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Mon May 28, 2018, 03:06 AM

Transpersonal psychology, addiction, and other ideas. (long post)

I'm reading a very good book that was recommended to me by a DUer called Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision. Transpersonal psychology is thought of by its adherents as being the next evolutionary step in the field of psychology- a process that started with Freud, progressed with Jung, and continues progressing with researchers like Stanislav Grof and Ken Wilber to name only a couple forging into the psychological frontier. It does not necessarily preclude Freudian and Jungian contributions, but rather includes many of those ideas and theories and then builds on them.

In the book on pages 3 and 4 we get the following definitions:

"Transpersonal experiences may be defined as experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche, and cosmos."


"Transpersonal psychology is the psychological study of transpersonal experiences and their correlates. These correlates include the nature, varieties, causes, and effects of transpersonal experiences and development, as well as the psychologies, philosophies, disciplines, arts, cultures, lifestyles, reactions, and religions that are inspired by them, or that seek to induce, express, apply, or understand them."

Later in the book there is a section on clinical concerns in the field of transpersonal psychology and psychiatry that includes new ideas about the nature of addiction. This is particularly interesting to me speaking as a person who has had more than his share of psychological problems and who has overcome problems with addiction. On pages 135 and 136 we find:

"Growing evidence suggests that lack of transpersonal experience may underlie a significant part of contemporary individual, cultural, and global pathology. Maslow described this as metapathology resulting from the failure to satisfy meta (transpersonal) motives and needs...A lack of transpersonal experience and its resultant metapathology may underlie diverse psychological and social disturbances. These may range from the midlife crises faced by countless individuals whose lives are devoid of meaning to the global crises that reflect the insatiable consumption by millions of such people.


Whatever its biological bases, however, addictive craving may also be in part a substitute gratification for transpersonal experiences. Carl Jung described it as, 'the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.'


If addictive craving can reflect a lack of transpersonal experience, it follows that supplying such experiences might be therapeutic. Support for this view comes from several sources. There are many accounts of people...whose craving ceased when transpersonal experiences began.


A transpersonal perspective may therefore shed light on the nature, cause, and treatment of addiction. It suggests that addiction to food and drugs- which is more or less the extent of addiction recognized by Western society and mainstream psychology- may be merely the tip of a far more profound a pervasive dynamic. Addiction may underlie a vast range of human suffering. It may be universal rather than individual in frequency, existential rather than only circumstantial in origin, ontological rather than only psychological in its foundation. If this is the case, any enduring cure may need to be existential and transpersonal as well as pharmacological and behavioral."

The book also says that addictive behavior can also be seen in overwhelming desires for money, power, sex, and social status. Those four areas are the domain of the ego in my view, and are on prominent display in Donald Trump. Trump may not have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but he definitely has issues with addiction nevertheless, and according to this book that might be a universal problem in humanity- the cause of much of our suffering. What we desire is a unitive state of being, and since our society doesn't provide that, and actually thinks of it as pathological, that desire gets expressed in unhealthy ways that are attempts at substituting for what can only be fulfilled with transpersonal experiences.

Personally, I've had serious addictive problems in my life. At one point I was a heavy drinker, a tobacco user, and a gambler. I've overcome those addictions in recent years. I also had issues with food having been extremely overweight at one point. I've only started overcoming that in the past couple of years, but I'm getting there. I've dropped over 100 pounds in the last couple of years. I've got about 40 to go to get to where I want to be.

What has allowed me to overcome these addictions? I think it is in accordance with the transpersonal vision...it's due to transpersonal experiences. I don't go to 12 step programs, or any other kind of treatment for addiction. I think it's due to a spiritual awakening.

I still have issues, and I still take psychiatric medication. But I've been on those meds for much longer than I've been free of addiction, and I've also recently been able to reduce the amount of medication I take (with my doctor's guidance) with good results. My issues are very complex. I've got Freudian, Jungian, and transpersonal stuff going on all at the same time. There could be a biological aspect to it as well. But this is all a part of spiritual growth, in my view, and may extend beyond this lifetime into the past as well as the future.

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Reply Transpersonal psychology, addiction, and other ideas. (long post) (Original post)
Tobin S. May 2018 OP
hunter May 2018 #1
Tobin S. May 2018 #2

Response to Tobin S. (Original post)

Mon May 28, 2018, 08:16 PM

1. I'm not that deep.

What I have learned, in my near six decades of life on earth, is that whenever I'm a non-compliant patient I end up in the Emergency Room. I hate the Emergency Room.

If my meds fade (they sometimes do) I end up in the Emergency Room.

It's not just the psych stuff. I learned to deal with severe asthma a long time ago. The last time I was hospitalized for asthma was shortly after I'd met my wife, in the mid 'eighties. Mind-over-matter doesn't work for asthma, believe me, I tried. But my mom remembers doctors who blamed her for my asthma. I tried so hard, mind-over-matter, to make my asthma go away.

Expensive inhaled steroids, and sometimes oral steroids, keep asthma in check. (I love oral steroids so much they scare me. Is this what normal people feel like? Or at least until the psychosis sets in...)

Thanks to modern meds I don't die of lung issues. Siblings of my ancestors did die. My dad's sister died.

Mind over matter doesn't work any better for the psych stuff, of course, but it's been my misfortune that the very first thing to fly out the window when I quit psych meds (because I don't like side effects like anorgasmia or dullness) or meds fading, is my ability to judge my own mental state.

I've learned how important it is that I have a social safety net, people who will be my advocates when I land in the locked psych ward.

My last, too recent, visit to the locked psych ward was illuminating.

I've got some new meds now that work more or less, and a psychiatrist handling me with a fairly light touch.

I appreciate that. I'm a very lucky guy.

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Response to hunter (Reply #1)

Mon May 28, 2018, 08:37 PM

2. I'm not arguing for the abolition of psychiatric medication.

Like I said, I still take it, and I'm going to keep doing so. I acknowledge at the end that there could be biological factors at work, as well as mental and spiritual factors.

What I am arguing is that there is much more going on with an individual than the eye of flesh can tell us. We also need the mind's eye and the spirit's eye. It's sad that that is a controversial view in our society currently. Philosophy and religion are now considered invalid by many due to a perceived reduction of the possibilities of realty by scientific materialism. Science is very good at explaining the material world, but that's not the entirety of existence although many people in the world mistakenly believe so now days.

Mental illness can be so scary and debilitating that inquiry beyond taking the meds and chilling out the symptoms can be seen as too risky. I'm not saying to stop taking meds. What I'm saying is that just because you take meds it doesn't mean you have to tune out other possibilities in the mental and spiritual realms. And I think there is more going on with people who are mentally ill than just biological and chemical abnormalities.

Transpersonal psychology is where the field is heading.

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