The value of acknowledging the worst in us
Professional ethics have become one of the cornerstones of current therapy practice. Ethics is supposedly about overriding self-interest: acting in terms of what is good for the client.
But: do we help people because they need it, or to relieve our discomfort at their distress? Are we generous and patient because those are noble qualities, or because we have simply been socialised that way. Do we really choose the virtuous path, or do such actions merely constitute creative adjustments?
This workshop is about exploring and owning that hidden and slippery part of self that Salamo Friedlander called the grotesque; the disowned aspect of our good intentions and high moral ground.
Such explorations are often avoided, even amongst psychotherapists. Lip service is given to the shadow, but to bring this dimension of self into dialogue and relationship takes both courage and support.
Why grub around in this disturbing territory? We hold that by examining our depths, the fabric of both personal and professional relationship becomes more meaningful. Psychotherapy is filled out by bringing the unvirtuous parts of ourselves into dialogue.
The workshop invites participants to reach down and bring to light their contrary side. The potential is to bring more richness to contact, and to discover a deeper understanding of the well worn concept of authenticity.
Identification as a caring professional is only part of the story. We argue that that a wholistic therapy requires a grounding in the whole self, including our ‘unvirtues’.
This requires support, and a non-shaming attitude towards our less savoury impulses and motivations. The workshop is designed to explore these in a way which is not only safe but also fun.
A primary mechanism for change in therapy is through the quality of contact. In striving for respectful relationship, we can neglect the place of the disrespectful . Paradoxically, by owning our smaller minded and self-oriented needs, contact is augmented.
The recognition of polarities is a useful underpinning in psychotherapy. However, the focus is generally on facilitation of the client’ awareness.
Here we swing the mirror around: when care for the client, setting aside your own needs to be ‘of service’: what polarity responses lie in the shadows?
A professional ethic results in striving to be a responsible, caring and attentive therapist; however this engenders a greater likelihood that self needs & reactions get set aside. This can result in a relatively superficial relationship.
Acknowledging our own darker aspects can result in deepening trust in the therapeutic relationship. Somewhere the client knows anyway our inner reactions; owning and admitting them deconstructs idealisation, but promotes twinship. The response of the client is often relief.
The concept of authenticity is a classic value in psychotherapy. The difference here is that authentic expression on the part of the therapist does not result in shaming the client, as the exposure is of oneself as therapist. This requires a great deal of self knowledge, comfort with the parts of self that tend to remain hidden, and a willingness to show by example, and bring those parts into relationship with the client.
The Unvirtues workshop
A non-shaming approach to self-interest in relationship
In this workshop participants will be introduced to the concept of the ‘unvirtues’. The relationship between ethics and self-interest will be explored, with the task of taking an open minded approach to revealing unacceptable aspects of self.
We will look at the contrast between our goodwill and good intentions, and the more utilitarian ‘I-it’ aspects of relationship. We aim to bring a deeper level of awareness and ownership to aspects of self which are generally deemed unacceptable.
A key question is how do we situate our unvirtuous self in a non-destructive interpersonal or professional ethic? We will explore a re-worked approach to authenticity which can deepen relationship and therapeutic work.
This is achieved through creating a non-shaming atmosphere, where it becomes possible to laugh at one’s foibles rather than hide them.
The topic is introduced with a set of self rating scales for participants to complete. A theoretical overview is presented, providing a context for the work.
Participants are invited to identify their own virtues and are assisted to deconstruct these to discover their unvirtues.
Group discussion is used to explore these discoveries. Discussion also focuses around the rating scales, and their ability to reveal levels of identification with virtues and unvirtues.
A demonstration of a ‘showing up’ dialogue is conducted, and participants are invited to practice this themselves.
The site is dedicated to this novel approach to the ordinary dynamics of self interest: