Transcending the Ego
By Bill Harris
An interesting way to look at spiritual growth, or at any kind of developmental growth (it's actually all spiritual growth anyway), is to follow the development of a person's sense of "I", their sense of what is "self" and what is "not-self."
When a baby is born, it cannot tell the difference between self and not-self. Researchers describe the infant's experience at this stage as "oceanic". The child has no boundaries, and the experience is one of being undifferentiated from the material world. Everything is self. (This is, by the way, not the same experience as the oneness experience of enlightenment, because it does not include a developed awareness of self.)
But as the baby interacts with the environment, it makes the distinction between self and not-self. It bites its finger, and feels pain. It bites its blanket and it doesn't feel pain. The baby begins to realize that the finger is self and the blanket is not-self. This is the beginning of the awareness that such a thing as not-self exists. Some part of what was thought to be the self (which in this case included everything), now is experienced as not-self. The physical body becomes subject (by which I mean the center from which everything else is experienced) and the rest of the world becomes object.
Differentiation and Integration
Author Ken Wilber describes this developmental process as one of differentiation and integration. The infant differentiates the body from the rest of the environment and in doing so begins to identify with what developmental psychologists call her emotional feeling-body, the source of her feeling sense of "me." As this happens, the infant integrates the awareness of the body and the environment (now experienced as not-self) together into one system.
As development continues the child begins to make a distinction between the physical self and the emotional self. The child becomes heavily identified with his or her own emotional body. The physical body, at this point, begins to be seen as object, because there is a new awareness of the emotional body. The emotional body becomes the subject capable of observing the physical body as object.
Next, generally between ages 3 and 6, the conceptual mind begins to emerge, which becomes a new subject. This means that the emotional body can be perceived as object (another example of differentiation). The infant can observe her emotions from another center, the newly forming conceptual mind. Because that center is subject, what is observed can now become object. After successful differentiation of the emotional body and the conceptual body, the two are integrated into one way of perceiving the self and reality, and another developmental cycle is completed.
The next developmental stage, between ages 6 and 12, is one of the adoption of roles, generally those of mythical gods and goddesses, characters in fairy tales or other literature, and even in the children's cartoons. The child discovers and learns to follow the rules associated with the various available roles. As this happens, the focus of what is the self changes; the previous center (the conceptual body) moves from subject to object. Because of this new center, what was previously subject can now be observed (object) rather than being merely experienced (subject).
Gaining a Personal Identity
The next stage is the development of a personal and individual identity, generally during the teenage years. No longer defined only by roles and their rules, the person creates an individual identity which is independent of, or at least less dependent upon, conventional ethics, rules, and roles. And, once again, with a new center, the previous center can be observed. It moves, in whole or in part (depending on the degree of success in integrating this new stage) from being subject to being object. The experience of self as a playing a role is differentiated from the self as an individual identity, and then the two are integrated. Roles are not jettisoned, but rather included in the new identity.
Ken Wilber describes this process using two sets of parallel terms: differentiation and integration (which I have been using up to now), and transcend and include. In other words, the new stage is differentiated from the old, and then the two are integrated into a new view of self and world, or, you could say that the old stage is transcended as the new view of self becomes developmentally available, and then the two are included (integrated) into a new and more inclusive view.
In the next stage (and a person may or may not develop through all of these stages—for a variety of reasons development could stop at any stage) the sense of self moves from individualistic awareness (the individual identity) to a more global "all of us" awareness, a new perspecitive which includes a new integration of body/mind. And, as before, in each differentiation and integration, each transcendence and inclusion, each new center allows the previous center to be observed from a new perspective.
Successive stages involve the development and integration of what are called transpersonal stages or perspectives, where awareness of self goes beyond "all of us" to include what most people think of as the "spiritual dimensions" larger than just humanity. These are the levels of what is commonly referred to as enlightenment, oneness with all of the material universe, then with all of the spiritual realms, and finally beyond the manifest universe entirely to the non-dual.
The Proximal and Distal Self, Enlightenment, and "One Taste"
Ken Wilber notes that this process is one in which parts of the self (the emotional body, the conceptual body, the role identity, the individual identity, etc.) move from being part of what is called the proximal self (the center from which you experience yourself and the world) to the distal self (the parts of the self that can now be observed as object by the new center, even though they are still part of the self). Ken might very well describe this process in a different way than I have, so my apologies to Ken if I have not used the same degree of precision he might prefer. I'm not trying to put words in his mouth so much as in a general way to credit him with these ideas.
The process of development, then, could be seen as one where everything in the beginning is part of the proximal self, as when the infant experiences the oceanic feeling of being everything, with no distinction between self and other. As development unfolds, aspects of the self move from the proximal self to the distal self until, in the end, everything is distal self and nothing (!) is proximal self.
In the beginning there is no "ego." Then, an ego, a conceptualization of self, develops. Eventually, if development continues to a high enough stage, this conceptualization of self (the term I have used for this is Internal Map of Reality) finally becomes part of the distal self. Ultimately the sense of being a separate individual, a separate self, disappears (another way of saying there is no more proximal self). When this happens, the experience is one of unity with everything, oneness, enlightenment, or what Ken Wilber calls "One Taste."
Paradoxically, at the moment the individual self dissolves (or, you might say, when the illusion of the separate self is finally seen to be an illusion), the sense of self, the sense of who you are, "turns itself inside out," and the disappearance of the experience of being an individual self paradoxically becomes the experience of being the entire going on of it all, of being the entire process of the whole of existence. Instead of perceiving many individual doers, now there is just one doer. At this stage of development, the entire universe is experienced as the doer and what were seen as individual doings are not seen as the interconnected doings of the whole.
At each of these developmental stages, or fulcrums (again, to use Wilber's terminology), problems can arise. Since each new developmental stage involves differentiation from the lower level as well as identification with the next higher level (or, you might say, transcendence of the lower stage followed by inclusion/integration), a failure to fully differentiate creates certain mental, emotional, or spiritual problems, and a failure to fully integrate creates others. Wilber notes, for instance, that if the mind fails to differentiate from bodily feelings, the person can be overwhelmed with painfully strong emotions—not just feeling them, but being totally overwhelmed by them. This creates serious emotional/behavioral problems with impulse control, tremendous mood shifts, and other problems.
On the other hand, the individual may successfully differentiate between body and mind, but not integrating the two successfully. In this case, differentiation goes too far, becoming dissociation. Bodily feelings are repressed and classic neurotic symptoms are created.
It is not the purpose of this article to describe the problems created by differentiation/integration problems at each developmental stage. For now, just realize that at each stage there could be a successful differentiation and integration, there could be a failure to differentiate (creating certain mental, emotional, and spiritual problems), or there could be a failure to integrate (again creating certain problems). Handling the problems created by these less-than-successful transitions are the reason we seek therapy, self-help, Holosync, and other healing modalities.
As I shall discuss below, Holosync use, over time, seems to heal many of these problems. The information taught in the Life Principles Integration Process online courses and at Centerpointe retreats also seems to accelerate and facilitate this healing process.
One of these developmental problems occurs at the third fulcrum, where the conceptual mind begins to emerge. This emergence requires a differentiation between the conceptual mind and the emotional body and its impulses, feelings, and emotions, followed by an integration of the two into a larger and more inclusive view of self. Let's look at some of the problems of this particular stage of development, as many of the people who come to Centerpointe are experiencing many of these problems.
What prompted my interest in this subject at this particular time was receipt of an advanced copy of Ken Wilber's newest book, Integral Spirituality (which I highly suggest you read when it becomes available in bookstores). One of the topics Ken discusses—and correctly cites as one of the greatest discoveries of Western psychology—is the idea that subjective feelings, impulses, and qualities can be repressed or disowned by a person (you will recognize this from the above discussion as a failure to integrate).
When this happens, such repressed or disowned feelings appear to be in our objective world rather than in our subjective world. Instead of integrating and including these feelings, qualities, and aspects of self (part of the process of its healthy movement from the proximal to the distal self), they are repressed or projected outside of the self in an unhealthy way.
"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!"
Let's say that a child is angry at her mother. This anger, however, is a threat to the child because the mother has ultimate life-and-death power over her. The child is totally dependent, and without the mother the child could, literally, die. From the child's point of view, this anger is a huge threat to survival, since from the child's point of view this anger could keep the mother from providing the care the child needs to survive. This situation is exacerbated if the mother is negatively reactive to the child's anger. The child, as a survival measure, either represses the anger (stuffs it into the unconscious, out of awareness), or projects it outward. The child feels the anger, but it isn't (it doesn't feel like) her anger. You might say that the anger moves to the other side of the self boundary, but in an unhealthy manner that hinders development.
Let's look at the case of the anger being projected onto others. The anger comes up, but the child does not experience it as her anger. Since it cannot be owned (experienced as part of the self) it must be the anger of another. And so, the world appears to be full of angry people. This, Wilber notes, is often depressing for the child, and anger turns to sadness or even to depression. And, until the anger beneath the sadness is revealed, it cannot be re-owned. Until it is re-owned, it cannot be healed, and until it is healed, the developmental process cannot be successfully completed. Until that happens (if it ever happens at all), a part of the person is stuck at this stage of development, which manifests as various mental/emotional/spiritual problems.
These disowned aspects of ourselves are often referred to as our shadow.
When our own impulses and qualities are projected they seem to be "out there" and our perception of these disowned aspects of our self in others frightens us, irritates us, depresses us. We often become obsessed with them. Psychologists now know that those things that most distress us in others are really our own shadow qualities, projected outward.
Wilber cites the example of anti-gay porno activists who, when studied, were found to be more aroused by images of gay sex than were other men in the general population. The activists' obsession and fear of gay pornography was a projection of and denial of their own impulses.
What Hooks Your Shadow? or "It's You, Not Me!"
The fact that our irritations and fears about something outside of ourselves is a really projection of our own shadow self does not mean that others don't actually have the qualities that bother us. However, that we so strongly notice these qualities in others, that we so strongly resist them and are so disturbed by them, is a result of having disowned and repressed these qualities in ourselves. The other person provides a hook for our shadow because they exhibit a quality we hate in ourselves. Others without this shadow fail to notice these qualities in others, or if they do notice them, do not have the same gut-level resistance to them.
And, if the shadow material is even more strongly disowned, the shadow may show up as neurotic symptoms such as fears, physical problems, illnesses, and so on. (And though there is not room here to elaborate on this point, it is worth noting that it is also possible to project or deny positive qualities we may have, but cannot allow ourselves to own.)
When stuck in this developmental purgatory you may feel anger (or some other emotion) but you dissociate from it. It is no longer a close subjective experience that you clearly experience as your anger. You feel it, but you experience it, in a sense, at arm's length. If this initial dissociation and denial isn't effective, and you even more forcefully deny these shadow aspects of yourself, you may completely dissociate from it so they are no longer in you—instead, it's your wife, your husband, your child, your boss, the government, the corporations, or whatever. Or, you become depressed or develop back pain or stomach problems—or worse.
In this process, the shadow quality went from "me" to "you" to "it." "This depression," you say, "it just came over me." "This anxiety, it makes me miserable." "I don't know where this headache came from." The shadow is still there, but you've pushed it across the "I-boundary." Instead of integrating it, owning it, you dissociate from it. Instead of "I am angry, I feel anger," it becomes "He is angry," "They are angry." And then, finally, the feeling becomes an "it" as it becomes totally dissociated.
The goal of therapy, or any healing modality, then, is to move these disowned "it" feelings back to being "I" feelings, where they can be dealt with and resolved. As long as they are repressed or projected, as long as they remain unintegrated, we experience dis-ease, feelings of separation, unhappiness, lack of peace, and other negative consequences. To be happy, to be integrated, and to continue our mental/emotional/spiritual development, we must find the alienated parts of ourselves, and re-own them.
The Cavalry Arrives...
Holosync seems to facilitate this process. When you first begin using Holosync you may notice that within anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (and in a few more complex cases, after as long as a few months), many things that bothered you, that angered you, that saddened you, that created anxiety in you, that caused you to reach for a drink or a joint or a plateful of cookies, or that triggered certain physical symptoms in you, don't seem to trigger you in the same way. Somehow Holosync is helping you reown, integrate, and heal these disowned parts. Once they are reintegrated back into the self and resolved, you no longer project them onto others, and they no longer manifest as physical problems and other neurotic symptoms.
In my own life, before Holosync I was extremely angry, often depressed, and a regular drug user. And, I lived in what seemed to be a world filled with irritating people. Obviously I had a lot of disowned shadow material, and it was being projected onto others, as well as manifesting as anger, anxiety, depression, and a number of dysfunctional feelings and behaviors. Despite years of therapy, participation in scores of self-help trainings, and years of meditation and other growth-oriented practices, none of this really changed—until I developed Holosync and began using it.
Resistance and The Shadow
As you may know, I have been contemplating (and sharing with Holosync users) my thoughts about the subject of resistance for many years. Usually I have spoken about resistance in terms of resistance to feelings we are aware of (and which are not necessarily projected outward or repressed), or to people, things, and situations we encounter. It is interesting, then, to apply some insights about the process of resistance to resistance toward our own disowned qualities, parts, and feelings.
You may be familiar with the idea that each person has a threshold for what they can handle, and that when this threshold is exceeded by events we begin to resist, and this resistance manifests as dysfunctional feelings and behaviors. Stay under your threshold, and there is no resistance. Exceed it, and everything changes. The idea of repressed and disowned parts, feelings, and qualities suggests that our threshold is about more, however, than just our response to others, or even to feelings we are aware of but do not like. Threshold is apparently also a function of a part of ourselves we are largely (perhaps entirely) unaware of—the shadow self, those parts that we had to sublimate, repress, and project outward in order to deal with a traumatic environment while growing up. At those times when you are over your threshold, then, it would be a good idea to keep in mind that what you are resisting is, ultimately, yourself, and that discovering and embracing those aspects of yourself causes your threshold to move higher—through completion of the process of integration and inclusion described by Wilber.
This is, in fact, what I believe is happening when people use Holosync. The unconscious is accessed, and it is accessed while we are in an altered state—one where we are not directly associated into strong feelings, and while our conscious awareness is greatly expanded. If during this time we encounter shadow aspects of ourselves, they are apparently easier to re-own and easier to view without the usual strong emotional charge that caused us to disown them. Something in this process apparently dissolves whatever made us think we had to disown this material, and the integration we did not create or allow at the time the material was originally disowned takes place.
This Isn't Your Grandfather's Meditation
That this happens makes Holosync meditation very different from traditional meditation. Wilber is very clear in saying that traditional meditation does not heal this material, and that other approaches are needed. I have always considered Holosync to be the "jet-plane" version of traditional meditation, accomplishing the same goals but at a dramatically accelerated pace (and, of course, much more easily, since you don't have to spend decades mastering a technique before dramatic changes take place). Yet, if Ken is right that traditional meditation cannot heal shadow material (and I have noticed this myself in thousands of dedicated seekers over the last 35 years), there is something unique about Holosync beyond the acceleration and ease-of-use aspects. I say this because I have seen Holosync users, over and over, reintegrate shadow material and totally leave behind the issues (and their symptoms) created by its initial lack of integration. Our support coaches, along with several experienced therapists who use Holosync as a key part of their work with clients, concurred with my view.
I also suspect that certain kinds of cognitive functioning are unavailable (i.e., unconscious and outside of awareness) when shadow material is disowned. When you are in resistance to something, whether something outside of yourself or something inside, you are making internal representations of what you do not want. This is, cognitively, the definition of resistance—focusing on (making internal representations of) what you do not want.
A great deal of this negative focusing is unconscious and automatic, and it takes a great deal of diligent effort for a person to go inside and notice what they are doing. Looking at Wilber's explanation of the repression and projection of shadow material, I can see at least one reason why this is so—it was necessary (or at least it seemed to be necessary) to remove this material from conscious awareness in order to deal with it at the time of the trauma. Once removed from awareness and pushed across the "I-boundary" this material is extremely difficult to locate in consciousness. And, if you cannot locate it, you cannot deal with it.
Somehow, Holosync use allows this material to become conscious, in most cases without its reemergence being emotionally traumatic (if the reason for disowning is powerful enough, the person will experience temporary upheaval, but a huge amount of material is reintegrated without upheaval—only the really big issues create upheaval). Holosync creates a new level of awareness that somehow allows a person to more easily (though not always) experience this dark side material without resistance and reaction. Even if there is resistance and reaction, it is dramatically less than it would have been without Holosync. This increased awareness causes the material to reintegrate. This moves the threshold higher (i.e., the next developmental stage is successfully integrated). This reduces the amount that the person focuses on what they do not want in life. Since what you focus on manifests in reality in your life, when you stop focusing on what you want to avoid, many problems of life vanish.
This entire process seems to take a number of years, which may seem like a long time. But when you consider that most therapy is ineffective (think of the people you know who have been in therapy for ever with no real change in mental/emotional health), and that even when it is effective it takes decades, a few years of Holosync use seems a small price to pay for being jet-propelled into higher levels of self-development.
Director, Centerpointe Research Institute