Searching for Fireflies & Sufism With Integrative Psychotherapist Salvo La Rosa

Searching for Fireflies & Sufism With Integrative Psychotherapist Salvo La Rosa

Welcome to the second instalment of our ‘On the Couch’ series, My name is Melanie Cox and we have the pleasure of talking to Salvo La Rosa, who is a qualified therapist specializing in integrative psychotherapy, with an added personal interest in Sufism. Salvo has recently hosted a workshop at the CCPE called ‘Searching for Fireflies’, which focuses on a psychotherapeutic exploration of the theme of longing.

Salvo is 36 years old and has recently finished a five-year training period in integrative transpersonal psychotherapy at CCPE, in Little Venice, Maida Vale. Together with a grounding in psychodynamic, humanistic and existential psychotherapy approaches to therapy, this training includes appreciation for the transpersonal, or spiritual dimension of each individual and makes use of resources beyond the personal such as the use of creativity, meditation, working with qualities and archetypes, dreams, visualisations and active imagination.

He is a relational practitioner and works from a trauma-informed perspective, including work with complex trauma, dissociated parts and using mindfulness therapy and the body. Salvo currently works in a rehab clinic for addictions together with working in private practice with clients at HQ Therapy Rooms in Dalston and Little Venice in Maida Vale.

He came to therapy as a second profession after working in the advertising industry for some years. Originally from Sicily, in the south of Italy, he has called London his home for the past 11 years and now lives in Stamford Hill.

The workshop Salvo will be running is called ‘Searching for fireflies’. The title evokes longing as a common human experience that leads to cravings, strong passions and a feeling of something is always missing in one’s life. The premise of the workshop is that there is something precious of the person hidden in the things they long for.

From his own experiences, Salvo may talk about his story of longing and reclaiming the parts of himself that he had forgotten. This could be understood both from a psychological point of view, as in withdrawing projections and also from a transpersonal perspective rooted in Sufism seeing longing as an emotion of the soul and calling for each person to manifest something of their unique nature.

But how did Salvo find his path from a career in advertising to a career as an integrative transpersonal psychotherapist and a deep interest in Sufism?

For those of you unaware of what Sufism entails The Threshold society defines Sufism with a concise explanation: “Sufism is a way of life in which a deeper identity is discovered and lived. This deeper identity, beyond the already known personality, is in harmony with all that exists. This deeper identity, or essential self, has abilities of awareness, action, creativity and love that are far beyond the abilities of the superficial personality. Eventually, it is understood that these abilities belong to a greater life and being which we individualize in our own unique way while never being separate from it.”

Let’s find out more about his journey…

On The Couch With Integrative Psychotherapist Salvo La Rosa

On The Couch With Salvo La Rosa

Melanie: Thank you for joining us for our second ‘On the Couch’ interview. We’ll be talking about ‘Searching for Fireflies’, the workshop that you’re going to do. I’m really interested in the premise of it. Can you tell us about it?

Salvo: Yeah. Ok, so Searching for Fireflies is about longing. I guess from my own personal experience when I was growing up, I always felt like I was searching for something. I tried searching for this in all sorts of different things externally, for example, jobs, relationships and sometimes addictions but I always had this feeling that something was missing. Then I realised what I was searching for outside was really within myself. That’s what the workshop is about. It’s about using creativity to explore and access the qualities and the part of ourselves that we have become disconnected from.

Melanie: Searching for Fireflies is such a good title for your workshop, what helped you become reconnected into that thing you were searching for?

Salvo: It was a process that led me to re-train. I left my old job in advertising and was re-evaluating all aspects of my life. Creativity was a big thing. I did things like writing or singing or searched for communities and groups where I could find some more meaning in my life. It’s a very broad topic; talking about longing. From one aspect, there were parts of me that I had neglected or was unaware of – that needed some work. There were also some parts of my soul if you want to use that kind of term, that hadn’t been fully expressed, that was actually part of my nature. The environment I was in was very different from these more hidden qualities that I hadn’t fully realised.

Melanie: So there were things that came out that were part of your soul that hadn’t been expressed?

Salvo: Yes, there is a gentleness, or a tenderness. Also developing expression and a more loving quality; connecting with people.

Melanie: It can be difficult for men to express that in our society. A lot of men say that they close that part of themselves away; the softness, lovingness, and open-heartedness….

Salvo: Yeah. Not only has that been my experience so far but I’ve also experienced that with some of the people that I’ve worked with. Especially some of the men that I’ve worked with. In a way, that tenderness can get shamed. Men are conditioned to believe that it’s not considered manly. As a man, you cannot be soft or tender or have feelings. However, this is not necessarily true. We explore this more in the Searching for Fireflies workshop. These hidden lost qualities might be different for different people. The focus may be more about finding out what these qualities are for each person and also what it might feel like to embody these qualities in the present. So, for example, if someone searches for love externally and feels unloved, what would it be like to imagine having this love within themselves? Or to be that kind of love? How would they walk, how would they feel what was already there?

Melanie: Are the hidden qualities the fireflies?

Salvo: Yes the fireflies; the inner light.

Melanie: The image of fireflies is quite delicate. Something quite gentle and magical. The other aspect was discovering your creativity and you are presumably working with that in the workshop….

Salvo: Yes, this is probably partly what my training has helped me to rediscover: finding out how my creativity and imagination can be a bridge to go deeper. For example, using writing or symbols can be a way to open up to something different. The identity of the person is discovered.

Melanie: You’re talking about working with metaphor?

Salvo: Yeah!

Melanie: The title itself, ‘Searching for Fireflies’, is a metaphor?

Salvo: Yes. And the premise of the workshop is a metaphor. By looking at the things that you long for, there is a clue about what it is that you’ve lost. There is a relevant quote ‘what you seek for is seeking you.’ Which is in the spirit of what I’m trying to do with ‘Searching for Fireflies’. There is a bit of you that is calling to be realised. It’s a quality that is part of your being that is actually desperate to be discovered.

Melanie: Beautiful!

Sufism And The Inward Search For The Divine

Salvo La Rosa: Sufism.

Melanie: What is Sufism and can you tell us a bit about how it is part of your work?

Salvo: Yes, throughout my training I’ve been interested in Sufism and I guess that’s also a system based on heart, love and a different way of seeing the world. This is hard to explain…but with Sufism, it’s like everything is part of the Divine, which I guess speaks to me. For example, if I think of poetry and music, that’s also a way Sufism uses creativity and embraces the world.

Melanie: And Sufism is also about open-heartedness.

Salvo: Yes. Sufism is about love. The Sufi path is a path of direct experience through dance, poetry, prayer, and communion with the Beloved, so then love is everywhere and you don’t have to search for love. Your Beloved is everything. It’s very soothing, I like it.

Melanie: Is there something about those concepts and beliefs in Sufism that helps you become more open-hearted?

Salvo: Yes. Sufism is just one of the influences. It may be part of my training in a more transpersonal way of working. Seeing different people as part of something bigger. Different expressions, like waves in the ocean. We are all part of the ocean…

Melanie: But every wave is unique.

Salvo: Yeah. It’s a way of being mindful of inter-connectedness.

Melanie: The ocean is a nice metaphor; the interconnectedness of individuals with the whole.

Salvo: Yeah.

Melanie: Can you give us an idea of how you work with these things in your ‘Searching for Fireflies’ workshop?

Salvo: Yes! We use music, sand trays, drawings, writings, and movement exercises to embody some of these qualities.

Melanie: Activating muscle memories?

Salvo: Yeah, to explore creatively what the meaning of these objects is that we search for. The physical exercises help ground the creative work.

Melanie: You use the artwork to help people discover the thing that they long for. I suppose some people will come very much knowing what that is?

Salvo: Yes, each person will probably know what it is. I’m hoping to help each person achieve the object of the longing symbolically, not literally. For example, if you want to have a house, the symbol is a house, but what does the house represent for them? What qualities need to be reclaimed to gain the inner light hidden in this physical object?

Melanie: So, if we use someone longing for a house as an example, when this is explored a little bit more, you find out that the house actually represents a longing for safety and security. What would you do next?

Salvo: This would obviously be over the course of the whole weekend, but the essence of what I would be trying to do is to work with security and how it would feel like to feel safe and secure. What would need to change in the physiology and the breathing and the posture, for example? It might be a process. It might lead to exploring ways in which they don’t feel safe and learning why. We will then try and find ways to give that part that doesn’t feel safe some security; to soothe it. In this specific example, I guess there might be a clear link with trauma or with a disassociated part of the person and feeling unloved.

An Integrative Transpersonal Approach (with a touch of complex trauma)

An Integrative Transpersonal approach with a touch of Complex Trauma

Melanie: Do you use any other approaches in your work?

Salvo: My approach is Integrative Transpersonal with a little bit of an influence from work with complex trauma. Things like Janina Fischer or Bessel van der Kolk for example. I work with Mindfulness and the body and with creativity to help reintegrate disassociated parts. I work with a trauma layer on a transpersonal layer. There might be a link to trauma or it might be something that is innate in the person; a soul quality, something that is not necessarily linked to what has happened to them.

Melanie: What is your perspective on the soul layer? What does the soul mean to you?

Salvo: To me personally, when I say soul, I mean something unique about the person. Something that is their essence, their nature. For me, if we take a further step back, I think we are all part of the same thing. As we were saying: the waves of the ocean, or even different rays of the sun. We are all part of the Sun. The ray is a soul.

Melanie: That’s lovely. So, you are coming from both a Sufi-spiritual, Transpersonal perspective as well as a creative perspective and entwining the two. What do you hope people will take away from the ‘Searching for Fireflies’ workshop?

Salvo: I would hope they get some insight into what is hidden in the thing they are longing for from Searching for Fireflies. At least that they know what it is. Spend some time looking at these passions and longings. It can be uncomfortable to long for something you don’t have. Hopefully, the workshop shines a different light on these cravings and longings. I hope people leave having found something valuable inside of themselves. In my personal experience, my longing took me to very dark places. It took me to the path of addiction and suffering. It was only a few years later when I was able to look back at it that I could see a little bit of gold, despite the suffering and all the consequences.

Melanie: The gift. Sometimes you can only see it with hindsight.

Salvo: Yeah the value in the whole experience. You may not achieve this in two days, but you will certainly get a flavour of it.

Melanie: I guess what I hear you say is that you would like to ease people’s suffering.

Salvo. Yes, ease people’s suffering and perhaps let them know that what you search for outside is really within yourself all along.

For more information about Salvo La Rosa, check out his website.