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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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  • 25 May 2018 2:24 PM | Jennifer Sieck

    The other weekend I read tarot cards at an open air festival. I agreed to the gig because a friend asked me. I didn’t even question it as my experiences with this friend had been so positive and heart-centered across the board. This in and of itself was uncharacteristic of me now. While I had done these types of festivals before in much larger venues, for me, there always seemed to be a distinct before and after tarot card reading experience when it came to these types of gigs.

    Let me explain and tell you too that I am not going to share the experience that made me reconsider this type of venue. I am not because I don’t want to give another moment of energy to my backstory. Let’s just say, our needs change over time and something that fed us may not be adequate nutrition at another stage of our journey. In fact the same scenario may be experienced instead, as poison to our system. If we don’t recognize that we have outgrown something we can poison our own plot of ground. Let’s just say the story was dramatic and made it very clear that this type of venue no longer served me in the work I found myself growing toward.

    The gig I was now asked to read in was a small newly established music festival harkening back to everything that was the psychedelic 60’s, while still tipping a hat to post- modern culture. It is the sort of venue that on some level is there to make fun of itself. Participants don’t take themselves too seriously, donning attire ranging from day-glow fishnets to platform shoes. At these events it is all about amping up the fun, feeling the vibe and embracing the moment.

    The archetypal energy of the trickster can run rampant at this type of venue. Although at his core he just wants to play, if you’ve been burned by some of his more overt aspects in the past you may see the qualities he brings to the table as inherently malevolent instead of innocent. Trickster energies and situations embody qualities like spontaneity, neutrality and a penchant to let go and be in the here and now without regard for the outcome of a situation. His core archetypal energy can feel chaotic, overwhelming, dismissive, or just downright scary to anyone who has anticipated a softer, warmer or kinder experience of him.

    No doubt each of you can think of a time in your own lives when you thought you were going to kick up your heels, have a wonderful time and be safely transported on a journey to previously unknown and magical realms. You may have imagined the direct result of this experience would be unconditional love, incredible success, unparalleled notoriety or a big leg up toward achieving a much sought after goal or experience. You went into the situation totally wide eyed, hopeful and ignoring the helpful and necessary reality testing and grounding that accompanies a more pragmatic perspective.

    Know that It was your openness and hopefulness that helped you get this far. Know too that the emotional elevation which was a part of the experience made the fall from your lofty expectations into the reality of the situation seem much greater.

    Know as well, that the road is made bumpier when trickster shows up because you can’t fall back on your experiences with his energy. He provides no soft landing. You see the trickster by his very definition, just doesn’t care. He may appear to care in the moment. In fact he’s incredibly interested in all the details that make your story compelling. He’s just not so interested in an attachment to any one story. And so he’s not attached to your story, beyond the entertainment or the momentary excitement it provides him.

    Think of a one night stand, an unethical boss, an underhanded company, or a business deal that seems perfect but goes South just as quickly. It hurts to be misled. And still, as long as you try to label the trickster as bad, or wrong, or label your own actions as misguided well, you miss the trickster’s biggest gift. Say what you will of trickstery situations. They do help us grow.

    If you can observe and anticipate the trickster’s behaviour instead of judging it or becoming seduced by it, you will recognize that at his core the trickster opens the door for change. The trickster enables us to change our perspective, increase our awareness, and alter our more habitual behaviours. The trickster wakes us up. If we can change our awareness and reflect on the shifts we see and feel in our self-concept, then the changes the trickster evokes in us are deep ones. You can learn to see yourself more clearly, and love yourself more deeply, precisely because trickster was at his very core, unreliable.

    However, the bigger questions that often go unasked are why did we stop questioning our experience of the situation? When there were read flags, why did we ignore them? How did we become invested in a trickster being reliable, kind, aware, and above board? Surely, we could see that our agreement to go along with his scheme required us to incrementally abandon small parts of ourselves?

    Think about little Red Riding Hood in the Children’s fairy tale. Surely she knew her grandma didn’t have such big teeth? It is her curiosity and desire for new information and experiences that enables her to slowly abandon herself and her definition of what she knows to be true. This said experience is a very necessary and sacred teacher.

    As for my own story, I knew pretty early on in reflecting about this venue that it would be a game changer for me. I knew too that my experience of it was an inside job. I had figured out when preparing for this event that I might feel triggered based on some of my past experiences, and too,that that trigger was my opportunity to move forward and withdraw myself from all my preconceived notions about this event and those who chose to attend it. I knew this because I felt it. We also did a tarot card reading to see what the evening might hold. We got the hanged man as the significator, and the hierophant, as the cross card.

    The hanged man reinforced what I already felt; that I had a wounded place around issues of feeling rejected, or other when it came to these types of events. I knew I would need to ask myself to reflect on experiences from my past. Last time I was required to tap into this energy I had unearthed a still sea of deep wounding. The hanged man meant I would need to accept some of these feelings and yet not identify with them. Only then, like the hanged man could I turn myself around and be able to join my tribe.

    The thing about this loaded scenario is that while initially the experience may have been legitimately wounding due to a bully or someone who casts you in a bad light or disrespects the work you do; or perhaps like me because you stayed in a place too long that doesn’t fit anymore, either way the wounds are now self- inflicted. Now it is you that carries the projection within yourself.

    Your judgement of yourself or others, expressed by the wounded place, ensures that the cast of characters that inhabit the story will be wrought with similarities that while only surface deep now seem to be the same at their core. This overall sameness is the clue as to the amount of healing work that you need to do. Because of this the energies you bring are now morphing spectral shadows. They are distorted, grow fiercer and take up more space. The cast of characters may appear to have less scrupulous motives. This is how you know this shadow energy is truly spilling over into your life. It represents your unacknowledged fear.

    Back to the cards…the cross card in the spread was the hierophant. Think of him as shading the lessons the hanged man brings to the table. There are two different faces to this card. On the surface he is the pope. He is a highly revered and elevated figure, protected by orthodoxy and in some ways protected from more fallible hands on definitions of truth. He may be afforded this status if he wants it. However, this posture only gets him so far. It may mean he has elevated himself from the pain of his friend, the hanged man, being upside down. However, both the hanged man and the hierophant –are suspended between reason and the heart. Somewhere between these two conditions human vulnerability hangs in the balance.

    The second way of viewing the hierophant, perhaps the deeper way, is as the wounded healer, Chiron. In some decks (the Guilded) Chiron, represents the areas in your life where you feel different, isolated, and unable to heal yourself because of something that you went through. However for Chiron his wounding is a great part of his strength and wisdom.

    In the story of Chiron it his differences that make him strong, wounded yet a healer. He is unlike others in his tribe, not course and unfeeling but refined and aware. He uses his pain to refine his skills and gifts. In the story he is made king of the centaurs because of his wisdom. He also became, a unique healer using plants and herbs to heal others. It is true, Chiron was struck with a poison arrow, and he was unable to heal himself. It was said that because he was immortal he would live with his wound forever.

    In many ways when we go into a trickster situation we are like a cross between these two cards. We can be the pope version of Chiron-unwilling and unable to heal. In this case we are caught up in assumptions about outsiders that keep us safe. But there is a price we pay for this emotional cloistering. We can’t share our gifts either. This makes it that much harder to heal.

    While we may avoid the initial discomfort of new experiences we also avoid the ability to add new experiences to our repertoire, which enables us to chip away at old assumptions. To be sure, whenever we reinforce black and white assumptions about people and situations our first motivation is an attempt to avoid some kind of pain.

    However, whitewashing our perceptions means we are still frozen in and by them. We are like that still sea of wounding. Yes, we may sit, unchallenged, but also unchanged. We find ourselves in a very lonely place indeed, the place just beyond our ability to grow.

    Conversely, Chiron is able to grow precisely because he is able to take the things that wounded him, and heal others in his tribe. He is aware of the wounds that isolation and being different have triggered in him. But it is because of his awareness of himself as having moved through that place of pain and suffering that Chiron can tap into great empathy toward himself and others. He is a light and a channel for their healing and transformation.

    How have you learned and transformed yourself? Are you like the first version of the Hierophant (The pope) around this situation or the second (Chiron)? While you may need to give up the painful details of telling your backstory and instead live your best story to grow through it; know that it is in embracing your whole story that you can experience love and forgiveness for yourself. It is through moving through the assumptions you have held about others and heart-to heart engagement that you will help others shine brightly.

  • 05 Jul 2017 10:48 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    “Since it is universally believed that man is merely what his consciousness knows of itself, he regards himself as harmless and so adds stupidity to iniquity. He does not deny that terrible things have happened and still go on happening, but it is always ‘the others’ who do them. Even if, juristically speaking, we were not accessories to the crime, we are always, thanks to our human nature, potential criminals.

    None of us stands outside of humanity’s collective shadow. Whether the crime occurred many generations back or happens today, it remains the symptom of a disposition that is always and everywhere present and one would therefore do well to possess some ‘imagination for evil,’ for only the fool can permanently disregard the conditions of his own nature. In fact, negligence is the best means of making him an instrument of evil.”

    – C.G. Jung, Collected Works Vol. 20, para. 572

  • 30 Sep 2016 1:03 AM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)


    To say that Donald Trump has “stirred a lot of emotions” is perhaps an understatement, so it makes sense that many of us would welcome a better understanding of why that is the case.

    The American Psychiatric Association declares that it’s unethical for a psychiatrist or psychologist to diagnose a public figure without evaluating them, so contributors to the new book, A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump,focus instead on narcissism itself and the underlying and unconscious factors at work in both individuals and the culture, notes Steve Buser, MD, who is a psychiatrist, co-founder of the Asheville Jung Center, and also the publisher of the new book from Chiron Publications which Buser co-edited with Leonard Cruz.

    What is actually far more interesting—whether or not Donald Trump has narcissistic disorder—Buser asserts, is to look what is going on in the unconscious of our country today, which is exactly what the 18 psychiatrists, psychologists, and university professors who wrote articles for the book sought to do.

    Seeking to understand the unconscious through symbols, dreams, and archetypal perspectives is the work of many of the contributors (including Clarissa Pinkola Estés, James Hollis, Tom Singer, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Leonard Cruz, Nancy Swift Furlotti, Kathryn Madden, and Susan Rowland, among others), who have a depth psychological orientation based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

    Tapping into Unconscious Fears

    Trump—and even the election itself—may be seen to tap into some of our unconscious fears, for example. In the book, psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, Tom Singer, writes about unconscious cultural complexes that are activated. Some of it is around violence at the campaign rallies. As Singer indicates in his chapter in the book, slogans or phrases associated with the Trump campaign, including “Make America Great Again” – or “Get ‘em outta here!” or “America first” tap into deep seated fears and unspoken thoughts that many people may have.

    “Get em outta here” connects to a fear of “other” and makes us fearful of infiltration—that is, anyone other than oneself or the status quo. It speaks to themes Trump has often insisted on, such as banning Moslems, keeping “dangerous” Mexicans who are “rapists and thieves” out of the country, and keeping the “other” at bay including Syrians or refugees. In Jungian and depth psychologies, this kind of response is representative of the shadow, that is, when the things we can’t see about ourselves are projected onto other.

    “Make America Great Again” taps into fear that our dominance has fallen. In the 1950s and 60s we appeared to be on top of the world, Buser suggests, so our perception is that our corporations, our military, and other established and lauded institutions have declined. In fact, many people feel the political system has gone awry. It is perceived as power-based and arrogant, so it’s easy to sense that narcissism is woven into all elements of that current structure. While most candidates and politicians—indeed, all of us—fall somewhere on the spectrum of disorder at any given time, Donald Trump has become lightning rod by making frequent and ongoing controversial statements that draw attention in his direction.

    Greek Myth Meets Depth Psychology

    Narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and ultimately died because he could not tear himself away from it. To better understand how narcissism is a growing theme in our culture, Buser proposes we look to the selfie phenomenon, where a growing number of individuals take a multitude of self photos and post them to media so they can be seen. The mirror isn’t all bad however, Buser indicates, as we can either look and see grandiosity, or we can reflect and see shadows and possibilities.

    Narcissism relates to vanity, he explains, but when we reflect, there is also a depth psychological response, which is to tap into something transcendent. When we do that, what was previously a “scary” other turns into a “calling” that pulls us into a new transcendent space, a deeper awareness, which is a significant aspect of what C. G. Jung called the individuation process.

    The opposite of narcissism is therefore depth. It contrasts with a shallow reflection, where one can’t see anything but one’s self. It’s about community in which we can share power, deepen into experience, grow together, and welcome the “other” instead of judging or rejecting them. From a depth psychological standpoint, it is our responsibility to look for ways that our culture can be transformed. Our current political-social-cultural tendency toward narcissism is not sustainable as it is. We need to question it, to contemplate expressions of self-grandiosity when they arise, to actively seek more empathy and acceptance of the “other.”

    As a clinical psychiatrist who sees patients seven or eight hours a day, Steve has noticed how this particular election cycle is the most anxiety-filled cycle he has ever seen in over 30 years doing his work. People come in with symptoms of clinical anxiety—and much of it comes from the news or social media where many are watching too much TV or media. The good news, if any, he submits, is that it is raising awareness in the public eye for people who may never otherwise think about the cultural norms (and extremes) around narcissism we now find our culture and we can talk about it from a depth psychological standpoint. Why is the country moving toward such an unlikely candidate? he asks. There is a cultural complex in play that needs to be addressed.

    Narcissism, the Ecological Crisis, and the Savior Complex

    The tagline for the book, “Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump” makes me think of the “age of the Anthropocene”—a term increasingly proposed by social scientists and some others to describe how humans have become the dominant force on the planet where everything revolves around us. It is the dawn of new geological epoch following the Pleistocene, and most recently, the Holocene. We have had such a significant impact on the planet—most of it detrimental— I wonder about how narcissism applies to the ecological crisis that seems to be mounting by the day.

    Buser emphasizes that narcissism is often related to the idea that “it’s all about me”—or in this case, perhaps, about “us” as humans. It follows that the narcissistic stance would be almost oblivious to the ecological damage that’s being caused. The narcissistic individual leaves a trail of damage to individuals and systems around them, he emphasizes. They’re not looking empathically at how they are going to affect others because they’re focused on themselves. Clearly, as a collective or as individuals, if we are in a narcissistic space, we’re not going to be aware of the damage we’re doing to the environment.

    During the conversation, Buser and I also discuss whether there is a “Savior complex” at work when presidential elections roll around, as if we are collectively looking for someone who can “save” us. Steve describes how Trump carries this projection in a very unique way, both as a “John Wayne” archetype and also as “General Patton” where the hero rides in, shoots the bad guys, and ultimately saves the day with intensity and bravado, throwing propriety and political correctness to the wind.

    Seemingly, in this election, Donald Trump has tapped into a pivotal piece of the American psyche, and many have become collectively caught in the archetypal wake. Whether you plan to vote for Donald Trump or not in November, seeking a depth psychological perspective will help you begin to understand your own unconscious leanings and those of our culture at large.

    (Image at top rightNarcissus, by Michelangelo Caravaggio, painted circa 1597–1599)

    Steve Buser MD

    Steven Buser, M.D. trained in medicine at Duke University and served 12 years as a physician in the US Air Force. He is a graduate of a two-year Clinical Training Program at the CG Jung Institute of Chicago and is the co-founder of the Asheville Jung Center. In addition to a busy psychiatric private practice, he serves as Publisher of Chiron Publications.

    Bonnie Bright, Ph.D., is a graduate of Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program, and the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies. She also founded, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners, and she is the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal. Bonnie regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. She has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute and in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and she has trained extensively in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

    Watch the video interview with Steve Buser and Bonnie Bright here

  • 30 Sep 2016 12:32 AM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    For Sandra Easter, author of Jung and the Ancestors: Beyond Biography, Mending the Ancestral Web, her journey toward ancestral healing has been filled with synchronicities. Growing up, Sandra always heard from her mother that they were descended from Roger Williams, a man who is credited with founding Providence, Rhode Island, in 1636. Synchronistically, the very same day Sandra’s own daughter decided she wanted to write a school report on this alleged ancestor, Sandra received a document which surprised her by actually confirming direct ancestry on her mother’s side from Roger Williams.

    Easter also discovered a synchronicity related to the date of her own birthday, which coincides with the date Providence was burned to the ground in 1676 by descendants of the Native Americans of the Narragansett tribe from whom Williams originally secured the title for Providence.1 Ironically, Sandra also learned that Roger Williams had earlier been banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony by a man named John Cotton, who was discovered to be the direct ancestor of Sandra’s ex-husband. The synchronicities continued as Sandra realized that Roger Williams and John Cotton had actually met historically on the date on which she and her (now ex-)husband decided to get married.

    These kinds of synchronicities often show up when people began researching their own ancestry, Easter notes. Anne Schutzenberger, a Freudian analyst, calls it “the anniversary syndrome,”2 where it often emerges that dates of significant events in an individual’s life, such as births, deaths or other important dates synchronistically coincide with dates of significant ancestral events, often related to trauma or pivotal moments in the life of the ancestor.

    C. G. Jung offers a strong perspective on working with our ancestors, Easter believes, particularly through his work in the Red Book which suggests “the dead” can have a significant effect on us. Jung himself looked at his life as being a “historical fragment” in a much larger story, Easter affirms, noting that, according to Jung, each of us “adds an infinitesimal amount to what he would consider to be the evolution of consciousness.”

    The story Sandra was lucky enough to uncover about her own ancestor is merely an example of the dynamics that exist for all of us. In her book, she honors the work of West African elder, author, and teacher, Malidoma Some´3, who uses “indigenous science” as a method of understanding and engagement. Indigenous science allows us to go beyond the emphasis on the phenomenological, an integral part of Jung’s work, Sandra points out. Jung’s work serves as a bridge, however. His theories and techniques allow us to engage what current day depth psychologist and mythologist Michael Meade calls “the world behind the world.”

    Mending the ancestral web is an archetypal idea: It’s about the relationship between the living and the dead. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, generally credited as Jung’s autobiography, it is clear that Jung thought about the dead as “the unanswered, unredeemed and unresolved,” Easter insists. While working with Malidoma Some´, she learned that his people “tend” ancestral altars, checking in to see what the ancestors think about things and what offerings are required. If four days go by and no one is making offerings, things get out of balance, they believe, and something must be done to restore the balance.

    Imagine how many generations have gone by in western culture without anyone tending ancestors, Sandra points out; no wonder so many things seem out of balance. Jung was very explicit (in his conversations in the Red Book especially) suggesting we need to “turn to the dead, listen to their lament, and accept them with love” because uncompleted work has followed them. Jung honored his belief in the ancestor connection as the home he built in Switzerland, Bollingen Tower, was a place without modernity. It had no electricity; nothing to “disturb the dead” – a place where the dead and ancestors were welcome.

    Ancestral connections may be attributed not just to personal, biological ancestors, Easter relays, but may also be cultural ancestors, collective ancestors, ancestors in the land, or animal ancestors. It can seemingly be helpful to work with each of them. Sandra, who offers workshops in ancestral soul work, believes the work necessitates expanding beyond a purely psychological way of looking at the ancestors. In her process, she leads people to create ancestor altars in a way that is similar to her experience of how Malidoma Some´ works in ritual with community. She then guides them to engage in dialogue in a process that is similar to Jung’s concept of active imagination. The core questions are people ask in the process include: “What is being asked of me now?” and “What needs to be tended?” She also directs them to ask the ancestors for help.

    Following dreams and synchronicities in this way allows the ancestors who are most needed to “carry the story” and to embody difficult issues you personally face, to show up—even if you don’t know much about your ancestral lineage. This enables you to work with them consciously and intentionally.

    How does one keep a foot in both worlds, I wonder, in order to maintain stability and centering in working with the ancestors. Just as Jung was pushing the edge by engaging so intensively with the psyche during his work on the Red Book, is there not some risk that this kind of otherworldly engagement can be daunting if not downright dangerous?

    It’s critical that people do the psychological work in conjunction with processes like family constellation therapy or dialoguing with ancestors, Easter insists. Whether therapy or group work, we all need ways to strengthen the ego to create a container. She prefers to work with people in community or small groups because the group can often hold ritual space in such a way as to be highly supportive of the individual. Jung’s work, especially his way of working with complexes, also provides a tremendous tool that compliments work with ancestral traumas.

    Finally, Easter cites a powerful “longing to belong” on the part of many people. In a transient culture where most of us don’t live on land that is ancestral—a place where our ancestors’ bones are buried and where the cosmology that informs our very being imbues the land—it isn’t easy to be rooted. How do we come into relationship with land or place in a way that we can experience belonging in a way that includes not just all of humanity, but also the cosmos, she wonders. Sandra, who herself acknowledges an ongoing personal feeling of longing for a home base throughout most of her life, has found belonging through her relationship to the mountains. If there are ancestors on this planet, they are the mountains, she states. Since all the land on our planet is also connected, therefore we are at home wherever we are.

    There are a number of different ways we can begin to do ancestral soul work and begin to uncover a sense of belonging. Easter finds she regularly needs to plant her bare feet on earth or stone to feel that connection, and carries a stone from where her ancestors first set foot in this country in Providence, Rhode Island. Finding your personal myth is also critical, she insists, noting how Jung shared his own myth in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Finally, we can find belonging in communities like Pacifica, which Easter credits as being a powerful container for her in discovering Jungian thought and in bringing her own ancestral work to light. “I began to see how the known and unknown stories of my ancestors were present in my personal symptoms, inclinations, dreams, and visions, and ultimately, how the ancestors were deeply implicated in my fate,”4 Easter writes in her book. “Gathering the pieces of the ancestral puzzle, finding the threads of connection, and discovering the continuity of our bloodline on this planet, brings us into relationship with the unconscious, ourselves, each other and the world in very particular ways.”5

    Listen to the full interview with Dr. Sandra Easter here (approx. 40 mins)

    ¹ Learn more about the biography and history of Roger Williams at

    ² See more about Schutzenerger’s book, The Ancestor Syndrome: Transgenerational Psychotherapy and the Hidden Links in the Family Tree

    ³ Learn more about initiated Dagara elder, author, and teacher, Malidoma Some´:

    4 In Jung and the Ancestors, Beyond Biography, Mending the Ancestral Web by Sandra Easter, published by Muswell Hill Press, 2016, p. 8

    5 Jung and the Ancestors, p. 270

    Sandra Easter received her MA in Applied Psychology from the University of Santa Monica and her PhD in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has additional training in the process of council, Indigenous African Spiritual Technologies, Dream Tending and the therapeutic uses of puppetry. In addition to providing individual and group counseling, Sandra has worked nationally with diverse groups in both urban and rural communities including Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Seattle and rural Louisiana, providing education, advocacy and community organization support for over 35 years. In addition to being adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Sandra maintains a private practice in Denver, CO and offers workshops in ancestral soul work and transformational visioning for individuals and organizations. Her creative approach to teaching and counseling is informed by her love for and training in modern dance, puppetry, story-telling and indigenous ways of knowing. The foundation of her work lies in the experience of the natural, undivided relationship between embodied world and psyche.

    Bonnie Bright, Ph.D., is a graduate of Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program, and the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies. She also founded, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners, and she is the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal. Bonnie regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. She has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute and in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and she has trained extensively in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

    NOTE: This blog was originally posted at

  • 19 Sep 2016 1:47 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    You may have donated that Times of Your Life Paul Anka 8-track to charity when it didn’t sell at the last neighborhood rummage sale, but the words to “Good Morning Yesterday” live on. Sometimes it is hard to find the “memories you left behind” as Anka sang in 1976. Sometimes, as Freud argued, those memories sink below the level of our consciousness, but continue to work on us in various ways even decades later. Sigmund Freud even formulated a term “return of the repressed” to explain where neurotic symptoms originate, writing that illness is

    ...characterized by the return of the repressed memories -- that is, therefore, by the failure of the defence.... The re-activated memories, however, and the self-reproaches formed from them never re-emerge into consciousness unchanged: what become conscious as obsessional ideas and affects¹

    Jung, too, expressed the opinion that our memories can torment us to a dangerous extent when he wrote,

    It may be that the majority of hysterical persons are ill because they possess a mass of memories, highly charged with affect and therefore deeply rooted in the unconscious, which cannot be controlled and which tyrannize the conscious mind and will of the patient.²

    You don’t have to be a depth psychologist to notice when, at times, memories of your own rise up unexpectedly out of nowhere, often instigating powerful emotions. It happens for me with a handful of certain memories that show up, surprising me with their content and their intensity, making me wonder why a certain memory would arise for me when millions of others are lost.

    This is why I was fascinated to meet Daphne Dodson, a qualitative researcher who has spent the past 20 years interviewing people, who is currently researching and writing about a concept she calls “Memory Tending.” Daphne, who recently completed her Ph.D. in Depth Psychology, specializing in Jungian and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, began thinking about the idea of Memory Tending after noticing that her daughter frequently seemed to have different memories of the same experience they had both lived through. As a researcher, Dodson realized that people she interviewed often utilized a memory to relay to Daphne who they were, to paint a picture or convey an image of how they perceive themselves to be. She began to wonder if memories might be “images,” and could be experienced much in the same way as we experience our dreams.

    Looking at memories as images can be a tool to help us understand who we are and “where we might be going psychologically,” Dr. Dodson believes. The fact that we can each have a different memory of the same lived experience means it creates for each of us own personal psychic material that we can work with, or tend. The beauty of looking at a memory as an image (which in addition to being visual, could also be sound or smell), is that the image can invite us to engage with the way we see certain things of the past. Engaging with memories in an imaginal way enables us to create new relationships and perspectives with those images or stories from the past, resulting in clearing ongoing associated negativity or trauma that makes us stuck, or in amplifying the benefits of positive memories.

    I consider the possibility that memories themselves may evolve as we transform our own relationship to them, much in the same way we humans individuate according to Jung—a self-generating pattern in which, as we change, the memory also transforms itself. Then, the more the memory transforms, the more we do as well. Daphne has a thoughtful response to this. It is important to note that while our memories can indeed change and evolve, she asserts, the original event doesn’t change—just our relationship to it. The original event will always be just as important in shaping who we are because of it. However, if we’re able to step into a memory of an event imaginally through a process like Memory Tending, even negative memories that haunt us can be engaged, allowing us to reshape our relationship to that memory and therefore to our own past self.

    There is also clinical value to the process of Memory Tending, and Daphne shares some interesting examples from her research about how Memory Tending is helping people transform their lives and the lives of those around them. One therapist she knows has been using the practice in conjunction with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which was developed for emotional processing of traumatic memories. In her practice, the therapist uses EMDR to help integrate emotion in the body, and then brings in Memory Tending with the client to work with it imaginally and deepen the EMDR experience.

    Daphne suggests an idea that might radical to some, but one that resonates with me personally. A particular memory tends to choose us, she submits. In this way, memories might then be considered an extension of the objective psyche that Jung described so passionately; the collective unconscious or archetypal Self, a field in which we move at all times, and which has our best interest at heart. Dream work is seen similarly in Jungian theory.

    Memory Tending could also be an extremely useful for application to the collective, I think. In the midst of the overwhelm we all feel on a regular basis, due not only to a constant inundation of bad news in world, but also perhaps due to what must surely be disenfranchised trauma arising from our terrible history of colonialism in the west, and even memories held in the land.

    When I inquire about applying Memory Tending to the collective, Daphne relates how the idea of Memory Tending originated through Dream Tending®³ (a practice developed by Pacifica’s Chancellor, Steve Aizenstat, over 40 years ago). In Dream Tending, as she describes it, one first amplifies dreams as Jung suggested, then engages with them in a transpersonal way, moving to the imaginal where images are seen as having their own wisdom. While Dream Tending doesn’t typically take place on behalf of a group, Daphne points out, she has seen cases where individuals who are present during Dream Tending sessions can get pulled into the experience, almost as if they get caught in the psyche and are there “among” the psyche, so it’s no longer “just an individual experience.” Something similar could potentially take place if it were done around a particular place and with intentionality by a group who sought to create a meaningful practice dedicated to something other than themselves, she muses.

    I think about what Jung referred to as “big” dreams, and how they can often be given to an individual on behalf of the collective. Some indigenous peoples had rituals of gathering in the mornings to share their dreams in order to determine what messages to provide guidance to the tribe. Could certain collective memories choose us so we would do the work of psyche together for collective healing? It’s an intriguing idea.

    Anytime one of us is willing to engage in our own personal psychological work, or the work of the land or the greater world and the greater psyche, Daphne affirms, it has a tremendous reach for the anima mundi, the soul of the world, itself. In our conversation, Daphne goes on to address the ethical concerns of Memory Tending, and shares more examples of how it has been instrumental in the process of transformation for many of her case subjects.

    In spite of her long career as a researcher, Daphne first developed the idea of Memory Tending while in her doctoral program at Pacifica. She credits her professors there with much of her inspiration. Not only do the professors at Pacifica teach students academically, they also nurture souls, she insists: “Pacifica provides access to that kind of deep understanding of self, others, and the world around us. Pacifica itself holds that much-needed container for growth, not only academically, but on a soul and psychological level as well.”

    View research topics from recent and upcoming dissertation defenses at - oral defenses.

    Listen to the full interview with Dr. Daphne Dodson with Bonnie Bright here (approx. 26 mins)

    ¹ In "Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence" in 1896, Freud introduced the idea of "the return of the repressed" as a mechanism that fuels neurotic symptoms.

    ² C. G. Jung, para 176 in “Cryptomnesia” from his essay, “On the Psychology of So-called Occult Phenomena,” in Collected Works Volume 1.

    ³ See

    Daphne Dodson, Ph.D. is a global qualitative research psychologist primarily conducting studies in the fields of infectious and auto-immune diseases. Her specific areas of interest include cultural psychology, the imagination, and memory. Dr. Dodson’s work will appear in two upcoming publications. Her essay, “Rebirthing Biblical Myth: The Poisonwood Bible as Visionary Art” will be published in Jungian Perspectives on Rebirth and Renewal: Phoenix Rising, a new book from Routledge. “Saying Goodbye to Our Children: A Phenomenon of Soul-Making” will appear Psychological Perspectivesa journal sponsored by the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.

    Bonnie Bright, Ph.D., is a graduate of Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program, and the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies. She also founded, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners, and she is the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal. Bonnie regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. She has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute and in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and she has trained extensively in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

    NOTE: This blog post was originally posted at Pacifica Post, the official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute

  • 22 Aug 2016 5:02 AM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    There is a Secret One inside us; the planets in all the galaxies pass through Her hands like beads. That is a string of beads one should look at with luminous eyes.


  • 20 Aug 2016 3:07 PM | Kim Hermanson, PhD

    Many years ago I sat on a stool in the Art barn at Esalen Institute painting a paper mache mask. I'd originally signed up for some sort of contemplative workshop, but found it too cerebral and ended up here.

    I painted the mask magenta and then decided to paint a vine of flowers on the side. As I slowly drew a long vine down the side of my mask--getting into the feeling sense of the vine's graceful, elegant beauty--I found my hand being moved by something Greater than myself. 

    I was no longer directing my hand, something else was. Something was moving me, stroking the paint on this mask.

    We humans set goals for our lives and make all kinds of plans, schedules and commitments. We trudge along, continuing to believe we're solely in charge of our destinies.

    While all the while... something else urgently wants to move and express through us.

    We access that Something Else through metaphor. Metaphor gives us direct access to the powers of creation. 

    One of my clients, who was tired and worn out from writing a PhD dissertation and in desperate need of fresh creative energy, received an image of seeing herself dancing.

    But when she metaphorically stepped into it, she was no longer looking at it.  She was BEING something far greater than herself.

    Another client, going through a traumatizing divorce, received an image of a deep, still pool of water. But then he realized he wasn't resting in it...

    He was BEING rested in a profoundly deep way.

    Can you see how allowing yourself to be moved by something greater is a much different kind of experience? 

    Being viscerally moved by otherworldly creative energies is transformative and exquisitely beautiful... 

     like nothing else that I have ever experienced.

    No one has ever walked the path that you are walkingNo one else has the particular gifts that you have. 

    By allowing yourself to feel and express profound, deep metaphoric energy, you participate in the unfolding of a new world. 

    What might YOU produce, if you allowed yourself to be moved by deep creative energies?

    Are you curious what might want to be birthed?

    If you're ready to uncover your own deeply profound creative energies or you need a significant shift, I'm offering an end-of-summer special on Doorway Sessions if booked and paid before Wednesday August 31st. $100 for a one hour session (a $165 value) . Contact me at 

    Kim Hermanson, PhD is a coach and consultant at Doorway Sessions for Creative Breakthroughs and adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and many other books, recently said this about her upcoming book, A Portal to the Creative: Using Metaphor to Unlock Creative Genius and Inspire Breakthroughs: "Not since Carlos Castenada's books 40 years ago, have I had such a strong reaction to anything written. This is very powerful stuff."

  • 20 Jul 2016 6:35 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    “The world of dream is the world of soul. The more you work with the dream the more you  are stunned by the memory, knowledge of the future, subtlety of emotion, and hidden knowledge that is in the image. The power of it is that it brings you together; it rings a bell right through your psyche and your body...”

    —Marion Woodman

  • 19 Jul 2016 1:37 AM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    “Simply put, individuation is about transformation,” asserted Jungian Bud Harris in delivering C.G. Jung’s memorial speech.

    "It means being willing to embrace a lifetime of full-fledged metamorphosis analogous to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly over and over again. It means letting go of the defining characteristics that make up our identity for the sake of becoming something further enhanced by the Self, with a capital “S,” the Divine spark within us. The pain in this process is the pain of breaking through our own limitations. The joy is our increased capacity for living and feeling at home within ourselves, and experiencing our wholeness."  


    —From "Individuation: The Promise in Jung's Legacy and Why Our Culture has Trouble Accepting It":

  • 13 Jul 2016 12:19 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

    "Our dreams hold the key to our “awakening” and, by actively engaging with them, we can initiate and facilitate our own unfoldment."

    —Nigel Hamilton, Awakening through Dreams: The Journey Through the Inner Landscape

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