Tag Archive for archetype

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

Seeing the Shadow—The Importance of Depth Psychology in Leadership: An Interview with David A. Laveman & Bonnie Bright for Depth Insights™

In this written interview, Depth Insights™ host Bonnie Bright interviews David A. Laveman, who brings depth psychology insights into the business world to help executives and organizations to raise the bar on performance and deliver breakthrough business results.

Here Dave shares how depth psychology plays a role in leadership, a critical aspect inside and outside the corporate world today.

BB: Why is Leadership an area that Depth Psychology should care about?

DAL: The answer is fairly practical. It begins by looking squarely at the conditions we live in as part of a global economy and international community. These conditions – broadly characterized by ecological fragility, interconnectivity, democratization of information and overall accelerated “change”—are inescapable. The implications of these changes are always surprising us. Consider for instance the dramatic rapidity of regional political change popularly known as the “Arab Spring.” Or the ecological dangers triggered by the Japanese Tsunami. In terms of Depth Psychology, I’m reminded of the rather provocative title of archetypal psychologist James Hillman’s (1992) dialogue with Michael Ventura, We’ve Had 100 Years Of Therapy And The World Has Gotten Worse. It is a polemic against the insular nature of psychotherapy and the fact that “personal growth” doesn’t necessarily lead one into active involvement with the world. Hillman notes that while it may be good to have a deeper understanding of how our psyche works, that alone doesn’t ensure that we finds out about the way the world works. 

Hillman in this same polemic further notes that personal growth often involves “loss”; the loss of inflations, the loss of illusions. However, often those who are widely known as “leaders” are vested with vast institutional powers, which encourages all sorts of narcissistic display. Is this a loss of illusion and inflation – or just the opposite? From Hillman’s view psychotherapy as it is currently practiced, tends to “internalize emotions.” He then aptly points out that the word emotion comes from the Latin ex movere which means “to move out” and that “emotions connect to the world” (p. 11). Following this thread of reasoning, my assertion is rather basic: by applying the insights gained from a hundred years of exploring the unconscious, to the world populated by institutional leaders, we are ensuring that those with the most power to affect the things that affect our lives—our environment, our economy, our safety—are alert to the powerful forces that exist in the psyche, especially the mostly unconscious complexes, and skillful in converting insight into engagement.

We’ve seen enough of the damage done by leaders who have no idea what inner demons they are projecting onto the social landscape. Given the explosion of technological innovation and its inexpensive and uncontrolled dissemination, the stakes in the second decade of the 21st century couldn’t be higher. It is time for those who have spent decades investigating the nature of the psyche to be far more actively engaged with the “leaders” of all institutions, but especially those of business and government. This engagement needs to happen “on the court” where the game of leadership whicis played out in everyday decisions, relationships and initiatives.

This void is now being filled by a thriving leadership development and coaching industry. Unfortunately many of these practitioners know little about the dynamics of the unconscious, how to work with shadow projections on an individual and organizational level and how to recognize archetypal patterns. The emphasis is on conscious mastery, skill building, and behavior modification. These are all useful but not sufficiently effective in creating the “transformational” change that is both promoted by their practitioners and more importantly truly needed by the institutional power centers to become centers of a renewed global culture.


BB: First, I love that you are connecting leadership to the very significant (and growing) cultural and ecological issues going on our planet. Crises of all kinds seem to be becoming commonplace. As these increase as they are likely to do, we are going to have such a tremendous need for far greater leadership than ever before. It’s so important that the leaders who emerge moving forward have that understanding of emotion, shadow, archetypal patterns at play—all the “depth” aspects that depth psychology is so concerned with. 

Meanwhile, I agree with you and James Hillman that there is an aspect of leadership that cannot be dismissed or denied: active involvement with the world. How can anyone calling themselves a leader rely on learning without experience in order to make difficult decisions or offer solutions and strategies to solve critical issues? It reminds me of something Jung said: “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 textbooks a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with real knowledge of the human soul.” (“New Paths in Psychology.” In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. p. 409). 

Many of us would consider the types of places Jung refers to as places to avoid, not wanting to expose ourselves to the dirtier, darker, or volatile aspects of humanity. But true leaders need to be able to hold all of it without revulsion or judgment. It’s so important not to sweep the shadow side of our culture and our humanity under the rug for we are likely to sweep our own shadow right under their with it. Again, I’m reminded of Jung who said “The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate.” (Christ, A Symbol of the Self, para. 126, Collected Works 9, Pt 2.)

One example of this might be when someone who very vocally promotes his extreme fundamentalist views about fidelity in marriage and ends up being the person who gets caught in an extramarital affair. Can you point to any contemporary examples of how certain leaders either are or aren’t able to embrace the shadow and/or seem to be possessed by shadow or archetypal patterns or images that are playing out? (I should point out that a given archetype isn’t necessarily good or bad, of course, but it’s in the imbalance at play when someone is possessed by it and doesn’t know it). In those examples, what could those individuals have done differently, or what are some ways leaders might begin to learn to recognize the unconscious shadow?

DAL: These are BIG question with endless implications. First before we dive into examples, it’s worth keeping in mind that as we move into concrete, fact-based situations what remains implicit in the background are our assumptions and already-provided classifications. For instance, most corporate senior leaders and consultants believe they know what is good and what is not. And if they expressed too much doubt, this could easily be seen as signs of weakness. Of course, with a little thought, what is beneficial and destructive needs qualification: do we mean short or long term good? Do we mean that which is strictly beneficial to the commercial interests of the business, or do we mean what is beneficial to the larger ecosystem upon which is our common ground? We can get very philosophical about all this. What I want to remain present as I cite examples are the relative, context bound nature of any given situation.

Take for instance, the values of an enterprise so often espoused by leaders, HR professionals, and consultants. Many revolve around three themes: a respect and concern for the individual; the responsibility to be a good corporate citizen; and the importance of being a leading innovator that improves people’s health and quality of life. However as noble as these espoused values are, they are often at odds with the values in action—in other words, the values that the corporation lives every day. In that case the values in action are those of “efficiency,” “doing more with less,” and above all, “growth.” These are what rule the day.

To be clear, I am not necessarily speaking against these latter values, but rather to the “gap” between the espoused values and those that are in action on an everyday basis. It is in this gap – between these two poles—where the corporate “shadow” lurks.

A critical value that Depth Psychology can bring into the corporate world is to generate a broad and deep awareness among its leaders the true nature of the shadow. In common language, the “dark side” and “blindspots” to which we are all prone, is often thought of as being synonymous with the shadow in common language. The fundamental nature of the “shadow” that has direct relevance to corporate leaders is this: the shadow does not reveal itself as such, but rather, is often externalized on to a troubling aspect of the environment “out there” and thus it tends to be either denied all together or addressed with simply rational “problem solving” behavior. Because the shadow exists in the nature of the psyche and is secondarily projected to the external world, its recognition requires leaders to tolerate the psychic tension and a searching introspection. However externalization is typically the rule rather than the exception, with the result often being entrenched “us vs. them” boundaries and a continuous search for scapegoats.


BB: You’ve just offered a compelling description of the status quo, not only in organizations but for individuals as well. This notion that we externalize things is very significant. Executives, coaches and those working in organizations often get training on “problem solving”—and of course step one is to identify the problem. But when the actual problem is incorrectly assigned or the issues underlying the problem are not identified, how can it truly be worked with authentically and solved? It is critical to look at the systemic nature and constantly inquire into what is invisible, hidden, unspoken, or marginalized. This is where the real issues lie, and leaders that have the capacity to recognize it truly have the opportunity to lead, and those who fail to look can quickly move (and move the organization) into dangerous territory, wouldn’t you say?

DAL: Yes, one example I observed first hand illustrates the real consequences associated with an ignorance of the shadow, and the exponential effects of this ignorance when it takes place in leaders vested with significant institutional power to determine the fate of companies that provide meaningful employment and direct significant natural and economics resources. A private equity firm had just paid billions of dollars to acquire a very profitable sub-division of a major Fortune 100 Global Company. They hired a highly seasoned senior executive to be the CEO of the newly acquired sub-division. This CEO excelled in communication skills, and came from an allied industry (but a different sub-sector) after a successful career as CEO of his former company. His mandate by the new owners was simple: dramatically reduce costs and prepare the business to be resold in a 3-5 year timeframe for three times its original cost. To make this CEO’s life easier, he was allowed to move the corporate office 3,000 miles away to be closer to his home, and of course was given major financial incentives if the owners met their financial goals.

The private equity buyer was expert in financial engineering and understood precisely what was needed in those terms. The CEO was an expert in cost-take-out and in communicating effectively with his executive team and the company at large. Neither of these key power players were expert in the sub-sector in which they were now invested. For that, they relied on existing senior managers in the acquired company who had spent their careers working with the mechanics of their particular market sub-sector. The leadership team, headed by the new CEO with final decision making authority, made rational sense, but here is where the dynamics of the shadow—unrecognized as such—began to show itself.

At the time of the acquisition, the sub-sector market was beginning to show early signs of a precipitous decline. A senior long-term executive, highly knowledgeable about the sector and widely respected within the company (pre-acquisition), saw the trends developing a year before they became widely apparent. He tried to warn the CEO of an impending disaster and presented a business plan to mitigate the effects of the anticipated full-blown market meltdown. The CEO, whose generous incentives from his patrons and persuasive optimism was not at all open to this executive’s views and would not hear out his analysis of the early warning signs already present, nor listen to a mitigation plan. More, this executive was promptly labeled by the CEO as a pessimist naysayer and subsequently put in the proverbial “doghouse” for not being a “team player.”

This example is illustrative because it is not at all unusual in the annals of corporate leadership. The business situation was admittedly ambiguous at the time the executive in question was formulating his point of view. One could martial arguments for the market to resume its frothy days and that was, by far, the preferred future that the owners, the CEO, and the majority of the leadership wanted to see happen. All stood to make a lot of money if it did, including the executive in question. The eventual outcome was unfortunate, especially for the 2000+ employees who found employment there. The market deteriorated just as the executive who was completely rebuked and disregarded anticipated, and the company lost a critical 18 months to sell assets when there were still many buyers interested in their acquisition. The company ultimately refused an offer from a major Fortune 50 company to double their acquisition price, and eventually had to seek bankruptcy protection. Most employees lost their jobs, and more, senior managers who were given opportunities to be co-investors with the new owners lost all of their investment.

The official story of the demise was that the company was caught up (like so many others) in the dramatic deterioration of the their sub-sector. In other words, they were relatively innocent victims of uniformly unseen circumstances. However an understanding of the operations of the shadow provide another view. As a factor of the psyche, not the circumstance, it was never collectively inquired into, though privately some executives acknowledged the role it played. The shadow in this situation expressed itself in the following ways: first, greed. The owners, the CEO and the leadership team were already wealthy by any measure of comparison. Second, hubris: the owners and the CEO’s previous success caused them to overestimate their powers to predict the future. Finally, denial: They failed to make the necessary distinctions between success through financial engineering and knowledge of the larger sector market vs. the more precise knowledge needed to run the company effectively in sub-sector market.


BB: Unfortunately, those three factors, greed, hubris, and denial, seem to be part of a recognizable pattern in many organizations that collapse. It is indicative of the culture we live in in so many ways, one in which values capitalism, growth, monetary gain, and puts profit above people so often—and it has to in order to maintain the pattern of corporate growth that has been so established for decades, if not centuries. I can imagine it must be really hard for an individual who takes on a new leadership role with lots of good intentions and promises to actually adhere to his or her ideas and principles without caving to those three things. What do you think about that, and how does a leader actually go about implementing his or her ideas in a depth-centered way without giving over to the status quo?

DAL: The leadership cult popular in today’s business elevates circumstance over psyche; rationality over imagination and externalization over introspection. In short, the reality of the tangible, empirically-observable outer world takes clear precedence over the cloud-like realities of the psyche. This also has obvious implications in not recognizing deeply embedded archetypal patterns. The consequences here are also multiple, but suffice it to say that organizations are constantly interested in “change management.” Over the past two decades as the pace of external change has accelerated, the need to transform rather than merely “change” has given rise to a large network of “transformation” consultants, and Human Resources specialists. However transformation programs rarely achieve a true organizational metamorphosis but rather often devolve into a sub-optimized, energy depleting exercise. A possible reason for this is lack of understanding of archetypal realities and how this has a significant impact on the organizational world.


BB: “Archetypal realities” is an interesting term. How do you define that, and how would you say deeply embedded archetypal patterns play a role in the process of developing more effective organizational design and interventions?

DAL: When it comes to archetypal realities in a business context, I would define it as those background patterns of perception and images on the level of the psyche and cultural values and reflexive behaviors on the level of the organization. Because they exert influence from the background they are often unconscious, and operate independent of the ego. They tap into large stores of energy, which can be expressed positively (as in the collective effort to put a man on the moon) or negatively (as in the collapse of checks and balances that aggravated the 2008 financial meltdown). Without an archetypal perspective, leaders resort to making decisions through an over-emphasis on rational analysis, data gathering, and trend analysis. Take the example of the Change Management discipline noted above. As a differentiated discipline that has been around for at least two decades, it has developed a set of tools and approaches to help companies change – that is move from business model A to model B.

A good example of this is the change forced upon the Utility industry in the face of deregulation; or the change forced upon military contractors in the face of significant government budget cuts. Change programs are approached rationally. Thus a first step is to develop a ‘case for change’, supported by facts and a tight logic thread about why change is necessary. Then there are the objectives which the change will accomplish and why it is good for the company and its employees and finally there are elaborate plans which include the commitments to new model made by senior management, the cascading communication plans, the phased releases of manageable bites, the training of “change agents”, the mitigation strategies (to handle fallout), and the periodic course corrections to address changing circumstances. There is nothing wrong with any of this—its just totally insufficient to address the escalating rate of change, the disruption caused by continual new technologies and the complexity of a global economy. The result is that much corporate energy, human toil and financial expense go to programs that do produce change, but often yield only a fraction of what’s needed. This leaves the organization exhausted where whatever is left over of discretionary effort is focused on short-term survival. The archetypal underpinnings that are orchestrating the forms, their narratives, and accompanying interventions are neither acknowledged nor addressed.

A well-known example of an archetypal reality is “the hero’s journey.” Mythologist Joseph Campbell in his landmark study, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” identified the archetypal hero’s journey as circular process that moves one to go forth from a settled existence, journey into unexplored territory in order to win new powers that can be brought back for the benefit of the community (p. 245). It begins when the Hero hears a “call” to adventure. In corporate terms this would mean create a compelling vision of possible future. The archetypal pattern then requires the hero to cross over the threshold of the known world where one encounters “the shadow presence which guards the passage” (p. 245). In corporate terms this means creating the necessary resources in the form of executive sponsorship, budget, and a team of change agents that will guide the change process.

Now the change agenda is public and the engagement with the significant forces of status quo are in earnest. Campbell identifies this part of the journey as unfamiliar, where one encounters “strangely intimate forces some of which threaten him (tests) and some of which give magical aid (helpers).” In my experience, this where organizations are least prepared and over-rely on only what’s in the change management “toolkit.” This often gets translated into more and better change education, contingency planning, and communications. The helpers that show up are not mined for their potential commitment. The tests that accompany them are often interpreted in terms of self-protection and blind resistance to change. The missing realization that archetypal powers are at work as a company struggles to bring into being a new order of reality, leave those who are advocates of the transformation at a severe disadvantage. Without an archetypal perspective they are left with only their own efforts and superficially literal interpretations of challenge they face. This undermines their confidence and leaves them ill prepared for the next predictable phase of the journey to authentic transformative change.

Before the sustained benefits of a successful transformation can be realized the corporation must pass through the “supreme ordeal” (p. 246). In corporate terms this can show up in many forms. Common are major opposition by a key power center, acquisition by a new owner who has no stake in the transformation, the old culture ignoring the change without consequences. The compromise made at this point often dooms the possibility of authentic transformative change and settles for half measures. In corporate terms, leadership points to real but fairly incremental changes to justify a premature declaration of victory and most importantly to move on to the next “urgent” issue of the day. The result after too numerous outcomes like this, is that employees have become highly skeptical of new change initiatives, take on a ‘wait and see’ attitude which inadvertently becomes ensures that there was never a real desire for transformation in the first place.

It is easy to point a finger at business leadership for being too wedded to their collective views of change based on standard organizational psychology, change management and overarching pressures to produce financial results while the hoped-for transformation is under way. However I think it more productive to challenge those who are committed to the perspectives of Depth Psychology to take it out of the highly ritualized and controlled academic and psychotherapeutic environments, and test its merits to create meaningful change with the business institutions that for better or worse dictate the pace and direction of today’s world. This engagement will force depth psychology to endure tensions previously avoided and engage businesses to reevaluate the role of the soul and psyche in the renewal of our world.

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David A. Laveman works with clients to raise the bar on performance and deliver breakthrough business results. He synthesizes practical understanding of business realities with in-depth insight into human and team behavior, and partners with companies and executives to build capabilities, enhance leadership skills, and generate transformational change. Dave’s background and his knowledge of cutting-edge research inform his down-to-earth approach to optimizing executive performance and driving bottom-line results.

Dave’s career has been distinguished by significant pioneering in the areas of organizational and cultural transformation, breakthrough performance, leadership development and coaching, public-private partnering, and multi-company alliances. He has presented innovative thinking on leadership, transformational change and breakthrough management at The Wharton School, The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, The Society of Information Management, The GMAC Annual Senior Management Meeting, and The Executive Concours. Dave’s thinking on culture, strategy, and paradigms have been cited by Forbes and Harvard Business Review.

Previous to founding Laveman & Associates, Dave served as officer, senior executive, or partner at CSC Index, Accenture, and The Concours Group. He co-founded the Praemia Group and The Pharmaceutical Performance Institute.

Dave is an accomplished chess player whose competitive success has appeared in The New York Times. He holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and Pacifica Graduate Institute.


Bonnie Bright is the principle and and founder of Depth Insights™, Depth Psychology Alliance™, and Depth Psychology List™. She holds M.A. degrees from Sonoma State University and Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA, where she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Depth Psychology.

Depth Insights™ provides media, content, and education for the greater depth psychology community, including written and audio interviews and the semi-annual peer reviewed publication, Depth Insights scholarly eZine.

Depth Psychology Alliance™, the world’s first online academic community for those who are active and interested in the fields of Depth and Jungian Psychologies in 2010–a dynamic organization that surpassed 2,000 members in January 2013. The Alliance is a hub for finding depth psych-related events, blogs, videos, articles and for discussion, learning and connecting with likeminded others.

Depth Psychology List™ is a premier destination to find or list depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners by location or type of services offered.

An Archetypal Perspective on Clinical Practice: A Summary of an Introductory Teleseminar Lecture by Jungian Analyst Michael Conforti

Recently I attended a teleseminar wich I found valuable and provocative and which inspired me to summarize it here. Please note that that this synopsis is based on my own understanding and interpretation of what was said on the call, and has not been reviewed by the presenter, Dr. Michael Conforti.

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Whether you are a clinical psychologist or psychotherapist, or simply an individual who had experienced therapy, the capacity to use an archetypal perspective is critical and greatly enriches the treatment, stated Dr. Michael Conforti in his introductory teleseminar in the Master Lecture series, “An Archetypal Perspective on Clinical Practice” on November 5, (2012).

psychotherapy

Dr. Conforti, a Jungian analyst himself of some thirty years, began the session reminding us that Jung was once a Freudian, a fact we may tend to forget. The infamous break between Jung and Freud occurred because Jung no longer found himself able to boil human instincts down to the singularity Freud seemed determined to make them. Jung perceived things on a broader level. Take sex, for example: Freud is widely known for his theory that many psychological issues could be reduced to issues around the sex drive. Jung, by contrast, observed a bigger picture in which sex is a physical act on one end of a spectrum, but on the other (archetypal) end, it is a spiritual coniunctio, a desire for union with the divine.

Generally speaking, psychotherapy—regardless of the approach—often looks at “what’s wrong with a life.” Jung realized the archetypal forces at work are inclusive of the history of humanity. The voices of our own past and humanity’s past are what shape our lives. As a clinician, Conforti says, you can hear it from your clients. These threads make a tapestry that is transpersonal.

Post-Jungian James Hillman wrote in The Soul’s Code about the shaping of a life, a concept referred to as acorn theory. The oak tree is not physically in the acorn, but somehow the blueprint is. There is a teleological aspect in which the future oak tree seems to be pulling the acorn forward to its destiny. In the book, Hillman relates a number of stories which some of the most successful individuals in their fields had to overcome the very thing that they later mastered, pointing to how our greatness lies in the root. For example, someone who became a master orator struggled with a severe speech impediment as a child. Similarly, Conforti reminds us, Jungian Edward Whitmont wondered if our traumas and issues reveal the destiny of a life, what each of our individual journeys is about.

Using an archetypal lens gives us a broader lens, Conforti said, allowing us to look at the field an individual is brought into when they experience a significant event. For example, if someone is orphaned, they don’t simply change status: they are ushered into a field of “orphan” which has a correlating set of data and rules that all provide context and meaning to what it means to be an orphan. Looking at the broad archetypal picture when working with clients reveals a teleological pull, allowing us to ask archetypal questions. If someone is orphaned, how can someone with that kind of trauma have a dramatic experience of the deep unconscious, like when powerful synchronicities occur in their life?

Dr. Conforti pointed to one clinical case about a man who had been orphaned at a young age. This man had an uncanny ability for accessing psyche: his dreams often came true, he consistently won the lottery, and had a remarkable connection to music and art. As an orphan, this man had been abandoned by his mother. In the absence of the maternal holding and the absence of being able to feel secure in this world, he shifted into an oceanic sort of holding, to a world before the mother. Jungian disciple Erich Neumann wrote about how in the beginning of creation, there was sort of an oceanic bliss: a one-ness. That oceanic aspect is the unconscious. The orphan, whose developmental process of being held and mirrored was interrupted, found himself in a personal world fraught with terror. With the orphaning came an interruption of the “normal” trajectory of a life, of grounding and holding. He was left without a firewall and vulnerable to overwhelm by the unconscious. In moments of terror, we invent alternate realities. The world of archetypes and the transcendent is primary universe for all of us, but when there are interruptions in that trajectory from the world of the transcendent into the world of matter, we become (or remain) adrift and disoriented.

The motive forces of psyche and Self are the motive forces that shape your life—not the forces of this life, of making a living or having a home. Psyche places us in fields: it has a destiny factor for all of us. Each of us has a different journey, but what’s universal is that we all have a journey, certain nodal points we must traverse—markers which humanity has had to pass since the beginning of time. In the archetypal journey, there are certain familiar universal motifs transitions, initiations–certain points the “hero” has to pass. In every journey there comes a time when we must enter into relationship with another, to commit to another—whether person, belief system, etc. If we are not in a relationship to an “other,” or if we are not paying our dues to humanity, not using our gifts, we remain dependent on others and never fully arrive into our own. There’s an archetype of morality that requires us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Am I doing my work?”

The central arbiter of truth is not personal jurisdiction or values, it’s the unconscious. What happens, then, when transgression occurs, to patients whose parents have been criminal or to those individuals who have been betrayed and harmed by caregivers? The Self will alert you to transgression. Something is there to mitigate.

Our lives are forever marked by trauma. The majority of psychological approaches to life and to psychotherapeutic treatments are oriented to the unfolding of personal dynamics and an explanation of life based on antecedent events. Therapists are trained to look at life from the lens of “what came before.” ‘We are what we are because of what came before…” In the autobiography of Elie Wiesel, he refers to his mentor Sol Lieberman who told Elie it was time for Elie to “have a life”—to “make a life.” Lieberman meant it was time for Elie to enter in the archetypal (sacred) field of marriage; a new phase in his journey.

An archetypal approach allows you to see the temporal but sense the archetypal unfolding of a life—not just an individual life but the unfolding of a soul. This goes against psychotherapeutic tradition in which you’re “not supposed to tell clients what to do.” When you begin to accept an archetypal approach to treatment you go against the grain of the conventional teachings of psychotherapy. The patient does not have all the answers—the patient’s soul has answers. Conforti quoted Jungian John Beebe who said the act of interpretation is building a bridge between the internal truth of the patient and their ego

Jung’s psychology transcended personal experience. What those early Jungians saw in the temporal was an expression of the eternal. It’s not simply an issue of making a living or a career, but a matter of finding your place in the tribe, in the world. Indigenous peoples have traditionally identified and honored an individual’s gifts early on, whether the capacity to be a great hunter because they could see the subtle tracks, or a healer or a medicine woman, etc. They looked at the big existential issues in life.

An archetypal approach is looking at the existential aspect of life: what you’re meant to be. An archetypal lens in therapy shows what a life can be, and can tell you what a life journey is about. That’s why we must learn to read the symbols of Self and soul; learn the language that the whole Self and soul have to offer. You can’t approach the transcendent and transpersonal through the lens of a singular life, a behavioral psychology, or a pathology. What we view as pathology is actually an expression of the Self. There are things soul and psyche are expressing through the symptoms. This is a spiritual approach; it reveals the spiritual issues of one’s life and the journey a person is on. In many ways the archetypal clinician works a bit like a homeopath, Conforti believes: he offers “remedies”—not “fixes” but rather, what a person needs, just as if someone is lacking protein and is given protein, or requires potassium and is given potassium, for example. What do each of us individually “have to have” in our lives to make us complete? Something archetypal is calling us and looking archetypally can reveal what we each need for the journey.

It’s like the way you see more of the night sky when you look up; you’re not so confined, Conforti offers. It helps move past fears that prevent you from being who you are When you enter the world of archetypes you leave the outer world of space and time. The archetypal world is not bound by space and time: it’s not just about your mother and father but also about archetypes that encompass the world of mothers or fathers. It’s an orientation, a destiny.

milky way in starry sky

milky way in starry sky

In closing, Dr. Conforti shared the story of working at a center for seriously developmentally disabled child who was emotionally “gone” when indoors, but who transformed dramatically each day when he went into the garden, where he ran about picking flowers, weaving them into a crown and placing it on his head. The act of putting that crown of flowers was symbolic, and his relationship to it as a symbol somehow transformed him. Something happened. When in that space, the child was transported to another world. It gave him something.

boy with dandelion crown

Jung’s work is all about how our relationship to symbols can change our life: they offer us things we need to incorporate into our journey every single day. There are transpersonal movers and shapers that change us. Every one of us is transformed in the presence of certain fields that are unique and meaningful to each of us—whether it’s staying in touch with deep cultural or family traditions, or opera, or dancing, dinners with friends, gardening, cooking, etc.

To finish, Dr. Conforti addressed a question about how, as a therapist, one can recognize markers that suggest he or she is on the right track in identifying archetypal patterns at work. The psyche is interactive, Conforti said. It will reveal its process. Developing a sensitivity to universal process and universal markers, having an ethology that allows us to tune into natural patterns, and having an ongoing relationship to the unconscious are important to the process.

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Enter the World of Soul and You are Like a Madman: Learnings from Carl Jung’s Red Book

  • Originally Posted by Bonnie Bright on November 29, 2010 at 7:00pm

“If you enter into the world of soul, you are like a madman
– Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 238.

Jung's Red Book

In his recently released Red Book, a body of work Carl Jung immersed himself in for nearly 17 years, Jung reveals the deep introspective nature of what he ultimately considered an archetypal “descent.” He documented this journey to the Underworld in tremendous detail and accompanied many of the entries and topics with beautifully detailed drawings.

If you haven’t had a chance to view the Red Book, I highly recommend you find a way. It truly has the feel of a sacred book, not unlike many of the ancient alchemical tomes and other holy books that have endured for centuries.

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of attending a teleseminar on the Red Book facilitated by Dr. Michael Conforti of the Assisi Institute. Dr. Conforti, a Jungian analyst who offers ongoing sessions on the Red Book, has a wealth and depth of knowledge about Jung, archetypes, dreams, and the Red Book especially.

During the session, the group focused on Jung’s metaphor of the desert and how the soul seeks to survive the journey, often encountering divine madness. The madman, as Dr. Conforti pointed out, can often say whatever he wants and no one pays attention, but what is madness? What we label madness in our culture is often based on visions and ideas that arise from a certain kind of truth. Madness introduces chaos, but it also removes the barriers that traditionally limit us, allowing something new to emerge. When the floodgates of the psyche let loose and one is taken over by something bigger than the ego self, by the unconscious, or what Jung called in the Red Book “the spirit of the deep,” the levies do not hold.

Sometimes madness is just what we need; it is the moment when we access the energy that allows us superhuman strength, or the capacity to ride a wave and write passionately all through the night. It is the power that drives our dreams, fuels lovemaking, and powers deep meaningful ritual. When we are in the grips of the complex of the madman, the otherworld has broken through and transported us “somewhere else”. And though Jung would never condone not taking responsibility for one’s actions during such a state, he makes it clear how important to embrace madness when it comes, for it is “divine” and it comes of its own accord.

In the end, recognizing and embracing divine madness is part of life. We must be open to engage what is frightening, what is dark, what makes us anxious in order to be balanced and whole. When the rational world no longer makes sense, when images and thoughts are coming from somewhere “else” (from soul), it is then that patterns begin to appear and synchronicity happens. It is then that truth emerges and the way is opened for individuation and growth of the self to occur.

Big thanks on my part to Dr. Michael Conforti, a gifted teacher whose compassion and depth of feeling is  conveyed in stories and everyday situations he uses to illustrate material that might be otherwise hard to grasp. Dr. Conforti has offered an amazing weeklong conference in Italy every summer for that past 20+ years. I attended last year and can’t say enough about how how much value I took away from the event—not to mention the wonderful setting! The theme in 2012 is “The Spiritual Mandates of an Inspired Life”. See the Events section on Depth Psychology Alliance to attend a virtual open house and to get information, or email assisi@together.net. Dr. Conforti also teaches certificate courses on Dreams and on Archetypal Pattern Recognition based on his book, Field, Form and Fate, allowing qualified graduates to make careers in the field.

Book: Field, Form, and Fate: Patternsin Mind, Nature, and Psyche by Dr. Michael Conforti

 

If you’re interested in the Red Book, you may also want to check out these posts:

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO C.G. JUNG’S RED BOOK By Mathew V. Spano, Ph.D.on the Jung page
Top Ten Images From the Red Book on the blog site of Jungian Stephen Parker Ph.D.

Jung's Red Book Image - Dragon

Jung's Red Book Image - Dragon

Tags: archetypeassisiconfortidescent,individuationjungmadmanred book