A talk by Rachel Sweetman
ACCEPT, Newpark School, Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock, Co.Dublin. 25th November 1991. Rachel Sweetman is a counsellor working in private practice and a tutor at ACCEPT
As one of an occasional series of talks to a company the courses in Counselling at ACCEPT (Association for Community Counselling Education and Psychological Training), Rachel Sweetman was invited to give a talk on the new paradigms and the im portance to the philosophy of her own counselling practice. She began by outlining briefly the paradigm shift of the New Physics, roughly based on the work of Fritjof Capra (The Turning Point) and the new theories about sub-atomic particles. She described how this post-Newtonian physics has led to a different view of the universe, one which is far more in tune with the holistic approach of humanistic therapy than the older, mech anistic paradigms of rationalism. She rejected the alienation from nature, and the mind/body split, which she associated with the older ideas in favour of a more spiritual view in which “our minds are part of the mind which is everywhere”.
Rachel Sweetman stressed that this holistic view entails a strong sense of responsi bility. She broke this word down into the two ideas of “response” and “ability”, making the “ability to respond”. Speaking from an identifiably Constructivist standpoint, she told us that “we construct our own reality”, and that even massive disasters and destruction in the world, such as famines, reflect our own fears and negative beliefs. She implied that in some way these two things were linked. The aim of counselling therefore would be to challenge and alter such beliefs and the mental “maps” which go with them. She constantly stressed the need for us to journey from fear (which headed the column of negative feelings) to love. However, she warned us that there was an impor tant distinction to be made between responsibility and blame. Since she was confining herself in this talk to philosophical themes, she did not explain how she believed such a distinction could be made in the counselling context.
A result of the split between mind and body was the loss of our ability to heal our selves. Western medicine, she said, confirmed the split, whereas “the mind is in every cell of our bodies.” “Sicknesses” never come in a random way – the body never lies, it is like a teacher telling you what is happening,” she went on. The rationalising approach of western medicine tends to deny this. She emphasised that all healing is spiritual and that the body is the most helpful guide in counselling for locating feelings. Again, she did not elaborate on whatever method she thought appropriate here. Her definition of the spiritual was “the recognition of being a small part in a big system”, and she likened ourselves in the universe to the role of a single cell in the whole body. The system is not only beyond us but also within us, and so she believes that “healing the world is not different from healing ourselves.” She stressed the need for connectedness and for transcendence in the “infinite journey” from fear and into love.
Report by Mary Montaut