Saturday, November 17, 2012

Transpersonal Psychology - What is it?

     Transpersonal psychology refers to a “whole person” approach at understanding psychology (why people do what they do and why they think the way they think). This “whole person” approach includes the intellect, emotions, body, and spirit. With regards to the two triangular models s – Experiences in the Spheres of Consciousness & the 3 Fundamental Dimensions of the Whole person experience – I believe we can add some new dimensions into the working definition of “transpersonal psychology”. I believe we can overlay and interchange the relationships between the cosmocentric, egocentric, and psychocentric experiences in the spheres of consciousness with the transpersonal, personal, and interpersonal dimensions of the “whole-person” experience. The overlay and interchange between these two models results in different combinations and different relationships that can emerge between consciousness and experience. These relationships are relevant.  What is the point of experience if we are unconscious of its existence?
     Therefore, in addition to the short working definition of transpersonal psychology that I set forth in my first paragraph, I feel that consciousness plays an important role in the transpersonal experience. Understanding the focus of our consciousness (egocentric, psychocentric, and cosmocentric) and how it relates to our experience with ourself, others, and the universal whole, is imperative in understanding someone on a psychological level. In summation, I feel that transpersonal psychology is the study of the whole person, their experiences, the level of consciousness they are experiencing during a series of events or during reflection of events, and how all of these things interplay with one another to result in that person’s current perception of life as they know it/perceive it.
     Additionally, I found some commentary in the readings of particular interest. First, in reading about the Emergence of Transpersonal Psychology I really appreciated Maslow’s idea of self-actualization as a way of defining transpersonal experiences and/or studies. You could add to the definition of transpersonal psychology by positing that it is also the study of the self-actualizing dimension of human nature. I also appreciated Walt Whitman’s assertion that “body and spirit be felt with equal delight”. Additionally, the commentary about how “transcendentalists traced their world view to the European idealist school philosophy that holds that ideas and intuitions have a reality of their own”. I have never considered that notion before! Vaughan’s statement that there are three dimensions to transpersonal therapy (those dimensions being context, content, and process) really resonated with me because it organizes the therapy into a sort of “three-pronged approach” that is easier to wrap your mind around on a cognitive level.  In the future, it will be interesting to look at the context, content, and process involved in the three levels of the transpersonal spectrum (egoic, existential, and transpersonal). I am really into “overlaying”  concepts atop of one another and seeing what combinations emerge and their implications.
     The definitions of transpersonal psychology discussed in the article by Caplan, Hartelius, and Rardin also made some points of particular interest.  I love what Boorstein had to say about therapy, “I do not think about people becoming ‘cured’ or about ‘working things through’. I think about us all becoming more familiar with the habits of our minds and more skillful about habits we cultivate.” Mark Epstein intrigued me as I read, “Transpersonal psychology is the study of the impersonal nature of the self.”  I took particular notice of Gilot’s admonition on “awareness” which “pushes perception into unconscious structures, revealing the deep mental functioning and processes connected to the perception of reality and to individual choices.” Grof’s statement about religion versus spirituality and its place in transpersonal psychology really resonated with me as I read, “…it is essential to emphasize that transpersonal psychologists strictly differentiate spirituality based on personal experience from the activities involving organized religion. While it is possible to study transpersonal experiences with scientific rigor and incorporate the findings into a comprehensive world view, it is impossible to reconcile the dogmas of organized religions with science, traditional as well as ‘new paradigm science’.”  As I consider all of these points made by these various transpersonal psychologists I am slightly overwhelmed. It is a lot of food for thought (to state an overused cliché). When it is all said and done I feel like, if I were to simplify the definition, it would be as follows: the overlap of psychology and spirituality and the implications that go along with overlapping those two together. The implications have similarities and differences for everyone. There are some collective conscious – type experiences that are simply perceived and expressed uniquely by the person experiencing them and these experiences we use to better understand the whole person.

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