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Book Review: Chaos Psychology and Psychotherapy

  • TRANSYT- UPM Madrid Polythecnic University; Clinical Psychologist at Private Consultancy
Book Review: Chaos Psychology and Psychotherapy
Elena López1*, Samuel A Malkemus2, Marcos Redondo1, Rodrigo Hernando1, Javier Rodríguez1 and Edward J Dale3
1OXIGEME, Center for Psychology of Consciousness, Spain
2California Institute of Integral Studies, USA
3Stockton Hall Psychiatric Hospital, York, UK
*Corresponding author: Elena López, Ph.D., Psychologist, OXIGEME, Center for a Psychology of Consciousness, Madrid, Spain, E-mail:
Received date: February 08, 2017; Accepted date: February 23, 2017; Published date: February 28, 2017
Copyright: © 2017 Lopez E, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted
use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Chaos theories, which rule the laws of nonlinear dynamical systems,
have been extensively used in elds such as physics, biology, and
meteorology since the 1960s. However, it is only recently that they are
starting to be translated for application in the eld of psychology. Dr.
Almendro, a clinical psychologist based in Madrid and Barcelona,
makes a rigorous step forward in this complex translation [1].
e rst part of the book includes a comprehensive review of
dierent perspectives on the human psyche. Starting from such early
and fundamental works as those by Plato, Almendro integrates the
ideas of these texts with those of modern chaos theories. He then
reviews the contributions of key authors, such as the Nobel laureate
Ilya Prigogine, and the emergence of relevant theories, like that of
Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s theory of autopoiesis,
which in turn led to the contemporary paradigm of embodied
cognition. We appreciated how Almendro rescues many earlier
foundational authors from the limbo of indierence, thereby bringing
this wisdom to bear upon contemporary issues. In this way, his work
overcomes the academic exclusivism that oen obsessively rules
scientic publications in the eld of psychology. Sadly, such exclusive
tendencies constrain creative thought within a bubble of the latest
publications. is is especially important because Almendro deals with
issues that extend “beyond time, and thus his research base mirrors
the theories that he is engaging. In other words, chaos psychology is
not merely proposed as a new branch of psychology, in dry and
abstract terms, but is brought to life and applied in the very structure
of his writing.
is book guides the reader through a critical view of the complex
arena of the history of psychology as a science, pointedly questioning
the ability of deterministic approaches to fully capture the nature of the
human psyche. e book’s main criticisms are aimed at the fact that
these approaches perceive human beings as simple, closed, and
determined systems. In contrast, Almendro proposes that we view
human beings as open, complex, and dynamical systems to which
chaotic laws, structures, and processes apply.
We found the book’s core novel contribution to be Almendros
development of the concept of emergent crisis. In his words,
“Emergent crisis has to do with a sudden, unexpected, uncontrollable,
chaotic mutation that produces a rupture in the continuity of a person’s
existence (p. 259).is crisis is viewed as an opportunity and not, as is
the case in much of clinical psychology today, a mere meaningless
disease. To uncover the opportunity the crisis needs to be respected
and explored, and not considered a “destructive process that has to be
stopped using suppressive, chemical, or psychological techniques (p.
In this sense, Almendroalerts us to the risks of classifying symptoms
as either “normal” or “pathological,” as if they corresponded to “stable
and “unstable,” depending on their adaptation to a supposedly agreed
upon taxonomy. In the deterministic perspective a client’s symptom,
understood as an agent breaking the symmetry and linearity of a
“consensual normality,” needs treatment in order to be suppressed.
Conversely, Almendro claims that the symptom bears valuable and
unknown information, a signal from another frequency that—in
addition to breaking the symmetry—if uncovered will reveal a deep
level of meaning that in turn leads to healing and psychological
growth. Instability does not constitute something to avoid per se;
rather, it provides a quantum of energy for the transformation of an
old psychic organizational structure. is structure is thus reborn into
one that is new and more evolutionarily advanced. Hence, a
suppressive treatment may not be the most appropriate one for a
symptom that acts as a messenger and a signal, a prelude to a process
of dierentiation. e reason that this dierentiation occurs is a result
of the symptom breaking the stability and making a dierentiation
mark. is mark then distinguishes between the “before” and “aer” of
its emergence, acting as the precursor to a process that holds an innate
evolutionary direction. is perspective runs counter to, and, as
Almendro argues, constitutes the true foundations of what he calls the
positivization of the pathological—the unfortunate trend of
determinism in much of contemporary psychiatry and clinical
Other key contributions are those related to the vortexes and
dissipative structures that emerge out of Prigogine’s work. In particular,
we found the SIB (Sensitivity-Instability-Bifurcation) vortex to be
particularly interesting. While not an easy concept to grasp, the SIB
vortex is based on theories in chaos and complexity theory that are
utilized to reect the structure of psychological process. e SIB vortex
suggest that when bifurcation (psychological change) does not take
place it is because instability has not reached a sucient quantum of
energy, so uctuation is present, as in the movement of a pendulum,
but the uctuation stabilizes. By stabilizing, no bifurcation occurs and
the system does not develop into a new one. In terms of attractors, a
term from dynamical systems theory that reveals the end towards
which a system will evolve, the classic attractor ends in a similar state
and does not change (the uctuation stabilizes), but the strange
attractor, also discussed by Amendro as a chaotic fractal, is able to
truly bring instability to the system. is instability drives the system
to circulate around in apparently chaotic routes, yet it ultimately gives
rise to novelty for it hosts the potentials of bifurcation and
From this standpoint, Almendro introduces the concept of armor in
order to move towards a model of the human personality that is
grounded in chaos theory. In his understanding armor is composed of
López et al., J Psychol Psychother 2017, 7:1
DOI: 10.4172/2161-0487.1000290
Book Review OMICS International
J Psychol Psychother, an open access journal
Volume 7 • Issue 1 • 1000290
Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy
ISSN: 2161-0487
a psychosomatic structure of fractals, which create pathways of energy
that are centered upon a unifying locus: the attractor. Numerous
clinical examples of working with a client’s armor are presented, each
one drawn from Dr. Almendro’s broad (more than 30 years)
experience. Almendro concludes by recognizing the need for more
empirical research to validate this model. He proposes avenues
through which this clinical research could be carried out in
conjunction with other branches of psychology such as evolutionary
psychology or personality studies.
Reading this book is a stimulating and challenging exercise; indeed,
a slow reading is needed to fully comprehend the extent to which Dr.
Almendro has successfully translated key concepts from chaos theories
—fractals, emergent properties, attractors, etc.—into psychological
terminology. e classic issues inherent in the translation of a text
(from its original version in Spanish) are intuited while reading but do
not imply diculties understanding it if a coherent reading of the book
is made. In addition, most of the issues dealt with in the book also
require a certain degree of clinical experience in order for the reader to
fully understand and transfer them to the psychotherapeutic context.
As clinical professionals we very much appreciate the contribution
of this book, clearly expanding psychotherapy beyond the current
limits of its knowledge. Too oen, we encounter clients who have felt
stigmatized by reductionist diagnoses that are based on taxonomies
whose validity is questionable. It is clear that applying Almendro’s
model, exchanging the “pathological” vision for that of the “emergent
crisis,” will bring relief to the stigmatized patient. e book provides
valuable insight into how the dyadicrelationship of the therapist-client
could take place in a novel and therapeutically benecial form.
Closed and simple systems may be studied from deterministic
approaches, wherein it is possible to anticipate every variable (if
properly controlled). is is the case in the eld of psychics. However,
chaos theories claim that these approaches do not apply when it comes
to understanding human psychological functioning. Human beings are
—fortunately, we believe— complex, open, and dynamic systems. In
the end, this book reects the pressing need to re-think, and thus
reinvent, the ways in which the elds of psychology and psychotherapy
are evolving. Perhaps an “emergent crisis” in these elds is needed
before new frontiers of knowledge can be opened.
1. Almendro M (2013) Chaos Psychology and Psychotherapy. Lantia
Publishing, Houston, TX.
Citation: López E, Malkemus SA, Redondo M, Hernando R, Rodríguez J, et al. (2017) Book Review: Chaos Psychology and Psychotherapy. J
Psychol Psychother 7: 290. doi:10.4172/2161-0487.1000290
Page 2 of 2
J Psychol Psychother, an open access journal
Volume 7 • Issue 1 • 1000290
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
In the history of humanity as well as in the brief and recent history of the new paradigms in science, we find theories of the way the heavens and the earth are or should be. In this book our intention is to examine in depth those that build bridges. Humanity and consciousness are positioned as the foundation of the human being in the face of those who would reduce him to a genetic robot. Based on many years of work in the field, we are offering a possible doorway to healing as a bridge of knowledge in day-to-day life so that my masters, my patients, can receive what they have taught me: the magic of transforming an obstacle into a lever. This book is therefore both theoretical and practical, in order to assist in resolving those painful repetitions of our ancestors’ lives-blind programming and painful wounds, with a view to finding a healing path (nature’s, and therefore evolution’s, secret) in which the psychology of complexity serves to reconcile us with life in our afflicted and opportune world.
Book Review: Chaos Psychology and Psychotherapy
  • M Almendro
  • E López
  • S A Malkemus
  • M Redondo
  • R Hernando
  • J Rodríguez
Almendro M (2013) Chaos Psychology and Psychotherapy. Lantia Publishing, Houston, TX. Citation: López E, Malkemus SA, Redondo M, Hernando R, Rodríguez J, et al. (2017) Book Review: Chaos Psychology and Psychotherapy. J Psychol Psychother 7: 290. doi:10.4172/2161-0487.1000290