Understanding Transpersonal Psychotherapy and Embodied Countertransference as a Path to Ecstasy
Note: I was asked to write this text for Transpersonal Press. They required an edit of the text in order to publish but I decided not to edit the original work, so here it is.
This short text is the culmination of my personal and continued journey through the landscape of spirituality and its interface with counselling and psychotherapy and my ten year private practice as a counsellor and psychotherapist. I began meditating seriously 20 years ago when I came into contact with the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. I took to the practice of self enquiry, or attention to the consciousness ‘I’ with great diligence. For many years austere spiritual discipline characterised the nature of my personal world and in 2002 I was initiated into the lineage of Tantric Shaivism by Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, whose presence assisted greatly in the purification of my ego pathology and in my penetration of deeper self enquiry. At around this same time I entered my personal journey of psychotherapy with a senior transpersonally trained body psychotherapist through the Chiron Centre. Seven years later I began my own training as a psychosynthesis counsellor and psychotherapist, a training which took me on a seven year process to the completion of my psychotherapy masters. During these years I underwent psychotherapy with a senior psychosynthesis psychotherapist steeped in a Jungian analytical perspective. My own orientation I consider to be relational depth psychotherapy within a transpersonal context.
For many years a main tension for me was what I experienced as the (at least in its traditional presentation) nihilistic view of human life offered by the Vedas, and my own love of humanity and the passions of this world. Even in my more plural moments, there was still an underlying murmur of contradiction, between the ideal of self enquiry to remain in thought free awareness, and the fact of having this human vehicle with its wondrous passions and capacity to think, feel and imagine. Nevertheless I held to vedantic knowledge as the ultimate truth and erred on the side of austere spiritual discipline, twinged with the obvious depths of self hatred and judgment often the result of my frivolous human pleasures, constellated (as I misguidedly took for granted) by my early relational trauma and primitive love of the flesh and bones of human existence. As much as I meditated my way through life, I could not avoid the insatiable Dionysiac urges within that loved life and love with a passion akin to the innocence of a child. I tried to find reconciliation through the tantric ideologies of the left hand path of the Kaula traditions of Shaktism and Avadhuta traditions, but still I could not avoid what I personally experienced as a dangerous and subtly lodged judgment regarding basic human life, as if mankind’s basic condition was somehow erroneous.
In the traditions of psychotherapy, steeped as I was in my theoretical basis in psychoanalytic, intersubjectivity and developmental theory, the opposite was often the case. Such traditions made great room for, and alliance with humanity and mankind’s general failure to work through its basic enmeshment with primal wounding dynamics, relative to family of origin and relational trauma in general. Nevertheless, this tension between these great traditions of mankind’s quest for meaningful existence and self knowledge have, and continue to inspire my own life and practice and language of self realisation, informing my practice both professionally and personally.
My interest as a counsellor and psychotherapist has always been stimulated by ideas of consciousness, embodiment and relational perspectives, and especially transference and countertransference dynamics. It is my personal relationship with these ideas that form the basis of this text and which I feel are the most essential realities to come to terms with as a practitioner. In yoga there is a concept known as samadhi, which could loosely be translated as a kind of egoless ecstasy, meaning an experience of the ecstatic flow of pure consciousness, free from identification with personality dynamics. It has been argued that the great traditions of Shaivism in the East, and Dionysism in the West, originally had at their heart such culmination of human experience as the ecstatic. It is my own experience that until the ecstatic underpins the basic lived experience of human being, that happiness will always be amiss. And it is the ecstatic that has offered me the comfortable juxtaposition of my relationship with Eastern perspectives of spirituality and Western perspectives of humanity, relationship and embodied perspectives on human individuality and self expression. Embodied ecstatic experience provides for me the frontline of human incarnation, bridging spirit and flesh, by contextualising self awareness as the pure identity centre from which to engage the functional (not identity) channels of cognitive, affective, imaginal and physiological processes for a fully lived experience of human embodiment.
I do not consider this book an academic text but simply a self expression. It is not in any way presented as ultimate truth, given it expresses my own personal understanding, but every word in it flows from and embodies my own centre and experience of the ecstatic. I only hoped to embody the ideas that this book offers in the writing of it and the underlying emotion transmitted. In this spirit, this text has not been edited as I wanted to honour the original translation of my own stream of consciousness, that is, honour the flow of ecstasy that I translated in the form of this work, since I only wrote when I was in deep and natural samadhi meditation, to ensure a pure and consistent frequency of text. I often play around with big terms that have various meanings and understandings within the psychotherapeutic field. This is solely to reflect what these concepts have come to mean to me in my own work, and not in any way to dishonour the great traditions where such concepts take root.
This book is a small token, offering back to the community of spiritual seekers, counsellors and psychotherapists, who have guided me religiously throughout my journey in life, through their books, teachings, conversations and the simple presence and authentic desire to make sense of human life. Such a movement of energy on this planet I am in love with and seduced by at every turn. With every fibre of love in my being, thank you.
Chapter 1 – Ecstasy, Transference and the Transpersonal – looking at terms, Self, embodiment, transference, countertransference as it applies to the work
Development is Relational – developmental ideas, primal wounding, ego inflation/deflation, Winnicot. Processes of internalisation/externalisation
Case Study 1 – sexual addiction, split between need for security and impulse to freedom
Identity and the metabolic baseline of Pure Awareness – transpersonal psychotherapy not to stabilise ego structure but to facilitate viscerality of ‘I’-Self relationship. Therapeutic osmosis. Identity as Self and functional nature of the psychophysiological personality. Shared wounding and attunement processes, systemic object relations, awareness metabolising relational field, identity stabilisation, therapist’s requirements relative to detachment and capacity to embody disembodiment and dissociation, transpersonal aspect to working with embodied countertransference
Case Study 2 – working with client presenting with borderline psychosis and multitude of voices and personalities from transpersonal embodiment perspective, mother’s gaze, seduction and love transference, Self emergence, dual processes of witnessing and submergence within transference
Consciousness Constellates – no observer free observation. All perception first person subjective experience, contextualising therapy within intersubjectivity. Function of personality to stabilise Eros within ego matrix
Case Study 3 – working with split off Eros projected onto marriage, embodying dissociation within countertransference
Chapter 2 – Eros and Ecstasy – focus on therapist’s awareness of their own broadcasting dynamics, embodying Self realisation, Assagioli’s psychological law. All forms of ego identification seen as pathological resistance to Eros. Eros, erotic transference, sexual desire and Eros. The experience of ecstasy as ground of internalisation. Affect as Eros, ground of ‘I’-Self relationship. Embodied countertransference metabolising psychological resistance and informing therapeutic transference, Self regulation, liberation from psychodynamic complexes through therapeutic osmosis. Advaitic concept of sahaja samadhi – natural state of ecstasy and jivanmukta – enlightened whilst in the physical body. Self as being-consciousness-bliss
Energy Follows Thought – positive psychology, Self regulation as trust in organisational intelligence of the Self. Biochemical equivalency. Evaporation of subpersonality matrix. Self realisation as constellating principle
Desire – desire as response to wounding dynamics defining specific path of individuation. Early relational trauma as precursor to individuation dynamics. Therapeutic tracking of desire. All desire seen as emerging Eros. Transpersonal Self as field of support and benevolence
Renunciation and Detachment – renunciation of attachment based centres, ego positions, subpersonalities, as necessary for transpersonal psychotherapist. Therapeutic integrity, detachment as prerequisite of depth work
Choice and Ecstasy – potential goals of psychotherapy to tolerate conflict and widen field of choice. Relationship of these processes to Self realisation and ecstatic embodiment. Understanding repetition compulsions as directive processes of the psychophysiology. Imaginal gratification as route into transpersonal alignment
The Beast or Shadow of the unexpressed and the liberation of the Minotaur – beast of the unconscious as the formation of repressed Eros consequent of primal wounding dynamics. Reintegration of the beast as the end of neurosis. Understanding sex and aggression drives within Self realised perspective. The myth of the Minotaur
Case Study 4 – codependence, narcissism, working with rage and violent fantasy
Chapter 3 – Reality is a Self Fulfiling Prophecy – Assagioli’s archetypes of love and will seen in light of containment and bliss dynamics. Freud’s repetition compulsions seen from both trauma and attunement perspective. Client’s impact on the other as validating sense of authentic existence. Proper moral base emerges from individual fulfilment. Embodied absence as anxiety and terror of annihilation
Meditation – space where resonance and attunement between ‘I’ and Self can manifest and dissonance between ‘I’ and Self can resonate. Dynamics of allowance and permissiveness of existence. Therapeutic transmission underlying resonance and attunement dynamics of transpersonal therapeutic integration. Therapist as bridge between defended and undefended. True vulnerability is the ‘I’-Self mating ground
What is the Body – definition of body as moment of contact within ‘I’ consciousness, body as awareness, embodiment referring to embodiment of awareness within psychophysiology. Self identity as end of fear and anxiety. Need for transpersonal therapy to serve Self realisation in every facet of its conduct. Conscience and splitting of unconscious identification, ego pathology and narcissistic spectrum
Imagination – imagination as ground of wish fulfilment and biochemical regulation
Empathic Presence Restated – evocation and constellation of relational field
Case Study 5 – fragmentation pathology, compulsion and sense of ‘I’. Soth’s construction and deconstruction by client’s unconscious.
Chapter 4 – The Perceptual Universe – Narratives in service of Ecstasy – empathic seeing and receiving opening space for new narratives. Psychodynamic work necessary in initial phases of therapy to extent that the transference is traumatic
Energy Psychotherapy – in support of therapeutic transmission work, installation of ‘I’-Self structures via the transference processes. Working with resistance, energy fields, harmonic resonance and dissonance as conscious process, trauma as disturbances within field dynamics, soothing and creating space
The Individual is the Collective – grandiosity and deflation as misguided attempts to Self realise, entrapped desire underlying narcissistic and psychotic spectrum and addictions, collective enmeshment within subpersonal matrices
Self realisation – Power and the end of Archetypal Possession
Case Study 6 – working with client with strong narcissistic defence and lack of empathy, use of sexual addiction to control, working with the hungry ghosts, the myth of the vampire, libidinal craving, embodied countertransference as the reparative bridge to authentic Self experience, the archetypes as displaced Self, ego pathology as displaced ‘I’, archetypal energy in service of the ‘I’, freedom from archetypal possession, power as Self identity
The Politics of Self – liberating politics from ego pathology
Learning to Track Ecstasy from the ‘I’ Consciousness – bringing Self into the evolutionary frontiers of individuated consciousness, maintaining psychophysiological ecstatic equivalency with Self
How is Stabilisation in ‘I’ Consciousness Known – non grasping of objects
Non Objective Contemplation of Pure Affect – erotic transference reaching for ‘I’-Self connectivity as its primitive motif. Erotic transference and affect in its realised form as Eros. Understanding Eros as connecting Self with its individuation, not to do with sexual desire
Consciousness is the Animus – Bliss is the Anima – revisiting Jungian terms
Self is the Self Object – the functional ’I’-Self relationship ending the whole structure of the self object function
Ecstatic Frequency – the real secure base as steadiness within ecstatic frequency
It is said that a person will not turn to the spiritual path until the suffering of their life becomes unbearable
Oh Arunachala! I am Thee O Hill of Awareness
Chapter 1 –
Ecstasy, Transference and the Transpersonal
Humanity has always been driven by an impulse to the ecstatic. There is no greater impulse within the human being and all desire no matter what it is, is arguably a desire to be filled with the experience of ecstasy at its root, placing human affect, which really indicates embodied contactful experience, at the pivotal centre of human happiness and fulfilment. It is in this vein that I want to contextualise an understanding of the transpersonal. The transpersonal speaks more to a field of experience, which means consciousness, that is undefended in its contact. That is, what makes an experience transpersonal is solely the lack of psychological resistance, in the various forms of ego pathology and psychological defence. In this sense, the field of life itself in its entirety is open to transpersonal experience, in as much as life is energetic motion at its base and energy is fundamentally interpreted or translated by humans directly as the viscerality of the embodied subjective (transpersonal experience) or a defence against such embodiment (ego pathology). Therefore every act and communication with life is experienced as transpersonal when it is conscious and undefended in its contact. Unconscious undefended contact on the other hand opens up the field of the psychotic spectrum. I take the perspective in my work that life, energy, pure emotion, pure consciousness, pure desire, Eros, Self (all really synonyms for life and its flow and by the word pure is meant only without psychological resistance) that is allowed to flow rather than disallowed through traumatic scaffolding, is experienced by humans as ecstasy, and Self that is blocked or frozen is experienced by humans as trauma. I find this a useful and simple basis to understand psychopathology and the movement toward psychic wholeness.
Therefore, I use the term transpersonal not so much to express the dissolution of the person, but rather to express the dissolution of the psychophysiological resistance of the person, to the reception of Self. Here the person is a vessel of interpretation and translation, via their cognitive, affective, imaginal and physiological processes, of Self, into the physical world. Therefore, when I speak of embodiment, I refer solely to the embodiment of Self, the conscious reception of that which is life, into the cellular consciousness of human being.
Self is the ground of human subjectivity and consciousness and the ground of life itself. Self is the mystery of benevolence, the life giving principle of existence maintaining all systems of life from planetary bodies to individual personality, which is possibly why Jung spoke of Self being the organising principle of the psyche. Self is pure awareness and flows in human beings as cognition, affect, imagination, drives and all physiological processes. What is relevant from a transpersonal perspective, is the centre from which human life is being experienced. There is a grave difference between the identity of a human being centred in a limited identification with the consciousness of the personality structure, and being centred in the consciousness of Self. In psychosynthesis, the centre of the personality is the ‘I’, a reflection of Self within the human personality, not in any way an ego structure or structure of personality, but a centre of pure awareness, capable of receiving the transpersonal impulse from Self and radiating it forth into the individual matrix of a personal world.
As we interact with another person, one nervous system to another via the relational field, there is a constant transference of material from each to the other, both conscious and unconscious, as we broadcast our particular in-the-moment signal, a package of sorts that is a composition of our energetic, cognitive, affective and neurological disposition. A psychotherapist is trained at receiving the package of material being transferred by the other, and translating it into an experiential commentary across all levels of their being and personality, that thus informs the basis of the therapeutic dialogue. Psychotherapy refers to this process of relating as the transference relationship and has come to refer to a psychotherapist’s capacity to discern the transference information as countertransference. Embodied countertransference thus refers to the therapist’s capacity to feel the countertransference in their own body.
Transference is constantly happening with all people in all situations and really what is of most value in human relating, is the necessary Self awareness that makes a clear reading of the transference material possible. We could call sensitivity to transference material empathy, but of prime importance in empathy, is that one’s empathic centre, not dissimilar to one’s centre of gravity, is in Self, and not in the other. When a person’s centre of gravity is placed firstly in the other to compensate for an absence of their inner sense of Self, thus begins the field of codependent dynamics and relational psychopathology. It is the role of any decent psychotherapy to assist a person in the process of internalisation. This means to learn how they may be using the external world to compensate for what may be lacking in their conscious experience of themselves. In psychotherapy this idea forms the basis of psychological projection dynamics, where what is seemingly absent or intolerable within a person’s unconscious, is projected into external ‘objects’ in any manner of external condition from a person, culture, place, event or even thing.
Internalisation refers to a person’s ability to experience themselves across all levels of their intrapsychic processes as embodied Self experience, meaning that they are able to, from an experiential centre of Self awareness, maintain visceral contact with their cognitive, affective, imaginal and physiological processes simultaneously, as part of the ever flowing stream of consciousness gushing forth from Self into the human vessel and out into the world. Now we can begin to understand the necessary basis for the ecstatic. Not a dysfunctional ecstatic, but the profoundly sober ecstatic that is the lived experience of a human life in alignment with Self. Allowing Self emergence as each moment of undefended contact with life, is the intoxication of the idea, the ecstasy of pure emotion, the biochemistry of Self realisation and a life that is satisfying and fulfilling to live.
I use the term ecstasy purely in this vein, to express the experience of a functional ‘I’- Self connection. In this sense, openness to the ‘I’-Self relationship is an opening to the ecstatic, since the visceral experience of the flow of pure Self consciousness coursing through human neurology can be called nothing less – the calm, peaceful, yet wild saturation of human personality with the flow of Self consciousness being the pinnacle of bliss. The sustained and steady pure flow of ecstasy directly from Self into the centre of the human personality as received by ‘I’, and then radiating outward through cognitive, affective, imaginal and physiological processes into the world at large, forming the basis of all subsequent contact with that individuals relationship with every aspect of their life, is what is truly meant here by the fulfilment of transpersonal psychotherapy.
We may experience ecstasy in any moment where we feel good, as a result of any particular external cause, from a loving other to the taking of a drug, but the goal of transpersonal psychotherapy must be to foster positive feeling or ecstatic experience, primarily through opening to the connection to and alignment with Self. This places the ecstatic as the primary ground and experience of a person’s life, totally independent from external cause and therefore ever available through internal process, the central hub of Self consciousness that will be reflected in the shape of that individual’s external world.
Development is Relational
As far as a transpersonal psychotherapy goes, it must facilitate in one way or other connection, healing or alignment between transpersonal Self and personal ‘I’. John Firman calls the first splitting between ‘I’ and Self the primal wound and the root cause of subsequent psychopathology. Essentially primary caregivers are seen to fulfil the role of Self for the growing infant, placing human development firmly in the relational soil of intersubjectivity. Therefore, without embodied subjectivity on the part of the primary caregivers, there can be no incarnation of authentic Selfhood in the growing child. Thus, there is a wound to the child’s authentic sense of existence or existential being, characterised by the splitting between ‘I’ and Self.
Developmental theory makes it clear that it is the empathic gaze of the ‘other’ that allows an infant to internalise an authentic and stable sense of ‘I’. Neuroscience provides us with the neurological causes and correlates for the embodiment of consciousness and how empathy and thus human relational dynamics are at the heart of developmental integration of the reptilian brain, limbic system and frontal lobes, or more simply, the integration of our physiological, affective and cognitive processes. The relevance here from a transpersonal psychotherapeutic perspective, is that one human nervous system requires another human nervous system that is aligned with Self, in order to facilitate the incarnation of the transpersonal into human psychophysiology. Winnicot captured this in his two statements of the new born child, “When I look, I am seen, therefore I exist.”, and “When I look, I am not seen, therefore I do not exist.” Such experience is internalised as either a feeling of validation or invalidation respectively, thus creating the departure point for early relational trauma on the one hand, or integrated psychophysiological development on the other.
Of course the transpersonal psychotherapist addresses early developmental failure through the transference relationship, but without the therapist’s developed capacity to embody the countertransference, thus embodying the shared relational process as felt experience in their own body, empathic reparation is grossly limited if it occurs at all. I will speak more on this, but it must be understood that embodiment is not a personal process, but a transpersonal process. Without this understanding, that it is the transpersonal that metabolises trauma within the transferential field, and not the personal ‘I’ of the therapist, the weight of this kind of process could be debilitating to a therapist who was trying to do this purely within the field of their personal self.
Case Study 1 –
John came to me presenting with sexual addiction and reckless behaviour, tormented by a common split between his desire for security in service of his partner and his need to fulfil his impulse toward freedom and aliveness. We worked to understand his need for reckless abandon within the context of the transpersonal impulse to the ecstatic, that is alignment between ‘I’ and Self, and worked primarily to find ways for him to use his thinking and imagination to simulate the experience of blissful intimacy and freedom that he was really seeking, that was masquerading as his sexual and reckless pathological behaviours. We worked from the understanding that all desire is really a desire for alignment with the ecstatic flow of Self and this helped him normalise his feelings and offered a working model in terms of personal satisfaction. By this I mean we found ways for him to reach internal experiences of the emotions he was seeking, instead of him continuing to reach these affective states through external ‘acting out’ behaviours.
John had an early history of a cold and unempathic mother that was unable to meet his emotional needs and assist in the integration of his neurological development. The split between his desperate need for intimacy and connection and his need for individuation was thus being acted out by these archetypal splitting dynamics, and his genuine impulse to the freedom and fulfilment of authentic Self experience was distorted through his enactment of reckless behaviours.
In the countertransference I had to tolerate this acute tension with him and allow it to be metabolised as part of the relational process. By doing this permission was given for the frozen traumatic material to exist as part of the relational field. This process provided a precise bridge into John’s authentic sense of self, as his frozen trauma was thawed out in the intimacy of the relational field, allowing for a restoration of his sense of existence that had previously been wounded. Such therapeutic work creates the space for Self emergence. This also coincided with a dissolution of particular survival structures, or psychological defences, that John had been scaffolding his sense of self with as the emergence of a stable base prevailed.
As stated, such metabolising is never achieved by the personal self of the therapist but is part of the natural functioning of pure awareness or the Self. This brings us to the importance of the therapist’s capacity to have achieved a good enough degree of identity stabilisation in Self awareness, as opposed to being centred in a particular ego structure or personality matrix. If this was the case, the primitive traumatic material, rather than being metabolised as part of the therapist’s embodied conscious and felt experience, would instead seep into the therapist via the transference dynamics of the unconscious complexes of the client’s primitive traumatic material and could lead to difficult experiences of projective identification (transference that the therapist unconsciously identifies with) for the therapist and the possibility of enactment rather than digestion.
This is arguably the most important role that transpersonal psychotherapy offers to the field in relation to metabolising early relational trauma. Depth oriented psychotherapy is not well served by a therapist centred in intellectual or analytical enquiry, as this risks repeating the systemic invalidation of the primary wounding dynamics. This calls as a requisite for therapists to be at least functionally centred in alignment with Self, in order to serve transpersonal emergence as the primary goal and focus and also to avoid the therapist’s vulnerability to both ego inflation and deflation, inevitably leading to unconscious enactment and retraumatisation of the early system dynamics or object relations.
Identity and the metabolic baseline of Pure Awareness
So we must be clear as to the nature of identity. Transpersonal psychotherapy does not aim to bring about the stabilisation of the client within a particular ego structure, but to facilitate the client’s visceral experience and understanding of themself in direct communion with who they really are. Take the idea of 7 billion lamps. When each turns on the light switch they would reflect light each in accord with their particular shape and form. However, without the electricity flowing into the lamp no reflection could ever occur. The electricity in this analogy of course refers to the transpersonal Self, and the light in the centre of the lamp as the ‘I’, and the shape and form of the lamp to the individuated personality. Turning on the light switch refers to the process of alignment with Self whereas identification with the lamps shape and form instead of the electrical current that is its life force beckons the field of ego pathology.
In the experience of detached Self awareness it is easy to experience the stability and peace of the Self, and as this Self awareness is allowed to embody in the cognitive, affective and physiological processes of the human system, the experience is the joy and ecstasy of a human life, ever emerging from, and inspired by, the singularity and focus of the true Self that is its base. It is in this sense that I offer the broad extension of the transpersonal to life itself, since alignment with Self renders every act and communication with the world as a transpersonal experience. Here I am reminded of the three statements made by Shankara, a major proponent of the advaita tradition:
1 – Self is real
2 – The universe is unreal
3 – Self is the universe
So the transpersonal refers in the deepest sense to the realisation of a person’s true identity. It is the Centre from which life emerges in the form of ecstasy that transforms the human ego from a centre of resistance to a flowing river of bliss.
It should be noted that to maintain steadiness of Self experience requires the pinnacle of sobriety. Ironically, the intoxication of authentic lived experience expresses the deepest stillness and calm. Steadiness and stabilisation in detachment must be fostered before a fairly continuous stream of alignment can be maintained, but it certainly is worth every effort and focus to this end as a guiding principle of the therapy.
So for the transpersonal psychotherapist, the most important attainment is to have attained sufficient enough disidentification with the contents of consciousness, in order to be able to not be attached to particular contents and structures of experience and remain Self identified, or able to rest in pure Self awareness as the back bone of the work. Allan Schore speaks of the role of the therapist as a kind of auxiliary cortex for the client, which I think is to the mark, and psychosynthesis speaks of the therapist as a unifying centre for the client, basically fulfiling the function of the presence of Self where there is its absence in the client – absence of Self, as stated, being considered as the causal factor behind psychophysiological pathology.
Through a kind of osmosis the client will internalise the presence of Self being transferred by the therapist, as much as the therapist will be internalising the wounding dynamics of the client – to the degree that the therapist has absence of their own Self consciousness or unprocessed unconscious wounding within their own system. The difference here is that the therapist is skilled at allowing or metabolising absence, or unconscious traumatic process in the light of Self awareness. This is not only of great assistance and value to the client, but brings to light the possibility of embracing ever more of the therapist’s own Selfhood. In this way, a transpersonal therapist offers a conscious transference of their own receptivity to Self, or their ‘I’-Self relationship, in the form of what they are transmitting in respect to their own consciousness. This will always be tailored specifically to the client’s need naturally as a result of the countertransference anyway, and therefore is not something that needs prior planning as it is a natural and spontaneous function of transpersonal relating. This is the functioning of intimacy guided by transpersonal relatedness.
The degree to which the therapist is Self identified or detached from any particular ego position or structure, is the exact degree that countertransference will be clear and projective identification thus lessened. Such detachment also allows for the therapist to be evoked by the transference as the disowned material of the client’s early wounding, giving the therapist, through their embodied countertransference, a visceral insight into the systemic object relations, as well as being able to work through the charge of both the love and traumatic transference dynamics. This is achieved through the therapeutic permissiveness of that previously deemed unacceptable to the client’s inner world. This kind of embodied relational work is the bread and butter of transpersonal psychotherapy in terms of providing empathic reparation to previous empathic failures, through the evocation of authentic intimate contact as the unconscious meets the conscious in the ongoing therapeutic moment.
The need for a therapist to have plumbed the depths of their own psyche then is essential, so as to not get fazed at particular projective identifications that may be working themselves through their system. Often after a days work, a therapist may find themselves depressed, exhilarated, or feeling as if they have been hit by a truck, but the key here is to allow these experiences just to discharge from the system. The more experienced therapist will not need to work out the details of every piece of the transference if they are able to feel it through. However, this requires a certain willingness to process the client work within themselves and not make it a ‘big deal’. It’s really par for the course when working with primitive traumatic complexes. There is possibly no greater remedy to assist in the metabolising of depth work than ongoing spiritual practices. What is really of benefit in spiritual practices, is that a focus on the transpersonal evokes ‘I’-Self receptivity and thus alignment itself conjures the release of resistance, that is the ‘burning up’, or digestion of traumatic field dynamics that may be manifesting through cognitive, affective or physiological processes. Given what we know about systemic constellations, the power of this kind of therapeutic work offers service to the whole system, by releasing generational patterns of resistance and conditioning. This is similar to the way a plumber might clean dirty pipes to get the water to flow freely again.
Feelings of devastation, ruin, a profound sense of failure and remorse, can all be common experiences that therapists can be left with when working with deep trauma and especially with clients who have emerged from family systems where early relational trauma has been the norm for generations, usually through various forms of abuse, neglect and abandonment. So in summary, working with such clients often entails the therapist receiving the shadow material of the client through the countertransference, often in the initial form of frozen landscapes of disembodiment and dissociation. It is imperative for a therapist to maintain contact with these landscapes, essentially to embody the dissociated material in their own felt and lived, in-the-moment relational experience, whilst maintaining being present, both with the client and present with and in their own ‘I’-Self connection. What this essentially allows for is a thawing out, or a kind of evaporation of the traumatic complexes, from acute feelings of violence, torment or suffering in various forms, that are being ‘burnt up’, or embraced in the existential presence of contact, allowance and permissiveness of ‘being’ that is a direct tonic to the narcissistic wounding or primitive wounding dynamics. It is this process that I consider to be the pinnacle of empathic reparation, whilst precisely creating the conditions for Self emergence in the client through such profound degree of empathy and intimacy that is a natural function of this kind of relational depth psychotherapeutic work. This is to say that detachment fosters tremendous capacity to tolerate dissociative and disembodied material and through such tolerance and contact, that is, by maintaining good enough association and embodied contact with such dissociated and disembodied states, such states of absence are themselves transformed into the presence of the embodied subjective, becoming more and more rarefied through the process of conscious allowing and non resistance to affective experience.
The transpersonal aspect to working with embodied transference, as the central loci and information channel providing therapeutic insight into the shared unconscious process, is in the very fact of the contact, incarnation and embodiment of the unconscious itself. Embodiment must be seen as the very frontier of the transpersonal, because in any moment of authentic embodiment, there is an undermining of survival structures and ego defences and a presence of the ever emerging Self. In fact, this kind of process is happening with all of us all of the time in the countertransferential soup of human existence, it is just that transpersonal psychotherapy aims to make this conscious in the embodied relational moment.
Such work would be grim at best, or profoundly debilitating at worst for a psychotherapist, without their experiential ground being established in the ecstatic alignment of their own ‘I’-Self connection. That is arguably why many of the more traditional psychotherapeutic languages maintain such vigorous intellectual structure, to provide a compensatory defence to the lack of developed capacity of the therapist to navigate the work through their felt experience in their own bodies. Without this there cannot be the necessary intimacy and mutuality required to bring about the transformation of agony to ecstasy.
If a therapist is established more than not, in Self identity, then they are free enough to be spontaneously evoked within the realm of their personality, by the unconscious. That is their cognitive, affective, imaginal and physiological processes are free to be constellated by the resonance and dissonance dynamics, or the attunement and wounding potentiality of the therapeutic chamber. This aligns therapeutic process with some of the more alchemical models of development, where the emergence of Self is directly proportional to the soothing of psychological resistance to contact.
Case Study 2 –
Joan presented with borderline psychosis, a multitude of inner voices and personalities with no stable unifying centre and a history of severe parental abuse. Early on in the transference I was seduced into a kind of intoxicating gaze of erotic transference. Being pulled into the client’s unconscious in this way was the only way I could maintain contact with her since in essence, her unconscious constellating me in this ‘love trance’ was the only thing really keeping her safe and in control of the relationship, thus allowing the work to continue. Of course I was being evoked as the mother’s gaze she was deprived of. Sometimes the intoxication of this transference due to the depth of systemic trauma, meant I could barely access my frontal lobes due to the overwhelming flooding of the limbic system due to the post traumatic stress of her relational trauma. Experientially for me this meant that I couldn’t think clearly and instead of feeling the almost unbearable wound to her existence, that was the embryonic seed of ‘I’ frozen in the exile of unconscious neglect, I entered into the seduction of the transference need. So allowing myself to be evoked as the empathic and steady gaze of the mother’s love, was the strategy to enter empathic reparation at the developmental stage of the initial rupture to the ‘I’-Self connection, that authentic empathic relationship would have naturally fostered for her. This meant tolerating her need to be merged in the undivided adoration of the mother’s love. Essential for me in this process, was to be able to both ‘witness’ the evocation from the detachment of Self awareness whilst simultaneously being submerged in the embodied countertransference. Such simultaneous processes of both witnessing and submergence are part of the natural functionality of the ‘I’-Self connection. Therefore embodiment is both witnessed and participated in as a byproduct of authentic detachment, disidentification or Self identification.
Through maintaining presence in relationship by embodying and gratifying the client’s need for intimacy, in the only way she could tolerate at the time, this allowed us to break down the isolation chamber of suicidal loneliness she had built around herself. Joan had been passed around a number of psychiatrists for years who had not been working from a relational paradigm and so she was already very defended against any hope of being reached. Without slipping in through the back door of unconscious evocation there may have been no other chance of recovering the landscape of her existential exile. Through the contact and osmosis of this work, there began to emerge a centre of operation within Joan’s psyche that provided for her the consistency of a more secure base and increased emotional regulation. Over time the mergence of the transferential trance slowly gave way to what Martin Buber calls an ‘I’-Thou connection. Joan experienced for the first time a profound sense of being validated in her subjectivity.
Within the initial transference relationship, I listened attentively to, appreciated and respected, whatever voice or personality came to the table, all the while focusing my gaze of Self awareness into Joan’s Self awareness, that was conscious to me, but unconscious to her – like the signal being emitted by a satellite dish, evoking the space for her Self emergence as the core intention of the therapy. Slowly she was able to recognise her sense of ‘I’ at the centre of her fragmentation and gain some control and ongoing dialogue with her inner tribe from this central loci. As this occurred, what was previously an experience of chaotic and disordered thinking for Joan, given the porous nature of her psychic membrane as a result of her relational trauma, became an opening to Self emergence as she learnt to tolerate the underlying intense affect constellating her fragmentation. By tracking the moment to moment charge, or the point of most intense affect, together in session, that I assisted with through the embodied countertransference, Joan learnt to undermine her psychotic defence. Her sensitivity to the unconscious then became her ally as she pursued her trauma from Self awareness. Thus her previous propensity for archetypal psychosis, became grounded in her capacity for alignment with Self as she understood her desire and capacity for mergence in the light of the ‘I’-Self relationship, or ‘I’s reception of the transpersonal impulse to ecstasy.
Since there is no such thing as an observer free observation, all observation is a first person subjective experience, therefore it is the subject and not the object that is of primary concern to any transpersonal psychotherapy, since the basis of any object depends entirely on the state of the subject perceiving it. This places consciousness and thus, the transpersonal, as the base of authentic subjectivity and of any true sense of self. But such a sense of self is not so much a particular ego position, as it is a received influx of, or alignment with, the embodied ecstatic. In such experience, cognitive process serves as a stabilising function of pure emotion, or Eros, as it courses through human physiology with its equivalent neurological causes and correlates, the biochemistry of ecstasy.
Such an understanding of embodied subjectivity also supports the use of the external landscape of a client’s world, as a symbolic representation of a client’s internal dynamics. This allows for the external conditions of a client’s life, as well as the external conditions of the in-the-moment therapeutic encounter, to be used as a kind of portal into the unconscious systemic patterning of the client’s subjective experience. This places the power of transformation solely in the power of consciousness and provides a ground for the therapist to continually shift focus from what the client may be bringing by way of external representation, to the client’s internal dynamics of cognition and affect. This is certainly how I understand Sigmund Freud’s use of the term repetition compulsion, in terms of how our chronic patterns of cognition and affect constellate the conditions of our lived experience. Another way of saying this is that our consciousness constellates our reality in terms of our perceptual universe, which is to say our interpretation or translation of Self into the form of our lives in any given moment. Alignment or misalignment, resonance or dissonance, clarity or distortion, then become somewhat of a measure of our lived and felt experience of our proximity to, or distance from who we really are, that is, from Self.
Case Study 3 –
Amy came to me wanting to address her guilt at wanting to leave her husband because she complained of being bored of both him and her own life. It was easy for her to blame her own current loss of personal lustre on her husband and the external conditions of her life. If that were the case leaving him and changing her surroundings may have been a good route for her.
However, before even contemplating a course of action, we began to work from the possibility that the boredom she was experiencing was the result of a more primitive disconnect in her ‘I’-Self connection and that what she was really experiencing was a disconnect from Eros and her own inner source of passion. This helped her to open to the possibility that she may have been projecting her unconscious and painful Self neglect onto her husband and her own external life. Now we could work at recovering her sense of alignment with her True Self and help her to take ownership of her own passion for life, rather than project that need onto another person.
Working in this way allowed Amy to reconnect with the independence she had known and felt in her youth, as she was able to find the feeling of happiness that derived solely from her internal experience of receptivity to the flow of Self. She learnt to focus herself into blissful affective states in her own meditation that she continued to practice as her habitual intrapsychic process. This helped her awaken her imagination and excitement in ways that created more room for Self to begin to flow again. Her shift in consciousness gave her new perspectives on her life and allowed for greater space to experience her husband again with freshness.
In terms of the embodied countertransference, I had to allow myself to stay in felt contact with the grief that was underlying her dissociation from Self, built up from allowing herself to slip into unconscious patterns of living over the previous years. Remaining with this experience whilst in relationship with Amy allowed us to bleed out the frozen grief and for Amy to reconnect with her heart, that is, her sense of ‘I, and her humanity again. In Amy’s case, such tenderness was the soil that Eros, or Self emerged from.
Chapter 2 –
Eros and ecstasy
The focus here is on the therapist’s awareness of their own broadcasting dynamics, which is to say their awareness (and movement toward control) of, what they are transferring to the client. Roberto Assagioli made an interesting observation that he presented as one of his psychological laws, that energy follows thought. To me, this observation underpins the fabric of Self realisation. Human life is not fulfilled by the dissociated and disembodied realisation of Self awareness, but the total embodiment of it. The physical vehicle of a human being is a vessel, a channel, a receptive apparatus, for focusing the transpersonal into the physicalised manifestation of personal existence. That is why it is so essential for identity, which is really energy, to be freed up from ego pathology, which is to say freed up from all levels of the subpersonality matrix. Every form of identification, to any structure whatsoever whose purpose is only to serve reception and transmission, is pathological resistance to Eros.
Eros is a great word that conjures so much more than the erotic, but one cannot use this word without understanding its connection to sexual desire. The field of psychotherapy is very quick to pathologise the romantic and in many ways they are on track. But simply reducing the impulse to the romantic and at times even the erotic itself to unfilled psychodynamics and infantilisation, with an attempt to ‘mature’ the impulse of sexual desire to a ‘higher’ love, or a love of service to all, can often result in a further splitting between desire and love, rather than seeing desire in its true context as a transpersonal impulse to Self realisation, with love as its fulfilment. If love is something other than the experience of fulfilled desire, then there will be something profoundly missing from a person’s life, and of course sexual desire is just one form of the infinite variations desire may take. However, the transpersonal context of this understanding is utterly relevant, in that all desire is seen ultimately as a desire for connection or alignment with Self, thereby any desire that is not serving this context as its base, will only lead to greater externalisation, projection dynamics and enmeshment, and the fulfilment of desire that is the ground of the ecstatic will be sorely missed.
The experience of ecstasy that is flowing as the ground of internalisation, that is purely as a result of ‘I’-Self alignment, is the most natural state of human being, requiring no other effort than receptivity to the river of internal affect. Affect is interesting, because whilst emotional experience is being filtered through particular ego constructs, the cognitive-affective-physiological disposition of each particular personality structure forms the basis of subjective perception in each instance. This means that emotion (which is bliss, in its pure and unhindered form as human translation of alignment with Self) instead becomes diluted and distorted through externalisation based projection dynamics. This is where psychotherapy can often fail what is correctly the inspiration of Eros, by reducing such inspiration to a primitive need for the stable love of one or other primary caregiver. Whilst developmental theory provides the necessary relational basis for subsequent transpersonal development and realisation, to reduce the erotic transference to a regressive impulse for primitive narcissistic fulfilment, somehow creates a splitting off of the primary objective of the erotic, which is for transpersonal union or a fluid and functional ‘I’-Self relationship. To miss that ‘I’-Self connectivity is the fulfilment of Eros, and thus desire, is to miss the very fabric that weaves the purpose of human incarnation. Eros then, has nothing to do with anything other than the capacity for transpersonal embodiment, which is the apex of affective contact.
Sexuality then, like the arts and every other vessel of human desire, is just a vehicle of expression for Eros to pour through. Pathology only begins with the attribution of identity to a particular vessel rather than Eros itself. Therefore Eros is Self in motion, energy in motion, e-motion, placing mood very much at the heart of psychophysiological health and wellbeing. So we’re back to the main point of relevance here, which begs the question in relation to the particular centre of any experience. Being centred in anything other than Self is the pathology that needs correcting, otherwise human kind will continue to seek in the object the fulfilment of the subject, speaking to the essence of narcissistic personality. From the centre of Self then, the ‘object’ becomes part of the relational mutuality of shared identity and the ‘external’ world becomes a constellated reflection of embodied subjectivity, or Eros. It is shared identity that is the ground of authentic love, and not the misguided dynamics of projection, possession and attachment.
In this sense countertransference can be seen as the compass that gives us our bearing and insight into the other, in order to assist in the metabolising of pathological resistance on the one hand, and informing the therapeutic transference on the other, that flows directly from the therapist’s own ‘I’-Self relationship in essence, as an energetic transference of pure Self consciousness, facilitating a kind of anchoring of Self emergence into the neurobiology of the client. As previously stated, we are all doing this constantly anyway, broadcasting our existential packages to each other, anchoring into each other through the cocreated relational field, but it is very much the domain of psychotherapy to increase awareness, both consciously and unconsciously, of how we are being impacted by the other and how we are impacting the other. Awareness of these two processes encompasses the transference dynamics, but as the transference dynamics are liberated from unconscious psychodynamic complexes, conscious and deliberate receptivity to Self allows the unconscious to constellate the transference via the embodied subjective relational dynamics of spontaneous emergence.
Although the process of therapeutic osmosis can support psychophysiological stability and regulation, which generally occurs in most therapeutic situations given a stable, caring and empathic other, transpersonal psychotherapy offers Self regulation in its most realised sense of being regulated by Self. In the advaita tradition they describe the Self as being-consciousness-bliss and the experience of the Self as sahaja samadhi which could well be translated as the natural state of ecstasy. They also use the phrase jivanmukta, which translates as liberated whilst still in the body. These traditions hint at the understanding of embodied subjectivity as identity realised as
pure awareness, flowing through the psychophysical structure as ecstasy, what is truly meant by Eros. A therapist that is making their way to transpersonal Self realisation therefore, is able to facilitate ‘I’-Self connectivity in the client through the conscious focus of attunement and resonance transference dynamics.
Energy follows Thought
This important psychological law really offers an insight into the useful basis of transpersonal positive psychology models. In this vein Self regulation may be understood to be trust in the organisational intelligence of the Self, in respect to the spontaneous receptive and transmissive modes of cognitive, affective and thus physiological processes. Thought and imaginal functions are responsible for guiding emotion, and the stabilisation of mood offers biochemical equivalence, but when this process of the personality is inspired by the impulse of the transpersonal Self, then cognition and affect serve only to stabilise the embodied ecstatic in the physiology. When the body is stable in the experience of ecstasy, as a result of the evaporation of the subpersonality matrix of ego pathology, then the free flow of identity as the ecstatic is the lived experience of the organism. At this stage it is Self realisation that becomes the constellating principle of the reality matrix of that individuals perceptual universe. Here the repetition compulsion of ecstatic experience becomes the relational interface of internal dynamics reflected in the external world. Thus what we broadcast returns to us by way of a realised life and the transpersonal impulse gives way to joyful existence.
Without understanding Self realisation as the basic ground of the individual (guiding clients to the liberation and fulfilment of personal desire, that is, to joyous living) it is much more difficult to release depression, which is always transpersonal depression from this perspective, or anxiety, which is fundamentally a distrust in the perfect organisational dynamics of Self existence. Therefore a conceptual transpersonal basis is useful in the therapeutic dialogue, to provide the necessary hope that ego pathology is always a thing of the past, having no bearing on the sublime and present moment truth of the individual, which is Self. Therefore it is important for the therapist to embody this hope in the form of their own Self realised life, at least to the degree of their embodied subjectivity and their resonance of the biochemical ecstatic, in order for the transference of Self realisation via the empathic field to occur in the chamber of Eros that is the therapeutic space, thereby defining optimal therapeutic outcome. From a neurological perspective we might speak of such biochemical transmission being passed via mirror neurons. Thus the dynamics of dual transference from client to therapist and therapist to client are key, so that the wounding dynamics received from the client can be realigned with Self consciousness and fed back to the client as permission to exist, creating the intimacy of authentic subjective validation that is the reparation of the primal wound of non-being (to use John Firman’s phrase, referring to the primitive split in the ‘I’-Self connection responsible for the primary relational trauma).
Desire is key to therapeutic process and is often lost in the swamps of traumatic presentation. Desire is very much a response to wounding dynamics, in that specific wounding patterns determine the idiosyncrasies of a person’s individuation. That is, a person’s early relational trauma sets the stage for the unfoldment of the transpersonal impulse specific to that person’s incarnation. Trauma then, becomes an assurance within human life, that the ground of absolute homogeneity or blissful consciousness, will always be offset by the particular expression that is the relativity of individual embodiment. This contextualises trauma as a necessary precursor to the individuation of consciousness and Self realisation as the resolution of split wounding and subsequent desire dynamics, into the ecstatic stream of alignment between ‘I’ and Self. Since trauma is the basis of projection it is also the basis of the externalisation of desire. Once desire is essentially disconnected from Eros, Freud’s drives of sex and aggression, rightfully channels of pleasure and differentiation in their realised forms, become participants in the objectification of ego based pathological enactments, misguided but well intentioned reachings for Self realisation.
Imaginal work can help facilitate a rarification of the affect at the heart of particular pathological matrices, so that the transpersonal impulse or desire that is functionally distorted through traumatic objectification, in the form of ego complexes and unfulfilled wishes, can be alchemically revealed like the philosopher’s stone via internalisation processes, thus ensuring ‘I’-Self connection as the inspiration of behaviour rather than the pathological dynamics of craving.
Therefore an unbalanced plumbing of primitive wounding and ego pathology, without evoking and allowing in the therapeutic consciousness its simultaneous production of desire and pleasure seeking (usually initially motivated toward object fulfilment as opposed to embodied subjective alignment), is a dangerous game, since it is the ‘charge’ within desire that is responsible for therapeutic transformation in respect to Self realisation. Therapy overly focused on wounding can sink the relational process into a swamp of traumatic transference dynamics, that could be debilitating for a therapist in full time practice, potentially leading a therapist to a splitting off of their affective experience and over identification with cold analytical process, or else to sinking in the sea of projective identification leading to suicidal depression. This way of working generally leads to retraumatisation for the client of the early wounding dynamics and primitive enactments constellated by the primary invalidation of the object relations.
The hunt then is on in the therapy to track the desire of the client, as when we speak about wounding we could understand it to be desire that is wounded, desire holding the key to aliveness and therapeutic charge, in whatever form it is being constellated. Thus if wounding transference provides insight into the relational trauma, it is love transference that provides the route out. Love transference must be understood in its pure form as expressing the need for existential validation, offering the very basis of psychotherapeutic work, but the degree to which this is fulfilled is the degree to which the therapist is capable of embodying the countertransference, which is the domain of an embodied transpersonal psychotherapy.
What therapy can really offer, through the safety and containment of the therapeutic space, is a relaxation of psychophysiological resistance, that is precisely what creates the conditions for Self emergence. Therefore when all desire at its root, is understood and worked with in the context of a desire to relax and release all psychophysical resistance to the embodiment or emergence of Eros, or Self (the rightful source, owner and fulfiller of all desire simply by virtue of its own being), then we move closer to the effect that such psychotherapy can produce through intimacy, attunement and transmissive interpersonal processes, as well as the intrapsychic effort of the client to exert effort through applied Self awareness and directive psychophysiological tools to that end. To be clear, it is the rarification of internal affect that is the production of ecstatic experience and the homeostasis of Self realisation. Thus, steadiness in the biochemistry of the ecstatic is the practiced experience of a fulfilled mood relative to desire, that gives way to the ecstasy of ‘I’-Self connectivity. At this stage Self expression is compelled through inspiration rather than compelled through compulsion.
The transpersonal Self then, is more a field of life giving support for the individual life and personality, ultimately responsible for, like the Hindu trinity, the creation, maintenance and destruction of the individual moment. In this sense the transpersonal is an ocean of pure intelligence and benevolence that provides all manner of relief and fulfilment to the individual life. Without visceral knowledge of benevolence, how else is a person ever meant to feel safe and develop the faith of authentic detachment and receptivity to Self. A therapeutic container only needs to offer this to a good enough degree to fan the spark of the receptive into the wild fire of Self knowledge.
Renunciation and Detachment
The irony is, that personal ‘I’ is transpersonal in its experience. There is no greater peace on earth than resting in ‘I’ awareness with all psychic energy, that is relative to identity, being freed up from the personality matrix of psychophysiology. Imagine if the driver of a car were to confuse themselves with the steering wheel, fuel, or body of the car. In this analogy, the driver represents the ‘I’, the steering wheel cognition, the fuel affect and the body of the car the physical body. Such an example is analogous to the reality of ego pathology, where the ‘I’ does confuse itself with the various structures of cognitive, affective and physiological processes. Thought, feeling and the body are vehicles of function and expression, not identity. Since the experience of the pure ‘I’ consciousness, is itself the fulfilment of desire in the form of non objective contemplation, its subsequent physicalisation is this same fulfilment, in what expresses as the flow of Self realisation through the psychophysical structure, thus constellating the specific shape of personal reality. If ‘I’ awareness is not established as the ground of individual embodiment, then desire emerges in the form of flowing toward objects, in the misguided attempt to gratify Self realisation, rather than expressing Self realisation through the form of the object. In an attempt to cure this disease of mistaken identity that covets the fundamental nature of mental illness, renunciation or detachment is offered as the medicine that is itself the path of ecstasy. From the standpoint of desire there is a path of ecstasy, but from the standpoint of Self realisation there is only its flow and expression.
Renunciation does not refer to the renunciation of pleasure and sense objects, but renunciation of any attachment based centre, that is ego position, subpersonality or complex, from which pleasure and sense objects are being experienced from or sort after. Assagioli said that we are controlled by that with which we are identified and that we can control anything from which we are disidentified. Consider disidentification then, or Self identification, as that which properly refers to Self control, which is the constellation of reality by the ever emergence of the spontaneous ecstatic, or the liberation of Eros.
How else is a therapist able to maintain the energetic integrity of depth work and the embodied countertransferential relationship, without abiding in the taste of fulfilment born of their own ‘I’-Self relationship. Otherwise they will inevitably seek, through the influence of unconscious transference, their own (misguided attempt at) ‘I’-Self connectivity in and through the client. Thus the work will be at risk of confusing the therapist’s desire with the client’s need. It is in fact these very dynamics that are often at the heart of early relational trauma, or any relational trauma for that matter, where enactment of the primal wound becomes the territory of the therapeutic contact. Therefore, it is renunciation and detachment that secure therapeutic integrity and capacity for embodied countertransference and subjectivity, thus avoiding the unconscious pitfalls of projective identification. In the deepest sense of the word, renunciation contextualises pleasure solely in its alignment with Self, and so all subsequent manifestations are inspired by the love that underpins all.
Non objective contemplation is really the practice of contemplating ecstasy as non conceptual affect. Once this experience is stabilised as the basis of alignment with Self, then it is free to manifest spontaneously in the psychophysiological structure, thus determining and informing the in-the-moment direction and unfoldment of its individualisation. Meditation then becomes the space and process where a therapist can liberate their desire, or transpersonal impulse from their unconsciously motivated attachment to objects. Such liberation can rightly be understood as integrity, since deep, authentic love is not possible until detachment is stable. Here pure awareness provides the resting place of identity, where the hands of grasping and craving are burnt in the fires of Self knowledge. As the process of traumatic transmutation occurs within the alchemical melting pot of the therapist’s intrapsychic process, and unconscious attachments are rarified into conscious alignment, to this degree does the deep peace of pure awareness embody as the subjectivity of Self realisation. Meditation then, is properly abidance in the pure awareness of the Self, which is both detachment and renunciation, which is itself psychophysiological receptivity to the ecstatic. If there is a further attempt to resist individualised incarnation of the ecstatic, then there will remain a pathological trauma matrix frozen in the cellular heart of the person. It is the expression of the individual life then, through cognition, imagination, affect and physiology (not simply the resting in ‘I’ awareness), that offers the most present moment frontier of Self realisation as the ecstatic incarnation of the person.
Choice and Ecstasy
I have heard two interesting statements as to the goals of psychotherapy although many are of course offered. The first that the goal of psychotherapy is to increase one’s capacity to tolerate conflict, and the second that the goal of psychotherapy is to widen the field of conscious choice available to the individual. I mention these two particularly as they speak to the heart of two important qualities necessary for both therapeutic containment and Self realisation, which are endurance (of psychic, psychophysiological tension and conflict) and choice (in respect of one’s individual direction and desire). Of course a therapist is essentially facilitating the awakening and realisation of the client’s desire, but via the anchoring of ‘I’-Self connectivity as a benchmark of the therapeutic process, seeing all arising desire in light of the transpersonal impulse. It is worth stating again that this can only be achieved to the extent that the therapist embodies renunciation in service of their ‘I’-Self relationship as part of the relational field.
What is also worth noting is that it is one’s capacity to tolerate conflict and psychic tension, that is, to endure the psychophysiological ‘burning’ of split personality matrices, each manifesting with conflicting structures across every level of the specific personality matrix, in the ever purified form of embodied affect, that creates a psychophysiology that is capable of stabilising the stream of transpersonal ecstasy. In this way it is the capacity to allow pluralistic constructs and structures to inhabit the direct moment of embodied affective awareness, that speaks to the imperative of therapeutic detachment, since it is the degree of detachment that offers the psychic maturity to hold multiplicity within the singularity of Self awareness, thus metabolising trauma and pathology into ecstatic experience. As such (at times profoundly acute and tormenting) tension and conflict is endured, there is an alchemical disintegration of the defensive strategy and a rarification of embodied subjectivity as Eros is liberated from the prison of defence, reemerging as the basis of transpersonal alignment. Such process may rightly be considered as the awakening of consciousness and only from consciousness can choice be exercised. But authentic conscious choice is never a decision of any functional process of the personality, but is rather a function of the spontaneous receptivity to Self, or the instinctual response to embodied contact at the interface where the unconscious meets the conscious in the cauldron of cellular existence.
The human personality is a translator of Self consciousness into physicality through its particular repetition compulsions. The aim then, is really to gain conscious choice and control of our repetition compulsions as opposed to them being unconsciously motivated. This is where widening the field of choice becomes relevant. Once it is understood that choice is properly the domain of Self, then the individual becomes a steady stream of inspiration. Here the functional processes of cognition, affect and physiology, become aligned with the understanding that there is only ever one choice available to the person seeking true and lasting happiness, and that is to create a psychophysiological atmosphere that is receptive to the natural stream of ecstasy that is ever flowing from Self into the human organism. Any deviance whatsoever from such receptivity to the benevolent ecstatic, gives rise to the splitting of ecstasy from itself – caused by a focusing of resistance within the personality matrix – thereby creating the psychophysiological possibility of traumatic experience. But as we then understand trauma as previously discussed, as a prerequisite for desire or the transpersonal impulse, and desire or the transpersonal impulse as a prerequisite to the expansion of Self consciousness, within the expressive field of variety and differentiation that such expansion may take, due to the creative and formative principles of Self realisation – we then can begin to make the ultimate decision, commit to the ultimate choice of Self realisation. Now the personality processes can be guided according to ongoing tracking of ecstasy and bliss dynamics, using wounding dynamics as the diving board into the ocean of Self consciousness, taking the specific form of that person’s individuation process, guided by the ever unfolding desires of their path of ‘I’-Self relating. If ecstasy is the common flow of this relationship, the form such ecstasy is translated into remains subject to the atmospheric field of the individuated personality.
Therefore it is desire and not wounding that is best served as the focus of therapeutic leaning, since Eros is existentially bound to move toward potentiality and away from the primary wounding dynamics of despair, helplessness and powerlessness. Therefore choice must be in service of Eros as a fundamental decision that underpins the constellation of the consciousness of the individual personality, thereby fostering the biochemical alignment with ecstasy. Therapy then can support the initial impulse toward a particular desire or craving, by assisting in the isolation of, embodied contact with, and practice of, the internal affect that is being sort to be realised at its root, both through interpersonal and intrapsychic processes such as working with the embodied countertransference and various forms of meditation. This can be anything from meditation on the first person consciousness ‘I’, to using the active imagination to reach an emotional fulfilment of a desire and then practicing that emotional fulfilment until it habitualises the biochemistry of the psychophysiology. Such an atmosphere of internal fulfilment is conducive to the reception of Self consciousness. Thus in the moment of fulfilment where desire has become one with its object, there is a momentary alignment with Self and a clear opening to transpersonal consciousness in the form of Eros. Therefore the practice of emotional fulfilment via the imaginal landscape creates the necessary conditions for Self emergence, providing the intentionality of the practice is contextualised in Self realisation, otherwise there is a risk of feeding into the loop of ego pathology. From this perspective it is useful to see all ego based identity structures as primarily reaching for Self realisation, allowing for imaginal gratification of egoic impulses to be a route into transpersonal alignment.
The Beast or Shadow of the Unexpressed and the liberation of the Minotaur
From this perspective then, the shadow of rejected love becomes the beast of the wild unconscious, containing the energy to enliven the personality with the necessary fuel for liberation into the ecstatic. It is important to understand that the beast is formed out of that rejected primitive Eros that is the primary narcissistic wound. This wound constellates in the unconscious as the abandoned Self in the exile of unconscious neglect. It is such abandoned pockets of psyche that are not only responsible for defensive pathology, but that also form the roots of aggression. Thus, such early failures of empathy that are themselves the foundation of early relational trauma, create a pattern of frozen isolation within the transpersonal drive to individuation that is distorted into the aggression drive, that otherwise would have served the initial transpersonal impulse to definition and differentiation. In such primitive developmental stages of incarnation, prior to the primary splitting of Eros into externalised drives due to primal wounding dynamics, the transpersonal Self flows freely through the psychophysiological structure of the infant via the empathic field of the primary caregivers. Therefore prior to early empathic failures fostering a splitting in the ‘I’-Self relationship – rather than nurturing and creating the necessary neurological causes and correlates for its incarnation – the drives of sex and aggression are clear channels for the singularity of pure consciousness to maintain alignment with Self and differentiation from other respectively. As a result of this splitting of consciousness the ‘I’ enters into the abandonment of unconscious betrayal, and the dynamics of objectification and externalisation of pathological identity are born. Eros then, itself the singular integrating force, yet being dumped into unconscious exile through primitive invalidation, means that the drives of sex and aggression do not differentiate in accord with transpersonal integration and Self regulation – a direct product of empathic mirroring via ‘I’-Thou relating – and thus remain confused and entwined like hungry and craving lovers, frozen in the trauma of isolation from the consciousness of the incarnational system. Thus is the formation of the beast.
The beast is a composite structure of raw Eros, caught in an almost eternal scream of terrorisation, its only desire to seek the attention afforded by the intimacy of the primal gaze of empathic attunement, distorted through its motive of conquest of the other. The ignorance and maintenance of profound self judgment perpetuates the self loathing and hatred, that finds its expression through the pathological claiming of the predatory instinct, finding some of its most abhorrent expressions at the extreme end of the narcissistic spectrum, characterised by profound degrees of projection and externalisation. Therefore the Minotaur represents the formation of the primitive ecstatic caged at the heart of the labyrinth of the unconscious, and its liberation signifies the end of neurosis and the realignment of pathology within ‘I’-Self identity. The Minotaur may often be transferred into the therapist in the form of primitive traumatic complexes as a transmutable offering. It is always embodiment of the countertransference that equates the transmutation, metabolisation or digestion of terror based pathology into the embodiment of love. In such an instance, love is the allowance of the disowned shadow material of the client’s unconscious that is holding the pearl of ‘I’ consciousness hostage. Through such therapeutic embodiment the client comes into conscious relational contact, essentially coming face to face with that which has been previously unacceptable, and slowly begins to internalise the split off aspects of their own psyche providing the basis for ‘I’-Self integration.
Case Study 4 –
Jed presented as a codependent in a relationship with an abusive narcissist that would take advantage of his willingness to please the other. Jed grew up in a narcissistic system that was unable to ‘see’ him in his valid subjectivity, instead only relating to him as an extension of the primary system, forcing him to conform to the systemic dynamics or perish in neglect. Jed presented as passive and meek, yet in the countertransference were the raging screams of a trapped beast foaming with abandoned power. Embodying this rage was tormenting and difficult and earlier than I would have liked, I had to find ways to bring Jed into the conscious feedback loop of the countertransference to share the field. This was as simple as asking him to be aware of any parts of him that may have been feeling angry. As Jed was able to include more of his rage in his awareness, he was able to see that it was not safe for him to be powerful in his early world, having to become an object in service of his mother’s pathological need to control her environment, constellated by her terror of being overpowered. Thus Eros was distorted into the sadistic defence of dissociative relational dynamics, Jed’s survival strategy to become a lap dog to his mother’s needs, castrating his own into the exile of unconscious formation.
After some work with Jed it was clear to him that the rage emerging from his unconscious – that had kept him terrified of being overpowered by his own power all his life – was masking the primitive grief of such betrayal and abandonment of his ‘I’- Self connection. The work here was to retrain his vulnerability in service of his internal affect, as its modus operandi, and not to find its centre in the other. To this end Jed unlocked an initially sadistic and violent fantasy world centred around a reclamation of the Eros that he had been denied. The work of my embodied presence assisted in the rarification of this alchemy, and to inform my interventions relative to feeding back to Jed digestible bite size pieces of his own authentic subjectivity. The embodied countertransference provided me with an in-the-moment download of his inner world, both conscious and unconscious. Therefore I also maintained contact with the transpersonal field of Jed’s Self consciousness that remained in perfect tact, as it always does, as the background field of pure awareness, directly using the embodied countertransference and osmosis dynamics, to bridge this into Jed’s psychophysiology via the auxiliary stabilisation of my own ‘I’-Self relationship. This work supported Jed’s process of internalisation and his awakening to his own path of ecstasy, recovering his awareness of his personal needs and desires and his passion for personal life.
It is useful to see all traumatised affect and its subsequent cognitive structures of invalidation, as expressing only a blockage to ecstatic flow or as misalignment between ‘I’ and Self. This offers a therapist with a simple map to navigate the direction of the work, similar to how an attuned massage practitioner may guide a session to work out the knots in the tissue. In fact, transpersonal psychotherapy must aim to soothe the abrasive structures of a client’s inner world, as this alone provides the base of safety that will allow for a softening of defensive strategies and a coaxing of the unconscious into awareness. It is really this simple softening that allows for the shadow of the unexpressed to be embraced into the stream of consciousness and bliss. From this perspective, evil does not exist, but expresses only such misalignment with Self. Even the word evil reversed is live, hinting at the truth that evil is simply the coagulation of blocked life. Blocked life thus creates the experience of insecurity or the terror of annihilation in the psyche, offering simple enough insight into the roots of psychophysiological pathology. Therefore the release of the shadow material is the realignment of Eros, establishing balance and Self regulation as the basis of personal experience.
Reality is a Self fulfiling Prophecy
Assagioli spoke of the two primary archetypes emerging directly from Self to be Will and Love, that could be construed from their realisation, as awareness, or containment and ecstasy respectively. When rightly understood, the function of the personal ‘I’ then, relative to these archetypal energies, falls solely into focus as a receiver and transmitter of Self, a reflective portal of Self consciousness into physicality. It is often said that Self is the composer and ‘I’ the conductor of personal life. Here, transpersonal psychotherapy may be seen as the rendering of the conductor receptive to the transpersonal impulse, that ‘I’ then translates into personal experience via cognitive and affective processes through the cauldron of the body.
Freud’s idea of repetition compulsion is rarely challenged and the evidence is clear to most, that our chronic patterns of cognition, affect and physiology, both conscious and unconscious, are what constellate the relational environment of our lives. That is why a person who has suffered early abuse is likely to end up in abusive after abusive relationship in their adult lives, as they are, in this instance, repeating their chronic psychophysiological patterns created by the early trauma, thereby reaffirming the stability and familiarity of the primitive sense of identity as worthless and invalid. Thus the continued reenactment of the initial wounding event serves to constellate via the transference dynamics, the conscious and unconscious field of the other, who is compelled to enact the primal wound. Such field dynamics are set to ensure that the said other is a perfect codependent to the abused, via the dynamics of their own early narcissistic injury, that they will conjure in the other via their own transference, constellating the abused as the projection of their own battered psyche, which is quite simply the only way they can tolerate contact with who they really are from the perspective of their own wounding. Therefore both abuser and abused are constellating each other via the transferential enactments of their primal wounding.
I take this only as an obvious example of how repetition compulsion serves to replicate our internal experience as external representation. We could quite as easily take the case of an infant, who was nurtured through good enough empathic attunement, to come to expect such relational attunement from the other, thus consolidating their repetition compulsion accordingly. So repetition compulsions do not just refer to enactment of primary wounding dynamics, but also to enactment of primary attunement dynamics, and since addressing the primary dynamics that underpin the personality is the work of psychotherapy proper, facilitating attunement whilst metabolising wounding is the direction healthy therapy must take.
In essence as previously stated, we are all constellating our personal experience via transference dynamics and our repetition compulsions. What is useful to understand however, is that given transference dynamics respond to the repetition compulsions of the personality matrix, gaining conscious control over our repetition compulsions allows us the foresight to reconstellate our reality around a fresh axis of consciousness. Consciousness in its pure form is awareness and ecstasy, and is given shape through the perceptual apparatus of cognitive, emotional, imaginal and physiological processes, guided by desire. It is the alignment of these processes with the central axis of Self consciousness that transpersonal psychotherapy aims to facilitate. Systemic constellations in effect, deal with the impact of the system on the individual, but transpersonal therapy aims to liberate the individual from the system in order to truly find its place within it.
Thus one of the most important elements of embodied countertransferential work is that the client gets the opportunity to see their impact on the other, which in turn validates the authenticity of their sense of existence. As this sense of existence (that is, Self) is validated through the empathic chamber of therapeutic contact, repetition compulsions founded on the earlier traumatic wounding will fall away, evaporate or be metabolised by experiential existential consciousness, as scaffolding is removed from a tower that can now support itself from within its own foundations. Such Self support and sustainability is the beginning of individual embodiment and empowerment, where there is now freedom to choose the repetition dynamics that will constellate the shape of personal reality. To this end Joseph Campbell’s idiom, “Follow your bliss”, speaks to the ecstatic scent that is the guiding beacon of individual fulfilment. Since practice of bliss rarifies the alignment with Self, individual alignment always acts or thus constellates reality, in respect of the whole from which it expresses and by which it is inferred, by the very connection between ‘I’ and Self. Therefore the proper moral base of the individual is solely the ground of their own fulfilment, combined with the shared identity of Self consciousness.
Once alignment is achieved through secure detachment or Self awareness, the power of the individual then becomes its capacity, and only its capacity, to sustain its alignment with Self and maintain its reception of pure consciousness, then translating, modulating, transmitting and directing this alignment through the personality matrix, through forms inspired by Eros or the transpersonal desire or impulse of Self. The individuals capacity in this regard, correlates with their freedom from the compulsion to possess Self in the form of narcissistic defences, both grandiose and deprecating, and instead to have understood that the very nature of true and lasting possession, is this alignment to the ecstatic flow of Self consciousness. If an individual is still functioning within egoic identification constellated by early relational trauma, having failed to establish authentic stabilisation in the ‘I’ consciousness, then the possibility of spiritual emergency or ego inflation, threatens to fragment the psychic membrane of the borderline presentation on the one hand, with the possibility of psychotic breakdown becoming very real, or narcissistic inflation on the other, solidifying further the split between ‘I’ and Self. Borderline presentation speaks to a porous psychic membrane sensitive to invasion from the unconscious, without a stable centre to regulate the information. Therefore embodied relational ‘I’ work is key to stabilising such presentation, facilitating the emerging Self through the osmosis of empathic Self transmission, from one neurology to another. Narcissistic presentation also requires therapeutic embodied countertransference to provide the necessary attunement to address primitive empathic failures. Thus does the formative neurology initiated by the attunement dynamics of the transference, contained and inspired by the ‘I’-Self relationship of the therapist, support the emergence of Self within the narcissistic pathology, which in time begins to be less relevant, since the transpersonal therapeutic relationship has offered an opening to the undefended.
So the centre of subjective experience, one way or other, is literally everything when it comes to the prophecy of self fulfilment. That is, the centre of identity – whether pathologically identified within the ego matrix, or Self identified – like the hub of the wheel, determines the functional basis of how the wheel turns. Since ego pathology exists within the periphery of the wheel itself, bearing no direct relationship with the hub, craving and vying for power become the substance of the ego’s misguided attempts to Self realise within the possession dynamics of ego psychology. Ego psychology is nothing but the attempts of the falsely identified to secure the hijacking of the Self within its particular form of attachment dynamics. If that point of Self consciousness, meagerly functioning at the unconscious heart of ego pathology, could be convinced of the fullness and sovereignty of its true power, then such knowledge would go a long way in beginning the unravelling of pathological identity.
So reality is a Self fulfiling prophecy, it just depends whether Self is able to manifest via attunement or wounding, connection or disconnection, alignment or misalignment, of the ‘I’-Self relationship. It is absolutely the degree or not regarding the presence or absence of this relationship, that directly determines the prophecy of a person’s life. If what we then evoke from the other, or indeed from the very fabric of our external representation we call reality, is constellated by the central hub of our experiential base, our power lies in the subjectivity of our own consciousness, which will be thus laid out by the mirror of our external world, as a dream reflects the consciousness of the dreamer. Important it is then to understand the power of emotion regarding our subjective centre, given that no greater indicator exists in respect to how we are translating our in-the-moment experience of our ‘I’-Self relationship. Therefore emotion is the most direct and immediate language of communion that exists between transpersonal Self and personal ‘I’. It is the most compulsive emotional patterning that is responsible for what we evoke from the other and our reality, via unconscious transference dynamics and conscious deliberate intent. Since emotion follows thought, given Assagioli’s psychological law that energy follows thought (emotion being energy in motion), then every thought has an equivalent emotion attached to it, which has equivalent neurological causes and correlates attached to it. Therefore guiding thought to create emotion and emotion to affect physiology – which really only becomes possible from a realised perspective, due to the detachment of ‘I’ awareness – is how we can exercise this law of Self fulfiling prophecy. In essence, to choose what we will evoke externally by what we invoke internally, via aligning our repetition compulsions with what we desire, that is the presence of Self, as opposed to its absence, leaving us in the realm of hungry ghosts.
And so it is through working to our advantage, resonance dynamics that move us toward our object of desire and away from the trauma of its absence, that we may begin to unlock the presence of Self hiding in the object, in time revealing the fulfilment of non objective contemplation that is alignment with Self. It is important to understand that resonance with any thing, will only invoke from us more of the same, as it is equally with dissonance. Therefore part of therapeutic process is to increase the resonance patterning within the client through empathic attunement. This then allows the client to feel a sense of validation, that will facilitate their movement toward resonance with Eros. This will smooth out the path of the client, so that their intrapsychic process can foster resonance patterning in alignment with desire, rather than dissonance patterning regarding object absence.
It can be a common flaw in meditative approach for detachment to foster dissociation with the body. At times, due to high levels of anxiety for example, a cold detachment from affective arousal can be useful, but even this responds in this instance to desire, in the form of relief from anxiety. Therefore detachment without the integration of Eros, which is the revealed experience of natural detachment anyway, offers only a half baked meditative approach. And so a fuller meditative process can be to engage in object resonance, from the detachment of ‘I’ awareness, and in this the reintegration of Eros held hostage within object relational dynamics, can be reclaimed into the psychic awareness of joyful existence and realigned with the non objective contemplation of the ‘I’-Self relationship. Such non objective contemplation of the ‘I’- Self relationship may be seen as the heights of embodied subject resonance, which indeed reveals the resonance dynamics of ecstatic patterning to be the optimal conditions to fulfil the prophecy of Self.
It is this compulsion of the ecstatic constellating intrapsychic experience, that replicates itself through the frontal lobes and limbic system, as the neurological causes and correlates for the embodiment of the ecstatic. Thus it is when the hub of the wheel of incarnate consciousness is resonance with ecstasy, that what is evoked from the external representation of the personal world is reflective of the ‘I’-Self relationship. This is why the therapist’s commitment to their own Self realisation must serve as the breeding ground of therapeutic intervention, assuring the integrity of ‘I’-Self dynamics and thus ‘I’-Thou dynamics, being evoked in the transference.
Since psychopathology is rooted in unconscious identification, the real self object that is churned through the process of alchemical rarification of the sense of identity as ‘I’ awareness, is embodied subjectivity, that is the embodied subject. It is contact with the embodied subjective that is the revelation of the psychophysiological regulatory function of Self consciousness. Until Self regulation is firmly established in the individual, there will always be an unconscious projection of the ‘I’ consciousness into a self object or ego matrix, for the purposes of regulating the existential anxiety of embodied absence. Since the terror of experiencing such existential absence in the form of traumatic process is often too much to bear, it is the work of the transpersonal therapist as discussed, to embody the absence and engage the client in a relational process of transpersonal transmutation, from the misalignment of agony to the alignment of ecstasy.
Meditation then, is the space where resonance and attunement between ‘I’ and Self is allowed to manifest, and dissonance between ‘I’ and Self is allowed to resonate. The dynamics of allowance really offer the permission of existence, and it is important to understand that dissonance is created precisely where permissiveness to exist is denied. The existence-consciousness-bliss of the True Self is all pervading from a realised ‘I’-Self perspective, therefore judgment alone provides the claws of resistance that is responsible for pain. If a therapist does not work from this perspective, that judgment births the resistance to affect – which is the basis of trauma and survival based personality defences – then they will never be able to rest appropriately in the presence of love, or the permissiveness to exist in respect of the client. No matter what circumstantial pathology is presenting, it is the intimacy of allowance that creates the therapeutic alliance that will allow for a broader inclusion of the client’s unconscious to emerge safely. Therefore dissonance must be seen as a rejected form of love, to allow the balm of the therapist’s ‘I’-Self connection to soothe the abrasive relational juncture of the client’s internal isolation.
So if we revisit Shankara’s three statements:
1 – Self is real
2 – The universe is unreal
3 – Self is the universe
we can see that the final statement offers the embracing of the whole universe as an extension of the consciousness of Self. In this way is the subjectivity of human consciousness the source of perceptual manifestation, and to exclude even a single aspect of the universe from one’s sense of Self, is to deny oneself the love of one’s being and feed into the cycle of repeated rejection and trauma. Without this common ground of shared identity, authentic resonance and compassion is just not possible. Therefore it is the client’s apperception of the therapist’s total acceptance of their being, transmitted from the conscious presence of Self of the therapist, to the unconscious presence of Self of the client, that creates the underlying resonance and attunement dynamics of transpersonal therapeutic integration, essentially providing a bridge between the defended and the undefended. This whilst simultaneously working through the transmutation of the evoked wounding dynamics of the transference relationship.
The best training ground for a therapist away from interpersonal learning, is the meditation of their own intrapsychic process where these same dynamics are being worked through, but from an intrapsychic-interpersonal approach, as they work through the disidentification process in respect of their own subpersonality matrices or ego identifications, essentially the transmutation of their own pathology into the ecstatic receptivity of ‘I’-Self alignment.
I have already discussed meditation as a resting in pure awareness as the fundamental backbone of identity, but it is worth understanding the process of meditation on the ‘I’ consciousness. If the ‘I’ consciousness, itself a centre of pure Self awareness within the personal field, from a meditative standpoint, is itself taken as embodied affect from its manifested experiential basis, then there can be the refinement of affective experience into the singularity of Self realisation that is the embodiment of Eros or the ecstatic. Thus true vulnerability or undefended contact serves as the mating ground between ‘I’ and Self, as intrapsychic embodied contact fulfils the very desire of psychophysical embodiment, embodiment properly referring to embodiment of Self, and not codependent infatuation with the other as a substitute for the terror of incarnation.
A transpersonal psychotherapy then, must take the ‘I’ consciousness, or lack thereof, as the central constellating force of a person’s reality, also providing a route in by way of assessment and a constant location within the territory of the client’s unconscious (via the countertransference) to guide the work. With the eventual dawning within the viscerality of the client, that the ‘I’ consciousness, purified from its unconscious identifications with external representations rather than embodied internal process, is the true revelation of Eros underpinning all previous desire, the marriage between ‘I’ and Self can then be allowed to constellate the relational matrix of the personal life. This thus fulfils the transpersonal impulse of the individual life, replicating itself from the primary alignment between ‘I’ and Self into the ever fresh and new moment of individual embodiment.
What is the Body
I would define the body then, as the moment of experiential contact as it is experienced within the ‘I’ consciousness. This is not limited to the physical body, but to the inherent visceralness of the body of Self consciousness. So we have to take Self as the body proper, in terms of the body of consciousness (itself the viscerality of existence-bliss), inclusive of all waking and dream states. However, it is the formative nature of all waking and dream states to which the term embodiment properly applies, that is, embodiment of Self within the specific individuation of its own consciousness. So awareness essentially is the body and any moment of contact then references embodiment in respect to the individuated moment.
Embodiment therefore, can only occur to the degree that identity is free from the psychophysiology. In this way does non resistance, relative to Self identity, equate fearlessness, or the end of anxiety for the individual. There just cannot be the end of fear until Self realisation is established as the ground of identity. The nature of attachment in fact, is the existential anxiety of vulnerability, relative to identification with other, rather than detachment, which expresses vulnerability, relative to identification with Self. There is of course no permanence to the nature of any form that is subject to change, it is only Self awareness, reflected in the ‘I’ consciousness for the sake of the individual, that offers a permanent fixture of residence in the changeless absolute, that is, in respect to the singularity of the being-awareness-bliss of the Self. Alignment with Self then, remains the only viable option for the individual to be liberated from the terror of annihilation, which is the pathological basis of identity as external representation.
So transpersonal psychotherapy must serve Self realisation in every facet of its conduct. There is just no other way to maintain the purity of intent necessary to guide another into the domain of their own Self realisation. Conscience then, is the absolute fabric of consciousness, that is connected to one’s capacity to experience consciousness as identity, without the splitting of unconscious identification that is ego pathology and the narcissistic spectrum. In fact, without conscience in tact there can be no receptivity to the transpersonal impulse, since the splitting compartmentalisation necessary to maintain the unconscious integrity of ego matrices, or the subpersonality field, requires traumatic resistance founded on the primary empathic failure. Thus, the transpersonal impulse that would otherwise flow through the personality matrix as the life giving and life supporting benevolent ecstatic, becomes distorted through the addictive pathology of narcissistic supply.
It is metabolising such distortion that is the realm of the therapeutic transference relationship, and that requires embodiment on the part of the therapist, to maintain the juxtaposition of primal wounding and Self realised attunement dynamics, which creates the conditions for spontaneous and natural Self emergence and ‘I’ consciousness stabilisation in the client, providing the basis for pathological transmutation and therapeutic osmosis in service of Self realisation. From this perspective, transpersonal psychotherapy may be understood as the recovery of conscience and the churning of its betrayals, into the integrity of the ‘I’ consciousness, via the empathic field of the therapeutic alliance.
It is worth considering the imagination as a real realm of autonomous possibility. It is certainly a landscape of experience, that offers a region where the repetition compulsions of the personal world can be worked through in a conscious way, prior to the evocation within the external representation of the physical world. So there is a relational connection between the imaginal and the physiological in all of its reflective capacity. Imagination may be conceived as the entirety of the reflected body of Self consciousness, an ever evolving matrix of infinite variation and possibility, in a state of constant responsiveness to the being-consciousness-bliss of the Self – either consciously or unconsciously – which is precisely where the free will of the individual is exercised, relative to their allowance or disallowance of the spontaneous flow of Self. In essence, the imagination is the internal representation of the reflected consciousness experienced as internal process. It is the vehicle for the formation of individuation, where the crystallisation of resonance and dissonance dynamics, may be consciously directed to gain more deliberate patterning of the repetition compulsions of the psychophysiological processes.
Therefore the imagination is the ground where the essence of wishes, in the form of the essence of objects, may be unified, in order to reclaim the displaced Eros back into the alignment of the ‘I’-Self relationship, without acting out the compulsion, unless conscious choice (proper), desires it. The purpose of this process then, is not to end object fulfilment, but to recentralise its impulse in alignment with the transpersonal. The object then is moved toward, not from a centre of longing, but from a centre of transpersonal inspiration and subjective fulfilment. The object thus is never the attained end of a process of ego gratification, but a simple state of embodied contact of the transpersonal evocation of the psychophysiological individuality. The imagination is a realm that can offer wish fulfilment, that can facilitate affective and biochemical regulation, when engaged from the embodied ground of ‘I’ awareness. As wish fulfilment becomes grounded as the central loci of affective experience within the psychophysiology, this itself harnesses Self into the frontiers of incarnate awareness.
Empathic Presence Restated
So it is imperative for a therapist to be aware of this two way process of evocation that is constantly constellating the relational field of the therapy. That is how the therapist is being evoked by the client, and what the therapist is evoking from the client. Working from a client led model, we meet the client where they are and respond to the specific attunement need of the moment. But this must be offset by the empathic presence of the therapist, that is stable and saturated in the loving presence of ‘I’. It is important that a therapist does not leave this relational baseline, otherwise the unifying presence offered by the stabilising gaze of empathic ‘I’ (to use Chris Meriam’s term), will be compromised by unconscious transference or projective identification. The empathic gaze of ‘I’ translates across all levels of the psychophysiological developmental requirements, tending to the developmental neurological causes and correlates for transpersonal incarnation. The therapeutic gaze stabilised in empathic presence, not only conjures the necessary loving gaze of the ‘mother’ for the infant (that is the empathic transmission from the primary caregivers to the infant, thus addressing and fulfiling the early dynamics of the love transference), but also conjure the gaze of Self for ‘I’, the ever constant and available transmission of Self awareness radiating forth as its manifestation, in the form of individuation.
Therefore the embodied empathic gaze of the therapist is the cornerstone of transpersonal psychotherapy. If a therapist remained in empathic presence during a session, with little else by way of intervention, attuned to the active presence of listening and care that is the natural inclination of empathic ‘I’, then this itself offers profound benefits by way of empathic reparation to early failure. It is a wonderful and intimate offering, to allow an other to self express freely in a space of active empathic presence. If a therapist can remain alert to such self expressing of a client, without colluding via unconscious attachment dynamics to any presented material, the client’s sense of authentic ‘I’ is given the space to naturally emerge. This is really the absolute essence of any psychotherapy, and if this kind of empathic presence is missing from a therapist’s intrapsychic experience and thus from the therapy room, a client will be denied the auxiliary transmission of good therapy, no matter what modality is being offered.
Case Study 5 –
Billy was abandoned by both his father via ongoing physical abuse, and by his mother via non intervention. He presented with a myriad of fragmentation pathology leaving him painfully compulsive and without a sense of authentic ‘I’. My work with him was slow and gentle, evoked as I was, as the empathic gaze of the mother, session after session, as he gently shared his story. In the countertransference the tenderness and love I felt for him, a mother’s love for her son, Self’s love for ‘I’, was deeply soothing within the space, allowing Billy to share his vulnerability, meeting the primitive need of the infant within him, to be experienced in a safe environment without the threat of fear and worthlessness he had internalised from a violent father.
Providing a stable, loving, authentic unifying centre for Billy, was all that was needed to support his emerging capacity for Self regulation and authentic Self experience or authentic personality (to use John Firman’s term), simultaneously coinciding with a reduction of his compulsive personality and his survival structures or defences, that were scaffolding his embryonic neurological interior, constellating from a holding pattern of frozen trauma.
Michael Soth speaks about the therapist allowing themself to be constructed and deconstructed by the client’s unconscious, but this must only be allowed by the therapist to the extent that they are grounded in the conscious presence of empathic ‘I’, in order to protect the integrity of the therapist’s own sanity, otherwise the therapist is at risk of being constellated by the client via their own primal wounding, through the unconscious countertransference of projective identification.
The Perceptual Universe – Narratives in Service of Ecstasy
What does it mean to live in a perceptual universe? It means that what we perceive as the tangible experience of our physical reality, is really a translation of Self, via the psychophysiology of the person. Self emits a constant frequency of ecstasy, and whether we are able to translate this signal into the tangible experience of Self realisation, or whether we translate this signal into its opposite frequency of trauma, as already stated, is a matter of identity being liberated from ego pathology. But what’s important to realise here is that only a single signal is ever being emitted. The being- consciousness-bliss of the Self is ever radiant, but translation of Self falls solely into the hands of human receptivity. Therefore the human system is like a radio dial that has the capacity to choose which radio station to listen to and then tune in to it. In this sense, whatever station is being listened to will govern the perceptual universe of that individual moment. Narratives, stories, histories and memories that evoke feelings of trauma and despair will therefore constellate the perceptual universe accordingly, even though such accord, is at discord, with the frequency of the pure Self. It is only discord with the true Self that is the cause of pain and pathology. So there’s a bit of a catch twenty two here at first glance. A client comes into therapy surely to tell their story, share their pain and have it be heard and received by the empathic other. This of course is the case, and offering a person a space to self express is of tremendous value relative to a person’s need for authentic validation of their primary sense of existence, which is Self. In fact, it is such empathic seeing and receiving, via the therapist, that opens up the potential and space for new narratives to be introduced into the mix, in service of the client’s desire for a liberated life.
It is to this end that the initial phase of a psychotherapy is served by psychodynamic work, to the extent that the embodied countertransference is traumatic. Therefore inclusion of the primary abandonment of the psyche, will be the ground of the initial attunement work. Analysis of the traumatic patterning in respect of the primitive object relations is useful, in as much as it provides an understanding that can help contextualise the client’s narrative and presenting issues, within the deeper matrix of the unconscious causality. Such understanding can help facilitate the embodied countertransferential metabolisation of the early wounding, within the therapeutic container, bringing some bearing and location to the work. To remain focused on the dynamics of traumatic transference further than meets the needs of the above, can either bring the therapy to a standstill, or else continue to support the discord between the client and Self, rather than move toward resonance. If this occurs it means that the empathy is either not being utilised via therapeutic embodiment, which really begs the question of whether it is empathy at all (that is, if it is not being relationally embodied through the countertransference). Or it means that the empathy is only being utilised with respect to the wounding dynamics without also empathising, that is, being in communion with the client’s (currently) unconscious Self. Such dual therapeutic and embodied attunement, to both the abandoned Self and the wounded pathology or survival structures, is how I understand the fulfilment of what Assagioli called bifocal vision. Essentially this refers to seeing a client as Self, as well as seeing them within the matrix of their presenting pathology and discourse. If this is managed through relational embodiment dynamics via the transference, then the presenting narrative of the client and pathological identifications, will slowly emerge to feel less relevant to them, in accordance with their growing feeling of resonance with empathic ‘I’.
The work then of transforming empathic ‘I’ into ecstatic ‘I’, is a matter of also building narratives that support feelings of benevolence and satisfaction, which in turn support empathy with true Self, which is itself the pure experience of benevolence and bliss. Narratives of despair that continue to replicate themselves within the empathic chamber of therapy, even after they have been appropriately received, often continue in this way, because the therapist is unsure of where to take the therapy when there is no major charge arising from presenting issues. Such moments are in fact golden therapeutic moments to develop a forward facing gaze, evoked from the client’s own desires, in whatever form they may arise. Here, developing emotional resonance and patterning with what could be, and at least within the realm of the imaginal, what already may be, if it can be so conjured, is essentially the work of transpersonal repatterning. This is in line with holistic systems like resonance repatterning, that work to bring about psychophysiological resonance with positive intentionality, in order to repattern biodynamics, thus supporting the evocation of enhanced conditionality within the mirror of external representation, and reducing unconscious resonance with traumatic conditioning.
When positive intentionality, or life supporting narratives (the steering wheel) are integrated with emotional conviction (the fuel) and thus neurological equivalence within the physical body (the car’s body), then the ‘I’, or the authentic centre of reflected Self consciousness (the driver), can be sure it is driving on the path to ecstasy. Phrases like top down or bottom up, are often applied to transpersonal models, in respect of the preference of the individual approach. Top down refers to those people with an affinity for pure awareness based practices, that is starting out with Self awareness and working their way into the psychophysiology of the personality vehicle. Bottom up refers to those with an inclination toward personality based practices, that is working to bring cognitive, affective and physiological processes in line with the Self. At the end of the day, every facet of the Self-I-Personality must be brought in to the singularity of functional alignment, as an ideal model, as a measurement for one’s progress in the work. So both top down and bottom up processes must be mastered. This is what Assagioli offers when he states the aim of psychosynthesis, to be the “harmonious integration of all our component parts around the unifying centre of the ‘I’.” When a transpersonal fixation grips hold of the personality, as a singular focus of
intentionality across all levels of the body-mind, the ecstatic is at play.
Energy psychotherapy supports the idea of therapeutic transmission work, facilitating alignment between transpersonal Self and personal ‘I’, via the release of patterns of resistance. Energy psychotherapy generally sees the complex of the human system, as being predicated by energy fields, that could be understood as the most subtle levels of subjectivity or consciousness arising from and within Self. Therefore they generally understand psychophysiological patterns of trauma as disturbances within these primary field dynamics, causing harmonic dissonance, where there would otherwise be harmonic resonance, within the matrix of existence and systemic realities, from planetary bodies to personal and ancestral systems.
From this perspective, therapeutic intervention is very much focused on soothing and creating space, as well as a kind of astral installation of alignment based structures. Kabala speaks about the sephirot, subtle spheres of consciousness, that serve the functions of reception and transmission of Self into individuated form. In a similar vein, yoga speaks about the chakras, again spheres of energetic consciousness within the subtle matrix of systems that serve the same regulatory function as the sephirot. It is worth considering the human organism in the same light, that is, as a functional portal of reception and transmission in service of Self, or Identity proper. The point here, is that alignment and misalignment manifests as much within a subtle energetic body, as it does a physical one, and just as there are neurological causes and correlates for alignment and misalignment, there are also energetic, cognitive and affective causes and correlates for alignment and misalignment – that is harmonic resonance and dissonance dynamics – thus creating for us a shared platform of experience and some guiding principles.
Therefore it is possible from an energetic perspective, which is really speaking to an
‘I’ awareness perspective, to foster harmonic intervention via transmissive awareness. By transmission is meant the natural and spontaneous emittance of our own transference package. As such a package becomes conscious, it can be worked to facilitate resonance repatterning in the other, via the transferential field, working purely from an energetic or consciousness perspective, that is, without the intervention of a word based discourse, the relational communication instead being situated purely within the field of consciousness – consciousness compromising the fullness of the subjectivity dynamics, from ‘I’-Self connectivity, to all psychophysiological processes of the person. This kind of work is not different at all from the work previously described regarding the embodied countertransference dynamics etc., but in this instance the therapist has trained themselves to be so sensitive to the transferential field, as well as to their intrapsychic relational process, that they can manoeuvre enough within the receptive/transmissive facility of their own Self consciousness to support, or assist in creating, the conditions for Self emergence in the other, via the subtle energetic centres. Therefore such subtle energetic work, when combined with embodied psychotherapeutic understanding of transference dynamics, can be an excellent addition to the work of transpersonal psychotherapeutic integration.
Alignment manifests individually in accord with each individual body, but certainly there can be a centreing within the subtle body within particular centres, such as the solar plexus, heart, or pineal gland, and a therapeutic relational mirroring from such points of contact. Working with models such as the kabbalistic or yogic systems, can provide a kind of container software, that can assist in the stabilisation of the pure ‘I’ consciousness within the psychophysiological structure. In a sense this is what all conceptual understanding provides, supporting the resourcing of depth, relative to affect, which of course can serve unconscious defence as much as conscious direction and transmission. This can certainly assist a therapist in the regulation of the relational field, via the mirroring of their own structures of alignment and harmonic resonance. This is similar to the way mirror neurons work physiologically, but on the level of subtle energetic dynamics. Thus, such conscious mirror transference becomes an essential stabilising factor in the attunement of the client’s ‘I’-Self relationship, dominated by the Self realisation dynamics of the therapist’s own ‘I’-Self connection, to the extent that the therapist embodies this in-the-moment. It is also worth noting, that a person’s Self realisation can attune external atmosphere in direct proportion to the degree of Self that is being internally realised, that is allowed to be present, within the personality matrix centred in the ‘I’ consciousness. Thus the human system can be used as a radiation facility, to modulate energetic atmospheric fields across all levels of manifest reality, which certainly beckons Assagioli’s vision of global psychosynthesis.
The Individual is the Collective
From this perspective then, the individual is the collective, in as much as the individual is a function, similar to that of a single cell in a physical body. Yet the unique perceptual apparatus of each individual offers a perfect constellation of the collective, within the idiosyncratic propensity of the specific ‘I’ consciousness that is focused. In such a multidimensional framework of consciousness, external representation will be reflected in accord with the centre of evocation, via spontaneous consciousness or via unconscious identification – however, the fulfilment of the individual lies in correlation to the absence of splitting dynamics relative to collective identity as Self. Therefore, although psychosis for example, offers a unique perceptual experience of the collective, such experience is fundamentally constellated by isolation dynamics relative to collective identification, which of course is its pathological basis. Whilst the terror of annihilation, may lead an abandoned sense of ‘I’ to reconstruct external reality via grandiose attempts at ego inflation, or indeed ego deflation, such pathology must be understood as the well intentioned yet misguided attempt to Self realise, even though such attempt is fractured within the defensive strategy. Yet still, the attempt of the rejected personality to usurp the identity of Self, is a reach for the collective integration of the ‘I’-Self relationship.
We proceed from a false basis when we assume that daily life is meant to be a quietly desperate tolerance of the unfulfilled. Far from it, which is most expressed by the unconscious sensibility of addicts and psychotics alike. Humanity is yet to liberate itself from entrapped desire and the pathological consequences of such oppression, expressed not just through the extreme ends of the narcissistic and psychotic spectrum and addictions, but through the daily life of miserable replication that plagues the ground of our modern day masses. At least the psychotics and addicts are driven by the passionate impulse to ecstasy that however misguided, affords them momentary transport into transpersonal consciousness, however short lived and destructive, relative to the tragic repetition compulsions of their primitive enactment dynamics. Far worse perhaps to soil life with the rigid defences of hatred and judgment, masking the depression of the unexpressed.
Nevertheless, no salvation to the collective pathology of humanity’s general enmeshment with subpersonal matrices, will ever lie in the throes of a furthering intensification of survival strategies, surely evidenced by our current epidemic of presenting mental health issues. Yet salvation always lies with disidentification and Self identification and the realignment, establishment and stabilisation of the ‘I’ consciousness, relative to Self. This speaks to the essence of true power, the inherent right of the ‘I’-Self connection, yet pathologically distorted through mistaken identity. Until the individual can relinquish power to the singularity of the ever flowing inspiration of Self consciousness, transpersonal purpose with respect to collective identification, is not given the space to emerge. Thus, the perceptual external representation of the reflected consciousness will continue to be only a replicated vision, filtered through the projective lens of the unconscious territory of the primal wound, inevitably requiring codependence via object relations as the primary intersubjective evocation of personal experience.
Self realisation – Power and the End of Archetypal Possession
Case Study 6 –
Jane was a highly narcissistic client who wanted to address the way she would use men to help regulate her need for power and control, leading them into punitive obsession with her and then discarding them. This was all acted out outside of her marriage, itself an environment she despised not feeling any passion for her husband. Jane suffered early abuse and abandonment from her father and an emotionless relationship with her mother. The other side of her acting out was her existential shame of unworthiness (the child’s internalised primitive blaming of themself for the failure of the primary caregivers), although she cared not for the men she was abusing or her husband, given her splitting off of empathic ‘I’ from the structural complex of the wounding constellation. Part of her survival strategy was to ally with her abusive father that she internalised as a dynamic to stabilise a sense of power, that her treatment of men was feeding.
She expressed through her initially presenting insatiable sexual desire, an attempt to feed the vampiric centre that had formed within her, to consume the object rather than be consumed by it. Such possession dynamics were a compensatory defence to her starved need for authentic intimacy. These hungry ghosts were the formation of the screams of non being, or Jane’s exiled existence vying to regain its integrity. Thus is the basis of the myth of the vampire, the craving of the hungry ghosts. The craving of such desire is an attempt by the voices of exile to seek transpersonal union, distorted through the desire to consume the object that promoted the primitive annihilation experience. Such splitting, of course at various degrees of traumatic intervention, is responsible for the objectification of the anima and animus into the object relational field via external representation, rather than being integrated, as the contactful ground of internal affective experience of the marriage to existence, constellated by the ‘I’-Self relationship, as the heart of the reflected external representation that is the very form of the person’s life.
In the countertransference there was a clear need for Jane to seek relief in therapeutic idealisation, to meet her primitive need for the empathic containment of the father. The erotic transference left me feeling sick and used, ravaged by the possessive compulsion to vomit the libidinal need for contact deranged as compulsive sexual hunger, from the embryonic interior of the unformed and undigested traumatic transference material of Jane’s rejected psyche. By embodying this countertransference as affect within my own body, thus both metabolising and containing the abandoned ‘I’ consciousness, this supported the reintegration of Eros into the therapeutic reparation of Jane’s own embodiment, this also acting as an auxiliary support, to assist Jane in containing the tormenting affect of her split need to both reject and merge with her abusive father, expressing as her sexual craving. Through this process, working within a transpersonal context of reintegrating and developing the Eros of ‘I’-Self connectivity, which was slowly emerging through the embodied and visceral relational field, Jane experienced a gently facilitated crises of her narcissistic defence, and an opening to conscience (via the release of the grief of her own self abandonment, previously expressing as libidinal craving). Her own contact with empathic ‘I’ led her to begin to receive the Eros flowing to her directly from Self, thereby participating in the flow of authentic power, that was previously controlling her through the unconscious dynamics of archetypal possession, filtered through the subpersonal matrix of addiction.
In the journey to Self, we are inevitably possessed by the archetypal energies of the unconscious, via the primary splitting of the ‘I’-Self connection in the form of the individualised trauma complexes. Archetypal energy is therefore the displacement of Self into the unconscious via primitive wounding dynamics, as a vehicle to reach the individual via the unconscious, since the direct route of the receptive portal of the ‘I’ consciousness has been compromised. That is, the archetypes are nothing more than the formation of Self that have constellated around primal wounding. The dynamics of archetypal possession are therefore a primitive way for Self to communicate its call to the individual, endlessly beckoning for the individual to turn its undivided conscious attention to what is unconscious, by way of the individual’s true Self. Archetypal possession provides a vehicle of enactment of primal wounding, to leave the person ultimately devastated and defeated in respect of their own absence of Self knowledge. Being ‘used’ therefore essentially enacts the objectification of identity with external representation, in order to break down the ignorance and resistance to the reception and transmission of pure Self consciousness within the psychophysiological being. In this way, just as ego pathology may be seen as the displacement of the ‘I’ consciousness into the objects of the personality matrix, Self pathology may be seen as the displacement of Self consciousness into the objects of the unconscious, formed by the non receptivity of the ‘I’ consciousness to Self. Therefore as there is progressive stabilisation in the ‘I’ consciousness, archetypal energy flows in conscious service to the personality, rather than unconscious possession of it. It is in this way that trauma predicates individuation, allowing for the very fabric of individuation to embody the expression and differentiation of Self within form.
So unless power is understood as the inherent experience of identity proper, that is Self, there will always be an attempt, no matter how subtle, for the pathological identity centre to enmesh itself within unconscious power dynamics, either displacing power into the object, or seeking power over the object. The dynamics of power are thus a distortion of the power of Self into the ego matrix. Thus, rather than power being the shared ground of identity that expresses as the mutuality and intimacy of relational contact, copdependence and projection dynamics once again replicate the powerlessness that constellates the heart of ego pathology. Once the individual recognises their true identity as Self, the balance of power can be realigned in harmonic resonance with the radiant centre of the ‘I’ consciousness. Thus begins the evaporation of the projection filters and the beginning of seeing the other in their own subjectivity and not through the unmet dependence needs. Power is really the capacity to evoke reality from ‘I’-Self alignment, the ‘I’ consciousness functioning as a kind of prism from the unmanifest into the manifest, or from the light of Self into the spectrum of personal existence.
The Politics of Self
Therefore when the individual understands themself to be a Self governing and Self containing system, there will be the translation of this into the Self governing nature of the collective. Intellectual morality is a cheap substitute for the embodied viscerality that is the true conscience of alignment with Self, and until societies are organically constellated around the totem pole of Self existence, the bioenergetic disturbance of pathological splitting and ego conflict will continue. This is not to say that in the meantime the individual cannot align with Self governance, just that in this process, there will be a multidimensional frequency shift, as the individual attunes themself to the spontaneous embodiment of Self governance, in a kind of hyperreality generated by Self, maintaining an at once functional yet metabolic relationship with political systems of wounding constellation. From this perspective, the Self’s relationship to the conflicting dissonance of misalignment can by nature, only be love. This is the departure point for authentic psychotherapeutic care, often carved out of the archetypal dynamics of the wounded healer. This is well expressed by Jung’s idea of every death of the ego being a victory for the Self, contextualising primal wounding as the soul of individuation. If the wound remains in exile of the individual consciousness, the politics of ego become the constellating social force, whereas if the wound remains the conscious ground that dismantles the survival structures, the politics of Self are able to incarnate via the ‘I’ consciousness, to constellate the lived experience of the intersubjective field.
Learning to Track Ecstasy from the ‘I’ Consciousness
Learning to track ecstasy from the ‘I’ consciousness, is really the essence of the path of ecstasy, which is the integration of the psychophysiology into the ‘I’ consciousness. Self realisation speaks to the making real of Self, to the embodiment of Self, to the incarnation of Self. It is the bringing forth of Self into the evolutionary frontiers of individuated consciousness. This is the very purpose behind incarnation, and such purpose is only fulfiled when the psychophysiology attains ecstatic equivalency with Self. This is the meaning of alignment, and is the realisation of the ‘I’ consciousness in respect of its identity with Self. As this occurs, the ‘I’ consciousness is then experienced to be equivalent to Self in the fulfilment of Self realisation, experienced
as the embodiment of ecstasy. Narcissism then, is only the misguided seeking of such equivalency with Self, in the absence of the pure subjectivity of the ‘I’ consciousness (such absence being the defining underpinning of the narcissistic structure), thus seeking its fulfilment and supply within the reflected image of the personality, which will always and can only be via survival structures and ego defences. In this sense in fact, until Self realisation begins to dawn within the individual structure, pathological neuroses remains the bedrock of social conditioning.
I would like to revisit here the role of personal desire in relation to ecstatic affect, since it is only through the fulfilment of desire, that ecstasy is even possible relative to the subjective experience. Power, in its liberated sense, is the fulfilment of desire experienced as ecstasy, but unfulfilled desire is the basis of hunger, experienced as craving, that essentially underpins the primal wound. Without Self realisation, the ego can never taste the satisfaction it so desperately seeks, but denying the ego its gratifying need, will only further the misery of the unfulfilled. This process of course is not a tracking of ecstasy via external representation. In fact, this process is the very subversion of the very structures of exteriorisation, that are founded on the misguided direction of the transpersonal impulse toward externality. But there must be a developed capacity to liberate the unconscious into the spontaneous, and a developed capacity for union with the object of desire within the planes of the imagination.
Such a process of tracking desire, and then uniting with the essence of the object, as an affective state of union, must be engaged from within the subjectivity of the ‘I’ consciousness. Engaging this process from any other centre risks intensification of the narcissistic defence, or a movement toward psychotic defence, where archetypal energy constellates the ego structure without a stable centre, let alone stabilisation in the ‘I’ consciousness. The experience of Self awareness that is not integrating desire, means there will be a splitting off of affect, that is essentially a depression of the psychophysiological being, or a spiritual defence. Here we can see the relational identity between affect and desire. Affect and desire work as lovers, comprising the fuel of life for the individual, its energy, aliveness and direction. Affect is the indicator of desire, affect lets us know the degree to which desire is fulfilled or remains unfulfilled. Indeed, chronic unfulfiled desire is despair. Desire fulfilled however, is ecstasy, or love. Therefore the practice of Self awareness, or meditation, is utterly imperative for the development of affective awareness, and the cognitive processes that feed into the affective experience – such processes precisely determining the neurological causes and correlates for the biochemistry of the ecstatic, or the physiology of despair. Using meditation to intensify the splitting with the psychophysiology therefore, is a defence against embodied life.
By engaging affective union with desire from the ‘I’ consciousness however, such fulilment only serves to expand the subjective field of the ‘I’ consciousness as the ecstatic incarnation of Self awareness. That is, as previously stated, Eros is freed from object possession and stabilises within the experiential viscerality of the ‘I’ consciousness. Tracking desire in this way, is the path of liberation from the pathological basis of exteriorisation and all levels of the social, or total systemic conditioning, via projection dynamics thereof. As desire is reintegrated, via the interiorisation of the awakening ‘I’ consciousness, the singularity of the ‘I’-Self relationship is free to constellate authentic subject-subject relations, that is the relational ground of intersubjectivity and consciously manifest existence.
How is Stabilisation in ‘I’ consciousness known
How do we know we are stable in the ‘I’ consciousness? Of course, like anything, this is a subjective affair. However, a measure for individual stabilisation, is that stabilisation will correlate precisely with the degree and effortlessness of the non grasping of objects, and the pleasure of such abidance as Self. Non grasping of objects speaks to the essence of trust in the benevolence of authentic subjectivity, or Self. Once non grasping has become well soaked in meditation practice, attachment pathology based on primary wounding dynamics and subsequent survival structures, will be well on its way to dissolution. That is, the non resistance of the psychophysiological structures to the influx of Self will be well underway. It is exactly such non resistance, or surrender to Self, that defines the very nature of the bhakti traditions, or paths of devotion. Also noticeable to the meditator at this stage will be their growing and spontaneous tendency for non objective contemplation, allowing them a clear and constant stream of ecstatic experience. It is such that makes embodied countertransferential relational depth work possible. Thus is Self realisation the ego’s fulfilment of its omnipotent fantasy (paradoxically via the dissolution of its own identity structures), as it renders itself and its world utterly receptive as a conduit for the incarnation of Self. Here, the ego’s attachment dynamics merge into the singularity of stabilisation in the ‘I’ consciousness, the state of non possession. From this perspective then, consciousness is allowed to entrain the psychophysiology, thus attuning the personality to ‘I’-Self resonance.
Non Objective Contemplation of Pure Affect
It is important to understand that the erotic transference and countertransference, has fundamentally the reaching for ‘I’-Self connectivity as its most primitive motif. If the interior atmosphere of the therapist’s embodiment is soaked with transpersonal bliss, this will spontaneously fulfil the transference needs, via the empathic relational field, effectively mitigated by the field of consciousness, therefore bypassing the enactment dynamics of projective identification. This does not mean that there is not object formation within the consciousness, just that object formation becomes a natural byproduct of ‘I’-Self alignment, rather than object projection being the misguided attempt to reach such alignment. This then, is the essential attainment of non objective contemplation – that object formation constellates in harmonic accord with ecstatic fulfilment.
The erotic transference may manifest as a desire to be consumed or to consume but again, these are just manifestations of the desire to be in reception and transmission of Self, that is, to be established in the ‘I’ consciousness. Therefore, both masochistic and sadistic dynamics are a distortion of the transpersonal impulse to ecstatic union. They are an attempt of the psyche to reach into the repression of Eros and bring it into embodiment, albeit via enactment dynamics, that is, via the indirect unconscious, rather than through ‘I’ consciousness stabilisation.
Thus is affect in its realised form Eros. Therefore, the ego pathology of subpersonal matrices constitute the splitting of Eros into affective states, that depart from the singularity of erotic fulfilment in its realised sense, to the extent that they are filtered through objective identification with psychic complexes or projection dynamics. Erotic fulfilment in the sense of ecstatic alignment or Eros, has nothing to do with sexual desire, and everything to do with the connection of Self with its individuation. It is in this vein that non objective contemplation applies. That is, it is solely related to non objective contemplation relative to identity proper, or the ‘I’ consciousness. If this is meditated upon as pure affective experience, there will be the unravelling of the complexes of defensive structures that hold Eros hostage, and a liberation of the Self within the psychophysiological matrix. In this way is the ‘I’ consciousness the non conceptual visceral experience of identity, which when simply allowed, will realise itself within psychophysiological formation as harmonic Self expression and Self knowledge, offering the full satisfaction of lived experience to the individual being. And so without the integration of affect into ‘I’ awareness, there will be no embodiment, and stabilisation will only serve dissociation from psychophysiology and the further amplification of defensive strategy.
Consciousness is the Animus – Bliss is the Anima
Here then is the evolution of fulfilment into the evocation of individual existence, as the internal marriage of consciousness and bliss, which is the animus and anima respectively. That is, essentially awareness and affect constitute the animus and anima respectively. When the being-consciousness-bliss of the Self is thus reflected through the pure lens of the ‘I’ consciousness, into the physiology-cognition-affect of the individual, which are the reflected organs of the being-consciousness-bliss respectively, this is the state of individuation that is itself Self realisation. It is in this sense that Self realisation brings with it the end of archetypal projection of the perfect other.
Self is the Self Object
From a transpersonal perspective then, it is upon establishing the ‘I’-Self relationship that brings an end to the whole structure of the self object function. In this sense, all self object functioning is seen to support psychic regulation, until such time as interiorisation gives way to Self regulation. Therefore, self object transference, no matter how advanced, will always function within the realm of relational pathology, as will all attachment based object relations. Therefore the transference relationship across all levels must give way to Self realisation if there is ever hope of subject- subject relating, without the intervention of projection pathology. Authentic relational communion is thus the very expression of transpersonal intimacy within the dynamics of individuation, rather than relational pathology, which is precisely psychophysiological structural defence to transpersonal intimacy. Transpersonal relational communion is simply the point of relational contact or connectivity between two ‘I’s who are grounded in Self.
The signal emitted by Self in its purity is ecstasy. Any deviation from this creates the splitting of Eros, which are the wounding dynamics of terror. Therefore, human life is specifically about the translation of ecstasy into tangible form, via the evolution of the individual, guided by the individual’s desire. This process is properly called individuation. Although the ecstatic signal emitted by Self is constant, the evolutionary process whereby an individual learns to tune into that signal of their true identity, and thus interpret it into manifest existence, via their psychophysiological perceptual apparatus – is necessarily a process that is moved in and out of, in order to perpetuate a continuous ground of fresh evolutionary soil to grow from. It is in this sense, that trauma, splitting, or unconsciousness, is a necessary prerequisite for the incarnation of Self into manifest existence, until the biometrics of psychophysiology are prepared to incarnate and translate identity into Self expression. This is not an end game so much as an ongoing process of unfoldment, that allows Self an experiential crystallisation of its own ecstatic patterns within conditions of biodiversity.
The real secure base then, from a therapeutic standpoint, is affective steadiness within the stream of ecstatic frequency. If psychotherapy does not aim to facilitate common alignment to the ecstatic, it offers a disservice. Happiness is not an affair of the ambiguous, but is fundamentally realised as a conscious decision of the individual to attune to the path of ecstasy. It is important to understand that ecstasy is the natural state of resonance that is experienced, as pathological defence or resistance to Self is released. Therefore transpersonal psychotherapy is not concerned with righting the wrongs of the past, but with how those wrongs have created the exact conditions for individual differentiation, relative to the individual’s ‘I’-Self relationship. Thus agony is always a platform to ecstasy. Since Self incarnates in human beings via empathic relational dynamics, it is clear then, why the capacity for embodied countertransference remains the incarnational imperative, in respect to authentic developmental strategy regarding therapeutic orientation.
Self calls us constantly, either through the path of affective transmutation, that we enter through a kind of symbiotic coercion through intolerable suffering, or else through the path of affective fulfilment, which is really just the natural orientation of a previously attuned psyche. Nevertheless, Self’s call never stops, which means the reflection of Self through the ‘I’ consciousness into multidimensionality will always continue, reflecting forms of resonance or dissonance, in direct accord with individuation processes across the entirety of biological life.