Personal transformation refers to a dynamic and uniquely individualized practice of increasing consciousness where individuals turn out to be critically knowledgeable of old, as well as new self-views, thereby choosing to integrate these opinions to a new self-definition (Campebell, 2004). Although these views might take the form of Transpersonal Psychology, Taoism, Contemplative Psychology or Confucianism, they are capable of distinctively conceiving the temperament of human existence thus transforming the individual differently (Campebell, 2004). As a result, this essay explores personal transformation through the various perspectives of Transpersonal Psychology, Taoism, Contemplative Psychology and Confucianism.
1) Transpersonal Psychology
Transpersonal psychology widens the theories of traditional psychology concerning the psyche to incorporate the spiritual aspects of our being (Garbarino, 2011). By including empirical, as well as esoteric view from global traditions, this offers an influential model of personal growth, human development, along with individual healing. Apparently, transpersonal psychology came from former schools of psychology comprising of psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology and behaviorism (Garbarino, 2011). According to Garbarino (2011), transpersonal psychology endeavors in describing and integrating the experience of mysticism in contemporary psychological theory. Although the types of mystical experience observed tend to vary greatly, they include religious conversion, trance, transformed states of consciousness and other spiritual practices. Most people go through moments of intuition and intense knowing, when "something inside" speaks clearly; during these instances, the chatter of natural self-talk paves way for deeper inner wisdom (Garbarino, 2011). Therefore, in transpersonal psychology, the aim of self-development is improving one's ability of listening, to shift habitual awareness from the chatter into the wisdom within. This inward path is capable of taking many distinctive forms like spiritual practices such as meditation and prayer, relationships, yoga, psychotherapy, martial arts, or life experiences (Garbarino, 2011). All of these are helpful since they aid us in creating our own peak experiences while recreating our being.
Transpersonal psychology looks at the self-transcendent facets of the human experience since it gets involved with the studying humanity’s utmost potential, together with the recognition, understanding, in addition to the realization of, spiritual, as well as transcendent states of consciousness (Garbarino, 2011). However, there are other aspects of transpersonal psychology comprising of spiritual self-development, systematic trance, peak experiences, mystical and other metaphysical experiences of living (Garbarino, 2011). Apparently, people who are exceptionally psychologically healthy end up having peak experiences; though brief, these experiences are extremely intense, beneficial, blissful and meaningful of expanded uniqueness and union with the universe. The main objective of transpersonal psychology is examining the features of exceptional human experience; when possible, transpersonal psychology endeavors to dig deeply into the most overwhelming aspects of human experience like mystical, as well as unitive experiences, wonder and ecstasy experiences, personal transformation, meditative awareness, in addition to alternative and expansive, consciousness states (Garbarino, 2011).
2) Contemplative Psychology
Otherwise, known as "Contemplative Buddhist Psychology, this is the process of unearthing consciousness into the form of a totally awake and aware state. In the same way as humanistic psychology, this Buddhist approach to psychology has its basis on the perception that human beings happen to be fundamentally good (Wellings, 2000). Contemplative psychology amalgamates the mindfulness traditions and principles of Buddhist psychology together with modern Western psychology. Based on the contemplative view, although human nature tends to be intrinsically healthy, awareness gets obscured (Wellings, 2000). During psychotherapy, the client turns out to be liberated from needless suffering through experiencing, as well as accepting themselves in the moment, just as they are. One of the major characteristics of contemplative psychology is that it employs the wisdom customs of East, as well as West, in resolving inner dilemmas while connecting the client to the world (Wellings, 2000). Through the direct relation to personal experience and being aware of inbuilt habits of body, mind and speech, everyday occurrences turn out t be transformed into paths of awakening. This form of therapy applies mindfulness in helping the client to be at hand with whatever happens in the moment as a way of encouraging healing along with wellness. Apparently, being at the present moment is capable of helping in bringing authenticity, deeper trust and self-acceptance, in the flow of life, in addition to oneself's flow (Wellings, 2000).
In the past, psychotherapists used to work on relieving suffering through reframing the contents of patients’ thoughts, entirely altering behavior or assisting people get insight to the subconscious roots of not only their despair, but also their anxiety (Wellings, 2000). The potential of mindfulness meditation is that it is capable of helping patients go through flash floods of emotion throughout the therapeutic process while ultimately altering reactions to everyday experience at an intensity that words are incapable of reaching (Wellings, 2000). Buddhist meditation came around to psychotherapy from conventional academic medicine. During the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who was a graduate student in molecular biology, got intrigued by Buddhist concepts, thereby adapting a version of its meditative practice that could be easily learned and studied (Wellings, 2000). The aim of this was designing a secular version, extorted like a gemstone from most of Buddhist teaching’s foundation that as sprouted a broad variety of sects, as well as spiritual practices thereby attracting 350 million adherents globally (Wellings, 2000). Although in transcendental meditation together with other forms of meditation practitioners endeavor in transcending or losing themselves, the aim of mindfulness meditation is fostering an awareness of each sensation as it discloses in the moment (Wellings, 2000).
The foundation of contemplative psychology is in the Buddhist thought of basic goodness along with compassion for self and others. According to the contemplative view, although our basic nature tends to be intrinsically healthy and good, our perspective of this health gets hidden and obscured (Wellings, 2000). Therefore, Buddhist contemplative psychotherapy uncovers this goodness while helping the client to be in a place that is more aware and awake. It achieves this by looking at ways in which a person creates suffering by means of unnecessary attachments, as well as neurotic thought patterns (Wellings, 2000). Considering that Buddhist mindfulness practices entail training in the values of attention and presence necessary for doing effective therapy, this has resulted in Buddhism having an enormous impact on transpersonal therapy (Wellings, 2000). Additionally, meditation has the capability of training self-observation skills that are also beneficial to the therapist. Furthermore, Buddhism also incorporates approaches for dealing with anger, forgiveness and anxiety, amongst other psychotherapeutic concerns (Wellings, 2000). It has the capability of helping patients go beyond just the recognition of their problems but to healing them through complementing therapy thereby resulting in new heights of wisdom, along with wholeness. Consequently, meditation has developed as a psychotherapeutic modality to an entire field of mindfulness practices applied in treating not only somatic, but also psychological problems (Wellings, 2000).
In most cases, Confucianism gets perceived as more of a philosophy than a religion that is more an approach for improvement of self and society compared to spiritual enlightenment(Campebell, 2004). Although Confucius rejected practices such as asking for interference from the gods, he addressed concepts like Heaven within his teachings (Campebell, 2004); nonetheless, his principles concentrated mostly on transformation in life rather than getting salvation or enlightenment subsequent to the death. Campebell (2004) asserts that Confucianism believes that Heaven has a plan for human life, one that gives emphasis to harmony, happiness, as well as peace; this plan gets discovered through study, ritual together with moral behavior.
The pathway to self-transformation happens to be a significant aspect in Confucianism since it benefits both the person and all of society(Wellings, 2000). In accordance to Confucianism, although human nature is intrinsically good, there is a possibility of corrupting it if not nourished. Apparently, human nature suffers due to oppressive laws, indecency within personal and social relationships, as well as the abuse of power by leaders. Nonetheless, through studying our very own nature with the nature of the universe as directed by Heaven, there is a possibility of realizing our goodness and nobility thereby end up living according to the Will of Heaven (Wellings, 2000). Initially, there was a believe that the education of an individual was beneficial for all of society, since, as their pursuit for knowledge changed them, it was also capable of transforming everyone surrounding them. On the other hand, Confucian teachings affirm that as the person achieves knowledge, there is extreme sincerity in their will, which leads to the strengthening of their mind thereby resulting in the strengthening of the personal life (Wellings, 2000). The strengthening of personal life is the significance of the improvement on family relationships, which leads to the state becoming extra orderly, which in turn results in the existence of peace all over the world. Therefore, both knowledge and education tend to be inherently beneficial (Wellings, 2000).
The background teaching of Confucius is evident within his highlighting on the influence of education in begetting self-transformation. According to Confucius, education assisted people in opening their minds and realizing their potential of becoming noble people as per the will of Heaven, as well as in tune with other people (Campebell, 2004). As a result, education is extremely significant to Confucianism there being one of the key methods applied in reaching an elevated state of being. Confucius though that studying the liberal arts was capable of creating a better-rounded person, with every field of study aiding in the strengthening of a certain aspect of personality (Campebell, 2004). Therefore, education entailed studying six areas namely poetry, for enhancing thought and expression; history, for comprehending tradition and development of moral judgment; ritual, for comprehending propriety; music, for internal transformation; cosmology, for attaining harmony with the sacred forces; and politics, for social transformation (Campebell, 2004).
According to Confucius, a thorough together with well-rounded education is capable of creating good and noble people, who in turn are capable of helping others in the development of humanity and goodness; however, this pathway necessitated a long-term commitment. It was impossible obtaining quick or easy profound transformation considering that the road to transformation needed not only dedication, but also patience (Campebell, 2004). This thorough education was not just for knowledge’s sake; rather, the process of learning was similarly significant and could steadily assist the individual in growing and cultivating their inner goodness, ultimately becoming adjusted to the Will of Heaven (Campebell, 2004).
In spite of some resemblance between psychology and Taoist philosophy, one feature turns out to be extremely evident when contrasting Taoist and psychological methods to the thought of self-transformation (Rathus, 2011). Most of the psychological approaches, such as psychoanalysis, depend expansively on the discussion as a methodology. Supporters of these psychological techniques are hopeful that, through the recognition of the fundamental motivating forces that result in behavior, the client will in reality be capable of changing the resulting behavior; however, this might or might not be true. Conversely, Rathus (2011) affirms that Taoist practice typically evades conversation, unless it gets linked to direct instruction. According to Taoist philosophy, personal transformation results strictly from undertaking the prescribed exercises; the kind insight, which results from therapeutic discussion, is not significantly valued.
The whole thought of the restrictions of language, along with conversation when making an attempt of expressing ideas involving inner transformation has a pretty long history. For instance, Chuang Tzu noted the restrictions of language in the effort of expressing deep meaning saying that the universe is extremely beautiful though it says nothing (Rathus, 2011). According to Chuang, the four seasons stand by a fixed law, though they are not heard; all creation has its basis on absolute principles, though nothing speaks. This signifies that we are capable of appreciating the beauty and recognizing wisdom and knowledge devoid of discussing any of it (Rathus, 2011). Because of this aversion to language as an approach for self-expression, Taoists discovered the application of other techniques of self-expression for instance the art of calligraphy, which endeavors to express specified qualities using written symbols. In this case, what is being said turns out to as not being the only significant factor since the real beauty in calligraphy comes from the lettering itself (Rathus, 2011). Progressing on the pathway is not necessarily an expression of significance or even what gets done; rather it is the expression of how things are considering that the objective of the discipline comes from its doing; this trait still holds true today (Rathus, 2011). Despite of these extremely distinctive approaches of attaining inner transformation, the aims of psychologists, along with Taoist teaching masters tend to be similar since they endeavor to assist others in reaching a state of inner balance (Rathus, 2011).
Conventionally, Rathus (2011) asserts that according to Taoist philosophy, it it is far easier to demonstrate the pathway to Tao rather than explaining it. As a result, Taoist has a preference of inspiring seekers by means of literature, demonstration or artwork, allowing imagery and metaphor to express their message. Apparently, there are certain media, which lend themselves immensely positive to the expression of Taoist thoughts compared to others (Rathus, 2011). Characteristically, the thoughts of Taoism have been expressed within painting, martial arts, poetry, medicine, fables and legends. Considering that it is an inbuilt truth of Taoism that nothing extremely definite can endlessly be said concerning it, Taoist thoughts have taken a secretive, as well as enigmatic character throughout the centuries (Rathus, 2011). Being full of description and metaphor, having natural settings of forests and lakes, in most cases comprising of birds and other animals; Taoist writings together with other art invoke many meanings that are deeply personal to the reader (Rathus, 2011).
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Rathus, S. A. (2011). Psychology: Concepts and Connections. New York : Cengage Learning.
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