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Healing Our Deepest Wounds: The Holotropic Paradigm Shift Paperback – May 21, 2012
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About the Author
Stanislav Grof, M.D., internationally acclaimed psychiatrist and co-founder of transpersonal psychology, has taught and lectured in academic and workshop settings worldwide. He has served as chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Scholar-in-Residence at Esalen Institute, and President of the International Transpersonal Association. Dr. Grof is a distinguished faculty member at the California Institute of Integral Studies and the author of many books, including LSD Psychotherapy, The Adventure of Self Discovery, The Holotropic Mind, Books of the Dead, The Cosmic Game, Psychology of the Future, When the Impossible Happens, and The Ultimate Journey. He has collaborated with his wife Christina Grof on the books The Stormy Search for the Self, Spiritual Emergency, and Holotropic Breathwork.
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Grof's research has put him at the cutting edge of Transpersonal Psychology (he coined the term in the late 60's), in it's emergence from Maslow's humanistic psychology, which means he has rubbed shoulders with some the best and brightest of thinkers in the past half century. He has also conducted vast research into non-ordinary states of consciousness (vast in quantity and scope, as with his high dose LSD clinical studies), and so has much to teach us on realms less accessible to our regular daily experience. What Dr. Grof has as a result contributed to modern psychology (although not yet very widely applied), is the notion that our health and dis-ease is effected by three realms of experience - 1) our regular history of conscious experiences from birth to present, 2) our unconscious (although imprinted) experiences of our birth trauma, and 3) our transpersonal connection to the collective unconscious, and our experience of endless lives from birth through death, as well as our subliminal sharing of memories and sense of oneness with others. He calls this more holistic view "Holotropic" - or "moving toward wholeness."
This simple formulation (of a more complete sense of what our personal history includes) alone is as profound as it is utterly simple. In my own life I have come to collect a variety of dots (memories, dreams and reflections as CG Jung might say), which when connected make up just the kind of picture or world view Grof is advocating. So reading this collection of Grof's writings is life-affirming and inspiring - for healing is an ongoing challenge for all of us. I am not familiar with all the subjects and thinkers he touches upon, nor have I ever participated in any kind of Holotropic Breathwork therapy, so I can't evaluate that portion of his writings. But I get the overall impression that Dr. Grof is very open minded and inclusive in his approach, which can (and sometime does for me) give the impression of inexact science (and thus sloppy thinking). An example of this is his praise of Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics, which was culturally ground breaking at the time, but not very scientifically or even philosophically accurate in retrospect. Another example is the way he classifies the states of consciousness, as with his BPM - Basic Perinatal Matrices (this kind of classification always strikes me as pseudo-scientific). I don't disagree with the classifications (since they are mostly outside my personal experience) as much as the need to define experience in such a way.
But my personal misgivings are merely that. What I do like is how he has been willing (and productive) in studying what most scientists wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. This includes his clinical research into LSD psychiatric therapy, and various patient's experiences with "spiritual emergencies" and Holotropic Breathwork. What we get to read is a summary of a great thinker/researcher's life's work - a synthesis of the past half century's scientific/spiritual inquiry, from the mainstream to the fringe. And for this I am very grateful. Another plus, a real added treat to the whole book, is the inclusion of abundant paintings and drawings (although shown in B&W), showing a more poetic expression of these emotional and spiritual states and experiences. These works of art along with the inclusion of many research subject's personal stories to fill out these illustrations makes the whole book much more interesting.
One of the challenges of such an approach (the blending of art and science through descriptions of subjective states) is that it blurs the lines of modern knowledge and scientific inquiry by opening up a Pandora's box of mythology (astrology, shamanic journeys, mystical revelation, lucid dreams and hallucinations), all very fertile material, but not so easy to classify and define and get a handle on. In other words it is expansive by it's very nature, and so, outside of the current paradigm of materialistic science. This is not the solid ground of science, as much as the swampy bog where psyche meets substance, where dreams are made real (at least for their duration).
Whether we are wanting more insight and tools to heal ourselves and sort out our own vast mix of experiences, or merely to experience them vicariously through the experiences of Dr. Grof's patients and subjects, this book provides wonderful food for thought, application and holotropic growth.