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Lev-Washburn Regression

Lev-Washburn Regression

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Published by Lee Irwin
A brief introduction to Washburn's ideas about the role of regression as a necessary aspect of personal deevlopment.
A brief introduction to Washburn's ideas about the role of regression as a necessary aspect of personal deevlopment.

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Published by: Lee Irwin on Jul 01, 2011
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11/07/2012

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ISSN: 1540-5699. © Copyright by Ahead Publishing House (imprint: Okcir Press). All Rights Reserved.
 HUMANARCHITECTURE
 JournaloftheSociology ofSelf-
 
A Publication of OKCIR: The Omar Khayyam Center for Integrative Research in Utopia, Mysticism, and Science (Utopystics)
 Michael Washburn, in the second edi-tion of his seminal work,
The Ego and the Dynamic Ground: A Transpersonal Theory of  Development 
(1995)
  ,
provides a rich discus-sion of a pivotal feature of his dynamic-di-alectical model of development. His con-cept of regression in the service of transcen-dence is a twist of the phrase, regression inthe service of the ego. The Freudian appli-cation of using regressive techniques tohelp restructure the personality is trans-formed almost a century later to addressthemes and debates within the
eld of transpersonal development. Washburn em-ploys the concept to illustrate a stage inspiritual development where there is a cri-sis or dark night of the soul preceding aspiritual awakening. What was lost or re-pressed in the psyche through the primalrepression of the ego is retrieved once againthrough regression (p. 171).Regression is mediated by a renewed
Shoshana Lev is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, inPalo Alto, CA. Her work includes counseling trauma survivors and those suffering from acute mental illness. She isinterested in illuminating that place of communal self-discovery where the work of social transformation meets theprocess of self-healing. A practitioner of various mind-body integration and spiritual healing practices, Shoshana sees lifeas a delicate dance of balance where the self may be understood as an intrapsychic community seeking to unite with allthat exists.
 Regression in the Service of Transcendence
Reading Michael Washburn
Shoshana Lev
The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
rose32lev@comcast.net
Abstract:
Michael Washburn’s idea (1995) of using regression as a process that may actuallyserve spiritual development is attractive for many reasons. First, it transmutes a more pathologi-cal orientation toward manifestations of psychological suffering into one that has the ability tohold greater value for the life purpose of an individual. Instead of viewing people as clusters of symptoms needing to be treated, or as less spiritually evolved when suffering is present, Wash-burn offers a model that places suffering within a larger paradigm of spiritual unfolding. Thisapproach may be quite helpful to those in the spiritual and psychotherapeutic communities, asclients or practitioners, because it allows a frame from which to view what may seem like a meresnapshot metamorphose into a full motion picture by allowing presenting symptoms to have alarger meaning. However, it is also important not to reify theoretical concepts by creating a kindof orthodox dogma with potential to do more harm than good. Fortunately, Washburn himself isnot a Washburn fundamentalist and does address issues surrounding instances of severe pathol-ogy. Though he does not provide treatment options or any clinical solutions, he does provide anoverarching framework within which regressive experience and suffering can have meaning. Heconstructs a place where the prism of experience is never severed from the dynamic ground of which it and all things emerge.
 
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 relationship with what Washburn calls theDynamic Ground. Washburn is interestedin explicating the essential features of thisrelationship between the ego and the Dy-namic Ground. In his schema, the ego dif-ferentiates itself from the ground into abody ego, this later becomes a repressivelydualistic dissociation called the mental ego,until
nally the ego is able to reintegratewith the ground (Washburn, 1995, p. x).Central to his stage theory orientation isWashburn’s transcendent notion of Dy-namic Ground. Here, Dynamic Groundserves as the psychic energy that powersall. It is undifferentiated potential and thesite inhabited by spirit. It is also conceivedas the state of consciousness that one isborn into at the pre-egoic stage of develop-ment. Kundalini rising, Reich’s psychic en-ergy within the sexual system (1942), Grof’snonspeci
c ampli
er (1975), Otto’s notionof the numinous (1917), are all included asmanifestations of the Dynamic Ground ac-cording to Washburn. Regression in the ser-vice of transcendence, then, is the primalrepression of the ego giving way to the ex-perience of the ground directly within con-sciousness (p.126). It is the
rst part of amuch larger psychic reorganization (p.201).Washburn views regression in the ser-vice of transcendence as a two-fold process.The
rst stage is marked by a withdrawalfrom the world. The mental ego loses its
rai-son d’etre
 and there is a type of existentialsuffering experienced. The chains of primalrepression are loosened and the DynamicGround grabs a foothold. The second stageis where the person encounters the preper-sonal unconscious. This level follows theopening of the Dynamic Ground. The per-son may exhibit psychotic features and pro-duce somatic symptoms. On the otherhand, people can experience rapture, greatintuitive insight, and a plethora of psychicabilities all subsumed within this emergentexperience (pp. 172-174).The idea of using regression as a pro-cess that may actually serve spiritual devel-opment is attractive for many reasons.First, it transmutes a more pathological ori-entation toward manifestations of psycho-logical suffering into one that has the abili-ty to hold greater value for the life purposeof an individual. Instead of viewing peopleas clusters of symptoms needing to be treat-ed, or as less spiritually evolved when suf-fering is present, Washburn offers a modelthat places suffering within a larger para-digm of spiritual unfolding. This approachmay be quite helpful to those in the spiritu-al and psychotherapeutic communities, asclients or practitioners, because it allows aframe from which to view what may seemlike a mere snapshot metamorphose into afull motion picture by allowing presentingsymptoms to have a larger meaning.Washburn, in this way, is faithful to hislong-time interest in depth psychology.Depth and regression are seen as part of thehero’s journey. The journey to the under-world takes courage not because it glori
esthe condition of suffering but because it so-matically and symbolically enacts the inte-gration of dualisms. The light may shinethe brightest in the dark. Alternatively, themaxim “our vulnerability can become ourgreatest strength” helps to illustrate this re-demptive process of transformation. Onemay, through the experience of regression,gain new tools and insights to furnish amore attenuated roadmap to guide theirown emotional growth and spiritual devel-opment (p. 201).Using the concept of regression in theservice of transcendence may also helpthose who have a tendency toward spiritu-al bypass. For those who
nd refuge in spir-itual practice and discipline, it may betempting to repress the vestiges of oldwounds as they resurface. It also gives apermission slip to those who are advancedspiritual practitioners to frankly admit toand work with those parts of themselvesthat are not fully healed or that incur dis-cord in their lives. Might the world be
 
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 served better if regression was not a shame-ful experience to be avoided or concealed atall costs but instead another opportunityfor growth?There are already many practical appli-cations at work using the concept of regres-sion in the service of transcendence. Manytherapists in the
eld of transpersonal psy-chology employ a host of specialized tech-niques that allow signs and symptoms of spiritual emergence to be shared and man-aged without pathologizing their clients.There are also cultures and communitiesthat allow for a wider spectrum of expres-sion where suffering is a natural part of spiritual development. Seeking integrationand wholeness through the transcendentpotential of Washburn’s conception of re-gression may be promoted as a larger phi-losophy of holistic human developmentwith applications to global con
icts or oneperson’s life journey. If all can be honoredfor having value toward something greaterrather than experiences to be feared or judged, there might be more possibility forpeaceful resolutions to con
ict.The problem with the adoption of anyorientation, however redemptive its poten-tial, is that it is never a one-size-
ts-all solu-tion. Invariably, situations or groupings of experiences arise which simply cannot beaccounted for by a particular model. Thismight be especially true for developmentalmodels. There is always new research anddata that either support or detract from thetheoretical construct, and usually do both.That is why it is so important not to re-ify theoretical concepts by creating a kindof orthodox dogma with potential to domore harm than good. In this case, the po-tential would be to consider any manifesta-tion of suffering a regression in the serviceof transcendence. For example, a transper-sonal psychotherapist or spiritual guidedoes not assess for risk of suicide whenthere is clear indication but instead is sweptup by the transpersonal dimension of a per-son’s story. They mistakenly use Wash-burn’s model as a sort of stencil to which alldata is applied so that the client’s account ismade to
t the “right” stage, ego opening todynamic ground but also the potential sui-cide of the patient.The particularly dogmatic might throwout the proverbial baby with the bathwaterand not at all employ useful mental healthsolutions. It is similar to those who will notuse any form of allopathic treatment be-cause they have found a countervailingmodel. One does not have to look far to seethe applications of supposedly ameliorat-ing theories used in the most grievous of ways. Marxism under China’s CulturalRevolution and Stalinist Russia are primeexamples of how a stage theory of develop-ment designed to liberate becomes em-ployed to oppress.From a less sinister but still criticalstandpoint, it is possible that regression forsome people will not have any special af 
n-ity with transcendent potential. Wheredoes the ego meet the dynamic ground fortrauma patients or the developmentally de-layed? For those who have severe dissocia-tive or severe personality disorders, ego de-velopment may not be congruent withWashburn’s model of spiritual develop-ment. Those who have a borderline person-ality disorder, for example, may not havethe ego stability to safely integrate experi-ences emerging from the realm of the dy-namic ground. Some may never experiencethe promise of regeneration of spirit.A Washburn fundamentalist, if therewere such a thing, might intervene in waysthat could be contraindicated for those suf-fering from acute psychosis and not fullyacknowledge the devastating depths of suf-fering. This could be a case of wearing-the-rosy-transpersonal-glasses syn-drome. Lastly, there is no speci
c clinicaldata that Washburn refers to in order tosupport the claim that regression may in-deed be used in the service of transcen-dence. To be fair, he is neither a clinician nora scienti
c researcher. It might not interest

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