Rashin D'Angelo on March 31st, 2009

sheet-music

The transcendent function is the psyche’s way to bring the consciousness and the unconscious into a dialogue with each other towards individuation and psychological growth. Carl Jung believed that we each have this function, which yearns to evolve and transcend. This is an archetypal process, which mediates opposites and enables the transition from one attitude to another, a third way, by using symbols. The function has a healing effect by bridging the conscious and unconscious, facilitating movement beyond one-sidedness.

Since we are all unique in our life expressions, so is our process of growth and healing. We use different coping skills at various times to deal with adversity and suffering. Whether it is to process unresolved feelings, or get in touch with a disowned part of ourselves, we all need a bridge to tap into the dark corners of our shadows.  Art, music, yoga, poetry, dance, creative writing and tai-chi are some ways that quiet the mind and allow the connection to the hidden unconscious material.

Music has been used for numerous years as a powerful tool for the attunement of mind and body.  Our innate ability to use music and sound to facilitate deeper levels of self-awareness and transformation can be traced back to ancient times and across cultures. Music remains one of the most effective bridges between cultures that exist. But most importantly, music can unite us with other living beings and with the planet at large. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brenda Murrow on March 27th, 2009

With all this talk of Spring Cleaning, I just would rather hibernate.  I think bears have a good idea to skip the whole winter wonderland and just sleep for months at a time.  Can you imagine eating so much that you wouldn’t need to eat for a few MONTHS?  What an amazing process.grizzly_bear_med

In some sense, the bear’s symbol is related to Artemis, the Goddess of the Moon.  As such, the bear is associated with lunar qualities, and as a result of its magnificent strength and lethal capabilities, Carl Jung connects the symbol of the bear with the dangerous side of the unconscious.  Note: these symbol associations are from the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rashin D'Angelo on March 20th, 2009

butterfly

One of the distinct features of depth psychology, as compared to more behavioral approaches to therapy, is the time we (therapist and client) spend in the dark corners of the psyche. By that I mean looking at our shadows and undesirable characteristics within, so that we bring them to consciousness. Carl Jung referred to the shadow as that within all, which is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped and denied. He stated:  “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate”.

Although a valuable concept to remember, I often forget how much of life is a projection of my own unresolved issues. It is usually in a moment of surrender, when I give up using anger and blaming situations, or people, that the awareness comes to me: what we resist, persists. It is in that aha moment that I smile and realize a deeper look is needed into my shortcomings and residual nonsense from the past. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brenda Murrow on March 16th, 2009

The other day I was riding a bus in San Francisco.  I am a tourist, but I try to fit in and belong in the “big city.”  To do so, I have become hyper-aware of the rules and I try to follow them, all.  Like many public transit systems, younger riders are expected to make way for elder riders, when necessary.  On the SF buses, this rule is posted everywhere, and every few stops there is an automated reminder that repeats over the speaker system.  On this day, an elderly gentleman boarded the bus after me.  He looked at me, and I froze.  Although there was a seat available to my left and to my right, I moved over one seat to allow him to take the seat closest the door through which he was entering.  I don’t know I did this exactly, I was trying to be nice and respectful, I suppose.Girl with mirrors

He took it as an invitation to start talking to me.  He explained how the first time a young woman had done that was fifteen years ago and he yelled at her and wouldn’t take the seat.  “These days,” he said, “I’ll take all the nice things people will do for me.”  Aside from “oh,” “yes,” and “yeah” I wasn’t really able to say much for the ten minutes he talked to me (or was it at me?) until my stop.  Finally, I broke in mid-sentence and wished him a good day as I hopped off the bus.  The smell of his stale breath stayed with me for the two blocks I walked to my destination.

In her book Pyschoanalytic Diagnosis, Nancy McWilliams describes narcissists as, “People whose personalities are organized around maintaining their self-esteem by getting affirmation from outside themselves.”

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Rashin D'Angelo on March 10th, 2009

silence1

How many of us are comfortable with silence? The silence from a partner, the waiting period before a response, the quiet of solitude?

Do you wait anxiously by the phone, hoping to hear from a loved one, a job interview, or upon meeting a new client? Are we honestly okay with the “not hearing back” without personalizing it? “He didn’t call back after 3 days” so I must be undesirable; “I didn’t get the job because I’m unqualified” and so goes the irrational thoughts we tell ourselves. Often we make it about ‘us’, when in reality it’s about the other, who makes a choice according to his or her thoughts, beliefs and desires.

One of the counseling skills I learned at my graduate school USM was practicing silence. Role playing, I had to sit still for 15 minutes with a client and say absolutely nothing. I could smile and communicate with my body, but not words. We practiced this repeatedly, and the reactions, including mine, were quite diverse. For some, the discomfort in the role of client was too unbearable, so they spent the time incessantly talking to fill up the space. Others, whom I suspect were more at ease with quiet, sat in silence for the duration of the exercise. For the majority of us, it was strange not to have anyone verbally validate our feelings.

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Rashin D'Angelo on March 4th, 2009
Personification of wisdom (in Greek, "Σοφ...
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The feminine is not woman, but a way of being. It is individualized instinct, feeling, intuition, and emotion. It’s irrational, unexplainable by scientific data, and unwilling to be measured. A quality of the human consciousness, an implicit part of the Universe, it manifests in symptoms, synchronicities, dreams, symbols and instinctual feelings.

The feminine is brought to consciousness by making space for the unknown, the gray area and gaps between life’s events. We get in touch with the intuitive part of ourselves by feeling our emotions and bodily sensations, rather than thinking and rationalizing. We tap into our inherent wisdom by trusting the inner voice, no matter how faint, and allowing it expression through voice, writing, music, arts and movement

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Carl Jung used the terms anima (feminine aspect within a man) and animus (masculine aspect within a woman) to refer to the same inner duality.  When they’re not balanced, we feel incomplete, not just individually, but collectively.  When we favor one over the other, we seek a partner that carries that which is underdeveloped within ourselves. A woman without a true identity, besides a role of mother and wife, gains her self-worth from a masculine power outside of herself, usually in the form of a controlling and powerful husband with an over worked intellect. A man with a fear of the irrational and emotional will find a wife who may appear as oversensitive, indecisive and needy.

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Brenda Murrow on March 1st, 2009

Do you know what it feels like to be seen?  That wonderful exchange between you and a gracious friend or loved one, who really steps outside their own experience to see you in yours, do you know what I mean?eyes-31

One of my teachers at one of my programs, James Flaherty, asked me an intense question once.  He asked, have you noticed how many people in our world are doing out of the ordinary things, just for the sake of being seen?  His examples were about recent Olympians who had felt like if they didn’t win gold, all would be for not.  And, I extended this notion, what about people who misbehave?  For example, sometimes criminals seem to me to be just acting out for the attention they perhaps did not receive as a child.  What about the loud, obnoxious person in a restaurant, about which we always say, “Oh, ignore him, he just wants attention.”  Yes!  That’s exactly what he wants, and perhaps a question we could ask ourselves is why someone needs attention so badly that they must act in uncomfortable or inappropriate ways to receive it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rashin D'Angelo on February 25th, 2009

In today’s climate of uncertainty, it is normal to feel unstable about our jobs, kids, the education system, credit scores, global warming, stimulus plan… the list continues. I believe that as our lives get busier, our tendency to “worry” increases.  Excessive worry can lead to an inability to function in daily life. Similar to terms like depression and bipolar, anxiety has become a part of our daily language to communicate a feeling state.

But how do we discriminate between anxiety, which can be debilitating, and fear, which is something we share with animals? DSM-IV-TR, today’s bible of psychiatry, lists the diagnostic features of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as the following:

“Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for a period of at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities. The anxiety and worry are accompanied by at least three additional symptoms from a list that includes restlessness, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension and disturbed sleep”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brenda Murrow on February 22nd, 2009

As a student of depth psychology, I study lots of different mental disorders.  I have often joked with my fellow students about my tendency to depressed_man1self-diagnose in every class, seeing a bit of myself in each of the “disorders” as we learn about them.  This got me to thinking, what if we stopped labeling ourselves and each other with these very limiting terms?

Disorder: If I look at the breakdown of the word, from the Classical Latin, it is a combination of two ideas: dis- “take away” + ordinare “to order, regulate.”

From the perspective of mental disorders, this could be thought of as, the “taking away” of one’s ability to mentally “order, or regulate.”  So, without an ability to mentally regulate, one many experience a mental disorder.

In our world where clinical symptoms are rattled off as fast as is humanly possible during each TV commercial break, medical terminology is entering our everyday language.  How many times have you heard the phrases, “She’s bipolar!” or “What a narcissist!”?

With the root of the word “disorder” in mind, it became clear to me that a person in fact is not their mental disorder.  We are each so much more.  All joking aside, I have experienced many of the disorders about which I read.  There have certainly been times of depression, and narcissism, and neuroticism, and the list goes on.  Each time, I have been able to “restore order” for myself, in other words, they were temporary states of being for me, they were not “me.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Rashin D'Angelo on February 18th, 2009
A smiley by Pumbaa, drawn using a text editor.
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In a recent conversation with a friend, I was asked if I was happy. This was a simple question; one that friends often ask, one that we may ask ourselves from time to time. But as a student of depth psychology, there are no simple questions. All of life experiences, whether effortless or complex, are worth examination. Some may call it over analyzing, others, too deep. I call it a process of self-discovery.

As I began pondering this question, I thought about the principle of happiness.  Immanuel Kant stated, “Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination”. Interesting statement, since what’s imagined is not always attained.  Yet, we spend many hours reasoning our way through the mediocre job, good enough marriage, ordinary parenting, all the while wondering “what if” different decisions had been made. The media reinforces this idea of ultimate happiness by showing us the better car, spotless home and perfect relationship, usually in advertisements for anti-depressants, cosmetics or botox treatment.  The “perfect” pill or procedure to give us the “flawless” body and mind, so we can attract the “right” partner and live the “ideal” life. Read the rest of this entry »

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