Western psychiatry is the most important barrier to healing in our world today. That sounds insane - because it is insane that it is true! I could write a book on this. Maybe I will. But for now, I’m going to approach it from one angle: the power of belief and suggestion.
Here’s a less controversial example: A young boy in school does something that gets him labeled as “bad”. His parents and teachers begin giving him messages that he “won’t ever be worth anything”, that he’s stupid, and that there’s really no hope. What happens? Well, this has been studied extensively and the outcome is exactly what you’s expect (check out the phenomena of Stereotype Threat). The child begins to take on the identity that the world has reflected to him from every angle. When the boy is “dreamed up” to be a bad kid, that is the person he becomes.
We can also easily see this in our personal relationships. What happens when we approach someone with aggression, rather than with kindness? If we are angry and accusatory we get an aggressive or defensive response (surprise!). We have a great deal of power to influence others to identify with some parts of themselves over others, in every moment.
Now let's switch to mental health with another example: A high school boy has a panic attack at school. He associates it with school and is afraid to go back. His parents take him to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist gives him a "diagnosis" of panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder, or whatever happens to be popular that year. When asked for clarification about what that means, he says that the boy has a genetic malfunction. Something intractable has occurred that is out of his power to control. The doctor describes that, at best, he can hope to "manage his symptoms" with drugs, which he claims will rebalance his faulty brain chemistry. The boy hears this loud and clear: he is broken.
Now, with each subsequent experience of anxiety his mind will be oriented into that framework of disease. He now believes that “anxiety” is an experience in its own category, different from the normal ebbs and flows of love, joy, sadness and calm. Anxiety is a problem, a thing he has, and a thing he cannot get rid of.
This amplifies the experience of anxiety. Every time he has it, he now resists it. One vicious cycle after another ensues, leading to more panic attacks - panic about feeling panic. And yet anxiety is not something he is supposed to feel so he clamps down, his body racked with tension. Through implicit messaging he feels embarrassed, as if through some sinful means he’s contracted an STD, showing that he lacks moral fortitude and purity. And when he finally returns to school, he feels too embarrassed to be honest about what has happened. He feels utterly alone and isolated in his experience, which necessarily furthers his experiences of anxiety. Worse yet, his teachers joke about people that are anxious needing to take a “chill pill”. He silently holds that he is one of those broken people.
As the years go on, he starts to avoid situations in which he feels anxious. Vicious cycles continue to perpetuate his distress. He develops a hyperfocus on it, a kind of phobia to feeling anxiety in any circumstance, because it will betray the brokenness he has been told he has.
And who wouldn’t believe the stories given to them by the "experts" at such a young age (or, at any age)? When parents, teachers and even the high priests of Western culture, doctors and psychiatrists, all concur with the same worldview? What kind of child would have the tools to question the framework of an entire civilization? Sadly, this child will become another victim of Western medicine.
Here’s another story he could have been told: “Your anxiety is just an experience that means you are scared. Something is happening inside you that you need support with. It is a gateway to knowing yourself at a deeper level. Hidden behind your anxiety is a more whole experience of yourself. We are here. We love you - no matter what you feel, no matter who you are”.
I invite you to really, really just sit for a moment with those two stories, and see how differently they feel to you on a visceral level. Without needing to cite any "evidence", which story feels more true and more humanizing to you?
The reality is that Western medicine is creating a mental health epidemic. It does not mean that people do not come to psychiatrists in distress. What it does mean is that when they do, they get a prison sentence, the most powerful placebo: a high priest telling them a "Truth" that cannot be argued with. After all, look at these thousands of research studies! So here's some drugs. Come see me in six months.
The problem is that “anxiety disorder” is an arbitrarily defined category, a reification of what is (like all human experience) just one experience in the flow of life. (The DSM-5, the book that describes these "disorders" is a joke, as scientifically verifiable and repeatable as a casino slot machine, but that is for another topic). To Western medicine, emotions and human life are not sacred. They do not have any inherent wisdom, directionality or purpose. This view is soul killing at the most profound level, because it prevents the human person from evolving in the direction it is wanting to, trying to, if it weren’t for so much ideological junk in the way.
To bring clarity to what I'm saying, this would be like a doctor telling someone with a cut that they have "scab disorder", and that the best they can hope to do is constantly put Neosporin on it, and resign themselves to live with a bleeding shin that will never fully heal. It never occurs to the doctor that the viewpoint itself, and all the futzing with it that results, are the actual problem. That love, care and time are all the wound needs.
Oof. Now, if that high school boy was told a different story he would have never developed the “condensed system of experience”, COEX, that Stanislov Grof writes about. This is when an initial experience happens that, when unaddressed but instead reinforced, more and more layers stack on top of that initial crystallization of that first experience. As the years progress, one initial experience of suffering, a panic attack, becomes a whole system of different phobias, adaptations, and beliefs. It is literally creating something out of almost nothing and creating that something for the rest of the person’s life until they are fortunate enough to encounter someone that is able to tell them a different, more true, more real story.
If that high school boy was supported through his panic, he would have discovered something. Maybe it’s that he was experiencing shame and didn’t know it, so he panicked instead. Maybe he was feeling oppressed by the ridiculous things he was having to memorize in school, when his heart called for nature, embodiment and authentic human connection. Maybe he was enraged at an absent parent, or the teachers that told him thinking, and not feeling, were all that mattered. Anxiety is the leading edge of dehumanization. Whatever it was, it was wisdom trying to come through.
And only the sickest of medical systems would somehow convert emergent wisdom into a lifelong prison sentence of suffering.
Fortunately we have a choice of what stories we tell ourselves and those determine outcomes. First we simply need to know what those choices are. This isn’t about wishful, fluffy, positive thinking that ignores reality. On the contrary, this is about the most rigorous of scientific approaches: paying attention to what happens when we do one thing versus another. Because the “interventions” of science are not just the drugs people are given, but the philosophical frameworks and suggestions that begin the moment the patient enters the consultation room. And actually much before, with the messaging from our society, advertising, and even textbooks. So when they tell us what we think we already know, we automatically agree. This is the most powerful of contexts for a placebo effect to occur and has been rigorously studied and demonstrated, yet somehow it is still ignored in medical practice today. When a negative suggestion creates a negative outcome it is called a nocebo, and this is the primary effect of psychology and psychiatry today.
If there is one thing I can guarantee about childhood development, it’s that if you take a group of people with great social power and all have them tell the child they are bad, stupid or broken, you are going to get a self-fulfilling prophesy, because it would be far too dangerous for that child to assume a different identity. It would threaten the very life-sustaining relationships that child needs to survive. This is why all children take on the identity of their caregivers, no matter how sadistic the caregivers may be. In a sane world this would be called abuse and be punished. In our world it is called "science" and is celebrated. But it is the most perverted of sciences, and not long in the future it will be looked back upon as horrific as the long history of abusive military psychological experiments, eugenics or slavery, all with elaborate "scientific" justifications each time.
If there is any disorder to be named, we should understand medical culture on the whole as inducing a universal state of mind and being that could be called suggestion disorder, with all the negative effects described in this essay. We have all been hypnotized in a very, very real sense by the Western medical system. Why would they do this? Well, why would the church send missionaries to murder an entire continent of people that don’t convert to Catholicism? That does have clear answers but is for another essay, another time. In short, it would threaten the high priests and the truth they believe they hold.
This does not mean that people aren’t today in extremely elevated levels of distress. They are. We all need to help each other now more than at any time in human history. The problem is that the very people that claim to help are doing the worst possible thing they could do by telling us a story that is flat out wrong! The messages that are being given guarantee the perpetuation of suffering through the power of suggestion. While the genetic story has been debunked years ago, doctors continue to shut down the possibility of healing by continuing to invoke it. Yet Eastern and indigenous traditions that are thousands of years old have always told a different story, not to mention the alternative approaches that continue to be on the margins of Western culture. The modalities that I practice, especially Somatic Experiencing, operate within that new and ancient story of innate wisdom and healing. And it works. All you have to do is try it.
The sad thing is that with all the pain in the world today people are literally dying to find a way to heal. And it’s already available. Right now. Today. This second. The only thing that is preventing healing on a mass scale from occurring is a belief that it isn’t possible - and the linchpin of this whole complex is the belief systems constantly propagated by the "experts" of psychiatry. They insist that even one experience of mental distress dooms someone to a lifelong “disorder” encoded in their immutable, deterministic DNA.
Again, the good news is that you can choose which story you want to live into, and as a scientist with utmost integrity, you can see what works for your life. And you’ll find, as everyone else does, that once you trust your innate healing process just a little bit, you’ll have to admit that what you’ve been told is false. And then you’ll have to do some therapy on your rage! Because whether you’ve lost a day or a year or decades of your life to these insidious belief systems, you’ll have to admit that important life has been lost, and for no good reason other than the job security and mental comfort of well-paid ideologues. This pattern of coercive power has a striking way of recreating itself in ever new and disguised forms throughout Western history.
The point at which your suffering exceeds your desire to hang on to the old story is the point at which genuine healing can occur. You can’t force this but you will know when you’re ready to break out of the prison of belief that you didn’t consciously choose.
What is a dream? We need to know what that means before we can follow every elementary school hallway’s admonishment to follow them. It turns out that dreams aren’t some monolithic thing. Not all of them are good. They can come from very different places. And they can arise from wildly different sources of experience.
Starting with the consensus reality version of dreams, a dream is an idea in one’s mind that one chases after. It’s often some kind of objective state of affairs seen far off in the future that is believed to bring happiness to the pursuer or a greater good to the world. In this version, a dream is something that isn’t now but in some other place and time.
There are some problems with this version. Major problems. The first and most obvious is that this kind of dream is just a concept bouncing around in our heads. We couldn’t possibly know what the actual experience of the dream will be like. For instance, say a child says, “I want to be a scientist!” This child has no idea that this may involve pouring over vast amounts of data in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for 60 hours per week. They will not be wearing a white coat, radiantly smiling over some glowing blue liquid, as their textbooks would have them believe. So when a dream is just an abstract concept of which we have no experience, it’s hardly something to place all our bets on, because we simply don’t know what it will be like. And it's deeply unethical that adults aren't honest about this with their children because they'll find out how things really are someday, and when they do, they'll be disappointed to the extent that they were misinformed.
Even more, this version of a “dream” is often not even ours to begin with. Tremendous social pressures encourage us to dream in ways accepted by our families or cultures while tending to push us away from other forms of dreaming that are less acceptable of financially viable. Parents pressure children to make up for their own sense of inadequacy by pushing them to do what they didn’t, especially more and more in a hyper competitive world. If you were to survey a group of children about what they “want to be when they grow up” - a completely absurd question that should not be asked of kids that should be playing instead of being drilled on math formulas - they would generally say all of the socially acceptable things like doctor or lawyer. Rare is the school that tells them other options may include activist, minimalist, itinerant traveler or community organizer. Rare, too, is the school that admits the economic reality of most children’s lives - that janitor or ant in a cubicle colony are much more likely life outcomes than the glorified images of celebrity and sports on TV. Capitalism has a vast underbelly and most people's working lives are spent in it. In short, this kind of dreaming is at best an exercise in absurdity, and at worst a way to traumatize children, the majority of whom will not even have the economic option to pursue the most socially celebrated roles (which they probably don’t want in their hearts, anyway). This kind of dreaming is that which makes obedient producers and consumers - this is not the dreaming of the human heart.
Heart dreaming generally does not get supported, let alone even recognized, in most modern family or school situations. Certainly there are exceptions - the Waldorf school or that one teacher that does it with passion and subverts all the rules - but the heart is not even a word that is used in most schools. And yet this is the source of authentic dreams. This form of dream will not be the result of an occupational test, like the ones I was forced to take many times during my childhood, which would ask me a series of ridiculous personality questions and then spit out what I might want to do with my life. I’m not kidding, one result in elementary school was something like a janitor and I remember feeling, “This can’t be right”. This kind of dream comes from a different place, an inner place. This dream arrives by feeling, not thinking. It is the result of innate knowing, not strategizing or pros and cons lists. It is the result of a calling, not a proficiency for getting high grades in a certain academic subject. It comes from the heart, something we cannot think our way into changing. None of the measures of consensus reality relate in any functional way to the kind of dreaming that matters.
We discover these dreams in a couple of key ways. The first is through experience. When I spent my school days daydreaming about bike riding, it wasn’t because I read about it in some history book or saw some sensationalized photo. It was because I did it, and the more I did it the more I loved it, and the more I loved it the more I dreamed of it. Charles Eisenstein’s book is titled, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible”, and this captures the essence of what I’m saying here. Our hearts know because we’ve had glimpses, tastes, or if we’re really lucky, a whole run at a buffet of certain kinds of experiences. So we know what is possible and that is the fuel for going further in that direction. These dreams aren’t to impress parents or acquire socially acceptable status symbols - and often, they run against these things, as authentic experience so often falls outside of a world gone insane. These dreams come from within. They feel compelling, necessary, and often unavoidable. Words like “courage” or “sacrifice” are words applied from the outside. From the inside there was no other choice, and often there is great joy in the journey in spite of the pain that may be incurred along the way. Other words to describe this kind of dreaming are soul or calling.
The source of dreaming is the body, the heart, the unconscious, and as such nighttime dreams are a great way to connect to this same source in a version much less edited by the ego that wants to socially conform to be loved. Nighttime dreams are not literal but symbolic and feeling-focused. They need to be taken seriously, and actually much more seriously than the neurotic thinking that occupies much of our waking lives. And they need to be interpreted so that we can integrate the information into our waking loves in a practical way. Instructions about doing this simple but profound and often fun dreamwork is beyond the scope of this post but the book “Inner Work” provides a great introduction to both nighttime dreams and active imagination during waking life, which access the same underlying process.
And the nature of these dreams isn’t so clear. It’s not like, “I want to own a business selling $1M per year in brake pads". It’s more like, “I feel like I need to express myself, but I’m not sure exactly how..” Or, “I feel called to help people, but I’m not yet sure in which way..” The essence of these dreams is not a clarity of concept but a clarity and certainty of feeling. The details themselves may be very vague, and the light may only shine one step ahead of where we currently are and no further. And that’s ok. The journey unfolds and clarity comes a little more with each step. Watch any biography on great artists, scientists or change makers, and it's exceedingly rare that they had this plan from the time their 4th grade teachers asked them that dreaded, stupid question about what they want to be.
And what happens when a child does run with that concept implanted in their brains at a young age, before they got to choose? To live an entire life chasing after a seemingly clear concept like “I want to be a doctor”, only to arrive there years, even decades later and discover it’s not at all what they actually wanted? Well, that’s a tragedy because it’s not just a waste of money but a waste of life and leads to a painful reckoning known as the "midlife crisis". That's when people wake up to the nightmare reality of the dreams they didn't consciously choose to look back on a life they didn't really want to live. They followed the rules, they trusted the system, and they got burned.
Much more effective, though much more socially frowned upon, is an active, open, and patient wandering and wondering process. When college or work is foisted upon people right when they turn 18 this whole thing is short circuited. It just can’t happen. When we ask an 18 year old (let alone a 5 year old) what they want to “be” it interrupts or halts the journey that they need to go on to discover themselves. This needs space and time - at least if we are going to value individuality and self-expression as the highest values in our culture. It serves neither these students nor our society as a whole when massive amounts of money are wasted on helping young adults memorize abstract concepts that will never serve the flowering of their lives and their purpose and service in the world - concepts they'll forget a couple of weeks after the test anyway. It's totally absurd!
Room needs to be made for dreaming, and we should follow our dreams - but real dreams. And if we really allowed kids to do this our society would radically transform or fall apart. Because no kid grows up wanting to flip hamburgers, work in a cubicle farm, become a cheerleader for corporate America, or decimate the environment or people of color. In the mainstream version, "follow your dreams" is just another guise for indoctrinating social conformity by planting seeds that don't rock the boat as early as possible.
The work I do with my patients is about accessing their real dreams by accessing their real hearts, feelings and intuitions. Then they don’t have to think about things so hard anymore. They don’t have to stress about whether or not they are “doing it right”. They no longer have to worry about social status or any other external metric so much. When we are living in alignment, those things just don’t matter anymore. Because what we are really wanting in our lives isn’t an achievement that looks enviable from the outside - so many in our culture have done just this and found emptiness awaiting them on the other side! What we really want is to live the fullness of our hearts. And that is a journey. A journey that starts with tapping into our real dreaming process. And to do that we need trust that this process is real and important. And for that, we need a mentor that can show us in our direct experience that this is true. The key is to discern what is, and is not, a valid dream for us, and this is something we learn over many years with good mentorship and guidance. Then we can shed all of the inherited concepts of what we “should” be, foisted upon us by well-intentioned, but ultimately ignorant caregivers over a much-too-long period of our formative years. Then we can finally follow our dreams. Our real dreams.
Psychotherapy, like any aspect of our world, has its own culture which draws from the dominant ideology of our time. In the case of psychotherapy it was born from thinkers like Freud. While full of insight, Freud also painted the world in a rather dull, academic way, and the general feeling on which this culture was seeded is something like: “Well, you’re miserable, and at best you can hope to be a little less miserable”.
My own experience of the culture of psychotherapy today is that it isn’t all that radically different from then. It draws from the scarcity model the the dominant culture's thinking. It assumes that we don’t have enough (of everything) already and that the best we can do is scrap together the crumbs we can find - whether economically, socially, in terms of creativity or achievement, or within the suffering of our own psyches. While there are certainly real lacks in our world today, a sole emphasis on this is inaccurate. The culture of psychotherapy itself is skewed and something that needs to be healed. Otherwise, if a psychotherapist is holding this viewpoint when working with their patients as many do - the deficit model to “fixing” a “broken” person - then inevitably that toxic ideology will be transferred, both consciously and unconsciously, to the patient. So the question of choosing a psychotherapist is really an answer to the question, what kind of world do you want to live in?
Psychotherapy isn’t really a set of techniques, just as dancing isn’t really a collection of technical maneuvers, nor is film or photo primarily about getting the right shutter speed and aperture setting. The techniques are there as a vehicle for something else to happen, for art and flow to occur. So what a psychotherapist is really offering you, at a deeper level and really the only important level, is a way of being. It’s some cross between mentorship, parenting, healing and teaching. And if the worldview they are holding is that you are broken, that they know what you should be thinking because it is what the “experts” say, that the best you can hope to do is “manage symptoms” with drugs and inner cognitive dissonance, then that is the world you will begin to enter more fully, especially in your vulnerable and receptive state. It may also be part of the very same world and story that created the suffering that brought you to therapy in the first place. It’s worth reading that sentence twice.
The dominant culture is very ill. The outer ecological crisis is a physical manifestation of the inner crises that we are all experiencing today. Psychotherapy is a part of that culture and mainstream psychotherapy has adopted all the same premises: domination, control, patriarchy, and a deficit model of human being. We are merely machines farting through the universe, determined by scientific laws, and the best we can hope for is to be a little less miserable along the way - so here’s some new thoughts, or some new drugs, so you don’t have to really listen to your pain!
What psychotherapy leaves out so often is the most important aspects of our being, such as our innate directionality towards healing, the core sense of love that is available to all human beings, and - FUN. Because life is meant to be enjoyed.
This is a figure/ground shift that needs to happen in the field. We aren’t “fixing” people so they can be a little less miserable; we are growing goodness for even more enjoyment, freedom and creativity in life. This is the difference between starting in the negative and working towards zero, versus starting in the positive and moving even more in that direction. It’s all growth towards more goodness - unless we try to make it otherwise.
The process of psychotherapy itself, while at times painful, should also be playful, ideally more often than not. This is going on an adventure, together. What is the feeling when you set off into the woods, backpacking with a friend? Hopping in the car with your lover to go on a road trip, or a flight to Europe? When you get that new book you’ve been wanting to dive into, lose yourself in dancing, or have that nice easy day full of flow as you have a backyard gathering with some friends? Why shouldn’t therapy feel like this? It's the joy of self-discovery! In contrast, it is only a culture of control, requiring your obedience and servitude, that has taught you self-discovery should be something to be feared. People don’t go to places they are afraid of - until they realize the emperor has no clothes.
Life is not scarce but naturally abundant - meaning that good things are always trying to happen. But when we walk around with “everything sucks” goggles on, as much of the profession of psychotherapy and American culture does, it is hard to see the good stuff that is happening - and that good things are always trying to emerge out of what we think is “bad”. The fact is, as radical as this might sound, it is ALL good. I’m not talking about a cheesy shirt that you pick up at Wal-Mart or some naive optimism. I’m talking about reality.
But if your psychotherapist doesn’t live in this reality, they can’t point it out to you. They can’t transmit that way of being to you. Instead, they may further entrench you into the very state of being that is causing your suffering. And again, that is what therapy really is - not techniques but being. Just as in the rest of life, it’s best to surround yourself with people that have the kind of beingness that you want to step into more. If you want to be a great artist, you hang around great painters. If you want to learn to run fast and far, you hang out with people that want to run all day long. If you want to feel good and loving, you pick a partner that will treat you the same. We become what and who we spend time around. And if you want to step into that part of yourself that innately wants to heal, innately knows how to love, innately is directed towards growing into more joy and fun, then it’s important to find a therapist that is living in that space already. My viewpoint is that this is what we are all actually looking for. Our suffering just points out the ways in which we haven’t gotten there yet.
A therapist living in the old story of domination will tell you that your symptoms are a problem and that you need to be fixed - and these messages may be much more subtle than that. Any intimation that there is something wrong with you, ever, is part of this old story.
Alternatively, a therapist living in the new story will see a field with all sorts of things new and old trying to grow. That field may be a toxic waste dump, AND, still, there are grasses growing out of the cracks, wildlife returning, new trees beginning to grow. Sure, you’ll have to clean up some messes as you go about planting the new field, the new gardens, but it’s only in service to that new growth - not because there is something inherently “wrong” with the field, with you as a person. You may notice a new flower struggling because there is an oil spill next to it. Ok, now it’s time to clean up the oil spill because now is the time it is called for, in service to that flower. NOT because something is wrong with you! And those messes will call for your attention as needed, an unfolding process we can trust. When the psyche is ready to grow, we create fertile ground for it to do so. That isn’t fixing, that’s fertilizing.
Any practice of art will contain a diversity of different experiences. Elation and satiation are only a couple of them. In the birth of a new painting, the achievement of a new physical ability, the working out of a new intellectual concept, there are growing pains. There may be frustration and difficulty. And, there’s also fun, enjoyment and a deep sense of satisfaction that is available. That is the real fuel for therapy.
Psychotherapy is about making of your life a work of art. It’s about growing and cultivating what is already there, whether a seed hiding under a pile of toxic waste or a majestic towering tree that simply needs some caretaking. We all have different parts of us in different stages of growth at any given time and there is never an end to be achieved, only a process of flowering to be trusted. And you'll have that part of you that our toxic culture has conditioned, the part that wants to fix itself, probably the part of you that motivated you to seek therapy in the first place - and we can love and find a creative home for that part, too, as you transition into a more whole way of being!
Psychotherapy can be fun because life can be fun. While there are so many authentic approaches to personal transformation that are available today (though few of them are in the mainstream), whatever they do, if they aren’t getting you into your body, into a visceral sense of feeling more alive, more free, and more able to access the most fun, goofy and enjoyable aspects of your personality, they are doing something terribly wrong. What is within you that is calling to have more life, to be free, to be unleashed to play?
That little flutter in your belly that feels like it is ready to take off, but isn’t sure if it can, or if it knows how, or if it has permission to - that is the real reason you are coming to therapy. Find a therapist that can recognize, love and work with that, so you can become even more who you already are. Fun awaits!
The world is alive - and a deep somatic therapy process is one pathway to realize this in your direct experience.
Sadly, in the arrogance of the anthropocentric ideology stemming from both science and Western religion, we have been conditioned to conceptually dismiss the living world around us, just as we do for the world within us. This post is about how these two processes are two faces of the same problem: dissociation.
So let’s start with the inner world. As I detailed in a previous post on developmental trauma, our culture today teaches us to dissociate from much of our experience. School rewards us for being in our heads and punishes us for being in our bodies. We are taught that thinking is the only thing that matters and that we should be ashamed of pooping and peeing, and dismiss as merely “subjective” the desires to connect with nature, make love or dance. Sure, you can do those things, but only in your “leisure time” after you do the real work of an education or a job. Science reinforces this view by dismissing as unreal anything that we experience. "Subjectivity" is not valuable as data and must be replaced by the “objectivity” of scientific instruments which can only measure certain things - and if scientists can't measure it, well then it must not exist. Religion reinforces all of this through the concept of sin and the split between matter and spirit, where matter is something to be transcended into spirit, whether in this lifetime or at death in ascending to heaven.
I call this the genocide of subjectivity. Our inner worlds have been ravaged in a way that very much mirrors what we can see in the environmental destruction all around us. We can visit industrial waste sites, which may be closer to your backyard than you think (or even include your backyard), and see that some life remains but that much has been destroyed. So too our inner worlds, which have largely been denied by every important institution in the modern world today. I include in this genocide not just the dissociated emotions which are the primary motivations when people first seek psychotherapy, but I also include the loss of a felt-sense of connection to others, community and the land, being severed from our dreamworld, our sense of intuition, and the internal energy body (which contains emotions but also so much more). We are a multi-organed organism, but when it comes to what we define as Truth we have collectively chosen to deny all but one of those organs in our search for knowledge: the thinking mind.
Somatic psychotherapy (and all other embodied healing traditions) offer us an opportunity to re-enter our bodies. But in doing so our re-entry can feel much more like a spaceship re-entering the atmosphere than a feather lightly falling to the ground. The reason is because the mindbody remembers everything that has ever happened to us. As Bessel Van Der Kolk's book is titled, The Body Keeps the Score. If we’ve been telling ourselves a story our whole lives that we can slough off things that we don’t want to feel, such as the “I don’t give a fuck!” refrain that is so common among men taking a tough stance, the result is simply a huge backlog of experiences that we will have to move through in order to reinhabit our bodies more fully. This is like a log jam that used to happen on rivers when loggers would float them down to the mill. Sometimes they would get jammed up and then everything would just pile up behind it. And for humans, life keeps going, things keep pilling up. So we have to go back through and dislodge each log before flow can be re-established. This is the primary work of somatic psychotherapy.
Of course, the point isn’t to just go through all of this pain and then move on as before. If that were the case we'd have good reason to just avoid feeling pain! However, on the contrary moving through this pain causes two radical changes to occur. First, it frees all the parts that were formally bound up in dissociation from the original pain. It would be like if you had a massive wound on your leg and, rather than getting it treated, you simply left it to fester by putting in a cast, acting like it was no longer there, and permanently foregoing the use of that leg. You would find ways to adapt, get crutches, take elevators, call a minivan instead of a sedan for a cab. But it’s something you would have to actively think about and manage. You can’t just walk down the street. But finally you realize this. And you get your leg treated. It’s a revelation to walk again, you forgot how amazing it feels to just walk down the street, not having had that capacity for so long! This is true of everything we dissociate from internally as well. Perhaps most tragic of all is our dissociation from the human heart. Like regaining the use of a limb, the re-association process is like going from an early black and white film to a 21st century CGI experience of reality. Whatever parts you bring back online become more vivid, more alive, and more connected. This is the real, human sense of rebirth and is potentially available in any area of your experience.
The second radical change this process offers is on the level of consciousness. Before you were living mostly inside your head and your concepts were largely stand-ins for experience. Even in simple daily things like asking someone how they are doing, saying thank you, or telling a family member “I love you”, you used the words but the feeling wasn't all that alive. But you only realize this in retrospect, when you move more fully into the colorful 3D world of the body. And now your experience is so much more vast. Your identity shifts in a way that could be called “spiritual”, meaning that you no longer identify only with your thoughts as yourself. You come to experience, directly that your heart is filled with a love that is far greater than your personal human heart, and that you can connect with people in ways you didn’t fathom were possible. You have moved through a hot and bumpy atmospheric re-entry to reclaim the life of your body. It’s like a hand moving into a puppet, where all of a sudden there is a visceral fleshy act of embodying, where you know you are alive because you feel it. You are it.
And it is through this gateway that the rest of the world being alive becomes accessible in your direct experience. When you have lived the intelligence of the body’s healing process, when your nervous system spontaneously heals, when you see that this whole process has been guided by a wisdom that transcends your thinking mind, then you can viscerally understand how all life functions. You can feel it. You can walk by a tree and feel its aliveness. All of a sudden it makes sense that trees communicate through vast mycelial networks sometimes covering even hundreds of acres, with scores of trees all exchanging sugars and nutrients between one another across generations that span centuries in age difference. You come to see that the growth patterns of all plants aren’t just a matter of randomness, and that turning towards the sun is just as natural and necessary as your own turning towards your heart. And it automatically makes sense that bird song isn’t the mere determined process of mating by programmed biological machines, or that mating dances are far more than a display of superior rates of metabolism, or whatever. You feel that their motivations for their expressions of thriving are not fundamentally different yours. This kind of knowing needs no argument but only an invitation: hey, you, check out what is possible! See if it is true for you.
Entering the body more fully still and you may recognize that those “primitive” peoples has organs of intuition and listening that far exceed the complexity and breadth of any scientific machine or formula. You may come to feel a rhythm in the Earth anytime you are in nature that is much slower, calmer, and easeful than the fast paced, frenetic and chaotic energy that has gripped the modern human world of consumption and production. In contrast to this old story, your intuition may become more real and more accurate than any exhaustive pros and cons list you’ve hammered out in yet another stressful, confusing decision-making process. You'll start to see that many of the ways of being you were taught were inefficient, painful, and often downright inaccurate.
Perhaps most of all, you’ll come to see that the mainstream environmental movement has gotten its whole approach wrong - as if we are to argue our way into caring about the environment based on an endless barrage of abstract numbers! Do we need numbers to justify our deep feelings of love for others? Of course not! Shall we also come up with rational arguments for why we should not beat our children, eat non-toxic food, or build loving communities? Of course not! This is a different kind of knowing that needs no argument or scientific study to prove.
The world is alive but we cannot feel that knowledge directly in our bodies when we are dissociated. And we cannot re-associate to our experience when we still carry a backlog of trauma. There is a painful re-entry process, but this occurs in many small steps over a period of time. As this process continues, it slowly dawns on you that something deep is shifting that feels more true and right than anything else you’ve ever known. That is the fuel for the journey back into the atmosphere of your body, into the colorful, three-dimensional world of emotions, intuition, energetic awareness and connection. It is a journey into the experience of what Thich Nhat Hanh calls interbeing.It is from here that we can start to feel other people and the world again. It is through this process that we come to realize we were never separate from all this. You may even do something insane and start to wonder if electrons and quarks do not also contain some version of consciousness! No matter how far you take this journey, to the extent that you feel in your bones that the world is alive is the extent to which you will feel you’ve returned home.
Today the word “trauma” is becoming much more widely used but few even in the medical field really understand it. So let’s talk about what it is. In the field of somatic psychotherapy there are a couple of different kinds of trauma that are defined, shock trauma and developmental trauma. Both are characterized by a sense of not feeling safe at a visceral level. This generally manifests as anxiety of all kinds, tension in the body, and somatic symptoms that may be miscategorized as things like “somatic symptom disorder” or a whole range of so-called auto-immune diseases. The key here is that trauma can be understood as anything that triggers a fight, flight or freeze response: anytime we resist or withdraw from our experience.
At an extreme level this can look like someone that has a nervous system still stuck in the war zone even though they’ve arrived safely back home. But on a more subtle level it can look like any time we can’t simply relax into the present moment or feel safe and secure in social situations. Yes, that’s basically everyone to some degree! Probably the only people without much trauma at all would be people like Ghandi or the Dalia Lama, seemingly stable in the most difficult of circumstances. Often in our culture we think we either “have” or “don’t have” something, but in the real world the experience of PTSD is a vast grey area of experience. Almost everyone is somewhere in the middle.
What I want to write about today is the origins of that more universal form of PTSD, the trauma we all carry that arises from gaps and misattunements in our early development. Humans are complex, so complex, unfathomably complex, and our upbringing requires many things to come into place in a “good enough” way, and inevitably there are misses. Normally we think of development largely from a cognitive perspective. This is the sole stated purpose of the educational system. While interpersonal development is implicit in early elementary school, rare is the school that takes any real time to teach healthy communication skills, explore conflicts in a safe way, teach emotional regulation or body awareness, among many other things. Rather, we are largely conditioned to believe that the only thing that matters is the ability to do incredible, abstract cognitive gymnastics - but this is just one important thing that makes us human.
We also need love, a feeling of visceral safety in our bodies, accurate reflection so we can know what we are feeling, help emotionally regulating, kinesthetic learning (how to move our bodies and balance), and sensory integration - learning to organize the fields of each one of our senses on a coherent way. We need to do this to be able to function in the world at all, and good-enough caregiving helps us to hardwire these skills and capacities from an early age. Like language we learn these things unconsciously and automatically, only noticing when what we’ve needed has gone missing.
The most important level of this development is a feeling of safety. Infants are completely defenseless. An infant needs to feel protected and know that they are loved. In old Eastern European orphanages where there was little direct contact as many as many as 50% of infants would die, even when they were physically nourished. Love is a matter of life and death. So when a child does not feel safe from emotional neglect or abuse, this leaves a deep imprint of unsafety on their psyche and nervous system which can be managed and adapted to in some ways, but will ultimately remain until it is finally addressed. Stephen Porges, Bessel Van Der Kolk and Peter Levine have researched this extensively and I would recommend anything written by them. It all comes down to a visceral feeling of safety in the body.
Tragically, developmental trauma is increasing exponentially in the modern world for several reasons, as Van Der Kolk’s research indicates. First, the collapse of the community, and now the family, is leaving many children with not enough caregiving from overburdened parents with little outside support. Second, our school system since the industrial revolution has focused primarily on cognitive development, leaving everything else to largely atrophy. Third, our culture in general disparages all things “subjective”, such as through invoking the image of the “emotional woman” to shame both women and men for being fleshy, feeling human beings. I call this whole cultural configuration the “genocide of subjectivity”, which I’ll write about at a later time. As a result of all this, from conception children are less and less supported emotionally so that they are left to adapt to an emotional world too scary and intense to manage alone.
How do we manage? Through dissociation which can show up in many ways. Pure dissociation would be completely losing contact to a part of ourselves, as if it didn’t exist at all. This would be called the “shadow” in classical therapy terms. Dissociation can also look like many of the “disorders” that psychiatrists have falsely claimed (and with no evidence) as genetic “diseases”, including generalized anxiety, depression, OCD, or ADHD. Avoiding our experience can develop into addiction to substances, but also to all the myriad socially acceptable addictions like screen usage, workaholism, and virtually anything on offer today in modern capitalism, primarily fueled by a desire to distract from real life. Finally it can also show up as body tension and somatic disorders like indigestion, muscle and joint pain, headaches, low energy, or the variety of multiplying physical diseases with no apparent cause. But these disorders and diseases are adaptive, keeping us in a holding pattern until we can find the right context for our early experiences to be properly organized into the stream of our lives.
Sadly we can dissociate from any experience that was not contained and organized into our early developing systems including even positive experiences like love. If the child’s innate desire to love their parents is constantly shut down through the indifference of neglect or the violence of abuse, they learn that it isn’t safe to love because it will hurt too much to not have it reciprocated or even be punished for it. In adulthood this may show up as a person who simply can’t feel love for other people. No matter how much they want it, they don’t know how to access that feeling. Fortunately, none of these wounds are irreversible, even the most profound of soul wounding like the loss of contact with one’s heart.
Given that developmental trauma is about gaps in our upbringing, healing is about facilitating the missing experiences of our development. The key here is that this is not a conceptual process! A return to the body in a safe environment is a visceral experience. While we may not know it, we come to therapy to learn to identify, regulate and integrate these split off early experiences into our adult lives and identities.
Whether classically understood shock trauma or developmental trauma, whether extreme or subtle, all forms of PTSD can be treated by slowly, gently, kindly and lovingly letting the person know that they are safe to feel again. The methods for treatment will depend on the age that the rupture in development occurred. For instance, if it was rage in adolescence for being emotionally misunderstood or being punished (like for example being homosexual in a homophobic household), the treatment would be to reflect, hold and validate that rage, integrating the cut off energy one small dose at a time. If the rupture was much earlier, like never feeling safe or attuned to by a caregiver, then touch work for trauma is essential. Pre-verbal infant nervous systems do not respond to rational argumentation! You calm an infant through loving touch, and you calm an undeveloped nervous system carried by an adult in the same way. Through mirror neurons and interpersonal resonance, this work lets the body know that it is safe to feel and even to be because someone is there to catch us when we let go.
When trauma clears, we no longer need all of our painful and unwieldly management techniques. The formerly rageful person no longer needs to project their pain outwards by blowing up at the world; the socially anxious person no longer needs to manage or avoid social situations; the person with generalized anxiety no longer has to worry or constantly stay busy. These people can finally relax a little bit.
If you take anything away from this essay, it would be to forget what you think you know about mental health “disorders” and consider it all from a developmental perspective. Regardless of the validity of genetic dispositions as an important factor (something that has been brought radically into question by the field of epigenetics in the last decade), treatment proceeds in the same way. The human being is an infinitely complex being and development is lifelong as we integrate language, thinking, movement, sensing, feeling, creativity, and emotional and nervous system regulation. In some ways we’ll be highly developed when we reach adulthood, while the development of some parts of us may have have atrophied with barriers in adolescence, infancy or even while we were in the womb. No matter what particular healing each individual requires, it is only on the ground of a reasonably organized system that we can then move into the fullest and most aligned expressions of ourselves in adulthood, realizing our creative gifts, infinite love for others, and internalizing the spiritual dimension of interbeing that is the deeper reality of our lives.
While some humans get a better upbringing than others, no childhood is perfect and everyone needs help integrating and developing into their full selves. Our parents have their stuff and they pass it on to us. Our culture - what I call “trauma culture” - has a lot to re-learn about what it means to be a human being. But going through a developmental trauma healing process is a veritable spiritual experience, because you re-enter your fleshy body, awaken your boundless heart, and automatically develop the capacity to help others in a world that needs your help now more than ever. This is the alchemy of turning the tragedy of suffering into a strength and a gift. On the contrary to this process being shameful, I see it transform people in ways that make a university education pale in comparison, in both breadth and depth of understanding what it means to be alive and what one’s place is in the world. The value of this process cannot be underestimated.
In the West we’ve been taught to believe that intelligence resides only in the thinking mind of human beings while everything else is programmed to be a mechanical, biological machine, determined by physical laws. While this thinking was upended one hundred years ago with the advent of quantum physics and with the discovery of cellular biology (or 2,500 years ago by the Buddha, or thousands more years ago by indigenous traditions!), somehow it persists in our psyches and school systems. We are 21st century human beings still living in a 19th century ideology! In our culture today, the idea of applying the word “intelligence” to anything outside of human thought still feels like it just doesn’t fit.
However, the reality is actually the inverse: our thinking minds are mostly fumbling in the dark, trying to uncover the infinitely complex intelligences that are interwoven all around us and within us. Around us there is a vast web of organic intelligence that many have come to call Gaia. It is now well known that trees communicate in forests, species interact in ways we are only just starting to see with scientific approaches, whales communicate across thousands of miles, and even single celled organisms make highly complex choices. That’s outside. Inside there are 50 trillion cells in the human body, all acting in concert, each of which is constantly executing complex functions in complex environments. Bruce Lipton is an author that has done well to detail this complexity, summarizing myriad research studies that all point to cells making precise decisions to maximize their well being in every moment.
The body automatically tends towards healing, from the cellular level all the way up. When we get a cut, as long as we don’t poke at it, give it some space to heal, and in bad cases tend to it through stitches or other care, it will close, a scab will form, and then delicate scar tissue will develop, later to be replaced by more durable skin. Eventually it may be difficult to tell there was ever a cut to begin with. It would be laughable to believe that the cut only healed because we engaged in the appropriate sequence of thoughts! No, cuts heal on their own. Cuts want to heal. Cuts know how to heal. We just facilitate the process.
How does this relate to psychotherapy? The problem with mainstream approaches is that they assume the emotional body is a machine and that the way to tune it is through the correct sequence of thoughts. This is a profound misunderstanding of human being. Thinking is just one tiny aspect of the picture. The emotional body, like the cut, both wants to heal and has the innate intelligence to do so. We just have to get out of the way.
Authentic approaches to personal transformation can include certain forms of somatic psychotherapy (such as Somatic Experiencing), energy work, creative movement and imagination, acupuncture (traditional Chinese medicine), ecopsychology and nature healing, vision quests, somatic meditation, and a vast array of traditional healing approaches. What all of these have in common is the recognition of the body’s innate intelligence down to the cellular level. These approaches don’t “do” something to you the way that a doctor uses tools to apply some technique in a mechanical way. Rather, these approaches facilitate the natural healing process by helping remove barriers to what already wants to happen, just like you would with a cut. The only difference between a professional healer and a layperson is that the healer can see what wants to happen and then acts to help that process along.
The real issue, a much larger topic that I may write a book on, is that our current cultural configuration no longer creates an organic environment for emotional healing to occur. Rather than dressing the wound and treating it with kindness, our culture today tends to do just about everything to exacerbate our dis-ease. I call this “trauma culture”. What people need for emotional healing is a feeling of safety at a visceral level, strong community and family ties to help hold their pain, methods for moving the energy through the body safely, and a right understanding of the process so that people can be open to the change that must occur. In our culture today it is exceedingly rare that people have a sufficient amount of even one of these. The result is we end up saddled with our pain, unable to heal, and we need to find specialists to help us.
Practically speaking, what this means is that authentic healing will help you to feel safe to move into territory you were taught is dangerous or even unreal. The practitioner will guide you and support you with love as your body releases the old emotional experiences locked away in your viscera (trauma energy). They will help you to unravel that which holds it in place such as body tension, unconscious patterns (syndromes), neurotic thinking, belief systems and fear. An effective healer will trust your process so you can too, rather than foisting their “expertise” onto you. In other words, a good healer will not have to hubris to tell your cut how it should heal; they will study your cut to find out the way it is wanting to heal, and then take steps to support that process with kindness and attunement. So too with processes of a healing heart.
Learning to trust the organic intelligence of the body takes time. You were taught your whole life that your body was a dumb biological machine, something to be embarrassed about and hidden because it poops and pees and longs to make love and dance. You were told it was something to be ashamed of when it feels. Religious institutions may have even called your basic, visceral being “sinful”. No matter how liberated we think we are in our culture, this ideological foundation has been dredged into the psyche of every Westernized person for centuries. So it takes a lot of support and experience to unlearn these damaging views of life for something more real, healthy and accurate to emerge.
As with everything true, this is not something you have to believe in. Working in an embodied way with a healer that trusts your body’s intelligence will show you, in one experience after another, that the wisdom for the healing you need is already within you. The real barrier to personal change isn’t the pain, but learning to let go into the pain, because we have been taught so deeply to distrust our subjective experience. We all need help with this initiation into our humanity, a function past cultures automatically provided.
Authentic healing will also create deep transformation by shifting your conscious relationship with the world because a good specialist doesn’t just do something to you - through your suffering they teach you how to process your pain in a way that works so you are empowered the next time you face a similar challenge. A healer is therefore also a teacher, helping to make up for what the dominant culture had forgotten generations ago: that we already have the wisdom we need within us. And then you can reclaim your subjectivity - your vitality, that throbbing being within you that wants to live! - one real experience at a time.
Good question! There are at least a few ways to answer this.
First, psychotherapy is kind of like cooking, or science - the word encompasses myriad traditions, practices and “flavors” that may have little resemblance to one another. Not all approaches actually work, for two reasons. The first is that some just don’t work. I’ll get back to that point. The second is that even among authentic approaches, there is still a need for a right fit. The patient has to feel comfortable and connected to their therapist. This does take time but the potential of this developing should be pretty apparent from the initial meeting. And the therapist’s approach needs to be resonant for the patient. If the therapist specializes in dream work and the client is uninterested in dreams, then obviously that won’t work very well. So a good fit will be determined by both the feeling of resonance between the patient and therapist, and by them being interested in working in the same ways.
For example, the work that I do could potentially be accessed through different doorways by a bodyworker, acupuncturist, intuitive healer, Jungian psychoanalyst or wilderness therapy guide. And what might be right for a patient may change over time. At one point a somatic therapist may be exactly what they need to heal by developing more inner awareness. At another point the healing may be best facilitated by connecting more to the outer world through experiences in nature. So there is no one right way, only the right place and the right people at the right time.
I can say without any reserve that authentic psychotherapy need only possess two qualities: First, that it is based in having new experiences, because this is the only way that people change. Second, these experiences must come spontaneously from within a person, rather than being imposed upon the patient by an “expert”. These two points are extremely important and distinguish between authentic approaches and what could be considered ineffective or even colonial approaches. It’s worth writing more about this because this is a subtle point and one that is rarely talked about in the field, though there are many good critical resources (check out the book “Critical Psychology”, “Constructing the Self, Constructing America”, or Adam Curtis’s documentary “Century of the Self”)
So much of “psychotherapy” today is of the cognitive variety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has gained a near monopoly thanks to highly questionable research practices which have gained it traction in the university system (see Jonathan Shedler’s work if you are a science nerd interested in deconstructing the way data is manipulated and truth is obscured). Because all therapists must go to graduate school in order to become licensed, CBT is often the sole approach that they are exposed to today, though it was much different in past decades.
When people say “cognitive therapies” they really just mean CBT. And the problem with CBT is two-fold. First, it is a profound misunderstanding of human being because it targets (and I use that word in the militaristic connotation in which they themselves use it) only one aspect of our experience. It falls prey to the reductionist “single cause” obsession that has gripped so much of science today, whether regarding human suffering or planetary crisis. Like our planet, humans are very, very complex, and merely changing one’s thoughts is hardly a way to deep transformation.
True transformation comes out of experience - experiencing split off, hidden, and undeveloped parts of ourselves. It is through this process that we see clearly the core beliefs that produce our thoughts and their origins in childhood and cultural wounding. This process helps develop our deeper sense of knowing, intuition and wisdom. As we go along we develop a greater relationship to a love and sense of safety that is much larger than the limits of our skin. None of these experiences come out of a simple reprogramming of our thoughts, which is more like an SNL Stuart Smalley skit than anything that could be considered serious clinical work. This is exactly why New Year’s resolutions don’t work, because they don’t come from the right place and they don’t address root causes.
For instance, at the core of someone with low-self esteem may be an overwhelming sense of shame. An authentic therapy would help them to move towards those feelings so that they could finally be fully felt and integrated. In doing so they would make contact with that young, wounded part of themselves, encounter memories and body sensations that laid the foundation for their earliest experiences, and re-open the channel of love towards this inner child, shifting deep beliefs about worthiness. This shifts the entire consciousness of the person and the thoughts change organically with it. When there is no longer a feeling of shame pervading every experience and social interaction, there is no longer a need to use negative thinking to manage those feelings.
None of this could ever happen with CBT, where the “therapist” as “expert” will tell the patient that they need to replace their negative thinking with new thoughts, while never addressing the underlying wound. This is like putting a band-aid on something that needs stitches, leaving it to fester and acting as if it isn’t there. But of course, it will erupt at inopportune times and continue to cause suffering until it is truly healed. This is why even though there is an army of CBT therapists putting in millions of clinical hours each year, and even though one in four middle age women are now on anti-depressants, the incidences of mental health disorders, suicide, and drug overdose continue to rise exponentially. In spite of what the experts say, at a macro scale it’s crystal clear that the dominant approaches are not only not working, but quite possibly making things worse. If I’m building a dam and the water keeps getting higher on my side, that’s a good indicator I’m not doing something right.
The second, and even more important problem with CBT is that it is by nature colonial. It would be one thing if CBT was neutral, if it was as ineffective at treating human suffering as memorizing multiplication tables. But it’s worse. CBT takes the dominant ideology - radical individualism and separation, disconnected from nature, heart and community; one which implicitly accepts a status quo fundamentally based on the exploitation of people of color, poor countries and the entire planet; and one where the worldview of academia is taken as the only True Religion - and imposes it onto people in their weakest, most vulnerable and receptive state. It is identical to the cult guru, finding the most disempowered people to dominate and control. Of course, cult gurus do not feel as if they are doing this, nor do therapists practicing CBT. Both are completely assured in their good intentions that they have privileged access to a truth that is worth imposing onto others, just as missionaries, slave owners and perpetrators of genocide throughout Western history. This is the quintessence of any plan, of any origin, imposed from without on another more vulnerable group.
You think that might sound extreme but it is the same mentality played out over and over again. Any time you have a person that is not exclusively trusting the experience of their patients, they are imposing their own version of reality. The academic worldview claims that cognition is all that matters and that we are basically just meaningless biological machines following determinist rules through a short life in an empty universe. The academic worldview dismisses everything we experience as “subjective” and therefore wisdom cannot exist. Dreams can only be nocturnal brain farts. Intuition can only be magical or even delusional thinking. And love is nice, but really it’s just some neurochemicals that nature designed so we would fuck more. This is what I call the genocide of subjectivity, and consultation rooms today are filled with its victims.
And in true missionary form, this version of reality is being exponentially exported to other countries. When I was in graduate school a professor proudly presented their project in India, where they were teaching people in the countryside to use CBT - in other words, to think like they do. This is culture murder and it continues to amaze me that the West keeps colonizing the hearts and minds of others, even under the banner of social justice. This is absolutely inexcusable. The reality of this practice is the killing off of the precious, marginalized worldviews that we need now, more than ever, to cure the Western mind’s obsession with abuse and control of all things living.
So what is psychotherapy? Well, it very much depends on who is doing it, what their training is, what their unconscious motivations are, and what kind of experience they are facilitating. If you take anything away from this essay, psychotherapy is not neutral. It is a deep practice of personal change, no matter who performs it - but you may not get the change your heart wants, the change your soul needs, the change the natural world longs for, but instead the change the patriarchal society demands so you can be a more obedient, docile citizen that produces and consumes while thinking all the right thoughts. At least, that is what the licensed expert told you, so it must be true, right?