Personal Reflections on “The Courage To Love”:
The Father-Wound, Surrounding, and being “whooshed!”
By Mickey Skidmore, ACSW
This “Perspective” is a reprinted article which was originally published in the North Carolina Society of Clinical Hypnosis (NCSCH) Newsletter [Summer 1997, Vol.29, No.2].
Like many of us who attended “The Courage To Love” seminar at the Annual Spring Conference in Chapel Hill this past March, I have been enriched by previous encounters and learning opportunities with Steven Gilligan, Ph.D. Although I initially met Steve Gilligan in Phoenix, AZ in December 1992, my first significant experience with him was in Philadelphia, PA, in 1993 at a day-long workshop entitled: “Therapeutic Modes of Empowerment.” The focus of this presentation centered on the Jungian archetypal traditions of learning as a conceptualization to better understand and appreciate the numerous external influences among us, or “forces greater than ourselves.” In retrospect, I believe this workshop had significant influence upon my personal and professional growth, and was a place where several major concepts and ideas were seeded. Among them, that the unconscious (in ourselves or our patients) is already operating in extraordinary ways, or “up to something big”; and that one way to view therapy is to successfully build or establish a therapeutic “Temenos” (container) with the client in order for them to feel safe enough to engage in the primary process of “learning to surrender to (these) greater forces around us”. While I enjoyed the opportunity to observe a demonstration of “Self-Relations Psychology” by Steve in Los Angeles, CA in December 1994, it was not until this past March that I had the good fortune to experience this approach with Steve directly.
Judith Roberts was the President of NCSCH when I first began attending this active professional component section of ASCH. She was perhaps the first to impress upon me that hypnosis for her personally had become much more than a therapeutic tool, but a way of life. In my own professional (hypnotic) journey, even though I have learned much from a variety of internationally recognized teachers of hypnosis, I have been especially drawn to and have deliberately sought out the teachers of the Ericksonian tradition. While each teacher of the Ericksonian tradition which I sought out has contributed to my professional learning, a select few have also contributed to my personal growth and contributed to my understanding of hypnosis as a way of life. I now included among them — Steve Gilligan.
Perhaps the most interesting, (and definitely the most surprising) thing for me during my experience with Steve at the conference, was facing the Father-wound — again! Upon reflection, I find it interesting that this was not the first time in my hypnotic journey that an Ericksonian had discovered this as a significant personal and developmental concern for me. So it was quite surprising for me that Steve was also revisiting this issue. I remember snickering and thinking as I began to experience trance phenomena on the stage, “I’ve already dealt with this!” However, it was apparently obvious to everyone present that while I might have identified and recognized this wound, I had yet to “surrender” to those forces which clearly impacted my life experiences.
As you might expect, it is difficult to articulate the sensations and the process of the actual therapeutic experience. To this day there remains a certain depth and quality of amnesia. Generally speaking however, I recall the experience to be deeply personal, intense, respectful, connected, and rather kinesthetic. My most detailed recollection though, was the sensation of multi-level dissociation and the visual imagery of being juxtapositioned in-between myself as a young child and my father/my older self. My sense at the time was that every comment Steve made had multiple meanings or was a multi-level communication which had significant meaning to both the child and to my father/my older self, as I observed the recognition to both while in the middle. The resolution of the work was marked by a sense of great relief.
Despite the continuation of amnesia phenomenon several months later, I am left with some meaningful revelations from the experience. Perhaps the most significant is the awareness that despite my recognition, and all my understanding of the Father-wound, it’s not something you ever “get over”. This wound is something that has impacted my life and will continue to influence it. The real gift of the experience however, was creating the “Temenos” (which perhaps we unconsciously began back in 1992) to engage in the process of “surrendering” to this force which had been a much larger influence on my life’s experience than I was consciously aware. Paradoxically, through this process of surrender, I believe I have reclaimed the power to say “it’s my time now!” I can move forth from the shadow of the father I never knew — into the light.
I mentioned earlier that certain ideas were seeded in the 1993 Gilligan seminar. Of particular relevance to this article, is the aspect of the workshop emphasizing the Jungian learning tradition of the King/Queen archetype, which provides blessings and a sense of one’s place(s) in the world. Steve encouraged the participants to consider those figures in our lives who had bestowed various “blessings” which had conveyed the message in one way or another that: “you are special — you belong here — you have gifts, talents, and something unique to contribute”. In his eloquent manner, he described the sensation of how it feels to receive such a blessing as being “whooshed!” He went on to share several personal anecdotes of how he had been “whooshed!”, most recently and unexpectedly by a taxi driver in an airport. In short, my feeling is that some of these seeds were harvested during my experience of the annual spring conference this past March. My experience with Steve was nothing short of being “whooshed!” — or being offered a major life blessing from one of my mentors. So, at a deeper level, I also believe that this experience was part of the evolving process in my professional and personal hypnotic journey.
Beyond my direct experience with Steve, there were many other aspects and nuances which I believe contributed positively to the conference. To my surprise, the week following the conference I encountered circumstances with a client which were nearly identical to the group exercises we practiced. While I thought the circumstances of the exercise were rather unique, I was somewhat relieved (in other words, I didn’t freak out!) that I had previously witnessed this circumstance when it actually arose in a therapeutic situation. Furthermore, my sharing of this experience with my group via e-mail seemed to somehow extend my sense of connection and solidify the experience further. And even though we have yet to determine how to best utilize this new e-mail technology, I have enjoyed the occasional messages received by those attempting to stimulate another creative dimension of our organization.
Many of you during the workshop heard me compare the 27th Annual Spring Conference to that of a luxury cruise experience. The food was exquisite; the location was great; the facilities were excellent (although room temperature even on a cruise ship is sometimes challenging); and it goes without saying (and bias) that the presenter was well-received. I personally felt the most connection and cohesion among the participants compared to previous conferences in recent memory. Without a doubt, for me it was a powerful, intense, and enjoyable weekend. Money and time well spent. I look forward to the leadership of the incoming officers and their efforts to continue providing future conferences as stimulating as this one.