Archive for synchronicity

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

 

The Therapy Room and the Interactive Field: Dr. Joseph Cambray on Becoming a Supervisor in Depth

Psychotherapy is pervasive in contemporary culture. Even if you’re not a therapist yourself, if you’re taking the time to read this post, chances are good that either you or someone close to you has been involved in therapy at some point in their lives. And, while you may feel you have a good understanding of what happens in the therapy room, there may be more than meets the eye.

Do you ever wonder, for example, what has to occur in the therapeutic process so that the basic experience is what it needs to be for both the client and the therapist? How does a therapist tap into the unconscious in order to help the client be more of “who they are”? How does synchronicity—and the interactive field that emerges between two individuals—serve up messages from the unconscious for the benefit of the work? More, where does the therapist her/himself turn for help in honing their own intuition and skills that ultimately contribute to their own individuation process in working with clients?

These are all questions I asked Jungian analyst, Dr. Joseph Cambray, when he agreed to take a few minutes away from his busy schedule as provost at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Dr. Cambray is co-leading a 10-week course, On Becoming a Supervisor in Depth, along with Linda Carter, Avedis Panajian, Lionel Corbett, and Patricia Katsky starting March 3, 2016, at Pacifica.

Joe Cambray is not only eminently qualified to offer insights on what goes on between a client and therapist in the therapy room, he also has a long history around the process of supervising other therapists, having taught a course on becoming a supervisor for nearly 12 years at Harvard Medical School. More, his landmark book, Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe, also reveals how Joe is uniquely qualified to help each of us identify ways in which unconscious patterns are at work in our lives and in our journeys of individuation.

Joe describes his own perspective on what has to happen in the therapy room so that the basic experience is what it needs to be. While the focus is on the internal life of the person and on them becoming more of who they are, he notes, there is a symmetry between the client and the therapist. The therapist pays attention to his or her own reactions within the dialogue, and uses them to guide him.

blog_supervisor.pngThrough clients’ dreams and through certain events in their lives, it is possible to see how the unconscious is mobilized and activated. More, there is a field that transpires between the therapist and client—what Jung himself might have described as “a multi-dimensional field within the limited frame of our own sensory perception.” Therapists hone certain skills and processes that enable them to tune into what’s emerging into the field between the two individuals. As images arising in the therapy begin to create resonance, it enables us to perceive how the archetypal field is shaping itself, and what’s coming into consciousness.

Perceiving the field is about the “third”—the supervenient— the extraneous or unexpected, Cambray asserts. It’s “something holistically larger” that happens between two individuals that neither can own, but that both are within: an “emergence”—or “emergent phenomenon.” The mind emerges out of the brain in interaction with the environment, including the narrative dimensions of the environment.

How do you begin to go about training a therapist to notice the field, and what is emerging in the field, I wondered aloud. Cambray points out how the process is illustrated in Jung’s Red Book, and in the way in which Jung took great fantasies that were disturbing him and entering into those fantasies rather than repressing them or disregarding them. While there were psychological dangers to this kind of work, Jung persisted, and he set a pathway for us to follow.

Some of the analytic tools therapists use to perceive the field are reverie –that is, sitting quietly and observing the contents of the mind and watching what emerges; countertransference, when the reactions of a therapist that are activated within the therapeutic dyad might be considered a communication from the unconscious, and therapists as resonant instruments in the process; or what Cambray calls objective empathy, where the therapist is empathic with the whole of the situation— including the unconscious dimensions—and not just the client’s ego. Joe recounted a transformational experience of being in analysis himself when he realized the analyst was speaking directly to a figure from a dream they were discussing, bypassing Joe’s own ego completely, as if he were a bystander in the process.

In fact, the way we traditionally understand empathy is far too limited, Cambray suggests. Jung’s notion of a psychoid unconscious (or archetype), in which the structure of the world is intuitively informing us all the time, is an important aspect of the process. Cambray, who refers to “the artistic intuition of the psychoid,” points out how extraordinary elaborate geometric patterns that exist inside 13th century mosques in Iran could not be “worked out” with any of the simple geometric tools that we have—and, in fact, were not replicated by scientists in the west until the 1970s and 80s. Seemingly, five hundred years prior to our current science, the craftspeople who created the patterns were in touch with a fundamental geometric structure of the universe.

blog_supervisor_pollock.pngA more contemporary example, Joe states, is recent analyses of the fractal qualities that are inherent in Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, which reveal Pollock had “spontaneously intuited a way to get at the optimal amount of fractal density.” It’s that kind of intuitive knowing from nature—not from a cognitive rational process—which, when they emerge in therapy and supervision, are art forms.

All this prompted me to inquire how synchronicity, the topic of Joe’s aforementioned book, shows up in the therapy room and in supervision. In complex systems, there is language available that allows us to talk about the way interactions create a larger, holistic structure, Joe submits. Intuition is that part of our psyche that has evolved to pick up patterns—and those are not necessarily causal patterns. Joe sees synchronicity arising in supervision, in the therapy room; even when he does analysis using Skype, noting some interesting examples. We have only scratched the surface of looking at synchronicity with Jung’s work, Cambray believes. The fields (between us) have synchronistic dimensions to them. It’s a fundamental part of the structure of reality.

blog_supervisor_flying_v.pngUltimately, Joe notes, we can look to nature for some remarkably creative solutions. As a culture, we’re just beginning to touch on biological intelligence. Ant colonies are incredibly intelligent as a whole unit in the way they solve problems. Insect swarms or flocks of birds that act in perfect sync, with no apparent guiding principle that overtly tells them all to turn left at the exact same moment, are also examples. Nature provides a set of micro-cues that create collective behavior “in the most wonderful and mysterious ways.” What we call intuition is some of that kind of collective phenomena, Joe suggests.

I agree. Given our conversation, I’m more motivated than ever to pay attention to emergent patterns. And, for all the ways we each strive to perceive what is arising from the unconscious, you can bet the best therapists are tuned in to help us interpret and digest what emerges, and that each of them has a supervisor who is equally engaged.

Listen to the full audio interview with Dr. Joe Cambray here (Approx. 30 mins)

Join Dr. Joseph Cambray and colleagues Linda Carter, Avedis Panajian, Lionel Corbett, and Patricia Katsky, for a 10-week series, “On Becoming a Supervisor in Depth,” starting March 3, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute.


joe_cambray.jpg

Joe Cambray, Ph.D., is Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Pacifica Graduate Institute as well as a Jungian analyst. He is Past-President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology, and former US Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology. For years he was on the faculty of the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies at Harvard Medical School where he co-taught a year-long course on becoming a supervisor. His numerous publications include the book based on his Fay Lectures: Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe; a volume edited with Linda Carter, Analytical Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives in Jungian Psychology; and a two volume compendium on research in analytical psychology co-edited with Christian Roesler and Leslie Sawin currently in publication. In addition, he has published numerous papers in a range of international journals.


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 blog post was originally published on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute on February 18, 2016.

 

Jung and Synchronicity: The Union of Nature and Psyche

C.G. Jung, one of the founding fathers of depth psychology, was a strong proponent of balancing rational thought with non-cerebral intelligence, insisting that consciousness inherently resides in the body and in the natural world around us. In fact, he was quite taken by Austrian Nobel prize-winning ethologist Karl von Frisch’s notion of how bees communicated navigational information to their sister bees so that they could forage the best pollen around the hive. Frisch’s research suggested the “waggle dance” performed by bees was both intelligent and purposeful, demonstrating an organizational impulse that stemmed from the “bottom up”—that is, situated on an intelligence that existed a priori in nature (Cambray, 2009).

Jung’s corresponding work on the concept ofsynchronicitymade great strides in resolving the split between mind and body, the characteristic human form of the larger, more cosmic rift between psyche and nature. Jung coined the term “synchronicity” to mean “meaningful coincidence” after determining that seemingly causally unrelated events, which appeared to be unconnected, had aprioriconnection to one another, occasionally manifesting in conjunction with one another, bringing meaning(C. G. Jung, 1960/1985). The existence of synchronicity meant that irrational or anomalous phenomena we tend to disregard from a causal perspective actually are part of a larger pattern imbued with meaning(Pauli, Meier, Enz, Fierz, & Jung, 2001).

Jung determined that the psychological and physical features we perceive in the world are dual aspects of one underlying reality(Pauli et al., 2001). He came to view mind and matter as a continuum, with psyche located on one end and the physiological instinct on the other, and the archetype serving as the bridge between them(C. G. Jung, 1947/1985, p. 216), though he ultimately expressed a desire to do away with a theory of psychophysical parallelism altogether in lieu of a unitary reality known as theunus mundus, a union of spirit, soul and body(C. G. Jung, 1958/1978a, p. 452).

Pointing to ways in which inanimate objects seem to “collaborate” with the unconscious by forming symbolic patterns, Jung even cited instances where clocks stop at the moment of their owner’s passing, or where items break within a home where someone is going through a powerful emotional crisis.

The evidence for an enduring connection between the outer world and the inner, embedded within a larger reality, seemed to grow clearer for Jung, particularly later in his life. “Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors,” he(1947/1985)went on to say, “it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing” (p. 215).

Each of us has likely had some experience of synchronicity in our lives, where things in what we consider the “outer” world seem to be engaging, responding, or interacting with what’s going on in our inner emotional or psychic life. If you begin to pay attention, you’ll notice these kinds of experiences everywhere you go. Could it be because there really is no separation?….

References

Cambray, J. (2009).Synchronicity: Nature and psyche in an interconnected universe(1st ed.). College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

Pauli, W., Meier, C. A., Enz, C. P., Fierz, M., & Jung, C. G. (2001).Atom and archetype: The Pauli/Jung letters, 1932-1958. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1978a). A psychological view of conscience. 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. 10, pp. 437-455). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1958)

Jung, C. G. (1985). On the nature of the psyche. 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. 8, pp. 159-234). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1947)

Jung, C. G. (1985). Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle. 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. 8, pp. 417-519). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1960)

Ensoulment and Synchronicity: Concepts from “Cosmos and Psyche” by Richard Tarnas

Ensoulment and Synchronicity: Concepts from Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas

In his 2006 book Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, Rick Tarnas suggests that the western mind has catapulted us away from a fundamental cosmos where everything was ensouled, alive, and animated by meaning and archetype. Our modern mindset is, instead, to attempt to control and manipulate our environment, making us the active subject in any interaction, and the things we see around us the passive object. Tarnas suggests “disenchantment” refers to the way the world is objectified, thereby denying subjectivity. “Objectification,” he contends, “denies to the world a subject’s capacity to intend, to signify intelligently, to express it’s meaning, to embody and communicate humanly relevant purposes and values” (p. 21).  By objectifying the world around us, we enable ourselves to believe that we can manipulate and determine our own existence, giving us greater freedom and autonomy.

Seeing oneself as the only source of life and intelligence in a universe that is increasingly dead and soulless leaves us in a vacuum where we are increasingly aware. (I’m also inclined to believe it makes many of us feel more alone, alienated, and disconnected from a sense of belonging and community, contributing to a culture where the sharper and sharper contrast of me versus them causes more people to act out via shooting rampages, suicides, or violence.)

Tarnas suggests that some of this objectification stems from the first moment mankind used a tool, making him the subject and the thing he was acting upon an object. Rather than being on equal terms, then, with everything else in his world, mankind began to ascend, leading to a hierarchy which placed himself at the top of a world where all things were neutral (or dead), and could have meanings or values or uses projected on them at the will of the human. Hence, a world that was previously rich with signs and symbols and intentions all with a life and intelligence of their own was replaced with a world that is devoid of any meaning without that assigned to it by human beings. The sense of balance and equality with nature and the cosmos was lost.

Tarnas proposes that the dichotomy (or antagonism) contributes to an increasing environment of alienation—and I would add, a greater gap between self and “other.” Rather than participating in a world that has a soul of its own (known as the anima mundi in depth psychology terms) which communicates in a rich kaleidoscope of mythical, divine, and numinous being, all sense of continuity between self and the world around them is disrupted leading to a breach in the participation mystique where the direct participation of human, nature, and divine no longer is believable or possible. C.G. Jung stated, “The collective unconscious surrounds us on all sides… is more like an atmosphere in which we live than something that is found in us” (in Tarnas, p. 59). Clearly, then, the boundaries created between self and things, self and other, self and world, and things and things became so multiple and diverse that we find ourselves divided from self and from the unconscious—and therefore losing a sense of meaning.

Tarnas also covers the concept of synchronicity in some detail, referring to it much as Jung did as “coincidences in which two or more independent events having no apparent causal connection nevertheless seem to form a meaningful pattern” (p. 50). Tarnas goes on to state “the dramatic coincidence of meaning between an inner state and a simultaneous external event seemed to bring forth in the individual a healing movement toward psychological wholeness, mediated by the unexpected integration of inner and outer realities.” He relates that events like these frequently lead to a new personal orientation where the world is suddenly seen as being rife with meaning and intentions beyond simple human projection: there seems to be, in short, a significant and intelligent order to what previously seemed like chaos.

Tarnas stresses that Jung held the belief that synchronicities served a similar function to dreams and psychological symptoms that essentially served to counteract the one-sidedness of the psyche and turn the person toward the unconscious and therefore toward greater wholeness—that is, individuation. In other words, we can benefit from a synchronistic event by allowing it to challenge and redirect our own conscious attitude. By observing more of the aliveness and autonomy of the world around us, we begin to allow synchronicities to occur. What would happen if you took a moment now to look around and notice what’s speaking to you in your environment, wherever you are?