Guided Practice and Psychotherapy
What do I do? A simple way to describe my work would be to call it a Western approach to Eastern wisdom. I use the word Spiritual to denote the effort of the individual to discover and live from that which gives his or her life meaning. I am not interested in religion and I don't promote a view. Rather, like a midwife, I help the individual discover their own life's meaning.
My work is very compatible with the vision of Viktor Frankl who described his insight and approach in his book, "Man's Search for Meaning." He distinguishes his logotherapy (from the Greek logos) from ordinary therapy in that he addresses an existential problem more than a neurotic problem.
Spiritual health happens when a person is connected to meaning. Aligning one's life with the purpose enriches every doing. My work is to support this effort.
I emphasize complete honesty, pursued with the discipline of a philosopher. Honesty yields deeper and deeper self-revelation. As your guide I am not seeking to insert my own vision nor derail yours. Rather I help foster your discoveries. These discoveries are salvaged from the stories and experiences of your life. Although your experiences and feelings can rush forth like a flood, we will distill that flood to its essential statements. Like alchemists seeking gold, we strive to clarify the path to freedom that you are.
Unlike many modern approaches, my approach does not degrade thinking. Reflection is a wonderful tool that is our birthright. Without lapsing into psychic distance or getting swept away by floods of emotion we can peer into the center of your most perilous and precious concerns. Like standing in the eye of a storm, with perception everything quiets. It is here that we will find the mystery of who you are, and who you have taken yourself to be.
Sessions will appear, at least initially, to resemble insight oriented psychotherapy. We will sit and talk about your life. What differentiates this work from the work of ordinary psychotherapy will gradually become apparent. We mine your psyche not for sources of illness, but for the dissatisfactions that yield clues about your own inner imperatives. These are powerful yearnings that you feel but can barely name. They shape your life and guide all of your decisions. We will bring them into the light of awareness. What is it that will give you peace? What is the meaning of your suffering? Clarity and self-awareness cushion you, alleviate suffering. We come to feel gratitude for the trials we have undergone. Our fate is the same as anyone's without this work.
Imagine Socrates is the therapist you go to to discuss your woes. You sit down under an olive tree and pour your heart out. Socrates listens and inquires. He asks you about the dream you had last night, and questions each image as you describe it. “Why did you follow the girl?” he asks. “I had love in my heart,” you say. “Did you find happiness with the girl?” he asks. “Well no. She sort of turned into another animal.” “Ah, yes,” Socrates replies thoughtfully, “That is not surprising.”
And then your conversation deepens. Instead of asking, “What is Truth?” you ask, “How can I be fulfilled during my lifetime?” Socrates is wise. He helps you travel the twists and turns of your own mind/soul. He leads you ever deeper toward the source of your being. You have now gone very far past psychotherapy. You let go the tether of your imagination and allow your will to be intoxicated by hitherto unknown hungers. These desires are greeted by Socrates, who now seems to resemble Buddha, with steady, patient inquiry. He, Socrates/Buddha, is walking the terrain of your soul with you. You seek the unfathomable. Finally you ask, together, what am I, then? What is this mystery we both are and see?
It is with this questioning mind/soul; with Buddha, Socrates and yourself that we must proceed. This is the session that I want to have with you-the session that lies past psychotherapy (although I am a psychotherapist) to seek the peace that abides beyond joy and sorrow.
~ Leslie Ihde