April Member Highlight: Daniel Factor, MA, LMFT

Hello there! I’ve been asked to introduce myself, and my work, here in Voices. I could certainly write about my professional stats with the who-what-when-where-and how of the work that I do, but all of that is readily available on my website, which leaves only the story of ‘why’ to share a bit about here.

In some respects, my beginning in this career is closer to an epilogue than a first chapter, as long ago I had considered becoming a therapist, but I wasn’t ready to do so. But, in the winter of 2009, that changed when a life threatening shock shook the ground so harshly, it caused me to leap for dear life and land on a foundation poured and curing for a very long time.

I’ve learned from architecture that foundations can be made in sections and joined with expansion joints for flexibility, which is a useful metaphor for the construction of a mind. Many sections of my mind had been poured and cured with a similar kind of expanding alchemy, one I discovered from tenaciously holding together both ‘differences & similarities’ to form a clearer and therefore more valuable understanding. Alchemy like this brings tempering flexibility to manage the forces of external persuaders and internal gullibility.

Living, as far as I can tell, is learning, by trial and error leading to discoveries along the way—ones often needing to be refined by the next set of trial & error & discoveries, until some prime and stable and lasting ones appear. This three-part system of learning is a fascinating thing, and each part holds certain risks and rewards and liabilities.

A broad ecological example of this kind of refining process can be seen in the dynamic history of our profession—a history that on its face seems to present more differences then similarities bound to each eras’ models and theories, often discussed as if they are entirely independent rather than being variations, or additions, or are overt rejections of what came before, and which in what ever is the case, at times seems to be cause for contentious debates and territoriality.

With a history like this floating around it can leave one interested in becoming a therapist spinning and in need of some strategy to hold. Well, it’s just this kind of atmosphere that triggers my mind to take a walk-a-bout journey through the fields of ‘knowledge’ in order to find some evolutionary transparency, relying once again on my old faithful alchemy to form firm enough ground.

Thankfully I’ve come across many experienced researchers and clinicians who have faithfully stitched a lineage into their written contributions with honesty and gratitude. These are those lovely virtues that many leading voices in our field share, though not all do, and those are the ones to be weary of.

I suppose a Bowlby or Erikson explanation for why I was so pulled to pour and cure my self-made foundation, was as a counter to having had so much deception and so little support in my earliest of years, causing breath-holding upset, tensely-held confusion, wide-eyed mistrust, constricting doubt, and a waiting, a very long waiting brought on by those automatic reflexes that self-protect from such stressors, and therefore leaves for a later time a need to begin a project to sort it all out.

My first major sorting finally arrived when I was 19, when discovering quite abruptly that I didn’t actually know who I was. The very second this occurred is still seared into my mind, but that’s too long a story to tell here. Suffice it to say, I was shaken awake just enough to realize I needed a deliberate effort to self-define, a call to begin that perfectly coined onion peeling process, with its stinging tears and peelable layers of translucency. This would be my first foundation building effort, but for that I would need some help. And believe it or not, it was exactly then that I learned what synchronicity was, never really aware of the word before, by serendipitously meeting the man who would become my very first guide: Carl Jung.

I first met my self-selected father Carl browsing in a bookstore, when his autobiography Memories, Dreams and Reflections suddenly appeared before my eyes. I had heard about this man and his dreams who argued with Freud, but knew little more, and since I was drawn to the subject, I thought ‘what the hell, I might as well start here.’ And what I read there confirmed my need to sort things out; and I learned the value of a deeper reflection process that could stitch the three dimensions of time, and for grasping the nature and operations of the Mind.

All of that was a long time ago, and while I can’t say that I still share many of the views of Jung, his torch light process is something I will always be grateful for. And I am just as grateful to the therapists I had found as well, who were just there for me in ways I had never known.

Today after traveling a long and purposeful road, having taken in and learned from many others who have shinned a light on a range of other humanistic, naturalistic, spiritualistic, scientific trails to explore, I self identify as an eclectic therapist, guided by theory as much as I should, but even more by the value of being present with the people and relationships I serve.

Continual learning and refinement still brings me ongoing private pleasure, but it is for a larger purpose now, one that most directly answers the “why” it is I continue doing so: For bettering my therapist self, which comes from setting certain parts of me to one side, to widen the room for others to have their process and organization be understood, felt and known within themselves, and confirmed.

These are the moments to be ready for now, the moments waiting to be found, breathed in, well supported, and let out…and those moments are the ones when I feel most grateful for taking my faithful leap home.

Daniel Factor, LMFT