What Is Process Work?
Process Work began in the 1970s. Arnold Mindell, a Jungian analyst, discovered that dreams and physical symptoms often carried the same message (Mindell, 1985). Jungian psychology believes that dreams are messages from the unconscious to the conscious mind, but Mindell found out that when you carefully unfold physical sensations or unintended movements, such as pain or unconscious jaw clenching, you can find the same messages as in dreams. Based on Jungian psychology, Mindell developed Process Work by incorporating various psychotherapeutic methods, Eastern philosophies, and modern physics.
Deep Intelligence and Life Challenge
Process Work assumes that each person has access to deep intelligence: a wise, compassionate, and detached part within us. From the perspective of deep intelligence, our problems, troubles, and conflicts are opportunities to discover our potential and a new way of living. However, there are times when nothing seems to help your depressed mood, strained marriage, or work stress, no matter how hard you try. Or you know you should set clear boundaries with others, work less, or drink less, but you can’t do what you know you are supposed to do. In these situations, a Process Worker can help you connect to your deep intelligence, gain new perspectives, and solve your issues.
Example of Process Work in Practice
A woman was confused about her relationship with her girlfriend. After talking about her challenging relationship, she looked out the window and said, “I don’t know what to do.” This signal of looking out the window did not match her words. Speaking with respect and curiosity, I said, “I noticed you just looked out the window. Were you looking at something?” She seemed a little surprised because she was unaware of the action and replied, “I don’t know.” I asked her, “Could you look outside again and observe what happens inside you?” She halfheartedly followed my instructions, but she spoke with excitement when she looked up again. “Ah! I want to leave all this trouble behind and fly like a bird.” I encouraged her to imagine herself flying in the sky as a bird, and this time she followed my instructions enthusiastically. After a while, I asked her to look at her current relationship from the bird’s perspective. To my surprise, she smiled and said, “I feel like telling myself that this relationship is over and that I should leave immediately.” By following the signal of looking out the window, she could connect with the part of her who knew what to do with the challenge.
The Rewards of Process Work
As demonstrated in the example above, a Process Worker pays attention to verbal and nonverbal signals, such as physical sensations, movements, images, and sounds, to find your potential. Nonverbal signals are often in the realm of the unconscious, which is also where potential lives. Accessing unconscious materials, clients can quickly discover previously unknown potential. At the same time, Process Workers pay close attention to client feedback (both explicit and subtle) and never push them to face the processes they are not ready for. Thus, the client feels safe and in control. Because a Process Worker trusts the client’s intelligence and their capacity to find a solution to their problem, the work can be very empowering.
Mindell, A. (1985). Working with the dreaming body. New York, NY: Penguin Books.