Wisdom of the Psyche

Depth Psychology after Neuroscience

Ginette Paris

altIf Mary Oliver where to write a book on healing this would be it. The recipient of a Pulitzer Prize Oliver shares the pathos of the warrior’s dance in the sublimity of simply and profoundly being in her poem titled “Singapore”. In Paris’s opening chapter she is able to do the same! “The nurse, having changed her uniform, finally returns in the company of an aide, a Mexican woman who does not speak English, and whose task it is to clean up the bed and the body in it. This woman and I are left alone. She stares at me for a time that seems very long. That stare is something I have never seen; she looks through me, not at me. Her silent stare is a seeing and a speaking at the same time. I see that she is seeing that I am someone between life and death, undecided.  Her eyes are saying that she has no intention of influencing me, nor scolding me; that there is no need for shame; that bodies, dead or alive, do not disgust her or bodies in between, like mine, spurting vomit and flirting with death”.

The sonnets of a healing dance

“She starts removing my soiled hospital gown; I let go of all my rigidities. She holds my upper body in her arms, gentle, yet strong.  I relax, cuddle, and she begins to hum a tune, in a low, rich voice.  It sounds like the Ave Maria, but not quite that, although from what I understand of the words, they seem to implore Mother Mary for my sake. I absorb every note of the consoling song.  Her voice penetrates me, as profound a penetration as in lovemaking.  A woman making love to another woman with her voice?  I snuggle up against her heart, smell her skin, find refuge in her goodness.  The more I receive of her compassion the more her voice opens, receiving the entirety of my being in her song.  For an instant, I love that woman.  I don't even know, immediately, totally, absolutely. I love her body, I love her soul; it is a visitation of the great mother.  It opens up a silent stream of tears of infinite gratitude that such human beings exist.”

A richness of imagination is the best cure against despair

The intriguing part of this book is its ability to peel away what many of us unwittingly share; a seeking of the luminous that is veiled by in a cultural myopia while trying to bring the luminious healing light into therapy and other healing treatments. Ms. Paris succeeds by bringing a sense of universal healing consciousness that breaks through cultural boundaries in psychology as practiced in the United States (she is French Canadian) and thus the subtitle Depth Psychology after Neuroscience. She doesn’t have much to offer regarding neuroscience but I’m thankful she included it in her title because it got me to pick up this title in the first place but she certainly has much to say about the depth psychology. That being said there is an even deeper level from the perspective of guided imagery and imagination, which is how, she is able to fashion what I refer to as a new wave of inner healing and imagination. Her quote “A richness of imagination is the best cure against despair.  Perhaps the most important question for the survival of the psyche is: Who shall I be, until I die?  I have to imagine something, an interesting myth of some sort. Despair and illness seem to share similar properties in weakening the immune system of the psyche; healing and imagination seem to be the anecdote for many! One can ask these questions when one’s own mortality was shaken and then gifted to tell their story and reflect on its deepest meaning.” We find her also suggesting a not so quick exchange into the verbal dance of languaging. There are wordless narratives and forms of inquiry which too have a depth, here again Ms. Paris counsels us “ many sorts of intimate contact are wordless and without an arbitrator who might determine their psychological validity. All the talk about feeling can unfortunately also take the place of having them. I am not denying that the validating of everyone’s feelings is important, but there are other forms of communication between souls, equally expressive, valid, and profound, even if less verbose and even if no one takes on the role of mediator. Some elements of communication have no intermediary; they cannot be interpreted by means of a theoretical grid, and won’t manifest if someone takes on the role of judge.” Taking a page from her playbook we can extrapolate - The art of deep healing is the subtle exchange of beings in a field of communion.

Antidote to Anxiety

The work’s final chapter is the climax of a profound journey. I want to share a portion of a review that states it perfectly by Bradford C. Van Wagenen in Amazon. He sums up the essential value of why this book is being reviewed and the play of imagery and imagination!

“While I enjoyed all of Paris' book I found her last chapter entitled "Joy: The Antidote to Anxiety" the most important for our society. Paris draws an important distinction between "fear" and "anxiety." While "fear" has an object, "anxiety" does not; the object of our anxiety is "hidden." Our society is a society suffering from anxiety (I would call it chronic, low-grade stress). Regardless of the terminology, anxiety shuts a person down and, I believe, suppresses the immune system resulting in an entire host of medical conditions that I as a neuroscientist have worked to develop drugs for (e.g., anxiety and depression). The role of anxiety in other disease states (e.g., cancer, heart disease, obesity, etc.), for which neuroscience does not concern it, should not be overlooked. While anxiety shuts a person down and suppresses the immune system, fear calls for action (and, I believe, stimulates the immune system), flight or fight being the two basic instincts of survival.

A millennia of evolution has provided our species with mechanisms for dealing with fear. We, however, do not seem to have developed an evolutionary response to anxiety. Paris addresses the problem of anxiety from the position of depth psychology, stating that, "anxiety comes with the loss of images." Paris tells us that, in our culture, we have replaced images with concepts and fear with anxiety. Our culture has worked very hard to free itself of oppressive mythologies, but unfortunately has distanced itself from the imagination that created those mythologies. The loss of imagination, necessary for the creation of vital invigorating mythologies (both collective and personal) is trauma for the psyche and disease for the body. Paris points out that it takes a healthy imagination--an artistic compromise--to balance the requirements of the ego with the orientation of the Self. Ms. Paris reminds us that this balancing (i.e., Individuation) is similar to what the Greeks would have called the lifelong quest for harmony.” We have traveled through Paris’ personal journey and come out the other side affected by something poetic and healing!

Clearly, the Guided Imagery Collective’s core agenda is Guided Imagery and its mission is to bring to light the best of the best of tools that can assist in our healing journey, imagination is such a tool and Wisdom of the Psyche such a book even if it is off the grid! As the Guided Imagery Collective expands its circle of knowledge based materials it is also seeing the lines blurring between innovation and more traditional based works. This particular one walks between both worlds and as James Hillman (Former director of studies at the Jung Institute in Zürich) states  “Emotionally personal, immediately useful, surprisingly original, beautifully deep, this page–turning read also turns the page into a new century of psychology.”   

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