Category Archives: Blog

Trauma Inspires Us Toward Wholeness

by Brianna Wunderlin

I had two main traumatic events as a child that affected my mind, body, and spirit, though I didn’t remember either until I was an adult.  This is quite common as the mind can protect itself until it is safer to start the process of uncovering and healing. The coping mechanisms and triggers are ways that the mind, body, and spirit are attempting in effective or ineffective ways to protect us from further harm.  The issue comes when these ineffective ways produce more harm than good, keeping us from living a life that is living resiliently in the present.

Trauma and Dissociation

Trauma affects everyone differently, but often has a physiological response, which is the nervous system’s coping mechanism; fight, flight, or freeze.  My main response was flight, which turned into dissociation.

Dissociation can be as mild as spacing out or as strong as part of your psyche split off from the rest.  Mine was severe enough that a younger part of myself had split off from the normal track of growth.

Whether we have experienced trauma or not, we are all made of many parts.  Processwork has some concepts that support healthy relationships between these parts.   

Deep Democracy

A key Processwork concept, Deep democracy, welcomes all diversity in its many forms and values, listening to all of them.  It is one of the most effective tools in my toolbox with clients and in life; deeply listening to all the parts.

Listening means not just hearing, but noticing messages in all their forms – emotions, imaginations, dreams, projections, animals, movements, energy, etc.  When we listen to the voices inside and outside ourselves, we commune with the aliveness of the world.

However, if you do not have a quiet place from which to ground yourself, and not get carried away into the information, people, places, or events, listening can be overwhelming.  

The Internal Metacommunicator

In Processwork, this place of awareness is called a metacommunicator; the part that communicates about what is going on inside ourselves.  This is the voice that can name or comment on what we are experiencing. It allows us to step outside of our experience and communicate with all our parts, instead of being swept away.  When we use this metacommunicator, we can take actions with awareness about our inner landscape, instead of pushing on, or ignoring what is occurring on the inside.

This is particularly important for those who feel they are at the whim of their triggers and internal experiences.  Many people who have had trauma have a nervous system that is easily overstimulated, and easily triggered. For this reason it is even more important to find a firm sense of stillness and grounding where you can learn to safely receive life.  


Tuning into the energy of the earth and its supportive role in your life can help with this.  Walking barefoot outside, immersing yourself in nature, or inviting the feeling of support from the earth through the soles of your feet, are all ways you can ground and tune into the energy of earth.  

Noticing Triggers and Working with Them

The trauma I experienced created a shattering effect in me.  Often when I was triggered, I would dissociate. The experience right before dissociation was a feeling of shattering apart.  Technically I was; pieces of my psyche were like, “we’re out of here.”

As I learned, through Processwork and deep yogic meditations, to track my physical sensations, I began to notice these different effects of trauma in me.  Common triggers were: anger directed towards me, a spotlight in a group or class, conflict, my internal voice wanting to say something in a group but feeling unsafe to do so, and being seen by others.  These usually only triggered me when I didn’t feel safe, which was a combination of me not feeling safe inside myself, and usually some sense of judgement from others who seemed similar to the abuser in my past.

One of the moments I realized this was at a work meeting when someone implicated me in something minor but negative.  I felt their words and energy go straight into me. My trained, sensation based awareness brought me to realize I was beginning to go numb and cold.  I quickly excused myself from the meeting.

I went to the bathroom, where I could let go into a ball of tears.  These tears came from a deep, hurt place that I knew needed to be felt, seen, and heard.  I allowed the tears to flow, hitting the sink basin; letting water meet water. As I finally felt the emotions ebb away I went back to the meeting, able to be semi-present.  When it was over, I went to the parking lot and I noticed the shattering feeling inside of me, like I had been pulled in different directions.

Using My Facilitator Skills

I called to the parts that had split off; the little girl, who was scared and alone and the me who was conscious and could inhabit my body.  I began to facilitate the different voices and bring in the ones that were missing.

In Processwork, these parts, often externalized to allow them expression, are called roles.  I stepped into the different roles: the abuser, the one who felt hurt, the protector, the caring and nurturing mother.  

At first, the protector and nurturing mother were missing, but I invited them into the scene.  I physically made a place on the pavement of the parking lot for these different roles, and I let them speak through me as I moved from place to place.  

Parts in Dialogue

Allowing parts to dialogue gives them expression in the world, and grounds them into the present time to be heard, making me more whole.  As I have learned to be with these different parts, they are no longer pieces, but make up the whole of me.

On an energy level, these parts once contained parts of my energy.  As I re-inhabit them, that energy becomes accessible for me to use with more conscious awareness.  

The Dreaming

Similarly in therapy or in a group, people can play these inner roles, and the energy landscape, or dreaming, of the individual or group can be seen.  The dreaming is the underlying, fluidly-moving river of meanings, roles, and emotions which manifest the surface level reality we all sense and agree on.  

Toward Wholeness

Being aware of the dreaming is how you become a creator of your world; owning and learning to access the wholeness of your own energy – the wholeness of you.  


Brianna is teaching an upcoming course – Sacred Resilience: Sexual Abuse Healing.  Please check out her website for information and updates.


By Brianna Wunderlin, Dipl. PW

Brianna Wunderlin is a transformational coach aiding women who experience emotional overwhelm and stress to find resilience and inner strength.  

She has worked most often with grief and loss, spiritual emergencies, trauma, mother/daughter relationships, leadership, and empowering women to embody their gifts and claim their power.  She is a Processwork Diplomate.

Brianna has worked with trauma through yoga, meditation, energy work, and Processwork.  Her favorite place is nature, and she lives surrounded by sage brush in the high desert outside Reno, NV.  

You can contact her online at & on Facebook at Becoming the Whole


Photo credit: Bekah Russom


Treasure Hunting: Finding Meaning in Life with a Disability

by Sanae Hashimoto

Why me?  Why was I born with a disability?  This question came to me suddenly when I was a teenager, and my journey to find an answer has been on-going since then.  Processwork, with its many tools for discovering meaning in what troubles us, has transformed this journey into a wonderful treasure hunt.

Life with a Disability

I was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, which is a genetic bone disorder characterized by fragile bones that break easily.  Because of this, I am very short and I have been using a wheelchair throughout my life.

In my school days I was always the only child who used a wheelchair or who had such a different stature, but I was rarely bullied.  I was basically a happy kid with full support from my friends and teachers.

Yet I couldn’t stop feeling powerless and inferior inside.  “I am a burden for others,” was my self-image.  I became a therapist so I could contribute and feel “worth” something, even a little.

The Universe Loves Diversity

I discovered Processwork in 2009 as I searched for a favorable orientation for myself as a therapist.  In 2011, I attended a seminar led by Arny and Amy Mindell in Japan.  During the seminar, one of the participants asked Arny why diversity is important.  With a big smile, Arny simply replied, “Just because the universe loves diversity!”  

That was the moment my self-image changed.  Processwork gave me the tools to shift my identity, and Arny’s words helped me see my difference through a wider and more appreciative lens.  

“My disability is a part of diversity,” I said to myself, “and I can be proud of myself for contributing to the world with my disability.”  

I decided Processwork was the paradigm for me.  I knew it would help me find the answer to my question.  I then began my studies at the Japan Process Work Center.

My Childhood Dream:  Survive to Thrive

In Processwork, the first dream a person remembers from childhood, their childhood dream, is considered a mythical blue-print for their life.  This concept is inherited from Jungian psychology.

I was about three years old when I had this dream.  I dreamt I was having breakfast with my parents and my sister in our dining room.  Beautiful sunshine filled the room and everything seemed peaceful.  Suddenly several black shadows, shaped like men, broke into the house.  They robbed us and started to kill my family.  Their weapons were syringes with no needles but with thick fluid poison inside.  They put the poison in our mouths.  All my family were killed, and I was killed last.

I worked with this dream using Processwork to discover what comes next.  As if directing a movie, I created a sequel to this story.

In the sequel, the black shadows were absorbed into the floor and disappeared.  I wasn’t in fact dead, but I woke up somehow transformed by the poison.  I realized what had happened; my parents and my sister were dead, but I was still alive.  I went back to the dining table and ate my breakfast again in the warm sunshine.

The deeper message of my dream is “I survive to thrive.”  

My Body Symptom:  A Little Funny Boy

It had always been a little challenging for me to work on my body symptoms with Processwork because the experience seemed too mysterious.  In January 2018, I attended the Winter Intensive Course at the Process Work Institute, and there I finally tried unfolding the meaning in my main body symptom.  

I explored my secondary process; my fragile, soft, and curving bones.  A unique dance emerged, with a figure who was a blend of an octopus and a human being.  This figure became a little funny boy, about six or seven years old.

I, my primary process, told him, “Get away from my body, you are a burden,” but he didn’t mind at all because he didn’t know what a burden was.  There was no concept of burden in his mind.  All he knew was joy.  He replied to me, “Let’s play with me and enjoy together.  That’s the best!”

I asked him, “How can I trust you?  How can I believe what you say is the truth?”  Then he calmly told me, “How can you not trust me?  I’m in you.”  Then I burst into tears.

From Burden to a Part of Diversity

Through these two and many other experiences with my fellow Processwork students and teachers, I’m becoming free from what has felt like an “abuser-abused relationship,” with my disability.

For me, like the black shadows in my childhood dream, the abuser within my disability becomes a change-maker who makes my own transformation possible.  

I’m learning how to trust and love myself as well as others, the world, and the universe.  The more I learn, the more joy is brought to me, just as the little funny boy teaches me with my body symptom.  When I welcome my disability, including feelings of powerlessness and inferiority, as a doorway into my personal-growth, I can contribute to the world being more diverse and inclusive.

I don’t completely know who I am, but I know I’m not a burden anymore.  I wish to be a change-maker and a thriver for myself and the world. 

I don’t know yet if I have the answer to my question, “Why was I born with a disability?” but I’m happy with the mystery now because I want to continue treasure hunting with Processwork.


By Sanae Hashimoto, MEd

Sanae Hashimoto is a clinical psychologist, certified FJCBCP (Foundation of the Japanese Certification Board for Clinical Psychologists).  She has been working as a student counselor in middle schools and universities for over 15 years, with a special interest in diverse and inclusive education.  She is currently a phase 2 diploma student at the Japan Process Work Center, working on her final project for graduation. 

Photo credit: Ikebana by Sanae Hashimoto

Falling In Love With Life, Staring Death In The Face

By Sherry Tara Marshall


I Never Thought I would go Public about Dying of Cancer

But why not?  At our first meeting, the surgeon announced I’m going to die in two to five years.  “Is he a God?” I thought.  It put me into an extreme state; I lost awareness of myself.  I was 62, fit and healthy, with no cancer in my family.  Two years later – a blur of chemotherapy – the shock still reverberates.

But Time has become a trickster.  How fast those 2 years have raced by, and yet my Processwork training helps me also see it as a wonderful wake-up call.

“Bow to Life and Death”

My high dream, the best it can be, is NOW is the time to practice what I’ve learned in 30 years of Processwork and Tibetan Buddhism.  I swing between that and my low dream, the worst it can be, which is the progress of this disease.

Processwork, which owes much to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, has taught me to let go.  “Be the river,” I say to myself.  “Why be against suffering?”  I eat uncertainty for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have nerves of steel!

In 2019, Over nine Million People Globally Will be Diagnosed with Cancer  

25 years ago, cancer was talked about in hushed voices in huddled, hospital corridors.  Patients were rarely told they were dying.  Now the stark truth is instantly revealed.  We are also being asked to “die a good death.”  Good for whom? I ask.  I want to die however I die.

We are All Terminal

Many of us think only other people die.  We live in a death-phobic society, where
no-one wants to talk about it.  We pretend we are in control of our lives, until something happens like a car accident, or death of a loved one, or cancer.  Processwork addresses hidden topics openly and explores both polarities of fear and hope.

Life Changes in a Heartbeat

I recently ran a group process for a cancer group in Australia.  We went over the edge, meaning what we want to do next but can’t quite do yet.  What relief and fun, losing restrictions and becoming aware of our deeper, unknown truths.

One woman said, “When people ask me how I am, I would love to say, Dead woman walking, but I can’t.”  We all said it with her, falling off our chairs laughing.

(Further comments from that group are in italics.)  

Process Work Helps by Naming Roles in Myself and the World

Living in cancer-land means roles are thrust upon us by consensus reality (mainstream society.)  “Superhero; be positive; battle the cancer; never give up and never say die.”  The media and friends are pressure-makers, encouraging us to charge headfirst into battle to beat cancer.  But all of us eventually lose the war with death!

There is also the smiling, peaceful, positive Buddha role which says, “I’m doing well and I’m confident.  I put on a brave face and never complain.”  Understanding these roles helps me not get ‘stuck’ but to move fluidly between them and other parts of myself. 

“Be positive.  Positivity isn’t going to cure our cancer.”

So, how do we relate better to those who have a terminal disease?  We follow their process, by knowing how to follow our own.

Death is Certain and so Uncertain

My social activist role uses my primary (more conscious) anger to try to change things, not only for myself, but for others.  I am sadly aware that in many countries, people who don’t have money or live outside big cities, do not receive adequate, if any treatment.

“So are you all better then?” 
“No, I’m never going to be better!  It’s terminal cancer, Sweetie”

80% of Cancer Patients are Given Chemotherapy Four Weeks Before they Die

Big Pharma makes a killing.  It costs $60,000 a year for a maintenance drug, with a 37 percent chance to increase remission time by 3.7 months!  The side effects cripple and kill us.  Are they serious?  Yes, deadly serious.  Feeling out of control is unbearable at times.
Processwork says, “Be in and out of control.  Both are ok.”

“Well, at least your hair will grow back.  That’s the main thing.” 
“Actually not dying is the main thing.”

I befriend the fact that I will die

Natural therapies are a mirror-image of conventional medicine.  Costs are $250 plus per week for consultations and herbs.  Despite condemning each other, the different types of medicine share a similar process around the money!

“I envy you.  At least you won’t have a long life and know what you will die of.” 
“Really?  Why don’t you swap places with me then?”

The Grief of Realizing Death is in Charge

Despite our best intentions the holding of hope and reality is indeed a difficult balancing act.  My secondary (more unaware) process is deep terror, not actually of death, but of the relentless development of the disease.  Would I ever have known having cancer feels so shameful?  My inner-work reply is, “Why be attached to anything?  Have it and let it go!”  But sometimes I’m just a puddle on the floor!  And that is ok too.

Process work Taught me to Not be Against Anything

I thank my PW teachers, Arny, Max, Julie, and my Australia and New Zealand Process Oriented Psychology (ANZPOP) friends and colleagues, as well as my Tibetan Buddhist teachers, for waking me up to the unending possibilities of dancing between suffering, detachment and bliss, while falling more in love with the wonder of Life and Death.

Cancer has Become my Teacher too

The real medicine our culture needs is to take death deeply into our hearts, water it with our tears and make it as natural as breathing.  Otherwise, we are mostly in sleep mode, walking through our lives.

“Between our two lives, there is the life of the cherry blossom,” Basho.

When I die, I hope I will be curious and excited to follow it as a process like any other, and Simply Be with What Is.


By Sherry Marshall, MA, Dipl. PW

Sherry Tara Marshall (BSc. Sociology; MAA. Social Work, MA. Social Ecology, Diplomate, Process Work) has worked in private practice for 35 years and been a consultant for corporate and non-profit organisations.  She is on the Teaching Faculty of ANZPOP.

She was Director of Staff Counselling at RNS Hospital, Sydney Australia, and has helped HH Dalai Lama for 20 years. 

To read more of her articles on line, please visit her website, Sydney Process Therapy.  You can find her book, The Search for Meaning; Connecting with Buddhist Teachers, at Amazon.


Photo credit: Pinterest

From Recovery to Discovery in Extreme States

By John Herold

I was in fourth grade when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.  From that moment I wanted to be an astronaut. There was something about racing into space as well as the inherent risks in trying that held a strong appeal.  By the time the shuttle Discovery was retired in 2011, I assumed my space career was over.

I Didn’t Expect My Wish to Come True

Looking back, that 10-year-old aspiring astronaut wasn’t very specific about exactly where he wanted to travel.  Outer space or inner space?  And by what means?

In December of 2012 that childhood wish came true in an unexpected and disturbing way.  My trip to the stars happened not on the space shuttle, but in an extreme state of consciousness.

Like a rocket I swiftly developed a huge amount of energy, skipping sleep for five days.  No longer in the reality most of us can agree is happening, I felt like an alien visitor.  I experienced everything anew from a symbolic, unified and deeply interconnected perspective.  The familiar John who didn’t believe in mysticism, numerology and spirituality receded into the background.  All that remained was this steeply unfamiliar part of me.

This New Part Was Full of Surprises

During this time I began to hear bells that those around me don’t hear.  The bells answer some questions yes or no, and have helped me in countless ways, though they don’t respond when I ask them directly.  Crisp and beautiful, they have never led me astray.  They are messages from a trusted companion.

It was also during this time that numbers began to speak to me in extraordinary ways.  I first noticed them at 12:12pm on 12/12/12.  Such sequences have occurred hundreds of times since, and they are now a regular part of my life.

My car’s odometer reading 9999.9 on 9/9/18 on my way to a Hearing Voices Network facilitator’s training

The Astronaut in Me Needed Support

Just as traveling to space is risky and expensive, so are extreme states.  Though the energy, bells, sensations and numbers are magical to me, my behavior at the end of 2012 was deeply disturbing to almost everyone else.  I spoke quickly and forcefully using language that was difficult to understand.  I was in everyone’s face.  I spent all my money.  I held unusual beliefs.  I had trouble describing my state of mind.  I appeared to be out of control.

Eventually, in response to pressure from people around me, I found my way to the emergency room.  There, my experience was seen in a different light; as a mental illness.  Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was held against my will and coercively drugged.  I was told my experience needed to go away and that I would require medication for life.  The newly arrived part of me had been pathologized – viewed as a sign of sickness.  This began a war between the old and new parts of myself.

It’s painful to fall down from a spiritual emergence to a diagnosis of mental illness.  Traumatic memories of being trapped, powerful tranquilizers and strident assertions from mental health professionals made it very hard for me to access the newfound mystical features in my life.  By August of 2013 I no longer wanted to live.

A Reaction to Psychiatric Oppression

Many believe depression automatically follows mania.  But in my experience, depression was a response to psychiatric oppression.  This oppression was so powerful, I internalized it.  I agreed that my energy and experiences the previous year were symptoms to be managed, medicated and ultimately discarded.

Processwork Views My Extreme State as Valuable

At my innermost core I knew there was something valuable about my experience, but I felt alone with it.  This is why, when I found Processwork, firstly through Will Hall, and then through Gary Reiss, it was so incredibly refreshing. Viewed through Processwork, my extreme state was no longer a sickness.   

When I shared my experience with Gary, he welcomed it, saying:

“You obviously have a lot of creative energy.  I believe the magic you experienced was real.  Do you want to ride this horse, make meaning and share that meaning with the world?”

I had found an ally who agreed with my innermost perception.

I Signed up for the Masters in Process Oriented Facilitation

The first night of the MAPOF program almost two years later was another defining moment for me.  As I introduced myself, I half-pathologized my own experience, saying I had been to Pluto.  After I shared my story, my new cohort mate, Camille Dumond, responded:

“John, we want you to go to Pluto!  And when you go, remember what you find so that when you come back, you can share it with us.”  

This open and accepting attitude brought me to tears.  

I Had Found My Astronaut School

Processwork has helped me welcome my mystical experiences rather than extinguish them.  It has given me a powerful framework and practical tools for navigating and integrating all my parts.

Today I’m no longer in an extreme state, and the mystical part of me that came forward so suddenly in 2012 never left.  I take note of the synchronicities in my life, and when the bells talk, I listen.  But also present is the familiar part I’ve known for most of my life.

As Gary has said to me:

“John – try being a little psychotic all the time!”

Using Better Language

I’ve never liked the word recovery because it implies altered and extreme states are a sickness we must recover from.  Recovery also implies we need to cover up (re-cover) newly emerged parts of ourselves in order to get well.

Instead of re-covering, I opt to rid myself of the cover altogether.  I now choose to dis-cover, and allow all my parts a chance to live.

I’m Not in Recovery – I’m in Discovery

Like the space shuttle.


To learn more, you can watch John’s webinar on Processwork and Extreme States.


By John Herold, MA

John Herold is a facilitator, speaker and trainer from Gig Harbor, Washington.  He is the founder and director of Puget Sound Hearing Voices, now in its fourth year of weekly meetings.  John’s work is deeply influenced by his personal lived experience with extreme states and psychiatric survival, his involvement with the Hearing Voices Network as well as his master’s training in Processwork.  He is passionate about spreading non-pathologizing ways of understanding experiences often labeled as mental illness.  In 2017 John received an Inspirational Person Award from Intervoice: The International Hearing Voices Network.


Photo credit:

Alchemy of Eros: Unfolding Chronic Pain into a Richer Sex Life

By Niyati Evers


A little girl in South Africa let me know my pain had become my identity when she stopped using my name and called me “the lady with the broken back.”

My Known Way of Being

I’d struggled with severe back pain for many years, but I would not allow it to hold me back.  Even if getting into a taxi made me cry. Even if the only way to get to my hotel room was by sliding along the walls.  Even if I had to call a doctor to come inject me with painkillers just to cope.

That was my known way of being, what we in Processwork call our primary identity.  I was someone who never gave up.  This also meant I marginalized my pain; I refused to listen to my body or bow to its limitations.  I learned early in life not to need support from other people.

The Limit of Will Power

But my strong will couldn’t overcome the pain I lived with.  One night in 2008, I finally gave in. I was lying in my hotel room during a corporate seminar, my knees on a stack of pillows, painkillers strewn all over the mattress.  I hadn’t prayed since childhood, but that night, I found myself praying.

“Please God, whoever or whatever you are,” I whispered into the empty room, “I can no longer live on my will power alone.  Please take over.”

Emerging Identity

The next morning I couldn’t get up from the breakfast table.  I willed my feet to lift off the ground, but I was no longer able to walk.  Here it was, the emergence of what we call a Secondary Process: a new and in my case very unknown way of being.  I was forced to seek and accept help from others.

A friend took hold of me, put my arms around her shoulders, and dragged me into a taxi to see a doctor.  During the drive I kept wiggling my toes, repeating: “I can wiggle my toes, I am not paralyzed. I can wiggle my toes, I am not paralyzed.” 

The doctor told me I needed total bed rest.  My primary identity kicked in immediately:

“I can’t do that,” I told the doctor, “I am flying to America in two days.”

The doctor looked me straight in the eye.  “If you get on an overseas flight in this condition, they will carry you out on a stretcher and you will never walk again.”

My Childhood Dream

In an early childhood dream, I’m riding my bike when a wall suddenly appears in front of me.  I wake up right as I crash into the wall.

In Processwork, we believe our childhood dreams carry themes that run like rivers through our lives, recurring again and again in different forms.  I had run into the wall of my childhood dream, and just like in my dream, I woke up.  I realized my prayers had been answered: a bigger will had taken over and now forced me to listen to it.

Transcendent Recovery

While I recovered, my spine had to be completely straight.  I couldn’t read or work on my computer.  I had to seek and accept help.  Another dear friend took me into his home.  He looked after me for months as I lay flat with my knees on a stack of pillows.  

During those months, I reconnected to the transcendent joy I’d glimpsed on the spiritual quests of my twenties.  As I opened to receive love from other human beings, my heart softened.  People said they’d never seen me so radiant, even though I still shuffled through the house, barely able to lift my right foot, dragging my left leg behind me.  In spite of the incredible physical pain, I felt I was making love with the divine.

I am convinced this process prepared me for the deep, open-hearted relationship I now enjoy with my partner Robert.

My Symptom and Sexuality

When I allow my primary identity to push, my back transforms into the wall of my childhood dream; the pain becomes debilitating to the point where I cannot have sex.  My back injury forces me to listen to my sensitivity, to slow down and relate from the inside out.  I have to ask for what I need, for how and where I need to be touched.  I have to communicate my limitations and boundaries and express my desires for tender connection.  All of which is very secondary for me!  Only when I surrender to my body’s signals am I able to relax into arousal.

From here I can explore the dynamics of my back injury on the playground of sexuality.  Even when a symptom is objectively real, in what Processwork calls Consensus Reality, there is a dreaming process in the background.  When we unfold a disturbing symptom during sexual play, we can tap deep into its true gifts and meaning.  Within my debilitating back injury I access a powerful energy, unaffected by pain.


The overall process of my back injury is about surrender to a greater power.  Things that turn me on or off sexually all mirror that process.  My will power serves me great in many areas of life, but sexually, being the one “on top” or “in control” is no good for me.  

As I consciously play at being Robert’s servant and give him control of the show  (for the duration of our sexual play), I follow my dreaming process; I surrender to a greater power.

Through this we both experience profound levels of intimacy and transcendence.  The “lady with the broken back” recedes and I become Snake Woman.  Robert and I flow in movement, sound, love, joy, playfulness and connection.  Our power and surrender dance together in ecstatic oneness.

I Needed to Break

In a way, the little girl in South Africa was right.  I was the “lady with the broken back.”  Life broke me because something in me needed to break.  Living on will power was a hubris in me that needed to be humbled.  It is through that ‘broken-openness’ I have surrendered to a deeper wisdom and love. 

As Rumi says: “only from the heart can you touch the sky”.


Niyati and Robert will be leading a workshop; Alchemy of Eros: An Erotic Journey of Intimacy, Pleasure and Transformation, at the Processwork Institute, October 19th-21st, 


By Niyati Evers, MAPW

Niyati Evers is originally from Amsterdam, where she facilitated Tantric workshops during her twenties.  In 1998, Niyati moved to South Africa, where she lived for 14 years and worked with race and gender dynamics.  She completed her Masters in Process Work at the Process Work Institute in Portland.  Niyati and Robert have an international therapy practice called Alchemy of Eros.  Together, they facilitate workshops in the realms of relationships, sexuality and intimacy.  She is working on a book about her experiences growing up in Amsterdam as part of the “second generation” of Holocaust survivors and living in post-Apartheid South Africa.   


This post is an edited version of one published on Niyati and Robert’s website.


Process-Oriented Coaching in Organizations

By Rho Sandberg


A Process-Oriented View of Organizations

In order to thrive in today’s constantly changing environment, most organisations recognise the need to become more agile.  They’ve often experienced first-hand the challenges that arise when structures, hierarchies, rules and work practices become rigid or are slow to transform.  Many organisations are attempting to cultivate new approaches, so that they can catch the wave of change early.

Leaders are now becoming deeply curious about the changing world around them.  They work with their teams to discover ways of operating that anticipate and are responsive to their dynamic and complex environment.

Anyone familiar with Processwork will recognise this movement to understand the dynamic forces at play within organisational life as an inherently process-oriented approach.  Arnold Mindell, the founder of Processwork, recognised the limitations of a state-based view of the world, which regards ourselves, our organisations and the world as static.  His methods introduce a way to work with the conscious and unconscious dynamics within organisations, groups, teams and the individual herself.

Accessing Deep Organisational Intelligence

Effective leaders are interested in accessing the deepest intelligence of their organisation.  As process-oriented coaches and consultants, we help leaders and teams to access tacit or internalised knowledge that is easily lost or overlooked.  

A process-oriented approach to organisational change is inherently agile.  Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Working With Disturbances

Organizations interested in being more agile, are learning to value and embrace the fluidness of becoming, as much as their current understanding of who they are and the business they are in.  In an era of disruption, the status quo can change in the blink of an eye.  Increasingly leaders engage coaches to support them in this enquiry.

A process-oriented attitude is curious about those disturbances that seem to interrupt our plans, as well as chronic organisational problems, conflicts or changes in technology and the marketplace.  We believe disturbances are of value and hold important information and potential for the organisation.  The value of this appreciative mindset, when faced with disappointments, is reflected in one of the classic business innovation case studies: The invention of The Post-It Note.  As a result of an apparent failure – an adhesive that did not stick permanently – a new product was created that had not even been imagined.

Rather than looking for one right way to do things, the process-oriented practitioner – just like an agile organisation – is looking for signs of what is happening in the environment, system or relationship in that moment, including apparent failures.  We ask ourselves: “What is right about that?”

2. Working Systemically

Process oriented coaches and consultants understand that subtle shifts in the environment can lead to major changes in society.  Drawing on the principles of complex systems theory and quantum physics, we help leaders to pay attention to what they are experiencing within themselves as a reflection of the dynamics of the larger system.   The links between inner and outer reality are understood in ways which are deeply meaningful.  

Leaders and teams that adopt a process-oriented approach begin to pay even closer attention to the early signs of pending change.  They work with curiosity and a learning mindset to discover rich sources of information they would previously have overlooked.

3. Mobilising Diversity

Solving complex social and technical problems is beyond any individual and increasingly beyond the skillset of one profession because different ways of thinking and experience are needed.  Agile organisations bring diverse and multi-disciplinary teams together.

However, forming a diverse and inclusive team is just the first step.  Learning to communicate with people who come from different professional or social backgrounds is challenging on occasions.  Process oriented coaches and facilitators draw on their training in conflict management and share these skills with others.  In this way, subtle tensions and the entrenched problems that limit creativity and stifle genuine innovation can be successfully addressed.

4. Emerging Leadership

In addition to recognising the formal roles people occupy in the hierarchy, we work with the dynamic shifts in roles which can easily be missed.  For instance, relying only on identified leaders or experts can be a dangerous trap that limits the information and insights brought to the table.

Leadership is both a formal role and an impetus that is needed throughout the organisation.  Supporting informal leadership to emerge is essential for any organisation or community that wants to tap into its resources.

Process oriented coaches work with the visions and aspirations of teams and individuals.  They help would-be and emerging leaders pay attention to their dreams and sources of inspiration, to step into their fullest potential.

5. The Skilful Use of Power, Influence and Authority

Processworkers are interested in the influence of power and rank on the ways people interact in the workplace.  The ripple effect of unacknowledged power and rank differences can be insidious, resulting in negative competition and jealousy, interrupting the flow of information and ideas, and impacting organisational morale and wellbeing.

Too often, power and rank are not recognized because of a hesitancy to talk about these things.  They are felt but not discussed.  Process workers assist others to understand their own relationship to power and impact upon others.

6. Exploring The Undiscussables

Process oriented coaches and consultants support organisations to bring awareness to the “undiscussables” which often shape their culture.  Coaches work with individuals to think about the best ways to approach these potentially challenging conversations.

We recognize that these unexplored dimensions of organisational life can block the flow of energy and resources.  An organisation that wants to be effective can rarely afford this sort of energy drain.  It undermines flow and keeps creativity and dialogue stuck.  

In fact when worked with skilfully, those things we try to avoid and regard merely as disturbances, reveal themselves as a rich source of useful insights for the organisation.  Exploring the more challenging aspects of organisational life can in fact mobilise a deep potential.

7. Adopting A Multi-level Lens

In summary, process-oriented coaches and consultants adopt a rich lens to view and work with different sources or levels of information and potential within an organisation.  They assist individuals in organisations to understand the fluid environments they operate in and to make better strategic decisions.  These elements include the flickering signals of impending change or new market needs and trends, the dynamics of leadership, team and partnership relationships, and a deep connection with the organisational mission and purpose.


By Rho Sandberg, 

MACFOC, MCogSc, PCC Accredited Coach

Rho Sandberg, along with her business partner Vicki Henricks, MA, Dipl. PW, PCC Accredited Coach, is a founder of the Global Coaching Institute, which offers internationally accredited coach training using a process-oriented approach.  Collectively, they bring over 60 years experience as executive coaches and consultants to senior levels of government and executive teams in global corporate, public sector and community settings.


Photo credit: Oliver Sjöström (cropped)


My Path of Heart: Using Processwork to Understand and Nourish my Polyamorous Relationship

By Rami Henrich


Believing in My Path of Heart

One of the greatest gifts Processwork has given me is the ability to accept my wild, adventurous, intense, and outrageous nature with greater ease.  I had a tendency to pathologize my curiosity, my intensity, my sexual explorations, my counter-culture relationship, and my general out-of- the-boxness, but Processwork helped me value my own inner diversity.  Processwork suggests what you doubt about yourself or what you think is wrong with you may in fact be the seed of something beautiful and useful that wants to unfold and be lived more completely.  For me, the idea that my family’s polyamorous relationship (35+ years now!) might somehow be perfect and hold exactly what is needed in the world was a radical and deeply relieving perspective.  This cleared the way for me to embrace my path of heart more fully.

Marginalization and Internalized Oppression

Cindy, Tom, and I have always been aware that our non-monogamous relationship meant we were outside the mainstream, but Processwork provided me with the additional framing of marginalization, which has helped tremendously.  To realize that non-mainstream people are marginalized by the dominant culture in so many ways that it lead to internalized oppression confirmed my experience and provided some relief.  

It is often difficult to recognize internalized oppression because it can take on the form of an inner critic, a relationship argument, or some other personal manifestation.  Processwork helped me de-personalize it and wake up to the ways in which our family’s difficulties and feelings of self-doubt were not entirely our own.

Our Relationship Is a Worldwork Issue

The Processwork concept of Worldwork shows how world problems can be felt and processed by individuals through relationships and manifest in group dynamics.

Realizing my marginalized voice and experience were not just tolerated but actually needed in the world was yet another breakthrough moment for me.  The mainstream may also suffer from a rigid adherence to monogamy; both the freedoms and difficulties of a polyamorous relationship may be something our culture actually needs.  Without suggesting monogamy is wrong, this new perspective opened me to new questions about what polyamory means for the broader culture.  Do people in monogamous relationships need more awareness of an expansive capacity for love?  Might they need more attention to their own inner diversity, to the myriad needs and interests they have that might not be wholly satisfied by one partner?

Viewing our relationship as a Worldwork issue helped me value our path of heart that much more.  It supported and encouraged me to come out, to express myself, and to step into yet another worldwork role: that of a therapist and facilitator to polyamorous clients and support groups.

Discovering My Own Rank

In Processwork, rank is the power or privilege a person or group has in a given circumstance.  When people are unaware of their rank, it can lead to increased oppression and escalations in conflict.

I’m often aware of the social rank and privilege monogamous people have.  While it is important for me to recognize I may have less social rank in terms of my relationship status, Processwork has helped me notice the rank I do have.  My psychological rank is relatively high because creating and sustaining a counter-culture relationship has forced me to work on my awareness, my edges, and my relationship in a very determined way.

Also, being part of a marginalized group provides me with a certain amount of spiritual rank.  Our relationship has given me ample opportunity to experience isolation, feeling on the outside of mainstream relationships, feeling afraid to celebrate our relationship both within the context of our extended families and in the world, and always feeling like I/we should act “normal” so as to not attract attention.  This made me feel unseen and unknown.  One person even called us an abomination.  These experiences forced me to go deeply inside, to find a place of detachment and love for all voices, including those who judge me harshly.  

In addition, I recognize I also possess a certain amount of social rank that results from having two wonderful loving relationships, while many people struggle with loneliness and wish they could find even one partner with whom to share their life.

In a polyamorous relationship, some members have more rank than others.  For instance, Tom and I have more social rank within the relationship because we are legally married, while Cindy and I have more psychological rank because we are both dedicated to psychological learning, personal growth, and awareness training.  As the person in the middle, I have a certain kind of rank in the relationship because both Tom and Cindy “share” my time and attention.

Rank is fluid, it changes all the time depending on the circumstances, and developing my rank awareness has been tremendously helpful in our relationship.  Noticing who has rank in a given moment can really help in the midst of a difficult relationship situation because it shows which perspectives or feelings may need more support and understanding.

Deep Democracy

The Processwork concept of Deep Democracy means being open to all viewpoints, experiences, and emotions, not just the ones we agree with, but also those that are uncomfortable, unknown, or frightening.  This is a difficult thing to achieve because there are always aspects of self or other that I would rather change or just get rid of.  It has been worth the effort because ignoring one viewpoint in favor of another only polarizes the two sides and moves them farther apart.  

I strive to develop my sense of Deep Democracy; an inner elder and facilitator who can hold and honor a diversity of perspectives simultaneously.  It is this developing skill I attempt to bring to myself, my relationship, my clients, my group work, and the world, and it is part of a learning that takes me into the depths of an oceanic process within me that has the room and space for everything, every way of being, every state, every thing.


By Rami Henrich, LCSW, Dipl. PW

Rami Henrich is a grandmother!, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Diplomate of Processwork, as well as a founding partner of LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center in Chicago.  Rami has studied, taught and applied Processwork since 2000.  She has a special interest in working with relationship difficulties and those who identify as living an alternative lifestyle.  Rami is a certified Imago Relationship Therapist as well as is a frequent blogger and speaker on topics including: Sex Positivity: Therapist Bias; Rank & Power; and Polyamory.  In 2016, Rami published her final project for the MAPW; Henrich, R. & Trawinski, C. (2016) Social and Therapeutic Challenges Facing Polyamorous Clients.


This post is an edited version of one that appeared in KPACT, May 25, 2017.


Photo credit: Tim Mosholder

Innerwork in Public Arenas

By Bill Say


Innerwork is Facilitating Your Own Awareness

In this post, I use the word Innerwork to refer to the Processwork form of Innerwork, as distinct from the many other forms in the world.  Processwork Innerwork focuses on individuals facilitating their own awareness.  We can practice Innerwork by sensing how we interact with physical sensations, following our bodily movements or allowing inner parts to speak to one another.  

Innerwork also Connects us to Others

Innerwork is “working on ourselves,” often by ourselves.  This is distinct from relationship or group work.  That said, Innerwork can also be a powerful practice when done in public!  Of course this is not what every individual or group chooses to focus on.  Our awareness and work with internal processes, parts, thoughts, and feelings often remain hidden.  However, this work is a potentially enriching factor that is often not just our own.  These complex, sometimes troubling and enlightening “inner” matters seem to frequently involve our friends, enemies, families, teams, organizations, communities and world.

Using Innerwork in Public Speaking

Innerwork has been a practice I’ve often used before addressing the public and feel too nervous to do so without undue anxiety or self-consciousness.  To start, I ask permission from the audience and offer a simple explanation, such as, “I often get nervous speaking in public.  Is it ok if I take a minute to ‘work on myself’ by simply noticing what I notice for a minute or so?”  Few of the groups I’ve asked have denied me this privilege and many seem to be fascinated by this relatively rare public expression.

Here’s an example of working on myself before giving a public presentation for Occupy Sonoma County.  (I start at about the 1:30 second point):

A Facilitator’s Innerwork Reflects the Group

Aside from working on myself at the start of presentations to ease my nerves, I also use Innerwork to begin to speak to dynamics that may exist within a group I am facilitating.  My own thoughts, feelings and even dream-like processes in a moment may not just belong to me but may also represent feelings, perspectives, roles or processes that live within the group, even one I’m newly encountering.  

One example is a graduate psychology class I was teaching.  After a challenging number of weeks, I was facing a group that was in deep conflict.  Plus, on this particular day a few of the members were challenging my teaching.  For some reason that day they didn’t trust me, at least not enough to support me to continue my instruction.  I realized I needed to work on myself and asked the class if I could take a few minutes to do so.  The group hesitated about my request and after some back and forth they agreed, on the condition that they could then respond to my Innerwork.  

I proceeded to explore a part inside me that didn’t quite trust me and one that wasn’t necessarily trustworthy!  By even briefly hearing from these parts the group shifted and was satisfied enough to continue with the class.

Levels of Reality

What happened in that class?  To answer that, I need to refer to the Processwork model of Levels of Reality.

There is the consensus reality level of facts and issues; there is “dreamland,” the level of feelings, subjective material and roles that are shared; and the essence level realm of what we feel most deeply and often share as an experience.  

At the dreamland level of reality, roles are shared and any “ghost role” (a role or part that is referred to or implied but not yet explicitly represented) is a vital part to explore and express.  In the case of my graduate class, the “untrustworthy” one was a ghost role.  On that day, my exploration and expression of these parts was congruent enough that the group was satisfied and could move on to other things.

You can read more about the three levels of reality at Arnold and Amy Mindell’s website:

My Inner Conflict Mirrored the Group’s Process

On another occasion I was teaching a public seminar on diversity, conflict and community building.  Though I wasn’t particularly nervous at the start I did feel a bit “blank” mentally.  In this instance of working on myself I quickly found a part of me that wanted to be structured, clear and “get on” with the teaching while another part expressed itself in an arm movement that also brought forth a feeling of expanse, emptiness and possibility.  Though there was no clear resolution to the subtle conflict these two parts had, it did seem to point to a particular way of processing issues that the group later revealed.

This expansive style seemed to spread without any pressing need to resolve the issues involved (and even defied my own efforts to contain and frame the process).  It included more and more of each member’s perspective and shifted our collective consciousness into an unusually diffuse state of mind.

Did my Innerwork at the start of the day influence or predict the group dynamic to come?  I may never know, but having this moment of conflict in my inner process alerted me to an outer process that I wrestled with and embraced as the day went on.

The Facilitator’s Innerwork Engages the Group

Lastly, in my introduction to a conflict resolution training I gave to a local government group of internal change managers, I worked on myself for a minute in front of them.  With a group of government administrators, emergency services providers, and managers engaged in organizational change, I wouldn’t normally think working on myself would land so well.  Nevertheless, my minute of Innerwork elicited laughter, a sense of immediacy and connection and set the stage for a day of very engaged, lively and fun learning and dialogue.

Innerwork in Public Makes More Effective Leaders

As Arnold Mindell has suggested, in the near future, our leaders may pause during their talks to say, “Wait a minute.  Something is going on inside me…”  This Innerwork may be an important factor in shifting and transforming our environments and cultures.  I invite you to try it out!

By Bill Say, MA, PW Dipl.

Bill Say brings over twenty years of experience to the intersection of diversity awareness training, conflict resolution and community building.  He is a faculty member of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and a former faculty member of the UC Berkeley Extension School of Professional Communication.  Bill is a Diplomate of Processwork. His website is:


Photo credit: Didgeman

Sitting in the Fire: The World Work Approach to Conflict Resolution

By Lukas Hohler


When we switch on the TV to fighter jets taking off or “fire and fury” speeches, why does that grab our attention so much more than ongoing peace-negotiations elsewhere in the world?  Are peace negotiations just not as juicy as saber rattling?  Is there good reason we’re not transfixed by orderly people having rational peace talks about highly emotional problems?  Is it partly because many of those peace agreements will not last for long?

When Arnold Mindell first developed Worldwork in the late 1980’s, he said, “We are looking for something that is more exciting than war and more sustainable than peace.“  That is what attracted me to the Worldwork approach more than 20 years ago.  I have been eagerly studying and applying Worldwork ideas ever since, in my professional life as a conflict resolution practitioner and social entrepreneur.

What is Worldwork ?

Worldwork is an approach to group work and social issues which, unlike other paradigms, believes in the wisdom hidden within conflict, and the importance of all people involved in a conflict fully expressing themselves.  This attitude of inclusion is referred to as Deep Democracy, meaning that all levels and forms of human experience and expression are welcome to participate in a group process.

Roles and Ghost Roles

In order to facilitate a Processwork group process, we need to identify the main polarities – we call them roles – that express themselves under a certain umbrella topic.  We also examine what is being mentioned or talked about, but not visibly represented in the room.  We call that a ghost role.  

It is very important for ghost roles to be expressed for any process to move forward.  For example, if a group talks about history and the dead, the dead becomes a ghost role.  They are fundamentally important to what is happening but they are not expressing themselves yet.  In that case, we would invite the dead to speak.  Anybody who feels the dead can speak through them in that moment is invited to step into the ghost role and help it express itself.  

Other ghost roles that often arise include the founder of a movement or business, the vision of an organization, the perpetrator or the oppressor, “the system“, and more roles that we usually do not identify with.  Bringing in ghost roles has brought forward incredible relief in highly polarised situations, from social and political settings to organizational development.

Rank and Privilege

Worldwork also helps address issues of diversity, differences in the way we view the world, and how we experience those differences.  This is an area where humanity desperately needs to develop, since we are living in a globalized world and will be more so in the future.  We need to learn how to examine differences in rank and privilege and how these impact our interactions, as well as becoming aware of how each of us is powerful in our own ways and how that power can be used well.  Diversity without working on power issues is not likely to last and will result in marginalizing differences and separation.

The Kaospilots

After using Worldwork in various cultural and organizational settings, I had the pleasure to be invited to teach Worldwork at the Kaospilots; an innovative school for social entrepreneurs and changemakers, located in Denmark and Switzerland.  In both locations, the focus was on the school itself and the issues creating tension and conflict within it.

Sitting in the Fire

After introducing the Worldwork perspective on conflict as the embarking point of a process trying to happen, we steered right into the conflict and we sat in that fire together for 3-4 days.  The work mostly consisted of working our way up to a group process.  The main roles and ghost roles present took the stage, one by one, to fully express their experience to everyone present in the field of tension.  Only when everybody could empathize with every role, we moved on to the next one.  This process in itself brought a lot of insight and relief to the groups.  We would then focus on one or two central interactions that we all felt needed to happen and came up with inspiring directions to move forward.

I am very happy the Kaospilot school is interested in the Worldwork approach.  I feel it really supports the school’s vision of being a hub for social change, where real world challenges can be tackled by our future leaders.  

If such juicy conversations can happen at the Kaospilots, they can happen elsewhere.  “Fire and fury” is no longer only out there on our TVs, but can be processed among ourselves into something way more exciting than fighter jets taking off.  Using Worldwork, we can find solutions together that all parties can take ownership of.  

Instead of signatures on fragile treaties, we are working towards hugs over sustainable agreements.


by Lukas Hohler, MA, PW Dipl.

Lukas Hohler works internationally as a consultant for individuals and organizations in change processes.  He is also on faculty at the Institute for Process Work in Zurich, and is Managing Director of

As an entrepreneur he has founded SCHULKRAFT, an organization that consults with schools in Switzerland, and GRUNDKRAFT, that develops and distributes Empowerment Programs. He developed the Empowerment Programs, and, and has trained trainers and organizations in over ten countries to apply these programs in their work.


A version of this article first appeared in the Kaospilots Newsletter,, January 30, 2018. 


Photo credit: Kaique Rocha

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