D is for Dancing

Posted August 31, 2011 by allenkoehn
Categories: Uncategorized

D is for Dancing.

It’s all about relationships.

I’ve come to realize that my definition of relationship has to do with anyone and everything that I notice, pay attention to, avoid, celebrate, and otherwise invest even a minimal amount of energy toward. In other words all experiences are relationships in one form or another. If I am aware of someone or something then I am in a relationship.

Now the quality, nature and intensity of that relationship varies hugely, but I’m sticking with this as a working hypothesis. At this moment I am having a relationship with my computer screen, and the thoughts and words that I am forming in my mind and typing on this keyboard. When I shift my awareness to my cell phone that is lying on the desk next to my computer I have begun a relationship with it. Then I note the ball point pen and the glass of iced tea and the sensations at the tips of my fingers as I type and the ache in my back because I am slouching. Then my dog walks into the room and curls up next to me. That reminds me that my wife and I will take him for a walk later. Well you get the idea.

What I also begin to notice is that as I relate to each of these things I have to take energy away from one relationship in order to invest it in the new relationship. On the good days I can broaden my awareness and be in relationship with more than one person, thing, or thought, but the quality of the relationship is diluted. This dynamic, this dance seems to apply equally to inner and outer experiences.

I am saying that there is a direct link between attention and relationship. By this definition you can’t have a relationship without awareness, and whatever I am aware of I am in relationship with. So, what happens to all the relationships in my life experience when I am not paying attention to them? It’s as if they go “off stage” for a time until they are brought back by some cue that I am mostly unaware of.

My theory about that is that I pay attention to, and have more or less conscious and aware relationships based on the amount of energy that I experience in the “others” I am aware of. I believe there is a basic spectrum related to the things I pay attention to that goes from positive and desirable on one end and negative and terrifying on the other. It is a form of carrots and sticks. For the record I like carrots better than sticks. Of course there is a lot of stuff in the middle that doesn’t get much energy from me because it is not carroty or sticky enough. (See earlier blog: B is for Boredom).

What does this have to do with D is for Dancing you might well ask. Put simply, I finally got that all relationships, and I mean ALL, are a kind of dance. Let me say quickly that I know this implies an attitude of dualism. But, since I have not yet achieved enlightenment I still operate most of the time in relationship with what has been called the “Not-I”. This applies to my experiences of myself in a bizarre form of schizophrenia. You know where “you” are arguing with “you”. “Eat the cookie!”, says you. “Don’t eat the cookie!”, says you. If that’s not a dance I don’t know what is.

The first key to this perspective is that the dances are never static. Go ahead, try and pay attention to something, anything, and have it be static. Not possible. All my experiences/relationships have been and are in motion. Now the motion may not be easily discerned, but I have found the second key: listen for the music. Just as there is always motion, there is always music. The music for the dance of life begins in the womb with the heartbeats between mother and child. The next step (no pun intended) is the breath which, with heartbeat, is the dance of life. Pay attention and you will hear the music and that will lead you to the steps of that dance at that moment.

Of course I don’t always like the music and I may not immediately recognize what steps go with the music, but if I am willing to risk it and practice my whole world changes.

That is another aspect of the dance, it is about holding and being held. No, it’s not particularly about who is leading. Rather it is about being willing to invest our attentional energies as consciously as possible. As I practice this way of being present I notice how easily I can over and under fund my relationships. This has to do with how I choose to spend my attention. This can be tricky. Sometimes I want to dance with everyone and everything, and sometimes I want only one partner. Sometimes I feel like the wallflower at the high school dance, but even that is a dance with its own music.
It takes practice to learn how to diversify our relational portfolios. We have to notice our carrots and our sticks and how we tend to be reactive to them. This is a necessary stage in stepping (sorry, I can’t help myself) across a threshold of responding to new music and new steps.

This all showed up even as I was being stingy with the relational energy I anticipated needing to sit down and dance with this topic and get it written down. Finally I started tapping my foot, or keyboard in this case, and then I really got into the rhythm. Now I notice this music coming to an end and I want it to stay a little longer. But, I know there is always other music and a new partner to dance with.

The beat goes on.

C is for Circles

Posted January 8, 2011 by allenkoehn
Categories: Uncategorized

Peppery Circles

C is for Circles

I’ve been resisting writing on this topic since it first drew my attention.  I’ve been “circling” around it ever since.  The Gladwellian “Tipping Point” that led to my actually putting these words down was when I was reminded of a classic definition of God:

The nature of God is a circle

of which the center is everywhere

and the circumference is nowhere.

-Empedocles

Almost at once I was flooded with circle images and phrases: Inner circle; outer circle; going around in circles; expanding circles; contracting circles; hamster cage circles; circling for a landing; social circles; spirals; cycles of nature; going full circle; circles of us and them; etc.  Then I thought, “What if Empedocles was on to something?”  That meant that God was everywhere and anywhere that I could be aware of. That all awareness was of the infinite nature of God.

Now, let me get the word “God” dealt with so I can go on.  As a former active minister in the Presbyterian Church I was quite comfortable with this word.  Then I got psychologyized and liberated and evolved into using synonyms as a way to not have to deal with miscellaneous baggage associated with this word.  I tried a full range: higher power; Spirit; Nature; the Goddess; the Self; etc.  Finally two things became clear to me: one, the euphemism route just felt like cheating; and, two, I missed “God” in the sense that experiences I’d had associated with that word had been very rich and meaningful to me and I wanted to re-claim that heritage.  I’m not talking about the Patriarchal Cosmic Accountant.  I’m talking about what I experienced beyond the theological constructs and creeds.  I’m talking about what connected me to life in the fullest senses rather than what reduced things down to dualistic categories of right and wrong, black and white, good and bad.  The closest word for those experiences is Grace. If you push me I would admit I am very drawn to the Tao insofar as it speaks to this issue in the opening words of the Tao te Ching: “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.”  I think this is a big part of why I like Empedocles so much.  So, “God” it is.

The next step was to consider what I mean by circles and how circles come into being.  For now, since this is a topic in progress, I’m using the word “circle” to speak to any and all experiences of awareness.  I suspect that there is really only one big circle, but whenever I am able to be present and aware a “franchise” circle is created. I’m going to assume that each of us has our own franchise and all kinds of circles are being drawn all the time without anybody having to get permission from me.  That’s a relief.

It would seem that what I am saying is that God is at the center of all human experience.  That quickly leads to another old issue: what about evil?  Since so much of our experience as humans includes suffering, pain, and death do I want to put God in the center of those circles as well?  Yep.  Otherwise Empedocles would be pissed off at me; and, it would suggest that there are limits on God.  I’m not interested in such a cleaned up version of God.

Now we’re getting to it.  If God is at the center of all the circles of our existence and we don’t draw the circles we only become aware of whatever circle we’re capable of, then that changes the whole game for our dear old egos.  We suddenly find our place at the center of the/our universe very relativized to say the least.  I think of a t-shirt I’ve always fantasized about creating.  On the front it says: “Don’t they know who I am?”  And, on the back, it says, “Who do they think they are?”

The stumbling block is that we like the “Wow!” parts of hanging out in the circle with God, but we aren’t so thrilled about the “Ow!” experiences.  Once again the Buddha nailed it with the whole grasping and aversion reality.  In spite of all the experience to the contrary we think we can beat the system and avoid suffering.  We can’t.  The Circle has to be inclusive. We are not the center of the circle, but now we can be aware of the circle and expand our awareness of how vast it is and begin to see and experience our relationship to the nature of God.

My job description has now changed.  Can I open my awareness to the Circle of life in all its fullness?  Or, as I am fond of saying, “How much life can you stand?”

I intend to write more on this topic and hope you find it of value. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

2010 in review

Posted January 4, 2011 by allenkoehn
Categories: Uncategorized

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 5 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 15 posts. There were 6 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 22mb.

The busiest day of the year was August 2nd with 200 views. The most popular post that day was A is for Algebra.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, mail.yahoo.com, my.yahoo.com, mail.live.com, and znart.net.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for laurie casriel, threshold, “allen koehn”+presbyterian, luanne depons, and katheemiller.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

A is for Algebra August 2010
20 comments

2

First the Darkness, then the Light January 2010
15 comments

3

Religious Resonance: A Psychotherapeutic Resource February 2010
11 comments

4

B is for Boredom September 2010
6 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

5

Chopping and Carrying March 2010
9 comments

B is for Boredom

Posted September 5, 2010 by allenkoehn
Categories: Uncategorized

Questions?

B is for Boredom

I talked with a 17 yr. old a few days ago who was telling me how bored he was as he checked his cell phone to see if anyone was texting him. I’m pretty sure his feeling wasn’t about not having anything to do per se. When I asked he agreed that there’s always something to do, but none of it was appealing. There was no energy, no pull. The easy answer is that he just wanted to be entertained, but then it dawned on me that maybe what he really wanted was to be engaged. I think that most of us know the difference between being distracted and being engaged. Distracted is mostly about killing time, whereas engaged is about living fully. It’s a kind of being called, touched, awakened to life’s possibilities. This is all fine when we get caught up in ways that we like. The problem comes when the call is asking, even demanding, that we make efforts, be vulnerable, sacrifice, risk and even suffer. That’s when, as James Hollis puts it, a life of, distraction and hedonism looks quite appealing.

I have begun to have a new appreciation for boredom as a state of potential. Tolstoy calls it a “desire for desires”. I think that Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss” resonates at exactly this point. As much as we might fear the call, we are dying slowly without it. Maybe we’re not so much bored as we are not paying attention. I have tried the exercise of exploring moments of seeming boredom and it doesn’t take long to become aware that there are energies present just below the surface. Fear and excitement; imagination and panic swirl around. All dressed up and no place to go. Jung’s description of such psychic energy as having intentionality comes clear when we can give and hold our attention to it. Alchemically boredom is a kind of lead with the potential for transformation into the gold of a fuller life. Fine, but who wants to pay attention to lead? The gold seems very far away in the face of the heaviness of the moment.

I like Ellen Parr’s statement (or Dorothy Parker’s, you pick) that the “cure for boredom is curiosity; and there is no cure for curiosity.” How to awaken the natural curiosity of our novelty seeking brains? It seems to me that the essence of curiosity is asking questions. What questions might we ask about the lead of boredom? The standard ones that show up pretty quickly include: “Why me?” And, “How do I make it go away?” Oh, and, “Why are they/life doing this to me?”

The shrink in me would like to move to: “What possible meaning might this experience offer?” But, that avoids the immediacy of the experience. Boredom weighs on me. I don’t like it. Boredom is boring. Granted. “How to be present with it?” That’s a better question, and one without easy answers. And, as I stay with it the energy does reveal itself. Not always pleasantly, but always present. Am I willing to be called, touched, challenged, awakened?

I’ve known and worked with a lot of people who we traditionally think of as “creative” – artists, writers, musicians – who often talk about being blocked or stuck. One facet of such stuckness fits with this idea of boredom. Life is flat and static. There is no flow of creative juices. They are ready and willing as best they can to be “engaged”, but have lost the source. For me the reality is that this state is much more universal than we usually realize. Which of us has not felt some version of this as we go through our daily routines of work and parenting and relationships?

Is this boredom or depression? The line can be very thin at times. For me the distinction has to do with whether or not one can tap into the energy that is present in what we call boredom that seems to be missing in states of depression. Just below the surface of boredom is an invitation to life; depression mostly doesn’t offer that. The vital question becomes how do we perceive and respond to this “invitation”. How do I explain to my 17 yr. old friend that he is an alchemist in the making? I think the answer, for him, and for us, is to be open to the possibility and the challenge of these moments. To recognize that what the ego feels as boring is in fact a call to explore and expand in ways that we have feared, avoided, or, simply hadn’t noticed before. Any questions?

A is for Algebra

Posted August 1, 2010 by allenkoehn
Categories: Uncategorized

Let me begin by thanking you for continuing to read after seeing the word algebra in the title. I’m assuming that most of you do not respond to this topic with, “Oh, boy, an article on algebra.” Normally I wouldn’t read, much less write, something on algebra, but I am just off the Internet checking some credit card data and the security question that I most hate showed up, again. Yes, my “worst subject in high school” was algebra. I wish they wouldn’t rub it in. On the other hand my reaction suggests that there may be something here that needs a closer look. To start with, there’s that certain twinge that comes up in reaction to this question that I associate with exposure and shame. More reflection leads me to one of my least favorite truths: I have limits, there’s plenty I don’t know and problems I don’t know how to solve. Not exactly earth-shattering news, but I think algebra in the ninth grade drove this home in a particular way. At the time I was convinced that there was some trick that would allow me to “get” the whole thing about those two trains. You remember – the one leaving from New York and the one leaving from Chicago.
Fortunately through the years and my periodic re-encounters with algebra something has become clear and of great value to me, namely that my struggle with algebra has taught me both the fact and the necessity of “not knowing”. I hate that, even though I know that life is full of algebra problems in one form or another, and not knowing is essential for learning any new thing. We are called, pushed and driven to leave our hard-earned “knowns” in order to encounter and engage the fears and frustrations – dangers and demands that are just on the other side of whatever thresholds of knowness we cling to that make life worth living.
In hindsight I think that my problem with algebra was that I wanted to learn this “new” thing, but was unable or unwilling to let go of what I’d known up to that point and allow myself to “not know”. I kept trying to “get” algebra using my old ways. I have seen many of the people in my life and in my practice suffer from their version of that same dynamic: being confronted with the challenge of something new that called for moving beyond familiar boundaries, but trying to do it while still hanging on to some previously workable adaptation. It is the classic case of trying to fit the round peg into the square hole. Sadly, and all too often, we attempt to solve the perceived problem by using our old hammers to hit the peg harder and harder to no avail. Buried in here is the call to a fuller, richer and ultimately more satisfying life. We are confronted with our resistance to the fact of having limits, of not knowing. A kind of clinging to a rigid position that looks very much like a two-year olds, “No!”
Trusting that you are still with me – the question becomes: Why am I inflicting my algebraic angst onto you? The answer is that I’m assuming each of us suffers from what I now call an Algebra Complex of some kind. This complex is characterized by an encounter with a perceived problem that doesn’t yield to our old ways. Put simply we cling to the outworn limitations of what we “know” in order to maintain whatever we perceive safe to be. Safety is a factor, but it is not the problem. The problem is that we are living out of entrenched fears and patterns that are on automatic pilot. Self-imposed limits that may need to be reconsidered in the light of new circumstances and resources that we didn’t have available when we first constructed them. Hey, they seemed like a good idea at the time.
These outmoded limits can manifest in so many different ways. Creatively: “I don’t know” – how to draw, paint, play, write.” Clinically: “I don’t know” – how to work with trauma, addictions, dreams, couples, families, individuals. Intellectually: “I don’t know” – how to understand quantum physics, deconstruction, political theory, economics. Personally: “I don’t know” – how to be open to myself, much less another human being. We end up avoiding potential in ourselves and others. We feel shame. We get angry. Our lives are smaller than they need to be. We suffer.
Ironically we call this the “comfort zone”, and most of us are all too familiar with it. For many such patterns are our oldest and most trustworthy “friends”. As a result, we tend to only move from this zone of “knowing” if we are presented with a big enough carrot or a big enough stick. The carrot can be the possibility of being vulnerable to a new relationship with a person, an idea, a food, a geographical location, a song that makes us tap our feet – in public. The stick can be just being sick and tired of being sick and tired. It can be the “hitting bottom” of AA. It can be the pain of isolation. The point is that here is where the possibility of taking a step into the unknown presents itself. Such steps require risks, courage, some version of faith, and a lot of work. And no one can guarantee where these steps will take us or what the outcome will be.
For me such a first step is an attitude of respect for the systems we have in place. They were designed to keep us as safe as possible. In their own way they have worked – even if that safety has come at greater and greater cost – and a smaller and more fearful life.
A respectful exploring of the facets of my habitual patterns in operation allows greater and greater awareness of the contexts and the triggers that have evolved and what “algebra problems” they were created to protect me from. If you start into such a process, if you take that first step, and if you wonder how to know that you’re on the right track the answer is simple: You will experience anxiety. That’s the good news because such anxiety is basically life energy looking for a place to explore and express itself in new ways. The key is to aim that anxiety. Make it an ally.
Once you get a sense of how this works you’ll begin to find your rhythm with it. Like music, like dance and like play you’ll move forward and back; you’ll soar and you’ll skin your knees. And you’ll ask yourself over and over: Is it worth the risk, the cost, the pain? The answer will change from day to day. You’ll only know when you know, and then you’ll need to let go of that knowing in order practice more not knowing. That’s all I know – for now.

Chopping and Carrying

Posted March 24, 2010 by allenkoehn
Categories: Uncategorized

Smile

Smile

I am often reminded of the Zen saying: “Before Enlightment chop wood, carry water; after Enlightenment chop wood, carry water.” I resonate with the idea that doing the things of life with awareness will lead to Enlightenment – in whatever form we might imagine it. I particularly value the idea that those who are so Enlightened still have the “wood and water” elements of life to engage them.

This set me to thinking about how this might apply to our clinical work – as well as our personal lives. Thus the question: “Which wood do we chop? Which water do we carry?” What are the wood and water of our work as therapists and human beings? I began to imagine the therapeutic setting as a place where client and therapist walk in with their particular forms of wood and water. The trick is to make sure we recognize the forms they manifest in.

We begin with paying attention, being present, listening to the stories that unfold. We do our best to create a safe containing space where the story can unfold and be heard. This echoes Winnicott’s idea of “Transitional space”, and the alchemical idea articulated by Jung of the vas hermeticum. This is where the wood and the water become the prima materia that can be transformed into the gold of wholeness and healing.
But how to recognize such potential in our wood and water? Sometimes the “wood” is a splinter just under the skin; sometimes it is an impenetrable forest we find ourselves lost in; and, sometimes it is the resource for a new structure – inner or outer. Just as the “water” may be a flood of tears; the rain of regeneration; and sometimes it is a tsunami of overwhelming trauma and grief. And, there are those times when there seems to be no wood, no water in a desert of depression.

These elements are often experienced as either too much or too little. Too much in the sense that we don’t really want to face them. We’d rather find something a little less scary and less demanding of effort and the risk of change. Sometimes they are too little in that they are easily undervalued and treated like the lowly lead in alchemy. We, like Goldilocks, often want to find “just right”, which usually means avoiding the dark woods and the watery depths.

Still, we wait, we listen for the beat, watch for the Ariadnian thread, the whisper. We get better at being in the state of “not knowing”. This can be hard to do since those we work with want us to know. And, we wait, staying alert to the dual temptations of grasping and aversion. Grasping at the seemingly easy answer and averse to plumbing our own forests and depths.

We learn the chopping of wood as the work of clearing space, building fire and shelter. It becomes the differentiating of one part of the wood from another. It is not us imposing our will on the wood, but rather being in respectful service to it so that we may learn to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

We carry water as a basic task of life that both literally and metaphorically we cannot survive without. And we learn the difference between a burden and a gift.

Yet this is not the way the “real” world seems to operate or to value. These are not points of view that can be measured and quantified – much less qualify for insurance re-imbursement. Nice ideas maybe, but not really applicable when real suffering and pain and fear are pressing on us and our clients. Where is the wood and water in having been laid off from a job? Or, in being in a relationship where all are in pain? Or, being alone and feeling that life has no meaning?

I’ve come to appreciate that it is just here in such life experiences that the chopping wood and carrying water are most needed. Jack Kornfield has a quote that I find fitting: “The unawakened mind tends to make war against the way things are.” In such a war we all suffer. I once looked up the definitions for “suffer”. Webster says that definition number one is to “undergo and endure”. But it also means “to allow”, as when Jesus says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”It seems to me that paying attention, being present and aware includes both definitions.

That’s where the Zen saying becomes particularly meaningful in the world most of us experience each day. We “undergo and endure”. Our experience somehow begins to change when we can also “allow” life to be what it is. When I have voiced this to certain people they say it is a cop-out, a way of somehow just rising above the harsh realities of existence into a kind of spiritual denial. My response is that there are two kinds of chopping and carrying: the first is before Enlightenment and assumes that when we can end the war of resistance against “the way things are”; to really be present for Zorba’s “The Whole Catastrophe” and to get a glimpse of Enlightenment. The second kind of chopping and carrying is the much harder work of bringing those glimpses into everyday life. I often ask myself, “What else is true?” I don’t ask this so much when things are going in ways I like, but when things are harder I find it a way of doing good psychic bookkeeping with both debit and credit columns taken into consideration.

The Latin motto for the Jesuits is: age quod agis, which translates to, “Do what you are doing.” It’s an excellent motto for those seeking to be present in the chopping and carrying of life. So, welcome the wood, and celebrate the water.

Religious Resonance: A Psychotherapeutic Resource

Posted February 7, 2010 by allenkoehn
Categories: Uncategorized

This is an article that was just published in the Santa Barbara Chapter of CAMFT.

In the early days of my role as a Presbyterian minister I did a lot of Pastoral Counseling. The more I did this the more I wanted to know and understand about psychology. I read widely but quickly realized that there were two main points of view: first, the traditional, theologically based view that attempted to explain all experiences and treatments in terms of accepted and approved biblical and theological dogma; second, was the variety of psychological schools that tended to reduce religious perspectives to fantasy and wish-fulfillment.

It was when I was introduced to C.G. Jung’s work that I finally found a point of view that respected the “religious” experience as a psychological reality that was rooted in each person’s experience. A few years later as I was training to be a certified Jungian analyst I came across the following quote: In Jung’s Collected Works vol. 11 he defines religion as “a peculiar attitude of mind which could be formulated in accordance with the original use of the word ‘religio’, which means a careful consideration and observation of certain dynamic factors, that are conceived as ‘powers’: spirits, daemons, gods, laws, ideals, or whatever name man has given to such factors in his world as he has found powerful, dangerous, or helpful enough to be taken into careful consideration, or grand, beautiful, and meaningful enough to be devoutly worshipped and loved.”

Over the years I have found that this “peculiar attitude” has allowed me to work with a very broad spectrum of clients from a variety of backgrounds in terms of their experience with religion. For many this has included experiences within traditional religious institutions that left them angry and abandoned. For others it is a question of how to respect their own belief in rationalism, atheism, science etc. and still have a way to relate to what they experience as something larger and unknown. For Joseph Campbell a major stumbling block regarding the value of a “religious” point of view can be found in our attitudes toward metaphor and symbol. In Thou art that he observes, “half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”
In my experience the main function of metaphor and symbol is to give us a way to address the “Other”, be it internal or external. In Jungian terms this Other starts with the Shadow, those elements of the whole personality that are not acceptable to our adaptation to the world. These elements can include things like anger, power, greed and sexual fantasies. But they can also be positive things we don’t know how to claim – like talents, creativity, and anything that might evoke envy from others. On a larger scale we collectively project these Shadow elements onto the world by creating Others in terms of race, gender, language, culture, religion and politics. From this perspective the Shadow, using Jung’s definition, can be seen as a religious issue or dynamic. The key has to do with how the projections, be they positive or negative, activate psychic energy. All therapists have experienced such positive and negative energy in terms of transference and counter-transference dynamics.

How does having an attitude that is open to what I am calling Religious Resonance help us at these times? First, it gives us a way to respect what is happening as not all being generated at an ego level. The advantage of this is that we can be open to addressing and resolving them within our human limits. Resolution does not have to be perfect. Second, such respect for the idea that more is present than just the ego actually frees us to avoid the extremes of either identifying with the power aspect of such psychic energy on the one hand, or, being crushed by the dark side of it on the other. It is at this point we can take on the demanding task of taking responsibility for what is ours rather than what we have projected onto others. Not surprisingly we as therapists and as persons often encounter enormous resistance to the idea that we have any responsibility for what is happening. It is important at this juncture to note that taking responsibility is not the same as taking blame. Such self-blame allows me to avoid the always difficult aspect of holding what Jung called the “tension of the opposites” where more than one thing is true. Taking responsibility for this “tension of the opposites” is what creates a religious resonance because it is just there that the “peculiar attitude” opens us to a third thing in terms of a dream or a symbol that somehow resolves the situation in an inclusive rather than an exclusive way. Here is the living experience that is at the core of all the great religions of the world. Here one is confronted with the mystery that threatens to overwhelm us, and the grace that transcends our old point of view. It is also here that we do everything we can to not have our familiar ego perspective relativised in relationship to a larger Other. We tend to cling to whatever dogma has worked in the past be in theological, political or psychological. Jung has said that one of the functions of religion is to protect us from the religious experience. Which is to say the immediacy of Other.

I believe with Alice Miller that most of us are called to this work out of our own life experiences and hopefully in that process we have found healing as well as vocation. Such healing often, if not always, included opening to the most vulnerable parts of ourselves and trusting an “other” to see us and hear us so that we might see, hear and experience a self that included more than just our ego’s perspective.
. In our offices powerful energies are present whether we like them or not. We may experience them as seductive and exhilarating at some points, and mysterious, overwhelming and humbling at others. It is our ability to continually have the courage to recognize and respect our experiences with “Other” and bring to them this “peculiar attitude” that fosters a truly religious resonance and helps keep our work alive.