Dynamic Positive Psychology is a recent psychological intervention approach that combines research and clinical knowledge developed in the field of psychology with advanced approaches to new wave psychotherapy, positive psychology, neuroscience, happiness research and coaching techniques. The goal of dynamic positive coaching psychology is to adapt change-producing techniques to the needs of the person in the 21st century. DPCP creates healing transformation, in functioning people with no sever psychopathology, as well as enhancing their self-fulfillment and realization of their personal potential. To this end, we combine psychotherapy techniques with coaching practices for effective targeted short-term interventions.
This approach is consistent with the recent quiet revolution in psychotherapy. The medical model established by Freud gradually shifts to innovative approaches that combine knowledge from neuroscience with modern concepts of attachment, and to approaches emphasizing the emotional, experiential and interpersonal aspects of the individual as a way of creating transformation and change not only as a form of therapy but also to enhance cognitive and emotional growth. Some of these approaches are the groundbreaking studies of Rick Hanson, AEDP by D. Fosha, Neuropsychoanalysis, and the studies of Dan Siegel.
Psychotherapy in the 21st century can not rely solely on the hermeneutic-interpretative model that Freud has established that was a very powerful change agent at his time. Unveiling the secrets of the unconscious was a potent change promoter on the backdrop of the late Victorian Era, the 18th century Age of Enlightment, and the spirit of the positivist philosophy of the beginning of the 20th century. Today new interpretations do not lead as often to insightful breakthroughs as it was common in Freud era. Today in the postmodern era the contemporary person do not wish to discover the truth of his life but to create meaningful authentic and rewarding life. Psychotherapy today cannot ignore the formative force of evolution and the synergetic interaction between brain and body activities, and mental phenomena. We suggest that the brain, organism and self act as interconnected complex adaptive systems that enhance (or disrupt, in the cases of psychopathology) their mutual activity.
New brain studies on Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity suggest that the brain is continuously in change by forming new neuronal activity patterns following new learnings emanating from new experiences of the self.
These findings meet the paradox of the Brain/consciousness interaction: If the origin of mental activity is in the brain how can mental/emotional experiences change the brain ?
Elsewhere (Levy 2018) we suggested that since the brain and self are complex adaptive systems, the body/brain, cannot affect the mind by causal relationships and we can’t talk of what comes first – brain or mind.
Murray Gell-Mann suggests (1995) that the scientific project is composed of one integrative system made of different dynamic sub-systems placed in hierarchical order from elementary physics through chemistry, biology, to psychology and we may add Sociology and ecology at the top. Each discipline contains the laws of the discipline below however the “higher” discipline accumulates additional information and develop additional laws to deal with its particular environment.
The self and the brain share common mechanisms that may make the vision of a scientific study of consciousness possible but not by assimilating the mind into the brain or vice versa. Consciousness, and its agent the self, are part of the scientific project and are studied by social and human sciences while the brain and organism are studied by chemistry and biology. To study the brain/consciousness relations we do not study the contents of consciousness which do not exist in the brain but the common mechanisms that consciousness share with the brain as a complex adaptive system. We cannot expect a one to one relationship with the brain as we cannot see a one to one relationships between physics of particles, chemistry, and molecular biology although they share many common features. As described by Gell-Mann in his book “the quarck and the Jaguar” The behavior of the leaping Jaguar could be learned by the laws of Biology and is not reducible into the “bunch” of quarks that compose its organism.
Likewise, the higher functions of the self like free choice, the creation of value system and personal vision, self-actualization, future planning, free will, decision making, the need to create meaningful authentic life and to leave a footprint in the world beyond the material existence, are the fruit of human cultures. They co-evolve with the brain that needs to support these features and consequently changes by neuroplasticity and neurogenesis and creates more neuronal networks and thus develops and co-evolves with the self.
An individual can decide to starve himself to death, become a suicide bomber, or burn himself to death, because of social pressures, ideology or his value system, and thus with himself he kills the brain and the body, contrary to the law of survival that guides the brain.
We also know that bio-feedback, psychotherapy, mindfulness, life coaching or mental training can change the brain by neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. In parallel, psychotropic drugs or emergence occurring in a hyper-complex functioning of the brain can generate insights and changes in the mind.
We may say than that since the brain and the self are complex adaptive systems they exercise relationships of co-evolution rather than causal. They influence each other and evolve together, yet we claim that while the existence of the self depends on the functioning brain, the self functioning as a “higher” system in Gell-Mann’s scientific hierarchy develops additional information that it creates in the brain.
The scientific project, says Gell-Mann, is the study of the laws of the different disciplines. The study is performed from up/down and down/up and the scientific project enables us to build bridges between the disciplines. Gell-Mann approach is compatible with Kurt Gödel (in Bechler Z 1999) incompleteness theorem according to which the axioms of a system cannot be proven within the system but by another system.
The human brain has been programmed by natural selection to function by 3 main command systems that have correlates in the human self: First, the brain’s main aim, in humans as in other animals, is to enhance survival. The main expression of threat to survival for the self is fear and anxiety which are mainly mediated by the neurotransmitter and hormone adrenalin and cortisol. Other than survival, the brain is programmed to create rewards by the system of seeking. This system is expressed in the self by curiosity, interest, expectations and self fulfilment needs. When the seeking demands of the self are deficient, the self may experience frustration, rage or depression The main transmitters activating this system are dopamine and endorphin. A third cerebral system functioning in the self is the system of care, bonding and attachment mediated by the transmitters prolactin, oxytocin and dopamine. This system is responsible to the inter-personal relationships such as love and attachments. When this system is deficient the self may experience loss, isolation, and separation distress. The brain is, of course, also an organ that creates and makes thinking possible for human beings and animals, and cognition enables learning from feelings, thoughts and experiences in order to improve survival, rewards and inter-personal connections.
We can see a parallel between the three aspects of natural activity of the brain that were created by natural selection and between the activities of thee self.
We divide the self into three parts: the high self which includes the high functions of consciousness of abstract thinking, decision making, search for meaning and authenticity, self-fulfillment and self-actualization.
The high self is dependent on the social-cultural matrix in which the individual grows. Within this matrix the person interiorize his language, social norms and values and his way of thinking. So the high self is a part of a sort of “cultural high self”.
Another part of the self is the middle self which includes the automatic pilot which is the basis of human instincts and the sum of experiences and what the self has learnt throughout his life. Natural Selection created the automatic pilot in order to create patterns of actions which are quick and suited to life in nature. If we are in danger we have to react quickly in order to survive.
The middle self is the ground for the feeling of the ego and is highly correlated with the body’s sensations and feelings and with Kahnman’s concept of “thinking fast”.
The third part of the self is the deep self which includes all the functions of the brain when they exist in the most optimized form without internal or external threats or impediments: In survival mode it consists of security, assertiveness, peacefulness and effectiveness. When talking about reward we are including generosity, creativity, self- fulfillment, enthusiasm and joy. Inter-personal connections include caring about, empathy, involvement, belonging, compassion, participation, cooperation and love.
The deep self is related to the human heritage transmitted through the evolutionary history of the human species.
The final goal of transformation should then be construed as enhancing the deep self parameters in its optimal state and assimilating them into the middle self to form spontaneous activity and to the high self to interact it with the individual’s worldview and value system.
For reaching this goal we have to overcome the barriers, obstructive behavior and disturbing emotional patterns and learnings that block the growth and development of the individual.
© Arnon Levy 2019
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