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Existential & transpersonal crises

Have you ever felt completely lost or struggled to find meaning during certain periods of your life? Do you have dreams that worry you, or that you wish to understand from a broader perspective? Have you had dream experiences that you find difficult to understand or handle, such as vivid dreams that leave a strong impression, nightmares, or lucid dreams where you know you are dreaming?

Perhaps you have experienced various forms of spiritual occurrences, glimpses of past incarnations in dreams or while awake. Maybe you have felt the kundalini energy surging through your body. Kundalini energy, largely unknown in the West, is the very force of life's development. At best, it expands your consciousness, but it can also cause intense problems for a period until it is balanced. If kundalini energy awakens forcefully and spontaneously, it can be a powerful force that moves through your body beyond your control, causing pain or numbness in different areas as part of an extreme purification process.

Maybe you have had an out-of-body experience, perceived a change in the sense of time, experienced strong synchronicities, a sense of death, seen your life flash before your eyes, or gone through dark periods that led you to contemplate profound concepts like the "dark night of the soul."

These experiences, which few can describe when they happen, can occur during a transpersonal crisis. Transpersonal in the sense that your experience of identity and consciousness during this concentrated period extends far beyond your normal daily awareness. Often, we also dream more during periods of existential crises or turbulence.

You might experience minor spiritual openings or extreme ones, which the pioneer in the field of transpersonal psychology, Stanislav Grof, refers to as "spiritual emergency." In Grof's perspective, you can have powerful realizations or openings through dreams, meditation, or triggered by a life crisis, pregnancy, or childbirth.

"Spiritual emergency" is characterized by rapid insights or realizations; time may seem to either speed up or slow down significantly. Periodically, you may access altered states of consciousness, changes in your perception of reality, wonderful joy, and peak experiences, but you might also experience anxiety and find it difficult to understand what is happening.

Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, considered a pioneer in transpersonal psychology who has researched non-ordinary states of consciousness for decades, describes these states and periods as "spiritual emergency." These are crisis-like, extreme spiritual openings and experiences that encompass both the light and dark aspects of our psyche. For instance, forgotten traumas that we need to integrate into our new worldview to maintain our grounding.

"Spiritual emergency" can be an invitation to quickly heal past psychological wounds and traumas, but it can also knock you off balance for a while because the insights come with such intensity. In such a period, we need to follow through, delve deeply, and pass through what seems like a burning ground. A transpersonal breakthrough can initially appear as a breakdown, given the powerful forces at play. Being able to discern this can be crucial for the outcome of such a period.

It is important to emphasise that spiritual openings will likely involve both dark and light elements and insights in our psyche. Integrating both the light and dark sides of our psyche is crucial for these experiences to lead to authentic spiritual development because cleansing and healing old wounds or karmic ties from the past always precede transpersonal development. True spirituality and transpersonal development always involve thorough work with our shadow sides, our traumas, and grounding—there are no shortcuts to love and light.

Finding guidance and support during such a period can be challenging. Mainstream psychology typically does not address these kinds of crises and often fails to guide you through transpersonal experiences or crises. In the worst case, they may not recognise such experiences at all, potentially labelling them as psychosis simply due to a lack of understanding. Transpersonal psychology is still in its early stages.

During a deep existential or transpersonal crisis, we typically need to reformulate our entire worldview and work hard to integrate the experiences. Everything can change during these periods: our relationships, our view of ourselves, our perspective, our lives, and our sense of purpose and meaning.

We might lose interest in our relationships or our job, and our once familiar life may fall apart, but new opportunities will also present themselves. Over time, these experiences will most likely change our lives in a positive and more meaningful direction. However, there can be long periods where we feel lost before we stand on a new solid platform with perspective and meaning, having fully integrated the experiences into a new worldview.

A search for meaning is often initiated by some form of loss, crisis, or a sense of meaninglessness. If we want to follow an authentic inner path, we always need to confront and work with our wounds, losses, pain, and illusions. The greatest soul development, in my experience, always occurs in connection with deep crises or an experience of spiritual emergency. It is through the experience of pain and meaninglessness that we truly begin to long for our soul.

Existential & transpersonal crises
Existential & transpersonal crises
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