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.

Prince Albert as a transition town

“A clean town that works for everyone”

On the 10th February, 22 people held a meeting in the small town of Prince Albert in the Great Karoo to discuss the possibility of the town becoming a “transition town”. As a result of the meeting, the group agreed that they would communicate the ideas to everyone else in Prince Albert and see who else is interested in getting involved.

The worldwide “transition town” movement is a response to two of the large challenges that humans face and that will significantly change the way we live in the future:

  • The first is climate change. We know that the earth’s climate is changing rapidly, although we do not know for sure how it will affect us.
  • Secondly, we know that the earth is going to run out of abundant fuel quite soon and that we need to change our reliance on oil and oil-based products.

The “transition town” movement was started by a man called Rob Hopkins and some of his students in the town of Kinsale in Ireland who were concerned about these challenges. They developed a plan which set out how Kinsale could make the transition from a high energy consumption town to a low energy one. In 2005, the town council adopted this plan unanimously. Hopkins himself later became a leader in a transition initiative in Totnes, a town in England, which became the world’s first Transition Town. Each individual transition initiative has its own objectives with a range of practical projects.

The objectives of a “transition town” are as follows:

  • Becoming more resilient to environmental and other changes, by building self-reliance in areas such as food, energy, health care, jobs and economics. For example, growing our own food, instead of waiting for it to be trucked in.
  • Reducing reliance on energy and food sources that are running out.
  • Developing a functional, healthy, local community that works together and cares for our people and our environment, so that we can all thrive.
  • Reducing our negative impact on the environment – reducing and recycling waste, reducing our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, protecting the remaining biodiversity, mainly using renewable resources and restoring damaged ecosystems where possible.

There are many current activities underway in Prince Albert that already work towards these objectives. As a result of further efforts after the meeting, the recycling project in the town has been resurrected. As a community, the town would develop many more creative activities.

In considering why Prince Albert would be suitable to become a transition town, the following factors are important:

  • We are a small community with a clear identity
  • We are far away from urban centres
  • We have fertile soil and enough water (if it is managed carefully) to grow our own food
  • We are more dependent on the outside world than we need to be
  • We have abundant renewable energy sources (sun and wind)
  • We have many passionate people doing positive work to improve the town

In considering how the Prince Albert community could benefit from becoming a transition town, the following ideas are important:

  • Our increased self-sufficiency would improve quality of life for everyone
  • We would gain new skills and knowledge by linking in to the worldwide Transition Network and all their information and resources
  • We would become less vulnerable to external changes, including climate change
  • It could provide another reason for tourists to visit us
  • It could build our pride as people of the town
  • It could unite us as a community if we share a vision for the town

This is just a beginning. Our next steps include building awareness and gathering together interested parties. In the first meeting, we agreed on a “work-in-progress” vision for the town based on a vision that had been developed through an extensive public participation process in 2002. This vision was “a town that works for everyone, excluding no-one”. We thought that this could be adapted to “a clean town that works for everyone” to include the environmental component. We will keep having conversations in order to ensure an inclusive process. And for those who are interested outside of our little town, we will keep you posted.

Beneath, Between and Beyond

Or Beyond, Beneath and Between?

I recently saw the film about Jane Goodall (I think it is called Jane’s Story) and it tells the story of her evolution from young chimp researcher to world environmental activist (see for her work with young people worldwide). The film is understated and humble, and Goodall has a similar feel about her. I do not know much else about her and her work, but importantly, I was quietly, yet powerfully inspired. Goodall comments and seems to act on the idea of connecting human fulfilment with environmental goals, particularly working with children and youth.

I thought about my own work and its place in the world. As a result of such early Sunday morning thoughts, I finally formulated my BIG VISION, or so it seemed to me. In summary, I believe that we, as humans, need to have a three dimensional approach, including Beneath (inside us and our unconscious selves) Between (our relationships and resource sharing arrangements with others) and Beyond (the earth, the air, the oceans and the other species that live on our planet) and use all the creativity and technology at our disposal, in order to express ourselves as living beings; solve dilemmas and tensions that compromise bio- and psychodiversity; communicate virally;  and thereby take individual and collective action that is ecologically sound at the deepest level in order to ensure a thriving planet.

Research to save the human race

I had the privilege of being invited to attend a day on research at UWC. I was kindly invited by Anita Maurtin-Cairncross from the UWC Human Resources Department to join a workshop which was aimed at developing research capacity. The Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian O’ Connell started the day by talking about the importance of research. He used the analogy of the Mayan people to emphasise that we as human beings are at risk if we continue unthinkingly along our path, and just like the Mayans, we may be facing extinction unless we can improve the sustainability of our situation. We are 7 billion people (and more every minute) on this planet.

I recently saw a film that showed a picture of our planet from outer space and I was struck by how fragile it looked from out there – this green and blue ball shrouded in strips of cloud just  hanging there in space. And I have been wondering about how long the planet can sustain 7 billion people and more. The earth is an ecosystem, and so surely it requires a certain amount of balance in order to continue sustaining life. Last year, I drove past Hartebeespoortdam. It is a luminous green and it is poisonous to humans. How long before we have made an environment that cannot sustain us anymore? Of course, the environmentalists tell us that we do not have long. What I find so astonishing is that so many of us, myself included (at least some of the time), live as if that is not true. We live as if we can continue consuming resources and producing waste as we are doing at the moment.

We can’t. We need research that tell us why human beings live in denial of glaring truths and we need research that tells us how to help ourselves wake up. I was impressed by the speakers at the UWC day. I think they are genuinely developing research capacity and I learnt a lot from them. I am pursuing my own research with renewed vigour. But I was left with a lingering discomfort because the time for research may be over.