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Awaken Interviews Ken Wilber Pt 5 – Finding Radical Wholeness

Donna Quesada: I remember when I was in the Zen temple, some of the intellects there were reading “Ken Wilber.”


They were reading your work, and I didn’t know who you were at that time. Now, especially in preparing for this interview, I wonder what you call yourself… a seeker, a philosopher, a thinker, a writer, and second to that, what has been, or has there been a kind of “problem” that you’ve been after as a philosopher, that one thing that you want to solve? What has been that one thing that gets you up in the morning?

Ken Wilber: Right. Well, I’m a philosopher, and I am a mystic, so that could cover Buddhist, Taoist, Christian mystic, and sort of… all of those, and I’m a psychologist, particularly a developmental psychologist. In terms of a problem that I wanted to solve, I actually just completed my most recent book. About a month ago I completed it, and it’s called Finding Radical Wholeness.

The problem that I wanted to solve, was how many different actual types of wholeness are there. Because most people think of wholeness as just one… there’s just one whole, and you’re one with that whole, and so there’s just one type of wholeness, and you’re either whole, or you’re not. You’re broken, or you’re fractured. But I already knew that there were at least two different types of wholeness, of waking up and growing up because both of them offered a very real wholeness.

Waking up, of course, offered you a wholeness with the entire universe. That’s… you’re one with infinity, you’re one with God, you’re one with the universe, and that’s a real major type of wholeness. But the type of wholeness that growing up offers you, is you go from a first person, to a second person, to a third person, to a fourth person, to a fifth person, to a sixth person, to a seventh person, and that’s a real wholeness. Obviously, if you can take a seventh-person perspective, you can see a lot more of different people, and different people’s thoughts, and what people are thinking, and different types of realities that surround you, and that’s a very real wholeness and you can lose that wholeness. You can repress parts of your mind, and split off parts of your mind, and shove them into Freud’s unconscious, and that shrinks the size of your brain. It shrinks the size of your mind, it makes it smaller.

A growing-up wholeness is a real wholeness, as is waking-up wholeness. Then I thought, “Well, are there other types?” Then I thought, “Well, we know that we have between eight and 12 multiple intelligences, but most people don’t know this.” Most people just say, “Well, I just think, and that’s my intelligence, I have a cognitive intelligence, and that’s it.” But we also have emotional intelligence, moral intelligence, aesthetic intelligence, and spiritual intelligence. When we become aware of the fact that we have each of these types of intelligences, we get a fuller wholeness because if you just start thinking, “Well, what’s my emotional intelligence?” Your feelings… and you’ll start to realize, “Yeah, I can feel this about that, or I can feel this about that. I do have an emotional intelligence.”

Then when you think of moral intelligence, you’ll think, “Okay. There’s a selfish stage of moral intelligence, then there’s a pre-operational, magical stage of moral intelligence, then there’s a concrete operational mythic stage of moral intelligence. When I reach the mythic stage, I can actually take a second-person perspective and so I can really start to think morally of you, so I’ll start to treat you morally and I can recognize that growth in my moral intelligence when I do that.” When I reach a third-person moral intelligence, then I can think of all people, all third persons, all they, all thems, all he, all hers, all it, all its, and I can treat all of them morally and that’s what most moral stages want to get to, at least that third person, all people stage, because they want to treat all people fairly, regardless of race, color, sex, creed and you can only do that with the third person of stage…

DONNA: The animals too. As an animal lover, I have to throw animals in there too…

KEN: Right. Exactly. If we actually go through a period where we use, say, each day of the week, we use a different moral intelligence or just think in terms of a different moral intelligence, just to feel what it’s like to get in touch with it. One day we can just think cognitive thinking intelligence, and the next day pick up moral intelligence, and the next day emotional intelligence, then the next day aesthetic intelligence or beauty, and then the next day spiritual intelligence. If we just add all of those up, you can actually feel yourself expanding when you do that, because you realize, “There are all these areas of reality that I didn’t even know I had. I didn’t even know they existed. But now that I get a feel for all of them, I can actually feel this expansion.” It actually feels like that and it feels like an expansion of your capacities.

DONNA: An expansion into wholeness…

KEN: Right. I call that wholeness opening up because we’re opening up to all of our multiple intelligences. Then I thought about Freud and his inner circle… all of Freud’s inner circle, by the way, which was a group of about four or five people that came to study with Freud when he was first beginning. And they were all geniuses. They were Carl Jung, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. Otto Rank invented birth trauma. Alfred Adler is the most widely used psychotherapeutic source. When researchers asked all psychotherapists in this country, “Who do you follow in your school the most?” The highest-scoring theorist that people followed was Alfred Adler and whether they knew it or not, they were following Alfred Adler.

DONNA: Why is that? What is his thing in a kind of nutshell, that makes him so useful?

KEN: He was simply an enormously clear writer and all of the things that Freud sort of made complex… oedipus complexes and all of this kind of stuff… Alfred Adler would just say, “No, you’re having trouble with your parents and they don’t get along and you are having trouble, you’re trying to split them up.” He would just explain the situation really clearly. When a psychotherapist would read his books, they would all understand what he was saying, and they would absorb it whether they knew it or not. And they would repeat it with their clients.

They were all creating a whole and healthy psyche out of a fractured, repressed, broken psyche and that’s what Freud was all about. When Freud was asked, “What does this new psychoanalysis of yours do?” He very famously said, “Where it was, their ego shall be.” and most people don’t know that Freud actually never once used the terms id or ego. He actually used the German pronouns, the I and the it.

His translator, James Strachey, thought that if he translated the I and the it into their Latin terms, the “ego,” and the “id,” it made Freud sound more scientific, so James Strachey changed all of Freud’s I’s and its into the egos and its.

DONNA: Amazing.

KEN: What Freud really said was “Where it was, their I shall become.” That’s a perfect explanation of what psychoanalysis did. Because when we repress something from our mind, we usually, we turn it into a third person it and we call it usually “it.” We say, “The anxiety… it’s stronger than I am.” Or “This obsession, I can’t control it.” Or “This depression, it just comes over me.”

What Freud would actually do, and this was made famous by Fritz Perls, a very famous psychotherapist at Esalen Institute, the first growth center in America… Although right after Esalen went up, within a decade, there were 300 growth centers in America. All of them are modeled on the Esalen Institute. It was founded by a good friend of mine named Mike Murphy. But Fritz Perls would actually use the I and the it, and he would use it very strategically.

He would have somebody come up from the audience who wanted to work with him, who had some neurosis and Perls famously remarked, “I can cure any neurosis in 15 minutes.” The funny thing is, even his critics agreed that he could. Because what he would do is he would sit in a chair himself and he would put a chair in front of him for the client to sit in. Then he would put an empty chair in front of the client and he’d say, “Okay, client, what’s your problem? What’s annoying you? What’s your neurosis?” The client might say, “Well, I have this anxiety and I can’t control it. It just comes over me.” Perls would say, “Okay, put that anxiety in the empty chair and talk to it.” The person would say, “What do you mean talk to it?” “Well, pretend it’s a person and just ask it questions. Just get to know it.”

The person would say, “Okay, anxiety, why are you doing this to me?” Then he’d say, “Okay, now you play the anxiety and answer yourself.” The person would sit in the empty chair, play the anxiety, and say, “Well, because I just think you’re worthless and I want to bug you. I want to make you miserable.” Then he’d go back and go, “Well, why do you want to make me miserable? Well, because you’re a fool. You’re an idiot. Your parents know you’re worthless and so do I and so I’m just going to give you anxiety after anxiety.”

Then he’d go back and forth and he would talk to the anxiety as an it, but then he’d answer as the anxiety. He’d answer it as an I. So he was converting it back into I. He was re-identifying with the anxiety and the entire audience could see what would happen, which is within about 10 or 15 minutes, the person would re-identify with their anxiety. They would actually take it back as their I, so where it was, their I would have become… it went away.

DONNA: When you put it in the empty chair and you stop identifying with it and you see it as kind of a little dumb child or something, it loses its power.

KEN: Right. It loses its power when you re-identify with it, when you identify with it as an I. When you play the child or play the person, play the little homunculus, you’re answering it as an I. You’re saying, “I, the anxiety, am hurting you”… the second person, so you re-identify with it every time you answer as the anxiety. You’re now playing it as an I. You’re saying, “I the anxiety, and doing this to hurt you,” the second person. Then you switch over to you and you play you as the first person, I, and you’re talking to it, the anxiety, as a third person, it.

But then when you play it as an I, you’re… when you respond as anxiety, you’re sitting in the anxiety’s chair and you become the anxiety itself, so you’re an I, and you’re talking as anxiety, saying “I’m anxiety because I love to hurt you and mess you up and make you a nervous wreck.” The more you talk as that I person, the more you identify it as part of your I, you actually take it back and re-identify with that I, so it’s no longer an “it,” it’s an “I.” It’s part of your actual Ispace. That’s when the anxiety itself disappears.

DONNA: Is this what you mean by shadow? I was reading some of your work and you said something that I found very true and amusing… that no one really gets through life without carrying some shadow material. Is this what you mean by shadow material, those kinds of neuroses?

KEN: Yeah, the shadow material is the sum total of all of your its.

DONNA: Okay.

KEN: Every time you deny some part of yourself, it can be a thought, a feeling, an emotion, a desire, sex, lust, envy, or anything. When you, if it really upsets you… you’ll deny it’s yours. You’ll push it out of your conscious mind. It’ll no longer be part of your I. You’ll push it into a third person, it. Then you’ll usually call it an “it.”

The anxiety… it’s stronger than I am. The obsession, it controls me and this big it is your shadow. As you build up shadow materials, you’re just building up its. There are more its that will bother you because what you usually do with an it is, you’ll project it. You push it out of your mind into your unconscious. Then one of the primary defense mechanisms is your unconscious has is to push it to the other side of your organism.

To use a positive example, let’s say I am sexually attracted to a woman, but it disturbs me, so I push the sex out and I’ll project my sex drive onto the woman and then she wants to have sex with me because I’m projecting my sex drive. I’ll start warning her off and trying to convince her, unless I want to sleep with her, and then I’ll say, “Well, sure, fine.” But if I had anger and I project my anger onto you, then I’ll think you’re mad at me and that’s a shadow, an it. You have my it.

DONNA: I see.

KEN: If I was working with Perls, he would have me take you out in my imagination and put you in the empty chair. Then I’d say, “Why are you angry at me?” He said, “Okay, now play her.” Now, I’d play like I was you and I’d say, “Well, I… just because I don’t like you. You’re a very unlikable person and that makes me mad, so I’m angry at you.” I am re-identifying with the anger. I just said “I’m angry at you” because I’m pretending I’m you. That’s how I’m taking back where it was there… I shall become, and as I identify with that as an I, then I’m angry at you and I’ve taken back my anger, so you’re no longer mad at me.

DONNA: Many of our neuroses and shadow material, I suppose, come from childhood trauma and I’m sure there are a lot of people who’ve been struggling with overcoming the effects of trauma for years and years who might say there’s no way. It’s insulting, in fact, to propose that I could get rid of it in 15 minutes. Let’s put an example to it. Let’s say I have a fear of flying. Do you believe that I could conquer a fear of flying, or whatever, or a fear of germs in 15 minutes?

KEN: Well, Perls was a genius at working with this material. He had worked with thousands of them over the years and the estimate is he cured most of them very quickly. I mean, as we were just going through the examples, and I would say, now, I play the anger, I am mad at you, so I re-identify with the anger. When you’re actually doing that in front of a crowd that’s watching you do it, everything is intensified, projections can be re-owned in 10 to 15 minutes, and most of them can be. If your problem is springing from a projection, and most neurotic problems do involve a projection, then it’ll be cured fairly quickly. Most people find 15 minutes to be outrageous and sort of can resent somebody saying, “Well, 15 minutes and you’ll be cured.” They’ll like, “Come on, I’ve been fighting this for 20 years. Don’t tell me you’re going to get rid of it in 15 minutes.” But I’m not sure what specific projection would be involved in fear of flying.

Read and Watch Part 2 Here: Awaken Interviews Ken Wilber Pt 2 – Not I, but Christ liveth In Me

Read and Watch Pt 3 Here: Awaken Interviews Ken Wilber Pt 3 – Waking Up Is Just Not Enough, We Have to Grow Up

Read and Watch Part 4 Here: Awaken Interviews Ken Wilber Pt 4 – Guided Meditation into Witnessing Awareness

Read and Watch Part 6 Here: Awaken Interviews Ken Wilber Pt 6 -You Can Lose Your Fear In Fifteen Minutes

Source: AWAKEN


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