What is Depth Psychology?
Depth psychology, a term first coined by Swiss psychiatrist, Eugene Bleuler, around the end of the 1800’s, has its beginnings in the work of Sigmund Freud and another Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, along with Pierre Janet and William James. Depth Psychology, which encompasses the field of Jungian Psychology, explores the hidden or deeper parts of human experience by seeing things in depth rather than taking them apart.
The self we think we know is only a tiny portion of the self that really exists. The ego self, the self we are aware of and can observe, is just the tip of an iceberg in a vast ocean of unconsciousness. Since what is unconscious is not known, our known version of our self is limited and confined. We are vastly influenced by the immense hidden aspects of the greater self that surrounds us, which is mostly out of sight or understanding.
Depth Psychology seeks to uncover or reveal repressed or hidden aspects of our self, rather like opening a window from inside the limited existence we experience through the everyday self we know and out onto the depths of the soul.
It involves deep inquiry into the symbolic meaning of things, of symptoms, images, and emotions that arise in one’s life, influencing each of us regardless of whether we are aware of it or not (Ellenberger, 1970).
It includes aspects of Psychology, Philosophy, Mythology, Anthropology, and Ecology and the way each of these influences us as individuals. Increasingly the fields of Biophysics, Quantum theory, Complexity Theory, Neuroscience, Media Psychology, and Social Media are having a greater impact on each of us and the collective psyche than ever before. These fields affect how we relate to ourselves, each other, and our culture, our species, and our planet as well. Above all, Depth Psychology is a study of the Unconscious, that which is outside of our awareness and which we unable to know directly.
We can garner greater understanding by observing the symbols of the unconscious that emerge into our conscious awareness through dreams, art, myth or story, and by locating them in a larger context where metaphor can make meaning in our everyday lives. Click here to download an in-depth article on Depth Psychology.
Analyst/Author James Hollis offers the following note on Carl Jung:
"Carl Jung was one of the creators of modern depth psychology, which seeks to facilitate a conversation with the unconscious energies which move through each of us. He contributed many ideas which continue to inform contemporary life: complex, archetype, persona, shadow, anima and animus, personality typology, dream interpretation, individuation, and many other ideas. He had a deep appreciation of our creative life and considered spirituality a central part of the human journey.
His method of interpretation of symbolic expression not only deepens our understanding of personal material, opening the psychodynamics of our personal biographies and dreams, but the deeper, collective patterns which develop within culture as well. In his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung wrote that meaning comes 'when people feel they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama. That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it. A career, producing of children, are all maya (illusion) compared to that one thing, that your life is meaningful.'"
"Ultimately, every individual life is at the same time the eternal life of the species."~C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections