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Posts Tagged ‘depth psychology’

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Please check out the exciting upcoming symposium on Earth, Climate, Dreams, which is sponsored by the Depth Psychology Alliance. For more information please click here.

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Looking for Caesar

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Address of emperor to soldiers (adlocutio). Relief on south side. Marble. A.D. 175—196.

“If we are stumbling into an era of dictators, Caesars, and incarnated States, we have accomplished a cycle of two thousand years and the serpent has again met with its own tail. Then our era will be a near replica of the first centuries A.D., when Caesar was the State and a god, and divine sacrifices were made to Caesar while the temples of the gods crumbled away. You know that thousands in those days turned their eyes away from this visible world, filled with horror and disgust, and adopted a philosophy which healed their souls.”

C.G. Jung CW (18, par. 1342)

The recent outcome of the US presidential election has resulted in a mood of tremendous worldwide anxiety. Many wonder how we got to this point in history. Many question how we will survive the coming days of political, social and environmental upheaval.

Jung wrote the above quoted words in 1936, a time when many Caesars were appearing in the world, a time when nationalism was on the rise in Germany, Russia, and Italy. Here he observes that the appearance of dictators occurred in the past and a common response for some in such times was a turning away to find a way to heal the soul. Such soul-based philosophy requires a turning within in order to transcend the materialistic poverty of the outer world. In reaction to the outcome of the US election there is a call for immediate action. I do not deny action is essential, but of equal importance is taking the time to look quietly within, which opens us to healing our wounded souls. At such pivotal points we need to balance ‘doing’ with ‘being’ so that our actions come from a deeper place within us, a place rooted in consciousness, connectedness and caring. At this pivotal point in our history we are in need of soulful approaches for working with our highly fragmented world. Depth psychology roots us in the varied dimensions of psyche and provides us with skillful means for exploring shadow and light in imaginative ways.

How did we get here? Earlier in his 1936 essay Jung (CW 18, par. 1330) says that,

“Nations in a condition of collective misery behave like neurotic or even psychotic individuals. First they get dissociated or disintegrated, then they pass into a state of confusion and disorientation.”

Here in the US we have felt this state of confusion and disorientation for a while. There is dis-ease in financial markets, growing inequity in monetary wealth, rising housing costs, lack of proper health care, and dislocation from place. Post election analysts describe a yearning among many Americans for radical change. Consciously and unconsciously there is a recognition that the old paradigm does not work anymore. There is a desire for a new way, even if we do not know what that way is resulting in a state of confusion.

Jung goes on to say that at first,

“… the confusion affects mainly the conscious and subconscious layers but does not touch the fundamental instinctual structure of the mind, the collective unconscious. On the contrary, the confusion in the top layers produces a compensatory reaction in the collective unconscious, consisting of a peculiar personality surrogate, an archaic personality equipped with superior instinctive forces. This new constellation is at first completely unconscious, but as it is activated it becomes perceptible in the form of a projection.”

The collective psychological sense of confusion and loss touches the part of psyche most associated with personal and social complexes. We can recognize the complex-ed state of the collective psyche through the highly emotional outbursts plaguing the nation during the election process. The unconscious reaction to the outer sense of confusion with its associated emotional outbursts creates an ‘archaic personality’ possessing tremendous power. Since this personality is unconscious it is projected on to some outer form.

In terms of the individual and even the collective, Jung explains that

“It is usually the doctor treating a patient who unwittingly assumes the role of the projected figure. The mechanism of this projection is the transference. By transference the doctor appears in the guise of the father, for instance, as that personality who symbolizes superior power and intelligence, a guarantee of security and a protection against overwhelming dangers.”

Perhaps here is the key to what has happened in the recent election for in a state of mass confusion many search for an individual who presents as powerful, who offers ‘a guarantee of security and a protection against overwhelming dangers.’ Donald Trump has promised to make “America great again” and to protect us from varied threats real and imagined. Out of a sense of insecurity people look for the protector and they believe they have found their protector.

Is this where the process of projection ends? Jung proceeds by saying,

“So long as the disintegration has not reached the deeper layers, the transference will not produce more than the projection of the father-image. But once the confusion has stirred up these unknown depths, the projection becomes more collective and takes on mythological forms. In this case the doctor appears as a sort of sorcerer or saviour.”

The collective emotional intensity during the US election indicates that we dropped down into the deeper archetypal layers of psyche and excited more than just a need for a paternal protector. A father figure was no longer sufficient to allay the fear in people. The current rise in nationalism indicates that people yearn more for a ‘sorcerer or savior.’ Of course the sorcerer often appears in his darkest of forms and we find ourselves now facing a great illusionist, rather than a savior.

What to do? Have we returned to a time when many will turn their “eyes away from the visible world” and search for a philosophy to heal the soul? I would argue that this is exactly what is needed. Before we act, we need to do some soul healing. We need to look within our hearts and, in stillness, discover the darkness within ourselves that has created this world of confusion.

Jung (CW 9ii, par. 255) writes that,

“Only ruthless self-knowledge on the widest scale, which sees good and evil in correct perspective and can weigh up the motives of human action, offers some guarantee that the end-result will not turn out too badly.”

Self-knowledge comes from looking inward, but this does not mean we flee from the outer world. Essentially we need both inner reflection and engagement with the world to bring about healing. Jung felt very strongly that the healing process was not one of retreating from the world, he says (Visions Seminar, p. 1367) that,

“… we are only complete in a community or in a relationship. There is no possibility of individuation on the top of Mount Everest where you are sure that nobody will ever bother you. Individuation always means relationship.”

Depth psychology tells us that we need to balance our search for self-knowledge with worldly engagement. The result of such a balanced approach is to discover an inner sorcerer that provides the wisdom and compassion required for creating a fear-less world. Through such a process we need look no further for a Caesar…

 

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I will be discussing, reading and signing my book “Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future” at the Trident Bookstore & Cafe, Boulder, CO on April 16th from 2-4pm. Please stop by…

Trident-flyer

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The Care of Nature

Muir

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir, 1890

I have just returned from a walk through a small part of Muir Woods. I was captivated by the immense beauty and wonder of the Woods. The silence there penetrated deeply into my soul. I left those Woods transformed. Driving up the winding road, I reflected on the precariousness of Nature’s beauty for this valley and forest were threatened by the building of a dam. The care of just a few, including Theodore Roosevelt, saved the forest from ultimate submersion. Psychologically, this act of submersion is repression of a thing feared. I was reminded of Freud’s view of our relationship to nature, summarized in these words, “The principle task of civilization, its actual raison d’etre, is to defend us against nature.” For Freud civilization was under constant assault from nature and it was our task to conquer or, at least, subdue nature, lest it overwhelm us. The feeling that nature must be subdued is actually quite old and represents an innate fear of the natural world.

Of course, Jung viewed our relationship with Nature in a completely different way for he saw a direct connection between psyche’s archetypes and Nature, he succinctly reflected that, “…the archetypes are as it were hidden foundations of the conscious mind, or, to use another comparison, the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrower sense but in the world in general, …[archetypes are that portion of the psyche] through which the psyche is attached to nature.” So, to the extent we explore archetypes we approach Nature and, of course, the opposite is equally true to the extent we explore Nature we approach the archetypes of psyche, which is the sentiment exactly expressed in the words of John Muir.

I find it difficult to fathom people who choose to submerse the beauty of a forest with a dam, or to cut down a forest for a housing development or a shopping mall. Are these destructive acts toward Nature a reflection of Freud’s fear of the natural world? Are we so unconscious of our innate archetypal rootedness to Nature? What do we truly value?

Leaving Muir Woods, I was thankful for those few special people, so long ago, whose care afforded me a glimpse of the Universe while walking through the forest.

 

 

 

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Facing Climate Change

Kiehl-cover

“Any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. … Nobody can afford to look around and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself.”

C.G. Jung

Many have awakened to what we are called to do. The evidence of our impact on planet Earth, our home, is unmistakable. We can no longer afford to turn away from the disturbing news about what we are doing to Earth. Each of us, in our own way, can help heal the deep wounds we have created in our relationship to Earth and to one another.

This coming March my book “Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future” will appear. The book, published by Columbia University Press, explores the psychological dimensions of our current climate crisis. More importantly, the book explores how we can, with a deeper understanding of these psychological dimensions, actually create a flourishing future for all life on the planet. The book reflects my personal journey with regard to climate change. As such, it integrates my life as a climate scientist and a Jungian analyst.

I hope you will find something of value in reading the book.

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Earth

It is all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.

 Thomas Berry

Without deep reflections, we have taken on the story of endings, assumed the story of extinction, and have believed that it is the certain outcome of our presence here…We need new stories… a new narrative that would imagine another way, to learn the infinite mystery and movement at work in the world.

 Linda Hogan

The old story of our separateness from the world has led us to a challenging point in history. Human civilization’s effect on our planet has reached a critical point. We have placed a heavy burden on mother Earth. Science tells us that we are now warming the world at an alarming rate. Whereas Nature took tens of millions of years to get out of a state of great warmth we are returning the planet to this past warmth within a single lifetime. Living our old story has placed us at a precipice. We must change our story, or allow the old story to carry us over the precipice.

How do we go about writing a new story, a story of sustainability, a story of living in balance with the world, a story that recognizes the sacredness of our world? I believe that depth psychology is well suited for writing our new story for this is a psychology that honors image, metaphor and narrative. This is a psychology that honors the interiority of our lived-world, a psychology that honors wholeness. What better means to creating the new story that will take us into the new world?

From a depth perspective, our new story should include at least the following:

• Facing the Shadows of Outer and Inner Worlds

We need to face the facts of our changing world and own our role in bringing the planet to the edge of great destruction. We need to own our shadowy thoughts and behavior towards Earth. Owning the shadow is always the first step to creating a new story.

• Remembering & Recollecting

Clearly we need to extend ourselves out to the natural world, but I believe we also need to go deep within ourselves to reconnect to the world. We need to re-member and re-collect our inner connection to psyche. Specifically we need to address the missing elements in our old story, which include,

Animal, Body & Feminine

The old story of Western civilization is a story of moving further away from our inner animal, our bodies and our deep connection to the feminine. The new story must include a reconnection to our animal within, it must include a re-collection of our bodily contact with Earth, and it must include the lost feminine.

Relationships

The old story is one in which our connections to one another have radically altered over the past few decades. We have moved from a society of close felt interactions to ones based on connection through the Internet. We ‘see’ others on a screen and not face to face, body-to-body. Yet, our empathic needs are ingrained in us. There is a basic need to connect with one another to relate through touch and presence. The new story must honor this need for felt relationship between each other and with all of Earth.

Wholeness

To address our deepest and most challenging issues will require us to come from a place of wholeness. This still, whole place within provides us with the wisdom required to design a sustainable world. We would like to think our way to this place of living in balance with nature, but we need more than facts, we need guidance from a wiser and more sacred source. Let the new story open us to a renewed sense of wholeness that fulfills us.

Interdependence

It is time to leave the old story of separation and disconnection. The new story must be one that recognizes we are not separate beings moving through an inanimate world. We need to recognize that we are all connected and that harm to one is harm to all.

• Embodying & Living the New Story

It is not enough to just write a new story. We must live this new story. Or better yet, we must allow this new story to live through us. Moment by moment, the new story needs to manifest in each of us. We must embody the new story and step lightly into the new world a world in which we are in true balance with the planet.

Happy Earth Day

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GreenMan

“… all unconscious functioning has the automatic character of an instinct, … [which] … because of [its] compulsiveness, … may positively endanger the life of the individual. As against this, consciousness enables [one] to adapt in an orderly way and to check the instincts, and consequently it cannot be dispensed with.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 412)

“The closer one comes to the instinct-world, the more violent is the urge to shy away from it and rescue the light of consciousness from the murks of the sultry abyss. Psychologically, however, the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way…”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 415)

Looking out on the world today can cause one tremendous anxiety. Just this past week new studies were released indicating that we are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previous years and that the current rate at which the world is warming is unprecedented. Rate of warming is significant, because it effects how readily life can adapt to change. Since the rate of climate change is now unlike anything we and many other species have ever experienced in our history, we are placing ourselves in a very precarious situation.

How does all of this relate to depth psychology? Depth psychology tells us that we are more than just our ego. That our decisions and behaviors towards our world and others is determined in large part by unconscious factor or forces. This fact about our way of being is continually reinforced by neurological and social science research. Thus, learning about our psychological depths is imperative if we are going to pull our selves back from the murky abyss of global warming.

Jung views the unconscious as holding both the dynamism of biological instincts and the numinous archetypes, or images of instinct. In the quotes above, Jung explores the dynamic capabilities of the these two forms. We know that compulsive instincts lead to life threatening behaviors. With regards to  global warming, think of our rampant consumerism and excessive use of energy to fuel this compulsively consumptive behavior. We consciously recognize that if we come too close to this ‘instinct-world,’ we approach the ‘sultry abyss’ of collective destruction. However the compulsive urge is so strong that we continue the behavior.

How do we avoid the urge towards destructive compulsiveness? Jung argues that we consciously engage with the image of the instinct, rather than the compulsive urge itself. The image or archetype holds collective meaning and connects us with a sense of the numinous. It is not that we reject the physical or biological instinct, but that we include the spiritual or numinous dimension of it. Jung poetically states that this experience of the numinous is the “spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way…” What is the numinous archetype embedded in the instinctual compulsion to consume? What is the image arising from this instinctual force that holds the ‘spiritual goal towards which [our] whole nature… strives?’

Perhaps our compulsion to consume Earth is an attempt to fulfill our inner selves. Could our need for tremendous amounts of energy to create new material things in the outer world be a reflection of our need for creative energy within us? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but depth psychology opens the door to such reflection. If we are to deal with our compulsive need to consume the world, then we need to consciously work on the images that surround this instinct. Depth psychology is a way to do this work. It provides a numinous and valuable way to deeply explore psyche and the world.

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