The Clinical Use of Whitehead’s Anthropology

by David E. Roy

David E. Roy is the Executive Director of The Samaritan Center of Southwestern Michigan, St. Joseph, Michigan.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp.124-150, Vol.20, Number 1, Spring-Summer, 2000. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


The author discusses the following areas of psychotherapy and how process thought might apply in each: I. Psyche and Soma; II. Radical Novelty and Continuity Through Time; III. Confluence (Causal Efficacy) and Boundaries; IV. Presentational Immediacy and Separation; V. Internal Relations; VI. Metaphors, Grounded Possibilities and Projections; VII. Dissociation; VIII. The Self; IX. Parts Work and Contrasts; X. The Role of Consciousness; XI. The Structure of Perception and the Phases of the Self; and XII. Nature and Source of Healing.

Whitehead’s cosmology is rich with meaning and relevance to the theory and practice of psychotherapy.1 His categories bear upon some of the most fundamental issues of the field, serving to clarify and unify the debated issues in this diverse and fragmented profession. This paper tackles twelve areas relevant to psychotherapy, looking briefly at how process categories apply to these discussions. The subject areas are: I. Psyche and Soma; II. Radical Novelty and Continuity Through Time; III. Confluence (Causal Efficacy) and Boundaries; IV Presentational Immediacy and Separation; V Internal Relations; VI. Metaphors, Grounded Possibilities and Projections; VII. Dissociation; VIII. The Self; IX. Parts Work and Contrasts; X. The Role of Consciousness; XI. The Structure of Perception and the Phases of the Self; and XII. Nature and Source of Healing

I. Psyche and Soma

Traditionally, psychology and psychotherapy have begun with the psyche, both thematically and literally. While today there are some who would prefer to focus elsewhere, this still is a legitimate starting point for this current analysis. Perhaps when psyche is more fully understood from a process perspective, it will be once again the universal starting point for psychology and psycho-therapy.

Psyche is the Greek word we translate as "soul." The psyche includes, first, the totality of the person’s experience at a given instance, from full consciousness down through the deepest unconsciousness, and second, the totality of the whole succession of these experiences. The process perspective affirms that there is a new instance of the psyche at every moment. It is not a thing which endures, but is instead a continuously recreated structure. The human psyche, in other words, is constituted by a series of occasions of experience that come into being and perish. The "flow" that we experience is created out of the rapid succession of these individual instances, much as individual pictures shown in quick succession will create the sense of motion in cinema.

Prom a Whiteheadian perspective, focusing on the psyche does not imply that the interpersonal is secondary. A moment in the ongoing life of the psyche is created entirely out of relationships, including those with the person’s body, especially the brain; with previous instances of the person’s psyche; with other persons, such as family members, care-givers, and others from the larger human community; with our natural world; and with the entire universe, including God.

As the psyche comes into being, it is subjective experience.2 Each moment, one is a new subject. Once the becoming is concluded, the occasion as subject becomes occasion as object or fact. This new object is who one is, whether a mere moment ago -- or 20 years ago.3 Whitehead fully recognizes both subjectivity and objectivity in his cosmology, overcoming subject-object duality

For Whitehead, the psyche4 at any moment is a highly developed example of the basic unit of all reality, which he called an actual occasion. A star, a tree, a human being -- each is composed of actual occasions. Our bodies and central nervous systems are composed of innumerable such occasions. Obviously, there are differences between the occasions of a star, the body, the brain, and the psyche; but for Whitehead, these differences are matters of structure and complexity, not differences of a metaphysical kind. The occasion that constitutes the human psyche is richly and complexly developed, with a capacity for novelty and freedom that does not exist, for example for the occasions that constitute inorganic matter.

As the term "actual occasion" implies, these entities and only these are actual in an ontological sense. Everything else is abstracted from these occasions or derived from them. The other half of the name is occasion. Each one is an event that comes into being and then "perishes." At the micro level of a single occasion, each one of these units is made up of an integrated bundle of feelings. These feelings, called prehensions, are graspings of preceding occasions. The term "feeling" is used as a general term for what Gestalt Therapy calls "contact." Emotions, which are often called feelings by therapists, are what Whitehead calls the subjective form of feelings. The becoming occasion, as subject, prehends past occasions that have completed their becoming. These past occasions are the facts (objective data) of our experience. They are not simply inert, dead facts, however. Potentially they all have efficacy for the future, and some of them will have a great deal of influence. In a very real sense, the feelings and purposes of past occasions have the potential to come alive again in the new moment.

This perspective implies that we share a kinship with our body and, indeed, with all of creation. The destructive Cartesian mind-body dualism, which continues to distort our view of ourselves, is abolished. The view that we are somehow really only chemistry, prevalent today in medicine and much of psychology, is rejected without denying our intimate relationship with our chemistry.5

(a) Psyche As Both Physical and Mental

As with all occasions, the psyche has both a physical and a mental pole in its experience. The physical pole has to do with the experience of; and connection to, past events; and the mental pole has to do with the mental elaboration of that experience. Unlike most occasions, however, the mental pole becomes highly significant and elaborate in the human psyche. It must be stressed that both poles are important for the human psyche. The mature psyche is Increasingly a full integration of the two poles. The elaboration of the analysis of these two poles, including their interrelationship, constitutes much of the rest of this paper.

(b) Psyche and the Soma

The relationship between the psyche and the soma traditionally is a rich area of study and debate. From a Whiteheadian point of view, the human psyche is seen as exceedingly lively rich and complex, the most complex creaturely process known. Much of its complexity arises from its intimate relationship with the brain and the rest of the body. While there is little doubt in our culture about the dependence of the psyche for its adequate functioning upon a healthy body, the brain in particular, there is considerable doubt about the relevance of the psyche for the life of the body. In a related vein, there also is much debate about the relevance of the psyche for the human person in terms of freedom and consciousness.6

The entire field of biofeedback is testimony to the influence of the psyche on the soma. If one can learn to alter skin temperature, heart rate, and brain waves at will, clearly the mind has an impact on the body. The entire profession of psychotherapy turns on the notion that individuals are responsible for their decisions, actions, and even their moods, and that they can learn to change. If this is not true to any significant degree, then there is no need for this field.

Much of the confusion about the relationship between the psyche and the soma is the result of a muddled ontological understanding of the nature of these two structures. Whitehead makes it clear that there is but one kind of actuality (the actual occasion) which can take different lines of development. Some become occasions that constitute the body and some become occasions that constitute the psyche. Further, each occasion is a separate and unique event. This means that a given occasion of the psyche has the same general dynamics as all occasions, even if they are uniquely developed; but that it is separate and distinct from any occasion constituting, say, the brain.

An occasion of the psyche has important and unique functions and characteristics. It emerges in response to the activity of the body in particular the brain. It is the recipient of all of the experience of the body, including the highly refined experience of the brain. It receives this experience in a direct, unmediated fashion.

In turn, it returns the favor, influencing the body Whitehead says, with "its vivid originality: it is the organ of novelty"(Process 339). That is, the decisions made by this occasion flow back into the brain and the rest of the body altering the soma. In this sense, it is the "dominant" occasion, presiding over the occasions that constitute the soma. There is a dance between the body and the soul, each influencing the other in an on-going fashion.

II. Radical Novelty and Continuity Through Time

The psyche’s ability to introduce and handle novelty referenced at the end of the last section, is central to its functioning. This drive toward novelty is counterbalanced in the human person by the need for continuity and order.7 This tension between novelty and continuity, which is on-going, is central to understanding the development of the mature human psyche. In Whitehead’s philosophy God is the ultimate source of novelty for the world. Novelty enters the world through the initial aim of each occasion; this aim is derived from God. For most occasions, the degree of novelty realized in the final becoming is trivial. For the occasions which constitute the psyche, the degree of novelty realized in the final becoming can be significant.

This tension between novelty and continuity has psychological relevance. In a way that is not initially obvious, this drive for novelty seems to underlie a major area of psychological difficulty the struggle for personal continuity. One of the most painful experiences can be the struggle simply to make it from one moment to the next. This is a common experience for someone stuck in the borderline personality position, though anyone under extreme conditions can feel this way. People wrestling with this condition feel they are about to drop off into the great abyss, to be swallowed up by the black hole of nothingness.8

Developmentally, the infant and toddler need to have others present in order to develop a core sense of self. The mirroring other is necessary for this continuity. This is the contact-withdrawal pattern that Gestalt Therapy describes. As the child develops, the periods between contact, the length of the withdrawal in other words, gradually gets longer, and the length of the contact may grow less. Under stress, the need for contact increases. The contact with the caregiving other helps to bridge the psyche from one moment to the next, before the psyche can do it on its own. Gradually under optimal conditions, this continuity becomes a part of the personal order that is inherited from moment to moment. The sameness of the caring other is taken in whole and becomes the sameness of the psyche. At first, this does not endure many moments. The infant needs constant (loving) attention. This is taken in through touch, smell, sound and sight, as well as directly. When things go well, the continuity is extended gradually for increasing lengths of time. The toddler can run away from the care-giver, only needing to sight the care-giver from time to time, before feeling compelled to fly back and grab hold once again. Unfortunately many children do not receive the steady care that enables them to achieve a strong psyche. For them, the problem of continuity through time continues.

Why are humans faced with this extraordinarily difficult challenge? Whitehead’s cosmology suggests that we face the struggle for continuity as a result of God’s appetite for novelty Bringing novelty into creation disrupts continuity. One cannot truly and radically change and stay the same. The crucial, life-shaping tension is between reiteration from the past (where the past largely shapes the present in a causal fashion) and the freedom to make new decisions, to be different from the past. Much of creation is overwhelmingly causally determined. The psyche, in potential at least, is not. However, to be this free runs the risk of discontinuity (if the disconnection from the past is great enough). This also runs the risk of chaos, which is the opposite of order. As previously discussed, the subjective experience of discontinuity and chaos is a painful reality for many clients.

When there is this continuity, there exists what Whitehead in Process and Reality calls a "living person,"9 an uncommon and tenuous phenomenon: "It is not of the essence of life to be a living person" (107). Furthermore, "central personal dominance is only partial, and in pathological cases is apt to vanish" (109). "There are limits to such unified control, which indicate dissociation of personality; multiple personalities in successive alternations, and even multiple personalities in joint possession" (107). This "living person" is what we experience ourselves to be from moment to moment, at least when we have some sense of continuity. Whitehead’s cosmology asserts that we inherit mentality (including new possibilities) from previous instances of the psyche. On the one hand, this inheritance provides a stable structure. This is because each new instance of the psyche includes mentality that existed in previous Instances of the psyche. This similarity from moment to moment creates a relatively continuous structure that exists over time. On the other hand, this mental structure imports novelty from the one’s past as well as from God. Thus, novelty and continuity are held together.

The process perspective on these issues anticipates radically different problems than the substantialist point of view The latter is not able to account for radical, purposive novelty. That is, if everything is causally related thing-to-thing, there is no accounting for novelty. Event A causes event B, event B causes event C, and so on. How can there be any true novelty in this perspective? If true novelty arose, what would be its source? This point of view is not compatible with the underlying assumptions in psychotherapy concerning freedom of choice and individual responsibility for growth and change. In the Whiteheadian cosmology, however, radical, purposive novelty is the aim of the universe. In turn, this phenomenon gives rise to a major psychological struggle concerning continuity.

III. Confluence and Boundaries

Whitehead’s theory of perception underlies the discussion in this paper at a number of points, including this and the following section. As shown elsewhere (Roy Value, Toward), his theory of perception and his theory of concrescence are well-correlated. For example, perception in the mode of causal efficacy is correlated with first phase of concrescence, involving physical feelings and the physical pole of the occasion. Perception in the modes of presentational immediacy and symbolic reference are correlated with propositional feelings and intellectual feelings, respectively These latter are activities of the mental pole of the occasion. This section will look at the relationship between the activities of the physical pole (including causal efficacy) and the psychologically important issue of boundaries. The psychological issues related to the other modes of perception, involving the mental pole, will be taken up in subsequent sections.

If one takes Whitehead’s analysis seriously as a description of the dynamics and issues of the psyche, then one would have to conclude that a major psychological struggle would be the establishment of good boundaries. This is because the phase of physical feelings is dominated by conformal experience. Each occasion conforms to the influence which comes to it from the past, including its predecessor occasions but also from the body from other human beings, and the larger universe. This is in contrast to the substantialist point of view which finds it very difficult to account for intimacy and merger. In the substantialist perspective, one could only have superficial relations. Poor boundaries would not be a valid psychological issue from this ontological orientation. The challenge from a substantialist point of view is to explain intimacy and merger on the one hand, and why creating good boundaries is such a struggle on the other hand.

The concept of boundaries is important, both in the clinical literature and in the popular (self-help) literature. Many people have difficulty with appropriate boundaries. Either the boundaries are too loose or permeable, or they are too tight and impermeable. For example, the person stuck in the borderline personality disorder position seems to have boundaries that are too loose, both interpersonally and intrapsychically. By contrast, the person stuck in the narcissistic personality disorder position seems to have boundaries that are too rigid, both interpersonally and intrapsychically.

Whitehead’s analysis reveals the underlying dynamics of what are termed boundaries. In the extreme, there are no boundaries in the physical pole of the occasion (the phase of physical feelings).10 By contrast, there are absolutely rigid boundaries in the mental pole of the occasion (involving the higher phases of concrescence). In the extreme of the physical pole, the subject is totally receptive to what comes to it -- not just receptive, but conformal. In this extreme state, the experience is of being utterly at the mercy of forces beyond one’s control. Initially at least, these controlling forces are virtually the entire past universe, including God. By contrast, in the extreme of the mental pole the subject is totally self-caused; it decides upon its own integration of what it has received. In this mode, we are the master of our own fate, answerable to no one except ourselves. The actual experience we have most often is some variable ratio of these two extremes. For some it may be that the relationship alternates between these two extremes from moment to moment; and that for others, it is a more integrated experience each moment (though still potentially variable).

Another issue related to boundaries is the common sense understanding of "inside" and "outside." When dealing with boundaries, we tend to employ a spatial metaphor, talking about what is "inside" and what is "outside" one’s boundaries. Being clear about boundaries is considered today to be a foundation for emotional well-being, individuation, and so forth. Further, when people have something "inside" them, it is either helpful or unhelpful, but it is resistant to change. A person may have a lot of shame "inside," or a lot of good self-esteem. However, from a process point of view, these discussions often have a substantialist ring. "Inside" connotes a container which holds qualities, an understanding that process philosophy firmly rejects. This issue is resolved when we realize that one’s self-image or self-object is but an aspect of the psyche. One’s self-object includes some characteristics and excludes others, including those that are present within the larger psyche. Which characteristics are included (both consciously and unconsciously) affects the decisions that are made.

Also important from a process perspective is that the characteristics which are included can be changed from one instance of the psyche to the next. Each new moment is a new opportunity. While experience tells us that change is not easy, process thought affirms that it is possible. (This idea will be expanded in later sections.)

IV. Perception in the Mode of Presentational Immediacy and Separation

George Bernard Shaw is reputed to have said, "I don’t know who discovered water, but it certainly wasn’t a fish." By the same token, it is difficult for members of our culture to understand presentational immediacy since it is very much the "water" in which we swim. To switch metaphors, presentational immediacy is the lens through which we view reality under most circumstances. Biologically and psychologically vision is by far the dominant sensory modality, and vision is a prime example of perception in the mode of presentational immediacy.

It is in this mode that we perceive reality as it is presented in its immediacy In this sense, it is reality here and now. Certain additional features are dominant in this mode, including separateness, discrimination, organization, vividness, and distinctness. This mode of perception is an operation of the mental pole, and in keeping with the requirements of the mental pole, there are the twin emphases of separateness and of being self-caused: perceptions in this mode are, Whitehead says, "to a large extent controllable at will." (Symbolism 23)

It is out of this mode that we analyze and act upon the world around us. This mode, taken by itself; seems to support the substantialist view of reality. Also it is vital to human development. It is out of this mode that we learn to be self-contained individuals capable of autonomy self-support, and self-direction. Without the full development of these and related features, a person cannot be a mature adult in our culture.

Ideally the separateness of presentational immediacy is offset by its merger with causal efficacy. Life has balance. Often, of course, the balance is not present and we see people who are pseudo-separate. They are incapable of the back and forth dance between the two perceptual modes, and are stuck in a rigid separateness without sufficient access to connection or emotion. Persons who are captives of the schizoid personality disorder are an extreme example of this. These people are highly detached and virtually flat emotionally. They see no need for emotional attachments or intimate relationships. Less extreme and more common would be people with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.11 Individuals like this operate with a fairly high degree of detachment from others, forcing their agendas upon others in order to accomplish what they believe is necessary Those with this disorder may be well-meaning and even caring in their own mind, but they lack significant capacity for empathy sympathy and compassion. They find it very difficult to feel another’s feelings (or even their own). Others are objects to be controlled for the desired end.

V. Internal Relations

One of the concepts that flows from Whitehead’s cosmology is an understanding of internal relations as distinct from external relations. The "common sense" reality that most of us assume to be true is based on the sense of external relations. I am here and you are there, and we do not relate except externally. We can do things to each other (and to other features of our world), but we do not become a part of each other. This is a function of perception in the mode of presentational immediacy.

However, we are only truly external when we are contemporaries -- i.e., subjects at exactly the same moment. Otherwise, internal relations play an essential role in our constitution each moment. In the phase of physical feelings (the perceptual mode of causal efficacy), there is the influx of the entire past universe of occasions. Obviously the vast majority of what flows into the psyche is not taken up in its final integration, but the potential is there. Whitehead even goes so far as to say that the impress of what is excluded remains a part of the final synthesis. Practically speaking, however, this principle makes it clear that not only is our own past a part of us each moment, but also the influence of those around us and of our environment.

In therapy this becomes the basis of what classical analysis has called projective identification, whereby clients induce in therapists at least some of the feelings that originated in other relationships. It also means that therapists take in clients’ emotions, ideas, attitudes -- for better and for worse; and vice versa: clients inherit the therapists’ feelings as well, also for better and for worse. Properly utilized, this exchange can be useful in guiding and effecting the healing process, particularly when done with the guidance of the initial aim.12

The doctrine of internal relations illumines Murray Bowen’s notion of the "family ego mass," including why and how family members influence each other so profoundly and why it can be so difficult to differentiate from this "mass."13 Family members, even in those families that act distant, saturate each other with their influence. Bowen’s concept of differentiation, whereby people become increasingly able to be proactive instead of emotionally reactive in the context of a family also is supported by the notion of internal relations. Differentiation, that is, involves a shift from the primacy of the physical pole to the primacy of the mental pole. (This will be elaborated in the final section of this paper.)

Likewise, a process view of internal relations clarifies the nature of the struggle at the heart of all intimate relationships, namely the dance between contact and withdrawal, intimacy and separation, merger and autonomy. This shifting dance, which catches up every couple, is the dance between the primacy of the physical pole and the primacy of the mental pole for the life of the couple. Romantic love involves an intense period of merger and intimacy (as well as, often, a large dose of denial). This is the primacy of the physical pole. Yet these two people are individuals, and eventually each needs to return to a greater sense of separateness. If the couple cannot achieve greater separateness, or cannot return safely to a merged position once the separateness has been reached, the couple will have chronic difficulties. Both modes are important to the life of the individuals that are coupled, just as these same modes are important to each actual occasion.

This concept touches on the confusion surrounding where and how to assign responsibility for conflicts in marriages and other long-term, committed relationships. The nearly universal wisdom in psychotherapy today is that each member of a couple must take individual responsibility for his or her thoughts, emotions, and actions. Blame of the following type generally is not allowed: "He made me feel bad," or, "She drove me to it." Yet the truth from a process perspective is more complex than this. The process view of internal relations forces us to admit that other people really do make a difference to us because they literally become a part of who we are. Our experience of them becomes a part of us. This does not change the ultimate importance of assuming responsibility for one’s total being, however. Succumbing to cheap blame avoids growth. But the process perspective on internal relations does suggest why it can be an enormous struggle to achieve a sense of separateness, a degree of autonomy sufficient to keep one from being overwhelmed by the moods, thoughts, and emotions of one’s partner. It also explains why one person can be truly "toxic" to another person.

In addition, this concept clarifies why the quality of a person’s general environment is so critical. Our world literally becomes a part of us each moment, in a direct, non-mediated fashion. If we live in squalor, this squalor becomes a part of who we are. If we live in a place of beauty, this beauty becomes a part of who we are -- in the most intimate fashion imaginable. This perspective supports the branches of psychotherapy that are concerned about the impact of the environment on mental health.

VI. Metaphors, Grounded Possibilities, and Projections

(a) Through a Glass Darkly: Navigating in Reality, and Beyond

Whitehead analyzed in depth how we perceive both actuality and possibility and the different ways we combine the two. The results of this analysis touch on matters at the core of psychotherapy including projections and metaphors, as well as how the lure of imagination can lead to much needed change.

The entry to this discussion is through his concept of propositions and propositional feelings (literally the feelings a subject has of propositions). For Whitehead, a proposition is a unique joining of a subject and a predicate (or pattern). Instead of either the subject or the predicate being felt in their unique fullness, each is felt in partial fashion.

In the barest terms, a proposition might he, "This [subject] is a ball [predicate or pattern]." There is the subject, this, to which the pattern ball is said to apply. In the perceptions that we encounter in the consulting room, we can perform the same analysis: "This husband of mine [subject] is self-centered [predicate or pattern]." "My wife [subject] is lazy [pattern], just like my mother [another pattern]." Other important propositions might include the understanding that "I [subject] deserve to be safe, powerful, important [various patterns]" -- when none of these patterns currently are linked with the client’s psyche. One can also see that these statements, which are all propositions, are really theories, which may be true or false. For Whitehead, false propositions are as important as ones that are true, for they lead to the introduction of novelty into actuality and potentially yield intense experience.

The perception of propositions is the domain of the mental pole of the psyche. Propositions are components in consciousness, but alone they do not yield consciousness.14 Whitehead determined there are two classes of propositions, perceptive and imaginative. The difference between these two general classes is determined by the source of the data which give rise to the predicate or form of the proposition. In perceptive propositions, the data which give rise to the predicate are derived from the subject.15 In the case of imaginative propositions, the data which are the source for the predicate are derived from a different source.

While imaginative propositions are often false in a factual sense, they are central to growth and healing. This is because they can function as lures for change. The possibilities that are not now realized call to us from the future, charming us, even captivating us, with their potential. Imaginative propositions can reveal new possibilities about a given.

(b) Projections: Is It Real or Imagined?

Imaginative propositions also provide the basis for what are commonly called projections, where a here-and-now figure is seen and treated as someone from the past. The pattern from the past is tied to the subject in the present. Projections often are revealed when a person will have a response to a situation or person that may seem far too intense. While the spouse who is mistaken for a parent typically has at least some of the offending qualities, the response is disproportionate to the offense. The "pattern" of the parent, which is superimposed on the spouse, stirs the intensity of the original reactions in childhood. A few examples: a man reacts to his mother’s weekly telephone call by having an epileptic seizure; a bright, talented, personable woman is unshakably convinced she is worthless, incompetent and unlikable; a man is filled with debilitating dread when he turns to what matters most to him a woman falls into a major depression when her adult daughter moves out of town. In work with couples, this issue is apparent much of the time. Motives are misread repeatedly by both parties. A flash of disgust from her husband, and the wife reacts with rage, for this was the way her mother treated her over and over. Because of this, the wife insists he doesn’t love her, though he does deeply. However, her "mistakes" trigger in him the shaming response that he originally received from his father.

What we see much of the time in the consulting room are examples of imaginative propositions treated as though they are accurate or true perceptive propositions. What this means is that the form or predicative pattern is coupled with a different subject than the subject that originally exemplified the form. There are two goals. The first is to uncouple the form from the here and now subject; and the second is to reattach it to the there and then subject. This can be a slow difficult, and painful process.

For the first four examples above this means: (1) coming to grips with the pain from and rage at a mother who repeatedly used her son for her own emotional needs. The mother of today is seen as though she were the mother of many years ago; and the client also sees himself as the weak, vulnerable, helpless little boy that he was, not as the powerful, adult male that he is today. (2) Admitting to consciousness the experience of being raped under age five. This experience taught her that she was worthless, and when she does something of worth, that would cause herself and others to see her differently, she reacts with a violent intensity. (3) Recalling a mother’s abandonment whenever autonomy and male power were displayed. Instead of looking for someone outside himself to support and empower himself; he is working on being the parent to himself; to his fearful little boy. (4) Working through the hurt and anger at being her parents’ least favorite child. Instead of projecting her mother onto her daughter, she needs to learn to mother herself; and to let her daughter be an independent person who is not obligated to care for her mother. In the case of the couple, this means that each partner needs to work through his or her own issues around being abused by shame, and learn to support and be tender with each other, instead of continuing to give and receive the original shame.

In these cases, and many more like them, the original pain in all its fullness has been partially shunted aside. However, the unresolved issue -- as defined by unmet needs or uncontained, unsoothed pain -- continues to arise in these kinds of ways. We call these symptoms, but they are really the cries of the early self-objects seeking to be healed.

(c) The Lure of Metaphors: Soaring Possibilities

While Whitehead did not discuss more than one kind of imaginative proposition, a closer analysis reveals two kinds.16 One type is metaphors. These are luring but not truly realizable. Metaphors cannot directly be grounded. The other type is realizable or grounded possibilities. Because of this, they can function as lures for immediate action. An example of the second type is the lure to alphabetize ones bookcase. This might yield an orderly bookcase. An example of the first type is the urge to soar like angels. While no one literally soars like an angel, the form of "soaring" may indeed characterize many aspects of the outcome. These two kinds of imaginative propositions show up in different ways in therapy.

The term metaphor is popular in psychotherapy. Milton Erikson, considered by many to be a master therapist, was reputedly a wizard at working with clients’ metaphors. He healed them by reworking a problematic metaphor (usually by telling a story after having experienced the client’s metaphors for a time. Dreams and fantasies are seen as metaphors. The Oxford dictionary gives this definition: "The application of a name or descriptive term or phrase to an object or action to which it is imaginatively but not literally applicable."

Metaphors have great value for the process of psychotherapy They are unique lures for change. In addition, they do not have to contend with the massiveness of the experience of sheer actuality in its unchanging givenness. A man who lacks a sense of manhood can rather quickly go on a quest for initiation and experience a great number of the feelings that a real quest would encounter. A woman who is often outwitted by her controlling, seductive father introject can become the wildcat in the dream, and feel new power and strength that carries over into the "real" world. Metaphors can quickly create complex unities or contrasts out of otherwise incompatible material.

Further, metaphors can function at a deep level to pull us toward new, rich and complex ways of being over an extended period of time. Because they are so unrealistic in any immediate sense, they can continue to pull and shape indefinitely always pulling and shaping reality in the direction of the underlying form. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and, "love your neighbor as yourself;" are two core metaphors. While they are seldom the prevailing pattern of reality, they continue to lure and inspire humanity toward more humane relationships.

In therapy metaphors can function in the same way. First and foremost, clients frequently generate their own metaphors which produce growth and healing They do this in dreams, day-dreams, and guided imagery. The therapeutic task is to support this growth and healing. Secondly a lot of what is learned in therapy is metaphorical. For example, it is possible to see that the therapeutic relationship itself is a metaphor. Where else in life can one expect to find a relationship that is supposed to be so carefully thoughtfully, intentionally and massively geared to the needs of another human being? Not even the best parent can be expected to measure up to this supreme selflessness. Certainly no spouse or life partner can -- or should -- come close to this. Yet the outcome of the metaphor of therapy can be healing, for the person ideally will come to value his or her worth in a way that will be internalized and therefore continue long past the end of treatment.

In a related vein, the nature of the relationship that the client establishes with the therapist, traditionally called transference, can be described as a metaphor. A man, furious at his mother for molesting him, yet afraid to direct his anger at her, attempts to destroy the therapeutic relationship with the counselor by threatening suicide as he leaves the session. The counselor is forced to alert his family and the police, thereby potentially causing him to feel still more estranged. The whole exchange is governed by the pattern of his understandable rage at his mother; but it is directed at the counselor as the substitute subject. If successfully resolved (which it was in this case), this metaphor can become a lure for change, for healing the old wound.

In addition to their value as lures for change, metaphors also have value as buffers for clients between total denial and the full experience of pain. They soften the blow of harsh reality. The symbol and the meaning are only partially joined. The full force of the meaning is not added to the full force of the actuality. When the two are fully joined, one has the most intense experience. When this involves acute trauma, this can be devastating to the person. A tender, vulnerable three-year-old boy-self is disguised as a puppy. The abandonment and abuse of the puppy though painful, is not as intense as the full and accurate memory.

Metaphors also can effect healing. Rescuing and soothing the puppy which is easier to accomplish than trying to touch directly upon the white hot core of pain, overlaps with the child self which appears in the guise of the puppy. While the metaphorical soothing may not be as complete as direct healing at the time of wounding, it does help. New possibilities (of rescuing, containing and soothing) become attached to the original (though disguised and therefore incomplete) actuality. Even in this case, the metaphor of the puppy is a lure for change, for it brings together the unfinished pieces, serving as a stage in their eventual integration.

(d) Where the Rainbow Ends: Grounded Possibilities

Grounded possibilities are known first as realistic plans -- the "goals and objectives" of contemporary life. Some of them flow from metaphors, which function more like general visions for the future. A local artist is famous for making ceramic statues of a lion and a lamb lying side by side. Each one of these statues is a metaphor. Yet, this image pulls on our hearts, moving some in the community to take concrete steps to make this area a more peaceful place. To achieve this goal requires a plan with an exceedingly complex set of very concrete actions: grounded possibilities.

VII. Dissociation

To dissociate means to disconnect or become disconnected. It is from the Latin, dissociare; the root is dis- (indicating separation) and socius (companion). The Psychiatric Dictionary, by Robert Jean Campbell, defines dissociation as

Segregation of any group of mental processes from the rest of the psychic apparatus; dissociation generally means a loss of the usual interrelationships between various groups of mental processes with resultant almost independent functioning of the one group that has been separated from the rest. As so defined, dissociation and ‘splitting’ are approximately equivalent [. . .]; the mental mechanism of isolation [. . .] can also be considered a type of dissociation.

Campbell refers to multiple personalities and sub-personalities as being "‘dissociated’ from the total personality." His definition of semantic dissociation is relevant: "The distortion between symbol and meaning that is characteristic of the thought disorder of many schizophrenics."

Two general classes of dissociation are mentioned in Campbell’s definition. The first is the splitting apart of so-called mental processes (e.g., thoughts from feelings, any of the sensory modalities from each other or from feelings, as well as symbol from meaning). The second has to do with the splitting apart of personality streams, resulting in disconnected personalities (either multiple or sub-personalities). The first class will be discussed below. The second will be discussed in the section on contrasts.

Whitehead’s discussion in Symbolism is relevant to the first kind of dissociation. In this dissociative experience, it would appear that there is a breakdown in the perceptual process of symbolic reference, that is, a breakdown in the relationship between the symbol (perceived via presentational immediacy) and the meaning (perceived via causal efficacy). This accounts for two kinds of experiences. One is memory without feeling and the other is feeling without memory. More precisely, memory is better understood as predominantly visual memory, for the detached feeling is actually an affective (or somatic) memory.

An example of the first case (visual memory without feeling) is a man whose mother beat him repeatedly with wire whips. He had virtually no feelings attached to the events -- no fear, no anger, nothing. Victims of abuse frequently will minimize the importance of the abuse. We see many examples of the second (feelings without visual memories). People will have feelings steal over them for no apparent reason: dread, anxiety, fear, anger, depression. I call these affective memories. People also have somatic memories (feeling suffocated, aches in muscles, tightness in the throat, etc.).

VIII. The Self

The concept of the self is central to certain major contemporary psychological theories (e.g., Self Psychology and Object Relations). How does the concept of the self relate to the concept of the psyche from a process perspective? Often it seems that one’s self and one’s psyche are phenomenologically different. Yet the notion of the self as a subordinate agency within a dominant occasion is ontologically impossible. This apparent distinction between self and psyche arises from the sense that people have of being a part of a much larger experiential field. The self seems to journey into the depths of the soul.

An example of this emerged clearly in a therapy session: A woman was sitting in the office, terrified that a relative who molested her severely from early childhood through adolescence would hurt her for being angry at him and for telling the therapist about what this relative did to her. At the time of the session, however, the actual perpetrator was old and incapacitated, incapable of harming her in the way he once did. While doing guided imagery, she decided to surround herself with more than 100 jungle cats. To bolster the protection, she invited two human protective figures into the center. Nonetheless, she still did not feel safe. The therapist suggested she ask the two figures if the cats could protect her. They reassured her that she was safe. She still felt very uneasy. The therapist suggested she ask them what she could do to reassure herself that she was safe. They replied that she needed to learn to trust their confidence that she was safe now. She experienced the two figures as totally confident, relaxed. Yet she, her self was still terrified. She continued to work on this in different ways so that she (her self) could appropriate the needed confidence. All of the images -- the 100-plus jungle cats, the two humans -- were her creations, were experiential components of her psyche. The experiences of feeling confident and safe were aspects of her "inner" world yet, she, as her self did not feel safe.

This apparent distinction between the self and the psyche can be explained by understanding that there are two basic dimensions of the self. The first is self as agency; the second is self as identity. In process terms, the self as agency is the dominant occasion at the moment of subjectivity. The self as identity, on the other hand, is a society of past dominant occasions which bear certain characteristics in common. The self as agency is who we are in our fullness each moment. The self we feel ourselves as being is an object from the past. Ontologically, the self of the present moment cannot objectify itself. This self is subject, and subjects can only objectify objects; objects by definition are past. Therefore, any self felt or seen must be an object from the past. The self that is felt is really a se/f-object. The degree to which this self-object is included in the final becoming is the degree to which we in the present moment are reasonably identical with who we have been. The self-object provides identity (and continuity), but it also limits our potential for change. The actual self of the moment could be different. That is, one of the implications of this perspective is the potential for radical freedom in the self of the present moment. Another implication is that there could be multiple identities (multiple self-objects) competing for influence in the present moment.

The subjective experience of familiarity is another way of defining identity. The lack of familiarity as a persistent state is characteristic of depersonalization, one of the family of dissociative disorders. The sense of familiarity is the result of the self as agency comparing the present elements of experience against the self as identity (the self-object). If the elements of the current moment are similar or identical to the elements of the self as identity, there is a sense of familiarity This is experienced as, "This is me." If the elements are dissimilar, this is experienced as, "This is not me."

The self as agent can be anything at all in potential, but it is usually limited to the self as object, the historical self. The most influential member of this personal order is the preceding instance of the self.

In summary, there are four concepts that need to be defined and related to each other:

1. The Psyche: This is the totality of a person’s experience from the present moment of subjectivity on back into the history of the person. The psyche is the same as the "thread of personal order" of which Whitehead writes. Its most basic characteristic is that it is comprised of hybrid physical feelings. This is the same as the soul.

2. The Dominant Occasion: The dominant or presiding occasion is what constitutes the psyche or soul. The psyche is made up of the thread of dominant occasions.

3. The Self: This is the current becoming subject which is the successor to the thread of personal order. This is the same as the dominant occasion or the currently becoming member of the psyche. It is the agency which aims at integration of experience and at the future.

4. The Self-Object: This is a society of occasions which is a part of the thread of personal order (psyche, soul). This society is a society by virtue of having certain features in common. This commonality is what gives rise to identity. Clinical experience suggests there can be a variety of self-objects in the psyche, even in a reasonably healthy individual. The next section looks at this issue in more depth.

IX. Parts Work and Contrasts

A contrast is Whitehead’s term for the unity created out of many components. The components are held together in a harmonized whole. The greater the number and complexity of elements, the greater the depth and intensity of the experience. There are contrasts of contrasts, as well. The failure to produce a contrast results in what Whitehead terms the "inhibitions of opposites" (Process 109). This results in shallow and trivial experience.

The thesis being explored here is that one way to understand the psyche is that it is both a contrast (and a contrast of contrasts) and (as the self) an agent for creating contrasts. The rich experience that defines the psyche in its historical completeness provides most of the elements to be contrasted. The balance of the elements to be contrasted in the newly becoming self (dominant occasion) come from the brain and the rest of the body, the environment, and the initial aim from God.

The self in each instance of becoming struggles for unified, intense, meaningful, purposeful and continuous experience. In this struggle, it produces contrasts. The creation of novel contrasts is fundamental to all growth and healing. The self turns parts into partners through contrasts. This notion of parts becoming partners is particularly important for dealing with multiple and sub-personalities, but also important for the other aspects that go into making up a mature self.

(a) A Contrast of Poles and Perception

Perhaps the most fundamental contrast is between the two basic modes perception (which involves the contrast between the physical and the mental pole of the psyche). It is this contrast which gives rise to consciousness. As will be discussed in more depth in the last section of this paper, the pattern of this contrast changes as the self develops, from experience dominated by the mode causal efficacy to experience dominated by presentational immediacy. To summarize, while the mode of causal efficacy includes typically the experience of meaning, it also is dominated by loose boundaries and merging; a sense of being done to; vagueness and poor discrimination; heaviness (including emotions) and primitiveness, and the like. As one moves to the dominance of presentational immediacy there is a shift to experience which provides the symbol, along with a sense of clear boundaries and separation; a sense of doing to others (to that which is separate from self); as well as vividness, distinctness (good discrimination), yet barrenness.

In the context of the distinction between the qualities of the two pure modes of perception (including boundaries), it would be interesting to analyze both Axis I and Axis II disorders in the DSM IV17 I will look at two from Axis II. The borderline personality disorder, for example, would seem to be dominated by the experience of causal efficacy much of the time. Boundaries are loose both interpersonally and intrapsychically; their experience is confusing, disorganized, primitive. The sense of shame is often high and, correspondingly so too is the fear of falling into the black hole. The narcissistic personality disorder would seem to be dominated by presentational immediacy much of the time. Boundaries are tight to the point of being rigid (in order to deflect the shame). This rigidity of boundaries is both interpersonal and intrapsychic. People in this position can seem to be very clear, organized and high functioning.

(b) A Contrast of Selves

As stated elsewhere in this paper, the model of the psyche which seems to best fit clinical experience is one that reflects a multiplicity of dynamic aspects or self-objects. These self-objects seem to fall into two categories. In the first are the self-objects which were split off from the core self due to some kind of trauma. The trauma could be overt abuse (e.g., emotional, physical or sexual), or covert abuse (e.g., neglect). These parts carry a great deal of pain.

In the second category are potential qualities of the self which may or may not be realized to some degree in the self that presents for therapy. These tend to be experienced by the person as more imaginary or fanciful. These parts often carry the potential the person needs to realize for health, such as power, courage, tenderness, the connection to the transcendent, and so forth. Working with multiple self-objects is, in some cases, like doing intrapsychic family therapy In other cases, the distinctions are not as sharp. In fact, there may be a continuum that extends from the true multiple personality disorder to a fully integrated (though not homogenized) self.

The clue to the presence of a split-off self is some kind of symptom, which is that aspect’s inchoate cry. It may be anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, fear of intimacy, inability to express tender emotions, rage attacks, chronic power struggles, staying in damaging relationships, physical self-damaging acts, inability to set appropriate limits, inability to enjoy life, crippling perfectionism, chronic job dissatisfaction, self-defeating passive aggressive resistance, a stunted career, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus -- any of a multitude of symptoms. I have found that behind each one of these lies at least one wounded self-object, sometimes several. The therapeutic goal is to create a contrast between the wounded self from childhood and the adult self. The more severe the trauma, the more difficult and challenging it is to create this contrast.

X. The Role of Consciousness

Consciousness, for Whitehead, is the result of the tension (or contrast) between the "in fact" and the "might be" (proposition) about the same fact. Whitehead calls this the "affirmation-negation" contrast, in which the "affirmation" is the "fact" and the "negation" is the "possibility" (since possibility is the negation of actuality). This contrast serves to intensify the experience of the possibilities, thereby revealing more clearly their relevance for this particular moment, here and now:

The main function of these feelings is to heighten the emotional intensity accompanying the valuations in the conceptual feelings involved [ . . .] They perform this by the sharp-cut way in which they limit abstract valuation to express possibilities relevant to definite logical subjects. (Process 272-73)

This has the effect of increasing the probability of the actualization of these relevant yet novel possibilities. In this way, consciousness (or awareness) heightens the possibility of change. A time-honored goal of psychotherapy has been to lift unconscious material to consciousness. A Gestalt Therapy axiom is that awareness is curative. The assumption is that this is healing. Whitehead’s cosmology supports this. This stands in apparent contrast to some approaches to therapy which challenge the necessity to become conscious of one’s process in order to be healed of troubling symptoms.

The issue turns on the question of whether or not troubling symptoms are merely isolated, even disembodied qualities that need to he quashed, cast out, sedated or otherwise subdued -- or whether they are frequently the nonverbal, inchoate cries from disowned, hurting, even tormented, self-objects which were split off as a method of survival.18 Whitehead’s cosmology provides a clear basis for the latter view, and also sheds light on why our culture has a significant bias against this perspective, namely the dominance of presentational immediacy In the extreme, this mode tends to view the world -- including the past -- as separate from the self. Further, in this mode there can be a tendency to emphasize self-control (self-causation) and the primacy of the will. Of course there are other reasons we do not want to deal with the symptoms in their fullness, not the least of which is the pain that these old parts carry

XI. The Structure of Perception and the Phases of the Self

(a) The Phases of the Self

The development of a genuinely robust, mature self takes several years and fairly optimal conditions. Though there is no way to verify this, it would seem that these conditions, in today’s world at least, are seldom met adequately. Whether or not these conditions were met in predecessor societies any better than today is impossible to know.

Three phases can be identified in the development of the mature self. Each phase is dominated in turn by one of three different modal experiences of the self -- self-modes for short. However, these are not neatly packaged; nor are they ever fully or truly separable. The three phases19 are dominated, in succession, by the confluent mode of the self; the discernment mode of the self and the self-transcending or spiritual mode20 of the self.

The progression of confluent, discernment and spiritual phases reflects the general contours of development, not rigid and exclusive categories. It is not the case that first there is only the confluent mode, then only the discernment mode and finally only the spiritual mode. This is because all three modes are components of the psyche. All three modes are components of its process. The differences have to do with the degree to which the self is characterized by the qualities associated with each of the modes.

(b) The Confluent Mode of the Self

This is the mode of experience early in life.21 This mode includes the experience of the past flowing into the present. In the fullness of this mode, what was past is fully represented Indeed, the newly becoming psyche resonates with the past exactly as the past experienced itself. The past, technically speaking, is everything that comes before the present moment of becoming, whether a single moment ago or yesterday or last year or twenty years ago, and so on back. Whitehead uses the word conformal to describe the dominant experience in this phase. This mode is the experience of "gut" feelings (which can be intense) characterized by vagueness, heaviness, primitiveness. Exact discrimination is poor, including localization. What is perceived is experienced as unmanageable, yet the source of meaning. There is a lack of engagement, a sense of extreme relaxation, passivity, a receptive attentiveness. The sense of the body looms large. So, potentially do emotions (what Whitehead calls the subjective form of the more generic category of feelings or prehensions). This also is the experience of being other-determined or other-caused.

Our environment really does make a difference. If we grow up hated, ignored, loved, respected -- this really influences us, at the moment and in the future as well. Even a momentary blast of another’s anger will automatically stir our own anger in a conformal manner.

Whitehead makes it clear that the entire past universe is available to each new occasion of experience, not just one’s personal history. This mode provides for (though does not guarantee) an intimate connection to our brain and the rest of our body, to other persons and to our natural world. It is through this mode that we experience our connection to all of creation, as well as to the Creator: It is through this mode that we can experience mystical union with another or with God. It is the foundation for intimacy The collapse of boundaries, the sense of merging, has to do with the predominance of this mode in the final outcome of the becoming of a particular dominant occasion. When this mode is pervasively dominant, as in early childhood, we may feel we have no boundaries. The degree to which we experience any of these features, however, depends upon what happens in the mental pole of the occasion (to be discussed more later).

(c) The Discernment Mode of the Self 22

For the occasions of experience that make up most of creation, the present is almost completely conformal to the past. Life, in particular the life of the human psyche, is an exception. The seeds of novelty find some fertile soil. Here the mental pole is prominent. The two remaining self modes (discernment and spiritual) are both encompassed by the operations of the mental pole.

In the discernment mode, the self is dominated by the experiences of detachment, separateness, discrimination. Experience is organized. Perceptions are vivid and distinct. Discernment corresponds with Whitehead’s perception in the mode of presentational immediacy. The self takes the vague, chaotic welter of data, and weaves a unique, unified and harmonized creation. Perceptions in this mode are much more manageable than in the first mode; they are, Whitehead says, "to a large extent controllable at will." (Symbolism 23)

This mode includes the experience of reality as it is presented in its immediacy. Visual experience is a good example of perception dominated by this mode. This mode includes the perception of solid things out there. What flows into the psyche in the confluent mode is projected back onto the world in this mode. Between these two modes, we have the basis for both merger and separation, for oneness and for otherness.

X’hat may not be as apparent from this summary is that this mode is also the locus of all projection, both accurate and inaccurate. That is, what comes into the psyche in the confluent mode is projected back onto reality in the discernment mode, enabling us, among many other things, to maneuver physically in the world. However, it is entirely possible to receive data which arise from a different time and place and project them onto the here and now. This happens frequently in therapy. It is the foundation of transference, for example.

This mode brings with it a sense of self-determination; the sense of being self-caused belongs to this mode. This mode allows us to accomplish great things, but if our experience is continuously dominated by this mode, we also run a very real risk of creating the very problems that plague our culture and inflict at least some of the damage on the people we see in therapy. For example, when this mode dominates, we tend to emphasize our separateness and our detachment. In the extreme, this yields a cold, uncaring heart, unconcerned about our fellow humans, let alone our world. The dominance of this mode also accounts for our loss of the sense of the sacred in ourselves and in the ordinary world around us.

(d) The Spiritual Mode of the Self

The spiritual mode of the self comes into being long before the self enters the spiritual phase of development. As previously stated, it is well to keep in mind that all three modes are present to some degree all along the developmental continuum.

One of the characteristics of this mode discussed in both Process and Reality and Symbolism is that it is the experience of the relationship between the two previous modes. In some fashion, symbol (discernment) is joined with meaning (confluent). For Whitehead, the interrelationship between the two modes can also result in consciousness.

Connecting the symbol with the meaning can be a very intense, rich, powerful experience. For example, a man had had recurring images of a face contorted with rage. The image was detached, both visually and emotionally. He had sometimes wondered if it were his mother, but dismissed this idea, for his memories of her did not include this kind of rage. One day in a session, the image of the face began to look more like his mother; then it was followed by an image of a breast. He also became aware that he was salivating profusely. Despite wanting to dismiss the experience as meaningless, he continued to hold all of this in awareness. Suddenly he burst into tears, saying that his mother was screaming at him because he wanted to be fed. Though his mother was dead, he was able to learn from his father that his mother had had an extremely difficult and painful time with breast feeding, finally abandoning it in favor of bottle feeding. As he reflected on the paradigm of this memory several significant and confusing pieces of his life finally made sense (why for example, he would be in relationships where he would be attacked when he tried to meet a natural need).

On the one hand, the spiritual mode allows us to perceive the world as it is; and on the other, as it might be. Therapy often involves helping people be clear about both perceptions. As suggested by the perception of what might be, but is not yet, the introduction of novelty is an important function of this mode. It is the interplay between what is vs. what might be -- with a full, deep experience, knowledge and perception of each -- that is perhaps the core characteristic of the spiritual phase, yielding eventually the soulful self.

According to Whitehead, one of God’s chief aims is the evocation of intensities; and the way this is accomplished is through the introduction of novelty. The psyche and the self are caught up in this drama -- indeed, they are primary instruments for this drama. The psyche is the presiding or dominant occasion in each instant, presiding over and inheriting from the brain and the body. However, the psyche does not simply repeat its predecessor It is a new creation each moment, with far less allegiance to the past when compared with, say occasions that make up the body. The role of the initial aim (which introduces novelty) potentially can be quite significant for the psyche. Thus, each moment can be quite different from the previous moments. In the extreme, this is chaos. In moderation, this can be an experience of creative ecstasy.

As the mature self develops, it gradually increases in its ability to integrate change. It does this by gradually learning to transcend itself. (This process includes such concepts as the observing ego, the self-reflexive self, and the self-transcending self.) The self at the moment of subjectivity does not really look at itself (this is an ontological impossibility in Whitehead’s system).23 However, what it is doing is observing its predecessors from a different point of view. To achieve this, it must stand outside of or diminish the influence of its predecessors. The causal force of the past is weakened; the new instance of the self is not fully conformal to its predecessors. This has the effect of increasing the role of the initial aim in making changes for the future.

Clients are frequently dominated by old self-objects or parts of themselves, yet remain unaware of these parts as parts. They so identify with the part that they take it as "themselves." When they finally become aware that this is a part, they begin for the first time to have some real measure of relationship and therefore influence over the feelings and behaviors associated with this part. For example: A woman had been subjected to severe torture at approximately the age of four. As a result of this trauma, she developed a number of traits, including a very quiet, intensely watchful manner. For reasons that are peculiar to the details of the trauma, she also developed an extremely high need for precise accuracy. When she was dominated by this part, mistakes were absolutely not allowed! When she was not dominated by this part, she could be relaxed, spontaneous, playful. After considerable work with this part, she finally developed the capacity to see it and relate to it without either being taken over by it or banishing it. One day she spontaneously realized she was caught up with the mood of this part, and laughed, saying. "You’ve seen a lot of her over the years, haven’t you."

As this kind of experience becomes more and more important for how the self comes to constitute itself; it becomes both increasingly spiritual and soulful. It is increasingly spiritual because the role of God’s Spirit (via the initial aim) becomes increasingly the dominant influence in the self. It is increasingly soulful because it also gains in its capacity to include all that is present in the psyche (or soul). As the past is re-presented in the present, this means that the soulful self is increasing in its capacity to integrate the full measure of the past in a new and healing way in the present.

XII. The Nature and Source of Healing

(a) A Definition of Being Healed

Persons are healed when: (1) They can sustain conscious contact with their wounded parts (self-objects) without having to banish them and without being overwhelmed by them. (2) They can provide directly or indirectly what the wounded part originally needed at the time of the wounding. This new solution to the problem is the same as the creation of a novel contrast. (3) The parts are capable of experiencing creativity, self- and other-care, intimacy, joy, self-support, vulnerability, playfulness, purposefulness, and resilience -- some of the characteristics that are associated with the soulful self. (4) The parts can work as partners in helping to reach the overall goals of the person

(b) The Initial Aim and Healing

According to Whitehead, God is the source of all healing possibilities, including both metaphors and grounded possibilities. These possibilities come to us from God via the initial aim. This initial aim for each moment is an imaginative possibility, the one whose realization is best for that occasion and the future which will be impacted by that occasion. This initial aim is fundamental to the creation of novel contrasts.

God’s possibilities fly like angels into our souls, unbidden, luring us, coaxing us in the direction of health and wholeness. We ignore these angels often, and at our peril. When we do heed their call, we are furthered along our own healing journey -- and in turn further the healing journey for others. However, the call is not always toward bliss, at least not directly. Sometimes it is toward deep pain, pain that was buried or set aside ages ago. When this old pain is faced, and the necessary healing is accomplished, then we do move toward wholeness.



1. This article is a significant revision of "The View from the Chair: The Emergence of the Soulful Self;" originally presented at the conference on Whitehead and Psychotherapy, October, 1992, in Claremont, CA.

2. Subjectivity, for the human psyche, does not necessarily include the kind of experience we call consciousness; but it always includes experience. We are our experience at the present moment.

3. Under optimum circumstances, the immediate past may have the most influence upon the newly developing subject. However, there is no reason that a moment that occurred twenty years ago cannot have the same influence. Clinical experience teaches one that long-past moments of intense wounding have great sway over the present subject -- whether or not this is consciously recognized.

4. Whitehead referred to this occasion as the dominant, presiding or regnant occasion of the body.

5. A client of mine told me of reading a publication by a manufacturer of antidepressant medication which stated that psychotherapy was rarely indicated for depression. Our brain chemistry is critical, but the chemistry serves as messengers. I would submit that if a person were tied up and faced a speeding car coming at him or her five times a day for five years, that this person’s body chemistry would be radically and perhaps permanently altered. (This treatment parallels the abuse that many children face, by the way.) No one but the most ardent mind-body dualist would argue that the changes in the person’s chemistry were a random alteration and not the result of the repeated trauma. Yes, chemical intervention can be very, very important. But just because we can intervene with chemicals does not make our essence chemical.

6. See David Ray Griffin’s Unsnarling the World Knot.

7. Continuity and order require repetition, which is the antithesis of novelty.

8. The fear of falling into nothingness at this stage of the development of the self is to be distinguished from the resistance to "post-self" selflessness. One must have a strong self before the self can be transcended. Few people are at this stage of development.

9. A "person" in this case refers to a personally ordered society of occasions. A personal order has only temporal depth, no spatial depth. "Living" refers to the presence of novelty in the mental pole.

10. This correlates with the confluent mode of the psyche, as will be developed later in the paper.

11. Many people have obsessive-compulsive traits without having a true personality disorder. Someone with a personality disorder approaches all situations with the same structure. Further, they see the problem outside of themselves. Others have the problem, not them.

12. I have elaborated on this in "Spirituality and Psychotherapy: A Common Ground Across Boundaries."

13. cf. Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice.

14. Consciousness arises by the combination of the feeling of a proposition (known as a propositional feeling) with the feeling of the actuality itself. The comparison of the theory (subject plus predicate or form) with actuality is done by an intellectual feeling, and this yields consciousness.

15. For perceptive propositions, the conceptual counterpart (conceptual feeling of the form, or eternal object, realized in the subject) is taken from the same physical feeling that indicates the logical subjects of the proposition. For imaginative propositions, this is not the case. The data come from two different sources.

16. I am indebted to John Cobb for this clarification.

17. The DSM IV is the fourth major edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for the American Psychiatric Association. Axis I disorders include a wide number of disorders (including anxiety and depression, for example). Axis II disorders include the personality disorders.

18. This problem is being further aggravated today with the domination by managed health care. The philosophy of managed health care actively works against a psychodynamic, historical view of the psyche. The unconscious is to be avoided. Treatment is to be oriented exclusively toward symptom relief using cognitive and behavioral approaches, and is to be only short term.

19. The phases and the modes have the same names. I see no necessity to give them different names. As implied, a given phase lasts as long as a given mode is the prevailing mode. Originally, I had considered using the names for the three self-modes from Gestalt Therapy. (See Perls, et al.) These three modes are id, ego and middle. In 1951, Perls, et. al., were still working somewhat within Freud’s framework, but they were intent upon describing the mind as a process, hence the addition of "mode" to Freud’s categories.

20. The name of this phase was inspired by the work of John B. Cobb, Jr., in particular his book, The Structure of Christian Existence.

21. Whitehead approaches this mode of experience in two separate discussions. One is from his theory of perception and the other is from his theory of becoming (which he called concrescence). While I will not be using the names he gives his categories in the following discussion (as they are difficult to hold onto), I do want to mention them as a point of reference. This is perception via the mode of causal efficacy; i.e., the perception of the past as causally efficacious in the present. In his theory of becoming, he called this the phase of physical feelings, which occur in the physical pole of the occasion. There is a corresponding mental pole of the becoming occasion, which will be discussed later. This does not mean that mentality is more important than physicality; the two are polar and both are necessary for full, rich human subjective experience.

22. Discern: v.t. (1) to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend clearly. (2) to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate. v.t. (3) to distinguish or discriminate. (4) discernere to separate. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. (New York: Gramercy Books, 1989).

23. Subjects can only prehend objects, not other (contemporaneous) subjects.


Works Cited

Bowen, Murray. Family Therapy in Clinical Practice. New York: Jason Aronson, 1985.

Cobb. John B., Jr. The Structure of Christian Existence. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967.

Campbell, Robert Jean. Psychiatric Dictionary. Sixth Edition. Oxford UP, 1989. 211-12.

Griffin, David Ray. Unsnarling the World Knot: Consciousness, Freedom and the Mind-Body Problem. Berkeley: U of California P, 1998.

Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary. Eds. Joyce M. Hawkins and Robert Allen. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991.

Perls, Frederick S., Ralph Hefferline and Paul Goodman. Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. New York: Delta Book, 1951.

Roy, David. "Spirituality and Psychotherapy: A Common Ground Across Boundaries." The Journal of Pastoral Care 46 (1992): 153-61.

-- Toward a Process Psychology: A Model of Integration. Fresno: Adobe Creations, 2000.

-- "The Value of the Dialogue Between Process Thought and Psychotherapy." Process Studies 14 (1985): 158-74.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. 1929. Corrected Edition, Eds. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: Free Press, 1978.

-- Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect. New York: Macmillan, 1927.