I’ll never forget my very first client who was a former pastor. During our first session he asked, “Are you going to be using God’s word in our sessions?” I allowed his question to sink in with a five second pause and responded, “Help me to understand something?”
Me: Did you preach God’s word every Sunday?
Me: When you taught Sunday School, did you use God’s word?
Me: Throughout your ministry did you teach your people to pray and rely on God’s word?
Client: Yes I did.
Me: So, if I’m correct, you preached God’s word every Sunday, used his word to help many people to pray, and taught his word whenever you were in charge of Sunday school? You did all of this while you were sleeping with other women in your church. I guess God’s word does not work?
I allowed the awkward silence to penetrate his heart and it was obvious this beloved soul did not have an answer to my question. Then I proceeded to explain to him, that God’s word does work but his issues were far deeper than just spiritual. His issues were neurological and an inability to emotionally connect with people in healthy ways.
I will come back to this dear client soon but reading the book, Spellbound, by Daniel Z. Lieberman reminded me of how dangerous the unconscious can be. Ultimately this is a book about the invisible power of the unconscious in walking through life. It is compared to the principles of magic which essentially reveal in their symbolic ways how to become more aware so as to enact purposeful and meaningful change in one’s life. It’s about developing more awareness of your unseen world.
Lieberman wrote, “you may not realize how you rely on your unconscious.”1 and “It’s not unusual for the unconscious to get us into trouble.”2 Throughout the first part of his book he explains how the unconscious strongly influences our behavior. “Cravings diminishes the ego’s ability to make voluntary choices.”3 Whether a person craves, food, alcohol, or money, this craving can be too strong to overcome, even for the Christian. Let me explain why.
Back to my client. Within our first two sessions, he revealed how he was exposed to pornography at the age of 12 and he never told anyone about those magazines he watched every week. Lieberman says, “When the contents of the unconscious are activated, by stimulating the reproduction instinct, behavior is no longer directed by the rational ego alone. Agents that exist outside the sphere of conscious control compete with the ego, and often win.”4 These words help us to understand my client’s struggle. Also, there is a phrase known as Sexual Template or Arousal Template5. A person’s very first sexual experience is carved in the brain due to the hormone’s oxytocin and vasopressin.6 These hormones bond and cement a person’s brain to an activity first done at an early age. This carving causes a template that lives in the unconscious. And the moment a person starts an addiction is the moment he stops or considerably slows down his emotional growth. Thus, one of the main reasons a pastor can preach and commit adultery at the same time.
My client was desperate to change, to get out of his struggle. Lieberman says, “Magical help generally comes to those in need.”7 He strengthens his point by explaining only when we are in a bad situation, we are then open to listening to what is going on in the unconscious. When a person is at rock bottom, he dreams of a better life…just like fairy tales. “Fairy tales speak directly to the unconscious.”8 Embracing fairy tales can lead to alchemy or a magical process of transformation. This is what my client needed to do. He needed to partner with his unconscious to listen to what it was really telling him. He needed to listen to what he was ignoring for three decades. He needed to become aware of who he really was in order to become the person he really longed to be.
To become this new person, a tool he used a year into counseling was meditation. Lieberman says, “Meditation is awareness, the most basic characteristic of consciousness.”9 He then explains how meditation in the west is used for religious or health reasons, but its original use was a mystical exercise for enlightenment purposes.10 For example, my client was intent on deceiving people for years. Now he was “forming intentions”11 that were emotionally healthy because he knew how to “take heed to yourself”12
He was able to take heed to himself because he knew “the immature brain of a young child is extremely vulnerable to environmental conditions.”13 That immature brain made him spellbound to his struggle for decades. Understanding the power of fairy tales and alchemy led him to eventually become transcendent.
1. Daniel Z. Lieberman, Spellbound, 15.
2. Ibid. 16.
3. Ibid. 20.
4. Ibid. 21.
5. Patrick Carnes, Out of the Shadows, 87.
6. William Struthers, Wired for Intimacy, 105.
7. Daniel Z. Lieberman, Spellbound, 129.
8. Ibid. 122.
9. Ibid. 227.
10. Ibid. 228
11. Ibid. 229.
12. King James Version, I Timothy 4:16a.
13. Pat Ogden, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, 181.