About Dr Kaye Gersch, PhD
It is important to understand something of a person's background in order to make sense of what moves them and why they have developed as they do. James Hillman talks of the daimon, or the destiny of each person. My therapeutic work, as well as teaching and research, are quite clearly influenced by the experiences of my life, or the daimon in action. As I was born in 1945, I have a large sweep of life to view and make meaning of - Jung, following Schopenhauer, said the task of the second half of life is to make meaning of the first half. It is clear now, that various threads have woven in and out, some remaining constant and strengthening.
From the earliest age, I have been compelled to undertake spiritual inquiry. My curiosity about the divine has taken me into quite a few cul de sacs, when I followed one or other doctrine or teacher in the hope that they would provide a path for me, that I could just follow. I was radically disappointed on more than one occasion, and as a result my gaze was turned within. However, for many years I was without a spiritual home, and wandered in the desert, so to speak. Then I discovered the work of C.G. Jung, and gradually my inner and outer horizons broadened and I began to trust my own thoughts, feelings and experiences. It was hard to wean myself from the idea that someone else would know better, however.
Parallel to my spiritual sensibility, has been a passionate love of the natural world. I was born into a farming family, and our family life centred around the seasons, the weather, the crops, and what had to be done today for the plants under our care. Our fortunes rose and fell, dictated by these huge forces of Nature, and our own interactions with them. I learned much from these beginnings. While I did not enjoy labouring as a child, I nevertheless loved being outdoors, and developed resilience and resourcefulness, and many skills, which my parents exemplified. I loved all small things, whether plant or animal. Many times I begged my mother “Can I keep it?”, when a stray kitten or orphan lamb came to my attention. Most often she said “Yes”. From the earliest age I was given a small plot of land to create my own garden, and I discovered that particular pleasure of watching things grow under my care - or neglect!
There was a piano in the house we rented when I was about four years old. I touched the keys cautiously and was thrilled with the resonant sounds. I begged my parents for lessons and had formal tuition from the ages of 7 to 18. My musical studies culminated in a year at the Adelaide conservatorium of Music.
Music became both a passion and a practice for my whole life. After hearing Bach played on a harpsichord on ABC radio, I fell in love with the instrument and acquired my own in 1987, a Flemish single, and began playing in Baroque ensembles. The intense concentration needed for playing and performing, the joy of creating music with others, overcoming performance-anxiety enough to survive the next concert - these have all been a major part of my inner and outer development. In my professional life as psychoanalytic psychotherapist, music in particular has kept me tethered to my own desires and passions. I believe this is a safeguard against the possibility of living one’s life vicariously through one’s clients. My psychoanalytic training emphasized the need to have a big life of one’s own, full of joys and sorrows, in addition to one’s professional practice.
As an adolescent I became increasingly interested in the causes of disease, both in agriculture and humans. My grandparents had used homoeopathy and home remedies, and I was drawn to a ‘natural’ approach. So, when the opportunity arose to study at the Southern School of Naturopathy when it opened in Melbourne, I took it eagerly. The discovery of various forms of 'energy medicine', including acupuncture and homoeopathy, galvanised my thinking. Homoeopathy in particular interested me, and I surprized myself by being able to remember the vast repertory quite easily - not like music scores! From 1976 to 1998 I worked in private practice as Naturopath and Homoeopath, and was thus immersed in understanding the needs of each unique individual who came to see me. I developed an indelible understanding of what could be called wholeness, or the continuum of life through environment, nutrition, psychology, spirituality and relationships. I could say that life is relationships, not only personal relations, but relations with the environment, with Nature: that one discovers ones self through relationships, that ones development is never in isolation.
I undertook both Jungian and psychoanalytic studies in pursuit of an understanding of the psychological and spiritual influences that make each person who they are. Jung's understanding of the psychological types brought me understanding of myself and others. Gradually my practice included more of the psychological, especially by working with dreams. From about 1990 to 1998 my practice was a combination of naturopathy and psychotherapy, a particularly rich and potent mix.
I had two daughters, born in 1970 and 1971. Being a mother, and the experience of birth and caring for small children has been a numinous experience for me, beyond what I can express here. The familiar stretch of attention between one’s own family and the larger world were magnified when I became a single parent in 1974. My compassion increased for all people - men and women - who undergo this particular tension.
The one event that shattered my idea of what was fair, or right, or even possible, was the sudden death of my younger daughter in 1985. The shards of my life hurt no matter which way I turned. My life changed irrevocably and I was thrown into an unfathomable Dark Night of the Soul. But this wrought a curious paradox - I also had access to depth and wonderment.
At this time I became aware of Jung's emphasis on 'the feminine' as a principal of life, and I explored such things as feminist philosophy of religion. Experiences of the mystical and the numinous came my way. As R.D.Laing said, “I have seen the Bird of Paradise, she has spread herself before me, and I shall never be the same again“ (1990, p 90). Indeed, I have not been the same, and the numinous has informed my Master’s studies, “Mysticism: Psychosis and Gnosis” (2002), and PhD, “The Feminine in Body, Language and Spirituality” (2013). The perspective which results from contact with the numinous continually evolves and leads me towards a global, inclusive, multidisciplinary approach to life and work.
Now in my 70's, I am fully aware that I have entered the life of an elder - the eldest in my family and among the elders in my profession and community. As a young person I yearned for mentorship from a wise person, and doing my best to be this for others is a full-time occupation. Both setbacks and unexpected opportunities have come to me at this late stage, and are keeping me very alive to the ebb and flow of life.
A recent development is that I have moved from the verdant moisture of the tropics to the western plains of New South Wales, to Dubbo. Here the climate is very extreme: I've experienced -7 degrees celcius, and 45 degrees celcius! I'm curious what this new venture will bring!