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Johannes Ludwig – The Consciousness Research Group

While travelling to Innsbruck last summer to plan the first Academic Festival of Many Peaces, I had some additional plans in mind. For a long time, I had been dreaming of establishing a research and peer consulting group dedicated to consciousness research on both a theoretical and practical level.

My hopes were to find a few motivated Innsbruck alumni who would like to start this group with me. I am happy to announce that some wonderful colleagues were ready to make this vision become a reality. In the following article I want to tell you a little about us, our work and our ideas.

Creating a space for the exploration of  human consciousness – Our intention

When we first met in Vienna, what this research group could stand for and how we could work together was astonishingly clear to us. Surely, one of the reasons was our shared background in Innsbruck MA Program for Peace Studies along with our common experiences in consciousness work and in different methods of therapy and self-awareness. These parallels led to our swift realization of the direction in which to move forward.

Before and after our time in Innsbruck as MA students, all of us have completed additional trainings in various methods of therapy and conflict transformation including theatre work, dance therapy, trauma therapy, constellation work and body-oriented therapy. It was obvious to us that we wanted to work with these methods in the form of a peer consulting group.  However, we wanted to study these techniques for their range of application in applied consciousness studies both on a theoretical and practical level. Our intention was to create a space where the different aspects of the human consciousness could be explored, made visible and connected. We knew that this would only be possible in an established framework, where there is mutual trust and in which personal topics could be shared.

Therefore, our second step consisted in creating a framework in which these principles could be achieved. We agreed on confidentiality, so that all shared personal topics would be protected and remain within the group. By doing so, we wanted to provide a fertile soil in which long-term relationships based on trust and openness could grow. This also includes taking over responsibility for oneself and communicating one’s personal needs and feelings. Furthermore, we agreed that in the event any problem would arise we would look inside ourselves first and try not to project onto external circumstances. This concerns not only our group dynamics, but also our public relationships. This is in my opinion crucial, as it can in many cases allow for the avoidance of entanglement on a personal and institutional level, since most of the topics we fight in the outside have their corresponding counterparts in the inside.

Nevertheless, practical work stems from a deep understanding of theory in which we must be well versed. This is especially necessary when dealing with methods from different backgrounds and treating issues that are a consequence of trauma. Trauma-work in particular requires an increased awareness on all levels, as we are not only confronted with conscious parts of our psyche, but also with unconscious or split parts that we may not be aware of. Therefore, it is essential to understand the various philosophies in psychotraumatology, the diverse states our psyche can be in, as well as insights into different forms of therapy itself. For these reasons,  we would share and discuss key texts from different areas of consciousness studies and psychotherapy in order to gain insights into these very fields of interests.

Putting theory into practice – Our first meetings

Having good intentions is one thing, but making them a reality is another. Beside the previously described ideas and their realization, many other factors contribute to productive teamwork. Undeniably, a significant contribution comes from the people themselves. Without motivated people, who do not have the stamina to stay the course in difficult situations, the whole undertaking may be destabilized. Another important factor is the location of the assembly, which in itself shapes the atmosphere of a group meeting.

Whatever kind of psychological issue we deal with, there is a corresponding bodily expression that should be taken care of or, at least, be recognized.

After our first gathering, minor issues arose regarding these two factors. As a matter of fact, scheduling issues and the absence of a suitable assembly spot prevented the second meeting from taking place. Furthermore, the loss of a pair of participants lead to the questioning of future meetings. Nevertheless, we pushed forward and were excited by the arrival of new members who enriched our group with their previous work and their presence. Thus, today, our group consists of five people: Sophie Friedel, Matthias Gossner, Isabelle Guibert, Rosalie Kubny and myself. In addition, we located a picturesque mountain hut which would fulfil all our needs in concerns of a safe and undisturbed environment for our second meeting.

And so, a few Skype meetings later, we found ourselves in the familiar and beautiful Tyrolean Alps with a new and fresh spirit. Everybody was feeling the mutual trust in the group and the “heimish” atmosphere of the place. This allowed for us to share really openly and dedicate ourselves to our voyage of self-discovery and research. We started the day with guided meditations, followed by some intense and eye opening constellation work, and ended it with pleasant discussions about body-oriented psychotherapy and Matthias’ translated and recently published book Zärtlichkeit und Agressivität (tenderness and aggressiveness). One of the main topics of the weekend was trauma theories and the constellation of the intention, a form or constellation work developed by the German psychologist and trauma therapist Franz Ruppert. Since I have been trained by him and have been researching in the field of psychotraumatology in general, I would like to provide a short insight into this method and our work with it.

The constellation of the intention, also known as trauma constellation, is a method that has emerged out of a psychotherapeutic context. As the name already suggests, it is based on bonding and trauma theory. This means that a constellation is looked at under this very theoretical background, just as an eventual intervention of the therapist in the constellation happens on the base of this theory. Such an approach is especially important in the case of so called “bonding traumas” or “symbiotic traumata” which constitute the most common form of traumatization. A symbiotic trauma can, for example, result from a traumatized mother-child bonding, by which the child has been entangled in the traumatization of his/her mother or, through bonding processes, even further back in the traumatization of previous generations. In this concern the more-generational aspect becomes very important, as many of our problems and even physical “sicknesses” have their origin in the traumatization of one of our ancestors. In the majority of the cases we are simply unaware of it, for the traumatic event has been split up from the day-to-day consciousness due to several unconscious (survival) mechanisms. Yet, this does not mean that every constellation has to be about trauma, but that when a trauma becomes visible it must be dealt with in a productive manner.

Our group is open to any kind of personal topic, since it is the freedom as well as the responsibility of the client to choose his/her intention. This is also the reason why this kind of constellation work is called “constellation of the intention” and why every constellation begins with the setup of the intention. The constellation of the intention allows the therapist to minimize the risk of entanglement, as well as decrease the risk of retraumatization in general. Such an approach makes the format very suitable for a group structure like ours. The constellations themselves may be intense, but when everybody takes on responsibility, it can be a very productive work, as we have experienced in our meetings so far.

To finish this small synopsis on practical work,, I want to point out the importance of the body in this whole context. Whatever kind of psychological issue we deal with, there is a corresponding bodily expression that should be taken care of or, at least, be recognized. The body is our best “measurement device” supporting us with its wisdom and helping us with the re-integration of a traumatic experience. Techniques like yoga, bioenergetics or mindfulness work in general can be enormously helpful in this regard, as they allow us to breathe new life into our whole inner system.

Where to meet in the future…

As we are a research group, our plans are not only to work for ourselves, but also to share the outcome of our research. We try to do this in different ways. On the one hand, our group is/wants to be a supportive basis for all of us to expand in our respective specialties, may it be through a Ph.D., a book, an article, a workshop or a lecture. On the other hand, while being institutionally independent, we are ideologically affiliated to Innsbruck MA Program for Peace Studies, as well as to the Chair for Applied Consciousness Studies of the Department for Psychosomatic Medicine at the University Medical Center Regensburg (Germany). In other words, we work along the tradition of the transrational philosophy and the elicitive research methods as promoted by the Innsbruck School and we share the transdisciplinary and experiential approach in Applied Consciousness Studies as practiced in Regensburg.

Cooperation brings on new insights and grows us as a whole. If you are interested in our work do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to inform you about further developments and eventual public meetings.