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Voices Beyond the Threshold Isabel Clarke Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

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Presentation on theme: "Voices Beyond the Threshold Isabel Clarke Consultant Clinical Psychologist."— Presentation transcript:

1 Voices Beyond the Threshold Isabel Clarke Consultant Clinical Psychologist

2 The Talk What threshold – A psychological framework for understanding non ordinary experience Managing the threshold - Therapeutic approaches Understanding the transpersonal aspect The transformative dimension.

3 Different types of experience: psychosis and spirituality revisited. What is the connection between the journey of life: the journey of therapy, and the spiritual journey? Why can some people manage to adust to difficult transitions Whereas other people find themselves in a different dimension? How is it that for some people this experience is creative and transformative? Whereas for others it is the opposite? What can we learn about this other dimension – and how can this help us to stand beside the journier?


5 O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap May who neer hung there. Gerald Manley Hopkins (from No worst, there is none, pitched past pitch of grief)

6 Travel into the strange places of the mind Not mind safely locked inside the skull; No!: mind that envelopes us; Mind that is sea we swim in Travel across the threshold – the Transliminal – but never to let go of Ariadnes thread!

7 Characteristics of the other way of experiencing Metaphor come to life Dissolution of boundaries


9 Cosmic significance – terrible or wonderful Confusion about the self


11 Coincidence rules OK Threat (cosmic) Link with trauma


13 Two Views of the person people are rational beings, with, needs, plans and aspirations, who function more or less well, unless they turn out to have an 'illness' –Static people are perpetually seeking definition through dreams and symbols, and deeply dependent on important relationships; easily knocked off course by loss of any of these props, and perpetually trying to balance the inner state. –Dynamic and in flux.

14 Getting a scientific grip on the transliminal The split between realities comes from the split in us! Interacting Cognitive Subsystems provides a way of making sense of this crack. (Teasdale & Barnard 1993). –An information processing model of cognition –Developed through extensive research into memory and limitations on processing. –A way into understanding the Head/Heart split in people.

15 Body State subsystem Auditory ss. Visual ss. Interacting Cognitive Subsystems. Relational subsystem Implicational Memory Propositional subsystem Propositional Memory Verbal ss.

16 Linehans STATES OF MIND (from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) – Maps onto Interacting Cognitive Subsystems EMOTION MIND (Implicational subsystem) REASONABLE MIND (Propositional Subsystem) WISE MIND IN THE PRESENT IN CONTROL

17 Using ICS to understand the Transliminal Non-ordinary experience: when Emotion Mind/Implicational does not mesh properly with Reasonable Mind/Propositional This leads to a different quality of experience – fine in the short term – a problem when stuck Normalising the difference as well as the continuity – shared and unshared reality Sensitivity and openness to anomalous experience – continuum with normality Understanding the role of emotion – the feeling is real; the story is improbable

18 Important Features of this model Our subjective experience is the result of two higher order processing systems interacting – neither is in overall control. Each has a different character, corresponding to hot and cool cognition. The Relational Subsystem manages emotion – and therefore relationship. The verbal, logical, propositional ss. gives us our sense of individual self. This gives us the two ways of knowing: The Everyday or Shared Reality (when Relational and Propositional are in synchrony) The Transliminal or Unshared Reality (when they are in desynchrony). Both of these are available to all human beings. Both are incomplete The transliminal has always both fascinated and spelt potential danger!

19 Evidence for a new normalisation Schizotypy – a dimension of experience: Gordon Claridge. Mike Jacksons research on the overlap between psychotic and spiritual experience. Emmanuelle Peters research on New Religious Movements. Caroline Bretts research: having a context for anomalous experiences makes the difference between – whether they result in diagnosable mental health difficulties – whether the anomalies/symptoms are short lived or persist. Wider sources of evidence – e.g.Cross cultural perspectives; anthropology. Richard Warner: Recovery from Schizophrenia.

20 Being Porous: therapeutic approach Some people are more open to this type of experience than others – cf. Schizotypy Sensitivity and openness to anomolous experience – continuum with normality Positive side as well as vulnerability Validating the experience Normalising the difference in quality of experience as well as the continuity – understanding the transliminal so that it can be recognized – give choice Motivation to engage with shared reality Manage the threshold – mindfulness is key

21 Linehans STATES OF MIND (from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) – Maps onto Interacting Cognitive Subsystems EMOTION MIND (Implicational subsystem) REASONABLE MIND (Propositional Subsystem) WISE MIND IN THE PRESENT IN CONTROL

22 Managing the threshold Awareness of vulnerability – of openness to transliminal experience Grounding when the experience is overwhelming. Grounding activity. Grounding food. Mindfulness to manage the threshold Challenge of facing unshared reality mindfully – both pleasant and unpleasant Transliminal state of mind = most accessible at high and low arousal Managing arousal – breathing control to reduce arousal; mindful activity in the present to prevent it slipping.

23 Psychosis and the Transpersonal Dimension ICS offers a challenging model of the mind The human being is a balancing act as the two organising systems pass control back and forth: there is no boss. The mind is simultaneously individual, and reaches beyond the individual, when the implicational ss. is dominant. This constant switch between logic and emotion gives us human fallibility The self sufficient, billiard ball, mind is an illusion In our implicational/relational mode we are a part of the whole.

24 Thats How the Light gets in (and the dark) The Relational part of our mind is embedded in relationship; in the whole (the older part) The newer, self conscious, part holds our individuality Temporary control passing backwards and forwards between the two organising ss is experienced as normality When the relational takes over for any length of time, the character of experience changes The person is no longer grounded in their individuality – boundaries dissolve – they are open to any influences – positive and negative.

25 Web of Relationships Self as experienced in relationship with primary caregiver Sense of value comes from rel. with the spiritual primary care-giver In Rel. with wider group etc. In Rel. with earth: non humans etc.

26 What does this say about the possible transpersonal dimension of psychosis? Taking experience seriously – experience of possession Experience of cross generational healing On the other hand – the transliminal is governed by a logic of both – and……

27 Psychosis – Potential for Transformation Traditions such as Psychosynthesis and Spiritual Emergence/Emergency recognize the transformational potential of the transliminal. They tend to distinguish between psychosis and transformational crises More and more this is seen as a false dichotomy – Spiritual Crisis Network ( Mike Jacksons Problem Solving – Paradigm Shifting model. Click into another dimension for a wider perspective – with the danger of a vicious circle getting set up – getting stuck Role of stigma in trapping people.

28 The What is Real and What is Not Programme – designed to combat stigma First : Form an Alliance. Validate their reality Introduce the idea that their reality is only one way of looking at it: shared and unshared reality (negotiate the language). The individuals experience is taken seriously and valued – at the same time as working on a better relationship to shared experience It is possible to get away from illness language – and arguments about diagnosis Normalising openness to unshared reality – idea of the schizotypy spectrum Advantages and disadvantages of openness to unshared reality – e.g. of people who have used unshared reality positively.

29 Characteristics of unshared reality. Idea of the line/ the threshold. Importance of being able to manage the line Motivational aspect – pros and cons. Coping skills to manage the line When is unshared reality most powerful; in charge? Arousal as a means of being in control; Stress management Being alert and concentrated – watch out for drifting states Grounding in the present Wise mind and mindfulness Focusing/mindfulness v. distraction

30 Session 2. The role of Arousal shaded area = anomalous experience/symptoms are more accessible. Level of Arousal Ordinary, alert, concentrated, state of arousal. Low arousal: hypnagogic; attention drifting etc. High Arousal - stress

31 Linehans STATES OF MIND applied to PSYCHOSIS Ways of coping suggested by this approach – management of arousal and constructive activity.

32 Final Session:Making sense of the experience Why do people click into/get lost in unshared reality/the transliminal? Discussion of Different meanings for the experience Meaning for the individual Place in their life – what was happening in their life when it all started? Address and validate the emotion – that is reliable. 'Problem Solving' idea – Mike Jacksons research.

33 Contact details, References and Web addresses AMH Woodhaven, Calmore, Totton SO40 2TA. Clarke, I. (Ed.) (2010 Forthcoming) Psychosis and Spirituality: consolidating the new paradigm. Chichester: Wiley Clarke, I. ( 2008) Madness, Mystery and the Survival of God. Winchester:'O'Books. Clarke, I. & Wilson, H.Eds. (2008) Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Acute Inpatient Mental Health Units; working with clients, staff and the milieu. London: Routledge.

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