Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XVI

Getting nearer the end of the series, I thought I’d illustrate everything with an example of what this kind of process can do, even without any directly spiritual approach. Here is someone’s personal statement about their own therapy which I found in a different context, researching the last series on SBNR. Academic writers used it to illustrate SBNR’s positive effects, but it is not transpersonal in any literal way, remaining within ordinary bounds which is what I’m trying to do in this series.

It does show the wide applicability of Rogers, because all his ideas are present even though the therapy itself is unconnected with him. The writer is a breast cancer sufferer by the name of Julie, and she chose a way of healing focused on art therapy (her emphasis throughout):

I believe art therapy saved my life by giving me the opportunity to get in touch with my authentic self. This part of me is now allowed to have a life. The part that existed before was a highly developed false self. Every year it became harder and harder to do everything I thought I should do… I continued to ignore my body’s messages until one day I scattered into tiny pieces and my self-sufficiency, my bravado, my achievements trickled out of my body as I sobbed and shivered.

… in art therapy my mind was not in charge. It did not control the paint or glue… The materials would have their say, be whatever they were, show their qualities and I would make a connection, engage with them. Images emerged from my inner world that I had lost touch with. It was here that I discovered my values, my priorities, and came to understand that I had sacrificed them for the most urgent demands of life. As time went on it was here that I examined the parts of myself that had been scattered, and I reclaimed those that I recognised as authentic.

These fragmented and lost parts appeared week by week on the paper. It was a process of gathering — my grief, my desolate childhood, my feminine qualities, divinity. They were brought to my centre, later I mixed [sic] with a pulse of light and leaps of joy.

Art therapy is not for producing a picture for anyone else, it is about being spontaneous, allowing something deep inside to express itself, to make its mark. I believe that the body knows how to heal itself, redress the balance… Recently I made ‘well’ my being which reached down into the watery depths and stretched up higher than a spire to bubbles of joy.

This is spontaneity producing health and authenticity over time, by personal exploration and acceptance. When you know your system can heal itself and is working positively by nature, harmonising with it obviously becomes far easier. It is a question of allowing “it” to do what only “it” can — my mind was not in charge. It did not control the paint or glue — and that approach is the beginning of much else.

We get all the elements here that Rogers would predict such as holotropic spontaneity, coming into tune with the organismic self, and the removal of social masks and roles. We also see shattered subpersonalities recombining (These fragmented and lost parts appeared week by week on the paper. It was a process of gathering). Overly-fixed ideas of self have given way to a general acceptance of self as a process that one follows. It is now known that the part of self which lasts throughout such changes is not based on a static image.

There are also reminiscences of Abraham Maslow as covered earlier — a definite move up the pyramid of needs from lower to higher actualised values and priorities for example (the “urgent demands of life” will no longer overrule actualisation) but again, spontaneously rather than in response to some external imposition. There’s also an orientation to peak experience in the “pulse of light and leaps of joy”.

If Julie were also a meditator, she would be well-prepared now on a personality level for serious work on energy — a relatively spontaneous and personal preparation, without any dogmatic belief system. It has emphasised picture-making art but it could emphasise anything on the previous list, or nothing in particular. What it has done is to loosen her and ready her (should she choose) for the more radical changes of awakening. She is balanced, has discovered and interacted with her own life process, and been transformed by it, not according to an intellectual/linear therapeutic timetable, but just according to her internal rhythms.

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