Psychology and psychotherapy are on the threshold of groundbreaking changes. The underpinnings of most psychology and therapy look limited and wrongheaded, in the face of developments in contemplative science, entheogen and neuroscience research.
New knowledge about what a healthy mind truly is is revising what we understand to be human psychology and psychotherapy. The practice of psychotherapy makes little sense in the absence of a clear, reliable and valid understanding of what a healthy mind actually looks like.
We now know that we have two minds: a surface thinking-mind, which we are trapped in, and a deep intuitive-mind — which we’ve forgotten, to our detriment. The thinking-mind, when separated from the deep intuitive-mind, gives rise to the conditions that create an unhealthy mind. We accept this as normal because most everyone today operates from the thinking-mind. Wrongly imagining that it’s normal. It isn’t.
If you spend any quiet time alone with yourself, you’ll discover that you are always thinking. There is continuous flow of discursive or associative thought that, upon close inspection, has a life of its own. That is, you don’t choose to think what you think most of the time. It just happens.
This discursive thinking-mind moves very quickly and often. Usually when it moves, it carries us with it. For example, we habitually find ourselves in worrisome narratives centering on the “I” or “me” that we mistakenly believe ourselves to be. These narratives usually involve us in past or future time storylines about stressful, and emotional, concerns. Our thinking-mind often brings us to fear, grief, guilt, anger, regret, sadness and jealousy.
Once we get swept away in an associative flow of thought, we’re gone. In the sense that we lose awareness and presence. And we’re often driven into our unconscious problems and wounds. Especially those involving our family and cultural conditioning. These unconscious problems are like a bundle of nerve endings lying dormant outside of awareness. When they’re activated, their contents immediately pour into our consciousness. This happens so quickly that they define our awareness — i.e., they possess us.
Consequently, we often find ourselves experiencing our past wounds and problems as if they are going on now. Most of us spend a lot of our time being dragged about by our thinking-mind.
This level of consciousness is a kind of mindless trance. It is mindless in the sense that, without our knowing what is going on, we are waylaid by thoughts and then sucked into emotional scenarios that we become identified with.
The thinking-mind can be hypnotic. It lures us into seductive storylines. It establishes our consciousness in a fundamental error, based on chronically mistaking the flow of our thought and feeling as an accurate measure of what is real. This is like seeing a movie and becoming so immersed in it that we forget that we are watching a film. What is on the screen are pictures that are presented at a speed that makes it seem as if there are real characters engaged in real situations. Our associative thinking is very similar to a movie. When we are identified with the storyline, we mistake it for something actually going on. Waking up to this is similar to suddenly remembering and realizing that we are in a theater watching a film.
New depth psychology practices can cut through the discursive tendency of our mind to carry us off into an endless variety of mindless “waking dreams.” The depths of soul and spirit cannot be known, if we stay lost in the chaos of surface thinking-mind. At such times, we’re stuck in an inflexible experience of “I” or “me.” And we are cut off from who we truly are.
Sometimes, we can go from morning until evening while completely immersed in associative thought. During such times, no matter where we might be physically, our mind is elsewhere. And so we lack any sense of true presence or awareness. We can even eat our food, without being there to taste it. Many people crystallize out in their thinking-mind. So they stop experiencing life directly, they only experience what they “think” about what’s going on in life.
We discover who we truly are when we gain entrance in to our deep intuitive-mind. Where knowledge and wisdom come through flashes of insight, not through thought. Our task is not to identify thinking-mind negative self-statement flows of thought, and then ignore or change them. Such cognitive behavioral tactics are like mistaking a base camp at Mount Everest for Mount Everest itself. The real task is to never follow discursive thought by developing the awareness and presence that is a natural part of our intuitive mind. With other words, we have to enable and allow our mind to be in its natural condition, a condition that is both healthy and sane.
Dr. Jim Manganiello is a local clinical depth psychologist and a pioneer in 21st-century depth therapy. He is also an author and contemplative practice teacher. His work focuses on healing, personal growth and inner development. His books include “Your Creative Imagination: Unlocked: Become Who You Truly Are,” with abstract artist Frank Arnold, and “Unshakable Certainty.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.