The Depth Leadership Trust

I am delighted to announce the establishment of The Depth Leadership Trust. The Trust will operate with Prince Albert as its base. The overall objective of the Depth Leadership Trust is to increase the national awareness, knowledge and application of Depth Psychology principles.

The following two quotes summarise why depth psychology is important:

The world today hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man.” CG Jung

“Whether a culture’s ‘folk psychology’, as it is called, incorporates an image of the unconscious, and what kind of image it is, makes a real difference to how life is lived.” Guy Claxton, The Wayward Mind

 

The detailed objectives of the Depth Leadership Trust are as follows:

  •  To develop awareness and understanding amongst the general population of the ideas behind depth psychology and how these ideas can be helpful in everyday living
  • To conduct research into the discipline of depth psychology and its application to ordinary living, leadership and citizenship
  • To develop and execute initiatives that aim to ensure the application of depth psychology in ordinary living, leadership and citizenship. In other words: to design and offer projects, interventions and activities that facilitate and enhance the integration of  both the individual and collective human psyche (particularly through the expression of the unconscious mind)
  • To specifically develop the knowledge and practice of depth leadership (leadership which incorporates the general principles of depth psychology) in organisations and communities
  • To develop the awareness and understanding amongst the general public of the interconnectedness of all life forms, and our human role in healthy ecosystems and to support  initiatives, interventions and projects that build healthy, integrated ecosystems
  • To support individuals, groups, projects, and organisations that work to further any of the above objectives

Amongst others, the Trust will engage in the following main activities in order to achieve the above objectives:

  • Communication
  • Education
  • Research
  • Intellectual and practical support for initiatives aligned with the Trust’s objectives
  • Networking
  • The establishment of a physical centre in Prince Albert which has an extensive library, a meeting / class room, a reading room, and a reflection room with a sandtray and a variety of art and musical resources.

Depth Psychology Principles

Depth psychology is an evolving field which has as much disagreement within its ranks as it has agreement about general principles. The following principles are, broadly speaking, held to be true by most theorists in the field:

  1. Human beings have a “psyche” which carries the whole of mental life. It is the faculty for thought, feeling, memory, and imagination. The psyche is not just a combination of the body and the spirit, it has a life and language of its own.
  2. In addition to carrying all of our human potential, the psyche processes, records and stores all of our life experience. Using our earlier experiences, the psyche develops a subjective logical framework for perceiving and further processing ongoing experience.
  3. The psyche divides itself into a conscious and an unconscious part in order to manage internal conflict. Life experiences often expose us to ambivalence and irreconcilable conflicts that our psyches have to manage somehow. In order to do this, simply speaking, our psyche keeps one part (or parts) of complex experience in the conscious mind and buries the other, more “dangerous” part (or parts) in the unconscious mind.
  4. The unconscious mind is multi-layered in itself. Closer to the surface one will find individual personal experience and potential that for a range of reasons cannot be brought into consciousness, and the deeper bedrock of the unconscious mind contains shared collective archetypal forces that affect all human beings.
  5. The contents of the unconscious mind continue to influence behaviour, even though such contents are buried away from conscious control.
  6. Both the divisions in the psyche (caused by internal conflicts) and the deep archetypal drivers contribute to continual dynamic processes in the psyche. These alternate between developmental, integrative processes and defensive processes. Some theorists argue that the psyche is continually striving for greater integration.
  7. The psyche uses the language of imagery and symbolism to express itself. This language allows the simultaneous communication of multiple layers of meaning.
  8. Human experience becomes more meaningful when the psyche’s personal aspect encounters the deeper, archetypal or “transpersonal” aspect. A depth approach tries to make the connection between the different levels.
  9. Symptoms are messages from the psyche. Personal problems, blockages and symptoms, as well as interpersonal problems and conflicts can be viewed as a form of communication from the psyche about its developmental process. These can be resolved by interpreting the symbolism inherent in the difficulty and thereby finding the deeper archetypal meaning that is being communicated. Simply “silencing” the symptoms will mean that the inherent problem is not resolved and will almost certainly manifest in a different way.
  10. We are not separate from the people around us, our psyches are inextricably linked to one another. At the simplest level, when two people come together, they form a third “psyche” between them which has a life of its own. This applies to all interactions with others – there is always the creation of a collective psyche which is more than the sum of the individual psyches. The collective psyche will express itself in terms of psychodynamic patterns. In order to change the systems around us, we need to understand the psychodynamics of those systems and always work towards systemic psychic health.
  11. As a result of the psychic interactions between us, there is no such thing as purely objective research or action when it comes to the psyche. We have to take into account the influence of our unconscious minds on our conscious observations and thoughts. Any past experience that in any way resonates with current experiences will influence the way we perceive the current experience.
  12. Our psyches are inextricably linked to all the life forms around us. Our inner landscape will to some extent be a reflection of our outer landscape, so we are only really as well as our environment is. This implies that there is a human imperative to live responsibly on the planet and to care for our ecosystems.
  13. Like all disciplines, the original thinkers in the discipline of depth psychology operated and were to some extent limited by the culture from which they came. As such, some of the original theories were founded on biases and stereotypes that are no longer appropriate. Modern day depth psychology challenges stereotypes that lead to discrimination on demographic bases, and helps us to always consider the psyche in its entire context.
  14. In order to move to greater system’s health, whether it be the individual, the group or the ecosystem, a depth approach suggests that the voices, opinions, and experiences that are repressed, marginalised, silenced or simply ignored, are attended to and considered in the system decision-making processes.

Custodians of the planet

I do not believe that we can completely avoid some suffering as part of living, but I do think, though, that we can harness the miracles of being human better than we are doing at present. The very fact that we can think critically about ourselves should impel us to pursue a path that keeps in mind the greatest good for all life forms.

As do many others, I feel moved to catalyse social change if I can. One of the thoughts shared by Matthew Fox at a leadership conference I am attending, is that the human species is the only one (as far as we know) that can choose whether it will become extinct or not. This is an incredible thought, even though it may simply be hubris. If true, it does mean that we ought to be fascinated by how we can express the deepest creativity of our species. Imagine if the human story unfolded in such a way that we were primarily careful custodians of the planet and all its other species, rather than agents of mass destruction.

Vision for 2012: Depth Leadership

About 7 years ago I had a dream that felt significant, although I did not understand its significance at the time. I dreamt that scientists in South America had discovered a flower that had never been seen before, a flower that had a self-organising principle that was entirely new. I could see the flower in the dream, but not clearly.

A year or two later, I travelled to South America for the first time on my way to Antarctica. I was travelling alone and when I landed in Buenos Aires, the taxi driver suggested that he drives me around the city to see some of the attractions. He asked me whether I had seen “the flower”. Of course I had not. He drove me to a huge metal flower standing in a pool of water.  Architect Eduardo Catalano had made it as a gift to the city. Catalano named it the Floralis Genérica, which means a flower that represents all the flowers in the world. The sculpture has petals that open and close depending on the time of day and the wind conditions. Apparently Catalano said something to the effect that the flower is a synthesis of all flowers and is a hope that is reborn every day (the quote in Wikipedia is not completely clear).

I did not know what to make of all of this at the time. I went on to Antarctica and had a wonderful time. I eventually wrote my book Beneath – Exploring the Unconscious in Individuals and it was published in 2011. Last year I also completed a rewrite of my first published book The Depth Facilitator’s Handbook from the perspective of leadership, and so named (a little obviously) Depth Leadership. I have not taken Depth Leadership to publication because it has not felt ready. In the last quarter of 2011, I started formulating a vision which I called Beneath, Between and Beyond.

This morning some pieces in my mind finally connected with one another. The new self-organising principle that I have been looking for has been right under my nose. In summary, I realised that I believe that I, and anyone that has an impact on the world, have a moral duty to pursue an approach that I call “depth leadership”. Broadly speaking this means that we actively work “beneath” (with our unconscious selves), “between” (with our communities) and “beyond” (with the natural environment), always considering our impact on the delicate balances in these complex systems, and thereby taking care to ensure that they thrive. We have to keep our attention on all three simultaneously and do whatever it takes to resolve the tensions and dilemmas between them. Anything less will be shortsighted. That is what I will be working towards in all my endeavours in 2012.