Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Emotions, Spirit, Mind & Body: Jungian Holistic Psychotherapy, 2

July 4th, 2014 · holistic psychotherapy

In my last post, I started  to explore the nature of holistic psychotherapy, and how Jungian therapy is truly holistic.

holistic psychology We can see this even more clearly if we look at some of the ways in which radically different elements of the personality interact — or conflict!  Jung, in his work on psychological types, showed that the functions and attitudes that exist in our psyche can often show us very different aspects of who we are.  Sometimes this can seem so true that different aspects of who and what we are can seem completely opposed.

Feeling and Rationality

For instance, there’s a fundamental split between rational, logical thought, and our own subjective reactions to things.  Could two things be more fundamentally opposed?  Yet here’s the important truth: both are parts of our journey to wholeness. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, I’m a thinking type” or “I’m a feeling type”.  To experience psychological wholeness, essential that we have the experience that both of these capacities co-exist within us.  They both are part of us, and a person needs both.

Intuition and Sensation

We experience a similar pair of opposites when it comes to intuition and sensation. Sensation refers to our perceptions by means of the sense organs.  Sensation is awareness grounded in the here and now.  It’s very present-oriented.  Sensation puts its faith in the kind of hard facts that are immediately available to the senses.  It sees a situation in terms of the details, rather than a comprehensive pattern. Intuition is pretty much the opposite of sensation.  It’s perception by way of the unconscious.  Intuition is our sense of things often guided by hunches and things the individual “just knows” — although he or she would have a hard time putting into words just why.  Intuition is future-oriented, and sees situations in terms of large, broad patterns. Again, to truly experience psychological wholeness, it would be essential that we experience our capacity for both intuition and sensation. holistic psychotherapy

Body and Mind

Another significant pairing explored in depth by key Jungian figures in holistic psychotherapy such as Marion Woodman and Joan Dexter Blackmer is the need to integrate mind and body Mind and body aren’t really opposites.  Yet in the 2,000 year history of the Christian west, it’s been very easy to ignore the body.  As Blackmer reminds us, …in order to develop the spirit and rational consciousness, Christianity had historically to declare the body untouchable — a kind of second-class citizen….  Untouched, repressed, denied, the body moves into the shadow, where dwell those aspects of ourselves we are loathe to look at.  Then the ego loses a direct connection to the body as a source of natural wisdom and energy. This kind of splitting produces excruciatingly painful dilemmas and divisions for modern people:     Rationality and feeling, sensation and intuition, body and mind — all form part of a comprehensive unity in a Jungian holistic psychotherapy.

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Emotions, Spirit, Mind & Body : A Jungian Holistic Psychotherapy

June 23rd, 2014 · holistic psychotherapy

There’s great yearning today for a holistic psychotherapy, one that takes in all of the emotions, spirit, mind and body — all that is involved in being human.

holistic psychotherapy

Some people have a stereotype of Jungian or depth psychotherapy as a “heady” or “spiritual” perspective that couldn’t be a holistic psychotherapy.  But folks who think that, haven’t really understood Jung!

Is “Holistic Psychotherapy” Just a Buzzword?

In a word, no.  One of the crucial insights of modern psychotherapy has been that many important aspects of the healing that people need through psychotherapy are not simple matters of intellectual insight.  This is because we have many types of experiences of consciousness, not merely intellectual, something that Jung stressed in his pioneering work on the 4 psychological functions:

  • sensation – perceptions by means of the sense organs;
  • feeling – the function of subjective evaluation;
  • thinking – intellectual cognition and the forming of logical conclusions; and,
  • intuition – perception by way of the unconscious.

holistic psychotherapy

As described by Jung, these 4 functions form the basis of the Myers-Briggs personality type inventory, now so widely used in the business and educational worlds.  Jung’s basic idea was that there are a variety of forms of consciousness in the wholeness of our being. Jung discovered powerful interconnections between body and mind and what many traditions have called the human spirit.

Jung was one of the first to become aware that human consciousness is fundamentally embodied consciousness, an awareness borne out by contemporary research in neuroscience.  He saw clearly that mind and body and spirit influence each other in profound ways, in both the conscious and unconscious realms.  The human journey of individuation involves both body and mind.

Spirit and Body Need Each Other

While Jung early on recognized these profound truths, it was up to later Jungians like Marion Woodman to work in new ways with conscious and unconscious body awareness in depth psychotherapy and soulwork.  As Woodman states in her important book Addiction to Perfection:

Ego can only be strong enough if it is supported by the wisdom of the body, whose messages are directly in touch with the instincts. Without that interplay… the spirit is always trapped… undermined by fear and lack of confidence because it cannot depend on its instinctual ground even for survival.  Without that ground, the body is experienced as the enemy. [italics mine]

For Woodman, the aspiring, yearning part of the human being — what many would call the spirit — can only come into its own when a person’s life is directly grounded in her or his instincts.  In this awareness, Woodman anticipated the work in neuroscience in recent years which has shown how fundamentally powerful the instinctual basis of human life is.  As the evolutionary psychologists Tooby and Cosmides tell us,

…the mind is not a blank slate, passively recording the world.  Organisms come “factory equipped” with knowledge about the world …. [Innate “programs”] organize our experiences… give us our passions… [and] make certain ideas, feelings and reactions seem reasonable, interesting and memorable.

Woodman stressed the need for human beings to be rooted in this instinctual layer, which participates in powerful ways in both body and mind.  Depth psychotherapy often opens the door to awareness of our instinctual reality.

In the next part of this post on holistic psychotherapy, I’ll look at “Why Emotion and Reason Need Each Other.”

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 

905-337-3946

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2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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