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Spiritual Emergency/Emergence/Counseling
Record Type: Review   ID: 289

Breakdown & Breakthrough: Psychotherapy in a New Dimension

Field, Nathan

The "new" dimension of the subtitle is a psychological fourth dimension, which Field’s approach to psychotherapy includes as integral to the therapeutic process. In a sense, he builds on the type of exceptional experience we call desolation/nadir because it can build on the breakdown of the therapeutic process. In his practice he had had several cases in which he had reached an impasse. Nothing he could do helped the patient, and he would determine at the next session to refer the patient. The patient would then greet him in that session by saying his or her "deadlock was over, in fact he/she had never felt more hopeful" (p. 6). Thereafter the therapeutic dialogue would become much more meaningful and productive. Field proposes that what "breaks down" in these cases, as well as in the more gradual types of psychotherapy, is the patient’s dependence on the ego and ego-ideals with which they identify. Thus, nadir experiences are potential EHEs because they break or wash out or overcome the patient’s exclusive attention to the ego-self, which frees the patient to move (if only to drift) toward the All-Self, which was always there, waiting to receive him or her. And with that contact comes the flow of new life that every EHE brings. In trying to account for this and other inexplicable aspects of psychotherapy, such as the occurrence of ESP and PK, he looks into shamanic healing, exorcism, and the new physics of nonlocality and holography, and chaos theory, including patterns called strange attractors.

In chapter 7 he presents a spectrum of consciousness that begins with what I have called the All-Self, from which various levels of consciousness were differentiated. He then presents his own four-dimensional view. The third is epitomized by the secondary, rational process. The next chapter is devoted to the fourth dimension, which cannot be seen or imaged but can be experienced in peak moments (i.e., exceptional human experiences). It often occurs spontaneously but can be facilitated by prayer, meditation, and therapy. It involves being open to free associations, which we have recommended as an approach to expanding the meaning of an EE. He further indicates he his writing about an EHE when he points out that it differs from normal therapeutic intimacy and empathy in that it brings about a "transition from disconnectedness to connection. ... In the selfsame moment that the patient has connected with me they have connected with themselves and I with myself: a totally new Gestalt has come into being where separateness and togetherness are simultaneously experienced in all their depth and richness" (p. 73). (i.e., The One in the Many.) He calls it fourth dimensional because in such moments the ego is transcended. (In this sense, every EE is a moment of ego-transcendence!) He suggests that this fourth dimension is more than normal therapeutic efficacy in that when such moments of joint ego-transcendence are experienced, "the change of perspective brought about by our awakening to it not only alters our view of life but enables us to enlist its healing power" (p. 79). He quotes psychoanalyst Tracy as calling this the mutative effect of the therapeutic transference relationship, adding that it also is facilitated by the "effect of repeated moments of intense encounter, both positive and negative" (p. 74). Field says these ego-transcending encounters "over time have a transformative effect on both parties" (p. 74).

Next he offers a new model of transformational psycho-therapy based on Jung, Balint, and Bion. His focus is the new transformational paradigms each discovered. He emphasizes "how each, from their individual thought and experience, points toward the next development in psychotherapy" (p. 85). He argues that Jung was a shamanic healer. He developed his "visionary capacity and learned how to regress into his unconscious in the service of his patients’ needs. Winnicott developed the concept of transitional space, an area between inner and outer reality. [Jung called this the psychoid level and Hillman and others the imaginal realm.] He also developed spontaneous play as a therapeutic approach. Bion developed the concept of O, which appears to be similar to Maslow’s being cognition and the noetic knowledge that EHEs confer. Field relates O to Bohm’s implicate order. Bion wrote to "ultimate reality, absolute truth, the godhead, the infinite, the thing-initially. O does not fall in the domain of knowledge or learning save incidentally: it can ‘become,’ but it cannot be ‘known’" (p. 96). Field says, "What Bion enjoins upon us is paradoxical; in searching for the truth we search for something we know can never be found but without which life lacks meaning" (p. 96). Thus, in the therapeutic situation, he tried to remain open to O alone, "without memory, desire, or understanding," which is the case with many forms of meditation and techniques conducive to experiencing EHEs. Field adds that reading Bion is "the same as wrestling with a Zen ‘koan’; one’s familiar frame of reference disintegrates ... but in recovery from the state of breakdown that he induces we may find we have broken through into new understanding" (p. 98). Field concludes that all 3 subscribe to the four dimensional, which "is not imaginary but imaginal" (pp. 100-101). But it is associated with meaning and health, whereas our three-dimensional normal state is all too often associated with dis-ease and misery, and neurosis and madness.

He outlines his own four-dimensional therapy, including "dubious practices," "danger in the fourth dimension," "psychotherapy and subversion," (in the sense that individuation can be disruptive of interpersonal relations (NDErs provide a good example). He devotes a chapter to the nature of psychopathology and claims by reframing psychotherapy, pointing out that "contemporary society right across the face of the earth is coming dangerously close to break down; how much further must it degenerate before a breakthrough can emerge?" (p. 143). He suggests that psychotherapy, by reaching back to its ancient roots in healing and reaching forward to the radical new perspectives of contemporary science, can make its special contribution to the most urgent need of our times" (p. 144).

Publisher Information:New York: Routledge, 1996. 157p. Bibl: 145-149; Ind: 150-157
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