It is our obsession with the self that ironically precludes beauty. We are touched by the experience of beauty yet it plays no role in theories of psychology or in therapeutic practice. How come? The field of psychotherapy is characterised by an intense subjectivity of self-reflection. The mirror has become a favourite metaphor as we focus, almost as an obsession, on one’s identity. Narcissism has become the epidemic of our time. No surprise there.
The mythic story of Echo and Narcissus provides us with a meditation on the experience of beauty. These two anima/dream figures are an archetypal force in our lives. They offer the potential for greater aliveness in all that we do. My intention is to link the experience of beauty with the experience of soul and thus with the experience of depression. My working hypothesis is that depression is soul telling the person that it is in need of attention. Not just any sort of attention. Rather, the need is for a very particular manner of attending. And as such it has the potential to express a particular energy. James Hillman puts it this way:
“It is only when [one] breaks down, when depression comes in, and you can’t get up and do it. When impotence happens and you can’t get on with it. When you feel beaten, oppressed, knocked back … then something moves and you begin to feel yourself as a soul. You don’t feel yourself as a soul when you’re making it and doing it.” (Hillman, in Inter Views with Laura Pozzo, 1983. P. 11)
While I reference psychotherapy, this talk is equally appropriate for the general thinking community.