Some biography and reflections on my life journey so far...
I was born in February of 1948 in England (an Aquarius for those who would want that info:>)).
My mother, dad, older brother and sister and I emigrated to Canada when I was 8. I grew up in Hudson, Quebec (I'd say now as a 'nerd') and got my B.A. at Concordia in Montreal in 1971. After working for a while as a counsellor I got my Masters in Counselling at McGill University in ’76. I then worked for 7 years at John Abbott College as a therapist. My former wife, two of our eventual three daughters and I left Quebec and came to Ontario in 1982.
Although I finished all the course work, examinations and internships for my doctorate at O.I.S.E. (part of the University of Toronto) in Applied Psychology, the rigors of being back at full time work were such that I never completed the thesis. I then worked for about a year at Sheridan College as well as for a year and a half at Queen Street Mental Health Centre.
From 1986 to 2009 I worked continuously as a psychotherapist at York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill - near Toronto. Whereas I was previously living in Brampton, since 2001 I have been living with my second wife in London, Ontario. In late 2009 I took early retirement from that hospital (now MacKenzie Health, Richmond Hill campus) to work solely in private practice - both in London (out of a home office at 40 Windsor Avenue in the Wortley Village area of London) as well as on some Wednesdays in Richmond Hill using an office I rent from Dr. Peter Zelina at 29 Centre Street West.
More personally, I'll start here by saying it's been a long time now that I view the whole of my own life as therapy. That probably started when I was in intensive therapy myself from 1984 to 88. This personal stance (a meditative, in-the-moment willingness to find balance) has since helped me over the years, as it enables me to look (even when I feel down, isolated or stressed) for the underlying meaning beneath the "surface" of events. To me this makes practical sense. Offering clients a framework of mindful self/other reflection, a working to discover balance in daily life means that I want to continually test it out on myself. In providing therapy for others, for integrity’s sake, this means I am also responsible for being as clear as I can with my comments about the journey they take. It is more than dry ethics - I require myself to be profoundly respectful of the vulnerability that someone is sharing with me. Thus I am willing to learn along with any client - as I do not presume that I will automatically understand what a person has been through. So what I have found to be true is that instances of confusion, pain, joy, fear, curiosity or conflict all have potential for any of us to learn from - when we let them... But ahhh, there's the dilemma: as it's not always easy - or a given that we will be really choosing to place ourselves in that learning position!
When it's difficult for us to learn, I now look at this as our being caught by (i.e. identifying oneself as) some aspect of what I call the Autopilot self, some sub- personality or Persona of ours that has an identification or need that is out of balance with the whole of oneself. It’s what we call ‘being in a mood’ or not feeling ‘one’s usual more balanced self’! A frequent stumbling block like this can be a pair of our two most difficult 'part selves'. One is the overly Negating, Victim self... Being caught by such a fragment or part self, the work is to re-find a sense of enthusiastic balance - a balance that such a self/other negating part of us lacks.
That first Victim type part of us is who we are as we experience having too little power or self esteem. By contrast, the second primary aspect we struggle with (and others have a Problem with!) is the Pushy, Dominator part of us. This other 'part self' (this Persona or sub-personality) has too much of a sense of entitlement, of power over others - or over the vulnerable part of oneself! Health is re-established through finding a new balance, allowing ourselves to learn to not base our Now moment experience on this either/or pseudo choice - unhappy options to only be either an insensitive Winner (and Dominate) or a Loser (and be a Victim). This simplistic pair of part selves can be called together the Dinobrain. It is the knee- jerk, reactive part of us.
In contrast to those two, as we learn then to mindfully balance more and more of these aspects of who we are, we develop a more inclusive perspective: a state of consciousness that a key author (a psychologist and investigator of how this works) calls a sense and experience of Flow. As we embrace this more, to me it also means being able to look for more of how such a viewpoint is also needed on a global scale for the whole planet. We need a respect for a "golden mean”… of Moderation in all Things and Activities. We have become addicted to actions and possessions that have become a destroying of the planet, unable or unwilling to pay attention to what we are doing. That balance in Mindfulness within any one of us, however, is beyond the perspective of any one of our usual Autopilot sub-personalities.
Other philosophies, therapy frameworks, spiritual and humanistic perspectives and indeed religions have found their own formulations of this worldview as well... To me this perspective appears most aligned with the essence of Buddhism and Taoism.
Over time I've found this set of cross linked perspectives to provide an understanding: that we are each in a crucial, profound relationship that we seldom realize or even think of ourselves as having:
We are each in a relationship with the many aspects of who one is becoming... the evolving mind, body, feelings, vulnerabilities - the strengths and complexities of ourselves...
Some would call this between ego (or self) and Self... The natural evolution of this idea over the years is now an underlying thesis for my work. You and I and our planet need a harmonizing: a Waking Off Autopilot, a perspective that I am developing into an eventual book. There will certainly be more about this to come.
So, yes, I believe you and I can strive for and eventually find a better, more coherent relationship with ourselves (as also with each other). As we do that we can start to feel a deeper peace: having a really good companion for life: i.e. you caring, in a balanced way, for YOU! Who'd have thought you could be the parent or partner or child part of self - for yourself - that you have wanted? Takes time, my friends, but I assure you it's worth it!
Being a family, marital, group and workshop psychotherapist for all these years has taught me that balance issue in spades. As I was first learning to be a therapist, when I saw relationships which seemed unworkable and unsolvable, I was confused as to why anyone would want to stay in such stuck relationships. As their therapist I soon learned that if I tried to Push the dynamics of such a relationship in one direction or the other I would end up either being fired by them or at the very least being only minimally helpful. In contrast to that, what I saw consistently as helping, however, was when I could act to some extent as an external symbol for a fair witness, a Balanced Observer position in self who shared his perceptions, thoughts or feelings with them. They could then use that witness type "noticing of what happens in the Now" position to find more of that within themselves - as well as within their relationship with each other. It became more and more that one of the couple members would say: "Oh, I hadn't realized that that was why you were doing that, why you have acted that way that would hurt me..."
This site - as well as an offautopilot.ca website which I will have up again in late 2015 - are overviews of what makes sense to me in these ways - in print, pictures, diagrams, concepts, mp3 meditations and so forth. Please contact me with any questions or comments that you have. I have put what I can up here for free as a way of paying back for having spent over 40 years thoroughly enjoying what I do as a therapist. I feel fortunate. I look around and find that an unfortunately large proportion of people are in jobs they hate, dislike - or at best tolerate. Others are in positions they may like somewhat - but their job is within an abusive style of work structure or they're working with a boss who they cannot respect or does not respect them. For an excellent documentary on that whole issue see The Corporation.
In contrast to that, even when I moved for a while partly into managing - being the coordinator of a hospital's adult mental health clinic for seven years - I was fortunately able to find significant ways to continue learning and growing. I feel lucky for that as well. I did step down from the coordinator position however, because of the - to me - overly structuring administrative duties. From that and many, many other instances of hearing of how inhumane the corporate environment can be, my heart goes out to people who juggle bosses above and people below them who they are supposed to be bossy with... Too many corporations are unfortunately focused around taking advantage of us as their workers (or else as their customers) - all to maximize profit.
Overall, one can indeed be caught by the Autopilot's various aspects. It becomes a meditation to move beyond them - as represented by the meditative focus I present on that Dreams & Dreaming page that I link to above.
My tendency for quite a while was to be a Victim. As a Poor Me perspective it meant I was into a Pity Party - in ways that I had not really noticed when I was young.
I am so grateful that my struggle with that is so much less these days.
Frankly, I still find that - i.e. being less Autopiloted - quite amazing!
I can actually redirect myself gently back towards balance when I am not in that sense of Flow - and without resorting to being either too Pushy or too Negating of myself - or of others! It's not always possible, but much more than it used to be.
I wish that for any and all of us...
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