Neha Patil (Editor)

Depth psychology

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Historically, depth psychology (from the German term Tiefenpsychologie), was coined by Eugen Bleuler to refer to psychoanalytic approaches to therapy and research which take the unconscious into account. The term was rapidly accepted in the year of its proposal (1914) by Sigmund Freud, to cover a topographical view of the mind in terms of different psychic systems.


Depth psychology has since come to refer to the ongoing development of theories and therapies pioneered by Pierre Janet, William James, and Carl Jung as well as Freud, which explore the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious (thus including both psychoanalysis and Jungian psychology).

Summary of primary elements

Depth psychology states that psyche is a process that is partly conscious and partly unconscious and partly semi-conscious. In practice, depth psychology seeks to explore underlying motives as an approach to various mental disorders, with the belief that the uncovering of these motives is intrinsically healing. It seeks the deep layers underlying behavioral and cognitive processes. The initial work and development of the theories and therapies by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Otto Rank have resulted in three main perspectives on depth psychology in modern times:

  • Psychoanalytic: Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott (among others); object relations theory; Neo-Freudianism
  • Adlerian: Adler's individual psychology
  • Jungian: Jung's analytical psychology; James Hillman's archetypal psychology
  • Jungian views

  • The unconscious contains repressed experiences and other personal-level issues in its "upper" layers and "transpersonal" (e.g. collective, non-I, archetypal) forces in its depths. The semi-conscious contains or is, an aware pattern of personality, including everything in a spectrum from individual vanity to the personality of the workplace.
  • Archetypes are primordial elements of the Collective Unconscious in the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. Archetypes form the unchanging context from which the contents of cyclic and sequent changes derive their meanings. Duration is the secret of action.
  • The psyche spontaneously generates mythico-religious symbolism or themes, and is therefore spiritual or metaphysical, as well as instinctive, in nature. An implication of this is that the choice of whether to be a spiritual person may be beyond the individual, whether and how we apply it, including to nonspiritual aspirations.
  • All minds, all lives, are ultimately embedded in some sort of myth-making in the form of themes or patterns. Mythology is therefore not a series of old explanations for natural events, but rather the richness and wonder of humanity played out in a symbolical, thematic, and patterned storytelling.
  • Criticism

  • Fredric Jameson considers postmodernism to reject depth models such as Freud's, in favor of a set of multiple surfaces consisting of intertextual discourses and practices.
  • Esotericism criticises depth psychologies (including the Jungian) for reducing the numinal to the inward alone, and for excessive reliance on the experiential. This position has also been challenged.
  • References

    Depth psychology Wikipedia

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