Sunday, May 21, 2006


This introduction aims to present some of the basic concepts in Buddhist psychology which relate to other-power and also to give an indication of how other-power might be seen in relation to therapy.

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Other-power is a Buddhist concept contrasted with self-power. It basically means not to rely on one’s own efforts alone. The concept of other-power in Buddhism is understood against the background of non-self. The Buddhist understanding of the subjective experience of self is that from our earliest encounters and retreats from painful experiences we build up mental structures that act as a shield against experiencing affliction (dukkha). We identify with these self-structures and mistake them for a stable self that we cling too. Although this defensive self-structure, which we fabricate, is comforting and understandable it cuts us off from fully connecting with our world. It has the effect of acting as a distorting filter through which we experience that which is other. Buddhist psychology deconstructs this experience of self in two ways.

Firstly it does not see a person as a solid self, but instead sees the person as an open system in which perception, cognition, feelings, imagination and symbolic processes interact in an on-going flux. Secondly, it challenges our artificial sense of being the center of our universe and of being separate from our environment because of its understanding that all things arise conditioned through the working of dependent origination.

The theory of dependent origination illustrates how whatever arises (e.g. mental states) is conditioned by all preceding events. Past events do not determine, but influence what comes next. On the smaller scale this process is sustained by the moment to moment conditioning of our mental states by their objects of perception (rupa). On the larger scale it shows how we go round in cycles, habitually finding ourselves repeating patterns of behavior (clinging and aversion) that lead us back into old and familiar situations and ways of relating.This awareness of the dynamics of self-building is useful in understanding the application of other-power in therapy.

A therapist grounded in a sense of other-power will have faith in the unfolding process between themselves and their client. For instance, a client entering therapy is often experiencing some sort of crisis, their faith in life having been confronted to a varying degree by the contradiction between their idealized image of self and the reality of their life. By being open and accepting of the client just as they are, the therapist can help the client to let go of the need to continue struggling with this contradiction (self-power), and instead start to let go into being accepted just as they are (other-power).

Object related work can be used as a key tool to get a client to loosen their fixed sense of self through a more genuine connection to that which is other. Through this connection they can also learn to trust the process, and become more able to be with what is real and more open to others, their own vulnerability and the capacity to live more fully and authentically. At the same time it also highlights our own fallibility, creating a greater acceptance of our imperfections which, if appropriately cultivated, can allow both a gentleness around our own expectations and an aspiration towards positive change.

In conclusion, a therapist grounded in a sense of other-power will have faith in the positive effect of the client’s experience of the true other and in the unfolding process between themselves and their client.

A Range of Views From Those In The Pureland Tradition

Thanks to a list of contacts provided to us by Jonathan Watts and Dharmavidya of Amida Trust, we asked them (listed here as the first five respondents to this site - Jonathan Watts to Reg Pawle), "I would be grateful if you felt able to contribute something on your personal understanding of Other Power".

These first responses are from a range of people in the Pureland tradition that we have talked to: a priest, a leading academic, someone who runs a major Shin group in Australia and a therapist. The variety of their responses to our request for a personal understanding of other-power offers a taste of the range of possibilities covered by the theory and practice of other-power, although what is here is not a selected sample, but was dictated by who we received responses from. It also shows that variety exists between individuals and not just between the two Japanese schools of Jodo Shu and Jodo Shin Shu.

The next three responses - from a youth worker and two therapists - give an impression of what other power means to this small collection of people unfamiliar with Pure Land Buddhism.

We look forward to hearing your reponses and any developing discussion.

Jonathan Watts

Jonathan Watts

My personal understanding is to speak of self-power as not one's own practices aimed at gaining enlightenment or Birth in the Pure Land but any practices/activities that are done for selfish reasons or that further develop notions of self - i.e. a spiritual practice or spiritual attainments that are clung to like a kind of spiritual materialism. And thus Other-Power is not just the power of Amida Buddha, but the power of not-self (anatman) and the way of being that embodies this. But that's my own idea.

Honen's Conceptions of Other Power (tariki) and Self Power (jiriki)Self power refers to the way of seeking to attain enlightenment by the power of one's own practice, while Other power refers to relying on help received from Amida Buddha.

Honen, in the Senchakushu and in other places, explained that there are four meanings to the term other power. (Todo, 120-141)1. Self power and Other power can be used in order to explain the Gateway of the Holy Path (shodomon) and the Gateway of the Pure Land (jodomon), the former being the path for holy people who practice strictly during their lifetime and attain enlightenment before dying, the latter being the path of ordinary human beings striving for salvation after death.

What is operative in the terms Holy Path and Pure Land Path is thus the realm where people attain salvation. The Holy Path is the path of the few who attain it in this life and on their own. The Pure Land Path is the path of the many who need the help of Amida Buddha to attain it after death. (SHZ. 472)2. Other power, according to Honen, can also explain the power of Amida Buddha's Original Vows (hongan). In order to illustrate the notion of Other power, Honen used the metaphor of a boat which can bear a heavy boulder to a distant shore.

He explained that we can reach the other shore after life, if we rely on Amida Buddha through the nembutsu, just as the boulder rests in the hold of the strong boat. (SHZ. 637-639, 558)3.In Honen's view, Self power and Other power can also refer to the difference in attitude among practitioners. Other power refers to the action of the mind which believes that it will receive Amida Buddha's salvation.

There are two possible hazards to this interpretation of Self power and Other power. On one hand, the person who relies too much on their own personal strength fails to be open to Amida Buddha's help, and on the other hand, the person who completely despairs of their own capacity fails to help him or herself. According to Honen, it is the person who believes in their own strength and who also puts their whole heart into their religious practices that will receive the help of Amida Buddha. As for Other power, he explained that it consisted in the earnest asking of Amida Buddha's help. (SHZ. 630-631, 684-685)4.

Self power and Other power can also be understood as two types of the nembutsu. Self power refers to the utmost personal concentration put into the recitation of the nembutsu, while Other power refers to the earnestness with which Amida Buddha's help is being asked. According to Honen, one is mistaken to believe that it is the number of times the nembutsu is recited that counts for salvation. He insisted that, even with a small number of recitations, it is the strength of one's conviction in reciting the nembutsu which is called Self power. Even with a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand or even a million recitations, it is not the impressive number but the earnestness with which one supplicates Amida Buddha for help which is called Other power. (SHZ. 811)

Honen's disciples furthered their research into Self power and Other power and made a further distinction: they differentiated between the full practice of Other power and the insufficient kind of Other power. The former is the kind of Other power recitation invoking Amida Buddha's help filled with true Other power concentration. The latter is when people practice the Self power recitation with some Self power oncentration.

References: Todo Kyoshun, Honen shonin kenkyu (Tokyo: Sankibo, 1983).Copyright(c) by 1996-2000 Jodo Shu Research Institute

Alfred Bloom: foremost senior western academic and practitioner in Pure Land Buddhism, especially Jodo Shin

Alfred Bloom: Foremost senior western academic and practitioner in Pure Land Buddhism, especially Jodo Shin

As far as Other Power is concerned, it cannot be external as in a god. It is not deus ex machina. Rather it is an expression of the process of living that ultimately brings us to awakening or enlightenment. We must stay within the bounds of the Mahayana teaching of non-duality and interdependence, not as a dogmatic idea, but as an understanding of the reality in which we live. In Mahayana Buddhism there is the principle of helping / benefiting self and benefiting others, Jiri-rita. I believe this is an essential principle through which the reality of interdependence works. It is power, through others and with others. It is also a practical concept because it involves a social ideal in which our lives develop through our relations with others. If we understand that reality we achieve more, positively and with understanding. All life is Other Power, in the sense that we are never outside the framework of living in mutual relation with the entire realm of nature and human relations. Jiriki, the apparent counterpart is an illusion. Everything is really other power when observed closely. Naturally we do think that we initiate and carry out activities through our own volition and energy. That is part of our make-up. However, whatever action we do, is done within the context of possibilities provided by the universe and whatever dimension we are operating within. I can run, because there is gravity and the good health afforded me by my parents.Other Power is therefore the essence of life, and living, in my view.

Unfortunately, it has been defined, by ancient, and naive modern people, in a more narrow way relating to the specific ‘Pure Land’ teaching. They see it more on the relative level as the opposite of jiriki.While it points in the same direction, Amida is Infinity, and we are never outside that reality, and its symbols suggest this situation, unfortunately, they become reified into narrow doctrinal terms and many people take them as external to their selves. But our lives are more a process and a mutual interrelationship, which I think the terms apply to.

John Paraskevopoulos: runs a major Shin group in Australia

John Paraskevopoulos runs a major Shin group in Australia

In response to the basic question we asked each respondent John provided these links to the on-line magazine he produces.

He also left open the possibility of further discussion and the supplementary questions and his responses are reproduced here:

How does other power manifest itself in your work with people you come across, especially those in distress or seeking help?

It is important to stress that many people who are in great difficulty of this kind should seek professional help from doctors, counsellors etc. People in such situations will not always be in a frame of mind that will enable them to be receptive to considerations of 'other power’. Nevertheless, the feeling that one is spiritually ‘sustained’ by other power, even during the most difficult of crises, can help one’s ability to endure and overcome certain trials. I see this approach as complementary to conventional treatments of depression or anxiety and it should never be a substitute for them.

One must remember that, for someone in dire need, any talk of ‘other power’ (especially if they are not deeply acquainted with the Pure Land tradition) may strike them as rather remote, intangible and unhelpful from the point of view of immediate relief. Understandably, such people are desperate to expedite alleviation of their distress and talk of 'other power' may not always be relevant or appropriate, especially when you consider that the focus of this concept is spiritual liberation rather than practical solutions to pressing psychological problems.

How easy or difficult do you find trusting Amida's power in a situations where difficult choices have to be made?

Quite frankly, I do not feel that Amida’s power is a pertinent consideration when I deliberate over difficult choices (unless, of course, they are spiritual ones). While Amida’s Mind can illuminate us if we seek refuge in His Light, this does not necessarily entail that it will provide clear guidance in relation to the many practical problems we face in life.‘Other power’ does not imply that we should never use our intellect, rational capabilities, will, sentiment etc. to resolve daily difficulties. It is not a passive attitude whereby we just sit back and let Amida take care of everything - such thinking is delusional and deprives people of their capacity to act as autonomous agents. To be sure, in the realm of our spiritual development, one has no choice but to rely on Amida but this does not result in a guaranteed capacity to address the difficult choices we have to make in secular

What advice would you give to someone in distress who feels they have to rely on their own will and effort?

The first thing to point out to people is that they don’t have to rely on themselves exclusively and that there are many resources available to help individuals in distress. This may involve the exercise of initiative as well as the will and resolve to get help in the first place. Given the stigma that is sometimes associated with psychological problems, some people are reluctant to seek help and are inclined to sort out these problems on their own. Accordingly, a supportive, understanding and non-judgmental environment is important in helping people to agree to accept help. These are basic considerations which have nothing to do with the spiritual notion of ‘Other power’. Indeed, it may be dangerous to confuse them in such situations.‘Other power’ helps us to realize that whatever misfortune may be befall us, whatever ghastly situation we find ourselves in, or whatever suffering we may need to undergo, Amida will always accept us as we are and eventually lead us to the realm of enlightenment. In other words, Amida provides us with spiritual relief and not necessarily with practical guidance on resolving worldly challenges. We should be cautious in thinking that spiritual values will always have the capacity to inform our understanding of worldly problems. A spiritual outlook may certainly help us to cope better with the vicissitudes of existence, to see life more clearly, and to think and feel more deeply but it is not a panacea for the complex ills associated with mental anxiety and disorders

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Clyde Hoyu Whitworth

Coming from first being a bhikshu of a Chinese Pure Land - Ch'an tradition, then on to being a student of Shinran's Jodo Shinshu tradition, then finally settling into the middle path of Honen Shonin's Jodo Shu tradition as a priest once again, I have heard much about the concepts of Tariki and Jiriki from teachers and students of the three traditions. Certainly the most important concept I have gained from my 20 years of study as a Buddhist is that there is absolutely no way I will ever be entirely certain that it is by my own power that the Nembutsu is recited, or if it is recited due to the great compassion of the other power. So, as Honen Shonin suggested many times in his great scripture entitled the Senchakushu... "Just Do It!" ...and whether it comes from me, or through me, the Nembutsu is recited.

I know I am but a deeply deluded person, and have less than a clue about most things, so please take what I have written with a grain of salt. He also provided the following two extracts from Pure Land texts and two website links that contatin further relevant material.

"In China and Japan, many Buddhist masters and scholars understand that the nembutsu is to meditate deeply on Amida Buddha and the Pure Land. However, I do not understand the nembutsu in this way. Reciting the nembutsu does not come from studying and understanding its meaning. There is no other reason or cause by which we can utterly believe in attaining birth in the Pure Land than the nembutsu itself. Reciting the nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally gives rise to the three minds (sanjin) and the four modes of practice (shishu).

If I am withholding any deeper knowledge beyond simple recitation of the nembutsu, then may I lose sight of the compassion of Shakyamuni and Amida Buddha and slip through the embrace of Amida's original vow. Even if those who believe in the nembutsu deeply study all the teachings which Shakyamuni taught during his life, they should not put on any airs and should practice the nembutsu with the sincerity of those untrained followers ignorant of Buddhist doctrines.I hereby authorize this document with my handprint. The Jodo Shu way of the settled mind (anjin) is completely imparted here. I, Genku, have no other teaching than this. In order to prevent misinterpretation after my passing away, I make this final testament." January 23, the Second Year of Kenryaku (1212) - Honen Shonin (Ichimai-kishomon) If you depend on your own knowledge or "self power," it will prevent you from receiving Shakyamuni Buddha's guidance and Amida Buddha's compassion. Therefore, I devote myself entirely to the recitation of O-Nembutsu, believing that only by Amida Buddha's power will I be received into the Pure Land. (Senchakushu p.84)

Reggie Paul, PhD: Practicing therapist working from a Pureland perspective

Reggie Paul is a practicing therapist, working from a Pureland perspective

Other power in therapy begins with the understanding that the client is already enlightened. The client as-they-are is always already enlightened. They already have been given all that they need. It is just that clients, and all people, tend to let attachments and illusions get in the way of living their enlightenment. Attachments and illusions are what people tend to identify with, think is important. They are a person’s ego, their sense of a separate self. The therapist looks for what already is, discovers the client’s enlightenment, follows the client’s enlightenment. Dogen, the founder of the Soto Zen sect of Buddhism, wrote in the Fukanzazengi, “If you want to realize suchness, practice suchness right now.” Suchness is enlightenment, suchness is Other Power. The therapist uses what has been given to find together with the client the client’s enlightenment. This means using mind functions such as attention, openness, discrimination, and awareness.

The approach to discovery is based on two values: (1) don’t look outside yourself, and (2) don’t judge what arises within yourself. Together with the client the therapist stays with what arises, embraces the shadow, becomes aware of blocks, moves through blocks to awareness, learns to see things as-they-are, learns to let go of all that seems so important but in the end is not, and uses a mutual recognition without words with the client of what just is. This is learning to turn to Other Power and live Other Power in daily life. Recognizing and allowing Other Power is healing in therapy."

Kirsten Francis' (Youth Worker) understanding of other power

Kirsten Francis, Youth Worker
I see other power in my life to manifest in three ways:
1. Patterns: with life’s ups and downs I am able to keep perspective by remembering that whatever’s going on is part of a pattern, an up or down, and will pass.
2. Circumstance and context: I get stressed with my boss because he undermines what I do. When I see what is going on within a wider context I am better able to realise that I can not change the situation on my own, that when I get stressed it is about me thinking that if I try harder or improve then the way he is will stop or I will be able to push through changes in the department that I think will make things better. By keeping the bigger picture in mind I realise that my own contribution is limited and I become more realistic and caught up in struggling. I become more realistic, less self obsessed, more clear thinking and relaxed.
3. Time: gives me hope because it heals, it means things will pass."

Interview with Pru Conradi: Jungian Therapist

Interview with Therapist, Prue Conradi on other power in therapy

What do you understand by the term other power in therapy; what does it mean to you?

I became interested in analysis and what you might call other power in therapy as a result of my own process. Fifteen years ago I was deeply involved in and exploring humanistic values, having been initially trained in the person-centred approach. I had been influenced by the term ‘self-actualisation’, but inwardly ended up hitting a brick wall. There wasn’t anywhere else to go!What I found so fascinating about a Jungian approach is that it is pedagogical and deeply educational in the broadest sense. Dream work, which is central to a Jungian approach, forms the centre of my work. Working with dreams relativises the ego as dreams originate from another dimension of consciousness.

What do you mean, relativises the ego?

Well, seeing the ego as an object by a subject from this other dimension in a much bigger context. This can be an astonishing thought.

As something in a bigger picture?

Yes, but not just in relation to itself, but in relation to the notion of the self as other than ego. It is important in doing dream work not to appropriate the dream for oneself or you just get fat on it! Rather, I would concentrate on developing an appropriate attitude and deep respect towards the dream, asking what does this dream require of you? What new consciousness does it call for?

How do you avoid falling into the trap of appropriating the dream for oneself?

Well, by inviting the dreamer to ‘walk around it’, to see it from different perspectives, to amplify all the images and thus allow the meaning to present itself, to offer itself up, rather than imposing an interpretation upon it. It is then not necessary to ‘interpret’ the dream as such which can be an ego-ic imposition upon it. Instead one simply allows the interpretation, the meaning to present itself.

You talk about dreams in very visual terms. I’ve read that not everyone processes information visually. Have you found this to be a problem? I mean, what about people that say they don’t have dreams?

I have had people say they don’t dream who then find that very night, or the night before the next session they end up having a dream which they bring to the next session. It is as though, if we turn our ear towards the unconscious then dreams will often come.And if this material is properly honoured and valued it then starts to speak.

You have used the term ‘ego’. At the beginning before we got going, I mentioned self and other power. Do you see the terms ‘self’ and ‘ego’ to be synonymous?

No! There is I feel a phenomenological problem with how differently the self is understood and defined in different psychological theories. But to my mind they are in no way synonymous with one another. They are quite different. In Jungian depth psychology the ego is one complex of the psyche with very important ordering and differentiating functions. Psychosis occurs when the ego is too weak and becomes overwhelmed with unconscious material. The ego is crucial as the centre of consciousness and the seat of the individual’s experience of subjective identity.The self on the other hand is the central regulating archetype expressing the totality of the psyche. The self is experienced as the objective, transpersonal centre of identity that transcends the ego. It is experienced as the image of wholeness where everything comes together. Empirically it cannot be distinguished from the image of God. Experiences of the self possess a numinosity characteristic of religious revelations, and is often encountered in dreams, myths, fairy tales,The self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness.The central question then is, whether or not the ego is in the service of the self .

I’m a bit vague on this…

Let me tell you a story instead. Someone asks, ‘Who discovered water?’ and was answered, ‘I don’t know, but I can tell you who did not: the fish’. The fish does not understand that it can be an object perceived by a subject in a greater picture; it is unconscious of this fact. Levi Strauss talked about this state of unconsciousness when he talked about participation mystique. In this state everything in the outside world is imbued with meaning because we have identified ourselves with it.Dream work involves moving beyond this state of unconsciousness by bringing material to the surface to consciousness, and retrieving what was lost or what is unknown in the unconscious, by creating a real dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious.

How would you explain the difference between identifying with unconscious material and appropriating it in dream work?

Again, the question here is:- Is consciousness in the service of the ego or in the service of the self? If consciousness is serving only the ego then material is being appropriated and distorted in the ego’s interests. We are talking here about an energetic pattern within which one may be operating without being aware of its source.

You just talked about a client who was terrorised by a character in a dream – how do you help a person dealing with such frightening material to remain separate from this material and not become overwhelmed?

One way would be by working with active imagination:- asking the client to dialogue with a character in the dream, to discover what the character wants to happen, how this character sees things, to speak to the characters. Many of us love to construct stories, and we would prefer to see ourselves as the constructor. Our will to construct can be a form of defence and prevents the dream material from speaking to us directly. Allowing the psyche to have a life of its own could be seen as a break from narcissism.

At Amida Trust we do a lot of work around seeing others as other, people or things in their own right, not as a function of myself.

You mean, free of your own projections?

Yes. I wondered if you saw any overlap in these two approaches?

Well, you’re dealing with concrete examples there, real people, where the focus of my work is the inner as well as the outer life and exploring the relationship between the inner and outer life.

When a person is strong enough to let the psyche have a life of its own would you describe them as a fully functioning person?

Yes. The way I have conceptualised it in a paper I wrote on ‘Dreams, the Unconscious and the Person Centred Approach’ is that the self-actualised person can move more freely from the ego into their self material. Someone at the other end of the spectrum has no freedom of movement in this respect; their ego being subsumed within unconscious material.

The person you were talking about earlier who was working with a terrifying character in her dreams seems to be somewhere between these states. On the one hand she is working with an aspect of her psyche that has become objectified and separate from her in the form of a personification, while on the other hand she is too frightened to let go and hear what it has to say.

Yes, she is in between. The point of therapy is to help her develop the strength to allow aspects of her psyche to speak to her, without appropriating or distorting what comes up for her own ends. The client has to let herself be deconstructed and have her psyche reconstruct her. Analysis really is a process of dismemberment! [Laughter]You take yourself apart when you let the psyche speak. The ego can’t be the same again; it gets relativised – it has to see itself in relation to something much larger. You are then known by your self, by something much larger than yourself.The following quotation from Corinthians really speaks to this: "Now we know in part, but then shall we know even also as we are known." God needs man in order to be conscious, that’s why the unconscious is interested in us. People always dream… the unconscious longs to be known and longs for an individual to participate in this dialogue between consciousness and the unconscious.

Thank you

Interview with counsellor who would prefer to remain anonymous

This counsellor wanted to remain anonymous for fear, in the current climate, his words could be misconstrued or quoted out of context.

What do you understand by the term 'other power'?

It's something about being open to the situation, and seeing counselling as an interaction and a point of meeting between me and the client [he said pointing to an area in the room between us). So being open means the counsellor being changed by the encounter, by entering the world of the client and having shit stirred up in yourself as a result. The bit that gets changed in me kind is like something inside whose shape gets permanently changed, something really deep though, deeper than the observer part of me. It's like I let my presence get changed like a lump of plasticine. Working this way is something about going into the unknown - the more I do it the less I realise I know.I think a lot of counselling is up its own rear-end - the stuff about anger "management" and stopping a client cutting. That's just about trying to make difficult feelings go away and be denied. I work from a kind of observer self and try and be in this difficult stuff with the client and let them be.Getting really into the client's world like this can be so absorbing that it's as though I get drawn through a kind of membrane [gestures by pushing his face through his hands] into a deeper consciousness - all of your attention is in that point [pointing to an area on the floor midway between us but some way to the right].

When I'm counselling I see what the client is saying as a kind of unfolding picture or film and we're both looking at it, a thing outside us, that we're trying to understand

This sounds risky or wrong to say, but counselling is like ideal sex should be, with no one taking the lead.

I don't think that's a wrong analogy, but I know what you mean, it sounds risky, like it could be misconstrued. I mean, it's like you're talking about working with life's big forces!I like this song where Gil Scott Heron says, "I got into all this analysis and ended up in some kind of paralysis, and I almost didn't hear the spirits calling

"Wow! I like that! .......... I like working with young people because many of them have no choice but to go with where their spirits take them. My job is to help them go with their spirits, knowing I won't be going with them. That following spirits thing is so different from a lot of counselling which I think is about encouraging [clients] to just get better at monitoring themselves. All that does, as I see it, is just make a person go full circle; you're just helping them, to use a Rogerian phrase, replace one set of conditions of worth with another. I mean, when you're not looking over your shoulder at the manual to see if you're doing it right, it is a purely spontaneous and caring thing..I remember this client I've been working with for a long time. She kind of went through that membrane into that kind of unself conscious state in a session and looked up at everything and said, "This is what life's all about". I still find it very moving now remembering it. Going into that state is something about having trust in the world.

It's just making me think, what do you think the difference is between someone in that good state, trusting of the world, that which is other, and someone who has been abused and trusts the wrong things... like being open to the wrong things.... [pause]..... thinking about it, may be someone in that state isn't open? I've never really thought about this.....

No, I don't think a person who has been abused is open. It's like a purely defensive position they're in. It's like they've gone as a child and put their trust in a person and that person has gone and abused them. That abused child never gets to learn what trust is, or therapy is about helping them get back to the memories of what life was like before the abuse happened, what it was like to trust an adult and therefore get in touch with the adult in them. It's like that Winnicott stuff, learning through play. A lot of my clients play in the session. Sometimes they try things out, like, once they've trusted me and we're drawing at the table they might come round and sit right next to me, so they're making physical contact with me. This is the kind of stuff I take to supervision all the time. It's like they're checking out whether I'm an abuser, what kind of response they'll get, like all they know to gain an adult's approval is behave in this way. But they're also checking out if there's something else... by responding in a respectful way, or not making a big deal out of it, - then I'm modelling what it is to be an adult and care with respect. Someone has to feel safety so that they can know safety. You can't teach it out of a book.

So by modelling a caring adult you're encouraging them to empathise with you and discover it themselves?

No, more the other way, by seeing it it they discover it in themselves and are then able to be it. To encounter an other in that playful, unself conscious state, you regain trust in other and learn to trust that it's OK to be in that beyond self place. The play work I do, and reminding them [clients] of rules is about trying to help them develop some kind of observer self while getting carried away at the same time.