Letter from the Editors – SPF Newsletter, Winter 2019

Letter from the Editors

On July 27, 2019 the International Association of Sufism (IAS) and the Sufism and Psychology Forum, a department of IAS, along with members of the Community Healing Centers hosted a one-day symposium in Berkeley, California titled: The Interplay of Psychology and Spirituality.

Lawrence Heller, Ph.D. was invited to speak at the symposium. He is the author of Healing Developmental Trauma which has been published in 13 languages. Dr. Heller has a background as a practicing clinical psychologist, as co-founder of the Gestalt Institute of Denver and has taught at numerous medical schools, hospitals and pain clinics in the US and Europe.

In his presentation on “Beyond Identifications” Dr. Heller drew on his extensive experience from a variety of traditional psychological approaches, non-traditional body-based psychotherapeutic modalities and a non-Western understanding of Identity. He outlined his NeuroAffective Relational Model, known as NARM, a systematic approach for working with developmental issues and shock trauma.

Dr. Heller began his presentation with his understanding that connection is paradoxically the deepest desire and the greatest fear for the human being, and it is where psychology and spirituality intersect. The strategies that one uses in early life as a way to manage painful experiences or trauma are the very same behaviors that create symptoms later in life. The paradox is that when the experience of deep connection is combined with trauma, the solution is to disconnect, and the result is that connecting is experienced as frightening.

Dr. Heller went on to describe stages of trauma and the associated symptoms, which helped the person tolerate the trauma but over time became an impediment to connection. His presentation was well-received and followed by a lively question and answer session.

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