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Paths of Awareness

Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners Training and Development Conference 1992. 10th -12th April.

Report by Susan Lindsay

If sun and tranquil countryside were what you were after the Training and Development Conference of the Association of Humanistic Psychology practitioners (AHPP) would have been a resounding success. Gaunt’s House is a lovely venue, amply able to accommodate the ninety participants – only eight of whom were actually AHPP members.

Under the title “Paths of Awareness” the Conference intended to explore ’various aspects of the relationship between Psychotherapy and the Development of the Human Spirit’.

Alix Pirani gave the critical keynote address on Friday night. “She believes we have a personal and collective need to return to our roots to understand the patriarchal perversions of that spirituality and heal the devastations it has caused”. For her that means looking at Judaism, mysticism and aspects of the Goddess. Her talk centred around the Kabbala – and the ancient tree of life. She made the point that she would have liked to see someone doing the same sort of thing with their Christian roots. Very sadly, her rich, deep and difficult, at times, paper went somewhat over the heads of her listeners – if my experience and that of the members of my ‘home’ group are anything to go by. Bad planning and facilitation seems to have been a major reason for this - disappointing for the AHPP!  By the time we got to hear her we had little attention left. However I also think that she was speaking from an experience of myth and image that many of the audience would not have experienced on their journey so far and so to some extent she was talking a different language. An inherent problem in addressing this conference topic.

There were a variety of workshops to choose from on Saturday morning and afternoon and on Sunday morning. I found the experience of exploring archetypes in a gestalt process interesting. We were asked to look at a relationship in which we had experienced disappointment. Then to visualise the ‘ideal’ (archetype) representative of that relationship. Talking to the ideal mother/lover/father was powerful. There was a lot of potential healing in the exchange. Experiencing the love and acceptance of the archetypal mother, or lover, brought the tears of disappointment and the realisation that the idealised one could be present to you, always – in fact always was present, as part of yourself. The facilitation seemed a little pushy at times, there was encouragement to push past the anger of disappointment to aim for premature healing. Rather like trying to say “goodbye” to someone you grieve for before you’ve “finished your business” with them. Yet I had a sense it probably had more of the flavour of Perls than many present day workshops.

Gill Edwards gave a workshop on ‘Living Magically’. Not surprisingly with that title it was about “how we create our reality, how to listen to our Higher Self and how to shift painful patterns to joyful ones”. There was ‘Core Process’ work from Metanoia representatives and Alix Pirani gave what I imagine was a very powerful workshop on “Psychotherapy, Mysticism & Goddess Religion”. Still deeply touched by my morning experience of archetype I couldn’t find the energy to connect with the powerful mythical images she evoked for us to explore so I went and enjoyed the sun instead.

Spiritual Emergence and Emergency was a workshop after my own heart. I attended both of the workshops Stan and Christina Grof gave in Ireland and have been keen to hear about their findings from the many conferences they’ve hosted since to explore the relationship between psychosis and spiritual emergency. I didn’t actually learn anything new but Courtenay Young presented the issues clearly and illustrated his meaning with examples from his experience of assisting people ‘in crisis’ at Findhorn. Courtenay brings his social work and experience of the mental health services in Britain to this topic and I found it very ‘grounding’. I enjoyed the discussion especially – something I rather missed at some other times on the weekend. He recommended books which I was delighted to be able to lay my hands on at the visiting bookshop. Unfortunately, for my pocket, there was lots to choose from!

FINALE – Our friend, John Rowan, bringing it all together. Those of you who heard him at the Irish Association for Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy AGM will realise that Wilber provided the ideal map on which to hang his summing up – so Wilber we had. He suggests (in the Atman Project or as described by Rowan in The Reality Game) that there are stages we go through – if we keep going – on our adult journey through life. At the pre-ego stage and the post-Centaur (wholeness) stage, images and symbols are the language of the psyche. It is easy and often tempting to confuse the two stages in our development and important for therapists to be clear about their client’s positions. Are you facilitating regression or spiritual development?

Would I go again next year? Probably not, but then I heard that they might be inviting David Boadella…..well, Maybe!

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