142-144 Oxford Road, Temple Cowley, Oxford
Why the idea of allowing ourselves to be constructed by the client’s unconscious is a necessary ingredient in the therapeutic position if we want transformations of deeply held character patterns to become possible
The starting point for this workshop is the following assumption: if we are serious as therapists about wanting to work with ‘the unconscious’, we need to be capable of allowing ourselves to be ‘constructed’ and ‘used’ as an object (in Winnicott’s sense). However, for most of us being used as an object evokes painful and traumatic aspects of our own life story and biography. Allowing ourselves to be used as an object is difficult and it feels difficult.
But if I want the therapeutic space that I provide to invite and make room for ‘the unconscious’ (which - as Jung was quite clear about - is then not going to be restricted only to the client, but will include me as the therapist and the whole system of the therapeutic relationship), then I need to develop the capacity to allow the unconscious to construct that therapeutic space, including me as the therapist (and that includes my ‘professional’ responses as well as my ‘personal’ reactions). This is simply a consequent formulation and application of what has been a basic psychoanalytic principle for decades. An integration of humanistic and psychoanalytic traditions would crucially need to include this principle.
Being constructed is as complex as the psyche itself and it means we can become all kinds of ‘objects'. But for most of us, the crucial sticking points are becoming the ‘bad object’ and/or the ‘idealised object’.
The implications of this principle have been clearly understood and formulated in psychoanalysis: it means we will at times be perceived and experienced - in the transference - as the ‘bad’ wounding object.
However, traditional psychoanalysts could remain somewhat protected from the impact, pressures and inevitable countertransference disturbances which constitute the lived reality of that principle by an underlying one-person psychology stance and a degree of disembodiment manifest in psychoanalytic technique.
As soon as we embrace the spontaneous embodied mutuality of two-person psychology, and the notion of enactment, we are more exposed and vulnerable in the therapeutic position. Beyond being perceived and experienced as the ‘bad’ wounding object in the transference, within a two-person psychology paradigm it means we will be caught in enacting that object, i.e. becoming that object – thinking, feeling, behaving and – crucially – therapeutically intervening like and as that object. That is an altogether more intense experience, which implicates more of us more comprehensively (please don’t broadcast this publicly and indiscriminately! - it’s not an attractive proposition, but very helpful for practising therapists, especially those identifying as humanistic and integrative).
In a nutshell:
• inviting the unconscious requires the principle of allowing ourselves to be constructed
• which in turn in an embodied two-person psychology paradigm requires that we embrace the full bodymind enactment of the wounding dynamic.
At this point in the development of our profession, most available counselling and psychotherapy training does not comprehensively prepare us for that experience. As our community includes many recently qualified therapists, we have made it a priority to explore it together. This experiential CPD day is meant to be an introduction and exploration of the principle, and how it fits and can be included in your own way of working.
For detailed background to this topic, see this blog post.
Inevitably, we bring our whole being, conscious and unconscious, personal and professional to this exploration, including our experience of our own therapy. In engaging in that exploration, we will want to be mindful both of the potential and the risks, our limitations and curiosity, our willingness and our boundaries within the context of the OTS community of practitioners.