Early life theory and psychodynamic ideas and their relevance to transpersonal integrative psychotherapy

the journey in transpersonal integrative psychotherapy is to seek one’s essence, one’s true self

I believe early life experiences are indeed important in shaping adult character and that non-verbal and unconscious communication such as transference and counter-transference is integral to transpersonal integrative psychotherapy.  Perhaps transpersonal integrative psychotherapy presupposes psychoanalysis or, rather, include it as a first and necessary stage in helping us to name what is going on in the therapeutic relationship. However, we need to go further than psychoanalysis to understand the client.  Indeed, we all have early life issues and we perhaps might have early life developmental ruptures, and thus an analysis of these issues can be a useful insight. The nigredo stage is necessary in the alchemical journey or we risk a spiritual bypass.

Psychodynamic therapy can, however, be limiting as the journey in transpersonal integrative psychotherapy is to seek one’s essence, one’s true self. Therefore, we need to understand the client in a more holistic manner, the assumption being that we are more than the sum total of our personal history of being in families, schooling or working situations and of being in our various relationships.  To this end, we need to uncover soul qualities in our search for our true selves. The word “transpersonal” was first introduced into psychology by William James in a 1905 lecture and used in 1942 by Carl Jung, not that Jung would have seen himself as transpersonal, as the German term, überpersonlich, which his English translators rendered as “transpersonal” (Vich, 1988).   To further understand the transpersonal approach, it is worth noting what Sa’adi says, “Every being is created for a purpose and the light of that purpose is already kindled in his soul” (Khan, 1978 p 182).

The CCPE website describes transpersonal psychotherapy as such: word ‘human’ comes from the two sources, ‘hu’ meaning ‘divine’ and ‘mana’ meaning ‘mind’. From the psychological point of view, ‘hu’ relates to the character, or that unique blend of inner qualities that make us an individual. ‘Manas’ refers to the different temperaments or what we might call personality, which reflects our inner qualities.

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.

transference and dream analysis

I believe that Sigmund Freud left us with two very important tools to take out of our counselling toolbox: namely transference and dream analysis.  In client work, ‘free association’ is employed to help the client unearth issues in their subconscious, and sessions with the analyst can range from 1-5 times per week.  The analyst will typically adopt a passive mode, allowing the client to explore whatever comes to mind. In neo-Freudian analysis to say something in the session would be to break the transference.

Melanie Klein continued the psychoanalytic tradition and is known as the mother of object relations theory.  She was a contemporary of Freud but was mocked at the time by the Freudians. This is ironic given that she is often seen as more Freudian than Freud these days. Whereas for Freudians the dynamic for the patient was all about sexual drives, for Klein, the importance of early life was chiefly about the relationship to the breast.

there is always a baby and another

Winnicott stresses the importance of the environmental provision for the new born baby.  With clients, it is important to remember that feeling dependent is a scary business. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is avoidance where we don’t want to get in get in touch with dependence. For Winnicott, there is no such thing as a baby, there is always a baby and another. Therefore, our first relationships form the pattern of our later relationships.  They get embedded in our neural networks.

Whereas Object Relations Theory stresses innate factors as the influencing factors for the development of a child, Bowlby stresses environmental factors.  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. For Bowlby there are different types of attachment such as signalling behaviour adverse behaviours and active behaviours.

the purpose of the spiritual archetypes is to reveal our true nature (soul) nature

Many great writers and thinkers have wrote about archetypes even as far back as Plato.  The use of archetypes to illuminate personality and literature was advanced more relevantly for us by Carl Jung, who suggested the existence of universal forms that channel experiences and emotions, resulting in recognizable and typical patterns of behaviour with certain probable outcomes. The function of archetypes is to help and transform our personality and character. The purpose of the spiritual archetypes is to reveal our true nature (soul) nature.  The anima is the personification of all female psychological tendencies in the psyche of a man, including feelings, moods, intuition, receptivity for the irrational, the ability for personal love, a feel for nature, and the man’s attitude toward the unconscious. The animus in women is the counterpart of the anima in men.

I believe that the real work in therapy is making conscious what is in the therapeutic relationship, to note the things that are just beneath the surface.  What is the story behind the story that the client is bringing? Therefore, it is critical to be aware of transference and counter transference.  I may be tempted, as a transpersonal therapist, to feel very clever with all sorts of creative and clever techniques but essentially my job is to uncover the elephants in the room and to name them. Bodywork and meditation only give me images and these must reflect the client narrative.  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. If I was interested in purely evidenced based interventions then I might have studied clinical psychology instead.