Your Holotropic Psyche

Plants are heliotropic; that is, they naturally move toward sunlight.

Your psyche is holotropic: it naturally moves toward wholeness.

Long ago humans discovered that the body had a natural tendency to heal. But only in the past 150 years did we discover (or rediscover) that the human psyche also has a natural propensity to heal.

CG Jung was the first in modern West to see that not only does the psyche have a natural tendency to heal but also that the psyche is always trying to move into a greater degree of wholeness.

He saw every psychological malady as an attempt by the psyche to heal itself; every “problem” was seen as an opportunity to grow into a greater degree of wholeness—as opposed to seeing it as something broken that needed to be fixed. (As did Freud; whose view has persisted to this day.)

An acorn will seek to become an oak tree because that is its destiny. Likewise the psyche is always attempting to express greater wholeness because that is its destiny.

Jung saw that our social conditioning tends to split the psyche into factions of “good and bad” or “right and wrong”--and these two polarities seem to be forever at war with one another. He saw that the pain of this war is itself an attempt to heal; all internal opposition was seen as an opportunity to transform into a reunion at a higher level. To him healing is not simply a restoration, but a transformation into a greater level of wholeness

John was raised to be polite, nice, and always a good boy. Anger was simply not permitted in his family of origin. But at forty he began to experience depression, ulcers and felt very “unsatisfied” with his life. Psychotherapy helped him identify a great deal of suppressed anger, especially at his father. He had difficulty admitting that he was angry; this generated a great deal of anxiety in him.

This is an example of two psychological archetypes working in a compensatory relationship—specifically, the persona--shadow interaction. John was living the only life he knew: the self he was conditioned to be (persona)-- but it was only a half-life. His psyche sought wholeness by pushing his repressed life (shadow) into consciousness. His shadow was revealing itself in the various symptoms that he was experiencing. His persona felt threatened by the admission that he was inwardly very angry.  This seemed like bad news to John (persona) but it was an opportunity to bring him into a greater degree of wholeness-- to a higher level of functioning. It did this by forcing him to look at his repressed and unlived life (Shadow).

To the degree that he resists and attempts to hold on to his limited identity he will likely suffer. To the extent that he can learn to make friends with his shadow he will move toward greater wholeness.

Accepting his shadow does not mean acting out his anger in a harmful way. It means learning to recognize and feel his anger more consciously and learn to direct it into other channels that are nonharmful or maybe even creative and productive. It means learning to recognize what he really needs and find healthy way to get those needs met. It means finding healthy ways to set boundaries without attacking others.

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 greater personal power by becoming more responsible for himself, maintain healthy boundaries and allow more intimacy in his life. John will have much greater access to those aspects of his psyche that were buried within his shadow. He will live a much richer life.

Our pain reveals an opportunity to become more than we have been. It is nature’s way of reminding us that we are more than we believe that we are. If we understand this, then we suffer less because we can start to learn from our pain rather than seeing it as something broken that needs to be repaired.

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