Graduate School – Transpersonal Psychology

The idea of going back to school has been floating around in my mind for quite some time. I enjoy learning and I find the school environment works pretty well for me, particularly in smaller classes where I can be mentored by a challenging professor. I was lucky enough to have that in undergrad and I think I can find that in grad school as well.

What hasn’t been completely clear is what I want to study in grad school and why I want to study it. Generally, we treat formal education as fulfilling two purposes: research/discover an area of interest or passion and gain the skills necessary for a career. The former can generally be done without school in the modern era. School is often unnecessary for the latter as well, except when there is certification necessary to practice and finding a mentor outside of the academy is difficult. Either way, going to grad school appeals to me, even if it is just an experience that I decide wasn’t right for me, at least I had the experience.

So, what do I want to study? As much as I love Economics I don’t have any interest to pursue it professionally or in any advanced way (sorry Dr. Calcagno!). The only field that has really appealed to me consistently since high school is psychology and the older I get the more that passion grows. I have a couple of interests within the field. If I decide to work on the clinical side I’d like to help individuals who are LGBT, polyamorous and/or in sexually open relationships, and I’d like to use some “non-traditional” methods. If I decide to work on the research side (which would probably involve more schooling but my economic background could provide some assistance) then I want to study sexual diversity within a society, particularly with regard to kinks and paraphilias.

What do I mean by “non-traditional” methods? I mean using things like meditation, psychedelic drugs (including MDMA), spiritual practices, and other altered states of consciousness. This seems to broadly fall under the field of Transpersonal Psychology, which is basically spiritual psychology. I know that my hippy, Burner side is showing with this, but I don’t think spiritual necessarily means pseudoscientific. I tend to take a similar view of spirituality as Sam Harris and think that spiritual practices and altered states can be beneficial to people without resorting to supernatural explanations.

It will be 5 years before I am really ready to enroll in grad school due to my bike ride, prereqs, and this shitty $65,000 student loan Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. That time is probably good though, it will give me time to research transpersonal psychology more and see if it really fits for me. If things do fit I hope to enroll in Naropa University’s fall 2021 MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. They several interesting specializations. At this point Mindfulness Based Transpersonal Counseling is my first choice because of the explicit focus on human sexuality, yoga, and Jungian Dreamwork. I also like the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy due to the focus on the outdoors and the natural world, as well as the Somatic: Body Psychotherapy because of the focus on touch and connecting the mind, spirit, and body.

I have my work cut out for me. Between the three programs that interest me there are 62 books that are recommended reading, as well as 6 undergrad courses that I will need to get credits for. I can knock out many of the readings on the bike ride, though I’m not sure how many are actually necessary. To be honest, I feel like I will be competing with much younger people out of my league and I need to be really on top of my game to be accepted at my age (though, I’ve heard that some grad programs would look at 20ish years of travel and life experience as a good thing). While on the ride I can also take free online courses to become familiar with the material before enrolling in a course for credit at a community college. There are also tons of YouTube videos by professors and authors on this subject that I can watch. I will also need some real world experience by working or volunteering in a “helping” profession and working directly with clients. Ideally, I will also find a transpersonal therapist to see for my own mental health needs once we stop the bike ride. I’ve got a Excel checklist ready to go.

All in all, I’m excited. It has been a long time since I’ve had any sort of focus. I tend to hop around from subject to subject trying to learn on my own, which is fun but it isn’t necessarily the most efficient way. Now, I feel like I have a path to explore something that I’m interested in and can maybe lead to passion and inspiration.

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Labels…

I tend to find labels exhausting. But truth be told, they are necessary in our world today. As much as I’d like to live in a time and place where we are just individuals and nothing is thought of our political beliefs, sexual practices, or religion that is not the case. It is never “this is what Peter believes”, instead we use shortcuts like “Peter is an atheist”. We try to compact complex ideas into single words so that we know who is an ally and who is an enemy. This sucks, but it is reality. And as a writer living in reality there is value in defining terms so that people know what I am talking about. As a person it also challenges me to put my beliefs and views into words… often it seems people adopt labels without knowing why they call themselves it.

So, here are some of my labels and what I mean by them. I may add more to this post and reference it in the future as needed.

Anarchist – An ideal world is one without violence or threat of violence. Because government in all forms is backed by violence we should move away from government solutions to our problems. It should be remembered that anytime you say “there ought to be a law” or something similar you are really saying “this situation is so bad that the only way to handle it is to allow people with guns to take people against there will and put them in cages if they disobey, and if they resist with force they sacrifice their lives”.

Atheist – I do not believe there is a conscious being that created and/or interacts with the daily lives in humans that is morally superior to us or should be worshiped.

Introvert – When I am mentally drained I recharge by time alone or time with close friends in a comfortable place. This doesn’t mean I’m shy or avoid public places, it simply means I find new conversations or unfamiliar places draining and need to be in a comfortable place to recover. Yes, this means I stay in 5-6 nights a week and would prefer being curled up with a book or Netflix over putting on clothes and going to a bar or club.

Libertarian – I believe the only person who has the right to control the body, mind, or labor of an individual is that individual. No person, organization, institution, or concept can morally restrict the freedoms of the individual as long as they are not harming another. A peaceful society requires maximizing freedom for all and equality under the law.

Nudist – The human form is beautiful to me and I am comfortable being naked and around naked people. To much emphasis is placed on turning people against their own bodies and forcing us to be embarrassed if we see another person nude. The body is not explicitly sexual and when you start to view it in non-sexual environments regularly you increase respect for individuals and appreciate the beauty that comes from our diverse forms.

Pansexual – For me sexual attraction is not fluid or binary. The people I am attracted to is not determined solely by their organs but depends on time, place, and the individual as a whole, not just their genitalia.

Partner – I am in a relationship with a wonderful partner who I love dearly. The decisions I make do not solely effect me so I take my partner’s thoughts and feelings into strong consideration when I make important decisions. We see eye-to-eye on all important things (marriage, children, and lifestyle) and we communicate openly. I would not be with her if I didn’t feel we complimented each other, can grow together, and are in many ways family.

Polyamorous – If relationship orientation has “only monogamous, one-and-only, no sex, intimacy, or attraction” on one end (let’s call it “1”) and “only polyamorous, must have or pursue multiple sexual partners, intimacy, and relationships” on the other end (“10”) then I range closer to 10… probably fluctuating between 4 and 7 depending on time, place, and individuals.

Promiscuous – Sex is not something that is spiritual, super-natural, or of great importance to me. I have no moral problem with having any kind of sex with consenting people if I wish. (Note: Being a partner means that she gets a strong say in this)

Transhumanist – Thanks to technological advancements humans will someday (possibly in my lifetime) be able to move our consciousness out of the body and into something more durable. The exact form of this will change many times and the initial advancement that grants the option of immortality is still unknown.

Skeptic – I prefer objective proof over subjective testimony. Humans are capable of understanding much through scientific inquiry and those tools should be used whenever possible. The “supernatural” doesn’t exist, though there may be natural forces and mechanisms in place that we have yet to discover or properly understand… in fact, I am sure of it.

Spiritual – I believe that there is something unique about at least humans (possibly other earthly animals and very likely extraterrestrials) that is more than just body and mind physical reactions as we understand them. A soul/spirit exists and exercising it can be beneficial to both the mind and the body. No organized religion has a monopoly on the truth but certain common threads among some “prophets” like love and honor each other, forgive, immediacy, etc provide a foundation. This are internal areas where objective measurement is not yet possible so we must use subjectivity. Whether the soul lives on after bodily death or not I am unsure of.