We've all been there: you're having a conversation, waxing lyrical to someone about your profession or passion, and you mention the term 'depth psychology'....only to be met with a blank, quizzical look.
For sure, depth psychology has transformed since Freud, Jung, Bleuler and others developed it over the course of the past century. Right now, we (the Alliance board members) are having a conversation about what depth psychology actually is.
In the spirit of opening up the conversation to you, our members, we would like to know:
How do you define 'depth psychology'?
Do you have a favourite/preferred definition?
How would you define the term 'depth psychology' in, say, 30 seconds?
Please post your definition for us to see here - and feel free to comment on each other's responses!
Your answers will help us in a little exercise we're engaging in to make the Alliance grow and flourish.
The Alliance board
I’ll chime in to add to the rich variety of perspectives here! While I could probably muse for days on end about just what a definition could be, here are a few things that I’d include. First, my particular bias and allegiance is toward the Archetypal realm of depth psychology (part Jung, part Hillman, part Caroline Myss, part me). In this context, I've come to understand depth psychology as a psychology of the soul. This means it’s a psychology of the unseen, a psychology of the image (“Image is psyche; psyche is soul.”), and therefore a psychology of the imagination. It holds an expansive view of how we are each uniquely designed, yet uses symbols and images and myth from a shared collective consciousness. It is not a literal psychology the way modern psychology has tended to amass virtually its entire perspective into the world of linear time and causation ("Flatland," as I've come to call it), but a psychology that brings a dignity and inherent respect to *every* aspect of the psyche.
Shane -- I appreciate that you've included Hillman and Myss, such strong voices, and your emphasis on soul. Love the Flatland concept ~
Great discussion. I am a creative writer, wellness practitioner, and student of shamanism. I've spent much of my life studying Jung's work privately, although I have no formal training in Jungian psychology. For me, depth psychology has meant healing from a Transpersonal (mind/body/spirit) position, as Pamela DeRossitte mentioned in her original post. This includes the non-rational experience of and reaction to the sacred -- Rudolph Otto's concept of numen -- as a source of healing. As a writer, that ineffable quality of the sacred, in turn, brings to mind the challenge and efforts of Deep Image poetry, the tradition I follow. Poets like Robert Bly, Rainer Maria Rilke, Denise Levertov, and William Stafford, brought elements of depth psychology to their poetry. As art connects us to our unconscious selves -- and to the collective unconscious -- I thought I'd share this article as a means to enrich the depth psychology definition.
"Deep image poetry...has contributed to the advancement of American poetry in several key ways. It is the first attempt in American poetry to incorporate fully the theories of Freud, Jung and other depth psychologists into the poet's expression..."
Rachel -- you hit the nail on the head by including the idea of the numen and image as sources of healing. Also thanks for the link to Bly's "Leaping ..." A friend (Kathee Miller) says, "We must let art heal us."
Oh yeah, I get the blank look constantly. And I was bashed by more than 500 people on the crazy FreeRepublic.com, mainly for having no meaningful credentials since my degree is in depth psychology. I get tired of it.
Usually, I just tell people that DP is a way of accessing the unconscious, mainly through images, to find meaning and purpose in their lives. DP is also about the stories that shape our lives.
I do agree with Ginette Paris' that depth psychology belongs more with the humanities than with science and should give up trying to compete with neuroscience. That quickly became my own view after practice for a few years. It's also one reason Freud and Lacan are much more discussed in literature programs than psychology classes at many schools.
Freud himself acknowledged that it was writers and artists who best understood his work, as Hillman cites in "Healing Fiction." It's also true that Freud's case histories were fictionalized accounts of composite characters.
Good afternoon Alliance board - I love this piece and may I ask who is the artist? I need to review all these posts and then, I may have an offering. This is such good conversation!! I came into depth psychology via a back door - intensive care, life/death trajectories, the black hole experiences and accompanying moral dilemma's. This trauma nurse retired after 25 years of critical care [intensive] nursing and ventured out into the disciplines within my reach in the world to find a way to be trained, credentialed and acceptable in the helping professions world of regulated/private and multisystem approaches to the care of deep suffering with humanity!!! My PhD process spanned 13 years [psychotraumatology], before I felt comfortable enough to provide service to survivors of traumatic lifetime events.
The study of the depths, complexity of psyche [soul of the matter], belongs to all schools of thought. While working In the depths, there are no sacred cows! Regards Linda?
After reading the above posts, I went on Google to see what comes searching 'Depth Psychology.' The board/memberships engagement in this task of 'defining' presents, synchronicity with great timing for DPA, as Goggle has created and posted an initial definition, and is asking for 'edits.' Sounds like DPA can be on the defining ground floor with the other - the wheels are in motion. Regards Linda
There was an interesting opinion piece in the NYT a few days ago that contributors who have mentioned transpersonal aspects of DP may find interesting, "When God is Your Therapist."
I've learned a lot about DP and spirituality from Lionel Corbett's book, "The Religious Function of the Psyche."
I'm always confused about how much DP to include in my work with clients. Since I moved out of psychotherapy to work more as a coach, I tend to think consideration of the archetypal dimensions of what I hear from clients is usually more informative to me than to them. I try to establish goals with my clients, many of whom do not want to explore themselves at depth. They want to get "unstuck."
it's not possible, considering my background, to avoid consideration in terms of DP. It's a great tool for de-pathologizing behaviors a client has been told make him sick and in need of a diagnosis. It's also good at showing how a block finds expression in compensatory ways and distortion of narrative.
That brings up another problem. Long-term "depth therapy," especially when it's an analysis, is just not affordable to most people, even when they have insurance. One of the things I liked about Pacifica's program was its emphasis on extending DP beyond the consulting room. As a writer, I've benefited considerably from that approach, whether I'm writing about pop culture, politics, the "social safety net," etc., although even writing at depth is increasingly rare. With clients, DP is also helpful to convince them to interact more directly with others' suffering.
Depth Psychology...consider the role of the word 'Depth' [as was previously mentioned]. How far is psychology today willing to go?
And what is the agenda? Is it to map out a guide or to be definitive? We all know [should know] that one size clearly doesn't fit all.
Depth Psychology to me is the process of discovering the Origin in order for purposeful meaning making to take place. This is both for the tangible and intangible realms of reality. You cannot have the tangible without the intangible - that is an immutable Law of Nature.
I am finding this stream of definitions very interesting, as I had not thought much before about attempting to define depth psychology. To me, it is going into the deep, the primordial ocean, the numinous field, finding connection in everything, seeing how the many come from the one and return to the one, wholeness, fearless exploration of the shadow or darkness or what is outside the dominant cultural norm, collective psyche, archetypes, astrology, above and below, the consciousness of love that connects all. I feel to explore depth psychology requires a belief in the Soul and acknowledging the need in some cases to heal fragmentation of the soul from current or past life trauma- however, from looking through some other posts maybe this isn't the case? Mind-body connections, objectifying our ego personality perspective, looking for the root causes of the effects we are manifesting into reality, mindfulness and self awareness. I saw someone mention going "down the rabbit hole" and having a willingness to do this I think fits, but also the willingness to return and serve with knowledge of experience for healing of Self and others. Returning to connection with Spirit, Source, God, Goddess . . .
Personally I like to explore meaning of symbols across times in myths and integrated into the study of astrology and archetypes, finding the connection with the evolution of consciousness across time, but I realize that is not necessarily inclusive to all depth psychologists out there . . .
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
–Walt Whitman “Song of Myself” (1855)
I am going to have to say Yes, And...to all that has been so beautifully contributed to this picture of DP in this thread.
When scanning our many-selved definition, I sense the spirit of delight in being seen in all our contradictions held within the spirit of this psychology. A delight in being both held and encouraged to cast more of our selves into the conversation because without this opening of psyche to so much and so many, our tradition knows the limits and dangers of otherwise casting the unwanted into shadow.
The autonomy of the psyche and its complexes, both positive and negative, celebrated here in depth psychology for their polytheism. Also dreams, one our most commonly recognized manifestations of the psych'e unconscious, and their many demons and daimons, illustrating and amplifying the many gods we must contend with.
We are a living lens - light and enlightenment flows both ways - interiority and exteriority in an eternal flux.
We are divers and diverse - exploring the mystery of the depths returning with new life to nourish our living moments and gifitng it to those we touch.