Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche – Review Part 1

What if the map to the human psyche that we each have inherited from culture, the map to what it is to be a human being, is fundamentally flawed? Might not such a fundamental error in the cartography of being human explain the dire circumstances we find ourselves in collectively?

Gregory Bateson suggests as much when he says: “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.”


Author Bill Plotkin once again, with his new book, takes on the challenges of helping us discovery a coherence between how nature works and who we see ourselves as. And in Plotkin’s new and third book, Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche, Plotkin looks to nature for inspiration and validation of his mapping of the human psyche.

He begins his mapping process with a call for a “rewilding of psychology.” The author notes the plethora of ills and crisis, personal and global, that arise out of a psychology that is historically geared toward diagnosis and illness, disease and fragmentation rather than envisioning an innate natural wholeness awaiting our discovery and development.

Indeed, without diverting from his goal of pointing us toward the resource of our own wholeness, Plotkin presents a searing critique of Western Civilization’s propensity for developing what he calls ‘immature’ or “pathoadolescent” human beings.

It is not enough to be able to ‘hold one’s own’ in the human world of our modern creation, Plotkin argues. Optimal human development, and the development of a healthy civilization, “necessitates a mature and reciprocal relationship with the more-than-human world of which we are members.”

The path forward for such development lies in what Plotkin describes as ‘wholing.’ “By wholing I mean the cultivation of the Self, including all four of its facets. Wholing… enables us to understand both the limitations and the gifts of our wounded or fragmented subpersonalities…. Deep psychological healing is the result of learning how to embrace our woundedness and fragmentedness from the cultivated perspective and consciousness of the Self. We must to some degree cultivate our wholeness before we can truly be healed. Wholing comes first and is foremost.”

This perspective is in accord with the emerging science of restoration ecology in which, to help an ecosystem heal, you help it reconnect to its wholeness in some way. i.e. It is much more effective to nurture the growth of native plants than it is to pull weeds; to support the health of pollinators like honey bees than to do the pollination yourself with a cotton swab….

This perspective leads Plotkin to focus on developing our potential for magnificence rather than excavating our pathologies, in contrast to disease oriented models of Western psychotherapy. Wild Mind presents a Nature Based Map of the Human Psyche as a tool for cultivating this innate potential. It also offers four category/sets of practices for the cultivating the four aspects or facets of the Self, each aspect being associated with archetypical figures and energies often associated in indigenous traditions with a respective direction: North, South, East, West, Up, Down, and Center.

Interestingly, in Plotkin’s map of the psyche it is the Ego that resides in the Center, not the Self as some (I for one) might presuppose. I address the map itself more specifically in the Wild Mind Book Review Part 2.

Wild Mind is now available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound,
New World Library,and your local bookstores!

Larry Glover is a transformational learning partner with individuals and organizations. He is author of the forthcoming book, Wild Resiliency: Discovering a Literacy of Deep Identity, Purpose and Meaning Through Nature.

About Larry Glover

A lover of wild nature, author, speaker, retreat facilitator & wilderness guide, revealing all the while we are more like the forest—than we are different.
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