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.[1] 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.[2]

Since the 1970s, Depth psychology has come to refer to the ongoing development of theories and therapies pioneered by Pierre Janet, William James, and Carl Gustav Jung as well as Freud. All explore relationships between the conscious and the unconscious (thus including both psychoanalysis and Jungian psychology).[3]

Summary of primary elements[edit]

Depth psychology states the psyche is a process which is: - partly conscious, - partly unconscious and - partly semi-conscious.

In practice, depth psychology seeks to explore underlying motives as an approach to various mental disorder. It believes uncovering of deeper, often unconscious motives is intrinsically healing in and of itself. It seeks the deep layers underlying behavioral and cognitive processes.

In modern times the initial work, development, theories and therapies of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Otto Rank have resulted in three main perspectives on depth psychology:

Psychoanalytic view[edit]

Adlerian view[edit]

Jungian views[edit]

  • 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.[4]
  • 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.[5]
  • 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.


  • 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.[6]
  • Esotericism criticizes depth psychologies (including Jungian) for reducing the numinal to the inward alone, and for excessive reliance on the experiential,[7] though this position has also been challenged.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henri Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) p. 562
  2. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) p. 175-6
  3. ^ Chalquist, Craig. "What Is Depth Psychology?". Re-engaging the Soul of Place (Spring Journal Books, 2007). Archived from the original on 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
  4. ^ Adams, Lee. "Dr". Jung’s Bias Toward Spiritual Practices of the East. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  5. ^ Dr. Fredricks, Randi. "Depth Psychology". Theoretical Approaches: Depth Psychology. Randi Fredricks. Archived from the original on 2013-04-12. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
  6. ^ M. Hardt/K. Weeks eds., The Jameson Reader (2000) p. 198
  7. ^ Eileen Barker, Of Gods and Men (1983) p. 173-5
  8. ^ Brown, R.S. (2014). Evolving Attitudes. International Journal of Jungian Studies, 6.3, 243-253.

Further reading[edit]

Ken Wilber Integral Psychology (2000)

External links[edit]