Think Psychology and Poetry Don’t Mix? Think Again.

We are the only species on Earth capable of preventing our own flowering
-David Whyte

The Creative Urge lives and grows
like a tree in the earth from which it draws its nourishment

-CG Jung

Analytical psychology at its core emphasizes the process of individuation, a life-long process of transformation. Each of us is unique and called to grow in maturity through a process of psychic integration. How can we explore and expand our creativity in the process of individuating? What are some ways we can we develop our creative, playful selves?

Choose any art form and you will find a partner in the individuation process. Poetry, for example, chosen at random, can be used as a guide:

Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

Read the poem out loud several times and ask the question, what’s next? Listen and respond by re-writing the poem in your own hand. Some of the words in the original poem remain, others change.

Listening and then acting you write (as example):

Sing, when you feel shut down.
Yell out loud, when wounds are exposed.
Sing in the middle of the room.
Harmony in your blood.
Sing, when you’re perfectly free.

In the process of individuation we step from the personal into the unconscious realm, we dance with Shadow, dance with our Ancestors, and separate the voices of our parents and society from our own true north.

One day you finally knew what you had to do,
and began,  though the voices around you
kept shouting their bad advice
— though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug at your ankles.
“Mend my life!” each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough,
and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do —
determined to save the only life you could save.

-© 1986 Mary Oliver from Dream Work

© Copyright 2011 by Mary Alice Long, PhD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • KH

    May 25th, 2011 at 2:48 AM

    I’ve always had trouble connecting with my true inner self. Very often I do not know what I really want from a situation. When I try to concentrate I often fail as my mind is not free and random thoughts and fears linger. I do not know what to do to go deep inside of my own self.

  • Alice

    May 25th, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    Are there still many therapists around who truly incorporate Jungian theory into their patient work?

  • Mary Alice Long, PhD

    May 25th, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    KH–meditation, breathwork, and movement are examples of way to enter into the flow of life and find Self. Dreams are meant as healing guides showing us the way to playful paths that lead to our true nature. The head, heart, and hara (belly) all have information for us and lead us to our true nature–so working with chakras can be helpful as well through bodywork, accupuncture, massage, and the like, you know your ways to play and create, finding support for the journey is often an essential part of any seeking.

    Alice–yes, there are many Jungian therapists who incorporate Jungian theory into their practice with the needs of the clients they serve in mind–the modalities can look very different and the basic philosophy is foundational–I recommend you explore a number of the Jungian institutes/societies in the US/globally for more information, one good site with a number of connecting points is

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