Depth Psychology List

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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  • 12 Dec 2012 10:07 AM | Silvia Behrend
    I recently completed a Dream Pattern Analysis certification process that changed the way I view and work with dreams, images and symbols. According to Jung, Conforti and others in the analytical community,  Psyche expresses itself in images and symbols that are universal and unchangeable by human experience. The Collective Unconscious or the Objective Psyche, that which is the matrix of existence seeks to express itself in meaningful ways for the individual. Each image has to be looked at for its specific attributes, proclivities, way that it behaves in the natural world. Depending on the context, we can accurately translate the meaning from the image if we stay with the image. The problem is that we cannot always understand what we are being told because the images seem too chaotic and subjective: we ascribe our own personal meaning to what we experience. There is really nothing wrong with associating our experiences to images and symbols, but we can truly miss the mark if we stay with what we think we know versus really looking at what the image really is.

    For example, if a snake appears in your dream, we can make any number of associations with snakes. Freudians will assume it is a sexual allusion to the male genitals, others might go with the meaning of transformation or healing. But if we look at the snake and begin to ask questions about the snake, we might find out that the snake is a garter snake in the garden and not a boa in the bedroom. There is a huge difference between the two. The first is a natural occurrence which is consistent with how things are and the other is a dangerous situation which does not occur in the natural world. The context of the garden tells us that we are in nature, that snakes belong out there and that garter snakes perform an ecological function. All is well. The bedroom, on the other hand, is a person's most intimate space, not only for intimacy with a loved one, but where one goes to sleep, to re-charge, where one is the most oneself away from others. A boa constrictor not only does not belong in a house, if it is there, it is saying that something very dangerous that could crush and devour one has entered one's psychic space. The appropriate response to that is to run! And then ask the question: What is in your life that is so dangerous, so close to you that can obliterate you? In addition, we would want to look at the dreamer's response to the boa. Are they aware of the danger?

    In this case, we could ask what one's feeling about the boa is in order to determine whether the dreamer has an appropriate attitude toward the image or if it is dissonant. If the dreamer says something like a boa is an incredible exemplar of power and potency, they might want to see the boa in the bedroom as a symbol of their own power. What is missed is that a boa in bedroom represents extreme danger and would point to the dreamer's naivete when dealing with others in intimate spaces who pose a real threat to the dreamer. In addition, it could also point to the dreamer's illusion that they possess those attributes to compensate for a sense of powerlessness. The rest of the dream would provide more information.

    On the other hand, if the dreamer says that boas are dangerous and that they were scared of it, that tells us something different. Since they are not ignoring the danger, then we would want to look at what is in their lives that they know is dangerous and needs immediate attention.

    There are many other aspects to this image as well that would reveal more about the dreamer's life. Questions to ask would be: what does the dreamer do when she/he sees the snake? What happens next? how does the dream end?

    This is how I approach dream images or any image that comes up in counseling sessions. Since images are the way that Psyche communicates, it is a good idea to get as close to the objective meaning of the image as we can. When we research how a particular image actually is in the world, a bear, a bee, a shoe, a glass, we can come very close to the meaning it holds for the particular person at the particular time. If there is a bear in the winter eating honey, we know that something is off! Bears hibernate in the winter and there is no honey. So why this image? Is the dreamer engaged in something where the timing is way off and the resources are missing?

    This way of approaching images is exciting and exacting work. It takes time and discipline and curiosity. If you are interested in learning more, go to www.assisiinstitute.com. I am also available for phone counseling or mentoring.  Feel free to contact me at 360 -259-3971 or email drsbehrend@gmail.com.

  • 11 Dec 2012 6:19 PM | Anonymous

    In the last few decades of the twentieth century, Jungian analyst, archetypal psychologist, and scholar James Hillman (1975) turned the field of psychology--and Jungian psychology in particular--on it’s head with the publication of his book Re-Visioning Psychology. Explaining that “psyche” is the Greek word for “soul,” Hillman boldly insists the book “advances ideas that current psychology has not even begun to consider” (p. xv), claiming “the job of psychology is to offer a way and find a place for soul within its own field."

     

    Hillman refers to soul as “a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing itself” (p. xvi). The value of seeing beneath, between, and beyond to achieve new perspectives for learning, integration, transformation, and growth was a personal challenge for Hillman, who claimed depth psychology can be summed up in one excerpt from Heraclitus: “You could not discover the limits of the soul (psyche), even if you traveled every road to do so; such is the depth…of its meaning” (p. xvi).


    The dimension of soul is depth, and while Re-Visioning Psychology claims to offer a “way into” Jung and his psychology, according to Hillman, it also offers: 

    a way out of Jung, especially his theology. For to stay wholly with this one thinker is to remain Jungian, which as Jung himself said is possible only for Jung. Essential to soul-making is psychology-making, shaping concepts and images that express the needs of the soul as they emerge in each of us. Since my soul, my psychological constitution, differs from Freud and from Jung’s so my psychology will be different from theirs….Freud and Jung are psychological masters, not that we may follow them in becoming Freudian and Jungian but that we may follow them in becoming psychological” (p. xviii). 

    Hillman defines all psychology as depth psychology because, according to him, it always has a therapeutic aspect that begins with soul and goes immediately to the depths. Hillman’s approach to psychology involves a search for “further structures and wider myths” (p. xxi) and an intent to “open anew the questions of the soul and to open the soul to new questions.” Hillman saw psychology as needing re-visioning from what it was at the time and his solution was to “range widely.”

     

    No matter which way you engage in depth psychology oriented therapy or practices, I would venture to say you are “ranging widely” by opening to the therapeutic aspects that inevitably come with matters of the soul. The question is, are you ready to transform your life in new and meaningful ways? And if not now, when...?

     

    Bonnie Bright, M.A. is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.

  • 10 Dec 2012 1:40 PM | Anonymous
    The theories of Swiss-born Carl Gustav Jung (known as C.G. to his peers) developed during the infancy of the emerging field known as psychology, established him as a pioneer and one of the founding fathers of depth psychology. The broader field of psychology was essentially born in 1879 when German physician and philosopher, Wilhelm Wundt, set up the first laboratory that carried out psychological research. The next few years marked the award of the first doctorate in psychology, the first title “professor of psychology, and the establishment of the American Psychological Association in 1892 (Zimbardo, 2001). In 1890, American philosopher William James, published Principles of Psychology, which marked an important transition from a mental philosophy to a scientific psychology. A few years later, in 1896, a Viennese medical doctor trained in neurology, Sigmund Freud, introduced the term “psychoanalysis” to define the practice of “talk therapy.”

    In 1900, the same year that Jung graduated from the University of Basel with his M.D. degree, Freud published his groundbreaking work, The Interpretation of Dreams-- strongly establishing this aspect of mental life as an area of study. Freud’s explication of psychoanalysis based on his theories of hysteria, dreams, and word association as a doorway to uncover repressed material was one of the turning points that led to the birth of what was ultimately called “depth psychology,” a term coined by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler around the same time. Depth psychology claimed to reveal critical understanding of the conscious mind through exploration of the depths of the unconscious one. Jung’s path to depth psychology solidified when he completed his doctoral dissertation for his Ph.D. in 1902 at the University of Zurich on a depth-related topic, On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena.

    Jung met Freud who became Jung’s colleague and mentor in 1907, and they continued to establish the study of depth psychology both independently and together until 1913, at which time Jung’s capacity to support some of Freud’s theories reached a breaking point. While Freud continued to be entranced by the idea of a personal unconscious that harbored secrets, wishes, drives, and desires that could be mined and explained by childhood experiences, Jung moved more toward his theory of a collective unconscious which was a reservoir for archetypes, dreams, and stories that applied beyond the individual. The ensuing rupture between Jung and Freud was partially responsible for sending Jung into a downward spiral into the depths, instigating the fear that he was losing his mind, and ultimately resulting in an engagement with the objective unconscious that led to his writing the Red Book. When he emerged from his “descent,” Jung went on to make many vital contributions to depth psychology as we know it today.

    By the time of his death in 1961, Jung had become something of a legend in his own time. As John Ryan Haule (2011) pointed out in volume one of his new scholarly work, Jung in the 21st Century, Jung “has become the most beloved of the original giants of psychoanalysis” (p. ix), even though Jung’s credibility in scientific circles and even the general field of psychology has been controversial due to some of his unusual theories which have branded him more as a mystic. Recent years have only emphasized the growing cultural interest in such esoteric topics and in Jung himself, evidenced in part by the warm reception of Jung’s Red Book (published in 2010), and also by the release of the 2011 film, “A Dangerous Method” (Cronenberg), which profiles Freud and Jung’s relationship and tells the story of how psychoanalysis developed. And, with growing numbers of Jungian analysts and organizations employing technology like video conferencing to educate or conduct sessions around the world, Jungian psychology is experiencing a golden era of rebirth. In fact, the headline of a January 2012 article in the Guardian boldly proclaimed, “This Could be Carl Jung's Century (Samuels, 2012) and as recently as December 2, 2012, SF Gate ran a story about Asheville Jung Center working to advance the psychology of Carl Jung

    On top of his professional persona, Jung’s life was a human life, marked by its own unique set of challenges, and further complicated--with all of us--by human companions and colleagues. This, however, bears out the opportunity and the invitation to look at our attachment to Jung, the man, and his role as one of the founders of an institution many care deeply about. While it is easy to idealize both Jung and his ideas, it is also critical to examine where we are accepting without questioning, buying into unauthenticated stories, worshiping while ignoring foibles, and establishing our convictions based on emotional attachment to an ideal image or outcome.

    Many who know Jung's work believe it has transformed the capacity for human beings to be ever more self-reflective, to begin to see--perhaps for the first time--our own shadows that thrive beyond our capacity to see in ourselves (though often easy for others to see in us). Many who commence with their own inner work via Jungian or depth psychotherapy are courageously committing to looked at the parts of ourselves that have been hidden away, split off, or otherwise remain invisible and to learn to integrate those parts so we can be more healthy and whole.


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name.

  • 08 Dec 2012 7:30 AM | Anonymous
    C.G. Jung insists that the unconscious can be reached only through symbols and that individuation can only occur with the symbol is a compelling idea that commands attention to attention itself (Commentary on the secret of the golden flower, Jung, 1929). As long as one goes through life unconsciously, not observing and witnessing, one can never detach him or herself enough from passions and emotions to make any real movement (The psychology of kundalini yoga, Shamdasani, 1932/1996). However, knowing what to look for, knowing there will be symbols imbued with meaning that have compelling significance to the work of progress, growth, or individuation raises one to the first level of increased understanding.

    In fact, this may well be what Jung refers to when he discusses the cakras (chakras) in his lectures on kundalini yoga: once we can separate thought from emotion--can have thoughts about emotion--in the anahata or heart chakra, then the seed of consciousness appears.

    Jung explains that with thought/consciousness is the first appearance of the parusa, the first small germ of the divine self – the possibility of lifting oneself above the emotions and beholding them (Shamdasani) This is the beginning of individuation; separating yourself from emotions. In anahata, he says, individuation begins. The Self we circumambulate, the Self that eventually reveals itself is impersonal; a greater force, and an objective one. The only way we can move into the arena of the Self is to move through the other stages or chakras, to be initiated through the other elements until the personal and emotional releases its grip and dissipates, revealing the “greater man”, the collective unconscious.

    Jung (1929) worked extensively with mandalas and was delighted to find the correlation in eastern thought. He states, “Things reaching so far back into human history naturally touch upon the deepest layers of the unconscious, and can have a powerful effect on it even when our conscious language proves itself to be quite impotent” (para 45). Thus, the language of the unconscious is symbols, which are signposts that ultimately lead to synchronicities. Jung insisted that leaps in the individuation process typically happen by synchronicity, not by planned or incremental attempts to improve or increase (Some reflections on the influence of Chinese thought on Jung and his psychological theory, Stein, 2005).

    Learning to understand the language of the unconscious in which we literally swim on a minute-by-minute basis is one way we can begin to get context for what's going on in our lives and therefore to identify when we are in the grip of a larger pattern that has run and re-run since the beginning of time. Depth psychotherapy is a good way to start learning to read the symbols and patterns at work in our lives.


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name.

  • 06 Dec 2012 7:17 PM | Anonymous

    The depth psychological view focuses on mystery and the creativity and potentiality that resides in the unknown. The mysteries of the unconscious manifest when they are ready. According to James Hillman, contemporary archetypal psychologist, each of us is pulled toward a telos, a whole and complete finished product, each unique, like an acorn that turns into a massive oak tree. This is also the call of the Self to which Jung refers.

    Jungian thought identifies “health” as wholeness, and “pathology” or lack of health as lack of wholeness. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1964) asserted that current western cultures have lost a sense of the sacred, and in so doing have become dislocated and disoriented, losing meaning and vitality by losing contact with what he calls the regulating center of the soul. This condition of being out of balance is often referred to by indigenous and earth-based people as loss of soul. Smith (Jung and Shamanism in Dialogue, 2007) argues that a retrieval of the sacred is essential for retrieval of the soul.

    Smith (2007), noting the pathological conditions emerging in contemporary culture, says we have repressed the contents of the unconscious and summarily forgotten it entirely, disregarding the magic and mystery there. The sheer lack of soul in current times and culture epitomizes the tremendous precipice on which we perch as a result. Jung, sensing the enormity of the split between our conscious everyday lifestyle and the vast depth of the psyche, warns, “We do not understand yet that the discovery of the unconscious means an enormous spiritual task, which must be accomplished if we wish to preserve our civilization” (in Sabini, The Earth Has a Soul,  2005, p. 145). According to Jung, the only way to address the deep loss of connection to soul that we are experiencing as a species is to reestablish our connection to the sacred.

    As a call from the unconscious, any symptom we manifest, psychological or physical, represents a deeper reality. Personal symptoms, conflicts, and blocks relate to or are based on a mythic or archetypal level, which, when understood and witnessed can inform us on the meaning of our struggles and tests. We must look more deeply into the profound depths of the soul, the rhizome, the root from where the symptom arises and discover how to address it in its own symbolic realm; in its own language of image, story, and myth. We must treat it from a depth psychological standpoint.

    If you're suffering from challenges like depression, relationship issues, emotional challenges or other problems that interfere with your capacity to be whole and healthy, a good depth-oriented practitioner can help you get to the root of the problem instead of simply trying to smooth over the symptom.


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name.
  • 04 Dec 2012 3:43 PM | Anonymous
    There are a handful of areas that strike me as of core importance in depth psychology. Jung certainly focused heavily on them, and even today they each have the potential to have tremendous impact on us as individuals and the collective.

    The Imaginal. What Jung first called the unconscious also contains the imaginal realm, a term borrowed from French philosopher Henry Corbin. In contrast with imagination, the imaginal indicates a reality that is present in the same time and space as ordinary reality but usually invisible to us and best accessed through altered states of consciousness. Interpretation of symbols and symptoms is often done through active imagination, the practice of dialoging and interacting with symbols in the imaginal realm where they reside; through dream analysis, and through depth-oriented studies of a culture’s traditions, myths, and stories. Encounter with the imaginal generates rapture, awe, power, understanding, and ultimatelyundefinedtransformation. Hillman (1979) suggests actively engaging with symbolic images and energies by treating them as autonomous entities and entering their territory to engage in dialogue or allow a relationship to develop:

    There are two ways of engaging with the symbolic, archetypal, and mythological forms that reside in the wild landscape of our unconscious. One is to encounter them as they emerge, grappling and wrestling with them in ordinary everyday reality, turning our gaze to their veiled faces and hooded eyes to see what mystery lies there. The other way, however, is ultimately an inevitable call to descend into the depths where the forms dwell, facing and interacting with them in their own turf, the mysterious inner territory of the underworld that supports and sustains themundefinedand us.


    Culture. Because culture is riddled with symbolism and tradition, it deeply impacts every individual’s psyche, and thus, the two are not separate. Depth psychology respects the inherent nature of the individual, and also of each culture, extending its focus to include how individuals, groups, cultures, nations, and the planet are each affected by the multitude of ways in which they all interact. Diane Taylor referred to percepticide, the concept of numbness or a cutting-off of seeing in instances whereobserving something is more than we can bear. Robert J. Lifton identified this tendency as "psychic numbing" the idea that our modern, western ego represses, ignores, and numbs itself from engaging with inner and outer voices and images and movements that go beyond the mainstream consciousness (Shulman-Lorenz & Watkins, 2002). According to Chalquist (2009), Depth Psychology arose as the drive toward liberation manifest around the world, particularly in the twentieth century.

    Nature. Many contemporary philosophers and writers have identified a split between humans and the world of nature, observing how we tend to separate ourselves into another category altogether, one based on progress and technology. We have long forgotten our inner nature, and our human nature. Jung insists:

    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. (Jung in Sabini, 2005, pp. 79-80)

    Further, Jung says because we are so out of touch with that natural part of ourselves, the archaic human that experiences primordial images, the part of our psyche that has its roots in nature, we have suffered instinctual atrophy which leads to disorientation in everyday human situations (Jung in Sabini, 2005). By reconnecting with nature, both inner and outer, we can relocate ourselves within the greater tapestry of creation, taking a place in nature alongside our counterparts and developing increased understanding of our role in life.


    Myth. The importance of symbol and metaphor in personal and cultural imagery is vital. Jung wrote, “Spirit is the inside of things and matter is their visible outer aspect” (in Sabini, p. 2). Since the psyche spontaneously generates mythico-religious symbolism, paying attention and listening is a vital part of noticing meaningful symbols as they emerge. Depth Psychology understands myth works as a repository of recurring situations, so recognizing a specific myth, the way it unfolds, and the meaning it holds for a particular individual can be vital for understanding contemporary events and situations (Chalquist, 2009).  “The function of myth,” said Joseph Campbell, “is to pull you into accord with the rhythm of the universe.” (in McCarthy, 1988, p. 1). Campbell adhered to the idea that myth and ceremonial rites enable the mind to be in harmony with the body and the way of life to be in harmony with the way nature requires (Campbell & Moyers, 1991). According to Chalquist (2009):

    All minds, all lives, are ultimately embedded in some sort of myth-making. Mythology is not a series of old explanations for natural events; it is rather the richness and wisdom of humanity played out in a wondrous symbolical storytelling. . . Personal symptoms, conflicts, and stucknesses contain a mythic or transpersonal/archetypal core that when interpreted can reintroduce the client to the meaning of his struggles. 

    Though we may experience each of these arenas on a more or less unconscious level in our daily lives, you're sure to discover most depth therapists and practitioners engage with them wholeheartedly in a very conscious way--and they'll help you to do the same as you begin to discover the underlying layers of psyche that make up the whole of who you really are.


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name.

  • 03 Dec 2012 8:04 AM | Anonymous

    Depth Psychology has been heavily influenced by C.G. Jung. One of Jung’s fundamental tenets that differentiated him from his mentor, Sigmund Freud, was to allege the existence of a collective unconscious, a province or depository that includes all psychic material and systems that are not conscious, and which is vast and inexhaustible; limitless, unknowable, and indefinable. According to Jung, the unconscious is made up of archetypes, autonomous instincts, patterns, or behaviors, which are common across all eras, peoples, and places. Archetypes organize the contents of the unconscious and connect it, at its deepest levels, to nature (1964).

    Jung believed the language of archetypes, and therefore of the unconscious, is manifest in symbols and images, which entice us with their numinous power to enter into relationship with them and to participate in a reciprocal act of transformation. The term numinous can describe an encounter with expressions of the unconscious in the form of powerful images and emotions From this, we begin to gain a much larger sense of what Jung called the Self, an ordering, regulating harmonizing and meaning-giving agency of the psyche. The Self, according to Jung, is an inner guiding factor, and the totality of the psyche. It is this central archetype around which we circumambulate and gain experience, instinctively seeking wholeness in the process of individuation (in Storr, 1983; Smith 2007).

    A symbol stands for something unknown; a mystery, which can never be exhausted in meaning but which is contextually significant to a particular individual. Jungian analyst, Edward Whitmont (1969), contends that symbols allow the emergence of themes from the unconscious in an attempt to reconnect us with a mode of experiencing from which we have become disconnected. We experience both external objects, things we can see or experience with our senses and which have meaning for us in a specific context we have learned, and we also experience inner objects that we can’t necessarily know or recognize. Both are represented by images, and “the same images which present themselves to us as representatives of the outside world are subsequently used by the psyche to express the inner world” (1969, p. 29). Thus, the external object that represents some unknown inner object becomes a symbol, which is “the best possible representation of something that can never be known” (Hopcke, 1999, p. 29). Intuiting the meaning of this object beyond what we already understand it to be is the idea of symbolic thought (Whitmont, 1969). Ryan (2002) calls the symbol both the guiding force that opens the portal to the archetype as well as a vehicle to navigate the deeper parts of the unconscious. Jung (1964) strongly promoted living the symbolic life: that is, taking symbolic experiences seriously.

    According to Jung:

    the powerful symbols emanating from this imaging faculty of the soul mysteriously attract all with whom they come into contact and, awakening them to the heritage of the collective unconscious, allow them to experience and express symbols with a similar numinous power of attraction. (Ryan, 2002, p. 80)

    External objects and internal events both reflect the same message. Jung refers to integrating the external world through the senses on one hand, but also suggests we “translate into visual reality the world within us” (Ryan, 2002, p. 156). If we were to view the unconscious as a wilderness, it is possible to see how elements on the inside of our psyches are also represented by things that we see in the physical world around us, and to draw parallel meaning between them. The compelling monuments and features in the outer landscape can correlate what Ryan refers to as “structures of the psyche”(p. 156) becoming symbolic in the “inner psychic landscape of the mind” (p. 156).

    Jung goes on, “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 the irrepresentable transcendental factors. . . . psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing” (Jung, 1960, para. 418). A study of symbols, events, and nature in general, both inner and outer, is a powerful way to interpret the aspects of the unconscious that we cannot otherwise know. Symbols also occur in myths and in dreams. Jung refers to integrating the external world through our senses, but also suggests the opposite: that we “translate into visual reality the world within us” (Jung in Ryan, 2002, p. 156). Thus, the compelling monuments and features in the outer landscape can correlate what Ryan refers to “structures of the psyche”(p. 156) becoming symbolic in the “inner psychic landscape of the mind” (p. 156).

    Jung believed we spend the first half of life or so developing our ego so it becomes a strong vehicle to carry us through our experiences: thus we can mature, learn, find a way to support ourselves, relate to others in our culture, form relationships, raise children, etc. However, halfway through our lives, the larger entity Jung called the “Self” knocks at our door, driving us toward finding greater meaning and increasing wholeness. In this process, we re-establish contact with the unconscious ground we left through conditioning and logical processes while growing up. According to Jung, only a well-developed ego is strong enough to encounter the increasing manifestations of the unconscious and its archetypes. During the process of individuation, the call to self-improvement in the second half of life, we become conscious of the Self. In regarding it, we allow it to influence us and help us grow.

    Regardless of which type of depth-oriented practitioner you choose to work with, you're likely to discover that he or she will be focused on understanding the way each of us interacts with and begins to understand the meaning of the symbols that impact us most.



    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name.
  • 01 Dec 2012 11:26 PM | Anonymous

    The word “psychology” is made up of the word “psyche,” meaning soul, and “logos,” to study. Therefore, Depth Psychology, at its core, is the study of the soul. According to best-selling author of Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore (1992), “soul” is not a thing but rather a dimension of experience. It is related to depth, to substance, and to relationship to the world (Moore, 1992). James Hillman (1975), contemporary author and pioneer of Archetypal Psychology, outlines five functions of soul: (1) it makes all meaning possible, (2) it turns events into experiences, (3) it involves a deepening of experience, (4) is communicated in love, and (5) has a special relation with death (Hillman, 1975) (p. xvi)

    For Hillman, as a result of these five characteristics, the soul represents the imaginative possibility of our nature, a possibility that is realized in reflective speculation, dream, image, and fantasy. Indigenous and earth-based cultures held the belief that malaise and illness came from a “loss of soul,” occurring when the soul fled or was abducted to the underworld and had to be called back by the shaman, the spiritual caretaker of the community. Thus, early Depth Psychologists were also considered doctors of the soul (Ellenberger, 1970).

    Soul involves depth. When we say something has soul, it implies a deeper level than the normal, everyday thing. Each of us, at any given moment, is both a source of soul and a container for soul. Without it, we are lost; without acknowledging and embracing it, it is lost. Each of us longs to be reunited. Soul, as I have come to think of it, is a Source Of Unconscious Longing (SOUL): we are seeking to find what is missing, the connection we have lost and are yearning for at some deep level; the implicit desire to make deep meaning of both inner and outer nature, to find balance in a world where we have radically tipped that innate balance that indigenous peoples know comes with nature and earth. By searching for soul, we embark on a journey of epic proportions, a so-called “hero’s journey” of myth.

    Given the vastness we encounter in contemplation of the concept of soul, Depth Psychology focuses more on the inquiry and does not prefer to enter into definitions and answers that are fixed and inflexible. Soul is, above all, unique, creative, and changeable, and to know one aspect of it is to only know a tiny fraction.

    The goal, then, according to Jung, is to continually seek to know, then include and integrate parts of ourselves that reside in the unconscious, undefined, even the so-called shadow parts that we despise or abhor and are inclined to reject--in order to become more whole. Jung states it this way, “Since everything living strives for wholeness, the inevitable one-sidedness of our conscious life is continually being corrected and compensated by the universal human being in us, whose goal is the ultimate integration of conscious and unconscious” (1960, p. 80).

    Anyone who feels the unconscious longing for wholeness, to be located in the greater web of life, might consider some type of depth psychology oriented work in order to put a foot on the path to more self-understanding and transformation.


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name.


  • 30 Nov 2012 9:30 AM | Anonymous
    “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life,” writes Carl Jung who is widely known as the father of depth psychology. “Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance....In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted” (Jung, 1989, p. 325).


    Depth psychology, narrowed down to its essential, asks simply: what is the nature of our dance with the Jung’s “infinite”--and what does it mean to us? The term "depth psychology," 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 explores the hidden or deeper parts of human experience by seeing things in depth rather than taking them apart. 

    Certainly, 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, Culture and Ecology (among others) and the way each of them influences us as individuals. 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. It was Freud who first introduced the concept that each of us experiences impact from a hidden, unobservable world of secrets, doubts, and fictions that we consistently repress outside our consciousness. These repressed issues cause feelings of fear, shame, anger, and anxiety for which the source is often not identified or acknowledged (Elliott, 2002). Most of us experience a “self” as something we “have”: an established component that is constant, observable and fairly unchanging. That self we see and know is made up of beliefs, past experiences, emotions, relationships, values, and judgments that have built up significantly in early childhood, shaping the self we perceive ourselves to be and strongly influencing our thoughts, decisions, and actions with ourselves and others. In short, it makes me the “me” I know today.

    The study of Psychology holds that 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. 


    Depth, closely correlated with Jungian psychology because of the powerful influence of Carl Jung’s contributions to the field includes “the experience of the sacred, of mystery, and of the ineffable. . . an approach that is at home with myth and symbol, with the religious and spiritual traditions of the world, with anthropology and archeology, with art, poetry, and literature” (Sonoma State University website, 2010).

    The founding psychologists believed the unconscious has its own logic and will and so it is vital to observe what resides in the unconscious in order to decode the messages communicates. These messages emerge into consciousness through symbols in dreams, art, nature, and story. According to depth psychologist Craig Chalquist (2009), "’Depth’ refers to what's below the surface of psychic manifestations like behaviors, conflicts, relationships, family dynamics, dreams, even social and political events.” 

    Additionally, “The modern field of Depth Psychology originates in...the importance of symbol and metaphor in personal and cultural imagery or the recognition of the dynamic interplay between the natural world and the human psyche (Pacifica Graduate Institute web site, 2010). Depth Psychology seeks to regard what is silenced, marginalized or hidden at the edges of what we believe to be normal in our culture and our world. It challenges norms and asks more questions rather than settling on fixed answers. It looks beyond symptoms to find the underlying root rather than simply trying to fix or mask the symptom. It seeks to put issues into a larger context using image, story, and myth. Once a symptom or problem can be located in a larger framework, it is easier to get a big picture or a metaphor for what is really going on. (Extracted from "On Depth Psychology: It’s Meaning and Magic," an article by Bonnie Bright, available in whole at http://www.depthinsights.com/pdfs/On_Depth_Psychology.pdf)

    All of the practitioners and service providers who choose to list on this site identify some aspect of their practice to be depth-oriented. As a general rule, that means they tend to look beyond the obvious and identify symbols and deeper meaning which can provide insight into the areas of all our lives that need to be seen by shining a light into the darkness. Check this blog regularly to hear more about how the field of depth psychology is influencing so many practitioners and how it can help you!


    Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name.
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