People who know my background sometimes ask me why I decided to stop being a psychotherapist. I often reply, ‘So I could focus on my healing work’, but that doesn’t really answer the question. There are several answers, including the great depth and relative speed of healing that shamanic work can offer. But one of the most important answers to me is one that most people never think of. The fact is, I’d been doing energy healing as long as I’d been a therapist (over twenty years), and for a lot of that time I loved both aspects of my job and felt they combined well. But gradually I came to feel that the fit was no longer working, and I just wasn’t comfortable any more. Because the way most of my clients experienced the world, and the way I experienced it, were diverging more and more dramatically.
Of course, the healing, spiritual and astrological areas of my work had always given me a different perspective, but I’m talking about more than that. My difficulty was that while I’m quite rational (no sniggering at the back, please!) and function well enough in the world of ‘ordinary reality’, I can no longer bear to see a client suffering and still collude in the illusion that this consensual reality is how things really are. And for me, just talking about the illusion without truly living in a wider reality, is collusion. This is not to doubt the seriousness of pain, whether physical, emotional, spiritual or whatever, or of illness and death – but these are experiences within a dream context of learning and challenge. They do not, I believe, represent the full truth of things.
When I began to train in shamanic traditions I found that many things I did in healing sessions, and many of my perceptions, had been intrinsic to shamanic teachings for thousands of years. This awareness of my ancient lineage was affirming and inspiring, and had the startling effect that a few barriers in my mind immediately crumbled. These were barriers I had established between the experiences in other realities I often had in my work, and the rest of my ‘ordinary’ human life which I shared with other people. In my psychotherapy sessions I had met my clients within our common reality, and rarely discussed with them the details of healing. So, I then began to offer shamanic healing, and continued for some years trying to combine it with psychotherapy.
But the very fact of presenting work as ‘shamanic’ while fitting it into some version, however unusual, of conventional psychotherapy ultimately seemed to me to trivialise my commitment to the path I was on. I came to feel it was inauthentic of me to continue working like this. I place a high value on authenticity, and one thing I can promise is that I never pretend to be anything I’m not. After some anxious dithering, I closed my psychotherapy practice and felt immediate relief. Now I feel I can work from a secure base of who I truly am. Of course, this is my own solution. I realise that many people may read this and think, ‘I just don’t get the problem.’ I know, too, that there are psychotherapists of good heart who incorporate shamanic work into therapy sessions and feel that this works well. I can’t comment on other people’s choices, and heaven knows we need as many practitioners of integrity as we can get, however they do it. All I can say is that the framework of psychotherapy, as a practice for me, now feels unbearably confining, and I can no longer do it. So, as to why I made this choice, I hope I’ve given a slightly more satisfactory answer than I’ve managed in the past! Greetings to all Earth’s beings, as the creative fire of Spring pours into our hearts.
*John Donne, Holy Sonnet 7.