Dear members of the depth psychology community, 

Like many of you, I was stunned by the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election yesterday, November 8, and have spent the day mourning for so many things that feel like they have been lost. As a woman, I am keenly aware that the moment for electing our first woman president has evaporated, but on a much deeper level, I am also profoundly distressed by the election of someone who is so clearly disrepectful of women and lacks compassion and understanding for so many who are marginalized, including other minorities, other species, and planet itself. I wonder how all these deep feelings, including anger, are going to be manifest in coming weeks, months, and years.

Like some of you, also, I seem to bounce between feeling numb and being distraught, even questioning on some level what role I play in all of this, and whether the calling I feel to make depth psychology more accessible in the world actually does a bit of good on some many levels. And yet, I know I must have hope: hope for our future, for our young people and generations to come; for everyone who is suffering and will continue to suffer in the face of a political system that favors certain groups over others. 

We live in a world that is as challenged as it has ever been, and yet I maintain a powerful faith in the patterns at work in a world where change is the only constant. I know there is something bigger at work. I am certain I see only a narrow slice of what's at work. I believe in the idea that nature is constantly reaching out to us to pull us back from the brink of extinction (an idea I first encountered in Jerome Bernstein's groundbreaking work, Living in the Borderland.) Some part of me wonders if Donald Trump had to be elected because it will serve as a catalyst to something new; because people will be more innovative in creating change, be inspired to action in a different way, collaborate together with those they may not have engaged with before.

Ten years ago I experienced a profound awakening of my own—so powerful it sent me into what Stan Grof aptly terms "spiritual emergency"—basically, when something spiritual happens that sends one spiraling into emergency. Somehow, at that time, I believe I managed to tap into something bigger than me, a pattern at work in which I play a part and which is playing out not only for the good of each of us individually, but for us as a collective, a species which is resilient, conscious, and able to evolve and learn and love one another. What I experienced then was a taste of what we truly are as divine souls, and the stunning realization that as earthly beings caught up in human bodies and conditioned by culture outside our control, we have truly "settled" for something we can't begin to grasp. Each of us is different, and perceives our lives on earth in different ways, and we each must find our way to carry the torch for new beginnings, for hope in humanity, for belief that we can truly evolve as a species. I think being willing to participate in community is one of the ways these things can manifest. I hope you believe that too.

If anyone feels moved to share your own thoughts and feelings about all of this, please feel free to respond below. If you have criticisms or comments on political parties or policies, maybe your forum is elsewhere. If you wish to provide a depth psychological response or lens, or simply an authentic contribution (it could even be in the form of art or poetry), please respond below, and let us each hold one another in love, compassion, and a willingness to hold the tension as much as we possibly can.

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  • This conference took place before the election, obviously, but may be of interest:

    Free Access to Conference Papers: “Politics, Culture, Soul: A National Conference on the Psychology of the 2016 Presidential Election” hosted by Jung Institute of San Francisco, October 14-15, 2016. Click here for details and the link

    Free Access to Conference Papers: “Politics, Culture, Soul: A National Conference on the Psychology…
    Passing along some news posted by PGIAA-Pacifica Graduate Institute Alumni Association, with many thanks for making it available. On October 14-15,…
  • A multifaceted response, Skye, to a lot of what we've been discussing. I've really enjoyed reading your thoughts. Like you I'm interested in the role creativity might be able to play in easing individuals, groups/nations, maybe even the species as a whole through this transition/transformation - in my case through the work I do with my partner Sue King-Smith via the Zoetics Institute. Like Peter, I sense that there is an environmental-human collecive psychic exchange going on that we are mostly unaware of (due to our anthropocentric ideologies), and sadly the Trump team promise to direct repressed shame-rage further against our life support systems. Your thoughts on symbolic thinking and what a phenomenon ((g the rise of protofascist parties globally) says about the species direction right now, are very interesting - do you have any online resources/writings you could direct us to that outline further that thinking.

    I suspect that symbolic thinking as encouraged by creative pursuits acts as a kind of link for us humans to quantum level 'future possibilities' (all realities being in a superpositional state at the tiny/micro levels of matter). Too much to go into here, but I suspect symbolic thinking and traditional creative pursuits promote our capacity to choose genuinely life-enhancing futures. We need these faculties in action now more than ever, and for me the arts and Depth Psychology are the main tools to open us up to the full transformative challenges of the species choices we now face - the road of mass trauma, division, hate or road/s of life enhancing inclusiveness and eco system repair. It's that stark for us. Jung's discussion with Pauli the quantum physicist point us to an expansivist new science merged with traditional wisdom view of creativity. It's the view I try to enact in my life and vocational pursuits. Note: most fascists and authoritarians want to circumscribe/censor/control creativity - seeking power and trauma they do not want people exploring and sampling life-enhancing 'quantum level superpositional' futures through the arts, before willing such futures into existence. To summarise: like you and others in this discussion I think promoting creativity is a major bulwark against traumatic futures, and revisioning humanity's economic systems/ ideologies to lessen 'shaming' and promote inclusiveness (Mary's insight) is our primary task - for me that means ridding economics of its Old Science foundations.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful reflection and insights on the article, Ian. I've passed your feedback along to Mary, and she has also given her blessing for us to Tweet and share the article on social media as well.

    • Hello,

      I also appreciated Mary Watkins' article. Thank you for sharing it with us, Bonnie.

      Ian, in response to your observation that the line between individual depth psychology and social psychology tends to blur when political sentiments are heightened, referring back to previous posts, I propose that humanity as a whole has reached a threshold moment (a moment in the learning process which is often likened to riding a bicycle; once learned, never forgotten) in the individuation of the Creator. Inspired by Jung's essay on The Psychology of the Transference, I have spent my adult life, since 1979, working to understand the nature of this threshold moment from a depth psychology perspective.

      Resolving the life-threatening situations now facing humanity requires access to intelligence that allows the parts of humanity to become conscious of themselves within the context of the greater whole, without inflation or a collapse of the systemic ego structures in the collective psyche. I believe the field of depth psychology uniquely offers acumen that can be applied in supporting and promoting the emergence of the transcendent function in the collective psyche and awakening the spirit of unity in the world body. And I think the world situation now calls for such intervention.

      Pamela, thank you for your beautiful mandala. It touches me. I feel you express my grief and my sense that this moment provides a golden opportunity. My keenest pain is the injury to the social and physical environments that Trump's election portends and my fear for my grandchildren's' future). Like you, I believe the story we are living is reaching the end and we must resolve the narrative tensions at this climactic moment so that the next installment in the Story of Humanity can begin. 

      My last job, before retiring in 2015, was Director of The Flow Project, a non-profit organization that does research with artists and offers programs that apply principles and practices of artistic mastery in resolving social and cultural challenges, mostly focusing on leadership education as a key to transformation. Within two years of its inception, TFP mission statement was adopted almost verbatim as the third goal of the UNESCO Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education, and has been universally adopted by the UNESCO member states. TFP took off because it had a certain timeliness.

      I believe the time may be right for applying principles and practices of depth psychology in resolving the critical social and cultural challenges that humanity currently faces. One area of need is the need for what Jung calls a "symbolic attitude;" that is, the ability to see how events, images and cultural symbols in the external world (such as the peace symbol, 9/11, dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the election of Trump) pertain to what is occurring in humanity's inner world, or the ethereal dimension of the collective psyche.

      Ian makes a vital observation on noting that the "economic betrayal of elites distorts the psyche of the oppressed and the oppressor." My question is: What does the distortion point to symbolically in terms of the collective psyche and its goals? What is humanity as a whole striving towards and how does the distortion play into achieving our common goal?  Like Klemen, I puzzle over "how Trump has become a scapegoat", but even more I puzzle over what the manifestation and the emergence of this Trump character is telling us in the context of the story we are living, or within the context of the American Dream understood symbolically.

      I am finding this conversation very engaging. Bonnie, thank you once again for providing the forum.


  • Mary Watkins, Ph.D., is a professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute and co- founder of the Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychology Specialization in the M.A./Ph.D. Depth Psychology Program. 

    For those who are interested, Mary has generously provided Depth Psychology Alliance with a copy of her recent article entitled "The Social and Political Life of Shame in the U.S. Presidential Election 2016"


    I have I have been tracking how shame has been operating in the current presidential election. I offer a short paper I prepared for a panel on “Shame and the Experience of Class in the U.S.”, co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis and the Psychosocial Work Group of the Psychology and the Other Institute, Cambridge, MA.

    Download the PDF article using the green "download" link at the bottom of this blog page

    "The Social and Political Life of Shame in the U.S. Presidential Election 2016" by Mary Watkins, Ph…
    Mary Watkins, Ph.D., is a professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute and co- founder of the Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychol…
    • A really excellent article which tracks the soul/psyche transformations millions are teetering on the edge of or have given in to already (sadly). The mechanism whereby mass-approved shame transfers - via the malign alchemy used by leaders like Trump - that turn such feelings into scapegoating hate is exactly what we need to address/acknowledge as psychologists and as citizens. However, I do feel that we need to go further in examining the shadow side and general psychology of Neo-liberalism - the kind of economic individualism that Mary alludes to is, I believe, the starter point (a particular view of Individualism was at the heart of Von Hayek's economic theory of Neo-liberalism.

      It will take real action by progressives on the economic front (and for all groups/minorities) to properly disarm and ward off the drift to fascist fantasies in large numbers of the US population (I hope that isn't putting it too bluntly, but these are extreme times). Unfortunately, the Alt-right and the Neocon traditional right in the US now totally control the economic apparatus post election - progressives, even if they want to, will find it difficult to deliver real relief/protection from the key shame generating social processes Mary's article documents. Those that have sought to critique and expose these processes have been censored/ignored for decades by both the right AND leftist leaning Neo-libs (who run the Democratic party). This is the fundamental 'social repression' at play here and it will be a tough repression for the US to confront squarely.

      Nevertheless, Mary's article represents the beginning of a means to fire-proof any society against fascism, since it addresses the shadow stuff in the social unconscious of the particular groups voting for the likes of Trump, Le Pen in France, Farage in the UK (who met with Trump straight after he election) and so on. A 're-inclusivist/ rlational integrity first' agenda is exactly what is required - and it has to be economically authentic and delivered as a medicine society-wide. Not communism, but some form of updated democratic socialism for the information age. We have versions of it in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many parts of Western Europe despite constant attacks over the past 30 years.

      Are we all able to link to/tweet etc. Mary's article? - although ordinary people may struggle with the academic language it does give the informed reader a handle on what is going on, and most importantly ways to address what is unfolding in real ways. Best wishes

      Ian Irvine (Hobson) 

  • Canadian poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen died, age 82, the day before the U.S. election.  I'm one of many people who will miss his soulfull spirit.  I find in many of his lyrics a kind of "holding the tension of oppossites."
    "Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed," his manager Robert Kory wrote in a statement. "I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit firsthand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration and healing for generations to come."  (Rolling Stone obit.)

    Born in 1934, Cohen moved from Montreal to New York in 1966.  He lived there, or in London, for much of his life.

    In 1988, after the Berlin wall had fallen, Cohen heard a lot of people saying democracy would now come to the countries east of it.  He didn't believe it, and asked himself where true "democracy" could be found.  So he began writing the song "Democracy", which was released in 1992. (The first Gulf War ended Feb., 1991.)  

    From interview comments about the song, it's clear that Cohen did not intend it as a criticism or satire of the U.S., and the repeated line - "Democracy is coming to the U.S.A." is not meant to be ironic.  It simply means what Cohen believed -- that "democracy" is an ideal, a project being worked on.  As I recall, he says the U.S. is where all the various social forces and conflicts - hopes and desparations - meet most energetically in this project, which he saw as just beginning.   Cohen wrote many verses, but for the recorded version he kept only those that would reinforce the sense of experiencing a "revelation" about democracy.

    As in many of his songs, there is plenty of room for ironic double meanings to many of the lines -- room for the oppossites of hope and despair.  But the overall intention is much like the lines from another song, "Anthem":

    "There's a crack in every thing;
    That's how the light gets in."

    "Democracy", by Leonard Cohen (1934 - 2016)

    It's coming through a hole in the air,
    from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
    It's coming from the feel
    that this ain't exactly real,
    or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
    From the wars against disorder,
    from the sirens night and day,
    from the fires of the homeless,
    from the ashes of the gay:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

    It's coming through a crack in the wall;
    on a visionary flood of alcohol;
    from the staggering account
    of the Sermon on the Mount
    which I don't pretend to understand at all.
    It's coming from the silence
    on the dock of the bay,
    from the brave, the bold, the battered
    heart of Chevrolet:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

    It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
    the holy places where the races meet;
    from the homicidal bitchin'
    that goes down in every kitchen
    to determine who will serve and who will eat.
    From the wells of disappointment
    where the women kneel to pray
    for the grace of God in the desert here
    and the desert far away:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

    Sail on, sail on
    O mighty Ship of State!
    To the Shores of Need
    Past the Reefs of Greed
    Through the Squalls of Hate
    Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

    It's coming to America first,
    the cradle of the best and of the worst.
    It's here they got the range
    and the machinery for change
    and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
    It's here the family's broken
    and it's here the lonely say
    that the heart has got to open
    in a fundamental way:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

    It's coming from the women and the men.
    O baby, we'll be making love again.
    We'll be going down so deep
    the river's going to weep,
    and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
    It's coming like the tidal flood
    beneath the lunar sway,
    imperial, mysterious,
    in amorous array:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

    Sail on, sail on ...

    I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
    I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
    And I'm neither left or right
    I'm just staying home tonight,
    getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
    But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
    that Time cannot decay,
    I'm junk but I'm still holding up
    this little wild bouquet:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

    Spoken (shortened) version of "Democracy":

  • fire bird with a golden egg mandala


    criop firebird.jpg
  • Oh thank you Paul for sharing with us your feelings with that poignant image.  I have been listening repeatedly to Buckley’s Hallelujah for weeks and working on a  new (hallelujah) mandala.


     It is difficult at this juncture to assimilate and integrate what happened and I am ill (lungs/grief).  But this morning I remembered what Ventura and Hillman were talking about almost twenty years ago and this has been my sentiment for at least that long, “Okay.  My feeling is that this worldwide disintegration is gong to play itself out no matter what, and it’s going to take a while, a century or two…of a kind of chaos…but call it a Dark Age.  But remember what philosopher Miguel de Unamuno said, ‘We die of cold and not of darkness.”


    My first response when I saw the NYT’s headlines at 1 am (T**** Triumphs),  I almost passed out, the words on my lips: “It’s the end of the world.”  Today I begin to remember my teaching that Michael Ventura has validates:  It IS the end of one world, one story…and it has to end for the new story to emerge.  With all the support from you guys here and from my worldwide family (yes, I wanted to flee back to France but I feel I am needed here for now and there really isn’t an escape anyway…)  Of course I/and so many are sickened.  Yet, facing the darkness, accepting it, though difficult, is necessary.  Resisting it is worse.


    As Ventura continues, “trying to be a wide-awake human during a Dark Age and keeping alive what you think is beautiful and important.”  And Hillman responds, “keep the memory alive.”


    These quotes were from the last pages of “One Hundred Years of Psycho Therapy and the World’s Getting Worse.  No kidding.


  • NOTE: Depth Psychology Alliance is hosting a post-election online event led by Kim Hermanson, PhD, THIS Tuesday, November 15, at 4pm US PT for those interested in holding space in community through a very special process involving metaphor.

    Please come with an open mind and a willingness to engage what is showing up for you in the moment. This is NOT a political discussion, but rather an opportunity to hold space for whatever wishes to come through for the collective or for individuals, whether that be healing, rest, or constructive action. When the mind is quiet and we've transcended the ego, something beyond thought can move us. 

    Click here for details and the link to register

    Post-Election Special TeleEvent—Focus & Fire: What Do We Do Next?
    REGISTER FOR THIS FREE EVENT   Are you outraged, upset, or anxious over the US Election?   Let’s come together to connect and embrace our real power…
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