The Garden Gate® Program has been a labour of love over the last decade, and is my attempt to understand and explain how theory works in practice. It draws on psychotherapy and counselling theory, has been refined by client input, and I hope provides a structured framework which can be used quickly and in the now. I work on the assumption that life doesn’t give us much time to think and it’s better to have a strategy up our sleeve rather than reacting in the moment (usually from a younger part of ourselves).
The program is a funny mix of structure (10 units which build on each other, culminating in a solid plan) and fuzzy logic which asks clients to give credence to scraps of ideas merely hinted at somewhere in our subconscious (which by definition may well be conscious if we can access them). To give a flavour of this mix I have chosen two excerpts from the program – an overview of the 10 unit structure and one of the notes on how best to work through the program.
- The Logic of the Garden Gate: understand how it works and take your current Garden Gate Score.
- Whose Garden?: explore your internal-external validation system and who is important.
- Four Legged Chair: define your priorities and measure how fully they are currently met.
- Chapters: chart the changes in your life and define what prompted change for you.
- Layers: map the evolution of your life and see what has shaped you.
- Rule Book for Self: understand what has made you tick and how would you like to tick going forward.
- Communication: define your Communication Mix and learn how to break negative chains of communication.
- See Your Garden: visualise your garden, look at what came before and what you want to come next.
- Symbolic and Safe Places: create symbolic and safe places to protect you and your garden going forward.
- Your Garden Gate Plan: develop a plan for your current chapter and set a review date to monitor its progress.
”Before we get going, I need to make something very clear. The Garden Gate runs on love, compassion, realism and kindness. It won’t work if it is fuelled by self-criticism, harshness, idealised versions of reality or meanness.
Think of an upset toddler – shouting at them to stop being upset will never work – the most likely outcome will be louder cries and deeper distress (unless they are in the unfortunate position of having already understood that we will never help and only ever shout, in which case they’ll tuck themselves in quickly and do what we say). To settle an upset child we need to understand what has got to them, show them we have understood, and genuinely reassure them that some things aren’t as bad as they feared and others can be tackled. We give love and understanding based on providing a truth they can rely on (or a fuzzy-ish version of truth if they are too young to understand the plain version).
When we work to optimise ourselves we inevitably stray into uncomfortable and vulnerable waters – in a sense we ruffle the feathers of our internal toddler in our search for growth. We brush against defence mechanisms and assumptions about who we are as we try to gain a precise and accurate view of ourselves. This can be upsetting and painful, however it is a crucial part of establishing exactly who we are and what makes us tick. As you work through the Garden Gate make sure that you are gentle with yourself, soften your approach so that feelings and thoughts feel safe to emerge rather than making sure that they remain tucked in to avoid fear, disapproval and scorn.”
I hope this has provided a sense of how the program works. If you’d like to find out more about group, individual, couple, team programs or retreats please have a look at http://www.gardengate.org.uk and get in touch.