Personological models of communication do not match the experience of people from other cultures that have a non-personological view. The purpose of this paper is to discuss a holistic model with which to understand and work with these people from these other cultures. This holistic model uses the seven chakras [see endnote 1], and discusses their role in individual, couples, group and therapeutic communication.
Personological models believe that there is a unique personal self that causes and is responsible for the construction of one's personal life destiny. This personal self establishes meaningful personal relationships in the family-of-origin, in peer and friendship groups, in the conjugal relationship and marital family groups, and in the institutional settings of school, work, the armed forces, and the civic community. These personological models predominate in nations heir to the Judeo-Christian and Hellenic world views: the United States, Western and Eastern Europe, and in Christianized nations of South and Central America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The personological models emphasize personal freedom, personal autonomy, separation and dominion over the environment, and individual causation and responsibility. Four models can be briefly described:
- Body-based — Consciousness is the activity of the brain. Individual faculties are localized in discrete neural foci, and express through the motor organs of the voluntary skeletal muscles (movement), facial muscles and viscera (emotion) and the larynx, tongue and jaw (speech).
- Ego-based — The individual is a separate person who develops his unique traits and characteristics due to an interaction with the environment. The personality is shaped by interactions with the mother and father, with the most significant impact during infancy and childhood; with peer and friendship groups, adults who function as teachers and mentors, and the intimate relationships with lover and spouse playing a significant but secondary role. An individual must cope with the demands of the environment and of his own organism, and through this ongoing struggle creates a unique life history.
- Intentional — An individual creates his life destiny out of the beliefs one holds and the choices one makes. The goals that a human being sets, the possibilities he believes are attainable, the way in which he conceives of himself and his abilities determine whether a person will succeed or fail in his life endeavor. In every moment, a human being has the ability to create a new future, a whole new possibility by choosing a new path, by making a new commitment.
- Personal Soul — Each individual is a unique entity created by God to serve Him. Each individual has free choice whether or not to follow the moral guidelines laid down by the Creator, but at the time of death, the individual is held accountable for the choices made in his life. The choices made in life determine whether one will experience an infernal afterlife or a blessed one: the choice to have an obedient and loving relationship with God being most significant choice in determining that outcome.
Holistic models are found in the cultures of India and other Middle-Eastern and Asian cultures, among African people, and among aboriginal people throughout the world. Holistic models do not break down human functioning into the dualities of self and other, man and environment, man and Nature, but believe a human being is unified with and is a part of the cosmos.
In this viewpoint, the organism is an integral unit, pervaded by a multi-dimensional mind, and integrated by a Self which participates in Cosmic Life, which has been called the Soul or Atman. Rather than an individual at odds with his environment, man is a part of Nature. Events occur in natural cycles, as a process of unfolding or evolving that have little to do with man's choices yea or nay. Each human life is a chain in an ongoing unfolding of events, of destiny or karma, that determines future lives. As man's Soul evolves, he enters the Way, in which his Soul progressively participates in the Divine Life. Ultimately, through virtuous living and meditation, he enters into Union with that Divine Life, resulting in freedom from the cycle of birth and death. While man has a personality, it is seen as a temporary, dream-like interlude in the eternal life of the Soul, and is like a masque that one puts on to play a role, taking it off at the time of death.
Holistic models include:
- Multiple bodies or vehicles of consciousness — Consciousness operates simultaneously through multiple vehicles to give expression to the life of the Soul. Different abilities arise from different strata or levels of consciousness: each has its own distinct characteristic modes of expression and communication. The chakra model is based on this theory.
- Four minds — The conscious mental activity we are aware of is only the surface, and arises out of a deep unconscious reservoir. In addition to the conscious mind, there are the lower unconscious (Subconscious or personal unconscious), middle unconscious (Metaconscious) and higher unconscious (Superconscious) mental strata that substand the conscious mind. This theory has been advanced in Roberto Assagioli's Psychosynthesis (Assagioli, 1965),[see endnote 2] and has similarities to Hindu and Buddhist systems of psychology.
- Mind is Universe — Man is a microcosm of the Macrocosm, the universe, and replicates the levels of the greater Cosmos within himself. In this way man participates in union with the Divine Life, in which he is part and parcel. As the Soul of man evolves, it comes to recognize its identity with the Divine Life, as Divine Child, and ultimately, as a Master Soul, freed from birth and death.
- Soul Realization (Gnosis) — Man, in the final analysis, is the Soul—the ineffable, unifying essence of Being, which is beyond all categories and descriptions, and is inherently Divine. In holistic systems, the purpose of life is the realization and expression of the Soul in human life. The apprehension of the Soul is non-rational, non-linear, and non-empirical. It is cognized in an experience of Realization or Gnosis. The trans-cerebral center in the chakra model corresponds to this state of Soul Realization.
The paradox is that we function simultaneously in both individual and collective contexts. Robert Orinstein believes this duality arises out of dual hemispheric structure of the brain that imposes intuitive and spatial (right hemisphere) and logical and linguistic (left hemisphere) filters upon perception of reality and experience. (Orinstein, 1972) Our dominant way of perceiving the world in turn colors the way in which we communicate.
Communication is an essential part of understanding human beings and helping them make sense of their lives and resolve their conflicts through psychotherapy. Several models of communication have informed the development of human understanding and the techniques and aims of psychotherapy.
In his seminal book, Maps of the Mind, Charles Hampden-Turner (1981) surveys six theoretical models of human communication. In this book he views communication as the sixth of nine levels of ever-more-comprehensive explanations of mind, experience and reality. He states:
"At the level of communication, language and symbolic interaction, we see mind in terms of the structures—linguistic, visual, emotional—that are the basis of mutual understanding. Language and communication are among the most highly developed human faculties and the analysis of them has revealed patterns and structures that appear to be common to people of widely different cultures.
At this level mind is seen to be reaching out from the nucleus that consists of the preceding five levels [e.g., morality or principle-ruled, psychoanalytic and existential, physiological, creative mind, and psychosocial development levels] to extend its experience through contact with other minds."
Alfred Korzybski, one of the most important thinkers in the field of semantics, believed language allows us to hand down information from generation to generation.
The problem with language is that it fails to distinguish between words and the things they describe. Hence words do not differentiate between the map and the territory.
These linguistic, "verbal-visual maps" are contexts we can share with one another to judge differences, and are at best tentative hypothesis about the nature of external reality. Koryzbski holds that we can eliminate the confusion inherent in abstract language, such as is seen in political debate, by defining the context from which we are speaking while acknowledging the context of the listener.
He referred to this as reflexive speaking, which fosters cooperation and better mutual understanding. The therapeutic tools of reflection and self-disclosure are examples of reflexive speech.
There can be different contexts of communication, which Benjamin Whorf defined as communication (verbal content or non-verbal behavior) and meta-communication, that is words, postures or gestures that are about other words. For example, we can differentiate a punch given playfully from one given in an personal assault by smiling as we hit a friend.
Rudolf Carnap differentiated the object level of language (descriptions about things) and a meta-language level, in which we speak about language itself. The differentiation between the 'content' of a client's speech and the 'process' of the interaction between client and therapist makes a similar contextual distinction.
Paul Wachtel (1993) notes that a therapist must pay close attention to the attitudinal message implied in the meta-communication when using an interpretation in therapy. A message worded in one way imputes blame or wrongness to the client, while phrased in a different manner it allows a client to explore a meaning without feeling judged by the therapist.
Noam Chomsky believed that the mind generates structures for sentences to communicate, and that much of this learning is done between the ages of two and five. Not only is the vocabulary dramatically extended during this period, but more significantly, a child learns the rules for constructing language. Chomsky argued that the brain appears to have an innate and intuitive linguistic competence, e.g., that the human nervous system seems hard-wired to acquire language.
Applying Chomsky's ideas to psychotherapy, Richard Bandler and John Grinder believe that people form a linguistic map of their experience. This map has two parts, a deep structure that is a complete linguistic representation of the experience, and surface structures, which transform that deep structure in various ways, by generalization, deletion, and distortion.
The therapist's task, then, is to use the transformed surface structures to get at the deep structure, that tells the truth about the experience, but also to explore the generalizations, deletions and distortions which serve to defend against simply and clearly stating the truth about what happened.
Language can also convey meanings greater than the sum of the parts of a system. Buckminster Fuller first advanced the idea of synergy. He defined it as "the behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the sum of its parts."
This is demonstrated, for example, by the greater-than-predicted structural strength of the geodesic dome, or by the strength of a metallic alloy that far exceeds the strength of its component elements.
In the psychological arena, Abraham Maslow, adapted the idea of synergy to his work with "self actualizers," who have "a rare capacity to resolve value dichotomies". Self actualizing people are at once spiritual and sensual, find duty to be pleasurable, and likewise transcend other apparent opposites.
The ability to find a synthesis between the conflicts between values (shoulds) and desires (wants) is a nearly universally-identified goal of therapy: therapeutic language and technique seeks to facilitate the client discovering this synthesis beyond the dialectic poles of the conflict.
Hampden-Turner, drawing from his own writings, points out that the logic of polarizing moral structures—good/evil, ally/enemy, hawks/doves—underlies the forced choices of religious fundamentalism and political advocacy for and against war. Such dualistic thinking lay at the bottom of the escalation of the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.
Similar polarities can be seen in the modern pro-life and pro-choice debates about abortion. No synthesis can be found, and the individual must make a forced choice to stand with one side or the other; to do so is to invite the undying enmity and animosity of advocates of the other point of view.
What must happen to heal this split, according to Hampden-Turner, is to see the apparent dichotomy as parts of a continuum, to see the truths of both sides.
Psychotherapy clients must often come to grips with their rebellion against the values of their parents by their congruent personal choices, which may be viewed as wrong or disloyal by the parents—but to abandon those choices in deference to the parents is to lose one's integrity.
Respect arises when people can see the truths of both sides, and allow the other to exist. When respect is gone, dehumanization and stereotyping of the other rapidly follows, permitting excess and atrocity to be committed against the other who is viewed as wrong. When respect dies with continual disappointment and betrayal, the marital relationship can become a war zone of verbal and physical abuse.
Jacques Lacan, a modern French interpreter of Sigmund Freud, believes that the unconscious is structured by language in an associative network, accessible in puns and poetry, but not by logic.
He believed that culture imposes meaning on anatomical parts, such that they take on a symbolic or metaphorical meaning. For example, the phallus, has come to be a symbol of power and authority. Women don't seek the phallus as completion for themselves as a missing part or out of repressed sexual desire as Freud believes, but instead seek the power and authority their social subordination denies them.
Language then provides a metaphor for a real need, which is wordless: the goal of psychotherapy is to use language to go beyond language, to tap the inner pain of the unfulfilled need.
Underlying the social communication implied by these models, other researchers and thinkers discuss the brain's communication between its parts: between cerebrum and sub-cortical structures. John Lilly (1961) proposes that language is a means of programming the subconscious mind, and that through language, aspects of consciousness that are unconscious can be brought into awareness. In essence, the cortex and sub-cortical structures must find a way to talk to one another.
Simeons (1961) believed that cortical structures misinterpret the signals from diencephelic (thalamic) structures, and mislabel them as disease or pathological symptoms. This contributes to further apprehension and anxiety about the body's initial flight-fight response to the immediate event, and hence exacerbates the immediate response to stress into chronic conditions of anxiety and psychosomatic illness.
Erickson's work with hypnosis and his strategic therapy successors recognized the link between language (suggestion) and the operation of the subconscious mind. They believed that it is possible to disinhibit the conscious mind's labeling process that contributes to anxiety conditions by reframing communication about symptoms and events; they similarly believed that by bypassing the cortical inhibitory controls in the state of hypnosis, the subconscious mind could be addressed directly. (Pelletier and Garfield, 1976)
Pelletier and Garfield (1976) further cite that hypnosis is seen as a valuable adjunct to short-term psychotherapy, having relevance with "anxiety and tension states, certain hysterical conversion reaction symptoms, some obsessive-compulsive reactions, and habit disorders like insomnia, enuresis, over-eating, nail-biting, and smoking."
Todd Pressman (1992) suggested that the value for non-ordinary states of consciousness as therapeutic agents lies in their ability to reach psychological material not normally accessible, making the awareness of this material available for integration with the awareness of one's ordinary subjective identity.
Nathan Field (1992), from a psychodynamic perspective, believes ways in which altered states of consciousness (ASC) can be therapeutically effective include lowering of tension, release of bad objects, restorative emotional experience, facilitation of the working alliance, and enhanced creativity. This effect of ASC can be observed in both analytic and non-analytic types of therapy approaches.
Pelletier and Garfield (1976) further note that a variety of approaches have been developed using imagery techniques, relaxation, biofeedback and meditation, that induce therapeutic altered states of consciousness in which access to subliminal and unconscious levels of awareness are significantly and dramatically enhanced.
Jaime Bulatao (1987), writing in the Philippine Journal of Psychology, describes indigenous and exported methods of altering consciousness. He lists hypnosis, possession by spirits, trances, recovering repressed material, [learning to use] the language of the subjective mind, psychic communication, interpreting dreams, becoming another, time expansion, healing, psychokinesis, and meditation. These techniques may be thought of as varieties of strategies for conscious subconscious communication.
Ken Keyes (1975) in his book, Handbook to Higher Consciousness, advanced a popular model of subconscious conscious intercommunication using inner observation and suggestion. Keyes advocated the practice of observing which chakra an individual was momentarily operating from, and consciously choosing to operate from a higher chakra. For example, when one was operating from the competitive and other-exclusive solar plexus chakra, one directed his attention to the cooperative and other-inclusive heart chakra. When sexual behavior (navel chakra) was inappropriate, one could shift attention to the heart chakra and regard the other with respect and love. Alternately, one could lift attention into the forehead chakra, where one would view the other as a spiritual entity, or the brain center, where the other would be viewed as a Soul. The goal of this process of conscious monitoring and sublimation was believed to lead to a state of Realization and wisdom.
Such approaches have been used in Asian Yoga Therapy, and continue to be used in therapy today. Roger Gilchrist and William Mikulas (1993) describe the seven chakras as seven stages of consciousness, (1) security, (2) sensation, (3) power, (4) love, (5) creativity and receptivity, (6) integration and mindfulness, and (7) fulfillment and enlightenment.
They believe that the chakra model is consistent with Maslow's hierarchical developmental theory of growth and actualization, and the progression through stages discussed by various group theorists. They believe that by skillful facilitation, group participants can be led from the lower chakras of clinging to security and survival, sensation-seeking and sensuality, and competitiveness and power-struggles, to the experience of love for others and group solidarity and support. In a few individuals, the group dynamics sparked enhanced creativity and integration.
Gilchrist and Mikulas note, however, that rarely do groups reach the fulfillment stage.
Chakras also are the subject of recent research by social scientists. Stephen Gould (1993) studied affective symptoms evoked by the content matter of television commercials and a music video, that were linked to a specific body location. His hypothesis was based on the Asian chakra model that posits that different types of emotional reactions are keyed to anatomical loci. For example, sexually toned messages would produce arousal in the navel center (sexuality) and heart center (romantic love and fantasy). Power-cued messages would stimulate arousal in the solar plexus center (power and competitiveness) and forehead (will). Results of his study supported the proposed concept that differentiation of patterns of symptoms by individuals occurs in response to various emotion-keyed commercials.
Whereas Western Eurocentric models of the functioning of the nervous system are empirical, based on anatomic and neurophysiological functioning, Eastern Asian models of the operation of the nervous system are intuitive systems of meaning, highly metaphorical and symbolic. Chakras are centers of psychic integration that synthesize the distinctive and varying aspects of human functioning into a harmonious whole, including:
(1) sensing of the world and of the inner workings of the body-mind
(2) patterns of movement and gestures
(3) characteristic emotional responses
(4) imaginal, creative and intuitive modes of thinking
(5) perceptual and contextual filters and viewing and organizing the phenomena of the objective and subjective world
(6) the cognitive index of memory for facts, words, persons, events, and meanings that are stratified and encoded in the subconscious reservoir of the body-mind
(7) the operation of innate intelligence that communicates between the organism and itself, and with the environing world
In the holistic model, all these functions work together synergistically, analogous to musicians in an orchestra playing their instruments in harmony to create a symphony. Each chakra, in turn, as a center of intrapsychic organization, motivation and innate intelligence, has specific functions to contribute to the functioning of the whole organism.
While there are varying descriptions and purported functions of the chakras, these varied sources agree that chakras reflect the spiritual evolution of the individual, and that they are common structures that reside in all human beings.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1946) describes the centers on the cerebrospinal axis as coccyceal, sacral, lumbar, thoracic, cervical, medullary, Christ Consciousness center (point between the eyebrows) and Cosmic Consciousness center (brain). He sees them as whirling wheels that circulate life force (prana) throughout the body. By a series of meditation exercises called Kriya Yoga, he believes it is possible to speed up the evolution of human consciousness to obtain Cosmic Consciousness.
Dr. Ramamurthi Mishra (Swami Brahamananda) in his book, Fundamentals of Yoga (1959) identified the chakras as neurohormonal mechanisms that can be accessed through suggestion. In his view, the chakras are ganglionic centers that are related to endocrine gland function, as shown in Table One.
|Chakra||Controls||Associated gland||Neural Plexus|
|Svadhisthana||legs and feet||adrenal glands||sacral|
|Anahata||breathing and heartbeat||thymus||thoracic|
|Visudha||arms, hands and speech||thyroid||cervical|
|Ajna (a)||entire body||pituitary||thalamic|
|Sahashrara (b)||entire body||pineal||cerebral cortex|
a - concentration at this center results in the union of individual and Universal Consciousness
b - concentration at this center results in identification with Cosmic Consciousness
Other sources assign a different correspondence of glands to chakras: the adrenals are relegated to the root chakra, and the gonads/ovaries to the navel chakra. Similarly, others place the pineal as the gland of the forehead chakra, and give the brain chakra, the pituitary.
A review of books at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore by different authors from classical Yoga traditions as well as New Age venues also reveals variant spellings for the names of the chakras, and places them at varying anatomical locations. Some identify them with major and sundry autonomic nervous system ganglia, e.g. prostatic, epigastric, solar, splenic, hepatic, cardiac, the cavernous plexus in the midbrain, hypothalamus, etc., whereas others like Dr. Mishra locate them in the spinal cord and central nervous system [CNS].
To add to this confusion, I now offer my own model of the chakras. In this model, the chakras have differential functions. I call them root, navel, solar plexus, heart, throat, forehead, brain, and trans-cerebral, that have the following generalized functions, shown in Table Two.
|Chakra||Approximate location||Associated Activities|
|root||perineum (base of spinal cord)||Orientation to reality, survival of organism|
|navel||three fingers below navel in CNS||Sexuality, family life, gender relations|
|solar plexus||behind solar plexus in CNS||Territoriality, control, livelihood|
|heart||behind the heart in CNS||Caring, community, cooperation|
|throat||behind the pharyngeal hollow in CNS||Creativity, communication|
|forehead||in the center of the brain behind the brows||Intuition, inner guidance|
|brain||entire cerebral cortex||Wisdom, understanding of life's meaning|
|trans-cerebral||above the top of the head||Gnosis, Enlightenment|
A more detailed examination of the chakras reveals they have distinct channels of activity and intercommunication. In classical texts, chakras have been viewed as lotus flowers with varying numbers of petals.
In other versions, they are believed to be vortices of energy with radiating spokes. However chakras are described, descriptions are at best metaphors, and as Koryzbski pointed out, the map is not the territory. Discovering chakras is an subjective and experiential journey, a search for meaning, not unlike the journey of depth psychotherapy. In Table Three I present a detailed model of the chakras.
The first chakra has four petals. These petals correspond to Matter (body, possessions), Energy (life, health), Space (experience of immediate environment), and Time (personal history, memory). Concepts associated with the activity of this chakra are balance, homeostasis, harmony, and orientation. Its purpose is to create a foundation of reality, and to safeguard individual survival.
The second chakra has six petals. These petals correspond to Culture (preservation of cultural rituals, learning of expected rules for social behavior, marriage and courtship customs), Courtship (attraction of the sexes, dating and romantic behavior), Sexuality (Coitus, lovemaking), Intimacy (bonding as a couple, honest communication, idealization and realistic knowing of the other), Division of Labor (assigning gender and family roles, setting limits, delegating family responsibilities), and Parenting (disciplining, nurturing, providing the necessities of life for, teaching, modeling, imparting values, listening and being present for one's children). Concepts associated with the activity of this chakra are family relations, sexuality, intimate relationship, and transmission of skills and values for living. Its purpose is parenting, the procreation, education, and raising of children.
The third chakra has ten petals. These petals correspond to the executive functions of the adult, and the skills used to earn livelihood. They may be described by verbs, to Lead (motivate self and others, conceive goals and strategies), to Manage (direct self and others to achieve goals), to Finance (maximize resources, to allot and procure resources to reach goals), to Sell (persuade others to purchase or commit to a product, service, or set of values), to Organize (coordinate resources, people, and logistics to produce a product or deliver a service in an efficient manner), to Design (package a product or service in a way that it is desirable by others), to Communicate (let others know about one's intentions, needs or desires, or about one's product or service), to Inspect (analyze, critique, insure adherence to standards of quality or to rules, policies or laws), to Develop (to invent, build prototypes for, model, test a product or service), and Produce (provide the support and/or physical labor required to manufacture or fabricate a product, or to deliver a service). Concepts associated with the activity of this chakra are Manifestation (actualizing goals), Success (achieving goals), Profit (Realizing financial gain), and Winning (beating competitors). Its purpose is to assure livelihood for the family, to fulfill a role as a worker in society, and to contribute money and labor to the larger community or society in which one lives.
The fourth chakra has twelve petals. Its functions can also be defined as verbs, to Enrich (eradicate poverty, to provide shelter, clothing and the means for livelihood), to Feed (to relieve hunger and thirst), to Educate (to combat illiteracy, lack of cognitive, vocational and social skills), to Comfort (to provide safety, to assuage emotional pain, and to reach out to the tormented), to Guide (to eliminate ignorance and confusion and to give direction), to Teach (to disseminate spiritual concepts, to remedy ignorance about faith, scripture and the Divine Nature), to Evangelize (to lead others to wisdom, love, and salvation), to Heal (to remove physical infirmity and suffering), to Prophesy (to reveal intuitive truth and moral guidelines), to Reform (to overcome social injustice), to Change (to counter political injustice), and to Emancipate (to attack racial, sexual, and other types of personal injustice and to stop cruelty towards humans, animals, plants, and the Earth). Concepts associated with the activity of this chakra are Advocacy, Caring, Empathy, and Understanding. Its purpose is to express Compassion, to overcome injustice, to build community and solidarity, to unify the broken tribes of humanity, and to minister to human needs.
The fifth chakra has sixteen petals. Its functions represent the expression of the Soul's abilities in human life, and can also be be described by active verbs: [The Emotional Skills] to Teach (to illumine and teach spirituality), to Guide (to counsel and teach wisdom), to Understand /Empathize (to do psychotherapy and guide an individual back to wholeness), to Move (e.g., dancing, sports, drama, martial arts); [The Sensory Skills] to Hear (e.g., composing and playing music), to Feel (to develop an exquisite sensitivity to life and experience), to Smell and Taste (e.g., Perfume maker, Chef), to See (e.g., painting, sculpture, fabric design, interior design, contemplation of beauty); [The Mental Skills] to Study (e.g., scholarship, discerning meaning, introspection and self-study), to Investigate (to analyze, to reason, to obtain detailed knowledge), to Concretize (the Scientific method of inquiry, to synthesize study and empirical data into hypothesis, to mathematically model, to test one's truths), and to Visualize (to design and invent by making a mental model); [The Intuitive Skills] to Imagine, (e.g., to tell stories, to express humor, to write poetry, to write a fiction novel), to Explain (e.g., Philosophy, to write a non-fiction novel), to Know (intuitional apprehension of reality, psychic ability), and to Initiate (to activate higher will, to empower others). Concepts associated with the activity of this chakra are Expression of the Soul, Exploration, Growth and Development of Ability. Its purpose is Creativity, making the human personality a conduit for the impulses of the higher unconscious (Superconscious), and service to others.
The sixth chakra has two petals. It is active and passive, yin and yang. It brings skillful attunement to the rhythms of life and nature, with their ebb and flow of light and dark, day and night, Winter and Spring. Concepts associated with the activity of this chakra are Intuition, Attunement, Inner-Direction, and Illumination. It synthesizes the urge to activity, work and service, with the inward life of self-inquiry, insight, and meditation. Its purpose is Inspiration, the breathing of the Soul's life and intention into the mind, the incubation of the ideas which spawn creativity, ministry, work, and new possibilities of relationship.
The eighth chakra is beyond symbol and metaphor. It is the Soul's knowledge of itself, transcendent to the mind and personality. It is Being untrammeled by mind, by the tenuous spider webs of belief, by the dancing images of thought. Concepts associated with the activity of this chakra are Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, and Eternality. Its purpose is Gnosis, Realization, and Enlightenment.
People do not experience the chakras in the same way, hence there are varying descriptions of them. My own map reflects my cultural bias as an American, and does not necessarily reflect the experience of a person from another culture, whose cognitive maps and world view are different than my own.
Because chakras are structures at a deeper level of the mind that the level that we experience in waking awareness (Conscious mind), they are not a part of many people's experience at all. Some individuals may either consider the inner life as unworthy of examination, or are simply too busy to journey inward. What does seem to be agreed upon by those who have investigated them are the following:
(1) They are in some way correlated with the activity of the nervous system and the glands.
(2) How they are perceived is a reflection of the spiritual evolution of the individual, and hence are perceived in multiple forms.
(3) They are intrapsychic organizing structures.
(4) They are centers of intuition, that are non-logical or prelogical (Maupin, 1969).
(5) They are archetypal, mythic or metaphorical, not anatomical forms (Maupin, 1969).
(6) They may exist in states of full activity, partial activity, or be dormant.
(7) States of partial activity or dormancy are characterized by states of blockage in the channels of the chakras. These blockages may have direct psychophysiological analogues in the form of chronic muscle tension or armoring; unexplained pain, inflammation, or swelling of tissues; psychological conversion reactions; chronic anxiety; depression due to low levels of available energy; and other forms of psychosomatic conditions such as headaches (Lowen, 1967, 1975).
(8) They are experienced in altered states of awareness such as dreaming, hypnosis or meditation, as well as under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. (Pelletier and Garfield, 1976; Maupin, 1969).
Chakras, as organizing principles in the subconscious mind present in each individual, may provide a common ground to understand communication between two people, within groups, and in the psychotherapeutic relationship. Like the nervous and neuroendocrine systems that are their substrate, chakras are organizing structures for the mind that respond to the demands of the environment and the body. To understand how chakras are involved in communication, I propose two principles to understand their activity: resonating and mirroring.
Through body language, posture, speech, and movements of facial musculature, one person communicates an idea to another. Something about the what the person feels about the idea, what the idea means to him, how important it is, whether it is an object of desire or indifference––all this has also been communicated. How?
When the message is received through the sense organs, it is passed to the brain, where it is analyzed for its multiple components; translated into information, where it is acted upon by the rational, intuitive and executive structures of the mind.
The message is first resonated with one's own experience, and the message that was communicated is reconstructed in the receiver's mind, with an attempt to understand and make sense of the communication.
The other's experience is then mirrored within, and one begins to construct a cognitive picture or map of the other's life and experience. As the other is experienced in different situations over longer periods of time, this cognitive map is revised continually to reflect new knowledge of the other.
Where chakras fit into this model is, for example, when a woman's body language tells me that she is sexually aroused by me, the chakra "petal" corresponding to sexual arousal in her is activated and resonates its signal through her total body's communication. When I receive her message, I mirror her experience, and my own corresponding "petal" is resonated. Whether I choose to respond with behavior that accepts her communication, and my night is plunged into passionate lovemaking, or have other more important priorities and must politely defer, I have received her communication by internally mirroring it and resonating her communication with my own experience.
If I were totally sexually naive, her communication may be incomprehensible to me. I may also not respond if the channel of this petal were blocked, whereby my experience of my own sexual response would be repressed or otherwise relegated to the unconscious, e.g., out of my conscious awareness.
The chakra model further proposes that chakras represent a collective, archetypal, shared experience of life, present in people in some form in all times, in all cultures, as a kind of universal sounding board for experience.
Whether the chakras may be experienced by individuals of different cultures as concentric geometric patterns (e.g., yantras or mandalas); as hierarchies of symbols (e.g., the tree of life of the Qabalists or the sacred syllables of the Tibetan Buddhists), supernatural beings (e.g., seven angels before the throne of God, seven gods or deities on the path to Shiva ), planets (e.g., the seven sacred planets of the Medieval Europeans) or sacred animals (e.g., the totem of the Native Americans); or as colored lights or whirling wheels of light and fire, they represent a common bridge to the cosmological universe another experiences.
If I can resonate with another's experience so that I can construct it with in my own mind, and mirror it, so I can form a picture of their experience, I can understand that person.
The chakra model would describe one's family life as the activity of the navel chakra. One's work would reflect the activity of the solar plexus chakra. What one does at church, temple or synagogue, and secondarily in the community as a result of what one has learned in these institutions, the activity of the heart chakra. Special giftedness, a sense of vocation or "calling," genius, or extraordinary talent in a particular area of human endeavor would suggest in this model that one or more petals in the throat chakra would aroused into full activity; lesser levels of talent would indicate partial activity. Wild, speculative, over-length and visionary research papers such as this one hastily put together over a feverish night may point to the stimulation of the forehead chakra, the chakra of Inspiration.
Through the phenomena of resonating and mirroring, family members, work groups, social, political and religious groups communicate their needs, expectations and requirements to their members, neighbors, customers and to the larger society.
As members of these groups agree as to which levels of communication are acceptable domains of expression for their endeavor, they tend to restrict communication to certain channels. For example, sexual communication is excluded from the dinner table (Navel Chakra, family Values), labeled as sexual harassment and prohibited at the workplace (emphasizes solar plexus chakra activities), and viewed as sinful or morally degenerate at church (emphasizes heart chakra activities).
It is perfectly acceptable in the bedroom (Navel Chakra, Lovemaking). It is also condoned by the social scientist studying human sexuality (Throat Chakra, Concretizing function). The writer, who is composing a steamy novel full of highly marketable sex and violence, actively invites in this material (Throat Chakra, Imagining function). It is sensitively explored by the psychotherapist who is treating a sexual dysfunction or helping a client recover from a history of sexual abuse (Throat Chakra, Understanding/Empathy function, and others as described below).
Extending our metaphor of the chakras to the therapeutic relationship, we can view the therapist resonating and mirroring the client's experience through the sounding board of his own chakras.
The therapist must keep a firm grip upon his own reality, being present, oriented, grounded (Root chakra): this sets the tone for the therapy session as a place of being real, genuine, a setting where the client can take off the mask and be him or herself.
The therapist may also act as a kind of surrogate parent (Navel chakra, Values petal) for the client. This allows the client to work through his or her issues with parents and siblings. It helps the client discover and think through in a place of safety a set of congruent values. It lets the client role play and dialogue with imagined or actual persons with whom he or she is having a significant current relationship, or with whom he or she had a past relationship in which there are unresolved issues. The therapeutic relationship can be a place of re-parenting, where the therapist offers discipline, non-sexual nurturing, teaching, modeling, assisting the client to discover authentic values, supportive listening and being present. The therapist may also need to be sensitive to the client's cultural traditions that are different than his own (Navel Chakra, Culture petal).
The therapist must also set limits and expectations for payment (Solar Plexus Chakra, Finance petal); set appropriate and firm limits for what is and what is not acceptable in the therapeutic relationship and to communicate directly, honestly and assertively with the client (Solar Plexus Chakra, Communicate petal). The therapist must also be a business proprietor. He must function as a leader for his office staff. He must manage the day-to-day responsibilities that arise in the office and in his personal life, He must actively marketing him self to attract new client. He must be highly organized to do the work of a therapist in an efficient manner. (Solar Plexus Chakra, Lead, Manage, Sell, and Organize petals). He may also design new ways to do therapy, adding workshops or groups (Solar Plexus Chakra, Develop petal) or may act as a supervisor for new therapists-in-training (Solar Plexus Chakra, Inspect petal, with contributions from Navel, Heart and Throat Chakras as required to instill correct understanding and methodology). Finally, he may be required to sit down and do paperwork, help type or input, or assist with tax preparation when tasks cannot be delegated (Solar Plexus Chakra, Produce petal).
The therapist keeps his heart chakra open (activation of the Educate, Comfort, and Guide petals) to regard the client as a unique and valued person, embracing the stance of advocating, caring for, empathizing with and understanding the client. In client-centered therapy, this is called unconditional positive regard (Rogers, 1961); we refer to this open hearted attitude in this model as Compassion.
As the therapist gains insight into self, and develops the creative modalities of the throat chakra to facilitate the client's change and recovery (Throat Chakra, primary activation of Guide, Empathize/Understand, and Feel petals), he or she becomes a catalyst for change. Some therapists may also incorporate other aspects of their creativity, including, for example, Imagine through story-telling; Initiate, by permission-giving and empowerment; See, when using Art Therapy; Move, as is utilized in Dance Therapy; and Teach, facilitating growth with guided meditations and imagery work.
As the therapist listens to the client, trying to make sense of the client's experience, by resonating with the client and mirroring it within, he may also experience moments of Inspiration. These intuitive flashes from the forehead chakra give the therapist sudden insight into what is going on with the client at that moment. He would also rely upon this intuition as to when to be active and directive in therapy, and when to be passive, and allow the client to lead.
The therapist must also rely upon his own lived-through, deeply experienced, wisdom about the resolution of issues (Brain chakra). This allows the therapist to share the experiential set of the client, as he or she is working through that issue. For example, therapists who have worked through and recovered from their own struggles with substance abuse, child sexual abuse, eating disorders, and other addictions may be able to empathize powerfully with the client with similar problems. They have a special sensitivity for the issue, and may able to capture the client's experiential set better than a therapist who has only read about these issues in books.
We might also suggest that a Transpersonal Psychologist or Yoga Therapist could perhaps mirror the goal of Wholeness or Spiritual Psychosynthesis, through the Trans-Cerebral Chakra.
All of this leads me to believe that psychotherapists seek to engage in a profession that involves their whole self, the creative intelligence of all of their chakras. They would probably feel stultified if they had to sit behind a desk doing phone sales (Solar Plexus Chakra, Sales, Organize, Communicate and Produce petals) or work as a secretary (Solar Plexus Chakra, Organize, Communicate and Produce petals). They sense a much greater potential for themselves, and seek to promote this in others (is Heart Chakra, Evangelize, at work here?).
The chakra model, however, despite its explanatory value for communication between people, groups and in the therapeutic relationship, does have some weaknesses.
One of the problems with this model is that it does not seem to adequately account for negative emotions such as anger, pain, sadness, grief, disgust, revulsion, and so on.
It appears to be a cognitive model that describes the functioning of the parts of the personality that are working, delegating non-functioning or frustrated drives to proposed blockages in the chakras. Other than the anecdotal experiences of massage therapists and "body workers" from different disciplines, and the work of psychiatrist Alexander Lowen—who incorporate body work into their clinical practice and who claim to have located these blockages—not every one believes in chakras.
There is no consensus in the therapeutic community that chakras indeed exist, or if they exist, they have any special relevance or are necessary to promote the client's recovery.
The second flaw in this theory is that it uses the sorting box analogy. The sorting box in a mailroom is where the clerks put the incoming mail, placing it into different mail bins for the different departments.
There may be combinations of personality factors that don't fit into the chakra model as it is currently designed. For example, what petals are involved in the skills for a doctor, a lawyer, an aerospace engineer, a microbiologist, a farmer, a woman in India who hand paints and weaves saris? Does the nervous system create different boxes to sort the mail depending on the cultural and experiential context of the individual?
The third issue is that the chakras as described here may fit the experience of a lower-middle class Anglo male who is a child of the sixties, but do they generalize to other cultures or other social groups? Would these analogies apply to an Eskimo, a South American native tribesman from the Amazon? Would they apply to a cultured German baron or English aristocrat? Would they apply to people from people of the generations of the twenties, thirties and forties, or to people from the generations of the seventies and eighties?
Finally, the chakra model imposes a metaphorical shell on the functioning of the neurohormonal system, analogous to the way Windows™ places a graphic user interface over the MS-DOS™ command system. Not everyone may choose the rose-colored glasses of myth and metaphor, instead of the hard-won empirical evidence of observable behavior and neuroanatomical and biochemical studies.
There may also be those that think that anyone who believes in chakras is frankly delusional, and needs a shot of Thorazine STAT.
Clearly, the chakra model is a metaphor for the functioning of the nervous system, an alternate construct for personality activity, and another explanation for what takes place in the act of communication. Since not everyone experiences a personal self, the chakra model may pose some value in communicating with those who live in holistic world-views.
More study is needed to determine:
(1) what role blockages have, if any, in human emotionality, and to isolate their psychophysiological origins.
(2) How the nervous system constructs its "sorting boxes", and how different people label the functioning of their chakras.
(3) How can the construct be generalized to other cultures. For example, where do people use chakra-like models to define their world, and for what types of people is it applicable to use in psychotherapy?
These and other questions must be resolved before we can better understand and appropriately use this transplant from Asian Indian mysticism, and before we know if it belongs in our psychotherapy offices...or better fits in our psych wards.
- The word chakra comes from the Sanskrit language, and means wheel. They refer to discrete centers of neurophysiological integration, that are believed to channel life energy, emotions, memory, thought and volition in specific patterns based on the inherent organizing activity of the particular chakra. Classical Yoga philosophy refer to seven such chakras: Muladhara (root of spine), Svadhisthana (navel), Manipura (solar plexus), Anahata (heart), Visudha (throat), Ajna (forehead, e.g., the point between the eyebrows) and Sahashrara (the cerebral cortex). Additionally, a transcerebral center is described in these teachings, six inches to three feet above the top of the head, referred to as the Brahmanandhara; in some traditions it is believed to reside as a spark within the heart, referred to as the Hridaya center. It represents the state of Enlightenment.
- Roberto Assagioli, in his book, Psychosynthesis, spoke about four stages of therapeutic growth. (1) Integrating the lower unconscious (working through issues from one's personal history that remain unresolved). (2) Working with the middle unconscious (unifying the many aspects of the personality, which Assagioli referred to as "sub-personalities"). (3) Entering the higher unconscious (incorporating archetypal or collective material into the personality, resulting in enhanced creativity and altruism). This culminates in (4) Spiritual Psychosynthesis, in which the personality is integrated with the Soul, or Transpersonal Self.
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