Category: Jungian & Depth Psychology

A meditation on love

The Indian union of Shiva and Shakti (also known as lingam and yoni), along with the Chinese Yin-Yang, show the power of love resides in joining opposites. Love overcomes antagonism and dualism, dissolving difference in a complimentary and binding whole. In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes gave a similar account of love. He told the myth of …

Transformative approaches to crises, self-doubt & extreme states

Crises and self-doubt plague all of us at different times in our lives. A natural response is to want to escape the turmoil and angst, and return to solid ground as quick as possible. Yet when we can remain open to suffering, and not shut down or numb out, troubled times can become opportunities for deep transformation. Murray Stein describes …

Individuation and the spiritual aspects of healing trauma

I am reading Murray Stein’s wonderful book, Minding the Self: Jungian Meditations on Contemporary Spirituality, after spending the weekend assisting a sensorimotor psychotherapy training. On first glance, spirituality and neurobiologically-informed psychotherapy might seem to have little in common. However, one of the topics in the sensorimotor psychotherapy training was the model of structural dissociation — …

Imagining suicide

Twice weekly, I commute across the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve taken this route for over a year, yet the view still consumes me. Whether marveling at the Bridge, seeing the sun (or fog) mingle with the Pacific Ocean, or eyeing the cramped San Francisco skyline that signals the end of my workday, I feel part …

Neurobiology, symbolic imagery & Jung — and a book that brings them together

The Neurobiology of the Gods (2012) first gained accolades for grounding CG Jung’s ideas in modern neuroscience. Yet Erik D. Goodwyn’s explanation for why we create symbolic imagery makes this an important book not only for analytical psychologists, but also for evolutionary psychologists, traumatologists, and anyone interested in the central role of symbolic imagery for human …

“Goddesses” By Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell, as the popularizer of the hero’s journey, has been criticized by feminist scholars for creating a somewhat lopsided and masculine view of the role of mythology in personal and cultural development. For example, in a lecture* on Joseph Campbell’s chronicling of the hero’s journey, Christine Downing argued the myths shared in Campbell’s classic …

When soul informs psychotherapy

Research on human attachment has improved the practice of psychotherapy in part because attachment theory gives therapists permission to be “real” people with their clients. One of my favorite books on the subject is David Wallin’s Attachment in Psychotherapy, which describes how to practice attachment-focused psychotherapy. (He’s working on a new book that looks at how …

Globalization: The age of psychological neoteny

Neoteny refers to when a species’ traits that are typically associated with juvenile stages of development are carried into adulthood. A common example is the Mexican salamander, or axolotl. At full maturity, the axolotl continues to look like a tadpole, which supposedly is more adaptive to its environmental niche than the adult salamander body. As the …

Trauma-informed psychotherapy puts the body – and love – back in mental healthcare

Painting of the word "Love".

For the past 50 years, psychotherapy has taken a back seat to biomedical psychiatry, largely due to reliance on medications for the treatment of mental disorders. Yet clinical evidence increasingly points to chronic, unresolved traumatic stress as the source of many — if not most — mental disorders. Furthermore, longitudinal analyses show continued use of psychotropic medications …

Brain scans replicate Jung’s Word Association Test

A central tenet of CG Jung’s analytical psychology is that the unconscious has drives strong enough to override conscious will. Hence, he stressed ‘listening’ to dreams and fantasies that arise from unconscious stirrings through active imagination and other forms of creative expression. Jung believed listening to the unconscious could increase psychological integration and reduces internal conflict — …

History after trauma

In 2012, I saw on display at SFMOMA Sam Durant’s “History never ends, I hate to bother you”: Sadie Coles HQ gave this explanation of the piece: “The show’s title [History Never Ends, I Hate to Bother You] may furthermore be read as a sardonic refutation of Francis Fukuyama’s famous postmodern thesis ‘The End of History?’, which proposed …

“The Red Book”: A primer for healing madness in a mad world

Through his meticulous design of The Red Book, CG Jung interwove his experience of madness with the collective suffering of his era. Such syntheses are rare — and just what the current mental health field desperately needs. In what follows, I look at how The Red Book became Jung’s journey out of madness as well …

Shopping our way to extinction

We humans have been destroying environments and eradicating species throughout our history. When some of our ancestors arrived in the Americas over 10,000 years ago, they wiped out at least 70 genera of large mammals and literally millions of animals — including ground sloths, camels, wild pigs, and several species of horses. Not much seems to …

The “Ides of March” in the cycle of growth

“Beware the Ides of March,” says the soothsayer to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s drama about the leader’s demise. This phrase, which once forewarned Caesar’s assassination, is uttered each spring by mental health professionals. According to folk wisdom, the season coincides with an increase in mental disorders and symptoms of psychological distress. “March Madness” has become …

Love and the split self

The other night, I watched the movie, Take This Waltz (2011). (I try not to give the ending away, but if it’s in your movie queue, you might want to pass on reading the rest of this paragraph.) The protagonist, a young Canadian woman, is happily married, although not excited about her life.  She writes …

1.Stop. 2.Blink. 3.Imagine. (Repeat)

Chaim Potok wrote: “Life is like the blink of an eye. What is it worth? Nothing. But the eye that blinks — that is something.” Yet Tamami Nakano of Osaka University and her colleagues are discovering the blink is meaningful. Rather than just a mechanical reflex that keeps the eyeball moist and flaps away dust, …

Shopping for families

After decades as an American consumer, I have finally developed the acumen necessary for surviving the holiday shopping season. With the exception of a few hectic hours, I have so far successfully avoided malls and online shopping. Truly, I feel blessed this holiday season. Unfortunately, I have not escaped saturation with advertisements for the makings …

Born to be raised

I often wonder what it would take to heal centuries of violence, oppression, complicated grief, and emotional neglect. And yet the impulse to heal, social engineer, and reform often seems symptomatic of what is traumatizing about the US and the West in general — that perpetual need to fix a broken system. We know things aren’t right with the …

Trauma’s imaginal worlds

Few people pass from birth to death without intimate knowledge of trauma’s capacity to alter the landscape of the psyche. So many experiences are traumatizing: war, rape, death, car accidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, bullying, scapegoating, incest, family violence, racism, homophobia—and this, a cursory list at best. Even if you are fortunate enough to dodge trauma, its …

What can nightmares teach us?

Few of us make it through childhood without getting the wits scared out of us by a nightmare. Michel Jouvet, professor of experimental medicine and author of The Paradox of Sleep, theorizes such dreams may be behavioral rehearsals for survival, connecting emotions with corresponding actions. The dragon chasing you in your childhood dream is Nature’s …

Does trauma increase creativity?

A 2011 study suggests there may be a connection between creativity and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research conducted by Robert Miller and David Johnson revealed PTSD correlates with a greater capacity for symbolic representation, which is necessary for artistic as well as scientific endeavors. The study compared 56 Vietnam combat veterans with 14 veterans who …

Trickster will have its way

I have rubbed down to nubs thoughts about my current research interest — how Jungian analytical psychology and trauma-informed psychotherapy intersect in practice and theory. How are they complimentary? Contradictory? Should one subsume the other? Which is more supportive of human experience today? I was beginning to feel stuck in the research process — and just a …