What is Loving Presence?
I refer to the term Loving Presence on my site a lot, and it’s the cornerstone of my work, an explanation is in order.
Loving Presence is a particular state of mind that I cultivate and maintain during sessions with my clients. I think of it as both the container and reagent for therapeutic alchemy. It has several elements: actively searching for some aspect of my client that I find nourishing to me; being spacious and receptive; and being non-judgemental. Each one of those elements deserves it’s own explanation.
The first element is arguably the most important. What does it mean to be actively searching for some aspect of my client that I find nourishing to me? Well it means I’m looking for something in the client that I find noble, beautiful, admirable, inspiring or emotionally moving. It can be anything. Perhaps it’s the way they’ve faced real human hardship or the way they struggle to make the best of the hand they’ve been dealt. It could be their sense of self awareness, their intelligence or their sense of humour. It might be the way they are kind toward people in their lives. It might be some activity in their life which is in service to a good cause. It could be something simple like their smile or laugh or even the way they dress and carry themselves. By focussing on these things I actually feel nourished myself and it’s easy to be in relationship with my client.
The second element of spaciousness and receptivity describes an active state of non-doing. There’s no trying to figure out, fix, problem solve or change. It’s hard to explain exactly, some metaphors might help: A wildlife photographer just patiently waiting in quiet stillness for an animal to appear, or watching the flow of the river without getting in there with heavy equipment and moving rocks around.
The third element of being non-judgemental goes hand in hand with the second. The basic premise is that there is nothing wrong with my client – even if they think of themselves as wrong. Everything that is present in their story, life and personality is a response to events and that person’s environment. Instead of judging them as good or bad, right or wrong, I open to a curiosity which allows me to better enter my client’s world.
With Loving Presence the work of healing and self discovery flows easily. Relationships easily deepen. A relaxed ease arises that allows me to be more sensitive and in tune with subtle movements and shifts in my client’s emotions. I get insights and creative ideas for helping the healing process along.
Loving Presence was first coined by renowned body centred psychotherapist Ron Kurtz. I’ve been studying for years the method he created, called Hakomi. Here is a link to one of his many writings about Loving Presence.
I invite you to try an experiment. In your next conversation with someone try maintaining a state of Loving Presence and see how it feels. Then let go of that and go back into your normal/habitual state of mind. Notice the differences. I feel confident you’ll get an experiential feel for why Loving Presence is so important to the healing process.