Workshop Review – Process Oriented Psychology – Magic Theatre of the Mind

by Wanda Scarff

Magic Theatre of the Mind: Transitions

Facilitators: Kate Jobe M.A.   Joe Goodbread PhD.

The workshop was mostly experiential, with theoretical ideas interspersed throughout.  As well as exercises some participants worked with the facilitators in the centre of the group.  Some really amazing work was done on some very deep and challenging life transitions, such as anxiety connected with career changes; serious, life-changing illness; life-changing, transitional dreams; and death and grieving.  Obviously the content of the work remains confidential, but I was fascinated and touched by the manner in which seemingly intractable life transitions evolved into something rich and meaningful for the people involved. I really liked the experiential focus of the workshop, as well as the idea of an underlying dreaming level of experience, that holds a deep meaning and sense of calling for us all.

The workshop began with a discussion of the mysterious way in which transitions take place.  The facilitators described how many people feel of pushed in a new and unexpected direction by life transitions, and of the pain and confusion that this may evoke.  They introduced the idea of approaching our dreams, body experiences (such as symptoms), relationships and experiences in the world as inner oracles, which may be trying to show us a direction other than that which we would typically choose for ourselves.

Central to the practice of Process Work is the belief that in the disturbing and mysterious aspects of life lie the key to the meaning of any experience.  The physical symptoms or “big” dreams that emerge at the point of transition may guide us in discovering the meaning of the direction in which we are being called.

Experiential exercises brought us into contact with the more mysterious, less known aspects of our transitional experiences.  In the Processwork paradigm, experience is followed through the channels of perception in which it occurs.  For example, someone may become aware that they are seeing a figure (visual channel) who then proceeds to talk to her/him (auditory channel).  We were encouraged to believe in the experience that was happening in the moment, and to pursue it in whatever channel it expressed itself.  In Processwork terms this is called amplification, as it allows the emerging experience to become stronger and express itself more fully.

We also worked on how to support our experience in the face of doubts or criticism from our internalised mainstream voices.  Processwork identifies viewpoints that are commonly agreed upon by the mainstream culture as consenus reality.  In Western culture, for example, experiences such as getting older, having a disability or losing one’s job are not generally valued from the viewpoint of consensus reality.  Each of the exercises in the workshop drew attention to the powerful effects that these mainstream attitudes (or ‘ghosts’) can wreak on the more subjective, mysterious aspects of our experience, (called non-consenus reality in Processwork terms).  I found this a very helpful way to look at transitions, as it helps to deal with the backlash one can experience if a less conventional life path seems to be indicated.  The facilitators called this the Path of Heart as opposed to the Path of Ghosts, which is limited by cultural constraints.

I feel that Processwork offers a refreshing perspective to the suffering often involved in transitions.  I also feel that the atmosphere of warmth and equality created by the facilitators fitted well with the approach to experience they were recommending.

Wanda Scarff is a guidance counsellor and is currently studying for a diploma in Process Oriented Psychology.