Shamanic Dimensions of Psychotherapy : Healing through the Symbolic Process book cover
1st Edition

Shamanic Dimensions of Psychotherapy
Healing through the Symbolic Process

ISBN 9781138095724
Published November 25, 2019 by Routledge
256 Pages 2 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

In Shamanic Dimensions of Psychotherapy: Healing through the Symbolic Process, Robin van Löben Sels uniquely and honestly recounts her personal journey toward a shamanic understanding of psychotherapy. Exploring the disruptive breakthrough of visions and dreams that occurred during her analysis, personal life, and psychoanalytic training, van Löben Sels illustrates how the phenomenology of ancient shamanism is still alive and how it is a paradigm for the emergence and maturation of the psyche in people today.

This original book delves into van Löben Sels’s personal experience of the shaman, identifying such eruptions as a contemporary version of the archaic shaman’s initiatory call to vocation. The book is split into two parts. It begins by outlining the shamanic personality in history, recognizing this as an individual that has been called out of a collectively sanctioned identity into a creative life, and the unconscious shaman complex they consequently face, especially in psychotherapeutic relationships. Practical as well as theoretical, the second part outlines the shamanic attributes that underline psychotherapeutic relationships - silence, sound, mask, rhythm, gesture, movement, and respiration - and usefully describes how to use them as asanas for consciousness, or vehicles toward psychological awareness. With clinical examples and personal stories throughout, this book’s unique Jungian perspective addresses contemporary expressions of the shaman complex in our current world.

Shamanic Dimensions of Psychotherapy: Healing through the Symbolic Process will be essential reading for Jungian analysts and psychotherapists in practice and in training, as well as for academics and students of Jungian and post-Jungian studies. It will be especially helpful and illuminating to those who have experienced an involuntary plunge into the depths and who seek ways to articulate their experience.

Table of Contents

Introduction; Part 1: Personal, Cultural, and Historical Aspects of the Shaman;  Chapter 1: The Shaman in History;  Chapter 2: Initiation and Vocation;  Chapter 3: The Shaman and the Vertical Hierarchy of Worlds;  Chapter 4: Journey and The Helping Spirits;  Chapter 5: The Shaman and Solitude;  Chapter 6: The Shamanic Personality and the Profession of Depth Psychotherapy;  Part 2: Seven Expressive Attributes Used by the Shaman: Mask, Rhythm, Silence, Respiration, Movement, Sound, and Gesture;  Chapter 7: Introduction to the Attributes;  Chapter 8: Mask;  Chapter 9: Rhythm;  Chapter 10: Silence;  Chapter 11: Respiration;  Chapter 12: Movement;  Chapter 13: Sound;  Chapter 14: Gesture;  Bibliography;  Index

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Robin van Löben Sels, PhD, is a Jungian analyst teaching and consulting in New Mexico, USA. She is the author of A Dream in the World: Poetics of Soul in Two Women, Modern and Medieval (Routledge, 2003) and has written several other books and poetry.


'In Shamanic Dimensions of Psychotherapy, Robin van Löben Sels artfully weaves together personal narrative and clinical experience, along with threads from art, poetry, literature, analytical psychology, and psychoanalytic theory, to articulate the shamanic elements underpinning the psychotherapy experience. However, this volume is not a dry, academic treatise on shamanism. Throughout the volume, van Löben Sels reveals how the "shamanic complex" functions to facilitate healing in the space created between therapist and patient. In addition to having significant implications for the practicing psychotherapist, her careful and astute articulation of "shamanic attributes" might well serve as a template for the practice of conscious living. Rather than simply explaining shamanism, van Löben Sels utilizes the patterns found in shamanism as a means of amplifying important elements of life and the depth of the therapeutic encounter. Shamanic Dimensions is an important and satisfying contribution to our understanding of shamanistic experience, depth psychology, and the unfolding of life' - Mark Winborn, PhD, NCPsyA, Jungian psychoanalyst, psychologist and author of Interpretation in Jungian Analysis: Art and Technique

'Robin van Löben Sels has the rare gift of being able to capture with words our primary, felt experiences that often have an ineffable quality and, as such, elude verbal description. In this poetic and evocative book, van Löben Sels provides us with anthropological, clinical, and personal descriptions that illustrate, as well as evoke, aspects of the Shaman archetype and its operation in the therapeutic situation especially in the form of the seven shamanic attributes she explores. To pay attention to these attributes is to work mostly at the level of what is non-conscious yet experienced and manifested bodily; it is to be present to the language of sensations and is foundational to moving towards ego consciousness and a growing capacity to name one’s experience - what the author calls a yoga of consciousness.

As I read her book, I was repeatedly aware of links between her shamanic attributes and the work of current neuroscientists such as Schore, Damasio, and Porges; as well as infant researchers such as Stern, Trevarthan, and Reddy. Her emphasis on the physical/somatic attributes of the shaman also link with somatic therapies such as authentic movement, dance therapy, art therapy, and the somatic psychotherapies of Somatic Experiencing, Hakomi, and Somatic Transformation. More specifically, van Löben Sels’s seven attributes have a natural deep link to the seven archetypal affective systems that neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp suggests are the "ancient ancestral wisdom" of humans, and indeed all mammals. Both the shamanic attributes and the affective systems are core, essential components of our moment to moment lived experience through our non-verbal, implicit system. The depths of primary and secondary shamanic experience are multi-dimensional, and if you want to explore the full noetic reality of shamanic experience, this magically lyrical and well-grounded book is a must read.' - Julie Kilpatrick, MD, Jungian psychoanalyst and educator of attachment theory and affective neuroscience