Depth Psychology Blog

This blog offers information and education about Jungian and Depth Psychology oriented approaches by psychotherapists, counselors, coaches, speakers, authors, healing professionals, and dozens of other modalities. You'll read personal stories from these practitioners about the power of symbols, the unconscious, dreams, archetypes, Jungian thought, nature, ecopsychology, mythology, and so much more. 
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  • 29 Jul 2014 10:40 AM | Donna May

     

    Psyche: Your Inner GPS Navigation System

    By

    Donna May

    I was walking this morning and came upon a sign that read: Warning GPS Navigation Times and System Information: Times and Speed Calculations EXTREMELY INACCURATE. The road goes up and over a series of mountainous wilderness areas, ascending and descending through some of the most gorgeous terrain anywhere in the world. And it’s wild, truly “a road less traveled.” The territory is filled with mountain ranges, creeks, tributaries and one of the only remaining free-flowing rivers in the United States. Wildlife is everywhere. Sometimes in winter, the road is impassable, due to snow and ice. During rainy times, an avalanche of rock and debris will rumble down the mountainside, the road becoming impassable. One year, the underside of the road eroded away and there are still parts of the lane where only one car can pass at a time. The landscape is lush, greens of every hue. Little water grottos roll down rock crevices. Deer are common, and there is an occasional siting of a bear, mountain lion, or bobcat. Gorgeous California mountain king snakes, or the more common garter snake, mosey across the road, sometimes stopping to bask on the hot pavement during warmer months. Dragonflies and butterflies create a medley of colors, dancing through shimmery shadow and light. Osprey and eagles can be seen flying overhead, as well as hawks, falcons, blue jays, woodpeckers and other types of birds.

    If you know where to look, there are waterholes for swimming, huge boulders used by locals as diving platforms, and places to sun. Seasonally, salmon swim through and fishing spots, known by generations of local tribes’ people and others, can be found. Bear grass grows here and is used to weave beautiful baskets. This road meanders through sacred spots, believed by many to be the center of all things.

    After many twists and turns, you will reach the top of Etna Mountain, one of the places where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the road. The vistas show mountaintop upon mountaintop undefined a cascade of purple gray mountains awash in green, layers of soft color for as far as the eye can see. From this place, more unseen delights await you on the road: there are alpine lakes, bowls of granite, water so pristine, so clear, you can see the lake bottom. As you journey down this side of the mountain, you will see lupine, wild orchids, dogwoods, wildflowers of hot pink, white and purple. There are flowers so rare, only a few know what they are!

    Along this road, life is only lightly touched by human hand or foot.

    The modern GPS may say this road is the fastest way to the coast; however, locals and nature Herself knows otherwise. Until the sign was installed, vacationers’ GPS devices would tell them that this was the shortest way to the Pacific Coast; however, what the modern electronic device didn’t tell the driver was that even though the mileage was half that of other routes, the time would be double. The GPS also didn’t let the driver know that there wouldn’t be a gas station, bathroom, or place to eat for miles. No amusement parks, corporate food chains, or shopping malls here. Yes, the distance and delights between here and there mean something quite different on this road. This landscape is well worth the trip undefined if you know what you are getting into.

    And so it is with Soul Travels.

    When Psyche calls, it’s not usually a fast track from here to there. The inner travels are in the rhythms of nature. The path to the authentic self is magnificent and wild, inner terrain dynamic and alive. Like the sign on the road this morning, you cannot measure or comprehend the details of your journey by the calculations of modern societal thinking or belief systems. Inner travels require a Soul Compass. Tools for the inner journey: dreams, art, writing, music, dance/movement, meditation and prayer. These are Psyche’s GPS devices, the way to find your True North, Psyche’s call for you.

    The inner landscape of the soul traverses depths and vistas not to be missed; this is an expedition into a different terrain, however, and requires planning, support, and patience. Surround yourself with people who have traveled this road before you, who will support you with your journey.

    Take all the time you need to swim your depths, go fishing for stories, both personal and collective, and listen to what Psyche is singing awake in you. Learn about the center of all things and take time to weave together the reeds of experience and dreams into your most beautiful work of art: you. Your Soul Journeys will require you to not measure yourself and your calling by outside devices, people, places or things. This may be tough going at times, but well worth the effort.

    If you are called to something, called to travel Psyche’s Road, you know it. You can do this.

    Donna May is a therapist, educator and author of the upcoming book Psyche’s Call: Putting the Soul Back in to Psychology. She is an adjunct faculty member at College of the Siskiyous and is a board member for the Depth Psychology Alliance. She is passionate about the need for, and utilization of, depth psychology tools in these modern and changing times and does counseling and consultations in her Etna, CA office and via videoconferencing. Donna facilitates classes and workshops in and out of Siskiyou County, including her popular Soul Callings Workshops in Mt. Shasta and Story Tending Circles which utilize active imagination, art, writing, and drumming/music to deepen participants’ connection with their inner terrain and soul callings. She also offers free Psyche’s Call Writing Prompts that go out daily to people all over the world (http://www.psychescall.com/writing). You can connect with her on Facebook (Psyche’s Call with Donna May), Twitter (@Psyches_Call), LinkedIn & Pinterest. To learn more about Donna and her work, go to: http://www.psychescall.com.

  • 07 Jun 2014 5:24 PM | Kim Hermanson, PhD

    I recently heard someone say that when we have awareness of earth, air, water and fire it’s easier for the body to heal. Not all of the metaphoric images that show up in Doorway Sessions come from the natural world. But…the most transformative ones do. When my clients touch, and are touched by, the earth's metaphoric images, profound shifts happen.

    When we work with metaphor, we draw on the wisdom of the natural world, just as native peoples did. As human culture developed formal language systems, human life became more abstracted from the natural world and we lost that rich connection with the earth’s metaphoric wisdom. One of the things I love about the metaphoric realm is that it allows us to experience being deeply in the world that we share with the creatures around us, not out of it.

    In his book Metaphor Therapy, Richard Kopp writes:

    It is suggested that long before humans spoke or thought in metaphor, and long before metaphor was the source of novelty and change in language and thought, nature spoke its own language of metaphorundefinedthe pattern that connects. Indeed, the metaphoric structure of reality in individuals, families, and within and across cultures may be seen as the expression in humankind of the metaphoric structure underlying the biological evolution of all living things.


    As humans, we already are deeply connected to the natural world...we already have its language deep within us. The earth's metaphoric language is always speaking through us, whether we're aware of it or not.


    Kim Hermanson, Ph.D. serves as adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has taught at UC Berkeley, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and Esalen Institute. Her latest book is Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination for Teachers, Trainers, Coaches and Mentors. She has co-authored articles and book chapters with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Her website is: www.aestheticspace.com.

  • 29 May 2014 4:40 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    In light of the recent shootings at Isla Vista/UCSB [Update June 5: Now adding Seattle Pacific University} as well as the hundreds of other gun violence incidents across the country and the world, I wanted to share/re-share some depth psychological resources and discussion around the topic. But first, some statistics courtesy of NBC News

    • Every year in the U.S., an average of more than 100,000 people are shot, according to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.

    • Every day in the U.S., an average of 289 people are shot. Eighty-six of them die: 30 are murdered, 53 kill themselves, two die accidentally, and one is shot in a police intervention, the Brady Campaign reports.

    • Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 335,609 people died from guns -- more than the population of St. Louis, Mo. (318,069), Pittsburgh (307,484), Cincinnati, Ohio (296,223), Newark, N.J. (277,540), and Orlando, Fla. (243,195) (sources:  CDFU.S. CensusCDC)

    • One person is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week. (source: CDC)

    Meanwhile, as many psychologists and commentators alike are saying, the problem goes well beyond gun laws. Our cultural container and systems for treating mental health are simply not adequate to treat people with the deep-seated issues that often precede such violent acts.

    Depth Psychologist/Educator Glen Slater, PhD touches into the depth psychological perspective, saying, 

    "Gun violence keeps the national psyche in a holding pattern, preventing it from a more conscious encounter with more soul-wrenching issues. The obsessive need for guns, the paranoid fear of having guns taken away, the lack of will to effectively legislate or litigate, and even the violence itself are bonded in a conspiracy of collective defense and denial against a deeper darkness and pathology. Cracking open the neurotic dynamics means going in search of mythic and archetypal roots." (In Spring Journal, Vol 81).

    As you'll note in many of the following resources, the general agreement is that focus needs to be on the underlying depth psychological issues that apply to the profile of mass shooters, who are often young men.


    First, depth psychologist Craig Chalquist's latest post "No Man Is an Island: Recognizing Gun Violence as a Cultural Symptom," is an insightful depth psychological take on the problem, even employing a terrapsychological view based on the psychology of place where the shooting occurred.

    Many Depth Psychology Alliance members joined Jungian analyst, Dr. Michael Conforti, and me for a two-part teleseminar"Beyond Horror and Hope: The Archetypal Intersection of Innocence and Evilwhich were exploratory conversations in response to the Sandy Hook Connecticut school shooting. We offered these in 2012 after the shooting in

     NewTown, CT, but I think they are still so relevant today if you want to listen to the archived recordings

    In January 2013, I interviewed depth psychology professor, Dr. Glen Slater, for Depth Insights radio podcast, The Roots of Mass Shootings: A Depth Psychological Look at Gun Violence, a conversation that touched on his 2009 article in Spring Journal, "The Mythology of Bullets."  You can find a link to the full article, courtesy of Spring Journal, on that podcast page.

    Finally, I mentioned some of my thoughts at that time in a short blog post on here on Depth List, "The Shadow of Society and its Role in Mass Shootings."

    Please feel free to comment on any of these resources here, or share some you have come cross that you have found insightful or worthwhile.

    ###


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's most comprehensive online community for depth psychology. She has hosted interviews with authors and thinkers in depth psychology on the free podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing thesemi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name. She founded www.DepthPsychologyList.com, a free-to-search online database for depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners. She holds Masters degrees in Psychology and Depth Psychology, and is a Ph.D. candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Follow her on Twitter @bonniebright5 or on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/BonnieBright.DepthPsych

  • 21 May 2014 4:18 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    American psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton identifies our very human tendency to ignore difficult realities and overwrite them with thoughts and beliefs that are more palatable as "psychic numbing." This allows our ego to distract itself enough that it doesn’t have to engage with inner and outer voices and images and movements that go beyond the mainstream consciousness (in Shulman-Lorenz & Watkins, Toward Psychologies of Liberation).

    When we witness instances of ecocide (ecological suicide) in the world around us, take note of how wasteful and damaging our consumer-oriented culture has become, or are faced with dire news about how climate change is devastating our planet and threatening life as we know it, we are affected in both body and psyche.

    Aspects of the psyche which we require to be healthy and whole get displaced at seeing the destruction; they split off and take cover in a sense, because it’s easier than admitting and knowing we each have some part it in it. This creates a condition of what some indigenous cultures regard as “soul loss,” a sort of psycho-spiritual deficit, which leaves us individually (and collectively) in a state of depression, malaise, and a general loss of vitality. In fact, in Modern Man in Search of Soul, Jung (1933) diagnosed our entire culture as suffering from loss of soul.

    In his essay, “The Viable Human,” (in Deep Ecology for the Twenty-first Century, Shambhala), theologist Thomas Berry wrote, “Our present dilemma is the consequence of a disturbed psychic situation, a mental imbalance, an emotional insensitivity.” Ecocide and our contribution to climate change make it nearly impossible to feel “at home” on our planet in today’s world. Many of us are consciously or unconsciously experiencing anxiety at the destruction we’re inflicting on the earth.

    In his excellent and comprehensive book, Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity Theory, Deleuze|Guattari and Psychoanalysis for a Climate in Crisis offers an interesting look at some humorous ways comedians and others engage us in the environmental debate, in the end, he notes many of us turn to denial because the possible outcomes are so grim and so vastly unknown that we just can’t wrap our brains (or our emotions) around the issues.

    Dodds writes, “It seems that we have evolved to deal optimally with threats which are immediate, clear, visible, with simple causation, caused by a clearly identifiable ‘enemy’, and with obvious direct personal consequences,”(p. 46) subsequently pointing out that climate change is highly uncertain, not readily visible, and rather abstract in relation to the “here and now.” This translates to the mass denial, apathy, and dissociation we are currently witnessing overall. Dodds calls it the “ultimate bystander effect.”

    Globalization, and especially the pervasiveness of media and the manner in which information is conveyed, amplifies the symptoms, affecting us even more deeply, both somatically and psychologically. The speed at which we exchange and take in information is also a significant problem for the psyche, allowing little or no time for reflection and contemplation of what we hear, see, or read.

    Much of my current research on the topic of ecocide, environmental degradation, climate change, and their effects on the human psyche consist of newspaper and magazine articles providing the latest information and statistics on the symptoms of a pattern I am referring to as “Culture Collapse Disorder.”  

    Due to the speed and fragmentation of mass media, I struggle to articulate and convey information in a way that is considerate of the deep wounds to soul at work in this amazing and frightening phenomena of witnessing the collapse of life as we know it.

    News today in general is difficult to sift through, and does a poor job of conveying what is important. So-called “news” is often delivered at such speed, and with so little time between stories as newscasters, newspapers, or websites skip from one to the next, that we as a public have no time to reflect on any given story.

    Too, stories are placed in conjunction with one another with no context of what is deeply important. Recently, I watched PBS Newshour spend nearly ten minutes talking about what it means that many western cultures default to assigning “pink” to girls and “blue” to boys, arguing that it limits girls in their capacity to grow up and become leadersundefinedonly to see that in the next segment, which lasted less than a minute, they “touched on” the topic of the 200 school girls in Nigeria that had been kidnapped to be sold into marriage by terrorists. While I don’t contend that the “pink and blue” debate relating to gender issues is important--it certainly beats the Kardashians reality show which was just a few channels over--the way each topic is portrayed in conjunction with the next, distorting the significance of each, confuses the human mind regarding status and urgency of each situation. 

    I recall noting during the early days of the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan, headlines on the Yahoo home page read “Japan Faces Nuclear Crisis,” positioned right next to a section entitled “Trending Right Now” which included information on “The Bachelorette,” “Lady Gaga,” and “Oil Prices.” Stories on Yahoo about Charlie Sheen acting out uncontrollably received more overall hits than the Japan disaster did during that time, and we can witness this kind of cognitive dissidence online in a myriad of ways virtually every single day.

    Back in Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos, Dodds succinctly and convincingly portrays how media serves to skew our comprehension of the real imperative but also reflects our ambivalence, citing examples of how articles for climate change appearing in newspapers are placed side by side with ads for holiday airfares or for SUVs.

    Today’s incredibly fast pace of information dissemination via Internet and social media allows us to access important news and data about ecological destruction and climate change, but when treating all topics with equal intensity (everything seems to be “breaking news” on CNN these days), we quickly lose sight of the context that makes meaning.

    A recent comic sketch on the HBO news-satire program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver illustrates this concept visually and forcefully. Oliver explains that, while 97% of climate scientists concur that climate change is a reality and that humans have a part in it, we normally only see television debates in which both sides of the argument are represented equally--as if the debate were fifty-fifty, for and against.

    In the sketch, Oliver points out that in order to portray the issue realistically, the debate would have to be between just three climate change deniers and 97 individuals who believe. The point that the debate is 97 to 3, rather than fifty/fifty, is driven home when Oliver sets up a mock debate and proceeds to march out three people on one side of the table and dozens on the other. (Click the video below or watch it here).

    Online, virtually everywhere, stories about celebrities and their public lives line up alongside stories about the destruction of the planet, about atrocities, violence and trauma, as if all were equal in importance and scope. Debates occur without context or proper weighting for us to reflect on what is real and meaningful. It makes me wonder how we, both individually and as a culture, can truly begin to understand what is truly critical and meaningful to spend our time and resources on, when we haven’t properly reflected about what’s going on on our planet and in our culture. 

    Reflection, and taking the time to allow things to emerge from the margins where they have been banished, or to well up from where they have been suppressed, is a fundamental aspect of depth psychology which enables us to have profound insights. What if we collectively set aside a few minutes each day simply to unplug, turn off the news and sit in quiet contemplation, allowing our psyche to truly absorb and reflect the challenges we face? How might that kind of quiet activism begin to initiate change, first in ourselves--and then in the world around us?

    ###


    NOTE: If you're interested in the topic of soul loss, you can read more about it in my essay, The Shamanic Perspective: Where Jungian Thought and Archetypal Shamanism Converge.


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's most comprehensive online community for depth psychology. She has hosted interviews with authors and thinkers in depth psychology on the free podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name. She founded www.DepthPsychologyList.com, a free-to-search online database for depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners. She holds Masters degrees in Psychology and Depth Psychology, and is a Ph.D. candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Follow her on Twitter @bonniebright5 or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BonnieBright.DepthPsych

  • 20 May 2014 5:56 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    Jung went on to say, "The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium. This is what I call the complementary (or compensatory) role of dreams in our psychic make-up."*

    If dreams are indeed necessary for our individual psychological balance, it would behoove us to pay attention to them, just as we might consider taking nutritional supplements if our physical bodies are out of balance.

    How often do you learn from your dreams, write them down, and honor them--and the vast unconscious which brought them to you? If you are interested in working with your dreams, search for a Jungian depth psychology oriented dream worker here on www.DepthList.com

    Man and His Symbols (Kindle Locations 613-614). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

     
  • 21 Apr 2014 2:11 PM | Kim Hermanson, PhD
    One way to enter into the deep symbolic language of our soul is through a fairy tale. When we write a fairy tale, the words “Once upon a time” opens up a portal to another world. We have stepped into shamanic terrain.

    Every fairy tale is psychologically significant. The narrative and images that show up are metaphorical, not literal. These metaphorical images are powerful, because they’re working on all levels at once. They will show you perspectives and doors that you wouldn’t have seen in any other way. When you enter into this metaphoric terrain, there’s an expansion that happens. Space is opened up and you naturally see other options and possibilities that wouldn't have occurred to you. Your brain starts firing in a different way.

    Our creative process isn’t linear. It will make leaps, and your left brain may judge what you're writing and want to shut it down. Let go of your attachment to what you think this fairy tale should be. Welcome and write down anything that comes. Let the images that show up write the tale and simply record what they have to say. And they do have something to say to you.

    If you come to a place where you feel stuck, write the words “…and what I really want to say is…” and see what happens. Those words will help drop you down into a deeper level of wisdom and insight.

    Sacred moments are those that bring surprise. If we already know what’s going to happen, we’re not in a sacred moment. When we write a fairy tale, we are entering a sacred space where we don't know what's going to happen next. The more you realize that this fairy tale is a real place with real wisdom that you can tap into, the more it will reveal to you.

    For more on fairy tales, as well as a process for you to follow when writing your own fairy tale, a short video:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAVbcKlbDB4

    Kim Hermanson is adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her recent course is, "The Purpose and Power of Image."
  • 22 Feb 2014 2:33 PM | Kim Hermanson, PhD

    Mythologist Michael Meade describes sacred occurrences as those in which the "seal that separates the worlds" is broken and Spirit enters through that break. In Doorway sessions, clients go through a portal into a sacred, interior place where they tap into their own metaphoric inner wisdom. The messages from this realm are clear, direct and immediate. Once we've received an image, there is no further analysis or thinking that we need to do.

    Valuing My Time: How a Metaphor Instantly Shifted Things

    I've often felt uncomfortable setting limits and boundaries on my time with people. I've struggled with feeling that I was being callous, or it was my ego. But in a Doorway Session I saw fruit falling off my tree...and the fruit was my time. My tree was producing fruit and if I didn't take care to harvest that fruit, it would hit the ground and be wasted. I had been acting like I had unlimited time and the image clearly showed me that I don't. My tree won't be producing fruit forever and it's my responsibility to harvest it now.

    After this image showed up, I had no energy about this anymore. Metaphors put an end to the stuckness, we're no longer in our heads analyzing the various sides of the issue: "Is it better for my business if I do this or I do that?"  Instead, we experience immediate truth. We all have such metaphoric inner wisdom available to us for any issue that we struggle with.


    I have two upcoming Doorways groups starting in March. For more information: http://aestheticspace.typepad.com/aesthetic_space/workshops.html

    Kim Hermanson, Ph.D. is adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. To find out more about Doorway Sessions for Creative Breakthroughs: http://aestheticspace.typepad.com

  • 04 Feb 2014 11:10 AM | Mark Gundry

    Exploring Depth Psychotherapy

    by DRMARKGUNDRY on JANUARY 10, 2014

    pathway to the psyche

    Here’s a start to a few blog entries exploring important aspects of psychotherapy as practiced by depth psychologists of various stripes.
    Let’s assume a basic working definition of depth psychotherapy. Let’s assume that it’s a form of therapy that goes out of its way to include the unconscious psyche in treatment. By unconscious psyche we mean at minimum certain dynamic patterns that are always at play beneath the surface of our awareness. Let’s assume that engaging the psyche stimulates growth and movement and often helps to ease problematic symptoms of emotional suffering.

    So how does a therapist go about engaging the psyche? Truth is, there are lots of ways. There are lots of schools of thought in the history of depth psychotherapy, each with its own opinion about how this should be done. Today, as neuro-mania (the reduction of all psychological experience to brain phenomena) reveals its limits both as theory and treatment in psychiatry, renewed interest in the depths of the psyche is creating excitement as psychology begins to re-balance its lopsided though important focus on brain and behavior.

    The best place to start exploring is the therapeutic relationship. Someone comes to therapy, usually in a state of suffering and concern. Something in the suffering–the symptoms–expresses the individual’s difficulty. I’ve found that it’s rare that people will seek out and commit to psychotherapy when they are feeling okay. Maybe they begin in a state of crisis and difficulty, and then begin to feel better, and continue therapy for the sake of further personal development, but it usually takes a painful difficulty, or symptoms, or a loss, or an illness, or a life crisis to bring a person into my office to begin an adventure of self-discovery and renewal.

    The relationship of therapist and client therefore includes this aspect of seeking help, wanting relief and healing. At the same time, it’s odd to say yet definitely true that most people are ambivalent about the very same changes they long for. I can say this based on my experience both as a therapist and as a client! There’s something scary about change, apparently. Sometimes this is called resistance. Forces for change are mobilized, but so are forces against change. This is normal, and a good therapist makes room for ambivalence and facilitates change at the pace the client is okay with.

    One fundamental gain in psychotherapy is the experience that the client has of being seen and understood. Having a hard time brings isolation, and most of us tend to hide the less fun aspects of our lives. Who wants to hear that? we say to ourselves. Or we try to share what’s going on, but it’s too much for our friends and families to handle, or seems to be. That’s why a depth psychologist will try and provide the kind of safe container that welcomes all of the client’s conscious and unconscious parts into the mix.

    One final note for now: I’ve noticed over the years that many people in my office feel a deep longing that is almost unspeakable. Something is missing. It’s hard to say exactly what, but there is a felt sense of lack, and a heartache. I’m not saying therapy necessarily is the answer to this longing, but it can be surprisingly effective is accessing the longing and can even change the way a person gets to bring it into the world outside. Deep desire can lead to interesting transformations that ripple outward through a life. Transformation can happen from the inside – out. Inside the therapy office to outside in the world. Inside the inner self to outside in outer behaviors.

    I will save this inner – outer dynamic for another post.

    http://markgundry.com/portland-therapy/2014/01/10/exploring-depth-psychotherapy/

  • 04 Feb 2014 11:06 AM | Mark Gundry

    Dream On

    by DRMARKGUNDRY on MARCH 6, 2013

    We depth psychologists talk a lot about dreams. But what is it to dream? And what is it not to dream?

    Psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden has this to say in “On not Being Able to Dream”: “Much has been written on what dreams mean; relatively little on what it means to dream; and still less on what it means not to be able to dream.” He goes on to tell about Wilfred Bion’s notion that the activity of dreaming is more fundamental than we normally think.

    Dreaming is not identical to the “dreams” we wake up remembering. Instead, when we are functioning well, dreaming is happening all of the time, waking or sleeping. It is the unconscious psychological work of linking elements of experience that have been stored in memory. Dreaming makes sense of our emotional realities by making these links and giving elements of experience form. This can take place while we are sleeping, and it can take place while we are awake.

    I remember consulting with a very experienced psychoanalyst a few years ago about cases. I asked him how he worked with dreams in his own practice, with his own clients. He said that his approach had changed over time. Now, he said, he thought of each session itself as a kind of dreaming. In other words, each session enters the space of making associations, links, and playing with meanings. Client and therapist dream up the session together and so engage in learning from experience.

    In this view, the background experiences held in memory are raw ingredients. We can’t digest experience without first dreaming it. The act of dreaming cooks the raw ingredients. It creates a meal that we can eat and share with others.

    Bad things happen when we can’t dream. At the extreme, some individuals become unable to dream when in a psychotic state. Psychological digestion is disturbed, and the results can be catastrophic. For most of us, there may be moments of failing to dream–aspects of self and world that we choke on and need help to swallow and metabolize. That’s where psychotherapy comes in and creates a vessel for this alchemical work.


    http://markgundry.com/portland-therapy/2013/03/06/dream-on/

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