Posts in transformation
Understanding Depth Psychology: An Invitation from the Soul
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Understanding Depth Psychology: An Invitation from the Soul

Understanding Depth Psychology: An Invitation from the Soul

I was brought to depth psychology through my love of typology. As a corporate consultant, each time I taught a workshop on the Myers-Briggs assessment I found that people were finding new ways of seeing themselves and others. Bridges of understanding were being formed and those I trained were accessing new insights about the paradigms they operated within.

As I ventured deeper into the work, I spent a year doing a program on transformational leadership at Georgetown University. It was rich, imaginal, and deep. It was my first direct experience with C.G. Jung, James Hillman, and Robert Johnson. Through archetypes my work deepened into finding new ways to see and understand the world. It wasn’t too long after that the study of archteypes led directly to the source—Classical Greek mythology and the works of Joseph Campbell.

From the earliest days of ancient Greece, myths were an expressive and symbolic way of understanding human nature and relationships, including love, conflict, and the challenges of personal and collective experiences. Throughout the Renaissance and later centuries, artists and writers kept Greek mythology alive with super psychological depictions of the vastly powerful and complex gods. Explaining mythology from a psychological perspective, Jung said “Myths are original revelations of the preconscious psyche, involuntary statements about unconscious psychic happenings” (1951).

The field of psychology and the work of psychotherapy, from early beginnings with Freud and Jung and their forbearers, understood the importance of applying mythological themes to patient narratives and symptoms. Today, psychology has moved too far away from its traditional and deep-rooted connections to Greek mythology, and the result has been to lose sight of the range and depth of human experience, as well as to significantly increase the pathologizing of patients. Jung said, “We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms” (1954). The gods of ancient Greek mythology have taken center stage in our pathologies.

But the Greeks made room for a much broader range of psychological variation within their culture. Charles Boer, translator of ancient Greek texts, wrote decades ago about the value of a mythological perspective (1970): “These days, as our own country increasingly narrows its own single-minded focus on things, one realizes again why what the Greeks have given us is “classic” and for all time. How helpful it must have been in their day to have had this network of Gods and Hymns, to know that one was not crazy or alone or odd in one’s fantasies and dreams, as one always must feel in a monotheistic system when the God of that system does not authorize the way one wants to see things.”

Today, these broader perspectives are being re-introduced and championed by archetypal and depth psychologists across the globe. The late psychologist James Hillman put it quite literally, Archetypal psychology can put its idea of psychopathology into a series of nutshells, one inside the other: within the affliction is a complex, within the complex an archetype, which in turn refers to a God. Afflictions point to Gods; Gods reach us through afflictions (1975).” In our afflictions we access the shadows of our being, but also experience the numinous forces driving us toward wholeness.

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Missing Dimension (Late 2018)

As the financial crash of 2008 swept the globe and businesses shrank overnight, I decided to put aside a nearly completed manuscript I had been working on for more than a year. I placed it in a marked box and tossed it into storage where it remained for the next ten years. By complete surprise, late last year I awoke from a mysterious dream that sought to bring this book back to life. I reluctantly dug out the long-forgotten work, dusted off the old pages and found the research I had collected. As I began reviewing it again, I came to realize that I had quite unconsciously laid out on its pages a rough blueprint for my life, much of which had transpired over the unfolding decade. The numinous dream had purposely brought me back to the original spark of this important personal work. 

The Missing Dimension is an examination of the nature of individuation, spirituality, and the dynamics of consciousness in a search for meaning—mostly emerging from a winding personal journey through various clinical treatment settings, the halls of Congress, corporate boardrooms, and from visits to spiritual outposts such as the temple of the Dalai Lama.

Through collected stories and research, this book provides just one spectrum of possibility in our world—through an exploration of how we approach relationships, business, politics, psychology, and spirituality.

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An excerpt from Chapter 2: 

“Ascending to Dharamsala, I felt great relief from the fourteen-hour drive from New Delhi, which included navigating hundreds of narrow blind curves above sheer mountain inclines. I settled into a hotel in the village where, every morning, I watched day break over the glistening white snow-covered Himalayas, as the sound of the Dalai Lama leading monks in their morning chants echoed through the valley below my window. In the evening, from the same window, I watched the lights go out in his home as the sunlight faded across the Kangra Valley below. I stood in enchantment at every turn. Across India there is disease, hunger, begging, pollution, and smells so rotten they turn the stomach. Yet there is the magical chanting of monks, the smell of incense flowing from ancient temples, women in brilliantly colored silks, spices that bring the senses alive, and the unforgettable eyes of the people, large and engaging. It is as difficult as it is life giving. 

“Many mornings and afternoons, I attended the Dalai Lama’s teachings at the temple near his home. Welcoming a few hundred people into the temple square, he sat atop a beautiful platform in the lotus position for hours, his chanting interspersed with teaching and funny stories. His laughter and smile infected the crowds. He could speak for hours about a single word or phrase from ancient texts. I remember thinking, “he seems the humblest person in the world.” It is easy to admire such a simple and joyful man. His positive energy could be felt everywhere in the village. Among the monks I spoke with, I never heard a word of complaint, only gratitude and commitment to their learning. To escape Chinese oppression, many had traveled on foot long distances over the most rugged mountains in the world. Yet they viewed their experiences without personal attachment. I felt their gracious sense of altruism and compassion. 

“Some days I would set off walking out of the village and into the mountains to be alone. While hiking one morning along a deserted road, I saw a monk emerge like a vision from a high trail leading into the forest. He spoke no English and could not tell me where the trail led. But I took a chance, listening to my inner voice, and followed the trail straight up the mountain for forty minutes. After coming through thick brush, I arrived at the top of a small peak. I thought I would find a scenic vista or glacial lake. But instead, I discovered a Tibetan refugee school. Like a dream within a dream, I was suddenly surrounded by the most wonderful, loving children I had ever seen. Standing there amongst the children, I met a smiling monk who taught at the school. In an immediate act of friendship, he kindly led me around the grounds and talked to me about the school. As we walked grounds, I saw children washing their own clothes, cooking meals, and taking care of one another. I cannot explain how profoundly humbled and warmed I was by their instantaneous kindness. I could feel the powerful archetypal energy of the innocents and orphans in the pristine landscapes all around me. The place brought me to tears. It was a blessing.

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“As I walked the trail back to town alone, I felt clarity about my life coming to me. I was learning about them, but finding me. All of a sudden, I began enjoying my own company and feeling moved by the smallest sights. Filled with wonder, and sometimes with fear, I let myself be guided each day by my heart. There was something spiritual about this place, which I find hard to describe. These are compassionate people who lost their homeland. They are refugees who know great loss and suffering, but who choose to practice loving kindness everyday. Spinning prayer wheels, chanting, and meditating, they are constantly focused on being more content and peaceful. I never experienced such harmony in the presence of life’s cruel circumstances. Love and poverty coexist here in miraculous ways. The more I engaged with them, the more I came to realize how much suffering I was placing on myself. But here I found a deep sense of peace, not only from being with the Dalai Lama and the monks, but from rediscovering who I was by surrendering my attachments and listening to the powerful voices within me. 

“The calling to go immediately on this journey was not for an adventure, but rather to reconnect with the flow of life. And, this is the point. It does not matter whether we travel to India or begin a new business or create a masterpiece, the only way we are served in life is by discovering who we are and what we are here to do. Nothing else matters. My calling to go on a journey had nothing to do with the journey itself, the Dalai Lama or India, it was about listening and acting from the intelligence and wisdom within.”

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THE POWER OF THE EROTIC FOR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: TAPPING THE INTELLIGENCE AND WISDOM OF EROS, LONGING, AND DESIRE
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THE POWER OF THE EROTIC FOR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: TAPPING THE INTELLIGENCE AND WISDOM OF EROS, LONGING, AND DESIRE

Many understand the powerful pull of attraction and desire in personal domains, but what is it to live a life that taps into the same kind of passion and longing for one’s work? The Greek god, Eros, is symbolic for one of the most powerful and numinous archetypal forces we can ever experience—one which emerges in every creative act, innovation, and artistic expression known. Eros is not limited to personal domains through sex and love; Eros is much greater and includes the highest expressions of passionate pursuit, driving desire, and a soul-level longing to merge with something other. This salon will bring attention to the ubiquity of Eros and the importance of allowing those creative forces to awaken parts of oneself in professional domains. The event will also celebrate the first anniversary of Jung and Sex, an acclaimed book that reveals C.G. Jung’s spiritual and archetypal contributions to a deeper understanding of human sexuality. Free registration: Click Here to Learn More

Human Stews: Critical Intelligence for Navigating Dysfunctions, Personality Disorders, and Unconscious Conflicts in Teams and Groups
 
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Leaders and innovators must come to grips with the realities of human complexities in the workplace and forge a greater capacity to understand the light and shadow aspects of individuals and groups. Too often dysfunctions and disorders run rampantly, wreaking havoc on individuals, teams, operations, and projects. Few organizations gather the intelligence needed to run conscious high-performing environments.

Businesses and organizations are built and driven by the human psyche and emerge from human relationships, yet too little focus or effort is paid to the conscious and unconscious dynamics that underpin our actions and endeavors. These issues include individuals (and groups) that demonstrate high levels of conflict, contempt, and/or common disorders such as high narcissism, borderline behaviors, and addictions.

Many situations and conflicts that seem too relationally or psychologically complex, go unrecognized or are swept under the rug. However, these create lingering perils and missed opportunities to deepen organizational wisdom and relationships. Join this salon to examine how to explore this difficult territory, from identifying and getting honest about dysfunctions to seizing new approaches for expanding the depth of organizational life. Free registration: Click Here to Learn More

Healing Through Numinous Encounters: A Jungian Approach
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Healing Through Numinous Encounters: A Jungian Approach

C.G. Jung described synchronicity as having an incomprehensible numinous quality, such that the experience has an element of a “third” or “other” being present. For Jung, there were three key elements to these kinds of experiences: acausal connection, meaningful coincidence, and numinosity. Jungian Analyst, Lionel Corbett, explained numinous experiences as having a significant physical component as well:

“The feelings of awe, dread, and amazement that accompany a numinous experience are important not simply because they help us to identify the experience as sacred. These emotions tell us that the experience has been embodied. Emotions are felt in the body as a result of the action of the autonomic nervous system. They make the heart beat faster, make us pale, and produce muscle tension and sweating. Our hair may stand on end, and a variety of hormones may be secreted. A powerful emotional reaction provokes the response of the whole organism.”

The numinous has an incredible healing capacity too, since it has the potential to reconnect us to a greater whole. Numinous experiences, such as prophetic dreams or stunning synchronicity, are an invitation and can signal a transition or important new phase beginning to unearth itself. Within these experiences there is a union of matter and spirit, a connection between something real and something more than real. It is this alchemical marriage of two realities that want to equally create something new from the experience.

According to Jung, any work with unconscious material affects the psyche in a way that can be disorienting, such are the effect these encounters can have on one. Jung, from his own experience, learned that working with unconscious elements re-shapes our entire orientation toward the world:

“Once we give serious consideration to the hypothesis of the unconscious, it follows that our view of the world can be but a provisional one; for if we effect so radical an alteration in the subject of perception and cognition as this dual focus implies, the result must be a world view very different from any known before.” 

On a personal level, these kinds of experiences seem to bolster my regard for the unconscious and the cosmological forces at work. Embracing these encounters creates a larger reality, expands psychic space. Suddenly, “the other” wants to be known, and through its visibility to the individual or group, something of the cosmos has been touched—something of our connectedness to each other and everything else has been realized. These are the riches of a kind of double-sight, to allow us to be addressed by the incomprehensible. When one is truly open, these experiences resonate because there is already something deep within us that recognizes them, whether it be a connection that was once lost or because it offers a sense of harmony, balance, and togetherness. In these precious moments of numinous experience, one is suddenly not alone in the universe.

These raw experiences are true gifts for the psyche and hold the power to re-orient the individual. Though these moments can be quite painful or frightening or mysterious, they often hold treasures beyond our wildest imaginings.