The Holotropic Psyche

Most plants have a natural tendency to move toward sunlight; they are heliotropic by nature.

The human psyche (mind/soul) has a natural tendency to move toward wholeness; it is holotropic by nature.

Long ago humans discovered that the body has a natural tendency to heal; but only recently in human history did we discover (or rediscover) that the human psyche also has a natural tendency to heal. CG Jung was the first person in the modern West to see that the human psyche naturally moves toward a state of wholeness. He saw that the psyche is always trying to manifest a greater degree of wholeness.

Jung saw that symptoms of psychopathology were not so much a sign of disease as an attempt by the psyche to bring itself into greater wholeness. He saw every psychological malady as an attempt of the psyche to heal itself and to express it’s wholeness.

Just as an acorn will always seek to become an oak tree, the psyche will always seek to express wholeness, because that is its destiny. But certain conditions must be present for this to occur.

Jung also saw that our modern social conditioning tends to cause a division of the psyche into factions deemed “good and bad” or “right and wrong.” In the individual psyche, as in the world, these two apparently opposite polarities are forever at war with one another.

This unnatural condition causes the psyche to be out of balance. The unconscious mind always attempts to compensate for the limitations of conscious awareness. This attempt may appear as a symptom that interferes with a person’s normal functioning. The symptom might be a condition of anxiety, addiction, depression or a relationship issue. It may appear as a physical symptom as well.

This “interference” is an attempt by the psyche to restore itself to wholeness–although our conscious mind rarely sees it that way. We usually see it as “a problem that needs to be fixed” so that we can return to our “normal” life. But it’s the “normal life” that is causing the problem!

John was raised to be polite and nice; he was always a “good boy.” Anger was simply not permitted in John’s family of origin. Around age forty he began to experience periods of depression and recurring problems with ulcers. And he felt very unsatisfied with his life as it was.

John (reluctantly) went into psychotherapy, which eventually helped him identify a lot of suppressed anger–especially at his father. John had difficulty admitting that he was angry; it created considerable anxiety within him.

John was living the only life that he knew; yet it was but a half-life. He was the person that he was conditioned to be, yet he was out of touch with the deeper resources within himself. John’s unlived life was seeking to assert itself: it was appearing as a severe disruption of John’s life. His psyche was seeking wholeness by pushing his repressed life (shadow) into consciousness. His conscious identity (persona) felt threatened by admitting that inwardly he was very angry.

This all seems like bad news to John, but it is his psyche’s attempt to bring him into a state of wholeness by forcing him to look at his repressed emotions and desires. To the degree that John resists and attempts to hold on to his limited identity, he will likely continue to suffer. To the extent that he can recognize and “make friends” with his shadow, he will move toward greater wholeness.

Accepting his shadow doesn’t mean acting out his anger in a harmful way; it means learning to recognize and feel his anger more consciously and to direct it into channels that are non-harmful–and perhaps even creative. It means that John will learn to recognize what he really needs and find healthy ways to get those needs met.

To do this John will likely need to feel the pain of the unmet needs of his childhood, and to value and love himself in ways that his parents did not. The eventual result will be having more personal power and becoming more responsible for himself. John will have much greater access to those aspects of his psyche that were buried (and undeveloped) within his shadow. He will live a much richer life regardless his external circumstances.

Our pain reveals an opportunity to become more than we have been. It can be Nature’s way of reminding us that we are more than we believe we are. If we understand this then we suffer less because we can start to learn from our pain rather than see it as something broken that needs to be fixed–so that we can continue living our old life in the same old way.

The oak tree forever calls to the acorn: Break open and become that which you are destined to be!

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