Dissertation Title:

Psyche’s Homeplace: A Depth Psychological Exploration of Music-Making in the Irish Community Tradition


Sharon Anne Wallace

Date, Time & Place:

September 1, 2015 at 10:00 am
Room B, Ladera Lane campus


This study explores the experience of soul connection through Irish music, from the comforts of feeling at home to the other-worldliness of metaphorically magical encounters. Previous psychological studies involving music have tended to focus on the listener’s experience and clinical applications, often emphasizing classical music or song lyrics. This inquiry focuses on the musician’s experience playing informal instrumental music sessions with peers in the Irish community tradition and explores the lived experience from the musician’s perspective.

This qualitative depth psychological study applies a methodology of hermeneutic phenomenology. The work began by dwelling on the experience, engaging traditional Irish session musicians in open-ended conversational interviews about their experiences making music in community. Relevant literature on Irish traditional music and culture informed the context. The work of C. G. Jung and Jungian scholars form the primary theoretical basis for exploring common experiential themes.
The processes surrounding this tradition are grounded in the intention of positive social interaction and, when realized, enable the informal session to provide a safe container in which the musician may open up to group experience without loss of individuality or hampering of individuation. Shared practices of session playing have spiritual components in the form of meaningful ritual and deep connections with others. This practice serves ego strength through the sense of belonging and feeling at home and through the experiences of deep absorption, attunement, and communing. It involves a healthy regression of psychic energy that is also associated with the source of empathy in a form that is more than a positive alternative to the mass mind.

This work sheds light upon positive aspects of group phenomena and a thriving oral tradition that coexists with visually dominated Western culture. For the study of depth psychology, these experiences reflect the lived reality of abstract theory—the flesh and bone of the subtle body.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology, Track J, 2006
  • Chair: Dr. Jennifer Selig
  • Reader: Dr. James Hollis
  • External Reader: Dr. Carolyn Bates
  • Keywords: Hermeneutic Phenomenology, Analytical Psychology, Jung, Music, Irish, Traditional, Group, Community