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Process-Oriented Psychology

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Process-Oriented Psychology

Process oriented psychology is a multicultural, multi-level, awareness practice for individuals and organizations in all states of consciousness.

Also called Processwork, it is an evolving, trans-disciplinary approach supporting individuals, relationships and groups to discover themselves. 

ARNY INTRODUCES PROCESS ORIENTED PSYCHOLOGY

For a general introduction, watch this video with Arny interviewed by Jeffery Mishlove, Thinking Allowed Series. 1992.

And follow this link for archival video of Arny teaching at Esalen, California in 1988.

Process oriented psychology uses awareness to track psychological and physical processes that illuminate and possibly resolve inner, relationship, team, and world issues. Processwork theories and methods are available for anyone to experience and can be tested.

 

This page introduces you to the ideas, approach and practices of process oriented psychology with individuals and relationships including deep democracy, the levels of experience, skills and metaskills.  

Scroll down or click to find out more about:

For a general introduction to Processwork, try Arny's book, Riding the Horse Backwards.

Also follow these links to find out more about:

A FLOWER WITH MANY PETALS

The applications of Processwork form a kind of “flower” with many petals, some of which are seen in the picture. The center of the flower is “awareness work”, that is, noticing what is happening and following it. Some of the applications include dream and bodywork, relationships, inner work, coma and near death work, extreme state (psychiatric) work, movement, and small and large group work (Worldwork).

Worldwork applications include organizational development, diversity issues, social action, world planning and conflict management. There are also applications to research in politics, integration of the sciences as well as exploration of religious and mystical traditions, theater, creativity, and performance.

Our view on learning is that no one “petal” of the flower can be looked at without remembering the other “petals”. Thus, politics for example can not be studied without dreamwork, Comawork can not be understood without family or small group work, extreme states must be studied with politics, worldwork needs dream and body work, physics makes sense only with psychology, and psychology should be studied with cosmology, that is the study of the whole universe etc.

The primary goal of process oriented psychology is to follow and learn from what ancient Chinese philosophers called the Tao, by following the visible and subtle signals coming from people and events. This means respecting individuals, groups, and the environment, exploring reality and also the dream and essence levels of events, which often bring surprising solutions and resolutions to even apparently intractable situations.

Processwork is an idea, a community, a theory and a practice

The Idea

This sketch shows some of the many aspects of Processwork, centered around the idea of awareness of change, process and the Tao.

In following nature, an individual’s process moves into many realms, including the inner world and aspects of the universe around her. Processworkers try to follow their own and the individual’s and group’s process.

The Sun and the Moon in the middle imply the use of various forms of awareness. The sun “of daytime” is focused upon signals and parts, while the moon “of nighttime” focuses upon the larger interconnections between individuals, parts, and worlds.

Community

The Processwork community is a network of individuals and institutions which are formally or informally connected to Processwork training centers around the world. Some call themselves Processwork students, teachers, therapists, facilitators, scientists, activists, politicians or simply friends of Processwork.  

The International Association of Process oriented Psychology (IAPOP) is one place to connect to the community. IAPOP are a group of practitioners who associate out of their shared values, vision and goals to support diversity, creativity, relationship and the exciting range of research and practice within the Processwork professional community.

Theory

Processwork theory is based upon a multidimensional view of nature: “consensus” reality, dream like images and feelings, and at the deepest essence level, a “processmind”. This holistic Processmind is modeled after quantum wave thinking, mythology and spiritual experience.

Practice

Processwork practice has a wide spectrum goal. What is that goal? To develop theory and methods applicable to any situation involving human beings, including ecology, psychology, medicine, organizational change, political activity, diversity issues, severe conflict and trauma.

Processwork highlights three different levels of our experience and perception, which together make up our experience of reality. Arny has called them Consensus Reality, Dreamland and Essence levels.  We have found that these three levels of focus incorporate just about every possible experience of reality:

Consensus Reality

The level of our experience that is measurable and shared – aspects of reality that we can reach a consensus about.

  • Process Work deals with all the things we normally think of as “real” events, problems, and issues connected with the development of individuals, couples, businesses and cities.

  • Groups and individuals use feelings and facts, to describe conflicts, issues or problems.

Consensus Reality level work:  notice what is considered real by a given person or group.

Dreamland 

Experiences and events people often don’t pay much attention to such as:

  • Individual body feelings that are often reflected in dreams. (i.e. dreambody)

  • relationship double signals (signals that don’t seem to “fit” at first)

  • group ghost roles or things and events mentioned but considered not present, such as figures from history and visions.  

Dreamland level work: explore dreams, deep feelings, unspoken truths, “double” or unintentional body signals, “ghosts” (unrepresented figures) and ghost roles in the stories and myths of individuals and organizations. History, visions and transgenerational events are important.

Essence

Deeper non-dualistic tendencies that can be sentiently felt to move us. Intangible, “dreamlike” tendencies that are not yet easily expressed in words. This area of life can sometimes be felt as a subtle atmosphere around people, events and areas of our planet earth. The essence level has nonlocal, quantum-like blurry overlapping states, and cosmological, space-time or gravity like experiences.

  • Taoism speaks of the essence level in terms of the “the Tao which cannot be said.”

  • In quantum physics, Heisenberg spoke of “tendencies” of the quantum wave function. David Bohm spoke of this area in terms of a system’s quantum waves or “pilot waves”.  

This level seems to manifest a non-dualistic intelligence, we call, the “system mind” or “processmind”. Its analogy in physics might be Bohm’s pilot wave or Hawking’s “Mind of God.”

  • Spiritual and religious traditions speak of the omnipresence of the gods.

Essence level work: notice pre-feeling experiences that emerge later as images and ideas.  Notice the atmosphere of a group or relationship. Explore field or system ideas in your own and other cultures including the gods, goddesses and spirits people have always believed in.

DEEP DEMOCRACY OF EXPERIENCE

Deep democracy is the core value and principle of process oriented psychology. Processwork is deeply democratic toward all levels of experience: it values the freedom to explore and express consensus reality, dreamland and the essence levels.  It understands all levels as equally important.  

Every time you ignore sentient, that is, generally unrecognized dreamlike perceptions, something inside you goes into a mild form of shock because you have overlooked the spirit of life, your greatest potential power.                                                                                  Arnold MindellDreaming While Awake.
Only when all aspects of an experience are unfolded with awareness does the wisdom embedded in the experience reveal itself most fully. Process work is based on the idea that processes contain their own inherent wisdom. Even the most intractable relationship problems or body experiences contain a great deal of meaning and wisdom, hidden within what otherwise might seem like intolerable events.  In order to unfold the details of any particular experience, it is important to notice our everyday approach to experiences as well as the dreamlike or unknown background aspects of those events of which we are not quite aware.                                                                              Amy Mindell (2008). Bringing deep democracy to life. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 6(3)
skillsandmetaskills

 

Processwork skills can be learned cognitively and practiced by all. Besides respecting previous skills learned in a particular application area from other schools and sciences, all basic Processwork skills are awareness skills. These basic skills include awareness of:

  1. Audible and visible signals that can be picked up by a camera.

  2. Dreamlike signals and feelings that make no sense at first.

  3. Subtle, flickering evanescent “flirt”-like, and non-repeatable signals which require focus, amplification and imagination.

Amy’s book Alternative to therapy: a creative lecture series on Process Work (2006) provides a comprehensive, lively and fun introduction to all the skills and metaskills needed for working in a process oriented way in a therapeutic context.

METASKILLS

Amy created and defined the concept of metaskills in her 1995 book, Metaskills, The Spiritual Art Of Therapy:  

Through their feelings and attitudes, therapists express their fundamental beliefs about life. These attitudes permeate and shape all of the therapists apparent techniques. ...  I call these feeling attitudes ‘metaskills’.”    p. 15.  

Metaskills are the feeling qualities, or attitudes that bring learned skills to life and make them useful.  In addition to all cognitively learned skills, Processwork, through Amy Mindell, recognised the significance of the way in which we use the skills and techniques we have learnt.  Amy Mindell called these metaskills or, feeling skills, and explains that "these essential underlying feelings of the therapist are “skills” that must and can be studied and cultivated."

An important “metaskill” in all deeper, ongoing work is the metaskill of “following” events. The Taoists would have said, following the sense of the Tao, that is events which are generally observable and/or sometimes intuited. The mystical side of process work follows events (such as the Tao) that cannot be quite said, while the concrete and (consensually) realistic part of process work deals with observable signals, unfolding these signals until they explain themselves.

Kiyoshi Hamano discusses Amy's concept of metaskills in an article published in the “Japanese Journal of Clinical Psychology,” Vol. 4, No.1 January, 2004, pp.145-148.    Download article (English translation by Kazuko Sato of the original Japanese)

Avraham Cohen also discusses Amy’s idea of metaskills:

"Metaskills are the ongoing, continuously unfolding, and emerging in-the- moment feelings and attitudes that are reflective of the most deeply held beliefs of the counsellor. If accessed in a naturalistic way, the enactment of these metaskills will bring the process to life in ways the use of techniques that are applied in a mechanical way cannot. "  

Cohen, A. (2004). A Process-Oriented Approach to Learning Process-Oriented Counselling Skills in Groups. Canadian Journal of Counselling/Revue Canadienne de Counseling38(3), 152–164.

721 Feedback: Process oriented Feedback, Supervision, and the Learning Process 

by Amy Mindell, November 2005

All of us are, or will one day be, in the position of giving feedback to others whether we are teachers, bosses, parents, or simply friends giving advice to one another. Over the years I have developed into a teacher and supervisor of other therapists and therapists-in-training and have found that, for me, the task of giving feedback carries as much excitement and learning as it is daunting and challenging. There is always more to learn about how to teach and give feedback in useful ways.

Supervision can be a wonderful learning process for everyone involved. At the same time, I am acutely aware that no matter how good hearted the supervisor might be, or how open and capable the supervisee may be, the atmosphere around a feedback situation is most often filled with various background spirits, some stemming from past wonderful or difficult educational experiences, earlier parental situations, abuse issues, etc. At the same time, the nature of the particular student or supervisee and the particular supervisor or teacher, the momentary mood, the “performance” that is being looked at, the moment in time, and the feelings of all involved play significant roles in what occurs. The person in the position of getting feedback may feel relaxed and excited about feedback or possibly uptight about what might be said. At the same time, the supervisor might feel fully engaged and interested or alternately, nervous about what to say, how to say it, or how to be conscious of the rank differences between her or himself and the supervisee.

Download article: 721 Feedback

Process-oriented relationship work

…process-oriented relationship work intertwines the tasks of family therapy with the powerful dream and body experiences of the individual; it sees the individual as a channel for the group and relationships as a channel for the individual. This combination is made possible by a fourth characteristic: commitment and focus upon the process of relating itself, i.e. conscious and unconscious aspects of relationship.                                                                                                   Arny, The Dreambody in Relationships, p.2.

Animals and Babies Follow Signals

In this wonderful video, watch how the baby and the dog follow signals in their relationship. Notice the way they use feedback and how relationship is a co-creation!

(Thanks to Phyllis Kramer for showing us this video).

Download video file (wmv) baby

 

Notice Double Signals

We suspect that the Bart Simpson must have taken a Processwork course somewhere because of his advanced knowledge of double signals! See the picture of his teacher (Know your Enemy!).

His or her primary process is being a good teacher, but the secondary process has a lot of other information, most of which he or she does not identify with.

Good luck Bart!

 (From The Bart Book, Harper Collins, New York, 2004,  p. 14.)

 

NEW: The Evolution and three branches of Process Theory, 3rd Edition 

By Amy Mindell, August 2016

                Photo by Liubov Sazonovo

                Photo by Liubov Sazonovo

In this new 2016 edition of this paper, Amy writes "When I wrote the first version of this paper in 2002, it dawned on me that the process theory I had previously learned, and which has been so helpful to me and the many Process Work students and practitioners around the world, was in the midst of expansion..." 

In this updated edition Amy writes about the development of process theory (from its earliest days through 2016) through the lens of its 3 branches. She attempts to show how the concepts build upon one another and how each expansion further illuminates the beauty and magic of “process.” 

 Click here for the full article: Amy on the Evolution and Three Branches of Process Theory, 3rd Ed. 

2009 Interview with Arny for The United States Body Psychotherapy Association

Arny was interviewed by Serge Prengel for the United States Body Psychotherapy Association. To hear this interview, which is a good introduction to the idea of process and Arny’s development of Process oriented Psychology, click here.  Or download the transcript.

2007 IAPOP Conference Keynote Talk

Amy and Arny’s Introductory talk at the 2007 International Association of Process Oriented Psychology Conference in London hosted by the Research Society for Process Oriented Psychology (Process Work UK).  The talk gives a personal account of a small piece of history behind the birth of Processwork. 

Download Amy and Arny’s IAPOP Talk

Amy on working with the world channel in individuals (1996)

Many therapists today are raising questions about psychotherapy’s contribution to politics, its responsibility, view, and influence on the world. This article addresses one aspect by elucidating the reciprocal relationship between the world and the individual as this relationship appears in individual therapy. It offers a process-oriented theory in which the individual’s relationship to the world appears in what is called the “world channel”.

Mindell, A. (1996). Discovering the world in the individual: the world channel in psychotherapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 36(3), 67–84. 

Download the full article … 

Esalen invited Amy and Arny to be resident teachers after the death of their earlier teacher Dick Price. In this 75 minute video, broken up into 4 parts (originally filmed by Esalen in 1988 and updated by Amy in 2011) you will see Arny introducing processwork in a way that is still relevant to today. Here you will find theory, practice, experiential exercises etc.

Esalen Video Part 1 

Arny speaks about his history and background in science and in Jungian psychology. He speaks about the dreambody and stresses the importance of unifying psychology with movement, family, political, and group work. He stresses the cross cultural nature of process work and its various applications as well as how the healing/medical model integrates with the meaningful nature of body symptoms/experiences.

 

 

 

 

Esalen Video Part 2 

Arny leads everyone through an inner work exercise on a body symptom and its connection to dreams. He speaks about the Cartesian split between dreams and the body and why he chose to use information thinking. He gives an example of working with a little girl with a bone tumor and asks, “What is “healing”? He also speaks about coma work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esalen Video Part 3 

Arny discusses developing abilities in many sensory grounded channels, why we have so many channels, and asks: What is process? He speaks of teleology, and programming versus following. He gives an example of his own childhood dream, talks about positive and negative feedback, and how the best interventions are seen in the expressions people are already making.

 

 

 

 

 

Esalen Video Part 4 

Arny recommends a dreamwork dyad exercise to train in noticing the kind of dreamwork the “client” is recommending. He describes the concept of the “edge” and leads everyone through an exploration of their own edges. He discusses primary and secondary processes, the way symptoms appear at the edge, and the importance of following the entire process. He concludes by addressing the question, “What if you don’t remember your dreams?”.