“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.”
– C. W. Jung
Depth psychology is a broad umbrella term for a wide array of holistic and integrative healing practices and modalities focused on exploring the hidden or deeper aspects of our human lived experience through the subtle, unconscious and transpersonal aspects of the unconscious. From a clinical perspective depth psychology is non-pathologizing and strength affirming. Depth practices explore the unconscious, underworld of psyche through the language of psyche, which often consists of imagery, symbols, metaphor, colors, numerology, dreams, ritual, behavioral patterns, body movement and archetypal patterning
More attention is placed on investigating these hidden, unconscious processes for clarity, understanding and to entice them into conscious awareness so they can be addressed and alleviate psychic pain and suffering. Self-awareness of these unconscious patterns allows us to move through them, heal unresolved wounding, memories, adverse behavior or limiting belief patterns for authentic wholeness. To be authentic requires facing the shadow head on.
“Depth psychological therapies explore hidden aspects of human experience through more expansive, multi-layered perspectives, and maintains a certain curiosity of unique individual dynamics”. – Chalquist (2009)
Lifting the veil of the superficial conscious realm and peering underneath allows access to one’s truth, new insights and understandings regarding adverse behavioral programming, limiting belief patterns, false stories created by the conscious realm through defense mechanisms, which have been directing one’s life. Doing so opens the doorway to reconnect with one’s truth, intuition, instincts and authentic self and provides clarity and understanding. From this deep truth and knowing arises one’s purpose and meaning in life.
This shift in perspective allows us to view our Self through a different lens, observe the often-missed subtle nuances directing our life. This new clarity connects us with those missing parts of self that often manifest into feeling stuck, lost, scattered or powerless to change our circumstances. Illumination of what has been hidden, or dormant, in the unconscious realm allows for movement into conscious awareness. From here we can change old stories, move through limiting belief patterns, and process and integrate old wounds that do not serve our highest self.
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – C.W. Jung
Depth Practices Strengths
Depth psychology is often referred to as Jungian, due to Jung’s extensive work on the structured framework of the unconscious psyche. Depth approaches focus on the underworld of psyche, human development, personality formation, and individuation. Individuation is the process of bringing our unconscious potential into a concrete living reality, which secures a bridge between the individual and their unconscious. By incorporating both an inner and outer exploration, one discovers a more potent sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Jung believed that psychological distress is a result of an imbalance within the individual that often is experienced as an alienation from the deeper personality, or what he called the Self. A Jungian approach seeks to restore individual’s connection to Self.
Depth practitioners work through the archetype of the “wounded healer”, which means they have “skin in the game”. Both the client and depth practitioner have wounded souls. Working together they can merge their souls to evoke healing has ‘skin in the game”. Mutual vulnerability creates a dynamic of equality between the practitioner and client, which serves to facilitate safety and trust.
Depth practices adaptability and pliability represent unique strengths of depth approaches to allow repressed hidden parts of the self to rise into conscious awareness for clarity, understanding, integration and dissipation. Uncovering the root cause of adverse and repressed unconscious memories, images, stories and behavioral patterns are often the missing pieces of the puzzle for recovery and healing.
“Archetypes are identical psychic structures common to all” which are heritable and influence the way all humans experience the world”
– (Jung, CW 9i, 1959, para. 587)
The healing process is less about fixing something broken inside of us, and more about making space for what needs to be voiced by the unconscious psyche for a resolution. Healing should be viewed as more of a transformative journey than an actual destination or fixed goal. Metaphorically speaking, recovery can be equated to peeling away layers of an onion until we get to the core, which allows the true Self to feel safe enough to emerge and be actualized.
Depth processes involve deeper inquiry into the soul of our human ‘lived experience’ versus just focusing on what is presenting or individual symptoms. Depth approaches are more interested in discovering what has been silenced, marginalized, or hidden, from conscious awareness, due to overwhelming fear. In a nutshell and from a more biopsychosocial perspective, depth psychological approaches focus on addressing unconscious processes, versus a predetermined, fixed agenda or treatment goal.
An inherent strength of depth approaches is that they are intuitive, pliable, and flexible. The term depth implies going deeper into psyche, which allows access to the root cause or origin of trauma issues and wounding. Depth approaches can be highly effective in getting to the root of psycho-spiritual maladies, moral injury, identity loss, shame, guilt, sadness, loss and grief. Depth practices offer a safe space to examine previously repressed emotions. More importantly, depth practitioners place greater focus on the client’s relationship with themselves than on their behavioral issues or concerns.
Depth approaches often allow hidden thoughts and memories to reveal themselves organically, versus attempting to extract traumatic memories through repeated exposure and tend to be less obtrusive or forceful. We can only free ourselves from suffering by going deeper into ‘psychic wounds” to accept what is, but to also accept the fact that trauma wounding is also a teacher. We must learn what our ‘psychic wounds’ want us to learn, want to teach us, which in turn provides a cleansing and purifying of old wounds so they can be processed, integrated and released.
“Depth psychological thought is of the belief, as long as we continue to feel victimized, bitter, and resentful towards our trauma ‘wound’, resist, and try to escape from the suffering the trauma is causing, we will remain inescapably bound to our trauma”. – (Levy, 2010)
From this perspective depth practices place great value on constructs such as storytelling, myth, rituals, ceremonies, blessings and even prayers. Additionally, experiential activities such as art, drama, dance, vision quests and rite of passage initiations were all used by indigenous and tribal communities to cleanse and purify their ‘souls.
Depth Practices & Psychic Wounding
Trauma wounding can catapult the ego into a defensive posture for the purpose of protection so we can survive and cope. The conscious ego’s primary purpose is to protect us from emotional, mental, spiritual and physical harm. To achieve this goal the conscious ego creates adverse coping and defensive mechanisms and can erect imaginary walls, which both terrify and protect us from additional pain and suffering. However, the underlying psychic wounds remain lodged deep in the underworld of psyche, in our shadow.
While coping mechanisms often help us survive past traumatic events, eventually denial, repression, projection and suppression of the truth rise to the surface, and the cycle of pain and suffering resurfaces. Depth practices allow us to access the deeper, embodied trauma, unearth the truth, which allows soul wounds to be healed. Soul healing is a process of subtraction rather than addition.
Wholeness in mind, body and spirit moves us back into alignment with our true self, transcending us, so old wounds and belief systems no longer define us. Transcendence creates new understandings and clarity and allows us to move into a more compassionate, empathetic and loving way of being with self, others and the world at large.
Begin Your Journey
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