THE PROCESS OF HEALING AND GROWTH IN
PSYCHOSYNTHESIS AND CHRISTIAN HEALING OF THE MEMORIES
Anett B. Wannamaker, PhD
Abstract: Compares the healing and growth processes in Psychosynthesis and the Christian Prayer Healing Healing of the Memories. Illustrates the two processes on Roberto Assagiolis egg diagram and on Ken Wilbers Life Cycle, and shows that the two processes cover the same area on the two models of human consciousness.
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In the Christian mystical tradition, there are three major stages on the path to enlightenment: awakening, purification and illumination. The Dark Nights of the Soul constitute a further purification, which culminates in the unitive life. The process of the path from awakening to unitive life is understood as a spiritual process, initiated, guided, and concluded by the Holy Spirit in the life of every surrendered Self. That is to say, they are natural growth processes in the awakened and surrendered Self.
As cleansing processes, purification and the Dark Nights of the Soul might both be likened to that which in Transpersonal Psychology is referred to as regression in the interest of the Self, they reach back into the persons past and into his or her imperfections to heal and to perfect the personality.
In Transpersonal Psychology, we have at least two generally accepted models for this cleansing process: The Jungian individuation process of owning the Shadow and integrating the Anima/Animus and the Psychosynthesis process of integrating the subpersonalities and aligning the I with the Self. In modern-day Christian healing, we have, especially in the United States, the phenomenon of Healing of the Memories.
This article presents a view of these healing and growth processes from the perspectives of Psychosynthesis and Healing of the Memories. Common to the two approaches is that the ego remains in tact, it is transformed but not annihilated in the process.
The term Healing of the Memories was coined by the American Christian lay healer Agnes Sanford (1897-1983), who during the nineteen sixties and seventies published several books about her healing theology and practice and was a popular speaker in the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Church of England. Her unique discovery was that Jesus Christ is able not only to heal the man or woman you now are, but to come into you and to go back and heal the little girl or little boy you once were; to go back even to the hour of birth and heal the soul even of the shock of being born...Sometimes I say even before birth (3 ,1).
Sanford understands Jesus as an archetypal-like healing presence in every human being, a presence not unlike Assagiolis Higher Self. And when the root of a persons problem cannot be found in the present, Sanford invites Jesus to go back in that persons history to uncover and heal the traumatized children hidden in the unconscious. "I pray that Jesus will enter in and find the little boy or girl in need of healing and let His love flow around it until it is perfectly healed" (ibid.). Her prayer leads to the release of powerful emotions and to healing, which she defines as not a loss, but a redemption of the memory. The memory is judged to be redeemed when recollection of the event no longer is painful and when the behavior, which was its manifestation, no longer occurs.
In Psychosynthesis, subpersonalities are thought of as middle unconscious constellations (see Figure 1), much like the ego states defined by Eric Berne or the complexes described by Freud. They have their roots in the unhappy child of the lower unconscious and constitute a set of behaviors built up by the child in response to early events. Thus the key to the integration of subpersonalities and alignment of the I with the Self becomes the healing and transformation of the inner child at its root.
Figure 1 - Psychosynthesis View of Human Consciousness
In Psychosynthesis the healing agent is the Higher Self, also called the Transpersonal Self. While the client in therapy might be invited to give warmth to the child by acting as his or her own parent; the natural child, whose energy is viewed as superconscious, often enters spontaneously into the therapeutic context, bringing with it superconscious energy; or other symbols of the Higher Self may enter spontaneously or be activated by the guide to provide the healing energies.
Mary Green, one of the co-founders of the Kentucky Center of Psychosynthesis in Lexington, Kentucky, USA, has done extensive work with the integration of multiple personalities based on her psychosynthesis practice. In her Ideal Model of a Session (1982), Green describes a therapeutic movement from the presenting problem and the feelings involved, to identification with a subpersonality which experienced that same feeling recently, then back in time to other situations in which similar feeling were present. For adults, Green suggests that the client first looks for a situation in his or her twenties, then a teenage experience, an experience around the age of seven or eight, and finally an experience around the age of two or three (ibid.). Green does not recommend going back to birth experiences except with clients who have done extensive psychological work. Quite often, she says, the core experience will be discovered around the age of two to three or six to eight.
In Healing of the Memories, healing is understood to take place as the living Jesus (Hebrews 7:24-25), mediated by a practitioner through the power of the Holy Spirit, enters and heals a psyche troubled by new or old, painful memories. In psychosynthesis work, the Higher Self acts as "synthetic spirit" (1965, p. 67), as healer and mediator between the guide, the client, and their processes. The criterion for validating an experience of the Higher Self is its effect on the personality (1965, pp. 198-199). If an experience results in positive personal growth, it is affirmed and strengthened. If not, it is interpreted as invalid, as a step along the way, or as a quality in need of transformation. Again, confirmation of healing and growth rests on client behavior.
Superimposed on Assagiolis egg diagram (1965, p. 17), we can visualize the two processes of Psychosynthesis therapy and Agnes Sanfords Healing of the Memories as follows.
Figure 2 - - - - - - Psychosynthesis - - - - - - - - - - - Healing of the Memories
A suggested egg-diagrammatic illustration of the two healing processes.
It may be noted that the psychosynthesis movement begins downward into the lower unconscious, for so to rise to include the superconscious before returning to egoic consciousness. Healing of the Memories begins the process by first, through prayer, moving into the superconscious, then descending into the lower unconscious and returning to consciousness. Psychosynthesis movement into the superconscious usually takes place towards the end of a session, when a superconscious symbol such as the sun enters spontaneously or is brought into the therapeutic process to complete the healing process after considerable psychological work has already been done. The whole process may be illustrated by Dantes The Divine Comedy, termed the "poem of psychosynthesis" by Assagioli (P. R. F. Issue No. 36, p. 19). Ideally, the therapeutic experience is then subsequently grounded in the here-and-now level of consciousness of the client at the conclusion of the therapy session.
It is important to remember, however, that although it is not apparent in Figure 2, transpersonal or superconscious energy is present and potentially available at any stage of the psychosynthesis process. The Higher Self, as guide of the process , accompanies the client on the journey into the lower unconscious, and transpersonal energies may erupt or be activated at any stage of the process. In the Healing of the Memories, the first step in the healing process is to evoke transpersonal energy through prayer. Then, through imagination or visualization, Jesus is seen as "going back" (3, 1) with the person to the event or memory in needs of healing. Transpersonal energy is therefore assumed to be present during the complete process. Thus the safety of the inner journey and the success of the healing process are safeguarded by transpersonal presence in both Psychosynthesis and Healing of the Memories. But the healing transpersonal energy is perceived as distinct from egoic consciousness in both processes.
Superimposed on my (1989) suggested re-interpretation of Psychosynthesis relative to Wilbers Complete Life Cycle, the schematic illustration of Figure 2 translates to that shown in Figure 3. To the adapted Life Cycle I have also added Mary Greens suggested egg-diagrammatic placement of the unhappy child, subpersonalities, and the natural child.
Figure 3 - - - Psychosynthesis - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - Healing of the Memories .
The two healing processes illustrated by Ken Wilbers Life-Cycle diagram
In Figure 3, the point of departure for the process is the persons present level of consciousness. My placement in the Life Cycle of the beginning of the processes must therefore be seen as incidental: to coincide with the process illustrated in Figure 2, they can begin anywhere in the realm of the conscious self and/or middle unconscious. It may be noticed in Figure 3 that, despite the fact that the psychosynthesis and Healing of the Memories healing processes move in opposite directions within Wilbers Life Cycle, they move within and cover the same area of the Life Cycle.
Personal Psychosynthesis and Healing of the Memories can both be understood as the process of integrating into ones present state of consciousness experiences which belong to the earlier stages of development in Wilbers Life Cycle. They provide the context for the personal integration needed for future "progressive evolution" (p. 158) while maintaining contact with and access to egoic consciousness. In Psychosynthesis, the Higher Self contains the transpersonal energy, in Healing of the Memories, Jesus does; their transpersonal energies are available for the healing and transformation of the personality, but neither in Psychosynthesis nor in Healing of the Memories is the healing and transformative energy a part of and/or the property of egoic consciousness.
While Sanford understands Healing of the Memories to be a transaction between the Spirit of God and man/womans unconscious, Psychosynthesis understands healing as a transaction between the Higher or Transpersonal Self and consciousness that is a transaction between man/womans conscious and unconscious. Simplified, one might say that in Psychosynthesis, healing is facilitated from within the person, whereas in Sanfords Healing of the Memories, the healing comes from beyond the person. But, in Healing of the Memories, the healing agent is also already present within the person, since in Sanfords understanding, Jesus Christ is a part both of God and of individual man (3, 2). The implication seems to be that we are looking at various dimensions of the same truth.
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