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Process Worldwork

Arnold Mindell was a theoretical physicist before he became a therapist. That may help explain how he came to envision Jung's collective unconscious as a ubiquitous psycho-cultural field shaping our thoughts and feelings the way a magnetic field shapes the orientation of iron filings. He called the archetypal voices and energies that inhabit that field "timespirits," after Hegel's word Zeitgeist, literally "spirit of the times."

Mindell's purpose in his "process worldwork" workshops is not primarily therapy for individuals. He's trying to "work the field," to call forth the unconscious, collective, polarized patterns -- the archetypal collective voices of racism, terrorism, war, or revenge -- out into the open where they can evolve through dialogue. He has a faith -- and some glimmerings of evidence -- that this work has an impact on the larger community beyond the walls of the workshop. He is less concerned with conflict resolution, though, than with increasing people's understanding of the dynamics -- and human experience -- of abuse, power and history. Out of such understanding agreements often emerge, but without such understanding a cessation of conflict only sustains the oppressive status quo. The lack of such understanding, says Mindell, is what escalates the violence associated with oppression -- from the contained violence of more prisons to the explosive violence of more riots.

He calls his work worldwork because it deals with these psychosocial fields that reach beyond the boundaries of class, race and nation to permeate all people. He calls it process work because at each moment he's not trying to get somewhere, but rather to help things evolve to whatever their next phase is. And he calls it deep democracy because all voices get heard -- the ones inside us and the ones around us. We find that they are the same voices.

For the story of a worldwork workshop on racism that I attended in Oakland, CA, in 1993 click here.


For more information on worldwork, see



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