One of the tasks counselors-in-training should do (but aren’t required) is to choose a theoretical orientation from which to base their practice. Theoretical orientation provides a basis for conceptualizing being, including how we develop, how problems come up, how we can solve them. Basically, it comes down to how you view the world and that man-made construct called “mental health.” You’re more familiar with the works of theorists than you realize, seeing as how they’ve come to shape our culture greatly. The concepts of the unconscious, of the great significance of early childhood events in shaping our personalities later, and a whole host of other things (some good, some pretty damn terrible) are thanks to Freud. If you’ve ever used the terms introvert/extrovert, anima/animus, or collective unconscious, you can thank Jung. If you’ve ever identified someone as having an inferiority complex or said “ahhh…that explains it” and nodded your head when you found out someone was a middle child/baby of the family/eldest child, Adler’s your man.
Right now, I’m taking a class on all these different theories, and it’s by far my favorite of the semester. However, I’ve been getting a little antsy because I don’t really mesh with any of the theories we’ve gone over so far. I mentioned this to a professor I’m working with, and he mentioned to me again a theory (not in my syllabus) called transpersonal theory. Well…after emailing a few professors in the department to try to hunt down some good, basic literature on what this is, ordering a few books from Amazon after practically having an orgasm when I read through the table of contents of one of them, and getting halfway through the introduction of the one book, I can pretty safely say (though I plan on reading more than 10 pages before I commit) that I found my theory. My general grasp on it so far is that it’s all about Oneness. Separation is just an illusion. And while that’s something I’ve been turning around in my head for a couple months now, it is finally starting to mesh and breathe within me to the point where I can begin to truly grasp what it means.
You know the famous line from Jerry McGuire “You had me at hello”? Transpersonal theory had me at, “…transpersonal psychology enables human beings to discover their inseparability from all life and their appropriate place in the great chain of being. Central to this unfolding awareness is the rediscovery of the power of ancient methods to achieving altered states of consciousness, such as meditation, yoga, shamanic journeys…” The first part of that quote was the set-up, the ‘shamanic journeys’ was the clincher. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be stumbling upon this.
One interesting fact that the authors point out in the preface is that (at least in 1993 when the book was published) there were few women publishing work on transpersonal theory. Immediately, I thought to myself, Well, boys, I’m happy to help you out there. After I discussed this with my professor, he opened up some new ideas for me. Of course women hadn’t published first. Because if they had, more than likely, it would have been laughed at, scoffed at, brushed off, ignored, etc. Within the patriarchy, men had to publish first to validate it before it could be safe for women to come forward and advocate for it. And that just fucking blows. I don’t know if some of those men were smart enough to realize that women probably have been doing this and practicing it for years and years, more than likely in some proverbial closet and to know that men were not the ones to “discover” this type of viewing the world. I’ll find out and keep y’all posted as I read more of the literature.
Some fun things to come as I swim through the waters of this book: meditation and psychotherapy, lucid dreaming and dream yoga as a means of achieving enlightenment, consciousness, healing and wholeness, science and mysticism, compassion and conscious love, the Tao of personal and social transformation and much more…authors include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ram Das, Ken Wilber, William James, Roger Walsh, Frances Vaughn, and others. Yeah for learning!