Archive for Culture & Society

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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The Genius Myth: An Interview with Storyteller and Author, Michael Meade

When Michael Meade was thirteen, his aunt, seemingly by accident, bought him a book of mythology for his birthday. Though he felt profoundly aligned with the book and stayed up all night reading it, it would take another 20 years before it became evident it was his path in life, guiding him to his current calling as a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar in mythology and depth psychology.

“The soul’s way of being is unique to each person,” Meade wrote in his acclaimed book, Why The World Doesn’t End. “It was seeded and sown within each of us from the beginning and it tries to ripen throughout our lives. What exiles us more than anything is the separation from our own instinctive, intuitive way of being. We are most lost and truly in exi
le when we have lost touch with our own soul, with our unique inward style and way of being in this world.”

Child Walking In Woods To Glowing Red DoorIn a recent interview, Meade shared insights with me into his own mythological and depth psychological view of how—though we’re living in a radical time when it seems like the world is falling apart; when “nature is rattling and culture seems to be unraveling”—being in touch with one’s innate genius is “an unerring guide to what a person’s life is supposed to be about.”

Meade’s latest book, The Genius Myth, focuses on how a person navigates a period of such turmoil and uncertainty. Meade’s use of the word “genius” is based on the old sense, he notes, referring to the unique spirit that is in each person’s soul, a concept often obscured in the modern world. One example of how the individual soul is oppressed is in that of transgendered individuals, Meade points out, especially children for whom the issue is active in them for some mysterious reason. The notion of the individuality of each soul makes it more feasible to respect the differences we all live in spite of appearances or backgrounds. One’s “complex” of abilities and gifts is what makes each individual unique and valuable. In a collective society, the uniqueness of life is often overlooked, yet this is the very thing that often provides meaning and purpose in an individual life.

In the face of what Meade terms, the apparent “unraveling of the world,” I wonder how each of us might tap into the genius within. It is important to distinguish the genius myth from the hero’s journey—introduced into the mainstream by the legendary Joseph Campbell, Meade responds. This is what Meade does in his new book, The Genius Myth.

Discussions in Depth Psychology, Click Here to listen to the Interview with Michael Meade

Meade describes the hero as a person making “dramatic moves in the outer world,” emphasizing that in the hero’s journey, the accomplishments are in the outer world. Further, the hero is associated with a masculine way of being from a depth psychological sense, as the “hero” is linked to power and strength. The Genius Myth argues that the genius was already there before we were born, and is not only something we bring to the world, but even something that brings us to the world. It is about discovering the genius within.

Meade, who works extensively with youth suicide situations, has found that many youths who committed suicide in the United States feel empty inside. The culture contributes to this feeling, imposing the belief that one must “make something of themselves.” Meade’s stance is that each of us already is something. We have to make ourselves aware of who we are.

Given the dramatic changes going on in the world—and the rapidity of that change—along with “the rattling and even hollowing out of institutions,” there’s not much in the outside world a person can depend upon for orientation and coherence, Meade declares. We must look inside to find the orientation of our lives and ways to cohere. One idea is that of an inborn genius that encompasses not only the gifts and abilities of a person, but also our purpose and destiny.

Meade refers to the need for “vertical imagination.” In mythology, he notes, there’s an old idea that there’s always two stories going on: one is the ongoing story of the world, and the other is the story of the individual soul in the world. The soul involves the depth of a person, and in depth, a person is naturally connected to nature and the world around them. Our world has become rather flat, Meade suggests: Everybody is connected all the time, but it’s a horizontal connection. The connections don’t go deep enough to contain the growth of soul that is needed for either the individual or world, and we can see that in the consequences of that in increasing polarization and division, exemplified very tragically in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, as well as in other current events.

People get back into an imaginative creative connection to the world through vertical imagination. Our connection goes deep into the soul on one end, where it connects not only to deep emotions but also the depth of feeling for being—for being present in the world and being connected to the world in depth, Meade believes. The other connection goes upward where one is connected to the great “high ideas” and the great imagination where people used to consider themselves connected to the stars. The human was originally intended to be the channel between the stars of the sky and the core of the earth, he insists. Each human is in that connection if they awaken to it.

The problems we are experiencing, whether in nature or culture, will not be solved without a vertical imagination. Healing needs to happen in our culture—not only in connection with genders— but also between races, in the political arena, and in ecosystems, waterways, and forests, among other things. According to Meade, we are living in a time when everyone’s genius nature is being called upon; perhaps there is even an acceleration of calling and vocation as “both nature and culture need an awakening of the genius in as many people as possible.”

Michael goes on to offer two ways to access our inner genius, not the least of which is to glean what we can from traumatic circumstances or rejection by one’s family or community, both instances where the genius is often awakened most strongly. Jung wrote that genius hides behind the wound, so whenever we harbor a wound, we may believe that our genius was an integral part of our survival. “Something deep in the human soul awakens when things fall apart,” Michael penned in Why the World Doesn’t End.

Meade closes with some thoughts on what he views as the two layers of hope: One is the sort of naïve hope that has to ultimately be deconstructed, and there is also despair, meaning “to be without hope.” It’s generally essential that we, at times, fall into despair because at the root of despair is another level—a second layer—of hope. That layer, in depth psychology, might be called imagination—imagination being the deepest power of the human soul. “When we think that all is lost, we are actually falling closer to the deepest ground of soul, which, you could say, has the power of imagination,” he insists. “Imagination is what we need in order to begin to reimagine and recreate the world.”

Meade recounts an Irish myth that teaches us that when the center can no longer hold—as currently appears to be the case in a current political, economic, and ecological sense—we must go to the margins and find the thread that intrigues us there. Then, upon pulling those threads of genius, the center is remade. “A person doesn’t need to be heroic,” Meade insists. “A person just has pull the the threads of their own life as close to the center as possible and they are contributing to the renewal of the world. If enough people were pulling the threads, we would be participating in the re-weaving of the world.” Further, if this re-weaving strikes a chord with you, it’s probably not a coincidence. “There is an old deep sense that we are being called on—we have always been called on—to be our own selves. That’s the real job of a person.”

Jung called this process “individuation,” Meade affirms. Individuation is not only the natural calling for the individual, but the world itself is calling on people to come to consciousness and individuate on an individual level. Once enough of us are doing that, the imagination of assisting the world to renew itself becomes possible.

Michael Meade is presenting a weekend workshop, “The World is Churning: The Myth of Genius, The Genius of Myth, July 8-10, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute. “Pacifica is one of the few homes in the entire culture for depth psychology and mythology,” Meade notes. “It’s one of the very few places where those two essential studies are being honored.” At the workshop, Meade plans to discuss creativity, imagination, and the genius in the soul in order to discover how to encourage this in ourselves so we can do meaningful work in the world. “Pacifica is the right place to do that,” Meade proclaims.

Get more details or register for the “The World is Churning: The Myth of Genius, The Genius of Myth” with Michael Meade, July 8-10, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute: http://www.pacifica.edu/current-public/item/the-myth-of-genius-the-genius-of-myth

Mosaic-Multicultural.jpgMichael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology. His hypnotic and fiery storytelling, street savvy perceptiveness, and spellbinding interpretations of ancient myths are highly relevant to current culture. He is the author of many books including Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of the Souland The World Behind the World. Meade is founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to education and cultural healing. For more information, visit www.mosaicvoices.org

 

Note: This blog originally posted at Pacifica Post June 27, 2016

The Value of Multi-Cultural Perspectives in Depth Psychotherapy: Interview with Dr. Matthew Bennett

Counseling is an applied healing art that helps us address suffering, enrich personal lives, activate our potential, to live more fully, and to develop more adaptive capacities to life in the view of Dr. Matthew Bennett, a psychotherapist and lecturer who teaches Counseling program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. More, psychotherapists and counselors that have a depth psychological orientation are prepared for a “broad spectrum slice of the human experience,” which for Bennett, includes the ability to be emotionally present in difficult emotional circumstances or even to simply better hold and tolerate emotionally powerful situations.

Depth psychology is grounded in the humanities, Bennett reminded me when we connected for an interview on the topic, and therefore it can contribute to an individual experiencing a fuller and richer life. Being able to identify with different kinds of people and to accommodate varying perspectives are just some of the advantages that depth training can contribute to a therapeutic practice. In addition, if one is willing to be a student of the human mind, and of the context provided by mythology and literature, it all serves to “broaden us out”—in a depth psychological way.

Jung spoke of his own work in archeological terms, which does imply a depth that is “going toward the center,” Matthew points out. All depth psychological orientations anchor us, and mythology, storytelling, dreams—even reading fiction—each express some dynamic of what it means to be human. Each contains energetics that are useful in reconciling opposing points of view. That’s how depth becomes breadth, Matthew says. It enables us to countenance the deeper or chthonic layers of life and to draw closer to the archetypes, where things become not only more dynamic and more irrational, but also more powerful.

Jung warned against getting too close to the archetypes, Bennett notes, because identifying with an archetype too strongly may potentially lead to one being consumed by it, so there is a need to take action—to come back from that world and operationalize and integrate what was found and experienced there. Bennett relates how certain old Zen stories tell of pilgrims who go out into the wilderness seeking enlightenment, but who always end back “bare of breast in the market, buying vegetables.” For Matthew, this signifies closing the circle, of coming back home again; of bringing what was learned into everyday life.

Matthew, who spent three years in the Peace Corps in Warsaw, Poland—his own version of “venturing into the wilderness” I would dare to say—insists he found a new way of being in the world through the experience. “The kinds of capacities that depth psychology encourages and fosters allows us to be more in the world more fully and more vibrantly,” he insists.

Peace Corps and Pacifica  Announce New Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program

The idea of wholeness is, in fact, a fundamental idea of Jung’s work, and it entails in part developing the ability to embrace the parts of ourselves that are not wholly conscious, welcomed, or appreciated. It’s important to engage those aspects of the world (and therefore ourselves) in order to make meaning. Reflecting on this, I am reminded of something Jung wrote about how critical it is to go out into the world and encounter people in everyday situations in order to relativize and amplify our understanding:

Anyone who wants to know the human mind will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart through the world. There, in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, Socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with real knowledge of the human soul[1]

Bennett likens the idea to something written by Terence, the Roman slave who became a playwright: “I count nothing human as alien to me,” a statement that further illustrates how reality is grounded in human experience. Bennett goes on to point out that T.S. Eliot even insisted that magical formulas are for practical results, such as getting a cow out of a bog. Bennett’s own work has largely been connected to helping people be in this world, he notes, not to transcend out of it. In the end, that was the instinct that led him to the Peace Corps.

Bennett, who served from 1991 to 1994, never intended to join the Peace Corps, but as he describes it, it was just something that “grew out of” him, and which unfolded in a series of small steps that led to it. He likens it to Tolkien’s hobbits, whose walkway approaches a larger road, that in turn leads to the whole world, and you “never know where you’re going to get swept off to”—which is also true of depth psychology, Bennett points out.

Listen to the 28 minute interview with Dr. Matthew Bennett here.

When our conversation turned to the question of whether Americans are too identified with our own culture, Bennett offered a clear perspective. The American culture is a powerful solvent, he suggests, making it easy for us to dissolve into it. It’s a big country with peaceful borders, vast resources, and intellectual vibrancy with fewer of the conflicts many other countries face. It’s easy for Americans to “float” through our culture and be “suspended” in it, Matthew insists: “Culture is a prism through which we view all of reality, and I think reality itself is culturally determined.” In a consensual reality, the more people decide and agree what is real, the more powerful an idea becomes, he notes: It’s good for us to step out of the culture and see what else is out there.

Joining the Peace Corps and other similar kinds kinds of experiences serve to place people in new cultures. Matthew reminds me that there is a tradition of young people of means, particularly in Europe, to take a year off school and travel the world, and joining the military also provides a similar experience to some extent. To be able to turn around and view one’s own culture from afar is valuable and healthy. Often it’s said it’s harder to re-enter one’s own culture after such an eye-opening experience, he notes, and it illustrates how powerful and seductive one’s culture can be. Such insights include the meaning of truth, justice, and even life itself—and such beliefs as the role of men and women, among others. When we’re able to take back and take those cultural differences in stride, the more we’re going to be able to take those differences in stride when trying to help people who are culturally different.

Having had the good fortune to study abroad myself during my undergraduate years, and to travel quite extensively since in a myriad of cultures that are vastly different from my own, I can relate. Being able to see how people live and think in ways that are often radically different from own very way of being in the world has opened my own eyes to new and different ways of seeing—changing me so much even that I occasionally find myself impatient when I feel others are unable to imagine a certain perspective I have gained and adopted through my experience. In depth psychological terms, identifying, opening to, and ultimately embracing the “other” is a required step toward wholeness.

However, culture isn’t something that necessarily can be or should be transcended, Bennett believes. Like personality organization, another core interest for Bennett, each belief is like its own little culture contributing to a sense of self. Sometimes cultural information contains something almost akin to survival data. The combination of information, the lenses we engage, really flow from how we understand ourselves to be. The process of psychotherapy then, becomes the journey of beginning to understand it and empathize with it. For a therapist, it’s figuring out how a client “makes sense.”

“Just that act of treating people as if they made sense, and trying to connect empathically with how it does make sense is really heart and soul of what I think psychotherapy and counseling are,” says Bennett. “Visiting other cultures and seeing the world sets you up up for that and makes it easier to do.”

The Peace Corps, in partnership with Pacifica Graduate Institute, recently announced the launch of a new Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, which will provide graduate school scholarships to returned Peace Corps volunteers who complete a degree-related internship in an underserved American community while they pursue their studies. The Coverdell Fellows Program gives returned volunteers the chance to build on their classroom experience by sharing their unique knowledge and skills with local communities.

Matthew Bennett is presenting a 2-day workshop, Artifice of Eternity: Aging and Long-Term Care, July 16-17, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Learn more or register at http://www.pacifica.edu/current-public/item/artifice-of-eternity-aging-and-long-term-care

[1] C.G. Jung, “New Paths in Psychology.” In Collected Works 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, p. 409

Matthew-Bennett.jpgMatthew Bennett, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, lecturer, and administrator with experience in public sector mental health and substance abuse treatment. He has broad experience in program development. He was formerly founder and first Director of Training for the Ventura County Behavioral Health Pre-Doctoral Internship in Clinical Psychology and Chair-Elect of the Psychology Department at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, California. His research interests include personality disorders, comparative personality theory, and internet applications for mental health. Dr. Bennett is also a returned Peace Corps volunteer (“Poland III, 1991-1993”).

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on Pacifica Post June 22, 2016

Limitless Growth, the Destructive Myth of our Times: Part One of a Report on a Talk Given by Dr. Vandana Shiva

The idea of limitless growth is the most destructive myth of our times, began Dr. Vandana Shiva, in her inspiring plenary talk at “Climates of Change and a Therapy of Ideas,” Pacifica’s recent 40thanniversary conference held on the Ladera campus in Santa Barbara, CA.

Vandana Shiva, who trained as a physicist at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, is Founder and Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology and for Navdanya, the movement for seed saving and ecological agriculture. She is also the author of numerous books including Staying AliveEcofeminism, Seed Sovereignty and Food Security: Women in the Vanguard (Ed.), Soil Not OilEarth Democracy and Who Feeds the World.

In her moving lecture, Shiva reminded the hundreds of Pacifica students, alumni, and faculty—along with many members of the larger community who gathered in the Barrett center—that we are now living in an age recently dubbed the “Anthropocene,” the “age of man,” and pointed out some of the cultural and ecological issues that have led to the multitude of critical situations we now collectively face. 

Shiva is a powerful voice for preserving the earth and healing culture and planet through conserving natural seeds, promoting biodiversity, and helping people connect to the land through organic gardening.

While some scientists are looking to implement geoengineering solutions to combat climate change, including launching chemicals or reflectors into the sky to reflect the sun and prevent warming (as if the sunlight were the problem, she wryly notes), organic gardening would allow us to pull 10 gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere.

In fact, one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases is farming, I learned. Industrial agriculture, in particular, results in disturbance of massive amounts of earth, releasing excess CO2 normally sequestered in the soil into the atmosphere. Fertilizers, also, are large contributors to carbon emissions, and the use of pesticides and insecticides containing deadly chemicals is widespread in most industrial farming.

In addition, the loss of biodiversity to large tracts of lands planted with acre after acre of so-called “monocrops” such as corn and soybeans completely obliterate ecosystems that provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other pollinators to survive. The word agriculture refers to the “culture of the land,” Shiva pointed out, yet today, due to the way we treat the land, agriculture has become like war.

More, Shiva contends, in large part due to our history of colonialism which infringed on the rights of indigenous individuals in many parts of the world, a few individuals and organizations have been enabled to take advantage of the situation, not only taking over land and property that belonged to the original inhabitants, but also by setting legal precedents that work to their advantage.

Specifically, some of those corporations that produce chemicals for the agricultural industry, such as fertilizer and pesticides, are misusing their power to create lucrative initiatives that she finds highly disturbing. Corporations such as Monsanto have created monopolies on gigantic tracts of land, planting them with specially engineered seeds that often integrate pesticides right into the seed.

In her book, Soil Not Oil[i] and elsewhere, Shiva discusses how a new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, developed by Shell and Bayer and chemically related to nicotine, are killing the soil and the pollinators that provide us with food. Only 10% of butterflies remain because of the spraying of RoundUp, she suggests; most are emerging from their cocoons with deformed wings. My own doctoral research, which focused in part on Colony Collapse Disorder, the mass decimation of honeybee hives, revealed that “neonics” are also implicated in loss of honeybees.

When RoundUp and related pesticides are sprayed on the crops we ultimately eat, Shiva relays, it leads to the decimation of bacteria that make precursors to neurotransmitters, effectively killing much of the good bacteria in our guts, allowing pathogens to grow and take over. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, which is generously sprayed on genetically engineered crops, may indeed be a culprit in the process Shiva describes.[ii]

The rapid increase in rates of autism, which may be linked to pesticides, is also a growing concern. When I looked into Roundup specifically, I discovered that as of 2009, the line of RoundUp products, including genetically modified seeds, represented nearly 50% of Monsanto’s business.[iii]

Ultimately, Shiva contends, organic agriculture feeds the planet with more nourishing food and can sequester the carbon we need. Seed programs, like the movement she started with Navdanya to create seed banks, can ensure our collective future, too, and maintain the diversity desperately required for our future prosperity. Those individuals that have the capacity to destroy life on earth have an incapacity to understand how they are destroying it, Shiva insists, and we need more hands and love on the land to beatify the earth and help the land to heal. What is it we will do now?

Learn more about Vandana Shiva’s conference talk in Part Two of this report, coming soon.

NOTES

[i] Vandana Shiva (2008). Soil Not Oil. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.

[ii] Joseph Mercola. (June 9, 2013). “Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease”. Mercola.com: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx

[iii] Matt Cavallaro. (June 26, 2009). “The Seeds Of A Monsanto Short Play”. Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/29/monsanto-potash-fertilizer-personal-finance-investing-ideas-agrium-mosaic.html

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on PacificaPost.com

Confronting Signs of a Society in Decline: An Interview with Journalist Chris Hedges

When I met Chris Hedges online for our recent interview together, I could see why Pacifica Graduate Institute invited him to speak at their milestone 40th anniversary celebration conference, Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas, which takes place April 21-24, 2016, in Santa Barbara, CA.

As a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Hedges carries with him nearly two decades of experience reporting from war-torn countries like Yugoslavia, El Salvador, and also Gaza and South Sudan. In this capacity, he has witnessed the decline and disintegration of multiple societies, a perspective which has surely influenced his capacity regard the decline and potential destruction of our own modern culture that seems severely out of order.

He has been described, more than once, as being “dark,” which, from a depth psychological perspective, I’m quick to assure him, is actually a compliment. Depth psychology insists we look under the surface and in the margins of things in order to better understand them, and then requires that we witness and hold what we find in spite of the darkness from which we might easily prefer to flee. Chris appears to take this in stride: recognizing and carrying the knowledge that contemporary society is facing its own morbidity, in some ways, has fallen squarely on his shoulders.

decay.jpgHedges notes that, as both individuals and civilizations, we encounter cycles of growth, maturation, decadence, and decay, and death. In contemporary society—especially modern society—we can see the signs of morbidity around us, in our boundless use of harmful fossil fuels, in much sought-after expansion beyond the capacity to sustain ourselves, and in the physical decay of the environment and in the places we inhabit.

There are common patterns and common responses to decline and collapse across eras and cultures. While our culture is more technologically advanced in comparison with that of Easter Island, for example, it is arguable that human nature has not really changed. Who was it that cut down the last tree on Easter Island, for example? He wasn’t thinking, Hedges asserts, and neither are we today! Since the Jungian viewpoint is that we are each on our own journey of individuation, increasing consciousness and moving toward wholeness, for me, Chris’s point raises the question as to whether our culture should actually be individuating as well—but is somehow stuck in its process.

How is it that most of us, myself included, are able to go about our daily lives engaging in habits and participating in systems that are destroying the planet, harming each other, and generally contributing to the detriment of society? There is a psychological mechanism by which people seek to blind themselves, Hedges insists. We tend to cling to a belief system that essentially shuts us off, disconnects us from what’s actually happening around us. Those individuals that dare to name the reality often become outcasts in the society. The seers are condemned and vilified.

We carry with us a sort of “sick mania for hope,” says Hedges. If news isn’t positive or hopeful, we dismiss it or deny it. The majority of the population of a civilization in decline simply don’t want to hear the truth about the situation because the future seems too bleak. If you take just the issue of climate change, Chris explains, you can see that we live with two illusions: One, that it doesn’t exist; or two, that we can adapt. While most of us are hiding out in denial, according to Nietzsche, Chris reminds me, it is the role of intellectuals and artists, to see and confront the reality through their work.

“When you don’t confront the perils around you; when you build psychological mechanisms or walls—which we have done with the aid of technology and the aid of culture, then you’re almost guaranteed to commit collective suicide, Hedges tells me, adding, “The consequences …for my children and for future generations is catastrophic because if we don’t radically reconfigure our relationship to each other and to the earth, we are going to have to begin to confront the extinction of the human species.”

Yes, for so many reasons, one can see why some people have described Chris Hedges as “dark.” Having written my own dissertation at Pacifica on a phenomenon I termed “culture collapse disorder,” I spent many long hours contemplating the darkness of some of these same ideas. I remember Buddhist eco-scholar Joanna Macy writing that we, as humans, collectively live in fear of confronting the despair that we all carry—a despair that derives from dread of realizing for the first time that the human species may not pull through.[1]

denial_blog.jpg“There is a kind of subterranean understanding the the ground is shifting in incredibly dramatic ways,” Chris agrees, but we certainly have our ways of coping and shoring up our denial. Our society has built mechanisms of indoctrination around consumerism and entertainment. Technology, he suggests, rather than being a boon for consciousness, has instead served to shut down the most basic understanding of who we are as individuals and as a society.

Hedges introduces the term “atomization,” utilized by twentieth century political philosopher Hannah Arendt to describe how communal organizations (including bowling leagues and stamp clubs) have been obliterated in our culture, and how people have retreated into their own narrow circles and cut themselves off from establishments that made participatory democracy possible. Fewer and fewer people are showing up to churches and historical societies these days, he points out. With atomization comes a dangerous “cult of the self” which seeps into every aspect of our lives—including spirituality.

In the course of our conversation, I am reminded of something James Hillman once penned, writing:

Soul-making must be reimagined. We have to go back before Romanticism, back to medieval alchemy and Renaissance Neoplatonism, back to Plato, back to Egypt, and also especially out of Western history to tribal animistic psychologies that are always mainly concerned, not with individualities, but with the soul of things (“environmental concerns,” “deep ecology,” as it’s now called) and propitiatory acts that keep the world on its course.[2]

It’s a question of a society that honors the sacred—as pre-moderns did, Chris responds when I read Hillman’s words. Nothing has an intrinsic value in a corporate-capitalistic society. Everything has an exclusively monetary value, including human beings and the natural world, which we exploit until exhaustion or collapse. Chris cites Karl Polanyi’s work, The Great Transformation, in which Polanyi states that these societies have built within them their own self-annihilation, and points out that Polanyi, although he is an economist, actually uses the term “sacred” in his writings. In Hedges’ opinion, we have lost both the capacity to understand the sacred and the capacity for reverence for the sacred, resulting in the destruction of the very forces that sustain the earth and the community.

So, I wonder aloud: How do we reconnect with the sacred?

back_to_nature.jpgChris doesn’t hesitate. Severance with natural world is a big part of the problem, he contends, and intrusions like television and Internet have fed the decay, disintegration, desensitivity and numbness of the wider culture. We have to find ways to unplug and find our way back to nature. Nature is what allows us to realize we are not the center of the universe. We’ve also lost connection with the voices of our ancestors, who can free us from the trap of modernity. We need to be able to reflect on what it means to have a life of meaning and to participate within a society. When we’re cut of from those voices, then in many ways we’re cut of from what it means to be human.

I can’t agree more with this diagnosis. It is at the heart of what I understand from my own studies in depth psychology. Our best hope to weather the coming storm and stay centered through the disintegration of society as we know it is to reconnect with those powerful forces that give us context and meaning, and to continually contemplate what Jung himself once wrote: “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.”[3]

Listen to the full interview with Chris Hedges here (Approx. 33 mins.)

Learn more / Register for Pacifica’s upcoming 40th Anniversary Conference, Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas

[1] Joanna Macy, “How to Deal with Despair.” Originally published in New Age magazine, June 1979

[2] James Hillman and Michael Ventura, We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy—and the World’s Getting Worse, p. 51

[3] C. G. Jung,  Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp. 356-7

 


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Chris Hedges, M.Div., whose column is published weekly on Truthdig.com.com, has written 11 books, including the New York Times best seller Days of Destruction, Days of RevoltDeath of the Liberal ClassEmpire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle; I Don’t Believe in Atheists; and the best selling American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. Hedges previously spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans and was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and The University of Toronto. He currently teaches prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey.


bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, 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 Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

NOTE: This post was originally published on Pacifica Post, the official blog post for Pacifica Graduate Institute, on March 7, 2016

Jung, Individuation, and Film (includes Audio Interview)

Ever since I met Dr. Glen Slater in 2008, I have known him to be a particularly passionate and knowledgeable advocate of film. I often see his film reviews in Jungian and depth publications, and his background in clinical psychology and religious studies—along with his interest in technology and culture—make his commentary especially valuable.

jung_film_blog.jpgIn a recent interview, Glen and I sat down together for an intriguing depth discussion on Jung, individuation, and film.

To begin, Dr. Slater notes, while we can think of individuation as coming to one’s deep self or unique character, it’s also the place where one comes to contribute to the larger human story. The individuation process is both deeply personal but also transpersonal; both universal and archetypal. At any given time in a specific culture, individuation is about finding a deep relationship with those energies that are coming up from the collective psyche. Jung believed that “no one can individuate on a mountaintop,” Glen reminded me. Therefore, at the same time you are growing into your own genius, you are also finding where your own life resonates with what is emerging collectively.

Since we need models and mirrors, films are a key place we go today for myth. Films provide a wonderful arena where we can see characters going through the process of individuation—not only experiencing change and transformation, but also finding a deeper understanding of who they really are. As Joseph Campbell pointed out in The Hero’s Journey, there is often initially a refusal of the call, but eventually archetypal forces align to draw the character in to their deeper destiny, Glen states. While a character may initially be uncertain in the journey to individuation, more often that not, they reach a point where an event occurs that seems to spark the idea that they need to serve.

In our culture, we live in a dualistic state in which we all deeply long for a vision that is unitive; where what happens outside is connected to what’s going on inside our mind, Slater notes. Therefore, film, by nature, is an excellent tool for melding inner and outer, enabling us to recover that sense of presence, unity, enchantment, or magic.

So how does one begin to look at a film from a Jungian lens? The answer is definitely related to this idea that the outer world is reflective of the inner world, Slater insists. You must make the bridge with what is known in Jungian psychology as “symbolic thought,” the idea that what occurs in the story is metaphorical rather than literal. The process of individuation may be regarded as “living the symbolic life,” suggesting we must move from an egocentric place of being, to looking at events with a kind of curiosity that asks what things mean on a deeper level.

It’s not hard to know when a film is resonating with something going on in our inner worlds.  When we walk out of a film, it either stays with us or it doesn’t. It’s a litmus test, Glen claims. Does it stay with you or linger in the way a powerful dream might? Paying attention to the way certain stories or characters stay with us helps us discern the material that is touching the psyche.

So what are the new values and energies that need to come in to drive the process? For one, films can empower us to see what’s on the horizon for our culture. As an example, Glen emphasizes that at a time when many Jungian and depth thinkers are talking about the return of the feminine in our current masculinized culture, certain female “heroes” (like Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron in the recent Mad Max: Fury Road) carry a very different value system than we have customarily seen before.

films.jpgOne especially important point Slater notes is that often a protagonist does not move up and out into the light, but rather down into the underworld. Intelligent filmmakers are able to show us the shadow side of our culture instead of parading the heroic values that are traditionally held up in a culture. In our discussion, Glen cites examples from films like American BeautyMillion Dollar BabyCarol, and Star Wars for various interpretations from Jungian perspectives. Jung’s work provides a great toolbox in terms of articulating the archetypes, he asserts.

When I asked Glen how the word “soul”—so commonly used in Jungian and depth psychologies—applies to film, he had a fascinating perspective. He suggests soul refers to a sense there is something outside the ego, that is directing or shaping our experience so that we are drawn into a feeling that there are other presences at work. He points to Jungian and archetypal psychologist, James Hillman, as someone who thought of soul as “that dimension of experience where the spiritual comes into the world”—into everyday embodied experience. For Hillman, the sense of soul requires something that is substantive, something “felt.” In this way, soul is related to the magic and enchantment.

Slater contends that we can identify the presence of an archetype when the “universal” and the “unique” are together simultaneously. Film must absolutely engage our imaginations. And, while images do engage us, for our imaginations to really be set on fire, archetypal patterns have to be activated, creating resonance, and lingering on well after the lights come up and the theater empties. What’s the last film you saw that really set your imagination alight? If you have to think about it, it may be time to see another film.

Listen to the full audio interview with Dr. Glen Slater here (28:29 mins) 


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Glen Slater, Ph.D., has a background in both religious studies and clinical psychology. He teaches Jungian and archetypal psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, California. He edited and introduced the third volume of James Hillman’s Uniform Edition, Senex and Puer, as well as a volume of essays by Pacifica faculty, Varieties of Mythic Experience, and has contributed a number of articles to Springjournal and other Jungian publications—several in the area of Jung and film.


bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, 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 Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

NOTE: This blogpost was originally posted on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute, on February 3, 2016

The Return of the Goddesses-in Mysteries!

Notes on a Depth Discussion between Susan Rowland and Bonnie Bright

detective_blogIf you are an avid reader, the mystery genre is likely a familiar presence in the pleasures of your pastime. Those who love detective fiction really love it, as author and scholar Susan Rowland insists to me in a recent interview, and there is a strong ritual element in the reading and writing of mysteries. There are certain consistencies in every story that one may begin to expect; and yet they continue to enthrall us even as they unfold. Mystery novels hold a place for ritual in our culture, and a sense of wanting to repeat something we already know about, things we expect each time we pick one up.

Rituals allow the sacred to be embodied, as Rowland argues in her latest book, The Sleuth and the Goddess: Hestia, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite in Women’s Detective Fiction. In the reading and writing of mysteries, the sacred is enacted, creating a space which is inhabited by the goddesses.

Jungian and archetypal psychologies point out that there is never just one god, Rowland asserts; there can’t be just “Hermes” in hermeneutics (the study of texts, and especially written texts). He is not the only god of writing. While our culture has primarily been influenced by a tradition that is masculine-focused, one must ask: Where are the feminine gods in writing? If they are in our psyche as depth psychology suggests, then they are going to be in what our psyche does—including reading and writing.

Susan relates that all her work has been interested in the feminine and in depth psychology, and she has always been interested in detective fiction. Upon moving to the U.S. from England a couple of years ago, she wanted to understand what it meant to be a woman in America. She began to notice archetypal patterns that emerged from the work of women mystery writers, which, in turn, coincided with the work of depth scholars Christine Downing and Ginette Paris, who were writing about the goddesses, and with Susan’s own longtime, ongoing interest in detective fiction.

Susan points out that detective fiction was born around the same time as depth psychology. Culturally, she notes, the genre emerged as a response to some of the same kinds of cultural pressures as depth psychology did, beginning in the time of Freud. Since the beginning, women writers have been looking at what it means to be a woman hero. These goddesses are returning through women-authored mysteries because the “mysteries” are, well—“mysteries”—especially in the ancient sense, like the Dionysian mysteries and the Eleusinian mysteries. This is true for all detective fiction and anywhere the imagination is cultivated.

thesleuthandthegoddessIn the book, Rowland takes a detailed look at each of four ancient Greek goddesses: Hestia, Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, and gives examples of how these goddesses have influenced the Western world and how they show up in specific characters and settings in novels from women writers. Artemis and Aphrodite, for example, are both goddesses of nature and of human nature. As such, they may be seen as ways of knowing.

The origins of depth psychology and detective fiction are both rooted in problems about “knowledge,” Susan insists. Depth psychology recognizes there is a problem because so much of the psyche is not being acknowledged in the modern world, and that creates a problem.

Rowland offers the notion that there is often a lot of humor to be found in detective fiction, as well as in Jung, citing examples of Jung’s humorous treatment of certain material. These exemplify how humor is a way of engaging and processing the material.

In the interview, Susan reveals to me that one of the reasons she wrote the book is that there is so much potential in bringing a depth psychology polytheistic lens to a topic. Detective fiction begins in America, with Edgar Allen Poe, who has been a fascination for depth psychology especially with Lacan. The figure, the detective, knows knowledge is problem—like the psychoanalyst does, Rowland insists. The detective needs to find and identify clues and track them back to something that cannot be known fully—the mystery of life death. Ultimately, there is an urgent cultural need to become the figure who will search for the bigger clues that will reveal the mysteries of the psyche, and this profound archetypal notion is truly at the heart of Rowland’s new The Sleuth and the Goddess.

You may access this informative interview, “The Return of the Goddesses—in Mysteries!”—Susan Rowland in conversation with Bonnie Bright about Susan’s book, The Sleuth and the Goddess: Hestia, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite in Women’s Detective Fiction here (as well as find info to download a free chapter of the book).

(Approx. 36 mins)

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on the Pacifica Post at http://www.pacificapost.com/the-return-of-the-goddesses-in-mysteries

Outside vs. Inside: A Depth Psychological Perspective on the Planetary Crisis and the Psyche/Nature Split


If the “outside,” as we in modern western cultures generally consider the physical world, is manifesting rather worrisome phenomena in the form of conflict, destruction of nature and home places, and racial and income inequality, we can draw a connection from what is occurring in the physical world to what must be occurring on an inner level, and therefore witness symptoms in the psychological realm as well.

The physical symptoms that are manifesting lie within a larger set of underlying issues, which, in turn, are psychological symptoms of an even larger and more fundamental issue: the sense of separation and loss due to our dearth of what C. G. Jung considered the “feeling function” in the world. This feeling function is often overlooked in lieu of our general propensity to adopt the “thinking function” and to disregard the value (and intelligence) of things in the nature.

Psyche and nature are intrinsic to one another, occupying adjacent positions on the same spectrum of being. In light of this, ecocide—the destruction of home and home places in the physical world—may be seen as a pollution, contamination, or killing of psyche in what we have traditionally considered the inner world. Our brazen destruction of nature is so symbolic of the destruction of the connection with the collective unconscious or what Jung called the Self.

Our wholeness is no longer intact; our psyches are under attack and are, in turn, unable to “house us” properly because of the damage. Deforestation, wildfires, floods, and the like may be witnessed not only in the outer world, but may also be applied to the inner world of psyche. The Cartesian split between nature and psyche can result in a rampant deforestation of the psyche, leaving the ecosystem of the self out of balance, or leave us vulnerable to inundation by the unconscious that can swamp our psychic boundaries, leading to neurosis or even psychosis.

The climate of current culture is changing, and so is our inherent capacity for healing, learning, and individuation, a psychological and spiritual journey of self-realization. At the end of the road, if something does not shift, we will see death of a certain sort—very likely extinction of life as we know it, a transformation to a new way of being in the world: a new culture that arises that is not longer consumer-based, but one based rather on community, reflection, and connection.

Ashok Gangadean (2006), director and founder of the Global Dialogue Institute and professor of philosophy at Haverford College, also stresses that our ego-based cultures are no longer sustainable and are now at a tipping point vis-à-vis a planetary crisis. However, the real crisis, he maintains, is a crisis of consciousness—and we are undergoing a painful transition to increased wisdom and awareness.

The psychological fallout of such dire news is apt to be significant, and some psychologists worry that we, as a culture, are not equipped to deal with it. A report from the National Wildlife Federation (Coyle & Susteren, 2012) suggests that destruction to our planet in the form of the ever-increasing threats posed by climate change “will foster public trauma, depression, violence, alienation, substance abuse, suicide, psychotic episodes, post-traumatic stress disorders and many other mental health-related conditions,” (p. i) and indicates mental and social disorders including depressive and anxiety disorders, PTSD, substance abuse, and suicides will increase dramatically, as will incidences of violence.

Jung (1928/1977) corroborated the connection between the crisis emerging in the so-called “outer” world and the critical correlation with the psyche:

Just as outwardly we live in a world where a whole continent may be submerged at any moment . . . so inwardly we live in a world where at any moment something similar may occur, albeit in the form of an idea, but no less dangerous and untrustworthy for that. Failure to adapt to this inner world is a negligence entailing just as serious consequences as ignorance and ineptitude in the outer world. (p. 204)

Clearly it is vital to reflect on the psychological and spiritual issues underlying our individual and collective pathology when it comes to ecological destruction and environmental distress. Not only is our perception of profound division from the earth and nature a significant issue, but a lack of a generative myth for our time, of connection and communication with ancestors and spirits of place, and the opposing pervasiveness of the “hero archetype”—particularly in the United States, driving us to seek success as individuals at all costs—all contribute to a modern mindset that is often working invisibly beneath the surface of our conscious minds.

It is the work of depth psychology to seek to perceive the underlying issues, endeavoring to discover what is beneath the surface or on the outer margins of a given topic, inquiring more deeply, reading between the lines to begin to understand what is occurring at the root of things. The planetary crisis of potential collapse we now face as human beings can be perceived by first observing and taking time to reflect on the pattern of external physical symptoms, which are inevitably derived from underlying psychological and spiritual issues we generally maintain both as individuals and as a culture.

Then, it is imperative to shift our gaze to another, deeper layer, one that exists beneath the surface level of the manifest physical symptoms of a world in crisis and begin to derive the psychological issues that are at work. How can we shift a gaze we are not quite aware of in daily life? If you feel the call to make a change in your own life—or make a difference—seek out the aid of the practitioners listed here on DepthPsychologyList.com. They can help you understand what the greater Self is trying to communicate to reprogram ways of being.

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References

Coyle, K. J., & Susteren, L. V. (2012). The psychological effects of global warming on the United States. http://www.nwf.org/pdf/Reports/Psych_Effects_Climate_Change_Full_3_23.pdf

Gangadean, A. (2006). A planetary crisis of consciousness: The end of ego-based cultures and our dimensional shift toward a sustainable global civilization. World Futures: The Journal Of General Evolution, 62(6), 441-454. doi: 10.1080/02604020600798627

Jung, C. G. (1977). The relations between the ego and the unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 7, pp. 121-241). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1928)

Archetypal Aspects of Home

“Home” is a word weighted with affect and associated with rootedness, attachment, belonging, shelter, refuge, comfort, and identity. When our relationship to “home” is considered in the context of depth psychology, the study of the unconscious pioneered by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung among others, it stands to reason that our individual notions of “home” may impact us rather profoundly.

A severed connection with “home,” particularly with the earth that supports and nurtures us, produces physical, emotional, and psychological implications. That is to say, the lack of a connection with a “home” that offers us a sense of psychological and spiritual wholeness, potentiality, and belonging in a larger archetypal manner may well compose the very heart of our disorder.

Depth psychology calls for an understanding of how we are influenced by invisible elements beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. Tracing a path from the notion of “home” which we each carry, backward and down into its deeper meaning and psychological effect on us, can begin to shed light on why we treat the earth so destructively that we have come to a state of potential culture collapse.

In At Home in the World, Jungian analyst John Hill (2010) relates how the biological origins of home began with the animal instinct to mark territory. The fight or flight mechanism, to defend space or to abandon it and flee, also carries a critical effect on our psyche since home is tied to caretaking, nurturing, and sustenance. Home has an affiliation with landscape, community, and surroundings, and it is connected to history, memory, and clan, Hill asserts, defining it further as a “narrative reality,” the manner in which we attach to a place a person or an object, a nation, a group, a culture or an ideal. These attachments are experiential, conferring a sense of belonging. Home, whether a physical place or a psychological concept, is a container for those who reside within its borders.

This concept of home as a container, a place to which one can belong, is what C. G. Jung referred to as archetypal. According to Jung (1964), the unconscious is made up of archetypes, autonomous instincts, patterns, or behaviors, which are common across all eras, peoples, and places. Concepts that are archetypal in nature may be recognized without need for definition or explanation. Recognizing and understanding the archetypal aspect of home, then, enables us to see how leaving or losing home can set one askew, rendering us vulnerable, tentative, frightened, and ungrounded—in both a literal and figurative sense.

Gun Violence in America: Jungian and Depth Psychology Perspectives


Gun Violence - a Jungian and Depth Psychology PerspectiveIn light of recent events at Isla Vista/UCSB as well as the hundreds of other gun violence incidents across the country and the world, I wanted to share/re-share some depth psychological resources and discussion around the topic. But first, some statistics courtesy of NBC News

  • Every year in the U.S., an average of more than 100,000 people are shot, according to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.
  • Every day in the U.S., an average of 289 people are shot. Eighty-six of them die: 30 are murdered, 53 kill themselves, two die accidentally, and one is shot in a police intervention, the Brady Campaign reports.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 335,609 people died from guns — more than the population of St. Louis, Mo. (318,069), Pittsburgh (307,484), Cincinnati, Ohio (296,223), Newark, N.J. (277,540), and Orlando, Fla. (243,195) (sources:  CDFU.S. CensusCDC)
  • One person is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week. (source: CDC)

Meanwhile, as many psychologists and commentators alike are saying, the problem goes well beyond gun laws. Our cultural container and systems for treating mental health are simply not adequate to treat people with the deep-seated issues that often precede such violent acts. As you’ll note in many of the following resources, the general agreement is that focus needs to be on the underlying depth psychological issues that apply to the profile of mass shooters, who are often young men.

First, depth psychologist Craig Chalquist’s latest post “No Man Is an Island: Recognizing Gun Violence as a Cultural Symptom,” is an insightful depth psychological take on the problem, even employing a terrapsychological view based on the psychology of place where the shooting occurred.

 

Many Depth Psychology Alliance members joined Jungian analyst, Dr. Michael Conforti, and me for a two-part teleseminar“Beyond Horror and Hope: The Archetypal Intersection of Innocence and Evilwhich were exploratory conversations in response to the Sandy Hook Connecticut school shooting. We offered these in 2012 after the shooting in NewTown, CT, but I think they are still so relevant today if you want to listen to the archived recordings.

 

In January 2013, I interviewed depth psychology professor, Dr. Glen Slater, for Depth Insights radio podcast, The Roots of Mass Shootings: A Depth Psychological Look at Gun Violence, a conversation that touched on his 2009 article in Spring Journal, “The Mythology of Bullets.”  You can find a link to the full article, courtesy of Spring Journal, on that podcast page.

Finally, I mentioned some of my thoughts at that time in a short blog post on here on DepthPsychologyList.com“The Shadow of Society and its Role in Mass Shootings.”

Please feel free to comment on any of these resources here, or share some you have come cross that you have found insightful or worthwhile.

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