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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

Desperate or Needy: OK for Many Men to be Needy?

Sadly, too many men define themselves as desperate rather than needy when the going gets tough.

man - desperate or needyIn this culture, it is not OK for many men to be needy. Too often they see themselves as desperate and sometimes justifying desperate behavior, often with terrible consequences for themselves and others. I was recently talking to a young man who laughed and said that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to see himself as having needs that weren’t being met. He was more comfortable seeing himself as desperate!

Here’s the deal:
I said to him, “It’s human to have needs and be needy at times in our lives. To have needs is part of what it means to be human, to be part of the human race. To define oneself as desperate in effect is to see oneself as apart from humanity, and to set up the justification of inhuman and entitled behavior towards oneself or others.”

He said he had never believed that it might be OK for him to be needy, but he was willing to think about it and to think about what he might be needing.

It might beat feeling desperate after all.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Dynamics of the Journey of Self Recovery

When men set out on the journey of self recovery and really begin to connect with their needs and wants and feelings, they are embarking on a journey into the long unexplored and long neglected realm of their hidden selves. The relatively few men in our culture who are courageous enough to take this journey can get deeply immersed in their needs and wants and feelings, so long ignored and possibly screaming for attention. The danger now, if they are in an intimate relationship with another, is to make what they need and want and feel preemptive; that is, more important than their relationship with the other. This is a challenging and often relationship-threatening place for a couple to find themselves.

The work of recovery takes on another dimension. I really begin to get that my needs and wants and feelings matter and are important and yet not more important than the needs and wants and feelings of the significant others in my life. Now I am faced with, maybe for the first time in my life, really being able to negotiate on an equal footing about needs and wants and feelings with another person rather than take entitled positions with them! This is because I am finally getting in touch with more of the whole of me than ever before and more able to be in touch with the whole of you.

But being able to do this is not enough. Now that I am more able, I must choose to do so; indeed to exercise and practice this new ability if it is to be more than just potential. In other words, now that I am truly growing up, I must also show up and know that I won’t do so perfectly. But you, my love, probably knew that anyway, and you may have been waiting a long time for me.

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

How Entitlements Are Destructive to the Entitlement Holders

I have long pondered the question of how entitlements may be destructive to the entitlement holders themselves. It is clear to others that your entitled positions are painful to them if they are wanting a relationship with you. There is also the piece about how for every hour of entitlement you take in a relationship, you get about an hour and a half of resentment from your partner. But there is something else that happens as well. When I take entitled positions, I am discounting my own needs, wants and feelings as well as those of others, and I may not even be aware that I am doing that or of the consequences.

consequences

I recently wrote about my retirement entitlement. Clearly as an entitled position, it was not respectful of the needs or wants of my wife or daughter. (Again, it’s not that I don’t have the right to retire, it’s the entitlement that’s not relational). What I gradually got in touch with was that in taking an entitled position, I was discounting my financial situation, my desire and want to keep doing work that I love that is of real service to others, and my feelings of deep connection and joy that I find in my work. In my entitled position, I was riding roughshod over myself as well as others that I care about.

Sadly, one of the first lessons most men learn in guy school is to put away their own needs, wants and feelings. In replacement for the richness that is taken from them, they pick up the barren mantle, the stone shirt of entitlements. In the Men’s Journey Work at RRC, we help men recover their birthright of owning their needs, wants and feelings and put down the entitled positions that are hurtful to others and themselves.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

How a Cooking Lesson Translates to a Life Lesson

Many years ago, I had been intensely involved in my own psychotherapy for a number of months and was frustrated by my attempts to make the process go faster.

Try as I might, the more I struggled with my demons, the less progress I seemed to make.

One night, this beautiful Native American woman befriended me in a dream and deeply and happily surprised me …

In my dream, she was preparing to cook a meal over an open fire. She had this funny looking round frying pan that had a very small cooking circle in the middle. Instead of using the larger part of the pan to cook in, she placed a little food in the inner circle to cook. When that was ready, she took it out of the pan and repeated the process again. I came over by the fire and laughed and asked her why she was cooking that way. She smiled up at me and held me in her gaze for what seemed like an eternity and said to me, “A little bit at a time, John, a little bit at a time. . .”

When I woke up, I realized she had given me the key to solving some of the thorniest of my life’s problems … a little bit at a time.

step by step

I will never forget her magical frying pan with the little circle inside the larger circle and the most important cooking lesson I have ever received.

Sometimes you need to take it a little bit at a time and realize that being gentle and kind to yourself is much more useful than beating yourself up to get yourself to change.

This approach usually works much better with others as well.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Catch Them Doing Good: Significance of Small Successes

Quite a few years ago, when I was a social worker at Fort Logan Mental Health Center, I was intrigued by a colleague’s work in another part of the hospital. He dealt with children who came to the Center with very challenging problems. He had amazing and wonderful success with many of them. One day, I asked him what he was doing different that seemed to work so well.

He said: “John, it’s simple. I catch them doing good.”

key to successYou see, instead of focusing on their problems, his focus was on what they did well, even if this was in the smallest increments. It’s not that he ignored their acting out behavior, he just wasn’t very excited by how they messed up. He was very interested in their small successes and acknowledging these.

I left Fort Logan not long after our conversation, but I had learned a great lesson from him.

I became much more interested in what people do that works rather than what they do that doesn’t work for themselves or others.

This approach doesn’t usually sell newspapers or make for exciting TV.

But then, I stopped watching most of what is on TV a long time ago.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Guy School: Enculturation of Raising Boys Into Men

I recently came across an article from The Meadows that stated “trauma is anything less than nurturing.”

man learning to recognize emotionsWow!

This led me to think about how “guy school,” the almost universal cultural training for the raising of boys into men, is in many ways traumatic. Boys learn, from early on, that they can be mad or they can be glad, but it is not OK to be sad or scared.

The latter feelings are not manly. So a man may think he is in touch with his feelings because he can get angry easily.

Not so fast!

Unless a man can also be in touch with his sad feelings and is able to admit when he is scared, he is still very much under the influence of his “guy school” training.

I was recently talking to a man who said he hates the idea of being in therapy, but he could deal a lot better with the idea of being in recovery. I said yeah, we are both “recovering guys,” learning to embrace all of our feelings: in particular, feelings of being sad and scared. And in the process leaving guy school, healing our trauma and becoming more human.

What are your thoughts about “guy school?”  Share your comments below.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Spiritual/Life Journey as Surfing

Just yesterday, a client came up with the metaphor of surfing for what it is like to be on the journey of life.  Though I’ve never surfed, it makes a lot of sense to me.  We really aren’t in control of what waves life sends our way.  We do have the choice of whether to fight them, sink, or do the best we can to ride them with as much grace as possible! To ride them, we must be aware and attuned both to the wave and to ourselves, and have the courage to jump into the flow.

AND, we will not always catch it just right.  We may frequently get unceremoniously dumped and even beat up a bit – or a lot.  Still, we can choose how we react to the experience.  We can wallow in self-blame or self-pity, we can sink under the water and refuse to play again. Or, we can swim to shore, find our bearings and say, “Well, THAT didn’t work!  What can I do different next time? “  We might need to nurse our bruises for a while, but hopefully, eventually we’ll find the courage and confidence to try to catch the next wave a little more gracefully.

Mary Simon, Psy.D.

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