Why Pagans Might Benefit from Counseling Techniques
Article ID: 15450
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: June 30th. 2013
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When I arrived in California two years prior, I was struck by the sudden notion that I could reach out to the Pagan community and actually meet, befriend, and perhaps, joy of all joys, participate in group rituals. In my grand excitement, I sought out every possible venue for meeting other Wiccans, Pagans, and everything in between. I found some beautiful people and sat back contentedly, thinking my great journey was over. I could rest and relax with my Pagan kindred spirits.
Concurrently, I was taking classes in a rigorous masters program in counseling, a field in which self-knowledge is just as important as knowing how to work with others. Empathy, trust and validation of any experiences and beliefs created the foundation from which all counseling techniques developed. But I laughed at the thought of any of my Pagan counterparts requiring any of this training. Surely, with a belief system as diverse and eclectic as ours, we should all be masters of tolerance and equality!
Unfortunately, in just a short space of time I have already seen the great power a lack of effective communication can have on even the smallest of Pagan groups. I am sad to say my experiences thus far have created a great concern for the future of all Pagan communities. I felt taken aback at the scorn directed at Monotheistic and Christian Pagans. I was shocked at a meet up for Pagans when the host declared that no one was to discuss their belief systems, “As it would just lead to messy conversations.” I felt horrified as two close Pagan friends had a rough argument about their difference in beliefs that resulted in one of them disappearing completely. Recently on PaganSquare, a host of essayists have taken part in a month of silence to protest abusive comments regarding their polytheistic beliefs.
I am not here to beleaguer you all with shameful stories or make you feel bad about yourselves. And I will not suggest everyone just “Kiss and make up” because that would belittle the importance of this issue. Instead, I would like to suggest a possible solution. Unlike my naïve assumption, we are not immune to humanity’s weaknesses regarding tolerance of a perceived ‘outgroup’. And perhaps, unlike other religions where rules and beliefs are written in stone (or in a single book) , we have good reason to feel a bit more possessive over our traditions. We are barely accepted by society as a whole (if at all) , and therefore it makes sense that we clutch at our beliefs with the proud dignity of any minority group. Unfortunately we do not all agree. Might I be so bold to say, due to the diversity of the Pagan umbrella, we may never agree.
But this does not mean we cannot learn to communicate, debate and disagree with one another in a manner in which our voices are heard, but do not cause hurt.
I can state from the experiences of my coursemates and I, that counseling training has done a world of good in improving both our interpersonal relationship and group communication skills. And you do not have to go through a training program, be certified, or even attend a single course. There are hundreds of books written about the countless counseling techniques, as well as online videos you can watch. Some of these techniques have been watered down and adapted into cheesy self-help books, but only because the original methods have proven so effective. Topics such as motivational interviewing, therapeutic interviewing, and others have been increasingly helpful in my interpersonal work, as they have allowed others to properly express their disagreements or concerns in a constructive manner.
If you are a High Priestess or coven leader, group counseling techniques are extremely helpful in establishing ground rules, facilitating confrontations, and promoting coherence in a safe, effective manner that does not immediately require punishment or extradition of a member.
Secondly, self-knowledge is just as important. We as counselors have been taught that if we do not know ourselves, it is impossible to lead another in this quest. If you are a Magick worker of any kind, I suggest that you have an in-depth knowledge of your strengths, weaknesses, and fears, as imposing your will onto the universe without such information could be dangerous to yourself and others. Shadow work is one such area that aids in self-knowledge, but meditations geared at working through past issues, childhood scars or life traumas could also help you feel like a happier and healthier person, and could shed light onto how your interpersonal relationship skills developed. An individual who themselves feels healed and happy will feel less need to start a fire. Believe me. All my training, journaling, shadow work and meditations have not only created a better person, but a much better witch.
Lastly, if you have ever confronted another because of a conflicting belief, it is time to ask yourself why this action was so important for you. What would be the worst-case scenario if you did not take this action? What would be the best-case scenario, or the goal you were trying to achieve? Finally, what actually happened when you confronted them? Did they take on your opinion? Or did defend their beliefs? To give an example, I will answer these questions in regards to my essay.
I took this action because I felt it was important to spread some possibly helpful knowledge about counseling techniques being useful tools for Pagans to communicate and debate with one another. The best-case scenario would be if everyone immediately went out and learned about counseling techniques and applied them to Pagan gatherings and group work (this is relatively fantastical, but was fun to write) . The worst-case scenario would be if everyone hated and ignored this essay and instead wrote fiery responses aimed at insulting and bullying me. I am prepared for all scenarios. I am hopeful however, that at heart we really do all wish to get along, but have yet to find the best ways of interacting while sticking true to our personal beliefs.
I will conclude by subjecting you all to the main counseling spiel we give all our clients in the first session: “There will always be people and events in this life that you will not like. You cannot change these things. You cannot change others. What you can change, is yourself. You can choose to be one way, or another. You can choose how you react, and how you interact. And while I can promise nothing, I have often found that by changing yourself, you will find others changing around you.”
Location: Fullerton, California
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