By Jim Robinson
“I believe not only that trauma is curable,
but that the healing process can be a catalyst
for profound awakening—a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation.”
— Peter A. Levine
I have just started reading “A New Republic of the Heart” by Terry Pattern and can see immediately that it speaks wonderfully to many of my concerns and preoccupations. In his introduction he discusses how we seem to be confronted by two polar perspectives of “Boom and Doom”, how we are in the process of a transformational shift in consciousness or condemned to catastrophe. On the personal level this obviously relates to our “narcissistic see-saw”, it certainly resonates with my “see-sawing” between optimism and pessimism.
We are certainly living through “the curse of interesting times” and it is having an enormous effect on all our psyches. In the face of the unfolding global crisis, I feel the pull of big questions around “What can I do?”, “What responsibility do I have?”, “How can I help?” I agree with Pattern, “We are called to a robust and dynamic new form of spiritual activism – or activist spirituality – that fuses the “inner work” of personal transformation and awakening, with the “outer work” of service, social entrepreneurship, and activism.”
It seems to me that what we as Gestalt therapists can so valuably contribute is our understanding of how it is trauma that configures all the negative aspects of the personal, relational, cultural and systemic dimensions of our lives. The world needs this understanding of trauma in order to support the opening of people’s hearts. It is this that can open the door to the compassion and love and understanding we need to sustain the transformation of consciousness the world needs – if it is to change in time.
Currently the world is like a traumatised person, caught in the knowledge of their dis- functionality but without the resources to change. The third force of awareness and understanding is needed before change can occur, before the heart can open to self- compassion, to compassion for the other, and on into the deeper recognition that opening our hearts is always about connecting to Love on the transpersonal, even cosmic scale.
In therapy we are constantly supporting individuals to find this “third force”, we need to somehow get this message about trauma more forcefully, and more widely, out into society. The mass media need to understand about human beings’ fundamental goodness, and about how all the negative aspects of life flow from trauma, that trauma is the source of all our insecurity, from which flows all our projections of anger and violence and hatred. Thomas Hübl has been wonderfully helpful in making so clear how all aspects of our society are configured by trauma, that we live in a sea of its consequences. All rigidly hierarchical institutions are expressions of trauma; our culture is full of its influence.
Perhaps there are some people within UKAGP who have some “inside knowledge” about how most effectively to access mainstream media and can advise on ways, that as a group, we might direct our attention to influence the national debate? Maybe we could, through some co-ordinated action, have an influence beyond what is impossible alone?
The message that trauma is at the heart of our troubles is one we are in a unique positions to communicate, and it has such huge transformative power (which is why there is such resistance to it). It is wonderful, and surely a sign of the times, that there is so much going on to promote this understanding of trauma within the therapy world. Somehow it needs to get out into society more quickly. Pattern says, we need “the intelligence of heart, which integrates our best rational and instinctive intelligence,” if we are to navigate the unfolding climate catastrophe with any success. Knowledge and understanding of trauma are, I believe, essential to unlocking the heart’s intelligence and fostering the shift in consciousness across the globe, we so desperately need.
This book argues that we all need to become an “activist” in whatever ways we can. It makes the case so clearly that the only sanity is in taking a realistically optimistic stance, if we are to avoid defeatedness and fear in the face of the barrage of unfolding negative facts about our environmental situation, and our politics! To sustain such a stance, we need to connect to Love, just as Marianne Williamson argued in “A Politics of Love”.
How can I sit with a client and encourage them towards health if I either believe the world is doomed, or am in denial about the drastic nature of the situation we face? Hope needs to be grounded in what makes sense irrespective of what the future holds – a point Pattern makes wonderfully well. Such “making sense” can only come from knowing, and committing to, the fact that our developmental journey is towards Love and Consciousness. Or, to use a more Gestalt term, towards the “here and now.”
Terry Pattern (2018) A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries–A Guide to Inner Work for Holistic Change. North Atlantic Books
Marianne Williamson (2019) A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution. HarperOne
Jim Robinson – Gestalt psychotherapist and supervisor in East Sussex. It seems that I have been working all my life to understand the relationship between the psychological, spiritual, and political. This is now consciously in the service of supporting healing, growth and development as widely as possible. Email – [email protected]. Website – www.jim-robinson.co.uk.