During my years practicing psychotherapy, which is arguably an activity, rather than a job title, I have held the secret longing that people, through deepening in their conscious awareness, develop listening skills and empathetic skills which would enable and empower them to heal themselves and others. This thought is a kind of heresy (since the time of Freud and Jung the status of psychotherapy has aspired to elevate itself to religious status), implying disregard for therapy training, regulation, registration, licensing and general professional paraphernalia, which as someone (I forget who it was) once said would make Jesus an illegal counselor.
But while I have personally endured the rigors of personal therapy over many years, training – both theoretical and experiential, therapist’s supervision et al, all of which gives me tremendous respect for the ‘profession’ of psychotherapy, I inwardly feel and maintain that therapy is a natural response to human issues – and a response which has become complex and to some degree extreme – a possibly over-intricate response to what is arguably the maddest world the human species has ever inhabited.
In the pursuit of happiness, we inevitably get further away from it. This is, of course, because we are going in the wrong direction. Happiness is inner – not outer. Or to put it a little more clearly: unless you have mined the internal seam of happiness in the inner realms, you cannot expect any person or event in the outer world to bring happiness to you. It is the same argument as the one that says that unless there is some part of God within you, you cannot conceive, perceive or experience God (actually you don’t experience God, because the spiritual realms operate according to entirely different laws, which transcend the relative world, but here we have entered deep waters indeed) and this too would have been, of course, heresy once upon a time not too long ago, before the holistic era we presently live in.
It is this business of the inner world (or inner enquiry or inner journey) that tends to put outwardly orientated people (i.e. most of us) off. After all, you have nothing to show outwardly for inner exploration – no photos, no certificates, no medals – only the subjective benefits that may accrue and influence your life positively. We live in an age of overwhelming materialism, which places great emphasis on the individual, as never before in human history. What we possess – how many qualifications, attainments, belongings – defines us in a world primarily attuned to manifested individual wealth.
Before you dismiss this argument, notice that the predominant communication between individuals is professional activity, material struggle and accomplishment, what they have been doing, where they live, how many children or grandchildren they have. Rarely will they talk about inner states of emotionality, spirituality, energy, psychic experience or interpersonal intimacy skills; at least this is by no means as commonplace.
Yet this area of inner experience is precisely where life becomes meaningful and therefore worth living. Only when we can be with ourselves and inhabit the inner realms fully can we get close to realizing our true potential, evolving as human beings and living a reciprocal relationship to the outer world which is nourishing and enriching, vibrant and authentic.
To be with ourselves we must truly learn the skills which enable and empower us to be with another. This is the topic I will discuss in the second part of this article.