Wild Mind  by Bill Plotkin (2013, New World Library)

I am savoring the reading of Bill Plotkin’s latest book, Wild Mind – A Field Guide to the Human Psyche.   His “nature-based map of the human psyche” is very psychosynthetic, in my view, although it may depart in some details from standard psychosynthesis theory (if there is such a thing!).  He describes four “facets of our innate human potential—the four sets of resources that make up our…psychological wholeness.”  He sees these four facets as constituting what he calls the Self.

The idea that Self would have “facets” seems contrary to psychosynthesis, because we generally think of Self as without qualities. Perhaps we psychosynthesists would prefer to call them facets of the superconscious. I find myself wanting to set this apparent difference aside, however, because I find so much insight and guidance in his exploration.  The precise terminology seems less important to me.

Plotkin places the four facets in the four cardinal directions.  The North holds the Nurturing Generative Adult;  the South holds the Wild, Indigenous One;  East represents the Innocent/Sage; and the West, the Muse-Beloved.  Plotkin devotes a full chapter to each of these facets, so that the reader can find hints, traces or qualities of each in herself.  I have been especially happy to read about the Wild, Indigenous One, who has long begged for a larger role in my life.

While North and South represent how we relate to the world around us, East and West are the transpersonal facets of the Self, in Plotkin’s understanding. East aspires upwards to Spirit, West reaches downwards to Soul.

Together, Spirit and Soul (the upperworld and the underworld…) represent the two complementary halves of our human spirituality.  Either alone is incomplete.  Without Spirit, Soul becomes too heavy and self-centered.  Without Soul, Spirit becomes ungrounded and too otherworldly.[1]

I personally appreciate Plotkin’s description of Spirit and Soul, which addresses the concern many of us in the psychosynthesis community have with the tendency to only go “up” and not “down” for spiritual connection.   In psychosynthesis, we understand Self as being both universal and individual; Plotkin distinguishes these two facets as Spirit and Soul.  (In the quotation above, I don’t think Plotkin means we can ever really have Spirit without Soul, or vice versa.  I think he refers to how we direct our attention towards one or the other in our spiritual life.)

Plotkin devotes the second part of the book to the subpersonalities associated with each direction.  As in most psychosynthesis theory, Plotkin sees subpersonalities as the more wounded or fragmented aspects of our psyche that develop when family and social dynamics do not allow the facets of Self into full expression.  He reminds us that subpersonalities are doing their best to help us and need our loving attention, respect, and care.

Plotkin identifies four categories of common subpersonalities associated with each cardinal direction and its corresponding facet of Self.  In the North are our Loyal Soldiers; in the South, our Wounded Children; in the East, our Escapists and Addicts; and in the West, the Shadow and Shadow Selves.  In the chapter devoted to each category, Plotkin addresses the many versions of each, and recommends paths to healing and reintegrating each type.   What a valuable tool for anyone working with subpersonalities, whether their own or with clients!

It’s not surprising that Bill Plotkin uses terminology like Self, subpersonality, and Loyal Soldier.  I first met Bill in the 1980’s when he studied psychosynthesis with Walter Polt, Morgan Farley, and me through Intermountain Associates for Psychosynthesis in New Mexico.  I deeply admire the way Bill has taken psychosynthesis principles to heart, and applied and adapted them first to his work as a psychotherapist, and then to his work as a wilderness and vision quest guide through the years.  He has synthesized psychosynthesis concepts with his deep experience of wild nature and the key role it plays in human health and wholeness.  For that I am very grateful.

Molly Brown, August 2013

[1] Plotkin, p. 109.