December 03, 2019
What is Jungian Psychotherapy?
People ask me: What is Jungian psychotherapy? Does it matter if I know anything about Jungian psychology to benefit from it? How does it differ from other kinds of therapy?
Jungian psychotherapy is simply therapy by a practitioner who has studied and ascribes to ideas from Carl Jung's analytical psychology. It is a theoretical orientation used to understand human nature and behavior and a model for assessing and interacting with clients.
Every therapist has a theoretical orientation that affects how she thinks about and behaves with clients. As with other therapies, for the Jungian, the theoretical orientation is the backdrop of the work and is seldom overtly evident in a session. The client need not understand Jung nor his psychology to benefit.
Jungian analysis and psychotherapy is a collaborative exchange between a therapist and client, who sit across from each other and engage in dialogue about the client's concerns in order to relieve suffering and promote wholeness. The Jungian therapist uses the same listening skills and empathy as therapists with other orientations.
How Jungian psychotherapy as I practice it differs most apparently from other modes of therapy is my use of the concepts of complex and shadow to help clients understand some of their troubling feelings, thoughts and/or behaviors. It also differs from other depth treatments, like Freudian psychoanalysis, if the client is interested in their dreams because Jung's and Freud's ideas about the unconscious differ significantly.
Because Jungian depth psychology is of great interest to me and because some prospective clients specifically are looking for a therapist with a Jungian orientation, I have it prominently displayed on this website. But I am also aware that most clients are not interested in these theoretical matters nor need they be.
December 24, 2011
Review of David Cronenberg’s film A Dangerous Method
A Dangerous Method stars Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Keira Knightley as Sabrina Spielrein. It is based on Christopher Hampton's play The Talking Cure which came out in 2003, ten years after the 1993 publication of John Kerr's A Most Dangerous Method: The Story Of Jung, Freud, And Sabina Spielrein. The following is from the dust jacket blurb of Kerr's 600 page scholarly melodrama: "A work of meticulous scholarship, a humane and engrossing narrative, A Most Dangerous Method brilliantly chronicles the early years of psychoanalysis and reveals the sexual politics entwined with its founding." And does it ever! I loved it when it first came out and ended up buying three hardcover copies: one for myself, one to lend, and one for my friend in Vienna.
After reading Kerr's book and The Freud/Jung Letters edited by William McGuire, I prepared one of my last public lectures entitled "Freud and Jung: On the Royal Road to the Unconscious." I have always been fascinated by Freud and Jung's relationship and couldn't wait to see how it was portrayed on the silver screen!
The first day the movie played in Dallas, December 23, 2011, I was the first person at the Angelika for the first showing of A Dangerous Method. When the lights went down, the opening credits were tastefully presented on a background of oversized black ink script bleeding onto white paper, beautifully alluding to the correspondence between the principals, the only reliable source we have for understanding the actual relationships. It was a promising beginning.
But then we were tossed into a ridiculous opening scene of Keira Knightley playing an hysterical Sabina Spielrein and rather poorly imho. Between the choppy editing, Knightley’s over-the-top Spielrein, and Michael Fassbender’s overly restrained Jung, A Dangerous Method was a disappointment.
(Prior to release, I had worried about Michael Fassbender being physically too small for the role. Fassbender and Mortensen are about the same height. In reality, Freud (1856-1939) was 5'7" tall, and 20 years older than Jung (1875-1961) who was a robust 6'1" tall. In the photo, taken at Clark University, Jung even towers over men on the step behind him. These size and age differences were not insignificant to their relationship and the complementary complexes that drew them together and then blew them apart. My fear about Fassbender being “too small” turned out to be a harbinger of his performance, not his physique.)
However, Viggo Mortensen’s Freud was superb! Mortensen’s nuanced performance gives the only hint to the title, A Dangerous Method. The film follows Christopher Hampton’s play, The Talking Cure, quite well and I think that should have been the title. I certainly didn’t get the sense of “danger” in his play or this movie as I did in reading either The Freud/Jung Letters or John’s Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method.
Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross and Sarah Gadon as Emma Jung gave wonderful performances as well. And the film pretty much was historically accurate, as far as we know, except maybe that shout out to the BDSM crowd from the sex scenes. Really?! Was that absolutely necessary? I would have easily traded those scenes for a little more intellectual stimulation.
My recommendation for those casually interested in Freud and Jung’s relationship is to read Hampton’s The Talking Cure. If that whets your appetite, move on to The Freud/Jung Letters and then Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method. There is also a very interesting 2002 Danish documentary My Name Was Sabina Spielrein which covers the same subject.
August 21, 2011
Forty Six & 2 by Tool
Someone sent me a YouTube video this week knowing it would grab my attention. It is an upload of Tool's Forty Six & 2, and begins with a very concise description of shadow:
"The Shadow is an unconscious complex that is defined as the repressed and suppressed aspects of the conscious self."
"There are constructive and destructive types of Shadow."
"Carl Jung emphasized the importance of being aware of shadow material and incorporating it into conscious awareness lest one project these attributes onto others."
(Perhaps it is more accurate to say there are constructive and destructive facets of Shadow rather than types of Shadow, but I quibble.)
I have long thought that Jung’s two theoretical concepts of Complex and Shadow to be the most important ideas in psychology for understanding the workings of the human psyche and the most important ideas in psychotherapy for healing human suffering.
Nicely done, Tool!
July 13, 2010
How much is a good night's sleep worth?
Jungian educational institutes have always had access to this remarkable film series and from time to time a flyer will announce a weekend somewhere in the world where the series will be shown. The last weekend I heard about was this past January at Pacifica in Santa Barbara, but I decided to forego the $370 for general admission to the films, plus flights, hotels, meals.
But I've always wanted to see the series again and since the 1980s have been looking for a set of the elusive VHS tapes. Years ago I got a lead for getting my paws on a copy from the program director at KERA, Dallas' PBS television station, but the lead didn't pan out. Every few years I am compelled to search for the series again.
So last night, the spirit moved me yet again to Google "way of the dream." That search always first turns up the book of the same name that Fraser Boa wrote after his films came out. But on the fourth page of the Google search an eBay entry showed up that didn't look quite right. Click.
A book seller in northern California had an auction listed as "JUNGIAN DREAM INTERPRETATION Carl Jung psychology DVD" but he had listed it in the nonfiction book category. He was asking $200 or best offer. This is the 2008 DVD set of The Way of the Dream with new introductions and epilogues by renowned Canadian Jungian analyst Marion Woodman, Fraser Boa's sister.
Always looking for a bargain on eBay, I made an offer of $100 before retiring for the evening. What is wrong with me?!!! This is the first time in 25 years that I have ever seen the series for sale and on DVD not some degraded VHS copy. What if some other The Way of the Dream stalker happened upon my trove in the middle of the night?!!!
June 11, 2010
String of Pearls
A friend asked me this week to recommend a book that would give him a basic understanding of Jung.
I can't tell you how many times over the years I've been asked that by friends, colleagues, clients, and it has always stymied me. Each time, after agonizing to come up with something that I thought would be particularly helpful to the individual asking, I have almost always defaulted to Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung's autobiography, thoughtfully edited by Aniela Jaffe.
With all the publicity now about the Red Book, I anticipate that some readers new to Jung will view taking on that opus as the road to understanding the great man and his ideas. Trust me, that is not the place to start. But by all means, buy the Red Book, if only for its value as a work of art, because it is indeed that. Or buy it for the coffee table to impress your friends and scare your in-laws. But as an introduction to Jungian thought? I don’t think so.
So, let me take on, yet again, what I would recommend to someone new to Jung. But you first need to know how I read books in the field of psychology, whether it's a pop-psych self-help manual or theoretical treatise. It's kind of like that cartoon about what a dog hears when you talk to it, you know, "...blah blah blah... Ginger... blah blah blah...." Actually, it's exactly like that.
Other than studying Jung's own writings, my typical reading of some non-fiction book somehow related to the field of psychology looks like: "...blah blah blah... pearl... blah blah blah... pearl... blah blah blah..." For me, the value of a book is directly proportional to the pearls I can gather. Books that I value may have an abundance of sweet little seed pearls or just one perfectly formed 12 mm Mikimoto. And this is how I would recommend you start your biblio relationship with Jung. Read Jung for the pearls.
And do read Jung himself not just the pre-digested versions. I think his most accessible book for the general public is still The Undiscovered Self, published in 1957. I also like the classic, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, published in 1933. Self is more philosophical whereas Soul is more theoretical. Both are excellent although somewhat dated.
Then read books written by Jungian analysts. I think Murray Stein writes with clarity and really knows his Jungian stuff. I just ordered his Jung's Map of the Soul, published in 1998, to enjoy and to review as a potential resource. I've heard Murray speak many times over the years, including his 6 hours of lectures this year about the Red Book, and I have tremendous respect for him.
Also, there are myriad books available that try to summarize Jungian psychology for the practicing professional and intellectually curious non-professional, and after reviewing the dozen or so of them on my bookshelf, my favorite is still A Primer of Jungian Psychology by the great psychologist Calvin S. Hall, published in 1973.
Then there are what I would call the specialty Jungian books and authors. Liberal clergy have always been drawn to Jung and many Jungian analysts are ordained priests and ministers. For the Christian interested in Jung, I highly recommend books by John A. Sanford, like The Kingdom Within: The Inner Meaning of Jesus' Sayings, published in 1970.
For those of us who are drawn to Eastern thought, my personal favorite is Jean Shinoda Bolen's The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self, published in 1979. (Several years ago, Jean was on a book tour to promote her latest work and did a public lecture at Richland College. I went to the event carrying my yellowed paperback copy of The Tao of Psychology and when the lecture was over I asked her to autograph it telling her truthfully that it was to a great extent responsible for me pursuing Jungian analytic training.)
At some point you may decide you want to tackle an essay from the Collected Works of C.G. Jung. During my four years of analytic training, 1989-1993, we had four classes each term, one of which was the History and Development of Analytical Psychology, and was in effect reading the Collected Works from start to finish. That one class alone was worth the cost of admission to the institute.
The Collected Works, however, is not an easy read; often initially incomprehensible, but always fascinating and sometimes transforming. Thus on your pearl gathering adventure, be prepared when advancing into the Collected Works for being buried in a pearl-ball filled Jungian bounce house!
But this afternoon when I talk with my friend again, I think I'll recommend he pick up a copy of Memories, Dreams, Reflections. I think it's time for me to re-read it also.
June 9, 2010
Law and Order: Criminal Intent: Red Book Episode
The story began in a college psychology class with the professor asking about Jung's concept of the Shadow. The soon-to-be homicide victim's reply further piqued my interest:
Professor: "That man cannot tolerate a meaningless existence was central to Jung's understanding. But how does that relate to Jung's Shadow theory?..."
Sarah: "We all have a Shadow side and Jung felt unless it's embodied in our conscious life, the more dangerous it is."
When the young woman's dead body was found in her dorm room, the detectives whipped out her copy of Jung's Red Book, which had been a gift from murder suspect number one. Jeff Goldblum delivered a couple well written lines about the Red Book but then the story crept off into an unpleasant world of desperate Goth personas and blood drinking vampire wannabes.
What made me uneasy while watching the show was the implication that "embracing one's Shadow" meant a license to act out all manner of dark and menacing aspects of the psyche. It worried me that viewers of the show might not recognize this as a perversion of Jung's theory.
Jung's concept of integrating the Shadow concerns the individual accessing the wholeness of their personality - growing by integrating the positive attributes found in the Shadow, and, equally important, recognizing and thereby containing the negative attributes of the Shadow.
THE HERO'S JOURNEY
The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote 30 some years ago while I was in Jungian analytic training. The larger paper is an interpretation of the movie Alien as an archetypal night sea journey of the hero. This excerpt chronicles the evolution of Jung's perspective on the hero's journey and is being posted in honor of the October 7, 2009, publication of Carl Gustav Jung’s The Red Book.
The Red Book is Jung's personal journal documenting his own night sea journey, what he called his "confrontation with the unconscious." Jung began The Red Book in 1913 following the devastating break with his friend, colleague, mentor, and father figure, Sigmund Freud.
The Night Sea Journey
Jung attributes the term "night sea journey" to Frobenius, to whose extensive study of myths Jung refers frequently in The Collected Works. (CW 5:308). The night sea journey is a recurring cross-cultural ancient mythical theme of archetypal origin which reappears, relatively more recently, again and again in the fairy tales and legends of the dragon slaying hero. It also appears again and again in The Collected Works, spanning 42 years of Jung's writing, from Symbols of Transformation, published in 1912 through Mysterium Coniunctionis, published in 1954. Each appearance of the myth of the night sea journey in Jung's writing reflects the unfolding of his psychology.
The protagonist of the myth is often termed "sun hero" with this nomenclature reflecting a basic element of the archetypal core. Quoting Jung from his 1927 paper, "The Structure of the Psyche":
"Every morning a divine hero is born from the sea and mounts the chariot of the sun. In the West a Great Mother awaits him, and he is devoured by her in the evening. In the belly of a dragon he traverses the depths of the midnight sea. After a frightful combat with the serpent of night he is born again in the morning." (CW 8:326)
Jung describes the hero as a wanderer and says that "wandering is a symbol for longing, of the restless urge which never finds its object, of nostalgia for the lost mother." (CW 5:299) The hero is like the wandering sun and
"...he is first and foremost a self-representation of the longing of the unconscious, of its unquenched and unquenchable desire for the light of consciousness. But consciousness, continually in danger of being led astray by its own light and of becoming a rootless will 'o the wisp, longs for the healing power of nature, for the deep wells of being and for unconscious communion with life in all its countless forms." (CW 5:299)
The night sea journey is the cyclical migration of the hero, the ego, back to the beckoning mother, the unconscious, from which it came. It is the journey to hell and reentry into the womb, the jaws of death, the voracious maw of the Terrible Mother. It is the fight with the whale-dragon and the conquest of the monster from within. To Jung: "it is the longing to attain rebirth through a return to the womb, and to become immortal like the sun." (CW 5:312) For the hero, illumination is the fleeting reward of each hard fought battle in a never ending campaign.
In his essay "On Psychic Energy", published in 1928, Jung describes the hero on his journey as the "symbolical exponent of the movement of libido."
"Entry into the dragon is the regressive direction, and the journey to the East (the night sea journey) with its attendant events symbolizes the effort to adapt to the conditions of the psychic inner world. The complete swallowing up and disappearance of the hero in the belly of the dragon represents the complete withdrawal of interest from the outer world. The overcoming of the monster from within is the achievement of adaptation to the conditions of the inner world, and the emergence... of the hero from the monster's belly..., which happens at the moment of sunrise, symbolizes the recommencement of progression." (CW 8:68)
Jung clarifies that this regression
"...is not necessarily a retrograde step in the sense of a backwards development or degeneration, but rather represents a necessary phase of development. The individual is, however, not consciously aware that he is developing; he feels himself to be in a compulsive situation that resembles an early infantile state or even an embryonic condition within the womb. It is only if he remains stuck in this condition that we can speak of involution or degeneration." (CW 8:69)
Ego psychologists would call this retrograde "regression in the service of the ego," or in the vernacular, taking one step backward in order to take two steps forward.
In Psychology and Alchemy, published in 1937, Jung speaks of this journey as the heroic retrieval of a projected, unconscious content:
"The darkness and depths of the sea symbolize the unconscious state of an invisible content that is projected. Inasmuch as such a content belongs to the total personality, there is always an attraction between conscious mind and projected content. Generally it takes the form of a fascination. This, in the alchemical allegory, is expressed by the King's cry for help from the depths of his unconscious, dissociated state. The conscious mind should respond to this call: one should operari regi, render service to the king, for this would be not only wisdom, but salvation as well. Yet this brings with it the necessity of a descent into the dark world of the unconscious, the ritual..., the perilous adventure of the night sea journey, whose end and aim is the restoration of life, resurrection, and the triumph over death." (CW 12:436)
The journey is "the sleep of incubation", "the ritual death in initiation", (CW 12:171) the alchemical "immersion in the bath." (CW 16:455) In his final opus Mysterium Coniunctionis, published in 1954 in his eightieth year, Jung describes the night sea journey as immersion
"...in the sea of the unconscious for the purpose of heating and incubation.... By this is obviously meant a state of introversion in which the unconscious content is brooded over and digested. During this operation all relations with the outside world are broken off; the feelers of perception and intuition, discrimination and valuation are withdrawn.... but deep inside the psyche the wheels go on turning, performing those cyclic evolutions which bring the mandala of the total personality, the ground-plan of the self, closer to consciousness. But so long as consciousness has not completed the process of integration it is covered by the 'blackest dead sea,' darkened by unconsciousness and oppressed by heat, as was the hero during the night sea journey. Through the incubation the snake-like content is vapourized, literally 'sublimated,' which amounts to saying that it is recognized and made an object of conscious discrimination." (CW 14:262)
The quest of the hero who ventures into the cave of the dragon or descends into the black sea of night is
"...to find that condition where consciousness and the unconscious are so completely united that he is neither conscious nor unconscious. Whenever the two are too much separated, consciousness seeks to unite them again by going down into the depths where they once were one." (CW 18:263)
This is a search for wholeness, attainment of the pearl of great price, discovered through the transcendent function. From Jung's 1935 Tavistock lectures:
"The descent into the depths will bring healing. It is the way to the total being, the treasure which suffering mankind is forever seeking, which is hidden in the place guarded by terrible dangers. This is the place of primordial unconsciousness and at the same time the place of healing and redemption, because it contains the jewel of wholeness. It is the cave where the dragon of chaos lives and it is also the indestructible city, the magic circle or temenos. the sacred precinct where all the splitoff parts of the personality are united." (CW 18:270)
[The Collected Works citations are typically written noting volume and paragraph.]