Thank you for visiting the web site for our workshop on
Evolutionary Psychology and Psychotherapy.
You will find detailed information on workshop’s content,
schedule, and fine accommodations below…
Evolutionary Psychology and the Psychotherapeutic Process
Paul J. Watson, Ph.D.
Sunday April 20, Noon
Accommodations and meetings will be at the beautiful
$200.00 per person
this includes accommodations, but not meals…
We can accommodate 14 participants at Aliento. The first 8 to enroll can have beds. If you register after that, please bring a sleeping bag and camping-style mattress for indoor floor-sleeping; our six “campers” will share their own bathroom separate from the bedroom occupants.
We will eat lunch and dinner at nearby restaurants, however you can bring your own stuff for breakfast, including anything to cook. Everyone will have access to refrigerators and stoves.
Mail fee to:
John D. Wymore
241 Camino de San Francisco
Placitas, NM 87043-9319
Fifteen CEU’s awarded by The Counselor and Therapy Board.
Sponsored by Nature and Behavior, Inc. & The Gestalt Center of New Mexico
"I think it's time that we formulate a psychotherapy that is founded on what we know today - not a hundred years ago. The early founders of the craft expressed their conviction that such an endeavor should be based on biology. But it was social science, which inauspiciously divorced itself from the rest of science, that informed psychotherapy through the decades. Social science brought with it certain social values, such as post modernism, and philosophies such as existentialism and phenomenology. Meanwhile motivation studies, brain and behavior science, consciousness studies and evolutionary psychology were opening doors to fascinating radical changes in the way human behavior was to be understood, and the way we practitioners should intervene. It's time to step over the threshold. The founders would only ask, 'What took you so long?' "
John Wymore, LPCC
Gestalt Journal International Conference, Montreal, 2000
Evolutionary Psychology (EP) is a fast-emerging discipline that applies to human behavior the modern Darwinian reasoning that has proven so productive in elucidating the adaptive significance of the morphology, physiology, and behavior of all living things. It provides important new perspectives on the basic understanding of human behavior. In this workshop, we shall discuss cogent viewpoints from modern Darwinism concerning the cognitive and affective organization of the human mind.
• Challenge the assumption that, at birth, the mind is a blank, more or less infinitely malleable slate. Instead, EP offers the view that the mind is made up of collections of structured purpose-designed information processing organs. The purpose? To solve problems related to survival and ultimately reproduction. The interactive organs of the brain providing the individual with a species-typical range of innate, yet environmentally primed and responsive potentials. One of our early tasks in the workshop will be to update the so-called nature/nurture controversy (i.e., the debate about whether human cognitive patterns and behaviors are innate and genetically determined or learned and culturally determined) and discuss how a proper understanding of gene - environment interactions impact the therapist's perspective on the people who enter her office.
• Provide a framework for profound understanding of family and group social dynamics. Expose the fact that the complex blend of parent-child cooperation and conflict starts in utero, and continues ever after. Provides predictions about social and environmental factors that can explain the varying intensity of such conflicts.
• Replace conceptions involving internal conflicts among id-ego-superego with a struggle for competence as a social partner and the conscious or unconscious "choosing" of alternative social tactics and strategies. The EP viewpoint also places the analysis of self-esteem and other self-perception and empathy issues on firm theoretical ground.
• Provide an understanding of the problem of inter subjectivity and why objective views of self and other are so difficult (impossible?). Here, we brush up against profound hurdles that must be jumped, or transformed, in any serious program of personal or spiritual growth.
• Elucidate sexuality and male/female relationships as strategies for reproductive advantage, again, in which partners are enmeshed in a dynamic web of corresponding and conflicting interests. EP frames marriage as an environmentally responsive social and reproductive alliance.
•Replace notions of denial with an understanding of the adaptive value and environmental responsiveness of various defense mechanisms and the phenomenon of self-deception.
• Suggest that depression and certain other "pathologies" may have been adaptive in the human evolutionary environment (i.e., the "stone age"), and elucidate how those adaptive functions may have eroded under modern conditions. Provide an intuitive, cogent understanding of suicidal ideation and behaviors.
•Displace phenomenology from center stage, replacing it with theoretically grounded motivational analysis. One compares behavior with reportage and EP provides explanations for incongruencies that have heuristic value for therapy.
The Freudian notion of "unconscious material" is replaced with the hypothesis that there is a relentlessly present unconscious process that is solely occupied with Darwinian fitness judgments. Dynamic, real-time choice and prioritization of behaviors, emotions, and even consciously held material is in support of this. All such judgments are based on complex unconscious cost / benefit analyses grounded in solving problems and exploiting opportunities which are ultimately related to reproduction. We present an evolutionary view of the functional relationship between unconscious information processing mechanisms and the contents of consciousness.
Interpretation is back in vogue, now informed by EP.
The Gestalt concept of resistance to contact can be further validated by evolutionary psychology. This enables more precise understanding of the function and origin of resistance.
We are encouraged by the evolutionary view to increase our emphasis on awareness, curiosity, and self-observation. Theoretical support for the hopeful notion that humans do indeed possess a mental organization capable of producing more objective and "holistic" views of self-functioning are given.
Psychotherapy informed by EP will often aim to increase social and self support skills with the express intent of achieving improved social alliances (i.e., reciprocal social-exchange contracts). This may involve guiding, coaching, nudging clients away from moralistic behaviors that undercut appropriate and productive behaviors.
It remains true that a full life is characterized by a certain amount of willingness to display courage and foolishness on behalf of a certain amount of risk taking - never forgetting that individuals have to fail, which can mean death and injury, in order for an endeavor to be seen as risky. Your contribution may be in that fashion, in which case any recognition or congratulations for it will not be comforting.
The existential paradox that humans are both alone and related can be recast with a scientific EP view of human nature.
Support will continue for projective techniques in working with dreams, but EP will be critical of many elaborate interpretational schemes. We can also address why enterprises such as dream interpretation are so seductive.
The Therapeutic Relationship will continue to be seen as a strong and effective feature of psychotherapy; evolutionary psychology supports mental health professionals playing a deeper and more active role in the lives of their clients and their social groups.
John D. Wymore
• has a BA in Anthropology from California State University - Northridge and an MA in Counseling from Webster University;
• has trained in psychotherapy at Gestalt Institute of New England and consultation skills at National Training Laboratories (NTL);
• is an elected member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists;
• has presented workshops in the application of evolutionary theory to:
Association for Advancement of Gestalt Therapy
International Gestalt Conference
National Association of Sports Counselors
Esalen Institute (w/ Paul Watson).
New Mexico Counselor’s Association;
• has published articles and book reviews on the subject of evolutionary theory and psychotherapy in :
The Gestalt Journal
Voices (The Journal of the American Academy of Psychotherapists);
• heads the training program of Gestalt Center of New Mexico.
• earned his Ph.D. in Behavioral Biology from Cornell University's Section of Neurobiology and Behavior;
• has done NSF-funded postdoctoral work in behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology at The University of Oxford and The University of New Mexico;
• recently published an evolutionary perspective on unipolar depression in The Journal of Affective Disorders (v72: 1-14), and recently submitted a paper on the same topic for a special issue on depression under development by JAMA;
• is a member of the Research Faculty at the University of New Mexico and a Faculty Adjunct of The University of Montana, performing NSF-funded research in behavioral ecology;
• has graduate and undergraduate mentoring duties in evolutionary psychology and behavioral ecology at the University of New Mexico and the University of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station;
• has a longstanding background studying human behavior both from a Darwinian perspective, and from the point of view of esoteric psychologies of several major religion traditions.
See more at PJW's web site: http://biology.unm.edu/Biology/pwatson/public_html/pjw_cv.htm
Watson and Wymore will be offering their fourth annual 5-day residential workshop at
The Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California, in October 2003: