Wise Words with Carl Greer
Carl Greer, a former businessman, has an extensive background in helping others help themselves. He holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, recognizes the interconnectedness of all creatures and feels compelled to serve others. In addition to being a clinical psychologist, Greer is a Jungian analyst, shamanic practitioner, teacher at the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago and is on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.
Greer supports a number of charities through The Greer Foundation and the Carl and Pat Greer Donor Advised Fund. He has worked with shamans in South America, Canada, Outer Mongolia, Ethiopia, Australia and the U.S. His two books, Change Your Story, Change Your Life and Change the Story of Your Health, outline shamanic and Jungian tools and techniques for healing by writing our story and connecting with our unconscious mind.
How can identifying our life story help us heal?
The more information we have about ourselves, the better equipped we are to make changes. I encourage people to take stock of their whole history and identify key factors in their relationships, eating habits, overall health, job, family, values, hobbies and anything else that makes up who they are.
Then I suggest they assign feelings, symbols and other descriptors to their story. What color is it? What kind of dance is it? What animal best reflects it? Is it the story that they want to be living? If not, this reflection is an important starting place to making changes. There might be people or events in our stories that are painful, hurtful or holding us back. Some of it may even be in our unconsciousness. This is where Jungian analytical psychology can be helpful.
What attracted you to the Jungian philosophy?
Although I’ve always been interested in the human mind, I originally went to school to get a degree in engineering. I was the president of an oil company at the age of 28 and taught at Columbia University, but in my early 40s, I realized I needed to do something more meaningful, and went back to school for a degree in psychology.
There are hundreds of psychological theories and schools of thought, but I like the Jungian focus on the unconscious. This ties in with my study and practice of shamanism, which involves reaching altered states of consciousness to interact with the spiritual world. In our consciousness, we aren’t always honest with ourselves. We need to look at the unconscious parts in order to discover the truth. Jungian and shamanic practices help you on this journey. Even if we don’t go into those scary places, they still exist. In order to heal, it’s better to face them than to ignore them.
How can we use shamanism to uncover truths about ourselves?
As a child, I was always fascinated by tales of Native Americans, medicine men and women, fables and storytelling. This led to an interest in shamanism, a practice in which the practitioner interacts with the spiritual world and channels those transcendental energies. If we relate differently to our past and find peace with it, instead of fighting or judging it, we have more control over our future and can live with more intention.
Shamanism is also deeply connected to the environment and the idea that our natural surroundings can be therapeutic. Being outside and noticing our habitat helps us feel a part of something bigger. Water, light, plants and animals can have answers for healing. Ask the earth or the ocean what messages they have for you, and then really listen. What do you need to let go of? What gains can you make? You might be surprised at what you become aware of.
What are the first steps toward sustained change?
Set an objective for your healing. Energy follows intent, so if you say that you want to spend more time outside, be more mindful or forgive more easily, you are more likely to follow through. Often, people find that small changes have ripple effects. You start eating a little healthier, so you have an increase in energy and go outside more, where you’re more aware of nature and your community. You appreciate your surroundings and gain a sense of purpose and connection. You become more relaxed, kinder and gentler towards yourself and others. Our physical health is part of our life story. There are some things we can change and others that we have no control over. We get to decide what to fight and what to accept. Then we can move on with grace and awareness.
For more information, visit CarlGreer.com.