After reading “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” by Carl Gustav Jung, Iulia instantly knew what she wanted to do in life. Passionate people are lucky like that. They realize from a very early age what they want to become, and they will stay on that path regardless of the hurdles that lie ahead.
A licensed psychotherapist and a certified Aware Parenting Instructor, Iulia Feordeanu didn’t settle for a life in the office. At our monthly Labors of Hercules meetup, she shared with us how she helped create the Association Sol Mentis (which she now runs), an NGO that provides emotional support for vulnerable communities. Most of Iulia’s efforts are geared towards finding ever-more-efficient ways to aid disadvantaged individuals everywhere. She believes helping children who’ve had a bad start in life is the best thing she can do with her expertise. So she’s made it her life’s mission.
Fixing broken souls through sandplay
Through the nonprofit, volunteers spend time with the young ones helping them regain their confidence, their identity, and their trust in the world. Sandplay therapy is used. Specifically, the method called Expressive Sandwork, where each child has his or her own sand tray and accompanying adult who serves as a quiet partner. Quiet because non-verbal communication triggers that part of the brain that is mostly developed before the child turns one year old. It has been discovered that the mirror neurons develop before 12 months of age. Scientist say that these neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people and might be the neural basis of the human capacity for various emotions, like empathy. With abandoned children or children that lacked affection in their first year of life, this is the way to help them recover.
Expressive Sandwork is basically sandplay. Despite the protagonists working in duos, the therapy actually takes place in groups. It’s a practical application born from the theories of psychiatrist Carl Jung. Children are given a set of toys, or miniature characters. Through the placing of miniatures in the sand, inner conflicts that cause emotional turmoil and overt symptoms can be resolved. The symbolic images created as a result of placing the figurines in the sand can bring together opposites and overcome blockages, leading to the ego surrendering to the Self.
With as little as five months of therapy, the children exhibit substantial behavioral improvements. Iulia said it’s much easier to solve emotional conflicts in small children between the ages 6 to 12, than it is in teens. “You’d be amazed how rapidly a child’s brain is able to fix itself, as opposed to that of an adult,” Iulia told us.
Asked whether the child begins to miss their companion once he / she stops visiting, the psychotherapist said it’s actually the adults who bond the strongest. Disfavored children are experts at protecting their emotional side by not developing an attachment too soon, she said. But it’s not just children who get help there. Even grownups receive assistance from her organization.
Searching our own
Iulia is hooked on the world of dreams and the soul in particular. She, like others in her branch, believes that our dreams are windows to our soul, and that the images in each person’s head are 100% unique to that person.
At one point, Artificial Intelligence came up in the discussion. While many believe AI will eventually give rise to self-aware machines, Iulia is not convinced that we will ever fully reproduce the soul artificially. In her own words, “Different people experience spirituality in vastly different ways. It’s evidence enough that it will be a daunting task to manufacture souls.” She didn’t fully dismiss the idea, but maintained that we may never get there.
Iulia devised an exercise for us where we wrote down our deepest passions and fears to remind us who we are and what we like to do in life. You can learn a lot about yourself by answering the question, “what animal would you like to be?” By the end, we were all asking questions that, once answered, suddenly seemed silly. It made us realize how little we knew about the the human mind – the soul, if you will – and ourselves.
All in all, we felt privileged to have her. For me, it was the AI discussion that took the air out of the room. I’m not taking sides, but now I’m even more determined to seek answers. One way or another, Iulia made us all search our souls deeper and better. In one hour flat.