An extract from Stacey Millichamp's new book: Transpersonal Dynamics: The Relational Field, Depth Work and The Unconscious.
The city wall edge of awareness, or ‘the Edge’ between Me and Not Me territory, is the place where we can most effectively work as therapists with our clients. Rather than taking a torch and blundering into the dark woods of the unconscious landscape, all we need to do is to camp out at the edge of a client’s conscious awareness and watch the unconscious, denied, disowned material emerging over the edge as troublesome symptoms. The unconscious is very much like the disgruntled, marginalised elements within a community that eventually becomes disturbed enough to attempt a revolution. Although our Edge defences are strong, we cannot keep unconscious material out forever. We do not need to go looking for the unconscious, it comes looking for us in the form of unconscious acting out – in symptoms such as depression, anxiety, malaise, relationship problems, work issues, health issues, parenting stress, and the many mood and personality disorders that bring clients into therapy.
As shown in Figure 7 below, I have further simplified the Field of Awareness map by zooming in on the edge around the Field of Awareness. On the map below, I have included some examples of the sorts of Not Me material that can bring clients into therapy and the equal and opposite Me material that sits in polarisation to that Not Me material.
As you can see from the diagram, qualities and behaviours tend to become split and polarised both intra psychically and interpersonally, causing internal and external conflicts between ways of being that become competitors rather than mutually welcome, differentiated ways of being. This tendency to wage war, rather than integrate polarities, is one of the single most troublesome elements for psychotherapists to deal with and is very much evidenced in the way the world works, with countries waging war against each other and ideologies seeking to wipe each other out. Attempting to ‘kill off’ the parts of ourselves that we deem unacceptable makes therapy a dynamic and difficult space to work in, and yet, if we are to be relevant as therapists, we must engage with this continual background conflict, and learn to participate in a way that brings more capacity to mediate rather than to ally with one side of the conflict (the side we, as therapists, have a preference for).
The most important elements to work with at this stage are the defences, core beliefs and psychopathology that define, protect and operate at the Edge. I use the term ‘Edge figures’ to personify this pathology, because along with the city wall that protects the status quo from the marginalised elements of the psyche, Edge figures operate very much like military police, armed and dangerous, patrolling the Edge between the conscious and unconscious, and they can use similar intimidation tactics and threats to keep unconscious material at bay. Understanding these Edge defences, and learning to work with them more effectively, is one of the most useful ways to teach clients to become more skilled at facilitating unconscious Not Me material over the Edge into awareness, rather than following the compulsion to shut the unconscious down. This leads to a better flow of unconscious content, keeping the field of awareness irrigated with new ideas, exciting possibilities and sufficient challenge to feel more alive, as opposed to the aridness of a hermetically sealed off field of awareness where all unconscious content is kept out, leaving a flat, uninspired and bleak sense of aliveness.
Stacey is a supervisor and trainer at the Psychosynthesis Trust. Next opportunity to work with Stacey at the Trust: Enrol on our Supervision Diploma starting spring 2019. Stacey will also be training on the upcoming Advanced Diploma - watch this space for more information.
watch this space for more information.