With Dynamic Empathy (Oct. 8–11, with me and Jane Olynyk) and Communication Fundamentals (Oct. 16–19, with Cathy McNally and Cathy Wilder) coming up soon, I have been looking back at some previous articles I wrote about those two programs. In particular, I thought again about an experience with Ernie McNally, who created Communication Fundamentals with his wife Cathy. Here’s part of what I wrote in 2013:
“Maybe 10 years ago, when I was a newish intern in Come Alive, I watched Ernie McNally working with a participant in the centre of the circle. All they did, apparently, was talk – there was no drama, no show – and yet it was one of the most moving individual focus times I’d ever experienced. At the time, it seemed to me like magic. I remember thinking, I could probably learn to do bodywork and gestalt and the other things that make up Come Alive “individual work” … but this, I’m not so sure. Something else was going on, that I couldn’t quite name … but it seemed to me a lot like love, and brought a profound kind of healing.
“Over the years since then I have learned that I too, like Ernie, can be part of such experiences; and for me, they have been highlights of my own working with people in Haven programs. I think that such conversations are actually examples of the Haven Communication Model in action; they are embodiments of its spirit, perhaps an invitation to both partners to embody and open their own spirits, and to come into connection. I think that in such connection there is healing and liberation. (And indeed, this connection is at the heart of all kinds of work we do at The Haven, including bodywork and gestalt!)”
Reading over this now, it strikes me that in that encounter Ernie was demonstrating a high level of empathy, which person-centred counsellors might refer to as “depth reflection.”1 The Communication Model is among other things an invitation to “release one’s empathic sensitivity” – that is, the ability as it were to step into another person’s shoes, to get a felt sense of what it’s like to be that person in a particular moment, and then to communicate that back to them. 2 That ability is vital not just for counsellors but also in all sorts of relationships, whether with friends, partners, colleagues, or family.
In Dynamic Empathy, Jane Olynyk and I explore various aspects of the process of empathy using a framework created by Haven founders Ben Wong and Jock McKeen, the Dynamic Empathy Model. We all have a capacity for empathy, and in this program we work on ways to understand, release and grow that capacity.
In Communication Fundamentals you’ll find out how you can use the Haven Communication Model effectively in your day-to-day life, and blend in other perspectives too.
If you’d like to know more about either program, feel free to contact me or The Haven’s registrars (email@example.com or 1 800 222 9211 ext 1.)
- Mearns and Thorne (2007), Person Centred Counselling in Action. ↩
- Here’s how Carl Rogers defined empathy (1959): “The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy, and with the emotional components and meanings that pertain thereto, as if one were the other person, but without ever losing the ‘as if’ condition.” ↩