Teaching: Making Wisdom
If you have ever seen a counsellor or therapist you know that the focus seems to go automatically to your childhood and your parents, or to your personal style or lack of it, or to your ideas and your conjured personal myths. It goes automatically to you. The reality that psychology and self help grant you is the reality between your ears, as they say, your interior life, your Own True Self. At the end of the counselling session you are released back into the sorrows and consternations and, yes, madnesses of the of the culture that went a long way towards giving you your personal limp and ache in the first place, a culture as utterly unchanged by your personal improvement as it was inured to your personal misfortune.
In a culture like ours, so unsure of itself, so without a shared understanding of life for its people, there are subtle, enduring consequences that look like personal inadequacy, failure of will, inability or unwillingness to live deeply. But what I’ve seen over twenty five years of working with people convinces me that these problems or struggles are not bad psychology, worse parenting or lousy personality development.
What we suffer from most is culture failure, amnesia of ancestry and deep family story, phantom or sham rites of passage, no instruction on how to live with each other or with the world around us or with our dead or with our history.
Any counsel worthy of the name should have culture at its core. Any counsel worthy of the name should begin to make a place in personal life for the rumoured, scattered story of who you come from where, and why. Counsel well done and honest makes a home for the orphan wisdom of personal life in the life of the world. It tries to ask the questions that the Sufi poet Rumi asked of himself eight centuries ago, and it tries to answer them:
All day long I think about it, and at night I say it: Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? Who hears with my ear, and speaks with my tongue? And what is the soul?
For a quarter century Stephen Jenkinson has counselled individual, couples, families and communities in the ways of wholeness, healing, grieving and deep living.
Formerly a director of a children’s grief and palliative care programme and assistant professor at a prominent Canadian medical school, Stephen Jenkinson now teaches internationally and consults to human service organizations, with a particular expertise in hospice and palliative care programme design and implementation.