The four powers of the Synergist

A colleague responded recently to my post on finding my ideal clients by talking about the four needs of attachment theory.  In short, a client needs the same things from a therapist or Synergist that a child needs from a caregiver – or an adult from a loving relationship.  I’ll simply quote my friend here: “To be open and trusting for a healing experience, we need to feel like: I Exist (I am seen and heard), I am Safe, I am Loved (accepted) and I Belong.”

Since I just returned from a big fat Pagan conference, I couldn’t help looking at these four really excellent pillars of attachment and linking them to the Four Powers of the Witch/Magician, as they relate to the four elements in many Pagan traditions: To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Keep Silence.  These correspond to the elements/directions of Air/East; Fire/South, Water/West, and Earth/North.

What many people come to various kinds of therapy, counseling, body or energy work looking for is to feel empowered and in control of their lives.  There’s a reason I decided to call my business Power In Your Hands; besides the reference to the work being hands-on, I wanted to give the feeling that coming to see me will help you claim your own power.  The Four Powers are the ways a magical worker – or anyone, really – have of getting anything done.  To achieve a desire, first you have to Know what it is, and gain as much knowledge as you can about how to go about it.  Next, you have to Will – to take definitive action toward your goal.  In the course of your action, you also must Dare: open your heart to vulnerability, to the possibility of failure or success, to the various surprising paths that might open as you take the leap.  And finally, to Keep Silence: to digest what has happened, to rest from your efforts, to germinate new ideas as a seed rests in the soil until spring.  (This last step is the one our culture tends to encourage us to skip: it’s all Know! Will! Dare! Know! Will! Dare! None of this is sustainable without rest, recovery, and reflection.)

In counseling or therapy, the client is seeking help in tapping into these powers, and as my friend pointed out, four pieces need to be present in order for the healing to occur.  To feel the sense of “I Exist” or “I Am Seen” is what precedes “To Know”: one must have the clarity of Air, which brings definition, acknowledgment, and curiosity – not to mention breath! – for both.  To Will something into being – to take action – one must first feel Safe; the power of Fire needs a strong container in order to be harnessed, and the feeling of safety provides that container. Water is associated with emotions, love, fluidity and openness: one must feel that they are loved and accepted before being willing to open to vulnerability: To Dare.  And finally, Earth brings the sense of grounding, home and hearth, stillness and being with what is.  The feeling of “I Belong” corresponds well to this, and a person who feels like they belong has an easier time Keeping Silence and being still with what is while the next course of action gestates.

I hope that even those readers who have no knowledge of or interest in paganism can relate to these ideas.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Not Actually A Psychotherapist

Earlier this month, I made a post about finding my ideal clients in which I implied, near the end, that I’m a body psychotherapist.  (The exact quotation was, “If you were looking for help from a body psychotherapist, what would you hope they could do for you?”  Which admittedly was more about finding out what people want out of body/mind workers in general – of which there are countless flavors – but did imply that I’m a body psychotherapist.)  At the beginning of the article I did talk about the need, especially early in Rubenfeld Synergy’s development, for it to be called something else – a Method, to use the actual name; a “modality,” to use a term that people outside of the bodywork world don’t generally know; a “technique,” as Alexander adopted.  Associating bodywork with psychotherapy is still taboo, and as I learned a few days ago, actually against the Standards and Practices document I signed when I was certified as a Rubenfeld Synergist.  Oops.

So it falls to me to state clearly, here and now: I am not a psychotherapist.  While the roots of the Method include Gestalt therapy, I am not a Gestalt therapist, either.  I am, in fact, not any kind of therapist.  🙂

I do practice a Method that is included under the umbrella of The United States Association for Body Psychotherapy, but I am not permitted to call myself a  psychotherapist, body or otherwise.  Bad things could happen.  (Someone was sued some years back.)

While the Standards and Practices of my certification of course trump anything else for me, there is a weird thing in Massachusetts that potentially puts things in a gray area: in Massachusetts, one is permitted to hang out one’s shingle as a psychotherapist without having a license.  I’m not entirely sure why this is the case, although the extensive and arguably unreasonable hoop-jumping required to get any kind of licensure in Massachusetts might be part of the cause.  More likely it’s a weird loophole that hasn’t yet been closed.

A 2006 Boston Magazine article on sexual abuse in psychiatry notes:

Like many states, Massachusetts regulates specific types of mental-health workers, but there are gaps. In addition to psychiatrists, it requires licenses for people holding themselves out as psychologists, mental-health counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. Not covered is the term psychotherapist. That means anyone from an unemployed construction worker to a psychiatrist who’s been punished for abusing a patient can call himself a psychotherapist. One Boston-area phone book has 432 listings under the heading ‘Psychotherapists,’ and it’s possible that not one of them is actually a licensed therapist. (Insurance companies will not pay for treatment by unlicensed therapists, but many people don’t have mental-health coverage anyway.)

This is troubling to say the least, and I find it sadly ironic that it seems the population most likely to abuse this lexical loophole is not necessarily people who study for years to learn alternative modalities, but people who used to have licenses but now don’t because they are unethical jerks.

Given this exceedingly ugly company, I will no longer be tempted to refer to myself as a body psychotherapist, or a psychotherapist of any kind.  While I may do further studies one day and obtain some kind of official state licensure, at the moment, Rubenfeld Synergy Method is enough for me.

Still, though: it’d be nice to have something to call what I do besides “Synergist,” since nobody knows what that is.  “Bodyworker” isn’t quite accurate; “Counselor” is close but runs into the same legal gray area.  Apparently RSM has been legally defined as a “holistic bodymind healing modality.”  Just rolls off the tongue, donnit?

But, we do what we must.  My certification, code of ethics, liability insurance and professional organization membership are all covered, and handy labels must wait for some stroke of marketing genius to touch down.  Until then – my listing in Psychology Today notwithstanding – I’ll stay away from the gray.

I was shaken this week by this Jack London quotation, though I tend to respond to what he calls “The White Silence” a bit differently. There is fear, yes, and smallness, but also a sense of being part of everything; of being insignificant, but part of the One. Back from a week in San Francisco, as well as at Pantheacon in San Jose – a huge gathering of crazy pagans, a great confluence of Tribe. It was fantastic, and as many magical gatherings do for me, reconnected me to Spirit.
Enjoy.

[Re-run] How do we do listening touch with someone who can't hear?

Last night, I had the pleasure and challenge of working with a client, Sue*, who is completely deaf.  I will admit, first off, that I don’t have a lot of experience with deaf people; while I’ve long been fascinated by sign language, I haven’t happened to have many interactions with people who are deaf.  Some of this may be due to the intricacies of Deaf culture and my non-membership in said culture; some of it is chance.  But some of it may be that I haven’t taken the time or effort to get to know any deaf people well.

Interacting with Sue made me extremely aware of how much I, as a hearing person, depend on verbal interaction when getting to know someone.  I was admittedly thrown off my center a little when this client first contacted me, by phone: I was speaking to her interpreter, who was a man, and was presenting himself as if he were the client – a woman, with a feminine name.  He was speaking directly for her – saying “I” and “me” – and without benefit of visual cues, I had to adjust to the idea that I was not actually speaking with this man, but with this woman sitting next to him and conversing in sign.  After this came a series of emails in which we discussed how we might set up a session; we finally agreed that bringing an interpreter along would be the best choice.

Once in person (with a different interpreter this time), I had much more available to me in terms of facial expressions, body language, and gestures as I got to know Sue.  I still, however, had to conduct much of my conversation with her while she looked at, and interacted with, her interpreter.  This worked just fine, but created an interesting distance that had to be overcome.

In Synergy sessions, the client lies on a massage table, and often, she will close her eyes.  There is a lot of verbal interaction in addition to the touch, and the client is asked to pay attention to very subtle movement and changes in her body.  Naturally, the verbal back-and-forth that I would normally do in a session was hampered, and we had to find a solution: in this case, the interpreter also stood by the table and translated what we said back and forth.  The session was moderately successful, I thought, and we discovered some lovely insights, but it was interesting how many challenges arose out of this situation, and it made me wonder how Rubenfeld Synergists might devise better ways of working with deaf clients.

For one thing, having to interrupt a client’s relaxing trance state by asking that she open her eyes so she can see what’s being said feels like a constant undermining of the flow of the session.  Sue wanted to have her eyes closed a lot of the time, and when I wanted to say something, her interpreter would touch her shoulder gently.  Sometimes, Sue would spontaneously begin commenting on what she was experiencing, but at other times, she needed prompting, and I found myself reluctant to do so when her eyes were closed.

Another challenge was my realization of how much RSM uses the vocabulary of listening.  Ilana was a musician, after all; her book is called The Listening Hand, and a tremendous amount of the metaphor and language surrounding this work has to do with music.  We also speak a lot about tone, and how tone of voice and tone of the body – e.g. muscle tone – are related.  We talk about parts of the body having a voice, and getting them in dialogue with one another.  The session proceeded relatively smoothly, but I was interested in how many times I found myself running up against language or ideas I would ordinarily use that would have a different meaning – or very little meaning – to someone who cannot hear or speak vocally.

At the same time, I learned some beautiful things.  Watching Sue describe the energies she was feeling moving through her – pulses and goosebumps and spirals – was beautiful, and I was struck by the idea that for people who chiefly speak ASL, the physical experience of language and verbal ideas must be so much more profound and immediate.  I also noticed that her shoulders, while not particularly tense, seemed lifted, as if always in readiness to speak.

My mentor, Joan, also reminded me today that one of the RSM principles is that touch is a viable means of communication.  As I say in that post, “touch…goes straight to the truth of the body, and that makes it perhaps the most powerful communication tool available.”  I am curious to contact this client again, and perhaps have a session with her in which we don’t speak during the table work – unless she feels compelled to say something, which she can then signal or write to me – and we talk about the experience afterwards.  I remember sessions in my training with some of my fellow students fondly: sessions where nothing was said, where we moved through the sequence instinctively and reading each other with only our contact.  The silence of these sessions became sacred; the shifts that happened during them, sublime.  Sue reminds me in some ways to return to simplicity, to the power that touch really has to transform and heal.

I hope, therefore, to work with this client more, this client who left the session feeling vital and filled with movement, feeling the draw to playfulness and bringing more fun into her life.  How much more might I be able to pair her up with those ideas if I allow her to sink into them, silently, continuously, without interruption or the presence of another person in the room?

*The client’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

[Re-run] How do we do listening touch with someone who can’t hear?

Last night, I had the pleasure and challenge of working with a client, Sue*, who is completely deaf.  I will admit, first off, that I don’t have a lot of experience with deaf people; while I’ve long been fascinated by sign language, I haven’t happened to have many interactions with people who are deaf.  Some of this may be due to the intricacies of Deaf culture and my non-membership in said culture; some of it is chance.  But some of it may be that I haven’t taken the time or effort to get to know any deaf people well.

Interacting with Sue made me extremely aware of how much I, as a hearing person, depend on verbal interaction when getting to know someone.  I was admittedly thrown off my center a little when this client first contacted me, by phone: I was speaking to her interpreter, who was a man, and was presenting himself as if he were the client – a woman, with a feminine name.  He was speaking directly for her – saying “I” and “me” – and without benefit of visual cues, I had to adjust to the idea that I was not actually speaking with this man, but with this woman sitting next to him and conversing in sign.  After this came a series of emails in which we discussed how we might set up a session; we finally agreed that bringing an interpreter along would be the best choice.

Once in person (with a different interpreter this time), I had much more available to me in terms of facial expressions, body language, and gestures as I got to know Sue.  I still, however, had to conduct much of my conversation with her while she looked at, and interacted with, her interpreter.  This worked just fine, but created an interesting distance that had to be overcome.

In Synergy sessions, the client lies on a massage table, and often, she will close her eyes.  There is a lot of verbal interaction in addition to the touch, and the client is asked to pay attention to very subtle movement and changes in her body.  Naturally, the verbal back-and-forth that I would normally do in a session was hampered, and we had to find a solution: in this case, the interpreter also stood by the table and translated what we said back and forth.  The session was moderately successful, I thought, and we discovered some lovely insights, but it was interesting how many challenges arose out of this situation, and it made me wonder how Rubenfeld Synergists might devise better ways of working with deaf clients.

For one thing, having to interrupt a client’s relaxing trance state by asking that she open her eyes so she can see what’s being said feels like a constant undermining of the flow of the session.  Sue wanted to have her eyes closed a lot of the time, and when I wanted to say something, her interpreter would touch her shoulder gently.  Sometimes, Sue would spontaneously begin commenting on what she was experiencing, but at other times, she needed prompting, and I found myself reluctant to do so when her eyes were closed.

Another challenge was my realization of how much RSM uses the vocabulary of listening.  Ilana was a musician, after all; her book is called The Listening Hand, and a tremendous amount of the metaphor and language surrounding this work has to do with music.  We also speak a lot about tone, and how tone of voice and tone of the body – e.g. muscle tone – are related.  We talk about parts of the body having a voice, and getting them in dialogue with one another.  The session proceeded relatively smoothly, but I was interested in how many times I found myself running up against language or ideas I would ordinarily use that would have a different meaning – or very little meaning – to someone who cannot hear or speak vocally.

At the same time, I learned some beautiful things.  Watching Sue describe the energies she was feeling moving through her – pulses and goosebumps and spirals – was beautiful, and I was struck by the idea that for people who chiefly speak ASL, the physical experience of language and verbal ideas must be so much more profound and immediate.  I also noticed that her shoulders, while not particularly tense, seemed lifted, as if always in readiness to speak.

My mentor, Joan, also reminded me today that one of the RSM principles is that touch is a viable means of communication.  As I say in that post, “touch…goes straight to the truth of the body, and that makes it perhaps the most powerful communication tool available.”  I am curious to contact this client again, and perhaps have a session with her in which we don’t speak during the table work – unless she feels compelled to say something, which she can then signal or write to me – and we talk about the experience afterwards.  I remember sessions in my training with some of my fellow students fondly: sessions where nothing was said, where we moved through the sequence instinctively and reading each other with only our contact.  The silence of these sessions became sacred; the shifts that happened during them, sublime.  Sue reminds me in some ways to return to simplicity, to the power that touch really has to transform and heal.

I hope, therefore, to work with this client more, this client who left the session feeling vital and filled with movement, feeling the draw to playfulness and bringing more fun into her life.  How much more might I be able to pair her up with those ideas if I allow her to sink into them, silently, continuously, without interruption or the presence of another person in the room?

*The client’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

[Re-run] When will it be safe to be a girl?

This week I stumbled across two posts about gender that really resonated with me.  Gender is a tangled and complex subject, and there are people who can speak far more eloquently about trans issues, the intersection of gender and sexuality, and breaking the gender mold than I can.  But I wanted to highlight these two articles, as they spoke to body identity, trauma, support, and strength.

The first made the rounds among my female friends who are into Crossfit and kettlebell training: This One’s For The Butch Girls.  In it, a fitness instructor visits a Pilates class to learn about it, and is treated in the following way:

After pointing me to my machine, the instructor turned back to the other students and said, ‘That one’s for the butch girls.’

Excuse me? Now, I get that not every woman wants to look muscular…This doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian. This doesn’t, in fact, mean anything about who I am as a human being or my identity in the world. 

So, it comes back once again to this idea of strength versus femininity. Of strength being in opposition to what it means to be a woman – that is, in opposition to some sort of archaic sense of what it is to ‘be a woman.’ Does being strong mean you are man-like? Does being man-like make you a lesbian? What if I’m a lesbian, but I’m not strong? Seriously. I’m being ridiculous because this whole train of thought is ridiculous. None of these concepts has any impact upon or anything to do with each other.

The article goes on to encourage women to find places – or make them, if necessary – where how they work out, or how muscular they are or aren’t, won’t be automatically judged in a particular way.  “Where you can lift weights and grunt. Where you can wear pink and rip your shins open. Where you can paint your nails, do your hair, and have calves that make men green with envy. Even a place where you can be as ‘butch’ as you want to be.”

The idea of there being limitless possibilities for gender expression is one that I hold sacred, and one that I’ve spoken about here before.  So this article spoke to me, as a woman who has weight trained for some time but was never much of an athlete, and one who has started rock climbing and loves it.  (Now there’s a place where female muscle is respected.)

But I wasn’t prepared for the punch in the gut the next article gave me.  The Girl Who Said She Was a Boy is by a blogger who has raised five children with disabilities.  I’m grateful she liked one of my posts this week and therefore alerted me to her sensitive and funny writing on this topic.  Her foster daughter, at age 7, started insisting that she was a boy.  She wanted to dress, cut her hair, and be identified as a boy, and her mother – particularly once she adopted her – supported her in this.  At the doctor’s office at age 10, “she blurted out to him that she was a boy and that she did not have the right part. She begged him to “sew a penis” on her.  He was very comforting and reassuring, and said she was fine the way she was for now and when she was older she could make that decision.”

I was already impressed at this point at the supportiveness of the mother, and the sensitivity of the doctor.  But I wasn’t ready for what happened next, as I was prepared for this to be the story of a transgender child.

At 11, her mother cautiously began to introduce her to what it would mean for her when puberty came.  To her surprise, Marie, was excited about the prospect, and very inquisitive.   And then, the truth emerged.

“She shyly admitted to me that she was happy to be a girl.  She told me she only SAID she was a boy because men ‘hurt girls’ and she didn’t want to be hurt any more. She said ‘the men’ never hurt her brother, so she decided if she was a boy she was safe.”

In a world still reeling from Friday’s events, I find myself wondering when it will finally be safe to be a girl.  Or to be a woman, in all the ways that one can be one.  A woman becomes strong, and she is seen as less-than, as not womanly.  A little girl wants to be a boy, because being a girl means pain.  The catch-22 of femininity still has us profoundly in its grasp.  Don’t be too strong or you’ll be threatening.  Don’t be too weak or you’ll be threatened.

What might happen if more of the world saw the human body as the sacred property of the human being, not to be tampered with, undermined, ridiculed or destroyed?

[Re-run] "Open your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes to open."

My mentor Joan shared this video this morning, and I watched it all the way through until the tears flowed. I recommend the same to each of you.  It is a sublime meditation on gratitude, replete with gorgeous time-lapse photography, some of the most interesting and beautiful faces I’ve ever seen, and the gentle, liltingly accented voice of a plainly spectacular gentleman.

Make this day a good day, everyone.  And as always – I welcome your comments.  There was a lot of traffic the other day, but nobody said anything!  Please, engage me!

[Re-run] “Open your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes to open.”

My mentor Joan shared this video this morning, and I watched it all the way through until the tears flowed. I recommend the same to each of you.  It is a sublime meditation on gratitude, replete with gorgeous time-lapse photography, some of the most interesting and beautiful faces I’ve ever seen, and the gentle, liltingly accented voice of a plainly spectacular gentleman.

Make this day a good day, everyone.  And as always – I welcome your comments.  There was a lot of traffic the other day, but nobody said anything!  Please, engage me!

Cuddling FTW

The research on touch continues to mount.  Fact is, the more loving touch you get, the healthier you are.

I’m going out of town tomorrow for a week with a couple of loved ones, to visit one of my favorite cities in the world and then to attend a conference about magic, pagan spirituality, and connection.  I’m looking forward to concentrated time with said loved ones, as well as ritual, connection, touch, music, and yes, cuddling with the brothers and sisters of my tradition.  Days of learning, of craft, and of ecstasy.

I’ll be running some repeats while I’m away, and I look forward to getting back to you beautiful people when I return.

Love, and plenty of touch, to you all.

Battening down, and fierce gratitude

Those of you on the East Coast – and others who enjoy paying attention to weather in places where they’re not (I’m looking at you, California…) – know that there’s presently a blizzard bearing down on Boston and other cities up and down the coast.  At the moment it’s mostly snowing gently, blowing a little bit, barely even sticking yet.  But we’re told to expect between 1-3 feet of snow.  (Yes, that was feet.)

My household spent yesterday running around like you do before such events: clearing our shopping list, laying in extra supplies, debating over buying a snowblower, running around to three different stores as they all sold out of shovels.  We still have bottles filled with water from Sandy, where they weren’t needed; we have flashlights and batteries and crank radios and candles.

I’m weirdly looking forward to this evening, when we plan to take shoveling shifts, clearing the snow as it falls, taking nips of bourbon in-between.  A blizzard party, with my family.

And I’m incredibly grateful that I can experience a storm like this in this way.  In a warm, sturdy old house, with loved ones, safe and warm and sound.  I’ll probably bake cookies at some point.

Last weekend, I participated in a read/sing-through of a new musical called Fire and Ice, in which the environmental apocalypse happens, the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt stops, and the eastern seaboard freezes over, forcing a typical American family on a Grapes of Wrath-like journey across the continent.  With weather predictors calling Nemo historic, I can’t help but reflect on that play as I look out of my office window, watch the snow intensify, and hear the wind begin its unearthly howling.

I don’t think the world is going to end tonight – neither in fire nor in ice – but it still occurs to me to be thankful.  May everyone reading this be safe and warm tonight, in the company of loved ones.