I’m half-way through my training in Wild Therapy. You may have seen me writing about the power of working outside before (here and here). We work outside a lot on the Wild Therapy training, but it isn’t the whole story. As well as appreciating and coming into relationship with the wild out there, Wild Therapy is also about coming to appreciate the wild inside: Wild Mind.
Let’s start with a definition of wildness.
I like that one of the Chinese characters for nature means something like ‘self-leading’: left alone the natural world takes care of its needs.
A rainforest is a good example of a wild eco-system. There are many different elements that exist in relationship to one another, birds, animals, insects and trees. Some of these live off one another, but the whole system is in balance. Populations find ways of existing alongside one another without one element taking control of the whole forest.
There is no manager at the centre of the forest directing activity, and yet when all of these different elements come into good relationships with one another, something beautiful is produced.
I’m not using wildness to mean crazy, but complex, self-led and diverse. This is wildness as ecologists understand it.
How does that relate to inner wildness?
Our mind/body systems are made up of different parts. There is the sympathetic and para- sympathetic nervous system, other biological systems, and the mind itself which has many different aspects. Some aspects of the mind we are conscious of, and some we are less conscious of. These different aspects motivate actions, and create different thoughts and feelings.
When all of these different parts are in good relationship to each other, we probably don’t notice them at all, and generally feel relaxed and at ease. When one part comes to dominate, or different parts develop oppositions to each other – we might start to notice the downsides.
An inner-critic might be predominate, for example, or the desire for quick change might be fighting with a part that wants things to stay just as they are.
One way of understanding why these parts take over so forcefully is that they have lost trust in the whole system – in the rainforest mind, so to speak.
So wild therapy is about restoring trust and it is about appreciating that there is a place for all of these different parts – that therapy is not about getting rid of anything but of bringing the whole system into balance.
Nothing gets thrown away, and each part finds its way into better relationships with the other parts, and them the whole system operates like a rainforest, like that Chinese word for nature ‘self-led’.
When we have a complete eco-system, a completely wild-mind, we don’t have to manage it, we don’t have to push ourselves or control ourselves, because naturally we engage in the world in a healthy, easy way.
Want to learn more? Listen to these episodes of my podcast, Rainforest Mind: