Healing Intelligence: The Spirit in Psychotherapy – Working with Darkness and Light – Author's notes — Karnacology



The origin of this book lay in a conference, while I was doing my training, in which some notable psychotherapists were giving an overview of the principles guiding their practice. The question of what is healing in psychotherapy did not arise, so I asked how they believed healing worked. None were inclined to reply until one remarked: “That is the $64.000 question and if I had the answer to it I would retire to the hills of Hollywood.” General laughter followed. Clearly, healing was not on the agenda for serious analysts. Individuation, yes, but healing, well … not quite. This was a more “alternative” topic – image rather than substance. It was certainly mysterious. The matter, however, remained, not just as a personal struggle but increasingly, in my view, a crucial issue in psychotherapy. 

 In my early practice I was reasonably skilled at exploring the negativity and darkness in the psyche, having spent years investigating plenty of my own. However, it was much longer before I could work with the light in the psyche and to realize that darkness and light have to be worked with together to facilitate a healing outcome. Thus, I learnt to value the healing intelligence that can manifest as light in the inner world, to cherish and enjoy the light of inner awareness, to recognise the potency of healing energy, to listen, evoke, cooperate and work with it, to appreciate the higher powers of illuminative intuition and even, albeit infrequently, transcendental love. 

Very slowly I learnt to work with the light, finding it every bit as important as working with darkness, in fact experiencing them as an interconnected energy field. This increased my respect for the numinous force and power of healing intelligence. In particular, I wished to describe it more closely, to work with it more effectively, and to try to articulate this mysterious process in a language others could understand. This book attempts to describe the subtle yet powerful healing intelligence that permeates the psyche.

This concept of healing is not easy to talk about meaningfully. Many psychotherapists know it exists, have experienced it both personally and with their clients. Yet it is hard to describe. It is rarely on the syllabi of training institutes. With the expansion of psychotherapy and counselling such knowledge is becoming even rarer. Many training programmes are lighter in their requirements for personal therapy and there is greater demand for shorter, evidence based practice – hardly the conditions to explore the enigmatic concept of healing intelligence.

Certainly there is something about healing intelligence that is inherently paradoxical. On the one hand, to the awakened eye, it appears everywhere. On the other hand, there is something naturally esoteric and elusive about it. It does not matter how this concept is laid out; it cannot be appreciated except by those who have suffered and have experienced it in their own psyche. The truism that one can only promote healing in another to the extent one has healed oneself is half the story – a very important half admittedly. However, even after some degree of personal healing, its dynamics may remain mostly unconscious. I needed to work for many years as a practitioner before I could begin to express in words a little of its mystery. Even when my ideas became clearer and my work more effective, it was a great challenge to articulate it more coherently. One needs therefore not only to experience but to practice and struggle with it.

I am content therefore to address this book to a specific audience – not just those who want to know of healing but those who need to. First, I direct it to those who, regardless of profession, wish not only to know more of the dynamics of the psyche but also feel compelled to heal their wounds. It is also intended for trainees in psychotherapy and counselling who must explore their psyche more deeply. Beyond these, particular members of spiritual groups, churches, and religions, interested by the interface of psychotherapy and spirituality, will hopefully find in this book much to interest them. There are also many clients in psychotherapy and counselling deeply attracted to these questions of healing and spirituality in their personal journey. Others, working in healing disciplines, complementary or alternative to psychotherapy, may also be intensely concerned with matters of healing. Knowledge of how healing works should be an interdisciplinary affair and much can be learnt from those in other fields. But above all I address it to fellow practitioners in the field of depth psychotherapy, particularly those who are intrigued and compelled by the question of how healing intelligence works in the psyche.

The book is illustrated throughout – front and back covers and all chapter headings – with a wonderful series of images, especially done for the book by Lindsey Harris, a Jungian psychotherapist, bringing alive the chapters with mythological, archetypal  and healing images.

Alan Mulhern
Jungian Psychotherapist



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