Processwork. August 2014. California
“Process work is the art, science and psychology of following the nature of individuals, communities, and eco-systems.” Arnold Mindell
This chapter is meant for people that are interested to know about PW, the method which helped me to work on myself these few years. I am very excited about the PW approach that was developed by Arnold Mindell in the 70’s in Switzerland. Dr. Arnold Mindell is the originator of PW/processwork or process oriented psychology. He is author of twenty books, has years of experience in private practice, open forums, small and large group organizational and government facilitation. And now, there are quite a few communities in various countries in the world that teach and practice it, including United States, Japan, Russia, Great Britain, Greece, Poland, and so on. You can easily find websites, books, videos, and classes on the web. PW is used as a psychotherapeutic method, group facilitation method, conflict resolution method and also it works well in the corporate world with vision, strategy and change management. And also, of course, we can use PW approach and skills for our inner work.
Even though you can find quite a lot of theoretical and practical information on PW, written by its author, I am happy to share my understanding of its very basics, ideas that specifically helped me in my research. I hope it will bring more clarity in how I was working on my issues; although the main part and idea of the following journal is meant to illustrate the practical application of PW using my own inner processes.
Psychologists know, that what we people are doing in life, and what we think we are doing sometimes are different. They were puzzled by this fact and found that what we observe in human experience is partially a result of an organizing principal that is invisible for us and not directly accessible. So, Dr. Sigmund Freud and Dr. Jung called this invisible principal ‘The Unconscious’. They believed that the best way to understand this ‘organizing our experience’ principal is in studying our night dreams. Arnold Mindell found that we can reach this at any given moment. The seeds of dreaming arise in every moment of the day, in body symptoms, problems, relationships, subtle feelings, interactions, random thoughts, and fantasies. We’re getting countless little cues from the unconscious every minute. So he suggests to his clients to study their problem together first, approaching it as a teacher in a way. Instead of reacting to a disturbance or pushing it away we can also welcome it, amplify, understand what it’s trying to show us and facilitate its message with our normal everyday identity. Include it in our life; by doing that, we relieve the tension between The Symptom Maker and our Normal Identity and feel better. We also grow, become more whole and fluid in life and find peace with our various parts.
It’s not an easy task! This approach is counterintuitive, goes against our first reaction to pain and suffering. But, having practiced PW for many years, I see that at the end this leads to a more fun, juicy, vibrant life.
So that is my hope in this work – to get to know my various parts and tendencies, invite them in my life and feel more at peace with them. And on a more conventional level I hope to feel better physically, feel at ease with my looks and food. To be a friend with the World.
How inner- work works?
In my diary I will use PW approach specifically for my inner work. Inner work is a method to work on yourself, alone. Without the help of a therapist, in a way it’s a new kind of meditation practice.
PW meditation or inner work is an awareness practice. We focus on following the flow of one’s own experiences by noticing sensory information that comes to us through “channels” – visual channel, auditory channel, our proprioception and movement. Also we distinguish 2 composite channels – relationship and world channel. So when the information comes we can notice part of it that belongs to our normal (we call it primary) identity as well as parts that feel contradicting, information that lays further from our primary one. We call it secondary process. These identities are like roles in our “inner theater” or parts of our lucid dreams, or different streams in our river. We can also say that while being in a conflict, these roles look for different way to relate within us.
The way I write about it may sound a bit mechanic. Yes, it is a well-structured method on one hand but on another hand PW is a mystical, unpredictable spiritual path. So in my explanation of PW, I want to include a more poetic phrase that I heard once from my teacher, Max Shupbach. “Open up to what is happening and allow it to dance with you.”
Also, I need to mention that PW, like in some eastern traditions, is seeing our reality as 3 parallel worlds. Consensus reality, dreaming reality and what we call essence reality (non-dual reality). We think that all of them are equally important and present at the same time in any given moment. As if any issue or fact, can be seen from 3 perspectives:
Consensus reality is our measurable world. The ‘objective’, or what we call ‘real’ world. A world that can be counted, measured in dollars, kilometers, kilograms, decibels, pieces…
Dreaming reality is our deep feelings about things, our perceptions. Our subjective reality, unintentional body signals, unspoken truth…
Essence reality is what some people call TAO. Its non-dual aspect can be reached after some practice, in order to go beyond our usual dualistic experience and feel just the neutral qualities of matter. It gives us a different perspective and helps with strong ‘edges’.
The reason why I mention the above three is because some problems that appear as consensus issues are better solved and more sustainable if we work with them on these three different levels. And I will try to do that in my work. I just love how Arny spoke about the importance of being aware of all levels: “Every time you ignore sentient, that are generally unrecognized, dreamlike perceptions, something inside you goes into a mild form of shock because you have overlooked the spirit of life, your greatest potential power. (Arnold Mindell, “Dreaming While Awake”)
Also in this little chapter, I want to mention the PW concept of The Edge that I previously cited. Edge is what stops our “normal identity” (primary process) from accepting the secondary one. Usually, these edges are created by cultural norms, family norms, and personal history. Edge is what tells us “ You can’t do that”, it creates the duality of our perception, separates the world in to “ me” and “not me”, it makes us push away certain energies, certain qualities that do not fit, do not belong to a norm or common view. But do not take me wrong! Edges are good and totally normal. It’s just that sometimes, edges become too rigid and resist the natural flow of life. So by discovering our edges, noticing them, we can start working on them. By finding a truth, a good point in these edges as well as in our secondary process, we can start a discussion with the attitude edges represent, helping ourselves and our social environment to grow and develop…and flow.
You can read more about the PW approach to innerwork in Arny Mindell’s book Working on Yourself Alone, inner dreambodywork. If you would like to read more about the theory of PW on different topics, please consult various books by Arnold Mindell, Amy Mindell, Lane Arye, Joseph Goodbread, Gary Reiss, Julie Diamond, Jean Claude and Arlene Audergon. And you can learn about our international community at http://www.processwork.org/.