By John D. Lentz, D.Min.
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes, 28 seconds
John Lentz: Lilian, we have known each other for some time, and you have been teaching the Intensives for many years. I browsed the Erickson website and discovered that the Intensives program has changed a lot.
Lilian Borges: Yes, but I have been positively surprised at the outcome. My first class was last week. Each class is now two hours long and I had to be trained to teach others because the Foundation is using a whole different system. There are now modules: A through D on different topics.
JL: How have you been positively surprised?
LB: There are a lot of people working behind the scenes. It is a team effort. In the breakout rooms, there are coaches to help students with the exercises and we have volunteers who help by being demonstration subjects. Jess Repenshek, the Foundation’s IT specialist, provides technical assistance to students. We have many people delivering the classes, plus a good faculty — Jeff Zeig, Steve Lankton, Brent Geary, Wei Kai Hung, and me.
JL: Those changes sound good.
LB: Because classes are recorded, students and teachers can watch sections or the entire class as many times as they like.
JL: That makes the learning so much more powerful.
LB: Jeff has also been thinking about having me teach other topics, including spirituality.
JL: Great. In his book, Mindsight, Dan Siegel speaks of four parts of the mind: The brain, the body, language and culture, and the relationship of two people in conversation. But I would add a fifth part: Spirituality. Because a person’s concept of this, whether it is God, a higher power, truth, or science, it is as important as the other four parts in influencing what they do.
LB: I wonder if the mind is an extension of God, or if the mind comes from our relationship with God.
JL: I do not know.
LB: Well, if you come from an attachment perspective, you could have a relationship with your partner, with your family, or with God. It does not matter which one. It makes me think of the Jungian perspective — that the mind only exists in a relationship with each other and the culture and in relationship to that notion of something bigger than us.
JL: Yes! It is always there in the background of everything we do. Bill O’Hanlon has a great definition of spirituality. He says it is commitment, compassion, and connection. I am minister and a bit embarrassed that he thought of this and not me.
But I applaud your thinking and look forward to you teaching about spirituality.
LB: Yes, I think that it would bring so much to the program. Years ago, no one would have thought about combining spirituality and science. I remember as a young therapist not wanting to bring my spiritual beliefs into a session, or even for the patient to bring theirs into the session. Nowadays, it is seen as an intrinsic part of the person, and not including that part is like excluding a limb. Maybe because I am studying more couples therapy and attachment theory, and seeing many more couples, I realize that connection is important.
I believe that people who do not have a sense of spirituality are missing something and may find themselves depressed. They do not have a connection with a higher power and they sometimes have lost their connection with others and that puts them in a state of despair.
In Never Be Lonely Again, Pat Love and Jon Carlson write about the connection between loneliness and not believing in a higher power. I think that spirituality allows us to feel connected, not only with a higher power, but with others, and that is important with human beings. It is not only physical but also psychological.
JL: When I started this column years ago, science and spirituality were like oil and water. Over the years the culture has changed, and now it is not only possible but also fashionable to bring the two together. This concept is more realistic. As you said about relationships, we cannot fragment the person from their relationships. Their relationships are who they are as people.
LB: Yes. Our identity is based on our relationships. They are essential for human beings. And our relationship with a higher power is also important. We are talking about spirituality, not religion.
JL: If we were really talking about religion, then the churches would be growing by leaps and bounds. But they are not.
JL: I am impressed that you can work so easily and amicably with an ex-husband. This speaks volumes about you.
LB: About us.
JL: Of course, about Jeff, too.
LB: Once you love someone, you do not stop loving them.
JL: I think you are right.
LB: As professionals who want patients to forgive and overcome difficult things, we should strive to be an example. That is integrity. Jeff and I share an important mission in life: Teaching Dr. Erickson’s approaches to help people become their best selves. We could have been attached to the petty things and anger, but that is not the important thing.
JL: Holding on to negative feelings does not further anything positive or your mission. Mature people heal and they move on.
JL: I am delighted that you may be bringing the spiritual dimension to the Intensives program. You might formally put a label on it, but I feel that you already doing this.
LB: Yes. In my daily sessions, there is the concept of the higher self. For a while, I struggled with the concept of the unconscious self. Because I am such a spiritual being, I believe we have a divine part; I believe in the existence of the soul. And I began thinking of the unconscious part of us as being the soul. Not everyone believes that or wants to discuss it, so I leave that part out of my sessions. In my inductions, I usually bring in some notion of the higher self, as a resource. It is everything that you are — your past, present, your essence, the best part of you.
JL: By allowing the other person to think of what it means to them is elegant.
LB: Yes. I do not bring in any religious connotations and this allows the person to understand it in their own way. Ericksonian approaches allow us to bring that in as the unconscious mind, as a powerful and positive part.
JL: In Judaism, you do not have a soul; you are a soul.
LB: That is beautiful.
JL: In essence, that is what you have said Since the last time I interviewed you, you have changed a lot.
LB: I hope for the better.
JL: Yes. It is much easier to relate to you.
LB: I was probably nervous on the first interview.
JL: I was probably nervous too. It seems that you have made a lot of internal changes, some of them spiritual. You now talk more freely about spirituality. Do you see spiritual and emotional changes in yourself?
LB: One of the things that I struggle with spiritually is finding community in shared beliefs and values. I came to realize that I should not rely on anyone else to be the guru or guide. I need to do it myself. It is between me and God. I am the one who is ultimately connected with God. I need to believe in my instincts and my feelings instead of relying on someone else to do this practice or that. It is really being in silence or in nature that gives me that connection.
JL: It has been an honor to speak with you again. Thank you for your openness and your friendship.
This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 41, Issue No. 1 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter.
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