The Mandala of Depth Psychology

This art piece is connected to a dream I had about Gemeinschaftsgefühl, an Adlerian term meaning “community feeling.” The dream coincided with a conference on socially responsible practice, hosted by the Adler University in Chicago. This piece was presented at that conference. 


The main images are set in a mandala—a universal sacred symbol in many traditions as well as a representation of wholeness or holism in Adlerian terms and individuation in Jungian terms. The mandala is separated into four sections. Each of the four quadrants holds an aspect that the artist finds essential for socially responsible practice.


The upper right quadrant represents the intolerable image, and the message written around the circle points to the importance of being able, as socially responsible practitioners, to turn towards the actions and policies that violate social justice.  The practitioner must be capable of looking at the issues and images most abhorrent in the local and global community presently and historically. In archetypal dreamwork, there is a practice of facing the intolerable image within the dream, and it is believed that this is where the “medicine” lies or, in other words, where the transformative power lies. There seems to be an instinctual tendency to turn away from images and issues that are difficult, disturbing, raw, and primary.  As socially responsible practitioners, however, it is essential to be capable of seeing these darker realities in their full form in order to be impacted and facilitate individual and social change. The image of Freud is present in this quadrant because his theories focus on the importance of working with the difficult, traumatic areas of the psyche in order not to be enslaved unknowingly to the tendency for repetition compulsion. 


The lower right quadrant represents the self-reflection, contemplation, and inner work necessary to understand the intolerable image. Again, in working with dreams, what is intolerable for each individual will be unique and will also hold within it the seeds of that individual’s vocational calling into community. In depth Jungian theory, we may refer to this as archetypal activism. It arises directly from the personal and collective unconscious. The other value of inner work in relation to socially responsible practice is that it allows the individual to recognize and liberate themselves from their own internalized oppressive psychic structures and object relations. This personal emancipation in turn offers a template for how to support others in finding deeper freedom and expression. The image of Carl Jung is present in this quadrant because his theory focuses on the essential task of individuals to do inner contemplative and reflective work in order to find their unique destiny.


The lower left quadrant represents the movement out of individualism or primary narcissism and into community. The essential tasks of this quadrant include recognition of equal rights and a deepening respect for diversity. It is said that Adler, who was the first community psychologist, is the one psychologist whose theories are most widely implemented in mainstream psychology without having his name attached to them—perhaps a reflection of his own overcoming of primary narcissism.


Gemizenshaftsgefühl, engagement with one’s community in a meaningful and socially responsible manner, brings about natural feelings of belonging and well-being. The importance of finding a balance between compassion and justice (which is highlighted in the fourth quadrant) is also an Adlerian concept. Frank Gruber McCallister claimed that social justice needs to include not only making the victim more comfortable but also making the individual or group that commits the injustice uncomfortable, as well as those in society who are complacent or silent in relation to the injustice.


In depth psychological work, we see how the influence of the ancestors holds great power over an individual’s life. Often the shadow of the parents or ancestors must be worked through before one is able to embark on one’s own unique life journey.  If we consider Jung, Freud, and Adler as spiritual or vocational ancestors, then it may be the work of those who follow to reconcile the broken psychic spaces between the theories and relationships of these men, in service of a larger and more complete vision for the future. 


The upper left quadrant symbolizes the missing feminine—not central in the roots of depth psychology as theorized by Jung, Freud, or Adler. This absence is obvious even in the fact that we refer to these men as the fathers of depth psychology, and that there are no equivalent “mothers” of depth psychology. This quadrant attempts to restore some balance to the overly patriarchal origins and acknowledge the absence of women’s voices and the veiled presence of the many women behind the psychological theories. The depth theories themselves have been primarily based on masculine mythologems or archetypes. This is less apparent in Adler and more obvious in both Freud’s and Jung’s work. Freud developed much of his theory from an in-depth exploration of the mythologem of Oedipus. For Jung, the archetypes of the Hero and the Alchemist were most influential in creating his theories on individuation, the transcendent function, and the anima/animus. What is largely absent from the primary literature of psychoanalytic and Jungian thinking are theories of the psyche based on a central feminine archetype. This quadrant therefore honours the missing feminine and challenges the viewer to consider what psychology might look like when contemplated through a holistic lens that incorporates more of the feminine principle.