What is Subtractive Psychology?
Subtractive psychology, points to the underpinning principles that create the human psychological experience. Subtractive psychology is a new umbrella term that brings together Principles-Based psychological approaches all of which have evolved from the ‘Three Principles’ understanding as articulated by Sydney Banks. What are the Three Principles?
Over the years they have been called numerous things including Health Realization, Neo-Cognitive Psychology, Psychology of Mind, and Innate Health and more recently as the ‘Inside-Out Understanding’ and ‘The Single Paradigm’.
Here at Coaching Connect we refer to it as ‘Self-Understanding’.
Subtractive Psychology was coined by Jamie Smart in his best-selling book ‘Results’. Here’s how he describes it:
“Most approaches for creating results are additive, giving you theories, techniques and concepts to remember, practise and apply” … “Fortunately the understanding you’re going to be developing as you read this book is subtractive. Instead of giving you more to remember, the principles you’re going to be learning will take things off your mind, giving you less to think about.”
This approach is inspired by the work of the late Sydney Banks – he had a profound insight about the way humans create their psychological experience of life. He realised that people generate their experience from the ‘inside-out’. In other words, everyone is living in a thought-generated reality.
Other psychological approaches point to our reality being generated by beliefs, people, circumstances and memories. Subtractive Psychology is unequivocal in pointing to the constant, consistent nature of the Principle of Thought as the creator of human reality.
Syd Banks clearly saw the spiritual nature of the human experience. He realised that we are all seeking peaceful and tranquil mind and that this peace of mind resides within. He saw that everyone is actually sitting in the midst of mental health.
Syd Banks came to see that psychology is underpinned by Principles and that these Principles are the foundation of all human experience. The Principles that underpin Subtractive Psychology point to a spiritual dynamic of the human experience. These ‘Three Principles’ are Mind, Consciousness and Thought. When we refer to each of the Principles we use a capital letter to highlight the fact we’re referring to a Principle of either Thought, Mind or Consciousness.
So, what are these Principles?
What is Mind? In Subtractive Psychology Mind points to the creative energy that in quantum mechanics is referred to as the ‘quantum field’ and in biology is referred to as ‘life energy’ and in physics is referred to as ‘energy’. It is the intelligence behind life that infuses all living creatures.
The Principle of Mind is greater than our human ‘mind’. In conventional psychology mind often refers to the neurological activity of the brain. In other words, the brain is the generator and transmitter of thinking. In the world of Subtractive Psychology, the brain is not seen as a ‘transmitter’ but instead is seen as a receiver of intelligent energy. The brain activity is translating that intelligence through the medium and of the power of Thought. Mind is the energy that guides us through life.
What is Consciousness? The second principle that Syd Banks articulated is that of ‘Consciousness’. Consciousness is our capacity as human beings to have an experience of life and to have the capacity (via insight) to experience who we truly are.
We have the ability to bring alive the energetic principles of Mind and Thought via Consciousness to witness ourselves as having an experience of life. As our level of consciousness deepens then we realise more deeply that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, this in turn leads to clarity of mind and stillness of spirit.
What is Thought? The Principle of Thought is the translator and interpreter of our personal reality. Whatever we see, hear, touch or taste needs the power of Thought to act as a translator. Whenever we remember the past or imagine the future then we bring our memories and imagination alive via the Principle of Thought in the moment.
Thought is invisible and it is also the biggest differentiator of how we experience something. Let me give you an example. On one day, we might look at our bank balance and feel insecure and on other days we might look at the same bank balance and feel happy. If the bank balance is the same, then what makes the difference? Subtractive Psychology points to the Principle of Thought as the differentiator. Insecure Thought leads us to see our world (including our bank balance) as insecure. Happy Thought leads us to see the world as a good place (including our bank balance).
When we ‘realise’ (via the principle of Consciousness) that it is not our bank balance but the principle of Thought in action then we understand that we don’t have to ‘fix’ anything. When we realise the nature of Thought as a shifting changing energy then we keep tuned in to fresh ideas/thoughts and insights (that emerge courtesy of Mind) and don’t get bogged down, or stuck in unnecessary busy thinking.
In this example, it’s worth explaining that Subtractive Psychology isn’t suggesting you ‘do nothing’ about your bank balance. Subtractive Psychology shows that we are creating our experience of our bank balance through the principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought.
The bank balance can’t make us feel anything. Insights about the power of the Principles in action seem to take away a lot of unnecessary thinking and worry. When we also see that Thought is constantly shifting and changing then we know that fresh thinking and ideas (via the principle of Mind) will emerge (which it always does) and we take the next step forward.
So how is Subtractive Psychology different from other approaches?
Many other psychological approaches are focused on either adapting, changing or managing thinking, beliefs and behaviours. Traditional psychological approaches identify and then focus on the ‘problem’ in order that the client can find relief.
Subtractive psychology on the other hand doesn’t focus on the ‘problem’ and doesn’t try to fix or manage the problem. Instead Subtractive Psychology points to the Principle of Thought as the creative agent of any psychological experience. Subtractive psychology shows clients how they experience psychological suffering because they are caught up with their thinking and innocently misusing the power of Thought to magnify the issue and to keep it stuck.
Subtractive psychology also points to the ‘self-correcting’ aspect of the psychological system. It shows how Thought shifts and changes and as a result our experience is not fixed but in a state of flux. The principle of Mind is always providing us with fresh ideas and ways of navigating through any issue or problem we encounter.
When clients understand (understanding and realisation is the Principle of Consciousness in action) that their problems are made from the energetic principle of Thought creating a psychological reality in the moment then they tend not to get so entrenched in seeing the problem as fixed or insurmountable.
When clients also realise that the psychological system is designed to self-correct then this takes a lot of unnecessary worry out of the equation.
The term Subtractive’ Psychology refers to the dynamic of the approach. Most traditional psychological disciplines are ‘additive’ and offer strategies and ideas to resolve issues or problems. This means that clients need to rev up their thinking to try to solve or get rid of a problem.
The opposite is true of Subtractive Psychology. There is nothing for the client to ‘do’, there are no strategies to follow or techniques to adopt.
As clients start to understand the nature of Thought and the self-correcting nature of the psychological system then they tend to find a way forward with a clear head and little on their minds. Subtractive Psychology also points to an insight-based form of learning. Rather than using the intellect to understand this approach, Subtractive psychology points to the power of experiential and realisation. This is an ‘embodied’ understanding rather than an intellectual understanding.
About Liz Scott & Stuart Newberry
Liz Scott & Stu Newberry are Coaching Skills trainers and 3P practitioners. They help develop coaching cultures within schools and organisations. Liz & Stu use their understanding of the 3Ps within their training and are experiencing great successes and results in the organisations they are working in. Download an Introduction to the Three Principles here.
Want to de-stress in just 28 days? Recharge on the Run is a FREE audio series (delivered to your inbox daily) that will help you discover your inner peace of mind. Find out more about Liz & Stu at Liz Scott Coaching and Training