Frontiers Winter 2017 – The Shadow of Spirituality

“The brighter the light the darker the shadow” –  the old aphorism attempts to express a psychological truth around the idea of ‘splitting’. This is the idea that we can remain entirely good and simply push the darker elements of human existence into the recesses of our psyches. This idea, unfortunately, plagues spiritual and transpersonal traditions, creating an atmosphere where we must express ‘lightness’ and ‘high vibrations’ at all costs – our more difficult issues become hidden and invisible, breeding and growing in the dark.

In an attempt to avoid pushing our darker elements into the cellar this edition  of Frontiers is an attempt to be reflexive about the way that we practice as transpersonal psychotherapists. What are the hidden issues in our profession and paradigm? What do people NOT talk about in transpersonal training or transpersonal institutions. What is difficult about spiritual experiences?

What do people NOT talk about in transpersonal training

Sam Agnew begins by looking at the Shadow of the Transpersonal – the difficulty that one faces once a spiritual experience happens, how she was able to cope with the need to find perfection and escape from the world. In parallel but coming from an opposite direction, Sam Bloxidge talks of his own struggles with terms such as spirit and soul, and how these and even the idea of a spiritual perspective of psychotherapy can carry hidden difficulties for those who have issues with authoritarianism and blind belief.


Following these articles Susan Tomlinson and Kelly Hearn talk about one of the most taboo and under-discussed topics in psychotherapy institutions -money. They talk about the experience of leading a psychotherapeutic workshop on this topic and how ignored it is in transpersonal training or spiritual perspectives in general. You can also find out information on their next workshop in their article. Suzy Chick then talks about one of the most important topics for any transpersonal psychotherapist and any spiritual practice in general – the idea of spiritual bypass. We have all met people who are spiritually superior yet their lives and relationships are a mess – the root of this, narcissism used to bypass authentic relationships – is explored in this article.

Next I review the book ‘Evil Incarnate’ a book which is a psychoanalytic history of grand narratives of evil. This book looks at the therapist led ‘Satanic Panics’ of the 1980s and how multiple personality disorder (the colloquial term for Dissociative Identity Disorder) was co-opted by evangelicals and became a modern equivalent to the witch hunts of earlier history. Cristina Preda also provides a review of the horror film the Babadook – the literal monster in the cellar, drawing on theories around splitting and projection she explores how the movie explores the effect of hiding our trauma. We then have the dilemma and a look at some of the art produced by Christian Opyrchal for this issue. Finally we have an advertisement for a screening of the film ‘Crazywise’ in January at the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Frontiers

Nick Opyrchal (editor)

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