The Forgotten Child: An Interview with Juliet Rohde-Brown, PH.D.

Juliet Rohde-Brown, Ph.D., is the Chair for the Depth Psychology: Integrative Therapy and Healing Practices doctoral specialization program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and a mentor to many. She will be teaching the Pacifica Extension course, “Shadow and Society: The Forgotten Child in Collective Contexts,” on April 3, 10, 17, and 24, 2024. The class will be offered live on Zoom and is titled after a journal article Dr. Rohde-Brown wrote for the Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies (2023) with the same title. Enrollment for the course is here. I’m delighted to be speaking with her about this intriguing new offering.

Angela Borda: Your upcoming course, “Shadow and Society: The Forgotten Child in Collective Contexts, April 3, 10, 17, 24, 2024, offered live on Zoom” focuses on the child image and the way it can be “an archetypal presence that invites deep listening to inner voices and embodied engagement.” I’ve heard it often given as wisdom that one can have a dialog with one’s “inner child.” Is this a similar idea? And what inspired you to focus on the child image as the center of your course?

Juliet Rohde-Brown: It is a similar idea. Concerning the archetypal child, the phenomenological and transpersonal basis of Jungian-oriented psychology indicates that something resides deeper in the psyche than the experience of and inner representations of the family-of-origin child—something of a spiritual nature calling for the animation of authenticity, meaning, and awe. In working therapeutically, it is important to recognize the interaction between the family-of-origin child and divine child archetypal emergence. A place to start is certainly with some guided work or active imagination and dialogue with the common understanding of the inner child (family-of-origin child). Often, people speak of this relationship within oneself as a re-parenting of the child within. In essence, though, to borrow from James Hillman’s conceptualizations, when the archetypal child emerges in dreams, for instance, we are then speaking more about a re-patterning within. As an individual’s initial encounter with the inner child develops and deepens, they may then begin to experience the essence of the child beyond its personal woundedness or confinements and discover the qualities of wholeness, divinity, and primordial universality. That beckons the question, then, of what it is that, with the aid of therapy, moves integration along and facilitates the unraveling of the grasping nature of complexes, allowing the child within, with full and authentic feeling, to be freed and integrated as opposed to feeding the defended and false self? In Jungian terms, the transcendent function is conceptualized as the force that moves the integration of the personality toward wholeness.

Angela: Can you share a little bit about how you got into this kind of work and what impact it has had on your personally?

JRB: I started facilitating inner child work back in the early 1990’s, when I was working as a hypnotherapist and also training in interactive guided imagery. Back then, I was focusing more on a sort of re-parenting of the child and would encourage dialogue with the inner child. I found that kind of “inner child” work to be quite moving and profound in and of itself. As I later became more and more immersed in transpersonal and Jungian reading, training, and application in the years leading up to and including my becoming a licensed psychologist, and in my own personal therapy, my appreciation of the liminal spaces between the personal, collective, and cosmological grew even more. They are not separate, nor parts of a whole, but one and the same, both/and. The subtlety and surprising presence of the divine child that emerged in dreams deepened my own understanding of myself and others and I felt inspired to attempt to share this. More and more, I find myself contemplating where we are collectively and exploring examples of ways that depth psychological frameworks can have an impact not only in individual therapeutic contexts, but in community-based contexts as well. I am certainly not an expert in community-based venues, but I am passionate about the inquiry and have a certain skill in sometimes instigating things and putting people together with shared visions and practices. Much remains to be seen. I have respect for people like Nuria Ciofalo and Mary Watkins, among others in the Pacifica community, who have made it their life’s work to create programs and research in community. It is one of the goals of Pacifica to move into community contexts as well.

Angela: “C.G. Jung explored that the way the child archetype emerges within society often serves a compensatory function and has a determining impact on the fate of actual children.” What would be an example of this, and can we draw conclusions in reverse about our psyches based on the way our society treats children?

 JRB: Jung said, “If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves.” Therapists must cultivate awareness of and respect for the cultural and societal contexts of their clients, as we must all do for ourselves. One of our core faculty members, Dr. Fanny Brewster, is a force in the Jungian community for this kind of inclusion of cultural and sociopolitical considerations and, among others, speaks of cultural complexes and intergenerational subtle and tangible chains of trauma. Power and privilege perpetuate trauma. Both the oppressors and the oppressed are kept in a trauma chain. We can see many examples of the child gone awry in polarized factions on so many levels in society and groups and in the preponderance of narcissism in current times. And as the late Marion Woodman said, our culture has mostly been about “power and judgment,” so we must “redeem the feminine personally and culturally” and this is done through the holding of the range of emotions, most notably shame. She said that as we “hold that cherishing space” this “also opens the door for an adorable child, who is probably as fierce as he is adorable.”

Another teacher that many in the Pacifica community refer to is the late James Hillman, who also spoke about the child gone awry as the “monster child” in certain societal contexts. He referred to the “revolution of the child” in our world today as the emergence of that which has been “repressed,” neglected, pushed away. So, rather than reinforcing an egoic stance of attempting to parent the child within, it is more helpful to invite the child’s “subjective misery” to be present and witnessed, as it is important to allow feelings of helplessness and “to bring the child back to abandonment” and grieve it before moving forward. Then, we may instill a kind of remembrance and embodiment of the liveliness of the child through authentic feeling and “imaginative power.” This is a never-ending process, not resulting in getting to some other place.

In terms of the compensatory function of the child, the child archetype follows us through time. Jung and others attribute this constancy largely to it being, to quote from Jung “a system functioning in the present whose purpose is to compensate or correct, in a meaningful manner, the inevitable one-sidedness and extravagance of the conscious mind.” There are psychological approaches that are focused on the rationality of thought, behavioral goals, and quantifiable behavioral outcomes rather than integrating into the mosaic present moment, phenomenological, relational, feeling-toned, and somatic experience. Although day-to-day, pragmatic functioning is obviously important, it is incomplete in and of itself. Jungian and post-Jungian-oriented therapies often inquire into the client’s own, unique relationship to the archetypal child within, in all its paradoxical nature, holding that the rational and irrational are meant to be in relationship with each other rather than in battle with each other, as are the personal and collective.

Angela: The course description says, “The divine inner child can be considered an ontological reality within the mosaic of subtle lived experience. Its intelligence defies reductive definitions and materialist validation yet continually calls us to authenticity.” How is the divine inner child different from the unconscious?

JRB: Yes, one could say that the divine inner child is also the collective unconscious. Another way of speaking about it is by looking at parallels suggested by the Buddhist term “indivisible,” Hillman’s idea of the “perennial child,” Jung’s notion of the child archetype as “primordial” and quantum physics concept of no-thing.

Jung said that the child is “nature itself,” and if we consider that there is consciousness in all life and that the collective unconscious is wider than human perception alone, then in terms of exploring the inner child, while historical, family-of-origin, and multiple voices of internal selves (including the personal child self) are important, what Jungian and post-Jungian theory and therapy offers is an expansion into acknowledging the child within as a divine seedling in the field of emergent, nonlinear, and nonlocal systems and potentiality. There is a tension between the child of form and memory of the past and the feeling in our biological bodies of that which is subtle, enlivening, and indefinable, such as that which presents itself as the divine child in dreams—often in non-human and/or orphaned form when we are going through challenging times or experiencing a shift in developmental complexity. The archetype of the divine child is a beckoning to that which may be possible in the fractal/natural order of things, that which may serve a life rather than hinder it.

 Angela: What are you most looking forward to in teaching the course?

JRB: While I recognize that my answers to your questions have weighed heavily on the heady side, I am mostly looking forward to the interactive aspect of the course, some dialogue and exploration among myself and the participants in everyday language and the sharing of lived experience, and having the feeling that what I am inviting resonates with others and percolates something that will touch them such that they feel inspired to deepen relationships with themselves and others.

Angela: Who can take the class and what kind of experience or learning do you hope they will encounter?

JRB: The course can be taken by both clinicians and non-clinicians. I think each one of us can benefit from engaging with these concepts and reflections and exploring ways to apply them in self-care and the care of others in creative endeavors and individual, community, and collective contexts.

Angela: Thank you so much for your thoughtful replies, and I look forward to the class!

There is still time to enroll for “Shadow and Society: The Forgotten Child in Collective Contexts,” which will be taught on April 3, 10, 17, and 24, 2024. The class will be offered live on Zoom. Enrollment for the course is here.

Juliet Rohde-Brown, Ph.D. is the Chair for the Depth Psychology: Integrative Therapy and Healing Practices doctoral specialization program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has been teaching psychology in higher education venues for over 20 years. Her clinical doctoral internship was completed at the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles and she has worked clinically in private practice and hospital settings. Before becoming a licensed clinical psychologist, she did integrative work as a hypnotherapist and trained in neuropsychological assessment and in-patient settings, among others. She is a board member with the nonprofit organizations, Tierra Sagrada and Restorative Justice Resources and serves as a mentor with the Spiritual Paths Foundation. She has presented on psychological and interspiritual topics internationally, led and co-led retreats and workshops, and her book is entitled Imagine Forgiveness. Her peer reviewed journal articles have been featured in such publications as the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, Sutra – The Thread: Journal for Research on Education, Psychology, Traditional Sciences and Systems, Health and Consciousness and Psychological Perspectives, and she has contributed book chapters to Probing the Boundaries Series: Vol. 172- Forgiveness: An interdisciplinary dialogue (Interdisciplinary Press), Humanistic Psychology and Diversity (Routledge), and “Like A Child Would Do”: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Childlikeness in Past and Current Societies (Universitas Press).


Angela Borda is a writer for Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as the editor of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Her work has been published in Food & Home, Peregrine, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, Delirium Corridor, Still Arts Quarterly, Danse Macabre, and is forthcoming in The Tertiary Lodger and Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Vol. 5.