Psychotherapy research shows that how you feel about the therapist is an important factor for success. Do you feel understood and accepted, and safe to be yourself? Do you feel seen and heard, and have confidence that the therapist can help? Techniques do matter, but human factors come first. So you need to know something about me, and here it is.
Thirty-five years ago, I started my professional life doing research in mathematics. I wanted to know the fundamental truth of everything. I still do. I wanted to know the deeper truth of people, and emotions, and life, and every individual I met. So I started to take my papers and sit in the psychology section of the university library. When I needed a break, I’d look through the books.
Systematically – mathematicians are systematic – I took every single book off the shelves and glanced through it. There were thousands. All disappointed me. The science, the statistics, the academic theories: so dry, so lifeless. No alive truth in any of them.
After many weeks I came to the therapy section. Finally! Psychologists with something to say! I fell in love with Carl Rogers, Wilhelm Reich and Fritz Perls. I read voraciously.
Being ignorant of how the unconscious mind works, I had no idea this reading was about to bring me to a major life change. I genuinely thought I was just curious. But after a few more months came a moment I remember vividly. I looked at the Journal of Symbolic Logic. I looked at Carl Rogers’ book On becoming a person, lying beside it. Looked back at Symbolic Logic … again at Rogers. Stared at Rogers. From nowhere a thought came for the very first time, fresh and unheralded: “Don’t want logic … want … love.”
What did that mean? I had no idea. I’d read that “the unconscious mind” could send people “messages.” But I’d never expected that to happen to me.
One thing at least was clear: I’d had enough of the academic world. The voice that spoke in me was quiet, but I couldn’t ignore it. You have to follow your inner truth, no matter where it takes you. With no idea what came next, I resigned my research grant. After toying with traveling to America to work with Carl Rogers’ school, I joined the great 70’s migration to India. India was more unknown, more of a risk – plus, it was cheaper.
If “living in an Indian ashram” sounds tranquil and quiet, the one I was in, with at any one time up to 10,000 visitors from all over the world, wasn’t. It was bustling, busy, modern and intense. It was wonderful. (And 30 years later, it still is – www.osho.com). The understanding was that for meditation to go really deep, Westerners needed to first do some therapy. So for Westerners there was an emphasis on personal development workshops, often very challenging. I loved them and took part in many.
But what I really loved was that back in the West, those types of workshop – based on the work of Rogers, Reich, Perls and many others – were the mountain-top of intensity and understanding of life, the goal, the furthest you could go. Here in the ashram, they were only a preliminary foothill to an everyday life which combined a joyous vivid aliveness and the deepest silent meditation.
Nowadays you see adverts for NLP courses in “accelerated change.” The ashram was an experience of accelerated change which lasted day in, day out, month after month, year after year.
All sorts of jobs needed doing, and I like doing things I’ve never done before. So at various times over many years I designed a telephone exchange, wrote for the magazine, later on ran the computer support department, and was for a long time in charge of the vital supply of clean water. (Half a million litres per day, from a complex of borewells and pumps which looked like an oil refinery designed by Dada and built by Picasso, but less rational. When I give talks on work-related stress, that’s my reference experience. Believe me, I know about work-related stress.) Along the way came the opportunity came to train as a therapist, and I trained first in 1994 in neo-Reichian emotional release, and then in hypnosis and other things, initially in the ashram’s own therapy institute, and later with some remarkable teachers in the USA, Europe and the UK.
So in a particular sense, I came to doing therapy backwards. Most people who become therapists start off in the world of conventional society where change is rare. It’s a world where the majority of people remain in a groove their whole lives and never think to question their emotions and motivations. They then enter the world of therapy where for the first time personal change is the norm.
Instead, I started from a background where change was the norm. It has been my immense good fortune to live for so long in an environment where everyone lived their everyday lives in the understanding that what heals is love, that what keeps life moving are truth and honesty, that the key to change it to be ready to take risks, that only profound acceptance brings peace, that there is a final and ultimate enquiry: “Who is the one who loves, who is honest, who feels peace? Who is the one who is born and dies?”
As a result, I know what works and what doesn’t in life change and life healing, and that’s what I offer you in my work. I know how much joy life is waiting to give us, and it makes me sad to see how little happiness so many people settle for.
I know that somewhere inside, everyone is completely OK, strong and loveable. So I know that transformation is not a question of blundering in the dark, trying to solve problems with the aid of academic psychology. It’s a matter of beginning to find that OK place in yourself and to live from it, because when you do, your own light shines and shows you the way. Your own unique solutions naturally emerge. And what is healing is to find a therapist who can recognise that place in you when you yourself cannot.
This approach to healing works, it really works. Extensive research proves it, in particular by the solution-oriented school of therapy. Every day in my consulting room I see from people’s faces, and hear from their success stories, how lifted and energised they are by this attitude. Goethe has it beautifully:
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
The quotation from Mark Twain at the top of this page has always been my guiding principle, and still is. If that, or anything in this website touches you in some way, and you’d like to explore further how I might help you, do please call and talk to me personally. I’m always happy to answer questions.