Guiding Directees In The Healing Mode
During The Second Week
Orientations Vol 2: Part B
Some General Observations
This chapter gives some practical reflections for guiding directees who remain predominantly in a Healing-Mode stance during the Second Week of the Exercises journey. What characterizes directees in the Healing Mode is not so much the need for inner healing at this point in their life but rather their primary focus upon their own growth issues. Their predominant desire is for God's continuing help in dealing with these personal growth issues. This focus is preventing them right now from experiencing the joy and meaning of grace-filled living and dealing more explicitly with their role as disciples in the more public world. On the other hand, directees in the Call Mode at this point in the Exercises focus predominantly on how God is calling them to work in God's household in spite of their own need for healing. Healing issues may still be present, but these issues are not in the foreground of their desires at this time.
The issues of Healing-Mode directees range widely. There may be re-adjustment issues of mid-life grieving. There may be grief over the loss of significant loved ones. There may be deeper issues which are connected to past traumatic wounds that have just recently come into a directee's conscious awareness. Many different examples of all these issues could be given. Here are a few:
A directee in the Healing Mode usually responds much less enthusiastically and somewhat differently to Jesus' call from the way it is expressed in the Kingdom Exercise . His "offering" may be more an offering of self-acceptance rather than one of self-forgetfulness. A parallel shift of focus also becomes evident in the Gospel Contemplations on Jesus' early life. His appreciation of God's human entry into our world encourages him more toward allowing Jesus' mystery to touch him deeply and not so much toward discipleship and mission where he desires to return love for love . He usually stresses the first part of the Grace, not the second part . When doing the Triple Colloquies later on in the Second Week, he unconsciously shifts the content of these Colloquies. Rather than asking to be chosen to embrace a call which may involve rejection in imitation of Jesus, he often asks to be able to put up with the rejections and vicissitudes of life. The shift is from the active willingness to embrace a call to a more passive willingness to accept patiently whatever happens to him in life. For such a Healing-Mode directee, there seems to be no space at this time in his life for discerning a significant call for the redirection of his life or for the development of a personal myth which might be related to this call.(1)
- Bob experiences a feeling of abandonment -- this is the same feeling he had at a young age when he was put in the hospital for two months while his single parent, for various reasons, could only visit him sporadically.
- Rachel has an anxiety of not performing well enough -- when she was young what she did was never good enough for her alcoholic parent who treated her with mixed messages.
- Jenny begins to revisit feelings of shame -- she could never measure up in school to the perceived success of her older sister.
There surfaces at times, in one way or another, a deep emptiness, a black hole in his heart that sucks energy from his life because it compels him either to seek replacements that will fill it or to live life by avoiding it. The anecdotes he shares with you about his past often indicate repetitious attempts to recapture missed primordial experiences that, theoretically, should have taken place in the best of all worlds. Something was missed and he cannot seem to go on with life until it is found! In our present culture, the wounds that contribute to this emptiness are understood from many different perspectives -- toxic shame, addiction, co-dependency, adult children of alcoholic parents, abuse, etc.
It can be very beneficial for a directee to deal with memories that surface during the Gospel Contemplations; fundamentally, healing takes place when the directee is helped to engage his own personal story with the story of Jesus! Often, during the Exercises journey, it is the faith context of meaning along with the felt presence of God that empowers him to face the pain of his past and to connect his story with the story of Jesus. Through this engagement, a directee can become freer to act as a joyful disciple.
When painful and wounded memories surface several times during the prayer exercises and when your directee recognizes them with a certain amount of openness, he probably has arrived at a stage when he is able to deal profitably with them. These signals may indicate his readiness and give a spiritual guide confidence to rely on the techniques of the Exercises. Otherwise, the self-protective activity of his psyche would tend to keep the disturbing memories hidden from him.
A certain amount of healing can take place almost naturally in a context of focused listening and genuine acceptance along with a directee's readiness to allow healing to occur. However, healing in a directee is helped or hindered by a spiritual guide's openness to grow or not grow in her own self-awareness. As deep feelings begin to surface in prayer or during the dialogue of the interview, a spiritual guide, influenced by her own less-than-conscious fears, may unwittingly discount her directee's experiences by:
A listing such as this could be made part of your self-reflection after your interview sessions, the primary goal of which is to protect yourself from falling into the less-than-conscious ways by which we trivialize the experiences of others. Such a listing could also be included from time to time in your Awareness Examen.
- Over-spiritualizing -- believes that prayer can solve the problem through healing and that God replaces the emptiness and makes the suffering go away;
- Dualizing -- separates the human from the spiritual and avoids dealing with "psychological" experiences; presumes that these issues can never be dealt with through prayer and prayer guidance but only in professional therapy;
- Psychologizing -- tries to deal with these issues without awareness of her own limitations and without appropriate skills;
- Packaging -- is uncomfortable with unfinished business, needs to fix things up nicely, and unwittingly communicates this expectation to her directee;
- Pursuing -- focuses too much on the issue and never gives up, like "a dog chewing on a bone"; such an approach dominates and contaminates the process of the Exercises journey;
- Comparing -- compares every experience a directee expresses to her own experience;
- Denying -- filters out the experience and prevents the directee from dealing with it in an appropriate manner through the Gospel Contemplations and the other methods used in the Exercises journey.
On Using Healing Techniques
With Gospel Contemplation
What techniques can you use to help in this process of healing? Like other spiritual guides, you probably have a personal tote bag of techniques garnered from your own experience and from that of others which can facilitate the healing process for directees. Any of these techniques or methods can be used to assist the Spirit's work of healing during the Exercises journey provided they are used appropriately in conjunction with the methods of the Exercises. For example, in the exercises on the early years of Jesus, you might suggest that your directee become the same age as Jesus (or let Jesus be the same age at which your directee recognizes his need for healing) and interact with Jesus as he makes the Gospel Contemplations. Then you might encourage him to grow up as Jesus grows up:"... In this coming week, spend time growing up with Jesus.... Remember how you were seven years old during such-and-such an exercise.... Go to Nazareth as a seven-year-old boy and be with Jesus imaginatively.... Be there and visit the family.... Be with Jesus and watch Joseph work in the carpenter shop.... Then in the next prayer period you can continue to be that age or you can be an eight-year-old with Jesus at eight years old.... Bring your anger about your parent's indifference to you into your prayer.... "There are many possible techniques that might be incorporated with the Gospel Contemplations:
With helpful hints as suggested above, the exercises on Jesus' early life can become a safe place where your directee allows his past wounds to surface and brings them to God. In this process you are simply encouraging a safe structure for your directee to deal with his "stuff" with God. This safety is enhanced when you encourage your directee to be an equal partner with you in discovering the appropriate ways to deal with wounded memories that surface in prayer. This happens when you encourage a discussion of how best to enter into a prayer exercise and together ascertain what is likely to be helpful in allowing the healing to take place.
- Mary or Joseph can represent the inner safe parent that can nurture the inner needy child.(2)
- If, as an adult, the directee is not able to relate to or to dialogue with Jesus, often the directee's five-year-old inner child can.
- Sometimes some form of art work, such as finger painting, can be included or brought to the prayer exercise to create the safe space for the healing experience.
In general, it is wise to suggest several different approaches. This gives the directee leeway to choose an approach that is less threatening and more liable to be in keeping with his own readiness. Then wait to discover together what begins to work and may lead to "greater consolation,"(3) the healing that the directee is seeking. After this, let the process unfold itself by simply encouraging the "consolation." Once "consolation" begins, all you need to do is to caress it into the future.
Guidelines For Discerning As An Instrument Of Healing
The Guidelines for Discerning Spirits, also, can be used to facilitate healing. First, these guidelines can be used as they are intended, that is, to discern what is happening in the prayer through the lenses of Consolation , Desolation  and Counterfeit Consolation , . In addition to this, a spiritual guide can use these guidelines to deal with patterns of feelings and thinking which, in our culture, are usually interpreted as belonging only to the psychological arena. To understand this use, remember that, in Ignatius' time, both the spiritual and psychological realms were understood as belonging to one and the same care of souls. Spiritual guidance included some of the perspectives which the psychotherapeutic community has since claimed as belonging to its own realm.(4)
The First Set of Guidelines, particularly , , and , can be used literally for some directees to understand and deal with some of the anxiety-filled patterns which surface in prayer. In Gospel Contemplations these patterned experiences often represent the same patterns behind inappropriate ways the directee reacts to certain life situations. To deal with such patterns in the context of the Exercises facilitates the practical self-knowledge and self-acceptance that empower a directee to become a more mature disciple of Jesus after the Exercises journey.
As an example, let me take a hypothetical person named Robert who felt that he never belonged and was never listened to by the significant people in his early years. His sense of basic trust was never in place as he grew up. The messages he received indicated that he was invisible to all present, that he didn't count. In reaction, he learned to exaggerate his feelings to be heard. If he was hurt, he had to hurt a great deal or no one would listen to him. If he was joyful, he had to be extremely joyful. As the years rolled on, Robert learned to express all his feelings in exaggerated ways. In time, the way he expressed them became the way he remembered and experienced them. A pattern in his interpersonal relationships began to be played out when, too frequently, friends would back away from his intensity. Because they backed away Robert felt unheard; he reacted by continuing the exaggerated expressions. These expressions led to the very rejection he feared, and so a vicious cycle continued to be enacted. He became withdrawn, depressed and helpless. Finally he sought help from a psychotherapeutic counsellor and group therapy.
Through this help, Robert learned to cope with life more realistically. However, his expressions of feeling and his judgements about things continued to be somewhat exaggerated even after the therapy was over. He continued to repeat the same vicious cycle and would become distraught and anxious, often feeling very hurt and rejected. From time to time throughout his life, Robert would make use of spiritual direction. At some point during a major transition in his life, he decided with his director to do the Exercises according to notation .
When he was praying on the Flight into Egypt, he fell into heavy Desolation. During the day it adversely affected his interactions with others. In time, through his dialogue with his spiritual guide and the use of Repetitions, he was able to bring these desolate feelings into his Gospel Contemplations. In the process, he encountered the painful memories of his own childhood, many of which he had already dealt with in therapy. He asked Jesus to walk with him into these painful memories. He asked Jesus to free him from their effects during the Exercises journey.
Robert continued to make the Gospel Contemplations and pray for this freedom. Meanwhile his spiritual guide began to notice in his spiritual movements the vicious-cycle pattern which occurred with surprising frequency. The pattern began with an experience of Desolation, then he talked about it, and then after he talked about it, he entered into the Desolation more deeply. It wasn't just Desolation; it was an "awful experience!" He would even express it in terms of being abandoned by God and feeling completely left out by the other members in the gospel event. The spiritual guide noted for Robert how this Desolation seemed to be triggered every time some aspect of the Gospel Contemplation reminded him of the rejections of his past and how similar it sounded to the patterns the spiritual guide had noted during their ongoing spiritual direction sessions before Robert began the Exercises journey. Robert failed to notice the trigger. His spiritual guide used the image of notation  to explain the trigger. She explained how his perception of possible rejection was like the captain entering his castle by the weakest point. Then, using notation  with its image of the proverbial angry shrew, she pointed out the pattern that she perceived; namely, after the Desolation took hold of his castle, Robert seemed to become afraid, and then, terrible feelings grew out of proportion. Through the application of these guidelines to his experience, his spiritual guide explained how the enemy first enters unobtrusively and then once "the desolating movement" gets into the castle, fear intensifies the movement. It took a long time from the moment Robert first acknowledged the possible existence of this pattern until the time he became adept at recognizing it in his prayer. Robert came to perceive with a new set of glasses what was happening in his prayer. This new perspective, based on the First Set of Guidelines, would give him a way of understanding and handling the parallel vicious cycle in his interactions with others in day-to-day living.
Analogous Use Of Second Set Of Guidelines
It took even longer for him to make habitual use of the First Set of Guidelines in his everyday life after the Exercises journey. When he did make more habitual use of these and when the desolating movement became more subtle, he began to use some of the guidelines from the Second Set as well. Even though his reactions were not specifically the same as those envisaged by the Second Set, he could apply these guidelines 'analogously.' Accordingly, he learned that certain ways of thinking about and interpreting his feelings may have seemed correct but inevitably led him down the garden path as pointed out in notation . Thus he came to acknowledge, through trial and error, that in order to recognize the 'deception,' it was always helpful to reflect on the trends of thoughts and consequent feelings that led into his being upset , . Whenever he failed to recognize this skewed thinking as a temptation, the enemy was able to take over his castle . Then his fear and feelings of rejection would become more unmanageable . Consequently, a cycle of thinking, similar to that described in notation , which was not stopped by the kind of reflection suggested in  and , led to the kind of destructive energy described in  and the somewhat overwhelming anxieties of notation . Use of the discernment guidelines in this way can be a real help to empower a Healing-Mode directee.
Let me explain this same thing again within a Jungian framework.(5) Robert usually and automatically processed this data of his life through his preferred 'feeling function.' Through a persistent application of the guidelines from the First Set, he learned to recognize that his feelings associated with his 'feeling function' were not trustworthy when it was "hooked" by his perception of possible rejection. Over time he came to recognize that when he was hooked, he could help himself by making better use of his less-preferred 'thinking function.' Robert learned to use his 'thinking function' in stages:
a) During the actual feelings of being overwhelmed, he had to learn, first, to act against these feelings by refusing to attempt to figure them out. He had to distract himself until he could calm down. Otherwise the anxiety would grow. This follows the advice of the guidelines of the First Set:
b) Then, after the so-called temptation was over, he could stand back and analyze with his 'thinking function' exactly what had happened. Thus gradually he became aware that one set of circumstances was not the other and that the so-called rejection in the present was not equivalent to the childhood rejections of the past. This is an analogous application of the advice given in some Second-Set guidelines:
- Act directly against the temptations ; and
- Face the temptations boldly and do exactly the opposite of what the enemy suggests .
c) By practising b), particularly during his Awareness Examen, Robert learned to make these connections more quickly. With practice, he then learned to notice the "stinking thinking" taking place almost immediately as the so-called rejecting event was happening. In time Robert's temptations became less overwhelming. He noticed the "triggers" with greater immediacy even when they became more subtle.
- Analyze the beginning, middle and end of the series of thoughts and consequent feelings ; and
- Note this down for the future so that you can recognize the temptation when it returns again .
Given cases like that of Robert, we can understand how some of the First-Set guidelines, particularly  and -, are related to many aspects of basic psychology. In Chapter 29, "Guidelines For Discerning Spirits," I make the point that the First Set can be understood as belonging to basic human psychology while the Second Set can be understood as belonging more to the realm of spirituality but that this Second Set can sometimes be applied to more psychological phenomena by way of analogy. After Robert became more adept at using the First Set, his spiritual guide introduced him to the analogous use of some guidelines from the Second Set.
Desolation And Defenses -- Respecting A Directee's Readiness
Among the signs that indicate a directee's readiness to deal with some issues underlying painful memories surfacing in prayer, we could list the following:
One could also list the conditions that would make it appropriate for the spiritual director or prayer guide to foster a directee's inner work during the Exercises journey. The guide:
- Memories keep recurring in the Gospel Contemplations or from the dynamic of the prayer.
- The directee seems to be open to their recognition and is beginning to name them at least in a hesitant way.
- The directee has indicated the desire to deal with them.
- Before a directee faces some deeper healing issues, he should have received an experience of Consolation at some point during the Exercises journey.
But what should you do if you surmise a) that a repressed trauma or memory is behind a recurring resistance; and b) that this is being expressed in a directee's prayer as Desolation; and c) that you may not be equipped to handle it or that it should not be handled in the Exercises context at all? The simple answer is to approach the directee's experiences initially according to the directives in notations  and , and then, if wise prudence demands, to move on.
- Is fairly comfortable with dealing with issues that are likely to be triggered in herself as she listens to her directee;
- Has a good working rapport with the directee in that they have become equal partners in determining the approach and methodology to be used;
- Uses her psychological literacy within the methodological framework of the Exercises.
Here is a more complete answer. With every directee, you need to follow the principle that it may or may not be appropriate for him to deal with certain issues at this point in time. (A person does not need to deal with every issue in the psyche before one dies!) During the Exercises journey, it is always appropriate to deal with Desolation according to Ignatius' suggestions and guidelines contained in notations -. Dealing with what appears to be a deep psychological resistance from the Consolation-Desolation framework is usually a safe way to help your directee interpret and deal with what is happening. Accordingly:a) In one interview, you listen to his experience and determine how and whether he was able to express his feelings to God. Then you, together with him, gently and tentatively, determine the parts of the scripture passage and experience to which he should return to foster the Grace being sought. Thus you would first use the methodology of the Exercises concerning Repetitions and generally encourage the directee to return to both the Consolation and the Desolation.It is important to suggest a variety of ways of entering the next prayer unit so that your directee has the option of not dealing with the issue which his psyche may need to avoid. You might say:
b) In the following interview, however, there could be several scenarios. For instance, the directee may have gone back to both the Consolation and the Desolation and nothing of any significance surfaced. And so you move on to the next prayer unit. Or he may have paid no attention at all to the Desolation and tried to return to the Consolation, but, in fact, he experienced Desolation in all his prayer exercises. At this point, you would apply the guidelines of notations - and move on to the next prayer unit giving him a variety of options."... As you begin the prayer exercise on the Flight into Egypt, you could just be your own age and help Mary and Joseph as if you were a close friend.... Or you could be a traveller that meets them by chance on the way.... Or you might ask Jesus to let you be the age you need to be in the Gospel Contemplations right now in order to get past this Desolation... Or you could even be the donkey...."The italicized suggestion contains symbolically your personal interpretation; namely, there might be something less conscious that may need to be dealt with, but you are not sure whether it would be helpful for him to focus directly on it at all. This approach leaves your directee free to deal with or not to deal with whatever issues are there. Later, if he needs to deal with any healing issues in his prayer, they will surface more clearly in some other way.
What you should not do is to insist that your directee keep making Repetitions several times on the same point where the Desolation began. This would be invasive and not respect the principles behind notations  and ! It would change the focus from God to you, from God's agenda to your agenda, from dependence on God's working in the directee's heart to your work with the directee. It could also deepen his self-protective defenses and lead to a locked-in misunderstanding and unwanted transference which you may not be skilled enough to handle.
Creating A Safe Place In/With The Gospel Contemplations
When your directee is comfortably making the Exercises journey and you have a good reciprocal relationship, the structures of the Exercises can be safe places for a directee to deal with his inner growth issues. For example in Gospel Contemplation, the primary focus is the directee's relationship with Jesus and other persons within the gospel story. Usually Jesus or some other person in the event -- Joseph, Mary, a shepherd, Anna, etc. -- becomes a safe person for him.(6)
Sometimes, Jesus may not be a "safe person" in the Second-Week Contemplations.(7) For example, as the Exercises journey began, perhaps your directee related to Jesus well enough in the Gospel Contemplations. After the first couple of months, however, both of you come to realize that the relating is too cautious; it is based on the directee's faith formation and not on a spontaneous loving and interactive relationship. How do you help your directee develop an intimacy with Jesus? First of all, you discuss the general factors influencing his relationship with Jesus -- such as his socialization in his family of origin, etc. -- that might account for his cautiousness. Then you facilitate the directee's expression of his feelings about this with you. After this, you encourage him to dialogue with some other person in the event with whom he can exercise a safer and more spontaneous relationship. In time, and it may take the whole of the Second Week, your directee may become more spontaneous with Jesus. Often in the Gospel Contemplations, a person like Mary begins to be that safer person for the directee. Later Mary leads him back to Jesus.
Forms Of Resistance That Seem To Be Different From Desolation
In addition to resistances that feel like, and fit the category of, Desolation as described in notations  and , there are other ways in which resistance and blockages occur. They manifest themselves as sequences of the imagination which initially seem to make no sense since they take place while the Gospel Contemplation is going smoothly and the directee is generally at peace. There are many variations of these sequences that directors of the Exercises can encounter. For example:
Some directors of the Exercises refer to experiences such as these as examples of "second-week desolation," i.e., Counterfeit Consolation . Often I find it helpful to think of these episodes as little resistances from some parts of the psyche.
- Directee doesn't see Jesus' face or Jesus is turned away from him;
- Directee relates to Jesus who only has one arm during part of the sequence;
- Jesus slaps directee on the face;
- Persons in the Gospel Contemplation become statuesque and the prayer exercise freezes like a freeze-frame photo;
- Gospel Contemplation is going well until Jesus vanishes.
- Directee is attracted sexually to Jesus or Jesus to directee.
- Directee can pray a series of passages only if he remains at a young age.
- Directee gives Jesus a piece of paper with a serious question that needs an answer but Jesus smiles and tears it up.
- Jesus becomes a clown and does artful acrobats.
Both Gospel Contemplations and dreams are constituted with projections from the psyche. Usually the interpretation of Gospel Contemplations is not as complex as that of dreams. 'Interpreting' Gospel Contemplations is more like the interpretation of role-plays because the projections are upon the different aspects of the story, the structure of which contains, contributes to, and manifests the meaning of the projections. Usually it is not that difficult to make out what Gospel Contemplations mean once you develop a knack for it and begin to trust your intuition. However, whether or not the meaning of the Gospel Contemplations is evident, you should always use the principle that is used in the interpretation of dreams; namely, let the directee arrive at his own interpretation and give time for its meanings to unfold. You might ask him, "What do you suppose that incident of Jesus turning his back on you might mean?"
Initially you might not want to deal with the possible interpretation of a certain sequence within the Gospel Contemplation. You might not have a comfortable sense of what the sequences might mean. Or you might judge that motifs surfacing at this point are too perplexing to deal with. You recognize that, as far as your skills are concerned, it would better that you not deal directly with these motifs. Or you might know that, by this point, the directee has not been using this method well enough. However, in time, and certainly after your directee knows how to use this prayer method well, you might encourage him to make a Repetition: "... How would you feel about going back to that moment when Jesus turned his back on you? ... It might be helpful.... And if Jesus turns his back on you again, express how that makes you feel.... Dialogue with Jesus about it."
You will recognize some of these odd sequences as being immediately significant and carriers of the Graces the directee is seeking. For example, a directee wants to make sure that God is calling him to do what he himself really wants to do. In the Gospel Contemplation he finds himself writing a question about it on paper and giving the paper to Jesus. Jesus then tears it up! The directee is put off. Later, in the interview, given the developing context of the prayer experiences thus far, it is easy enough for the director to help her directee to discern how this experience was related to his wanting to be told what to do. He was being invited to take responsibility for his own choices as an adult.
Other sequences will appear as nonsense. They are the psyche's way of making visual or aural puns. "Nonsense sequences" in Gospel Contemplation, though not always forms of Desolation, are usually a form of resistance and the ways of handling them are similar to the ways of handling Desolation:
- Let the process unfold itself and give it time.
- Dialogue with the directee and ask what it might mean.
- Sometimes pay no attention to it.
- Use the technique of Repetition.
Symbolic Language As Safe Rhetoric
Every spiritual director encounters some sequences in a directee's prayer experiences that point to issues outside her own competency or comfort zone. These are the kinds of things she should bring to her own supervisor or trusted colleagues for help in making a prudential judgement on how to proceed. Some helpful principles are:
The charismatic movement taught us not to be afraid to use symbolic and generalized language for deep issues of healing. Although, through its naive and uneducated use, the language of faith might trivialize and deny real afflictions and pain, you can employ this same language in spiritual direction when you are nudged off balance by problematic issues which challenge your skills. For example, when you recognize that your directee might be terrorized by the possibility of entering a painful area of his life touched off by a certain image in the scripture event, you can make suggestions such as these:
- Always process your own inner reverberations -- both feelings and thoughts -- explicitly in your own prayer and/or in your Awareness Examen.
- Acknowledge to yourself your own limitations and skills and be aware when you are beginning to guide your directee from the edge of your comfort zone. A good rule of thumb to follow is: "If you just can't wait to make an interpretation because the urge is so intense, ... don't!"(8)
- You can guide from the edge of your comfort zone with greater confidence and less caution when, before this, your directee has experienced Consolation and has been able to use Gospel Contemplation easily.
- Be open to supervision yourself and take the risk of being vulnerable with your peers.
- Remember that a directee does not have to deal with everything.
- Stay within the methodology of the Exercises.
- Use interpretative language which includes, but does not uncover, the issues behind your directee's defenses.
- "I wouldn't go back to that part of the scripture unless Jesus invites you and takes you by the hand.... Really, you know, God's style is more gentle than you imagine...."
- "Let Jesus be the good Samaritan for you and bind up your wounds.... Jesus has less trouble with that than you do...."
- "Rather than getting out of the boat yourself, ask Jesus whether he wants you to get out of the boat at this time and walk towards him on the water...."
- "Your prayer seems to be encountering some darkness, God can be found in the darkness too. As you remember from such-and-such last month, darkness can sometimes be a prelude to further light..."
Decision-Making And Healing-Mode Directees
Sometimes we directors take for granted that Healing-Mode directees are not in the position to discern significant decisions. We presume that either they are already established in a state of life and know their "calling" or they are so focused on their personal issues that they lack the energy to discern a decision. However, we forget that such directees make significant decisions in their lives all the time. They make conscious and responsible choices regarding their children, situations at work, payment of bills. They make choices about voting for a particular political party and about joining a committee in the organizations to which they belong. They had to make several choices simply to be free to make the Exercises journey. While predominantly dealing with their own personal growth issues, even Healing-Mode directees still live and function in a world that presumes the making of choices.
Although most circumstances and conditions may not allow for the possibility of a special or unique calling, yet, throughout life, all Christians are continually invited to act as disciples in the circumstances in which they find themselves. It follows that issues presently requiring healing in their personal lives are also the focus for discipleship and, consequently, for conscious decision-making which is at the very heart of what it means to be a person and, a fortiori, a Christian person.
A long time ago, Irenaeus wrote: "The glory of God is the human person fully alive!" A person is fully alive when, with a healthy sense of self and in a context of growing freedom, he/she is able to make decisions which focus him/her beyond the self. A directee becomes more fully alive when he grows in the ability to make conscious choices.
Whenever a Healing-Mode directee is encouraged to make conscious choices as a disciple in the context of growing freedom and prayer, he is both discerning and, at the same time, learning what discernment means. The practice of conscious decision-making is always valuable in a formation approach to the Exercises because it is with the impact of making a significant decision in a context of guided prayer that spiritual movements take place and can be more easily recognized.(9) The challenge to make conscious choices with some discernment tools can forward a directee's healing process now and in the future. A spiritual guide will only know in practice whether or not to encourage a Healing-Mode directee to make a conscious decision during the Exercises if she herself is free from personal ideologies such as those contained in the following beliefs:a) The only decision-making intended by the Exercises has to do with choosingA spiritual guide also needs to be free enough to adapt the technology of the Exercises to a directee's needs and to decode realistically her own personal expectations about the quality of Spiritual Freedom in a decision-making/discernment process.(10) Even the so-called decision-making exercises, such as the Three Classes of Persons, which are focused more specifically for Call-Mode directees, can bear fruit when used judiciously with a Healing-Mode directee. These exercises with the Triple Colloquy can help develop greater openness to God. They can create a challenge by inviting directees to a more radical discipleship in whatever mode they are making the Exercises.
a state of life; or
b) All directees must make a conscious decision each time they make the Exercises;
c) Healing-Mode directees can never be free enough to discern a decision.
Adapting The Prayer Exercises For Healing-Mode Directees
There is no set way to adapt the Exercises to the needs of a Healing-Mode directee.(11) In addition to your use of the basic methodologies of the Exercises,(12) your own intuition and comfort level will suggest what might be helpful. The forward movement for any directee on the Exercises journey is contained in the dynamic of the process itself. By listening carefully to a directee's experiences within the context of how the process has been developing thus far, you recognize the graces that are emerging, and you choose, adapt, and focus the material of the Exercises accordingly.
Since the focus for the exercises on Jesus' early life presumes that a directee is predominantly in the Call Mode, your explanatory focus for these events needs to be adapted. Since the events of Jesus' public ministry outlined in the Exercises text do not include healing events, such as the healing of the ten lepers or the story of the stooped woman, you will need to choose alternate scriptural events for prayer. The prayer units in this manual have been adapted in some way but not nearly enough for many Healing-Mode directees. Having suggested that adaptation is important, we must remember that it is only secondary. Over the years, many times spiritual guides have expressed amazement at how God communicated with their directees even when they gave mistaken scripture references to their directees! Once someone joked, "You know, once a directee is praying with his real interior experience, you could suggest a passage from the telephone book and the directee would get a great deal from it!" The living God, here and now, in conjunction with the directee's honesty concerning his now interior reactions is the essential component. The scripture text is basically a faith structure that can help facilitate this essential component. As you can choose different scripture texts and/or adapt their focus according to the needs of a directee in the Healing Mode, so you can modify the decision-making structures. When flying in a light aircraft using a map and "dead-reckoning," you fit the map to the terrain and not the terrain to the map. (Of course, if you get lost, you could always follow the railway tracks. They always lead you somewhere!)
Can a spiritual guide use the special decision-making exercises such as the Two Standards, the Three Classes, and the Three Kinds of Humility with Healing-Mode directees during the Second Week? The last sentence of the previous paragraph has some wisdom even here: if you follow the railway tracks, they always lead you somewhere. The gospel's call to discipleship is for all Christians and these three exercises are a distillation of that call. These exercises can be used with benefit for Healing-Mode directees in both shorter directed retreat settings and ongoing spiritual direction settings. But the more important question here concerns when and how a spiritual guide uses these exercises during the Exercises journey. You will have to discover that, for yourself, from experience.
Three Classes Of Persons And Healing-Mode Directees
For example, the Three Classes of Persons can challenge a directee to face those less obvious and more hidden non-negotiables always affecting his life. Often both spiritual guide and directee can miss these. Yet if a directee is ready to deal with these less obvious issues, the Three Classes can be of real help. Here are some examples:
These are examples of psychological structures which can affect a directee's following of Jesus in day-to-day life. Being psychological does not exclude them from spiritual concern! These structures are not ordinarily accessible by unaided self-reflection, yet such issues are often contained in the emerging images and affectivity of a directee's prayer when a spiritual guide helps her directee notice his deeper reactions. The Three Classes can be useful for disposing a directee for this deeper and more subtle awareness.
- Susan who needs to know in advance what the expectations are before she changes;
- Bill who has no energy unless his work has significant consequences;
- Chuck who needs to work through the logic of every situation before he will trust;
- Barbara who needs more than ordinary affirmation to survive with equanimity;
- Sean who has based his whole life on being acceptable and outstanding so that no one will find out that he is gay.
To understand the subtlety of the Three Classes, we might remind ourselves of some basic psychology through the example of a generic person named Jane. Jane is an emotionally healthy person who, like most of us, grew up in a dysfunctional world. In her early years, not having many tools to survive, she automatically devised a defense system to cope. These ways of interacting with life worked well. Her automatic defensive strategies influenced all her choices and her way of acting in the world. In fact, they worked so well that Jane has grown up believing that she still needs them and that they are part of the very fabric of who she is.
Now that Jane is long past the earlier stages of adulthood, she has been discovering to her dismay that her life is no longer proceeding easily. Long before the Exercises journey began, she wondered what was going on. She is now in the Exercises journey and she desires a renewal of heart. In prayer during the First Week and particularly during the Third Exercise, she discovered that her fear of being put down by her brother has influenced most of her life. Like Susan or Chuck in the preceding examples, she has always had a need to hold herself back and either check out the logic carefully or pre-determine the scenario before she could give herself to any activity or choice. This pattern even surfaced in the way she has given herself to Gospel Contemplation. Both she and her director have come to name this pattern with a code phrase, "fear-induced caution."
In spiritual language, Jane has been controlled by her false self. Is she now willing to let her true self emerge? After all, she is seeking renewal which implies becoming more genuine with God, life, others and the world. What is at issue here in the decision-making process is this: Does Jane still need this "fear-induced caution" in the choices she now makes or in the choices she will be making after the Exercises journey? She might! But if she is to be open to further growth, Jane needs to deal with this reality in some way. Perhaps she might consider ways of surrendering the use of this "fear-induced caution." Perhaps she might develop some concrete strategies that would continue her growth out of this reaction for the sake of the realm of God. In being open to these alternatives, she is beginning to manifest the stance of a person of the Third Class.
There comes a point in the healing and grieving processes when one has to say, "I have taken care of myself enough for now. I accept the fact that I will always have to live with this 'fear-induced caution.' I need to move on now.... I need to call upon God's Spirit to help me recognize and act against its effects in my life and make decisions accordingly!" Although no person can tell any other person precisely when this mysterious point is reached, a counsellor or spiritual director can indicate to her client or directee the narcissistic consequences of not recognizing that point or those points during the healing process. Unless a person has a healthy self, that person cannot "die to oneself" (Jn 12); but unless a person learns to die to oneself, there is no psychological and spiritual health.
Obviously in ongoing spiritual direction, a spiritual director encounters many more situations like the above it's-about-time-to-let-God-through-those-defense moments. We come across moments such as these when directing many women in our culture on the threshold of being their real selves with God as well as when directing oppressed minority persons, such as native Canadians, light-skinned blacks, homosexual men and women, etc. These people have grown up ingesting the messages:"Don't be who you are! ... Don't feel what you feel! ... Be careful or you will be found out and rejected...."Such people are often some of the most talented members of society. They have grown up being the best little girls and boys in the world. They have grown up being super-skilled in knowing what others want and in living up to the expectations of others. This gets transferred into their prayer. Unfortunately they transfer to God the same habitual patterns used since childhood. They split themselves off. Some of these persons even appear to be in the Contemplative Attitude; they have less-than-consciously learned to let God in on a part of their personal experiences but not on the other parts.
The issue for these directees is likely to be similar to what is expressed in one of the following statements:"Shall I remain in the Second Class and keep on relating to God in prayer the way I do in my day-to-day life or shall I take a chance on God and be my whole self with God? ... Shall I relate to God as the real me or as the false me? ... Will I relate to the real Jesus or just to my subjective projection of him? ... I might still fear relating to people openly but how about here and now in my prayer, can I take a risk now in prayer? ..."With some directees, this type of issue usually appears over and over again throughout the remainder of the Exercises. From experiences of Consolation through the struggles of Desolation and back to Consolation, which are repeated and dealt with over and over again, directees learn to face more psychological patterns of life that have been affected by earlier wounds. In a similar manner, some directees learn to discern the working of the Good Angel through the patterns of Consolation through Counterfeit Consolation to Consolation again. Through this process, a spiritual guide stands in awe and amazement at how God tutors the directee personally and directly .
Some material for your study, reflection, discussion --
1. There are certain features that are essential to Ignatian spiritual direction and belong to the basic methodology of the Exercises. Therefore a spiritual guide should use these features even with Healing-Mode directees. What are they? Why are they essential? Which of the following would you include:
Repetition? Kingdom Exercise? Review? Gospel Contemplation? Second Set of Guidelines for Discerning Spirits? Set time each day for prayer? Awareness Examen? Two Standards Exercise? Articulation of feelings? Praying for a Grace? etc.2. "Before a directee faces some deeper healing issues, he should have received an experience of Consolation at some point during the Exercises journey." Why might this be an important principle for judging whether or not a person should deal with healing issues through the methods of the Exercises during the time of the Exercises journey?
3. In this chapter, the point was made that Gospel Contemplations involve projections of the psyche upon different aspects of the gospel story. If this is so, in what ways can we understand the experiences of Gospel Contemplation as coming from God?
4. What aspects or parts of the decision-making process might be more helpful for Healing-Mode directees and why? For example:Four-Column Method? Imagining oneself on one's own death bed and reflecting backwards and choosing? Confirmation?5. "It is with the impact of making a significant decision in a context of guided prayer that spiritual movements take place and can be more easily recognized." How does this statement concur with your own observations of yourself and of others? Why does tension mount in a group when its members get closer to committing themselves to a decision?
6. Read the Nativity prayer exercise. How would you focus this exercise if you were dealing with a Healing-Mode directee who was adopted and is just coming to terms with the feelings around not knowing his birth parents?
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1. Consult Chapter Ten of the Running Commentaries (p. 123), and Chapter 25, "The Kingdom Exercise And The Use Of Myth In Spiritual Direction" (p. 349), in this manual.
2. From conversations with Rev. Barbara Nelson, former staff person at Loyola House, and also from a workshop led by Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., in Guelph, 1995. For an understanding of some techniques which help a person work with his/her own inner child, consult Capacchione's book, Recovery of Your Inner Child (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991).
3. Note that I am using the terms "greater consolation" and "consolation" in this paragraph in an analogical sense. Theoretically, the experience may not seem to fulfil the description of Consolation in notation . However, as far as the Healing-Mode directee is concerned in the here-and-now, these are experiences that are going somewhere. They are meaningful and moving in a growth-filled direction. They are in harmony with the "consoling spirit."
4. This comment is explored in Chapter 33, "Spiritual And Psychological Horizons And Your Spiritual Direction Paradigm."
5. Remember my presumption that Robert had already done some psychological inner work and had come to understand and somewhat accept his past.
6. Safe because of that person's care and because of your rapport with the directee. Safe because of images, which can either reveal or disguise issues according to your directee's readiness.
7. There could be many reasons for this, such as:
8. From a conversation with psychiatrist, Dr. Sandy Watt, former director of Homewood Health Centre, Guelph.
- Some unresolved anger over a past historical event;
- Anger at being controlled in a patriarchal culture of one's church;
- Some past abuse issues -- sexual, emotional or physical;
- Inability to acknowledge one's homosexual feelings;
- Some fairly present anger that needs to be ventilated, etc.
9. For helpful suggestions for interpreting Gospel Contemplations consult p.134 ff. Spiritual guides use the term discernment to connote a variety of activities relating to prayer and the spiritual journey such as the following: -- "To discern" how God is present;
However, in the Exercises, discernment denotes the discrimination and judgement concerning the quality of spiritual movements that take place in the directee's heart as he is preparing for, and engaged in, discovering God's desires for himself in the process of conscious decision-making.
- "To discern" the kind of prayer one is experiencing;
- "To discern" what is happening in one's heart.
10. We believe that, from time to time through grace, a person can experience the gift of Spiritual Freedom. However, we also believe that this gift can be fully received only face to face with God! "Now we see in a mirror obscurely, but then face to face" (1Cor 13:12).
11. One could make a case for saying that every use of the Exercises text is an adapted use!
12. Among these methodologies are listening to experience, setting up workable prayer structures, encouraging Repetition, waiting for the directee's experience or need to surface from the prayer exercise, fostering the discipline of making a Review, using the context of faith, etc.
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