Process Work Psychology

Process-oriented psychology or otherwise process work psychology is one of the directions of psychotherapy. If Jung’s psychology had a daughter it would surely be process work. Derived from Jungian psychology concept Process Work was developed by Jungian analyst Arnold Mindell in the seventies of the twentieth century in the Jung Institute in Zurich. In 1970, Arnold Mindell, in his work as an Jungian dreams analyst observed a significant relationship between symbols people’s dreams and their experiences stemming from the body, for example, a person dreams of knives and at the same time is suffering from acute stabbing pain in the neck. Mindell combined dream experiences and bodily and found a new insight for the opportunity to help their clients. He created the concept of “dreaming body” to go beyond the dualism of mind and body. His ideas were published 1984 in his first book, “Dreaming body.”

Process Work is based on the foundations and insights of Jungian transpersonal psychology and depth. Up to this day is using the methods and achievements of Jung. Arnold Mindell introduced methods and tools of Jungian psychology into the concept of inner work, working with body symptoms, altered states of consciousness and to work with organizations and groups. Thanks to the legacy of Mindell phenomenon Jung and his discoveries are being continued and extended with new ways of working that enable working with the body, relationships, conflict, and environmental groups.

Process work as following the nature

Process work is based on the principles of ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism and reflects learning from the traditions of indigenous peoples around the world. The ancient Taoists spoke of “following of nature”, which is older than all the people, and for pursuing the nature inside of us. Process work is updating the practice of Taoism. It is based on modern physics, the wisdom of nature and shamanism giving you the tools that facilitate the flow of nature and help solve internal conflicts. Process work helps to raise awareness of unconscious content so you can grow beyond your everyday comfort zone of your identity and intentions.

Process work and different levels of reality

Arnold Mindell, at the beginning studied quantum physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). With time he evolved Process Work paradigm to create a model that integrates “consensus reality” with the subjective experience from the border of dreams. Mindell shows how the theory of relativity and quantum physics provide a powerful metaphor for understanding the psychological experience. Process work is based on the central idea of modern physics: that consciousness is a fundamental principle of the physical world. Mindell suggests that curiosity and increased awareness can be an integral part of the natural systems.

Process work also draws attention to the deep democratic experience, which belong to the world of so-called “hard facts” and to those which are subjective and may not be disclosed or confirmed by an objective observer. Both aspects of perception together constitute the real world. Without this and work with both aspects of our perception we have only a partial description of reality, and we lack much needed information to solve our problems.

Mindell calls the world of facts “consensus reality” because it can be defined in the way of perception, we can verify it by consensus, for example: the law of gravity and the facts (it is now day, and not night). In contrast to the “unconsensus reality”, which includes all other qualitative phenomenal and sentient aspects of our perception of what philosophers call the “qualia”, e.g. the feeling you experience when you see the sunrise, or when you wake up from a disturbing dream, it is “something” that can never be directly common sense or confirmed by someone else, but is not less real.

Process work and altered states of consciousness

Process work offers a model to understand and work with the full range of human experience. Arnold Mindell found that there is continuity, which combines ordinary states of consciousness, those considered normal in a given culture and historical moment and with extreme states of consciousness that can lead a person to the hospital. In published in 1988 book “City shadows: Psychological interventions in psychiatry,” Mindell showed how we can understand psychiatric disorders from a broader perspective, as states that are extreme in comparison to the cultural norms. A person suffering from a mental disorder can be understood as someone “trapped” in this extreme condition, unable to regain access to the normal state of mind. Working with the person’s process helps to facilitate the recovery of the connection between the extreme and the ordinary states of consciousness.

Based on these observations, process work developed the working methods for both altered and extreme states of consciousness, including addiction, coma, experiences from the border of life and death. Paradigm focuses on the deep democracy approach, that all people have access to both ordinary and extreme part of the experience. The aim is to increase the individual’s ability to move freely and be more aware of the continuum of experiences, not to get stuck in an altered state, unable to return to a normal state of mind. To work with altered states of consciousness uses non-verbal communication techniques and working with movement.

Process work in practice

Working with a multi-level process provides tools to facilitate the creation of relationships within oneself and with the others. After connecting to the deepest part of ourselves, writes Arnold Mindell, we can open up to other people and understand the “different” points of view from ours.

The theory and method of process work include a wide range of applications. Methods are used for inner work or self-therapy, working with groups and organizations, conflict resolution, individual therapy, couples therapy and family work with physical or mental illness, coma and altered states of consciousness, near death experiences, somatic problems including acute and chronic symptoms, working with dreams, and behavioural health problems such as addiction, depression, anxiety or panic disorder.