Personal Alchemy: Pure Gold
Cathy McNally on Maria Gomori's new book
Over the 20 years I have known Maria, 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
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!
Personal Alchemy is now
available from The Haven and The Satir Institute of Manitoba.