Archive for December 14th, 2010

Engaged Jungian Psychology

“Our effort today should be the double one of consciousness plus a full participation in life.”

C.G. Jung (Analytical Psychology, p. 68)

Depth psychology – a psychology that recognizes the importance of the unconscious – is often viewed as a method focused only on inner work. The approach invokes an image of two people sitting in a room working on dreams, complexes, and inner dynamical processes. Indeed, doing ones inner work is essential to discovering the dynamic principles that are  playing an active, important and often disruptive role in our lives. For Jungians, the unconscious is a vast territory filled with powerful forces of nature. Doing ones work implies making an honest and courageous attempt to explore this dynamic inner territory. The Jungian analyst accompanies the individual along the journey with the advantage that they have experience in navigating around this territory. As a person encounters their inner life, they develop a conscious working relationship with not only the territory, but the dynamics animating the territory.

The perception that this analytic process takes place in an isolated consulting room is quite limiting. As humans, we not only have a fundamental need to Be, but also to Belong. Being in relationship is essential to self discovery. Relationship in the consulting room provides a tremendous opportunity for self discovery. Outside of the consulting room, daily relationships continually open doors to exploring who we are and how we work. So many people come to analysis not solely for inner self discovery, but because their relations to others and the greater world don’t work as well as they would like.  Jung said that we cannot individuate on top of Mount Everest. In other words, relating to others and the world are essential to the individuation path, or the path to becoming whole.

In the same light, our relationship to Nature offers an opportunity for self discovery. It can be an important part of our individuation process. In the above quote, Jung tells us that our work is twofold, i.e. to bring conscious into our world AND a full participation in life.  Depth psychologists and those doing inner work need to remember the importance of a “full participation in life.” Perhaps we could call this Engaged Jungian psychology, analogous to what some refer to as engaged Buddhism. Here engaged means full participation in what life brings to us and what we make of life. Active participation in conservation efforts and living in balance with Nature are examples of engaged Jungian psychology. How do you see yourself being in a full participation in life?”

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