Main Pages

By Region




Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Pathology?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Pathology

All People, Not Just the Ones Afflicted with Pathology, are Narcissistic, Borderline and Psychotic

But our concern here is not therapy. Our aim is much more fundamental; it is the return to being. From our perspective, anybody who has lost the merging essence and wants to regain it must go back to the symbiotic stage and deal with its issues. And this is true for normal people, those who are neurotic, and everybody else, not just for the severe psychopathologies. In fact, we will see that if a person involves himself with the journey of return using the psychodynamic approach, the issues explored will be mostly what are usually considered in psychoanalytic circles as borderline, narcissistic, and psychotic issues. This means that all people, not just the ones afflicted with pathology, are narcissistic, borderline, and psychotic. However, these tendencies, termed the psychotic core, are buried very deeply in the unconscious, and the normal person never really deals squarely with these underpinnings of his character. Neither, of course, does he come to live the life of essence, unless he sincerely embarks on doing the work. Narcissistic pathology, borderline syndrome, and the psychoses are nothing but failures and deficiencies of the structure of the personality itself, as is becoming understood now in depth psychology. The work on essential development involves actually confronting and softening this same structure. It does not only modify it but in some sense actually dismantles the ego identity and reinstitutes the lost identity, the true, high self of the essence. This is bound to bring to consciousness all the conflicts, fears, distortions and deficiencies in the structure.

Defenses which are Generally Associated with Psychopathology Do Not Really Completely Disappear in Normal Ego Development

We have observed that these defenses, which are generally associated with psychopathology—regressive refusion with psychosis, grandiosity with pathological narcissism, defensive detachment with schizoidism, and splitting with borderline conditions—do not really completely disappear in normal ego development. Our exploration of the deeper layers of the normal personality reveals that these defenses are still present and are in fact employed extensively. They become more active, or rather more consciously active, in the deeper stages of inner realization, revealing, in the presence of every ego individuality, structures that are, or are similar to, psychotic, borderline, narcissistic and schizoid structures. The individual does not usually become pathological when these structures emerge in consciousness, indicating that they are not the dominant structures in the personality, but they do cause considerable distress and anxiety.

Ego Weakness is a Universal Issue Characteristic of Any Ego Existence and Psychopathology Indicates a Severity of this Issue

We have stated that ego weakness is a universal issue characteristic of any ego existence, and that psychopathology indicates a severity of this issue. From our previous discussion of ego development and the development of the Personal Essence, it is simple to see from the perspective of the Diamond Approach why this is so. Since, as object relations theory states, ego weakness is due to incomplete or inadequate ego integration and individuation, and since, as we have discussed in great detail, ego development as conceived of in object relations theory is an incomplete process, every ego structure will naturally have some inadequacy. The individuality of ego is not the real, true and final integration of the person. This means that ego weakness will disappear only in the realization of the Personal Essence, the real person of Being. As long as one takes himself to be an individual and a self based on self-image, there is bound to be a basic sense of inadequacy at the core of the identification. Ego inevitably contains a deep, basic sense of, and fear of, inadequacy. This is of course why the development of the Personal Essence ultimately exposes the inadequacy; it is the antithesis of the arising fullness, integrity, confidence and strength of Being.

Models of Psychological Health that Include Identification with Self-Image Will Never Get to the Bottom of the Narcissistic Phenomenon

It is critical to understand the significance of the fact that the self-representation is not the actual self; it is the concept of the self. As we saw in the last chapter, this distinction is lost when psychological researchers use the concepts of self and self-representation interchangeably. It might be largely true that this differentiation is not significant for understanding and treating pathological narcissism, since this pathology is due largely to disturbances in the self-representation. Hence, psychoanalytic theory tends not to attach importance to the differentiation between self and self-representation. Without this differentiation, the common view is that a “realistic” self-image constitutes optimal health and development. However, it was made clear in Chapter 3 that identification with anything other than one’s essential presence is inherently narcissistic. Thus, models of psychological health that include identification with self-image will never get to the bottom of the narcissistic phenomenon. In addition, this incomplete understanding tends to limit the usefulness of depth psychology to the treatment of psychopathology, when it could be so valuable in supporting the realization of the full human potential. For this reason, in this exploration we hope to extend the present psychological understanding to include the deeper dimensions of experience. Enlarging the view of the self to include these deeper dimensions is accomplished not through an arbitrary trick of redefining the self, but in direct response to an extensive knowledge of the actual lived experience of those whose identities have expanded to include these dimensions. The roots of narcissistic disturbance are far deeper than assumed by prevailing theories of the self. These theories have made possible the understanding presented in this book, but we will go much deeper into the phenomena in question, addressing the question of narcissism at a new depth which takes us past the limitations inherent in the assumption that the self is the same as the self-representation, and the assumption that the distinction is not of critical importance.

The Genital Hole Does Not Signify Pathology or Neurosis. It is Part of the Normal Self-Image of Every Person, Albeit Unconscious

The importance of the genital hole becomes obvious when we realize that it is a universal phenomenon. We find that it is part of the unconscious self-image in all individuals, men and women, without exception. It does not signify pathology or neurosis. It is part of the normal self-image of every person, albeit unconscious. The only possible exceptions are those who do not defend against space. If a person can experience space completely and consciously, then there will be no genital hole in the self-image. This assertion might sound preposterous to many, but it becomes understandable if we comprehend the relationship between space and the genital hole. We have discussed space as the true nature of the mind. As well, we have discussed essence or true being in its various aspects and manifestations. We have also seen that most people do not normally experience either essence or space. This means that the identity or self-image of the normal person does not include space. Also, we have seen that the self-image itself is a kind of barrier against the experience of space; in fact, it is the barrier. It is what fills the space, what structuralizes it; so only an individual who can let go of identification with the self-image will be able to experience space. (There is actually a gradation here; the self-image manifests from a fairly superficial preconscious level to extremely deep and subtle ones; likewise, the experience of space can range from a simple openness and dissolution of the usual self-image to a sense of complete annihilation of the sense of self. These gradations will be discussed in Chapter 20.) However, space is an integral part of the person. It is the true nature of his mind. This means that his self-image contains a big distortion; it excludes a large part of him—space itself. This distortion of self-image manifests as the genital hole. Why is the unconscious self-image of the genital hole so crucial to the experience of space? There is no simple theoretical answer to this question; in fact, the idea at first seems unlikely and mysterious. Our first understanding of this relationship came from consistent, though surprising, experiential observations with many individuals. The genital hole is consistently the entry to the experience of space and emptiness.

The Void, pg. 80

The Process Through which the Person’s Experience of Himself Becomes More and More Open and Spacious Until this Process Culminates in the Direct Experience of the Nature of the Mind: Space

How do the concepts and practices of psychology relate to our investigation of the relationship of self-image, mind, and space?

All forms of psychotherapy can be seen as a process of altering or modifying the patient’s self-image. The particular boundaries of the self that contribute to pathology are recognized, then dissolved or modified to suit a more positive or “healthy” self-image. In the psychodynamic therapies, such as psychoanalysis, those pathological segments of the self-image are brought to consciousness through psychodynamic understanding of their genesis so that the person can test them against “reality.” In this way, the pathological segments are either dissolved or modified according to the demands of this “reality.” The final outcome is a modified self-image, usually a more expanded one, that allows more choice in experience and action, and hence less suffering. What interests us here is to see that psychotherapy is largely a process of expanding the self-image, which in our perspective means more openness and spaciousness in the mind. But since the mind is ultimately open and empty space, the process is actually the freeing of more space. The focus of psychotherapy, however, is in the modification of self-image in ways that allow the individual to function in a more tolerable and satisfying state of emotional health, a state called the normal condition. Through this process psychotherapy has helped many people suffering from emotional and mental distress. What if we go beyond this limit of trying to achieve a “normal” condition, if in fact we continue the process of working on the self-image starting with the normal person, the average healthy individual who already functions in a normal state? Working with such a person, who might be motivated to pursue such a process by an intuition of a deeper or truer state of being, we can continue bringing to consciousness elements of the self-image to be checked with “reality,” and allowing them to be modified or dissolved to encompass more “reality.” Through this process, the person’s experience of himself becomes more and more open and spacious until this openness culminates in the direct experience of the nature of the mind: space. It is a gradual process of thawing the frozen boundaries of the ego identity and liberating more and more space. The theory and techniques of psychoanalysis and the various therapies are used here not for the treatment of psychopathology, but for the understanding of the nature of the mind.

The Void, pg. 39

Understanding that Ego Weakness is the Basic Problem of Psychopathology

Guntrip’s analysis is fascinating, and certainly in accord with our findings in the process of inner realization for normal and neurotic individuals. His understanding that ego weakness is the basic problem of psychopathology is in our estimation a brilliant breakthrough in understanding ego structure. His emphasis on this issue, we believe, reflects a deep understanding of ego, which regretfully has not been absorbed by mainstream object relations theory. It is understandable that he has this emphasis, because, as we have noted before, he understands the role of Being in ego development. We will show, in some detail, the importance and centrality of ego inadequacy in the structure of ego. We will develop an understanding of this state, that will bring about a very deep and profound understanding of ego and its structures. Ego inadequacy is one of the issues that we call “diamond issues” in the Diamond Approach. It is a universal issue, which is not due to specific personal history but is a consequence of the nature of ego. A diamond issue is an ego issue that results from identification with ego. Its presence is inseparable from ego identifications, regardless of how pathological or healthy the ego structure is. Only the severity of the issue is determined by the particular personal history. Guntrip has a deep and detailed understanding of the issue of ego inadequacy, but he does not go all the way to seeing it as an issue for all egos. Since it is a process of moving from ego to Being, the process of inner realization deals largely with diamond issues. All the major emotional issues and conflicts we have discussed in this book are diamond issues. They are characteristic of ego structure, and do not necessarily reflect mental pathology. Of course, there are individual variations in the way an issue manifests, which reflect personal history, but the basic pattern and resolution are universal. So our discussion in this book of the various issues applies to everyone. Every individual has them as part of his ego structure, unless he is not identified with ego.

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach

See past editions of the Diamond Approach newsletter