The Seven Steps Process in Biographical Counselling / Yael Armony
We describe here the seven-steps of the Biographical Counselling process. These stages describe both a whole ongoing counselling process, and a single counselling session.
In an ongoing counselling process, we may find ourselves making progress in some areas and in others we might regress to a more primary stage.It is important for the counsellor to keep that in mind that human developmental process and spiritual evolution is not linear, it entails withdrawals and progress, falling and rising up again..
And so in every Biographical Counselling process the age of the counselee, his life-phase his previous developmental process, his level of consciousness- should all be taken into consideration. In accordance with Steiner’s saying that “bad” is the “good” out of time and place, the counsellor’s role is to identify the counselee’s physical, emotional and spiritual condition at the time of the meeting and adjust the process to his needs. The counselor’s personal development is crucial and will influence the counselling process.
In the counselling process, the counsellor needs to be like a mother; providing her young child with a safe, soft and allowing environmentat the same time, he is like a detective that goes out to the scene and with much attention carefully observes and inspects every detail in it.
In addition to the personal process that the counselee goes through, the aim of biographical counselling is to serve the whole of humanity by contributing to the evolution of the ‘consciousness soul’. The Biographical Counsellor helps the counselee’s “I” to wake-up through developing a higher level of consciousness. We, counsellors, need to stand by another person’s side in his life crises and help him realize his destiny.
In Anthroposophy it is named “preventive medicine”. Preventive medicine helps man in his self-education process so his problems do not become an illness. As counsellors we help the client transform his crises through developing awareness to developmental and healing forces. Without the biographical work this process of working through life difficulties and crises, is usually done after death and then needs to be mended in following lives.
Through Biographical Counselling and conscious processes we go through with our counselee, we can influence his destiny in this life-time. This is done with the cooperation of the higher Hierarchies who are active in the karma of Man. In this way a path to freedom is created.
In our time period crossing thresholds has become possible – the lower threshold (which was exposed through Freud’s theory) and the higher threshold (which was revealed by the Kabbalah, Anthroposophy founded by Steiner, and other esoteric wisdoms). This created an open space in which we can approach what has been hidden in former eras.
Both the counsellor and counselee walk through this journey in time, through past, present and future and develop new faculties.
Pre- stage: preparation- ‘pregnancy’
As the mother prepares herself during pregnancy for labor, so the counsellor needs to prepare himself for the counselling meeting. The preparation in the physical, emotional and spiritual levels starts a long time before the first counselling session takes place.
The preparation includes:
a. The counselor’s own biography, his life events and life experience.
b. Investing himself in the study of Man according to Anthroposophy.
c. A study of therapeutic intervention.
d. An ongoing internal and spiritual journey to seek for an understanding of his own biography according to the cosmic and personal biography laws.
Other preparatory steps before the first session-
a. Just before the counselling session beginsthe biographical counsellor needs to empty himself from dealing with his own personal matters, his daily worries, prejudice and such, so as to create the proper space for the meeting.
b. The counsellor can choose between a few options – meditation, chanting a verse, or prayer that he can ponder upon and to which he is fully connected. That should be done as a ritual on a regular basis before each meeting with the counselee.
c. Preparation of the physical environment – creating a comfortable, pleasant, quiet and safe space. It is important to create a suitable and intimate atmosphere.
d. The unique process of writing down the 7 year cycles of the counselee’s biography is also part of the preparation process. Simply writing down the biography, brings up memories and insights. It allows the counselee to approach and discover the golden thread that weaves through his life events and different stages. The process of writing allows the counselee to be active in the counselling process. This way not only the counsellor but also he prepares for the meeting (many counselees remark that writing their biography plays a significant role in the whole process).
Between the sessions, the counsellor writes down impressions, thoughts and insights that relate to the counselee and to the therapeutic process. These notes keep a continuum for both the counsellor and counselee.
The biographical counsellor receives supervision which deepens his understanding of the session’s processes and assists him to identify the inner personal areas which he still needs to work through.
1. Anchoring our “I” in the physical reality, building the grounds
The first stage of the process has to do with creating the therapeutic relationship, the trust and potential space that will allow the therapeutic process to grow.
It can be compared to a parent that through the first 21 years carries the “I” for his child, so that the child can slowly and surely build-up a chalice in which the “I” can be born.
The counsellor carries for his counselee his higher Ego until the counselee develops the ability to carry it for himself. The counsellor does it through reflection, containing, acceptance, weaving life events into a coherent, whole and meaningful fabric.
The counsellor needs to clarify to the counselee the following themes: the form of the work, the meeting’s rhythm, the payment arrangements, etc.The counselee needs to clarify the reason for choosing the biographical counselling process and the personal question he would like to investigate.All these elements are part of the therapeutic contract. It is important to be very clear about these matters- clarity gives the needed framework to the therapeutic work and security.
At this stage, the counsellor tries to find out in which ways the counselee’s life question appears in his daily life. The counsellor asks the counselee to describe a concrete event in which his question comes into full expression. This stage entails asking many questions pertaining to facts in the physical reality in which the event took place: he asks for a detailed description. It is based on understanding the bond between matter and spirit and that the truth will reveal itself through facts and details.
For example, questions such as: what did you wear? how are you connected to the people who were involved? etc. The counsellor values every detail. There is no insignificant detail. Following, the counsellor asks questions that have to do with emotional and cognitive aspects.
The counsellor has to be aware of special words and expressions that the counselee uses. He needs to make a distinction between thought and feelings and assist the counselee in identifying the main feeling that arises in the discussed event. In this process the counsellor places moments, feelings and thoughts of the counselee, under the examining microscope.
2. Imagination- allowing a picture to emerge
After investigating the event, the counsellor and the counselee try to describe the event in a symbolic way- by giving an inner picture, a typical gesture, a being, or even some sounds. We call it ‘Imagination’. Imagination allows us to see the karmic context of the event and of the people that took part in it.
In the first stage we used earthly language to verbally describe what we have experienced. In this second stage we raise a picture that is not connected with language but with the spiritual existence of the event. This is done before we analyze the event in a logical and cognitive fashion. The picture that rises may later lead us to the heart’s quest – the deep question that lies under the spoken question.
3. Placing the question in the dimension of time
At this stage, the counselor goes back into the counselee’s biography and checks with him when and where did that kind of feeling rise in the past? In what kind of situation and in what way did it show up? When did he first encounter these feelings? This process deepens the perspective and allows one to connect to his whole biography, from past through present towards the future. This process enables the “I” to anchor itself in the dimension of time, the etheric dimension. This allows the counselee to feel his connection with the past, to view his own life as a panoramic picture, similar to the way it is viewed right after death. The meaning of all of this is that through the entrance of the “I”, time turns into space. It so happens that at this stage a karmic law or a karmic fulfillment appears.
4. Reversing- accepting the encounter with pain
At this point, an astral/soul consciousness appears. The ‘soul consciousness’ expresses itself through the experience of pain, without a full understanding from a spiritual perspective. The counsellor escorts the counselee through the feelings of pain; he supports him and bears future meaning, the pain’s reason and the pain’s aim as a possible means for transformation and development.
At this stage, the counselee changes the way he looks at his own biography. This process parallels the appearance of the “I” at the age of 21. The “I” gradually turns into a center to all of the bodies which eventually envelope it. The counselee starts understanding that what has been experienced by him as coming from the “outside” is actually connected to himself, to his karma, to his “I”. Now the counsellor can start to investigate with the counselee the reason for the appearance of the event in his life (the karmic law) which, time and again, accompanies him throughout his life, investigate the feeling connected to it and the reason for it all. These questions will shed light on the question of his purpose in life and his development.
Now the questions sharpen and answers start to gradually show up. The sense of truth starts to evolve, within the counsellor and counselee. Steiner talks about the sense of truth as a new capacity towards which humanity is developing. The counsellor assists the counselee to distinguish between the facts of the event, the feelings that rise and the other person that took part in the event. The counsellor helps the counselee realize that the karmic event and the feeling that comes with it are all parts that belong to his destiny and are connected to him.
The counsellor proposes to the counselee to stay with the pain and to feel it for a few moments. This feeling belongs to his biography and can help him decipher it. That is because this feeling “waited” for him since his childhood, when he was not yet able to cope with it, and then he had to repress the feeling so that he could run a safe life in a survival mode.
This is a critical step in the process of biographical counseling as it may be accompanied by an emotional crisis or a crisis in the counsellor- counselee relationship. This stage can be compared to the stage of the reversal of middle life – a critical question relating to further spiritual development of Man.
The counselee might feel that he is losing grounds without having a new ground to step on. This is a stage of a passage through darkness, fears and even horror. It can be compared to a journey in the desert without a guarantee that the Promised Land indeed exists.
At this point the counselor- counselee relationship may become very challenging and be put at risk. The counselee may turn his anger towards the counsellor and become oppositional or lose trust. In Psychology this process is called – Projection. Some counselees withdraw and some cannot go through the reversal stage. At times, the counsellor needs to withdraw in order to be aware of the right time for exposing some themes. Often, the relationship crisis could turn to serve as a ground for growth and development. The counsellor needs to recognize what is happening and at times has to bear the accusations and projections, and regard them as part of a transitional stage in the development path.
At this stage the counselee needs much encouragement and support. He must feel that the counsellor is willing to stay with him in the darkness and at the abyss and “hold his hand” with empathy without a symbiotic identification with him.
The counsellor’s role is to bear the higher “I” for the counsellee, his future, his spirit and hope.
5. The encounter with the ‘threshold of the lower guardian’ – on the way to freedom
The entrance into the secrets of the spiritual world entails a meeting with the threshold of the lower guardian; meeting evil and faults of the human being and taking responsibility over them. Only through meeting and crossing the guardian of the lower threshold could one reach the encounter with the ‘greater guardian of the threshold’.
The encounter with the shadow is a frightening one, some counselees will withdraw. It is important that the counsellor identifies the right timing to have him confront his existential lies, taking into consideration the counselee’s age, developmental phase and his ability to acknowledge certain insights.
Using concrete examples from the counselee’s biography may assist in this process. The counsellor could also bring-up situations that occurred in the counselling process itself. It is important to avoid generalizations. When the counsellor reflects on painful truths concerning the counselee, he must do so with acceptance and without passing judgment.
At this stage, the counselee’s defenses weaken. His old patterns that served him so far become more flexible and allow for a new point of view to rise. It is similar to the stage of ex-carnation in which life forces retrieve and weaken allowing the spirit to enter.
This process depends on the ability of the counselee to give up his “identification with himself”. It allows a new way to observe events from a more objective and less personal point of view. Through this process the counselee obtains an ever growing sense of freedom and greater responsibility over his life. It is similar to the stage one could reach at the age of 49, in which a person could gradually separate from his identities and identifications.
This step generates not only a changed perspective and an opportunity for a change in the future but also a change of the past. The counselee suddenly understands that the story he has been holding may be told in a different way. He becomes the observer of his own “life’s movie”. Different feelings may arise such as sadness over missed-out opportunities, but also acceptance. This stage leads to the next stage of “spiritual insights”.
6. Spiritual insights
Many insights arise at this point and an opportunity of greater spiritual consciousness opens up for the counselee. He can see the events in the context of the whole life’s picture. This way he can better understand the deep meaning of the question thataccompanies him in his life.
An opportunity to “feel the truth in situations” becomes possible and therefor one could achieve a certain level of freedom and creativity in his Karma. This stage parallels the stage of the “Spirit- Self”- it is a fruit of the whole process that appears with abundant grace after all the hard work.It is not possible to control the timing in such graceful conclusion appears, and it cannot be rushed. As written in the Jewish tradition -“It is not upon you to finish the work but neither are you free to desist from it”. (Pirkei Avot, 2:15-16).
Grace and divine insight will arrive when God wills so.
The ability to observe matters from a spiritual perspective needs to be developed with perseverance. It cannot be acquired at once.
7. Preserving the acquired insights and deepening them
As described in the introduction, the biographical counselling process is not a linear one, as in every developmental process it exhibits both withdrawals and progressive movements. Even when the counsellor achieves a certain insight with the counselee, and helps him cut some chains loose; the process is not concluded yet. The main themes of the counselee’s life will reappear in different ways and levels of consciousness. When the question with which the counselee started the counselling process reappears, it needs to be re-investigated, with the aim of deepening the insights that were acquired in former stages. The aim would be to achieve a new insight that would rise from a new point of view as a result of another destiny event in the counselee’s life. We must remember that the Spirit is in constant movement and that new insights have to do with the passing and changing time.
Investigating and understanding biography, with or without an accompanying counsellor , is an ongoing life-long process. At every stage in life another layer of truth is discovered and a new opportunity arises to achieve a higher consciousness state and a deeper insight concerning one’s life.
Drawing: Danial Zehavi
The Seven stages were developed and formalized by Yael Armoni and Edited by Orna Ben-Dor and are based on: The Knowledge of Man as taught by Rudolf Steiner, the research of Mr. Tzvi Briger and Ms. Orna Ben Dor and the learning process undertaken at the School of Biographical Counselling. We were also assisted by the ‘model of the seven steps’, presented to our school by Ms. Margli Matthews.