Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Journey to Enlightenment

Seeking Enlightenment: The Spiritual Journey of a Psychotherapist

Author: Catherine H. Morrison
Reviewed by Fran Lewis

Some authors write their memoirs about their lives, loves, families and careers. Others write just about themselves and their journeys into the many places and roads that life has taken them. Seeking Enlightenment is one author’s personal and professional journey. This memoir is unique, deviates from the norm and will not only pull the reader into a whole other dimension or world but will help define the different stages of mental health, how to understand them including Piajet’s 3 Plateaus of child development. His structure consists of these 3 Plateaus each consisting of 6 stages the last or conclusion double totally 16 stages in all.

The first plateau describes a child from birth until 18 months including the behaviors you should expect and much more. At 18 months the child reaches his/her second plateau or stage of development, which is outlined and explained in the Introduction of the book. Concluding with the third plateau clearly defining the behaviors expected, and followed by the Note section, which briefly defines five terms necessary for to further your understanding of these terms as they are used in the book.

The book is divided into three specific and separate sections. The first titled Glimpsing My Ignorance begins with a very telling incident involving two small children and their parents. Beginning her career as a social worker the author faces many obstacles when dealing with the agencies involved and the families that she is supposed to service and help. Each family hopes that their aid for their dependent children will continue or increase sadly avoiding the real issues that might be causing their situations to fail, their children to be unattended and leaving young innocent children in poor or dangerous settings. Why this mother was allowed to retain custody is quite disturbing to say the least. Feeling helpless and unable to really fulfill her obligations to these children is heartbreaking.

Next she related what happened to her father and how having friends in the agency made it easier for him to get the help he needed. Her father was blind and because of her friends at the welfare agency and one in particular who is also legally blind her father is able to get many services that most would not even know about. The talking book service from the Library of Congress was one service he received and even cards that he can use to play plus she received instruction books in Braille.

Describing other cases that she has, mistakes she’s made, the prejudices she encounters you begin to understand the difficulties of the job especially one of a novice. But, her father would remind her of what she needs to do, the frustrations faced by those around her and how her family rallies to save one man. But, learning how to deal with the system would require more education and understanding of the people she needed to protect and a system that did not and still does not always work.

When transferred to Boston the author related the many cases that she worked on, the mistakes she made and the friendships, connections and learning experiences that helped her grow as a social worker. The one case that stands out is the Golden family. Eta, Harvey and the husband and father Abe who is a schizophrenic. As she relates the inner thoughts of each of the family members, her findings and the end result she explains in detail the problems Eta had in relating to both Abe and Harvey at the same time defining the Oedipal Complex, which helps to clarify for the reader a better understanding of their relationship. Another case, her first one when meeting Gwendolyn her first supervisor, was with a young man named Lawrence also a schizophrenic on medication that needed close monitoring. Working with Gwendolyn, learning from her mistakes helped to strengthen her as a Social Worker and person. Her second year of fieldwork was at the Simmons School of Social Work where she meets Anne and her face case is with a young man named Eric. Throughout the first part of the book we learn a lot about the cases she worked on, her years of fieldwork and the dates she had, going back home and returning to her family. Included his her marriage to Dan, his sudden depression and the harsh realizations she learns after their daughter Kate is born. Dan is a sociopath and his feelings for Catherine changed radically over time. Leaving Dan and returning home is where the author begins Part Two of this book titled Helping Others Helps Me.

Moving in with her parents was temporary although Catherine would have preferred staying. Her mother, although she loved Kate, her granddaughter felt her freedom and life curtailed by having them there. With a father who is legally blind it is hard to understand why her mother would not consider the programs offered to him in order to help him become more independent. It is as if she needed to have something to restrain herself from releasing those that depend on her yet not focusing or understanding her own dysfunctional behavior. Work is what keeps the author centered and grounded. Getting a part-time then full time job at Dorothea Dix Hospital was her salvation. Finding the best nanny for Kate a blessing. Yet, when they move her mother comes for Kate after her daily nap and wants to spend time with her. I guess she needs to focus her attention on her granddaughter when she wants to and within her time frame and control.

Using what she learned at BI and the new skills at Dorothea Hospital she able to incorporate and blend both methods into her daughter’s daily growth and evolution. In Chapter Five the author leads the reader through a total explanation of Piajet’s Science of Psychology the five stages and expands on each one. In Chapters Six and Seven she redefines the five stages, how they are incorporated in the Three Plateau’s of child development and she includes case studies in order for the reader to comprehend what is being presented leading the reader into Part III of the book which is where everything blends together titled: At The Portal of Self-Knowledge.
This section begins in the Brookville bookstore where she hopes to find books on Eastern perspective on spirituality filling her backpack to the brim with books in many different areas and cultures. Her books include Tibetan Buddhism and on the Vedantins. Even managing to attend many of the East/West Conferences. Imagine her excitement when she was in the same room as the Dalai Lama hearing him read with his bass voice and robust laugh.

Now, she has moved to another job at Beth Israel In Boston where she meets Ilan Kutz and Joan Borysenko.  Joining these two outstanding psychologists who were working on a study in mediation and psychotherapy that the author was able to take part in and contribute. As a result she met many new people that shared their interests Eastern as well as those that were interested in Buddhism. Many of the cultures and those she met and studied are shared with the reader in Chapter 8.  Going to India twice, hoping and reading books on enlightened Eastern saints her hopes for success did not seem that great. But, she is not one to give up on her goals or quests. One book would change that as she reads Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness and learn about the lives of 50 people whom he considers enlightened. Throughout the chapter you will learn just how this book and others enriched her life, enlightened her and how the Dalai Lama made a third-plateau believer of her. Next you can feel the energy and excitement when she sees Swami Dayananda walk to a podium and begins speaking. He is giving a 12- hour seminar teaching the heart of Vedanta’s ontological message. To learn more about this you need to read Chapter 9. Chapter 10 explains Western Mystics and Eastern Wise Men: Stages of Spiritual Growth followed by the final chapter where our author decided to retire from psychotherapy in 2005. This would enable her to participate in longer a longer study at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and then a three-month course taught by Swami Tattvavidananda. She ends the book with several mediation prayers and the words of this Swami. As the masters say, “Enlightenment is beyond the mind.” “ The maturation toward enlightenment takes time but Self-realization is sudden,” the author, states in her Postscript.

When will she settle into that final goal? She does not know how long but I am sure she will pursue and keep on until she does. Well written and definitely able to be understood by everyone. This is one memoir that is quite interesting, enlightening and definitely unique.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

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