Self-transcendence and psychoanalysis

Paul Marcus’ book “Ancient Religious Wisdom, Spirituality, & Psychoanalysis” (2003) maintains three main assumptions. First, the spiritual quest, including the quest for self-transcendence, is a fundamental human activity, and one that psychoanalysis has not fully acknowledged or addressed. Second, psycho­analysis is in crisis because it has become alienated from its parental roots in ancient religious wisdom traditions that took up these existential questions and answered them in spiritual and ethical insights and moral philosophy. Third, psychoanalysis has much to gain from constructive engage­ment with these traditions.

Marcus suggests how some of this wisdom can be integrated into psychoanalysis. Like these tradi­tions, psychoanalysis has a value-informed perspective about what constitutes the ideal human life and of what works against it. As a starting point, analysts need to be clear about their values and those of their theories, and to be informed, knowledgeable, and culturally sensitive to the spiritual and religious values and strivings of clients.

The main theme is the quest for transcendence, an overarching framework of ultimate meaning, significance, and purpose. As a discipline, psychoanalysis can develop a less reductionistic spiritual hermeneutics. In turn, the therapist can decenter the ego and self for the process of self-trans­formation and be attuned to the role of values, purpose and ultimate meaning in clients’ lives.

What do you reckon about this understanding of self-transcedence in therapy?

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