Transpersonal means: through and beyond the personal. It thus addresses the immediate experience of the everyday self or ego, but also reaches into the deeper inner world, as well as out to a collective universal experience beyond the ego.
Transpersonal psychotherapy and counselling involve an integrative and holistic approach that aides people during times of psychological and spiritual challenge and crisis. Such challenges and crises are harbingers of change which can manifest as symptoms such as depression, mental turmoil or anxiety; each can act as a sign that somehow the way we live our life no longer works. Responses such as extreme anger, grief, loneliness, hopelessness, indecision, confusion and even addictive behaviour can be natural responses to unhealthy or impossible situations. We may need to be encouraged to stay with the responses, honouring the dark side of one’s life rather than to be helped out of our pain or suffering. By staying with it we are also accepting it, and this can actually help us abide with it enough to move through and beyond pain, because we are not battling against it anymore, to a place we can fully breathe again. This work can only take place in a non-judgemental, safe environment, without the therapist’s mind weighing and judging, agreeing or disagreeing; an environment that allows and fosters deeper feelings and thoughts, necessary to make sense of what has gone wrong in the past and help create a more fulfilling future.
My commitment is to help and guide people through such times of crisis and change, and the challenges regarding how they feel about themselves and others. I offer a space where difficult feelings can be expressed and new ways of thinking can be explored. To me the Self walks in the room, the wholeness dimension of the individual, and it is my role to help the other understand how they can hear and then listen to their own inner knower, and help them develop an inner wise compassionate observer of their life.
The early defences of the core self can no longer hold.For those that seek therapy because they are in a crisis, it’s as if they’ve spent the first half of their life living a journey of the ego: how they adapted to their childhood traumas and familial patterns by building defences of the core self. But at some point these defences no longer work and our vulnerability is exposed because a thumping, shocking trauma has shaken us to the core. This can occur at any time and be triggered by external circumstances such as divorce or bereavement or other loss, failure, even falling in love in impossible circumstances, or an illness. The upheaval may last a few months or years, and at the bottom of the abyss, we seem to end up in a state of hopelessness, despair and giving up.
But it seems that it is in this act of surrender of our will to fight our way out, that alchemy occurs: it’s as if the very act of giving up coping precipitates the beginnings of change. Time and attention in therapy can help us begin to move our life on to a new phase and eventually to a coming-through, to a new beginning. As if this dark night of the soul prepares us for a new journey, different and larger and more compassionate than the earlier ego-directed journey.
Rescuing the Inner Child out of History. Sometimes at a certain stage in psychotherapy, my clients find that they are willing to imagine travelling back in time, as the adult they are now, to rescue their anguished inner child out of history. They help the little one escape from the past and bring them into the present, to be re-parented by their adult self now. They feel their pain, cry or rage with them, being a new and better mother or father for them than they ever had in the past. This imaginative exercise enables people to open their heart to their shame or pain, and it can create forgiveness. This heart embrace to oneself and others releases energy from the unconscious for a new step forward in life.
Taking care of our unconscious hidden self can be taking care of the soul: that soul that is the innermost part of ourselves, usually hidden behind our coping and social personalities. It might be a soul that has been traumatised or held back in childhood. The soul seed is always a good seed but it is the ground in which it is sown that might need analysis for us to understand how we’ve turned out the way we are, re-find the power dormant within us, and accept change in our lives.
Dream symbols seem to accompany this change: such dreams can have images of death, destruction or wasteland, of drowning, being hunted or torn apart, as these are ways in which our unconscious reads such a transformation process. Or they might be dreams of eggs, birth or a new-born, of a bridge or crossroads, or dreams about leaving, aloneness, a journey, arrival, or climbing up a ladder or spiral stairway. The symbols of what emerges beyond the crisis are often symbols of renewal of the heart. We find a new transcendent place to be in the world, not transcending our humanness but transcending the crisis and pain of the recent past.
C.G. Jung saw life as a journey: as if we come from somewhere at birth and travel the journey to the goal, which is the manifestation of that ‘somewhere’ within our life. He called that somewhere the Self, the other, our greatest potential or god image. Some call this the soul others call it spirituality or the transpersonal. In the East the concept of the Self goes further: it is the essence or heart of all things, the oneness with all life that we need to experience to find freedom from the little self or ego.
Maybe a second journey of life begins: the journey of the soul, and some of us reach fulfilment only when we feel that we are at last on our soul path, meeting with like-minded souls who might be very different to the friends and relatives that we once knew on the journey of the ego.
Finding the Wise Compassionate Observer within Us. Therapy can both witness this process and help us become more awake to ourselves by finding a wise, compassionate observer or witness, within our self and our daily round. A new creative urge can emerge from the depth of the pain. Often we find a way to a new home via nature, being in nature, cooking, gardening, walking, and communicating anew with others. We might not be able to heal ourselves back to the health of a younger time, but our wise compassionate self enables us to live in the present with more self-assertion, a greater sense of self worth and creativity and to live in a more empowered, full and empathetic way. This can lead us to noticing other’s suffering and other’s joy, and we naturally find ourselves once again as part of the community of all life.