Transpersonal Psychology and Experiences
Transpersonal literally means beyond the personal. As human beings, we are by nature in relationship with other human beings and to nature, other species on this planet, and the environment. We are also in relationship with our society and our culture. People can have a wide range of spiritual, altered-state, or shifts of consciousness that connect us with a deeper sense of self, God, or some force greater than any one person. Transpersonal is an inclusive term that relates to the wide range of experiences we can have as human beings.
Transpersonal psychology is the study of connections. As a therapist, having a transpersonal background gives me a wider lens with which to work with clients. Well within the range of normal topics of discussion we might cover would be dreams, altered states of consciousness, extraordinary experiences, religion, spirituality, and culture. Anything that you have experienced that feels relevant to your experience as a human being and your therapeutic objectives is something worth exploring in therapy.
It benefits us to understand how these various connections or relationships are influencing our everyday life. Doing so can lead to profound insight and clarity into the steps that further our healing and personal-growth objectives.
Having exposure to transpersonal psychology has made me more sensitive to the fact that people have all kinds of experiences. Some fall outside of the range of ordinary and therefore are typically excluded from the curricula of mainstream graduate psychology programs, even doctoral programs. Grof & Grof (1989) writes:
“The word transpersonal refers to transcendence of the ordinary boundaries of personality and includes many experiences that have been called spiritual, mystical, religious, occult, magical or paranormal…But the content of transpersonal experiences is not limited to the world of things that exist in our everyday reality. It includes elements that western culture does not accept as objectively real: we can encounter deities, demons, spirit guides, inhabitants of other universes, or mythological figures…Thus, in the transpersonal state, we do not differentiate between the world of “consensus reality”, or the conventional everyday world, and the mythological realm of archetypal forms.” (1989,10-11)
Without knowing how to make sense of them, some people who have had transpersonal experiences judge them as odd, weird, or crazy or have never shared them with others. Others derive rich meaning from their transpersonal experiences. It can be incredibly rewarding to share a transpersonal experience with someone who understands how sacred and special it can be. Common transpersonal experiences include but are not limited to peak experiences, ecstatic experiences, religious experiences, various altered states of consciousness (ASCs), spiritual emergencies, spiritual awakenings, spiritually transformative experiences (STEs), and near death experiences (NDEs). If you’re interested in psychotherapy in order to address a transpersonal experience you’ve had, please click here.