Transpersonal = beyond the personal, beyond the ego
There is an arena of study in which psychology, consciousness practices, and nonordinary and psychospiritual experiences overlap; it is the realm of transpersonal psychology. Transpersonal psychology offers a holistic-integral perspective on health, development, and therapy. Transpersonal psychology is – in essence – the study of consciousness and its forms, and it is concerned with psychological and spiritual practices, disciplines and experiences. It provides a perspective in which psychospiritual and nonordinary or paranormal topics can be addressed along with more traditional concerns in psychotherapy.
Transpersonal psychology is concerned with the study of exceptional human experiences and behaviors, transformative capacities, and acts of creativity that surpass commonly accepted ideas of basic human limitations. Transpersonal psychologists orient to possibilities of consciousness, personality development, experience, and action that are not traditionally addressed in psychoanalytic, (cognitive) behavioral, and humanistic schools of thought. In transpersonal psychology, the unconscious is presumed to have both classically understood subconscious characteristics as well as superconscious capacities.
As a field, transpersonal psychology acknowledges the reality and relevance of impulses to higher states of being, mystical states, meditative experiences, nonordinary or paranormal experiences, dreaming, the overlap of spiritual experience and troubled states like depression or anxiety, near-death experiences, archetypal phenomena, and the transpersonal dimensions of relationships, service, or encounters with the natural world… as well as many other topics.
The root of the term “transpersonal” literally means “beyond the mask,” and it refers to self-transcendence – that is, the movement from an exclusive and narrower sense of personhood (“I am this, not that.”) to one that is broader, deeper, and more inclusive. A commonly-addressed concept in transpersonal psychology is “nonduality,” a recognition that each part of a person and of their experience is fundamentally not separate from some larger, more comprehensive Self or whole. Transpersonal counselors and therapists typically believe in the intrinsic health and basic goodness of the whole person as well as each of their parts and their diverse experiences.
Psychotherapy from a transpersonal perspective helps clients explore what supports or hinders the growth, healing, unfolding and evolution of consciousness. The transpersonal can be a part of psychotherapy in terms of content (e.g., transpersonal experiences are discussed during therapy), as well as how therapy is approached (e.g., use of meditative techniques, or helping the client move beyond previous identifications in a way that can include them).
Benefits of Psychospiritual Therapy
Clients who might benefit from a transpersonal perspective in psychotherapy would include those who are:
- Pursuing a spiritual discipline and/or a traditional or nontraditional spiritual path – and are facing issues of how to integrate that practice into effective functioning in everyday life
- Not sure they can talk about their spiritual practice or nonordinary experiences in the context of a therapy relationship for concern their perhaps nontraditional approach or experiences won’t be validated or understood
- Drawn to such practices as yoga, energy work, nontraditional body-mind healing paths, mysticism, shamanic journeying, or who have had spontaneous nonordinary experiences – and who want to address both their everyday life struggles even as they pursue their deeper inner journey
- Feel internal conflict with having different “compartments” for parts of themselves. For example, people who struggle with understanding and integrating where their sexuality, gender, aggression, and so forth, fit into their life and development
- Facing issues of depression, anxiety, loss of meaning, or difficulties in career or relationships – issues that everyone faces – but need an environment where those issues can be dealt with in a transpersonal context
- Wanting to learn tools for mindfulness and meditation practice. And further, wanting a place to dialogue about how awareness and nondual “practice” intersect with and can help change our experience of daily life – even as we live it fully in an embodied way.
Transpersonal Psychology, Counseling, and Therapy
Transpersonal psychology, counseling, and therapy offer a holistic-integral perspective for understanding ourselves, our nature, our struggles, and our opportunities for development. My doctoral dissertation was on the topic of mystical experience and mental health – and integrating body, mind, consciousness, and relationship is an area of particular interest to me as a psychologist, as a psychotherapist, and as a person.
It is worth noting that body psychotherapy and Bioenergetic Analysis also offer a holistic-integrative approach to the person – and respect experiences of embodiment as well as transpersonal experiences. In fact, body psychotherapy often taps into and helps ground psychospiritual energy and experiences. Alexander Lowen, relatedly, wrote a book called “The Spirituality of the Body: Bioenergetics for Grace and Harmony.”
If transpersonal topics and practices are important to you, remember that in the proper practice of consciousness disciplines and in transpersonal psychotherapy, we need to remember that the ego, one’s everyday life, work, relationships, body, and sexuality are all seen as important aspects of one’s whole self. Transpersonal therapy treats these domains as integral aspects of the great work that embraces psychospiritual practice rooted both in the mysteries of life and in everyday living.
Be who you are and live your path.
Are you looking for a counselor or therapist who can help you make space for all of who you are, and support you in living the unique blend of body, heart, mind, and essence that you are?
Contact Dr. Charles Martin or schedule an appointment if you are interested in counseling and therapy that has room for your whole self – and for transpersonal topics, experiences, and practices.