What came before psychotherapy?
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Dr. James Hillman, noted archetypal psychologist, asked this question in a seminar entitled, and#8220;Pagan Psychology: A Therapy for Psychotherapyand#8221; given at Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2008. His most recent book is entitled, and#8220;Weand#8217;ve had a Hundred years of Psychotherapy and the Worldand#8217;s Getting Worse.and#8221; Hillmanand#8217;s main concern is the loss of the therapeutic value of simply being witness to psychological symptom and in understanding human behavior in context of ancestry, nature and culture.
Indeed, what did people do before modern psychotherapy when they were troubled, or needed to feel a sense of belonging with the rest of humanity when they felt uncertain? Hillman brought up the lost tradition of the sage or oracle, a person within the community whom people trusted for reflection, wisdom, insight or perhaps just to be reminded of their connectedness with the rest of humanity and perhaps more essential, their connection with nature, with Mother Earth, a source much more expansive than themselves.
In Native Navajo culture and in the Latino cultures, such a person is called a and#8220;promotora,and#8221; a person identified within the community who acts as a bridge and liaison between the people and government agencies or systems. A promotora can speak both the language of the people and the often complicated and intimidating language of bureaucracies or government agencies and is trusted by both groups to mediate and advocate without creating adversity.
Re-imagining the work of therapy is especially important in this time of economic uncertainty. This work is our work to do with each other now; it is no longer the work of those of us who are professional therapists. Our culture valorizes individuality and separateness often at the expense of connectedness and creating a sense of belonging. When we come together with open and undefended hearts, we discover the joy and beauty in our sameness. Hillman suggested the therapy room should be, and#8220;A place where all the gods are welcome,and#8221; which means a safe place where we welcome all the parts of who we are, not just the light and pretty aspects, but all of who we are. The divinity is in seeing our humanity through the eyes of love and compassion, for it is only then we are able to transmute that which does not serve us in a positive direction.
The Spirit Truckee Peer Counseling Program is a volunteer peer counseling program comprised of local community members trained in the way of the promotora. We offer people a way to find connection and navigate through lifeand#8217;s challenges. Eleven people stepped forward last April when Sierra Agape Center made an announcement for anyone interested in becoming a peer counselor to participate in a 30-hour training course. The volunteers for the Spirit Truckee Peer Volunteer Peer Counseling Program have become familiar with the numerous resources and agencies within our communities in addition to learning the art of compassionate listening. A promotora is with people in a way that identifies strengths, fostering a desire in people to persevere and cultivate self-love and worth.
Visit http://www.sierraagape.org and Spirit Peer Empowerment Center at 530-274-1431 for information.
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