Depth Psychology cont.
These are common features in every definition of depth psychology, but no matter what the school of thought, it is the primacy of processes that happen outside of conscious awareness that are important. These have a close relationship to expression that often acts subtly beyond and sometimes in spite of our more direct (conscious) intentions, thoughts, and or perceptions. Acting subtly suggests that we could pay closer attention – even though at times we are most blind to our unconscious patterns. Depth psychologists operate where depth is paradoxically seen as - unseen and unappreciated and always in process. When we think that the depths are buried somewhere and hidden, using analytic thinking is like an excavator digging away. People typically avoid the depth of immediate things, but the present moment in therapy can invite us to respond with more awareness, spontaneity, and imagination. People can frequently be automatically resistant to recognizing unconscious material, patterns behaving or ways of interacting. After all, there is always a reason that material is unconscious. In a depth approach, problems and patterns of relating to one’s self and others are uncovered and understood. This reveals alternative ways of being that help us to change in lasting ways that are in-sync with an authentic self. The depth approach allows for alternatives to being driven by unconscious fears and defense systems, that may have worked in the past, but in the present are creating discord.
Depth psychology encompasses many theoretical orientations. For me, it is a “holistic” view of the person, taking into account pre-natal experience, early development, cultural implications, and especially the current context within which the individual exists. The person’s subjective reality is of the utmost importance so that the experience of the individual is central, leading towards, rather than away from unconscious material. Making conscious what is often unconscious, depth therapy allows for new ways of seeing the world and being in it.
A Broad Example Most of Us Can Relate to
In western culture we are trained from as young as infants to keep our eye on the ball, and being productive and useful, even to a fault. This is in order to meet societal standards for success – for many, this has become a strategy of diminishing returns. Some success may be realized, yet anxiety flourishes when living in a productive world of list completion. Half-hearted living is the norm. This is where anxiety and internal conflict are buried and we don’t necessarily see the entirety of our problems. This process is unseen to us to one degree or another, and much of the process is purely hidden. Hidden anxiety and internal conflict are the tip of the iceberg.
Hidden anxiety and conflict are driving an addiction epidemic. In The United States we consume 80% of the world’s addictive prescription medications yet we make up 20% of the world population.
Depth psychology invites us to expand our capacity to be with pain instead of numbing emotions, to grieve losses in place of seeking substitutions, and to empathize rather than pathologize. This approach truly allows for us to step into clients’ shoes, to walk alongside their path, and attempt to understand psyche’s process. A depth approach invites us to feel their internal state, while remaining conscious of our own; to be open and hold a non-judgmental space for shadow material to become known; to move from psychological naiveté and solution focused therapy into a way of being, allowing for answers to emerge.
It is an approach for having faith in the unknown, whether in life, love, or work.