On Friday 18 May, a brand new season of talks commenced with TAP’s own council member Ian Stevenson who enthralled his audience with his presentation Cutting Edge Spirituality Take Two in which he built on the theme of TAP’s 2017 conference of `Connections between Spirituality and Psychotherapy`. Ian is a senior counsellor at the Somerset Counselling Centre and has been a driving force at TAP for many years, filling many roles.
Ian grabbed the audience’s attention by positing the question ` Do we think we are part of a universe where we are connected across space and time or are we are like a man standing on a melting ice floe in a universe that is unaware of us?
Addressing the idea that spirituality might be a nice concept Ian asked what do we mean by spirituality? How do we encounter it? What it is we encounter? And is there is any evidence for a dimension outside of our physical world; the metaphysical. Offering the thought that as religious faith has declined, people have investigated what has often been viewed to be the supernatural. Near death experiences, past life memories and telepathy were examined in Ian’s presentation together with the reason for resistance to these ideas and the concept of a paradigm shift.
The audience heard how another Ian Stevenson existed between 1918-2007 and that he was a Canadian-born U.S. psychiatrist who worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine and was a founder and director of the university's Division of Perceptual Studies, which investigates the paranormal. Stevenson became known worldwide for his research into reincarnation, the idea that emotions, memories, and even physical bodily features can be transferred from one life to another. He travelled extensively over a period of forty years, investigating three thousand cases of children around the world who claimed to remember past lives.
Our own Ian Stevenson recounted an experience from his younger days when he was part of a group that sat around a table. In time honoured fashion they placed their hands upon it and in due course found it to be moving. The mystery as to how it moved continues to this day with no one admitting to causing it to happen.
As with all unexplained phenomena, humans instinctively search for meaning and answers and Ian offered the thought that Quantum physics might give us clues.
Unsurprisingly, a lively question and answer session followed Ian’s thought provoking presentation and after a vote of thanks by TAP vice chair Andrew Wilcox, the discussion continued over tea and coffee.
For Ian's list of resources useful to pursue your interest in this subject see HERE for a downloadable Word document.
The next TAP Talk takes place on June 15th 2018 when Max Dalda Muller presents: Black Mirror: the influence of technology and social media on the therapeutic relationship.
All are welcome.
David Trott TAP Council Member
Taunton Racecourse on a glorious spring day was the venue for TAP’s 2018 Spring Conference on 14th April. This eagerly awaited and anticipated event featured therapist, trainer and author Nick Totton who had left his beloved Cornwall to present ` We are all Body Psychotherapists` to TAP Conference delegates.
Welcomed by vice chair Andrew Wilcox, Nick started his presentation by inviting the audience to get comfortable by stretching and relaxing their bodies and said that he would endeavour to speak with the audience rather than at them.
Referring to the title of his presentation, Nick shared his view that Body Psychotherapy is an unfortunate name but one that is around at the moment. He felt it sounded like he only worked with people’s bodies whereas Body Psychotherapy is about working with the whole of the person, therefore he believes `Embodiment Therapy` would be a better title.
Outlining what `embodiment` actually is, Nick spoke of how the mind and body are interlinked and how we need to get to know and make friends with the huge number of things going on in our bodies like twitches, gurgles and sighs and also with all the emotions and impulses. When we connect with ourselves and recognise our own rhythms of embodiment we can begin to observe how they are influenced by being in association with another embodied person.
Nick went on to explain how Embodiment and Relationship are inseparable both in human existence and in psychotherapy. When investigating embodiment we meet relationship; if we investigate relationship we find embodiment. For the practitioner who recognises the interaction of these two aspects of being human, the gift will be therapy that is far more powerful.
Challenging the assumption held by some that Mind and Body are somehow separate, Nick declared himself a `Bodymind`. Offering examples of how some might view the supposed divide between Mind and Body, Nick asked as a sick person might ask his body - `Why are you doing this to me?`. Then again as an Insomniac `I want to go to sleep, why won’t my mind stop? `
In therapy Nick’s goal is to follow the client wherever the process takes them but the nature of the embodied relationship between client and therapist is central.
As the conference progressed Nick invited delegates to participate in some experiential work. The first exercise was with someone that was unknown to them. Standing close in silence, delegates examined their feelings; what was it like to be near the stranger? Was their body opening up to them? Was their body moving towards them or pulling away? Most delegates engaged with the exercise, some standing some sitting. Some in perfect stillness, while others wiggled, rocked or moved their arms as to a silent cadence.
A second exercise followed a similar pattern but with someone new, followed by another change of partner for a third exercise but this time with eyes closed as well as in silence. On being invited to speak, participants visibly relaxed and laughter was heard. Examining this fascinating experience the audience was asked to consider once again their feelings; was it mine or was it theirs and how hard was it staying in the here and now?
After such an interesting and absorbing morning the conference broke for lunch and what a sumptuous affair it was. Feasting on the tasty fare provided, delegates took the opportunity to network; making new acquaintances and renewing old ones.
Nick launched into the afternoon session by speaking of trauma, a subject that many therapists will encounter in their work almost daily. If the person is traumatised, they can’t relax. They are waiting for something bad to happen. We see trauma in everyday life, ordinary forms of trauma showing itself before we learn how to relax. The more traumatised we are, the more we are stuck with one foot in the past and one foot in the present. It’s believed that feelings are held in the body and that the body has memory.
Nick mentioned Peter Lavine who has spent most of his working life working with trauma and traumatised clients. Peter has developed an approach to trauma called Somatic Experience which focuses on the physiological aspects of the condition.
With much interaction from delegates, the widely debated question of `touch` between therapist and client arose. This topic appears to have surfaced at many of Nick’s Workshops and Talks as he quickly embraced the subject calling the taboo of touch within the counselling relationship a `19th Century Fossil. Different kinds of touch were discussed, from a simple handshake or hug at the end of a session to a more intimate holding of someone when they are sobbing. Reflecting that it’s all about what we are comfortable with, Nick added that the more embodied we are, the more that we can find a way.
With the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client often extremely close, it was unsurprising to hear that in the instance of a client suppressing an emotion the likelihood of this being picked up by the therapist is very high. Nick added that the messages might be subliminal and to him the idea of telepathy made perfect sense, however in everyday situations the signals are likely to be swamped by hundreds and hundreds of other people.
Moving into the last 45 minutes of the conference, delegates discussed what had resonated for them in the morning and also what hadn’t. All too soon the conference drew to a close but Nick had one more gem to leave with us; ``The body always knows the right thing to do``.
A warm round of applause followed a vote of thanks by TAP Chair Helena Trump.