Illness, Identity, and the Archetype of the Exile: Finding Meaning and Vitality through Depth Psychotherapy

Carl Jung

     Carl Gustav Jung

Swiss psychiatrist and C. G. Jung (1975-1961) viewed mid-life, the time midway between entering adulthood and the end of life, as a critical time of transition.

Dr. Brad Chabin, a depth psychotherapist with a practice in West Hollywood, California, had his own experience of a spontaneous and powerful mid-life transition. It involved a devastating diagnosis and challenging times, during which, Chabin now recognizes, much of his social identity slipped away.

After going back to school and getting licensed in Counseling, as well as a Ph.D. in depth psychology—even while battling a deadly disease—somehow Chabin pulled through.

Chabin now believes he survived in great part because his studies led him to engage his psychological life in a direct way, restoring a sense of vitality and joy as he began to understand the reality and importance the deep psyche plays in his life. The process of awareness included an important dream that revealed to Chabin the power of depth psychology and the “symbolic life,” which Jung believed was so critical to our well-being. When people view the world through a depth psychological lens, it changes everything, Chabin insists. That powerful perspective is one he wanted to share with clients.

adolescent counseling

Early in his career, Chabin witnessed a number of youth who experienced isolation and depression because they questioned their sexuality and orientation. One thing Chabin identified in his work is that such individuals may often carry the archetype of the exile.

Chabin’s book, Adolescent Males and Homosexuality: The Search for Self, emerged, in part, as a way to tell the stories of such young people, and to honor their courage.

The one who notices he or she is not wanted, or who has been actively told they are not welcome somewhere, ultimately has to begin again, Chabin points out. The similarity to Chabin’s own initiatory process when he lost his ego identity after being diagnosed with cancer is deeply and symbolically connected. The deep wounds of the exile require tending in ways that bring compassion, consciousness, and meaning. The gift of depth psychotherapy is that it provides a powerful mechanism to shine a light on the darkness, awakening vitality, creativity, and passion….

Listen to the full audio interview with Dr. Brad Chabin, or read a detailed summary article on Pacifica Post here

Inside and Outside: How the Unconscious Reveals Itself Through Art—An Interview

making pottery

As an artist, Margeaux Klein has always approached her art from an imaginative direction and produced works in her studio that felt like they originated deep within her heart and soul. Now she has begun to understand how to “read into” her work using a depth psychological lens.

Reflecting back on some of her favorite works, Margeaux marvels how the unconscious psyche can take so many subtle avenues that we’re not necessarily aware of.

raku bowl

After being inexplicably drawn to making raku bowls, she realizes the imperfection or brokenness of the bowl reflects our own brokenness back to us.

After she embroidered a series of Octavio Paz essays about creativity and the creative process on the inside of a coat, she grasped the idea that what we carry on the insid isn’t necessarily part of our persona shown to the outside world.

cello novelHaving copied an entire Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison on the inside of a cello that she plays regularly, she began to see the inherent meaning had to do with how innocent parts of ourselves are silenced because of wounds we’ve experienced in the past.

Artists, poets, and musicians have long tapped into the ways in which invisible forces are at work in the unconscious all the time…

Read a detailed summary article or listen to the audio interview with Margeaux Klein at

Symbolism of the Black Madonna: A Jungian Perspective—Interview with Judy Zappacosta

Black Madonna

Our Lady of the Garden, near
Sant Llorenc de Morunys,
Catalonia Spain

Sandplay therapist, Judy Zappacosta, MFT, first became interested in the Black Madonna at a suggestion from Dora Kalff, founder of Sandplay therapy, to visit one of the mysterious iconic figures in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. Zappacosta was immediately drawn into the “silence and dark interiority of the Black Madonna, and has made an extensive exploration of the history and symbolism associated with her.

In this interview for Depth Insights™, Zappacosta reveals the powerful and evocative significance of Black Madonna figure from a Jungian and depth psychological perspective, and shares how she can impact us both individually and collectively. Zappacosta is co-leading a 14-day pilgrimage to Black Madonna sites in Northern Spain in May, 2018.



Judy Zappacosta

Judy Zappacosta

Judy Zappacosta, MFT, is a Certified Sandplay Teacher and Sandplay Therapist of America, (also known as STA) and the International Society for Sandplay Therapy, the ISST. She has maintained a private practice for adults, children, and families on the Monterey, California, coast for over 30 years. The focus of her practice is Jungian Psychotherapy, Sandplay, Dreams, and the integration of Psyche and Soma. She consults and supervises therapists using Sandplay and publishes and teaches both nationally and internationally. Judy was trained in Sandplay by Dora Kalff, the founder of Sandplay, and she completed the Body, Soul. Rhythms Leadership Training Program with Marion Woodman Foundation. She teaches summer programs for caring for the soul offering two-week intensive for Sandplay training in Switzerland and pilgrimage trips to Black Madonna sites in Northern Spain and soon Southern France. Learn more about Judy Zappacosta and the 14-day Black Madonna Pilgrimage at

Excerpt from the interview:


Judy, you have such a really diverse background and of course, I’m always fascinated by the many aspects that Sandplay brings into any kind of a mix. It’s really a unique practice, and while the focus of our conversation today will be primarily on the Black Madonna, I’m wondering if there’s any correlation between the two that we should know about as we jump into the conversation here. Can you share a little bit about what a Black Madonna is first of all, and then how you became interested in it?


Well, I think it’s actually not too far a leap if you think of Sandplay as offering the ability to touch the Earth as sand as a symbolic kind of holder or matter and earth. And that the Black Madonna actually is very much related to the Earth’s landscapes—found many, many eons ago which relationship even back to the early goddesses. So, we’re talking today about a deep connection to what is nature, what is matter, what is earth, and what constitutes the divine feminine. I first got interested in the Black Madonna after Dora Kalff suggested when I was doing my Sandplay process with her to take a trip to Einsiedeln, which is where one of the more prominent Switzerland Black Madonna cathedrals is found. And after making that pilgrimage to visit that particular Madonna, I was very, very moved by the essence of sitting before a feminine dark figure that had such a deep interiority, maybe, to her that she just pulls you in, into darkness, into silence, and actually into mystery.


Yes. And, of course, this is the thing that’s so intriguing about her—has always been to me as well. And what we do know—I guess maybe we should establish that for those who aren’t as familiar with the concept—what we do know is that the Black Madonnas seem to be sort of found around the world. There are hundreds of them if not more, mostly in cathedrals or gracing shrines—often sacred sites, obviously. And they are something of a mystery though, aren’t they? Because they apparently originated in early Christianity, but I’m sure if it’s in your studies and engagement with the Black Madonna, you have come across different explanations for why they exist.


Well, it’s actually really interesting because there’s often a suggestion, “Well, she’s black because she’s Black.” Or “Well, so many people have lit candles at the foot of her altars that she just naturally turned black from the soot of all the wax that has burned before her.” But ultimately, there’s been no way to know for sure what the direct connections are. But certainly, Marie-Louise von Franz suggested that the Black Madonna actually came back through historically from Isis, and the feted throne of Horus, and that this is the beginning kind of that was coming actually out of the goddess sites that were also found in southern Europe, southern France.

Many of the sites– the ones that belong now to the church—often sit right upon older goddess sites. So, it’s interesting that there’s a quality of relationship that reaches far, far back, and that we continue to kind of have to suggest what would make her black, why did she show up as black. But for most people, she represents something that has perhaps been hidden away, perhaps rejected. She shows up as a figure, and particularly for peoples that have been marginalized, and interestingly enough, although the churches are where she’s found, it’s actually the people that take ownership in the region where she lives or she is venerated.

There’s an ownership that is taken up by the local people, that they are the keepers of—they’ll say—”of the Lady.” So, the Lady is part of their lives in a very everyday way where they go and they change her clothing; they have festivals, dances, lots of relationship to fertility, and motherhood, and things that bring them close to the people that are beyond the church’s style of owning a particular icon, or a particular way of venerating her. The Black Madonna seems to have slipped through ownership by the church, although she lives within chapels all through the places that you usually find her. But where she’s been found is often way upon rural wild wilderness places, less-traveled regions—lots of different ways that she has always been discovered…..

Listen to the full interview via the Depth Insights Interview Podcast

Find the interview on YouTube (audio)

Read/Download the full written transcript here



| Open Player in New Window


Epigenetics, Ancestors, and Living Your Calling


Jungian analyst, Robert Johnson’s work on “Living your Unlived Life” has been deeply inspirational to Heather Beck, author of Take the Leap: Do What You Love 15 Minutes a Day and Create the Life of Your Dreams. Beck is also earning a Ph.D. in the Somatic Studies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Beck has recently become interested in epigenetics, the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in the DNA sequence*. She believes that we are born “fully locked and loaded” with gifts that we ourselves have determined before our birth. However, the moment we are born, our lives are prone to social enculturation from parents, family, communities, religious organizations, governments, and schools.

These enculturations have a way of taking us off our pathway, at times limiting us to the projections of what others want for us rather lives to truly unfold and to express our own unique genius.

Examining the patterns that are running rampant in our lives, sometimes through the generations, offers us opportunities to learn about ourselves, identify limiting beliefs, and break those patterns that no longer serve us—opening us to insights about our true path in life…

Listen to my latest audio interview, “Epigenetics, Ancestors, and Living Your Calling” with Heather Beck, or read a detailed summary article here on Pacifica Post

Interview—From Information to Inspiration: An Interdisciplinary Career Based on Myth, Music, Depth Psychology, and the Arts

Mary MagdaleneBonnie Bright | Depth Insights: Seeing the World with Soul

As a cultural historian, Kayleen Asbo has crafted a fascinating career by weaving together mythology, depth psychology, music, literature, and women’s studies. The work of bringing together so many different fields stems from her burning passion and desire to create something that is truly unique. Her love of music, along with what she calls her “medieval imagination” (through which she views things in terms of their “hidden wholeness”) have been a key piece of her journey.

The age of enlightenment, powered by reductionism and rationalism, is becoming ever more narrower, she notes. By following not only our “passions of the mind,” but also responding to what our hearts truly want, we’ll be led to those unexpected places of insight where the frontier of wisdom lies. As this discovery process moves from “information” to “inspiration,” we gain understanding of how the world is connected in a far deeper and more profound way than we ever could have imagined.

Asbo (a new member of the faculty in the Myth program at Pacifica) wrote her doctoral dissertation on the myths of Mary Magdalene throughout art, music, and culture. She believes that the archetypal figure of Mary Magdalene is critically important to our culture, offering a profound capacity to go between worlds. At a mythic level, and at a time of much grief and suffering on the planet amongst people and nations, politically and environmentally, Magdalene invites us to hold these two positions of witnessing suffering and holding hope, Asbo points out. At a time when we are yearning for images of wholeness, Magdalene provides guidance for a direction that’s healing and whole-making, serving as a map for all of us to help us locate ourselves.

Listen to my audio interview with Kayleen Asbo, or read a detailed summary article about our conversation here on Pacifica Post here

Cosmology, Ritual, and Ecology: A Message from the Kogi Indians about Earth


Kogi Indians

Kogi Indians. Photo courtesy of Lisa Maroski.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a mysterious tribe of Native Indians who live high in the mountains of Colombia, speaking only their own original language, and having little contact with the outside world. These people, the Kogi Indians, have long referred to themselves as the “Elder Brothers,” as they carry the responsibility of being caretakers of the world, helping to maintain a balance of harmony and creativity in the world.

In recent years, the Kogi have begun speaking out. They are deeply concerned that non-indigenous consumer cultures living in the modern world, whom they call the “Younger Brothers,” are harming the earth, and they want to share the message that we need to change our ways.

The Kogi have a profound relationship with the Mother Earth, whom they call “Aluna.” reports Lisa Maroski, a board member of Monterey Friends of C.G. Jung. Maroski had the remarkable opportunity to travel with a group to visit the Kogi in Columbia, to hear their message, and to see firsthand how they live and what they are asking from us.

Maroski, who shared her experiences from the journey in an interview with me, explains how the “Mamas”— the priests of the tribe—were traditionally trained. Those who were identified as being future holy people were taken into caves at just a few months of age and they remained there for several years without ever experiencing the outside world. After several years, they were finally introduced to the outside world, where everything was so much more vibrant and alive than they could have ever imagined, that they become deeply psychically embedded in a universe that is alive and animated—even objects we westerners traditionally don’t think of as being alive.

Other traditions, such as weaving, are deeply ritualistic, based on the understanding that everything in the world is interconnected. When they weave, it is symbolic, Maroski notes, and weavers maintain ritual practices like spinning around during certain points in the process to remind themselves that they are weaving the world.

Maroski’s time with the Kogi changed her. She came away with a powerful understanding of what C.G. Jung called the unus mundus, the “one world”, and the possibilities of living with a worldview that understands how everything is alive and profoundly interconnected.

We are longing for that personal connection with the Earth, she believes, and there are ways we can each take individual action to help amplify this message in the world. Whether it’s ritual acts such as Maroski describes during our conversation, or literally writing to corporations that are harming the planet to let them know w won’t accept it any longer, we each carry the possibility to honor the Elder Brother and start creating the change we want to see in the world.

Lisa Maroski is an author, editor, and playwright. She is a board member of the Monterey Friends of C.G. Jung. She traveled to Colombia with John Perkins to meet with and learn from the Kogi Indians.


Listen to the interview via Depth Insights™ at  

| Open Player in New Window

Find the audio interview on YouTube


Reclaiming a Sense Wholeness Amidst the Environmental Crisis —An Interview with Dr. Jeff Kiehl

Dr. Jeffrey T. Kiehl has been a climate scientist for almost 40 years—but he has a unique take on the challenges we face on the climate front, because he is also a Jungian Analyst, focused on the study of the unconscious.

In this short interview for Depth Insights™, Dr. Kiehl speaks with Bonnie Bright about his upcoming daylong workshop, “Reclaiming a Sense Wholeness Amidst the Environmental Crisis,” which he’ll deliver at the C.G. Jung Psychology and Spirituality Conference taking place in Santa Fe, NM, June 9-11, 2017

In the conversation, Dr. Kiehl offers an exclusive preview of his workshop by sharing ways we can each reconnect with a sense of the numinous and with nature in our daily lives, and the benefits that process can provide. We also discuss the unique, experiential format for this exciting Jungian conference.

WATCH the INTERVIEW HERE (approx. 22 mins)

The mission of the C. G. Jung Conference is to break open the psychological works of C. G. Jung, taking into account the spiritual questions of life. The Conference provides an opportunity to explore the integration of Jungian Psychology and spirituality by means of in-depth lectures by Jungian Analysts, creative expression, rituals, and excursions to sites that enhance the experience of the world of C. G. Jung.

The title of the 2017 conference is “Nature and the Soul: Cultivating a Partnership with the Wholeness of All” Speakers include Jerome Bernstein, Thomas Elsner, Sandra Easter, Monika Wikman, John Todd, Puddi Kullberg, and Frank Morgan, along with Jeffrey Kiehl.

The conference format includes dream tending circles, talking circles, shared meals, nature walks, opportunities for socializing and networking, and rituals, and expeditions into nature, history and the artistic communities of Santa Fe.

Jeffrey Kiehl, Ph.D., is a diplomate Jungian analyst in Santa Cruz, California. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He holds a master’s degree in psychology and is a senior training analyst at the CG Jung Institute of Colorado and the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts. He is the author of the recently published a book Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future, which provides a Jungian, phenomenological perspective on climate change. Originally trained as a PhD climate scientist, Jeffrey returned to school to get an MA in psychology from Regis University. He completed his analyst training with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts and is a senior Diplomate Analyst with the C G Jung Institute of Colorado, the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts and the International Association of Analytical Psychology. Jeffrey has given workshops and lectures on Jungian topics around the United States, including teaching a workshop at Esalen Institute.

Bonnie Bright, Ph.D., earned M.A. degrees at Sonoma State University and at Pacifica Graduate Institute, where she also received her Ph.D. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, an online community for everyone interested in Jungian and depth psychologies, and of, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners.

She is also the creator and Executive Editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal, and regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. Bonnie has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute; in Indigenous African Spiritual Technologies with West African elder Malidoma Somé; and she has trained extensively in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

WATCH the INTERVIEW HERE (approx. 22 mins) or LISTEN/Download the audio HERE

Learn more about the conference or register at

Learn more about Jeff Kiehl at

Depth Psychological Insights on Narcissism (in the Era of Donald Trump): An Interview with Steve Buser, MD


Narcissus, by Michelangelo Caravaggio, painted circa 1597–1599

To say that Donald Trump has “stirred a lot of emotions” is perhaps an understatement, so it makes sense that many of us would welcome a better understanding of why that is the case.

The American Psychiatric Association declares that it’s unethical for a psychiatrist or psychologist to diagnose a public figure without evaluating them, so contributors to the new book, A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump, focus instead on narcissism itself and the underlying and unconscious factors at work in both individuals and the culture, notes Steve Buser, MD, who is a psychiatrist, co-founder of the Asheville Jung Center, and also the publisher of the new book from Chiron Publications which Buser co-edited with Leonard Cruz.

What is actually far more interesting—whether or not Donald Trump has narcissistic disorder—Buser asserts, is to look what is going on in the unconscious of our country today, which is exactly what the 18 psychiatrists, psychologists, and university professors who wrote articles for the book sought to do.

Seeking to understand the unconscious through symbols, dreams, and archetypal perspectives is the work of many of the contributors (including Clarissa Pinkola Estés, James Hollis, Tom Singer, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Leonard Cruz, Nancy Swift Furlotti, Kathryn Madden, and Susan Rowland, among others), who have a depth psychological orientation based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

Tapping into Unconscious Fears

Trump—and even the election itself—may be seen to tap into some of our unconscious fears, for example. In the book, psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, Tom Singer, writes about unconscious cultural complexes that are activated. Some of it is around violence at the campaign rallies. As Singer indicates in his chapter in the book, slogans or phrases associated with the Trump campaign, including “Make America Great Again” – or “Get ‘em outta here!” or “America first” tap into deep seated fears and unspoken thoughts that many people may have.

“Get em outta here” connects to a fear of “other” and makes us fearful of infiltration—that is, anyone other than oneself or the status quo. It speaks to themes Trump has often insisted on, such as banning Moslems, keeping “dangerous” Mexicans who are “rapists and thieves” out of the country, and keeping the “other” at bay including Syrians or refugees. In Jungian and depth psychologies, this kind of response is representative of the shadow, that is, when the things we can’t see about ourselves are projected onto other.

“Make America Great Again” taps into fear that our dominance has fallen. In the 1950s and 60s we appeared to be on top of the world, Buser suggests, so our perception is that our corporations, our military, and other established and lauded institutions have declined. In fact, many people feel the political system has gone awry. It is perceived as power-based and arrogant, so it’s easy to sense that narcissism is woven into all elements of that current structure. While most candidates and politicians—indeed, all of us—fall somewhere on the spectrum of disorder at any given time, Donald Trump has become lightning rod by making frequent and ongoing controversial statements that draw attention in his direction.

Greek Myth Meets Depth Psychology

Narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and ultimately died because he could not tear himself away from it. To better understand how narcissism is a growing theme in our culture, Buser proposes we look to the selfie phenomenon, where a growing number of individuals take a multitude of self photos and post them to media so they can be seen. The mirror isn’t all bad however, Buser indicates, as we can either look and see grandiosity, or we can reflect and see shadows and possibilities.

Narcissism relates to vanity, he explains, but when we reflect, there is also a depth psychological response, which is to tap into something transcendent. When we do that, what was previously a “scary” other turns into a “calling” that pulls us into a new transcendent space, a deeper awareness, which is a significant aspect of what C. G. Jung called the individuation process.

The opposite of narcissism is therefore depth. It contrasts with a shallow reflection, where one can’t see anything but one’s self. It’s about community in which we can share power, deepen into experience, grow together, and welcome the “other” instead of judging or rejecting them. From a depth psychological standpoint, it is our responsibility to look for ways that our culture can be transformed. Our current political-social-cultural tendency toward narcissism is not sustainable as it is. We need to question it, to contemplate expressions of self-grandiosity when they arise, to actively seek more empathy and acceptance of the “other.”

As a clinical psychiatrist who sees patients seven or eight hours a day, Steve has noticed how this particular election cycle is the most anxiety-filled cycle he has ever seen in over 30 years doing his work. People come in with symptoms of clinical anxiety—and much of it comes from the news or social media where many are watching too much TV or media. The good news, if any, he submits, is that it is raising awareness in the public eye for people who may never otherwise think about the cultural norms (and extremes) around narcissism we now find our culture and we can talk about it from a depth psychological standpoint. Why is the country moving toward such an unlikely candidate? he asks. There is a cultural complex in play that needs to be addressed.

Narcissism, the Ecological Crisis, and the Savior Complex

The tagline for the book, “Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump” makes me think of the “age of the Anthropocene”—a term increasingly proposed by social scientists and some others to describe how humans have become the dominant force on the planet where everything revolves around us. It is the dawn of new geological epoch following the Pleistocene, and most recently, the Holocene. We have had such a significant impact on the planet—most of it detrimental— I wonder about how narcissism applies to the ecological crisis that seems to be mounting by the day.

Buser emphasizes that narcissism is often related to the idea that “it’s all about me”—or in this case, perhaps, about “us” as humans. It follows that the narcissistic stance would be almost oblivious to the ecological damage that’s being caused. The narcissistic individual leaves a trail of damage to individuals and systems around them, he emphasizes. They’re not looking empathically at how they are going to affect others because they’re focused on themselves. Clearly, as a collective or as individuals, if we are in a narcissistic space, we’re not going to be aware of the damage we’re doing to the environment.

During the conversation, Buser and I also discuss whether there is a “Savior complex” at work when presidential elections roll around, as if we are collectively looking for someone who can “save” us. Steve describes how Trump carries this projection in a very unique way, both as a “John Wayne” archetype and also as “General Patton” where the hero rides in, shoots the bad guys, and ultimately saves the day with intensity and bravado, throwing propriety and political correctness to the wind.

Seemingly, in this election, Donald Trump has tapped into a pivotal piece of the American psyche, and many have become collectively caught in the archetypal wake. Whether you plan to vote for Donald Trump or not in November, seeking a depth psychological perspective will help you begin to understand your own unconscious leanings and those of our culture at large.

Steve Buser MDSteven Buser, M.D. trained in medicine at Duke University and served 12 years as a physician in the US Air Force. He is a graduate of a two-year Clinical Training Program at the CG Jung Institute of Chicago and is the co-founder of the Asheville Jung Center. In addition to a busy psychiatric private practice, he serves as Publisher of Chiron Publications.

Watch the video interview with Steve Buser and Bonnie Bright here

Working with the Ancestors: A Jungian Perspective—A Conversation with Sandra Easter, Ph.D.

For Sandra Easter, author of Jung and the Ancestors: Beyond Biography, Mending the Ancestral Web, her journey toward ancestral healing has been filled with synchronicities. Growing up, Sandra always heard from her mother that they were descended from Roger Williams, a man who is credited with founding Providence, Rhode Island, in 1636. Synchronistically, the very same day Sandra’s own daughter decided she wanted to write a school report on this alleged ancestor, Sandra received a document which surprised her by actually confirming direct ancestry on her mother’s side from Roger Williams.

Easter also discovered a synchronicity related to the date of her own birthday, which coincides with the date Providence was burned to the ground in 1676 by descendants of the Native Americans of the Narragansett tribe from whom Williams originally secured the title for Providence.1 Ironically, Sandra also learned that Roger Williams had earlier been banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony by a man named John Cotton, who was discovered to be the direct ancestor of Sandra’s ex-husband. The synchronicities continued as Sandra realized that Roger Williams and John Cotton had actually met historically on the date on which she and her (now ex-)husband decided to get married.

These kinds of synchronicities often show up when people began researching their own ancestry, Easter notes. Anne Schutzenberger, a Freudian analyst, calls it “the anniversary syndrome,”2 where it often emerges that dates of significant events in an individual’s life, such as births, deaths or other important dates synchronistically coincide with dates of significant ancestral events, often related to trauma or pivotal moments in the life of the ancestor.

C. G. Jung offers a strong perspective on working with our ancestors, Easter believes, particularly through his work in the Red Book which suggests “the dead” can have a significant effect on us. Jung himself looked at his life as being a “historical fragment” in a much larger story, Easter affirms, noting that, according to Jung, each of us “adds an infinitesimal amount to what he would consider to be the evolution of consciousness.”

The story Sandra was lucky enough to uncover about her own ancestor is merely an example of the dynamics that exist for all of us. In her book, she honors the work of West African elder, author, and teacher, Malidoma Some´3, who uses “indigenous science” as a method of understanding and engagement. Indigenous science allows us to go beyond the emphasis on the phenomenological, an integral part of Jung’s work, Sandra points out. Jung’s work serves as a bridge, however. His theories and techniques allow us to engage what current day depth psychologist and mythologist Michael Meade calls “the world behind the world.”

Mending the ancestral web is an archetypal idea: It’s about the relationship between the living and the dead. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, generally credited as Jung’s autobiography, it is clear that Jung thought about the dead as “the unanswered, unredeemed and unresolved,” Easter insists. While working with Malidoma Some´, she learned that his people “tend” ancestral altars, checking in to see what the ancestors think about things and what offerings are required. If four days go by and no one is making offerings, things get out of balance, they believe, and something must be done to restore the balance.

Imagine how many generations have gone by in western culture without anyone tending ancestors, Sandra points out; no wonder so many things seem out of balance. Jung was very explicit (in his conversations in the Red Book especially) suggesting we need to “turn to the dead, listen to their lament, and accept them with love” because uncompleted work has followed them. Jung honored his belief in the ancestor connection as the home he built in Switzerland, Bollingen Tower, was a place without modernity. It had no electricity; nothing to “disturb the dead” – a place where the dead and ancestors were welcome.

Ancestral connections may be attributed not just to personal, biological ancestors, Easter relays, but may also be cultural ancestors, collective ancestors, ancestors in the land, or animal ancestors. It can seemingly be helpful to work with each of them. Sandra, who offers workshops in ancestral soul work, believes the work necessitates expanding beyond a purely psychological way of looking at the ancestors. In her process, she leads people to create ancestor altars in a way that is similar to her experience of how Malidoma Some´ works in ritual with community. She then guides them to engage in dialogue in a process that is similar to Jung’s concept of active imagination. The core questions are people ask in the process include: “What is being asked of me now?” and “What needs to be tended?” She also directs them to ask the ancestors for help.

Following dreams and synchronicities in this way allows the ancestors who are most needed to “carry the story” and to embody difficult issues you personally face, to show up—even if you don’t know much about your ancestral lineage. This enables you to work with them consciously and intentionally.

How does one keep a foot in both worlds, I wonder, in order to maintain stability and centering in working with the ancestors. Just as Jung was pushing the edge by engaging so intensively with the psyche during his work on the Red Book, is there not some risk that this kind of otherworldly engagement can be daunting if not downright dangerous?

It’s critical that people do the psychological work in conjunction with processes like family constellation therapy or dialoguing with ancestors, Easter insists. Whether therapy or group work, we all need ways to strengthen the ego to create a container. She prefers to work with people in community or small groups because the group can often hold ritual space in such a way as to be highly supportive of the individual. Jung’s work, especially his way of working with complexes, also provides a tremendous tool that compliments work with ancestral traumas.

Finally, Easter cites a powerful “longing to belong” on the part of many people. In a transient culture where most of us don’t live on land that is ancestral—a place where our ancestors’ bones are buried and where the cosmology that informs our very being imbues the land—it isn’t easy to be rooted. How do we come into relationship with land or place in a way that we can experience belonging in a way that includes not just all of humanity, but also the cosmos, she wonders. Sandra, who herself acknowledges an ongoing personal feeling of longing for a home base throughout most of her life, has found belonging through her relationship to the mountains. If there are ancestors on this planet, they are the mountains, she states. Since all the land on our planet is also connected, therefore we are at home wherever we are.

There are a number of different ways we can begin to do ancestral soul work and begin to uncover a sense of belonging. Easter finds she regularly needs to plant her bare feet on earth or stone to feel that connection, and carries a stone from where her ancestors first set foot in this country in Providence, Rhode Island. Finding your personal myth is also critical, she insists, noting how Jung shared his own myth in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Finally, we can find belonging in communities like Pacifica, which Easter credits as being a powerful container for her in discovering Jungian thought and in bringing her own ancestral work to light. “I began to see how the known and unknown stories of my ancestors were present in my personal symptoms, inclinations, dreams, and visions, and ultimately, how the ancestors were deeply implicated in my fate,”4 Easter writes in her book. “Gathering the pieces of the ancestral puzzle, finding the threads of connection, and discovering the continuity of our bloodline on this planet, brings us into relationship with the unconscious, ourselves, each other and the world in very particular ways.”5

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Sandra Easter here (approx. 40 mins)
¹ Learn more about the biography and history of Roger Williams at

² See more about Schutzenerger’s book, The Ancestor Syndrome: Transgenerational Psychotherapy and the Hidden Links in the Family Tree

³ Learn more about initiated Dagara elder, author, and teacher, Malidoma Some´:

4 In Jung and the Ancestors, Beyond Biography, Mending the Ancestral Webby Sandra Easter, published by Muswell Hill Press, 2016, p. 8

5 Jung and the Ancestors, p. 270

Sandra Easter received her MA in Applied Psychology from the University of Santa Monica and her PhD in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has additional training in the process of council, Indigenous African Spiritual Technologies, Dream Tending and the therapeutic uses of puppetry. In addition to providing individual and group counseling, Sandra has worked nationally with diverse groups in both urban and rural communities including Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Seattle and rural Louisiana, providing education, advocacy and community organization support for over 35 years. In addition to being adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Sandra maintains a private practice in Denver, CO and offers workshops in ancestral soul work and transformational visioning for individuals and organizations. Her creative approach to teaching and counseling is informed by her love for and training in modern dance, puppetry, story-telling and indigenous ways of knowing. The foundation of her work lies in the experience of the natural, undivided relationship between embodied world and psyche.

NOTE: This blog was originally posted at


How Memory Tending Can Transform You: An Interview with Dr. Daphne Dodson

You may have donated that Times of Your Life Paul Anka 8-track to charity when it didn’t sell at the last neighborhood rummage sale, but the words to “Good Morning Yesterday” live on. Sometimes it is hard to find the “memories you left behind” as Anka sang in 1976. Sometimes, as Freud argued, those memories sink below the level of our consciousness, but continue to work on us in various ways even decades later. Sigmund Freud even formulated a term “return of the repressed” to explain where neurotic symptoms originate, writing that illness is

…characterized by the return of the repressed memories — that is, therefore, by the failure of the defence…. The re-activated memories, however, and the self-reproaches formed from them never re-emerge into consciousness unchanged: what become conscious as obsessional ideas and affects¹

Jung, too, expressed the opinion that our memories can torment us to a dangerous extent when he wrote,

It may be that the majority of hysterical persons are ill because they possess a mass of memories, highly charged with affect and therefore deeply rooted in the unconscious, which cannot be controlled and which tyrannize the conscious mind and will of the patient.²

You don’t have to be a depth psychologist to notice when, at times, memories of your own rise up unexpectedly out of nowhere, often instigating powerful emotions. It happens for me with a handful of certain memories that show up, surprising me with their content and their intensity, making me wonder why a certain memory would arise for me when millions of others are lost.

memory_4.jpgThis is why I was fascinated to meet Daphne Dodson, a qualitative researcher who has spent the past 20 years interviewing people, who is currently researching and writing about a concept she calls “Memory Tending.” Daphne, who recently completed her Ph.D. in Depth Psychology, specializing in Jungian and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, began thinking about the idea of Memory Tending after noticing that her daughter frequently seemed to have different memories of the same experience they had both lived through. As a researcher, Dodson realized that people she interviewed often utilized a memory to relay to Daphne who they were, to paint a picture or convey an image of how they perceive themselves to be. She began to wonder if memories might be “images,” and could be experienced much in the same way as we experience our dreams.

memory_2.jpgLooking at memories as images can be a tool to help us understand who we are and “where we might be going psychologically,” Dr. Dodson believes. The fact that we can each have a different memory of the same lived experience means it creates for each of us own personal psychic material that we can work with, or tend. The beauty of looking at a memory as an image (which in addition to being visual, could also be sound or smell), is that the image can invite us to engage with the way we see certain things of the past. Engaging with memories in an imaginal way enables us to create new relationships and perspectives with those images or stories from the past, resulting in clearing ongoing associated negativity or trauma that makes us stuck, or in amplifying the benefits of positive memories.

memory_3.jpgI consider the possibility that memories themselves may evolve as we transform our own relationship to them, much in the same way we humans individuate according to Jung—a self-generating pattern in which, as we change, the memory also transforms itself. Then, the more the memory transforms, the more we do as well. Daphne has a thoughtful response to this. It is important to note that while our memories can indeed change and evolve, she asserts, the original event doesn’t change—just our relationship to it. The original event will always be just as important in shaping who we are because of it. However, if we’re able to step into a memory of an event imaginally through a process like Memory Tending, even negative memories that haunt us can be engaged, allowing us to reshape our relationship to that memory and therefore to our own past self.

There is also clinical value to the process of Memory Tending, and Daphne shares some interesting examples from her research about how Memory Tending is helping people transform their lives and the lives of those around them. One therapist she knows has been using the practice in conjunction with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which was developed for emotional processing of traumatic memories. In her practice, the therapist uses EMDR to help integrate emotion in the body, and then brings in Memory Tending with the client to work with it imaginally and deepen the EMDR experience.

Daphne suggests an idea that might radical to some, but one that resonates with me personally. A particular memory tends to choose us, she submits. In this way, memories might then be considered an extension of the objective psyche that Jung described so passionately; the collective unconscious or archetypal Self, a field in which we move at all times, and which has our best interest at heart. Dream work is seen similarly in Jungian theory.

Memory Tending could also be an extremely useful for application to the collective, I think. In the midst of the overwhelm we all feel on a regular basis, due not only to a constant inundation of bad news in world, but also perhaps due to what must surely be disenfranchised trauma arising from our terrible history of colonialism in the west, and even memories held in the land.

When I inquire about applying Memory Tending to the collective, Daphne relates how the idea of Memory Tending originated through Dream Tending®³ (a practice developed by Pacifica’s Chancellor, Steve Aizenstat, over 40 years ago). In Dream Tending, as she describes it, one first amplifies dreams as Jung suggested, then engages with them in a transpersonal way, moving to the imaginal where images are seen as having their own wisdom. While Dream Tending doesn’t typically take place on behalf of a group, Daphne points out, she has seen cases where individuals who are present during Dream Tending sessions can get pulled into the experience, almost as if they get caught in the psyche and are there “among” the psyche, so it’s no longer “just an individual experience.” Something similar could potentially take place if it were done around a particular place and with intentionality by a group who sought to create a meaningful practice dedicated to something other than themselves, she muses.

memory.jpgI think about what Jung referred to as “big” dreams, and how they can often be given to an individual on behalf of the collective. Some indigenous peoples had rituals of gathering in the mornings to share their dreams in order to determine what messages to provide guidance to the tribe. Could certain collective memories choose us so we would do the work of psyche together for collective healing? It’s an intriguing idea.

Anytime one of us is willing to engage in our own personal psychological work, or the work of the land or the greater world and the greater psyche, Daphne affirms, it has a tremendous reach for the anima mundi, the soul of the world, itself. In our conversation, Daphne goes on to address the ethical concerns of Memory Tending, and shares more examples of how it has been instrumental in the process of transformation for many of her case subjects.

In spite of her long career as a researcher, Daphne first developed the idea of Memory Tending while in her doctoral program at Pacifica. She credits her professors there with much of her inspiration. Not only do the professors at Pacifica teach students academically, they also nurture souls, she insists: “Pacifica provides access to that kind of deep understanding of self, others, and the world around us. Pacifica itself holds that much-needed container for growth, not only academically, but on a soul and psychological level as well.”

View research topics from recent and upcoming dissertation defenses at – oral defenses.

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Daphne Dodson with Bonnie Bright here (approx. 26 mins)

¹ In “Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence” in 1896, Freud introduced the idea of “the return of the repressed” as a mechanism that fuels neurotic symptoms.

² C. G. Jung, para 176 in “Cryptomnesia” from his essay, “On the Psychology of So-called Occult Phenomena,” in Collected Works Volume 1.

³ See


Daphne Dodson, Ph.D. is a global qualitative research psychologist primarily conducting studies in the fields of infectious and auto-immune diseases. Her specific areas of interest include cultural psychology, the imagination, and memory. Dr. Dodson’s work will appear in two upcoming publications. Her essay, “Rebirthing Biblical Myth: The Poisonwood Bible as Visionary Art” will be published in Jungian Perspectives on Rebirth and Renewal: Phoenix Rising, a new book from Routledge. “Saying Goodbye to Our Children: A Phenomenon of Soul-Making” will appear Psychological Perspectivesa journal sponsored by the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.

bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., is a graduate of Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program, and the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies. She also founded, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners, and she is the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal. Bonnie regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. She has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute and in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and she has trained extensively in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

NOTE: This blog post was originally posted at Pacifica Post, the official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute