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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Pathologies?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Pathologies

Although, in the Normal Individual, the Well-Adapted Segment of the Ego Predominates . . .

Thus we see that, although in the normal individual the well-adapted or “conflict-free” segment of ego predominates, the structure actually contains all the forms of the major pathologies, both structural and neurotic. We have seen that the various defenses against ego inadequacy involve regressions to various subphases of ego development, in the attempt to contact the support of the dominant essential aspect of each phase. Furthermore, the state of deficiency itself is a reflection of difficulties in the rapprochement phase, indicating the absence of the aspect of the Personal Essence. This is in accordance with Kernberg’s view that the state is a characteristic of the borderline condition, which is taken to be primarily a reflection of difficulties in the rapprochement phase. From the perspective of Being, then the major mental pathologies can be understood thus:

  1. Psychosis is a reflection of the absence of, or conflicts about, the Merging Essence in the symbiotic stage.
  2. The schizoid condition is a reflection of the absence of, or conflicts about, the Strength Essence, mainly in the differentiation subphase.
  3. Pathological narcissism is a reflection of the absence of, or conflicts about, the Essential Self, primarily in the practicing subphase.
  4. The borderline condition is a reflection of the absence of, or conflicts about, the Personal Essence, primarily in the rapprochement subphase.
  5. Neurosis is a reflection of the absence of, or conflicts about, the essential aspects involved in the Oedipus complex. We will not discuss the oedipal phase here, but will only mention that it is possible to see that there are three essential aspects involved in it: the aspect of Passionate Love related to oedipal love; the aspect of Power related to oedipal hatred; and the aspect of the Personal Essence in one of its developments which involves the sensuous and sensual qualities. This last aspect has to do with personalizing the physical body, i.e., integrating it into the experience of the Personal Essence.

This is only a suggestive picture of different ego characters seen from the perspective of Being, and is not meant to be rigorous or complete.

Ego Autonomy Has Come to Represent Health or Normality

When one does have the experience of ceasing to identify with the self-image and simply being, it is clear that the autonomy of ego is a sham, since the ego personality is perceived not only as ephemeral, a kind of surface phenomenon which is in the nature of an idea, but also as reactive, responding automatically to the world. From Being, which is felt as the true and solid reality, ego’s individuality is seen as simply a dark network composed of beliefs in the mind and patterns of tension in the body. Thus the supposed autonomy of ego is, from this perspective, nothing but the feeling that accompanies an image in its relation to another image. It is striking that this is exactly what object relations theory states: that autonomy is based on the establishment of a self-image. We wonder how one can know that what he believes he is, is simply an image, and stop at that, without feeling that something is not right? The answer, of course, is that as long as one identifies with the self-image, the implications of the theory are not suspected, or if they are suspected they cannot be clearly seen without an experience of Being. One must go through a very deep process of inner transformation to see the profound implications of this apparently simple understanding of ego identity. Another reason most people cognizant of object relations theory do not see its deeper, shocking implications is the fact that they are usually focused on mental disorders, and that normality and health are generally viewed in relation to pathology. Since the pathologies are in general ultimately due to the absence of complete ego autonomy, ego autonomy has come to represent health or normality. We can see here, however, that object relations theory does, by its very defining of ego as mental structure and image which achieve some sort of autonomy, point to some other reality which is not image.



Emptiness in the Deficient Sense is Taken by Many as One of the Signs or Symptoms of Such Disturbances as Psychoses, Borderline Conditions etc

The existentialist interest in emptiness as a fundamental condition of man might not be of much concern to most individuals; however, the subjective experience of emptiness is something that is commonly and frequently experienced and acknowledged. It is usually felt in a very general and vague way. An individual might feel, “My life is empty, I don’t feel any richness in it.” Another might experience it more inwardly: “I feel dry, empty. I am not interested or enthusiastic about anything.” Sometimes the feeling becomes more philosophical: “What is the meaning of life? I don’t see the point of everything.” This condition of emptiness, seen as depletion, alienation, and meaninglessness, is painfully apparent to the psychological or psychiatric helper who is treating patients suffering from the so-called severe pathologies. In fact, emptiness in the deficient sense is taken by many as one of the signs or symptoms of such disturbances as psychoses, borderline conditions, narcissistic disorders, character disorders, and schizoid phenomena. We encounter in these mental disorders experiences of, or fears of, experiencing emptiness, nothingness, hollowness, disintegration, fragmentation, dissolution, disappearing, annihilation and so on.

The Void, pg. 113

Even Neurotic and Normal Personalities Have Features Similar to these Severe Pathologies

As we have already stated, this is the sequence of development that usually occurs for the normal person or the mildly neurotic person. For the severely neurotic person or the individual with character disorders, such as the borderline syndromes, the narcissistic personality disorders, and the psychoses, there is generally no such sequence because in the severe pathologies, the structure of the personality itself is distorted and flawed. This does not mean that people with severe pathologies are candidates for the work of inner development. They are not, except under very special circumstances. They are in need of something else: the development of a well-functioning structure. It is only theoretically possible at this point that the Diamond Approach be used for such people, using the presence of essence to develop a balanced and well-functioning structure. This possibility is still in the stage of investigation, and no definite conclusions can be drawn yet. However, even neurotic and normal personalities have features similar to these severe pathologies. Sometimes the difference is only in the degree of pathology. The extent of the presence of borderline, narcissistic, and psychotic features in neurotic and normal personality structures is just beginning to be acknowledged in psychological circles. It is still very far from being seen objectively. From our perspective, everybody has neurotic, borderline, narcissistic, and psychotic features in his personality, each stemming from its developmental anlage in the process of ego development. People differ in the preponderance and intensity of the different developmental features in their personalities. Diagnosis in terms of neurotic, borderline, and so on is useful only for the practical purposes of applying technique and judging what is the best sequence of development for a particular student. For instance, a normal person with borderline tendencies might need to deal to some extent with some of the features of his ego structure before it is possible or even desirable to deal effectively with his superego.

In Both Normal and Pathological Ego Development there is Dissociation from One’s Being

The implication is that deficiency in the symbiotic stage sometimes impels the child to separate and mature faster in terms of ego functions, to get away from the frustrating symbiosis. “This comes about if the maternal partner fails in her function of constituting an auxiliary ego. The infant has to take over her functions.” This is experienced by some individuals in the feeling that they had to grow up too early, that they did not have the chance to be children, etc. Another reason for precocious development is that the child’s ego capacities develop too early, before he can manage this development emotionally. One example of this is the early development of the perceptive capacity through which the child becomes aware of his separateness from his mother before he can emotionally handle separation. The precocious development of some ego capacities creates character types which are considered by object relations theory to involve borderline or narcissistic pathologies. However, looked at from the dimension of Being, regardless of how mature and integrated ego is, it is always a precocious development. We have seen that the ego becomes the system that structures, and includes in its structures the ego functions. It becomes, in other words, the functional part of oneself. We have also seen that ego development is an incomplete process, short of the realization of the Personal Essence. Ego structures are always alienated from the true Being, so the functional part of oneself is separate from who one is. Thus from the perspective of Being, ego development is a development of functioning that is separate from who one is. When there is appropriate emotional development, the individual is better off than the narcissistic character we have just described. However, it is intrinsically the same kind of situation, for in both cases—normal and pathological ego development—there is dissociation from one’s Being.

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