Psychotherapy and change

Deutsch: Phrenologie
Deutsch: Phrenologie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People in psychotherapy change at different rates.  Most often I find that this relates to numerous factors.  It may for instance be related to the age at which a trauma occurred, complexity of current life situation and influences, interplay of personality characteristics, and so forth.

I use a puzzle metaphor to explain various aspects of the therapeutic process.

What takes place in treatment is similar to putting together a puzzle.  There’s a catch to the whole process though.  It’s as if we have all kinds of puzzle pieces for a puzzle and we don’t have the original picture from the puzzle box to guide us.  There is something very interesting about the mind along these lines.  It has been examined from Gestalt psychology with a process that is called “closure.”  The idea of closure is that the mind fills in the gaps to produce a “unified whole” or a Gestalt.   As we’re putting together the puzzle pieces about how you can become the person you want to become, more of the picture is obtained.  There is a point at which adding just one more puzzle piece allows the mind to form a Gestalt and mentally see the final outcome.  Once that happens, everything becomes clear as to the direction needed.

And this process also takes place on an unconscious level.  The mind has built in self-corrective measures and begins searching for these corrective measures during psychotherapy.  Automatically, while we are asleep and dreaming, or we are staring off into space thinking about nothing in particular, the mind continues this process.

I also use this metaphor to explain why some people are able to change rather rapidly and others take much longer.

Some people’s problems are like a puzzle that a young child might be able to put together.  It may only have 8 pieces, and it only takes putting a couple of pieces together to get the Gestalt of the picture.  Others are like a 1000 piece puzzle.  This type of puzzle takes a great deal more searching, effort, and trial and error.  It takes longer to be able to get that feeling of making progress.  It takes longer to get the Gestalt of the picture.

Each individual has his or her own unique way of changing.  Some patient’s will put most of the puzzle together before they make a single change.  They have to know what the full picture is before they feel comfortable in changing.  Sometimes this process happens completely unconsciously.  Others are very deliberate, and utilize a great deal of conscious effort in placing each piece and make a shift or change with each piece that is connected.

Jung’s Red Book

A new biography, Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings, highlights Jung’s a life-long fascination with the otherworldly and transcendent aspects of human experience. It rightly places Jung in the context of other major mystical seekers and teachers, such as Rudolf Steiner, G. I. Gurdjieff, and Emanuel Swedenborg.

Gary Lachman
The book’s author is Gary Lachman, a widely respected writer on esoteric themes (as well as a founding member of the 80s rock band Blondie!). Lachman explores how, as a professional adult, Jung tended to hide and even deny this spiritual/esoteric/occult aspect of his life. Two dramatic personal experiences, thirty years apart, were to finally transform Jung into an openly mystical psychologist and an inspiration for today’s transpersonal movement. And between those two experiences came the creation of his great masterpiece, a hand-written book which for decades was virtually unknown outside his immediate family: The Red Book. In 2009, the Red Book was finally allowed to be published for the first time, an event which continues to generate a lot of buzz. Some see it as a work of literary genius, others see it as evidence of a psychotic breakdown. I’m with Lachman — I think it is a good idea to see The Red Book in the context of the current of mysticism and other-worldly weirdness running throughout Jung’s life. Lachman shows that even as a child, Jung was immersed in a world in which spirituality and the paranormal were the norm.

Doing and Being

Doing and Being: Mindfulness, Health, and Quiet Ego Characteristics Among Buddhist Practitioners
September 16, 2010 — barry
H. A. Wayment, B. Wiist, B. M. Sullivan, M. A. Warren (2010) Doing and Being: Mindfulness, Health, and Quiet Ego Characteristics Among Buddhist Practitioners. Journal of Happiness Studies , Online first , 11 Sept 2010.

ABSTRACT: We examined the relationship between meditation experience, psychological mindfulness, quiet ego characteristics, and self-reported physical health in a diverse sample of adults with a range of Buddhist experience (N = 117) gathered from a web-based survey administered to Buddhist practitioners around the world between August 1, 2007 and January 31, 2008.

Practicing meditation on a regular basis and greater experience with Buddhism was related to higher psychological mindfulness scores. Psychological mindfulness was correlated with a latent variable called “quiet ego characteristics” that reflected measures based on Bauer and Wayment’s (Transcending self-interest: psychological explorations of the quiet ego. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp 7–19, 2008) conceptual and multidimensional definition of a “quiet ego”: wisdom, altruism, sense of interdependence with all living things, need for structure (reversed), anger/verbal aggression (reversed), and negative affectivity (reversed). In turn, quiet ego characteristics were positively related to self-reported health.

Our findings provide continuing support for the key role psychological mindfulness may play in psychological and physical well-being.

Near-Death Experiences

Implications of Near-Death Experiences for a Postmaterialist Psychology
February 25, 2010 — barry
Implications of Near-Death Experiences for a Postmaterialist Psychology by Bruce Greyson

from Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Volume 2, Issue 1, February 2010, Pages 37-45

Classical physics, anchored in materialist reductionism, offered adequate descriptions of everyday mechanics but ultimately proved insufficient for describing the mechanics of extremely high speeds or small sizes, and was supplemented nearly a century ago by quantum physics, which includes consciousness in its formulation. Materialist psychology, modeled on the reductionism of classical physics, likewise offered adequate descriptions of everyday mental functioning but ultimately proved insufficient for describing mentation under extreme conditions, such as the continuation of mental function when the brain is inactive or impaired, such as occurs near death. “Near-death experiences” include phenomena that challenge materialist reductionism, such as enhanced mentation and memory during cerebral impairment, accurate perceptions from a perspective outside the body, and reported visions of deceased persons, including those not previously known to be deceased. Complex consciousness, including cognition, perception, and memory, under conditions such as cardiac arrest and general anesthesia, when it cannot be associated with normal brain function, require a revised psychology anchored not in 19th-century classical physics but rather in 21st-century quantum physics that includes consciousness in its conceptual formulation.