Co-interviewers Rocio Ocampo-Giancola & Akansha Vaswani interviewed Barbara (B) Herring at the Reauthoring Teaching Board Retreat, March 11, 2022. The original interview included an Outsider Witness Team and B’s responses to these reflections. Here are some excerpts.
"B"ing curious and grounded.
1 The conversation can be anything you really want to speak to. As people are suggesting things, what is landing for you?
Maybe the influences of my history and coming into narrative practices. I always wanted to be a therapist. And I never knew how I was going to be here. I’ve had a very big life, growing up in the inner city. I had a son very young at 22. I think what saved me during many years of my life was my spirituality and my changing.
When becoming a therapist, going back to school, the first narrative class that I had was with Charley (Lang). He was talking about how the narrative lens sat in the position of curiosity. It’s the way that I move in the world. I just want to know. Why” was a bad word growing up in my home. You just took what was offered, for many, many different reasons. People didn’t have time to answer that question of why.
2What are some things about the ability to ask that really captured you?
I always was curious why people did what they did, why they thought what they thought. I always was in question of “how can that be true?” I grew up Baptist church, and there, you couldn’t really question why either. You just took. But I always had questions because it didn’t make sense to me. So I think the not being able to ask that question and really get answers made me rebellious in that I wanted to figure out everything. I can’t be the only one who thinks the way that I think.
3 What are some of the effects that you've noticed from the ability now to be able to ask why in your own life and your own practices of therapy?
I think that the whys, the hows, the whos, the nuances and the small details all create the picture. I really do believe that the magic is in the details , and in those small details, it’s like you’re getting to the heart, the mind, and the spirit of the human that’s sitting in front of you. We have all these influences by the outside world from the micro to the macro, but what is true for you?
4You said something about getting to the spirit of the human and how " my spirituality saved me. " Can you share with us a little bit about your spirituality?
If I worship anything, it would probably be the moon. I love nature. I love the moon. I love the stars. I call myself a witch. I used to be a Christian. I believe in the love of Christ. But it’s open ended, it’s not attached to anything. And it’s between me and whatever my higher power is. And it’s just everywhere and everything. I think my spirituality is what keeps me going. It was a difficult growing up.. I think what saved me was my grounding in my own power of now. Because the more I’m in the future, I can run very, very, very, very anxious, and I can run depressed for all the things of the history. I just think of my spirit, it’s just in the now, and it’s really evolved as the years. I just have my practices. I do tarot. I do moon baths. I have a hot tub, and I like to take moon baths.
5Do you have any thoughts about what the moon might say, listening?
Hmm. What phase are we in? A lot of it, for me, is about release and invite. ..A new moon, I’m inviting in. And at the end of the lunar cycle, I’m releasing. Actually, at the full moon, I’ll let go of things that no longer serve me. Thoughts, ways of being, people… It’s interesting living now where I live and really having access to the stars, it reminds me also, really how small I am. I’m just part of the universe. You’re just a spot dot, just a little bit. And it grounds me in. Everything’s going to be okay. .. With my clients, how mindful can we be, particularly now with the state of the world? … I had a spirituality before, but having access to this nature and this way of being has elevated my sense of spirit. It’s even made me more curious, but grounded.
6Why is it important for you to be curious but also grounded?
If I’m not grounded, it’s difficult for me to be curious because I’m usually worried. And in worry, the type of curiosity I have is not beneficial to me. If I’m grounded, I feel like my mind is more open.
When I’m not grounded, my monkey mind goes in all different kinds of places. It makes up all kinds of stories.
7When the magic of the spells that you cast are thrown forth in the world, what happens?
I believe in magic because I see it come to fruition. So I’m really particular about what I say, what I ask for, what I do. And I always do everything out of love and what is in the best interest of most
8When did you first know about being magical?
I think when I was little, but I used to gaslight myself. I used to go, did I really think that? Did I really say that? And so I used to talk myself out of it.
9Can you tell us one story?
Becoming a therapist is something I put into the universe a long, long, long time ago. It’s what I wanted to do. It’s how I wanted to create. I wanted to figure out why people thought and did the things that they did. And I wanted to know what people’s secrets were because I’m nosy. I was like, I get to be a professional secret keeper. I’ve always been curious about the unspoken. I did a very hard thing in changing from one career to the other. I went to school to become a teacher. Didn’t like the bureaucracy of becoming a teacher. So I became a nanny, and I trained how to cook when I was in college and became a chef. But this was not all of my purpose or how I wanted to be in the world. And I finally did the hard thing, I’m going to go back to school. And I had support to be able to do it.
10What magical powers did you develop over your lifetime to come to be a secret keeper
Sometimes our secrets are where our heart desires are, but we’re afraid. There’s fear. That’s why we keep it in the dark. So I think being able to ask in the nuance of the things that people don’t tell others, you can really find what is most meaningful in people’s lives.
11Do you think, B, that narrative has allowed you to orient yourself in ways that asking is possible in different ways?
Absolutely, because I can really sit in the position that they are the directors. This is their story. They know their story better than me. I can sit in that place and be in wonder with them.
12You said secrets are where the heart desires are?
Whether it’s what we secretly want, whether it’s in certain aspects of shame… I just think people keep secrets for a reason because they think that they’re going to be judged based on them. So if I can sit in a place of non-judgment and they can just share whatever it is that they want to share wholeheartedly, openly, honestly, we can discuss it. It’s a place where they can find freedom, and it frees them.
13There's some noticing you are having about secrets and shame?
Heavy shame can really hold people hostage, or they can remain stuck. I have to remind people that’s not their shame to have. Some people don’t even realize it’s not their shame to have Because it’s from the outside narrative, or it’s from the family narrative. It’s from the, I’m not supposed to be. So I tell people… don’t should on yourself. Who are you in all of this? Is this yours or is this somebody else’s? Is this your voice or is this somebody else’s voice? So oftentimes, shame will be what I shouldn’t be, what I shouldn’t be doing, what I shouldn’t want, what I should…
14You've used magic to navigate shame?
There can be repair, and there can be repair and magic.I do a lot of ritual work. And I think that’s all magical. And it’s the same thing, inviting and releasing. I have people who want that type of work done. And that’s where they sit. So that is what is real for them.
15So much of what you're describing seems so beyond words?
What do you feel right now? Where do you feel it in your body? What’s going on? How does it feel to say that? Just really keeping people in the mind, body connection. It is beyond words because it’s sometimes hard to describe. And language can be so limiting.
Barbara (B) Herring (Los Angeles, CA) holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University where she specialized in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy. She is actively working as a private practice intern under the supervision of Lucy Cotter at NCC as well as working as an intern at Teen-Line. Barbara’s traineeship was at Being Alive a HIV/Aids Service organization. Barbara is highly competent and sensitive at working with a diverse range of individuals, regardless of cultural background or where they may fall on the gender and sexuality spectrum, she has created and implemented workshops on Race and Privilege in the Therapy Room. She presented the May 2018 Collab Salon, Acknowledging the Effects of Difference: Race & Privilege in the Therapy Room, and led the Delving into Difference Consultation Group. She also presented the December 19, 2021 Collab Salon: An Introduction to Narcissism and Narcissistic Abuse Through the Narrative Lens. She hopes to continue to broaden her platform as a consultant for clinicians around intersectionality and difference as well as Narcissistic Abuse.