Archive for Bonnie Bright

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

Narcissus

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 Wikipedia.com

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´: http://malidoma.com/main/

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 www.PacificaPost.com

 

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 Pacifica.edu – 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 www.dreamtending.com


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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 DepthList.com, 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

The Image Making Capacity of Soul: A Conversation on Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life with Dr. Mary Harrell

Every once in a while, a term emerges on the horizon of my awareness which I find strikingly beautiful. In this case, it is the “image-making capacity of soul.” The language of soul is symbol, and symbol shows itself in image—including dream images, fairy tales and myth, or even art, Mary Harrell, Ph.D., explains in her recent book, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life: Stories from the World Between Matter and Mind. Ultimately, this language of images is soul manifesting in a way people can understand, and without that image-making capacity, people can’t come to terms with the unconscious, Harrell insists.

ghost-girl-window-ss_117156934What inspired Mary to write the book, I wondered when I sat down with her to discuss it not long ago. Mary, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist who earned her degree in the Clinical program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, began by sharing a an unusual and surprising story. When she was 13 years old, her mother died. Two years later, a self-described “intuitive, inward-leaning spiritual child,” she experienced a “figure” that came into her bedroom, an “incorporeal” being that became more and more embodied as she moved toward Mary in order to hand her a box. Mary knew that the box was meant to be a gift, she explains, but at just 15 years of age, she was understandably terrified. Instinctively, knowing her sister was asleep in another bed in the same room, Mary threw her arms around her sister. Since her sister had a real body, Mary believed that would stop that ethereal woman from approaching her—and indeed, the woman disappeared.

Untitled_design_2.jpgMary had no context to help her understand how to deal with “ghosts,” nor anyone she could talk to about it, she told me—even though that ghostly woman continued to appear to her for 22 years. In order to cope with the terrifying visits, Mary “altered her consciousness” as she explains it, often by turning on lights or putting her arms around her husband in her 20s. All of this woke Mary up from that altered state which allowed the woman to appear, and eventually the woman stopped manifesting.

Mary began her doctorate at Pacifica in her 40s and discovered analytical (or depth) psychologyoffered a powerful lens which enabled her to investigate with “a sense of reality and scholarship” such unusual phenomenon that is often dismissed in the mainstream. She came to realize she wanted to spend her professional life studying about imaginal beings such as the one she had experienced for much of her adult life. Such beings live in the realm between matter and mind, Mary suggests. They are neither fully of the physical world nor of the mind, a realm which philosopher and scholar, Henry Corbin (and others), called the mundus imaginalis. One can enter that realm by allowing an altered state of consciousness.

There are seven stories in Mary’s book, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life. At Pacifica she found a framework that could deepen the experiences she had, particularly through an understanding of Jungian archetypes. Archetypes have two ends to a spectrum, a physical end and a spirit end, according to Jung. Each of these had a place in Mary’s experience. The spirit end was the “angel” that visited her, and the physical end was the sensation Mary felt when the figure manifested in Mary’s room. Additionally, Mary visually perceived the figure as a Madonna who had a box for her.

Years later, Mary realized it was the image-making capacity of soul that allowed her to perceive the box, and to understand that it represented the gifts a mother would give her child. She credits her education at Pacifica with helping her not only understand the concept of archetypes, but also that each individual experiences archetypes in different ways. Mary holds the belief that, when working with the imaginal, one way to know that you’re not making something up is that there is a deep experience of resonance, a visceral feeling in your body that testifies there is something real at work there. As the stories Mary was writing and their archetypal connects began to resonate with her, Mary knew she could pierce a veil between worlds and make some sense out of the images in the form of a book for those individuals who are open to this invisible realm.

In the Age of Enlightenment, beginning around 1685, Mary told me, a new paradigm emerged in which “science became the great arbiter of legitimacy.” Science insisted certain “truths” might be legitimized if we looked at them through the lens of science, effectively objectifying whatever was under our regard. If we investigate something and it doesn’t fit under that model of reality, she states, it risks being cast aside as something we “made up.”

We are all prone to discount such experiences with the imaginal realm simply because they don’t fit the model of reality to which we tend to adhere, when in reality, in such events, we are experiencing something that lives in that cusp between conscious and unconscious. As a psychotherapist, Mary often invites clients to keep a journal of dreams because, as she points out, even though she and the client are speaking together through the conscious parts of themselves, the unconscious parts of each are also in dialogue. Individuals who have a sufficient amount of “psychological maturity” seem to take to depth-oriented work like a fish to water, she insists, and they discover tremendous richness if they’re willing to take advantage of doing the work.

On the other hand, I note that Robert Romanyshyn, author and now Professor Emeritus at Pacifica, has referred to Mary’s work as a “therapy of culture,” and I ask Mary how her ideas can be applied to our society.

You can’t pay attention to your own integrity, development, liminal experiences or dreams, she asserts, without also becoming open to how those manifest in the culture. When she wrote the stories in the book, for example, Robert Romanyshyn pointed out that she used language that embodied a deep “poetic sensibility.” If you look at the world through the lens of a poet instead of as a “psychologist,” then you are engaging a lens of the humanities, Mary suggests. Her work enabled her to look at that “very real” cultural phenomenon—that of school shootings— as a cultural dream, and to investigate what the psyche is saying about the collective. If we “go back” through an imaginal process and go deeper into the experience, we can actually change the world, Mary confirms.

Mary conveyed her own excitement about a turn she perceives that Pacifica has made toward action in the world—to change the ecological trajectory, or to transform social injustice. If each individual can actually hold a container in which they look at negative aspects of themselves, and require of themselves a certain integrity, this generates a sort of ripple effect, according to Jung. It lends a kind of stability to an individual, simply by being in a room and being centered. People can feel that, Mary insists. To look at psychotherapy with a poetic sensibility and acknowledgment here in the “middle realm” we inhabit (the same place where the dream of school shootings and other such disturbing events coalesce), then the culture itself can benefit, and not just individuals, she affirms. Jung suggested we work with images by staying with the image. The understanding and transformation derived from the process could take seconds, or it could take years, but if we look at an image with a self-reflective ego attitude until we “come to terms with” the unconscious, it will engender “more goodness, more community, and more understanding.”

Like many people who go to Pacifica, Mary notes, she was at a time of extreme transition in her life when she enrolled there. She recognizes how valuable a container it was for her to find and carry out her work, and cites all the faculty there for “a special kind of courage” for doing things others are not willing to do or to acknowledge in the wider world, and she perceives that they each are following a connection with “something deep within them.” Robert Romanyshyn and Veronica Goodchild, both depth psychologists and authors were especially “brilliant and tender teachers” she confides, and Pacifica itself seems to “collect” people who can participate in this “holding” process, in making a container in which this kind of deep and often life-changing work can be done. For some reason, on hearing this, my thoughts turn to the box proffered by ghostly woman so many years ago.

Listen to the full interview with Mary Harrell, Ph.D., here (Approx. 37 mins)

Learn more about the M.A./Ph.D. program in Clinical Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology at Pacifica


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Mary H. Harrell, B.S., M.Ed., Ph.D., is the author of a new book, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life: Stories from the World Between Matter and Mind.  It comes as a result of research, personal experience, and professional accomplishments in the area of Jungian-oriented psychotherapy. Dr. Harrell, a licensed psychologist, earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and her M.Ed. in developmental reading from University of Delaware.  She is Associate Professor Emeritus at State University of New York at Oswego, Curriculum and Instruction Department School of Education. She served as a K-12 teacher and reading specialist for three decades in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and California.  During 8 of those years she also was a consultant and presenter of teacher effectiveness programs, classroom management skills, learning styles, and teaching strategies for Performance Learning Systems, Inc., in California. Learn more at www.MaryHarrellPhD.com

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Pacifica Pos

Encountering Sabina Spielrein: Forging Paths To and Through Powerful Women in Depth Psychology

In 2011, Sabina Spielrein became something of a household name due to the debut of a mainstream film called A Dangerous Method, starring well-known actors including Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen. The film purported to tell the story of Sabina Spielrein, a young woman psychiatric patient and acquaintance of the infamous doctors Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, pioneers of the modern psychoanalytical and depth psychology movements.

sabina.pngWhen Angela Sells, who earned her degree in mythological studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, first heard of Spielrein in a class at Pacifica, something about Sabina captured her imagination. She began to research Spielrein’s life and work, quickly discovering that Spielrein was a young Russian woman from a well-to-do Jewish family who was institutionalized for psychological distress when she met Jung at age 19. Spielrein’s sister had died at a young age when Sabina was just 15 years old, initiating a profound crisis of faith and much psychological distress. Sabina ultimately was diagnosed with hysteria, leading to her extended stay at the clinic where Jung treated her as an inpatient for an 8-month period of time, and then as an outpatient for a number of years afterward. During that time, Jung engaged in a romantic relationship with Spielrein, a controversial affair that followed both of them throughout their lives, but which affected Spielrein, who entered the affair when she was just nineteen, quite dramatically on both personal and professional levels.

While some of these details correlate with the narrative provided by the film, A Dangerous Method, Sells notes, the story is not only highly fictionalized, it unfortunately amplifies and proliferates the stigma that has followed Sabina Spielrein into the current century. For Sells, who was led to study Spielrein’s personal journals in some detail and has formed her own carefully researched opinions about the psychological wounding that occurred to Spielrein as a result of the affair, the topic of contention is primarily about how Spielrein has been represented in modern scholarship. Much has been made of “just eight months in the life of a teenager” who had an affair with Jung, but, as Sells points out, history has effectively reduced the memory of Sabina Spielrein to that of a teenage girl in treatment who notoriously had a relationship with Jung—when, in reality, she went on to complete her doctorate and to become a brilliant Freudian analyst who made great contributions to the field.

In fact, Spielrein became friends and later colleagues with Freud and was the second female member of the Vienna society of Freudian analysts, where she presented her research. She also became one of the first—if not the first—child psychoanalyst. in 1912, Spielrein originated the idea of the death instinct, a concept which Freud himself took up in 1920. Though the two had different takes on the idea, Freud did reference her work in his own research. Spielrein’s work was often overshadowed, though, in spite of the fact that she had profound ideas as an analyst in her own right, Sells maintains. Among those contributions, Spielrein worked in some depth with the idea of “union,” and what it means both psychologically and mythologically, and reflected upon what our own impulses and instincts are regarding union and the innate desire to want to dissolve into what she referred to as the sublime.

It’s a detriment to Spielrein’s reputation to maintain such focus on her very youthful relationship with Jung when there’s so much more to her as a woman and a psychologist, Sells suggests, noting that historically this is often what happens to women when sexuality is part of the picture, no matter what field they are in.

Sabina Spielrein ultimately died tragically in 1942 when her hometown was occupied by Nazis, but is criticized by some scholars to this day for not publishing more in her final years, even though she clearly faced difficult—if not impossible—life circumstances during that period of time. However, due in part to individuals like Angela Sells, who has taken up the call to remember, Spielrein is increasingly being recognized as an important and innovative pioneer who has been somewhat marginalized by history. Sells continues to bring much deserved attention to Spielrein as both a woman and a professional psychoanalyst, in her upcoming book, Sabina Spielrein: The Woman and the Myth, to be published by SUNY Press.

Sells credits her education at Pacifica for placing her on an exciting and fulfilling path in her research and writing, revealing it has led her to Zurich, Switzerland, and to the Eranos Foundation in Ascona, a somewhat legendary intellectual discussion forum that began in the 1920s and was frequented by Jung and many of his contemporaries. Another Pacifica class in Arthurian legend took Sells to Cornwall to walk in the steps of Arthur, an adventure that filled her with “legend, myth, and story.” All these learnings and experiences have shaped and reshaped Angela as a person, and have “fueled a fire within” for her, she insists, and as a result, she has been writing every day.

Being a woman in depth psychology myself, I wonder at the synchronicity of Angela Sells discovering the work and life of Sabina Spielrein, and how these two women’s lives parallel one another on some level: Angela, in 2016, is pursuing new horizons and making a name for herself through the doorway opened by the work of Sabina Spielrein, just as Spielrein herself labored so diligently a century ago to discover her own powerful journey in life and to make valuable contributions to the field of depth psychology.

As a woman, it’s not always easy to claim that space to move forward, Angela tells me. She believes Sabina Spielrein has helped her to find courage. Angela looks to her in the time of Freud and Jung and how restrictive it was for women in that era, and finds inspiration in what Spielrein did to keep forging her own path.

Personally, I can’t suggest strongly enough that anyone who is seeking transformation should study depth psychology, and anyone who is willing to bring those voices forward is inevitably going to experience transformation. Engaging with the emergent feminine (in Jungian terms) can also help provide solutions to some of the social issues we’re currently experiencing. Following a depth psychological and mythological path can open you up to opportunities that are unique, Angela agrees. Often these are unconscious directions that you could never have predicted when you follow the inner voice that summons you.

Listen to the full interview with Angela Sells here (Approx. 31 mins)

Learn more about the M.A./Ph.D. program in Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology at Pacifica


angela_sells.jpgAngela Sells earned her Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology. She is now the Co-Chair of the Goddess Studies Unit for the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, teaching mythology at Meridian University, and is completing her book Sabina Spielrein: The Woman and the Myth for SUNY Press. She also teaches continuing education courses in mythology and co-produces Yuba Lit, a reading series for great live literature in the Sierra Foothills.

NOTE: This interview and blog post were originally posted at PacificaPost.com

When You Hit a Brick Wall, Turn to Stone Like Carl Jung | The Creativity Post

Carl Jung played with stones during a time of deep confusion. His example illustrates some things we know about the science of creative insight and the making hands-at-work.

Source: When You Hit a Brick Wall, Turn to Stone Like Carl Jung | The Creativity Post

Remembering the Role of the Body in Culture, Trauma, and Everyday Dynamics: An Interview with Dr. Rae Johnson

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, The Power of Myth

 

hiking in natureIf you’ve ever had the experience of being fully in your body, you can likely relate exactly to what Campbell meant when he referred to the “rapture” of being alive. I remember hiking through a rain forest in Belize a few years ago in a mighty tropical rainstorm, boots sliding on slick, wet, red clay earth as I grasped at vines to pull myself up embankments. My leg muscles felt infinitely powerful as they worked in perfect harmony with deep rhythmic breaths that seemed to form in perfect accord with the sound of the rain beating giant fronds all around me. I felt lithe, powerful, sleek—almost panther-like—I remember thinking at the time. And, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I was truly fully embodied in the midst of one of the most powerful places in nature that I have ever been, and I have never felt so euphoric, nor so alive.

This powerful image of my felt experience while in the jungle re-appeared instantaneously for me when Dr. Rae Johnson reminded me of this powerful quote by Joseph Campbell when we recently sat down for a conversation together. Rae is a somatic movement therapist, educator, and researcher, and also the Chair of the Somatic Studies Specialization of the M.A./Ph.D. Depth Psychology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA, and she offered some captivating examples of just how transformational embodied awareness can be—especially if it’s grounded in a depth psychological context.

Click here to Listen to the full interview with Rae Johnson (Approx. 37 mins)

Joseph Campbell, C. G. Jung, and many other scholars with an orientation to depth psychology have emphasized the critical importance of acknowledging and integrating the body in psyche and culture:

“If we can reconcile ourselves with the mysterious truth that spirit is the living body seen from within, and the body the outer manifestation of the living spirit—the two being really one—then we can understand why it is that the attempt to transcend the present level of consciousness must give its due to the body,” C. G. Jung observed. “We shall also see that belief in the body cannot tolerate an outlook that denies the body in the name of the spirit.”[1]

In our conversation, Rae enlarged on Jung’s notion, providing some contemporary and very compelling perspectives on the value of embodied awareness in the process of interpersonal dynamics, in healing the modern mind-body split, and in addressing some of our most challenging social issues that are prevalent in modern society. In modern western culture, Rae notes, it is generally recognized among some philosophers and psychologists that we are somewhat disconnected from our bodies, from the lived experience of our bodies, and also from our ability to work with images and in our relationships to one another and our connection to our environment. But what can we do as a species and a culture to transform what it means to be truly human?

In western society, we’re experiencing a philosophical legacy that has artificially disconnected the lived experience of our bodies from our cognitive capacities, Rae suggests. It has also disconnected our ability to generate and work with imagery from our emotional selves; our relationships with one another, and our relationship to our environment. This sense of disconnect is an artificial condition stemming from philosophical, religious, and industrial imperatives to be a certain way. Reconnecting with the lived experience of the body, with the breath, our senses, and with touch opens up our capacity to be more in touch with all those other domains—more in touch with our feeling selves, with our emotions, with our connections with other people, with our sensory environment, and with the Earth.

Body Language

Rae goes on to address how body language informs how we are with other people and with ourselves. “Recognizing how we speak with and through our bodies is a reclaiming of a birthright that we have as living creatures, that our culture has artificially disconnected us from,” she asserts. Collectively, we are not always consciously aware of all the ways we are constantly communicating with one another, because information can be conveyed in very unconscious ways, an idea evidenced by research in the field of non-verbal communication, which shows that up to 70 percent of communication occurs on that non-verbal level.

Sometimes conflict occurs when two people think they are communicating something verbally, when indeed their unconscious body language is contradicting the words and are, in fact, telling a very different story. Our emotional communications in particular are expressed on a somatic level. If we were socially, psychologically, and emotionally capable of “dropping into ourselves” and sharing with one another how we’re really feeling on a bodily level—then sharing from that place—many of our conflicts would resolve themselves, Rae explains.

Somatics and Social Justice

One topic that really grabbed my attention during the course of this interview was our discussion about how our bodies are implicated in situations of social justice. The place we were born, or the family we were born into (among other conditions) shape ways that we treat each other, Rae reminded me. Some inequalities happen on a systemic or cultural level, but they also occur at a somatic level.

Unequal and inequitable interpersonal relationships evolve depending on how we engage one another on a body level, resulting in “embodied microagressions” that contribute to trauma. Hierarchies emerge in which an individual who is more privileged may refuse to sustain eye contact, for example, or to touch a subordinate without express permission. Even seemingly innocent physical contact, such as laying a hand on an arm, can wear people down through a series of “tiny paper cuts” that occur throughout one’s life. It’s a volatile mix, Rae contends. If an individual is trained to embody authority in an emphatic or rigid way and consciously or unconsciously brings these dynamics into physical space, it can literally have the same kind of post-traumatic effect as we see in returning war veterans.

I am riveted by what Rae is describing, my own awareness of how so many “little things” can add up when we are highly unconscious of them. How do you change a system that is broken? I wonder aloud. How do we break out of these kinds of conditioned and unconscious socialized responses?

The problem is complex and the solution needs to be complex and multi-faceted, Rae believes. What is heartfelt and affirming is that somatic work makes a difference on an individual body to body level that we generally tend to ignore. If we can be willing to engage with someone in a position of difficulty, such as homelessness, we can recognize those who are suffering as full human beings through our own non-verbal behavior. By not avoiding them as if they were contagious, and by making eye contact and offering a smile, for example, we can give the gift of regard and recognition in a situation where it must often seem to the one in despair that no one will offer kindness, connection, and reassurance. Learning the skills to recognize what you’re doing on a bodily level and asking yourself the question, “Is this how I want to be in the world?” or “Is this how I want to engage my fellow human beings?” is beyond valuable. This kind of awareness can lead us to inquire of ourselves what we each really need in our own bodies—reassurances, resources, strengths, or affirmations—in order to be with another human being that conveys to them that values we each hold about all humans being worth of respect and dignity, and of being equal.

Somatic Responses to Traumas

At this juncture in the conversation, I feel compelled to point out that the simple fact of being in physical body, from a soul level, is a unique thing that we take completely for granted. “We have been ‘othered’ from our own bodies through the ways in which we have been socialized,” Rae affirms.

We are all being inundated with the information that we are contributing quite significantly to the destruction of the planet; that our lives are constantly at risk due to some of the socio-cultural trends at work in the world today through terrorism or violence, I insist during the course of our conversation. Surely we are being traumatized by that information, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. How do we concretely engage in a more somatic way of being in the world, to be able to manage and mitigate some of the trauma we’re experiencing on both a conscious and unconscious level?

The cumulative effects of smaller traumas lead to a similar result to one larger traumatic event, Rae suggests. “Our bodies respond to traumatic events in ways that absolutely override our cognitive capacity. It’s not something we can think ourselves into or out of. Our nervous system responds as a survival mechanism when we experience being threatened and we need to be able to recognize how that looks. One of the things that happens is that our nervous system becomes highly aroused and can become dysregulated so we are chronically over-aroused. We can become hypervigilant, acting as if the world were very unsafe even when it isn’t. We can also experience constrictions and have less access to emotions attitudes, and behaviors that can be beneficial.”

Because of the circumstances of the times we’re living, we all feel we’re under threat. We need to feel into our nervous systems and gauge the status. Is my breathing high and shallow? Can I take a deep breath and reconnect to the sense of having my feet on the ground? This can help the nervous system self-regulate and counter the effects of living in a world where we feel under threat.

Increasing our expressive movement repertoire and developing better somatic literacy can allow us to re-establish our communication with others and to reclaim that fluency, vibrancy, and responsiveness that feeling traumatized can take away. “Without the soul the body is dead, and without the body the soul is unreal,” wrote Jung.[2]

We each have neurological structures that wire us into what’s happening on a body level with another individual. If we can manage to breathe deeply and ground ourselves in a given situation, that other person will too. In order to resolve conflicts or make a shift, there just needs to be one person in the room who takes that breath, Rae avows.
Somatic Studies

The Somatic Studies specialization at Pacifica Graduate Institute aids students, some of whom are already certified or licensed counselors—but who come from many walks of life—to develop foundational knowledge and skills in depth psychology and somatics, and then to help them apply that knowledge to their particular area of interest. Students have completed very diverse projects of note: One student studied interspecies embodiment with rescue elephants in Cambodia, for example. Others have engaged in using homeopathy to treat autism, studied embodied archetypes in substance abuse treatment, or inquired into the use of yoga with sex trade survivors in India. Yet another worked with mandalas and children at the Los Angeles courthouse who were waiting to testify in a trial. The applications and possibilities are endless, Rae points out.

Because of the way our culture operates, Rae concludes, most human endeavors missing two key components: One is a recognition of the unconscious and the power of archetype and image, dream and imagination, and the other is a dismissal of the body and the richness of the senses and the capacity of the body to return us to a very empathetic sense of being with human beings who share a lot of our same concerns, conditions, and experiences. How might we each be more in tune with the role of the body in our own lives and work?

Click here to Listen to the full interview with Rae Johnson (Approx. 37 mins)

Click here to learn more about the Somatic Studies specialization at Pacifica.

 

Rae Johnson, PhD, RSMT is Chair of the Somatic Studies Specialization of the M.A./Ph.D. Depth Psychology Program. She is a somatic movement therapist, educator, and researcher. She is the former Chair of the Somatic Psychology Department at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, former Director of the Body Psychotherapy Program in the Somatic Counseling Psychology Department at Naropa University and the founding Coordinator of Student Crisis Response Programs at the University of Toronto. Her research and clinical interests include the somatic impact of oppression, embodied critical pedagogy, and feminist somatic research methods.

 

[1] Jung, C.G. Modern Man in Search of a Soul (p. 220). Christopher Prince. Kindle Edition.

[2] Jung, C. G. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung: Complete Digital Edition (Kindle Locations 181105-181106). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Archetypal Reflections: Dr. Keiron Le Grice on Jungian and Depth Psychologies

C.G. Jung contended that our personalities are made up of a multitude of archetypes, Dr. Keiron Le Grice, Chair of the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, reminded me when he recently sat down with me to share his insights into the field of depth psychology. Each archetype asserts its own aims, moods, and ideas on our personalities, influencing our lives on a day-to-day basis. Jungian and depth psychologies, by aiming to make what is unconscious conscious, offer an entrance point into recognizing and understanding the various deep forces that move through us from one day to the next, engendering a deep comprehension of the psyche and the motivations, instincts, and impulses that are at work in our lives.

Individuation, a term coined by Jung, is a way that we can come to terms with this multiplicity of forces, and to attune to a greater organizing force, perhaps looked at as “the god within.” An archetypal view can enable us to find deep meaning in life, Keiron notes. We live in a time when we no longer have a religious, spiritual, or mythological framework to provide orientation in our lives. To be able to turn within, through the study of dreams and synchronicities that occur to us, through direct engagement with the unconscious and through spiritual experiences, we can begin to find our own personal sense of meaning. When we encounter the numinous, (a term coined by Rudolf Otto and adopted by Jung), that tremendous and fascinating mystery that underlies our experience can ground us in our own spiritual and moral autonomies. We need to each find our own individual myth at a time when the collective myths are rendered invalid by the dominant scientific rational perspective in the western worldview.

Keiron became interested in spirituality in his late teens, particularly dedicating himself to learning astrology (which led him to Jung’s writings), then studying philosophy and psychology at university in England. Disappointed at how mainstream academia bypassed Jungian ideas, Keiron read most of Jung’s Collected Works in his spare time, and pursued the work of Joseph Campbell after seeing him interviewed by Bill Moyers for The Power of Myth. He found himself most impressed with Jung’s Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, written in the 1920s, which focused on the role of archetypes in individuation, and described how these ideas really gripped him. He felt like he was tapping into a deep current in his life, he declares. In his late twenties, his interests in astrology, Jung, and Campbell evolved into a book, The Archetypal Cosmos, which was ultimately published in 2010.

For people who are predisposed to find their way in this field, there’s a “right time” for them, Keiron maintains. For him, discovering depth psychology so early in his life was perhaps something of an impediment to participating in the world because when one is powerfully drawn to the depths of the psyche, it can have a tendency to pull us away from the world, a concept even Jung made note of in his many writings. After having some profound spiritual experiences in his late teens and early twenties, Keiron reveals how he made a conscious decision to put some of it aside for a while and “build his ego” in Jungian terms. He believes, however, that his early exposure was helpful, providing a strong foundation as he took time to integrate and really discern which ideas were relevant and valuable to him and which were not.

Now, years later, as professor and chair of a Jungian and Archetypal studies program, Keiron is keenly aware that the “gifts” of Jungian and depth psychology are that they empower the individual to find a spiritual, mythic, or symbolic mode of being in the world, which, in his words, can counter a sense of existential meaningless which is so prevalent today. It may well be the responsibility of depth psychology practitioners to bring awareness and recognition around the dark side of the unconscious energies that have not been brought into conscious awareness and which manifest in destructive ways, he asserts.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Keiron points out, it says that if you “bring forth what is deep within you, it will save you, but if you do not bring that forth, what is within you will destroy you.” Some of that unconscious destructive energy seems to be surfacing in our time, so the more we can be aware of it, the more we can engage to mitigate it. We need to be able to channel the forces at work in the world constructively, in service of the deep psyche. The challenge of our time for those in depth psychology is to be able to communicate the tenets to a new audience, Keiron believes, to somehow convey the integrity of the ideas through a new medium in a way that they are not rendered superficial. It’s critical to connect people and bring them into community into a web, akin to the noosphere discussed in the writings of French philosopher and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).[i]

Keiron has recently published a new book called Archetypal Reflections: Insights and Ideas from Jungian Psychology,which emerged in a way from exactly that kind of archetypal web he refers to. It is a compilation of short writings and reflections Keiron initially made online in the form of posts to graduate students in the hybrid Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica. These reflections encompass a variety of depth psychological topics organized into themes, including archetypes, individuation, synchronicity, the evolution of consciousness, and the mind/matter relationship among them, delving into material that is essential for both seasoned scholars of depth psychologies as well as those who are new to it.

In discussing his current role in depth psychology, Keiron notes how gratifying it is to see students in the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program—who typically arrive in answer to some sort of call from psyche to be there—move from a more tentative longing to study these kinds of esoteric topics to really moving into a place of maturity, authenticity, and authority as they write about what resonates most with them. At Pacifica, Keiron and other faculty members really strive to cultivate the art of critical thinking for students to bring their own engagement and insight into the field in order to find their own truths in what typically ends up being a profoundly transformative journey.

Hearing Keiron mention this brings back warm memories of my own time doing coursework at Pacifica. I’m compelled to point out that there’s a kind of an inside joke among students there that it’s the “Hogwarts” (of Harry Potter fame) of graduate schools, a place that provides opportunities to learn concepts and skills that truly seem magical in many aspects. It definitely brings us into a more enchanted way of being in the world, Kieron confirms, and therefore counters the disenchantment of the modern worldview, bringing about opportunities to engage with the numinous, the spiritual power and mystery that shines through the psyche in so many ways.

Listen to the full interview with Keiron Le Grice here (Approx. 36 mins)

Learn more about the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica

legrice_keiron.pngKeiron Le Grice is a professor of depth psychology and chair of the Jungian and Archetypal Studies specialization at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, where he teaches courses on archetypes, alchemy, synchronicity, and the history of depth psychology. He was educated at the University of Leeds, England (B.A. honors, Philosophy and Psychology) and the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco (M.A., Ph.D., Philosophy and Religion). Keiron is the founding editor of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, and the author of four books––The Archetypal CosmosDiscovering ErisThe Rebirth of the Hero, and the recently published Archetypal Reflections: Insights and Ideas from Jungian Psychology. He has also taught for Grof Transpersonal Training (UK) and is commissioning editor for Muswell Hill Press in London.

NOTE: This blogpost was originally posted at Pacifica Post, July 22, 2016

Yoga Meets Depth Psychology: Union, Consciousness, Healing

silhouette of woman practicing yoga on the beach at sunset

“The body is merely the visibility of the soul, the psyche; and the soul is the psychological experience of the body” —C.G. Jung

“Yoga is most often understood as the union of the individual with the transcendental self, with what Jung terms the Self.” —Judith Mills

 

In recent years, the practice of yoga has made headlines in the mainstream media as parents in U.S. school districts challenged its inclusion in the curriculum at public schools, insisting it amounts to religious indoctrination and that it violates religious freedom.[1] In the U.S. today, while mainstream yoga is largely focused on physical poses and breath work, historically it evolved over millennia in the context of the spiritual and religious traditions of India. As such, it is not a religion, but rather a philosophy that enables mindfulness and a sense of well-being, among other benefits. No matter where you fall in the debate on whether—and where—it should be taught to children, practitioners of depth psychology and those seeking positive transformation appreciate yoga for its powerful potential to heighten spirituality and increase consciousness.

C.G. Jung, who valued yoga for its evidence-based experiential approach, perceived “important parallels” with psychoanalysis. He made a comprehensive study of yoga, delivering multiple lectures over the course of several years focusing on a psychological interpretation of kundalini yoga. He asserted that as yoga, being the oldest practical philosophy of India, is the mother of psychology and philosophy (which are one and the same thing in India) and therefore the foundation of everything spiritual.[2]

Yoga, meaning union in Sanskrit, seeks to create awakening through somatic experience, cultivating states that connect us more wholly with something larger than our ego selves—the ground of being, the web of life, or what Jung termed the “Self”—effecting a transmutation of consciousness that stems from attention to inner experience. The experiential, embodied practice puts us in touch with our physical being and grounds us more fully in the earth, anchoring us to something immutable, even as our breath and movement serve to make us more consciously aware and to shift inherent patterns and blocks we may be experiencing.

AVENUES OF HEALING

“Yoga teachers are well aware of how the practice of yoga brings awareness through the layers of the body, often dredging up previous traumas and somatic awakenings,” Cheri Clampett, who is a certified yoga therapist with over 25 years of teaching experience, and the co-author of The Therapeutic Yoga Kit confided. “When these two complimentary fields come together, they offer deep avenues of healing for the soma and psyche.”

What are those avenues of healing, exactly? While yoga serves to balance and unite opposing forces to create a harmonious being, Jung went as far as to describe the intersection between depth psychology and yoga as the capacity for liberation, for each to lead to a “detachment of consciousness…a freeing from the passions and from the entanglement with the realm of objects…a psychical experience, which in practice is expressed as a feeling of deliverance.”[3]

Practitioners have long reported the capacity for yoga to evoke the numinous, a term Jung borrowed from psychologist Rudolf Otto to describe something beyond the ordinary; inexpressible or mysterious—something spiritual or sacred that carries us past the ego experience of the everyday self and reveals our divine belonging, our wholeness in potentia.[4] Indeed, yoga has been known to lead to the awakening of Kundalini, a force described as primordial energy, Shakti or universal power, which can be constellated a combination of ritual spiritual and somatic practices. When its ascent culminates in topmost chakra in a “blissful union of Shiva and Shakti,” it leads to a “far-reaching transformation of the personality.”[5]

JUNG AND YOGA

For Jung the Kundalini is the anima, or soul. “From the standpoint of the gods, this world is less than child’s play; it is a seed in the earth, a mere potentiality,” he wrote. “Our whole world of consciousness is only a seed of the future. And when you succeed in the awakening of Kundalini, so that she beings to move out of her mere potentiality, you necessarily start a world which is a world of eternity, totally different from our world.”[6]

Jung believed that yoga originated as a “natural process of introversion,” and that such introversions characteristically lead to personality changes. While Jung viewed these inner processes that evolved from yoga as universal, he felt the methods that led to them were culturally specific.[7] For this reason, Jung discouraged westerners, whose core beliefs are founded on a perception of separation—of dual and opposing poles in the realms of mind and matter, nature and psyche— from practicing yoga, fearing it could lead westerners into territory they were not culturally prepared to encounter. He suggested the west would develop its own “yoga” to explain or engage the unconscious in due time, ideas now being debated in the field of Jungian psychology.

Indeed, yoga, like many eastern or mystical spiritual traditions, is rooted in the idea of non-duality; that is, that all creation, including humans, is an aspect of the divine and is not separate from it. While this kind of transcendent consciousness is potentially available to each of us at any given moment, our ego-identity often stands in the way of that sense of unity. Yoga, in part through enabling us to engage our bodies and to be more in the present moment, allows us to suspend the thoughts, ideas, concerns, and conditioning that typically stand in the way of our sense of the sacred.

Jung makes a compelling description of the kind of transcendence one might experience in awakening to these kind of psychological or spiritual truths. On the subject of freeing ourselves from outer and inner entanglements, Jung wrote that “consciousness is at the same time empty and not empty. . . . no longer preoccupied with compulsive intentions but turns into contemplative vision.”[8]

Lionel Corbett, M.D., Jungian analyst and author of Psyche and the Sacred, writes about this apparent dissolution of boundaries, noting that “innumerable people have been able to …have numinous experiences of union with the larger psyche. In such moments,” Corbett suggests, “the world and the personal self seem to flow into each other, both part of a greater unity, with no sense of separation or personal unity…. In such an experience, the personal self is lost in the larger Consciousness of the Self, revealing our essential continuity with it.”[9]

Corbett points out that Jung, in much of his work, displays a spiritual sensibility that is compatible with the great non-dual spiritual traditions, even while remaining dualistic in his thinking in others. Both these approaches are valuable to psychotherapy, Corbett insists, yet most Jungian therapists ignore Jung’s non-dual thinking. Corbett intends to expand on some of the important implications of non-duality for psychotherapy at the Yoga Meets Depth Psychology program offered by Pacifica Graduate Institute in July.

Another Jungian analyst contemplating the value of the interface between yoga and psychotherapy is Dr. Joseph Cambray, who proposes that Jung’s incorporation of yoga practices and principles in his version of depth psychology started largely with the Red Book in which Jung documented his exploration of his unconscious and his active imagination encounters with various images and figures during that time. In fact, Jung revealed that during this intense period of confrontation with the unconscioushe frequently turned to yoga to eliminate powerful, wrought up emotions that had been stirred up.[10]

The correspondence between yoga and depth psychology emerged in subsequent theorizing that included references to the yogic literature, points out Cambray, including Jung’s Kundalini seminars in which Jung endeavored a western symbolic analysis of the Chakra system. As a long time psychotherapist (and past President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology), Cambray asserts that the interface of these two approaches provides profound advantages for contemporary psychotherapy.

MINDFULNESS AND PLAY

meditation yogaMindfulness is another powerful tool for accessing states of unity and flow according to Dr. Patricia Katsky, psychotherapist and Vice-Provost at Pacifica Graduate Institute who, in conjunction with Dr. Juliet Rohde-Brown, Director of Clinical Training for the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Pacifica, and long-time Buddhist meditation teacher, is exploring the critical characteristics of the mind states that are common to the three fields of yoga, depth psychology, and Buddhist meditation.

Similarly, the two clinicians are inquiring into the implications of “deep play”—a mind state comparable at an adult level to the meaningful childhood play of our past. “Deep play experiences are capable of bringing us into healing contact with the numinous,” writes Katsky. Indeed, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung recounted his own experience of how the act of play created a powerful psychic state in his own life. After spontaneously recalling a childhood memory of play, Jung felt compelled him to take it up again as an adult. Each day, before his patients arrived, Jung succumbed to the urge to “play,” mindfully building an “small town” of stones. For him, it released a “stream of fantasies” and led to an inner certainty that it was helping him to discover his own inner myth. “In the course of this activity my thoughts clarified, and I was able to grasp the fantasies whose presence in myself I dimly felt,” he wrote.[11]

In psychotherapy, Katsky proposes that the therapist mind state of “evenly-hovering attention” is one form of deep play, and submits that the practice of yoga can bring one to similar inner states of release and nourishment, leading us to rich self-reflections, creativity, greater contact with the imaginational world, and to deepened consciousness, including numinous experience.

Ultimately, yoga, like many of the world’s wisdom traditions, can become a portal to the present moment, to being anchored in our bodies and on the earth through the embodied use of breath and movement. This, in turn, may give rise to a dissolution of boundaries, enabling us to feel more relaxed, connected, and unified with a larger ground of reality—even ultimately awakening us to numinous experiences of the sacred. Depth psychology, with its emphasis on engaging the unconscious in order to achieve greater wholeness, can lead us to similar states. 

“At the intersection of yoga and depth psychology lies the threshold where psyche meets soma,” asserts David Odorisio, a depth practitioner who has created a professional practice that integrates the spiritual heritage of the world’s wisdom traditions with Jungian and depth psychologies in an accessible and embodied way. “This mysterious meeting point between soul and body holds unlimited—and often untapped— archetypal wisdom, vitality, healing, and wholeness.”

Join these and other world-renowned scholars and practitioners July 15-17, 2016, for Yoga Meets Depth Psychology: Embodying the Sacred, Encountering the Soul, an experiential, transformational weekend immersion at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Pacifica faculty, including expert-level Jungian analysts and depth psychologists, will present alongside internationally recognized yoga teachers to highlight and illuminate the rich intersections of these diverse yet complementary fields. Details and registration here

Recommended reading: 

The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932 by C. G. Jung, edited by Sonu Shamdasani. Princeton University Press, 1996

Jung and India. Spring Journal, Volume 90, Fall 2013, edited by Al Collins, Elaine Molchanov, and Nancy Cater

Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection, by Judith Harris. Inner City Books, 2000.

“Jung’s Encounter with Yoga,” by Harold G. Coward, Journal of Analytical Psychology23(4), 1978, pp. 339-357,

Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung, edited by Aniela Jaffe (1961). Vintage Books, 1989.

Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion by Lionel Corbett. Spring Journal, 2007.

 


NOTES

[1] See “Beyond ‘Namaste’: The benefits of yoga in schools” by Dana Santas. CNN, May 10, 2016: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/10/health/yoga-in-schools/index.html

[2] Jung and Eastern Thought by Harold Coward, State University of New York Press, 1985, p. 11

[3] In The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, C.G. Jung, p. 83

[4] See “On Psychic Energy” in Jung’s Collected Works, Vol. 8.

[5] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. xxv

[6] In The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. 26

[7] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga

[8] C.G. Jung in “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’ ” in Alchemical Studies, Collected Works Vol. 13, para. 65

[9] Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion by Lionel Corbett. Spring Journal, 2007, p. 25

[10] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. xxv

[11] Jung, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books, 1989, p.174

Ecopsychology: On Educating Ourselves as Ecopsychological Beings in a Psychological World—An Interview with Dr. Lori Pye

Ecopsychology: On Educating Ourselves as Ecopsychological Beings in a Psychological World—An Interview with Dr. Lori Pye

As an activist working with NGOs to stop shark finning in Central America years ago, Dr. Lori Pye was once a target of a malicious act intended to intimidate her.

ecopsychological beingsThe experience plunged her into a sort of psychological crisis. Finding herself face to face with a stark and undeniable image of ecological devastation, she had an epiphany: our own psychological destruction is being expressed in destruction of the ecological world.

The experience profoundly renewed Dr. Pye’s focus on ecopsychology. At the same time, she was also reading the work of James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology. Both of these topics inspired her to take meaningful action in the form of founding Viridis Graduate Institute for Ecopsychology and Environmental Humanities

For Pye, ecopsychology revolves around the idea that we are disconnected from ourselves. Because we don’t know who we are as a species, nor what our role is toward to the planet, we tend to act in very unconscious ways. The idea behind Viridis Institute is to educate individuals about the goings-on in their own ecosystem and in how we each function as an ecosystem from a psychological perspective.

Our culture is looking for effective leaders who can address change in a fast-changing world, Pye notes. Ecopsychology answers this call—both in the “academy,” the field of academia—and in the culture. Bringing together both a scientific, empirical approach and the aesthetics provided by the humanities can help us collectively address the cumulative and dire issues we face right now.

Those who relate to the activist archetype, when educated and trained in an ecopsychological and depth psychological way, often discover that much of their own psychology plays into global events, Pye believes. Jung proffered that individual psychology is reflected in the psychology of a nation. Activism with intelligence, with a psychological dimension, helps us to powerfully, effectively, and ethically make a difference and to assess the consequences of what we are doing. “The impetus of ecopsychology is to educate the psyche. It’s to engage in a psychological conversation with an ecological organism, and engage with an ecological conversation with a psychological organism,” she states.

We need a psychological education, and imagery that can lead us into a different future, Pye emphasizes, and that change starts with each individual doing ecosystemic work on him or herself. We can all be educated on our sense of “who we are as an ecosystem or ecological organism living in a psychological world.”

Download the audio interview here  (approx. 32 mins)

Listen/stream audio on YouTube

Learn more about Dr. Lori Pye and her work at www.ViridisInstitute.org

 

lori-pye-2016Dr. Lori Pye is a Founder and President of Viridis Graduate Institute. Dr. Pye’s background consists of environmental & marine conservation, undergraduate and graduate academic instruction. As an environmentalist, Dr. Pye worked with international NGOs to co-develop the Eastern Tropical Pacific Biological Seascape Corridor with the Ministers of the Environment from Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador.

She has led international conferences on diverse issues: Nature and Human Nature, The Mythology of Violence, The Aesthetic Nature of Change, and These Women: Honoring Women in Archetypal and Depth Psychology. Dr. Pye’s unique contribution to the developing field of ecopsychology brings together the sciences and humanities through the examination of literature, art, ecological, biological, and depth psychological principles essential to the processes of transforming deeply rooted unconscious narratives that drive human practices, civic illiteracy, policies, and decisions about how we design and craft our world in both creative and destructive ways.

Dr. Pye has multiple publications in peer-reviewed journals and has taught internationally and serves on the Editorial Board for Ecopsychology Journal. She currently lectures at Viridis Graduate Institute, University of Santa Barbara (UCSB), and Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital Psychiatric Residency Program. Learn more at www.ViridisInstitute.org

  http://depthinsights.com//radio/Lori-Pye-Ecopsychology-Viridis-062416-final.mp3

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