The Phenomenology of Transformation and Healing: The Disciples as Miracle Workers and Other Biblical Examples

Anthony R De Orio. Miracles: God, Science, and Psychology in the Paranormal. Editor: J Harold Ellens. Volume 2: Medical and Therapeutic Events. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008. 

There are several needs within the field of psychology that, potentially, can be fulfilled by a psychology of healing and transformation. Our understanding of pathology and how it begins, sustains, and links with other comorbid issues is immense. However, an in-depth understanding of what the markers are for healing and transformation is significantly lacking. How do people get better? What brings about a new horizon and transformation? Who is involved? How deep can transformational change go? What is so healing about healing? When is healing miraculous in the popular sense? When is healing a miracle in a scientific sense? The phenomenology of healing, of why/how people turn the corner from brokenness to wholeness, can be demonstrated, giving light to the process of how humans change.

Second, the field of psychology must take seriously healthy change processes that include the dynamics of religion and the humanities. These subjective domains of faith are an inescapable part of human existence. Understanding psychologically healthy healing experiences, including religious ones, can broaden our concept of wholeness both psychologically and spiritually. Religious experiences are, in part, humans (and God) helping other humans to change. The inescapable fact that we help create change with each other is universally noted in virtually every field of literature. The human mind is unmistakably interpersonal. In addition, we impact each other through the use of symbols, self-reflection, and human emotionality. Change comes about through affect, how we relate to each other, and our personal values. Thus any model of the phenomenology of healing must take seriously how religion and spiritual experiences can transform people (Mahoney 1991, 263).

Moreover, a model of transformation lays the groundwork for discernment when people go off course in their religious beliefs and practices. Is religion pathological, stultifying, or compassionate, grace giving, and inclusive? Third, a robust model of transformation is needed to bring together the objective domains of science and the subjective domains of human knowing under one roof (Siegel 2006; Gould 1998). What keeps us from being able to do this? On the negative side, according to Gould, the two domains of science and humanity under one roof is a hard sell for a number of reasons. First, he was correct in his notion that dichotomous thinking has been a bad habit; namely, there has been a false fear that by advancing science along with its reductionism and materialism, the entire range of disciplines called the humanities would be undermined.

Furthermore, this dichotomous thinking has generated a judgmental and rigid ranking of deadly metaphors, for example, good versus evil, male versus female, or culture (and nurture) versus nature. With these acidic metaphors on the skin of the scholarly landscape, there has been much potential for dissonance as well as the reality of false battle lines being drawn between various camps of the sciences and the humanities. In addition, much of the false warfare between science and theology exists precisely because of this bad habit of dichotomous thinking and rigid metaphors, for example, God as creator versus evolution. Both sides on the intellectual landscape distrust each other.

However, on the positive side, transformation and healing where nothing is ever the same again in a person’s life can be understood more clearly when all spheres of a person’s life are taken into consideration. The model of healing presented subsequently does this in several ways. First, the emphasis on meaningful, secure, and compassionate attachment with someone else who is empathic and not dismissive will aid the change process. Second, the natural sciences, the humanities, and religion are allowed full voice in the transformative process. Third, the objective domains of science and the subjective domains of human knowing under one roof means understanding what types of processing may be peculiar to the different hemispheres of the brain. The left hemisphere (objective domain of science) and the right hemisphere (subjective domains of human knowing—including religion) and their integration within the individual are critical for health and transformation.

The emphasis on not discounting the brain’s right hemisphere mode of processing—the nonlinear, visiospatial-analogic, and holistic (autobiographical information, emotional history, mind sight, intense and raw emotions, sending and perceiving of nonverbal signals, awareness, regulation, and integrated map of the body)—coupled with the brain’s left hemisphere mode of processing—linear, logical, and linguistic-digital (syllogistic reasoning, linguistic analysis, right vs. wrong thinking)—creates new windows for understanding the phenomenology of healing (Siegel 2003, 22; Siegel and Hartzell 2003). The phenomenology of healing that will be explicated shortly emphasizes the brain’s right hemisphere and theexplicit contribution it makes to transformation. Moreover, the brain’s left hemisphere and its contribution are impliedin the model that will be presented in this study.

The cohabitation of the objective sciences and the natural sciences, illustrates a consilient movement that ignites the possibility of both integration and mutual enlightenment between them. This consilient approach across various fields of knowledge and scholarly disciplines is long overdue and is now taking place (Mahoney 1991, 2003). The model of psychological transformation presented here is a framework of the phenomenology of healing that joins various fields of scholarly disciplines. The schema summarized here is accelerated experiential-dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP; Fosha 2000). This model describes the process and experience of healing and transformation. The aim of this affect-centered therapy is to harness the patient’s own ability and resources to heal within a supportive interpersonal environment. An explanation and summary of Fosha’s work follows, which includes supportive bodies of theory and research on affective change processes, the experience of transformation itself, and core state and truth sense (Fosha 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006; Fosha and Yeung 2006).

Rivers of Research for Transformational Treatment

Several domains of scholarly research generated a psychology of transformation and healing. These four main areas and bodies of research are substantive and vast. First, affective neuroscience and emotion theory offered how our core emotional life creates change. This research demonstrated how these core emotions, or more accurately, categorical emotions, constitute biological universal phenomena initiating from within different regions of the brain. These categorical emotions are marked by an empowerment for change, transformation, and being able to adapt to what life may throw at us. This empowerment is launched when these categorical emotions are given full expression and are experienced not just in one’s head, but in one’s physical body.

Second, the scholarly domain of attachment theory and moment-to-moment mother-infant interaction from the hard work of clinical developmentalists demonstrated how resilient and wholesome development originated between caregiver and child. The experiences of being in touch with, on the same page with, understanding the child’s feelings led to transformation. This emotional coordination between mother and child created healthy change and brain states of optimal growth and learning.

Third, somatic (body)-focused and emotion-focused experiential traditions demonstrated how one is changed through a shift from the head (cognition) to in-the-body sensing and feeling. This shift releases natural healing processes rooted in the body’s self-righting adaptive tendencies. In simpler words, there is a built-in disposition to heal. Not a deterministic biological reality, but wired-in capacities that yield a range of choices for the individual that ignite transformation.

Fourth, taking seriously and exploring natural history proved to be a rich mine of diamonds for understanding the phenomenology of healing and creating AEDP. The intense emotional experiences of spirituality and religious conversion, romantic love, authentic I-thou connections, and emotional surrender aided the understanding of transformation. This body of research proved to be insightful as to how individuals repair ruptures. Thus these processes of sudden and surprising emotional experiences can generate solid as well as lifelong changes.

Transformation and Affective Change Processes

The research areas previously discussed demonstrated empirical evidence of some of the pathways through which healing processes involving emotion, connection with others, and the experience of emotion in one’s physical body led to deep, transformational change. The central assumption of AEDP is that the ability to process experience, together with an understanding other, will generate change, healing, and transformation. This process of healing transforms the experience, the self, and the other person.

Furthermore, AEDP considers change within three major themes. First, change can happen not just gradually, but also in a sudden, rapid, and discontinuous sense. If bad trauma is able to generate a quantum change where nothing is ever the same again, then transformational processes for healing can generate quantum leaps for the good. Second, the line between trauma and healing is a thin one. On one side of the line, there is fear and disruption of one’s expectations, and on the other side, there is growth enhancement, curiosity, and excitement. How we respond and deal with intense emotions from life’s crises—as rigidly closed or eventually as open and growth enhancing—makes all the difference. One major factor of how one will be able to feel and deal with overwhelming emotion is determined by the presence or absence of a trusted other. If I am alone or with a trusted other in the midst of an emotional tornado, my response can tilt toward constriction and withdrawal or expansion, healing, and learning. Third, AEDP seeks to explore the experience of change as a change process itself. As a person is able to self-reflect on experience and the experience of change, this reflection can become a transformational process of its own. Through the waves of experience and reflection, this process is transformational, if it occurs within the confines of a secure attachment with a trusted other, if it is monitored how the process of change manifests itself in a person’s body, and if it is worked through to a place of fulfillment and completion.

Self-at-Worst and Self-at-Best: Two Representational Schemas of Accelerated Experiential-Dynamic Psychotherapy

Chronic rupture or timely repair indicates whether a person will move toward psychopathology or transformation, respectively. When the emotional environment fails to provide support, psychic development goes off the road. Attachment bonds, the way we connect with others, can hinder or help regulate overwhelming emotional experience. If the caregiver’s emotional competence is compromised, another wave of intense emotions with pathogenic affects of fear, shame, and distress are generated. The attachment bond is disrupted, generating a third wave of affects: the unbearable emotional state of aloneness. This third wave is a bottomless pit of trauma—feeling helpless, worthless, empty, and broken—where the individual will go to great lengths to avoid ever having these feelings. This is the self-at-worst, where procedural learning activates so-called red-signal affects. The individual will exclude defensively any direct experience of basic emotions. Defenses are used to avoid the chaos wreaked by emotions that cannot be managed or regulated and to maintain the attachment bond with the other person at all costs. Short term, this helps the person survive. Long-term, dependence on these defense mechanisms exhibits personality distortion, phobias, depression of all sorts, poor and compromised functioning, and eventual emergence of psychopathology.

For example, the parable of the lost son (Lk 15:11-32, New International Version [NIV])7 illustrates the self-at-worst and the self-at-best functioning (Fitzmeyer, 1981). The two sons in the story exhibited pathological behaviors. The younger brother was out of control, and the older brother was overly controlled. They depicted either high-risk behaviors or a cemented rigidity, respectively. Both sons highlighted the red-signal affects against authentic relationships, whereas the waiting father exemplified openness and compassion in the midst of life’s turbulent times, which generated an environment of healing. He demonstrated boundaries that were appropriately adaptable and flexible.

The self-at-worst and the self-at best functioning illustrate and summarize the main concepts of being closed or open, stuck or growth enhancing. AEDP understands that there are, side by side, both psychopathology and healing processes existing within each individual. The emotional environment of interpersonal relationships can contribute to one or the other. Emotionally thwarting or facilitating conditions will activate the respective condition. Both of these figures will aid a conceptual look into the phenomenology of transformation as it is described subsequently.

The Phenomenology of Healing and Transforming Processes

There are three states and two state transformations that demonstrate the process of healing and the experience of healing. Under ideal therapy conditions, the therapist as caregiver can navigate and facilitate with the patient all three states and both state transformations. In the first state, the patient can utilize unconsciously various cognitive, affective, and behavioral strategies to exclude emotional experience. The therapist, as an unwavering, protecting, nurturing other, acts collaboratively with the patient to bypass this defensive wall. This will provoke an intrapsychic crisis (first state transformation) and heralding affects, which announces the entrance into state 2.

he signal of state 2 is the visceral experience and expression of core affective experiences. The therapist is a safe base, where the patient can experience intense emotions and not be alone. This therapeutic dyad is able to repair the disruption in attunement, which further deepens the therapeutic process. What is important is the effectiveness of the repair. Disruptions are short-lived, and the achievement of restoration creates a movement toward state transformation.

Repair and movement within state 2 releases a second state transformation of adaptive action tendencies. Authentic relief from intense negative experiences, rather than mere defensive avoidance and going in circles, is demonstrated by a deep sense of joy and life. The patient feels cared for and understood, which gives rise to more healing affects. From core affect (state 2) to core state (state 3) is the next wave. In state 3, the person feels authentic: “I am at home with myself,” “I feel like myself.” The patient experiences closeness, intimacy, compassion, and often deep spiritual experiences of being in touch with ultimate realities and eternal truths. Here AEDP crosses a boundary and integrates psychology with the roots of spirituality and aesthetic experience. At this juncture, the therapist can act as a validator, being present, or an active participant.

The True Self—and its counterpart, the True Other—as articulated in the transforming process of AEDP is not an idealization. AEDP theory believes that there is no such thing as a True Self. However, there is an experience of the True Self, along with—for that moment—a True Other. When a person feels known and understood, seen and helped, and not interpreted or dismissed, the True Self is experienced. The other person, in the lived moment, responding in just the right way to a person’s need, becomes, on that occasion, a True Other:

The True Other is an external presence who facilitates our being who we believe ourselves to be, who we are meant to be, someone who is instrumental in helping to actualize a sense of True Self. (Fosha 2005, 530)

This does not mean a just-in-your-head or cognitive conclusion on the part of the one who feels understood. The experiencer knows this from a sense of something (truth sense) that comes from deep within his or her heart and soul. The True Other is deemed so by the experiencer because of the responsiveness to a need, not because the True Other is perfect or unchanging, but an imperfect human being. True Self and True Other experiencing takes place in a state of deep emotional and interpersonal contact. Figure 8.3 captures the emotional change process and the experience of the change process to completion.

The summary of Fosha’s work is complete. To utilize her title, the transforming power of affect is a model that holds promise as a lens through which the powers of religion as healing and transformative can be observed. These observations will lead inevitably to greater depths of discernment to ascertain when religion is rigid and chaotic or generating movement toward wholeness and grace. But what exactly is the bridge that will connect AEDP’s phenomenology of transformation and healing with the biblical texts on healing, transformation, and miracles? The answer, in part, is contained within our understanding of miracle and the parallels between these two systems.

The Coming of the Kingdom Now and Healing

The Disciples as Miracle Workers—Mark 6:7-12, 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16, 9:1-6

For Jesus and his disciples, (Rengstorf 1963) the coming of the Kingdom of God was a present reality. The door is opened for the realization that the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins, and the joy of salvation is here. Jesus’ power (Grundmann 1964) is here to overcome evil, to heal all types of diseases, to create a new people and a new community. Visibly, miracles are part and parcel of this transformational process.

There are several main trajectories within the reality of miracles that create a bridge between the two worlds of the New Testament biblical tradition of transformation and the present postmodern tradition of healing contained in AEDP. The first trajectory is that miracles are intensely emotional, personal, intimate, and interpersonal. Miracles are God’s concrete love actions in people’s lives through others. These miracles through the disciples are fundamentally an expression of a transformative, helpful, safe, and supportive relationship. They signal the reality of a love relationship with and from God and with and from others, that is, an environmentally supportive dyadic environment. Miracles create and symbolize the transforming, healing power of and with the True Self and of and with the True Other. Likewise, AEDP is an intensely emotional, personal, intimate, interpersonal, and compassionate organic system. A second trajectory is that miracles are new and surprising. They are the new and surprising mode of God’s activity, that is, wonders, powers, and mighty acts. AEDP explores the new ways and the surprising self-righting tendencies within the human heart when an individual comes in contact with an understanding other. Finally, Jesus and the disciples did not split their experience of the world between what can be explained through science and what was miraculous. Miracles are not ignorance about nature or insufficient enlightenment about life and science. They are not just extraordinary events in the ordinary affairs of life. Miracles are not an interference of natural law, as if miracle means something God did in opposition to nature. God’s sustaining activity and mighty power is one with nature at all times. The sustaining of the universe is the totality of God’s activity. There is no dichotomy for God between the personal/intimate, new and surprising versus the sustaining of his universe according to the laws he has set (Robinson 2005, 160-61; Berkouwer 1952, 188-231). In the same manner, AEDP does not dichotomize the objective world of science and the subjective world of knowing. Both in the biblical world and the present one, God’s personal love and surprises, along with his sustaining power, are two sides of the same coin in the phenomenology of transformation. God’s person, power, and love are made manifest both then and now. Miracles for Jesus and his disciples were a reality, not a potentiality. They are God’s concrete love actions in peoples’ lives through others. Miracles served the new reality of the present Kingdom of God as signs indicating that guilt is removed and a new personal intimacy with God can be realized. Comfort, mercy, grace, transformation, and intimacy are the new realities for the young community with God and with each other.

The Process and Experience of Transformation Applied to the Biblical Context

State 1: Defense and First State Transformation

Within the larger context of the disciples’ and people’s lives, there was a deep failure of their emotional environment to provide relief of their chronic anxiety and shame. This anxiety and shame schema was exhibited through legalistic religious and social traditions that choked true relatedness to God and to others from the heart. These individuals and communities could not be themselves. Chronic reliance on one’s defenses of rationalization, projection and religious intellectualization, to name a few, to cope with the unbearable shame and anxiety led to rigidity and emotional chaos. People needed a safe place, a safe other to experience and express their overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, brokenness, loss, and pain. The religious traditions were ossified and fossilized toward a dogmatic and strict prescriptive theological calculus that left people’s emotional landscape starved for nurturance, guidance, and protection. The soil was ripe for crisis, both personal and societal. Change, generated through compassion, care, and healing, was coming like a locomotive and could not be stopped.

State 2: Core Affect and Second State Transformation

The disciples defined themselves through their mission to be a safe place to find grace with God, forgiveness, and openness to new ways of being, thinking, and obeying God. They demonstrated a healing power, where they would give to others and receive them without precondition. People would not be summarily dismissed or reinterpreted to fit rigid religious tradition at the expense of their own hearts. This healing message created an intrapsychic crisis of massive proportions. There could now be an opportunity for people to experience and communicate their categorical emotions such as fears, angers, disgusts, sadness, and joys of life. These wired-in organismic, visceral, bodily (somatic tracking) responses, through the love and power of the disciples, created a turbulence of intense emotions. People could authentically experience themselves and feel understood and received by God and the disciples. God, the disciples, and the homes they entered experienced a closeness, healing, and connection that had been previously closed out from their experience in life.

The unconditional love of God, the grace and forgiveness of sins, and the healing of diseases, infirmities, and mental and emotional pain engendered transforming affects with a cascading effect. People could authentically mourn their losses and failures; they could feel moved, tender, and grateful. As people found themselves changing, they experienced the positive vulnerability, fear and excitement, startle, and surprise and curiosity that are part and parcel of these tremulous affects. A person, through a trusted other—the disciples—could experience a healthy pride, competence, and joy. The disciples’ mission created transformational affects in the villages.

State 3: Core State

Anxiety, guilt, shame, or defensiveness is absent. Burdens of disease, social ostracism, and emotional trauma and spiritual dead-end roads are lifted and relieved. There is calm (peace), ease, flow, and clarity about the subjective truth of one’s own emotional experience. The truth sense—the sense of things feeling right—is evident. The True Self—“I feel like myself”—exhibited love, compassion, resilience, closeness, and openness. The people who opened their homes to the disciples felt understood, received by a True Other. As a result, they demonstrated their own generosity, empathy, and wisdom, understanding themselves at their deepest identity. They were with the disciples and the Lord, who had sent them out.

Acts 3:1-16, the Crippled Beggar Healed

State 1: Defense and First State Transformation

The daily burden of survival with severe infirmities—such as for those crippled from birth—generates some degree of fear, powerlessness, and shame. A chronic dependence on others to give as one begs in a helpless state is a lonely existence. The physical and emotional environments surrounding the beggar in Acts 3:1-16 were extremely and chronically limited. Peter, as a True Other, announces a new connection to alleviate a chronic, unrelenting ailment.

State 2: Core Affect and Second State Transformation

As Peter and John are about to enter the temple courts, they announce God’s powers to a crippled man and order him to get up and walk. Peter heals in the name of Christ. This pronouncement opens the man to his core affect of pure, wired-in organismic joy. Obviously, the man’s body responds not only by walking, but also by holding on to Peter and John. This visceral somatic tracking of one’s healing affects is part and parcel of feeling whole. Some of the man’s transformational affects included mastery affects of pride and joy, healing affects of gratitude and feeling moved, and the tremulous affects associated with the changed self, where there is startle, surprise, curiosity, and positive vulnerability to hearing the new message of forgiveness and the resurrected life from Peter and John. A new day has dawned for the receiver.

State 3: Core State

The phenomenology of well-being, of openness with new relational experiences of closeness and intimacy, is evident in the healed man. He praises God and embraces the disciples. There is clarity from deep within about the subjective truth of his experience. He knows that his sense of life feels right—the truth sense. There is an energy and vitality that are unmistakable.

Biblical Religious Affections and Transformation

Jonathan Edwards (1834; hereafter JE) attempted to present a phenomenology of religious affects from the biblical data.A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections attempted to demonstrate what were authentic, transforming, and true religious affects within the individual. But why is this work particularly relevant to our discussion on the phenomenology of healing? There are several reasons for choosing this work. First, JE’s analysis is unique. There is really nothing quite like his discussion about biblical transformation for its time. The “theological conceptual home base” that generated his model stemmed from a presupposition of God’s grace. Obviously, this does not mean that one would have to agree with all of the finer points and conclusions within his rationalistic Calvinism. Second, the author excavated the biblical data about authentic transformation through autobiographical and biographical portraits. These sketches about religious affects were illustrative of bottom-up processing as well as the brain’s right hemisphere processing (Neurologism Tree 2007, 35). This, within the biblical context itself, within the life situation analysis of this context and sphere, was where authentic healing took place, or at a minimum, where transformation began.

JE was not just an in-your-head or a cognitive theologian, but a theologian of the heart. Taken as a whole, the insufficient and sufficient (inadequate/adequate) signs of transformation/religious affections were a biblical psychology of transformation. JE’s analysis was taken from within the biblical world and its players as a systematic whole. This model was a rare and matchless portrait of transformation. Third, the phenomenology of healing, whether Puritan or postmodern, contains some timeless truths. Some of the miraculous healings in the biblical, Puritan, and present world demonstrated realities that will always be life giving. What does this look like exactly?

The presentation given subsequently excavates and compares JE’s data with the markers of transformation from AEDP based on a thorough reading. This comparison is not a rigid, one-to-one correspondence between the two systems; rather, it is a general and yet specific enough rendering to demonstrate a psychology/theology of transformation. Furthermore, JE’s data will be presented parsimoniously due to his exhaustive review and present space limitations.

1. JE

o Affections are supernatural, divine, spiritual—the indwelling of God came to an individual as a permanent, relational, secure, and stable personal reality (Jn 14:16-17; I Cor 3:16; Rom 8:9-11).

 God imparted and communicated aspects of his nature to another individual in his or her heart. He becomes a True Other at the time of a person’s need or desire.

 This presence of God came out of a complete and thorough framework of grace—an unconditional love and compassion.

 God, as a person, gives himself to another person. He has them in his mind’s eye.

o Religious feelings are grounded in love of God, not just for oneself and for one’s profit (1 Jn 4:19).

o An individual enjoys God for his beauty, faithfulness, goodness, and moral excellence (Rev 4:8; Isa 6:3). There is not a secondary gain or manipulation on the part of the receiver’s response. The receiver enjoys the newfound presence of the other not for what he can get out of it. The individual embraces God, not because God has touched the individual where his self-interests lie, but out of the unconditional love and grace the person has received. This is a heartfelt mirror response.


o Secure attachment bonds are associated with optimal functioning. This attachment bond of unconditional love between the True Other and its object regulates and coordinates affective states. The True Other generates a relational bond, through which the affective competence of the True Other, over time, is internalized by the person. The attachment bond is able to repair where there is rupture. Furthermore, the True Other is attuned to the person’s needs and ups and downs of life so as to help when the person is overwhelmed. There is a dyadic relatedness handling the emotional communication and the regulation of categorical emotions with their narrative history. Moreover, the “True Other is an external presence who facilitates our being who we believe ourselves to be, who we are meant to be, someone who is instrumental in helping to actualize the sense of True Self” (Fosha 2005, 531).

2. JE

o The heart and mind of the person knows God (1 Jn 2:20; 2 Cor 2:14). A person has a sense of what is holy and good. He has a taste, a disposition, or a relish of that which is good and holy.

o The person is certain and not doubtful of knowing God. There is an authentic sense of rightness and truth sense (Lk 24:31-32; 2 Cor 4:6). An individual’s sense of God is indisputable. God is self-authenticating to the person’s heart, and the person knows it. The individual is not compelled to prove it to be certain. The reality of God, the True Other, is all-pervasive, authenticating, and yet does not obliterate the receiver’s identity. The individual is embraced, intact, and yet enlarged by the experience of the True Other, namely, God.

o Humility means an individual freely embraces God, moves away from his own failures and brokenness, and embraces the True Self (Lk 15:8-10). Transformation is generated and experienced by the receiver through a genuine and free embrace of his or her condition within the environment of a caring other, who has sought the individual out from an unconditional love and grace.


o As this dyadic state of attunement is created, a state of consciousness is cocreated. This means that the individual integrates essential elements of the True Other; the person knows the True Other’s state of mind (implicit and explicit); and the person can experience a power of becoming larger than himself or herself. The person being with the True Other can experience his or her True Self.

3. JE

o Our nature, at its core, is transformed by unconditional and unrelenting love and grace. There is a change, a conversion experience (2 Cor 3:18). An entirely new reality that is indelible has settled within the individual. The reality of the True Other and its effects on the receiver cannot be erased.

o Religious affections generate a heart of love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy (Gal 5:22-23). The transformation of the receiver is a model and a mirror of the True Other he or she has been experiencing. For JE, this does not mean a loss of identity or the uniqueness of the individual, but instead a wholeness that is exhibited distinctively.

o Religious affections exhibit a tender heart (Jn 11:35).


o Nothing is ever the same again. The present state of healing is discontinuous with the past. A whole new reality has now been ushered into the person’s life. When a fostering True Other plays a role in the transformation of the person, healing affects include feelings of gratitude, love, tenderness, and appreciation toward the affirming other. In the crisis of change, there are tumultuous emotions. It is not unusual for a person to experience a deeper psychic integration of opposing qualities, for example, knowing joy from deep pain or experiencing light after long periods of darkness, feeling understood after having felt misunderstood. As one encounters a new or transforming experience, this is a homecoming. A hallmark of core state is that an individual encounters a new home address, and yet he or she has always lived there.

4. JE

o Religious affections possess a sense of balance and proportion (Jn 1:14, 16).

o The transforming grace of religious affections desires more of the same. The more an individual grows in the unconditional love of God, the more eager he or she is to Press forward to grow (Phil 3:13-16).

o Transformation or authentic religious affections always translate into action: good works. The unconditional love and grace of God exhibits a connection between profession and practice.


o The capacity to change or revise oneself is at the heart of adaptation. Core state is a dispositional tendency that is wired in, that is, a part of organismic, somatic, and whole-person dynamics. A disposition drives one to experience the truth with respect to his or her own experience of the self, the other, and emotional reality. We are motivated to heal, to grow, and to know ourselves and others. The truth sense is affectively marked by peace, clarity, compassion, and generosity. Moreover, these healing processes cascade. In the midst of the great complexities of life, we become increasingly clearer to ourselves.

Although both systems presented come from three different worldviews, that is, the biblical environment, JE’s interpretive rationalistic-Calvinism of the biblical environment, and AEDP’s postmodern environment, the alignment and parallel markers indicating transformation are enlightening. Perhaps the parallels of healing and transformation demonstrate some timeless truths about human transformation that are evident within the human prospect in any era. It is important to note that well-being contains the two elements of integration and complexity. Well-being, or transformation, is defined as a system that connects differentiated elements into a functional whole, that is, integration. This system, as it moves toward integration, achieves maximizing complexity (Siegel 2006).9 The previously articulated systems of transformation, the biblical context, JE’s biblical psychology, and AEDP illustrate that differentiated elements can connect into a functional whole—integration—thereby maximizing complexity. Transformational systems generate a complexity that demonstrates individuals feeling a different sense of connection within themselves and the larger world beyond, and a connection to a larger whole beyond their immediate lives.


Fosha’s work of AEDP demonstrated a phenomenology of transformation and healing. This wide-angle lens viewing the human condition offered some new and old insights into and markers of the psychodynamics of the human heart’s healing processes. In other words, it answered the question: what is so healing about healing? The one critique of AEDP that comes to the foreground stems from the idea that there is no such thing as a True Self (see earlier discussion). It is true, theological dogmatics notwithstanding, that a perfect or idealized True Other does not exist. However, there does need to be a working definition of the core True Self and True Other. Without this baseline, the foundation on which an individual builds his or her connective self experientially, moment-to-moment in a supportive dyadic environment, can become a moving target, without a compass or center. What is imbedded implicitly in AEDP and stated explicitly within the previous biblical examples, including JE, is that a core True Self and True Other can be defined. Not surprisingly, AEDP expresses the phenomenology and language of a compassionate, caring, clear, creative, connective True Other. But the core values of this True Self/True Other are permanent; yet, they are also flexible and adaptive traits that meet the receiver where he or she is.

The permanency of this core self is not based on conditional behaviors, but on an unconditional love relationship and compassion. This permanence and these values are the elements of the definition of the core True Self/ True Other. In other words, the True Self/True Other as compassionate, creative, empowered, and respected is a person’s nonnegotiable, indestructible home address. A person can become disconnected from his or her compassionate and empowered True Self. However, reconnection is possible. This is what the biblical examples and JE demonstrate and uniquely plead for us to grasp, whereas AEDP can only highlight the experience of and illustrate this core value of the True Self/True Other, without being able to define the permanent inner nature of the core self. Declaring this foundation of the True Self/True Other, which was so aptly demonstrated and embedded in the phenomenology, AEDP would have been a great aid to the discussion.

To be fair, the psychology of AEDP and its metatherapeutics is not a catch-all explanation or a theory from a scientism (Gould 1996b). AEDP sought to capture, utilizing the limits of language from various disciplines, the complexity of how people get better. In addition, the ideas, beliefs, and values—what is called truth—of AEDP passes a nuts-and-bolts working test, that is, a call to action, a call to heal. The earthiness of these ideas poses a challenge to move away from the reification of ideas and the stuff of secular idolatry and toward how to get through an ordinary day. Most important, AEDP does not hint at turning religion into the swamp of a reductionist or condescending psychology (James 1997). We are called on to understand the phenomenology of transformation in all of its complexities and simplicity, no matter what scholarly domains are brought together to explain it. Why? So the objective domains of science and the subjective domains of knowing can live in one home to bring about greater insight and transformation.