“The origin myth of any thing determines the way it is seen and its destiny, and creates a magical, incantational, hypnotic power,” says Mircea Eliade, (1963).
The origin myth of current energy psychology approaches is rooted in the traditions of some of the field’s founders. Among these, for example, are chiropractor George Goodheart’s use of muscle testing and applied kinesiology; psychiatrist John Diamond’s use of muscle testing and holistic medicine; Roger Callahan’s thought field therapy (TFT) and tapping on the ends of acu-meridians; and Gary Craig’s emotional freedom techniques (EFT), which derived from Callahan’s methods (using acu-point algorithms, but eliminating muscle testing). Though the energy psychology field has broadened since those early years, most practitioners still associate energy psychology with these foundations and the field is built upon them. The trainings in energy psychology for health professionals emphasize these foundational elements, and the general public most often associates energy psychology with such methods as EFT and muscle testing. A potentially valuable minority of energy psychology practitioners, however, have their own views about what should be included in a comprehensive energy psychology.
In my previous presentations at ACEP annual conferences and in various publications of mine (Mayer, 2007, 2009, 2012) I have shown how the origins of energy psychology can also be found in:
- The Western mystery traditions (Mathews, 1988) and in particular in symbolic process modalities.
- In the East, it can be seen to have roots in Qigong and traditional Chinese medicine.
- Cross culturally, energy psychology can be seen to have roots in shamanic and indigenous traditions of postural initiation (Goodman, 1990; Tomio, 2000; Mayer 2004), which can include focus on chakras and various forms of static and dynamic forms of meditation.
- Energy psychology’s sphere is related to many key Western psychotherapeutic energetic concepts such as libido, arousal levels, affect regulation (Schore, 2003), character armoring (Reich, 1980), and “focusing” (Gendlin, 1978) on the felt sense and energetic felt shift in psychotherapy.
In what I see to be an important effort to broaden and deepen the origin myth of energy psychology, energy psychology can be seen as a form of transpersonal psychotherapy. In major overviews of the field of transpersonal psychotherapy, energy psychology is not included (Friedman, 2013); and in the field of energy psychology the connection with transpersonal psychotherapy has not been mentioned in its major overview books (Gallo, 2002). I have put forth in my publications one perspective on how this integration can be done (Mayer 2007, 2009, 2012), and for others to do so in their way seems to be fertile ground for cross-pollination.
As with the field of energy psychology, each transpersonal psychotherapist may have their own definition of what constitutes the field. When I was training therapists at John F. Kennedy University I used this definition: “Transpersonal Psychology, often called the fourth force of psychology, contains an integrative psychotherapy that includes all forms of psychotherapy as well as methods that focus specifically on connecting us with the wider whole of which we’re a part. This experience of the wider whole can be accessed through energetic pathways (which can be activated through various altered states of consciousness practices: breathing, acu-point touch techniques, methods of postural initiation such as Qigong, etc.), spiritual practices from East/West/indigenous traditions and symbolic process modes of healing.”
By incorporating symbolic process methods of psycho-energetic healing (a key element of transpersonal psychology), into the domain of energy psychology, the view that energy psychology is too mechanistic (Pignotti, 2009) could be countered. Such an expansion of definition could offer the field of energy psychology a way to include tapping into the archetypal energies of the psyche, a key element of non-mechanistic depth psychotherapy. Dream-work (Gendlin, 2004) and waking dreaming (Watkins, 1998) are examples of symbolic process modalities that could be incorporated into energy psychology, particularly when a psycho-energetic view is included. An example of such a psycho-energetic symbolic process modality, is “the mythic journey process (Mayer, 1982, 1993, 2007),” a narrative, archetypal, energetic method, which integrates Gendlin’s Focusing, psycho-mythology, and Qigong stances. The energetic view of the psyche is depicted well in Carl Jung’s (1960) view of the psyche as like a spectrum going between red (the energetic instincts) and ultraviolet (the archetypes).
Adding to the idea that each different lens gives a different view of the origins and elements of a tradition, here’s an interesting tidbit about the origins of the word “transpersonal.” Long before Anthony Sutich, et. al. used the word “transpersonal,” an astrologer, Dane Rudhyar, used the term “transpersonal” in 1930 in a small magazine called The Glass Hive. In Rudhyar’s definition he meant a double meaning, both “beyond” and “through.” This has important implications for the field because most transpersonal theorists use the term “transpersonal” to mean an ascent to attain greater heights and peak experiences (Lajoie & Shapiro,1992; Fadiman, 2005); whereas a transpersonal process may also imply a descent of spiritual energy through a person, as a solar light is focused through a lens. This later definition is oriented more towards including symbolic process traditions in transpersonal psychology, as well as somatic and energetic traditions including traditions of postural initiation (such as Tai Chi and Qigong).
By incorporating a wider dimension of transpersonal psychology methods, energy psychology’s root system can be expanded. For example, standing meditation qigong has been used for centuries in China to help practitioners to change their life stances. So, an integrative approach that combines standing meditation with Western energy psychology can be explored to help in healing, spiritual unfoldment, self-defense, and changing one’s life stance psychologically (Mayer, 2004). Regarding medical qigong, energetic methods from this branch of Chinese medicine can be explored to be a complement in the healing of various psycho-physiological disorders (Mayer, 2009). Likewise symbolic process methods of healing, a key element of transpersonal psychology, can add much to enrich the field of energy psychology (Achterberg, 2002; Hillman, 1997; Jung, 1960; Mayer, 1996, 2007).
If you look at Lajoie and Shapiro’s review (1992) of forty definitions of transpersonal psychology in the academic literature from 1968- 1991, they found five key themes: states of consciousness; higher or ultimate potential; beyond the ego or personal self; transcendence; and the spiritual. Based upon this study, the authors proposed the following definition of transpersonal psychology: “Transpersonal psychology is concerned with the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness (Lajoie, 1992).” In this definition, we can see a transcendent bias of many transpersonal theorists that leaves out the “immanent orientation” and the importance of “the soul” (Hillman, 1997) in the spirit/soul dialectic, which includes symbolic process orientations and cross-cultural somatic therapies. Such a more holistic view has been emerging regarding transpersonal psychology in more recent times with authors such as Daniels (2009) calling for an “all vector approach” to transpersonal psychology.
In summary, one can see that origin myths and the contents of a tradition, whether they are in the field of transpersonal psychology or in energy psychology, are often written by majority views that can leave out significant minority views. From my perspective, as expressed in my book Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy, it is important to include the energetic and immanent elements of psychology into the definition and practice of transpersonal psychotherapy; and in terms of energy psychology it is important to look at what are its origins and wider contents in this pre-paradigmatic phase (Kuhn, 1962) of energy psychology’s development.
About the author:
Dr. Michael Mayer was a co-founding faculty member of the first accredited Transpersonal Psychology Program in the United States at JFK University, where he trained therapists for twelve years. His approach to transpersonal psychotherapy can be found in two of his books: Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy: Ancient Pathways to Modern Health (Bodymind Healing Publications, 2007); and Energy Psychology: Self-Healing Practices for Bodymind Health, (North Atlantic/Random House 2009). His latest Ben Franklin award-winning book, The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician: Stories and Practices for Troubled Times, traces his journey through the transpersonal psychology movement over three decades and his quest to create an “all vector approach” to transpersonal psychology, energy psychology, and psychotherapy. www.bodymindhealing.com
Dr. Mayer will be presenting a training in this form of transpersonal energy psychotherapy in his pre-conference workshop called, Transforming Energy Psychology into a Comprehensive Energy Psychotherapy, at the 2015 International Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology Conference in Reston, VA.
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