Imagine our communities without mental health problems… where environments and experiences foster individual wellbeing and the realization of potential. Kind of challenging though, considering each year (pre-pandemic) one in five Canadians experienced a “mental illness or addiction.1”

However, from ecological and Indigenous psychological perspectives, this is not only possible, it’s natural that communities of individuals realize their full potential. So why does Western society consistently create communities that are riddled with addictions, depression, and suicide? What if we looked beyond the surface of Euro-colonial psychology, which often only treats symptoms (it’s shocking how many professionals I know on antidepressants), and started to explore root causes of these imbalances?

Depth psychologies are a collection of psychological frameworks, including ecological and Indigenous, which dig below the surface and move into soul work. Carl Jung was a pioneering Western depth psychologist whose scientific method and cross-cultural approach returned soul to modern psychology. What I appreciate about Jung’s approach is that it works in tandem with ecological and Indigenous psychologies, both of which understand soulful ways of knowing by integrating emotions, intellect, intuition, somatic (body) awareness, dreams, and synchronicities.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate”

Carl Jung, Depth Psychologist

For Jung and other depth psychologists, “mental illness” has its roots in unconscious activity, where repressed experiences and aspects of soul continue to create disturbances of the psyche. These unconscious elements are called shadow, and from a depth psychological perspective, the psyche is restored to wholeness by integrating these unconscious shadow aspects into conscious awareness.

Our Western culture, and its correlating political, social, and economic systems with hierarchical power, have resulted in overly rational ways of being that often suppress aspects of soul. Within a holistic framework, depth psychology recognizes that everything is interconnected, from the personal and spiritual to the economic and political. So rather than continuing to “tackle” mental health, what if we looked closer at the culture and systems that perpetuate unconscious shadow (ie. mental health problems), and then co-created environments and experiences that foster individual full potential?

Again, take a moment to imagine our communities without an epidemic of mental health problems… where addictions, depression, and anxiety were transformed into expressing soul, passion, and vocation (a spiritual calling). How might we achieve this? What systems would need to transform to foster potential? What practices would we need to adopt that build a sense of belonging so we can tend to unconscious shadow?

As communities of individuals develop their full potential, imagine the power of unity that we would have to transform our larger economic, social, and environmental challenges. Is this future possible? We at the Okanagan Circular Society believe so and are dedicated to co-creating this type of community!

Written by: Shane Lapp