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Biography work as a source of strength

Biography work – a form of therapy?

Definitely, says Susanne Hofmeister. Biography work is part of the spectrum of anthroposophical therapies, which also include external applications, art therapy and eurythmy therapy. As different as a poultice, a singing lesson, a danced sound or a look at a certain phase of life may be – all anthroposophical therapies have one basic foundation in common. They define health as a state in which a person lives from their individual balance. And anthroposophical biography work makes a valuable contribution to this:

‘It encourages looking at one’s own life in larger contexts. In this way, the turning points and growth opportunities that life holds in store are revealed. This allows us to tap into new resources and strengthen our resilience and ability to cope with stress. And this is how the foundation for physical, mental and spiritual health can be laid,’ Hofmeister summarises.

‘People who perceive their lives as meaningful can live more consciously, healthily and longer.’
Susanne Hofmeister, MD

How much effort goes into biography work?

These kinds of insights and resulting personal gain do not come about by themselves. Susanne Hofmeister refers to the life curve as defined by Bernhard Lievegoed, which increases up to an age of about 20, then rests on a plateau until about 40, before dropping off again towards the end of life. The period at which the curve bends is an interesting period – midlife. At this point, it is determined whether a person’s body, soul and spirit are ageing in sync. Or whether the person strives for self-development and is able to counter biological decline with inner growth.

Biography work supports this self-development. This can take place at one’s own initiative – supported by specialist literature, a diary, conversations with family and friends. But it can also be promoted by trained counsellors. This is recommended when biography work is used as a complementary therapy for health problems or mental crises.

Orientation can have a very healing effect

The universal structure that biography work offers makes it easier to orient oneself in one’s own life. This is very beneficial in cases of burnout or depression. And even with chronic illnesses, recognising connections creates a reconciliatory distance and can provide comfort, even with an advanced cancer diagnosis. How can this universal structure become recognisable?

‘Biography work is an offer to meet the demands of our time.’ Susanne Hofmeister, MD
Photo: Jan Papenhagen

A typical anthroposophical approach – focus on the seven-year cycles

Anthroposophical biography work works with seven-year cycles, i.e., stages of life that always cover seven years and can be combined into larger sections of 21 years. ‘However, the special nature of anthroposophical biography work is not only evident in the importance attached to seven-year cycles, but also in a particular perspective: biography work searches for the very personal meaning in life, reflecting on everything from birth to beyond death,’ explains Susanne Hofmeister.

‘A pivotal question is: what do I have that the world can use? Answering this question, releases unprecedented strength.’
Susanne Hofmeister, MD

Finding the common thread

It is about nothing less than the guiding focus of one’s personal life. Or – as Susanne Hofmeister likes to say – the common thread that runs through our lives. When I have found my thread, I can hold on to it. ‘Then I can discover a competence, almost a source of strength, in my past destiny.’

Taking effect into the future

When connected to this source of strength, a person can make peace with the past, and look confidently into the future and have an impact on it. This has rarely been as relevant as it is today. ‘Our whole world lacks visions of the future which we can also connect to emotionally’, Susanne Hofmeister notes. ‘Instead, fears are mounting, I tend to refer to it as a lack of security in life. We feel a deep longing for wise leaders. Yet, where are they? We should not wait for rescue; we can take responsibility ourselves.’

Answers to current challenges

It is not surprising that in these times, which people perceive as uncertain, the demand for holistic therapies is increasing. Susanne Hofmeister has noticed that her training courses are attended by therapists, counsellors, human resource managers and doctors with both anthroposophical and conventional medical backgrounds. They all appreciate that anthroposophical biography work can be combined with other therapies. And that in a world that is becoming increasingly confusing, it offers orientation that starts with the individual and has an impact on society.

‘Biography work is an offer to meet the demands of our time.’
Susanne Hofmeister, MD