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Posted April 30, 2002
A New View of the Human Psyche and Its Potential for Growth and Healing
BEYOND THE BRAIN contains the distilled essence of the lifework of Stanislav Grof, M.D.: the insights and conclusions he has come to from his seventeen years as a pioneering LSD psychotherapist. The opening chapter explores the remarkable convergence of modern physics with ancient mysticism, and the resulting radical implications for human psychology, thus setting the stage for the rest of the book. Chapter two, 'Dimensions of the Human Psyche: Cartography of Inner Space,' describes the stages a person passes through when undergoing a series of low-dose psychedelic therapy sessions; these stages correspond to increasingly deeper layers of the psyche. During the first few therapy sessions, one relives childhood traumas. Subsequent sessions gradually deepen into a reliving of birth, and confrontation with death. Aftr many such death-rebirth sessions, one experiences the final ego death: a profound psychospiritual annihilation, followed by visions of blinding white supernatural light, with feelings of ecstasy and rebirth. All subsequent psychedelic sessions are transpersonal: embryonic memories, encountering deceased relatives, ESP episodes, etc. In summary, these three levels--biographical, death-rebirth, and transpersonal--provide a working model of the psyche. Chapter three critiques the various schools of psychotherapy, from Freud and Jung through Maslow and modern experiential therapies like gestalt, primal scream, and bodywork. Grof integrates all into a coherent whole: while acknowledging childhood influences, he sees the trauma of birth as primary; he also recognizes the profound healing potential of mystical/peak experiences. Chapter four examines how the birth trauma is the root cause of much psychopathology, from sexual disorders, to aggression, to neuroses and psychosomatic symptoms, to psychosis. (For example, among sexual dysfunctions and variations, an 'unconscious representation of the vagina as a....murderous organ' derives from birth; 'for a male in whom the memory of the birth trauma is too close to the surface....the traumatic memory has to be relived and worked through before the way to women as sexual objects is free' [pp. 212-13].) The author holds out hope of healing for all mental/emotional disorders; even with psychosis, he has found that intensifying symptoms, using psychedelic or experiential therapy, results in a radical breakthrough and positive resolution. Chapter five explains why the medical model is ineffective and inappropriate in psychiatry; rather than suppression of symptoms, Grof has discovered that deliberately intensifying symptoms leads to spontaneous, autonomous healing. In chapter six, the various mechanisms of healing are outlined, from abreaction and catharsis, to death-rebirth experiences and reliving fetal traumas, to transcendent mystical/peak experiences of the divine. Chapter seven describes hyperventilation and other experiential therapies. A fascinating epilogue explores how ' in wars and revolutions nations act out a group fantasy of birth' (p. 423), as documented by psychohistorian Lloyd de Mause. In conclusion, if I could have only one book in my library, BEYOND THE BRAIN: BIRTH, DEATH, AND TRANSCENDENCE IN PSYCHOTHERAPY would be that book.
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Posted July 24, 2011
Do Not Read!
This is a terrible, terrible book. It is obvious that the author is on LSD. Taking psychoactive drugs does not bring you closer to the truth, it just messes with your mind. Thus, the whole basis for the book dissolves. Read a real psychology book, one written based on real scientific research. This one was so garbagey that I could not get past the first chapter. I asked other people read a few pages of it and they agreed with me.
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