Intro to Psychology

Intro-to-PsychWe are not victims of the world we see, we are victims of the way we see the world.
Shirley MacLaine


It is a dark picture, this human condition, and compassionate psychologists and psychiatrists have done their best over the years to address human suffering. In the future, however, effective treatment of irrational human behavior will require a more profound understanding of the causes of human unconsciousness.

Institutions, like psychology, that grew out of a P-B context are by definition dysfunctional and are often formidable barriers to our experience of reality. In other words, we cannot build a wholesome worldview, a healthy identity and create sustainable behaviors with the same blueprint that we used to create the current human condition. The institutional building blocks of such a structure are inherently unstable, always tending toward collapse.

How can the expertise found among the practitioners of the discipline of psychology be more effectively applied to bring about the awakening of humanity? First, a distinction must be made between the pseudo-problems that people deal with every day and the actual underlying and often unconscious causes of those self-destructive behaviors.

Deepak Chopra opens the door of the mind to reveal the magnitude of the problems facing humanity. “As a somewhat cynical friend of mine, a psychiatrist, likes to say. ‘You will know a lot about human motivation once you realize one thing: ninety-nine percent of humanity spends ninety-nine percent of their time trying to avoid painful truths.’”  And, we might add, ninety-nine percent of their energy.

Opening the door a little wider, American philosopher Ken Wilber, fleshes out the human dilemma introduced by Chopra and addresses more specifically why so many therapists are needed in P-B.  “[If] … one cannot get enough of what one does not really need, a whole battery of insatiable neurotic needs develop.”  Wilber is speaking about the delusional and fruitless pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power so important to the false self and its strategy for survival.

Having heard from an eastern mystic and a western philosopher we need to add the perspective of a psychologist. Eugene Pascal is a Jungian practitioner. “When the irrational elements … are forced into the unconscious, they can only be experienced negatively, in the form of rampant compulsions and addictions of all kinds that translate as years of inconceivable crucifixion and living death for many wretched souls.”

We can acknowledge at this point the First Noble Truth—life is suffering—and proceed with the role of psychology vis-à-vis that suffering. The psychological term “neurosis” is useful in describing one aspect of that suffering. What is a neurosis? It is a functional disorder of the mind or emotions involving anxiety, phobia or other abnormal behavioral symptoms. Neuroses make up a large part of the foundation upon which existential human dysfunction and suffering rests.

The question must be asked: why has psychology been so impotent in treating widespread human neurosis? Rollo May has a relevant insight. “If we assume…that the fundamental neurotic process in our day is the repression of the ontological sense—the loss of the sense of being, together with the truncation of awareness and the locking up of the potentialities which are the manifestation of this being—then we are playing directly into the patient’s neurosis to the extent that we teach him new ways of thinking of himself as a mechanism. This is one illustration of how psychotherapy can reflect the fragmentation of the culture, structuralizing the neurosis rather than curing it.”

Psychotherapy, like many of our treatment modalities, had its genesis in P-B and therefore has all of the dysfunctional characteristics of that worldview. The blind leading the blind comes to mind.  “In this respect, psychotherapists become the agent of the culture whose particular task is to adjust people to it; psychotherapy becomes an expression of the fragmentation of the period rather than an enterprise for overcoming it.”

In P-B curing mental illness is often seen as the purpose of psychotherapy rather than seeing internal conflicts as part of natural growth. This is why “know thyself” is such an important imperative. We give away our authentic power when we depend on someone else such as a priest, minister or therapist to do our work for us. Undertaking the spiritual journey of self-awakening, i.e. to begin an authentic transformative process, is required to attain self-reliance and transcendence.

Edward Edinger and Ken Wilber will now reveal further insights into the practice of psychotherapy. “To some extent the experience of being the known object takes place in the course of psychotherapy. The therapist often carries the projection of the “knowing other,” causing the patient to feel reduced to the status of a known object. However this transference-induced condition is partial and temporary. It is also dangerous since the patient is liable to get caught in a personal dependence on the human being who “knows” him. Dependence on the therapist becomes a substitute for dependence on the inner “knowing one,” i.e., the Self.”

Wilber’s model, the “spectrum of consciousness,” posits transpersonal psychology as involving a series of progressive steps toward awakening. “… each of the major but differing schools of “psychotherapy” is simply addressing a different level of the Spectrum. For example, at the Existential Level, man imagines himself separated from and therefore potentially threatened by his own environment. At the Ego Level, man fancies that he is also alienated from his own body, and thus the environment as well as his own body seem possible threats to his existence. At the Shadow Level, man even appears divorced from parts of his own psyche—thus his environment, his body, and even his own mind can appear foreign and threatening. Each of these alienations, created by a particular dualism-repression-projection, is thus potentially productive of a specific class of dys-eases. Or if you prefer, a specific class of repressions, or projections, or unconscious processes, or dualisms, or fragmentations—from the point of view of the spectrum of consciousness, these terms all refer to the same basic process of creating-two-worlds-from-one which repeats itself, with a new twist, on each and every level of the spectrum.”

“… the therapies of each level also share a common characteristic—they reverse this process (on their particular level) by helping the individual contact the alienated and projected aspects, re-integrate them, and thus “heal,” “make whole,” and “unify” that level. This process results in “cure,” or “growth,” or “healing,” for the simple reason that the individual has, in effect, broadened or expanded his sense of self-identity. As a dualism is healed on any level, the elements of that level which once threatened the individual are seen to be nothing more than aspects of his own consciousness which he had split-off, repressed, and projected, a process which necessarily diminished his sense of identity and set the stage for a certain class of dys-eases. Reversing this process on any level simply yanks the support out from under that level’s class of dys-eases.”

Using the Point of Power Practice, choosing response over reaction again and again, day after day, week after week is how energy is withdrawn (yanked out from under) the false self conditioned reactions. “Every therapist recognizes that the essential aspect of the therapeutic process is an understanding, or witnessing, or working-through, or digesting, or giving awareness to, this ‘stuff which comes up’ … a person has made it an object of awareness and thus is no longer exclusively and subjectively identified with it.” And indeed in both of these processes we attain a new identity and our behaviors are gradually transformed.

Now let’s hear from C. G. Jung himself regarding the challenges that both he and his colleagues have had to deal with. “The dilemma of the analyst is seen to be his inability to provide his patients with more than partial solutions; he can effectively cure certain aberrations in their behavior or thought patterns, but he cannot solve the everyday human problems with which he himself struggles.”

Psychologists can help humanity in the necessary paradigm shift emphasizing the importance of an individual’s identity which is determined by the story or context in which the individual is contained. Rollo May seemed to understand. “We have seen that the human being’s development is a continuum of differentiation from the ‘mass’ toward freedom as an individual.”

“Thus every person’s life could be portrayed by a graph of differentiation—how far has he freed himself from automatic dependence, become an individual, able to relate to his fellows on the new level of self-chosen love, responsibility and creative work?”

Paradoxically, helping a person to develop a healthy and self-reliant personality, May’s process of differentiation, also requires the realization of the interconnectedness of all people in the global village. Self-realization or self-actualization in the most profound sense is not to develop a healthier ego but to transcend the ego altogether into the present moment where awareness and compassion characterize one’s behavior. In the process of a profound awakening, the false self is left behind and all striving for security, sensation and power stops. Conditioned reactions are replaced by mindful responses—this is true freedom—this is true mental health.

Let’s add the experience of Thomas Moore, a theologian and a specialist in archetypal psychology. “… psychology reduces experience too far. Its mission is to relieve you of your suffering. It is not philosophically or theologically attuned for helping you find meaning in the dark. And so it isn’t sufficient.”  It also is not profound enough to help with transcending meaning—to deliver us to an experience of life—the real reason for our being here.

But what about those practicing psychoanalysts or therapists that Moore is referring to who purport to help a suffering humanity? Are they a help or a hindrance? Rollo May in describing the role of the therapist describes what that role should be but often isn’t. “… it is not the therapist’s function to ‘cure’ the patients’ neurotic symptoms, though this is the motive for which most people come for therapy. Indeed, the fact that this is their motive reflects their problem. Therapy is concerned [or should be] with something more fundamental—namely, helping the person experience his existence—and any cure of symptoms which will last must be a by-product of that.”  May is right on target since we define the present moment as an “experience” of reality. Unfortunately, the context of P-B does not support either the patient or the therapist in that goal.

What is the context in which patients think they exist which as we know also determines their identity? “It is their way, as well taught citizens of the twentieth century Western culture,” says May, “to avoid confronting their own existence, their method of repressing ontological awareness.”  The entire false-self survival strategy has the effect of repressing awareness by distracting the individual from reality (his suffering) and encourages his identifying with his body, mind and emotions. The whole purpose of P-B is to support the denial of and escape from reality.

Repressing suffering, of course, does not remove it but allows the patient to pretend that it doesn’t exist—the grand illusion of P-B. “In this respect,” observes May, “psychotherapists become the agents of the culture whose particular task is to adjust people to it; psychotherapy becomes an expression of the fragmentation of the period  rather than an enterprise for overcoming it.”  The goal, then, of any process to increase “mental health” would have to be transcendence.

It is the intellect allied with the false self that falls prey to the belief that our existential anxiety can be controlled through analysis and understanding. Remember that one of the false-self energy centers is called “power and control.” Addiction counselor Dr. Philip Kavanaugh has experienced this dilemma in his practice as a psychiatrist. “The need to know, to understand, is the cornerstone of analytical psychiatry. The traditional theory of psychoanalysis holds that we can liberate ourselves from fear and conflict through understanding the unconscious motives behind them. This has not proven to be true in practice, however. For years I challenged other psychiatrists who supported this belief. It was not until rather late in my life, after I had accepted my own addictive need for control, that I recognized what really happens, how this form of psychiatry reinforces the addiction to control and is a “drug” in itself.”

For psychotherapy to be successful, it must begin within the context of P-A. In other words, the Three Great Questions must be consciously answered and internalized or “felt” before the healing process can be started. Otherwise, the self-destructive conditioning of the false self survival strategy will block any profound progress. The illusion of P-B will overwhelm any attempt on the part of the client, and for that matter the therapist, to experience reality. Both will remain unconscious and fail in their attempt to awaken.

This may be what Rollo May was describing when he said “First the ‘I am’ experience is not in itself the solution to a person’s problems; it is rather the precondition for their solution … In the broadest sense, the achieving of the sense of being is a goal of all therapy, but in the more precise sense it is a relation to oneself and one’s world, an experience of one’s own existence (including one’s own identity), which is a prerequisite for the working through of specific problems.” Rollo May, of course, may not have agreed that he meant the same thing that we mean by “an experience of one’s own existence” (what he calls the “I am” experience) as meaning being in the present moment, but it is an intriguing possibility.

We are equating Rollo May’s term “being” with “presence.”  In his own words “… being is a category which cannot be reduced to introjections of social and ethical norms. It is, to use Nietzsche’s phrase, ‘beyond good and evil’ … Indeed, compulsive and rigid moralism arises in given persons precisely as the result of a lack of a sense of being [presence].”   This is why religion can be so problematic as we saw in the previous chapter.

The ability to be in the Now and have an experience of reality is not the culmination of years of striving to awaken or the end of a period of an evolution of consciousness but rather the transcending of all processes. Remember, Nisargadatta’s “do nothing.” Again, Rollo May. “That is to say, it is an error to define the emergence of awareness of one’s own being as one phase of the ‘development of the ego’ … The ego … is derived from the Id by modifications imposed on it from the external world’ and is ‘representative of the external world [P-B] … The ego enlarged its originally buffeted and frail realm chiefly by its negative defensive functions [false-self survival strategy] …  The ego is a reflection of the outside world; the sense of being rooted in one’s own experience of existence, and if it is a mirroring of, a reflection of, the outside world alone, it is then precisely not one’s own sense of existence.”

Jack Engler warns psychologists not to ignore the insights of eastern psychology even though they don’t conform to the conventional western paradigms. “… ‘suffering as conditional states’ represents to Western psychiatry, an entirely new category of psychopathology which is pervasive.”

“But you have to be somebody before you can be nobody. The issue in personal development as I have come to understand it is not self or no-self, but self and no-self. Both a sense of self and insight into the ultimate illusoriness of its apparent continuity and substantiality are necessary achievements.”

The normal state of a functioning ego-centered false self seeking security, sensation and power is a state of arrested development—we need to push on to P-A and the ego-free realm of the present moment—and then as the observer, we can watch the false self reacting and thereby gradually cease our identification with it.

“For example, New York psychiatrist Edgar A. Levenson believes the hologram provides a valuable model for understanding the sudden and transformative changes individuals often experience during psychotherapy. He bases his conclusion on the fact that such changes take place no matter what technique or psychoanalytic approach the therapist uses. Hence, he feels all psychoanalytic approaches are purely ceremonial, and change is due to something else entirely.

“Levenson believes that something is resonance. A therapist always knows when therapy is going well, he observes. There is a strong feeling that the pieces of an elusive pattern are all about to come together. The therapist is not saying anything new to the patient, but instead seems to be resonating with something the patient already unconsciously knows: ‘It is as though a huge, three-dimensional, spatially coded representation of the patient’s experience develops in the therapy, running through every aspect of his life, his history and his participation with the therapist. At some point there is a kind of ‘overload’ and everything falls into place.’

“‘The holographic model suggests a radically new paradigm which might give us a fresh way of perceiving and connecting clinical phenomena which have always been known to be important, but were relegated to the ‘art’ of psychotherapy,’ says Levenson. ‘It offers a possible theoretical template for change and a practical hope of clarifying psychotherapeutic technique.’”

If this were a book of essays on buying and selling real estate, the theme would be location, location, location. Since it is a book on increasing human consciousness, the theme is awareness, awareness, awareness. Stanislov Grof has spent his professional life studying human consciousness and has reached a conclusion that supports the thesis of the Simple Reality worldview. He observed that: “The main obstacle we face as a species is found in the present evolutionary level of our consciousness.”

Until we develop a deeper awareness of where we are, who we are and why we came to be here then we are missing the whole point of the experience itself. We will come to the end of our lives singing the sleepwalker’s lament: “Is that all there is? Is that all there is?” We will feel empty and we will feel a sense of missed opportunity. Suppose that we are correct in assuming that most Americans are living such a life, a life not in harmony with their deepest aspirations and out of harmony with their true identity. We would expect a kind of madness to ensue. We live today immersed in that madness.

We are not at the mercy of either “nature” or “nurture.” Rather than being “programmed” by our genes, our lives are controlled by our reactions to perceptions of life experiences. Here is where P-A is critically important because our perceptions are also related to what we expect to perceive. The context that we believe we are contained in has a profound effect on what we will experience. It is important that our story about who and where we are is as close to reality as we can make it. The current dominant worldview, which we can call scientific materialism, varies substantially from what a fully conscious person perceives.

What could be called the psychology of energy, the use of the Point of Power Practice, directly impacts subconscious programming rather than trying to manipulate genetics, physiology, and behavior. This new understanding will also help to recognize the power that fundamental perceptions have on programming the subconscious mind.

The Point of Power Practice, behavior modification or cognitive therapy is a powerful strategy in reducing the self-destructive effects of the behavioral conditioning or reactions of the false-self survival strategy. Aaron Beck describes cognitive therapy which he developed in the 1960s.  “The therapy is a counseling technique in which patients learn to head off or defuse self-defeating thoughts before acting on them.”

An author of several books on self-esteem, a “pillar” of the sensation center of the false self, we can see that Nathaniel Brandon intuits the importance of meditating on the relationship between identity and its connection to or identification with the body, mind and emotions. “The more one turns up the volume on one’s inner signals, the more external signals tend to recede into proper balance. As I wrote in Honoring the Self, this entails learning to listen to the body, learning to listen to the emotions, learning to think for oneself [or learning to transcend thinking].”

In the psychological language found in the writings of Jung, he makes clear that a self-reliant person can achieve success in overcoming reactions with the proper awareness. “For man, or for human consciousness, these nucleations are what Jung called archetypes. They are carriers of a charge [a reaction], endowed with either a negative or positive value, which in the psychologists’ language produce a stimulus or induce reactive patterns, or drives [defense mechanisms]. Seen in terms of man’s larger development, they are condensations of emotional energy whose compulsive power can, however, be overcome and their captive energy released by calling them into consciousness and understanding their nature.”

The false self can invent a seeming infinite number of strategies for avoiding Simple Reality. For example, the basic defense mechanisms are reactions that we learned about in psychology 101. Defense mechanisms are habitual unconscious strategies used to deny, distort or counteract sources of anxiety and to support the false-self identity.

Rationalization justifying one’s own behavior by giving reasonable and “rational” but false reasons for it
Fantasy fulfilling frustrated desires in imaginary achievements
Sublimation working off frustrated desires in substitute activities that are constructive or socially accepted
Repression preventing painful or dangerous thoughts from entering consciousness thereby choosing unconsciousness
Reaction formation preventing dangerous impulses from being expressed by exaggerating opposite behavior
Regression retreating to an earlier level of development or to earlier less demanding habits or situations
Projection attributing one’s own shortcomings or unacceptable impulses to others
Denial protecting oneself from an unpleasant reality by refusing to perceive it
Isolation separating emotions from a hurtful, threatening, or an anxiety-provoking situation
Compensation counteracting a real or imagined weakness by emphasizing desirable traits or by seeking to excel in other areas
Intellectualization separating contradictory or opposite attitudes into logic-tight compartments

The principle of Oneness will have to be applied to the various schools of psychology. Awareness is the same no matter which model provides the context of treatment as Grof emphasizes.  “Thus, Freudian analysts focus on sexual issues, Adlerian analysts emphasize material related to inferiority feelings and the pursuit of power, and so on. By contrast, the work with non-ordinary states of consciousness [the Now] bypasses the problems of the theoretical differences between various schools and the therapist’s role as interpreter of psychological material. As you will recall, in non-ordinary states, the material with the strongest emotional charge is automatically selected and brought into consciousness. These non-ordinary states also provide necessary insights and mobilize our own inner healing forces with all their inherent wisdom and power. Try as we might to duplicate these natural healing processes, no school of psychology has even come close.”

“Krishnamurti kept pointing out that no process is necessary in order to be aware of the nature of thought and becoming, or of the formation of ideals, and that the interval between what is and  the inventions of thought is to be instantaneously finished with. He challenged another basic psychoanalytic assumption by asserting that it is unnecessary through time to disclose the deep layers of the unconscious.”

Since much of human behavior today is influenced by elements beyond the awareness of most individuals, we have very little understanding of why we human beings behave the way that we do. Adding the insights of “energy psychology” [reaction and response] to an awareness of the influences of the shadow, the collective unconscious, the false-self survival strategy and the personal unconscious will transform our ability to understand and address the causes of human dysfunction and suffering. We can then begin the process of profound change, the process of the paradigm shift, the process that will ultimately preclude any need for our conventional institution called psychology. Until then, the principles of Simple Reality can be applied by any of us with phenomenal results. We can become our own self-reliant therapists.


References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry:
Who Am I? The Second Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality
Where Am I?  The First Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality
Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival

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