A Warm Bath of Oxytocin at the 2022 Psychotherapy Networker Symposium
It all started when editor Rich Simon suggested I write an article for the Psychotherapy Networker magazine in 2009. I was “nobody” then; Rich worked we me for months, “simonizing” my writing as he did with every contributor to the magazine. The article, A Warm Bath for the Brain: Understanding Oxytocin’s Role in Therapeutic Change, is archived on the magazine’s website if you have an account to log in. I posted the text of it in a much longer article Oxytocin: the Neurochemical of Everything Good in April 2010. (I wrote a lot about oxytocin – the brain’s hormone of safety and trust, the immediate antidote to the stress hormone cortisol – in those days, and wrote much longer articles!)
I will be teaching at the 2022 Psychotherapy Networker Symposium March 10 and March 11, 2022, my tenth straight year in a row. (Minus 2020 when the pandemic shut down the country 1 week before the 2020 Symposium was to begin.) This year, Cultivating a Resilience Mindset: Breaking Old Patterns for New Growth and Retiring the Inner Critic: Ending the Flood of Shaming Self-Talk.
And given my retirement in July 2022, this will be my last Symposium, ever. My teaching this year, and this post, really is a tribute to Rich Simon, the editor of the magazine and energy of the Symposium for 40 years before he died in 2020.
Rich created “the tribe” with every Symposium, and launched many, many clinicians besides me into the public arena. It truly was Rich who opened the door, inviting me to teach in 2011 when Bouncing Back was still in the percolating stages. That very first workshop, Neuroscience and the Art of Self Care, 70 clinicians buzzing with energy in the experiential exercises, I had a whoosh of a feeling, “I was born to do this!” Rick Hanson peeked his head in the door (I didn’t know until afterwards), felt the energy and engagement, at dinner that night offered to introduce me to Caroline Pincus, the developmental editor who helped publish Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience, Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. Caroline polished my proposal and we had three offers from publishers by that August.
Neuroscience was the hot topic when Bouncing Back was published in 2013. (Making its debut at the PN Symposium one month before it was in the bookstores, again Rich watching out for his peeps.) Turns out resilience was an even hotter topic. My teaching at the Symposium evolved through the Neuroscience of Resilience through Catalyzing Brain Change to Cultivating a Resilience Mindset.
Sometimes 30 people in a workshop; sometimes 200. Always the warm bath of flowing through the halls of the Omni Shoreham Hotel with 3,500 other clinicians. Pre-pandemic, it was such a joy to fall into a conversation in the elevator, in the restroom, walking up the stairs.
And the connections made in that community that Rich gathered together every year could be dazzling. Having lunch with Tara Brach in my room, an email comes in on her phone, would she be interested in teaching for Deb Dana’s trauma therapy group in Maine? No, but she immediately passed on my name, I taught for Deb later that summer, the beginning of a friendship that now includes weekly Zoom calls to commiserate and celebrate our professional and personal lives. Sitting next to Ruth Buczynski at a plenary, getting invited to teach for NICABM. Sitting next to Rasmani Orth in another plenary, getting invited to teach at Kripalu. Getting scouted for Cape Cod Institute, Leading Edge Seminars, even to teach in Jerusalem or Australia by presenters who scoured the Symposium catalog every year, what new topics we being taught and who were the new presenters.
Malcom Gladwell answered a question of mine in his workshop. John O’Donohue critiqued a poem of mine in his workshop. Diane Ackerman and I brainstormed about the nine lives that could be lived in a poem while walking up the stairs. The Symposium has been, continues to be, a place where people can “meet the moment” and soar.
I invite you to join this year’s Symposium if you can, live or online. Use the code SYM50 for a $50 discount. And revel in the learning…and the love.