The Inner Supervisor
Everyone can contact a source of wisdom and understanding that knows who they are, where they have been and where they are going. This ‘inner guide’ or ‘wise person’ is a representational image of the Self and helps tune us in to our life journey. As our contact with Self increases, we can better recognize difficulties we are experiencing and understand how to move towards the resolution of these difficulties. Ferrucci says that “The wise person functions as a most effective symbol of the Self and enables us to contact its healing, vivifying, illuminating energy. Thus we can truly say that the Self is the best therapist.” (1982, page 144) The inner guide can play a useful role as inner supervisor, having a similar function of overseeing our activity but specifically with regard to the relationship we have with clients. Of course it is vital from an ethical standpoint (as well as being obligatory) for therapists to have regular professional supervision, but in Psychosynthesis we are also encouraged to foster our connection to inner guidance, to support our therapeutic work in a soulful manner.
Many images are associated with this source of inner guidance, from abstractions such as a diamond, a fountain or star, to personified images such as a wise old person. Different images emerge to meet the different needs and development of the individual, and we can learn a lot from how the image appears. It is often found, for instance, that a ‘masculine’ image is encouraging and stimulating whilst a ‘feminine’ image is nurturing and supportive. When contacting your inner supervisor, whether this energy appears as masculine or feminine may give clues to the direction of work needed with the client.
The inner supervisor of Ken, a trainee therapist, appeared as a young child. ‘I always think of young children as wise, ‘ he said. ‘ The wisdom communicated to me was direct, not through words, yet it helped me feel closer to the client I was considering.’ As his inner guide had appeared as a child, Ken suggested that this told him something important concerning his role as psychotherapist, specifically his need to trust his innate, early wisdom. His trainer agreed, but suggested that perhaps there was also a message about being wary of self-importance, going too fast to be ‘adult’ (i.e. in this instance, ‘fully trained’) and also finding a simplicity in his work. Whatever the rights or wrongs of an interpretation, it is always worth looking at all aspects of messages received this way.
Supervision is a shared process of inquiry, reflection and learning. It may be challenging as well as supportive, but it is always undertaken with care and compassion. A supervisor’s role is to allow the material of the supervisees’ clients to be held within a setting where it can be reflected upon, learned from (and in some cases, survived!) It is crucial in supporting and holding the client-guide relationship. A therapist creating an inner supervisor relationship also models for the client, albeit unconsciously, to turn inwards for guidance, to be honest, centred on one’s own values and able to support and honour the values of others. Developing a relationship with the inner supervisor and being able to discriminate what is one’s own process and what is in relational process with a client is a vital part of psychosynthesis psychotherapy practice. Hackwood, for instance, in discussing working with a prison inmate says “… especially through supervision, it became apparent my major task was to be a sort of ‘life witness’ and to give up my attachments to have something happen in our connection.” (2009, page 185)
An honest dialogue with an inner supervisor enables the therapist to ask about any issues, problems and choices they currently have in their practice. As the relationship develops and becomes ‘second nature’ we discover that the inner supervisor is present throughout sessions as a source of guidance, an on-tap second opinion, a different perspective.
In esoteric circles, there are many complicated rituals for contacting an inner guide. The following procedure, however, is simple and effective in furthering your relationship with the inner supervisor.
Relax and centre. Take time to let your body become comfortable, but remain alert.
Imagine you are standing at the edge of a circle. Build this circle as strongly as possible in your mind’s eye.
Imagine you silently walk round the circumference of your circle, and as you do so:
– reflect on what it means to you to be a good psychotherapist … what makes therapy good for you … what thoughts are associated with good psychotherapy … what feelings …. what sensations … what qualities do you associate with a psychotherapist;
– now project all of your responses to being a good psychotherapist into the circle … slowly and consciously step into the circle, the territory of good psychotherapy, surrender to its influence and let yourself be filled up with all the qualities of a good therapist;
– feel the presence of your inner supervisor, appearing in your imagination as a wise person whose eyes express great love for you, and who is always there to support you as you work;
– dialogue (verbally or non-verbally)with your inner supervisor, consider issues you are currently dealing with in your therapeutic work. Be honest about your aspirations, your concerns and your limitations as a therapist, and be willing to listen to any responses without fear of judgment;
– find a small or discrete gesture or movement that represents the essence of good therapy that you can unobtrusively do when confronted by difficulties in a session, that will immediately remind you of your inner guidance;
– after spending the time you need with your inner supervisor, distinctly close the circle and, if you keep a journal, write about your experience.
Remember this gesture or movement learned in the exercise, and experiment with it in your work. You may not, particularly after some practice, need to actively evoke a presence through a gesture or through calling upon your inner supervisor – he or she will be heard as an inner voice, or a direct ‘knowing’.
Ferrucci, Piero(1982) What We May Be, Turnstone UK
Hackwood, Keith (2009) All Crimes Are Paid – A Case Study, in Psychosynthesis New Perspectives and Creative Research, ed. Will Parfitt, PS Avalon UK