When I first joined Yokefellow, I was in my late twenties. I was in a tumultuous and often violent marriage. As I mentioned in a previous entry, my former grad school roommate begged me to go to her therapists due to my unhappiness and the compulsivity I exercised in complaining about it, without taking any apparent action. At the time, I didn’t realize how unconventional the therapists were nor how this would initiate my work with a series of unconventional teachers, which continued for most of my adult life. Patricia and Ken co-facilitated intensive group psychotherapy that had transactional analysis foundation at its foundation and also utilized Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream, Gestalt therapy and a variation of what they called “re-parenting.” It was not unusual to see baby bottles around the therapy room or clients planning their desired and evolved “chosen” birth processes to reenact. The Yokefellow community was probably comprised of nearly fifty people. As was common with all of my teachers, they were very controversial in the mainstream community.

During my initial appointments with the co-facilitators, they appeared caring, seasoned and very present. Ken was wearing khaki pants and a long-sleeved shirt rolled up at the wrists. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. But as I began intensive group therapy, I began to notice a few irregularities. Physical contact was something that, as a society, is lacking. Personally, my father had been very demonstrative and my mother very distant. In this new setting, I noticed an unusual practice in that people arranged ahead of time, namely who was going to sit next to Patricia. “I get her left side,” “I get her right side,” “I get the wishbone!” When I began therapy at Yokefellow, I thought this practice was ridiculous and I felt I was way above the fray. The thought of choosing to sit close to Patricia was not even on my radar and vying for this position was probably my greatest nightmare. (This is a perfect  demonstration of how the Shadow manifests.) At this point professionally, I had been a therapist in a children’s home which did not require me to be an in-depth psychotherapist. This experience catapulted me into becoming the Depth Psychotherapist I truly wanted to be. Like the old expression of not just talking the talk or walking the talk, I was about to learn to walk the walk as I grew to meet the challenges in this situation.

After a few sessions of group psychotherapy, I began to notice something else unusual about the facilitators. Ken began wearing T-shirts which revealed multiple tattoos all over his  body, and this was way before tattoos were mainstream. I began to hear more about his biography, which was quite colorful. He was quite forthcoming about his history and given his professionalism and effectiveness as the therapist, I was more and more intrigued by his Story.

Ken had grown up in California and his father was a convict. Ken had been involved with drugs and many run-ins with the law. During the Vietnam war, he found himself in Marion prison, a maximum security prison in Marion Illinois. At the same time, Marty Groder, a Jewish psychiatrist, was placed in Marion prison for a year to avoid going to Vietnam. When Dr. Groder arrived he found the system very flawed. As the story goes, the warden was crazy, the inmates were crazy and the trustees were crazy, and the only way he was going to stay sane for the next year was to make other people sane. Dr. Groder began conducting highly confrontive group therapy sessions with the inmates in which Ken was a member. He began confronting Ken about being a punk with his dark shades, tattoos and felonious behavior. It is also notable that Ken was not a typical inmate. Ken was very well read in esoteric subjects and was practicing a form of meditation that he believed would make the walls and the bars disappear if he concentrated hard enough. Ken became intrigued with Marty Groder’s persistent and penetrating approach, and the intrigue morphed into respect. Ken became enrolled in the mission to “make people sane,’ and he began an apprenticeship under Marty’s tutelage, essentially earning a psychiatric degree without the doctoral program. They called the approach the Askelepian Game, a name derived from the ancient Greek mystery schools in Askelepious. In Ken’s words, as he took the walls down inside of himself, the walls outside of him literally disappeared. He was up for parole before his apprenticeship was completed. In his words, the system wanted to spit him out as fast as it could. He had become way too healthy for the insanity of the prison system.

Having a therapist with a resume like that, how could I not flourish? I don’t want to minimize what it took for me to keep showing up for the demands of this rigorous path. It demanded everything from me and this continues to the present. Considering the complex choices I was going to have to make in my life, this experience gave me the foundation for negotiating the challenges of parenting, co–parenting, step parenting, etc. In spite of the deprivation of my early years, I was committed to give and receive more love in my life and to provide more for my children than my parents were capable of, hoping my children could go beyond me.

As I was finding my own way, I also needed to be an example to others in my personal and professional community. Sometimes I was the teacher, sometimes my children taught me and many times my clients taught me. As Hillary once said, “it takes a village.”  Isn’t that the TRUTH?