HOW CAN WE VIEW THE THERAPEUTIC PROCESS?
I’m very intrigued by the view of “psychotherapy as care” as described by James Olthuis (1999) and the “hero’s journey” metaphor of Faiver et al. (2001). Distinctly Jungian and meditative and contemplative in their thrust, I’ve come to appreciate more the mystical and metaphysical aspects of these approaches. Faiver et al. speak of cultivating the sacred, breaching something of the mysterium tremendum; “Mystery is an integral part of all things sacred. Clients will resist our efforts and their own growth. They will often cling to the painful familiar, while fearing the ambiguous unfamiliar. In sacred realms we are at the boundary of the ineffable and the mysterious. We must have respect for the uncharted mysteries of our clients.”
Especially as I read Olthuis (1999, 147, 151), I begin to understand more fully some of what some referto as liminality and “dancing in these wild spaces” with the Divine other:
“Therapy is more caring-with than caring-for. The challenge [is to] enable contact with others, soul to soul, spirit to spirit – in all its agony and ecstasy, fear and shame, anger and hope. It is in this process that psychotherapy as care truly comes into its own as spiritual. For to practise psychotherapy as a dance in the wild spaces asks for a giving up of our will to control. It asks that we leave our comfort zones… It means suffering-with: entering with people into the dark night of the soul, letting pain be pain, looking evil in the face. Only then are we facing our true reality and our full spirituality. We come face to face with our repressed pain, to be in our hurt, let it flow, seep, emanate, discharge – making contact with our inner vulnerability and letting that vulnerability show. Paradoxically, it is the very contact-in-vulnerability which makes for healing as it releases new energy and fresh hope.”
On a hero’s journey through a non-directive counselling relationship, and believing that true wholeness is impossible without Christ, my goal would likely be to help the believer to live “in maximum awareness to a commitment to the truth or help the unbeliever to find peace in the journey within, enhancing the client’s ability to say ‘yes’ to life as it is.” My goals are not decisive conclusions or valid interpretations, but rather “transformed connections, changed lives, the surge of mercy, a drawing nearer to each other, and to God.” (Faiver et al., 2001, 29)
My role as counsellor, therefore, can only be one of a humble companion who has travelled the well-worn “pathway towards wholeness, to an ultimate Christ-likeness, although still embracing the “inner journey” and incorporating a process of individual spiritual formation.” (Hurding, 1995, 302)
Is it possible to overemphasize the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in the therapeutic process — as Faiver et al. (2001, 122) remind us? “In some form or another, forgiving and releasing are the most widely noted spiritual intervention in the current literature.” Forgiveness is integral to letting go. We are bound to the people we cannot forgive. “Holding even a small grudge takes up space in the soul and captures the energy needed for moving on. To bless the people who are our oppressors is the only way to heal the wounds they have inflicted and to break the chains that bind us to them,” writes Elizabeth O’Connor (1987, 27). Forgiving must include forgiving ourselves as well. It is a wilful process, engaged in from the perspectives of both giving and receiving. It is also a process often requiring a great deal of time. Richard & Bergen (1997) make this excellent point that clients must come to forgiveness in their own time. But it may be in God’s time, as only through a relationship with Christ, can people become “new creations” (Eph. 4:24), finding forgiveness, hope and growth in grace and truth (Col. 1:6).