Editing this journal, I am reminded, on a near daily basis, how thoroughly entwined our personal, professional and spiritual selves are. They are not separate cloaks that we sling on and off as we bob in and out of our work and home lives. We are called to be human wherever we are.
In our In depth feature, existential psychotherapist Amy Bramley offers an intricate exploration of the selves that she has brought to her therapy work with Ukrainian and Russian refugees. In these shocking circumstances, it is the wonder of connection with other human beings that she holds on to. The ‘normal’ theoretical, hypothetical considerations take second place to what is needed from one human being towards another to create a basic sense of safety amid the worst possible forms of uncertainty.
This response seems in some ways intrinsic. Humanness comes up top. This is also clear talking to Maria Cantacuzino about her work with forgiveness. She explains that, after two decades working with perpetrators and survivors of atrocities, she has seen her perspective on forgiveness change, from picturing it as ‘...a magical place where everything was fixed’, to an acceptance of uncertainty, of fluctuating emotions that can shift and shape people’s readiness to move towards or away from reconciliation. Reading her book, Forgiveness: an exploration, is an immersion into the human complexities of this. I came out of its pages changed.
There was a sentence in one of the other articles in this issue that made me think. ‘Clients,’ writes Samoon Tasmim, ‘in many cases, are not experts in their religious or faith tradition. Religiosity and spirituality, nonetheless, are essential parts of their lives.’
It’s true. I imagine most people of faith (or indeed folk who carry private, non-denominational spiritual beliefs) are not theologians, although I’m sure some have learnt substantial chunks of scripture and studied spiritual tracts that have surely informed their journey. But our spiritual selves aren’t separate bodies constructed out of behaviours, traditions or knowledge. There is a just there side of faith (the heartfelt truth, the quiet strength through dark days and sleepless nights, the personal ritual) that we can’t possibly learn in a book.
This is what BACP Spirituality Executive member Matt Cormack is getting at in his article, Understanding spirituality experientially. He asks whether the gaps in teaching spirituality in practitioner training are there because, as an academic discipline, religion is too vast to contemplate covering. He calls for practitioners to consider learning spirituality experientially. He asks us to seek out experiences that enable us to feel our way into the meaning a client’s beliefs could hold for them. In a newspaper interview, musician and artist Brian Eno said that, although an atheist, he could see that religion was one of the ‘… ways of surrendering, of allowing our identities to lose their hard edges and merge with something else’.1
Generally, any practice that calls upon us to sit with how we feel rather than what we rationally know about something gets my vote. Caroline Georgiou’s piece about taking her somatic therapeutic practice to the floor is a beautiful ode to that.
I hope you enjoy the glorious mix of articles in this issue as much as I have. I welcome your thoughts, your ideas and your own writing. I’d love to hear from you.
Amy McCormack, Editor