Following is the research paper I wrote this week for Ginette Paris’ course Post Jungian and Archetypal Psychology. I followed a structure Ginette suggested, and it really helped me work the material academically and personally. Most of the papers I have written at Pacifica are not personal like this, but this material works with the psyche in such a way that I would find it nearly impossible to discuss without including personal examples.
Part One: The Ideas
“Feeling is all. Discover your feelings; trust your feelings. The human heart is the way to soul and what psychology is all about” (Hillman Revisioning Psychology 181). Depth Psychologists understand something vital: the soul needs tending. The Western world has secured itself in the medical model and is typically intent upon fixing everything. While broken bones and crooked teeth can be fixed, the soul cannot. That is not even the correct approach or language to use with the soul. Depth Psychology, including Post-Jungian and Archetypal Psychology, is the soul-tending realm that explores mythology and archetypes, leading to a richer understanding of the psyche and the soul. This is necessary for being true to and taking care of the self, to one’s very essence and being.
Everyone suffers from psychic wounds, but the cure is not in fixing them: it is in psychologizing them, to really see through the circumstances and events in life and into the archetype. Each person’s perspective, in general and towards particular situations, lies in an archetype. To access and understand these archetypes, we look to the myths because “we meet archetypal reality through the perspective of myths” (Hillman Revisioning Psychology 157). The stories in the myths resonate because they reflect the human condition. Change the time, the names, and the specific circumstances, but certain threads and attributes are universal and timeless. The myths are not to be literalized but understood metaphorically. For example, no one can literally follow his love into the Underworld as Orpheus does for Euridyce. However, one may become involved in an Underworld experience with his love. Furthermore, one will not lose his love to the Underworld by looking back once, as Orpheus does, yet one may feel responsible for the death of a loved one. There are archetypes working here that are powerful and mythological. The role of the Depth Psychologist is to aid the patient in discovering, understanding and working with that archetype.
The archetype is something individuals can inhabit psychically and physically. While the focus of Depth Psychology lies in the psyche and the soul, these elements do not exist alone; they are embodied. There is, of course, an intimate connection between the mind and the body. One way or another, psychic activity will always to find a way to express itself. As Ginette Paris specifies, “What the psyche refuses to acknowledge, the body always manifests” (xi). With the guides in Depth Psychology and mythology, one can better understand the psyche and its functioning archetypes before complexes, which “interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance” (Sharp 19), take over the mind or inhabit the body.
For example, individuals may unconsciously embrace the victim archetype. The perspective these individuals maintain indicates that things happen to them and that they are not in control of their life. If someone is unconscious of this functioning archetype, it may start to manifest physically, possibly through fatigue, soreness, or other aches and pains that are not related to anything that physically occurred. This can create a vicious, useless cycle of being in pain and being burdened by it, which can contribute to perpetuating archetype. Depth Psychology can be used then not to fix this problem, but to bring the patient to an awareness of what is occurring in the psyche. When a patient recognizes what is going on, the physical symptoms will dissipate. This recognition from the patient allows for deeper work to begin with the psyche, which may include a reframing of the archetypal perspective. The archetypes are “the deepest patterns of psychic functioning, the roots of the soul governing the perspectives we have of ourselves and the world” (Hillman Revisioning Psychology xix). Accessing them then becomes the most important goal in therapy or any quest of the psyche.
Part Two: Influence on My Thinking
The approach of Depth Psychology is having a tremendous effect on my psyche. I suffer from chronic pain in my rib from an injury I incurred nearly ten years ago. This injury impacts me physically and presents me with limitations and pain. Perhaps even greater though is the way it impacts me psychically. I was injured training in martial arts and because of the injury, I cannot return to my beloved sport. At times, this is intolerably frustrating. My sense of self, my ego, my pride, and my self-image all resided in my martial arts training. Since the time that my injury forced me to stop training, I have had many psychic struggles. I have seen several different therapists, and none of them really helped me. I see now that what I really need is a Depth Psychologist or Jungian Analyst, one who will tend to my soul, who will help me more carefully identify my archetypal lens and direct me in using mythology to better cope. I very carefully use the word “cope” because I know I cannot fix what happened to me nor can I fix the fact that I miss martial arts.
What I can do, however, is change my perspective, my archetypal lens. As Zeldin explains, “Nothing influences our ability to cope with the difficulties of existence so much as the context in which we view them” (13). If I view my injury from the victim perspective, then I will remain the victim; if I view my injury from the heroic perspective, then I become a hero! In Wisdom of the Psyche, Ginette Paris supplies a fitting example of living after suffering a tragedy when she discusses a man whose son killed his wife. Though this is direr than what I have suffered, her conclusion resonates with me: “There is no redeeming what happened; it will remain tragic forever” (66). I will never have the same body or the same capabilities, and there is a tragedy in the fact that I was an athlete permanently injured at a young age. I think it is good to recognize and acknowledge that; however, I do not have to go on living it as a tragedy. In paraphrasing Casey, Hillman explains that “a trauma is not what happened but the way we see what happened” (Hillman Healing Fiction 47). Changing my perspective can absolutely change the event and the way I live in its aftermath.
In one of the sessions of Post-Jungian and Archetypal Psychology, Ginette Paris led the class through an exercise where we wrote the story of our lives. I focused my story around my injury, and when I re-wrote it from the archetypal perspective of the victim, I found it very easy to sink into it. I actually found that by the end of writing it, I was slouched as low in my chair as I could be. I felt defeated. I absolutely embodied victimhood. Everything had been taken from me, and I felt sorry for myself.
Something magical happened though when I re-wrote it again from the archetypal perspective of the hero. I was soon rising up in my seat and sitting tall. I was proud as I looked at all the things I have accomplished in spite of the injury. Though I was removed from my chosen athletic lifestyle, I did not stop my experience of life. I persevered through the pain and limitations, first through an undergraduate program, then through my English master’s degree, and now with my degree at Pacifica. I have absolutely embraced academia by being a successful student and becoming a college teacher. I have made a new life for myself, and that is quite a different story from the one told by the victim archetype. This exercise really brought the ideas home for me and gave me a true appreciation and understanding of the power the archetypal perspective possesses.
I think I have oscillated between these two archetypal perspectives since my injury, sometimes feeling victimized, especially when I really am in great physical pain. At other times I do feel heroic and have a great sense of pride in my new life. If I only felt sorry for myself, I would not have managed all my academic accomplishments. Nevertheless, it has been a continual battle with one step forward, two steps back. Despite my successes, I still embody this injury and maintain a sense of loss. I have learned something very interesting from Hillman, however: “In your symptom is your soul, could be a motto” (Hillman Healing Fiction 100). This is something I want to explore more, to understand not only intellectually, but to feel resonate in my psyche. I now wonder in what ways I can transform this physical symptom and experience through an archetypal perspective.
As I have wavered between the victim and hero archetypes, I think the very thing that has prohibited me from any lasting progress is that I have been lost in the why question. I often wonder why I cannot let go of what happened to me and just “move on.” I have sometimes blamed myself for the injury, which leads me to ask why I allowed myself to train with a dangerous partner that night. This has been problematic. Depth Psychology reveals the proper approach: in looking at the archetypes, individuals leave behind the why question and look into the who question: “We look to archetypes for the formal meaning and purpose in events rather than their causal origin or material base” (Hillman Revisioning Psychology 176). Personally, I can now see that asking why has provided me with no answers, no substance, and no use. From James Hillman and Ginette Paris, I have learned an invaluable lesson: I need to ask who?! Who is the archetype here? Who is the black shadow I have seen when I have performed active imagination? By looking into this, I can name the archetypes and begin to work with them, leaving behind any questions of why.
Part Three: Remaining Questions and Review
Depth Psychology and mythology, which are inherently intertwined, are extraordinarily rich, multi-layered, and soulful. In completing this first year of course-work, I see how beautifully all the courses relate to one another and build upon each other. This course was a wonderful compliment to the completion of the spring quarter course Jungian Psychology. Through all these courses, I am building more than a path to academic success; I am on a journey of the soul. I know I have yet to firmly grasp and integrate all this material, and I look forward to the following two years of course work at Pacifica. I know I have much to learn.
I am not left with any specific questions, but with a sense of awe and excitation. Furthermore, there is one specific archetype that I look forward to exploring in depth: the wounded healer. Chiron was first introduced to me in the course Dreams, Myth and Symbol, and I was immediately captivated. The idea of the wounded-healer came up again briefly in this course. I think this is an archetype that is functioning in me, and I really want to get my hands on all the related material I can. Hillman indicates that “The healer is the illness and the illness is the healer” (Revisioning Psychology 75). This powerful idea resonates with me, and I know I am truly just beginning to digest it.
I am very curious about illness and pain, especially chronic pain, and their relationship with the psyche. Since the rib injury, I have also developed carpal tunnel (another chronic injury) and interstitial cystitis (a chronic bladder condition, which my mother also has). I wonder what it is in me, physically and/or psychically, that leads not to simple broken bones or head colds but to these chronic conditions. I want to understand the archetype of the wounded-healer, how it applies to me, and how it applies to others. The archetypes have become very important to me as I have come to recognize what a vital role they play in the psyche, in each individual’s perspective, and in every person’s interactions with the self, each other, and the world. Ultimately, I hope to use my wounds to heal not just myself, but others. I believe my role as an educator will provide me with this forum. Though I still have much to learn about mythology, archetypal psychology, my own symptoms, my own archetypes and my own complexes, I feel I have a strong foundation for continuing on this journey.
Hillman, James. Healing Fiction. Barrytown, N.Y: Station Hill Press, 1983. Print.
— Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992. Print.
Paris, Ginette. Wisdom and Psyche: Depth Psychology After Neuroscience. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.
Sharp, Daryl, and C. G. Jung. Jung Lexicon: a Primer of Terms & Concepts. Toronto, Canada: Inner City, 1991. Print.
Zeldin. An Intimate History of Humanity. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995. Print.