Process Work takes an unusual and exciting approach to addictions. Namely, that the state of mind or experience that one seeks through the substance or behavior is often a marginalized state of consciousness, not only by the individual but often by culture as well. Arny Mindell discovered that people usually have two basic addictive tendencies. We are addicted to what we know about ourselves and the world, and crave stability. However, we are also addicted to experiences that are less known which we disavow. These latter experiences are difficult for us to access from our ordinary states of consciousness. This is why the tendency to alter our states through substances is so widespread. The challenge, however, is to be able to connect with and embrace these states without dangerous and harmful substances.
Take a banker who lives in the very pressured world of finance and high performance. He is a chain smoker and it is affecting his health. We work with his smoking addiction by first trying to access the experience he craves when he smokes. We smoke imaginary cigarettes together, and go through the whole ritual of smoking. I ask him to use his imagination and feel that first inhalation. My client says at that moment, he feels he has left the world of the bank. He can relax, the pressure is gone. He imagines sitting by a river, feeling the breeze. Every exhale puts him more deeply into his experience.
This deep experience of relaxation, of connecting with nature is forbidden in this man's world. In his profession, he needs to be performing at the top of his game. "There is no time to relax," he says. Here is the great challenge; he must not only make an inner change, but in doing so, has to change the culture around him. We imagine now sitting at his desk but not in his usual high performance mode. We sit at the desk as if we were at the river, relaxing, feeling the breeze. We try and hold this state of mind while we imagine the bustle around us.
As the imaginary people rush into his office demanding this and that, our banker is relaxed. His tone has changed, his speech slower. His eyes are softer. He interacts with his co-workers and clients without the pressure. In fact, he even invites them to sit down and asks them how they are doing. Suddenly he can imagine his work atmosphere changing, a place where people are more caring and related. He is beginning to exhale.
Process Work Approach to Addictions
Mindell, Arnold. City Shadows: Psychological Interventions in Psychiatry. New York: Routledge, 1988
A 'first' discussion of extreme, addictive and psychotic states without medication.
Hauser, Reini. A Message in the Bottle: Process Work with Addictions. The Journal of Process Oriented Psychology, 94-95. Volume 6, Number 1, 1994.
Hauser, Reini. Heroin Addiction and Altered States. The Journal of Process Oriented Psychology, Volume 9, 2004.
Select One of the Following:
Body Symptoms and Illness
Relationship and Couple's Work
Extreme States of Consciousness (so-called Psychiatric diagnoses)
Comatose and Non-Verbal States of Consciousness
Working with Children and Teens
Group and Organizational Facilitation