Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Janet Love - Spiritual Awakening

At a time when women of a similar age were settling into wealth and comfort, Janet Love gave it up to struggle as a student and pursue her dream of a career change

“I remember the moment I made my decision,” Janet Love says, her finger tapping the edge of her ever-present cup of steaming green tea.

“It was shortly after my divorce, and I’d just had lunch in Harrogate with my sister-in-law. I told her that I was thinking of moving to London to retrain as a spiritual psychotherapist. Well, she looked at me, her eyes narrowed, and she said: 'Don’t be ridiculous. You’re far too old'."

Love’s passion for psychotherapy had been percolating for a decade, since she read The Road Less Travelled [Scott Peck’s seminal work on love and spiritual evolution] ­and this is the moment it boiled over. She moved to London that September and by January she’d started her course.

Love’s sister-in-law wasn’t the only one who thought her decision was bordering on the bonkers. As a well-established interior designer to the northern moneyed, she was leaving behind financial security (and a covetable ab-fab lifestyle) for the uncertainty (and probable long haul), of life as a student in the capital city.

“Now, after eight years of training, I won’t say it was easy,” Janet continues, “Financially it was really tough. I don’t think you can be prepared for doing without at a stage in life when you had hoped to feel secure. In a sense I “stepped off the ride” in life, and it cost me friends. There were people who didn’t get what I’d done.”

Now 58, Janet is well-known in London as an exponent of spiritual psychotherapy, spearheading the breakthrough fields of autogenic therapy (a drug-free method of tackling anxiety and stress) and family constellation therapy (which works on the controversial proposition that aftershocks of trauma are passed down through generations).

During her years of retraining, Janet’s son was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and the process of caring for him whilst developing her career as a spiritual psychotherapist has informed two further projects.

The first is a book, Does Someone You Love Have Psychosis? and a charity, Loving Someone in Psychosis, the first of its kind dedicated to family members of those diagnosed with psychosis.

“In a way, I also have my choice of study to thank for having made it through the past few years,” Janet says. “As part of the training to become a psychotherapist, you’re in therapy yourself ­ looking at everything in a new way, and your reaction to challenges in life.

“I began to understand, too, why being 50 had brought me to this place: with a yearning to focus on the internal, rather than the external. As young women, we’re all focused on external values: getting married, having friends, getting the house and a car, having children.

"But, after 45, our values begin to turn inwards, to move towards self-examination and questioning. I was very much, without knowing it at first, tuned in to Jung’s course of psychological maturation.”

As popular thought would paint it Love’s generation lived what Jung calls the external life, with unprecedented panache. The postwar baby-boomers tasted sexual liberation and smudged Mary Quant pan stick as teens, and rode on a wave of dirty cash as Thatcher’s 30-somethings in the Eighties.

“I won’t deny that I delighted in all that ­ getting excitable about new dresses and beautiful things,” says Janet. “But were we a “wild” generation of women? I’m not so sure. It was more about snogging someone at the bottom of the drive in an old VB, which is hardly liberation. As young women we were more repressed and prideful ­and we couldn’t be straight with each other, or let it be known that we were nervous about anything.”

But, as Janet puts it, there’s always time to embrace the life unlived. “It’s not just the middle age of women of my generation that turns their gaze inwards," says Love, "It’s also the shock of the modern world. We’re bombarded with white noise, ­ too much choice, too many options. 'Do I go on a short weekend in Berlin, or do I go to Bombay?'.

“It’s debilitating, and I really feel for women in their twenties now. What do you do when you can do it all? I think we’ll see much more of a trend towards rejecting all of this, and looking inwards for answers.”

Love’s advice for other women thinking of a lock-stock life change in their fifties is to go for it. She says: "It will be difficult, but there’s nothing different in doing it in your fifties than your twenties. Being judged externally means very little, and inside we’re fundamentally the same women we were at age 20. That’s the little secret we keep from the world, isn’t it?”

Does Someone You Love Have Psychosis? will be published by Karnac Books in 2008 ( For information on the new charity Loving Someone In Psychosis, visit

Story extracted from Times Newspaper