed necessary, for the therapist to have a deep sense of their own inherent worth so they are not tempted to keep the other person’s gold as their own.

That, indeed, would be stealing.

Share your thoughts below.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Perspective on Adult Definition of Play: A Balance of Energy

Play is fine for children, but what about us adults?

I think our culture needs an adult definition of play.

The perspective on adult play that I like the best is the following:
PLAY IS ANY ACTIVITY WE ENGAGE IN THAT
GIVES US MORE ENERGY THAN IT TAKES!

Pretty simple and extremely important!

Unless we experience a balance of energy in our lives, coming in as well as going out, we are likely to feel pretty unhappy. I think most of us experience more energy going out than coming in on a regular basis, and the expectations that we put on ourselves and others tend to not help matters. It is well known that on average, adults in the U.S. work more hours and take less vacation time than most people in the developed world. The demands of daily life can be extremely draining, and addictive behaviors do not really address this energy imbalance that many people experience in their lives.

So I recommend that we look at simple, healthy behaviors that we are already doing in our daily lives that give us more energy than they take.

having fun

This is our play, and we might want to be really subversive of the dominant culture and decide to play even more!

Take some time out of your day to go and play!

Let us know your thoughts – share comments below.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Nurture First, Then Work is Essential

The Protestant Ethic is strong on work before play. Get your work and tasks done first, and then relax if there is any time left.

Much that is useful has come from following this maxim, and there are times when work must precede more pleasurable activities.

Unfortunately the ethic itself is based on the belief that people are inherently lazy, and unless they drive themselves or are driven by someone else, they will succumb to their lower nature or some such gobbledygook. Also, there frequently isn’t any time left when all the work is done.

While it is important to learn how to delay gratification, this works best if it is a conscious process on the part of the individual rather than a rule that is bound up with fear and survival energy.

nurturing environmentMy own experience is that when I am well nurtured in mind, body and spirit, I work at my best. Enough sleep, healthy food, exercise and a meditative or journaling practice seem to be important for my optimal functioning at whatever work I need or choose to do.

If work before play is sometimes necessary, self-nurturing before work is often essential if we are wanting to move beyond a strongly entrenched survival ethic that frequently took a dim view of human nature.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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