Los Angeles Psychotherapist specializing in Spiritual Psychology and Transpersonal Counseling

The Eight Levels of Human Development

Timothy Leary is remembered by many as a drug-crazed hippie freak, but he was a serious psychologist and passionate seeker of freedom for the exploration of thepersonal-growth human mind. Exo-Psychology is an important book he wrote which posited 8 levels of human development. When I read it, it was the first time I had seen Western ideas about higher functioning, and ones that did not necessarily include hours of meditation a day. The East had long talked about higher levels of functioning but not the West. We were stuck with adjusting to the mainstream as the goal, which for many people, it is not.

The first four levels in Exo-Psychology, Levels I-IV, are about mastering the ability to function in the world, a topic well covered by mainstream psychology. The levels are about mastering survival, basic emotional functioning and social skills enough to be successful in the work world. These levels are essential to master before one can move on to the last four levels which are where it gets really interesting:

Level V: The stage of identifying as a bodymind, becoming a master of the body. Bodily disciplines such as nutrition and exercise; increasing flexibility, subtle energies, awareness of breath. Disciplined hedonism, the sexual arts, tantric fusion with one’s partner. Learning the value of relaxing and enjoying, being high and “floating.”

Level VI: The ability to achieve brain mastery, the fact that you don’t have to believe what you think. Your brain can be dialed, tuned, and focused to create new realities. You learn to control your brain, rather than your thoughts being controlled by the mass culture or the non-helpful programming of your parents.

Level VII: The stage of evolutionary consciousness, or the understanding that you have a role as an evolutionary agent. That your work on yourself serves all beings. Awareness of Jung’s “collective unconscious.”

Level VIII: The stage of spirituality, awakening of kundalini, illumination, out-of-body experiences, mysticism. This, says Leary, is the highest state of development available to all, not just mystics in caves in India.

Of course, Leary was an advocate of using drugs to experience and evolve into these Levels. Since he published the book in the late 70s, people have been actively developing drug-less methods. It’s wonderful to have these guidelines for how we might remain useful to society while we are developing ourselves to the farthest reaches possible.

© 2014 Catherine Auman

Innies and Outies

goldfish jumping out of the waterI used to feel bad about being an introvert. It’s just really supremely nerdy to prefer to stay home and read. I was born that way, though, what can I say. Even when I was little I remember my mother yelling at me, “Cathy, stop reading and go outside and play.” In a minute, Mom, in a minute. After I finish this paragraph, this chapter, this 800-page book.

America is an extravagantly extroverted culture. People are judged on their social skills, their level of apparent happiness and “positivity,” and their lack of thinking deeply. Other cultures, such as Asian ones, do not particularly value extroversion, and introverted people don’t feel as ostracized as we do here.

Someone once defined the difference this way: extroverts reach out to other people for stress relief while introverts prefer to be alone. This is only partially true, as everyone gets a mood boost from the company of others; rather, it is the number of people to whom one turns. Extroverts love hanging out in groups; introverts prefer meeting one-on-one with close friends.

While extroverts are partying down, introverts prefer less stimulus and more time for listening and reflection. Without introverts, we wouldn’t have artists, writers, musicians, scientists, or computer geeks. The extrovert’s primary life value is happiness; for introverts, it is meaning. Introverts can even find happiness a distraction from sorting out what has meaning, and from being engaged in meaningful activities. Extroverts, of course, find this insane.

Very few people are completely one or the other. Introversion/extroversion exists on a spectrum, with most in the middle. With age, people broaden to incorporate more of the opposite characteristics, becoming less extreme and more moderate. Mature introverts may even enjoy parties and meeting new people, as long as it is balanced with enough time alone. I read once that the least amount of time one can spend at a party without seeming rude is one and a half hours, so I’ve encouraged my introverted clients to plan to attend social functions for that amount of time only, before escaping home. We all find this a huge relief.

Innies and outies often find each other wrong while it is really a matter of difference. Introverts can feel defective living in the US, and find solace realizing it is purely a cultural prejudice. And for me? Finally, I prefer to go outside and play rather than read a book. As long as that book is waiting when I come back home.

© 2014 Catherine Auman

Not Afraid of Anything Inside

“You’re still angry with your father,” I say.Silence
“I don’t think that will ever go away.”
“It has to, if you want to become free.”

Many people are afraid of what’s inside them. They’re afraid of silence, of being alone. Afraid of an unscheduled moment with nothing to do. If it gets too quiet, they’re stuck with the contents of their own minds. Mostly, even though they don’t consciously know it, they’re afraid of the buried feelings inside they have never dealt with.

When you have hidden stuff inside such as still being angry with your father, it may surface when something occurs reminiscent of the original trauma, such as arguing with your lover. You find yourself responding in a much bigger way than the current situation warrants because you are reacting to historical injury rather than to what’s happening in the present.

One of the goals of psychotherapy is to clear all unresolved trauma out of the mind and body (although mainstream psychology does not know about this goal or possibility). In sessions, we work to clear thoughts, beliefs, energy patterns in the body, breathing, blockages and stuck places by the use of empathy, witnessing and being witnessed, counseling techniques, and by the client being in the presence of someone who has cleared her past and the inner silence that ensues.

Once you know it’s possible to not be afraid of anything inside of you any more, wouldn’t you want the freedom it offers? Imagine the places inside where you are no longer afraid to go, the conversations you’ll no longer be anxious to have. A great deal of self confidence comes from knowing there’s no longer anything shocking, shameful, horrible, or embarrassing to discover inside – it’s all been dealt with.

Working through your hidden feelings is a significant investment in time and money. It’s a tough road, but worth every bit of effort. Ignoring the hidden feelings won’t work, thinking positively won’t do it, pretending it’s not there, nor just talking or thinking about them without actually clearing them out of your mind, body and energy field. This is how many addictive behaviors are born.

Once you are free and clear, life will still bring challenges, but you will be able to handle them in the present rather than from a place entangled in the past. How long will it take? That depends on how difficult your early years were and how dedicated you are to resolution. You can make it though. It is possible for you to not be afraid of anything inside any more.

© 2014 Catherine Auman

Interview with the Swami

premodayaSwami Premodaya is a Los Angeles-based spiritual teacher who is unique in that before he began his current calling, he worked in the psychological field. For years, he headed up hospital-based psychiatric programs as well as working independently as a psychotherapist. I asked him about the relationship between psychology and spirituality:

“The simplest way to state it is that there’s a divinely given responsibility to grow, to become really who you are, to blossom into your true potential. For the small minority of people who consciously hold that purposeful intention, it becomes imperative to grow psychologically because that’s the base of growing in every other way. If you’re psychologically impaired or immature, your ability to advance spiritually is limited.”

How would that translate to practical advice? I asked.

“I recommend to your readers that if they want spiritual growth, they identify very clearly in what area of life they are out of balance. Life contains many required areas: work, social life, friendships, leisure time, finances, romantic relationships, health. Most people have areas of life that haven’t been dealt with and are not functioning adequately, and these become barriers to growth. For example, if someone has a chaotic financial life, they’re not going to be able to have the spiritual life they want or advance as far or as fast as they might like when they are constantly thrown back to deal with their money issues.“

The way I say it is so that these areas don’t capture your attention. Would he agree with that?

“Yes,” Premodaya continued. “It’s not required that you represent a pinnacle of health in every area of life, nor that you be the best or perfect. It is required that your functioning is minimally adequate, so that each area is not a problem that becomes a crisis again and again.

“Competent outside help is often needed as it can’t be done on your own or with the help of friends or family. People come to me for spiritual help and often the first thing I do is send them for psychological help because that will be the right order of things.

“For me, psychology is the beginning phase of spirituality. For those who seek spirituality, psychology is the entry point. I don’t have a strong dividing line between the two — I tend to see it more as the rungs of a ladder. The top rung of the ladder of psychology is the bottom rung of the ladder of spirituality.”

I often work with spiritual seekers needing psychological help, so I was happy to find out that the swami considers psychotherapy helpful. To learn more about Premodaya, visit www.premodaya.com

© 2014 Catherine Auman

Self Esteem is Built by Performing Estimable Acts

Many people conceptualize that their problem is “low self-esteem.” Their belief is that when they start feeling better about themselves, they will act to improve theirSelfEsteem-255x300 lives. Often the student therapists I teach agree and want to design therapy to address this. To me, they have all got it backwards.

Back in the 90s, schools across the US started programs to boost self-esteem. They were influenced by California’s Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility. Children were taught self-affirmative jingles and songs. Contests were held in which everyone received a trophy although no one actually won. Methods were invented by well-meaning people who believed that by encouraging self-esteem, they were giving kids a better chance at success.

Nowadays, the school self-esteem movement is widely considered to have been an enormous failure. On an international test, American kids were at the top of the charts in believing they are good in math, yet they ranked low on math skills. A generation or two of students were evaluated as entitled and under-performing. Research published in 2004 found that, against expectation, higher self-esteem was not correlated with better learning or behavior.

We need to look a little deeper into this question of self-esteem. Self-esteem needs to be earned by living in a way that is estimable, or, as the 12-Step slogan goes, by performing estimable acts. If someone’s actions are not worthy of esteem, it is good that they feel unhappy with themselves and their actions. As an example, we could agree that a criminal ripping off the monthly checks of the elderly does not deserve high self-esteem, no matter how many jingles he repeats.

Most of us have an internal compass that tells us whether we are living right or not. When we are not, our self-esteem goes down as an indicator that we are off track. If, instead of paying attention to this we attempt to overlook it by self-esteem exercises or reciting affirmations, we miss the opportunity to grow. Instead, we ought to take a painful look at how we need to change to be worthy of high self-regard.

If we are contributing through our work, if we share loving relationships, if we are not holding ourselves out to be better than others, if we act as stewards for planet earth; we are worthy of good self-esteem and we will feel it. Children can be taught that they can earn self-worth rather than merely expect it. For it is our actions that matter in the long run, not our beliefs about ourselves.

© 2014 Catherine Auman