Existential Phenomenological Psychotherapy – “Oneness and Lack,” Part 1
Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D., Writer, Michelle Mae, Transcriber, Erin Johannesen, M.A., M.D., Editor
Today and tomorrow, our theme will be psychosomatic oneness. We will focus on oneness and its lack, then, more specifically, on the mind/body [duality or split], working with splits, and regaining oneness. Let’s enter our awareness right now.
As we know, we can be in our associative mind, having one association after another, ‘dog… cat… rat,’ associations after associations. I used to work with these association tests at one time; I did an M.A. thesis study using it. It was so interesting. You have people just start associating for a little while, and before you know it, just like Jung and Freud understood, they would end up in complexes -- known as horrible messes. Just start associating for a while and [you can see] it really does work. One association leads you back, literally, to states. So, that is very good for research, as Freud said himself. He wasn’t really sure if it helped people, but we learn a lot about ourselves. Just like the Tavistock group, it’s really one big, large, free association experience, without leadership, and everybody goes wild and insane. With that, we really learn a lot about what happens and can happen without awareness, and without the focus of awareness. So, if we’re off in our associative mind, then we shift from that mind, we shift out of the analytic mind and into the awareness. Then, we start becoming aware of our thoughts, our sensations, and our feelings; aware of this and of that; we are aware! The phenomenologists would call this shift “the first reduction,” for we made a shift, and we’re in mindfulness actually, Homo gestaltus; we’re aware of this and aware of that, aware of objects, and we know how to focus, gaze, and look. Actually, there is one more reduction. We go one more step. We start to become aware of awareness itself. That’s what we like to do. Why is it useful to do that? Why is it useful to suspend the mind?
First, we shift out of our free associations, out of our associative mind, associations walking around, one after another, usually of the word variety. One leads to another, blah, blah, blah… You know, you can give free association tests, and they lead us back to complexes. The more you associate, the more dissociative you become, and then we’re in a world that is becoming more fragmented.
Often,’ dissociativeness’ goes like this [goes as I’ve just described], then we’re in the nice, analytic mind, linear thinking. Then, we shift into awareness of objects, but there is one more reduction. We shift our awareness from being focused on the functions of the mind, thinking, feeling, memory and affects, and we shift into awareness of awareness itself. What do we experience? Space, nothingness, emptiness, void, openness, and we stay with it and see it is alive and vital, [and filled with] energy. It feels good; it’s clear and luminous. Wherever it is, we feel oneness. If I can extend it to my body, I feel oneness in the body. If I extend it to my friend, I feel oneness with him. If I extend to the room, I feel oneness with the room. So this “second reduction,” becoming aware of awareness itself, is really useful. You will find this [second reduction] in the great healing traditions. If you read [D.W.] Winnicott, he and other great healers are becoming aware of awareness, of luminal states, of intermediate areas. They are not quite in thinking, not quite in the real, you’re in-between, in potential space, and you are trying to live there. Then you can integrate. So, think about it, for this is a therapy seminar, a helping seminar, [and realize] that being aware of awareness itself is a really good place to be. Also you are going to feel a buffer, and you will have fewer tendencies to internalize other people’s pain. And you can do this a long time.
Our method is phenomenological and experiential. What is happening now? How do I put my experience to words? Not have an experience and look at it from my associative mind, but how to be in the experience and learn how to articulate it from that level of experience. The other thing that happens when we have the 2nd reduction is that we not only discover that our mind is not awareness and awareness is not our mind, but we also make the discovery that awareness is a field phenomenon. It has field characteristics. It actually goes beyond the boundaries of my body. It goes through the body, and I can feel this field. With that, a lot opens for us as human beings, but also [a lot opens for us] for working with people. I hope you are experiencing this. If you don’t experience it, you don’t really know it. That’s the basic assumption. You don’t have to know it the first or second time you are here, but surely by now, if you have been practicing. Like most things, practice brings it forth. So, our focus is on the phenomenology of the awareness field, which is intrinsically healing.
Last time we met, we focused on the existential and developmental task/issue of narcissism, the imaginal dimension of personality. We focused both on the unhealthy forms (the dark side of it) and on the healthy side, the luminous side, of narcissism. We focused a lot on the dark side of grandiosity, specialness, entitlement, and the destructiveness of such positions. We also elaborated that such a position, such a place to be in, is often reflecting the lack of a basic, innate, ongoing continuity of awareness, and of an ongoing sense of inner-beingness, of inner self, or a base. Therefore, without this basic base and support, one uses grandiosity and entitlement and specialness, being a prince or a princess as the support. If you are really lucky, and some people are, you can carry it off. But usually, at some time – for some it’s sooner than later, for others later than sooner – it starts to fall apart. You might become less beautiful or less … something happens. We see it all the time in politics, or with stars. Then we went into all sorts of things, including sadomasochism as a function of entitlement and grandiosity. These positions ultimately fail in making intimacy and love work and fail even in making competency work. As Freud said, people come for love and work…
We substitute admiration for love. Do you admire me, do you desire me? We substitute that for love, and it becomes very easy for this sort of person. We also did the bright side of this, the luminous side, devotion. We explored the praxis of idealization mirroring, of devotion as being formative and supportive of healthy narcissism. This capacity to idealize the other, to see the essence, to see the best, feel it in the other and to have this mirrored back to one, is considered by many, especially the self-psychologists and contemporary psychoanalytic self psychologists and the spiritual traditions, as a necessary ingredient for the formation and support of healthy narcissism. You need a good mirror. What’s the best in this person? If you just have a super ego for a mirror, they are going to find out what is the worst in you, what is right and wrong. Then you become a good dog or a bad dog. Mirroring isn’t so much focused on that, that bad dog/good dog phenomenon. What is the best, what is the essence? Actually mirroring is a highly aesthetic experience. Rather than being in morality, it’s in the essence of aesthetics.
Other ways of languaging this function, is the self-object function, a psychoanalytic term. The self-object function is that object that I choose to mirror me. As self objects we really do it to ourselves, ultimately. Really and truly, we choose the self-object function. So, who’s the object that I use to reflect myself? As we know, the self-object is that which holds, supports, reflects and mirrors back to us the essential goodness and the vitality of our being. This gratuitous experience – it’s gratuitous except if you are in psychotherapy, right? You pay. – [Yet, even when you pay for psychotherapy,] this experience remains gratuitous and is taken within, is assimilated. [You can, however, pay for psychotherapy and still not have that self-object function take place for you.] When the self-object mirrors back to us our innate goodness, however, it’s always gratuity; it’s grace, it’s a givenness. When this givenness is assimilated, taken within, one is empowered to become what one is. Aham Ah, I’m becoming what I am. This experience is not based on super ego confirmations – good dog/bad dog. Surely you’ve had that experience: Conforming to certain standards in a certain way. When super ego contamination intrudes and other negative forms of internalization intrude on our self-object function, they [such contaminations] will be replayed later on in life, when the choice is critical. So, if your self-object function earlier was really contaminated with super ego sort of things, you will tend to choose a self-object that is critical of you. We want to know that our [early] object relations influence our self-object choice later on in life. Really, to think this way is really useful in choosing friends and all sorts of things.
This internalized view reflects being seen and recognized in the essence of one’s own innermost being. Just like through the human gaze, you experience that [recognition], here you want to have the capacity to do that also, to have that dimension to see into and to experience the essence, inner hear t essence, this awareness of the subject as subject, aside from hair and teeth and qualities like intelligence, blah, blah, blah. You want to see subjectivity. Do you think you can see subjectivity? This gaze is non-objective. It’s not a look, like Sartre described looking through a keyhole and seeing someone looking back at him… This gaze [the gaze that we are talking about] is non-objective, direct and immediate; it is located in the present moment. You see this gaze so often with animals and their babies, and with mothers and their babies, like the Madonna and child. There is this look that looks through, essence to essence. It’s a little different from just fantasizing, “Oh he’ll become president one day! “ We could end the seminar today if you really feel and understand that; you can just take off… Really and truly, if you know that much, if you feel it as a knowingness, it really helps out. Then you aren’t just a victim of bad luck, bad faith. If it feels like bad luck to you, then give it awareness. Or some of us have good luck! Our [having a] choice really is a reality. So, that’s where we’ve been…
Now, there’s a dimensional function. The capacity to hold this state – and it’s actually a state you’re in when you are in the self-object function – for oneself and others requires that one be a bit beyond the super ego, at least momentarily, and that one is able to have this view arise out of one’s innermost self. It’s sort of like it takes one to know one. This idealizing and mirroring function is often engaged in all sorts of social functioning with much upliftment, and at times, tragically, with much distortion. This function takes place, definitely and absolutely, in marriage. This self-object function is one of the reasons people come to work in couple’s therapy. We might not call it that [we might not call it ‘self-object function’ when we as therapists do couple’s work], but… whether it’s in partnership, love or in sex – the three big dimensions [of being in a couple] – it is with the self-object function we work. This idealizing and mirroring as self-object function also takes place in friendship, parenting, teaching, entertainment, psychotherapy, government, and in tribal life. You don’t want to think just about other’s capacities; we want to think about this self-object function for ourselves too. We want to think about our own capacity to function in this manner.
Now, today we will focus on oneness and dissociation, on cohesiveness and coherence or oneness and dissociation. We won’t focus on the imaginary, narcissistic dimension of personality, but on the sense of oneness and fragmentation. When we’re in oneness, even if we’re in trouble, we feel like we are undefeatable, even when we are being defeated. When we’re fragmented, even in a good situation, we’re being defeated. So, connectivity and dissociative process is what we’re interested in today. We might say, to put it another way, we’re interested in the sense of oneness and the sense of lack. There is this wonderful capacity to be at one, oneness in one’s self and oneness with the other. This oneness is connectivity. You see it’s both relational and intra-psychic. You feel the oneness is your body, your mind feels like it’s one there, rather than out there, disconnected. And affect is just… (makes vocal noises), and here I am (more vocal noises), and I’m just the affect…
This oneness of connectivity, the oneness of the self and the other, easily reflects oneness, or the lack thereof, in one’s self, in one’s own psyche. You often see this in couples when people are holding that [oneness of connectivity], and there is a sense of oneness within them. When it starts really going into disintegration, they start disintegrating on a personal level too, like which came first the chicken or the egg. It’s really not a question to be asked. But you can see that disintegration process in a relational life. When situations are disintegrating, either in a couple’s life or work, then the powerful stress of this situation, is experienced within the body and begins to take place also as an experience of the disintegration of the body itself, unless you have other sources of the self-object function outside of that situation.
This oneness within the psyche… let’s just feel for a second… When we feel oneness in the psyche, it’s so pleasurable, it really is bliss. And when we’re fragmented, it can easily become agony. This lack of interconnection, described by such psychological processes actually depends on one’s dissociation, splitting, foreclosure of experience. Unless you have some degree of experiencing, some degree of integration, it is hard to process experience. Feelings of disintegration, disintegrating affects, falling apart is what we’ll be going into today and tomorrow – lack. It’s a big lack.
When there is a lack of the innermost awareness field (and one doesn’t have to know any of this stuff to feel this lack) as base or as source, again you can think about ‘Playing and Reality’ and other books of Winnicott, writing about the same thing – but when that transitional space is not accessible, or when awareness is not accessible – [there is experienced] a lack of self… The problem with the word ‘self’ is that it can mean a lot of things. It’s not as processed as a lot of other language. Only a sense of brittle, barely perceptible, internalized awareness, diminished awareness, if your awareness is diminishing and you are just in thought or analytic mind --- then the stuff of dissociation starts to dominate. As we split from awareness, or as awareness splits from us, or diminishes, we are only mind, or we are only particular functions of mind, or, at times, we are even the whole mind. But awareness is split off from us. That is not a happy moment. Aside from whatever content people talk to you about, forget about the content and look at process. Just watch process. When the process isn’t there, any content can be used to explain how come I’m so happy. I will surely find something easily. There is no experiential base. When there is no experiential base, the experiencer is not quite functioning. When the experiencer is not quite functioning, one will not be able to assimilate, to metabolize, or to digest experience, and you will have tons of left over, unfinished experience. When there is no experience, I’m not saying you’re not feeling stuff happening to you, you’re not being hit, you are being hit; you’re being impacted! But it’s not being experienced, assimilated, or metabolized. Nothing is being digested. That starts creating more and more of a long train of unassimilated, untransformed, unmetabolized, inexperienced experience. When there is no experiential base, no container, as happens for some persons because of cumulative trauma, sometimes they may have a barely perceptible experience that’s not being assimilated, digested, absorbed, or dissolved. Transforming of experience to what? There is no transforming of experience into awareness, to space, to energy and luminosity. When a person has a process working, however, they will have a natural radiance about them, even if they are dying. For some people, because of cumulative trauma or developmental deficiencies, there is the lack of association or linking function, or metabolistic function, thus states of fragmentation will arise, or lack of felt integration will take place. I’m not going to feel a base, I’m not going to feel a support or feel that what’s coming at me can be absorbed and dissolved, that I can feel space or openness in my body. I literally start becoming dense; phenomenologically, I feel really dense. Through various traumas, developmental or environmental, acute or cumulative, there is a fragmentation and splitting of affective life, and the unified sense of the self becomes more and more “parts” or ego states. Ego states begin to arise and take the place of oneness. When I can’t hold an affect – it’s just too much for me – I can’t assimilate into awareness, and awareness itself starts getting overwhelmed and diminished; the light gets lower. Then, I am left with an affective state that becomes a thing unto itself. It’s a state. It can think, feel, and vote differently; it’s a cognitive-affective behavioral collage. So we start having different states arising in us. The more unassimilated, the more states arise. We start having multiple states; I’m not talking about classical multiple personality stuff. That is a deep and further reflection of us. This is just us as plain, old, ordinary human beings, having different states of mind that seem fragmented off, often contained and isolated, and not assimilated. And I shift into it, then, like St. Paul, I do what I would not do. I say would I would not say, think what I would not think, and I act how I would not want to act. Devil made me do it!
With awareness of awareness and a strong field, you can feel the power of assimilation, of experiencing, of integrating all sorts of experience. When working with people it’s helpful for them, first of all to enter awareness, discovering the field phenomena of awareness, and then integrating some of their functions, before you deal with any content. Once you have some of the functions integrated, you can then start working more powerfully and specifically with content, with the unassimilated stories of one’s life. Also, assimilating states of mind, which is a big debate in the ego-state world, should there be a congress of ego states? Should they have conversations? Should there be a leader? I think sometimes that’s a choice out of poor necessity. Actually, it is most useful to integrate and assimilate [experiences, thoughts, feelings, or memories] so that the ego state disappears. Sometimes, a person discovers a child within them. The child phenomenon is a very real phenomenon, but it’s a phenomenon. It’s a phenomenon that can be held, can be very useful, have something to say in the psychic economy, actually have a life, but as one matures, that state, at some time and some day, will also be assimilated like every other state. These phenomena and ego states are useful; it is useful to become clear about them and bring them forth, but the more powerful one’s awareness is, the more a natural assimilation of all the various and sundry ego states will take place. IF you do not have a field phenomenon, it is not easy to assimilate these states. Some [states] can be [assimilated], but the more defined, the more highly articulated experiences cannot be assimilated. And again, all of this will have some kind of neuro-psychiatric base; you can see it in imagery. Deeper parts of the brain are not doing the assimilating. It’s a frontal cortex act and not deeper, and so not deep enough to assimilate a lot of these deeper states. You have to know something to work with trauma, but you don’t have to know everything. You have to be attuned, but you want to know what’s essential. That’s how I think about this sort of thing. Through various traumas, developmental or environmental, acute or accumulative, there is a fragmentation and splitting of affective life, and the unified sense of the self becomes more and more “parts” or ego states that begin to arise and take the place of oneness. When experience cannot be assimilated or digested or metabolized or mentalized, the unformulated experience, that’s a good term, unformulated experience occurs. I’m having an experience, and it’s unformulated. Something’s taking place, and it’s unformulated for me. It’s sort of inexperienced. It doesn’t have a real form yet, or it’s not yet integrated into my sense of self, ongoing self. A really good sense of self feels like what --space, energy and clarity, or if it’s really good, some radiant luminosity. You can have problems, lots of them maybe, but problems are different from senses of fragmentation, dissociation and not having a capacity to metabolize what’s coming down the road. When affects cannot be held in and through awareness, and the experience cannot be integrated, you can see this; that’s why so much happens in our younger life, because awareness isn’t exactly really strong. It’s definitely there and luminous, but it doesn’t have a lot of powerful support. When affects cannot be held in and through awareness, and the experience cannot be integrated, when an experience cannot be assimilated, then unformulated experience begins having a life of its own, within the personality and within the human system. Such unformulated affective states are felt within the large generational, familiar field, as well as within the large, social systems of the field. I think that unformulated states are generationally passed on. Usually the first year of the program [in Gestalt Psychotherapy] we walk through the internalized representations and see there that some of this stuff is passed on through generations.
(Microphones start to give feedback, and all sound is lost for a moment. Someone is asking a long question…)
“When you were saying that people don’t metabolize the experience, is it that there is nothing happening for the person? Or could it be being metabolized through an old frame or an earlier experience, so it’s being incorrectly… so you’re not really relating to something that is happening, but to something that has happened to you before?”
Winnicott used the word experiencing in the sense that if you are experiencing it you metabolize it at the level of self, but really and truly, experience is a multi-dimension experience, and in fact, certain parts of us, once they are developed, have their own experience, and a lot of experience goes into those parts automatically. One is actually doing some metabolizing and those parts, which now have their own life, do experience experience, sometimes foreclosing the big experiencer, the self, and hogging the experience, and framing it in a particular way. Once we’ve passed through a victim/victimizer experience at a certain age, that frame can really pull a lot of experience over and over again. It actually does metabolize and makes sense of it, puts into signs and symbols, and makes it an ongoing fare. That is a really smart question, but I’m taking in a global sort of way here. That little experiencer, that experience at one point has to be experienced within the experience itself; re-broken and reformulated, dissolved where it becomes, where the energy of it is metabolized. Most of these states of mind are a contained energy. That is a language; I think that is a metaphor that is taking place in the brain and different levels of the brain function. But in some way, when the time is right, that experience can be re-experienced… Winnicott would say that sometimes experience [is experienced] for the first time when they are being re-experienced in a container. Events happen, shit happens, and how is it experienced or where it is experienced is a good clinical attunement. What’s being experienced in one frame is sometimes a very useful interpretation for a person if the alliance is there, if the field is there; to try and re-experience in a broader base.
[Another question is asked.] “So a person who had a positive experience of self and also was bringing that former experience to the present experience, although I guess maybe, I don’t mean a narcissist, but they’re having a positive experience but through their history. So they have to cast that off in a way to really be living because we take the easiest line of resistance, I mean why wouldn’t we do that, rather than create what’s happening right now or be in that, we just do what happened before, we just lay that on it, whatever it was, so that has to be cast off too?”
Winnicott talked a lot on this topic, and I really like his words. He says when a person suffers from deprivation, or from over-indulgence, the results can be the same. But the way I would look at that, the way you are framing it, in terms, coming into the world with doubts and now going in to the first grade, here I am and suddenly it’s not the same experience. The place that I’m entering can be as foreign to my capacity to assimilate and experience it as, say, to an unloved thing. But just to think this way, helps hear content and problems being formulated in a processed sort of frame for us as the therapist and holding people in the awareness field and having them learn how to extend and all that phenomena around awareness. In a certain way, following Winnicott’s transitional space and amplifying it through field phenomenology, what it simply says is that before people drop too far, too deep, too quick, it can look good, but it’s not necessarily transformative. What is good in a demonstration is not necessarily healing. A good vomit is not necessarily a transformative moment. It can be at times. I’m just talking about discharge, a good discharge, it can look good, but it can be another event and not experienced. We’re trying to have events become experienced. The part of our focus is really in working with us and others and really trying to help bring forth enough awareness, enough capacity, or transitional states, or liminal states or awareness states where our person actually starts discovering field phenomenon if possible and that will indicate, in the long run, a positive successful experience. Can everybody enter awareness? No, they can’t. The normal curve usually wins and has a lot of power in this world. Sometimes when this can’t be done, then you become a rational, emotive psychotherapist, a cognitive behavioral therapist. That’s why you want a repertoire of a lot of different frames of reference.
So, back to lack, presence… I hope everyone is reading that book on presence: Daniel Stern’s book, “The Present Moment.” Read that book; it would be good. It’s not so much about field phenomena, but he’s talking the same thing. When a person doesn’t have a strong innate field, or a strong learned innate field, some just have them, they just come along, they’ve got it, and you see it. And some people learn it; we discover it. . When a person doesn’t have a strong innate field, or a self, or innermost awareness field, now we all have it at some imminent level, but [we may not yet be able] to bring it forth so it’s working well, then the container of experience is weak, and a broad range of experience cannot be absorbed and dissolved. When it’s dissolved, all that is left is space. It could be a memory, but it’s a memory, it’s not alive, gnawing away, biting back. Even when you start thinking about some of these great traditions, they have Gods and Goddesses, symbols, but they really are metaphors of consciousness, the Troma Nagmo, the great assimilator, dissolver. It [Troma Nagmo] means that capacity to dissolve everything, the good, the bad, and indifferent.
There is a weak sense of the field, and the self is under activated; there are people who come and have a lot of psychosomatic issues. I’m not saying that there aren’t really physical things going on, like Lyme Disease, or all the favorite autoimmune things that we all have(… cell phone ringing interrupts the talk…), so when this field is under-activated, we go into psychosomatic issues; we’re not saying the psyche causes it. This is not a causal thing. Internists, when they don’t know what’s going on with you, t send you to a psychologist because they [the internists] don’t know what’s going on with you; they [the internists] say it’s a mental problem, then they [the internists] send you to a functional person, and they test you and see amoebas or something else going on. I get a lot of referrals for people coming who are sick, gastroenteritis and things like that, and actually, it’s mental. Well, it does influence our mind, it does influence our energy, but I do not operate on the assumption in terms of causality. I like sticking with phenomenology. So a lot of times for people, there is a kind of criminal, or moralistic, issue. You are guilty about your illness, and now you are going to see the fucking psychologist because you are nuts. Then a few years from now, they discover a test, and it will be chronic fatigue… that they had for years. Then, they sue the insurance company, and they’ve found the ninth point or whatever it was. You have a lot of things like this that go on. When we’re talking this stuff, like under-activated energy, and not using this as an ideology thing, I think when we do that [ideology thing] automatically as therapists, we’re stupid. You just don’t know what you are doing when we impose causality on situations. Phenomenology, yes, experience as part of it, but just thinking causally is sort of the bad dog/good dog thing. The super ego loves causality. It really doesn’t think in terms of configurations and process.
(Inaudible question… comes in at) “…with regard to the field in phenomenology and the role that that plays in psychosomatic illness… So, you don’t necessarily mean… (inaudible)… on making a person feel bad about what they caused. Can you speak about or have you looked into… (inaudible)…”
Absolutely. That is also, at one level, descriptive. There are a lot of ways. What caused that sympathetic dysfunction and is that the cause, or is that the result? People have such a tendency to think that causality is king. Even science does it, but more often than not we’re on a descriptive level, and we’re not picking up what the ideology really is. Knowing about the sympathetic and parasympathetic [nervous systems] is extremely useful, and can be part of a medical intervention. Does behavior influence all of that? Yes. Does experience? Yes. I like the word ‘influence’. I just have a phobia to ‘cause’. It’s the same as ‘manipulation’. Was the person ‘manipulating’ the situation or ‘influencing’ the situation? Is my thyroid low, and is my thyroid influencing my affect, or is my affect influencing my thyroid. We’ll focus more on that tomorrow. I’m just asking you for a while to think of this in terms of concurrent phenomena, multi-dimensional phenomena. Do life events cause stress to the body? Absolutely! One person is getting stronger and the other person is collapsing.
[Another question is asked.] “What I’m trying to integrate is that then as we’re talking about it here and discussing, in the integration of those life experiences, let’s say into the field, you’re not going to have that same destructive effect on the sympathetic nervous system, right?
Absolutely, everything we’re talking about there, there is no question that the brain is participating completely with me. The more the imagery, that’s why you go into a state of awareness of awareness. There are some studies on that now, becoming aware of awareness, [is or may be] an unfocused meditative state. Deeper parts of the brain are being activated, not frontal cortex.
When a person doesn’t have a strong innate field, or a self, or innermost awareness field, the container of experience is weak. Freud called it “psycho-think;” it means the person can’t assimilate much, then a broad range of experience and intensity can’t be absorbed and dissolved. There is a weak sense of the field, and the self is under activated, a collapsed state. The experience of awareness results in a sense of presence, and the experience of awareness bring s us into presence, [brings us] to experience, [brings us]to ourself and [brings us to] our innermost experience and into presence of others. So, sometimes when we’re suffering from an inactivated state, whatever the cause, does acupuncture work? Does B12 work? Does leaving work for a few days work? Yes - all those things, guidance management and etc., but it’s also how to work with an inactivated state within a person, how to work to help that person become activated, to bring that forth, to bring that vitality back a bit. That is something that awareness does have a role in doing. Working with awareness and feeling the resonance of awareness and using our own awareness and the connection with the person out of resonance, because resonance does what? It activates. If you want to activate yourself, you go into a state of resonance. If you want to work with a person who is inactivated, they can be activated, whether it’s group work or individual work. I’m just saying that the inactivated state can be worked with and when it’s activated, out of just working with awareness, does that influence those systems? Yes. Can a person hold an activated state for a long time if they are sick? No, but they feel it a little bit. You start to feel the beginning of coming back into vitality again, then it will collapse, then you learn to hold awareness. The phenomenon of holding awareness itself is healing, at this level. Are other things necessary? Yes, but other things can be taking place and the activated state may not be coming into being. [There is] the relational connection of working with awareness, even if a person is describing the nasty lack that they feel, then slowly but surely, the field starts to arise within that room; that person will leave with more resources and better capacity to assimilate and metabolize what is taking place. Does this happen with a lot of cancer patients going through treatment? Yes, working with people who live with cancer, who are going through treatment, whose field is being bombarded on a phenomenological basis, sometimes just sitting with a person, sitting next to a person, physically close, this would depend on not your being in your associative mind, or mindfulness, but the power of the field in your body resonates with that person with affection and love will bring that [resonance and field in the other] forward. That is what I’m talking about in terms of psychosomatic phenomena. That really means something and is useful for a person. Then to learn, at home how to feel your connections to the self-objects – to another person, to animals, to the symbolic – can also activate awareness, even if our system is collapsing.
The great chi gong master, Dr. Xan Yin, would say when you become an expert in awareness, you have to be careful, and you have to get checked out by doctors because the awareness field becomes so strong in your body, you don’t necessarily know what’s happening. He says feeling good is not necessarily getting better. Just the phenomena of feeling good, you have to be careful, because if you do cultivate awareness, and some are really good at that, but you cannot take that phenomena as the only phenomena, that everything is okay. He would say it all the time. You feel so good, you look so good, and this does not mean everything is okay. He was a physician in western and Chinese medicine. Talking to [or addressing further] the phenomena, the field itself has power, and as you feel your connection, you start to use the field, and you become good at resonance. It does help our system, but the field is highly compensatory. That is good, but it’s not indicative that everything is well. A lot of times when people start feeling the field and it starts getting stronger, you feel good, but it’s not the indicator of good health. It does mean, when people are really sick and going through chemotherapy, they can actually really feel pretty good and get through it, if there is a lot of energetic support.
The experience of awareness results in a sense of presence, and the experience brings [us] into presence to experience and [brings us] to our self and [to our] innermost experience and [brings] presence to the other. That is why focusing on presence and being present to experiences is so curative. If I can simply focus on my presence… let’s do it for a moment, feel our own presence, being present to our own awareness. Presence arises for a moment.
[Addressing directly the individual who asked the question…]What is that like to feel your own presence, in this moment?
Man #1: “It feels like an integration of everything. The presence, the body and the environment, other people around me are integrated.”
When we start to split into the mind/body split, we can be in our mind, or we can be located in our body. We will not feel the sense of presence, in that way that he was describing. We can be in our mind and locked in the thought or language. Or, we can be in our body, and language and thought is precluded. The sense of presence – when we feel presence, cultivate that presence in that simple sense of presence – allows that space, that awareness, to be opened and to hold the body and the mind. It really is a triangle; it is a triune of body/mind/awareness. Mind is not awareness. That is why people will come who are located in their mind. They are very abstract and not quite in touch with what are happening. When we’re just in the mind, we get very abstract. You’ll hear tons of language; lots of ‘this’ and ‘that’. But for that person, their [his or her] read on reality – not talking about schizophrenia, just the read on reality – will be diminished if you are too in the mind. Some people come in their body; they are locked in their body. Their mind is not really interacting with their body. So you say, “What are you feeling?” and they say, “I don’t know.” “What’s happening to you?” you ask; “What’s going on inside?” They do not have the language to articulate inner experience. Therefore, it is hard to transform; it is hard to metabolize, and that sort of person will have many psychosomatic problems because the expression will come often in some form of somatoform experience.
When you have awareness operative, when you can feel your presence to experience, sooner than later, more often than not, that presence is the true communication between your mind and your body. The transitional space, that psychic space of awareness, allows me to have language accessing my body experience. When people come and awareness is foreclosed, they will be caught in a mind/body problem. They will also have lots of other problems because it’s not easy to negotiate this world unless you have a full tool kit. Again, it’s almost like pre-problem solving, to have a person work on becoming aware of awareness itself where they can actually feel the awareness state, spaciousness, that openness in the body. That is such a fantastic experience. Then I will begin to have language accessible to my bodily experience, and I will be able more fully to process what is taking place. Mind/body problems are not problems of the mind or body, it’s that awareness itself, transitional space, the end point of the triangle, which is awareness, is not operative; it’s foreclosed. That little bit of information will be a lot. That is why sometimes, unless transitional space is open, what seems like visualization and what seems like imaginal work or metaphorical work, is not gonna be empowered until transitional or liminal space is there. A person can be in their mind, located in their mind, and be very good at visualization. Nothing will happen for them. They might feel a sense of efficacy, and that will be good, but the actual transformative power of metaphor and visualization may not have power because it’s in a dissociative state from the body. As clinicians, knowing some of this stuff will be really helpful because a person can be dissociated, and you can do all kinds of verbal and metaphorical stuff, and the transitional space is not activated. The person will be good because they feel it doing something; efficacy is great; it helps everybody and gives us hope, however, it is not necessarily really helping some of the physiological changes that can take place.
There is a very nice protocol by Olaf, about irritable bowel syndrome. All kinds of people have it, and they come back from their gastroenterologist who says there is nothing they can do; go see a psychologist; something is wrong with your brain. But this is a very interesting protocol. It’s imagery; it’s in my mind, and leads you into transitional space; it helps lead you into awareness, liminal states, and helps you use imagery that indirectly describes the process. The first phase of it deepen awareness states, states of absorption. It helps lead a person out of a dissociative mind and into a more embodied awareness with imagery being given. They say 70 or 80% of irritable bowel syndrome is cleared up a lot. It’s pretty amazing.
Focusing on presence and being present to experience is so curative as it’s being present to experience with and in the context of the other. Sometimes it really helps another to help us hold it until we get good at it. If you are holding awareness for me, and slowly but surely I’m starting to experience that in my body because you are holding it, and the awareness field in my body starts to resonate with the unmanifest awareness in me; it starts to be brought forth, in a relational way, as the transformative or the self-object function. We might say that this is being ‘attuned,’ the coming-to-be of presence, and the dissolving and disappearing of presence. Presence helps us with the mind/body splitting. Now we’ll talk about void splitting and parts.
When one lacks the base of the field, lacks the sense of beingness of one’s own being, lacks the basic oneness embodied, then splitting between affective states takes place, and affective states become ego states, organizing much of the personality. Rather than my awareness, my self organizing the personality, these affective states are organizing me. They are voting! Do this, go this way! I am not the leader, someone else is leading me. In the lack of the inner awareness of the self, abyss-like and abandonment-like states can organize much of experience, emptiness, void, and the corresponding anger. The pain of it all becomes more’ biologized’ and internalized. So when I don’t feel basic awareness, [ I experience it as] it’s not there, and I’m going to feel a lack, a gap, this emptiness inside. This emptiness is like the waiting to get filled up, waiting to become activated. When a person has this lack and gap, to me, this is an indicator of, again, the usefulness of simply bringing forth the awareness state itself and working on awareness of awareness itself so that this lack then changes into spaciousness and vital energy. These lacks can be internalized. They become, more and more, states of mind themselves. Not just in the body, but in the mind itself. That lack can really drive us to a lot of addictive experience in order to fulfill the lack, which it never quite does because it’s an internalized state [in the mind] that is trying to fill the lack in the body. The internalized lack in the mind often uses this addictive experience to fill the lack in the body… Sometimes the direct internalization of others or of the other may serve as a base or a function; I may use another person; this often happens in the transferential cures.