THE CHANGING NATURE OF 21ST CENTURY DEPTH PSYCHOLOGY AND THERAPY
My work brings radical changes to 21st Century depth psychology and depth therapy. In the sense that these changes focus on the root and the very heart of understanding the human mind. Contemplative science research findings call into question established psychology and therapy's, assumptions and significance.
DZOGCHEN PSYCHOLOGY & CONTEMPLATIVE SCIENCE
There are deeper forces at play in human psychology than we imagined.. Dzogchen psychology research discovered the mind's innermost essence. This is the mind's essential condition, it's Natural State. This is a critical discovery. Because when we are in our mind's Natural State, we are who we truly are. We are at home, comfortable in our own skin, fulfilled and spontaneously creative. And our mind is awake, sound and sane. Depth psychology can now turn its attention to these findings to refresh its vision accordingly. Nothing is more important.
Dr. Henry Vyner, physician and cultural anthropologist's book, The Healthy Mind, explores Dzogchen's research findings. Dr. Vyner was also trained as a psychoanalyst, His book documents his 27 years of study, field research and practice of Dzogchen.
As a depth psychologist and a contemplative scientist for more than 30 years, I've carefully integrated Dzogchen Psychology research into my own depth psychology and depth therapy work. Depth psychology can be an invaluable collaborative bridge for Dzogchen to be welcomed, understood and practiced in the west.
INDIVIDUATION & THE PRIVILEGE OF A LIFETIME
Depth psychology's concerns run deep. It aims to develop our deepest possibilities. Including what the celebrated depth psychologist, C.G. Jung, called the "Privilege of a Lifetime." That is: Realizing Who & What We Truly Are.”
Depth therapy involves us in the self-affirming work of becoming more aware, more conscious. Our mind is much deeper than it seems. Our customary awareness sees only the "tip of the iceberg." Before we start working on ourselves, we don't realize how unconscious we are of the forces at play in our mind. and so in our life.
Depth therapy explores the unconscious parts of our psyche using dreams, Active Imagination, complexes and visions. It's in the depths of our mind that we discover our appetite to grow into who we uniquely are. Individuation is a transformative process that enables us to awaken and make our way out of the materialist nightmare that passes for life today.
By becoming more conscious, we can break free from our conditioned patterns and programs. We can liberate ourself from the hypnotic powers of conditioning, including our conditioned self-image. We download a false self-image, a sense of being an "I" or "me", based on the ways we were viewed by our others. We come to view ourselves as we were viewed by others. By our parents in particular. We simply lacked the mind power to protect ourself from their projections and attributions.
And so we abandoned ourselves and unconsciously downloaded their views of us. Though false to fact, this fictive self-image nevertheless governs our thought, feelings and actions. Unconscious powers rooted in conditioning leave us stuck in an identity far too small for who we truly are. And so poison our possibilities for individuation. Individuation can connect us to our mind's transpersonal and transformative powers, but we must become conscious enough to be available for this connection.
SELF-REALIZATION: THE SELF
During Jung's lifetime, "self-realization" was just a conceptual idea about ultimate identity. An extremely important idea, for sure. But no depth psychologist knew what ultimate identity, i.e. the “Self,” was—as a living experience. And although Jung and some others, with and after him, picked up the scent, they lacked the know how to directly experience what they intuited. Doing so requires a "second awakening."
Dzogchen provides this "second awakening." It grants access to the precise knowledge and methods we need to make our way into the Mind's natural condition and essential nature, i.e. into the Self—who we truly are. Jung intimated the existence of ultimate identity correctly, but didn't experience it directly until his Near Death Experience (NDE), at 69. His NDE changed everything for him because it allowed him to experience what he was just talking about conceptually for so long.
Today, most “Jungians” follow Jung’s conceptual and intellectual work, more or less. But not always his Gnostic passion for deep inner knowledge. At its best, depth therapy heals and liberates. By enabling us to become aware of, and break free from, our unconscious conflicts, patterns and programs, that limit and trouble all of us. Many of depth therapy's foci and methods, including dreams, active imagination and alchemical work, will clarify, relieve and resolve painful psychological problems. Including alienation, emptiness and dissatisfaction. As well as grief and trauma, and the “miseries” so common today: stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
But we must become free from the heavy burden of unconscious conditioning before we can individuate and enter into direct experience of our mind's deepest nature.
PERSPECTIVE: DEPTH PSYCHOLOGY & DEPTH THERAPY
For clarity and simplicity’s sake, let's subsume both Freud and Jung’s work in all forms, as well as that of their many esteemed followers and colleagues, including psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts, under the category of depth psychology and depth psychotherapy.
Let's note an interesting fact: Freud and his work have been misunderstood from day one, especially by physicians and scientists trying to colonize and exploit his insights, knowingly or unknowingly. Freud was not a physician trying to understand and cure mental illness. He was an artist, as all true depth psychologists and depth therapists must be.
In Freud’s own words:
"Everybody thinks…that I started by the scientific character of my work and that my principal scope lies in curing mental melodies. This is a terrible error…I am really by nature an artist. … in all countries into which psychoanalysis has penetrated it has been better understood and applied by writers and artists than by doctors. My books, in fact, more resemble works of imagination than treatise on pathology…."
If depth psychology is to evolve and prosper, it must not lose its way by pandering to the formalisms of western science and university psychology departments—for acceptance and approval. Depth psychology must honor its true nature. In essence, it’s more at home in the deeper waters of contemplative science and in the humanities than in empirical science.
First person experiential knowledge is the foundation of contemplative science experimental methods. Experiential knowledge of psychology arises only from the well-trained systematic observation of one’s own mind. Not from the intellect’s abstract conceptual theories, especially theories based on third-person empirical experiments and statistical data. Such is the so-called scientific psychology found today in the shallow end of the pool at most universities and psychotherapy training institutes.
A much needed scientific revolution is on the horizon. If we can overcome the inflexible formalism of the dogmatic views that limit science today. This revolution, whether far or near, is inevitable. It will finally understand and recognize the reliability and validity of experiential, contemplative science methods, along with empirical ones. The systematic observation of one's own mind can yield knowledge about how the mind works when operating in its discursive thinking and conceptual reasoning modes. And experiential research praxis will also unveil what our deeper mind actually is, when in its natural state. A psychology based on empirical science alone can only examine and study the surface thinking-mind. It will never lead us into an appreciation of the healthy mind and true sanity. This appreciation is exactly what a new day in depth psychology and depth therapy are turning toward today.
Depth psychology is both art and science. Again, the humanities feel more like depth psychology’s true home. As Freud intimated, depth psychology's Mother is the Creative Imagination. A Mother shared with all authentic artist siblings, those committed to inner life and loyal to art and psychology’s deepest obligation. An obligation captured, especially well, in a compelling word-image by composer Robert Schumann: “To send light into the darkness of men’s heart...." And by celebrated depth psychologist James Hillman, who defined psychology as "the work to discover that nature and essence of the soul." As depth psychologists, we must realize that we can't send light into another's heart, or help anyone discover their soul, until or unless we have done it for ourselves.
MORE ON DEPTH PSYCHOLOGY & CONTEMPLATIVE SCIENCE
Using depth psychology and contemplative science methods properly, we can systematically observe and study our own mind. And discover the forces at play that give rise to our pain, problems and suffering. These forces leave us tethered to a fictional surface-identity rooted in our past conditioning. To become fully alive, we must break free from the conditioned patterns and programs that control our lives.
I include the views and methods of contemplative science in my depth psychology vision for the future. And in my depth therapy work. Because contemplative science, particularly Dzogchen psychology views and methods, can grant us access to the to the mind's natural state. As an experience of awareness and presence in the timeless moment. Being in our mind's natural state is an experience with many favorable consequences. Among them is the instant temporary liberation from our conditioning. This allows us to reset our view of ourselves, reality and our lives. It was Jung's experience of this that profoundly changed his life.
The non-directive states Jung dropped into were contemplative experiences that connected him with his deepest core. An awakened and present inner core free from conditioning. Once awakened, Jung intuitively gravitated to contemplative science methods. As celebrated depth psychologist and former director of training at Jung's institute in Zurich, James Hillman's, first wife Kate described in Hillman's biography. In her words:
“Jung lives now in an “in-between state somehow, most often he lets himself drop off into awake non-directive states, leaving the ego...out. He says he experiences truth as light, that is not with the consciousness that he has preached all these years, but another kind of awareness on a very deep level…. Jung says he does not trust consciousness in the usual sense anymore… …it means giving up a great deal to enter into this state where truth so to say lingers on a different level, that Jung has always known about it, but not until now really taking it on as a change in himself.”
Without a direct experience of our mind's natural state, its true condition, it's impossible to encounter who we truly are. And what we need to know, experience and understand to appreciate what a healthy mind and sanity look and feel like, and why. This critically important part of Jung's work and the work of contemplative scientists begs to be properly recognized, studied, understood and experienced. By depth psychologists and depth therapists who, unlike the Jungian Church Fathers, are able and willing to look through "Galileo's telescope" and SEE the new depth psychology world. One that Jung saw clearly. Jungian depth psychology is a treasure trove indeed. Much profound work has been done within the tradition by many capable and gifted people. But too often Jungian depth psychology has become formalized and closed-minded. Particularly in some areas, including some Jungian training institutes and "clubs." We need to remember that Jung was not a Jungian. He would surely eschew any efforts to idealize him and make a dogma of his work.
ALL DEPTH PSYCHOLOGISTS AND DEPTH THERAPISTS NEED EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The educating and training of depth psychologists and therapists needs to change. They've become mired in the problems that arise when an educational and training program becomes burdened by institutional convention and conformity. In the west, for example, we call people “psychologists” who pass tests and write dissertations. But too many of these “psychologists” (and therapists) haven’t spent 50 minutes in a direct experience of their own mind. Intellectual training, though valuable, is not nearly enough. Depth psychology especially, must become a deeply experienced way of life. Not merely a career or a conceptual school of thought.
We can’t really consider ourselves depth psychologists if we haven’t made deep dives into our own mind, dives that connect us to —who we truly are.