For some reason or other, or maybe triggered by all the death around us because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I feel urged to think retrospectively on my life and my professional unfolding, studies, observations and experiences. Or, maybe it is a natural consequence of a changing time in my life and also that of the collective. Maybe you are experiencing the same?
I feel like I want to share what I have learned from the rich variety of life-career experiences I were privileged to have had. Here I am focusing on only some of the highlights in my career development more than the personal ones. The personal ones are left for another time.
I was born in 1954 in South Africa and grew up during the Apartheid era, which had a profound effect on me in terms of observing human behaviour and developing a concern for Social justice, equality and mental health, not only in individuals, but for families and especially for societies in the world. I have come to learn that I think collectively, which sprouted from what I observed in individual psychological development. The individual is the seed of humanity; the seed of the whole. The ails of the individual is the ail of humanity, and the other way around.
I became a Social Worker (studied and graduated at Stellenbosch University when I was 20) but soon found that I am far too sensitive for that kind of work and furthered my studies in Psychology at what is now called Johannesburg University. My work and training as a Social Worker prepared me from the very beginning of our Social Work degree, for intimate conversations and interviewing skills as well as report writing, which I needed in my psychological studies too. But I wanted to know more. The further studies in Psychology suited me perfectly.
I was one of four people selected for the Clinical Psychology course (in those days, we were selected by undergoing a vigorous selection and evaluation process, where only four candidates were focused on per 2-year course after a successful Honours degree). Our training was eclectic and well versed in cognitive behaviour therapy as well as Systems theory, Psycho-dynamic, and client centred among others. I always consider my training as the foundation of what I can build my career and expertise on from that point onward. Training and graduation are only the beginning of the journey and not the completion. Experience helps us unfold.
For instance, a variety of experiences has informed my current approach with is an integration of many tools, not one or some. I also know that my true training only truly started after qualifying and registering in my profession, because of the variety of experience and continuous self-evaluation and questioning of my observations in practical life.
- First lesson I learned was to distinguish between pathology and symptoms of a pathological nature on a scale of normalcy.
My experience during my internship in a Mental Institution (Sterkfontein Hospital) was so enlightening, because I experienced the reality of serious mental pathology, which made it possible until today to distinguish serious mental diagnosis with symptoms of that pathology on a scale of normalcy. I feel that in many cases in today’s world, we tend to over diagnose. Clients sometimes stay ‘Ill’ because of pathologizing their conditions, while they have the capabilities to change and heal.
- Second lesson I learned: The emotional and intellectual development of children is dependent on good parental skills and principles, but also on physical movement and stimulation.
Soon after starting to work in a General Hospital, with a psychiatric ward, I was transferred to a Child Psychiatric Unit in Tygerberg Training Hospital located in Bellville in the Cape Province. I lectured, participated in hospital research, evaluated children and treated children and parents with emotional problems. My primary job there was to test and evaluate children for emotional and learning disabilities and to do therapy and supervise interns in Clinical Psychology.
The children with learning difficulties underwent intensive sessions in occupational therapy. After 6 or 8 months or so of occupational therapy, I would re-test them again and there would be significant improvements in their intellectual function and scores. I learned the importance of body movement for brain development and maturation in children. Children needed to swing, role, climb, throw ball, catch, kick and, dance and turn. On the other hand, I also realized that most of the children with emotional problems needed their parents to treat them differently while the parents were in the dark about parental skills and principles. There was no program for this need. So, I suggested we get one.
- I realized that creative and courageous innovative action is needed to advance my own development as well as what I give or how I serve in my career.
The hospital did not want to change my job-description, so I was encouraged by my multi-professional team-members, who were pediatricians, psychiatrists, nurses, Occupational therapists and colleagues, to research and create a parent-training course myself, to help everyone know more about parent-child relationships and skills. These people were my first course attendees. This experience was very significant to me, because I started my first private practice this way. It was so successful that people came from all over the Cape province to participate in the parent training courses and personal psychotherapy sessions.
- Movement and change bring new realizations and new development. The system we work in is not always ready for development and does not always support the need in society; at the same time society is not always ready for change either because the system re-enforce constancy that may encourage a kind of ‘rigidity’ or slow change. I can only do what people are ready for.
The experience of running these parent-child training courses, made me think of all the other mental health factors that could be prevented through information-training-therapy groups. In short – prevention Psychology. A lot of what we do as therapists is repeated over and over on an individual level and could reach so many more people if we could spread our therapy recourse in some way.
My interest in Prevention motivated me to work for a Community Psychiatric Unit in Johannesburg after my baby was born. A very harsh reality hit me in the face there, because the work was only about killing fires and my ideal about prevention work was crushed. The vast and devastating circumstances in the communities, especially the black communities, were overwhelming and even dangerous to go work in. Violence, death, destruction, and cruel social circumstances did not allow for prevention, Society and families were broken and the whole human system was already too far down a destructive course. I was devastated to see the disrepair and dire need everywhere among every age, sex and colour. My interest in cross cultural conflict resolution started to grow deeper, but there was not opportunity or financial resource for this interest to flourish at that time.
- Justice is not always done. Reality is harsh and there is no ideal world.
Then I was asked to be an expert witness in Court for Child Sexual Abuse cases, which further devastated me about the fallibility of the justice system. The Abusers of young children would walk away from their terrible deeds, leaving countless emotionally and psychologically wounded children behind, because of skilful lawyers and supporters who would bail the perpetrators out. This would happen even with my psychological evidence and test results of the demoralizing consequences on these children’s mental health. The perpetrator’s lawyers would argue that the psychological ‘evidence’ I provided was inconclusive, because it does not prove beyond any doubt that the cause of the children’s mental conditions is the sexual abuse and not the home circumstances, they grew up in. Perpetrators usually selected their victims from vulnerable children in questionable circumstances. I became so burnt-out with all the negativity that I left the Government position and started a private practice again. This experience however, left a seed in me to explore the origins of collective pain that is perpetuated from generation to generation.
- If you are an innovator you have to work for yourself if the system you live in do not support you, but it is also a catch twenty-two, because working for yourself has its own survival challenges which can keep me working for what makes a living, and that again can keep me stuck or rigid if I don’t stay conscious of this fact. Keeping the balance between innovation and creative exploration is a constant dance. There is a fine balance between making a living and the principle of contributing to collective healing by being involved with my own healing and evolvement.
The Expert witness experience triggered a deeper curiosity and investigation into family relationships, systems, collective cultural wounds and especially couple-relationships. I wanted to truly understand what made relationships between couples, work and how it contributes or not to social collective health.
For a while I did custody recommendations and evaluations in court with parents in custody battles, but my main interest and focus was to unravel the deep issues that played a role in individuals which affect their partnerships and relationship to their children and all others in society. This concept drew me into the world of depth psychology and clinical hypnosis. I did 3 years of intense theoretical and practical training with world experts in 3 modalities of clinical hypnotherapy. I found the classical Medical-Analytical and Ego-State Hypnotherapy modalities fascinating, but it is the Ericson model that appeals to me most, because it is the most natural and it correlates with the natural Ultradian cycles in the body and brain as modern science discovered. (https://www.erickson-foundation.org/). One of the researchers I admire most is Dr. Ernest Rossi. He is one of my favourite and brilliant mentors, who taught me so much. A mathematician, Jungian therapist as well as a microbiologist and Ericsonian Hypnotherapist, he wrote many books about his research findings and practice experiences. At international conferences he impressed me with his deep understanding of the connection between conventional science and the breakthrough understandings that has not yet taken hold in the collective mind about the powerful healing abilities of our unconscious faculties.
Studying the workings of the Unconscious, which I initially learned to use in hypnosis, brought me closer to studies of Carl Gustav Jung, the importance of dreams and symbology. Today, I do no longer do conventional hypnosis, but use the principles in my therapeutic processes. I prefer this, because of the unrealistic and magical thinking associated in the minds of people. The word hypnosis brings about fear of being controlled or unrealistic expectations about their participation in their treatment process. They may believe that the power to heal them lies with the therapist who is using this powerful thing called hypnosis. I believe that people need to feel responsible for their own healing. They need to be empowered and know how to use their own faculties to continue to address all the life issues that comes their way, instead of relying on someone outside of themselves. It is fine to be a guide or mentor for a while, but independence is important. During my sessions with clients it is perfectly fine to use visualizations, metaphor and symbols, without calling it a specific thing. The life of our unconscious minds and how profoundly it affects us is totally underestimated in our society. This is also why Art and Archetypes are so misunderstood and misused too.
The language of the unconscious is metaphor, symbol and stories. Symbolism and story about negative experiences are utilized in the healing process to access the constructive essence in that negative circumstance. Symbol provides us a new lens to look through with a perspective that depending on how it is used, contains healing potential. Psychotherapy is an art that needs to be carefully practised with a deep knowledge, as well as experience in the terrain of the unconscious, and of archetypes that is part of the wiring of the unconscious. Archetypes is a living creative, full of potential and possibilities, map of kinds, that decodes the meaning of every experience on a multidimensional level. One can either become stuck in the destructive pat of the experience or uncover the constructive opportunity in that same experience because of a different perspective.
I realized that personal healing and social and collective healing is intimately connected and a developmental and evolutionary process that happens on multidimensional levels; the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual (not religious).
- Sometimes one has to be where you are called to be, and not necessarily where you want to be.
Social conditioning interferes with what your Soul is destined to experience when we buy into the ideas of wanting fame, riches and status which is admired by the conventional viewpoint as success.
Moving to Ottawa and re-registering with the College of Psychologists after 19 years in practice in SA, forced me to start a private practice again, because in Ottawa, most job positions require that one speaks French and I have no French language ability.
I do love the private practice because my foundational experience in South Africa allows me to serve people of all problems, colours, race and religion. Ottawa, and especially where I live, is known for its High-Tech employees who consists of a highly diverse immigrant population.
Very fascinatingly, engineers and immigrants really relate to my approach and even resonate with the Archetypal concepts, because it relates to mathematical principals. Archetypes also gives me a conceptual model based on universal collective principles present in all human beings and in all cultures, so that I can work with people of all cultures, colours or religions.
Canada brought the opportunity to write about my South African experiences in my self-published book: The Riddle in the Mirror, a Journey in search of healing, published in 2012.
During the last 23 years in Ottawa, I had the opportunity to expand my physical emotional and spiritual experiences by participating in a variety of arts and movement that informed me further and confirmed the necessity of knowing and experiencing life through awareness of the Archetypal lenses, that gives another dimension of perspective. My personal understanding of Archetypes is that they are fundamental principles that exists in all of life that expresses itself through us in our embodied experiences and also in a universal sense in how we develop and in all of non-personal life itself. Archetypes are like the principles of mathematics or the building blocks of the table of elements chemistry. They are the foundation of the science of life and the evolutionary potential of the human psyche. Unfortunately, the term and its concepts are confusing, because it is used loosely by modernists. It is important to ground all understandings from experiences with a wide and versatile knowledge base. For instance, understandings are theories that needs to be verified by research and experience, not only by personal experience, or only by information. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for the verification, while holding the theory in mind, until it comes to light as a reality that has a valid explanation. Do not make assumptions too early too or dismiss experiences because you cannot explain it. All experiences are valid in itself but might be new awareness’s that is ground-breaking and not yet understood. The words of Keiron Le Grice, rang true for me in my search for meaning beyond conventional wisdom: “Considering the major “forces” in psychology, each has its merits, and the diversity of psychologies in our time is surely testimony to the complexity of the psyche itself. No one theory can do justice to the totality of the psyche” (Archetypal Reflections, Insights and ideas form Jungian Psychology, © 2016, Muswell Hill Press, London.)
In Canada I danced Flamenco, Cycled the Pyrenees mountains in Spain, painted with an Italian Professor, and contemplated Archetypes by observing how they manifest in my and my client’s lives, one Archetype per year over more than a decade. My observations and contemplation required me to make copious amounts of notes comparing my observations with literature and studies on Archetypes. I discovered a completely new way of working with the Archetypes that simplify and combines their ‘lenses’ with that of psychology, music and art. Out of this study came a set of images that developed over the more than 10 years, and only came together with recognition when I saw the set after completion of a personal life phase. Then I had to write a little booklet to explain what I have found which was published in 2016.
Projection is needed for the rational mind to reflect upon to access unconscious material. This can happen by projecting marks or drawings (either concrete as in body-maps, or in abstract symbols), or by looking at life as a mirror reflecting back to us something that needs to be deciphered with the use of a different perspective.
Another form of projection is to identify with an external image or symbol, picture or story, (and even an experience) that represent the Archetypal essence, present in our unconscious, which gives a new ‘lens’ and a perspective from a different level of awareness with the potential for insight. This is the goal of my Mirrors to your Soul package; the booklet with its Archetypal images.
Creative expressions and rational understanding (insights) originate from the union of both conscious and unconscious contents, through projections. In turn these expressions are embodied which transforms the consciousness and actions of the person. Both the conscious and unconscious material is necessary to produce the healing function.
- Whatever happens on a day to day level is part of a process of archetypal unfoldment, gathering and putting together the Building blocks of your soul growth and healing. Every problem and challenge in life presents an opportunity to grow. Healing is a continuous process throughout life, that keeps on building deeper levels of insight and progress.
For instance; the Covit-19 pandemic has left most people perplexed, fearful or rebellious about its exitance, handling, and treatment. When I look at what is happening and observe how we are needing to work together to stop the virus from spreading I see the symbolism in this particular need as: cooperation between humans are essential to stop spreading harm. There are other messages too with deeper consequences and meaning, like: when you take care of yourself to be safe, you also protect others. How do each of us need to use this principle in practice in our actual life. It is as if the practical implications of everyday occurrences have deeper metaphorical meanings that we are forced to consider during crisis, because our self-absorbed behaviour has become destructive. Life itself is forcing us to behave differently so we can realize the seriousness of what we are actually doing to ourselves and others as well as our Earth.
My favourite quote is from Carl Gustav Jung, who wrote: “Our personal psychology is just a thin skin, a ripple in the ocean of collective psychology; the archetypes are the great decisive forces, they, and not our personal reasoning and practical intellect, bring about the real events. The archetypal images decide the fate of man.” (Carl Gustav Jung. Adler, Gerhard. Hull, R.F.C. ‘Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious’; Collective works of C. G. Jung, Part 1, Volume 9, 2nd edition, August 1, 1981, Princeton University Press.)
- The creative side of us is intimately part of our psyche. We are born creative beings. We are not only about preservation and routine, information memorizing machines, or verbal beings, but we are also intuitive imaginative, innovative and evolutionary beings of mind body and soul.
The concept of creativity is not about ‘art’ in only a conventional way, but about finding solutions to solving problems, and about creating new pathways in our brain in how we relate, function, heal and act. Conventional Art is a metaphorical experience for our human ability to partake in creating a dynamic that heals and unfold life. Fortunately, more and more people are re-discovering this function that we have lost sight of in our overfocused attention on ‘rational-only’ abilities, which excluded intuitive and unconscious faculties over decades.
Over the last decade however, leading edge neuroscience has revealed that we actually have three, and not one, distinct neurological networks or brains. These are our heads, our hearts, and our gut. (Dr. Dan Siegel is one such a person.)
Our head (cephalic) brain has an estimated 100 billion neurons, our Heart (cardiac) brain has an estimated 40 thousand neurons, and our Gut (enteric) brain has an estimated 500 million neurons. Each of these are designed to help us be adaptive to the complex physical, social, and psychological environments we find ourselves in. In fact, all three of these ‘brains’ circulate neurotransmitters, process information, and store memory! This has profound implications for how we understand consciousness and our path of healing and psychological evolution. Working with all three of these neurological brains in a coordinated way helps us heal and live productive and constructive lives.
Dr. Siegel writes: ‘One of the paths of discovery has been to move beyond the knowledge of science (alone) to the wisdom of the arts–empowering us to see beyond what is to imagine the possibilities of what might be.” Dan Siegel further says that we should not limit ourselves to the world of words when we want to liberate ourselves. Self-expression goes beyond, beneath, above and before, the ‘worded world’. I also resonate with and has personally experienced his view on interconnectedness. He explains: ” Who you are is both an internal (Me) and an interconnected (We) self that shapes your identity and sense of belonging? But how can you be both within the body and between the body and in relationship to people and the planet?” This is the question we need to contemplate in the time we are experiencing during this pandemic. https://www.nyimc.org/
It is interesting that art in all its forms, tunes us within, so we can access profound resources in our inner worlds we may bypass with our unquestioning and socially conditioned mind. The imaginary and intuitive faculties in us, are capable of recognizing and utilizing novel, creative possibilities to act on, that can free us out of any baffling or problematic situations.
It is said that the true path of development is to first imitate and follow the ‘master’ teachings or teacher. Then we move on to fluently master the learning ourselves. It is through practice and experience that we become fluent in mastering skills in completely new and creative ways.
Healing is a form of resilience that takes us through these steps of mastering ourselves through not only information and skills but experience the takes us further than were we began. Healing and then resilience are all about self-development, and self-development is all about Creative Thinking.
- Accept where you are and grow organically without force always observing life from different viewpoints, so it results into constant internal renewal. Build your growth through the creative process, one block at a time to always find the Inspired New in every stage of your life.
Love and Blessings,