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Reason and logic have become the gods of modernity. Scientific rationality, quantifiable measurement, means to explain, predict and control; have all moved the field of psychology towards a monotheistic view of humanity. Instead of a metaphoric sensibility, the human sciences use the literalism of subject-object split as an abstraction to control those experiences that are mythical, qualitative and immeasurable. In contrast to contemporary psychology, depth psychology stands in ambiguity and holds a polytheistic view. Meanings are multiple, situational and relative to both the personal and collective.

In Re-visioning Psychology, James Hillman, the founder of archetypal psychology, suggests reconsidering psychology as a poetic sensibility with emphasis on fantasy and imagination. It thus becomes a psychology rooted in aesthetics and imagination and a way to read soul via images and metaphors, instead of a rational, scientific approach of treating symptoms. He talks of the psychologist as an “imaginative agent”, evoking fantasy and creating psyche; one who can look beyond depression for despair, feel through aggression and find human rage, and contain anxiety attacks to release fear. This mythical sensibility allows space for that which is common to humanity: fear, passion, pain and confusion, to come forth and be mirrored in imagination, instead of pathologized and treated with medication.

As opposed to problem solving, reality testing, developing and controlling, psychology can use more adequate metaphors, such as fantasy, image, reflection, holding and mirroring. Consciousness would now mean an awareness of fantasies, and recognition of them everywhere. In this case, fantasy would not be considered in the literal sense as reality, rather a perspective into events, moving an image into a metaphoric realm when seen through its depths. Therapy requires an eye for ugliness, and an ability to sit with things in the form that they appear. Depth psychology attempts to reverse the pathologizing eye of current psychology into a wonder of all that is seen in the psyche.

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2 Responses to “A Different Approach to Psychology”

  1. Matt says:

    How do you establish a deeper understanding of the metaphorical in a rational technological world? I think our perceptions are being diluted through the rapidly changing mediums of communications technology and commoditized into nothing more than pleasant or voyeuristic derivatives of that cultural ontological axis which took generations to evolve and establish?

    • Rashin says:

      I agree with you Matt, in that the technological advances of our society has impacted our conscious awareness of fantasy and imagination. Some would suggest today's virtual world "is" the new metaphor for our lives, which would make one wonder about the mythology of our times. I think it starts with the not so simple acceptance of "what is" the current cultural archetype, and enlivening that sense of imagination within our individual lives. Sitting with images, paying attention to our dreams and symptoms, are some ways to make space for the metaphorical sensibility that Hillman refers to in his writing. Perhaps in time a new cultural phenomena can be established.

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