richard_norvila (richard_norvila) wrote,

Grotto Therapy - a psychotherapy method by Richardas Norvila


Richardas Norvila, Ph.D. - psychotherapy, counseling

1980-83- Philosophy Faculty of Moscow State University
Psychology Faculty of Moscow State University
1992-98- Studies of Analytical psychology of CG Jung Institute, Zurich
1993- Ph.D. in Philosophy

1998 - present - Counseling in Moscow
1992 -1998 -
Counseling in Zurich
1986-1992. - Moscow city hospital № 98
1984-1986. -
Solovyov's Clinic of Neuroses, Moscow

Appointments (Moscow):

Counseling on Skype available
I'm working in Russian, Lithuanian, German and English languages

Everyone should have a small refuge. Inside their soul.
A Talk on Grotto Therapy with Richardas Norvila

Richardas Norvila graduated from the Philosophy and Psychology Departments of the Moscow State University in 1986. In 1993, he defended a PhD thesis in Philosophy. Between 1992 and 1998, he studied at the Carl Gustav Jung Institute in Zurich. Since childhood, his interests have included occultism and art. In one of the issues of our newspaper we already wrote about his versatile activities in the arts and his attitude to Jung’s theory. Richardas is a practicing psychotherapist. He has developed an original theory and psychotechnology, called Grotto therapy. Our correspondent Sergei Chernyshev has met Richardas and asked him a few questions about Grotto therapy.

What is the substance of your method?
This is a novel form of psychotherapy. I call my method Grotto therapy. By Grotto I mean a cave inside one’s soul. The principal method of Grotto therapy is a psychotechnology, the closest analogies to which are logistics and architecture.
At Grotto therapy sessions I help my clients to streamline their inner world. Grotto therapy is an effort to create a comfortable interior psychic space. This makes it different from the traditional forms of psychotherapy that aim at helping a person to get rid of certain symptoms. We build rather than get rid of something. This does not mean that Grotto therapy does not take a client’s problems or symptoms seriously. But first a symptom is “remodeled” to make a different picture, like in the Kaleidoscope toy, and then it does not frighten anymore and becomes amusing and interesting. The threatening nature of a symptom/problem clears away like fog.

Can you be more specific about your method?
In Grotto therapy, every session aims at concentrating on the most important processes currently taking place in one’s soul. The most important psychological events always happen on the border between what we are aware of and what we do not understand, do not need and reject. In Grotto therapy these events are the keys to open new rooms in one’s own Grotto. First, you open a room and then begin to make it more comfortable. In the course of work in the Grotto therapy programme a person collects a “bunch of keys” to “internal rooms”. Grotto therapy attaches paramount importance to work with one’s memory. Flashes of memory are lighting strokes that show the spots where to dig. Grotto therapy allows people to give any activity they practice a personal meaning. Life acquires energy and value. Grotto therapy is meant for those who want to do something well in any sphere of their life.
The Grotto therapist does not dictate his values to clients, nor does he scold or spank them. This psychotherapy is for curious people who concern themselves with their own inner world, for those who are tired of living in chaos. After completing the Grotto therapy programme, a person will know how to use the tools to master his/her inner world. They will get the keys to their inner secrets and hidden anxieties and will be able to make theirs own decisions about what to conceal from others and what to share.
The Grotto therapist, too, is building his own Grotto, as he is an inquisitive person, open to the world. He never rests content with what has been achieved. Truth runs ahead of him at arm’s length, and the Grotto therapist is in constant inner search. He keeps his "Red Book" where he records the results of his inner investigations.
Are there any peculiarities in applying Grotto therapy in this country?
In Russia, the notion of privacy has not become established yet, which makes Grotto therapy particularly important for Russian psychic space. In Moscow, you can strike up a cordial friendship with a stranger when queuing for kvass and then quarrel bitterly with your new friend while drinking the kvass together. It is fun, but it is not effective, for parting is the worst loss.
Your Grotto is your secret, and it is up to you to decide which of your treasures you want to share with the outside world and which ones to keep in the recesses of your soul. Nobody can take your Grotto away from you as long as your consciousness is alive and your heart beats. If you have your own Grotto, your self-confidence will not be affected by other people’s opinions and your self-esteem will be unshakable. Your life will be interesting, you will be in constant creative search, and the annoying circumstances of life will prove to be excellent building material for your Grotto.
As a rule, chaos turns you on, but it would be better to control the space ruled by its laws. The Grotto is an architectural structure consisting of many rooms. One of the most important is the room of your relationships with people. This room is similar to the Planetarium. Imagine you are the Sun and the people around you are a planetary system whose set-up is close to that of the Solar system. You need to build the right orbits for the people around you and then to make sure that the system does not malfunction. Suppose that the Solar system is the magic, divine order and we’ll never know how it came into being... but this does not prevent us at all from using this model for putting our inner world in order... to the benefit of ourselves and of other people. So, now you have the Planetarium room in your Grotto. Another room is the Attic where you store the values that you are not yet able to manage properly and you just lock them for the time being. There is one more room, the Cellar, which is the part of your soul that does not let you live happily. Everything is concealed safely here, and a dog on a chain guards this “junk”. Don’t throw it away for good and all, as it may come in useful some day, isn’t that so?

As I can see, you put emphasis on man understanding himself. The idea, if I may say so, is pretty old and somewhat moth-eaten. Or you have something new to say on this subject, don’t you?
Yes, I certainly do! I am not telling you: read the Presocratics, Marx, Kharms, Freud and your soul will fill with happiness and you’ll be always smiling! What interests me is a person’s psychological understanding of his or her own self. This is not a new idea – it is known that Carl Jung "sledge-hammered" the heads of his associates in the Analytical Psychology Club, seeking to get from them “psychological understanding” of ones own inner life! But it was one hundred years ago and the landscape of collective consciousness has dramatically changed since then and there are hundreds of new routes on the psycho-tourist map! Instead of plunging in the long-time archeological debate on who is right, Freud or Jung (in fact, this is the same as the argument on which group is cooler - Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin), today’s devotees of practical psychology may discuss pros and contras of Hellinger’s family constellation approach, meditative techniques for assembling the Tibet Mandala construction toy or tea ceremony rituals in the numerous Chinese tradition houses in Moscow – it is not easy to find out which of these is better suited for "psychological understanding " of oneself. Here everybody is right and nobody is right. My idea is that “psychological understanding” of one’s own self is one’s intimate emotional experience which has nothing to do with the existing ready-made systems of psychological knowledge.

Well, that sounds impressive... But it is still unclear what “psychological understanding” means.
Look. When a person has “understood”, which in my opinion is equivalent to “he has experienced”, he enters the peace-of-mind phase, but it cannot last long as the equilibrium is always unstable. As a Lithuanian peasant, I believe that it is time to cultivate what has been understood, i.e. to give it an adequate form somehow or other – make an entry in your diary, have a drink with your friend, buy yourself a new perfume, see a film. Anything goes here because the more memory traces, the better! Thus “the understood” becomes partly external and takes part in a dialogue with oneself or somebody else, and profound understanding as a rule can be expressed in simple language, which anyone can understand, without scientific psychological terminology. This understanding-experience is in fact “psychological understanding”. It is similar to one’s personally experienced Common Sense that one can easily use to make up a proverb, a saying or a magic spell, for private use, of course. This becomes one’s intimate secret that cannot be passed on to those who have not experienced anything like it.
Once the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was taking a walk in an Austrian forest and lost his way. It started to rain cats and dogs and the philosopher got drenched to the bone. He was very glad to see a light in a farmstead house. Ludwig knocked at the door. The mistress opened the door and when she saw the man who was dripping wet, she asked, “Would you like a cup of tea?” "Why are you asking? Get him some tea," her husband said gaily, hammering nails into the soles of autumn boots. Something like that.

Well..., but let’s go back to the main subject. Can you be more specific about the process of Grotto construction?
People are different and their Grottos are different too. Your own Grotto has a direct bearing on your practical life and transforms this reality. This happens because you begin to live in a different way, i.e. independently, consciously and reasonably. Your shortcomings and vices will start working for you, just as your virtues. The Grotto is your world and your personal experience structured in a particular way. The construction of your Grotto never ends. The longer you work at it, the more interesting your life becomes. And you’ll no longer want to grow old and die.
In the course of your Grotto’s construction, the construction tools will be changing and evolving. At a certain point, when you come into possession of all necessary tools, you will be able to continue the construction of you Grotto on your own. The role of the psychotherapist consists in initiating you into the construction process and, if need be, supporting the construction.
The Grotto therapy programme does not provide for a lifelong contract with weekly or, moreover, daily sessions as it is customary in orthodox psychoanalysis. Sessions are timed randomly. They may take place once a month or once a year, depending on clients’ needs.
During the first session, which lasts 2 or 3 hours, we discuss what worries you most of all and what must be protected in the first place. My client and I outline the general design of your Grotto and “lay the foundation” of your first “rooms”. There you can lodge your fears and place the greenhouse of your hopes, your private erotic cinema, your chest with treasures, your own museum of scents, your discotheque and wardrobe with your favourite underwear, and probably a torture chamber for your enemies. Also, there can be rooms for the deceased people you dearly loved, the room of your personal security and the throne room of Your Majesty. And lots of other things. The Grotto therapy programme offers you a romantic and open approach to the world and makes you much more viable.
An important part of Grotto therapy is effort to understand one’s own history. The speed of today’s life deprives people of the ability to remember who they are and who their ancestors were and what happens to them on the whole. It is not infrequent that people do not live a life of their own but have to follow generally accepted standards and values which may be at variance with their nature.
I’d like to add that while building a Grotto, a person develops his individual language to comprehend and describe his own feelings and experience. Further he concerns himself with conveying his experience to others in a language they can understand. This is how sacral knowledge is distilled for personal use and information that is worth sharing is selected.
Grotto therapy maintains that every person is a treasure; only he is not aware of the fact or has forgotten it. Every person can live in dignity and build his biography in such a way that should it be filmed, it would be of interest to many! Constrained consciousness can be compared to a writer’s block – no more stories to tell.
The modification of a client’s stories with the aid of free associations in psychoanalysis generates spontaneous restructuring and modification of the blocked parts of his consciousness. In this case the chaos of consciousness is not put in order and there is no linear development of the story in the client’s head. In this regard Grotto therapy goes farther that psychoanalysis, as not only does it use spontaneous associations but also helps the client map out new story lines for the development of his inner world.
The client begins to feel more comfortable in the present, as the construction of the inner world of his soul is his own responsibility, while the psychotherapist only gives him advice, trying not to give this work a particular direction as prescribed by any of the psychology schools.
When building one’s individual Grotto, nobody is in a hurry, for everything should be done well and with high quality. An idea should be thought through to the end. When people think things through, they become more intelligent. As long as this is not the case, we live in a world of somebody else’s thoughts, fantasies and delusive values. We’ll learn to take the truth without trepidation or blasphemy. It is no secret that we have breakthroughs or flashes of inspiration every now and then. In everyday life, however, they are spontaneous and uncontrolled and often come to nothing, whereas “breakthrough” in the Grotto therapy programme is a continuous process that one can fully control. Grotto therapy makes it possible to enhance the present and to stop being indifferent to transient occurrences of life.
You will certainly ask if there are any age limits for taking part in the Grotto therapy programme. There are none, this is my answer. The only thing is that the construction should be started before one becomes senile, when the backtracking point is effaced and the drivers can’t be updated. There’s nothing to add!

Your method and approach remind me of a fairy tale journey… or maybe I’m wrong?
Not in the least! It’s too bad that the fairy tale book is not called for in the modern world and sadly collects dust in the children’s library.
In any of the rooms in your personal Grotto you can set its own time and space, because this is magic! For instance, you like to relax in a room whose space is constructed according to the laws of black and white cinema. On the wall there is a clock with just one number on its face - XII! The hands of the clock move slowly, advancing a bit forward, then making a stop, going backward, a stop and again forward. The laws of the uniform working week in the post-capitalist era do not hold any longer in your personal Grotto!
Another important instrument for building your Grotto is the compass, which not only shows the direction but also changes in a miraculous way the temperature of what is going on. Let’s suppose that you want to send you boss for a long journey to the North Pole – you are free to construct a small refrigerator and put him into it for a while...and then see his troubled face turn into a ice sculpture and close the door of the fridge afterwards... I do hope that this won’t be the only room in your Grotto, naturally, there are others, you can’t do without them.
Don’t forget about the Room of Bans where one can place everything that is banned “for one’s good". Here I don’t mean bans on macro stimulants such as cocaine, absinth, glue, etc. – that is quite a different matter. I mean very simple things such as "don’t read this book”, "let’s go to the barber’s right away", "first you eat the eggs and after that the sweets", "you’ll have a cat in our home over my dead body" – you really should plunge into this psychedelic chorus of your parents and adults’ perpetual love for you and examine it, for all this still puts a strain on you and does not let you sing the song you like.

How does Grotto therapy correlate with the existing psychotherapeutical practices?
Every psychotherapy school is confident of its model of psyche, its vision of the human soul and its way towards salvation. Which of them is right? What shall we believe in?
I believe that we will never know where we have come from and where we are going. I believe that conscious efforts or self-cultivation, development of one’s personality and construction of one’s personal Grotto allow one to find a fulcrum inside and outside oneself, to remain one’s own self and not to be engulfed by the evil outer world and one’s own desires. Wind gusts become less dangerous. Sun rays more and more often lighten up the dark horizon.
It should be mentioned that even the most differentiated psychotechnics teachings of the 20th century, such as Jung’s analytical psychology and the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky System, perceived “self-cultivation” as an abstract thing, as both schools lay emphasis on a spontaneous flash of inspiration and therefore on intensive anticipation. Those who practice such psychotechnologies often construct this inspiration instead of finding themselves in a situation of spontaneous enlightenment. There is a popular joke that Freud’s patients saw dreams “according to Freud”, while Jung’s patients, “according to Jung”. In the Grotto therapy programme nobody expects spontaneous inspiration or enlightenment. Self-cultivation here means building or cleaning a room, and this activity is clear to everyone. The only difference is that one builds one’s inner Grotto and cleans the rooms of one’s soul.
It often happens that a young married couple spends a lot of time and energy to buy a house or a flat and furnish it properly. However, when the work is done, a crisis begins and the family breaks up. The reason is that during the “external construction” the people disregarded the building of their inner world, both the individual world of each of them and their common one. They failed to create their family’s “inner circle”.
Grotto therapy nurtures radical individualism, also taking into consideration collective realities and history as the life process as a whole and as the history of a person’s private life.
Grotto therapy does not contradict any of the existing psychotherapy schools and does not compete with them in any way. The psychotherapeutic continuum can be represented as a huge Grotto of psycho-practices where each school digs its tunnel.

“Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend” (a quotation of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung)?Exactly. It is analogous to gold mining during a gold rush, when each gold digger strives to find and work a gold vein. This gigantic Grotto is a labyrinth or a rhizome (the term introduced by Gilles Deleuze), and it is very difficult to find one’s bearings in this labyrinth.
In my opinion, the weak point of most psychotherapeutical schools and movements is that there is no room for sense of humour in them. Each school claims it know everything better than anybody else and stands up for its knowledge with a certain degree of aggression. A very interesting example is the critique of Jungism by Richard Noll in his wonderful bestseller The Aryan Christ. In this book (with a foreword for Russian readers) the author portrays modern Jungism as aggressive network marketing, which is a very interesting point of view. His critique however is no less aggressive than Jungism as he understands it. And there is no room for having a good laughter at one’s love for the truth which we’ll never be able to cognize as we know from Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Actually, a problem situation often emerges when a person loses the sense of self-irony. In this respect, of great interest is the myth about Aristotle’s lost book On Comedy, which is brilliantly recounted by Umberto Eco in his novel The Name of the Rose. But here we enter the domain of philosophy.

I understand you. You started with the study of philosophy, didn’t you? Does the “philosopher” inside you wake up when you practice psychotherapy?
Very much so! I want to examine the situation with a client from very different perspectives and my grounding in philosophy is quite to the point. Sometimes we can make good use of the conceptual system of the Middle Ages or that of ancient Greece and if my client wants to place some of the rooms in his or her personal Grotto in those epochs, so be it! Or, for instance, a client wants to organize his personal Masonic lodge and become the Master of Ceremony in it. It would be silly to prevent him from implementing this noble idea. In short, a therapist’s practice requires profound knowledge of a very broad cultural context and, more important, the ability to quickly and expertly make out new material. Supposedly, a client wants to grow tropical plants in one of the Grotto rooms. So I need to quickly decide on what and how. Or, for example, the client’s erotic room is furnished in the aestheticized BDSM style; so I have to learn more about this tricky area. In this case my philosophical education helps me much more than my knowledge of psychology!
Or let’s look at the situation this way: what is truth and what is a lie in psychotherapy? Carl Jung was once asked, "Herr Doctor, how can you be sure that your patients always tell you the truth and never lie?" Jung replied, "It is of no importance, because what interests me in my work are a person’s fantasies, and a lie is a particular case of fantasy".
My philosophical education helps me not to look for the truth where it should not be looked for. Psyche and emotional life are just the case. If a myth, a fairy tale or invention help a person to feel good and opens up new prospects to him or her and the person is happy, why not?! You can’t get by on tame and dullish truth. We know from the history of philosophy that in the early 20th century Ludwig Wittgenstein made a successful attempt to create a consistent and true language of communication. He found out, however, that there is only one phrase that can be absolutely trustworthy: ‘The situation is this and that’. The rest is a compromise between truths and lies. The subsequent development of Wittgenstein’s philosophy is a brilliant example of creating a ramified Grotto of philosophical judgments about language games and forms of vital activity where the criterion of truth was replaced by life pragmatics and homestead “common sense”. I must have got carried away talking about philosophy, haven’t I?

Not at all. This is very interesting, but let us change the subject. What part do you think is played by psychotherapy in the present-day world?
In my opinion, the need for psychotherapeutical practice is greater than ever before, as the civilized world is congested with superficial communication. This can be confirmed by anybody who sometimes looks through the Facebook news feed. Intensive one-on-one communication - this is real luxury. The world is losing dialogue, the most essential part of high quality psychic activity and self-knowledge.
Mysterious and romantic visions are quitting human imagination, while consciousness and the unconscious are becoming backup copies of each other. And this did not start today. The American artist Jasper Johns was upset by the fact that he never had refined dreams like those that the Surrealists had: "I dream of only what I see every day in the streets", the artist complained. What could he paint? So Jasper Johns painted the American flag and… became super famous immediately. The secret lied in the artist’s very personal vision and transformation of an ordinary object (a flag), which stripped the object of its magic power over human consciousness and made it an object of calm aesthetic contemplation.
The world is a dynamic reality, which can be transformed by will and imagination. In psychotherapeutic communication a person learns to see the world many-sided and multilayered. This enables him/her to comprehend their own difficulties looking at them from completely different angles and then ‘a problem’ turns into ‘a question’, i.e. the situation is not hopeless anymore and the person finds it increasingly interesting to work at what and how he/she should change in their life. Grotto therapy is one good example of experimental research. The psychotherapist’s task is to expand the boundaries of a client’s imagination bringing back the sense of romantic worldview, which the routine of daily life imperceptibly steals from one’s soul, giving nothing in return.
Interestingly, in everyday communication people, seeking to find peace of mind, more and more often take to different video museums, Youtube being the biggest of them. And all the passion of the human soul is used to find a new “prank” there and share it in the blogs. As a result, a person’s emotional life begins to resemble the flight of a fly which easily cuts all inconvenient corners. The invisible hand of the media space demiurge craftily controls people's emotional life, leaving nothing but devastation after each session of such control. A person who is busy building his/her inner Grotto and streamlining the inner world comes to realize very soon that the inner world rejects cultural objects and phenomena based on reality simulation. When an individual tries to give a personal meaning to objects of collective culture, their deindividualization impact is dispelled and automated control systems, such as all social networks without exception, lose their power over the individual.
This does not mean at all that I advocate archaic things. The happiness of a soul lies in the simplicity of life.

What is this simplicity?
It is the ability to go through one’s emotions and to understand them. The tempo of one’s life in this case is not imposed by the civilization any longer but is determined by the laws of nature and human will. The “corporative carnival” does deform one’s personality any more. Grotto therapy is like “art-house cinema”. If people are quite satisfied with their “successful” outward life without any sign of an inner world, let it be as they wish. But in the second half of life, after the age of 45, the absence of an inner world begins to give its signals.

What are the signals?
Emptiness, fears, no sense of internal support, and senseless existence.

Thank you very much. On behalf of our newspaper let me wish you success in all your professional endeavors!

Moscow, South Port, the late summer of 2011

Translated by Marina Tsareva
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