Reported by: Mary Ann Gray Voorhies
This is what Thomas Hanna said to his student in his class of 1990.
We as students practice with each other so that we can experience what the sensations are like with our clients. This experience guides us how to help others. These are not just manipulative techniques. Our experience guides us. We do this so that we can learn to control our hands in such a way that we can almost tell the effect on the client. It’s important to understand what that other person feels. Become very aware. How can I help this person? This leads us into an understanding of what Carl Rogers came up with as an innovator in psychotherapy in relating to another person.
Instead of the one person imposing an authoritarian stance on the other person, we as somatic educators must learn unconditional positive regard for this person as though we were that person. It’s not that you pretend to love this person but to always have RESPECT for the person no matter who that person is. For if we have this attitude we realize that this person is me. Very few people do this.
Soma is the new cutting-edge understanding of what it means to be human. It’s a completely new paradigm that will change our understanding of healing, which will change everything. Clinical Somatic Education is a “new” modality that includes simple ways to prevent and do away with about 50 percent of all “dis-ease.” By employing our consciousness to integrate our brain/body (which are really one) and by employing simple movements called pandiculations, we can change our posture and radically improve our health.
Everything in the universe is moving even though to our eyes it may look still. The Soma (you and me) are like atoms. In fact, we are made of atoms. We are always moving, whirling, twirling like everything else in the universe. Sometimes we forget we are part of nature and the universe. And, when you think of it, everything in the universe is whirling out of the Big Bang. This new understanding is an evolutionary leap for mankind.
Be sure to view the video in this blog post to see me demonstrate how we can use somatics and pandiculation (movement) to rapidly change our own bodies!
The word Somatic is an umbrella term that means experiencing from within. It is used to mean a large number of things. Yoga and T’ai chi are somatic, for example.
The word Somatics was coined by Thomas Hanna to mean his particular work in that field. Hanna invented some neuromuscular work based on what he knew about Feldenkrais (for Hanna was a certified Feldenkrais practitioner). But he also spent a lot of time at university studying the neuromuscular system. Because of his understanding of the neuromuscular system, he had a very inventive mind so that he took the work many steps forward. As a body of work, it is well beyond what Feldenkrais taught. As I have said before, Hanna’s work is a well-thought-out and almost spectacular (Hanna even uses the word magical) new work in the health care field. Hanna invented slow, easy movements and protocols that have the potential to dramatically improve the way human beings can function while at the same time eradicating almost 50 percent of all physical human suffering (pain) and disease. But this is only part (a wonderful part) of what he meant to include in the word Somatics. In his four-part article titled “What is Somatics,” Hanna said the goal of somatics is optimal mental and physical health.
One must remember that before Hanna became a “body worker” — a term he did not like — he was first and foremost a philosopher. I have read all of his books and writings and I am positive that had he lived he would have made his work holistic — to include the whole human soma. I know he would have taught his students more about the whole human soma and would have left his students with more information about educating the whole brain and not just the sensory motor cortex. Remember he died the first summer of his teachings. He intended to teach for three summers, which leaves two summers of work unknown to his students. As I have said I have read his books and listened to a wealth of tapes he left to posterity. I believe it is our task to take up where he left off — to continue his unfinished work guided by what he left behind and our own knowledge of philosophy, psychology and religion. (He attended divinity school also).
submitted by Mary Ann Gray Voorhies
The following was taken from the book Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement Flexibility and Health by Thomas Hanna:
1. These problems are functional, not structural
The problems which on the surface look to be irreparable breakdowns of the body, are instead malfunctions of the nervous system. Viewed externally, they seem to be about bodies that are degenerating; but viewed internally, these are brains that have lost control of their bodily functions. To use my own terms, these are somatic problems — not bodily problems. They are functional problems — not structural problems. These are problems solvable by the patient — not by the doctor. These are problems reflecting loss of control from the inside of the human system — not a deterioration of bodily parts at the outside of the human system.
2. The functional problems are cases of sensory-motor amnesia.
People who come to me are suffering from non-medical problems. They are outside the reach of medical help, whose services they have exhausted. They are not suffering from infectious diseases, or physical lesions, or biochemical imbalance. They are suffering from a loss of memory; the memory of what it feels like to move certain muscles of their bodies, and the memory of how to go about moving these same muscles.
Their memory loss is, to be specific, sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). I know this to be the case simply because their being shows how certain muscle patterns feel, and how these contractions are accomplished, resulting in an end to their problems. They regain their normal functioning and normal bodily wellbeing without any need for antibiotics for infection or surgery for lesions or drugs for biochemical imbalance.
What “somatic” means
The following information presented by Mary Ann Voorhies was taken from “Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health” and “The Body of Life: Creating New Pathways for Sensory Awareness and Fluid Movement,” both by Thomas Hanna … with a dash of Moshe Feldenkrais philosophy sprinkled in.
There are two ways in which a human being can be viewed: from the outside in, or from the inside out. Looked at from the outside, by a physiologist or a physician, human beings are different from the beings they appear to be when they view themselves from the inside out.
When one looks at another human being, one sees a “body.” But when a human being looks at himself or herself he or she is aware of feelings and movements and intentions … a quite different, fuller being. To view a body from the outside is a third-person view. But when the human views himself or herself from the inside, it is a first-person view.
When the Body Tilts
These words were taken directly from Somatics: Reawakening the Minds Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health by Thomas Hanna.
Trauma causes the sideways tilting of the trunk. Long-term stress affects the body on both sides equally. But it does not cause tilting. But trauma will affect the body only on the side where the injury occurred, causing the muscles to cringe and curve the body to one side. The trauma reflex can be triggered by any severe damage to the body. The trauma reflex can also be triggered by surgery: a spastic cringing reaction will occur in the muscles surrounding the site of surgery.
Equally frequent are trauma reflexes on one side of the body after a severe fall on the hip, or following a sprained ankle or a broken leg. The inability to put weight on the injured leg causes an automatic shift of weight to the other leg. This is not a voluntary action; it is a reflex to avoid the pain. One cannot help but “favor” the uninjured leg. Tailors as well as chiropractors will frequently tell their clients that one of their legs is shorter than the other. Out of hundreds of persons who have been told that, I have never seen one whose leg was actually shorter; in every case, the muscles of the center of the body were chronically contracted, pulling up the hip on the side …
There are as many varieties of the trauma reflex as there are ways for humans to injure themselves, ranging from the brusquely to the subtly violent and from a whiplash twist of the neck. Except in obvious cases of severe accidents and compression fractures, sciatica is a relatively common adaptive disease. Like all diseases of adaptation, it is directly related to the amount of stress and trauma that has occurred in that person’s life. The longer we live, the more chance we have to experience stress and trauma; therefore, sciatica is often associated with the diseases of aging. But it can occur at any age. As a disease of adaptation sciatica can be either avoided of remedied. Teaching people how to avoid or get rid of the sciatic condition has been one of the more interesting aspects of my work as a somatic educator. I am frequently consulted by persons with severe sciatica who are desperate to avoid surgery.
A baker in his early 40s hobbled into my office with excruciating sciatic pains down his left leg to his big toe. He was terrified of the pain, but more terrified of the back surgery that was considered “necessary.” After a few somatics sessions, he regained sensation and motor control of the lumbar and left trunk muscles … As it turned out, the disc had merely been bulging from the viselike pressure of involuntary contraction in the lower back muscles. With the contractions now under his voluntary control, the vertebrae returned to their normal condition. To perpetually celebrate the fact that his back is perfectly sound, he now makes a great show of lifting 100-pound sacks of flour into his mixing machine. He has been doing this for three years.
It is this near-miraculous capacity of human consciousness and the central nervous system to learn and adapt that is the theme of this book. We are capable of far more than we believe ourselves to be. As we learn more and more about the ways in which brain functions control, maintain, repair, and protect our bodies, we come more and more to respect this marvelous capacity we have. We are far less dependent and helpless than we believe ourselves to be; which is to say, we are far more responsible and self-governing than we know.
Listen to Thomas Hanna’s words:
For more information, visit:
by Mary Ann Voorhies
Thomas Hanna has the following to say about lifespan physical and mental fitness in his book Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health:
“A common myth of aging is that, after the first flush of youth, we steadily begin to lose both our sexual and our mental competence. But this is not what really happens …
“Our knowledge about early sexuality comes from Alfred C. Kinsey’s groundbreaking report of some three decades ago. But Kinsey’s survey only included persons up to 65 years old, and the number sampled at the 50+ level was minimal. This missing information was richly supplied in 1984 with the publication of the Consumers’ Union Report ‘Love, Sex, and Aging,’ which covered the age span of the 50s through the 80s. This report on 4,246 respondents covered the largest geriatric sample ever assembled for a sexuality study.
“What this report tells us is that the decline in sexual competence in later years is minimal. The frequency may not be that of the late teenager, but if we peruse the reports personal remarks the pleasure is apparently greater.
“Of all women in their 50s sampled in the Consumers’ Union Report, 93 percent were sexually active. When we match this with the 98 percent of sexually active 50-year-old males sampled, we have a picture of human beings at the half-century mark whose sexuality does not subscribe to the myth of aging.
“Given the known muscular discomforts and limitations of the average citizen after a lifetime of stress and accidental traumas, these are astonishing figures. It is just as astonishing that 91 percent of men in their 60s were sexually active, as well as 81 percent of women. (Keep in mind that this reduced percentage includes many widows.) Surely by the time the average man or woman manages reach their 70s they must be sexually exhausted. Not at all; 79 percent of all men and 65 percent of all women surveyed were still sexually active.
“So there is a decline in sexuality as humans age, but it is only a small decline and, if humans could learn how to ward off the cumulative effects of stress and trauma in their nervous systems there might be literally no decline at all.
“We are all familiar with the way some elderly people say ‘I’m not as sharp as I used to be,’ just as we know some elders have the memory dysfunction of Alzheimer’s disease. Given the rapid change of each generation during the twentieth century, we are also familiar with the way the younger generation seems to be getting smarter than the older one. But is this due to a difference in age or to something quite separate: a difference in culture and education?
“There was no way of definitely answering this question until a difficult scientific task could be attempted: to launch a longitudinal study which measured the intellectual abilities of a single group of people throughout their later adulthood. Keeping track of a large group of persons and retesting them over a 20- to 30-year period is a formidable task, and only a few such studies have ever been completed. Eight were published in a unique research report titled ‘Longitudinal Studies of Adult Psychological Development.” Its editor was K. Warner Schaie, whose own 21-year Seattle longitudinal study is the backbone of this book.
“Schaie’s study began with 1,656 subjects age 25 through 67, tested in the years 1956, 1963, 1970 and 1977. This group was tested and retested for the growth and decline of various intellectual abilities. It became obvious that intellectual development did not peak at 16 years. Different intellectual abilities took different lengths of time to mature. For example, the ability to think with numbers does not reach its peak until age 32; reasoning ability peaks at 39; speech and word fluency do not reach their peak until age 46; and the comprehension of verbal meaning does not reach its stride until 53 years. Apparently aging is not a period of decline but one of improvement and development. This was a stunning discovery …
“Schaie pinpoints, in addition to a flexible personality style, two other conditions for continuing high mental abilities: first, a favorable, less stressful personal situation; and second, freedom from arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Schaie roundly confirmed the general thesis of this book when he said, ‘I find myself concluding that the use-it-or-lose-it principal applies not only to the maintenance of muscular flexibility but to the maintenance of flexible lifestyles and a related high level of intellectual performance as well.”
Listen to Thomas Hanna in this excerpt from his opening remarks to his first and only training class in 1990. He was killed in an automobile accident on the last day of class. That was 26 years ago and STILL very few people know about Hanna Somatics. The millions are still suffering!
by Mary Ann Voorhies
The back muscles and the action response
Thomas Hanna, Ph.D., recognized a phenomenon common in industrialized societies. He labeled it the Green Light Reflex — also known as the Landau Response — and here’s what he had to say about it.
“People are always amazed to discover that they are doing things they are unaware of. This is because adults proudly hold onto the illusion that they are always conscious of what they are doing. For not to be conscious of what one is doing strikes on as a sign of incompetence, even irresponsibility. Nevertheless, these acts that we are oblivious of have major consequences in our lives. One of them we now know is the withdrawal response, when our abdomen, shoulders, and neck cringe in apprehension — the Red Light Reflex. There is another response which also occurs consciously but this time when we feel called upon not to withdraw but to act: the Green Light Reflex.
“The Green Light Reflex could almost be thought of as necessary to industrial society; for to create an industrial economy, this reflex must be triggered constantly throughout the entire population. It is just as much a part of twentieth-century society as alarm clocks, calendars, quotas, sales commissions, and deadlines, each of which acts as a spur to this deeply imbedded reflex.
“In our society, 80 percent of the adult population suffer back pain. Apparently, the progress of technology is based on progressively deteriorating backs. This is ironic, because, in our contemporary technological society, the reward from escaping from back-breaking labor should be freedom from such physical pain. Compounding the irony, twentieth-century medicine has been spectacularly successful in extending our longevity to the limit our genes will allow. At the same time, however, it has been spectacularly unsuccessful in combating — even understanding — the epidemic we now see of chronic pain in the skull, neck, shoulders, back and buttocks of the entire adult population. As René Caillet, a well known specialists in medical rehabilitation, observes, ‘Low back pain remains an enigma of modern society and a great dilemma for the medical profession.’ It is the most common disorder for which people seek medical help. Moreover, it is the most common cause of worker absenteeism in industrial societies. It is the general disorder for which the largest amount of money is spent on insurance and pharmaceutical and medical services — in the billions ….
“We have not solved this problem, because we have not — until now — understood it. And we have not understood it because the answer has been hidden from us, as it were in the recesses of our consciousness; or, to be more precise, beneath the conscious control of the cerebral cortex, wherein voluntary movements originate. It lies hidden within the lower regions of the brain in a reflex that is so familiar, so unconscious, and so human that it is as invisible to us and yet ever present as the air we breathe. It is a reflex that is very specific in its function: It readies us for action. And, because we live in a world where programs of reliable and precisely scheduled actions are the necessary oil of the wheels of commerce, this reflex of ours is constantly being triggered until it has become habituated as part of our bodily functioning ….”
“The Green Light Reflex is the opposite of the Red Light Reflex, as both a muscular activity and an adaptational function. The Red Light Reflex contracts the anterior flexor muscles, curling the body forward. The Green Light Reflex contracts the posterior extensor muscles, lifting and arching the back in the opposite direction. The adaptational function of the Red Light Reflex is protective; it is a withdrawal from the world. The Green Light Reflex is assertive; its function is action, and it too is adaptational. One makes us stop, and the other makes us go. They are in balance, and both are necessary for our survival. They are equally necessary to our sense of well-being ….
“From infancy through childhood and on through adolescence, the action response is triggered over and again as youngsters propel themselves into the world around them. The Green Light Reflex centered in the lower back, unconsciously precedes and prepares her for every positive action. Their activity is spontaneous and usually joyful. But as they grow, they begin to learn another reason for action: responsibility. They have to do their homework. They have to do their chores. They have to take baths. They have to go to school. They have to perform more and more actions they are not spontaneously motivated to perform. They are learning what it means to become responsible adults. The Green Light Reflex is still being triggered but the thrill is fast disappearing. The muscles of the back are being activated increasingly toward the responsibilities of life. The more responsible one is, the more often the back muscles are triggered ….
“The role of the adult differs among different cultures; some are more stressful than others. Within the industrial societies of the twentieth century adulthood is very stressful. The specific effect is the habitual contraction of the muscles of the back.
“In our society, most people begin to “get old” early in life. Our technology lets us live a long life, but it also condemns us to live out those years in discomfort and fatigue. And industrial society is fueled by the energy of the Green Light Reflex, which is triggered incessantly. This relentless repetition guarantees that the muscular retractions of the reflex will be constant and habitual. The action response is so steady that eventually we cease to notice it. This is sensory-motor amnesia, and once it takes over we can no longer control the Green Light Reflex. All we feel is fatigue, soreness, and pain — in the back of our heads, in our necks, our shoulders, upper back, lower back, and buttocks.”
These words were taken directly from Hanna’s book Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health. Hanna’s answer to this predicament was the practice of clinical somatic education, a legacy continued by his followers today.
From Zak’s Blog:
Social Justice and Educational Measurement is part philosophy of education and part historical-critical narrative of standardized testing practices in the United States. It represents years of reseach and collaborations with some of the greatest minds in the field of education. The book seeks to provide valuable frameworks and practices for teachers, students, and parents, as well as educational activists, scholars, and policy makers.
Here are some blog posts where I excerpt various sections of the book:
by Mary Ann Gray Voorhies
Following are the words of Thomas Hanna, quoted directly from his book Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health. No one can explain the red light reflex better than Hanna himself.
The abdominal muscles and the withdrawal response
“It is surprising that a single lower-brain reflex could be the cause of so many of the body changes associated with aging. It is also enlightening, because it helps us toward both understanding and overcoming the myth of aging,
“For many decades neurobiologists have been fascinated with this human reflex because it also occurs throughout the entire animal kingdom. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘startle response;” and other times it is referred to as the ‘escape response” because it aids the animal in avoiding or evading a threat. It is a primitive brain reflex of survival. Its action in the central nervous system is usually mediated by ‘giant nerve fibers” large enough to allow the nerve impulse to travel more quickly. It is a ‘rapid motor act” that is built into the circuitry of even very simple organisms, helping them to survive by rapidly withdrawing them from danger.
“When you touch a sea anemone, its circle of small tentacles simply retracts, drawing back from the threatening stimulus. Fish respond with fast getaways, crayfish with a sudden tailflip response.
“Even in complex animals like humans, the reflex is quick and reflective. If a woman walking down the street hears the sudden explosion of a car backfiring, this is what happens: Within 14 milliseconds the muscles of her jaw begin to contract; this is immediately followed about twenty milliseconds later by a contraction of her eyes and brow but, before her eyes have squeezed shut, her shoulder and neck muscles (the trapezius) have received a neural impulse at 25 milliseconds to contract, raising her shoulders and bringing her head forward. At 60 milliseconds, her elbows bend, and then her palms begin to turn downward. These descending neural impulses continue by contracting the abdominal muscle, which brings her trunk forward, simultaneously pulling down her ribcage and stopping her breathing. And, immediately after that, her knees bend and point inward, while her ankles roll her feet inward. The muscles of the crotch tighten, and the toes lift upward. This sums up the red light reflex — the body’s withdrawal from danger. The body is flexed and crouched, almost as if to fall into a fetal posture …
Why don’t many physicians know about sensory motor amnesia if it causes so much pain, disease, and postural distortion? Thomas Hanna explains this in Chapter 1 in his book Somatics. Here in chapter 1 is a case study of one client, (Barney), who had chronic pain in his right side:
“In addition, he would frequently lose his balance and stumble. When his physician heard his complaint she ordered x-rays but she saw no obvious deformity. She concluded that 42 years of vigorous wear and tear had caused arthritic deterioration of the hip joint. She told Barney, who was a tall man, that he had arthritis, typical of the aging process, and that he had to learn to live with it. She prescribed aspirin and bed rest on days when the pain was extreme.
Not satisfied with this treatment, Barney went to a chiropractor, who told him that the bones of his lower spine were out of alignment and needed adjustment. He adjusted Barney’s spine, but the hip continued to hurt. Barney then went to an acupuncturist, who determined which meridians were involved and inserted needles in the appropriate spots. That relieved Barney’s pain, but four days later it came back. So, with this history, which is typical, Barney presented himself to me (Hanna). He had heard that I do something unusual called Somatic education, which no one quite understood but which nonetheless was said to be highly successful. Having heard his story, I wanted to find where the pain was. Barney pointed to the back of his right pelvis in the areas between the hip joint and the sacrum. I felt the area. The line of pain was in the gluteus medius muscle, which extends across the buttocks from the top of the thigh to the back center of the pelvis. It is the muscle that we usually contract when standing on one leg. It braces the leg against the pelvis to maintain stability while we lean over to one side. Barney’s hip joint was not painful either to the touch or during the movement. It was the gluteus medius muscle that was painfully sore. I informed Barney that he did not have arthritis, but had a painfully overworked muscle that was sore from over-contraction. “Why did my physician tell me I had arthritis, he asked? I told him I did not know. I knew that x-rays do not show muscle tissue, painful or not, and I knew that it was common for physicians to tell patients suffering with chronic and medically incurable pain that they had arthritis and there was nothing to do for it. The ancient myth of aging is firmly embedded in modern medicine.
Unique Self Psychology and the New Enlightenment Blog by Dr. Elliott Ingersoll
And you may see me tonight
With an illegal smile
It don’t cost very much
But it lasts a long while
- John Prine
My father always said the best way to get into an argument is to talk politics or religion. In this blog I do both by discussing illegal drugs that are starting to be recognized as having medicinal and psychological benefits. Discussions about illegal drugs evoke passions powered by a zeal approaching religiosity as well as convictions equaling the propaganda of political conventions. Being as I am a psychologist with 20 years of experience studying psychopharmacology, I will focus on the psychological and even social benefits that may come from proper use of MDMA (“Ecstasy”), hallucinogens (LSD and psilocybin) and cannabis (marijuana). For many people the idea of these drugs being useful or even therapeutic is as ridiculous as ice dancers at a pig roast. Others believe the legal use of them would trigger a Grateful Dead apocalypse that would bring down the free world in an orgy of drumming and dancing. My sense is that the proper use of these agents will bring about a more humane society, decrease the prison population, contribute to a psychology of ecstasy and provide harmlessly fun anecdotes beyond the usual “…so we were drinking down at Rays Place…”
Make no mistake; all the drugs on my list are psychoactive substances that affect your brain, your state of mind and your choice of snacks. We do not understand terribly much about how they work but don’t let that bother you; we don’t really understand how any psychiatric medications “work” when they work (aside from stimulants like amphetamines and anti-anxiety drugs like Valium). Now I am not going to go on a conspiracy theory “rant” about our ignorance of the brain, drug companies or psychiatric medications but professionals like me are ethically obliged to tell laypeople at least three things that some of my fellow professionals consider somewhat, well, embarrassing:
Clinical somatic education, otherwise known as Hanna Somatic education, makes use of a major “mind/body” discovery. Its use and practice can prevent degeneration, stiffness, aches and pains, certain diseases and age-old health breakdowns in our middle age and older populations. It has the power to dramatically counteract the aging process. But, not only can it counteract the usual affects of aging, it also has the power to REVERSE them. Now, thanks to Thomas Hanna, we have an easy internal way to avoid the decline of bodily function, which is now usually thought of as the curse of getting older.
The fact is that during the course of our lives, our sensory motor systems respond to daily stresses and traumas with SPECIFIC MUSCULAR REFLEXES. These deep stress brain reflexes, when repeatedly triggered, create habitual tightening and shortening muscular contractions, which we cannot voluntarily relax. These muscular habits become so deeply ingrained, habituated, involuntary and unconscious that eventually insidiously we no longer remember how to move about freely. The result is stiffness, soreness, pain and a restricted range of motion. Along with this also in many cases the posture becomes distorted. Furthermore, the habitually shortened tight muscles impinge and pull on our organs, bones, tendons, ligaments and other bodily structures. This habituated state of “forgetfulness” is called SENSORY MOTOR AMNESIA (a state in which the sensory motor cortex has lost control of certain muscles and muscle groups). It is this insidious unconscious process and its secondary effects that we falsely think of as “just growing older.” Actually this “old age” is a STRESS-induced phenomenon that can really happen at any age. With the new knowledge of somatic education, humankind need not become infirm and decrepit.
The goal of an “integral psychology” is to honor and embrace every legitimate aspect of human consciousness by embracing what is true in each of them. This portal on the Center for Integral Wisdom multi-plex presents an integrative view of consciousness, psychology, and therapy.
The rise of an Integral Psychology is one of the greatest invitations of the century. It draws on pre-modern, modern, and postmodern psychological models to find patterns which are healing, transformational, and integrated in a model that includes mind, soul, and spirit.
The psychological models also include interior and exterior distinctions, levels or structures of consciousness, typologies, and states of consciousness. Integral Psychology is the understanding that we have this great new source of wisdom in the world which emerged.
There has been a huge contribution to thought in the past couple hundred years with Freud but also with our new understanding of the human mind which says that we hold in our conscious selves what we make unconscious, including the early drivers (wounds) that shape our personality and deconstruct the vital eros within us.
Integral Psychology offers maps, each of which offer a set of healings or techniques to return the human being to fuller human existence, a more effective being and becoming.
Each of the 11 or 12 major schools of psychology has a somewhat different map of existence, of the human mind, and distinct suggestions for what the best method is for transformation. What Integral psychology seeks to do is to recognize what is true in each of these seemingly exclusive models. Specifically, it recognizes that each of them is true but partial.
Each school of psychology speaks to and addresses a different level of human existence or consciousness. All of them are healing and need to be integrated into the healing wisdom of humanity.
In trying to evolve a global ethic for a global civilization, we need to integrate them into a seamless psychological model that includes all the elements of mind, soul, and spirit. Likewise all the interior and exterior dimensions must be included.
Finding the best practices of all the schools of psychology is one of the great invitations of this century.
In the Integral Psychology portal you find media, essays, and blogs on Unique Self & Psychology, Unique Shadow, Integral Psychology, and much more. Enjoy!
“Culture is a gadget; it’s something we inherit. And you can fix it the way you can fix a broken oil burner.” – KURT VONNEGUT
I started this blog after the shootings at Umpqua College in Oregon. I realized that to discuss the “source code” that underlies our delusional gun culture I would first have to offer a Unique Self Psychology “take” on culture in general. As Kurt Vonnegut’s words remind us, the contents of culture are not a destined reflection of human nature. Culture is a gadget that can be fixed by human nature once the ocean of culture we are swimming in becomes an object of awareness.
As I write this I am realizing that the phrase “object of awareness” is drier than a California reservoir. I’ve been using the phrase “object of awareness” for years in my writing about psychology. Time for a change. Making culture (or anything) an object of awareness doesn’t take the fun out of it like the dryness of the phrase implies. In that spirit I have made up the word “psychaflower” to denote making something an object of awareness as in “I psychaflowered my anger in therapy” or “As a culture we are psychaflowering our attitude toward marriage equality.” Isn’t that more fun? It’s sort of like the grammatical difference between a scientific discussion of urgency in mammalian reproduction and watching the neighbor’s dog try to hump the mailman’s leg. And of course what is psychaflowered can be pollinated but more on that later. Now that I’ve invented a wonderful new word (unlikely to show up in peer-reviewed journals anytime soon), back to business (or “busyness” if you prefer).
Unique Self Psychology begins discussion of “mental illness” by outlining what is meant by “mental.” In my last blog I offered a Unique Self Psychology description of “mind” that includes not only self-awareness, but our embodiment (including all the neuroscience bells and whistles), our environment, our interactions with others and of course our culture. “Mental” also includes our field of awareness and the things that arise in our field of awareness – the things we can psychaflower. Psychaflowering offers not just understanding but a toy chest of ways to change what was psychaflowered (again, fun everywhere you look!).
That which a “people” agree to focus on in large part form our various “cultures.” “Culture” is an artifact of what a “people” choose as important from things arising in their field of awareness. They may then psychaflower that which they have said is important or simply go with the flow on psychological autopilot. Mind you the default position in all of us for this process is autopilot. We usually have to practice observing, questioning and ultimately psychaflowering. We only begin to master our awareness some years after we are born and by then we have been bathed in the cacophony of what our “people” considered our “culture.” Occasionally one of our people will be good at teaching us to psychaflower cultural assumptions that have been foisted on us but this is usually pure luck if it happens (though many of us were blessed with a “crazy” Aunt or Uncle or laughed at and questioned everything).
A very funny (funny as in “ha-ha” and as in “strange”) thing about culture is that it is reified in 20th -21st century psychologies. This leads to both irony and suffering. Here is an experiment you can do: go to a psychology conference and sanctimoniously invoke the word “culture.” Within minutes you’ll have a strange collection of graduate students and assistant professors groveling at your feet (really – try this – it is amazing). They can’t explain this reflex of course because they have not psychaflowered their conception of culture – they have merely turned it into a monstrous god who rules their intellect with all the compassion of a rabid groundhog. So in Unique Self Psychology we begin by slaughtering this “Golden Calf” (or “Plastic Groundhog” if you like) of culture. We do it humanely of course, like cruelty-free beef where all cows go to Disneyland before going to the butcher.
From a Unique Self Psychology perspective, culture is an artifact of humanness that can range from a rich, fulfilling context for growth to a dung heap of aggression, repression and cruelty. The only “given” or destiny about culture is that humans will create cultures as surely Republican politicians will pray before first kickoff of the Super Bowl. By psychaflowering our culture we become aware of the source code underlying it. We are then free to pollinate the psychaflowered source code so that it increasingly produces cultural artifacts that guide each person toward their Unique Self. These cultural artifacts are the “blossoms” of a Unique Self source code and become increasingly concerned with the preservation of life rather than the ruthless control of life.
Now having established (I hope) a basic understanding of source code in relation to culture, my next blog will specifically examine what a people have to believe to allow a parade of senseless gun violence and mass killing. And of course I will discuss what the source code would have to be for people to believe that a senseless parade of gun violence is inevitable. I will also discuss how 20th and 21st century psychologies do little to dissuade such atrocities. I will not, however merely “muckrake.” I will then go on to discuss how a Unique Self Psychology can liberate each of us from the bleak vision of mental health forged in the 20th century. In this vision, as Alan Watts wrote, mental health is the state of mind you are in driving to work Monday morning. A Unique Self Psychology vision of mental health is more akin to the afterglow of sexual embrace or the laughter of children playing senseless games. I will discuss how this vision of mental health, and the cultural artifacts that promote it, can be written into the source code of our species and how this can alleviate so much of the senseless suffering related to things like gun violence.