Who are we? Where do get our good and bad qualities from? We can often be asked these types of questions in one form or another from prospective employers or from prospective partners. But we often don’t ask ourselves where we have inherited these qualities from.
We can inherit qualities from a number of sources.
These can be the realm of biology and the scientist where presenting issues are explained by a history of generational anxieties. The dependents of Holocaust survivors might be an example whereby clients carry generational anxieties to do with death and captivity.
Scientists will see addictions from a generational perspective.
This is the realm of therapy whereby clients are encouraged to look back into their early life to ascertain early scripts that get evoked. For instance, we get all sorts of messages from family and early school and we might learn to adapt to cope with these messages.
According to Eric Berne who developed transactional analysis (TA) we acquire a script by age 7. A script is an unconscious life plan based on the power of parental information. There are three types of scripts:
A. Winning scripts: these are positive
B. Losing scripts: these do not serve the person well.
C. Non winning: Not playing to win or to lose.
We, therefore, develop qualities that are to do with nurture. Often it is quite obvious when people have had good parenting. They can be self accepting and are resilient.
Jonathan Bowlby used the term “Internal Working Models” to describe how young children form mental representations within close relationships. Internal working models are based on the child’s sense of worthiness which is dependent upon other people’s availability and ability and willingness to provide care and protection.
Attachment behaviour is any behaviour designed to get children into a close, protective relationship with their attachment figures whenever they experience anxiety. The child’s instinctual attachment behaviour repertoire includes crying, clinging, sucking, following and smiling.
Addictions could be seen as a response to ambivalent attachment to primary care givers in early life.
Transpersonal psychotherapists believe in the concept of the innocent soul and the work in therapy is to uncover the true qualities before the soul was impressed by the journey of incarnation. Qualities, it is argued, can be seen in the young baby when some are naturally very playful. The soul has its own journey and descends down through the planes of consciousness. This is in direct contradiction to the psychoanalytic school which views the neonate as having a blank canvass.
Transpersonal psychotherapists see soul as receptive by nature, it absorbs impressions, takes on impressions, consciousness starts to identify. The soul can shift and take on different shapes. Soul has a wonderful fluidity. It can be dynamic and ever changing. Our minds like to compartmentalise things in our everyday life. When we enter life, we require limitation, (parents, culture, race etc), but soul does not know limitation.
Of course, Adlerian analysts would counter that even young babies can be affected by the birth order and that the qualities can be attributable to these factors. For example, a second child might develop the qualities associated with the need to compete with the first sibling for the attention of the parents.
Addictions, from a transpersonal perspective, would be viewed as a loss of soul.
Qualities are deeply embedded. Some speak of divine qualities and that these qualities are evident in the first few months of life before they get overlaid with the challenges in life. But whatever our experiences in life, and they may be harsh, the soul remains innocent. Transpersonal psychotherapists will speak of the innocence before spoiling.
The Sufis say that we are all a hidden treasure longing to be known. So we created the Creation so that we may be known.
Transpersonal psychotherapy is not alone in encompassing spirituality into treatment. Other modalities allow for the spiritual in their therapeutic approach but transpersonal psychotherapy actively involves the spiritual element in the client work. We need, however, to work with all of these inherited qualities in order to be truly holistic and integrative in our approach. Therefore, we need analytic skills such working with the transference, dealing with resistance and understanding early childhood issues. We also need the empathy and authenticity of the humanist schools as well as the conflict model of TA. Embracing the existential school can also be useful in uncovering issues to do with mid-life crisis.
Transpersonal psychotherapy will go further and investigate the function of archetypes to help and transform our personality and character. The purpose of the spiritual archetypes, for Jung, is to reveal our true nature (soul) nature.
I believe that the real work in therapy is uncovering the story behind the story that the client is bringing. How can I facilitate another human being to manifest their real and positive qualities? I may have all sorts of theories in my head and techniques up my sleeve but these will be redundant if I am not truly conscious in the therapeutic relationship. However, when and indeed how I intervene is what makes psychotherapy an art form.