Depth Psychology

Depth psychology is the analysis of the unconscious. Though many of us today would like to ignore the fact that we have an unconscious, it is undoubtedly true that we do and that it can communicate its desires with us. In terms of dreams, the relationship between the unconscious and us understanding what the unconscious is conveying to us is of the utmost importance. In better understand the systems that the unconscious communicates with us (symbolic messages), we can understand not only our dreams but also work towards building a better relationship with “ourselves.”

Lucid dreaming is generally hyper-focused on controlling the dream experience which in terms of depth psychology is impossible. Lucid dreaming in the perspective of control, is rather the illusion of the control of the dream as the ego or the sense of self is produced by the unconscious. Understanding the hierarchies of human consciousness allows for an individual to get past the desires of “control” and rather allows them to take the position of listening and understanding which furthers their personal growth. This relationship is geared towards the process of individuation. 

The term “depth psychology” was coined at the turn of the twentieth century by Eugen Bleuler, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Zürich and director (1898-1927) of the Burghölzli Asylum in Zürich, where C. G. Jung began his career as a psychiatrist. It has become used by Freudians and Jungians to indicate those psychologies that orient themselves around the idea of the “unconscious.” – Pacifica Graduate Institut

Understanding the foundations of who we are and what it means to be a complete person has been a long time journey for myself. As I have read more about Carl Jung’s work I became fascinated with his ability to connect many aspects of our ancient past to a psychology that works for the “modern man.” Though I have explored many of philosophies that have originated from all over the world, and though I can understand many concepts or ideas from those philosophies and psychologies, it is important to me to have my own culture and symbols that relate to the experience of what I am having right now. Jung and his work in depth psychology have done that for me.

In order to better understand the concepts that are explained in depth psychology and receive mentorship that can expand on Jung’s work and the more accurate views on his psychology as a whole, I have taken it upon myself to pursue a higher education in depth psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute. As I explore the work each week and get closer to my Masters and possible Ph.D., I wanted to share with the community some of the concepts and ideas that I continue to work through.  Hopefully, through sharing this experience with others, they also will find some kind of education and answer to some of the questions they may be pondering and eventually come to realize a map to Self realization that works for them.

Week One: Getting Started

This week involved a great deal of reading and a number of questions to answer from the reading. My greatest takeaways from this week’s readings are the importance of understanding the history of depth psychology, the forces that pushed psychology to be made in general, and how the unconscious forms the ego. Additionally, I learned about the importance of symbols in culture and how symbols communicate to the collective unconscious otherwise known as the objective psyche. Though vastly different subjects and topics, understanding these different aspects of depth psychology provide a grounded framework to build on as my education continues.

Loss of Soul

What is the essential relationship between the loss of symbolic perspective and a loss of meaning or “loss of soul”?


The unconscious communicates through symbols. The unconscious is typically referred to as being the spiritual side of our being because of our inability to see its content because of its illusive communication techniques. It is unknown, non-observable with our eyes, and acts out irrationally contrary to logic. If we are unable to communicate with our unconscious self through listening and lose the connection the unconscious world, through symbols, then we lose the connection that we have to our souls or spirit. Jung illustrated that the most important meaning in our lives is to become an individual, and individuation is to understand the drives of the unconscious and to change according to these desires. If we are unable to communicate through listening to the unconscious, then individuation is impossible, and our sense of meaning is lost.

An example of this disconnection can be seen in many peoples personal lives today. The loss of meaning is apparent after they disconnect from their unconscious life through their loss of religious practices, or turning away from the mysteries in life. They rationalize the world by their conscious perspective and superimpose their persona onto the collective group rather than dive deeper into themselves. The symbols that the unconscious provides to them are lost to them and forgotten because of their inability to relate personally to anything but their group. When the products of their relationships fail them, and they lose the connection to their group identity through cultural changes or say an end of their career, their meaning is lost, and the realization that they have no soul is identified.

Contributions to Depth Psychology

What psychological forces abroad in Western society, and even beyond it, contributed to the formation of depth psychology?

Depth psychology was the natural progression of psychology. Psychology was founded on the idea that we should understand our minds to save ourselves. Though not mentioned in our reading, war from my perspective was a large part of this. Psychologists may have felt pressure by the desires to end war, and also cure the ailments that the soldiers their families, and their communities experienced. War may have provided psychologists with the urgency to solve the problems presented to them unconsciously.

Though the process of trying to define what psychology was, psychologists had to come up with terms for language and ideas to connect to those terms, to observe factors that apply to every human being. The deeper psychologists explored into the mind of their patients, and themselves, the more they realized the unique individualization that each mind contained. The depth could only be quantified by making generalizations about these differences and studying those generalizations.

In this exploration, it became apparent that psychologists could not merely explain an individual by their observable psychology; there was more to their patients than what met the eye. The development to explain these unobservable aspects as the unconscious was a way to capture the vastness and uniqueness of the human experience.

Though not fully explaining each human condition through depth psychology, psychologists now had a way to communicate the underlying factors that caused humans to act irrationally generally and to build a bridge between what was observable and the unobserved.

What contributed to the actions of war could be explained by cultural changes that took place due to the Age of Enlightenment. The over-emphasis on the importance of rational thought and the turning away from the unconscious creative and symbolic mind may have contributed to the release of chaotic psychic energy that resulted in millions of deaths. The unconscious drive to communicate again after such a dramatic event as World War I and II may have pushed psychologists, especially Freud, Jung, and Adler, to identifying an unrecognized aspect of the human psychology which could drive us to do unimaginable things. Depth psychology became a way for us to live in the rational world while exploring our symbolic spiritual sides.

Readings Reviewed

  • Shamdasani, S. (2003). Jung and the making of modern psychology: The dream of a science.
  • Le Grice, K. (2016). Archetypal reflections.
  • Whitmont, E. C. (1969). The Symbolic Quest
  • Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and His Symbols


Week Two: Diving In

In this weeks reading, I found a lot of interesting ideas and factors have realigned how I view the ego and its importance. The ego though demonized today is an important aspect of human consciousness. It arises out of the unconscious as though water freezing in order to make a more solid state of the personality. The ego is a collection of personalities which all are alive, ever-changing, and continue to grow with the individual. It is interesting for me to think of the ego as one part of my consciousness, which in itself is made up of many parts. It may be said that in the greater theme of the world, the archetypes are parts of something greater, as complexes and personalities are part of our egos.

In the Grip of a Complex

What does it feel like to be in the grip of a complex? How do you differentiate a complex reaction from other kinds of emotional response?

In retrospect, I can see how my childhood experiences with aggression in sports have been modified by efforts to work through my unconscious aggressive tendencies. My first memory of being in the grip of a complex was when I was playing soccer and acted out, unconscious of my actions. Despite now being aware of these tendencies, it still rears its head from time to time as emotional outbursts.

Being in the grip of complexes does not necessarily imply a negative emotional outburst. Dominate complexes have expressed themselves in my life as emotional and passionate energy to pursue projects which have resulted in serial-like entrepreneurship. When something arises in me as an idea to do something, I often fully act on those ideas as though they are an outside force. The feeling that I receive implies that this is the most important thing in my life and that it is something that I must do. There is a cost for this hyper-focused desire to pursue a specific dream with great enthusiasm in the form of loss of energy and the removal of attention from other aspects of my life causing disturbance for not only myself but others around me.

Complexes separate themselves from normal behaviors in their ability to take over the emotional mind and oppose rational thought which is contrary to normal behavior. They feel other-worldly in the sense that they seem to come from an outside force. Complexes reside in the back of my mind if I decide to put them on hold until the situation arises in which they can take me into their grips once more – expressing their pattern like behavior.

Are Dreams Important?

According to mainstream science, dreams can be explained as neurological events. The content does not matter: the brain is simply recharging its memory and clearing itself out every night. How would you respond to this explanation from a depth perspective?

Depth psychology was logically developed through the observation of the experiences of individuals, especially their dreams. Observing individuals experiences in dreams and their effects on waking consciousness were what made depth psychologists interested in their therapeutic value, not that dreams were merely bizarre or strange hallucinations. Dreams were found through empirical evidence to convey a message about the individual that could help the psychologist aid the individual in overcoming their neurosis.

The development to the conclusion that dreams provided an insight into the unconscious wasn’t the opinion of one individual, but the observation of many well-respected psychologists whos ideas were scrutinized and challenged from their very start. Jung battled with the subjectness of dreams by implying that the main problem with dream analysis was with its subjectiveness or suggestion produced by the dreamer/ psychologist relationship. Jung went as far as painstakingly acquiring dreams in a way that removed his opinion or idea of the dreamer and their meaning and then interpreting the dream for its content to show that his projection of meaning was not forced onto his patient’s dreams. He then showed his analysis of the dream resulted in real changes in the individual.

Dreams also change depending on the age of the dreamer, their position in society, and race. To show the importance of dream imagery and their importance to human development, children’s dreams were analyzed. According to depth psychology, it is common for children’s dreams to show a prophetic view of their whole life – implicating that dreams contain knowledge seemingly unaware to the waking individual. Cross-culturally, dream symbols can be perceived by an individual who as far as observably possible has never before experienced or who could consciously understand the symbols that they experience in a dream.

There is also the case of dreams that generate repetitiveness and strong emotional content that makes the dreamer listen to their content. Simply that dreams have repetitive actions in them or generate specific content at all, which takes an incredible amount of psychic energy, implies that they are not random but are made in one particular way to convey material in a specific form meaningful to the dreamer.

In personal experience, I have had many dreams which indicate changes in my life, a decision that needs to be worked through, and sicknesses that my body is experiencing that I may not be consciously aware of at the time, but later surface as time goes on. I am unsure if there is a living soul who has not had these kinds of dreams and can honestly attribute those to meaningless content. Lastly, as a society, many technological advancements have been attributed to dreams and their direct messages. It is unlikely that anyone could convince those innovative individuals that dreams are meaningless due to their success in incubating their creative powers through the dream experience.

The evidence shows that regardless of how unimportant we may see a dream, their generation and content means something personal and significant. It would be a better question to ask those who think dreams are meaningless how they came to that conclusion. It may indicate a personal block in the individual to disregard their personal dreams meaning.

Readings Reviewed

  • Whitmont, E. C. (1969). The Symbolic Quest, pp. ix-56 (47 pages)

  • Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and His Symbols, pp. 1-94 (94 pages)

  • Shamdasani, S. (2003). Jung and the making of modern psychology: The dream of a science. Chapter 2, pp. 100-162 (62 pages)

  • Johnson, R. (2009). Inner work: Using dreams and active imagination for personal growth. Chapters 1 and 2, pp. 1-64 (64 pages)


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