Reaction Paper: James Hillman Archetypal Psychology

Pages: 6 (1565 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Psychology  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … James Hillman's Re-Visioning Psychology is so expansive and far-reaching that it is difficult to know where to begin a response to this work. Essentially trying to develop a brand new system of psychology, Hillman puts forth his argument that the varying brands of psychology developed over the course of the twentieth century fail to capture the truth of humanity, and in fact deny this truth and the existence of the soul or psyche in favor of a purely rational and logical mind that has a system of cause and effect that is concrete rather than malleable. Hillman asserts that exploration rather than definitive decision making is a better method for psychological healing, and that it leads to the true development of the individual rather than their mere diagnosis and "fixing," as occurs in most traditional psychologies developed in the modern era.

I found Hillman's ideas highly compelling, and it certainly offers an appealing alternative to the cut-and-dry certitude of traditional psychologies, but at times I also felt myself wondering whether or not Hillman's view of psychology did not itself discount logical cause-and-effect to an egregious degree. Though he is correct in pointing out the narrow-mindedness of traditional psychology, in many ways Hillman's psychology is no less narrow -- it is simply in a new direction. This new direction definitely adds a significant new perspective to the current body of psychological knowledge, but perhaps the use of this theory should not come at the exclusion of other theories and methods of understanding.

Explication Paper 2

Both Hillman and Ricouer, according to Michael Sipiora's essay "Myth and Plot: Hillman and Ricoeur on Narrative," see problems not simply with the ideas of traditional psychology, but also with the language of that psychology. The standard terminology implies certain concepts that are limiting to the types of narratives that can be told, and to which psychology can be applied. Individual narratives, according to these theorists, must be fluid and though perhaps fitting into certain archetypes of characters and myths, are essentially individual and result in growth and ongoing transformation, rather than static progression along a specific line of defined goals and objectives. A more expansive, honest, and meaningful lexicon is called for in the psychological world in order to better serve truly human interests, assisting development rather than insisting on specific labels with given meanings.

I found this reading to be very rewarding both as a simple and relatively straightforward piece regarding the need for a change to the language of psychology and the modes of expression used therein, and as a theoretical exercise that has many more general applications. The manner in which language truly and directly controls thought -- something George Orwell used to great effect in 1984 and discussed at length in other writings -- is relevant to many areas of life, including psychology, but it is not something often at the forefront of conscious thinking regarding theory and practice in most disciplines. As language truly is formative in the narratives developed by individuals, however, an awareness of this feature of language is essential to psychology.

Explication Paper 3

The selections written by Hillman that comprise this reading cover a variety of specific topics, all related to the psychologist's concepts of images, imagination, and their role in developing a strong and healthy sense of self. Hillman devotes some time to describing images as smells, in a certain sense, establishing them (a la Jung) as inherently connected to instincts. This is a major part of Hillman's construct of archetypal psychology, in which the imagination plays a major -- in fact, the primary -- role in helping the individual and the psychology develop a better and more comprehensive awareness of their psyche or soul, and thus lead to healing and growth in a more healthful manner. Hillman addresses concerns and disagreements with his theory through the voice of a "protestor," answering these concerns neatly and efficiently by clarifying these points in his theory without conceding any ground, and arguing passionately for his own interpretation.

As with the previous reading from one of Hillman's works, I was struck both by the novel and incredibly expansive theories and thoughts outlined in the excerpt, as well as the eventual narrow-mindedness presented by Hillman's theories. As expansive as these theories are in one direction -- that of imagination and free exploration -- they are limiting or downright dismissive of the scientific method. Though I agree that human beings cannot be broken down into discrete and clear patterns of cause-and-effect, surely there is a happy medium in psychological understanding that permits both rationality and imaginative pursuit.

Explication Paper 4

Hillman provides what is perhaps the clearest and most succinct explanation of one of the basic tenets of his approach to psychology in these pages, claiming that, "we confuse imaginal with subjective and internal, and we mistake essential with external and objective." His goal is to bring what he considers essential, which is also imaginal, back to the forefront of psychology. There is a more primal and more spiritual approach to psychology, according to Hillman (who builds largely on the work of Jung), and in these pages Hillman illustrates how language and thought developed in tandem to create a framework in which experience and the human mind was basically considered unfathomable until the light of science was shown on it. Hillman discounts both of these views, seeing a more basic and essential understanding of human beings and the human soul as both possible and necessary. The "thought of the heart" that forms the title of the main section of this reading is that thought which is both imaginal and essential -- the essence of humanity.

These sections helped to make Hillman's vies on psychology and humanity in general much more clear, and also provide hugely intriguing in terms of the development of ideas and psychology long before it was termed such. Regardless of how completely I adhere to Hillman's way of viewing the world, his intellectual insights and the emotional connections he draws are very profound and though provoking. As the real import of his theories begins to grow clearer and more solidified in my mind, I find ways to adapt his thinking to a more rationalistic approach as well.

Explication Paper 5

In this excerpt, Hillman devotes his attention to explaining the need for developing a reawakened awareness of the world, and the methods by which to go about doing this. He is again very much concerned with language and what it implies and demands about our way of thinking -- at the end of this section, Hillman has a list of traditional binary oppositions that he says must be obliterated in order to achieve this new vision of the world. What he is essentially saying is that our system of thinking, and thus the system of language that supports this thinking, is one of definitions and limitations that set boundaries primarily in terms of negatives -- masculine is not feminine, and vice versa, for example. The language also tends to be descriptive not of things themselves, but of human judgments regarding those things, according to Hillman, and he argues for a move towards language that more directly describes things in the world themselves, rather than how we feel about them.

While I was in total agreement with Hillman on his first point about language, I am somewhat less in tune with him on his second and more complex theme. Imagining a language that does not make inherent qualitative judgments is next to impossible; this is, of course, the point that Hillman is making about language, but regardless language must necessarily define things beyond their simple concrete existence if it is to have any use beyond mere emotionless and non-abstract description. A different language might be more… [END OF PREVIEW]

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