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The New Physics: Quantum Skills for the 21st Century Therapist

Posted by a.marlow on December 2, 2012 at 3:20 PM

I was trawling through the internet on a lazy Sunday afternoon, as you do, when I came across and interesting article from 2010 called "Spirituality, Mental Health and the New Physics" (reference below). Intigued, I read it, and what follows is a summary of the ideas contained therein.

The premise of the article is that, with the new understanding of physics engendered by quantum theory and chaos theory should come a new understanding of psychology and, thus, new approaches to psychotherapy- or, at least, a rethinking of old approaches.

The article pits old-school Newtonian physics, based on the idea that the universe can be conceived of as a 'Great Machine' with fixed, predictable rules of behaviour, against the new insights of Quantum Mechanics, which might imply that the universe should rather be conceived of as a 'Great Mind', where randomness and chance rules the day and where the more mystical and maligned ideas of Jung, Janet, James, Assagioli and the modern school of Transpersonal Psychology would come to prevail over the accepted orthodoxies of Freudianism and behaviourism. The author of the article, one Charlotte Shelton, uses these ideas to suggest seven 'Quantum Skills' that therapists should use and clients should develop to further their mental health goals.

The first "Quantum Skill" is "Quantum seeing", based on the insights gained from Quantum Mechanics about just how much our own perceptions and intentions shape the world around us. Based on this idea, the skill of 'quantum seeing' would acknowledge that a bad situation is only bad because of our own intentions and perceptions that shape our experience of that situation, and that our first task should be to change those perceptions in order to have a much more pleasant experience of life.

The second skill is "Quantum thinking", based on the insight that, at least at a subatomic level, our reality is much more governed by randomness and chance than it is governed by fixed, binary laws. Despite this, most adults tend to think in a fixed and binary manner, one that limits their creativity and blocks certain nuanced possibilities from emerging in their lives. Challenging this way of thinking, especially by encouraging right-hemisphere thinking, is the route to a more creative life, suggests Shelton.

The thid skill is "Quantum feeling". This builds on the ideas of 'quantum seeing', but focuses on one's feelings and, especially, the relationship one has with one's own heart. Research by the Institute of HeartMath has shown that the heart exerts a strong electromagnetic influence on one's thoughts and emotions; specifically, that when one is experiencing a negative emotion, the heart's electromagnetic waves become less coherent, while a positive emotion makes them more coherent. It is therefore healthier to feel better in oneself. This point, really, reinforces the ideas developed in 'quantum seeing'.

The fourth skill is "Quantum knowing". A growing number of physicists are speculating that there is a single unified quantum field containing Bose-Einstein condensates from which the entire material universe emerges, and Shelton suggests that this field might itself be conscious, or at least the source of human consciousness (as one hypothesis suggests that Bose-Einstein condensates are the prerequisites to the neurological structure in the human brain that underpin consciousness, and if this hypothesis is proven true, then this "will lend support to thehypothesis that the quantum field itself is conscious"). If this is true, it might indicate that the human mind can tap into this quantum field, postulated to be the source of consciousness, as a source of intuitive knowledge; and, on this basis, fostering an attitude of mindfulness and intuitiveness will lead to better decision-making. 

The fifth skill is "Quantum acting". As particles have been shown by quantum theory to maintain an instantaneous connection despite being separated by impossible distances, an awareness of this interconnectivity of the universe will foster an attitude whereby someone acts not just for their own atomistic self, but rather for the whole- whether that whole be their whole self, their whole community, or the whole planet.

The sixth skill is "Quantum trusting". At the subatomic level, Bohm has suggested an 'invisible ordering principle' as a means by which the larger quantum field could influence the behaviour of individual subatomic particles, and at the more macroscopic level of chaos theory, computer simulations have shown a 'strange attractor' that seems to set limits on otherwise random structures, that brings order and structure out of randomness and chaos. Quantum trusting, then, is an acknowledgement of the ever-changing nature of life and the way in which order can arise even when one feels completely in disorder.

The seventh skill is "Quantum being". At the subatomic level, the individual particle is a mere abstraction; each particle exists only in relation to the other, and can merge to become one larger, more whole system. Applying this by analogy to the human level, "[q]uantum Being is the ability to be in healthy relationships –relationships based on unconditional love. This skill requires clients to owntheir feelings rather than project them onto others".

Personally, I am not sure whether each of these 'skills' deserves the label 'quantum', and nor am I sure that one can necessarily abstract from the behaviour of subatomic particles to the level of human relationships and mental health. Nevertheless, some of these ideas are interesting, and the relationship between the insights of quantum theory and human consciousness and mental health remains a fascinating and groundbreaking area of research. I hope some of these ideas will be useful to you in your therapetic practice or personal growth, and if you want to read Shelton's original article, you can find it at the reference below.


Shelton, C., 2010. “Spirituality, Mental Healthand the New Physics”, InternationalJournal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 7:161-171.

Categories: quantum, therapy

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