The workshop was described as being for practicing counsellors who would like to strengthen their ability to work with issues of self-destructiveness in their client group. Andy White, who has stacks of initials after his name (Dip Adv Ex Psych, Dip RF, Dip Adv HIPS, Dip Psychosynthesis), is a very charismatic and creative individual and was a great teacher.
First of all we went into groups of three to discuss self-destructiveness, then to thrash out a definition. My group came up with;
"Engaging in thoughts, actions or patterns of behaviour, which can be outside of conscious awareness, and are against our self-interest or authentic long-term goals and/or ideals."
Most groups came up with something roughly similar and there were philosophical and semantically-based challenges to each definition. It certainly got us thinking anyway. There were some pertinent quotes banded about by Andy, such as;
"We are destroyed by anything with which we are unconsciously identified." Jung
There was a loose Venn diagram sketched alluding to the origins of inferiority and superiority; the inferiority being based upon the parts of ourselves that were not melded with Mummikins, and superiority where we had a sense of omnipotence and oneness with mother. Andy told us that inferiority and superiority are two sides of the same coins, that they exist in all of us and that there is a dialogue between them.
I didn't take much in the way of notes, but I did jot down some names and quotes as they seemed very valuable. Andy explored self-destructiveness versus creativity and it edged into the realm of existentialism, with a great Viktor Frankl quote;
"Some refuse the loan of life to avoid the debt of death."
...and someone referred to as Hillman, who I can't for the life of me find reference to on the 'net;
"To create is to have a brush with death."
Spiraling well and truly into the vortex of existentialism, I am going to repeat this quote in it's entirety, lifted from a book Dionysus: Myth & Cult, by Walter Otto:
"He who begets something which is alive must dive down into the primeval depths in which the forces of life dwell. And when he rises to the surface, there is a gleam of madness in his eyes because in those depths death lives cheek by jowl with life. The primal mystery is itself mad–the matrix of the duality, the unity of the disunity, ..The more alive this life becomes, the nearer death draws, until the supreme moment when something new is created–when death and life meet in an embrace of mad ecstasy. The rapture and terror of life are so profound because they are intoxicated with death. As often as life engenders itself anew the wall which separates it from death is momentarily destroyed...Life which has become sterile totters to meet its end, but love and death have welcomed and clung to one another passionately from the beginning."
There was also a great Navajo story of the jumping mouse which if you're interested you can read here, although reading this version is nowhere near as cool as listening to Andy telling it - I had goosebumps at the end of the story on the day, and his ending was way better. It entered the realm of psychosynthesis, as did the next part of the workshop, which was about our self-saboteurs.
The best learning, for me at least, is experiential and I very much enjoyed taking part in a visualisation exercise which involved being in a forest glade then taking a path through the trees to meet our internal saboteur (we all have one you know!). I found mine straightaway, but it morphed a few times, before settling down. We asked our saboteurs questions such as "What do you need" and "How can you help me". I quite like visualisations and the images came easily. It was fairly emotional for me, then we were invited to go back to the glade, then resurface to the room, and the everyday reality. Then we had to draw what we saw, with some crayons.
Off in pairs, we shared details of our self-saboteurs then in the larger group compared notes. What struck me, is that it seems that the self-saboteurs, an aspect of our subconscious, knows us better than we know them, which I found intriguing. People's images were very varied although many were archetypes in the Jungian sense. Here's a picture of mine (remember, crayons make for tricky drawing!);
So, the next exercise was to remember a time when we had to make a very difficult choice, and discuss with a partner. Something that came up for me (and some others) was that life-changing decisions can involve a brush with death (when a decision is too agonising we may feel that it would be easier for fate to take away the decision for us) and that they involve our relationship with our shadow. Also, there were very existential agonies for me - I felt like my self-construct was ripped apart and changed forever as there were permanent mental/neurological shifts happening.
We moved towards more philosophical discussion about the purpose of suffering and the concept of depression being something we should make friends with (something I agree with), that we could be "instructed by melancholy" (Thomas Moore - Care of the Soul). We ended up on sadism and masochism too - how did that happen?
The day went by far too quickly and I would definitely like to attend Andy's next workshop on working with dreams. He trained and worked in psychotherapy for years then found himself expressing himself creatively and is now a mosaic artist. His website can be found here: http://www.andywhiteartist.com/.