The Essence that Tranforms
In transpersonal counselling the spiritual domain is included in our experience. Not as something separate or apart from our worldly or psychological experience, but as an integral component that enhances a broader, deeper extension of ourselves.
Another way of saying this is that spirituality affords the possibility of a fuller experience of what being a human being entails. Transpersonal counselling supports the unfoldment of the human potential to know ourselves at a deeper, more grounded fundamental level, where greater degrees of inner support, lasting fulfilment and connection are attained.
Generally speaking, our psychological experience, which includes our thoughts, beliefs, self-images, defenses, emotions etc. tends to be limited in the range of possible experiences compared to those described by the various spiritual schools and contemplative traditions. There is no judgement about this from my perspective, as my aim here is to suggest the possibility there might be additional and alternate ways of experiencing our lives. A perennial question humans have been asking for millennia, are ‘What am I?’, ’Where did we come from?’ etc. A question I like is – “who or what am I if let my beliefs go? I’m posing these questions to the possibility that our humanness has deeper potentials of experience. One way to describe these deeper experiences is to call it our essential nature or true nature, that is, to know who we are at our essential core. It’s the transpersonal lens that endeavours to delve deeper into this possibility.
I’m using the term ‘essence’, as coined by the Diamond Approach, because this is the path I traverse and informed by in the transpersonal counselling process. The meaning of essence, in the context that’s being discussed here, refers to the basic nature or true substance of a thing. So, for us to get to our ‘essence’ requires peeling back the layers of our psychological identifications, which allows our true nature to manifest. Our essential nature can manifest particular qualities, such as strength, peace, love, will, compassion, power, value, intelligence etc. There are almost 40 different essential states that can be accessed when the psychological structures, that hinder their revelation, are worked through.
What is an Essence?
When our psychological processes/structures are relaxed enough we can experience ourselves as a Presence, which is felt has a sense of aliveness, a hereness that is immediate and direct in the present moment. It is this Presence that is able to differentiate into particular essences or essential aspects depending on the context we find ourselves in. Essence is a subtle feeling that has specific qualities that can be experienced by our inner senses in the same way our senses perceive the external environment. Essential qualities, have a particular affect, colour, smell, taste, texture and sound. For example, to feel true Power, it can be experienced as a velvety black smoothness, that has a liquorish taste. As well as feeling powerful there is invariably a sense of deep peace and calmness. Usually, our inner senses need to be refined and cultivated to know the full range of attributes of an essential aspect. The felt experience of an essence is the most common, probably because our bodies have been conditioned to feeling emotions even though essences are markedly different. Whereas our inner sight or taste, for example, is less acute due to these faculties not being as valued or even considered as important to their external counterparts.
Theory of Holes
What’s preventing our knowing and experiencing essence? One the founders of the Diamond Approach, A H Almass, proposed an explanation called the Theory of Holes. It suggests that infants fully experience essence, are in fact pure essence, but there is no recognition of this at this early stage of development, because the discriminating function of the ego hasn’t formed. As the child goes through its developmental stages of forming its own identity, personality i.e., ego structure, the child loses its connection to its deeper self and essence. As each essence is lost a ‘hole’ is left behind in the energetic body. The subsequent hole is filled by the structuring of the ego identity that accompanied the loss of essence; associated memories, beliefs, self-images and identifications. In this process of ego identity formation facsimiles of essence are created – emotions.
What exacerbates this loss of essence is in part due to our parents forgetting their own essential nature, not recognising it in their children and mistaking essence for emotions. When a parent doesn’t mirror back affects, such as essence then their child doesn’t have a frame of reference to integrate. If a parent did mirror essential states ego identity would still need to develop, but the child’s connection to their essential soul would be more available.
An Example of a Possible Hole
Let’s say you have been experiencing some fatigue lately and when you reflect on why this is the case you realise that you are also feeling anxiety beneath the tiredness. On further reflection it becomes clear that the anxiety is due to the pilling up of tasks which need to get done, but keep getting put aside. This is experienced as a tightness in the solar plexus area where the anxiety sits. As you stay with the anxiety and tightness there are thoughts that ‘it’s all too much’ regarding the constant effort and trying. You realise this is creating the anxiety, which then shifts from tightness to a feeling of hollowness and emptiness in the solar plexus (the hole).
In this hole you experience no support, as though your ground from under your feet has gone. Staying with this loss of support, that is, going into the hole, a memory surfaces of your childhood where your parents didn’t help you with your homework because they were too busy. You were left to fend for yourself, and because you couldn’t do it you gave up. Subsequently this became a regular occurrence of not doing your homework or leaving it to the last minute. On realising the origin of your procrastination, a spaciousness arises where the hollowness was previously sitting. In this spaciousness there is a sense of support and determination to do what is required. This is the experience of Will.
This is a watered-down example of how exploring a current dilemma; staying with the challenging feelings; utilising a more embodied approach to counselling and determining its historical origins allows the possibility of our deeper nature to emerge.
All the best