Avraham Cohen, Ph.D., R.C.C., C.C.C.
I have the view that as a psychotherapist, I am in the enviable position of being paid to receive feedback that will further my own growth and development. Everyday when I sit with clients I am receiving feedback. This feedback is coming in a variety of forms, most of them indirect and without my client even realizing that I have received something from them that constitutes feedback about who I am as a person, or perhaps better put, who I am not.
I take anything that sets off a strong reaction, a reaction characterized by physiological, emotional, and idea responses that subjectively seem to be bigger than the situation warrants, as a signal that a potential inner work experience has been opened up. I am alert for any tendency to marginalize these responses.
Inner Work (Cohen, Bai, & Green, 2008) is described as: “a process that guides a group leader, a teacher, or any person to look into their inner world and identify aspects of their experience that may have been previously outside their awareness and that are affecting their way of being in the moment and, in particular for those in positions of leadership will also have an effect on those whom they are seeking to lead or guide.” (¶ 13)
Inner work is different than inner life. The latter is the contents and process of the consciousness of a person. The former is the work that is undertaken by the person with those contents.
My client is a fifty-five year old highly successful businessman. He tells me that he feels he has dealt with all his issues and the problem lies with his wife. I become aware of my thoughts, which include something like, “I cannot believe that you are so unaware of the effects of your own background, your judgments about your wife and women in general, and what the harshness of your tone conveys as you tell me this. Perhaps, my judgments/evaluations have some merit. However, the physiological response I experience also tells me something.
Later, I recall the situation and my experience. My inner response is easily reactivated. I have a memory of my father telling me about an acquaintance that is “an idiot.” I feel my own reactions to this memory. I feel taken aback at the strength of my Dad’s statement. I recall some criticisms he has had of me. I recall other occasions when I have been quite judgmental of others. I realize that I have a strong tendency to protect my own vulnerability by going on the offence. I begin to relax. I feel compassion for myself and for my client who is, indeed, struggling with his own demons and limitations.
The next time I see my client I feel open to him. I am able to find ways to begin to discuss with him some of the issues that are arising out of this relationship with his wife.
Cohen, A., Bai, H., & Green, L. (2008). An experiment in radical pedagogy: Enactment of deep democracy in a philosopher’s cafe. Radical Pedagogy, 9(2). Retrieved April 21, 2011 from http://radicalpedagogy.icaap.org/content/issue9_2/Cohen_Bai_Green.html
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA