Blog post by Dr. Bonnie Bright and Dr. James Newell
Depth psychology is a field that explores the unconscious aspects of the human psyche, seeking to understand the underlying motivations and patterns that guide human behavior. By bringing these unconscious motivations, beliefs, and behaviors to light and integrating them into our conscious awareness, we can achieve greater self-awareness and personal growth.
Because the study of the unconscious brings to light such compelling insights and understandings, the fundamental ideas and practices behind depth psychology have always offered powerful ways to create transformation and healing. However, from the beginnings of the psychoanalytic movement of Sigmund Freud and the analytical psychology of Carl Jung, depth psychology has often been portrayed as a discrete discipline reserved for academics, intellectuals, or highly specialized individuals.
While cases of severe mental health crisis do require the care of trained experts, the mission of the Depth Psychology Alliance for well over a decade has been to make the ideas and concepts of depth psychology more accessible to everyone who is interested, and to explore its practical applications in daily life. In fact, engaging with the unconscious offers nearly limitless possibilities for the use of depth psychological perspectives in the everyday situations in which we find ourselves, including the realms of relationships, money, and work, among others.
THE ROLE OF PROJECTION IN THE HUMAN PSYCHE
For example, one of the most common ways we experience the unconscious in our daily lives is via what Freud and Jung referred to as projection. Projection occurs when we unknowingly “project” our own unconscious content onto a person, place, or thing in the objective world around us. As a result, we may think that we’re dealing with an objective person, place, or thing, but in the end we find that we are actually dealing with an unconscious part of ourselves projected outside of ourselves onto those around us.
Projection most often occurs when we encounter something unfamiliar. When confronted with an unknown, the psyche typically becomes anxious and attempts to compensate for the uncertainty by unconsciously filling the gap with something familiar from our past experiences.
For instance, when it comes to relationships, a man who consciously identifies with a traditional masculine gender role will have less conscious understanding of traditional feminine gender roles. Confronted with something unfamiliar or unexpected in his relationship with a woman, his unconscious will try to fill that gap in understanding by unconsciously projecting his own past experiences, understanding, and expectations of women he has encountered in his life onto his current partner.
In this age of gender fluidity, we do not need to understand this process of projection in terms of strictly traditional gender roles. Regardless of the gender role we consciously identify with, as human beings, it is our tendency to project our needs and expectations onto others, often leading to confusion, misunderstanding, and disappointment when the object of our affection shows up differently from the image we’ve created in our mind and projected onto them unconsciously. That means that the more we can become conscious of these projections (i.e. make the unconscious conscious), the more likely we will be to achieve and maintain healthy, harmonious relationships.
Similarly, in contemporary western culture, it’s common for us to project our sense of identity, self-worth, and social value onto “money” and our own financial situation. Likewise, our experience of the workplaceis often alive with a multitude of projections being cast back and forth from management to employee, from employee to employee, and from employee to customer—whether in modern corporate institutions or in smaller businesses.
The more we can, both individually and collectively, make the unconscious conscious in these situations, the more we’ll be able to consciously direct and focus our activities in ways that will be productive and beneficial for all. The question that arises, then, is how do we best make the unconscious conscious?
JOIN US TO EXPLORE MORE ABOUT THESE CONCEPTS IN COMMUNITY!
You’re invited to attend an online Community Conversation on Depth Psychology in Daily Life, with Dr. Bonnie Bright, Founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, and Dr. James Newell, Director. The conversation will be opened up to the community in the second half of the event after Bonnie and James‘s opening remarks. This event is free and open to the public via Zoom, though registration is required. A recording will be made available for all who register.
When: Saturday, May 20, 2023
Time: 4pm ET / 1pm PT US
Where: Online via Zoom: Register now to attend this free event on Saturday ,May 20
What: Bring your curious, open mind and any questions or thoughts you are contemplating about the role of depth psychology in daily life. Where do you wonder in your own life how depth techniques might aid you, or what can you share with others about how you are already engaging? Whether you choose to actively participate, or simply come to listen and learn, everyone who is seeking soul is welcome.
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