Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lea's Life and Practice Change

At the core of any person's troubles lie primitive fears beyond his or her conscious reach but which are acted out in some form in daily life as well as in the structure and functioning of his or her body. Over the years of her own apprenticeship as a therapist in Toronto Lea gradually developed a confidence in working with deeper levels in her clients as they were revealed. Group work, especially in a marathon setting, allowed an intense but safe context within which terrors and their concommitant rages could be flushed to the surface. Lea and the other group members could surround and support an individual through this experience both within the group and later, outside of it. Supporters would supply the sense of calm understanding, acceptance, and love necessary to an integration and thus resolution of this formerly repressed material. The process worked so long as Lea herself was well and truly grounded and as long as she had enough solid assistance in her groups. However, even as marathon work was developing in 1967-8, those conditions were failing. Work of this depth in a group will inevitably spark even more. If I have repressed feelings and experiences, witnessing or being involved with another's expression of these will not only push my own material to the surface, but it will give me tacit permission for my own revelations. This is the power of the group experience. But it is also its danger. If too many in the group are overwhelmed with their troubles and there are not enough supporters to assist them, not enough energy in the group or in the therapist to facilitate this intensely demanding work, the experience can replicate the terror and chaos of the individual's original situation and further repression ensue. Lea was not unaware of these possiblities. She would speak about the scriptural parable about the man from whom a devil was cast out who was later invaded by a host of seven more. She warned about the experimental sensitivity groups -- T-groups -- in vogue in the 60s, because of damage done when peple were indiscriminately opened to their deepest troubles and then basically abandoned without follow-up.

Early in 1967 the pressure of Lea's schedule and her declining health meant fewer sessions and less individual work with her regular clients and her learning therapists. Yet many clearly needed a forum to address and work with problems that were close to the surface. She proposed a 12 day "holiday"/marathon at a resort north of Toronto on Bigwin Island. This proved to be a watershed event. On the marathon Lea used all of the tools of her craft: relaxation, dream analysis, psychodrama, and increasingly, physical work. Disturbed material poured forth from participant after participant. By the end of the first week, however, the context felt less safe and more chaotic as the sheer number of people close to their own raw emotional states increased and the resulting number of those able to ground and support them decreased. Connecting with scary, disturbing feelings and memories within a therapy context is only one, albeit, essential moment on a path to resolution. A great deal of "mop-up" work must follow. The client must feel in a sense "contained" within a context of quite substantial support in order to explore, connect with, and articulate formerly repressed feelings and the ways they have been active in her daily life. Lea came to Bigwin hoping to deal with and resolve a back-load of therapeutic material with her clients but in the event even more was released.

People who had done substantial work with Lea date that period as the end of their personal therapy with her. The farm had already been purchased and work would soon begin to turn it into a centre for marathons. Lea's group and individual schedule was impossibly over-taxed. The nascent community now demanded not only Lea's time and energy but as well that of many of the Bigwin participants. The learning group became more of a seminar and less a place in which personal work could happen. But the real centre of change that made the continuation of deep and consistent work for Lea's client/learners was within Lea herself.

Grant rghtly points to Lea's exhaustion and Type-2 diabetes as major components in her changes of direction in 1967-8. But there were others. The very intensity of the work at Bigwin opened the floodgates not only for Lea's clients but also for herself. Lea had presented herself as a woman from a generous, supportive and creative family, who had in her turn produced a similar family of her own. Examples drawn from her own life and that of her children would highlight those qualities. As Grant has documented, this picture was far from accurate. Material which Lea had been able to rise above earlier surged to the surface with the combined pressures of failing health and energy and the depth of the work done at Bigwin. Lea's early terrors and her profound sense of abandonment surfaced but were never worked with in any manner that could allow for resolution. The failure of Lea's defensive structures over the period 1967-8 presaged not a deeper level of self-awareness but rather new structures of defense as well as new ways of life and a truly altered relationship with what had formerly been her own therapy practice. It is during that period that the organization that came to be known as Therfields came into being and so it is that period that requires more scrutiny and understanding.

No comments:

Post a Comment