The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was first published in 1949. It represented the culmination of Campbell’s work researching and analysing myths, legends, parables, fairy tales and stories spanning thousands of years from ancient times to the modern day. In the book he presented a compelling argument that there is a single basic storyline that all these stories have in common. He called this story The Monomyth. It is more commonly referred to as The Hero’s Journey.

Campbell argued that this universal story exists because it has universal relevance to the human drama, and as such evolved along with human civilisation. It is a reflection of ancient wisdom that has helped people of countless cultures through the millenia come to terms with the limitations of their lives, their struggles, suffering and mortality. It provides a map to help us navigate the great journeys, crises, losses, thresholds and transitions of our lives, a guide to support us to transcend our limitations, face our deepest fears, and make the voyage across the ocean of our unexplored potential, find our purpose and move from a state of merely surviving our lives to actually thriving in them.

It is a story that is symbolically coded into our collective unconscious. It’s a fundamental part of our cultural inheritance that has been passed down through the generations without needing to be consciously taught or understood. It is a story that is alive within each of us, so much so that it colours our dreams as well as our waking lives. When we tell a story, we cannot help but frame it in the universal terms of The Hero’s Journey.

So what is this great narrative thread that runs through all these stories, from Homer’s Odyssey to Star Wars, from Pride and Prejudice to The Matrix, from the story of Jesus to the story of Snow White? At its most basic it contains three stages:

  • Separation
  • Initiation
  • Return

The Hero’s Journey is a story of growth and change, of leaving behind the parts of us that have become stale and stagnant in order to become richer, deeper versions of ourselves. It’s a story of separation from the safe, familiar world of our lives up to that point, of transformation through initiation, of descent into unknown territory, into the underworld, into the heart of darkness, of the profound challenges and tests we encounter there that stretch us beyond what we believed we could cope with, and finally of ascent and return to the middleworld, fundamentally changed and with a gift for our community; the gift of our more authentic selves.

Campbell elaborated on the three basic stages of the Hero’s Journey and identified a variety of more specific chapters, each with a particular challenge to overcome and opportunity for growth. Not all stories contain all of these chapters, but all of them contain some of them. Some of these chapters are:

  • The Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Crossing the First Threshold
  • The Belly of the Whale
  • The Road of Trials
  • The Meeting with the Goddess
  • Atonement with the Father
  • Crossing the Return Threshold

Increasingly in modern times we have lost touch with the essence of The Hero’s Journey and it’s direct relevance and utility for our lives, as we have gradually become what Guy Debord calls a Spectator Society, one in which we are invited to sit back and spectate as our heroes of movies, music, television, sport and computer games take us on adventures while we sit safely and passively in the passenger seat.

For this reason many of us get stuck in an endless repetition of the first two chapters of The Hero’s Journey. We hear the call to adventure and then we refuse the call, often by distracting ourselves by immersing ourselves in one or another of the various superficial entertainments our culture has to offer. There will always be another superhero movie to watch, a new first person shoot em up to play or a new romance novel to get lost in. If we persistently ignore it, eventually the call becomes so insistent that it begins exhibiting itself as symptoms: depression, anxiety, despair.

It’s no coincidence that in the postmodern era in which we live, where we celebrate the dissolution of the institutions and traditions that have long been taken for granted, we have begun to see more stories that deliberately set out to subvert and disrupt The Hero’s Journey story structure. These are stories in which nothing really happens and no-one really changes.

Some of these “anti-hero stories” usefully challenge our illusions about the process of change, our belief that it is easy or inevitable, and therefore reflect reality more accurately than the dramas we’re more familiar with, in which the characters are transformed by their adventures and often live happily ever after. Others reflect the dangerous idea that it is futile to try to change anything or improve ourselves or the world, an idea that keeps us imprisoned in a kind of cultural cul-de-sac, forever destined to displace our hopes and dreams onto entertaining fictions that keep us comfortably spectating on the sidelines rather then becoming spect-actors, taking to the stage of our lives and engaging in the difficult and dangerous task of learning how to live our myth.

Dangerous not because “living our myth” compels us to put our lives on the line like the Luke Skywalkers and Katniss Everdeens of our popular myths, but because if we set out on any journey of growth and change we will inevitably face the dragons of failure and disappointment and the demons of fear and shame. In this sense, we really are putting our lives on the line, because if we embark on a Hero’s Journey at some point something in us will need to die.

We have a great deal to lose. We also have a great deal to gain.

The journey of psychotherapy is undoubtedly a Hero’s Journey. It requires courage, commitment, patience, resilience, self compassion and ultimately an understanding that in order to grow we must learn how to die to ourselves, and that while we may meet guides, companions and helpers along the way, it is a journey that we need to take total responsibility for, and in this sense it is a journey that we must always take alone.

The counselling client has a lot in common with the archetype of the Hero, who is often depicted as a confused, troubled, flawed, imperfect and immature figure, a fiery and passionate adolescent rather than a stoic and seasoned warrior. Contrast Neo with Morpheus in The Matrix, or Katniss with Haymitch in The Hunger Games. When they meet at the beginning of their respective stories these characters are separated by the fact that one has already undertaken a Hero’s Journey and returned both with scars and gifts of wisdom and the other has yet to depart on theirs, has yet to learn who they are and what they need to.

In The Lord of the Rings, Sam accompanies Frodo on the long, arduous journey to Mordor, to the summit of Mount Doom, to destroy the One Ring. He even offers to carry the Ring himself out of love and care for his friend. But Frodo is the ring bearer and it is his task alone to do the seeming impossible, to bear the overwhelming weight of the Ring and finally destroy it. In the end, after all the pain, struggle and sacrifice Frodo is not strong enough to do so. He cannot bear to cast the Ring into the fire because he has become too attached to it, in the same way we can become too attached to our pain, anger, despair and resentment.

It takes an ironic twist of fate for Frodo to finally let the Ring go. Gollum intervenes; the tragic creature that Frodo once cursed and wished was dead. This shadowy creature, judged by all but Gandalf as a pitiful and wicked wretch, provides the necessary energy to destroy the Ring once and for all. In the same way it is the parts of ourselves that we have disowned, hated and wished we could cut away or kill off that we need to reclaim in order to find the necessary energy to change and transform.

In a Hero’s Journey there is always a dragon that we need to face. This dragon stands guard at the threshold of our potential and has the energy we need to transform. Our task is not to destroy it but to befriend it, understanding that it is only by doing so that we can learn to harness it’s wildness in the service of creation rather than destruction, in order to create the life we want to live.

How Childhood Trauma Leads to Addiction

In my recent post on Men and Addiction I described some theories and ideas that influence my approach to working with men who struggle with addiction. The most significant of these ideas are inspired by addiction specialist Dr. Gabor Maté, who’s perspectives on the causes of addiction go somewhat against the grain of traditional thinking on the subject. This engaging short illustrated video is a great introduction to Gabor Maté and his work with what he calls the Hungry Ghosts of addictions.

Men and Addiction

Most men struggle with addictions of one form or another. Frequently we struggle with more than one. When we’re being really honest with ourselves we know this to be the case.

Of course women struggle with addiction too, but unlike men, women are usually not taught so rigorously as children how to repress their emotions in order to fit in, so as adults they are often more familiar with their emotions than men. They may be no less confusing and painful, but at least they are less alien.

With many years of experience reflecting on my addictive tendancies, I understand now that they are coping mechanisms for dealing with the bewildering complexity of my emotional life, for keeping this complexity safely at arm’s length.

I was taught by my stoic father (who was fathered by a war survivor, who taught him) and my mother too that in order to conform to society’s expectations of what it means to be a man I needed to repress my feelings of fear and sadness, but perhaps most significantly my feelings of anger.

These emotions, often deeply repressed at a very young age, come back to haunt men in later life, and we develop elaborate strategies which help us to ignore them and keep hiding them away. These strategies frequently develop into addictions of various kinds, which addiction specialist Gabor Maté calls Hungry Ghosts.

The spectrum of addiction

When we think about addictions we can be forgiven for assuming that they are only a problem when they are clearly destructive in some way, like the alcoholic who loses his job and ends up on the streets or the gambler who blows his family’s savings on one weekend in Las Vegas. But what about the rest of us? What subtle and not so subtle ways might our own coping mechanisms show up as addictive patterns and behaviours?

Depending on our personality type, our addictive patterns will show up in different ways. For every man whose addiction shows up in ways that are clear for all to see, there are a hundred others who are quietly struggling in much less dramatic and destructive ways.

For those of us who are at the other end of the spectrum to the raging alcoholics and the compulsive gamblers of this world, those who enjoy some measure of success in our jobs, our friendships and our intimate relationships, the way our addictive patterns show up will likely be much more subtle and apparently under our control. Our loved ones may tolerate or collude with them or we may keep them carefully compartmentalised and safely hidden from those who might have an issue with them.

Are we really in control?

We may believe that we have them under control, but to what extent do they really control us? At what point does a consistent pattern of repetitive behaviour become an addiction? At what point does it become unhealthy? One answer might be when it begins to have an adverse impact on our quality of life. Another might be when it begins to have an adverse impact on other people, our friends, family and loved ones. Gabor Mate’s definition of addition is:

“Any behaviour that a person finds relief in and therefore craves in the short term, but suffers negative consequences in the long term and doesn’t give up despite the negative consequences.”

His definition significantly lengthens the list of addictions to include things that we wouldn’t typically understand as such. The list below is certainly not exhaustive.

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Drugs (over the counter, prescription and illegal)
  • Pornography
  • Gambling and risk taking
  • Food
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Work
  • Routine
  • Sport
  • Exercise
  • Sex
  • Shopping
  • News (“news junkies”)
  • Television
  • Gaming
  • Social media, the internet and other forms of “screen addiction” (e.g. “doom scrolling”)
  • Religion and spirituality (“spiritual bypassing”)
  • Power
  • Anger (“rageaholics”)

It’s interesting to reflect that none of these things are, arguably, unhealthy in their own right, many of them are clearly healthy and some profoundly life enhancing. So what’s wrong with them?

As I’ve already suggested, they can be seen as reasonable and healthy coping mechanisms we use to help us manage and provide meaning and structure in our lives in an increasingly complex and uncertain world. In this sense, they’re completely understandable and okay. However, the bad feelings we might feel as a result of engaging excessively in some of these behaviours are a clue to what might be going on underneath. Whether we feel these feelings directly as guilt or shame, or indirectly as a result of the ways we structure our lives to hide them from ourselves and others (e.g. depression, stress, anxiety and physical symptoms – aches and pains, hangovers, comedowns and illnesses), they tell us that there’s something out of balance in our emotional lives, that there’s something we’re avoiding.

What are we avoiding?

So, what might we be avoiding? The simple answer to this question is emotional pain. The experience of the vast majority of men whom I have met, developed friendships with and had the privilege of working with as a counsellor, is that emotional pain often feels unbearable, and the threat of it creates a fear of complete loss of control (falling apart) that is overwhelming. After all, it’s our ability to be in control of our feelings, and by extension, in control of the world, that defines men, particularly in our patriarchal culture.

Allowing ourselves to feel out of control is therefore completely unacceptable to the majority of men.  It’s fascinating to reflect that many of our addictive patterns and behaviours allow us to feel more in control while many others allow us to feel out of control, but in safe and familiar ways. For example, the shy man who gets drunk in order to feel more confident and in control in order to seduce someone and have wild unselfconscious sex with them.

The illusion of control we have over our feelings and over our lives often equates to the illusion of control we have over our addictive patterns and behaviours.

It’s incredibly hard to face up to our illusions. We might have a pattern of going from relationship to relationship, always keeping our addictions just about under control or out of sight, telling ourselves that we can get on top of them without help, until inevitably we cannot keep them hidden any longer. Our loved ones might feel extremely angry, hurt, confused and betrayed by the ways we’ve kept these aspects of ourselves hidden from them, not understanding that they are reflections of the way we, as men, keep our feelings and emotions hidden from ourselves and others, safe under lock and key.

When we’re faced with moments of reckoning like this, perhaps again and again throughout our lives, when our loved ones ask us directly or indirectly to face our addictions and by extension our pain and our fear, we’re faced with a choice. Do we choose to continue living with our illusions that we are in control or do we take the incredibly courageous step of turning away from them and towards our emotional pain, perhaps for the first time?

Steps we cannot take alone

Turning away from our illusions and changing our addictive patterns are steps that we cannot take alone, no matter how hard we try. Finding a safe, supportive, non judgmental space with others who are beginning to confront their own illusions, or are a few steps ahead of us on the path, is an essential part of the process of outgrowing the patterns and behaviours that don’t serve us any more. It’s a process of recognising our basic need for brotherhood, community and solidarity at a time in history when the illusions our individualistic and patriarchal society has presented to us about the nature of manhood are crashing down around our ears. It’s a process of beginning to grow into the men we have always aspired to become. In order to access our full healthy, life enhancing power we need to learn how to access our vulnerability.


Further reading

Blessings by David Whyte

The words, sounds and images in this short film weave together to create something that touches me deeply, deeply, and gives me consolation at this time of crisis and uncertainty.

I have watched it about a dozen times now, and this morning for the first time this year. As I watched I saw out of the corner of my eye the blue tits returning to the bird feeder outside my living room window for the first time since last summer when my neighbour chopped down the tree that was growing nearby. In those moments I was touched by the meaning of the words of David Whyte’s Blessing poems, the everyday miracles that can sustain us if we allow ourselves to listen carefully enough, to see with our eyes fully open.

As this article explains, the music in the film contains elements taken from one of the oldest audio recordings ever made of traditional Irish music, recordings made on wax cylinders over 110 years ago.

Enjoy.

Walk a mile in my shoes

On my walk to work this morning I spotted this very uniquely decorated van. I’ve never been much of a fan of Elvis but the song lyrics displayed in the window really grabbed my attention.

“Walk a mile in my shoes
Just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes”

As I stood there on the pavement reading those words they seemed to me to be a powerful call to empathy and compassion, an invitation to withhold judgement until we’ve really considered things from other people’s perspective. I immediately Googled the lyrics and found this fantastic video of Elvis performing the song live in Las Vegas in 1970.

Upon watching the video, I was immediately curious and moved by the words Elvis shares before the music starts, so I Googled them too, and discovered that they’re from a Hank Williams song.

“You never stood in that man’s shoes or saw things through his eyes or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies. So help your brother along the way, no matter where he starts, for the same God that made you, made him too, these men with broken hearts.”

I found the full version of the Hank Williams song on YouTube and was moved once again by this stark reminder of the destitute place that many broken-hearted men eventually end up.

This version performed by Johnny Cash is also really worth watching.

According to the Autumn 2018 rough sleeping statistics produced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, a shocking 84% of rough sleepers in the UK are men.

I’m strongly reminded of the work I do with A Band of Brothers, mentoring young men who are in or close to being in the criminal justice system. Many of these young men have never had any experience of a positive male role model and do not know how to help themselves escape from the difficult life situations and self-destructive patterns they’re stuck in.

These men may not be broken-hearted yet but many of them are just clinging on, only a hair’s breadth away from being swallowed up by a system that will either break them or make hardened criminals out of them.

Today I feel strangely connected to a lineage of men, including Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash (who famously performed in Folsom Prison where the remarkable 2017 documentary The Work is also set), who feel a great empathy for their fellow men, their brothers, knowing that while in many ways the scales of our society are tipped in the favour of men, in other ways they really are not.

When loneliness becomes a sickness

I was inspired to write this post by the recent BBC3 documentary Inside The Secret World Of Incels and an accompanying article by one of the men who featured in the documentary, “I used to be an incel”. I was deeply moved by both the documentary and the article and was prompted to reflect on my counselling work with men.

An incel is an Involuntary Celibate, someone who, despite a desire to be in a relationship and/or have sex, is unable to attract partners. People who describe themselves as incels are predominantly heterosexual men, and as the documentary explores, there is a whole spectrum of different types of incel, from thoughtful and sensitive Kissless, Handholdless, Hugless Virgins (KHHVs) who have never been kissed, held hands with or hugged anyone, to those convinced that making themselves more physically attractive will make them more attractive to women (known as looks maxxing), to those driven to stalking and shaming women for their perceived superficiality in only being interested in superficial, physically attractive men.

At the darkest end of the spectrum, “incel ideology” has been linked to four mass shootings in America, and the glorification and deification of the perpetrator of the first of these, Elliot Rodger. Incels meet and support one another in online forums, and there are many of these forums, reflecting the different levels of “inceldom”. The toxicity of the online forums in which openly misogynistic incels hang out is, as one would imagine, profound, as is the way they act as an echo chamber, reinforcing and amplifying the angry and confused ideas and beliefs of the desperate, lonely, alienated men who frequent them.

It would be easy to write this off as a sub-culture of men obsessed with sex and seething with rage because of their failure in this area of their lives. However, this would ignore the complexity of the issue, the way it is driven by digital technology and intersects in complex ways with with both feminism and what radical feminist author bell hooks describes as “imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy”, a system underpinned by powerful cultural narratives about both male and female identity which is being challenged more and more as gender roles and identities become increasingly fluid.

In my case, writing these men off as sex-obsessed misogynists would fail to acknowledge the deep empathy I feel for men in this desperate position, even those at the more extreme and frightening end of the incel spectrum. I do not condone their behaviour on any level and yet I recognise in them a part of myself, a psychic wound that for most of my life I did not know I had, a wound obscured by the layers of privilege I have taken for granted as a white, middle-class, heterosexual man. As a “new man” I have worked hard to avoid engaging in oppressive behaviour of any kind. However, for a long time I was only dimly aware of the extent to which I was oppressing myself, shaming myself, directing inward a potent but twisted aspect of my masculinity. Beneath this pathological self-control resentment bubbled and boiled.

It seems almost paradoxical that the way out of this dead end was to begin owning my power, my potency and my capacity to take control, to become harder rather than softer, more overtly masculine rather than less, but this has been my experience. First though I had to own my feelings – all of them, not only my resentment, my anger and my rage but also my fear, grief and despair, including my fear of being oppressed, dominated and controlled by women, a fear which I believes wholly underpins misogyny.

Many men may continue to assume the position of “top dog” in our culture, consciously or unconsciously, and defend this position vociferously, but this is only because they’re often protecting a deep sense of shame and a feeling of being the “underdog”. This psychological split is what drives both the male “winners” in our culture and the “losers”. It is only by finding ways to reclaim our healthy, balanced masculinity, one which runs deep enough to connect with these wounded parts in order to integrate them so superficial displays of power and control are no longer necessary, that men will find our true power.


Further reading

The Inner Landscape of Beauty

John O’Donahue’s “Beannacht” (meaning “Blessing”) is a poem that offers me a great deal of comfort in times of trouble and uncertainty.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

In this interview recorded shortly before his death in 2010, O’Donahue speaks gently and profoundly on the subject of beauty, meaning and suffering.

My river has never looked so beautiful

How can we create lives which are truly worth living, given that these lives come to an end?

Abraham Maslow, author of Toward A Psychology of Being and originator of the famous “Hierarchy of Needs” diagram (see below), was one of the most influential figures in the establishment of the Humanistic Psychology movement in the middle of the last century. In 1957 Maslow suffered from a severe heart attack. His near-death experience blessed him with a profound and intense appreciation of life, which he later beautifully reflected on in a letter to a friend.

“The confrontation with death – and the reprieve from it – makes everything so precious, so sacred, so beautiful, that I feel more strongly than ever the impulse to love it, to embrace it, and to let myself be overwhelmed by it. My river has never looked so beautiful… Death, and its ever present possibility makes love, passionate love, more possible. I wonder if we could love passionately, if ecstasy would be possible at all, if we knew we’d never die.”
Abraham Maslow, quoted in Rollo May’s book Love and Will

Anxiety and the benefits of ambient music

This lovely short film tells a very personal story about how a young man suffering with anxiety and prone to panic attacks discovers a new universe of relaxation, safety and a feeling of groundedness as a result of listening to ambient music at home and on his headphones as he makes his way through the world. In a society that can often feel relentlessly busy and stressful, it’s simple practices like these that enable us to slow down enough to be able to check in with ourselves and get a sense what’s going on for us underneath all the noise and static.


More resources

Reconnecting to your inner child and the deep web of life

At it’s heart, counselling offers a way for us to to process our suffering and our distress – and to find meaning in it. There is an increasing amount of evidence that demonstrates that it’s the quality of the relationship between counsellor and client which is the main catalyst for this process of healing and growth. Something quite mysterious and transformative can happen when two people relate really honestly with one another. This is because our identities are not fixed. Our personalities are much like the surface of the ocean, constantly shifting and changing depending on the currents, prevailing wind and other factors. Our personalities adapt depending on who we’re relating to at any given time.

Have you ever experienced the strange and unsettling sensation of going home for a weekend to visit your parents and finding that you begin to regress into a adolescent or childish version of yourself? I certainly have! The relationship between children and their parents are so powerful they can often overwhelm the identities we form in our adulthood. The English language doesn’t even have a specific word to describe the relationship an adult has to his or her parents – we will always be their children!

Think about yourself at home with your partner, at the office, socialising with your friends, when you’re on your own. Does your behaviour change? In each of these different situations are you consciously acting out different roles or does your personality adapt and change to meet these different situations? Are you more confident around some people than others? Do you like yourself more when you spend time with people you love and trust?

Identity is relational – it is formed in relationship with others. It’s the meaning we create between us – the dynamics of our connection to one another – which really counts and which makes all the difference when it comes to personal change, not only in a counselling relationship, but in ALL relationships.

“When a partnership is based on growing, evolving choice, when it’s interpersonal politics is free of a desire to control, it develops in a unique, idiosyncratic way.”
Carl Rogers

We are not only independent, free thinking individuals making our way in the world, we are also interdependent – we need other people to help us make meaning in our lives so we can change and grow in healthy ways. We cannot do it alone. This understanding of our fundamental interconnectedness with one another is the cornerstone of radical ecology. It is an understanding which is sorely absent from the cultural story our modern society is acting out. This is a story of individualism and separation, one which perpetrates the myth that identities are isolated inside our skulls, that we are completely separate from everyone else. It is the antithesis of the kind of connection an ecological view of the world implies. It is important that we update this cultural narrative, which at the end of the day is only a story about what it means to be human that we have come to accept as reality.

However, changing this story is one of the hardest things we can attempt to do. We recognise that this story of separation is one which we, as children of our culture, have taken to heart. We can talk easily enough about the importance of connection but, more often than not, we keep our deep emotional selves hidden from one another, protected behind carefully locked doors in our minds. With our adult capacity to think rationally it’s quite possible to grasp the idea that we are all interconnected, but it is our Inner Child – the child within each of us – who needs to be convinced. This is the part of us that has been most wounded by our culture, long before we were mature enough to begin making rational sense of the world around us. The Inner Child does not understand rational arguments. The Inner Child sees things in black and white, responding to basic emotional expressions from others (love, fear, anger, sadness) with basic emotional responses.

The Inner Child experiences these feelings very deeply, but the scars of all those old injuries, so often unwittingly inflicted upon us by our parents, injuries passed down from their parents, act like a barrier to their free and open expression, and so often they’re pushed down into our unconscious or projected onto others because they’re too powerful to deal with. The Inner Child has swallowed whole the story of separation our culture has whispered in our ear every day of our lives from the moment of our birth. Most of us growing up in this culture cannot help but become traumatised by this story on a fundamental level long before we’re old enough to make any kind of meaningful choice about what we believe in. Although our Inner Child longs for connection, there is simply too much at stake to take the risk of reaching out to another with authenticity and vulnerability. The Inner Child’s greatest fear is of abandonment, which is experienced like a death. No wonder we keep this part hidden most of the time.

If we’re one of the lucky ones, there are places where we feel safe enough to invite our Inner Child to be witnessed by another. Counselling is one such place. Those of us who have experienced the healing and the acceptance that this kind of openness engenders have had a taste of the kind of connection that is possible with another human being, the blurring of the invisible, illusory boundaries which separate us, a fleeting sense of the interconnectedness of the human community. This kind of connection with others is all too rare, but with time, patience and the right conditions, an environment which is safe, stable and free of oppression, self-understanding and self-compassion develops. Our Inner Child naturally blossoms and helps us find the courage and the creativity to begin the task of finding out who we were to begin with before we swallowed whole the lie that we are separate and alone. With great relief we realise it does not need to be this way.


Further reading