What is Process Work?
Process Work is an interdisciplinary approach to individual and collective change. It developed in the 1970s and 1980s when Dr. Arnold Mindell, a Jungian analyst in Zurich, Switzerland, began researching physical illness as a meaningful expression of the unconscious mind. Also known as process-oriented psychology or dreambody work, Process Work offers new ways of working with areas of life that are experienced as problematic or painful. Physical symptoms, individual and relationship problems, group conflicts, social tensions - all these experiences when approached with curiosity and respect, can lead to new information that is vital for our personal or collective growth.
Process Work has developed, on the one hand, into a comprehensive therapeutic system with its own set of skills and methods, designed for working with the entire spectrum of human experience and applied to many areas such as working with the dying and seriously ill, conflict resolution, altered and extreme states of consciousness and addictions. And on the other hand, it has developed into what has come to be known as Worldwork, a powerful approach to working with large group processes and societal conflicts at the local community, national or global levels.
With its roots in Jungian psychology, alchemy, shamanism, Taoism and physics, Process Work believes that the solution to a problem is contained within the disturbance itself and provides a practical framework through which individuals, couples, families and groups can connect with greater awareness and creativity.
Process-oriented thinking is based on the idea that one's life process carries its own meaning and attempts to support the flow of the life process wherever it appears. Change is not brought in from outside but arises from within oneself through careful processing and unfolding of what is already happening. "A process-oriented therapist studies and follows nature….. I simply look to see what exactly is happening in the other person and what happens in me while he or she is reacting. I let the dreambody process tell me what wants to happen next. That is the only pattern that I follow. I do not press people. Their bodies and souls know better than I do" (Arnold Mindell).
An important feeling attitude in Process Work is what Mindell calls "deep democracy". In deep democracy, all aspects of an individual process, a relationship or group field are given a voice and are heard. Individuals and groups find it difficult to give equal value to all aspects of their experience. We tend to identify ourselves with some aspects of our experience but not with others. A central concern in Process Work is to support the totality of people's experiences and to help the less valued and disavowed aspects of those experiences to unfold and reveal themselves as treasured parts of the person's wholeness.
Process Work may be considered the art and science of helping individuals, couples, families and groups to explore and maybe move beyond the boundaries of their immediate identities. Experiences that have previously been viewed as disturbing or disruptive thus become the seeds of new and expanded views and experiences of the deepest core within individuals, relationships and groups.