Transpersonal Psychotherapy

by Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D.


Transpersonal Psychotherapy is the aspect of the human psyche that goes beyond our normal conceptions of reality. It may be called spiritual consciousness or the study of access to the transpersonal, out of the ordinary realm of the unconscious mind. It encompasses information beyond the five senses, which transcends physical and ego boundaries. Since Western psychology and science cannot explain everything, we recognize that it is possible to greatly benefit from the contributions of alternative explanations of reality.


Mysteries of the Universe

The Spiritual Unconscious

     It is important to recognize healing and transformative methods that fall within the acceptable parameters of science and consensus thinking. However, it is equally important to give due recognition and respect to those healing and transformative experiences that lie beyond the western paradigm, dictated by culture and science. The mysteries of the universe cannot be adequately studied in the laboratory. Perhaps, discoveries and solutions for many of life's questions and dilemmas lie deep within the transpersonal or spiritual unconscious. It could be speculated, that the spiritual unconscious is an actual link to a greater cosmic intelligence enfolded in the bedrock of the universe. Perhaps, our physical universe is a creation that mirrors another universe, beyond our senses, embedded in consciousness, spirituality and the transpersonal. In Genesis, God created the universe. But, from where did He create this physical universe? How did nothing create something? Was supreme and divine consciousness the energetic force behind the big bang and subsequent creation?


     This raises more questions than answers. If a spiritual universe, inhabited by a Supreme Being and other spiritual beings, created the big bang and the subsequent birth of our physical universe, then the prototype for such a birth experience lies in our own physical recapitulation of that miracle. I say this because I adhere to the theory that each cell and molecule inside of our bodies is a microcosmic replica of the entire macrocosmic transpersonal and created universes. Within each one off all cells there is a genetic imprinted memory of the entire creation. Only by entering into a method that develops transpersonal consciousness, can we penetrate the veil of repressed memory and gain access to this expanded universe. It is here that we will find the most profound answers to our deepest dilemmas and questions. It is, also, here that we will find unification with the very source and ground of our being. The consciousness and reliving of one's own birth may be a launching pad for the transpersonal leap into cosmic realities. I claim that physical birth is replicated on the spiritual foundations encapsulated in the creation of the universe.


Origins of Behavior

The Void or Vacuum

      One of the most powerful questions that a person can ask is, "Why do I do this?" This is a very important question for a psychotherapist to ask when inquiring of a client to explore the origins and reasons for certain behaviors. The use of background music and ultraviolet light sources in a therapy session should enhance and facilitate cathartic and deep feeling answers to this question. For example, asking the client why they overeat, abuse drugs, engage in alcoholic behavior or suffer from depression should reveal insights and connections to significant experiences. The client may reveal that the reason for their behavior has its roots in the loss of a parent, through divorce or death. Such a trauma, plus a series of tough or unpleasant experiences, may leave the client feeling as if there has been a void or vacuum left in their lives. They may also experience such a void within their own bodies.


      The adoption of maladaptive behaviors, such as overeating, alcoholism and other addictions, may serve as an attempt, by the client, to fill the vacuum or void in their bodies and their lives. The same may hold true for mood, anxiety, personality and more serious mental disorders. Separation from family and loved ones, in late adolescence, may create a void in a young person's life; which they may try to fill with extensive drug use, psychotic breakdowns, antisocial behavior and alcohol abuse. This void has its counterpart in the superconscious, transpersonal realm. It may be hard to fathom, that a person who overeats, compulsively gambles, and engages in destructive sex, is trying to fill a metaphysical or cosmic void. I have already stated that a human being is a microcosmic replication of the entire universe. If there is a physical void in the universe, with its counterpart in the spiritual cosmos, then such a phenomenon has to exist inside human beings. Thus, it holds true that the causes for certain behaviors have their roots in real-life situations and cosmic realities.


      What is this VOID? On the cosmic level, it is a vacuum in transpersonal, cosmic space. Nothing exists there and yet something is there and it is usually a sense of a soul or self that is alone and undetected. This cosmic vacuum may have its counterpart in certain stages of prenatal and perinatal life. This relationship between cosmic elements, perinatal experiences and life experiences, in general, substantiates the connectedness of all aspects of life. Yes, a person may overeat, abuse alcohol or do many other things in order to fill a void precipitated by transpiritual, evolutionary and real-life events. By inducing an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC), through free association or other mind-altering methods, a person can get in touch with the root causes of the void.


Hiding from Emotional Pain

Sorrow in the Void

      An individual can recapture and relive deep and extensive life sorrows that are connected to the emotional void. By answering the crucial question, "Why do I do this," a lifetime of sorrows may flood consciousness. For example, a shopaholic when asked the question, "Why do you shop excessively," may break into a torrent of sobs, cries and screams. A lifetime of memories and significant scenes and images will appear that may represent a series of losses, departures and separations. These "leavings" occur to such an extent, that the individual has resorted to excessive over shopping in order to repress and damp down the sorrow. The free association, Altered State of Consciousness or ASC, is usually conducted in a soundproof therapy room, where the lights are low and appropriate music helps facilitate the experience. During such a session, conducted in such an environment, a flood of insights reveals how shopaholic behavior has been used in order to fill the void of sorrow, generated by a lifetime of "leavings."


      These " leavings" constitute parts of everyone's lives and there is usually an emotional void that develops. Many addictive behaviors are chronic attempts to fill the vacuum created by these losses, departures and separations. Most attempts at managing the overt behaviors are usually met with limited success and repetitive failures. Of course, it is important to manage and even eliminate many of these destructive behaviors, like alcoholism, excessive gambling, workaholism, drug dependency, overeating and other such activities. But such attempts at managing the symptoms may actually further disguise the real cause that drives these behaviors. Therefore, it is absolutely essential, in a therapeutic setting, to ask the question, "Why do you do this." Only by resurrecting the root causes, through an ASC, will the problem be solved.


      The emotional void resides in most people and goes undetected. While, this vacuum is hidden from consciousness, the person does not fully mourn and express the sorrow that drives symptomatic behavior. That is why most obesity control programs fail. Only a small proportion of alcoholics and drug addicts ever receive treatment and obsessive compulsive workaholics, shoppers, gamblers, nicotine addicts, etc. etc. ever become aware of the real deep rooted causes of their well defended, self-denial behaviors. The most underreported and devastating criminal activity of driving under the influence of alcohol will never be solved as long as society refuses to vigorously address the underlying sorrow filled void of these people. We, as a people, are driven to "get" instead of "lose." There is a belief that somehow getting an injection, smoking a weed, becoming overbloated, drunk or some other form a symbolic fulfillment will satisfy a need. That's the wrong strategy that never addresses the real problem. Temporary relief creates more long-term problems. It is a bad solution to an unrecognized sorrowful void and creates added difficulties. If you have a money problem, you can't solve it with money. If you have a drinking problem, it can't be solved with alcohol. If you have a nicotine problem, cigarettes won't solve it. If you are depressed, you need to get to the underlying cause of that depression. Treating the depression doesn't cure it. Fully blowing out and releasing the sorrow deep in the void will lift the depression, calm anxiety and may actually create peak experiences that lead to total bliss.


      The ASC (Altered State of Consciousness) created by cathartic free association will reveal the truth of one's existence. It will also bring into consciousness those feelings, memories and experiences that have been long held inside one's organism. Letting go and releasing buried sorrow, relieves the void and opens the prison of repression. Freedom from symptoms and problems creates a cosmological and transpersonal liberation that transcends the limits of the body and the ego. The inheritance is the universe and the boundless kingdom of heaven.

Beginning Change

Acknowledge That You Are Hiding

      You cannot change what you do not acknowledge. ASC's reminds us that the universe holds us accountable for our actions. Every religious tradition has some sort of cosmic evaluation of our actions. The world itself has laws and rules that reminds each one of us that we are accountable for our behavior and our choices. But, if we do not acknowledge our own behaviors, then we cannot change them. For example, an alcoholic or drug addict will not be willing to change and eradicate self-abusive behavior. Rationalizations and justifications for self-destructive behavior are part of a protective defensive wall that a person can hide behind in order to avoid being hurt by the world. Such strategies are usually ineffective and self-destructive. Excessive overeating, reckless spending, compulsive gambling and many other forms of destructive behavior, are nothing but defenses behind which a person can hide. The long-term use of these destructive behaviors is damaging to the self and others, in so many different ways. Choices that are made to satisfy certain emotional needs, by self-defeating actions, always lead to some sort of death. A self-defeating person usually makes the wrong choices, when other choices would result in a better outcome. But, the self-destructive force in the universe can be more powerful than logic and reason. Only by activating some sort of ASC can one's self-destructive side be shaken loose from its hold. Powerful altered states have the capacity to overthrow the tight grip of the destructive force. A secret strength that the ASC has over destructive elements is the cumulative power of repetition. By continuously activating and practicing an effective ASC, one can overwhelm certain diseases, disorders and maladaptive strategies.


      An ASC that reveals the truth of how a person perpetuates and sustains self-destructive behavior provides the impetus for creative change. It forces the issue that we are all accountable to a higher power and to our better selves. Once a person acknowledges their self-defeating behavior, they can begin to take measures for creating new and more productive choices. Destructive behavior is irresponsible and acknowledging such bad choices constitutes a step towards remedial action. Most self-destructive behavior is a misguided attempt to make one feel better physically and emotionally. At the same time, what is hidden is the fact that the person is slowly and irrevocably destroying him/herself. The destroyer exists inside every person as an archetypal entity and can only be subdued by an active and aggressive effort. A cosmic war is acted out, out of awareness, in every human being. A person can choose to mobilize efforts, methods, props and tools in the noble cause of waging war against internal destructive forces. Such acknowledgment and commitment can lead to triumph and the ASC is the right tool, method and weapon for such a challenge.


      If the person decides to go back into hiding behind a self-erected wall, then the destructive force will come back with a vengeance and a yo-yo syndrome gets established. When the individual decides to take on the challenge of change, he/she can recognize the futility and failure of destructive behaviors. In the long run, all destructive behaviors end up hurting the individual. If one looks for a creative principal, then they will recognize that elements of the destructive force just don't work and only cause damage. Creative ASC's produce productive life enhancing outcomes. These same ASC's also lend insight into the causes of all behaviors.

No Matter Where ...

You Are Accountable

      In the cosmic fabric of all creation, every action has an effect, whether positive or negative. There is no getting away with anything. The biblical phrase, "You reap what you sew," proclaims that for every action there is an equal or greater reaction. On the spiritual level, everyone seems to be somewhat aware that all actions have to be answered for, sooner or later. If you incur a debt, payment is forthcoming in one way or another. "You'll have to pay for your actions at some point." Justice is a cosmic reality. In some traditions, it is treated as a spiritual force. Nobody gets away with anything, even though it seems as if they might. The universe functions in a precarious state of balance. If the scales get tipped in any particular direction, everything goes out of balance. Life on earth is dependent on just the right juxtaposition and positioning of all of the planets, in relationship to the sun. The sun, itself, maintains its particular function by being in the proper position and in the right balance to the rest of the Milky Way.


      Could it be that good deeds and faith help to maintain the precarious balance of nature? Perhaps, the planet Earth is a balancing world, existing between the high heavens and the underworld. You'll notice that there is no heaven without hell and the world precariously balances between the two. In bipolar disorder, rapid cycling between the highs and the lows is mediated and moderated by the middle, stable center. Every religious discipline has some sort of mythology and ritual that surrounds a given period of time dedicated to examining the cosmic books that evaluate and judge human behavior. Forgiveness and redemption, followed by salvation usually wipes the book of life clean of incurred debts and transgressions. This process reminds us to refrain from judging unless we subject ourselves to judgment. We are also reminded to refrain from vengeance, being that vengeance belongs to the Divine Power. These transpersonal truths remind us that not only are we accountable to ourselves and other human beings; but we are also accountable to a higher spiritual power. The universe is conscious and it observes and operates in human, everyday life. We are part of the universe and interact with it on many different levels. To think that we are separate from cosmic influence is to deny the reality of personal accountability. For every act a price is exacted. Referring to the sayings, "The wages of sin is death," and the secular phrase, "Crime doesn't pay," illuminates the idea that justice in balance is a universal energy force.


      If you live in a constant state of hate and anger, you will reap poison. For every loving act, love is returned many times over. Love builds on love, while anger and hate builds more poison. The more you try to hide from your hurt, the more you build on more hurt. Containing and repressing emotional and spiritual pain, keeps it going and eventually it reaps self-destruction. Expressing and releasing spiritual and emotional pain, rewards with relief, insight and transformation. Resentment is the breeding ground of hostility and more resentment. Getting swallowed up in being a victim brings more victimization. Insult engenders counterattack and more insults. Kindness produces peace and tranquility. Compassion engenders understanding and goodwill. Constant demands create diminished returns.


      Blaming creates failure and ineffectiveness. It never produces positive results and encourages distrust and alienation. If you want someone to reject you, just keep blaming them and making them responsible for your life, your problems and your misery. Support and encourage someone and you improve their emotional and environmental performance. You get back what you give and it is the altered state of consciousness of a therapy session that produces the positive results.




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