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Discursive Essay on Paradigm Shifts: Analysis of the Ways in Which Paradigms Are Formed, Maintained and Changed

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1. Briefly describe your understanding of the terms, “paradigm,” “consciousness,” and “holism.” In your discussion of the term, “paradigm,” include a description of how paradigms are formed, maintained and changed.

A paradigm is a method or belief in the way we conduct our daily lives. Paradigms are similar to guiding principles, or “rules” that govern our thoughts and beliefs. These “rules” are ingrained in us through our upbringing, social norms, and cultural beliefs. Paradigms are very strong and powerful in each culture they represent, thereby making it challenging to introduce a new paradigm and inviting a shift of change. Paradigms as beliefs are formed as facts that are introduced and proven to be true. For example, a scientific hypothesis: a scientist will state the hypothesis of what he/she believes to be true, then embark on a journey to prove the hypothesis. If the scientist proves the hypothesis, a new paradigm is born. Paradigms with regard to consciousness introduce new ways of thinking, or a deeper understanding of material that was previously introduced, thereby introducing a paradigm shift. Psychologists through the years – from our early days of discovery – to now have maintained the paradigms and adjusted as expanding hypotheses were introduced. Beginning with Freud, to present day Wilber, many paradigm shifts have occurred and will constantly evolve as we come into deeper understanding.

Consciousness is an awakening of the spirit that sparks the journey of discovery of self and introduces us to the universal current of life. Consciousness is dependent on the individual’s openness to the idea that there is more than what he or she can see, feel, taste, hear, and smell. The individual must trust the universe to fulfill the agreements made and know all that occurs is for him or her to learn and grow. Consciousness is the nexus of spirituality – it is personal and intentional. Consciousness allows us the ability to delve into thought provoking journeys into the psyche to unfold the mysteries the universe holds. Consciousness opens our minds to the possibilities of connecting our energies with others through countless mediums and pathways; it is always there, begging for us to come through the door into a life of enlightenment and love. Consciousness is the foundation for spirituality and the respect and appreciation for all that is.

Holism is the sum of all parts – the mind, the body, the spirit. In traditional psychology, it incorporates all parts that make the individual: environmental, social, and emotional elements and the impacts each has on the individual. Holism is integral to all aspects of life as it is inclusive of all paradigms that intersect and encourage paradigm shifts on a micro and macro scale. Kremer (2017) explains below the importance of holism as it relates to transpersonal psychology:

We have to assume that the use of ‘delusion’, as opposed to illusion, was deliberate in its suggestion of psychopathology. Transpersonal psychology is set up both in response to this particular delusion, while still remaining caught in its tentacles. What is framed as ‘trans’ so often is still seen in opposition to (or as a mere extension of) a self that is individualistic, solid, and separate, rather than as a revision of the understanding of the self itself. Einstein labels this reframe ‘the one issue of true religion’. (p. 1).

As humans and individuals, many want to connect to something greater than themselves and live a life with purpose for something, or someone. One example of a paradigm shift is transpersonal psychology. While all psychology is essential to connecting with the human brain, transpersonal psychology gives permission to move beyond the barriers traditional therapy has created. Transpersonal psychology meets people where they are in their own time and space, honoring the journey and allowing the needs of the person to be met. Many transpersonal psychologists represent this field of study; however, there is still a resistance to this topic. As society and cultures change, so must the way psychologists study the brain and push the paradigm shift forward. Society is ever evolving – the learning and development process of the human brain must also match the evolution.

2. What is postmodernism? How does it allow for the inclusion of additional paradigms? What are its potential weaknesses?

According to Miller (nd), Postmodernism is, “a critical reaction to the modern view, taking a skeptical stance towards not just the ‘answers’ given from the modernist perspective, but calling into question the very foundations of its epistemology.” Post modernism takes modernism and pushes its boundaries, poses questions that might be considered “taboo” and definitely no answers will have “proof.” Postmodernism is the teenager challenging the system…wanting badly to break down the walls of status quo.

Miller (nd) goes on to state:

  • Constructivism – All realities are constructed by particular subjects. There is no single, absolute, independently existing “reality.” Knowledge of reality is created by subjects acting out of limited experience and information, and is never final. No domain of knowledge can trump another; they exist simultaneously, with all the tension and agreement that may imply.
  • Contextualism – The nature of any reality is given largely through its contexts. Any “statement of fact” is only such because of the web of contexts in which it is formed. No fact can be independent of its contexts.
  • Multi-perspectivism – There are an infinite number of possible contexts, and no way to judge between them in an absolute sense that would be applicable to all observers. Knowledge is always perspectival in nature, and every context gives the basis for the construction of new meaning for that knowledge.

The potential weakness in postmodernism is the challenge it poses to society and indigenous cultures. For example, a Huichol deer in a postmodern viewpoint would open people up to the idea that connection is much deeper and easier to attain, thereby negating the need and requirement for the logical brain. Postmodernism is what has allowed the Huichol Indians to share their culture with the world, for many do seek healing in their physical symbols that represent their existence.

3. What wisdom of indigenous groups do you believe can help cultures in the 21st Century? What are some of the challenges these groups face today?

There is much wisdom to be gleaned from indigenous groups that incorporates all aspects of life – self, family, earth. Shamanic practices offer tremendous healing, understanding, and empathy that would encourage necessary paradigm shifts. Hammerman (nd) states, “People suffering from depression, a sense of emptiness, or of “not being all there,” particularly benefit from shamanic practices. The soul retrieval method brings back lost parts of the soul in ways that no other experiential method can do. Many clients who have a history of sexual, physical, or emotional trauma benefit from this technique. It is a way to re- invigorate, re-integrate without retraumatizing a wounded person.” (page 2).

There are many tools, thoughts, and ideas indigenous groups have presented over the thousands of years, and shamanic practices has proven very useful and effective for individuals. Prattis (nd) explains,

“Nhat Hahn remarks that: Because we are not able to resolve the anusaya, we repress them, and they grow stagnant and cause sickness whose symptoms can be recognized in everything we do….Buddha taught that rather than repressing our fears and anxieties, we should invite them into consciousness, recognize them, welcome them … quite naturally they will lose some of their energy. When once again they return to our subconscious, they will be that much weaker … they will continue to grow weaker.” (page 4)

Our western culture does not lend itself to accepting the spirit world ways of healing, nor does it offer unconscious minds to feel safe when seeking alternate methods of growth, change, or healing. Hammerman states (2010):

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In indigenous societies, or a freestanding shamanic practice, both client and practitioner share the same worldview, or openness to the same worldview, and there is little need for extensive explanation and education. Within a psychotherapy practice, some clients may be uncomfortable with any alternative to mainstream psychology, and may not be open to a shamanic approach. In addition, they may not want to tap into the spiritual dimension in their therapy. Therapeutic judgment determines when and how much to push the boundaries of a client’s comfort level. (page 2).

People are very comfortable with what they know to be true and real, especially in cultures where shamanistic practices have not been prevalent. While there is truth in the healing, western cultures find solace in medication, and science, things that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, the fear of judgement is very predominant in western cultures, which enables a culture to disprove the benefits of natural healing and growth – the ability to move through the knots of pain and suffering we have weaved and tightened throughout our lives. I believe one of the biggest challenges indigenous groups face in western cultures is the ability to be relevant. Medicine is the cure-all, not herbs, dancing, chanting, or prayers to the sun and moon. Paradigm shifts in consciousness and understanding would lead to greater appreciation of indigenous groups and appreciation of their culture’s history and tradition.

4. Give two ideas/concepts from quantum theory and describe how they might be used to challenge or refute the scientific materialistic and deterministic aspects of the modern/dualistic paradigm. Describe quantum holism and comment on its significance for personal or social issues.

We are all connected, quantum physics has proven this theory in a particle/matter/scientific way. Without the dedicated and passionate research to discover who we are and how we got here, we would not have the basic scientific understanding of connectedness. The connectedness we know and understand is deeply ingrained in us. While many people in western culture need to know definitively how, we all subconsciously know. Indigenous cultures have known this paradigm for thousands of years and have attempted to teach the western modern culture; however, being drawn to the need of “facts” as a culture, I believe we slow our natural progression to understanding that connectedness.

Quantum holism is the connectedness of spirit and self. Wittine (nd) states:

Although the body and psyche are distinct from the Self, they are not separate from the Self. Being out of touch with the Self leaves us feeling unstable, empty, and ontologically insecure. By contrast, if we neglect our sacred manifestation we might rest in deep and timeless being/awareness, but there is no development of the unique gifts and talents by which we might potentially contribute to our loved ones and our community. To ignore the path of individuation, then, means the Self or Spirit might end up expressing through an inadequate vehicle, a vehicle moved about by powerful, immature, unconscious forces, which not only short-circuit our potential for love and creativity but also distort and derail our quest for stable spiritual realization. Anything less than realization of the seamless totality of essential being and sacred individuality is not nondual. (p. 269).

Quantum holism captures the essence of the psyche and pushes the boundaries of modernism thinking. Quantum holism and the lack of understanding has had a tremendous impact on society as western medicine treats the symptom, not the root of the disconnect. We can see this as truth as the mental health our western society has deteriorated over the centuries. Quantum holism is the truth; however, cultures are challenged to accept this truth and embrace the connection.

5. Define the Integral Paradigm (according to Wilber and/or McIntosh) and discuss the five components of AQAL. What is the difference between holistic and integral paradigms? How are they related?

Wilber’s Integral Theory paradigm incorporates all aspects of the self and environment from a micro and macro scale. One of the most important aspects of Wilber’s Integral Paradigm is the cross-over into western culture thinking with regard to medicine, business, and many other mainstream thought processes today. In short, the Integral approach helps you see both yourself and the world around you in more comprehensive and effective ways. But one thing is important to realize from the start. The Integral map is just a map. It is not the territory. We certainly don’t want to confuse the map with the territory, but neither do we want to be working with an inaccurate or faulty map. The Integral map is just a map, but it is the most complete and accurate map we have at this time.

The Four Quadrants represent all facets of our existence. Wilber (2006) explains, “The Upper-Left quadrant (the interior of the individual), you find your own immediate thoughts, feelings, sensations, and so on (all described in first-person terms).” Wilber (2006) goes on to say, “The Upper-Right quadrant is therefore what any event looks like from the outside. This especially includes its physical behavior; its material components; its matter and energy; and its concrete body—for all those are items that can be referred to in some sort of objective, third-person, or “it” fashion.”

Wilber (2006) also explains, “The Lower Left is often called the cultural dimension (or the inside awareness of the group—its worldview, its shared values, shared feelings, and so forth), and the Lower Right the social dimension (or the exterior forms and behaviors of the group, which are studied by third-person sciences such as systems theory). Again, the quadrants are simply the inside and the outside of the individual and the collective, and the point is that all four quadrants need to be included if we want to be as Integral as possible…This expansion of group awareness allows social systems—in the Lower Right—to expand from simple groups to more complex systems like nations and eventually even to global systems.”

The upper left (I) quadrant represents me and my view of my space, my view of the world and how I understand it. This quadrant illustrates the development stages one experiences on their path, while also illustrating the potential challenges one might face and that inhibits their growth and development. This quadrant illustrates the growth from infant to adult and the developmental lines they experience. Emotional intelligence vs. intellectual intelligence.

The lower left (we) is our community growth and development. How we integrate thoughts and ideas from social norms and expectations. One idea that comes up for me here is unconscious bias. We are raised with thoughts and ideas – unconscious bias plays a key role in how we show up in this life and with the lower left quadrant – unconscious bias demonstrates to me we have growing to do, but we must first become aware of it so we can move it to the upper right quadrant.

The upper right (it), is all the scientific study and how the social and emotional aspect of the quadrants play into the scientific study of the AQAL. The one example I really appreciated from the text was the medical viewpoint of how medical professionals are looking at medicine as mind, body, and spirit. Mental and emotional strength is equally important as western medicine – or any kind of medicine when attempting to heal someone. I wondered how many western doctors actually practiced this kind of paradigm shift and their success rates.

The lower right (its) is how all quadrants play a role in the entire environment – from our specific communities to the global community. One specific dynamic I see in this quadrant is when global communities come together to meditate and send peace and healing to the world. This starts in the upper left quadrant, including the lower left, upper right and lower right all together. I do not believe there is a significant difference between holistic and integral paradigms. As holism is the sum of all parts, Wilber has created the AQAL, which is his own interpretations of “the sum of all parts.” One of the ideas for the new verbiage is to introduce the same material but presented uniquely to perhaps reach an audience who didn’t grasp the holistic approach.


  1. Hammerman, D., Ed.D. (nd). Integrating Shamanic Methods into Psychotherapy.
  2. Kremer, J.W. (2017). Tricksters of True Selves in Trans/Personal and Shamanic Knowing. Culture, Consciousness, and Healing. Vienna, at press.
  3. Miller, S. (nd). Modernity and Postmodernity.
  4. Prattis, I. (nd). Healing Journeys: Shamanism As Therapy. Carleton University.
  5. Ottawa, Canada. K1S 5B6
  6. Wilber, K. (2006). Introduction to Integral Theory and Practice. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. Spring 2006, Vol. 1, No. 1. (p 25-27).
  7. Wittine, B. (nd). The Sacred Mirror Nondual Wisdom & Psychotherapy: Jungian Analysis and Nondual Wisdom. Omega Books.

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