By Cathy McNally
Personal Alchemy: The Art of Satir Family Reconstruction by Maria Gomori with Eleanor Adaskin is available from The Haven store.
Over the 20 years I have known Maria Gomori, she has often reflected on how challenging it would be to write a book that does justice to the magical process of Satir Family Reconstruction. After reading Personal Alchemy: The Art of Satir Family Reconstruction, I believe she has more than met this challenge, with the assistance of Eleanor Adaskin and the fine editing of Toby Macklin.
The title of the book, Maria explains, is a ‘polite version’ of Virginia Satir’s belief in the human capacity to ‘turn shit into gold’!
As I picked up the book my first wondering was: who is it for – individuals interested in the work of Satir? Beginner practitioners? Seasoned practitioners, polishing their technique? Though it seems this book best serves those interested in learning and improving their use of Family Reconstruction techniques, I am pleased to report that it serves many other interests as well!
Part One begins with a short personal introduction that includes Maria’s first meeting with Virginia Satir and personal reflections on her own Family Reconstruction. Then Maria gives an elegantly succinct review of Satir concepts. I was struck with this section. It is clear and seemed somehow ‘fresh’. I recommend it to anyone wanting an overview, or to brush up on their Satir knowledge. Maria also gives detailed examples to illustrate points she is making, and shares exercises that can be used with various Satir concepts.
In several places the book reflects Maria’s love and respect for the work of all three of her teachers, mentors and friends: Virginia Satir, and Ben Wong and Jock McKeen. This shows in small details as well as larger statements: for example Maria’s version of the Satir iceberg metaphor follows The Haven communication model in including perceptions and interpretations, where the original has just perceptions.
Following this review of concepts are three chapters devoted to the purpose and methods of Family Reconstruction. I had expected Maria to go into depth about this exquisite transformational process, as she has abundant and unparalleled experience to draw from. What I had not imagined was the quality and extent of her tips and the advice she offers on how to use it, and lead it. This ‘coaching’ comes over as warm and helpful, and easy to understand.
Part Two of the book is entirely different. It is a collection of five diverse Family Reconstruction case studies conducted by Maria. Each is transcribed from recordings of the process, and Maria has added detailed and illuminating commentaries about her perspective and thinking process along the way. These commentaries are outstanding. They turn this section of the book into a form of personal sharing … direct from Maria to you! – Can you imagine it? – It is like having Maria all to yourself as she shares her insights with you personally while the Family Reconstruction process unfolds! Amazing! Even when working as an assistant with Maria we can rarely do this, and never to this degree. What a gift! I have learned much already from my first read through of these cases … and I plan to go over them again.
A treasure not identified in the contents is the rare transcript of a beautiful meditation by Maria at the start of Case Five. I have heard Maria speak these on many occasions. They set the stage for a group of people who are about to work together to inspire themselves, align and connect. This meditation brings the appreciative, gentle, loving approach of Satir work into full focus, and I am delighted to have a copy for myself to enjoy and use.
Maria mentions several times through the book that the most important element in learning how to work with Satir Family Reconstruction is “practice, practice, practice”. This book gives you everything you need to do just that. It also gives you an insight into the wonderful mind and talent of Maria Gomori. As such, it is pure gold!