Family Constellations: The Invisible Ties That Bind Us

Exploring how the behaviour of past generations influences who we are in the present is an important aspect of therapy. We may have heard that developing awareness of how we were bought up, and paying attention to the environment that shaped our lives will help us find freedom that isn’t conditioned by our upbringing. But, is this really the case, and, if so, how far back should we go?

As a therapist, I am often engaged in an exploration in to my clients’ family dynamics. The aim of this is not to place blame at the feet of a parent or sibling (although sometimes that is exactly what is needed), but to get an understanding of how the client relates to others and to the world in general: what unexamined rules and moral codes they have found themselves living by.

During therapy, I am always aware of ‘who else is in the room’. By this I mean that by listening carefully to how my client speaks, I will often hear ‘voices’ from their past. For example, a cruel mother that imparts criticism at every turn, or perhaps a rivalrous sibling that manipulated our parents’ attention away from us. By bringing awareness to these ‘voices’, we can begin to discern the interactions that still govern their lives and potentially keep them locked into patterns of behaviour. By looking closely at these dynamics, we are able to untangle what is family conditioning and what is their own volition.

But what if we take this one step further and start to think about our parents’ parents or even our great grandparents and beyond?

In family constellations, we take the whole family as a living system that influences all the members. By mapping out the family dynamics and learning to be archaeologically curious we begin to unearth some insights that keep the system in balance but set seemingly invisible rules, that end up governing our behaviour and thinking.

For example, there may have been a tragedy in a former generation that split the family and ended with someone being scapegoated, which in turn created a feeling of anger and shame, which in turn energetically entered the family system appearing, sometimes generations later as a sense of not belonging or of feeling constantly ostracised. Not until we turn to face these hidden stories from our past can we set ourselves free from the ‘rules’ of the family system.

In a family constellations workshop the attendee would be known as the ‘issue holder’ and will be responsible for placing the ‘representatives’ (other workshop participants) around the room. The idea is to create a visual representation of the family and by tuning into some of the nuances between the members of the system the issue holder can get a clearer understanding of their place and their (often unconscious) roles within the family. The facilitator will keep checking in with the representatives to get feedback on how it feels to be standing in the position they have been placed, which also serves to shed light on the family dynamics.

For instance, in one workshop the issue holder was trying to understand why she felt so intensely drawn towards the church. She identified that her great grandmother had been ostracised by the family for divorcing her husband when this was still heavily frowned upon. She placed the representative of her great grandmother at the edge of the room facing the wall and the facilitator asked for the representative’s feedback. She replied that she felt ‘invisible and full of sadness and loss’. The issue holder then asked the representative to turn around and be seen by the other members of the system and there was a big release of compassion and love for this forgotten relative. The issue holder realised that she had been holding the compassion and forgiveness for the whole family system and this was being expressed as a strong desire to go into the sisterhood.

The representatives almost always report that they get a very strong sense of how it must have felt for that family member, and are usually quite astonished by this.

Some of the one-to-one work with family systems is also incredibly fruitful. Simply by laying objects on a table that represent the different members can reveal to the client that they have been either been placed in a role, or decided to hide at the edge, simply because they felt that it was their place due to the unspoken ‘rules’. Some of the work in psychotherapy is to challenge those roles and self-limiting decisions – which clients often find incredibly liberating. However, it can be a slow and difficult process, a bit like taking two steps forward and one step back, because family systems thrive on everyone agreeing to play their roles, so when one of the members actively rejects their given role it will reverberate through the system and upset the status quo. But it can be done!

It will take perseverance, compassion and courage to step into a new reality, but ultimately, it’s worth the effort because truly stepping into one’s power and shedding outdated roles is cathartic. Become the detective of your own life and start piecing together your family tree. Being curious about family dynamics across the generations can truly unlock hidden tensions, which, when untangled, will create healthier and happier relationships in the present.

This article was written for


Archetypal Defenses & the Demons Within


‘Let your heart break & drop the story’

Pema Chodron


Last night I went along to a talk given by Donald Kalsched who is a Jungian psychoanalyst. The talk he gave was called ‘Transformation of Innocence the Psychotherapy of Early Trauma’. The term trauma is used here as anything that happens to us as children that we can’t process and therefore have to relegate to the unconscious realms.

I’ve been interested in Kalsched’s work for a little while now and how he uses his model the ‘Self care system’  when working with clients. This self care system is described by Kalsched as ‘the defence that protects the client’s trauma or wounding’ and come’s in the form of a demonic archetype that will protect the inner child from having to re-experience the pain. Kalsched talks about this demonic archetypal entity as the force that keeps us from our life-force and may present as depression and a disassociation with innocence. These powerful psychic defences have the one and only task of protecting us from the pain of ‘letting our hearts break and dropping the story’.

The Good and Evil Angels 1795-?c. 1805 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1939

Kalsched spoke at length about how he has worked with these archetypes and found different levels that must be held in mind as we make the journey as clients or as therapists. The ‘Devil’ or as Kalsched call’s him ‘Dis’ (a reference from the Dante’s Inferno) becomes the guardian of the divine child, but there is another child in his ward, the dark child who holds the wounding. The journey we are being asked to make to reach the divine child is first about reaching the the dark child and breaking the identification, this then unveils the illusion and allows us back to the original innocence and the healing can occur.

Dis will do anything in his power to stop the journey being made, and as clients we may not understand why we have come to therapy? All we know is something within us is being held, imprisoned or not expressed. Dis doesn’t want us to feel he wants us to Dis-associate so he will tell us that ‘this is all a waste of time’ or ‘what’s the point, this is all fake?’ As therapists we may get frightened by our client’s seemingly lack of improvement and try and offer false reassurance which just plays in to his hands. Kalsched states that we as therapists must travel through the discomfort of our own ‘dark children’ in order to allow the clients dark child to be acknowledged and then we can truly share the release of pain when we reach our imprisoned innocence.

 ‘In every adult lurks a child, an eternal child, something that is becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention and education. That is the part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole’

Carl Jung

Read more about Donald Kalsched here

Narcissism, looking in the mirror.

Counselling in London Bridge

Uncovering Narcissism

NarcissismNarcissism gets a bad rap these days. We need a certain amount of narcissism to survive and thrive in life and get our needs met but when that striving gets out of control it can potentially mean we start looking outside of ourselves for any evidence that we are loved, needed or even idealised.

So how does this happen? As you can imagine we have to look back to the way we were treated as infants and  workout what the experience may have been like that created the way we relate to others now. Some children may have been given everything they needed straight away, all their parent’s attention on tap, whenever it’s cried out for. Other children may have had nothing at all – completely ignored and left to cry. So which child would you think turns out to be narcissistically wounded?

These are obviously two extreme examples but the research shows that both scenarios can lead to narcissistic disorders. In the first example, the child that never has it’s needs denied may find it harder in adult life to deal with reality, always unconsciously believing the world owes him something, always feeling hard done by rather than being able to self soothe and take the knocks of life and move on. The child becomes an adult, but the child inside is still expecting to be treated like royalty.

The second example of the child who gets no attention can also lead to narcissistic wounding. Children who are ignored have to find a way to survive in the world and so they go about proving they are are worth something. Usually these kind of narcissists rise to the top of their professions and find ways to have power over others, believing (unconsciously) that if they can reach the top then perhaps they will be loved.

It can be helpful to think about narcissism as a place on a spectrum when looking at ourselves and how we relate to others. If we are ready to look at these aspects of ourselves it can lead to a deepening relationship with the the people around us and ultimately help us develop true self-esteem and integrity.

In psychosynthesis psychotherapy we work with aspects of the self we call ‘sub-personalities’ which are masks or defensive parts of the psyche that develop to help us survive as we grow up. The process of therapy can help us meet these internal selves and step into a conscious relationship with them thereby becoming the directors of our own lives. When we meet the narcissistic aspects within us we realise narcissism is not the enemy, narcissism is invitation to love ourselves authentically.


Pre-Trans Fallacy & Psychosynthesis

spectrum of consciousness

Pre-trans fallacyHow Important is Ken Wilber’s Concept of the Pre-Trans Fallacy to Psychosynthesis Understanding and Practice?

In this essay I will examine how important Ken Wilber’s concept of the pre-trans fallacy is in the understanding and practice of psychosynthesis. First of all I will give an overview of the pre-trans fallacy and discuss its importance in the transpersonal field overall. I will then turn to some of Wilber’s critics and discuss the main points of contention in relation to his theory. By examining the psychosynthesis models as put forward by both Assagioli and later by Firman & Gila, I will aim to clarify the following: is psychosynthesis practice and understanding enhanced by Wilber’s contribution? Is it unaffected? – If so, is this because the theory lacks merit or because psychosynthesis already accounts for this issue; or indeed could aspects of practice and theory within psychosynthesis be currently committing this fallacy?

Throughout the essay I will give examples from my clinical work regarding the degree to which the pre-trans fallacy concept has been useful in forming working hypotheses and strategies for my clients, as well as personal insights into the credence of the fallacy theory from my own therapeutic journey.

Ken Wilber’s contribution to transpersonal psychology has been extensive and always controversial, as any project attempting to map all of human experience and development is likely to be. Gaining understanding of his pre-trans fallacy theory requires a brief overview of Wilber’s line of enquiry, which has spanned many decades.

In 1977 he published his first book ‘The Spectrum of Consciousness’ bringing together Eastern mysticism andspectrum of consciousness Western psychotherapy, and mapping states of human understanding and consciousness into multiple levels. These levels comprised seventeen distinct stages, broadly split into three main categories- prepersonal, personal and transpersonal.

Initially Wilber subscribed to ‘the Romantic model’, in accordance with the most celebrated transpersonal practitioners of the time including Jung, Edinger and Neumann. The Romantic view is described here by Wilber (2000:138) himself:

In this general view, the infant at birth…is the noble savage, fully in touch with a perfectly holistic and unified Ground, “harmoniously one with the whole world”. But then through the activity of the analytic and divisive ego, this Ground is historically lost, actually repressed or alienated as a past historical event…This loss is nonetheless necessary according to the Romantic view, in order for the ego to develop its own powers of mature independence. And then, in the third great movement, the ego and the Ground are reunited in a regenerative homecoming and spiritual marriage.


However, Wilber (1982) later came to see this viewpoint as false, and wrote an essay called, ‘The Pre-Trans Fallacy’, dissecting the various mistakes that (he asserts) the Romantic model contains.  This piece of work created a split in the transpersonal field and now Wilber staked his claim, strongly criticising the ‘Dynamic Ground’ perspective of Jung, Washburn, Grof and Levin as committing the pre-trans fallacy (PTF).

‘Pre-trans’ is short for prepersonal/transpersonal, the broad terms for developmental stages as described above; and the ‘fallacy’ of the title refers to the potential pitfalls of confusing the two stages of development.

Since development moves from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal, and since both prepersonal and transpersonal are, in their own ways, nonpersonal, then prepersonal and transpersonal tend to appear quite similar, even identical, to the untutored eye.  (italics in original) (Wilber 1993:125).

According to Wilber, if one commits the fallacy (confuses the prepersonal with the transpersonal) the ensuing mistake could result in two radically different worldviews, which Wilber refers to as ‘elevationist PTF’ and ‘reductionist PTF’. Reductionist PTF refers to the reduction of spiritual and transpersonal experiences to the pre-personal. So for instance Freud, according to Wilber (ibid, 128), “…reduced all spiritual and transpersonal experiences to the prepersonal level”. This worldview is one in which human rationality is the height of development and the ultimate goal of therapy, and any transpersonal development or experience is devalued.

Jung, on the other hand, falls prey to the same fallacy (according to Wilber), but concludes almost the exact opposite: that all non-rational (non-personal, non-egoic) experience is equally valuable, thereby elevating prepersonal experience to transpersonal status. This worldview is inclined to see the egoic stage of development as the lowest point in a ‘fall’ from pure spirit, as with the Romantic view described above. Wilber also points out that ‘Reductionist PTF’ is reminiscent of the scientific outlook, and ‘Elevationist PTF’ of a religious outlook (ibid.127.)

When inquiring into the importance of the pre/trans fallacy in psychosynthesis, it is essential to define the model of psychosynthesis one is working from, since practice and theory have evolved since Assagioli first developed the discipline in 1911, in particular with the contribution of Firman and Gila in 1997. In Assagioli’s original theory he posits a “stabilization of the centre of personal consciousness… at gradually higher levels ” (2007:37) in contrast to Firman and Gila’s reasoning which takes the line that we suffer a ‘primal wound’ in the pre-personal stage, the result of not being seen empathically. According to them this wound creates the split between the lower and higher unconscious through repression of both the positive and negative lessons learned through the original primal wounding. “In our view, the higher and lower unconscious are not developmental levels but dissociated sectors of the psyche that need to be integrated” (Firman and Gila 2002:196:n9)

It has been argued by Michael Daniels (2005) that Assagioli’s development of psychosynthesis was a response Assagiolito what he felt was Jung’s incomplete model; that Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ was not differentiated enough and more subtle distinctions were required between different levels of consciousness, resulting in Assagioli’s assertion of the existence of a lower and higher unconscious. It seems to me that Assagioli himself was attempting to rectify the Elevationist PTF he perceived in Jung’s model. Writing in 1933, Assagioli appears to be discussing what Wilber would call prepersonal and transpersonal material:

In some cases the cure is made more complex by the fact that the patient presents a mixture of progressive and regressive symptoms…such people may reach high spiritual levels with one part of their personality, but in other areas they are enslaved by childish attachments or under the control of unconscious ‘complexes’. We might even say that, on careful analysis, the majority of those travelling along the spiritual path show traces of such limitations, to a greater or lesser extent… ( Assagioli, 2007:125)

firman & GilaFirman and Gila explain the main function of the psychosynthesis therapist as re-modelling the role of the empathic unifying centre (EUC), enabling the client to develop their own internal unifying centre and therefore:

the development of an on-going conscious and intentional relationship to the Self… Overall, the emerging I-Self relationship reinstates the unfoldment of authentic personality, that unique potential of body soul that was broken long ago. (Firman & Gila, 1997:215)

The above quotation certainly seems to imply that Firman and Gila’s revisions adhere to the central tenets of the Romantic model, a perception that ‘the body soul’ is ‘broken long ago’ and that the ‘authentic personality’ must be ‘reinstated’. This leads me to ask myself, has Assagioli’s model, itself a rectifying of Jung’s pre/trans fallacy, been modified by Firman and Gila to once again contain a fundamental pre/trans fallacy?

Here is where I must question the validity of the pre/trans fallacy theory at all, and review the critics of Wilber’s model who claim as Brant Cortright (1997:80) does, “there are different ways to conceptualise development, just as there are different spiritual systems which stress different dimensions of the divine”. Michael Washburn has become one of Wilber’s most assiduous critics, in particular arguing with Wilber’s assumption “that everything that is earlier in normal development is therefore lower” (Washburn 2003:7). Jorge Ferrer (2002) questions the very foundations of Wilber’s assertions, unpicking his adherence to the ‘Perennial Philosophy’ (which claims that at core all spiritual traditions are pointing at the same thing), and ‘structuralism’ in psychology (which asserts the existence of deep structures of development). Crucially, Grof & Grof (1986) go on to assert that “Wilber is not a clinician but instead comes to psychology as a theoretician” and that his assertions about the three broad stages of development “have not found support in the clinical literature” (ibid, 1986). This chimes with my own research – whilst I have had little difficulty finding theoretical reference to the pre/trans fallacy, there appears to be a dearth of clinical evidence about its usefulness in practice.

In terms of my own clinical experience and the pre/trans fallacy, one of my current clients has stood out for me, since her presenting issue is a profound Kundalini awakening that she seeks to integrate so that she might function in the world more effectively. With my sensitivity to the potential pre/trans fallacy heightened, I find myself asking: is she in actuality experiencing prepersonal urges; has her primal wound been reactivated in some way? Or has she indeed glimpsed a higher potential stage of her own development, and is she struggling to stabilise her insights in a world that devalues spiritual experience? Or indeed could both somehow be true?

The dangers of misinterpreting her experience becomes sorely apparent in the following quotation from Sorenson (2009) in his chapter entitled ‘The Danger of Pointing the Wrong Way to the ‘Heights’’:

There is…a grave risk that the “recaptured-goodness” model strengthens an attachment to victimisation. When our childhood is connected with the loss of not only our personal happiness but also the entire spiritual ground, there is a lot more “to blame” evil society and our family for.  (Ch.)

However, on the other hand, elevating her experience to genuine transpersonal development could lead to what Jorge Ferrer (2002:15) calls one of the key dangers of spiritual work’; spiritual narcissism, where spiritual experience is used to strengthen the ego, when the opposite is required.

Another client (M) had been brought up in a family of devout Jehovah’s Witnesses. A major event for him had been a four-month trip to Peru to experience taking Ayahuasca (a psychotropic plant derivative) under the guidance of a shaman. He described the experience as a positive one until he returned home and started to suffer from panic attacks. He sought out therapy as he realised that he needed to integrate his experience. His story included his desire to ‘be the truth knower’ amongst his peers, a sort of wise leader. Very soon we made the connection to his childhood experience of growing up in a family that emphasised the importance of ‘knowing the truth’. Again, the potential to either elevate or reduce M’s experience is obvious – was his Ayahuasca experiment regressive or progressive? Was the message of being a ‘truth knower’ a prepersonal message, or a transpersonal one? The panic attacks could indicate the stress of integrating either perspective. With M, I was particularly struck by the moral pitfall of naming either his Jehovah Witness background or his Ayahuasca experience progressive or regressive.

On the other hand, client J presented with a low sense of ‘I’. She had no wants and had learned to keep herself small to avoid beatings as a child. Now at the age of 57 she had moved back into her family home to care for her ageing parents and sought therapy to explore abandoned talents from her childhood. By helping her understand that she had internalised negative messages in early childhood, she gained access to a source of energy, which allowed her to finally begin to explore artistic expression. This corresponds well with Firman & Gila’s idea that painful experience splits into higher and lower repression. The pre/trans fallacy in this case, is less clear cut than Wilber might have us believe: although we must distinguish between the higher and lower unconscious and what they respectively contain, work in either direction seems equally fruitful.

In terms of my clinical practice, what I am coming to conclude is that, in exactly the way both Assagioli and Firman & Gila recommend, time taken to build the strongest (best ‘synthesised’) personal self or ego, will then allow for exploration of both prepersonal and transpersonal material from the most grounded possible platform. Washburn asserts, regression is needed “in the service of transcendence” (1995:126). Wilber on the other hand states the ego has a choice between “those items that favour its continuing growth and evolution of consciousness, or…those items that foster regression in an attempt to blot out consciousness” (2000:143). Whichever path proves more useful, my greater understanding of the pre/trans fallacy will no doubt play a significant part in tempering the tendency to either elevate or reduce the experience of clients.

Viewing my own experience in personal therapy through the lens of the pre/trans fallacy has been illuminating. I have been sober from drugs and alcohol for over 11 years, and having been an addict I know that my desire to imbibe was due to what Wilber would call ‘the Atman project… an amalgam of the desires to attain unity (Atman) but the intense fear of it as well, which forces the self to seek substitute gratifications and substitute objects’. (2000:139). So clearly the use of drugs and alcohol was regressive, but the motivation (in part) was transpersonal. In my active addiction I was without doubt committing the pre/trans fallacy, elevating my experiences on drugs to those of genuine spiritual experiences. After becoming abstinent came the work of building a strong sense of ego and identity (through therapy), but also cultivating a connection with a “higher power” (through 12-step work), resulting in what Assagioli calls ‘synthesis’ not only on the personal level but also on the spiritual level, a combining of personal insight and knowledge with an ability (at times) to look beyond personality and be in touch with a greater sense of knowing, working with that transpersonal energy and awareness, and integrating it into the personality. Although work has been required to understand the prepersonal forces that led to such self-destructive behaviour, the fundamental process has been very much akin to Wilber’s asserted movement upwards through the stages of development.

Attempting to get to grips with Wilber’s pre-trans fallacy concept has been a fascinating, and, at times, frustrating process. What has become starkly clear to me is that if indeed there are two completely distinct realms of the prepersonal and transpersonal, they really are difficult to distinguish. Time and again, I have concluded that an experience of either mine or my client’s is, for example, transpersonal; only to later review it again from a different theorist’s viewpoint and completely reverse my conclusion. Assagioli’s quotation (2007:125) about the complexity of finding a cure when there is “a mixture of progressive and regressive symptoms” seems to me to be right; this area is intensely complex.

Ultimately, the importance of Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy theory in psychosynthesis comes down to whether one considers there to be three distinct stages of development rather than (for example) the duality between the ego and the unconscious (or ego and collective unconscious). Psychosynthesis as a model is indeed at pains to move away from this duality, and therefore, clearly it is of utmost importance to differentiate between the stages if one is adhering to this model.

Finally, within psychosynthesis, I would conclude there is a greater danger of falling into the pre/trans fallacy if one is more inclined towards Firman & Gila’s ‘Primal Wound’ theory, than if one is utilising Assagioli’s original model, as his work takes more account of the progressive and regressive potentials. This is not to say, however, that Firman & Gila’s model is therefore faulty, and in fact I have found considerable merit in exploring a client’s presenting issues from both the lower and higher unconscious.

However, Wilber’s writing on his theory, and especially clinical examples of the theory in practice are very limited, so whilst the importance of not falling into the pre-trans trap becomes clear, how one actually goes about making these vital distinctions feels somewhat vague and confusing.

Despite these difficulties, the very act of engaging intently with the question of whether a client’s symptoms are progressive or regressive seems to me to be crucial. Had Wilber not presented his pre/trans fallacy; this question may not have nearly such a bearing on the transpersonal clinician’s practice.



Assagioli, R. (2007) Transpersonal Development. Scotland: Smiling Wisdom.

Cortright, B. (1997) Psychology and Spirit. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Daniels, M. (2005) Shadow, Self, Spirit: Essays in transpersonal psychology. Exeter: Imprint Academic.

Ferrer, J. (2002) Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Firman, J & Gila, A. (1997) The Primal Wound. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Firman, J & Gila, A (2002) Psychosynthesis: A Psychology of The Spirit. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Grof, C; Grof, S (1986) ‘Spiritual emergency: The understanding and treatment of transpersonal crises’ .ReVISION, Vol 8(2), 7-20.


Sorrenson, K (2009) Integral Psychosynthesis, a comparison of Wilber & Assagioli. [Accessed 27th April 2015]


Washburn, M. (1995) The Ego and the Dynamic Ground: A Transpersonal Theory of Human Development. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Washburn, M. (2003) ‘Transpersonal Dialogue: A new Direction’. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 35, No.1.


Wilber, K. (1993) ‘The Pre/Trans Fallacy’.  In: Walsh, R & Vaughan, F. (eds.) Paths Beyond

Ego. New York: JP Tarcher/Putnam. Pp. 124- 129

Wilber, K (1982) The Pre/Trans Fallacy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.   vol. 22 no. 2 5-43

Wilber, K. (2000) The Eye of Spirit: An Integral vision for a world gone slightly mad. Boston & London: Shambhala.


Assagioli, R (2007) The Act of Will. London: A guide to Self-Actualisation and Self-Realisation.   Psychosynthesis & Education Trust.

Lancaster, L (2004) Approaches to consciousness; The Marriage of science and Mysticism. Hampshire & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Whitmore, D (1998) Pschosynthesis Counselling in Action. London: Sage Publications.

Wilber, K (2000) Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy. Boston & London: Shambhala.

Couples Counselling

couples counselling

Couples Counselling

couples counsellingPeople choose to come for couples counselling for a number of reasons. Sometimes they simply agree that their relationship could do with a ‘tune up’. Sometimes they attend because they are struggling and not getting on. Often differing attitudes to sex, money or raising children can create tension. If communication has been bad for a while, this can lead to one partner having an affair or wanting to give up and leave, believing that the relationship is beyond repair.

Couples counselling focusses on developing clear communication and being able to own one’s own feelings in the relationship. It’s easy to point fingers and blame your partner for the way you feel – ‘if you were like this, I’d be happier’ or ‘I wish you did things differently’ – but this kind of blaming gets us nowhere. When we start owning our feelings in a non-blaming way, the dialogue opens up and we start to see each-other’s point of view. It takes practice, but the results are transformational. Many couples find that having someone bear witness to their relationship in a non-judgemental, impartial way, can have a profound effect on their ability to air difficulties without fear of starting an argument.

Even if things have got to a point where the relationship problems have become intractable, couples’ counselling can be a loving way of ending a relationship. This allows both partners to learn important lessons from this relationship to take into the future, and to part ways with clarity and tenderness.

From a psychological point of view, something I’ve noticed is that we have a tendency to seek out in a partner the aspects and attributes we can’t fully accept in ourselves. For example, if we were told as children that being joyful and singing out loud were unacceptable, then most likely we would adapt our behaviour to suit our parents wishes. However, later on when we met our partner, the thing we were attracted to was their joyfulness and their ability to sing unashamedly out loud – this is because they are expressing a part of ourselves that was shut down and closed off. But once the relationship gets underway, these traits will start to annoy us because we still can’t fully acknowledge that being joyful is acceptable.

Because of this, relationships are an invaluable psychological mirror. The journey of a relationship, I believe, is to uncover the parts of ourselves and our partners that have remained hidden and unconscious. If we can learn to communicate and accept our vulnerabilities with love and humility, then we can grow together in an expansive and supportive way.

If you want to try couples’ counselling please do get in touch for a recommendation.

Email me here



21 Tips for Clients in Psychotherapy What should you talk about in therapy?

ClientsClients & Therapists.

Here are a few pointers to help clients level the playing field. Therapists have a big advantage in the therapy office. We’ve read a stack of books and spent thousands of hours learning what to do in session. Clients have to learn as they go, costing them valuable time and money.

Tips for Clients in Therapy

Take the Whole Hour: We call it a therapy hour but it’s only 50 minutes. Get your money’s worth by arriving 10 minutes early to catch your breath, collect your thoughts and prepare for your session.

Forget the Clock: Show up early, but let the therapist be in charge of ending the session on time. You’ve got enough to think about during the session, the therapist can be responsible for wrapping up.

Make it Part of Your Life: Therapy works best when you take what you’ve learned and apply it to the rest of your week. Between sessions, notice areas in your life you’d like to explore. Maybe you’d find it helpful to engage in…

Journalysis: Use a journal to reflect on your sessions and jot down things you notice about yourself during the week. It doesn’t have to be the “Dear Diary” of your youth, just a place to record a few thoughts or feelings. It may help to bring it to session with you.

Business First: Take care of scheduling and insurance questions at the start of the session. Nothing’s more awkward than ending a session with a big revelation or emotional breakthrough followed by three minutes of  calendar navigation. Get all those logistical issues out of the way at the beginning.

Relationship Next: Following those business items, issues regarding the relationship with your therapist (if there are any) come next. This could be anything – you’re thinking about termination, you felt angry after the last session, you’re worried what she thinks of you, you had a dream about him, etc. These relationship issues take top priority because they will impact all other areas of your therapy.

What do I Want? How do I Feel? These two questions are home base for clients who feel stuck. If you find yourself lost and don’t know what to talk about, revisit these questions and you’re bound to find material to discuss.

Ask Anything: Clients sometimes censor their questions because they believe asking is against the rules. You’re allowed to ask whatever you want, let the therapist explain their boundaries. Want to know a personal detail, professional opinion or an explanation for something she said or did? Go ahead and ask. You might not get a straight answer, but you should get a reason why not, and you might learn something about yourself in the process.

State of the Union: Check on your status any time during your therapy. How are the two of you working together? How well do you understand each other? Is therapy helping or hurting at this point? This is ideally a two-way discussion, with both of you sharing your thoughts.

Try New Things: Therapy is a great place for thinkers to try feeling, listeners to practice talking, passive people to be assertive, etc. Want to rehearse confrontation? Practice asking someone out? Let yourself cry in front of someone? Therapy is a great place for this.

Learn to Fish: A lot of people want advice from their therapist. Therapy is more about helping you come to your own conclusions than having the therapist make decisions for you. This benefits you in the long run but may seem disappointing at the time.

Ask Why: Let your inner 3-year old out and ask why you behave/think/feel as you do. Why do I hate my boss so much? Why am I so anxious before sessions? Why does the therapist’s shirt bother me?

Challenge Jargon: Some therapists have been doing this work so long they assume everyone knows what they’re talking about. If the therapist says some gibberish you don’t understand (“this boundary violation exacerbates your abandonment issues and fixated Oedipal complex”), ask him what he means.

Say the Odd Thought: Therapy is one place where strange thoughts are acceptable. In fact, the odder the better. Have a sudden impulse? Say it. Flash to a certain memory? Talk about it. The phrase some things are better left unsaid doesn’t apply here so speak freely and you might learn something interesting.

Be Aware of Your Therapist: Not just who she is, but who you imagine her to be. And how you imagine she feels about you. Talk about your relationship in detail to see how your projections influence this and other relationships.

Go Deeper: If you find yourself running through mundane details of your week or hitting awkward silences, maybe there’s a deeper issue you’re avoiding. Ask what it is you’re not talking about and talk about it. Discuss what you’re discovering about yourself. Take the time to explore who you are, what you feel and why you do what you do. Push beyond it is what it is (link is external) or whatever and tackle some deeper questions. Try: “I wonder why I ___” or: “Deep down, I really feel ___”.

Don’t Fear the End: From the beginning, talk about when you’ll know you’re ready to leave therapy. Rather than cut and run, let therapy be one experience of a truly good ending.

Dream On: Bring in dreams, daydreams and fantasies, especially those about therapy. People often have more of this material when they’re in therapy. This can be incredibly rich to explore.

Keep the Energy in the Room: Thoughts, feelings and questions about the therapy are best discussed first with the therapist. When you run everything by your friends first, it diffuses the energy of the encounter and sidesteps an opportunity for the therapist to understand you better.

Allow Change: Some people ask for change but feel uncomfortable when it actually happens. Accept that if you’re seeking change, things will probably change, and it might require more change than you thought. An eating disorder, a sexual problem, interpersonal conflicts, an addiction – these may require a major life overhaul, not just a little tweak.

Engage and Enjoy: Therapy is like enrolling in a course where you are the subject matter. If you’re curious, teachable and motivated to do some work, it can be one of the most challenging and rewarding courses you ever take.

© 2010 Ryan Howes, Ph.D.

Assagioli on Jung & Psychosynthesis



Assagioli writes:

Help in achieving interpersonal and group psychosynthesis (also called interindividual and social psychosynthesis) forms an important, indeed an indispensable part of psychosynthetic therapy and education. It can be justly maintained that our civilization is neurotic and ill-balanced, and that there exist real group neuroses and psychoses; for instance, national glorification and ideological fanaticism. Therefore psychotherapy should include and undertake these more comprehensive tasks, for which it is well equipped. Every sick individual who is helped to establish right human relations becomes an element of balance and health in his com- munity; and inversely, every effort aimed at adjusting unbalance and collective psychoses makes it easier for the single individual to reach and maintain his personal health.

Thus the tasks and activity of therapists, educators and all who, in different fields and ways, devote themselves to the healing of social ills converge and unite in a double purpose. The first and urgent one is to safeguard humanity from the dangers its blindness and folly have created for itself. The second, to promote the coming of a new and better civilization, in which the individual can, in freedom and for the good of all, give expression to and make the most of the wonderful potentialities inherent in each human being.

Thus the tasks and activity of therapists, educators and all who, in different fields and ways, devote themselves to the healing of social ills converge and unite in a double purpose. The first and urgent one is to safeguard humanity from the dangers its blindness and folly have created for itself. The second, to promote the coming of a new and better civilization, in which the individual can, in freedom and for the good of all, give expression to and make the most of the wonderful potentialities inherent in each human being.

Read more here – The Psychosynthesis Trust