Review of Part One, 28 January 2017
by Georgia Feliou

The concept of personal identity, which is closely related to the concept of self, has always been a fascinating subject for me even before the time I started studying philosophy and psychotherapy. In 2015, I gave a speech on it in relation to gender and sexual identity at the Annual Conference of the European Association of Psychotherapy, and I realized then that my exploration was far from being over. Therefore, when I saw the ad on the Hermeneutic Circular about this workshop, I thought I must give myself this treat and come to UK from Athens, Greece to attend it. The result did not disappoint me. The workshop took place in London on the premises of Therapy Harley Street, a very warm and welcoming place.

The workshop is divided in two parts. Each part has the following structure: A lecture in the morning and a dialogue in the afternoon. I found this structure quite convenient since during the break I had time to think about all that was said in the lecture and then, in the afternoon, discuss with Prof. Spinelli and colleagues some of the issues presented earlier.

In Part One, Prof. Spinelli presented a historic view on the concept of self. He started with the presentation of some traditional approaches on the subject; he then moved on to more modern approaches and finished with presenting the existential/phenomenological view. What I heard was very inspiring. One of the many things that I pondered on is that the existential approach presents us with a constant challenge: we are called to be vigilant and never be contented with one explanation or worldview of the world but to always be open to new ideas and concepts no matter how “different“ or weird they sound at the beginning; to try to contain all different dimensions of reality, of the world and of people and to be brave enough to let ourselves float in this sea of complexity and unpredictability.

The second part was equally inspiring and it was more experiential in the sense that we discussed how what was said in the lecture was related to our practice as psychotherapists but also how it affected us personally. We shared views and experiences and thought about significant questions, for instance: what is the client saying when she says she’s not being true to herself? When is she not true to herself? How do we feel about this question? How would we answer it? Or, we discussed how important it is for the existential approach in psychotherapy to be concerned with the person that’s there before us here and now as a whole, and not with some ideal view we (or the client) might have about how she should be.
Both parts had useful exercises to complement the theory. Prof. Spinelli always gives intriguing bibliography and information in his seminars – I always learn something new in this sense too.
Overall, I found the seminar useful and educative. I was really happy to participate and I would like to thank both Prof. Spinelli and the Therapy Harley Street for giving me the opportunity to do so.