Transpersonal Dynamics
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Transpersonal Dynamics

The Relational Field, Depth Work and the Unconscious

Stacey Millichamp

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eBook - ePub

Transpersonal Dynamics

The Relational Field, Depth Work and the Unconscious

Stacey Millichamp

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Cutting-edge approaches to therapeutic interpersonal dynamics
Transpersonal Dynamics offers approaches to the therapeutic encounter from the leading edge of quantum physics field theory and integrative psychology.
This book will show you how to get to ‘the heart of the matter’ within complex processes:

  • How to ‘map’ and work on the edge between conscious and unconscious processes.
  • How to identify and relate to different contact styles.
  • How to unfold dynamics effectively with individuals, couples and groups.
  • How to work with challenge and conflict as a pathway to intimate contact.
  • How to apply archetypal and mythological approaches to depth work psychology.

Transpersonal Dynamics is the culmination of over 20 years of feedback about ‘what works’, gathered through delivering integrative and transpersonal training to counsellors, coaches, psychologists and psychotherapists who work with organisations, adults, couples, families, young people and children.
Using down-to-earth language in a practical way, this book addresses some of the gritty aspects of the therapeutic relationship, with the aim to inspire and support practitioners to take more risks to bring a collaborative, relational quality to their work.

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Chapter 1
The Context of Psychosynthesis: past and present
Any school of thought that develops does so within a field of influence that is permeated by the socio-economic, scientific, educational and political themes of its day. As a starting point to this book’s inquiry into new ways of working with psychosynthesis models, it is important to look at the historical context in which Assagioli conducted his research into and development of psychosynthesis theory and to begin to assess how today’s changing scientific and social climate might impact our theories of the Self.
Assagioli: life and influences
Assagioli trained as a medical student in Florence in 1906, where he lived most of his life. He subsequently trained as an analyst and psychiatrist, during which time he developed the concepts and theory of psychosynthesis. At the beginning of the 20th century there was an upwelling of exciting ideas in all areas of thought. Influences from the East were beginning to come into the West and therefore religious thought was being re-examined. At the same time, education was being revolutionized by such thinkers as Montessori, Froebel and Steiner, and the unconscious was being scientifically studied by Freud, among others.
This was therefore very much of a Renaissance time and accordingly Assagioli drew from many fields and influences. Inherent in the development of his ideas are both a scientific and a mystical approach, though he tended to play down the more mystical aspects of his work, intent on gaining scientific validity for his theories. His background training in medicine and psychiatry also included psychoanalysis and thus there are strong psychodynamic roots in psychosynthesis. In his doctoral thesis Assagioli gave a critique of Freud’s approach, claiming it was incomplete, as it did not address the actualized elements of human nature or how to enable man to fully live his potential. From early on he challenged the purely scientific and reductionist attitudes of the time, bringing to the forefront the possibility that man also has self-actualizing potential which can be stimulated and developed.
Assagioli was influenced by many spiritual and philosophical traditions and people, such as the Russian esotericist P. D. Ouspensky, the Sufi mystic Inayat Khan Rehmat Khan Pathan, Carl Jung, Martin Buber – who developed the I-Thou relationship theory, the founder of Logotherapy Viktor Frankl, and Alice Bailey, with whom he was a close friend. His concerns were focussed on the healing of psychological fragmentation and the possibility for synthesis at both an individual and collective level, including an interest in education and social issues. These spiritual and mystical influences mean that within psychosynthesis lies a deeply optimistic and structured approach, not just to personal development but also to spiritual synthesis, individually and culturally, in which the person is able to find a meaningful, purposeful and interconnected place within the whole.
Wider contexts and paradigms
If we look at the wider political and scientific context of Assagioli’s life (and indeed for much of the 20th century), we begin to see that there was (and still is) inherent in the culture a split between religion and science and, more deeply, a ‘myth of isolation’ infusing the West during this time.1 Therefore, despite the exciting movements and potential of the early 20th century, there may have been tendencies towards implicit beliefs of separateness, not just within the development of psychosynthesis but also in the way it is practised now. I make this assertion because there is much evidence to suggest that the culture and its prevailing scientific paradigm has a very powerful impact on us as individuals whether we overtly ‘agree’ with it or not. It becomes part of our psyche, something that is especially obvious in how we address the ways we are connected to the collective unconscious, which is explored in detail in the following chapters.
Jean Hardy cites Thomas Kuhn’s work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he states that there is a predominant scientific paradigm at any one time which creates a set of models about the nature of the world. This opinion is echoed by Hardy again in her pamphlet There is Another World, but it is This One, in which she expresses Karl Mannheim’s view that ‘the main institutions in that society... will represent that dominant set of assumptions about the nature of the society and its picture of reality’.2 These predominant paradigms affect our innermost being, influencing the way in which we construct reality and make meaning of the world around us.
The living cosmos gives way to the clockwork universe
In her book Quantum Self, Donar Zohar states that in this century we have been plagued by an alienation between consciousness and matter, a sense that we are strangers in this world. She traces the roots of this alienation back to Plato’s distinction between the realm of ideas and experience, through Christianity’s favouring of the soul over the body (or at the cost of the body as somehow a vessel for sin), and into the 17th century philosophical and scientific revolution which brought in Cartesian doubt and Newtonian physics. The living cosmos of Greek and mediaeval times – in which the universe is filled with mystery, intelligence and purpose – was replaced by the conception of the universe as a clockwork machine.
The paradigm that emerged from the scientific, economic and industrial revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries was therefore one which viewed the world as predetermined and potentially predictable, in which the whole can be objectively understood by examining the parts. Life is made up of isolated, independent objects. As human beings we are therefore rooted in nothing bigger than ourselves. Descartes’ theories added to this sense of separateness by splitting the mind off from the body, claiming that mind and matter are essentially separate and that we must therefore set out with the objective power of our minds to control nature (our own and that around us). This paradigm, with its ‘myth’ of rational thinking, claims that the only worthwhile knowledge or truth is that which is quantifiable and can be empirically proven. Darwin and Marx, with their theories of evolution, compounded this myth in the later part of their lives, leaving us with a sense that there is no wonder in life, that only the material world really exists, which evolves through biological processes. The soul was gone from the body, replaced by a transcendental vision in which good/God is seen as coming down to matter from a long way up and to which a soul must travel a long journey before coming ‘home’ again.
The interconnected cosmos
It was not until the 1960s that this prevailing paradigm was truly questioned with an emerging sense that we are interconnected with each other and life and that we thus need to take responsibility for ourselves and the world around us. Along with this social force for change, science was consolidating new visions of reality which had been worked on since the turn of the century. In his book Quantum Theology, Diarmuid O’Murchu cites the philosopher-scientist Arthur Koestler who suggested that we call each whole thing within nature (previously viewed as separate parts) a ‘holon’. A holon is a whole made up of its own parts, whilst also being part of a larger whole. It must both preserve its own autonomy and function as part of the larger whole in order to survive. No creature or system can be entirely independent, as each system (holon) is part of a larger system (holon) into which it must integrate in order to survive. As well as being a word that describes interdependence, it is an emerging cultural image that takes us beyond the mechanistic metaphor.
It was in the 1960s, amidst such radical changes in society, that Assagioli’s teachings began to be more internationally accepted. His theory of psychosynthesis created a way of working with fragmented parts to enable an eventual synthesis and potential wholeness. He saw this as applicable on many levels, from the individual through to the global collective. Here we come to definitions of the Self that include both transcendent and immanent visions of a spiritual sphere.
The Self
Let’s explore these ideas briefly and begin to assess how, if at all, there may be a tendency for Newtonian mechanistic thinking (and therefore splitting soul and matter) within psychosynthesis theory and practice.
Assagioli describes the Self as follows: ‘This Self is above, and unaffected by, the flow of the mind-stream or by bodily conditions; and the personal conscious self should be considered merely as its reflection, it’s “projection” in the field of the personality’.3 Diana Whitmore describes the Self as ‘the point of pure, essential being which is unaffected by conscious experience... the Experiencer... the Self is a field of energy containing phenomena of a superconscious nature, and providing the conditions for evolution, development and growth... the Self is unchanging in its essence...’.4
Whitmore points out the difference between the Self and the Superconscious. The former is pure Being and contentless, sending energies that are transmitted through the Superconscious making them available to the personality (should the personality choose to embrace them). The Superconscious has many experiences and content within it, whereas direct experience of the Self is usually attained once one is able to dis-identify from unconscious and superconscious content.
The ‘I’ in psychosynthesis theory is seen as the outpost of the Self, the point of conscious awareness that receives impulses from the Self and assimilates them from moment to moment. The process of therapy is one in which personal synthesis is initially approached by working through some of the archaic elements within the lower unconscious, often followed by an existential crisis and re-evaluation, finally exploring the transpersonal realm with a personality integrated enough to make use of the superconscious influences and effects.
Given some of the changing scientific and philosophical paradigms, we could begin to ask:
Whether the Self is indeed unchanging and contentless. Many contemporary physicists (e.g., Baeyer and Zohar) are suggesting that what we previously took to be empty spaces in the universe are actually ‘full’ with quantum potential from which new impulses are constantly being born and which seem to consist of blueprints which govern patterns for the future. This might indicate that Self belongs to or is a part of a great web of potential, from which things are created and to which these experiences and relational interactions flow back. In other words, that there is an evolutionary process occurring that includes the Self.
Whether the Universal Self is made manifest most purely in the relational elements within therapy. Quantum physicists are assessing the apparent reality that we are as individuals determined by the quality of our interdependence on others, in other words, that we are our relationships (in the broadest sense). We will be looking at this concept in greater depth in the next chapter, but at this point it is worth raising the question of whether the Self is individual at all, but rather is the point at which the personality makes contact with the creative process of life itself.
These questions are raised with the intention of exploring more deeply our own unconscious attitudes that may be attached to an ‘individualistic’ way of viewing the nature of our Self. I view psychosynthesis as an approach that consciously affirms a level of unity into which we awaken once we have individuated. Addressing the subtle level of world view in which we have been steeped as a culture for many years, and how that may be permeating our work as counsellors and psychotherapists, is particularly important when we start addressing the way in which we work in the consulting room. Beyond the vision of the models we learn as students, are we practising an approach that truly elicits a sense of interconnectedness?
Contemporary approaches
Psychosynthesis practitioners, indeed all psychotherapists and counsellors, now operate in a very different world than the one in which the greats, such as Freud, Jung and Assagioli, worked and developed their theories of the psyche. Exponents of many of the different theoretical schools now believe themselves to have a better perspective on ‘the truth’ of what drives people and how to alleviate psychological and emotional suffering. Yet we increasingly see overlaps between these different theoretical perspectives, and many counselling and psychotherapy courses describe themselves as integrative these days, offering modules in the many theoretical approaches to produce practitioners who can work with the vast array of issues that clients present; clients who are informed and affected by their infinitely varied cultural, religious, economic, and educational backgrounds.
Due to economic pressures on therapeutic services, counselling and psychotherapy is under pressure to be delivered in a short term format, with measurable outcomes produced to justify the funding stream underpinning the service itself. Clients often present in private practice with busy lives and limited funds, asking for quick fixes and time-limited interventions. As life has become more varied and pressurized, the time available has become more limited, leading practitioners to draw upon as many approaches as possible to meet the differing needs and demands of the client groups they are working with.
Models in practice
As a psychotherapist, along with my training in psychosynthesis, I have found the work of Ken Wilber, an American writer on transpersonal psychology with his books No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth and the The Spectrum of Consciousness (among the many that he has written), to be the most useful in terms of outlining the different levels of consciousness that clients are working on, and the different therapeutic approaches that are the mo...


  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Contents
  5. List of Illustrations
  6. Introduction
  7. 1—The Context of Psychosynthesis: past and present
  8. 2—Concepts of the Self and Relational Space
  9. 3—Working at the Edge of Awareness
  10. 4—The Walled Garden of the Psyche
  11. 5—Archetypal Perspectives on Unfolding Personal Mythology
  12. 6—Developing leadership within the psyche
  13. Bibliography
  14. Index
Zitierstile für Transpersonal Dynamics

APA 6 Citation

Millichamp, S. (2018). Transpersonal Dynamics ([edition unavailable]). Kaminn Media Ltd. Retrieved from (Original work published 2018)

Chicago Citation

Millichamp, Stacey. (2018) 2018. Transpersonal Dynamics. [Edition unavailable]. Kaminn Media Ltd.

Harvard Citation

Millichamp, S. (2018) Transpersonal Dynamics. [edition unavailable]. Kaminn Media Ltd. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Millichamp, Stacey. Transpersonal Dynamics. [edition unavailable]. Kaminn Media Ltd, 2018. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.