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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Psychopathology?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Psychopathology

Defenses Generally Associated with Psychopathology

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.

Disconnection from the Essential Core of the Self

However, even in the case of psychopathology, narcissistic emptiness is an expression of disconnection from the essential core of the self. Since our work is not oriented towards the treatment of psychopathology, we do not know whether the direct confrontation of emptiness is a useful approach in such cases. It might not be, and the correct approach might very well turn out to be the building of psychic structure through one method or another. The result, even when it is the overcoming of psychopathology, will most definitely be a building or strengthening of a psychic structure that will function, at least in part, to cover up the underlying emptiness. In other words, this emptiness does not disappear totally when the structures of the self are established securely, even though it disappears from consciousness. The emptiness of the empty shell will be more effectively driven out of consciousness, and the shell will be stronger and even more resilient, and it will not be experienced consciously as a shell, but as the normal sense of self. This might be necessary in the treatment of psychopathology, for it will transform pathological narcissism to the narcissism of everyday life, but a different direction is needed if we want to resolve the narcissism of everyday life. We will see in our further exploration of the self-representation that it is always an empty shell, for it is devoid of Essence, its true ontological presence.

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.

Limitation on the Usefulness of Depth Psychology

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 Mistaken Idea of the Neurotic Enlightened Individual

Cortright, like many other transpersonal psychologists and new age pundits, has developed the mistaken idea of the sick guru or the neurotic enlightened individual. The idea is that one can be enlightened and neurotic at the same time. But this view does not appreciate the nature of the process of spiritual unfoldment, where there can be degrees and levels of spiritual realization. The view we take, which happens to be the view of the major traditional spiritual teachings, is that spiritual attainment has many levels, and that psychological health improves with the deepening of this attainment. The latter will be the integration of one’s spiritual attainment in one’s life, an important dimension of spiritual maturity. Therefore, spiritual attainment might coexist with neurosis; however, spiritual attainment that does not heal one’s psyche is incomplete, or imbalanced. Furthermore, enlightenment is not only spiritual attainment. Enlightenment is the completion of the attainment, its perfection. One is then a buddha, in Buddhism; a perfect master, in Hinduism; a complete human being, in Sufism, and so on. When one is truly enlightened one cannot be neurotic or suffer emotional pain. To not see this is to dilute the concept of enlightenment, the possibility of complete integration of psyche and spirit, and all other dimensions of existence. This dilution might seem compassionate and gentle, but it is ultimately uncompassionate for it robs us of the view of true spiritual maturity, which has been seen traditionally as completeness, balance, integration, wholeness, inner health, and liberation.

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