‘Voice’ is a symbolic way to say ‘expression’ in terms of an authentic communication from the consciousness. Frequently i have seen that those who have been given labels of mental illness are actually trying to express their suffering, which is frequently an uncomfortable reality for others around to face.
They are often unable to express it is socially ‘legitimate’ ways and without challenging those around them, who are often their own family. This causes a split in their own fabric somewhere for they have either of the two options- do not discuss their pain with anyone and pretend the pain is not there (push it under the carpet, as though hiding from view) or discuss it in the open and inspire the wrath of significant adults around them- mostly parents or partners. So once this hiding game starts it continues till the time that it cannot remain hidden any more and it becomes like a writing on the wall for everyone to see that the person is not behaving in ways that are ‘normal’.
In physical pain which is visible this is very easily identified. For instance say someone having a little pain in their ankle, will first ignore it and then apply some pain ointment and if the pain does not subside possibly show to a doctor. But if the pain is not reducing with anything then an X-ray may be recommended and then you discover a fracture. This is how it recently happened with my neighbour who was discovered having a little fracture in one of her vertebrae. So another issue, for the pain is so well hidden in the spine and not a leg- that it takes time to reach to its root.
When someone incurs psychic pain, the pain gets embedded in their mind and it may not find an expression for a long time. But if the first pain is further added with more pain and more and more reasons of unhappiness to the spirit- the spirit loses its vitality. Jung has said this in the context of the spiritual journey of the psyche in very beautiful ways. For him life is an unfolding of the psychic blueprint of a person, like a consciousness coming into full bloom. In the path of that development whatever pain or traumas a person gets, their growth takes that turn, and starts happening in that direction- just like a tree is cut and it starts growing in another direction.
We can easily make people into bonsai-s: miniature versions of themselves, whose ideas, wings, vitality or dreams are cropped, diminished and turned around to suit those others around who want them to grow in a certain way. This often happens with parents who are very ‘successful’ in many worldly ways- they also saddle this version of success on their children- thwarting their individuality, choking their voice, muffling their expression. Naturally children develop ‘pathologies’, (the commonest label i am seeing nowadays is OCD, and another psychiatrist reporting from the UK talks about how bipolar has been ‘sold’) because the behaviour they show in response to more and more of the same suffering, only goes away from what is ‘acceptable’. So now that they have been given the label of ‘abnormal’ it suits those around to believe that a ‘proper’ mechanism has been put in place to restore the imbalance of the system- the imbalance coming from one person whose consciousness cannot handle the trauma of living a soulless life.
In such a case the only way that person, who is actually on the most authentic and soulful journey among all the other elements of the system, needs to be able to find his or her own voice- and not surprisingly this often happens via the arts. The arts offer that quiet withdrawal from the ‘madness’ around, helping to introvert the senses, and find an inner sanctuary first of all. The art can become the first step to finding the voice- which is hiding between the crevices of the fragmented spirit. It would then come as no surprise that most people who go the way of the arts ‘recover’ permanently and also become capable of handling many other aspects of life, in due course.
I have without a single exception in scores of people seen the role of this ‘voice recovery’ via the arts, and if people hold on to the mechanism, by which I mean art form– they may recover fully. However, there may be those who do not have an art form to fall back on. In that case developing some aspect of their soul side (in the manner of the depth psychology tradition) can also work equally well- such as connection with nature, animals or anything else that nurtures their spirit.
With this attitude I also work in collaborative therapy – in helping people find their voices, recognizing themselves via their voices, giving support till that voice expression stabilizes. I think many narratives of my writing will corroborate what I am writing via this blog and how the role of the ‘therapist’ is actually only a facilitation for the psychic material to find an expression- which is no longer shunned by the world and not determined by anyone else but the person her/him-self. There is no pathology or illness lurking in anyone, as far as I am concerned, but a deep wounding that can heal, given time, scope for expression and a safe space for communication. People, like plants, will always recover and get back on the path of their growth, once there is even one hand to hold. Of course nothing new for those who work in therapy and who understand why the relationship with the therapist can be one of the most life-changing experiences for anyone, if the therapist knows their work well, and ethically, and not playing second fiddle to any medical version of suffering.
This blogpost is also written to share with those who work with me, to understand my philosophical stance viz. a. viz. the therapeutic role I am playing in their lives and since this is also happening across the globe of late, it is important that people understand that I also come from a background of lived experience of serious mental illness and that gives me the strength, insights and depth that only an insider can have. Having overcome the same suffering very successfully, the current work that i am doing is actually developing a new approach to ‘therapy’ if I may use that word as well, though I am looking for an alternative. I find the word slightly problematic, because it gives the sense that someone can heal another– the reality is that people heal themselves if their innate wisdom is given a pathway to express itself, hone itself and then the thing blocking it removed or they circumvent its obstruction.
Additionally one of the greatest findings for me, in the recent past, was in a book by Grof, in which he discusses at great length the various kinds of splits that can happen in people and how the restoration would happen. After reading the book I thought and wondered why more did not know about it. Then I figured it is always great to keep millions of people uneducated for they can never find the solutions for their problems that have been found long back, and they will accept their fate as an act of faith- that their karma got them into mental illnesses, and not the absence of a scope for authentic expression, for there was no adept master/guide who could help the expression come about and let people taken on their psychic path of growth and ‘individuation’. Of course the other factor about the book or such books is that their language is so complex that for a person who is suffering greatly, it is simply beyond their grasp- at least for the time being.
And how I realize today that all resources for ‘recovery’ are always around, though the university trained therapists are almost the most dispensable of them!! My other hope is that those I am working with, would also become similar collaborators for further others in future, because the very ground for this form of therapy is lived experience, which informs our mind first of all and then the entire length of understanding your own story from an analytical position- the work I am doing at present, with my own story and others’ narratives. OF course many other streams will come and nurture this therapeutic approach and somewhere it would be one of the things in the peer-support movement, but in a very methodical form.
Perhaps this would fit into the mould of Relational Leading, because the relationship with the collaborator here (that is me for now) helps others lead themselves out of the labyrinth of the Minataur. It is after all the fact that each one is potentially the Hero in his own story and those heroes are waiting for the dust to be wiped off their faces, so that they can recognize their own human and divine potential- The Hero with a thousand faces (one of the greatest books for anyone to read, if they can see it as a personal unfolding)