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Foreword from the book Beyond Psychology

This book lays the foundation for a way of helping another person to improve rapidly and profoundly the quality of her[1] life. This approach is unique in that it is both directive and non-judgmental. It provides guidance, yet allows the person being helped to reach her own understandings and make her own judgments without receiving interpretations, approval, or disapproval. Since anyone can stand to improve the quality of her life in some way, anyone can benefit from the techniques discussed in this book. Nevertheless, at present, these methods are directed toward people who are of average or above-average mental stability and who are not severely disturbed or psychotic. They are not psychotherapy and are no substitute for therapeutic intervention in severe cases. I hope that one day ways will be found of applying the principles of metapsychology to the task of helping these very needy people. Meanwhile, the techniques discussed herein can help the vast majority.

Like any other general subject of study, metapsychology is not committed to a specific method, although methods exist as applications of metapsychology, nor to a fixed belief system, although theories exist within the subject of metapsychology. It picks up where psychology, as the science of behavior, leaves off. Hence the name "meta-psychology" has the correct connotation of being a study that goes "beyond" psychology -- beyond the study of behavior to the study of that which behaves -- the person himself -- and the person's perceptual, conceptual, and creative activity, as distinguished from the actions of his body. In this sense, "metapsychology" restores the original meaning of "psychology" as "the study of the psyche, or spirit", and the applications of metapsychology reflect the perennial common goal of therapies, religions, and traditional philosophies, whether one calls this goal the attainment of sanity, of enlightenment, of happiness, of wisdom, or of salvation.

Throughout this book, I will be constantly consulting experiences that I believe we all have in common, as the basis for the points I am going to make. By consulting his own experience, the reader can verify or falsify for himself each of these points. I have assisted this process by including occasional brief exercises. These exercises will greatly enhance the reader's understanding and will allow each reader to verify for himself the points made in the book. My only claim for acceptance of the ideas I am presenting is the assumption that different people have a great deal in common in what they experience and the way in which they experience it. This interpersonal commonality of experience is the fundamental truth that the metapsychological approach provides.

It took me many years of thinking and exploring a variety of different fields to arrive, eventually, at the conviction that this approach was best. Along the way, many different people and schools of thought have influenced my thinking.

It was John Goheen, then Chairman of the Stanford University Philosophy Department, who first kindled my interest in philosophy. In a seminar, Dr. Goheen, every bit the quintessential philosopher (complete with flowing white hair and abstracted manner) speculated: "Perhaps it is love that gives meaning to life." For some reason (possibly because it was true), this statement made a deep impression on me. Dr. Goheen remained my mentor throughout my undergraduate years. It was under his tutelage that I studied Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics (on which I did my Senior Honors Thesis) and R.M. Hare's The Language of Morals. Both of these works greatly facilitated my thinking about ethics and communication.

After studying philosophy for a year at Cambridge University, however, I decided that my studies lacked purpose and applicability. I had always felt that philosophy ought to eventuate in a form of wisdom that would enable a person to lead the Good Life and to help others to do so. Modern philosophy, as I experienced it, seemed to lack wisdom.

I turned to psychiatry in the belief that psychiatrists must have a practical knowledge of life. After all, were they not daily involved in helping people solve their problems? For some reason, perhaps because my father was a physician, it never occurred to me to become a psychologist. During my five years at Yale Medical School, I was fortunate to receive a Freudian analysis from Dr. James Kleeman, a man whose personal characteristics, warmth, and ability to create a safe and therapeutic environment set a standard that has stayed with me ever since. I am sure I have incorporated many elements of his manner into my own style of helping. At least I hope I have.

During my residency training at Stanford University Medical Center, I had the valuable experience of working with Paul Watzlawick and others at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto. They showed me that a very unorthodox[2] way of helping people could be quite effective.

During this time, I was profoundly disturbed by the work of Truex, Carkhuff, and others, who showed that the effectiveness of many current psychological approaches was by no means established.[3]

I had also observed a lack of agreement amongst my teachers and colleagues with respect to diagnosis, prognosis, and recommended modes of therapy. In fact, there was no widely agreed-upon science or method in psychology. Each practitioner ultimately had to make up her own mind about what to do with each individual case. I was disheartened to find that the practical, predictable method for helping people I had hoped to find in psychiatry was not there. Also, having read several of Thomas Szasz's brilliant books, I became profoundly uneasy with the idea that helping someone to become happier had to be a medical or quasi-medical ("therapeutic") action.

Therefore, while completing the last two years of my residency, I began to look outside of the more traditional schools of psychology and psychiatry. I looked into Gestalt therapy and encounter groups; I attended Esalen functions; I tried Psychocybernetics and Yoga.

Many individuals have contributed to this body of knowledge including but not limited to David Mayo, Jan and Dick Halpern, and Jack Horner, have surely made a significant (if generally unrecognized) contribution to the helping professions. Techniques and theories developed by these individuals have found their way into many different commonly-used methods, including Co-Counseling, Life Spring, The Landmark Forum, and even Gestalt Therapy.[4]

Other writers who have impressed me deeply include Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Michael Polanyi, Thomas Kuhn, Eugene Gendlin, and Charles Tart. All these thinkers have helped me to crystallize my thoughts concerning the subject of metapsychology.

This book is organized in three parts. Part One deals with the basic philosophical underpinnings and theory of metapsychology, Part Two provides a useful categorization of the the various disabilities or undesired conditions that may arise in a person's life, and Part Three presents a theory of personal enhancement and some examples of the very effective techniques currently used by practitioners of applied metapsychology.

Appendices 1 and 2 contain some helpful procedures that a person can use by himself or with others to enhance the quality of life. I hope that these will provide a good illustration of some of the basic techniques used in applied metapsychology, and if the reader can derive some personal benefit from them, so much the better. Appendix 3 is a partial list of centers that use metapsychological techniques, in case the reader wants to investigate this subject in more depth.

The viewpoint I am consistently trying to take in this book is that of the world as seen by an individual person at a particular time. While I may sound as though I am making startling and counter-intuitive statements about "objective reality" (because it will be tedious always to prefix my statements by "from the viewpoint of a particular person at a particular time"), please realize that the only absolute assertions I intend to make are about the ways people construct and perceive their own worlds. If you find yourself outraged by something I am saying, before throwing the book down in disgust, try checking to see if, in the situation being described, you would experience the world that way and, if so, realize that that's what I am talking about.

I encourage the reader to check each of my points against her own personal experience. The goal of metapsychology is to describe universal characteristics of experience, so what I have to say should either ring true when compared to carefully observed personal experience or stand disproved by that experience. I would be interested in hearing from any reader who, on thoughtful consideration of one of my points, finds that her own experience contradicts what I have said. Such feedback will be quite helpful in refining the subject of metapsychology.

There is an extensive glossary, containing some technical terms I have had to introduce, as well as a great many English terms to which I have had to give a restricted or specialized meaning. It is hoped that the reader will make very free use of this glossary, especially if he encounters a term that is puzzling or that has a seemingly odd usage.


1 Throughout this book, I will use either the male or the female pronominal form to indicate, male, female, or unspecified gender. Return to text

2 Unorthodox, that is, at that time. Return to text

3 Truax, C.B. and Carkhuff, R.R. Towards Effective Counseling and Psychotherapy (Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago, 1967). Return to text

4 For a further discussion of this influence, please see:

Bartley, William Warren III. Werner Erhardt (Clarkson N. Potter, New York, 1978) pp. 149ff.
Grof, Stanislav. Beyond the Brain (State University of New York Press, New York, 1985) pp. 187, 196f, 379.
Perls, F. The Gestalt Approach (Science and Behavior Books, Ben Lomond, CA, 1973) p. 95f.
Winters, J.A. A Doctor's Report on Dianetics (Julian Press, New York, 1951) -- Introduction by Fritz Perls.
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