Date(s) - Fri 8 Nov 2019 - Sat 9 Nov 2019
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

with The Irish Psychosynthesis Network in Dublin : book on line here via eventbrite

Friday 8th Nov, 2019 5pm-9pm + Sat 9th Nov 10am-5pm

view YouTube video here

Metaphors from the Edge of Chaos

‘Look! Here comes a walking fire’ (King Lear)

Metaphor is an intensely rich area of imaginative life. In the ability of metaphors to carry meaning from the known to the unknown, the conscious to the unconscious, they point toward the very heart of psychotherapeutic process. In this third in a series of workshops on ‘wild imagination’, we will explore the application of metaphors in clinical practice as well as the root metaphors embedded within psychological theory.


The weekend will critique the limitations of technological metaphors hidden in much of therapeutic language. Ecological metaphors will be introduced that better convey the wildness and irregularity of human experience. In particular, we will draw upon the integration of psychotherapy with chaos theory and fractal geometry, contemporary perspectives which have emerged from the modelling of natural systems, such as cloud formations, lightning pathways and the beatings of the human heart.


The seminar will support you to:

  • Speak, think and see through metaphor, avoiding the dangers of concrete and literal language, thinking and perception.
  • Work with ‘living metaphor’ from immediate experience in client fantasies, feelings, body sensations and gestures.
  • Notice fractal patterns as metaphors of wholeness.
  • Use the idea of a ‘fractal psyche’ to ground therapeutic insights in everyday life.
  • Apply nonlinear perspectives from chaos theory to the therapeutic relationship, development and healing.


Theoretical presentation will be grounded in clinical case study discussion, therapist-client role-play, experiential encounters with the local landscape and through attending to the group (i.e. yourself, others and the leader) as a nonlinear system.


Further information:

Mind-as-machine metaphors are woven into our everyday language. To speak of feeling ‘shut down’ or having ‘blown a gasket’; to consider our personality as an assemblage of component ‘parts’ -these colloquial usages are rooted in a common-sense assumption of a mechanical world, which has become internalised by the shaping of psychological theory firstly by mechanical and later computational metaphors. For example, Freud’s psychodynamic theory, still very much in use today, rests upon the then cutting-edge hydrodynamic technology of the early 1900s, the steam engine. Technology has captured our imaginations and our very sense of self. But human beings are complex creatures embedded within a biosphere quite unlike the static, linear and controllable paradigm of mechanical technology. We are not machines and clinical practice is often anything but mechanical.

Two key areas will be covered:

-living metaphors at the edge of chaos:

how by drawing on complexity theory we can view client symptoms as finely balanced, dynamic systems of complex forces; how in the zone between disorder and stability known as ‘the edge of chaos’ a tiny event can trigger significant ‘phase change’ (such as when boiling water turns into steam); we will explore the holistic sensitivity required to detect the spontaneous arising of these tiny events in the fantasies, feelings, bodily symptoms and gestures of ‘living metaphor’ – metaphors from immediate experience prior to conceptualisation and the dead-hand of generalised theory.


-the fractal psyche as a metaphor of wholeness:

how to cultivate our intuitive feel for fractal patterns, familiar already from nature (e.g. flickering flames, waves on an ocean, skin wrinkles and snail’s shells); how to see each fractal image as a reflection of the whole, on ever finer scales ( like Russian Dolls); how any small piece of clinical material ( such as a dream, a passing comment, even how a client walks into the room) is a fractal image, reflective of the whole therapy and the client’s history, current symptoms and emerging future; and how to work with fractals in clinical practice.


The approach offers a perhaps surprising and counterintuitive non-linear understanding that shines new light on relationships, development and healing. However, it is expected participants will find familiarity within complexity theory as a way of thinking about recognisable, but often overlooked, aspects of clinical experience and also as a framework that resonates with psychological metaphors from pre-modern traditions such as alchemy and Buddhism.

The presentation is influenced by the work of Terry Marks-Tarlow, Robert M. Galatzer-Levy and David Abram.

Allan Frater has been a core trainer at the Psychosynthesis Trust in London since 2011 and  teaches on the Essentials, Foundation and Counselling Diploma programmes. He is currently writing a book for the Transpersonal Press, provisionally titled: ‘Waking Dreams: Imagination in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life’. In his teaching and psychotherapy practice he is interested in the meeting place between imagination, ecology and culture. His MA dissertation ‘The Imagination Imagined’, explored the assumptions towards imagination in therapeutic theory and how different conceptions qualitatively shape imaginative experience. Allan continues to explore this area in his writing, videos and public events programme at the Trust, on the theme of ‘Wild Imagination’. Find out more:

Share This