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July 18, 2014

Health and Well-Being: Psychotherapy and the Imagination

This is the last article in a series on the power of the imagination and the collaboration between abstract art and depth psychology. Today, we’ll consider the depth psychology issues.

Our imagination is like a hidden treasure that lies hidden and dormant within us. It’s part of our deeper mind. Unfortunately, our culture often fails to appreciate the realm of “deeper mind,” and it underestimates the power of the imagination, often confusing it with the imaginary.

The science-based view of psychology is what’s offered and consumed in most universities and therapy training programs today. This view of psychology fails to recognize “deeper mind.” And so it fails to appreciate the life of soul or the value of the imagination. Why? Because the science-based vision of psychology is founded on ordinary mind’s search for “facts” and “concepts,” not on the power of the deeper mind’s life-changing intuitive insights.

Depth psychology has another vision. It uses the imagination and images as vehicles to access deeper mind. The imagination can uncover the deeper, hidden dimensions of our inner life. As celebrated depth psychologist James Hillman put it: “… the depth dimension is the only one that can penetrate to what is hidden; and since only what is hidden is the true nature of all things, then only the way of the soul can lead to true insight.” The imagination grants intuitive self-knowledge inaccessible by other means.

Let’s consider the following fictional case studies to illustrate.

A depressed woman makes an appointment with therapist No. 1. She explains to the therapist that she feels anxious and chronically depressed. The therapist was trained in the science-based view of psychology, and so he views depression as a brain problem. This is an “ordinary mind” materialistic view, one based on the assumption that mind is brain. The depressed patient is put on antidepressant medication. This happens to many thousands of people every day. Some people feel better and are satisfied with taking medication for symptom relief.

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