There is a big trend in the West for pop up Ayahuascas retreats. My dear trusted colleague, Carl Hammerschlag offers his thoughts on the subject over on his website. His words of wisdom are certainly something to take in to consideration if you are curious about trying it...
Being a huge lover of books, it is not uncommon for me to recommend certain books to clients that I work with. Over the years, I've noticed that I often refer to the same ones as being great therapeutic resources, so I thought I'd list them here too!
They are, in no particular order:
When the Body Says No by Dr Gabor Mate - What happens when we struggle to say no or fail to put boundaries in place to protect ourselves from stress and overwhelm? The body says it for us through chronic illness and disease. Gabor Mate explores the stress-disease connection with his signature style of humour and grace.
The Mindbody Code: How to Change the Beliefs that Limit your Health, Longevity and Success by Dr Mario Martinez - Clinical Neuropsychologist and Biocognitive Science founder Dr. Mario Martinez reveals the way our cultural beliefs impact our immune system, the pathway to healing the archetypal wounds of shame, abandonment, and betrayal, and shines a light on our cultural myths around aging. Practical, deeply insightful and experiential.
Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw - An accessible way to explore personal shame and it's origins, includes a practical workbook section for visualisation work and deeper exploration
Warming the Stone Child: Myths and Stories about Abandonment and the Unmothered Child by Clarissa Pinkola Estes - I particularly love the audio version of this gentle and nurturing journey, that invites us to explore our own experience of childhood neglect and abandonment
Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom; Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Dr Christiane Northrup - the go-to bible on holistic women's health.
Why Therapy Works: Using our Minds to Change our Brains by Louis Cozolino - a great description of why we do what we do in the therapy room, using up to date research in Neuroscience, Neurobiology and Trauma treatment to support the healing and transformations that can take place during the therapeutic process
The Drama of Being a Child: The Search for the True Self by Alice Miller - observing the impact of psychological and physical abuse in childhood and the ways in which we can begin to heal
In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler - this powerful autobiography explores the experience of sexual violence from a female perspective; the impact on a woman's embodied sense of self; as well as this violent intrusion serving as a metaphor for the destruction of the planet
Her Blood is Gold: Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation by Ella Owen - for women interested in connecting to their menstrual cycles in a meaningful way; investigating ways to make our periods physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy
Woman Code by Alissa Vitti - A practical step by step guide on how to improve hormonal health holistically by working with the natural rhythms of your body and eating/living in accordance with them
There is currently a big debate happening in the therapy field about the relationship between therapy and politics, the question being - do we as therapists have a duty to raise awareness - not just about the suffering of the individual but about the suffering and injustices of the world at large. Whist we may feel so often overwhelmed by the state of the world, and feel utterly powerless to do anything about it, there is a natural process that seems to take root in the therapy room.
This quote by Pema Chödrön reminds me of the work we do in therapy, as we support clients to begin to turn their attention and curiosity to their inner world – exploring how they respond and relate to others, as well as to themselves.
“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart.”
I love the metaphor of attending to the arrows in our hearts - our wounds – and using our energy, love, compassion and awareness in the service of self care and healing. But I’m beginning to see another part to the story...
In therapy, as we attend to healing our own wounds and as our capacity to love and care for ourselves expands, as well as our ability to see our situations and ourselves more clearly, this has a ripple effect outwards. I see many clients, who, having done this crucial work on themselves, begin to see their love and compassion stretch far beyond their own individual needs, as they become more sensitive to the suffering of others, to the environment – without losing or diminishing themselves - and are now well versed in mobilising change.
The process of facing and accepting the injustices of our own lives, allows us to contact and embody our healthy energy of protest and anger. And perhaps it is in this very energetic embodiment that further motivates us to seek justice and resolution out in the wider world. As Caroline Caldwell observed,
“in a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
This is where I believe therapy can be a great catalyst for change, not just for healing the wounded individual but also, for healing the wounded planet. It seems that the very movement towards caring more deeply for ourselves, paradoxically, can bring us closer to caring more deeply for others and for the world in which we are so intrinsically connected. Perhaps, by attending to those arrows in our hearts, we unwittingly invite ourselves to *wake up, sense our outrage, and act politically! As we say in Gestalt therapy,
“a change in one part, affects the whole.”
(*Quote referenced from "We've had a hundred years or psychotherapy and the world's getting worse." By James Hillman and Michael Ventura, 1993.)