Even when trying your best, personal evolution can feel frustrating, confusing, or lonely
Is personal growth central to who you are? Are you drawn to abstract psychological concepts, such as transcendence and the ''shadow self?'' Do you function well overall, but struggle with internal challenges that feel like part of life, rather than issues you can ''get past?
Are you functioning well despite trauma history, and feeling able to shift your suffering into a deeper perspective on reality?
Are you progressing spiritually, but also dealing with related challenges that others in your life don’t seem to understand? Are you experiencing a crisis of faith, period of questioning, or feeling of overwhelm or isolation as your beliefs shift or feel tested?
Are you doing well in addiction recovery, but looking for a therapist who understands the nuances of your 12 Step or other spirituality-based approach? Are you open to 12 Step, but struggling to identify exactly what ''Higher Power'' means to you? Do you value aspects of the 12 Step model, but struggle with ways it doesn't seem to align with the chronic disease model of addiction?
Are you struggling to integrate an experience with psilocybin, ayahuasca, LSD, or another mind-altering substance, whether recreational or spiritual in nature? Do you need help adjusting to shifts in perspective, or new aspects of self-awareness?
Contrary to the stereotype lingering from Freudian-era psychoanalysis (lying on a couch with a ''shrink'' digging at the recesses of your mind), most modern counseling typically focuses on developing practical solutions to readily identified problems, such as developing coping skills to get through panic attacks. However, you may actually be looking for a deeper view of psychology. You may be motivated to better understand the hazier recesses of your mind, or fascinated by it. You may be accustomed to periodic angst or melancholy about purpose and meaning, or you may want to understand why you end up in self-sabotage when consciously trying to do better.
You may feel connected to what is beyond the routine and the tangible, even despite great hardship, but struggle to find the right outlet to discuss your perspective or translate your intentions into change.
You may have an introspective nature that has always made you feel out of place even if you have adequate social skills, like a square peg in a round hole. Or, you might have easily related to others until you developed a new belief system, either gradually or abruptly due to crisis or another catalyst. This type of experience can be liberating and inspirational, but it can also include confusing phases that feel like tests or regression. It may also cause a painful sense of alienation from others, even as you value coming into a more authentic sense of self.
If you're in addiction recovery, you may be frustrated by limited views about what ''spirituality'' means, or by judgment about your treatment approach. Whether others have any experience with addiction or not, they tend to have polarized views about how recovery should be approached, adding stress to a disease that’s already extremely hard to manage.
What is transpersonal therapy?
Transpersonal therapy emphasizes the role of your spirituality in wellness, recognizing the need for a center of guidance outside the ego-driven personality. Transpersonal work is equally valuable whether your center of guidance is faith-based, perceived as a higher version of self, or a combination of both. While childhood ego development is essential to our ability to function as social beings, over time we become limited by social conditioning, and by experiences that cause ego fractures and defenses. If we're willing to put a spotlight on these and work toward wholeness--the integration of conscious and unconscious personality aspects--we become less preoccupied with personal dramas and better positioned to self-actualize, or give back to the world in some way.
Transpersonal psychology is a broad field, but the approach can be tailored to the specific problems you're facing, whether ones of personality integration and identity, meaning and purpose, belief and faith, or science ''versus'' spirituality.
Our culture doesn't emphasize the internal experience
Generally speaking, Western society is very outwardly focused--America in particular likes parades, loud concerts, packed sporting events, and action movies that draw the senses outward. While there's nothing wrong with any of these things, if you have an introspective nature, collectively they can suggest that your orientation has less value. Additionally, although it's evolving, traditionally America has normalized concepts such as dogma and rugged individualism, which also may contradict your instincts or leave you with unanswered questions. These values can certainly be respected in historical context, and for what they represent to so many. Even transpersonal psychology pioneer, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, encouraged the lifetime process of individuation, which sounds a lot like individualism.
However, Jung proposed that individuation, or the process of realizing one's unique purpose beyond identification with the material and validation from others, actually involves integration of the collective unconscious with the personal psyche. His recognition of archetypes, or symbols that have proven meaningful to humans across faith systems and eras, reflects belief in a universal level of consciousness that connects us all. Jung noted the similarities of this viewpoint with Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, but was the son of a pastor himself, and his integration of psychology and spirituality has been regarded as important by many Christian theologians since he lived. Additionally, while the value of developing inward discernment between ego/self and Self/Spirit is reflected not only in Eastern philosophies, but in certain gospels of Jesus and early forms of Christianity, this concept has largely been lost in the West. (An exception is the realm of addiction recovery, which is only legitimate to many once the transpersonal work of 12 Step has been done!)
As a result, what feels exceptionally real and important as you look inward, perhaps unable to separate your psychological and spiritual experience (or unable to accept the intangibility of belief over what you observe), may be subject to judgment or dismissal from many around you. You're not alone, although it may feel that way. Jung said,'' Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.''
Using approaches that create opportunity for greater insight
Much of transpersonal therapy is talk-based by necessity, as the issues you're facing probably seem complex, and may require a lot of description and dialogue to explain them. It may feel worthwhile just to feel heard and understood, but also participating in a narrative approach, or externalization of your story, can be much more beneficial than ''just talking.'' In the process of putting deeply felt, sometimes elusive impressions into words, it usually becomes easier to disidentify from the experience, and begin to see a new angle.
Dream exploration, guided visualization, and discussion of your Myers-Briggs or Enneagram type are other approaches that can be used to bring your internal experience into a more useful level of awareness. You may also decide to use one or more hypnotherapy sessions to deeply explore unconscious patterns that have shaped your narrative, driven your behavior, and contributed to negative feeling states. Both guided visualizations and hypnotherapy can be a source of symbolic imagery that adds insight to your understanding of an issue, either speaking through archetype or more personal cues.
I also use concepts of Psychosynthesis, which builds upon Jungian ideas of the transpersonal ''Self'' by encouraging empathetic integration of different ''sub-personalities,'' or roles that serve different functions for us. The Internal Family Systems (IFS) approach, which appears to be a modernization and simplification of Psychosynthesis, identifies broad categories of sub-personalities (''Exiles,'' ''Managers,'' and ''Firefighters,'') that commonly tend to show up as coping functions for trauma history and stress. The narrative approach, guided visualizations, and hypnotherapy are all useful ways to explore these sub-personalities.
Is it really worth it, though?
While the transpersonal approach isn't for everyone, those drawn to it tend to find exploration of the concepts highly meaningful, particularly as they become more salient with age. However, if impact or efficiency are primary concerns, hypnotherapy and potentially EMDR are ideal ways to explore aspects your psyche that are key to transpersonal work.
Supporting your process with open-minded compassion
Drawing from the teachings of significant spiritual leaders such as Paramahansa Yogananda (known for bringing the spiritual principles of yoga to the West), I see more commonality than difference between the world's major religions, but I am comfortable working within the context of most any spiritual belief system, religious or not. Also, although psychedelic-assisted therapy is not yet FDA approved and legal, I can support you in integration of past experiences using psychedelics or plant-based medicine.
Twenty years ago, my life was transformed by personal crisis and a period of exploration and awakening as I sought my way out. I continually apply myself to a path of introspection and critique balanced with greater self-acceptance, and understand how challenging that orientation can be at times. I don’t pretend to have the answers to elusive questions, and ultimately you are your own best guide, but I will be a fully present, empathetic partner on your journey.
I would be honored to hear your story and facilitate your change.