Target Markets for Pathwork

For whom is Pathwork most suited and most likely to be helpful? What symptoms would people have that would attract them to seek out a program such as Pathwork for possible help and support? Answering such questions does not have the goal of recruiting or proselytizing or building up our Pathwork programs but rather simply of allowing a person for whom Pathwork might enrich life in a significant way to know that Pathwork exists and how to find it.

This question of “Pathwork Target Markets” was alive in my meditation this morning and several thoughts came up that helped to clarify this for me.  I invite you into this conversation, especially those of you who are involved in Pathwork. What were your symptoms that led you to consider Pathwork as a possible tool for support?

Here is my story. Many years ago I read Balancing Heaven and Earth, a book by the Jungian psychologist Robert Johnson. In his counseling practice he said two types of people came to him: Those in their twenties who were not able to get their life together in their relationships, career, finances, and life in general. They were not coping well with life’s basic challenges. Their needs were for strong ego development – the task, in Jungian terms, of the first half of life.

The second group of people who came to him were in their late thirties and beyond. Typically they would have been successful in their lives – enjoying a “good enough” or even “much better than average” family life, career, financial stability, church life, social life, etc. – but were in what one would call, in the popular jargon, a midlife crisis. While “successful” in all the ways that the culture and even their religion defined “success,” they were, at a deep and almost unconscious level, ill at ease, not sure of the meaning of it all. Their needs, again using the Jungian ideas, were to transition into the second half of life, a spiritual journey that would transcend their already strong-enough ego.

The most challenging group for Johnson were those in their late thirties and beyond who had not developed their ego sufficiently enough to navigate the first half of life successfully and so were not really grounded in life, and yet were hit with the questions of meaning and purpose of it all, issues that come up in the second half of life. They were, in effect, having to do the first half of life (ego development) and the second half of life (transcending the ego by entering a spiritual path) at the same time – a most challenging and frustrating situation.

My journey into Pathwork fits this traditional mid-life crisis model. I had had a good enough career, family life, church life, and was financially sound, but something I could not name but which seemed to be of profound importance was missing. In the words of Joseph Campbell, I had climbed the ladder of success only to find that it was up against the wrong wall.

The first clarity I got in all of this did not happen until I was in my early fifties. At 53 I was drawn to a graduate-level course taught at a local Catholic Seminary. It’s title: The Psychology and Spirituality of Mid-Life. It was taught by a PhD nun who was by then a known author and workshop leader in the field of spirituality within the Catholic tradition.

I had no idea what this course would be about, and yet, though I was not Catholic, I just had to take it – this psychological and spiritual nature of midlife issues so fit my sense of my “problem.” The course and what followed changed my life forever, eventually opening me up to Pathwork five or six years later.

This interim between taking my first course in psychology/spirituality and finding Pathwork was a time of great wrestling for me and had led me to seek spiritual direction, to take all the courses that Barbara Fiand taught (courses like Experiencing God, Walking With the Mystics, etc.), and to my own self-created crises in leaving my marriage, church, and career.

In 2000, at the age of 58, I participated in a personal reflection retreat during which I had as my spiritual director Julie Murray who, though it meant nothing to me at the time, was on the faculty of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. On the first day of this personal silent reflection retreat I met with Julie.  After this first session with her I fell apart, becoming full of confusion and self-loathing, somehow coming to realize that my problems now were very real and very deep.

On the second day I met with Julie again, sharing my collapse of the day before. Her words were clear: “Gary, you are very serious about your spiritual path, and you need an incredible amount of help. The only place I know where you can get the level of help you need is the Sevenoaks Pathwork Center in Virginia.” As they say, the rest is history.

While people come to Pathwork for a variety of reasons, this business of dealing with midlife crisis certainly was my reason for working with Pathwork.  Helping those struggling with midlife issues of meaning and purpose is, it seems to, a major target market for Pathwork. As I did, I sense that people struggling with midlife issues would find effective tools in Pathwork. These tools would allow one to transition from a “good enough” or even “much better than average” life, secure, stable, and happy as it may seem, to an outstanding life, a life filled with profound purpose, meaning and fulfillment, a life rich with personal and spiritual growth as well as a life rich in its impact on others. I am told that perhaps only 5% of those who get to this point of awareness actually do take the leap, but for those of us who do, Pathwork is an incomparable set of tools to work through the issues of transition and transformation.

There are other groups of people who could be helped by Pathwork in a profound way. One such group is the group of people who have been active in a 12-step recovery program like AA or its counter part Al-Anon. These people have faced their demons and are rebuilding their lives in many ways. For these people Pathwork becomes a way of deepening their process for psychological healing as well as of grounding and enriching the spiritual dimensions of their life. It is an opportunity to grow within a group of people who are equally committed to personal and spiritual growth. But again, perhaps only a small percentage of this group take this plunge into deeper waters of their psychological and spiritual second stage of life.

These are two “target markets” for Pathwork.

Are there groups of people for whom Pathwork may not yet be a best fit? While Pathwork can help people in many life situations, some may need a year or more of preparatory work before entering an intense personal growth program such as Pathwork. This preparatory work could be psychotherapy or private work with a Pathwork helper. One group not yet ready for Pathwork is the group of people who are still caught in addictions and who need the preliminary work of a year or two in AA or in therapy of some kind before entering Pathwork. Finally, sometimes younger people need real help with ego development as they get their lives grounded on the various fronts of career, family, social interaction and finance. Pathwork may be premature for them, tempting them to bypass needed ego development. Perhaps they would be better served by a nurturing job environment, peer support community, and/or guidance services of life-coaching, therapy, or relationship or career counseling.  Of course they could do both.

Each life is unique, and these categories get blurred and nuanced in real life. The purpose of having a “Target Market” is not to exclude people but to help us as a Pathwork organization committed to helping people via Pathwork to be focused on reaching those people who may be most profoundly helped by the teachings and practices of Pathwork.

What is your reaction to these ideas? I invite you into the conversation.

Shared in love,