The word psychology originally referred to a “logos of psyche,” i.e., self-knowledge. Not so today. Yet, according to the “depth psychology” view, developing self-knowledge is among the most important challenges you face.
Why? Because without it, we run the risk of living from a script that we have not written. True individuality, which is based on self-knowledge, is essential if we are to author our own lives. Moreover, unless humanity comes to honest terms with its own nature, it will continue to run the risk of destroying itself. All the rational reasons that we use to justify war, for example, are often just stories that we tell ourselves to make believe that we understand what is going on.
Mainstream psychology is weak because it’s been invaded and colonized by science. And psychology has been made worse still by science’s marriage to commerce and their errant child — materialism. Psychology used to be, and should be once again, more art than science. Then it will regain its soul. Science is good; it’s important. But science is a method that can’t see the deeper dance of life, let alone hear the music that drives it.
“Depth psychology” regards inner life, wisdom and meaning as the rightful domain of psychology and therapy. Depth psychology is based on the idea that for therapy to have any real value, it must see its duty to, as the composer Schumann put it, “send light into the darkness of men’s hearts.” We need that light to craft our life into a work of art that can be well-lived, loved and understood.
Only those called to the deep interior of life are willing and able to do the arduous work needed to connect to their own essential core identity — to their “soul.” If we are to become free and truly sane, we must do two things:
1. Liberate ourselves from the hypnotic trance of our surface identity conditioned by family and culture.
2. Connect to and live from who we truly are, in our innermost being.
Too much therapy fails to understand the calls of the soul, and so it works to make our conditioned surface identity satisfied and “normal.” But, in truth, the soul often calls to us through anxiety, depression and other negative states of mind. These are not just symptoms; they are coded symbolic messages containing understandings begging to come about. They often come from our unrecognized core identity, from who we deeply are, from the parts of us who are in exile.
Something in us knows that our soul has been exiled from our everyday consciousness. But we forget this. When we forget that we have forgotten, then all hell breaks loose. We fail to realize that our despair and anxiety are symbols of our exile, not signs that we are troubled or less than we should be. Unfortunately, we fail to recognize the real source of our discomfort and our longings. Psychology and psychotherapy have too often been associated with wrongheaded ideas about health and illness.
Is it healthy spending 30 years preparing for retirement, but little time living well or preparing for death? Is it healthy to view media shows developed by people manipulating us through a never-ending flow of vile sensational images for profit and power? Consider some recent CNN headlines: “Three-hour orgasm sends woman to ER,” “Complaint details boy’s torture and death,” “Where’s the sex drive drug for women?” “Ice Cube’s a pimp,” “Teen convicted of child porn.”
Is the anxious and depressed single mother who is having trouble finding work to support herself and her child — unhealthy? Is the angry and depressed man who often breaks into tears because of how fake, phony and empty life has become in America — an unhealthy person? The single mother and the weeping guy seem more sane and healthy than the billionaire who wakes up and goes to bed thinking mostly of money every day and who has five houses on three continents — but not one that ever feels like home.
Kandinsky is renowned as the first abstract artist. Let’s let his spirit close this article, sounding very much like a man with depth psychology in his DNA:
“The all-important spark of inner life today is at present only a spark. Our minds, which are even now only just awakening after years of materialism, are infected with the despair of unbelief, of lack of purpose and ideal. The nightmare of materialism, which has turned the life of the universe into an evil, useless game, is not yet past; it holds the awakening soul still in its grip. This feeble light is but a presentiment, and the soul, when it sees it, trembles in doubt whether the light is not a dream, and the gulf of darkness a reality.”
Dr. Jim Manganiello is a clinical psychologist and diplomate-level medical psychotherapist based in Groveland and West Boxford. He is also an author and teacher focusing on stress, personal growth, meditation and “inner fitness.” His book “Unshakable Certainty” is available on Amazon. Email him at email@example.com or visit www.drjimmanganiello.com.