Shadows & Light. Interview with Bonnie Bright, Founder of depthpsychologyalliance.com by Willi Paul, newmythologist.com


Our instruments have no way of measuring this feeling
Can never cut below the floor, or penetrate the ceiling.
In the space between our houses, some bones have been discovered,
But our procession lurches on, as if we had recovered.

Draconian winter unforetold.
One solar day, suddenly you’re old.
Your little envelope just makes me cold,
Makes destination start to unfold.

Our documents are useless, or forged beyond believing.
Page forty-seven is unsigned, I need it by this evening.
In the space between our cities, a storm is slowly forming.
Something eating up our days, I feel it every morning.
Destination, destination.

It’s not a religion, it’s just a technique.
It’s just a way of making you speak.
Distance and speed have left us too weak,
And destination looks kind of bleak.

Our elements are burned out, our beasts have been mistreated.
I tell you it’s the only way we’ll get this road completed.
In the space between our bodies, the air has grown small fingers.
Just one caress, you’re powerless, like all those clapped-out swingers.
Destination, destination.

Destination” by The Church

* * * * * * *

BB-Final

Interview with Bonnie by Willi

How is depth psychology related to the new mythology?

C.G. Jung, widely credited as one of the founders of depth psychology around the turn of the 20th century, regarded the field as an aggregate of all the sciences, including philosophy, medicine, anthropology, physics, and more. As one common description of depth psychology is that it is “the study of the unconscious,” it lends itself to inquiry into any topic by looking below the surface level and reflecting in order to ascertain what is hidden, invisible, or marginalized. In some ways I believe we could consider depth psychology IS the new mythology because it provides a way for new narratives to emerge.

With the gradual development of our corresponding capacity for logical thinking in humans (that is, to “think about our ability to think”), we have both increased opportunities for consciousness but also increased challenges in the sense that we categorically seek to analyze, label, and put into buckets the things we don’t understand, sometimes becoming reductive and trapped in limited thinking. In order for us to transcend our current mythology and come to new creative awareness, we need to be able to look beyond established boundaries and facades to see what new and emergent concepts await.

One good example of this is the current debate about gun control in America in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting and so many other recent tragic violence with guns. On one level it’s quite common to look at it as whether or not we need to ban public access to guns (and it certainly is worth the debate), but if you use a depth psychological lens, you look beyond that simple black-and-white question to see what the undercurrent is in our society that is enabling or even driving certain individuals to use guns to commit such horrible atrocities.

Part of the study of depth psychology includes regarding the shadow, that invisible aspect of ourselves that is a blind spot for us (even though those close to us can usually see it clearly). The negative, repressed parts of us that we are unable to deal with have often become split off from our awareness but continue existing (and acting out)–albeit under the radar so to speak. For example, one individual may be highly critical or even become derogatory toward parents who allow their children to run wild in public, but in the end it may be stemming from individual’s own deeply ingrained memory of her own experience with parents who punished her for doing the same, insisting she was “bad” for doing so. Gradually the details of the reason for negative feelings disperse, but the negative feeling remains—simply no longer connected to any rational reason that one could point to that triggers it.

Like individuals, society also had its shadow. Going back to the issue of the growing number of mass shootings, I recently read a very good article that offers a symbolic and depth psychological take on the matter. In “Mythology of Bullets” (Spring 81: The Psychology of Violence), Jungian analyst and professor Glen Slater reflects on one of the most fundamental beliefs of the American culture at large. He suggests our inherent belief in the American dream, that anyone can achieve success if he works hard enough may be partially at fault.

In conjunction with the Second Amendment our forefathers bestowed the right for every individual to bear arms, and the rather black-and-white mandate that stipulates failure in America is not an option and we must do whatever it takes to succeed, those who are moving at a pace that is not sustainable and still find themselves failing, marginalized, and teetering on the brink of defeat simply fall prey to a power complex in which they grasp onto the one enduring symbol that lives in the very biology of our cells. Passed down from the pioneers who subdued (and colonized) the Wild West in order to establish the United States of America, the access to and utilization of guns and bullets to finally and forcefully remove all objects in the way seems an inherent right.

More, by placing a finger on the trigger of such a device that can kill at a distance, it makes us remote–removing ourselves from the human connection. Slater refers to connection between bullets as projectiles and the psychological projections we easily make in blaming others for our failures. The shadow we can’t possibly see rises up, projecting fault and simultaneously seeking to obliterate any thing that might be perceived to be linked to our failure, lack of ability to connect, and our corresponding exile to edges of acceptability in a society so focused on success. Additionally, Slater points out, the tendency of our narrative –our cultural myth, if you will—is that the hero always wins, is shiny bright and successful, and has no shadow side. There is no room for failure, and at the same time, we tend to move so fast and expect so much that we fail to allow for a slowing down, a reflection on the reality of life’s ups and downs, and a container for just being in the grips of difficulty, sadness, anger, and depression.

Jungian James Hillman, founder of archetypal psychology and one of the greatest depth psychologists in contemporary times (he just died last year in 2011), points out how absolutely critical it is that we engage in the journey to the “underworld.” Traditional rites of initiation—now essentially absent in our culture—require the initiate to travel on what is essentially an underworld journey to go into the depths, encounter obstacles, overcome trials, and return bearing gifts for the society. If we are not willing to experience the depths, the despair, and the trials, we can’t possibly experience positive growth—what Jung called “individuation”–in the same way. Equally, it’s critical that we participate in what depth psychologists Mary Watkins and Helene Schulman refer to as “engaged witnessing” to honor and validate the suffering and sacrifice of those who have lost loved ones to these terrible eruptions of shadow in the cultural landscape. If we fail to “feel” and honor the feelings of grief, despair, anger, and loss that naturally arise in situations such as this, we remain only “passive bystanders” who are far more likely to participate only as onlookers that experience only the shock value or entertainment-related aspects of such dramatic and traumatic events.

Tell us about your PhD dissertation. What is your “point?!”

Writing a dissertation is, for me, truly a gift. It’s hard, but it’s an opportunity to engage deeply by delving into topics that are not necessarily easy on any level but seem so critical to humanity at this time and juncture. In my case, I have been profoundly impacted by the loss of home and home places–particularly as a result of ecocide and environmental disaster. What happens when people are displaced from their homes, especially due to acts of “nature”? In recent years, we have seen increasing nature-related catastrophes and human-caused ecocide—the destruction of home places—whether it’s due to pollution, oil spills, developmental projects like dams, highways and shopping malls, or massive deforestation. Climate change in an increasing factor, leading to massive drought, flooding, food shortages and increasing instances of “superstorms” like huge hurricanes, clusters of tornadoes, or intense blizzards—all disastrous to people who have lived for generations in certain places who now find their home places severely threatened. The  American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), predict we will have as many as 50 million environmental refugees worldwide as soon as 2020, an estimate that is backed up by the UN Institute for Environment and Human Security

Environmental refugees, described as ‘persons who no longer gain a secure livelihood in their traditional homelands because of what are primarily environmental factors of unusual scope’ are  also predicted to number upwards of 150 million by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by 2050. In the face of such tragedy that is already occurring, one wonders where all these individuals will go to find new home places and how they will survive the trauma of losing all they have—a core factor of their identities.

It is already imperative to regard the sense of exile and refugee-ism for individuals who suffer the loss of home due to earth-related disaster, but it becomes ever more meaningful to look at the significance of psychological exile in the face of all we have lost. In western culture, heavily based on the Biblical myth of our exile from the Garden of Eden, we begin to realize we have suffered tremendous loss by feeling we have been evicted from our birthright and have no place to call home. Perhaps this has also led to the capacity of some of us to colonize first peoples in their existing home places the world over. Over millennia, we have divorced ourselves from a sense of belonging that existed in early human societies and are increasingly feeling separate, isolated, and abandoned—psychological refugees who have no recourse to the difficulties of modern day save numbing, dissociation, and percepticide—the cutting off of our capacity to truly see the devastating circumstances that occur in our culture (like the Sandy Hook shooting of so many innocent children). Because—if we were to truly allow ourselves to look and “see” what we have allowed our culture to come to and how we are increasingly destroying ourselves, each other and Earth—the only home place we know, it would be too horrible to bear.

In the end, this exploration is critical for all of us to understand where we are seeking refuge for ourselves from the horrors of ecocide, devastation, poverty, hunger, and crimes against humanity. How do we each as an individual as well as a culture collectively numb, detach, or turn to addictive behaviors or consumerism to deal with the nearly unbearable challenges we face?

These questions drive me on a daily basis, and make me realize all the more strongly how important it is to be able to take a depth psychological look at these challenging issues and try to make some sense of them.

The Depth Psychology Alliance is welcoming new members like crazy. Who are these people and what are they looking for?

I’m really grateful for the increasing number of people who are finding and joining the Alliance. Even though it’s free to join, there is some effort to be made in signing up for yet another social media network—so I think those who are joining are really motivated to connect and to understand on a larger scale. The Alliance is dedicated to expanding the reach of depth psychology and people who are coming together are in search of something bigger than the every day selves most of us are familiar with and live with everyday. We all seek to understand how we are interconnected and I think the Alliance offers that perspective and opportunity. As of this writing, we have over 1800 members from all over the world and we’re growing. I think most of us would agree it’s a dynamic group of like-minded people who are all deeply drawn by the field of depth psychology. While there are many Jungian analysts and clinical psychologists who participate, our members come from various walks of life including artists, writers, doctors, scientists, healing professionals, counselors, students, business people, and so many more–so there is much cross-disciplinary knowledge and experience to be shared. It’s truly a testament to Jung’s desire to make depth psychology a multi-disciplinary field, and I think it’s also a “home place” for many of us who are looking for a place to feel rooted and a sense of belonging in a culture that’s increasingly chaotic and disturbing.

How is the new Depth List listing service progressing? Is this about revenue?

Honestly, the discovery of depth psychology and its principles have had such a profound effect on my own life, I feel somehow driven to help bring it to others. I think the creation of a database of depth psychology oriented practitioners—from Jungian analysts to psychotherapists to astrologers and somatic therapists is critical at this stage. I don’t know how these skilled practitioners who have dedicated their lives to this kind of work are currently promoting their skills and their practices, but certainly there’s a huge amount of educating that usually has to happen to help everyday individuals understand what depth psychology is and the value of a depth psychological approach to self-improvement and coping.

If I, with a background in marketing in the corporate world for 15 years, can do something to help these individuals get the word out about their offerings, I’ll do it. I won’t say I don’t wish I could figure out how to make a living out of it—or even initially break even for the cost of developing, hosting, and promoting DepthPsychologyList.com, but I’m committed for the foreseeable future to just work out the marketing piece so we can all—both providers and clients—benefit from what’s available. The service is free to enlist through the end of December so I invite everyone who offers depth psychology oriented service to sign up now. It’s also free for anyone to search and find practitioners by location, zip code, or type of services offered.

Who is your competition?

Beg your pardon? I can’t even fathom the concept of “competition” in this context. I realize more than ever how strongly my own desire is to get the word out to the general population about depth psychology. Carl Jung is a huge piece of that—and Jungian analysts have done a good job of marketing themselves for decades—but there’s so much more that can do good for the human race if we all just increase our consciousness that there’s more to life—and our human potential—than meets the eye. If nothing else, I would wish “depth psychology” would become a household term so that everyone—whether they choose to engage or not—at least would know that it stands for the opportunity to understand ourselves and each other better and to increasingly improve our ability to love each other, to feel connected, to engage those who are struggling, and to make meaning of this thing called “life”—through wisdom that comes from dreams, symbols, archetypes, nature, wisdom traditions of indigenous societies and mythology—and to truly allow ourselves to renew ourselves on every level at every moment to make the world a better place.

ANY organization that is working toward this goal and finding ways to share depth psychology in the world is doing something so significant and important. I am happy to do anything in my power to help them succeed as well and invite them to contact me to form a partnership so I can help spread the word. It was only a few years ago that I, myself, had never heard the term “depth psychology.” In this scenario, there is not such thing as “competition” but only increasing awareness and amplified efforts to get the word out to those whose lives will surely be changed if they only have the chance to encounter and engage.

* * * * * * *

Bio – Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world’s first comprehensive online community for depth psychology and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name. She recently founded www.DepthPsychologyList.com, a free online database to find or list depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.

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