ET: The essential factor in therapy is the state of consciousness of the therapist, regardless of the modality that the therapist is using. One would think that a psychotherapy such as Jungian has much more of a spiritual dimension to it than Freudian, for example. To some extent that’s true, but the actual method or modality used is really secondary. The primary factor is the state of consciousness of the therapist.
Even in certain modalities that one would not describe as spiritual at all, there are some therapists who after years of applying their modality will suddenly develop—often without even knowing it—the ability to simply be there and listen. So, to some extent, they let go of trying to apply the particular grid or map that they have learned and applied to that particular person’s situation and they suddenly just go into spacious listening.
And then whatever they contribute becomes more spontaneous. They no longer just apply what they have learned to the patient/therapist situation. They go beyond what they have learned and in many cases almost forget completely what they have learned. It’s only then that they become truly effective therapists.
If they simply apply the acquired knowledge—even if the acquired knowledge seems to have a spiritual dimension to it—that’s all very good but more importantly is the therapist able to let go of their knowledge? It’s good that they had the knowledge first. They still might use fragments of their knowledge in the therapy situation, but the primary tool becomes awareness.
This can happen even to a psychoanalyst who usually would be very much mind- identified, even denying anything spiritual. There are some who after years of working with people suddenly just become present. They don’t even know that this is what’s happening. And then they work more and more intuitively—and that’s when therapy becomes really effective. If that is not the case, if that dimension is missing, then of course there is the danger that you just keep telling your victim story (or whatever it is) and you never transcend that.
It is helpful, of course, to know one’s own unconscious patterns—to make the unconscious patterns conscious—what we could call “self-knowledge.” Level one of self-knowledge is to become aware of your own patterns, and it’s always surprising how difficult it seems to be for people to recognize their own areas of unconsciousness. It seems to be so hard. So, self-knowledge is the hardest knowledge and this is only level one of self-knowledge: to recognize your own patterns.
Level two of self-knowledge is to know who you are beyond the patterns. The patterns are important to recognize because they can block your progression. You cannot reach level two as long as you’re completely trapped in level one. If that’s the case there will be huge areas of your life that prevent you from realizing who you are.
So, it’s good to approach level one. Some people do it through therapy. Others just go through a more spontaneous recognition, or they listen to their friends or people they work with. If one person says something about you, it could of course simply be their projection. Two people? It could be their projection. However, if ten people say the same thing about you, then you might want to listen!
To sum up, you could have no knowledge whatsoever of therapy and start working with people and just be present. It would be quite enough, and then the correct answers would come through you and you would be a wonderful reflection for that person. So, the absolute prerequisite to being an effective therapist is presence—to be able to be the awareness; to offer the patient or client the space of awareness. You will intuitively say what is needed if you are present.
So, look for a therapist who is present—or preferably, become so present that you don’t need any more therapists.