“Beyond Identifications” 2019 – Summary of Presentations

Katherine Preston offered the following summary of the presentations at the “Beyond Identifications” event held in Berkeley in July, 2019:

The Interplay of Psychology and Spirituality: “Beyond Identifications”

Laurence Heller, Ph.D.

Dr. Heller focused his presentation on the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM), which is a method of psychotherapy aimed at treating attachment, relational and developmental trauma developed by Dr. Heller over his 45-year clinical career. The foundation of the model is that survival styles distort present adult experience. The patterns have outlived their usefulness and create disconnection from a person’s authentic self, from others, a distortion of identity, and a range of symptoms.

Dr. Heller explained in detail how the clinician works simultaneously with the individual’s psychology and physiology, focusing on the “interplay between issues of identity and the capacity for connection and regulation.” The approach is “non-regressive, non-cathartic, and non-pathologizing.” Core principles are that the client sets intention for the work, is invited to reflect on his or her internal process, and through anchoring in the body often perceives physical, emotional, cognitive, and relational shifts that may be noticed as “softening of old identifications, integration, and reorganization.” The model orients toward internal and external resources, works with a person’s strengths and focuses on “cognitive, emotional, felt sense and psychological” levels of experience to support increased capacity for self-regulation and awareness of self in the present moment.

Dr. Heller emphasized individuation which he allows is important to spiritual growth in that it promotes a separation from old identifications and ideas of self and world in order to be available for an experience of non-duality and the “vastness of being.”


Beyond Identifications and the Practice of Presence

Jamal Granick, Ph.D.

The terms “self” and “identity” are often used interchangeably; however, they have different connotations. Whereas “self” alludes to the essential individual subject, “identity” implies equivalence. The term “identification” is frequently used in psychology to indicate patterns of personality which one takes to be oneself. In this case, the word is both a verb (to identify with) and a noun (that with which one identifies).

Identifications are acquired responses to one’s early environment from which one receives verbal and non-verbal messages suggesting one’s identity through others’ eyes. These reflections are internalized as images, thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behavioral procedures that comprise these states of identification.

Identifications are both conditional and transient. They do not, in themselves, reveal anything about the essential subject who is experiencing them. Is there an innate, inherent self that is beyond identifications and, if so, how can one differentiate one’s being from the miasma of images that comprise one’s internal world?

Spiritual traditions offer practices to facilitate transformation, cultivating an awakening to our greater being. In this process, the hold of identifications can begin to soften, becoming translucent to the light of being that shines through.

Heart-Based Resiliency

Arife Ellen Hammerle, Ph.D.

We, the human beings, search to discover not only the beginning and the destination but also our own identity within the vastness of this universe.
–Dr. Nahid Angha, in Words of Wisdom

Human beings search to discover not only the beginning and the destination but understanding self in relationship with identity within the universe. Identity in connection with the universe often remains a mystery. Sufi heart-based resilience psychotherapy can be defined as: awareness at presence of heart, in balance guided by intention in practice. It has three distinguishing attributes which are keys for self-discovery: intention, balance and presence. Intention lends focus and purpose to one’s practice. Balance is the observation of one’s experience practiced in every moment and breath. The attitude that supports this practice is characterized by presence, concentration of energy within the heart with trust. Self-inquiry cultivated through practice requires psychological understanding of the impact of trauma on the life of the human being so identity becomes unlimited. Through transformation we re-wire the neuropathways in the brain and delve into the realm of the heart. The Sufi psychological approach supports cultivation of our identity by deepening into the universal connection guiding us beyond limited identifications to the roots of healing grounded in the interplay of heart-based psychology and spirituality. Sufi Psychology provides tools to develop a roadmap to work on healing from complex trauma.

Angha, Nahid (2016). Sufi Wisdom: The Collected Words of Sufi Master Nahid Angha, San Rafael, CA: IAS Publications.


Balance: Interplay of Psychology and Spirituality

Amineh Pryor, Ph.D.

 Bes mella eh Rahman eh Rahim

People may go to psychotherapy when they are aware of mental or emotional imbalance or are struggling to recalibrate or integrate some life experience or trauma. In the physical world, including our senses, emotions, and in relationships, we live with constant change and continually work to adapt to it. We seek balance in daily life, though because the conditions are in flux it’s a challenge to establish balance.

In Sufi psychology and meditation we seek to move our awareness from the level of comparison and change to reliable, fixed, unchanging stability. Establishing and returning to balance includes removing obstacles to connection with our innate, primordial wisdom. Most of the obstacles are merely images though these images become a heavy weight on us. It takes guidance and practice to find a stable point beyond our images. The point of connection to this unchanging level of being has been found by the Sufis to be in the heart. This anchor holds us in a state of balance which then guides our daily life and brings healing to our being – physical, mental, emotional, relational, and with our environment as the world of matter aligns with the essence of our soul.

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