Tag Archive for psyche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Pacifica Pos

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)

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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