What makes supervision transpersonal? It is the monitoring and support of the balance between working with what is immanent and present, and holding open the consciousness of the transcendent. It is the task of the supervisor to ensure that the therapist does not get lost in the work – in transpersonal supervision that task is extended to helping the therapist keep their feet on the ground, while also working soundly and profoundly from a context of unity. It is potentially a beautiful dance.
A preliminary question to ask here is ‘what is transpersonal psychotherapy’? A rule of thumb for thinking about modalities goes as follows: Psychodynamic work seeks to help by uncovering the causes of a problem. Humanistic and existential models often emphasise qualities needed for the resolution of the problem. But in transpersonal work it is the purpose of the problem which guides the work. The client’s circumstances are encountered as intelligent and intelligible signposts to that which is out of balance and to the evolving consciousness. What is trying to come through? What is the person being called to face about reality and life (Reality and Life – capital letters nuance this nicely)? What quality is being called forward in to manifestation?
There is the possibility in transpersonal work of recontexualising the relationship between the parties. Rather than a subject object relationship, where ‘I’ make ‘it’ better, and rather even than a subject subject relationship where two people meet fully and openly through the heart, the transpersonal offers another aspect of being with an other, the aspect of knowing the two as one, there is no difference between us, we are manifestations of the same oneness.
This can seem theoretical and in an unsophisticated misapplication can lead to symbiosis in one extreme of distortion and to dissociation in the other. In transpersonal supervision one of the primary tasks is to monitor the transpersonal relationship and see the extent to which it may have strayed in to these distortions. Is it symbiotic? Is it dissociative? Or is it genuinely, at least at times, a reflection of oneness? And if the latter, to what end? How can life be understood from this perspective?
The possibility of working transpersonally is that the bigger picture can help to put things in to perspective. So what is the meaning of this event which the client is experiencing? What is unfolding? How can it be viewed with awe and wonder and wisdom.
Nevertheless, in looking with the eye of eternity we must not lose the personal. Again, here is an important task of transpersonal supervision, supporting and exploring the personal relationship to find compassion, love, togetherness, uniqueness. What are the unique qualities of this person and how can they enhance them? How can they relate more fully and how can you as a therapist relate more fully to them?
This begins to open the psychodynamic aspect of transpersonal work, as environmental issues of the client’s history unfold and the supervision explores the object relations, the transference, the unconscious patterns which trip us up over and over again.
Well balanced transpersonal supervision allows for exploration on all these levels, the pre personal the personal and the transpersonal. The tools which we use to do so can vary, conversation, silence, embodied sensing, visualisation, imagination. But what makes it transpersonal is the overall context of the work, the context of the human being as being embedded in a wider Being, a reality that can be participated in, known, and which can ultimately reveal itself ‘out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing’.
The image fronting this post is from Sacred Seed, by V. Shiva and Bartholomew, 2014.
The quote in the image caption is from a poem by Coleman Barks following Rumi ‘Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field, I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that long grass the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ make no sense at all.’