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June 1, 2023

Unique Self Therapy & Psychology

The alleviation of personal suffering requires for greatest efficacy a therapy that works at the level of identity. What is the purpose of my life? How can I realize the values and direction that are uniquely my own? Unique Self is emerging as a revolutionary new technology for psychologists.

Q & A

The following is a transcript of an excerpt from a dialogue between Joe Perez and Marc Gafni in July 2012 (audio file available for download at the bottom of the page).

Joe: I’m here with Marc Gafni and this is another 10-minute dialogue on Unique Self. Our topic today is Unique Self and psychology. I understand that Unique Self may be a new chapter in thinking about self in psychology and has generated a lot of excitement. I’m hoping that you tell me more about that.

Marc: That’s fantastic, Joe. I would be delighted to. We’re working with a number of leaders in the field in addiction, eating disorders, trauma therapy, internal family systems, etc. – particularly Professor Richard Schwartz, founder of internal family systems, a member of the World Spirituality Council. We’re working together on a paper on internal family systems and Unique Self. And Lori Galperin, with her clinical co-director Mark Schwartz, who are leaders in the world who have built centers throughout the world for eating disorder, sexual addiction, trauma therapy, etc., are developing with a team of therapists at their center a full program for Unique Self therapy. Particularly, they are developing a set of Unique Self models with a team of therapists to actually use as part of the intensive therapeutic process that takes place at their treatment centers.

Let me share for a second, if this is helpful, how this came about and why it’s so absolutely critical. Classical therapy at its best, classical psychology at its best, creates equilibrium. You get some of the disturbing factors out of the way, you become aware of them, you bring them into consciousness, you create a relationship with the different parts of self, and you feel a less disturbed, more balanced – more homeostasis if you will – more integration in your core system, which is fantastic. For any of us who felt disturbance (and who hasn’t?), whether in the form of depression or any other significant psychological disorder – and I think all of us have some moment where we run into some deep sort of psychic pain – the possibility of alleviating that pain is a huge function of psychology.

The problem is that it is often not sustainable because it doesn’t answer the larger questions of: Then what? Why am I here? What’s the nature of my life? Does my life have purpose, meaning, direction? Without addressing what it means to live a purpose-driven life, or values-driven life, and how I can identify the purpose and values of my particular life, all the homeostasis and equilibrium ultimately collapses, from a Unique Self perspective, and doesn’t sustain.

What we’re saying is that Unique Self fills in a critical missing piece in the story of treatment, whether that’s chemical dependency, addiction issues, eating disorders. It invites a person to define themselves not as an addict – as the classical 12-step model suggests – but as a Unique Self who has a set of Unique Shadows which are distortions of one’s own primary Unique Self, and to reclaim that Unique Self – the dignity, purpose, meaning, the values that are implicit in that Unique Self. And we’ve found that by actually enacting one’s Unique Self and accessing a sense of being profoundly needed by the cosmos, having a unique gift to give, actually experiencing all of reality living in you and as you and through you uniquely, with a unique contribution, a unique set of abilities, a unique way of being in the world, unlike any other, one that never was, is, or will be again; that has enormous efficacy as a healing process, a healing modality, a transformative modality that creates a sustained locus in a human being that can hold the psychic pain of engaging in the world. We’ve found that without that Unique Self locus all the other psychological work, important and critical as it is, often lacks a home, a locus, a place where it can rest and be sustained.

We are now developing – and this is a multi-year process, will take at least a decade to fully offer it to the worldwide community – our goal is to develop sets of Unique Self modules, Unique Self therapeutic process (like an EMDR process, which is a trauma process) which therapists can be trained in in a year of supplemental training. Our hope is that five to seven years from now there will be 5,000 or 10,000 therapists in America actually deploying Unique Self therapy in a significant way. That’s where it’s going. We’ll be getting the first group of 10 or 20 thousand therapists to deploy this. It’s one of the key lines of development in society which Unique Self is now meeting and deploying in its own vital way.

Joe: That’s really exciting. When I think about what you just said, I wonder if you’re talking about creating a new school of psychology or if you’re talking about enhancing the schools of psychology that currently exist with something new.

Marc: That’s a great inquiry. The answer is: a little bit of both. We haven’t fully clarified it yet. It will definitely be an enhancement of existing schools of psychology; it will be a critical dimension they can all access. We don’t need to have an old fight like in the olden days. disproving the efficacy of all the schools of psychology. Actually they do have efficacy. One of the things that our friend and integral mentor Ken Wilber has pointed out brilliantly in a long essay in his book Transformations in Consciousness, is that each school of psychology at a particular fulcrum of development has important unique gifts to give. We want to honor the particular gifts of each type of psychology. There is particular type of trauma work, for example, that Unique Self doesn’t address.

I was talking recently to Besel Van der Cook, perhaps the leading trauma therapist in the world, some would say, a brilliant theoretician and researcher, and we were talking about Unique Self particularly, and we both kind of agreed after a significant conversation that when people walk into his office they first need to deal with the overwhelming psychic pain and rupture and disruption of essential personality features, period. There are methods that he and other trauma therapists have developed to do that. If you try to have a Unique Self conversation about identity at that stage, it’s a mistake. We want to receive that methodology, but then when that stage has passed, what I said to Besel is that that’s when we need to bring Unique Self to bear. That’s when issues of identity becomes critical, it becomes part of other schools of psychological work, and adds a critical component.

I think is also true as you suggest is that Unique Self needs to develop into its own school of psychology. We need people writing on this. Rob McNamara wrote an important essay posted on this website on Unique Self and transpersonal psychology. The essay that I’m writing with Professor Richard Schwartz will be completed in the next several months. And there needs to be a deepening of how to deploy Unique Self as a psychological model. Then there’s the empirical work we’re doing at the treatment centers, so I think it will be a both/and. I’m sure we’re making mistakes, but I’m sure we’re making really great mistakes in the right direction. Unique Self has the possibility like perhaps no other individual component has in the last 50 years to transform the therapeutic process and investing within it a dimension of identity and spirit which is actually post-dogmatic and post-metaphysical, which can really change the game.

File Size: unique-self-dialogue-gafni-perez-on-relationships-July2012 (18.6 MB)

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