When do we finally call the counselor? James Hollis noticed a pattern in his clients which is worth passing on to any person who feels like his or her life isn’t really working out that well. Of his clients Hollis says in his book (2005) Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up.
“None of them had come to therapy as a first choice. Their initial line of defense against the eruptions of the unconscious into their lives was denial. (This is our most understandable, most primitive defense, which, if continued indefinitely, proves to be the only truly pathological state of being.) Typically, their second strategy was to revivify their efforts in service to the old plan. Their third choice was to strike off toward some new projection—a new job, a better (different) relationship, a seductive ideology, or sometimes to drift into some unconscious “self-treatment plan” such as an addiction or an affair. Their fourth choice, after having tried all of the above, was to admit futility and reluctantly come to therapy, feeling frustrated, sometimes angry and defeated, and always, always humbled. This shaky beginning marked the onset of the deepest inquiry they had ever undertaken, the risky adventure of getting to know who they really were, often quite apart from whomever they had become.” p. 24
And so it is. I personally fit into that pattern before seeking help with my counselor in 1997. The path began in the dark woods of the redwood forest, where I started teaching dream work at a retreat center. One of my colleagues was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who soon became my therapist. Choosing to work with her was the best thing which could have happened to me and the synchronicity was astonishing. It led to self exploration, a new job working with Native American students, and ultimately to graduate study in Counseling Psychology. That journey has also led to several different medicine plant ceremonies and their traditional communities. One of my nephews, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, who is on his way to Peru for personal development said, “you know Michael, you were the gatekeeper for me. You introduced me to this path. I will always be grateful to you for opening the way for me.” Back in 1997, in the thirtieth year of my marriage, I couldn’t conceive of the possibility of ever being described as a gatekeeper to the Medicine Path.