The Journey of Psychospiritual Transformation
Psychospiritual transformation is based on the worldview that consciousness is fundamental to the universe and we are each an individual expression of a unified consciousness. We can label this individual expression as our soul, spirit or a core self which is embodied in the physical, human form.
The process of psychospiritual transformation is synonymous with spiritual emergence or spiritual awakening and this journey is acknowledged by various spiritual traditions and belief systems around the world. The belief systems understand that we are on an individual and collective journey of self-realisation and self-actualisation - moving towards greater wholeness.
The term psychospiritual acknowledges the whole of our being - the psyche (mind), the body and the spirt and unites psychological and spiritual perspectives in relation to our path of healing, transformation and growth.
The Ego & Going Beyond the Ego
When we explore the transformative process, it is important to integrate the ego and beyond ego dimensions of our being. Both of these domains are as important and necessary as each other in learning to navigate and make sense of our healing path. The mainstream medical model usually only addresses the egoic dimension of self, ignoring the transpersonal or beyond ego states, which often reduces many unexplainable experiences down to psychological, mental or physical illnesses that need to be repressed or ‘got rid of’.
Proving a Framework or Road-Map
A dialogue about psychological and spiritual transformation is helpful when attempting to make sense of our experiences. It also enables an exploration of various theories about psychospiritual transformation which can provide a framework or roadmap for our journey.
This doesn’t mean we are stepping into a ‘one map fits all’ territory because each person’s journey is unique and specific to the individual. However, what if we could attempt to 'map out' and interpret the meaning behind our experiences? What if we were able to perceive difficult or challenging experiences as having a purpose?
Triggers and Symptoms?
There appear to be certain life events which ‘trigger’ or result in ‘symptoms’ of psychospiritual transformation. I personally cannot say that there is one event that caused a psychological or spiritual transformation within myself because there have been several events throughout my life that have had a profound impact. Some have felt like an awakening to more spiritual dimensions - blissful and expansive in nature, and other experiences have felt like a regression into deeper levels of my psyche - being more painful and challenging to embrace. I believe these experiences are part of an evolution towards greater healing and wholeness and all these events are synchronicities or meaningful occurrences.
The Spectrum of Experiences
Psychospiritual emergence tend to include several mental, emotional and psychical experiences which can range from subtle to more extreme. There might be experiences of depression, anxiety, experiences of burnout and a desire to change one’s life path – reassessing relationship, career choices and finding a deeper meaning and purpose in life. There may be vivid or numinous dreams which occur and offer mythical or symbolic messages to the individual. On the other end of the spectrum, If these experiences are ignored, these ‘niggles’ might develop into more extreme symptoms such as severe physical or mental illness that stops a person from being able to function in the same way. There are also certain events that may ‘accelerate’ the process of transformation with grief, trauma, adverse childhood experiences, sudden loss or illness being huge catalysts for the occurrence of an awakening. Sudden transformations or openings to spiritual dimensions can resemble psychosis – and are often misinterpreted as more severe forms of mental illnesses because these experiences takes the individual beyond their ordinary state of consciousness.
Spiritual Emergency vs. Spiritual Emergence
Stan and Cristina Grof differentiated between spiritual emergence and spiritual emergency, with spiritual emergence resembling the more subtle experiences, occurring gently over time. Spiritual emergency is when someone might experience a sudden extreme awakening experience that stops them from being able to function ‘normally’ again. I am interested in the more subtle forms of transformation, the ones we might not notice, tend to repress or even explain ourselves out of. This repression might happen because these experiences haven’t actually stopped us from functioning in the world, so we could brush over them. However, I think it is just as important to pay attention to these more subtle experiences because they have the potential to be as profound and transformative as the more extreme or sudden occurrences. What appears to be crucial is whether we seek to acknowledge, interpret and find meaning behind our experiences.
Theories of Transformation
There are specific theories that have attempted to map out the passage of psychospiritual transformation and
I resonate with Michael Washburn and Hillevi Rummet.
It has been my experience that transformation is a spiral like process; it is not linear and I also relate to the shamanic view of the wounded Healer and how some engage in a Dark night of the Soul. I believe that our psychospiritual transformation is a life-long process of unraveling layers of our ego to re-connect with the core of our self or soul and the truth of who we really are. As is the nature of the universe, there are inevitable cycles of death and rebirth. As Hillevi Ruumet notes in Pathways of the Soul, “We do not grow into our fullness in a straight line. This is probably why the image of a spiral, or a labyrinth, is seen in almost all cultures as a metaphor for the spiritual journey” (p. 7).
In Washburn’s model, the ego emerges from what he called the Dynamic Ground, the creative source of the psyche. Thepath of transformation involves the ego’s journey outward as it pushes for individuation from the Dynamic Ground, and, having achieved a degree of integrity, its return into intimate relationship with its source, so during ‘regression in the service of transcence’ there may be a crisis and an opportunity to reconnect with the Dynamic Ground and integrate that lost part of Self.