Opening the Closed Heart

Meetings with the Human and Archetypal Child in the Psychotherapy of Early Trauma

Donald Kalsched, PhD



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The process of realizing oneself as a person (“individuation”) was, for C. G. Jung, equivalent to the unfolding of latent potentials in the personality--a vital spark of aliveness--something sacred and utterly unique in each of us. The potential for this “unfolding,” Jung felt, lay deep in the foundations of the personality like a seed, and was universally represented in mythology as the archetype of the innocent or divine child in exile. 


Trauma in childhood accounts for such exile.  By studying the lives of people who have survived early trauma, we discover that the ideal “unfolding” of the personality Jung envisioned is partially blocked and distorted by powerful-but-necessary archetypal defenses. These defenses divide up the inner world and banish unbearably painful feelings to the unconscious where they continue to live in “suspended animation” as “implicit memories” or as the orphaned “specters” of a traumatic childhood.  When psychotherapy begins, these wounded, ghost-like remnants of our childhood selves re-emerge—seeking acceptance and healing—but only against powerful resistances thrown up by the defensive system. 


The battle that thus emerges in trauma therapy between life- and anti-life forces as they find their way into the analytic partnership, is one that Jung seldom described, and is much stormier than the benign “unfolding” of human potential he called “individuation.”   To understand the human and archetypal children in the psyche, we must also understand the human and archetypal oppressors of these “children.” This will require a re-visioning of Analytical Psychology in light of contemporary findings about aggression as well as libido in the developing personality.  Join Jungian analyst and trauma specialist Donald Kalsched for this groundbreaking exploration of how defensive, dismembering forces as well as healing integrative ones—find their way into the analytic dialogue.

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