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Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche [Paperback]

Bill Plotkin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 May 2013
Depth psychologist Bill Plotkin describes himself as a psychologist gone wild . As a thinker, author, and wilderness guide, he has been literally breaking new paths for decades. Plotkin s revisioning of human psychology is eco-centric, rather than ego-centric. His vision of what it is to be fully human at every stage of life demands profound relationship with the whole of the world of which we are a part. Here, Plotkin uses the four directions north, south, east, west to describe facets of the self. Each of these facets is vulnerable to wounding which produces damaging sub-personalities. For example, north represents the nurturing adult but a wound here can result in a rescuer or inner critic. Rather than focusing on solving such a problem, Plotkin holistically shows readers how to incorporate the missing and soothe wounds. The resulting wholeness joyfully connects public and private, personal and cultural, the human and the more-than-human.

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Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche + Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche + Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness in a Fragmented World
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608681785
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608681785
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars review 8 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While I loved Soulcraft by the same author, I found Wild Mind rather too involved. The classification of Types was rather boring and has, I feel, been done better by other authors.I would also have liked more examples of the Wild.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A down to "Earth" guidance for brave hearts ready to meet and allow healing into their wild minds and wounded psyches.
Plotkin compassionately embraces human limitations and shows a way up to improve its capacity, not only in the service of self but all of life....
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charting Uncharted Territory in Living a Whole Life 13 April 2013
By Tony Putman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Modern psychology is a disconcerting array of unconnected models and theories. Few are broad in scope; fewer still are deep; none are both. And, certainly, none offers substantial support in living into the wholeness of your life.

Wild Mind does.

Bill Plotkin has spent decades as a "psychologist gone wild", pursuing deep understanding and connection with the "suprahuman world" which forms the original context for the human psyche. His prior books (Soulcraft; Nature and the Human Soul) focus on the crucial need for "soul encounter", largely lacking in today's Westernized culture to the great detriment of individuals and the culture itself. In Wild Mind he expands his insights to encompass the whole of the human psyche, from start to finish, top to bottom and in literally all directions. He makes a fresh start in helping us see who and what we are, and can become.

Plotkin arranges his "Nature-Based Map of the Human Psyche" within the four-directions "compass" found in virtually every culture: North, South, East and West, to which he adds the third dimension of up, down and center. This turns out to be an extraordinarily rich framework for articulating the challenges and resources inherent in living a life in wholeness, which Wild Mind explores specifically and in depth. Briefly:

NORTH is the Nurturing, Generative Adult which is kept safe (and small) by the Loyal Soldier;
SOUTH is the Wild, Indigenous One, containing the Wounded Child;
EAST is the Innocent Sage, along with Addicts and Escapists;
WEST is the Muse-Beloved, with the Shadow and Shadow Selves.

These play out in the context of Spirit (Up) and Soul (Down) -- soul is Plotkin's main and enduring professional interest -- all integrated and enacted through the Ego (Center.) One of Wild Mind's significant contributions is its concept of the healthy ego, which is neither the power-driven dominance of Western culture not the Eastern "better off without it" notion.

Finally, so what? If this were just another eco-centric model, it would be interesting (Plotkin is a skilled writer) but not much more. But it is, in fact, much more; Wild Mind is a starting place, and a trustworthy guide, to living into the wholeness of your own life - right now, where you actually are. It promises a remarkable journey for those willing to undertake it.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mapping The Psyche Between Self And Soil 12 April 2013
By Carolyn L. Baker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a former psychotherapist and as a student of eco-psychology, I was thrilled to learn of Bill Plotkin's work several years ago if for no other reason that that he describes himself as a "psychologist gone wild." Within today's dismal mental health scene dominated by the pharmaceutical industry and the not-so-hidden agenda of producing malleable consumers who blend compliantly into the milieu of empire, Plotkin's work resuscitates the mental health landscape with notions of vibrant humanity and unprecedented aliveness.

In Nature And The Human Soul, Plotkin provides an in-depth study of the developmental stages through which humans pass and teaches us how to reclaim our wholeness and vitality in each one, using every stage as a template for human maturation and mystical affiliation with the universe. But perhaps the word "study" does not even begin to approach the profundity of what Plotkin has given us in Nature And The Human Soul, for as a friend of mine once said, "When I allow my eyes to fall on any page of that book, I can end up being there for three days."

Taking that stunning 2008 book to the next level, Plotkin now gives us Wild Mind: A Field Guide To The Human Psyche where beyond traversing a series of developmental stages, we navigate a map that guides us into the vast territory of forging of our own individual wholeness and onward toward the creation of healthy cultures and families. We're being asked now to embark not simply on the individual journey of wholeness, but on a species journey toward a new quality of humanity and collective consciousness transformation.

Throughout his work Plotkin incessantly juxtaposes ego-psychology and eco-psychology, insisting that the principal task before humanity is to move from a psychology that hermetically seals itself off from the ecosystems and the sacred in order to advance the ego's agenda, into a psychology that recognizes the deeper Self within and around us. Without intimate and undomesticated connection with mountains, rivers, forests, animals, oceans, insects, and rocks, we cannot become whole beings who also become larger than their historical personal wounding.

Occasionally in spiritual circles people boast of having eliminated the ego. Neither Plotkin or I would agree that this is desirable, let alone possible. We need the ego for functioning practically in the world. The ego allows us to drive a car, balance a checkbook, and take out the garbage. Our challenge is not the ego itself but an ego disconnected from the earth community and from the sacred.

For Plotkin, the ultimate purpose of spiritual and psychological healing is not to eliminate the human ego but to create what he calls a "3-D Ego" which engages in deep communion with nature and with the deeper Self. "When anchored in our 3-D Egos, we understand ourselves as agents or handmaidens for the Soul....Soul holds the knowledge of what we individually were born to do and to be. The Ego, on the other hand, knows how to get things done, to make things happen, but it doesn't know from its own experience what to offer its life to."

While Plotkin does attend to the intricacies of personal wounding in Wild Mind, he does so in relation to the natural world and the sacred, revealing them as healing and integrating agents that supersede symptoms and restore wholeness. Much of the book's language employs concepts of traditional psychology but consistently joins them with spiritual and ecological imperatives. The baby is not thrown out with the bathwater in an attempt to reject Western psychological principles but rather wrapped in a more expansive, cosmological vision.

Early on he gives us the three core messages of the book:

The key to healing and growing whole is not to be found in suppressing symptoms but in cultivating wholeness.

Cultivating personal wholeness and building life-enhancing cultures are inextricably connected.

The three imperatives of any healthy, mature culture are: Protecting and nurturing the vitality and diversity of its environment; providing adequate numbers of true adults and elders; protecting and fostering the wholeness of the sacred in each person.

Wild Mind uses terms such as Self, Soul, and Spirit which Plotkin defines near the beginning of the book, but rather than attempting to define those in this review, I prefer to simply use "the sacred" as an inclusive term that applies to all of the other three. Plotkin offers what we rarely find in the literature of traditional psychology or on the shelves of the self-help sections of bookstores, namely, a view of our personal wounding through the lens of the sacred and the earth community, utilizing those to integrate a broken psyche with the deeper Self.

Employing the four directions of Native American and other indigenous cultures, Wild Mind maps both our intra-personal and inter-personal relationship with the Self. For example:

North: The facet of the Self is the Nurturing Generative Adult , whereas a wounded north can take the form of an inner critic, codependent, or immature pseudo-warrior.

South: The south facet is the Wild Indigenous One, the sensuous, emotive, erotic, and instinctive aspect of ourselves, while a wounded south might be a wounded child, victim, conformist, or rebel.

East: The east facet of the Self is the Innocent/Sage (or Trickster or Sacred Fool), while a wounded east can manifest as an addict or an escapist.

West: The west facet of the Self is the Muse, Inner Beloved, or Guide to Soul, whereas the wounded west takes the form of the Shadow or a variety of Shadow selves such as an addict or a counterfeit guru.

Each direction also has its sub-personalities which are the self-defeating or self-destructive patterns we adopted in childhood in order to survive and protect ourselves. As we work with each of the four directions within the psyche, we do not attempt to eliminate the sub-personalities but rather utilize them to cultivate wholeness and discover their gifts.

According to Plotkin:

We're born with the capacity to embody each of these four sets of psychological resources, but we must consciously cultivate them in order to have ready access. Mainstream Western culture ignores or suppresses all four facets because the embodied Self is incompatible with egocentric ways of life. This renders human development much more challenging in the contemporary West than it is in healthier cultures.

As with all of Plotkin's books, when picking up Wild Mind, one must be willing to embark on the elaborate excursion that his work inherently requires. This is not a book to be hurriedly completed in order to move on to the next nugget of wisdom. Rather, like Nature and The Human Soul and Soulcraft, Wild Mind provides a succulent banquet of truths that resonate with body and soul--an internal GPS that connects the deeper, sacred Self with the soil from which we evolved and instructs us throughout the journey of becoming a radically new human species.

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. is a former psychotherapist and professor of psychology. Her forthcoming book is Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times. Visit her Amazon Page at: http://www.amazon.com/Carolyn-Baker/e/B002POHCPU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1296529524&sr=1-1
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoying my own "wild mind" 23 April 2013
By OpenHeart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I received this book right after its release, and have not been able to put it down. Plotkin writes in such a captivating way; using words, phrases and metaphors that really draw in the imaginal mind - which is no small feet when writing about psychology, philosophy, and the workings of the "wild mind." Plotkin masterfully lays out a map of the human psyche in a way that is accessible and applicable to daily life. I walk away from each chapter with many tools and practices, which feel invaluable to my personal journey. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who feels inspired by beautiful writing, and is committed to a path of growth - both personally and for the world.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary Compass for the Soul 8 July 2013
By Jasmine Dialogues - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Please read this book. For you, for the world, for everything. Plotkin is a masterful visionary and leader for our collective inhabiting of a skin authentic, a world animate, alive, mysterious and reciprocal. This book helped me orient myself in the poetry unfolding around me everyday, all day. Wholeness of self, wholeness of Spirit. This book, this model will be a seminal book and guide for the Great Turning. Please dive into it, now.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild Mind 29 April 2013
By Sheri Newton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Wild Mind by Bill Plotkin is "a field guide to the human psyche" that can promote lasting change to those who read it. Plotkin makes us think harder about the real questions in life, and more importantly, gets us to really take a look at ourselves as who we really are as a human.

Wild Mind helps us to revision and reshape our lives. So much is going on in the world today, and we are living at such fast paced speeds, that it is so easy to get lost in the middle of all of it. Bill Plotkin helps us to find ourselves again, and gives us the tools to revision what it means to be human, and truly change our experience here on Earth.

Focusing on our "whole" selves, Plotkin guides us to discover that our "wounded" sides are important parts of our sub-personalities, and they can be healed to make us our best "whole" selves. These wounded parts of ourselves never fully goes away, but we can learn how to embrace them and keep them in check.

This is a very interesting and thought provoking look at the human psyche that should be explored by everyone. I really enjoyed reading it, and found it to be highly engaging. I definitely recommend this book.

* Thank you to the publisher of Wild Mind, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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