”There is no doubt that healthy-mindedness is inadequate as a philosophical doctrine, because the evil facts which it positively refuses to account for are a genuine portion of reality; and they may after all be the best key to life’s significance, and possibly the only opener of our eyes to the deepest level of truth.“
– William James
This teaching segment addresses our deep appreciation for the power and potential of the human unconscious or Shadow, which is a vital part of who we are.
As a way to safeguard our ego’s identity in the world, we suppress and push into the unconscious those feelings that make us uneasy, such as hatred, rage, jealousy, envy, aggression, competition, lust, shame, and dependency.
We tend to do the same with those behaviors that are judged as bad or wrong in our societies – such as addiction, laziness, aggression, competition and pride.
In addition, we tend to also repress and deny our richest and most worthwhile gifts, especially if we had perceived them to have been shamed, dismissed, rejected or ignored by those important to us early in our lives. This repressed part of the self is called the Golden Shadow.
In PSEN depth work, we consider working with our unconscious material an important and integral aspect of how we develop and grow as human beings.
Over the four years of training, students have ample opportunity to pay attention to, become curious about, and grow comfortable with the darker aspects and distastes of their own repressed material, especially as it arises in their personal work and practice sessions with one another.
By their willingness to engage the discomforting nature of what lies within their own shadow, our trainees become much more tolerant of as well as curious about what lies below the surface awareness of those they work with.
Our trainees acquire specific skills to address repressed material as it starts to emerge in themselves, their clients or in the client/facilitator relationships.
They practice attending to unfolding processes in the body as a way to inquire more about aspects of their client’s unconscious feelings or motives. They also do this by paying attention to bodily sensations and what verbal messages they may carry; by looking for distinct peculiarities or ‘tics’ in their client’s body expressions; by learning to see character issues as they surface in unspoken ways; or by tracking certain habitual body postures and facial expressions with interest and curiosity.
Students also learn to address and own their own repressed material by examining their own assumptions about others as well as projections onto others. The ability to see and take back our own projections is an important skill that allows the practitioners to be able to see and address our clients’ projections in nonjudgmental ways.
Our trainees also learn ways of understanding, recognizing and working with transference and counter-transference, which is a natural component of every relationship.
They will also learn tobe interested in, curious about and actively work with their own as well as with their client’s dreams, primal instincts and pre-personal fantasies.
Throughout the four years of PSEN training, we grow our appreciation for working with the unconscious as a healthy, vital and necessary part of embodying one’s own untapped potential, with also connects us deeply to the mystery of human existence.
Everything with substance casts a shadow.
The ego stands to the shadow
as light to shade.
This is the quality that makes us human.