Tag Archive for Jung

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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.


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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.

 

Alchemical Active Imagination: Interview with Jungian Analyst Tom Elsner

The brilliant use of alchemy as a symbolic language and process for psychological and spiritual development is arguably one of C. G. Jung’s greatest contributions to the field of depth psychology. While alchemy may appear to be a mystical—and mysterious—domain, Jung developed a powerful and inspired method for accessing it by entering into dialogue with the rich manifestations of the unconscious and applying it to our daily lives for transformation and growth.

“True knowledge of oneself is the knowledge of the objective psyche as it manifests in dreams and in the statements of the unconscious,” wrote Marie-Louise von Franz, one of Jung’s closest colleagues. Finding myself intrigued by the idea of tapping into alchemical symbolism, and wanting to know more, I realized there was no better person to share some insights than Tom Elsner, a Jungian analyst and professor of Alchemy at Pacifica Graduate Institute, where Tom is teaching a 3-day workshop on the topic of Alchemical Active Imagination at P….

Tom immediately offered some history on the process of active imagination, which Jung developed to work with his own difficult experiences. Starting around 1916, after Jung notoriously broke with his mentor, Sigmund Freud, Jung went through an intense psychological process that included depression, accompanied by many deep dreams and visions. Over a period of 16 years, Jung gave voice to his inner dialogues through writing and painting, a process that ultimately resulted in The Red Book.

For Jung, active imagination was the process of making one’s subjective psyche objective—that is, making the unconscious overt and tangible in terms of images, voices, and inner experiences—so that it can manifest in ways we can more easily understand. By entering into dialogue with those images and voices, Jung found himself actively engaged with “emotional drives and dynamics that would otherwise have overwhelmed him,” Tom Elsner points out. It was an effective and inspired way to work through challenges of the psyche.

From around 1916, while Jung was in the depths of his process, he discovered alchemy and realized that alchemists were having symbolic experiences similar to his own. Alchemy emerged out of magical practices in ancient Egypt, was fertilized with philosophical views from the Greeks, and evolved via the Middle East, eventually taking root in Europe in the Middle Ages. By the time Jung came across the ancient texts in the twentieth century, alchemy had fallen out of favor in the west due to the Enlightenment and the focus on scientific thinking. Jung understood alchemy made no sense if one thought of it as chemistry. But if alchemy was viewed as a symbolic process, the images served powerfully as a “huge thesaurus coming out of the unconscious,” Tom notes. And so Jung applied it to the seemingly infinite stream of alchemical images in his own dreams, visions, and fantasies, as well as those of his patients.e.

Jung considered himself a natural scientist and strongly sought to bring an interdisciplinary dimension to psychology, involving other of the sciences of the time. While he undoubtedly related to the medieval alchemists as the natural scientists of their time, Elsner argues that active imagination, as Jung conceived it, has inspired the basis of many of the expressive arts, including dance, poetry, painting and sculpture, that have quite strongly emerged in current day psychotherapy.

However, it was only in the 1930s after Jung met Wolfgang Pauli, the Nobel prize winning quantum physicist, and they took up what was to be a 26-year correspondence, that Jung began to feel that there was a science that supported his experience of the autonomy of the psyche, and some of Jung’s paranormal experiences, as well. This was a significant intersection for Jung with alchemy. He saw it as the joining of the natural sciences with depth psychology, which paved the way for his theories about synchronicity and allowed him to expand his views about archetypes from seeing them as merely experienced on the inner plane to “something that [actually] inheres in the quality of matter—a kind of a return of soul to the world,” Tom affirms.

Utilizing alchemical images to make the subjective psyche objective, as Elsner describes it, is to begin to imagine how certain states of being, such as depression, can emerge and then engage. How might it turn it into an image, for example? What does it look like? Where it is in your body? What is it saying to you? Actively and intentionally engaging in dialogue allows us to overcome passive victimhood of a mood or state; to differentiate ourselves by encountering it as an object we can work with, rather than as something we are identified with, or identical to.

In our conversation, Tom describes in some detail how we might go about conducting an active imagination, engaging with a personal challenge, and “wrestling” with the psyche in order to come into some kind of relationship. Following certain guidelines or rituals in the process, taking action rather than passively watching what unfolds, and writing, drawing, or painting your experience (perhaps even hanging your work on the wall so as to “let it stare at you”) are all recommended aspects of the process. This kind of process can have an almost magical effect if you let it, Tom suggests.

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A core focus of alchemy is the union of opposites, often depicted in alchemical images in the form of the king and queen, sun and moon, spirit and matter, or above and below. Thus, the work of alchemy begins with work of the shadow; with what has been repressed, which includes earth, nature, and the feminine, each largely split off in the western culture, Tom notes. Jung and Pauli envisioned an animated world in which psyche and nature are not split but rather are mysteriously intertwined. For them, that coniunctio, or union of opposites, was taking place in the both the microphysical world and in the collective unconscious.

The writings of Jungian and archetypal psychologist James Hillman, about the return of soul in the world, are very much related to alchemy, Tom points out—and what Jung and Hillman understood about alchemy today is very much relevant in the sense of quantum physics and new discoveries emerging there. Inner archetypal patterns now recognized in depth psychology are not just inside, but are also a structure of the external material world. They enable synchronicity, a meaningful connection between what’s happening in the inner world and what’s happening outside as well. When we engage, is produces a sort of alchemical magic that can transform us. How will you tap into that magic today?

Listen to the full audio interview with Tom Elsner here (28:55 mins)

Join Jungian analyst Tom Elsner for a 3-day workshop on Alchemical Active Imagination, March 4-6, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute

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Thomas Elsner J.D., M.A., is a certified Jungian analyst, faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and a member of the C.G. Jung Study Center of Southern California. He trained as a lawyer, and then as a Jungian analyst at The Centre for Depth Psychology. In his research and teaching of Egyptian, Islamic and European alchemy he continues in the lineage of Jung and Von Franz’s work. The author of numerous articles, Thomas has taught courses at Pacifica on alchemy for over seven years, as well as presenting this material in England, Ireland, Switzerland, and throughout the United States. He has a private practice in Santa Barbara and is completing a book on Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner as seen from the alchemical and depth psychological perspectives.

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Bonnie 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 posted on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute

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

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)

EcoApathy and Ecospychopathy: Opposite ends of a Dangerous Spectrum

household garbage and urban dumpster
Where does YOUR garbage go when you throw it “away”?

Many societies have collapsed en masse over the course of human history due to over-consumption and extreme detrimental impact on the environment and ecosystems that supported them. However, the combination of our persistent unconscious and unchecked rates of consumption stemming from a rapidly growing population, our seeming lack of capacity to feel and respond to the need for balance in relationship to the planet, and our rampant exploitation of nature is alarming. It appears that never before have we had such a lethal combination in concert with such pervasive emotional, psychological, and spiritual disconnect.

The fundamental issues behind our current disorder show up on a spectrum ranging from eco-apathy on one end, and ecopsychopathy on the other. Eco-apathy represents our capacity for denial and our ability to suppress emotional reflection and response to our troubling situation. Sigmund Freud, a primary contributor in establishing the field of depth psychology, based much of his theory on the idea of a personal unconscious in which memories and emotions can be repressed beneath the surface of our conscious thought, but still potent in their effect (Elliott, 2002).

Often, in order for us to survive or bear the devastating consequences of events or circumstances that surpass our imagination or ability to comprehend, our psyche serves us by burying them beyond our awareness, diffusing their conscious energy and rendering us emotionless or even apathetic. Understandably, when it comes to the mass destruction of our environment, we are collectively unable to surrender to the horror we might feel if we truly allowed ourselves to comprehend what we’re doing as a culture to the planet. In this state of eco-apathy, many of us simply live our lives, unable to question or act on the conundrum we face, incapable of making the necessary changesundefinedor even of conceiving of them in the first placeundefinedthat will allow us to enter in a reciprocal relationship with earth and to find equity again.

Worse, eco-apathy is a dangerous phase that links directly to ecopsychopathy, a condition on the other end of the spectrum, which represents our ability to do violence to nature. When we turn to apathy, the feelings repressed below the surface of consciousness are still very much alive and ultimately will require an outlet to find resolution. Jung (1951/1976) suggested that “when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate” (para. 126). Unexamined issues or emotions we refuse to acknowledge can have tremendous impact on our lives whether we know it or not.

pollution-cars-exhaust-12111725pd

Could it be that our mass consumption of fossil fuels which leads to toxic exhaust could be making us “exhausted” in our every day lives? Is the pollution we wreak in the outer world polluting our psychological life as well? Is our ongoing tendency to “drive” everywhere we go “driving” us to distraction, dis-ease, or situations that are less than healthy?

Now might be a good time for each of us to really reflect on how we feel about the planet we live on and how we are in relationship to it.

References

Elliott, A. (2002). Psychoanalytic theory: An introduction (2nd ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1951/1976). Christ, a symbol of the self. In R. F. C. Hull, M. Fordham & G. Adler (Eds.), Aion: The collected works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Vol. 2). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, Bollingen.

Holding the Opposites, Grounding in Earth to Cope with Difficult Times

When we are not grounded, not connected to our roots, terrible psychic issues occur, which lead to feelings of intense fear and anxiety suggests Jungian analyst Judith Harris, in her book Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection. She quotes C. G. Jung, who, in his complex work, Mysterium Coniunctionus, establishes that the element of earth holds the exact central point between the tensions of two opposites.


Grounding oneself in the earth results in feeling held by the Great Mother, rendering one nourished, nurtured, and whole. The center is the eternal, Harris states, and all that is contained within it is represented by the archetype of the Self, which contains the totality of the psyche. The center implies stillness, and in the stillness there is space for something new to emerge. When we connect to the sacred center, the earth, “the deep-seated origins that existed thousands of years before us brings healing at a profound mystical level” (Harris, p. 76).

“He who is rooted in the soil endures,” wrote Jung (1927). “Alienation from the unconscious and from its historical conditions spells rootlessness. That is the danger that lies in wait for the conqueror of foreign lands, and for every individual who, through one-sided allegiance to any kind of -ism, loses touch with the dark, maternal, earthy ground of his being. (Jung, 1927, p. 103).

According to Jung, when we go “down” (the direction of earth), we connect with the collective unconscious which includes the past: we go back in time, and in so doing, we touch all the unfulfilled lives that have been lived before us, allowing them to be lived out; redeeming them. This alignment with the center, the earth, the archetype of the Great Mother allows us to discover the miracle of creativity (in Harris, 2001).

Man facing coming night storm

Judith Harris reminds us that when sufficient energy moving in one direction accumulates, it will always ultimately be reversed in order to prevent one-sidedness. When torn between the opposites, chaos results, and we are literally torn in two—unable to stand, to move, to bear the confusion—while still being drawn further into the chaos. The age-old motif of descent, or “dark night of the soul,” carries with it the theme of a quest, an initiation, a purification that will lead to liberation, renewal, and rebirth.

When times seem dark, there is little we can do but to hold the tension, the grief, and the pain. We must be willing to be still and grounded enough in order to witness the fall of night, the darkness that makes its cold nest all around us, cutting us off from home. There can be no regeneration until we can do so. Until we all are willing to reconnect with our roots in Mother Earth, to take on the darkness and embrace it, we will continue to colonize others, to disregard the spirit and inspirited that surrounds us, and to suffer. Sometimes symbolic death can occur in the process, but in dying, new life occurs. When the Gorgon, Medusa, of Greek myth was decapitated by Perseus, it is said that her blood gave birth to the Pegasus, the winged white horse who represents poetry and creativity.

Somewhere within me, as I write these words, I have the sudden felt understanding this underlying eternal tenet: that in holding the tension of the opposites, a miracle occurs. The transcendent solution that arises is tangible; real. If I can just be aware and still myself in that center between the opposites of any seemingly hopeless or stressful situation… If I can just feel my feet on the ground and hold the tension, even in the midst of two end points that don’t appear they can ever be reconciled… If I can ground myself down into the earth, I can actually be present enough to behold the process taking place.

It seems like few of us in our fast-paced (often overwhelming and sometimes frightening) contemporary culture are willing to embrace the dark earth; the deep, devouring feminine that insists we surrender and be purified. Collectively, we tend to mill about our daily lives with their myriad of responsibilities, activities, and worries, disconnected, lost, homeless, fearful, and alone. Where do we begin?

It begins with the individual taking root and making a stand even in the midst of fear, anxiety, and despair. Rather than fleeing into panic, distress, or anger, or trying to distract ourselves, we must each learn take on that dark night, to stop the frantic buzzing of useless wings and allow the night to wash over us, silent and still as we embrace it; as it engulfs us and devours us. We must hold the tension; trusting that something bigger exists, releasing the attachment to the notion that we will ever see the hive again, but knowing that the earth is so much bigger.

References

Harris, J. (2001). Jung and yoga: The psyche-body connection. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Jung, C. G. (1927). “Mind and Earth” (1927). In Collected Works Vol. 10: Civilization in Transition.


On Magic, Shamanism, and Listening: The Collective Unconscious of C.G. Jung

“If we open our eyes, if we open our minds, if we open our hearts, will find that this world is a magical place. It is magical not because it tricks us or changes unexpectedly into something else, but because it can be so vividly and brilliantly.”–Chogyam Trungpa

When I was a child, I longed for magic: actively, forcefully, wistfully. I spent thousands of hours reading books about witches and wizards and fairies and everyday objects endowed with supernatural powers, I read about kids who time-traveled or fell into other dimensions or discovered secret portals to other lives. I always wanted to be one of those characters from the story, happening on magic that would transport me from my problems, my boredom, my malaise (French translation: being poorly-at-ease) with life.

As I grew older, I stopped believing. So wrapped up did I become in my personal challenges, cultural indoctrination, and societal obligations, that I began to forget even the magic from the childhood stories. And as I moved faster and faster through linear time, running from one responsibility to the next, rushing to grow up, get a job, and join the rat race, I became a part of the greatest disappearing acts of all creation; a part of me began to vanish. And, unlike like the lovely magician’s assistant in modern-day magic acts, once I was sawed in two, the pieces never came together again, dropping away instead and getting lost along with the magic in the chaos around me.

Our ancestors had far more contact with magic. They lived life closer to nature, a force larger than life. They saw themselves as an intrinsic part of a pattern that happened around them and to them and in them and through them, an ongoing dialogue with equals. Rather than placing themselves above the objects we see as inanimate, everything they saw and experienced in the physical world was a endowed with the life force of something akin to a brother, sister, father, or grandmother.

Rather than squashing a spider or carelessly picking a blooming flower, they treated each as if they could trade places with it, not assuming they were above the other.  Everything was sacred, and knowing one’s place in the infinite cycles of nature, the wonder of the universe, the miracle of the patterns that constantly shift, unfold, and create gave rise to a sense of contact–of being a part of something rather than a sense of being separate and cut off. The potentialities, then, the opening to a force in a world where anything could happen rather than living with the confines of limiting beliefs so many of us experience today from force of habit, family customs, cultural taboos, or demands of society, gave them magic, and through that magic, power to be in the world in a way that is very different to what many of us experience today.

I first began to associate the practice and archetype of shamanism with magic several years ago. Over a series of synchronistic events–later supported by research and amplification–I have come to realize shamans over millennia have tapped into something special, something that seems hard to define by me as I sit with my own cultural perspective–something I can only now define as magic. This magic seems to permeate everything and appears to be intrinsically linked to animism: belief, faith, and connection to a culture where magic can–and is allowed to–exist; where human beings lived their lives in intimacy of it–and where shamans actively accessed it on a constant basis for the healing and benefit of the community and the individuals in it.

Shamanism has been around for millennia, practically as long as humans have existed. It is the oldest spiritual healing tradition still in general use today. Though the word shaman emerged from Siberia via the Russian language, shamanism is found in virtually every culture in the world. Shamanic beliefs include the idea that everything is animated or contains a spirit that is alive and conscious. It is an earth-based practice that typically makes use of the elements–earth, air, water, and fire– in their practices.

Additionally, through a heightened sense of awareness, and perhaps because of ongoing sense of interconnectedness with the web of power that runs through all creation, shamans seem to be able to communicate with other realms on a level that is not readily accessible to the average individual. Frequently, they do this through accessing altered states of consciousness, tapping into ecstatic realms through drumming, dancing, trance or oral substances that serve to alleviate the restrictive human thinking mind and allow an opening to what might be called magic.

I remember hearing a myth from long ago about a man who did a favor for the gods. As a reward, he was offered his choice of options: either a vast quantity of gold, or the ability to speak eighty different languages. On choosing the languages, he quickly discovered he was able to understand the sound of wind in the trees, the flash of feathers of a hummingbird, and the smell of moss on tree trunks among many other things.  When I stop to ponder, I am reminded how each of these is, indeed, a manifestation of language, but in symbolic form–a communication to us from some creative force larger than we can imagine whether it be called the collective unconscious as defined by Carl Jung, spirit, the Divine, or some other name–and that it doesn’t always necessarily speak English.

The capacity to stop and listen–and more, to dare to translate the multitude of voices and input that occur all around us–is nothing short of magic. In a culture where everything seems to move so fast but be so shallow, deep listening and understanding is a gift that sets us each apart. We all can do it–mostly, we just don’t. But there is something bigger than each of our everyday selves that is trying to break through, to send us critical messages that will help us understand why we’re here and what we’re meant to do with our “one wild and precious life” (Poet, Mary Oliver. Depth Psychology, ultimately, is the search for what is being whispered in those rare moments when we listen….

 

 

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

 

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Our Modern Cultural Mindset and the Forward Thinking of Carl Jung

One of my favorite quotes is this from Carl Jung, which addresses the reality of nature and our loss of contact with it. It also identifies a deep and burgeoning issue for humankind:

“Man feels isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had symbolic meaning for him. Thunder is no longer the voice of a god, nor is lightning his avenging missile. No river contains a spirit, no tree makes a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom and no mountain still harbours a great demon. Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things, like stones, springs, plants and animals” (The Earth Has a Soul, Sabini, 2005, p. 79-80).

The disconnect I experience between the ancient, primal knowing carried over from two million years of unity between spirit and matter, the concept that everything I encounter is alive and ensouled and is made up of the same intelligent energy contrasts with what the modern mindset so many of us unconsciously carry–that is, that the world around me is made up of inanimate objects with which I have no relationship other than to manipulate them.

On a cultural level, as a defense mechanism against this sense of disconnect which Jung refers to, many of us have separated even further, unconsciously isolating ourselves from the world and from others so we can have a safe vantage point. We have wrapped ourselves in a blanket of dissociation, even proceeding to despair of being so alone and alienated in a terrifying world that might devour us at any moment and striving mightily to either fit in or get ahead in a culture where no one seems to be grounded in the feeling of an abiding, abundant universe.

What is missing in my life and the lives of most of us is an ongoing alive connection to something we consider sacred; something that inspires awe in us. We all experience brief moments of this in our lives. It could be in the form of the setting sun, a magnificent storm, the smile of a child, or a feeling of gratitude when we are suddenly struck with a knowing we are lucky in a specific aspect of life. But how many of us feel we are embedded into a fabric of being that is made of these moments, where every thread in the tapestry is awe-inspiring and sacred, where reverence and respect for the spirit-infused environment around us reduces us as human beings to a dynamic, flowing force that is carried by a current far more powerful and important than our individual lives?

Modern science and technology have moved us further from the one source that has provided this connection from the dawn of time, the one aspect of life on earth that supports and promotes such awe: nature. And yet, science–including the “new sciences” like quantum physics, neuroscience, and complexity theory– is just beginning to recognize that we are all interconnected, in the existence of a field of being wherein we do not have clearly defined boundaries that stop at the edge of our skin, but that we exert influence on things and individuals around in time and space unperceived by the five basic senses.

But the rift between our perceived self and the experiential knowing of being held, sustained, and rooted in something bigger than ourselves that inspires our awe and demands a dialogue that evokes passion, emotion, and participation is quickly and systematically destroying us as a species. And the main reason the rift is destroying us is because we have shut it out, dissociated, covered it over, and made every attempt to pretend it doesn’t exist in order to manage our fear, whether it be conscious or not, of the gap that exists between what Jung calls the Self and our everyday ego self we have developed in order to navigate the demands of our culture and environment.

This massive ability to rationalize our meaningless existence and provide surface solutions to our fear of the gap negates our ability to tap into the creative life force that would reconnect us to our sacred roots and provide meaning in our lives–a force that lives in and arises from the gap itself. Anywhere there is space; there is energy and potentiality. But we must be willing to regard our fears, our current situation, and where we’ve come from –our primal roots in order to benefit from the potentiality there.

My own experience, like many of us, has been polarized by both evidence of extreme beauty and unity of the Self as well as by despair at “what we have done to ourselves” in contrast to our true nature. As a presumably evolved species, rather than using our superior thinking functions to be stewards of the planet and nature that sustains us, we are quickly moving in the direction of destroying it.

Jung recognized our trajectory of destruction virtually a half century ago, even before the trend had reached the epic proportions we are experiencing in our culture today. However, through his explorations, he developed a sustained optimism and lived his life with faith and hope that there were larger forces at work that would sustain us, auto-correcting the imbalance and guiding us at crucial moments of need.

Jung seemed to maintain a connection with the invisible realm, the spirit that inspires nature and the Self, a dimension that, though unperceived through our five senses, provides hope, nurturing, and creative life-renewing force. Jung trusted and engaged in ongoing dialogue with these forces he could not see but knew existed. It required a tremendous amount of faith to maintain this belief, but it seemed in fact to continue to grow stronger over the course of his life. This is of vital interest to me as I contemplate my own feelings of dismay at the current state of our psyche and the apparent downward spiral our culture is experiencing and as I struggle to find faith and hope in myself, my psyche, and in our species as a whole.

Jungian analyst Donald Williams, in his article “Hope and Fear” stated:

“Jung invariably watched the psyche for glimpses of unconscious creativity and for renewal and transformation. His psychology was forever forward-looking, and he repeatedly emphasized the role of the human psyche in the fate of the earth. We have a psychological heritage in Jungian psychology that prepares us well to see and cultivate a new psychological attitude. Jung’s work is there to help us one day weave stories of a credible and desirable future, a future to inspire us. We need a vivid dream of a continuous future, a future that does not die for want of air and water and food” (Williams, 1998).

I believe NOW is the time to cultivate the new attitude and start weaving the stories, but where to begin? Digging into your own process of inner work is a good first step–and then taking your learning out into the world and helping others understand and do the same comes next. Change which happens one individual at a time will one day suddenly hit critical mass, engendering massive cultural change. Get started today by contacting one of the depth practitioners on DepthPsychologyList.com

Nature, Psyche, Climate Change, and the Psychology of Place

A pioneer of depth psychology, C.G. Jung carved the following enigmatic quote in a stone at his home in Bollingen.

Carl Gustav Jung - Carved  Stone at Bollingen

I am an orphan, alone, nevertheless I am found everywhere, I am one, but opposed to myself. I am youth and old man at one and the same time. I have known neither father nor mother, because I have had to be fetched out of the deep like a fish, or fell like a white stone from heaven. In woods and mountains I roam, but I am hidden in the innermost soul of man. I am mortal for every one, yet I am not touched by the cycle of aeons.

Jung’s words allude to our connectivity to nature and to each other as human beings embedded in a culture which leaves us feeling separate and disconnected on the surface. Globalization, industrialization, ecocide, and environmental issues seem to be dividing us more and more rapidly, leading to increased feelings of isolation, alienation and to a very real echo of these archetypal aspects in the physical world as people in environmentally stressed areas, feeling abandoned, desperately begin to move in search of food, water, shelter, and a better life.

As I write this, my 3-month-old kitten (aptly named Psyche), is restless. He keeps climbing across my lap over and over again, meowing and rubbing his head on my arm. He seems distressed, and for no particular reason I can determine. Perhaps he’s not feeling contained enough. We are outside, and the wind is gusty, noisily rustling the nearby bamboo and randomly sending leaves and other small bits of nature flying. Nature can be quite terrifying when you’re a tiny little kitten. This observation about Nature and Psyche might also apply to us.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about climate change recently in preparation for co-hosting a panel on Transformative Imagination at an upcoming Climate Change Forum in Portland, Oregon. Statistics and probable outcome according to scientists is dire. Regardless of whether you believe climate change is a result of human activity or that it is simply a natural event, evidence clearly suggests we are headed for a crisis.

And lest it’s not clear how climate change will affect you, increased temperatures, fewer glaciers and augmented greenhouse gas emissions from newly uncovered tundra will categorically result in increased water shortages, decreased food production, and more frequent cataclysmic natural disasters. Wildfires and superstorms–including massive breakouts of tornadoes and powerful hurricanes along with resulting side effects like mudslides and flooding is virtually certain to create mass displacement of vast numbers of people. Traumatized by the loss of home, loved ones, community, livelihood, and connection to place, social tensions are sure to mount as these climate refugees desperately search for a new place to call home. (For some compelling statistics and information on the topic, check out the Forced Migration Review created by the University of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre below)

Forced Migration Review 2008

And, by the way, even if on the off chance climate change doesn’t affect water supplies (where DOES your water come from currently?) or production of food (farming does rely on irrigation, after all), there is a great chance that social unrest and climate refugees in distress will impact you in some way. If you can, watch the 2010 documentary “Climate Refugees” to get a better sense. See the trailer for the film here on this page.

Climate RefugeesPhoto Credit: Climate Refugees Documentary

In the midst of all of this, the physical displacement—the loss of connection to land, to locations that hold the bodies of loved ones who have passed away, to sacred spaces and areas that hold memories linked to powerful emotions like the home one’s children grew up in, the parks where they played, or the streams where a grandfather first taught a boy to fish. Places of worship, places with heritage, places that mark where tradition has been lived out for generations will all be inundated, washed away, or abandoned as desertification invades leaving inhabitants no choice but to seek sustenance and refuge elsewhere.

Climate Change Refugees Crossing River“Photo Credit: Climate Refugees documentary

This duality of Nature is an enigma for many of us. We love Nature when She is at peace–spending time in our gardens, taking walks in the park or nearby woods, enjoying the power of ocean waves on a beautiful sunlit day–but we feel increasingly threatened, anxious, and ill-at-ease at her random expressions of intense destructive energy. The container seems to be broken, leaving us feeling vulnerable, exposed, and helpless in the face of Nature’s power—just like poor Psyche seems to be. The challenge of looking at Nature as “Mother” as we so traditionally have is that we project onto Her in ways that are bound to leave us disappointed and confused, feeling lost, abandoned, exiled, or orphaned.

In his recent book, “Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Universe,” Jungian analyst Dennis Merritt insists:

Book-dairy farmers guide to the universe - Dennis L. Merritt

 

Science  has magnified our attachment to the archetype of the Good Mother in the form of abundant energy and material wealth, which has created the climate change crisis. It is not a question of giving up our scientific consciousness and the blessing of science and technology and going back to nature: there are far too many people on the planet for a return to the hunter-gatherer type of existence without draconian reductions of the human population…

What is the solution? How can we repair or improve the nature-psyche relationship so that we can feel centered and sustained? How can we as a global community support that growing body of individuals are are being displaced by traumatic events connected to Nature and environment? How can we come into better relationship in time to support our civilization in the face of rapid decline? More, what are the effects of the destruction of home on our individual and collective psyche? On a planet where our relationship to Nature is radically out of balance, we both neglect and abuse Nature as well as feel neglected and abused by Nature. As a culture, we treat Nature as dead matter, perhaps because it seems less threatening that way. C. G. Jung said:

Man feels isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had symbolic meaning for him. Thunder is no longer the voice of a god, nor is lightning his avenging missile. No river contains a spirit, no tree makes a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom and no mountain still harbours a great demon. Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things, like stones, springs, plants and animals (in The Earth Has a Soul, Sabini, 2005, p. 79-80).

Those individuals who study ecopsychology and the psychology of place know how important our reciprocal relationship to earth is, just as many of us intuitively feel it in our bones. We feel ourselves embedded in something larger where transformation can occur through creative relationship with nature and place. Terrapsychologist Craig Chalquist describes how “patterns, shapes, features and motifs at play in the nonhuman world sculpt our ideas, our habits, our relationships, culture, and sense of self” (quote from Rebearths: Conversations with a World Ensouled (p. 6), the June selection for the Depth Psychology Alliance online book club)

Craig Chalquist, Ph.D.

Craig Chalquist, Ph.D.

I interviewed Craig this month for Depth Insights radio and he shared his insights on how our interaction with the natural world, the psychology of place, and the power of mythic images are key to understanding and integration. Click here to listen to the interview.

As global conditions worsen in coming years, there is no clear answer as to how we will, as a humanity, attempt to re-establish balance with Nature and Earth, nor how we will establish resources and plans to compassionately aid those who experience the loss and destruction of home and homelands. All of us will surely be affected. Meanwhile, paying attention is a good beginning. Consciousness and willingness to act can offer a fertile landscape for powerful solutions to grow.

 

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