The New Army of Depth Healers

Why we need the equivalent of a public works program for depth psychology.

Posted Nov 09, 2017

The prizing of awe [humility and wonder] on a par with technology also means that we have an urgent need for specialists in depth facilitation. It means that in every major sector there is urgency for experts in enriched living. This “army” of depth healers is as important (hopefully more important) than the conventional army now enshrined and it must engage in a new war; the war for humanity’s dignity. After all, if we’re going to have a moral equivalent of war, then a “war” indeed is what we will need to wage.

What will the army look like? Perhaps like a public works program for depth facilitation and we can start with a deliberative governmental setting as the first priority. In tandem with the experiential democracy idea proposed earlier, we will need infusions of depth facilitators to work with adversarial legislators, rivaling or even warring diplomats, heads of state, and community leaders. Again, these facilitators will not determine policy but they will help to deepen and supplement policy. They will bring an attunement that few, if any, other forms of institutional dialogue currently offer.

The depth army is also needed to bolster the education of teachers. The aim of this supplementation would be to help teachers become more adept at depth exploration—not exploration in the clinical sense but in the sense of an attunement to students’ fuller capacities to mediate conflicts, to engage in sensitive dialogues and to enrich experiential learning. The focus on cultivating presence, on handling blockages to presence, and on managing the degrees of intensity of presence, should all be helpful in the acquisition of a variety of student skills. These skills would range from athletics to scientific experimentation to philosophical inquiry.

Such an army would be invaluable for the public mental health system. Right now, this system is glutted with short-term, symptom-focused treatments. While these treatments tend to pacify, they often do not substantively address the desolation of struggling individuals. To be sure, it’s not that a good many professionals in this system fail to perceive its shortcomings. Actually, a notable number do. But without a sea-change in policy, a reprioritization of government and corporate funding, it is exceedingly difficult to buck the quick fix orientation. Yet, this state of affairs is untenable and it will likely grow worse. As long as tax loopholes for the rich and bloated military spending are prized over in depth, publicly accessible relationships, the costs of skyrocketing depression, burgeoning violence and rampant substance abuse are only likely to grow.

An army of depth healers is also needed for the depth dialogues discussed previously in religious and spiritual settings. To the extent that depth facilitators are enabled to enter such settings, they will support religious clergy to foster the intimate, awe-based dialogues previously described. This support is critical in my view because aside from a few courses in pastoral counseling, conventional clergy does not seem adequately trained in depth facilitation of individual and group processes.

A corps of depth facilitators is also badly needed at the worksite, where thousands and perhaps millions are increasingly alienated by their mechanical, routine jobs. Such a corps could work with employers and employees to develop “reflection” periods, for instance, once a month, to deeply discuss the meaning and implications of their given jobs in the overall context of the business or company. These periods could be nurtured by concerted person-to-person dialogues, seminars on holistic health and creativity, reflections on the communities workers serve, and considerations of the meanings of particular tasks to the society at large.

Finally, an army of depth facilitators is needed at the level of local governments and even neighborhoods to help resolve disputes, address multicultural tensions, and support community activities. Again, these facilitators will not be like ideological “minders” such as those we have seen in authoritarian cultures, but open-minded consultants schooled in emotionally attuned, interpersonal mediation.

Where will the funding for this “army” come from? Given that the proposed objective to build our emotional infrastructure is as important as the objective to build roads, bridges, and hospitals, I propose a new public works administration on a par with that created in the wake of the Great Depression.

This “Public Works Program for Depth Psychology” could be funded by an array of incentives and penalties, from giving tax breaks to those who invest in the program to closing tax loopholes for income earners in the upper one percent, to taxing stock transactions, to taxing companies for hiring overseas. The money could also be diverted from the investment in defunct or wasteful defense contracts. If even a fraction of these monies were available, the Public Works Program for Depth Psychology could begin seeding depth facilitation training tomorrow.

This is an excerpt from The Spirituality of Awe: Challenges to the Robotic Revolution (2017, Waterfront Press)