The Well Intentioned Ego: A Call for Ethical Standards in Holistic Practice

shadow_selfI have studied and practiced psychology for 20 years and I have been a Reiki Master for 15.  I have been a student of metaphysics for nearly 30 years.  And through out that time, I have been uncomfortable that there is no code of ethics for metaphysicians in holistic practice.  There are “little ethics”; a Reiki master will teach her students some standards, and there are associations that require you to adhere to a standard for membership.  A medium may have a standard of what they bring into the consultation.  But there is no common standard out there for clients or for practitioners that allow us to have a conversation about if the ego is coming in to the work.  It is an ironic twist that often even challenging a practitioner on a potential ego issue turns into a quagmire of ego talking to ego.  I think this can be resolved if we agree on common ethical principles about how we show up in the holistic relationship.

I greatly admire the Spiritual Practitioners of the Centers for Spiritual Living.  They have a code of practice that is aligned with the fact they are licensed.  While every practitioner is different and achieves their own highest level of consciousness, the code of practice ensures a minimum level of practice that minimizes the ego’s involvement in sessions.  It means that a community of people with common goals and values ensures that standard is maintained. I have had many sessions with people who are friends, and sessions with practitioners I do not know.  In all cases, the personality was not involved.  There was a consistent clarity in the consciousness that was held in the space we created.  That is a model to me that I think can be expanded into other holistic practices.

Without such a standard, I fear we enter into what I call the Well Intentioned Ego – the healer who has embraced the ideas and teachings of a practice and whose work is limited to the work they themselves have completed.  I understand that like attracts like, and that a healer will attract clients where there is a purpose in their interaction. It is not up to me to determine if this interaction elevates them in some way.  The nature of the divine is such that all is right and perfect.  It is more about uncovering false beliefs that inspired me to write this.  If we do not have an agreed to set of ethical practices, then it makes it hard to have an open conversation that will allow false beliefs to be named, claimed, and moved aside.  This is not any different than the issues psychologists’ face, which is where it is clear that the Well Intentioned Ego can also be at work.  I believe we could rely heavily on these standards (and that of the CSLs) for designing a comprehensive code that encourages responsible practice and dialogue.

Psychological ethics fall into four categories: The dignity of the person, Responsible caring, Integrity in relationship, and Responsibility to Society.  The code articulates shadowselfactivities that can and cannot be acceptable, and provides guidance on how to determine what is ethical in a situation.

Dignity of the person is about “the belief that each person should be treated primarily as a person or an end in him/herself, not as an object or a means to an end.” At its simplest, this means that the practitioner does not allow the loss of income to compromise the integrity of the work.  At its most complex, it means a constant inner dialogue about the biases a practitioner holds and how those are showing up in the relationship dynamic.  It means a very close examination and understanding of power.

Responsible caring means ” to take care to discern the potential harm and benefits involved, to predict the likelihood of their occurrence, to proceed only if the potential benefits outweigh the potential harms, to develop and use methods that will minimize harms and maximize benefits, and to take responsibility for correcting clearly harmful effects that have occurred as a direct result of their research, teaching, practice, or business activities.” As holistic practitioners, we know our energy influences another’s.  Often we take on the role of Expert, and forget we are co-creating in consciousness with another being.  We need to empower the true wholeness of the person with whom we are working, and make sure that at every point in our work we are giving that person a choice to say yes or no.  We need to be careful not to assume that we know what needs to be done.

Integrity in relationship says “Psychologists are not expected to be value-free or totally without self-interest in conducting their activities. However, they are expected to understand how their backgrounds, personal needs, and values interact with their activities, to be open and honest about the influence of such factors, and to be as objective and unbiased as possible under the circumstances.”  A key part of this is informed consent.  Holistic practitioners are bringing their consciousness, energy, and beliefs into the field of another, and these will have an impact.  How often do we tell a client about our false beliefs? How much time do we spend letting a client know what our own fears are? Or do we adopt the medical model of The Expert?

harm noneResponsibility to Society says “Psychology functions as a discipline within the context of human society. Psychologists, both in their work and as private citizens, have responsibilities to the societies in which they live and work, such as the neighbourhood or city, and to the welfare of all human beings in those societies.” As holistic practitioners, often we shroud our practice in secrecy.  We assume at times that only a gifted few have ability, and that we need to protect that specialness in some way.  What I admire about the CSL practice is that it starts with the assumption that we are all powerful creators in consciousness. There is a new movement to develop conscious community; we see it in permaculture activities, and in the emergence of holistic activities being more “normalized”.  There is a yoga studio on every corner.  People are creating consciousness festivals and conscious businesses.  These are beautiful things – and we will need to learn about the human dynamic as these movements grow.  I admire events like Burning Man that devote energy to articulating the responsibilities and values that are part of their vision.  We need more of this.  It is not about control; this is about elevation of consciousness by being specific and aware.

I have decided to draft my own code, and incorporate that into my practice.  I will be building the Practical Priestess into a larger global practice in the next few months, and this standard will be one of the first things you see on my website.  I welcome your thoughts and feelings about what I have said, including ideas on how you have incorporated ethics into your own practice.

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