Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Non Dual Psychotherapy

Over the past 12 years I have gradually developed a style of psychotherapy that incorporates the realizations that emerged in me after the shift in awareness described elsewhere. These realizations emerged spontaneously over a period of years, and continue to evolve. Early on I began to use some of these concepts and ways of perceiving with a few of my psychotherapy clients. I realized I was seeing, understanding and speaking in a manner that was quite different than was usual for me. This was an interesting process to observe. I also noticed that my clients responded in very interesting ways to the changes in me. Most were far more engaged in the therapeutic process. This increased engagement was probably the result of my  increased ability to be present with them. The quality of largely continuous presence appeared to me to be one major change in my manner of doing psychotherapy. There were many other differences that gradually emerged and became clear to me over the following years.          
I would like to give a series of talks/discussions about this approach to psychotherapy. The goal is to eventually produce teaching materials aimed at both professional healers and ordinary people who seek increased freedom in their life. The purpose of this first talk is to review, discuss, explain and amplify the characteristics of this new way of understanding and resolving psychological problems.  Many of the initial realizations that spontaneously occurred and shaped my thinking about psychotherapy are discussed in the three teaching CD's I made between 2006-2009. These CD's will be available for purchase at all talks that are focused on non dual psychotherapy for $10 each. If you would like to participate in one or more of these discussions with me but do not  yet have these CD's, it would be helpful to buy and begin to listen to them as they will assist in clarifying some of the concepts we will be discussing.
The initial issue I would like to discuss in this first talk is the meaning of the term non dual, especially as it applies to psychotherapy. In the simplest sense, non dual means "not two". In this 'not two', there is the direct, experiential realization of oneness, or a lack of perceived separation. This realization produces a shift in perception. Psychotherapy or any other healing work is then seen as mutual and collaborative. In a fundamental way, the client is not seen primarily as 'other'. This is a profoundly helpful perspective, as it tends to reduce a critical or judgmental mindset in not only the therapist but also the client.  A natural, effortless invitation to openly explore the problems that arise in the life of the person emerges, with far less need to deny, defend and justify. In one sense, of course, there are always two or more people present in any human interaction. Non duality does not deny duality. As my Zen teacher used to say, the idea is to see the dual from the aspect of the non dual. Or as the famous American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan is reported to have said: "All of us are more human than otherwise".
Instead of the term non dual, we could use the term presence. From the perspective of presence awareness there is the understanding, at least on the therapists' part, of assisting a natural healing process to unfold. The fundamental belief that emerges from a state of presence is the perspective that the client knows what is needed to address their concerns, but is currently not allowing this knowledge to be manifest/realized. This 'not allowing' is largely occurring outside of conscious awareness, and is involuntary and automatic. Helping the person to become aware of their own intuitive knowing, and becoming intimately familiar with the particular ways they routinely block the emergence of this knowing constitutes the therapeutic process.
Awareness and radical self-acceptance are the primary tools that are effective in bringing problems to light. They are also the necessary and often sufficient means to dissolve obstructions and allow for the free movement of awareness through an individual, couple, family or group. The content of psychotherapy becomes a developing mutual awareness of how intuitive knowing is often obscured by conditioned beliefs and assumptions. It is beneficial to develop an appreciation of the cost of continuing to block self awareness and self acceptance. This awareness helps increase motivation to change. In addition, it is important to realize that there are many ways of understanding any particular issue or problem. Some of the other ways of perceiving a problem will be far more helpful than the highly conditioned, automatic, and largely unconscious way that is currently causing distress. The predictable result from this process is a significant increase in self awareness and self acceptance. Increased self awareness and self acceptance leads to generalized relaxation as the need to ignore and deny what we know to be true is diminished. There is the fundamental assumption in this work that it is important to know the truth, and that knowing and accepting the truth is liberating.
 Some of the topics I would like to discuss and explore in this first talk are:
1) Exactly what is the meaning of the term presence in this context? If the goal is to truly be present for and with another, how does it feel? What facilitates its emergence? What impedes it?
2) The meaning of acceptance. I have found this to be a radically misunderstood word. Many of the topics we will cover may sound familiar to readers of New Age literature, yet the true understanding of a word like 'acceptance' is rarely perceived correctly.
3) Dissociation, avoidance and numbing. These are largely involuntary psychological defense mechanisms that we all use on a frequent basis, usually without being consciously aware of doing so. Understanding these experiences in ourselves and others will help lead to a fuller appreciation of trauma.
4) The idea that 'nothing is personal'. What does this phrase actually mean, and why is it useful to make the assumption that most events are far more impersonal than they might at first appear?
5) The utility of seeing painful events as opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
I welcome your input as we endeavor to uncover and describe this emerging approach to psychotherapy. I suspect that some of the masters of psychotherapy like Carl Rogers were doing what I am describing 50 or more years ago. Traditional and non-traditional healers throughout space and time have understood, recognized, and utilized  these approaches. However, our emerging understanding of spiritual awakening and its application to healing has much to offer, and this mutual exploration seems important to me.

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