Plotkin MMG

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Plotkin MMG

Post by OutOfTheBlue »

Creating a separate thread (from the dedicated Bill Plotkin - Discussion thread) as a place for exchange and for sharing with the public ERE forum what is happening (things we discuss, discover or do) in the new "Plotkin MMG" group.

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Re: Plotkin MMG

Post by avalok »

Thanks OutOfTheBlue for setting this up. I have listened to some of Wild Mind this weekend and found it far, far more relatable than Soulcraft. If there is still time/room I'd like to be part of the MMG.

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Re: Plotkin MMG

Post by OutOfTheBlue »

avalok wrote:
Mon May 01, 2023 2:39 pm
Thanks OutOfTheBlue for setting this up. I have listened to some of Wild Mind this weekend and found it far, far more relatable than Soulcraft. If there is still time/room I'd like to be part of the MMG.
Great to hear it, and glad to have you onboard, avalok. Invite sent!


So here's our members list: OutOfTheBlue, AnalyticalEngine, mountainFrugal, dustBowl, Bicycle7, RoamingFrancis, berrytwo and avalok.

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Re: Plotkin MMG

Post by dustBowl »

We had our first meeting last week and I took notes. After condensing and getting feedback from other MMG members, they're as follows:

Since this was the first time the group convened, we started with introductions. We went around and each gave a little background about ourselves, focusing on our existing relationship (or lack thereof) to Plotkin's work. We seem to have a mix of members who are more or less totally new to Plotkin and members who have already spent some time working with his practices.

From there, we moved into the core of the meeting, which consisted of a presentation from @OutOfTheBlue. The two main topics of the presentation were 1) A review of Wild Mind's intro + first chapter (which we all read prior to the meeting) and 2) a comparison of how Plotkin defines the self / Self / psyche compared to other historically influential thinkers.

Key points from the presentation:

Eco-depth psychology
  • After introducing his Soulcentric wheel of human development in Nature and the Human Soul, in Wild Mind, Plotkin further fleshes out his eco-depth psychology and offers a nature-based map of the human psyche
  • His work combines the fields of eco-psychology and (Jungian) depth psychology

  • We started out by reviewing of Freud's conception of the self - id, ego, and superego
  • Freud's idea of the id maps somewhat onto Plotkin's conception of the south facet of the Self and the south subpersonalities, as well as potentially west subs, since the west subs can contain repressed elements from any of the other facets of the Self (here, repressed South)
  • The superego would correspond to what Plotkin calls the inner critic (one of the north subs) along with some healthy north elements
  • The ego would correspond to what Plotkin calls the immature ego, e.g. the ego that hasn't developed a relationship to the soul / spirit / facets of the self

  • Jung built on Freud's work on the personal unconscious by adding the idea of the collective unconscious as embodied by various archetypes
  • Jung defines the shadow as the unconscious mirror of the ego that the conscious mind can't see.In Wild Mind, shadow selves are mapped to west subpersonalities

Complexes vs Subpersonalities
  • Complexes (a term from Jung) are somewhat analogous to subpersonalities in Plotkin terminology. Per Plotkin, subpersonalities serve an important purpose and are formed in childhood to protect us from harm

Jung’s map of the psyche
  • We looked at various diagrams that illustrate Jung's mapping of the psyche, including elements such as the Persona (social face or mask the individual presents to the world) and the Animus/Anima (whose positive aspect Plotkin includes in the West facet of the Self)

  • For Jung, “The self is not only the center but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the center of this totality, just as the ego is the center of consciousness”. If the ego is the center of consciousness, the self is the center of the total personality, which includes consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego. That would include what Plotkin calls Soul, Spirit, Self and subs, as well as the Ego
  • Plotkin defines Self as 'an integral whole, a bundle of innate resources every human has in common, a totality that holds all the original capacities of our core humanness.' Note that this definition of Self does not encompass the Spirit and Soul in Plotkin terminology. Additionally, Plotkin differentiates the Self by specifically describing its four facets

  • Jung had a concept of individuation, but Plotkin redefines individuation based on his new definition of the Self.
  • Jung defines individuation as a two-step process that involves first building an ego out of the unconscious and then rediscovering the self and consciously integrating elements of the unconscious into it
  • For Plotkin, the goal of individuation is to cultivate the ability to inhabit and integrate the four facets of the Self, embrace our subpersonalities from that perspective, and develop a relationship with both the Spirit (universal) and the Soul (individual)

The Four Shields
  • We looked at a diagram called the Four Shields, which like Plotkin’s map uses the four cardinal directions + the four seasons
  • The Four Shields is a mapping from Steven Foster and Merredith Little who re-introduced a version of the vision quest / wilderness rites of passage
  • We see lots of similarities between the four shields and Plotkin’s constructs. Beyond the fact that it uses the cardinal directions and the seasons, it also includes wounded / immature versions of each
  • Plotkin has trained with Foster and Little as a vision quest guide and cites the four shields as one of his core influences
  • The Four Shields are also based on indigenous medicine wheels

Facets of the Self
  • Think of the facets of the Self as lenses that the Ego can use to look at the world or as narratives that the Ego uses to talk about itself
  • "What we are conscious of depends largely on who we are conscious as, and this changes routinely and dramatically" in everyday life
  • Maybe we can change by changing the version of the person who shows up. Or to use the terminology more precisely, the lens that a person is using to look at the world
  • Related to Kegan's insight that our definition of 'self' always exists in context and that there's no true self independent of context

  • Key idea for both Jung and Plotkin: instead of suppressing psychological symptoms, strive to cultivate wholeness. Plotkin uses the term "Wholing" to indicate the cultivation of the Self, including all four of its facets. Some degree of personal wholing must precede any deep healing, not the other way around

  • The process of healing our psychological woundedness by embracing our subpersonalities from the compassionate perspective of the Self

To wrap up, we agreed that for our next meeting we'll read chapter 2 of Wild Mind, which focuses on the north facet of the self. We'll also experiment with the practices outlined in that chapter at our individual discretion

As an addendum, there are a few more resources that we might look at in conjunction with reading the next Wild Mind chapter. Those resources are 1) Rilke's Book of Hours 2) Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication and 3) Animals of the Four Windows: Integrating Thinking, Sensing, Feeling and Imagination

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Re: Plotkin MMG

Post by dustBowl »

My notes from our recent meeting, covering the Wild Mind chapter on the North facet of the self:
  • We started with one group member talking about his experiences traveling to work on a greenway near a canal, and how he would practice being in that space with his north facet in mind. He shared how he was interacting with the herons that sometimes cross the path he takes - initially, he would scare them off then he came across them, but later would try to approach them with a different kind of intention. Also talked a little bit about how he feels fairly disconnected from this facet.
  • Another group member talked about his practice of taking north walks. He shared that he stumbled on a habit of visualizing an externalized / idealized NGA (nurturing generative adult) and he would envision how that figure would interact with people / animals / environment + compare that to how he was actually interacting.
  • The next person shared that she works as a teacher and so regularly inhabits her north facet as part of that work. We talked a little about how working with kids of different ages requires different flavors of the north facet.
  • Our next member talked about integrating dream work with his investigations of the north facet. Specifically, about having a dream with a teacher / mentor figure who (at least somewhat) embodied his north facet. Attempts to interact more consciously with the dream weren't yet successful. In the process of doing dreamwork he can now remember his dreams more regularly.
  • The same person also talked about ending his relationship with his partner of two years, some of the communication and reflection practices he employed as part of that process, and his intent to fully commit his energy to his Plotkin (and related) work
  • Following group member talked about how his partner and other members of their community employed NVC (non-violent communication) techniques to analyze a conflict that she had
  • We talked a little bit about how the north is the 'thinking' facet, specifically heart-centered systems thinking. In that vein, one member talked about both systems thinking and NVC in the context of his job as the architecture lead on a software project. We discussed the complications that come with trying to coordinate multiple teams of people vs just writing a program to do something.
  • One member talked a little bit about the four Jungian cognitive functions (thinking / sensing / feeling / imagining) can be embodied in different parts of NVC
  • Finally, one member talked about a ceremony he self-designed recently before a solo backpacking trip. He discussed a little bit about how it facilitated his goal of leaving certain things behind on the trip as well as hopefully getting certain things out of it
  • We talked about eco-awakening, its role in allowing us to move past the Plotkin-defined adolescent phase, and agreed to work on some eco-awakening practices in addition to starting our investigations of the south facet of the self.

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Re: Plotkin MMG

Post by OutOfTheBlue »


This is an experimental "newsletter" to further connect with the forum. Produced individually, it may bear a more personal (as opposed to collective) flavor and follow a different content structure each time.


The North

This month, as we dig into Bill Plotkin's book, Wild Mind, we've been exploring one of the four facets of our horizontal wholeness (the Self): the North aka the Nurturing Generative Adult.

This facet is empathic, compassionate, courageous, competent, knowledgeable, productive, and able to provide genuine loving care and service to others and ourselves. With the resources of our North facet, we contribute our best and most creative parenting, collaborative leading, teaching, directing, producing, and healing. The Nurturing Generative Adult is a version of and draws from universal archetypes such as the Leader, the benevolent King or Queen, the spiritual or peaceful Warrior, and the mature and caring Mother and Father.

But what is the Self? Here's a map for you, illustrating Plotkin's nature-based map of the human psyche:


In short, the Self (similar to but different to Jung's concept by the same name) is a bundle of innate resources all humans have in common, a single, integral whole that holds all the original capacities of our core humanness and encompasses both conscious and unconscious elements. The Self incorporates the four facets of our “horizontal” wholeness (mapped to the four cardinal directions), which exist at birth but only as possibilities that we may or may not learn to access, actualize, and embody.

The Self is not to be confused with the Ego, which is the conscious self, the center of conscious self-awareness within the human psyche.
And if an immature Ego is often hijacked by/stuck in a fragmented/wounded perspective (our subpersonalities or constellations of feelings, images, and behaviors that operate more or less independently from one another and often independently of our conscious selves, our Egos), a mature Ego or "3-D Ego" would be one blessed with some degree of conscious communion and integration with Self, Soul, and Spirit.

Hence the goal of cultivating our facets of wholeness (a process called Wholing), which also helps further tackle Self-Healing, embracing our fragmentedness from an Ego rooted in the Self.


In Wild Mind's chapter on the North facet of the Self, Plotkin mentions that:
Of the four windows of knowing [thinking, feeling, sensing and imagining], it is thinking that’s most closely partnered with the North facet of the Self, because the Nurturing Generative Adult depends on keen insight and clear planning in order to provide effective care and leadership. However, the specific mode of thinking that characterizes the North facet of the Self is heart-centered thinking, not the merely logical, analytical, deductive mode of thinking more common in the contemporary Western world. Heart-centered thinking is independent, creative, moral, and compassionate. It is “critical” in the sense that it reflectively questions assumptions, discerns hidden values, and considers the larger social and ecological context. Entirely distinct from the rote memorization commonly stressed in mainstream Western schools, heart-centered thinking is distinguished by an animated curiosity that leads to a constantly adjusting, in-depth knowledge of the environment, the human culture, and its individual members. The Nurturing Generative Adult is a compassionate systems thinker, understanding the patterns and dynamics that connect the interdependent members of the more-than-human community. The Self, by way of its North facet, possesses an avant-garde insight into how our current actions ripple across space and time to other places and future generations.
A comment made during our meeting was that, as ERE players, we're probably more accustomed than the average to adopting a systems theory/wholistic view in our thinking. Seeing problems/situations in their complexity, acknowledging ecological inter-relatedness and taking into account group/communication dynamics.

And while some North qualities may be a bit dormant, and the kind of thinking Plotkin speaks of adds an extra layer to the one most common in contemporary society, it is not necessarily the most foreign/uncultivated facet out there!


Sharing a poem that resonated with me from Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours, one of the suggested readings for a practice toward cultivating the North facet of the Self ("Love letters to the Mystery").

You, darkness, of whom I am born —

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the darkness embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations — just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.

(Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows)


Ana Verzone dedicates four episodes of her podcast, Rebel Buddhist, for presenting Bill Plotkin's Wild Mind in her own extraverted way. I like how she bundles and discusses each of the four facets of wholeness (the Self) with their wounded parts/subpersonalities.
A good intro to Wild Mind, worth the listen if you're into podcasts and her style appeals to you.
Each episode is between 40 and 55 minutes long. Enjoy!

1. Your Wild Mind – The North + Protectors
2. Your Wild Mind – The South + Wounded Children
3. Your Wild Mind – The East and Our Need to Escape
4. Your Wild Mind – The West and Our Shadows

THE ESSAY: Who’s Up for Building a Cathedral?

Plotkin's recent essay "Who’s Up for Building a Cathedral? Ecocentric Human Development, the Hero’s Journey, and Cultural Regeneration" would make a great read in the context of an Emergent Renaissance Ecology perspective.

Shared for discussion with an addendum here:


In the thread Project "Eco-Awakening": An Invitation", I've posted an invitation to participate, along with some of us, *in your own time*, to evoking Eco-awakening/cultivating our sense of ecological belonging, as a much relevant shift in consciousness and relatedness (from egocentricity to ecocentricity).

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Re: Plotkin MMG

Post by Bicycle7 »

On Sunday, we had our last MMG meeting for the Plotkin book Wild Mind.

The thread of interest in Plotkin for me is still there. I have also read lately, Lectures on Jung's Typology and Man and His Symbols. It helps me realize how much Plotkin has incorporated from Jungian depth psychology, with adding plenty of other dimensions (ecology for one) all in an appealing language for 21st century readers.

Jung writes much of archetypes and dreams as manifestations of the (collective societal) unconscious.

Jung said that the only assumption he made in respect to dream analysis was that dreams are useful.

These readings have inspired me to take up the daily practice of journaling my dreams when I wake up in the morning. I find my memory of dreams increase dramatically in just a few days from this practice. It has also given me plenty to reflect on as I go through my day.

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