“Psychodrama can be seen as a bridge between shamanism and psychotherapy…Moreno’s life and work embodied a confluence of magic, science and religion.”
R.J. Landy in “Drama Therapy: Concepts, theories and practice 1986
(note: J.L. Moreno was the creator/founder of psychodrama)
Back in 2015, when I was working towards some sort of integration of my ways of being in the world (professionally and personally), I wrote an article for the Australia Aotearoa New Zealand Psychodrama Association (AANZPA)’s annual journal, called “Psychodrama: Descendant of the Shamans.”
It was the story of my Vision Quest with the School of Shamanic Womancraft(now called Wilderness Solo-a solo journey of 3 days and 3 nights being on the land and with myself).
What interests me now, is that I wrote it 6 years ago and the journey that I have travelled since then has been a further and further integration of the two ways of being.
The Attitude of a Warrior
Psychodrama is described as the Theatre of Truth. And "to shamanically heal, one must take on the attitude of a warrior, a warrior for Truth, who faces challenge and is willing to do what is right, rather than what is comfortable.” - (Brighid’s Healing- Ireland’s Celtic medicine traditions by G.McGarry).
Drama of the Soul
Psychodrama has been described as the Drama of the Soul. “On the psychodrama stage everything has soul and spirit. On the magical psychodrama stage we do not separate realities. Psyche and materia are the same thing – everything comes alive.” - (Psychodrama, Surplus Reality and the art of healing” by Moreno, , Blomkvist and Rutzel, 2000)
The Integration of Psychodrama and Shamanism
I am a working and living integration of psychodrama and shamanism, and I continue to be called by Moreno’s words:
“There is…A first universe which contains all beings and in which all events are sacred. I liked that enchanting realm and did not plan to leave it, ever.”
'The Theatre of Spontaneity' by J.L.Moreno 1983
...And everything always remains “All about Relationship!”
Women's Mental Health and the Shadow Wound
The Cave of Shadows is the residence somewhere within your psyche and body of all those disowned, disavowed roles in you.
They reside – pushed into the dark as things that are fear-full, provocative or unacceptable somehow.
A cordial meeting with the Keeper of the Cave is a necessary venture if you wish to become intimate with the unconscious in your life. It is the work of a lifetime to bring the shadows of the unconscious into consciousness. Only then will we have a choice.
We meet the 'Keeper of the Cave' at the entrance to The Wheel of Woman’s Life - that seasonal cycle that has mirrors and layers depicting the movement of the sun, the moon, the seasons, the menstrual cycle and indeed the movement and rites of passage of a woman’s life.
I meet the 'Keeper' at the time of Samhain (also known as Halloween). That point in the south west of the wheel that is the darkest and also the point that my ancestors (in Ireland) believed was the New Year beginning.
I meet her there. You may meet her elsewhere in this organic measurement of time, this wheel.
Samhain is marked in Australia at the beginning of May- it is the time when the veil between the worlds is at its’ thinnest and so makes sense to me that the Cave of Shadows would be at its’ most accessible.
I sometimes find myself saying to a person who is staying in a grindingly unhappy relationship* (often abusive-except when it isn’t, of course) that “hope is a great deluder”.
I wondered today if that means I am cynical? Certainly I have been in relationships* for far too long because I hoped the other would change. I hoped the other would eventually “get it”.
Maybe if I loved them “enough”, or tried “harder”…
I like to think I am reaching my wisdom years – a small chuckle tells me that wisdom simply means that I am prepared and eager to learn more…To understand more.
There is never stasis in wisdom. Maybe acceptance and peace – but never stasis.
If I stop hoping I will grieve the loss of hope. The loss of the dream of what could be. Now, “what could be” is a pretty amazing thing – and can lead to an immense amount of awesome creativity. And my capacity for hope and dreaming must be honoured.
How do I honour this amazing gift?
Discernment. Honing my skills of discernment. On which particular altar of relationship will I place my hope (and my grief)? Who will honour my dreaming in the way my dreaming deserves?
Listen to your voice of discernment.
Locate it. (Mine is at the back of my neck – go figure!).
Most days now I go down to Witches Leap (Leap being the Scottish term for waterfall and the witch being a face in the rock- (see image above) and say hello. I don’t usually say it out loud, (well…ok, sometimes), because my discerning voice has some reservations about being put in a straight jacket or burnt at the stake (oh hang on – there’s a difference between discernment and fear – there’s that wisdom again)…and I listen to her, in this place of my belonging.
She reminds me that hope is (or should be) always tempered and informed by ‘what is’. And what is in this moment, at this time has many layers of joy and pain and beauty and aloneness.
Listen to ‘what is’ and be discerning about the threads of hope you decide to follow (that is the witch speaking as I listen to her).
We are in a place of great learning
My hope at this time says to me that we are in a place of great learning. It’s not easy – in fact, a lot of it feels f***ing impossible (my apologies to those of you who do not know that I can be quite sweary at times).
But, relationships only work if we allow ourselves to love and hope and tolerate difference. And, to be discerning about what aspects of difference are “dealbreakers” for you.
There is a spectrum of tolerance for difference. Where are you on that spectrum? Are you at the….
And what has formed this place? What brings you here? And how do you feel and respond to others who may stand (or sit or lie or dance) at a different spot on this spectrum?
Can you be with ‘what is’ and hold hope and grief in your heart (and soul)?
Please wonder, and move forward with hope and discernment gently.
*a small note about what relationship means: it might be with an intimate partner, a friend, an acquaintance, a group, or a workplace. It could also be with trees, plants, animals and rocks…it’s all about relationship!
Friend, what actions will you take today so that you become the ancestor of your future happiness?
(paraphrase from notes taken when listening to David Whyte in webinar).
What time of day is your most creative time? I realised some time ago that early morning was mine-which perhaps coincides with Day 3 of the New Moon-(as I write this, it is a Day 3 New Moon and also happens to be my Natal Moon). As we begin, so we continue.
Women’s Circle of Reflection and ConnectionI will be holding a weekly Women’s Circle of Reflection and Connection commencing online (Zoom) from Wednesday 21st July at 7am*. These circles will be for 45 minutes and will focus on a brief reading (a poem or perhaps a short excerpt of writing which will be sent out the day or so prior to the Circle) followed by a sharing Circle.
My hope is that we can be inspired together and connect with each other through sacred listening, and that this will stimulate and support each of us to bloom in our creativity and spontaneity as we continue through our days and weeks.
Payment will be on a “pay what you can” basis- from $0- $10AUD. Registration is essential by emailing me:
*If you can’t do 7am or would like a Circle that is not women specific, please also email me and let me know your preferred day and time and preferred composition of Circle, and I will see what I can do.
I spent some time over the last couple of days watching a movie called “The Wisdom of Trauma” which featured the wonderful Gabor Maté.
I was struck by many things he said including “we don’t respond to what happens, we respond to our perception of what happens” – but more than that, I was struck by the man himself. He is immensely kind and loving. He is not afraid to touch and hug. He is vulnerable and creates true encounter with others. He says “meet people where they are and don’t try to change them”
I felt that the majority of what was spoken was not new to me, (the notion of the patriarchal domination of Mother Earth). What it actually bought home was the truth of the statement by J.L. and Zerka Moreno (of Psychodrama) that “IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIP”
Gabor Maté says, trauma may not be so much terrible things happening-but more to do with being alone with the hurt.
Making relationship is the most important thing that any of us can offer or create. It is certainly the most useful aspect of any therapeutic work. Making relationship is a skill. I encourage us all to continue to hone this skill with all that we are.
Have you ever had the feeling of being so excited to step out there and be seen, and then afterward you crash with thoughts like “oh dear, there’s too much of me, I am too vulnerable, what will people think”?
In groupwork theory it’s the finely tuned balance between disturbing motive and reactive fear – what pushes you forward and what holds you back. Some of us are forever oscillating on the edge, sitting on the edge of our chair. My psychodrama teacher, Max Clayton, would say this is the perfect position from which to do the work. Often that is the position people are in when they start counselling.
Some of us (like me with my recent photo shoot) go with the disturbing motive and then sit with the feeling of (oh no) exposure and judgement (mostly my own!)
At this Full Moon time of peak energy and blooming, I offer one of the photos from this shoot. It was a magical day.
You might know the feeling when a bright memory from your past drops in to visit. This morning when I was sitting with my journal, there was a moment when I had a crystal clear memory of being on the Sacred Isle of Iona. Iona is a magical (and very small) island off the west coast of Scotland. I was a part of a residential workshop there back in 2014 with the wonderful Kathy Jones of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple.
I heard these words during a time of silence and meditation: “I am a Teacher, I am a Healer, I am a Wayshower.” These words have been my touchstone ever since. And nudge me gently to keep sharing my work.
Have you ever heard the words of your calling/purpose?
Last week I was walking along Cronulla Beach. Right on the edge, where the water rushes up sometimes as high as my knees, and we walk a little more briskly to save from getting our clothes wet. The tide wasn’t especially high and the ocean not especially wild. Fully clothed, hat and sun glasses, shoes in hand. Ambling to breakfast at the café at Wanda Beach.
This place is home to me – I grew up here, and although never a bikini clad beach babe (as in Puberty Blues) I have a long love affair with the ocean.
On this particular morning, at a certain point, some confluence of the ocean currents managed to create a whopping great wave-only about one metre wide and taller than me-and I didn’t see it coming.
Are you aware of the cyclic nature of your life?
Living with aware consciousness means being alert to the cyclic phases that are pertinent to you in any one moment and being conscious of the choices made in that moment.
Do you know:
If we do not live with the cycles consciously, they happen anyway
At the age of 54, when I joined the School of Shamanic Womancraft - first as student, then apprentice and now teacher, the Wisdom of the Cycles became integral in how I lived my life. As a woman in the last months of my menstrual cycle at 54, I had lost the opportunity to integrate the living wisdom into that particular cycle. The diurnal (solar), lunar (moon), seasonal and life phase cycles have had riches of wisdom to offer in my personal life and in my work.
I understand that if I do not live with the cycles consciously, they happen anyway-the wheel keeps turning. What I have come to know in my work as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist is that far too often, the cyclic consciousness is suppressed, stuck, or wounded. Our responses become Shadows which we do not or feel we can’t know. Pushed aside, these shadows can often lead us in an unconscious and painful dance.
Whilst the teaching of Cyclic Wisdom is central, it is also critical to recognise and call home the shadows that are often created by this suppression, stuckness and wounding.
Mental health issues are often linked to a shadow wound
In Western medicine these "shadows" become diagnostic labels which are most often treated with medication: the effect of which is to suppress even further the psyche’s response. (A note: I am not anti-medication for mental health as such-sometimes it is a necessary and life saving/life enhancing gift of western medicine).
However, in working with the cycles, I have noticed that mental health issues are often linked to a Shadow wound at certain times of the life cycle:
Shadow wounds or issues might occur at any time
Cycles are by nature, a movable feast- and of course these Shadow wounds or issues might occur at any time. I have found linking them with 'The Cycles' and creating awareness and intention a critical tool to enhance a person’s capacity for healing of self and welcoming home of the exiled shadows into a tender, accepting and wise relationship.
My upcoming workshop on Shadow Cycles
If you are interested in learning more about Shadow Cycles and mental health, join me in the Shadow Cycles series of workshops (all online currently), beginning with an introduction on 12th March and commencing the teachings of the Cycles and Shadow Cycles from Samhain in May.
There will be learning about the Cycles, the Shadow Cycles and approaches for integration. The workshops will involve personal work with your own Shadowlands, and will also be useful to broaden your skills if you work in the field of Mental health in a professional capacity.
Regardless of your purpose for attending, be prepared to dive deep and connect with your own Shadows, and be aware that you will be in a safe, confidential container of a group of like minded women.
For more information and to book click here.
On the cusp of the new calendar year, I find myself deeply resting. There is a sense in me of deep need for rest. Preparing for the wheel of time to keep turning.
I have been contemplating David Whyte’s poem “The House of Belonging” (this is an excerpt-the full poem is at the end of this blog):
“This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.
This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.
There is no house
like the house of belonging.”
For a long time I felt like I did not belong to this land of Australia.
I belonged with my family – a very large and noisy family - who live here. I was born here. But I always felt drawn to the land of Ireland. And, it’s true that I do feel most at home there – spiritually – and “in my skin”- in a way that has been so hard to find here.
I realise that the bones of my ancestors are not here in Australia. The layers of earth under my feet do not contain them. And yet, my home is created here. The bright cords of my heart’s love are here. My parents, my siblings, my children and grandchildren and my beloved partner.
Here in these mountains “is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love.” I am here. It is now, and “there is no house like the house of belonging.”
At the end of the Calendar year and moving into 2021, may you find and dwell in your house of belonging, and may the year to come hold love and many dreams-come-true.
Here is the full poem.