Our experience with Naomi Lowinsky

Wanted to share with everyone how wonderful our event was this weekend. The lecture spun us deeper and deeper into exploration of our connection to nature, the environment, and relationship to Pachamama, or Mother Earth. This was a soulful type of environmental consciousness versus a divisive political debate. It was about nurturing deeper consideration based in poetry and song.

The workshop took us deep into our own untapped connection to Pachamama through active imagination and writing exercises. The group was supportive and kind, and all of us were able to take the risk to write from the heart, and share these musings with one another.

Our next program is November 21st and 22nd with Sandra Miller. The subject is Shame and the Evil Eye. I've had the opportunity to look at the content of the lecture and plans for the workshop. They seem amazing for both clinicians and anyone from our wonderful Cleveland community interested in finding out the difference between guilt and the devious actions of shame. We would love to see you!!! Details to come...

Thank you to all of our participants this weekend. I think we each left with a desire to do what we can to renew relationship with the environment.

Hallie Durchslag, LISW-S

Phenomenal event with another on the way January 17-18, 2014!

We had a wonderful event last weekend which featured Connie Romero, a Jungian analyst from New Orleans, LA. Connie has a special interest in theater and our creativity was sparked as we explored how drama, from ancient Greece to our modern culture, serves as a connection to the deep, resonating layers of archetypal human emotion and experience. Wonderful! We had over 40 attendees for the Friday lecture, and the workshop on Saturday allowed all of us to connect to these archetypal energies through the arts.

Save the date for our next event, January 17-18, 2014 with Paul Kugler, a Jungian analyst from Buffalo, NY. More details to come!

Fiction Break

Such interesting reflections on the nature of connection have surfaced during this interim away. For those of who do not know, I have been wearing two hats over the past several years, as both professional and student, working toward my doctorate in clinical psychology, and I can honestly say that I have not read "for pleasure" in years. But this summer vacation period has been different. Instead of cramming for exams, or worrying about dissertation research, or any other type of heady exploration, I read poorly-written detective novels watched every single Harry Potter movie for the first time. A pile of academic journals and cerebral Jungian "stuff" sat on the nightstand, looking appealing, but never winning. You know what? I loved it.

But I am left with wondering, how do the two worlds coexist? Or can they? Can a person be committed to connection between ego and Self, both professionally and personally, and also be committed to mass market novels and popular culture? Is that an interruption of individuation or a part of it? I don't have an answer, so I thought, what do all of you think?

Since this blog  is meant to be an interactive, supportive community that helps incorporate psyche into our everyday lives,  who better to ask, right? Hope to hear from you. Feel free to post here on this site, or like us on Facebook and join in the conversation there...

Hope you all are enjoying these summer months,


The Cut of our Diamonds

I thought we could celebrate imperfections today, and consider our “flaws” as facets of the gems that we are.  I took this metaphor from an article on psychopathology and Jungian analysis by Sandner and Beebe (1995).  Psychopathology refers to an aggravation of maladaptive patterns or complexes to the degree that it seriously limits our lives through symptoms of mental illness.  However, the existence of complexes is what makes us human.  They are created when the worlds of family and circumstance clash with the world of Self.

But pathology in the Jungian model is not considered as simply an “illness,” or a blip on our life’s radar that has to be squashed for as quick a return to the status quo as possible. Sandner and Beebe (1995) highlight; ‘In the Jungian model, the patient endures the illness in order to become well; the illness contains the ‘germs’ of wholeness” (p. 303).  They continue:

“The nucleus, the dynamic origin of every complex, is connected to the collective unconscious and a part of the Self.  This relationship to the Self introduces a paradox: the production of complexes not only leads to a divisive injuring but also provides a new way of achieving integration. Complexes participate in the Self’s effort to replace an initially unconscious state of unity with a conscious state of wholeness.  Their dual nature explains how splitting, even to the point of psychic injury and neurosis, is necessary for the evolution of consciousness and ultimate personality integration.” (p. 302)

The woundings and response patterns are different for each of us.  Some of us might be sensitive to circumstances that others don’t think twice about.  And we each have our own modes of coping.  But this, too, is a sign of our own unique journeys.

 Hence, the cut of our diamonds.  Sandner and Beebe, describing complexes and our reactions to them, write:

It takes many different forms in different individuals, much as a sharp blow with a hammer on one diamond will cause quite a different fracture line than it would on another.  Variations in internal structure, planes of structural weakness, and basic temperamental disposition make the difference.” (p. 301)

So no comparing ourselves to others, thinking, why does this bother me so much, while so-and-so has smooth sailing? Instead, think of our lives as flawed but unique gems that capture light and shine in their own sparkling and subtle fashion.

Have a good week!


Addressing the shadow self

I was recently struck by one of Jung’s descriptions of the shadow side of the human experience, meaning the pieces of ourselves we are desperate to repress and disown.  The shadow gains power when we split ourselves off from, for lack of a better term, the seedier side of our character.  It is difficult for our nobler selves to tolerate the idea that we also carry selfishness, ill-will, jealousy, and deviousness. But this is a dangerous game, because the irrepressible that is cut off tries to surreptitiously make itself heard.  Nothing likes to be ignored, least of all the repressed unconscious.  

The particular description that follows is in volume 9 of Jung’s collected works, entitled, Aion: Research into the phenomenology of the Self.  He writes:

“If it has believed hitherto that the human shadow was the source of all evil, it can now be ascertained on closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is, his shadow, does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities, such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc.  On this level of understanding, evil appears more as a distortion, a deformation, a misinterpretation and misapplication of facts that in themselves are natural.” (para. 423)

Jung is saying here that it is not the shadow, in and of itself, that is the culprit of evil and injustice, but the fearful human reaction toward its messier, less socially appropriate character.

We do terrible things out of fear.  In the name of morality and justness we often demonize the “other;” we project all things murky and distasteful onto others, a much easier solution than acknowledging it in ourselves.  Fanaticism of all kinds stems from such a rejection and projection.  Jung goes on to write:

“…it turns out that all archetypes spontaneously develop favourable and unfavourable, light and dark, good and bad effects.  In the end we have to acknowledge that the self is a complexion oppositorum precisely because there can be no reality without polarity.  We must not overlook the fact that opposites acquire their moral accentuation only within the sphere of human endeavor and action, and that we are unable to give a definition of good and evil that could be considered universally valid.  In other words, we do not know what good and evil are in themselves.  It must therefore be supposed that they spring from a need of human consciousness…” (para. 423)

I believe that one of our most difficult challenges is to build relationship with our unruly and unacceptable selves.  If we do not, these aspects somehow seem to become the responsibility of others.  Good for us, but bad for them.  And of course we serve the same purpose for others.  The antidote?  Jung writes:

“It is more advantageous and more to the point to subject to the most rigorous scrutiny one’s own moods and their changing influence on one’s personality.  To know where the other person makes a mistake is of little value.  It only becomes interesting when you know where you make the mistake, for then you can do something about it.  What we can improve in others is of doubtful utility as a rule, if, indeed, it has any effect at all.” (para. 424)

Personal responsibility?  Darn it!

Sorry I’ve missed the past couple of weeks.  Have a happy Memorial Day weekend!


The Can of Worms – The Collective Unconscious and Jung’s split with Freud

In the last blog entry, I referred to how Jung’s intuitions about a broader unconscious caused tension with Freud that, in the end, could not be reconciled.  Jung’s intuition had to do with a deeper layer of the unconscious that was not just material that was at one time conscious and then repressed.  Instead, Jung believed that there was a deeper layer to the unconscious – one that had never been conscious to individuals, only discoverable by consciousness. 

Jung called this stratum of the unconscious the collective unconscious or, sometimes, the objective psyche – objective because it existed without the subjective realm of personal unconscious, really, without us entirely.  The collective unconscious is universal, and exists across cultures and history.  Jung writes: “The collective unconscious comprises in itself the psychic life of our ancestors right back to the earliest beginnings.  It is the matrix of all conscious psychic occurrences…(CW 8, para. 230). The collective unconscious expresses itself in the form of myth; fairy tale; folk tales; the “big dreams” common in cultures where ritual connection with this realm is encouraged and respected; and often in the delusions of those suffering from severe mental illness.

This is the richness of Jung’s work, and is often the initial catalyst that intrigues us and brings us to workshops and lectures.  It is the connection to the numinous we so often seek, the connection to deeper and wider vistas from which to understand ourselves.

I look forward to seeing you all in a couple of weeks for the lecture and workshop on consciousness and change!

Hallie Durchslag, LISW

Freud’s Theory of the Unconscious

Sigmund Freud’s and Carl Jung’s relationship began while Jung was a young psychiatrist at a mental hospital in Switzerland.  (Freud’s medical practice was in Vienna.)  It is hard for us to imagine now, with our well-established culture of seeing therapists, or uttering the words, “you need to talk to a shrink!” (no one wants to hear that, right? J), but Freud was the first psychiatrist to engage in “talk therapy.”  This talk therapy mostly centered around dream analysis and a free-flow exploration of his patients’ fantasy life (free association) in order to access unconscious material.  

Freud believed the unconscious material expressed in dream and fantasy was rooted in the repression of instinctual drives (often pigeon-holed as sexual drives, which is not entirely the case).  The theory was that the desire for pleasure and self-gratification young children experience conflicted with the limitations imposed through family dynamics and societal norms.  Therefore, the unacceptable thoughts or behavior had to be repressed or converted into some other form.  Symptoms and mental illness arose when these repressed drives could no longer be adequately sublimated and would take hold of the patient in the form of compulsions and symptoms.  Dreams and free association allowed Freud’s patients to access the initial conflict between the biological drive and family and culture.  The conscious acknowledgment of such conflict allowed the symptoms involved in repressing it to diminish. 

 When Jung heard about this new talk therapy, he was inspired!  He sent Freud a letter hoping to meet him.  Jung looked at Freud as a psychological pioneer, and was eager to learn all he could.  The two would share intellectual and clinical commonalities for many years.  In fact, Freud used to say that Jung was the “heir apparent” in the field of psychoanalysis. 

 However, all that changed when Jung began to think, hmm, what if there is more at work in the unconscious than just this personal compromise between pleasure-seeking drives and its modification during childhood development?  Oh boy.  There’s a can of worms.  But for Jungians, it was the beginning of an era that continues to deepen our experience of what it means to be human.  More next week about that can of worms…

(P.S. No blog next week)

What is “DEPTH Psychology?”

Last week, we re-affirmed that the roots of psychology rest within an attention to soul and the “invisible” essence of life that breathes within and around us. 

This desire to somehow bridge connection between mind and the invisible is an ancient philosophical dilemma, beginning with Western philosophers from the time of Aristotle!  However, the scientific revolution of the Renaissance and Enlightenment ushered in a new era, and era that would split the invisible from the visible.  A culture of Cartesian dualism (mind vs. matter) took its strong-hold. From that point forward, if there were to be any attention to this invisible, soulful realm, it would be through the church, not through science.  Psychology followed suit with one exception: Dr. Sigmund Freud. 

A psychiatrist, trained in medicine, Freud noticed that his clients manifested physical symptoms that could not be explained through medicine and physiology, nor could clients control these various physical compulsions.  After careful evaluation of his cases, Freud posited that there must be some unseen force, not body and not conscious will, which drove these symptoms.  He termed this unseen force the unconscious, and with that, depth psychology was born.

At its simplest, depth psychology means “psychology of the unconscious.”  When we speak of depth psychology we are speaking of a family tree that began with Freud and grew outward once Jung’s convictions about the unconscious parted from Freud’s.  Today, depth psychology consists of both psychoanalysis (Freud’s legacy) and analytical psychology (Jung’s legacy).  Next week, we’ll take a brief look at what finally split Jung and Freud.  Much has been said about this split between the founders of depth psychology – books written, movies made – but next week we will look at the theory alone: different theories of what the unconscious is and how it manifests itself.  Have a wonderful week!

Hallie Beth Durchslag, LISW

A second look at the term Psychology

I am sure each of us has our own loose definition of psychology.  Its vestiges exist everywhere – the self-help section of the bookstore, reality shows, talk shows…Many of us have been involved with psychology because we have sought help in the therapy room, or from our primary care physicians in the form of a prescription, to relieve symptoms of “anxiety” or “depression.”  If we seek out therapy, we may have received different messages from different professionals – different solutions to the symptoms we feel:  Take this pill and come back in 4-6 weeks.  Or, Make a list of goals and complete them (as if we wouldn’t have already done that if we could have done that).  Or, Tell me about your childhood…Which brings us to all of the different “schools” of psychology.  So not only do we have a loose definition of psychology floating somewhere in our minds, but now we have to make sense of all of these different messages and approaches which have fancy titles – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Psychoanalysis, Jungian Psychology…What is all of this?  What is psychology?!

The Latin roots of the word come from psyche and logos.  Previous blogs have explored psyche in greater detail, but in simplest form, from its Latin roots, psyche refers to breath, spirit, or soul.  The second root word, logos, refers to the theory of, or the study of.  Therefore, psychology defined in its truest sense, is the study of soul.

In contrast, the most powerful governing branch of American psychology (American Psychological Association, or APA), wants psychology to be defined as a STEM science – meaning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Here, everything must be measurable and observable.  This is not a place where soul can thrive, if even survive.

But if we remain true to psychology as the study of psyche as we’ve discussed previously, then we have entered the realm of depth psychology.  Next week we’ll explore that term, depth psychology, in greater detail, and place the work of Carl Jung within that framework.

In the meantime, remember, we are more than a sum of measurable functions.  We are complex and wonderful human beings…

Hallie Durchslag, LISW

Ushering in Spring

Spring officially began on March 20th.  Unfortunately, as the snow on the ground shows us, the weather and the spring solstice sometimes have little to do with one another.  We curse Cleveland weather and its propensity to keep us frustrated and stuck in the cold.  We can only anticipate warm weather to come through the markers of daylight savings time, growing light in the evenings, Easter, Passover.  And yet somehow, somewhere in the midst of anticipation and disappointment, we blink and realize that the crocuses have popped, the buds have appeared, and the snow plows have gone into hibernation.  The shift of season has occurred.  This seems hauntingly psychological.  And since the past several blogs have focused on our relationship to nature and psyche as a means of understanding ourselves in connection to the larger anima mundi, how might we conceptualize the coming of spring from a Jungian perspective? 

In fact, spring is the spoils of the hard-earned work of autumn and winter.  Buds and new growth are only possible because of the decay of the autumn and the dormancy of winter.  The buds, the flowers, the greenery, come from things laid bare and stark.  This death and re-birth cycle is a core piece of personal growth, as well.  Mostly, though, and unjustly, we tend to value spring, the spoils of personal growth, without recognizing that emptiness and confusion, our personal winters, are its precursor.  Perhaps an appropriate psychological lens to the coming of spring might be less a sense of a “thank goodness horrid winter and cold are leaving,” sentiment, and more a quiet celebration of the wisdom of nature that knows the process it needs to grow and flourish again.  This wisdom guides our own psyche, and is at the root of the individuation process.  Individuation is cyclical, not linear, just like the seasons.  So ushering in this season, perhaps we can reflect on how indebted we are to the work of winter in bringing us the flowering or spring of new psychic energy. And now it is our responsibility to tend to the soil that has been prepared for us.  Happy gardening!!

Connection to the Environment

I think it’s fitting that we’ve been talking about our connection with nature because, scanning a couple of Jungian journals, I found that both Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture and Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche have both chosen to center their Winter editions on our relationship to the environment and how it influences psyche.  Much of the discussion relates to, without necessarily naming it, Jung’s later conceptualization of the Psychoid, which expanded his definition of the collective unconscious to include all of the natural world.  Hillman, too, focused much of his attention to the living natural world and our responsibility to attend to it as much as, or more than, we attend to our own egos and internal lives.  Called different things by different people, it seems many are coming to the same point – that we are intrinsically a part of our environment, and abusing it has dire consequences for our own well-being – our personal and collective psyche, and the anima mundi, or “soul of the world.”

An article in Jung Journal (2012) focuses on the thought of anthropologist, deep ecologist, and professor, David Abram.  His language, an ecological language, captures the essence of what is variously called Psychoid, or unus mundus, or anima mundi beautifully when he writes:

“…we and other animals don’t really live on the Earth.  After all, this invisible air we’re continually imbibing – this unseen atmosphere that we exchange among ourselves here in this room but also with the herbs and trees outside the building – this gusting medium of air is entirely a part of the Earth.  The space between us is not a void; it’s not an empty space continuous with the space between the planets.  Rather the air is a thick, meaning-filled plenum – rich with whiffs and pheromones and unseen clouds of pollen drifting this way and that, thick with messages moving between the bees and the blossoms.  That is, although the medium around us cannot normally be seen, it is nonetheless palpable, tangible, and filled with consequential happenings.  The unseen air has its flavor and its ever-shifting smells, its turbulence and its calms.  The atmosphere is a planetary membrane that extends right up to the clouds and beyond, an invisible layer of Earth.

Hence we don’t really live on the Earth; we live in the Earth.” (volume 7(1), pp. 109-110)

What this means for us from an action standpoint can seem overwhelming.  Albrecht (2012) has called this “eco-paralysis,” which “occurs when there is an overload of negative ecological information against which persons can do nothing sufficiently positive” (Spring, 88, p.14).  I, personally, feel I fall into this category.  However, if I continue to do what I can in my small universe, and support others who are brave enough to advocate at national and international levels, I can revel in what is still right with our environment.  And I believe there is plenty that is still “right” with our environment in Northeast Ohio.  Plenty to do, but also plenty of pleroma in which to find our sustenance to move forward.  With hope,

 Hallie Durchslag, LISW

 If you would like to find out more about David Abram, he provides a website for his work, www.wildethics.org. I have not explored it, myself, but perhaps others will share their thoughts in the blog.  A note about the RSS feeds: they have been difficult for me to figure out, myself. I will share simple “how-tos” once I have found them…

Alignment with Psyche in our everyday lives

I had some more thoughts regarding psyche sparked by a beautiful photograph Rev. Daniel Budd sent.  (As many of you know, Rev. Budd is reverend at the Unitarian Universalist Church where we hold many of our programs.  He is also the President of the Jung Cleveland Board.)  I’ve attached it to this blog entry.  I find it a phenomenal expression of the power of nature to embody the larger numinosity of the psyche.  The picture below is of the Madison river in Yellowstone National Park.  When I saw its glow, I immediately thought of the numinous energy right here on earth – in our environments and in our lives.

 I find it a phenomenal example  of nature's  power to embody the larger numinosity of the psyche. The numinous is the glimmer of magic when the psyche breaks through into the mundane activities of our lives, into our connection with nature, and through the miracle of synchronicity.  Many of you may have had the opportunity to attend the recent lecture and workshop with Lionel Corbett.  In his book, Psyche and the sacred: Spirituality beyond religion (2007), Dr. Corbett regards the numinous as a connection that offers a “profound sense of union or oneness with the world and with other people” (p.2).  

 The numinous can touch us in even the most mundane activities.  Allison Moreno, a Jungian analyst and poet, captures this beautifully in an article she wrote for the Jungian journal, Psychological Perspectives (2010).  She writes:

I see my world as being interconnected, each element as related as those around it as the tectonic plates which make up the earth’s surface, whole continents slipping easily over the sphere’s body, yet joining, part of one globe...My writing, my reading, my relationship, my running, my garden, the house that I live in, my job at the bookstore, and my breathing, as all being part of the same thing.  My critic, when manifesting in his negative aspect, does not understand this.  Cannot see that the chard I am washing for my dinner (even the dirt which falls from the chard as I turn the sturdy leaves under the water) bears an intimate relation to the next poem I may write.  The chard may not be in the poem, but it will inform it.  This is crucial, this simple dailyness, a praxis. (p. 56)

 So psyche is not only the stuff of dreams and our unconscious.  It is the living, breathing expression of those magical intrusions of meaning and beauty.  My hope is that all of us can connect with such transcendent beauty in the coming week.  With best wishes…

Hallie Durchslag, LISW