Journey to Wholeness:
Integrated Perspectives on Emotional Health & Wellbeing
Dr. Mik Ludwig
© 2008 Dr. Mik Ludwig
All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents
About the Author
I dedicate this book to Nettie, Mikey, Matt-Matt, Nickle-Bee, and Ner-Ner.
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”
This is a book about emotional healing and personal well-being. It is written for anyone who has ever had one or more experiences of being human, and who have the tear-stains and soul-scars to prove it. While I am aware that this pretty much describes any one of us, I am also aware that there are many who are not yet ready to fully admit it (especially the “tear-stains” and “soul-scars” part). Therefore, perhaps not everyone has come to a place in their life journeys where they are ready for the healing opportunity this book has to offer, or for what it may require; and that is okay.
However, here YOU are, holding and reading the book. Somehow your own life journey has carried you to a place where our paths have crossed, and where you are invited to receive, and I am privileged to be able to share with you a gift that will hopefully impact your life both positively and permanently. The gift of which I speak is called “affective integration,” which is a very special kind of emotional healing with which you are about to become quite familiar.
The need for the healing potential of integration exists within ALL of US, whether or not we realize it or freely admit it. We are all products of our genetics and our environments, two factors that have endowed us with immense potential, but also significant challenges. We are as wonderful as we are flawed, and yet we remain the crowning achievement of Creation and its thousands of years of evolutionary endeavor to render us what we are fully capable of being and becoming.
So, how are we doing? Where are we at currently in the grand scheme of this collective growth process? Unfortunately, the diagnosis is not as encouraging as I would like it to be, but fear not, for there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel (and it is not the train).
However, before I can discuss the “light at the end of the tunnel” (“immense potential”) that awaits us, I must first provide an honest and realistic analysis of the “life within the tunnel” (“significant challenges”) that we currently face as individuals and as a collective humanity. My caveat here is that while I am about to launch into a brief diatribe that will target and expose the current pathology of our “selves” and systems, rest assured that the remainder of this work will focus upon the solutions rather than the problems. Very well, enough of the apologetic; here is the diagnosis:
Humanity is not well, and our world is in peril. We are in deep trouble, the kind of trouble that could very well spell disaster the likes of which have never been seen on earth before. We have become a race of consumers steadily eroding away the resources of the planet that was created to sustain us. Ego has become the new god, and greed the newest form of worship.
This is an age of polarization, conflicting ideologies, and competing factions: East versus West, Islam versus Christianity, Democrats versus Republicans, etc. The “Powers that be” broker deals and pull strings, while everyday folk live within a substance induced pipe dream, a technological matrix, and a consumerist rat race. The human saga remains a story of struggle and conflict, even though we consider ourselves to be so evolved and advanced. In reality, our technological advancements have far outreached our philosophical and psychological development, and we have become like children playing with fire. The house we are burning down is our own.
In psychology we are referring to these times as the “age of trauma,” and we are witnessing the results of a world that keeps getting ahead of itself in treatment rooms everywhere. Acronyms like PTSD, ADHD, GAD, and BD, once known only to clinicians, have become main-stream and one would be hard pressed to meet someone who is not familiar with at least one of these modern diagnoses, either through having personally experienced one or more of them, or via having known someone who has. Additionally, we are seeing exponential increases in the number of psychotropic medications being produced and prescribed, and those who cannot obtain them conventionally are doing so either illegally, or they are using more crude substances in an attempt to self-medicate.
In the popular media world we read that many are considering these times the last days, and there are speculations of apocalyptic proportions. Comets, nuclear wars, natural disasters, alien invasions – it seems everyone is waiting for something, something horrible, as if we somehow deserve it? From where are deriving this sense that time is running out? Why are we now focusing so attentively upon Global trends, Mayan calendars, Nostradamic predictions, and Zombie Apocalypses?
Human history seems to have reached a kind of critical mass, and it is almost indisputable, irrefutable, and inevitable that we are about to experience a very powerful transition in our world. Current events now unfold and are reported on a moment to moment basis, and there is a general quickening in almost every area of our lives. We are all experiencing the effects of these transitions, and we are all aware of this this anticipatory anxiety as we continue to perceive the precursors of some inevitable shift.
With the advent of the technological revolution, humans unleashed a new generation of empowerment as we began to realize the myriad capabilities within us. The cell phones are becoming more and more powerful, the computers slimmer and faster, and the television screens larger and the circuitry more complex. The capacity of human minds to conceive, and the ability of human hands to construct has become exponentially enhanced to the degree that one year essentially became ten years in the realm of progress, and many scientists now believe that the scientific growth of the past 100 years rivals the whole of human advancement for all time!
While this has the potential to become an extremely positive situation, it has its downside. The rapidity of advancement seems to have now exceeded the current capacity for human consciousness to process and adapt. We do not yet fully understand the physiological effects of our multifarious gadgetry, and our minds are still trying to catch up with the fever pitch pace of these technological advancements. While challenging minds to stretch, grow and expand can ultimately be a very positive situation, doing so too quickly can have very dangerous side effects.
One such side effect is a stark rise in psychological distress and illness among the world population. Mental health issues are becoming more prevalent, especially those that we refer to as the “mood disorders” (anxiety, depression). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is also on the rise, and not only among military personnel. Adjustment Disorders and Existential Crises also seem to be more prevalent as previous systems of thought and meaning making are being challenged by an emergent pessimism and overall sense of “doom and gloom.”
The result has been of these factors has been polarization. People feel threatened by change, especially change that occurs too abruptly, so we now have the most ambivalent situation of materially enjoying the fruits of progress, while psychologically, philosophically, and spiritually struggling to reconcile with drastic change – change that is not necessarily “all good.”
Much of the so called “progress” that we are currently witnessing in our world is actually producing quite disastrous results. While short term gains seem highly positive, in the long run the changes we are currently affecting have the capacity to cause great harm and damage to our world and our culture. The world withers, human beings are struggling, psychological crises are on the rise, and things are about to change in a highly significant way. Essentially, we are in a great deal of trouble.
Now, as I mentioned previously, do not get me wrong at this point in your orientation to this book. Anyone who knows me and/or works with me will assure you that I am by no means a negativist and this book will by no means be pessimistic in posture. Like anyone trained in psychological healing, I am simply providing an initial assessment of the situation. What happens next is the “good stuff!”
For the past ten years or so, I have been experiencing a deep longing to find a way to speak to this crisis, not only in a “whistle-blower” manner, but also as one who might have some suggestions regarding how to change it. In the midst of this time of reflection, I came to a very important revelation: If we want to change our collective humanity, we must first change our individual humanness. It is not enough to speak or write about what is wrong in our world, and it has been somewhat ineffective to attempt to create sweeping change within larger segments or sectors of society. My premise is that collective change begins with individual change, and if we want to renew our world, we must first renew individuals. My projection is that as more people change for the better, the world will continue to change positively.
Consequently, I have dedicated my life and work to the process of changing individual lives, knowing that that each investment will in turn be paid forward and might ultimately contribute to changes in our collective humanity. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and what keeps me going through the muck-and-mire through which I must often co-journey with my Clients, and Patients. The pay-offs are the integration of individual lives, and (hopefully) the transformation of collective society.
This book is intended to serve as a manual for personal growth and individual change via various concepts and understandings derived from an approach to the behavioral sciences that purposefully integrates elements of psychology and other fields of knowledge as a means of addressing the “whole person,” body, mind, and soul. This orientation, which was born out of a need for a therapeutic approach capable of addressing contemporary human crises in a holistic manner, has been referred to as Integrated Psychology, Integrative Psychotherapy, Prescriptive Psychotherapy, etc. These particular schools have abandoned the antiquated thinking that there can be only one theory capable of addressing the multiplicities and distinct variances that are encountered when studying an individual brain/mind, and they tend towards a purposeful application of theories and interventions from numerous schools and orientations based upon their appropriateness for each unique situation.
My preferred way of researching and intervening within this more integrated domain is via what I refer to as An Integrated Paradigm for Coaching, Counseling, and Psychotherapy, which I have defined as:
A functional model depicting an integrative and prescriptive approach to human psychological wellbeing that purposefully amalgamates and strategically applies only the most potent, proven, and prudent psychotherapeutic theories and interventions that have been shown to promote affective and cognitive integration.
When I speak of “theories and interventions” I refer to the various theoretical perspectives and intervention strategies that have emerged over the course of the history of psychology. These include the historical Psychodynamic, Cognitive, Existential, and Family Systems approaches, as well as the many modern theories and techniques that continue to evolve within the field such as Reality Therapy, Positive Psychology, and Transpersonal Psychology. Once again, I reiterate that my highest goal is to isolate those theories and techniques that are most capable of harnessing the capacity of the human mind to perceive, interpret, and adapt in ways that promote contentment and fulfillment in our lives.
This raises an interesting question: Is psychology the only field of knowledge that has something to offer regarding experiences like contentment and fulfillment? Certainly not! Therefore, it is important to share that the Integrated Paradigm always remains open to other fields of knowledge (Philosophy, Religion, Mythology, etc.) and invites them to contribute to a full and comprehensive understanding of the human experience.
Consequently, the reader may be pleasantly surprised to discover that while this book will draw heavily from the knowledge of neuroscience and psychology, it will also make room for that which is above and/or beyond KNOWLEDGE, that being those concepts and interventions originating within the various WISDOM traditions of the ages. After all, psychology is itself only about 150 years old, while many other traditions have been addressing the human condition for centuries. Certainly they have something significant to contribute to an overall mastery of life, and truth is truth wherever it is found.
Regarding this work’s framework, I refer the reader to the visual representation of the Integrative Paradigm, which can be found in the back of the book (see Resource I). In this work we will focus specifically upon what are known as the Integrated Dynamics (the circle in the center), which are essentially States of Being that we can identify and work towards as a pathway within our quest for an integrated life. More specifically, we will confine this study to the first five dynamics of Surrender, Co-journey, Release, Revelation, and Renewal; which I tend to refer to as the “affective dynamics” due to the fact that they tend to deal more with feeling states rather than perceptions and thoughts. The remaining five, which I like to refer to as the “cognitive dynamics” will be covered in a second volume to follow.
My reasoning for presenting them separately is this: While I am a firm and dedicated believer in the modern approaches to psychotherapy that focus upon cognition and positivity, I have encountered far too many cases in which these methods could only serve to either temporarily apply a “band-aid” to interior wounds, or worse, they could become a means of suppressing and/or denying the presence of “un-finished business” from past experiences.
Therefore, I have found that before one is able to engage the path to Cognitive Integration, s/he would do well to first experience the path of Affective Integration in order to first heal, then build upon that healing with continued growth. However, please do not think of this as an absolute. I have found in my practice that I have often needed to utilize cognitive interventions to stabilize situations before the affective work could be undertaken. Remember that within an integrated approach one size does not fit all, each situation is unique, and each process is to be “custom made” for each individual.
As I speak of uniqueness and individuality, I am also reminded of another concept that I want to be sure to present here in the introduction, that being the consideration that ALL could benefit from engaging a therapeutic process of some kind. My rationale for this belief is the understanding that we have all passed through various stages of life as a human on planet earth, and that this rarely happens without some kind of difficulty and impact. None of us gets through unscathed, especially in these most challenging times I mentioned earlier. It is interesting how Carl Jung addressed this more than 100 years ago when he cleverly said, “Show me a healthy man and I will try to cure him.”
Therefore, I will proceed with the goal of presenting these Affective Dynamics as a “map of life” and “set of attributes” that can guide any one of us through a stage of personal understanding and inner healing of the wounds we ALL carry in one form or another. I will pursue this goal via three particular modalities.
First, I will share some scientific and theoretical findings that will provide a look into the world where Clinicians live. I will do my best to bring these often verbose and complicated theories “down to earth” so that they can be more easily understood by an adult reader with minimal knowledge and/or experience in psychology. However, I do hope that after having read the book each reader will have gained a valuable education regarding many of the concepts of psychology, especially those that are most germane to everyday life.
Second, I will share what I will refer to as Case Stories, which are examples of therapy situations that will help us understand and perhaps even experience a bit of the world where a client or patient may (temporarily) live. Regarding these stories, it is important to note that all names used are contrived, and each situation is actually a FICTIONAL amalgamation of the kinds of situations that I and other Therapists have encountered in our research and practice. Therefore, while the information provided is highly representative of clinical experiences and outcomes, none of the stories can be said to actually represent any one individual person or case history.
Third, I will present various exercises that will assist the reader to not only be a reader, but also an active participant in the process of personal integration. In this way I hope to reach out to where the Reader lives in order to provide a preliminary idea of the transformational power of an integrated therapeutic process. That said; it is important to note that nothing presented within this book is intended to replace work that can and should be done with a well educated, trained, and licensed Clinician. Additionally, if at anytime the reader feels any exercise is too intense or triggering, stop the exercise immediately and consult a Professional who can work with you regarding anything that may have surfaced. While I hope that everyone who reads this book will ultimately enter a personal therapeutic process, it is particularly important that those who experience reactions to the content or exercises seek treatment immediately.
One final thought regarding the book and the exercises: In order to get the most out of the process the Reader may wish to utilize a Journal for note taking and engaging the exercises. Journaling can be a powerful therapeutic intervention, so much so that I personally issue one to every new client or patient that I work with in my private practice.
Very well! Allow me to be the first to welcome you to the Journey to Wholeness, a deep examination of, and process of movement towards the goal of affective integration. It is my hope that you will be sometimes challenged, occasionally confronted, but ultimately inspired by all that you will discover here.
Dr. Mik Ludwig