Kathleen Speeth, Ph.D., was a clinical psychologist and co-editor of 'The Essential Psychologies'. She is author of 'The Gurdjieff Work and Gurdjieff: Seeker After Truth'. She was a faculty member of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology in Menlo Park, California. This transcript represents a small portion of the ninety-minute InnerWork video 'The Psychodynamics of Liberation'.
MISHLOVE: I wonder, personally, if there is such a thing as enlightenment, really, or if it's one of these - you know: "Hitch your wagon to the stars." It's a goal we all ought to strive for, but which is not really attainable. There's something about the human condition itself which is fundamental. You know, existential reality - we're born alone; we have to deal with death and alienation, and no matter how much we practice yoga or meditation or build communities or begin to see through our foibles, we'll always be in these bodies, at least while we're alive.
SPEETH: Well, that's undoubtedly true. There's a Sufi story about that. Basically, the story is about Bahaudin Naqshband, who is the great Naqshbandi...
MISHLOVE: The founder of one of the major Sufi orders.
SPEETH: Right. And he materialized an apple, I don't know why, as some demonstration of competence. And the apple had a worm in it. And they said: "Well, Bahaudin, you're so powerful that you can materialize an apple. How is it that you can't materialize a perfect apple?" He said: "In this context, nothing can be perfect." But it isn't just the Eastern meditative traditions that give us some help with liberation. I think that Western psychotherapeutic approaches are even more appropriate for us, although I certainly have participated in both rather a lot.
MISHLOVE: My sense is that the Western approach is to say, well, look, the world isn't perfect; we've got to live with it, with its problems. And psychotherapy is often oriented towards adjusting, coping, dealing with how bad life really is.
SPEETH: Well, that's one form of psychotherapy. But you practice psychotherapy, as I do too.
MISHLOVE: I do too, and I have another view.
SPEETH: You have another view. What's your other view?
MISHLOVE: Well, I tend to think that underlying the basic alienation, the separateness, the otherness, the fundamental ground of reality is one of connection - that we're connected with everything. And for me, liberation is really becoming more and more in touch with that dimension of being part of everything, interconnected with everything. That way, as we move towards that, we get closer, I suppose, to what we might think of as our divine reality, and ultimately the highest model of liberation must be divinity itself.
SPEETH: It must be. So the way you're talking now, you sound like Freud talking about eros, as opposed to thanatos - the idea of a life instinct, something that moves toward life, and away from dying, away from entropy. Something that makes form out of chaos. And you feel that is development, and of course so do I. So then, what keeps us from that? What holds us back? What do we need to be liberated from, so that we could make connections instead of break connections, and get hot rather than cool?
MISHLOVE: I would say it's our attachments.
SPEETH: Uh huh. And what attachments?
MISHLOVE: It could be an attachment to a habit pattern that we have, or to a belief system. My sense is that the unattached mind just gravitates naturally to that state. And when I'm with a group of people, I can watch, some of them go right there, and you have a sense they're connected and they're with it. And then somebody else, their mind just won't let them float to that level, and they've got to talk about - it could be anything; it could be their clothing, it could be art work. We have a million excuses that we use for not always resonating, I guess is a word I might use, at that level of connectedness.
SPEETH: Or living enthusiastically. And what do you think holds people back from that? You know, Wilhelm Reich would call it an anti-pleasure bias in a character. Where does it come from?
MISHLOVE: That is a good question.
SPEETH: I mean, we're talking about being liberated from some kind of a net we throw around ourselves.
MISHLOVE: Well, in many people it's clear to me it's trauma. They've been traumatized in one way or another, and they're kind of stuck. They haven't worked through their trauma.
SPEETH: And how does that trauma stick people? What really happens? I mean, let's talk about it as deeply as we can. What do we need to be liberated from?
MISHLOVE: Probably - I'm glad you're asking me all these questions. It's a delight to be interviewed, on my own show. To me, I would say the basic thing is self-hatred. It's places where we feel that we can't love ourselves. If we've been traumatized, we incorporate that, and we think: "I deserved that. The universe is telling me I'm that kind of person, who should be punished."
SPEETH: You're saying two things; in this way I believe we've got a lot of wisdom in the Western psychotherapeutic tradition. One thing you're saying - and I of course agree with you - is that it's something about going away from entropy and toward life. And the second thing you're saying is that it has something to do with having been hurt, right? We have to somehow work through some non-metabolized experiences. We need to liberate ourselves from something that has gripped us and grabbed us and is holding us back - something that happened very early. And the wish we have to dissolve and to die hangs on.
MISHLOVE: And the irony is, that "something" is us. It's something we're doing to ourselves.
SPEETH: It's something we're doing to ourselves. So one extraordinary thing about liberation, it seems to me, is that… the very things that hold us back are the things that hold us in our families, in the family structure.
SPEETH: So, for example, Mother doesn't want you to sit and play in your own way. She wants to have interaction with you, so she can feel like a good mother. That's one example. I just worked with someone today in a therapy session for whom that was true. He didn't dare, when he was with his girlfriend, be quiet and just look at the fire. He felt he had to keep entertaining his girlfriend. And so he was ready to clear the decks of all girlfriends, because he didn't allow himself to be himself while in the company of a person who reminded him of his mother. So he is not a free man.
MISHLOVE: Right, right. Because of some conditioning he had had with her.
SPEETH: Right. Or another example, somebody I worked with whose mother was a Holocaust survivor. She was a happy woman, this patient of mine - a happy woman, and well adjusted, with four or five brothers and sisters who weren't, and a mother who was a widow and a Holocaust survivor. And she couldn't give up her guilt, because, it turned out, her guilt was the only link she had with her mother.
MISHLOVE: Uh huh. That's where they could communicate, they could resonate. Her mother felt guilty because she was a survivor, I imagine, and therefore in order to kind of enter into resonance with her mother, she had to be guilty too. Then they could be guilty together and have a good time.
SPEETH: Exactly. And they could be connected. Even if they had a rotten time, they would be together.
MISHLOVE: The irony to me is, from my perspective guilt is totally unnecessary. It serves no function whatsoever.
SPEETH: Except the function of connecting one with a guilty subculture. So in order to be free, we have to be willing to be solitary, emotionally solitary.
MISHLOVE: Solitary. What does solitary mean?
SPEETH: It means that we have to dare to be objective, and not to share, in order to become a "we" with other people, not to share their beliefs.
MISHLOVE: To be able to sort of remove ourselves from the herd instincts.
SPEETH: Yes. Perhaps to be really free, one can't be a healthy animal in a happy herd. Or perhaps one can; but one has to take the chance to find out. And that's a courageous step.
MISHLOVE: You know, one of the things that you've delved into quite extensively and written about is the Gurdjieff work. I recall a point that you made about Gurdjieff, is that he claimed, as opposed to Western psychotherapies, that all of the negative emotions - anger, hatred, and so on - were unnecessary. That it was possible to live a healthy, harmonious, happy life without any of those. And yet in our culture, we have so much reinforcement that says you should be getting angry, you should be feeling guilty, you should be negative a certain amount of the day. Otherwise you're not owning your emotions.
SPEETH: Right. And of course that's what I think of as one of the mistakes that many therapists make. They render their patients unhappy. That is, people come out of therapy feeling entitled to a lot of negative emotions. The fact is that they have to come to consciousness, and to be worked through, and to be put aside. Because they're really not necessary.
Nota: De rest van de tekst vind je in de rubriek 'Eclecticus'.