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  • Writer's pictureKatie Dunnigan

Transpersonal Psychology and Mental Health

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” -The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

People come to therapy because they are suffering and they don’t know the way out. But in addition to the desire to relieve their mental health symptoms, my clients also have deeper questions, including: Who am I? What is my purpose? And how do I heal on the inside? 

It is a constant reminder of our innate search for meaning.


Life needs to be more than just sleeping, eating, and working. But many of us are not taught that we have a true nature, let alone how to connect with it. We may follow all of the “good” advice, do all of the “right” things, and still feel like something is missing. Often my clients have this sense that there is a void inside of them no matter what they have or do. It never seems to be enough, and they may begin to believe that there is something inherently wrong with them.


Transpersonal therapy is an experiential process that explores these profound parts of our humanity so that we can also heal on a psychological and behavioural level. We can see in the Wellness Iceberg Model below how the spiritual/being/meaning realm is the deepest level.

Wellness Iceberg Model demonstrating spiritual healing in Transpersonal Psychology
Wellness Iceberg Model, Transpersonal Psychology, Spiritual Healing

What is Transpersonal Psychology?

Transpersonal psychology is a branch of humanism that focuses on cultivating a sense of who we are (referred to as the “Self”) outside of our roles, identities, beliefs, expectations, thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and so on. It recognizes that this Self is our essential nature, which is untouched by our negative experiences. It teaches practices to come back to the Self in any moment to regain presence, clarity, calmness, and direction. It allows us to step out of our automatic patterns (sometimes referred to as our “Ego”), so that we can live more authentically.


Transpersonal therapy is not connected to any religion, but it encompasses wisdom from many spiritual traditions and philosophies. It values inner silence, awareness work, and introspection as a way of healing. It is really about learning how to use our mind in a different way, because the intellectual brain cannot resolve underlying issues. It is our connection to our Self that strengthens feelings of wellness and ultimately transforms our mental health symptoms. Our thoughts, emotions, and bodies become entities that ebb and flow, and we begin to trust that we can experience them fully and let them go when we need to. It is our centre of being, or true Self, which remains the anchor and a source of inner strength.


Mental Health Symptoms Addressed in Transpersonal Psychology:

(note that many of these symptoms overlap)


· Anxiety – overthinking, rumination, intrusive thoughts, obsessive thoughts, fearful thoughts


· Depression – low mood, anhedonia, apathy, hopelessness, helplessness, stuck in sadness


· Anorexia, Bulimia, Orthorexia – believing your body is who you are and something you need to control, unprocessed emotions, repressed needs, confusion around values, rumination and obsession around food, body, exercise


· Binge Eating Disorder – unprocessed emotions, built-up stress, going on auto-pilot, numbing, repressing, craving


· Trauma ­– dysregulated nervous system, unprocessed emotions, dissociation and auto-pilot, difficulty setting boundaries, passivity or aggression or both, confusion with decision making


· Low Self-Esteem – having conditions of worth, feeling like an imposter, feeling lost, not liking yourself, pretending to be someone else, “fake it till you make it” life philosophy, social comparison, self-pity, disconnection


· Alcohol Issues – unprocessed emotions, going on auto-pilot, built-up stress, need to escape, numbing or checking-out of life, self-abandonment and self-sabotage


Benefits of Transpersonal Psychology:


o Wholeness – We experience wellness when our mind, body, and spirit are fully integrated and we are caring for ourselves on each level. Many of us have a basic understanding of what we should do to take care of our bodies or minds but we struggle to apply this knowledge because our connection to Self is missing (Who is taking care of the mind and body?).


o Purpose – We all have a unique purpose in life that we are responsible for nurturing. But we also have a shared purpose, which is to develop our consciousness. When we become more aware and present, we are able to bring our Self into our unique purpose in order to contribute to the world in a healthy and meaningful way.


o Awareness – As our awareness opens, we begin to let go of our conditioned expectations and experience who we really are. We gain clarity, which allows us to know what we truly need. This shift in perception facilitates vision, authentic decision making, creativity, and resilience.


o Healing - Awareness heals by allowing us to engage in introspection, let go of patterns that keep us stuck, and move into true acceptance. When we experience traumas or negative life experiences, it causes us to lose touch with who we are. Healing means coming back to ourselves on the deepest level.


o Inner silence – This is a basic human need. We cannot know ourselves unless we spend time with ourselves. Our society is caught in constant distractions, and we don’t learn how to process our emotions or listen to our deeper needs. When we spend too much time thinking or avoiding, it reinforces our conditioning and makes it difficult to help ourselves.


o Motivation – Slowing down the mind and connecting to who we are creates intrinsic motivation. It means that we no longer have to rely on willpower, which is a limited resource. We become motivated to care for ourselves, to do what is right, and to live by our values. We access inner resources that are not available through the intellectual mind.  


o WisdomThis is a profound level of understanding that comes from learning through our life experiences and gaining insight. It is separate from knowledge. It allows us to process our emotions effectively, heal from negative experiences, and make choices that are right for us.


Transpersonal therapy is gentle, humanistic, and based in the wisdom of many teachers and practices. It is an experiential process that requires a commitment to slow down the mind and look inside ourselves for answers.

Having someone to guide you through your inner work is beneficial. If you’d like to learn more about how I support people as an online transpersonal therapist in Burlington, Ontario, please contact me for a free consult.


Mindful Awareness Practice:


Think about a time when you were feeling truly relaxed and at peace. Where were you? What was happening at that moment in your mind? Were you completely present? Did you feel connected to your Self in some way?


Now reflect on a time when you were not present. Perhaps you were distracting yourself by overeating, drinking, scrolling through your phone, yelling at a partner, or participating in another automatic pattern. What was happening in your mind at that time? Did you get taken over by a thought or an emotion? Where was your connection to Self?

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