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In one of my classes a few weeks ago, we gathered in small groups to share our personal “heart of darkness” stories.  Each person chose words and phrases that exemplified the stories and wrote them on the board. Tonight, we were given a typed copy of those phrases and our instructor suggested that we use them to construct a poem.

I marked my copy with random dots and wrote down the words that fell closest to the marks. Here is the result:

Being strong on the outside, fear projected violence.

A tiny gift in beautiful hands finds evil, fooled by the light in a down-trapped life.

Static hurt and great care realize tenderness.

Great hurt stalks, thinking darkness is lit, as beauty struggles with deconstruction unconscious.

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I am fortunate to attend a university that offers depth psychology classes at the undergrad level—it’s the reason I chose to go to Antioch. Now that I’ve been there for three quarters, I’m beginning to see the difference between being engaged in depth psychotherapy and studying the subject academically.

My very first class was Psyche in World Religions, where we studied Edinger’s Ego and Archetype in-depth. At that point, I had already had several years of Jungian psychotherapy and reading Edinger’s work was like reading about my life. Despite my personal work and reading I had done, I had never known about the role that Ego plays in Individuation. For me, this was the keystone that held everything together and made everything click and come into focus. I use Edinger’s work in almost every paper I write and his idea of the Psychic Life Cycle has become the paradigm I use to demonstrate the necessity of sin, one of my favorite subjects to explore.

Since I was absorbing and integrating everything I was learning, I assumed (remember what they say about assuming) that my fellow classmates felt the same. Some rejected Edinger’s ideas and even more seemed to be highly critical of Jung. My heart gasped at these moments—how could someone hate Jung? This is when I began to see how my personal experience was coloring my academic journey. I came into this school saying “Depth psychology? Why yes” and “Jung? You betcha.”

The defining moment was when I started our class discussion by describing the way that Edinger’s chapter on the symbolism of the number 3 helped me to analyze a dream in therapy. To me, it was perfectly natural and a practice I had engaged in for years. An argument of sorts ensued about the validity of dream analysis. It wasn’t directed at me specifically, but my story had opened this potent can of worms. For the first time, I felt that I was in foreign territory despite being ensconced in an institution that advocated the kind of theory that saved my life. And that was just in the construct of the classroom.

Most of my colleagues plan on attending graduate school after completing their BAs. The more I talked to people, the more I began to see a bias against studying depth psychology or Jungian theory. People seemed to like it and were interested in it, but it seemed to have a veil drawn across it. To study Jung would be to find yourself inadvertently in Avalon with little hope of finding your way back to Camelot. I heard my classmates say things like, “I want to study the basics before I study Jung.” Um, my fellow, esteemed colleagues, Jung IS the basics. Okay, Freud is the basics, but they were colleagues and friends (for a time, anyway.) I don’t know what they consider to be the basics, but that type of thinking is one of the reasons why one has to go to special schools in order to study analytical psychology.

Jung wasn’t just some dude smoking his pipe in his library and pulling theory from the fondue pot. He was a medical doctor and practiced psychiatry in a mental hospital for schizophrenics.  His conversations with his patients are what began his inquiry into the collective unconscious. And really, that’s the thing that gets people, the collective unconscious. It’s mysterious–you can’t see it, hold it, weigh it or measure it. As they say at my school, it’s “woo woo.”

And that brings me to the importance of experience. I don’t know if I would view anything differently from my classmates if I had never been in Jungian therapy. But I was, and that experience is what made me decide to become a therapist myself. I never had an interest in psychology. I had seen a cognitive-behavioral therapist at one time and that certainly didn’t make me more interested in the subject. The transformative experience of my work in analytical psychotherapy breathed life into my course material. I could say, “Yes, this is exactly how it happens, because that has been my experience.” My textbooks are not just words; they are my life on the pages. So to think that I would have to study psychology that is not depth psychology doesn’t resonate with me.

In my first foray into college, I majored in music—voice major and piano minor. Not being able to study depth psychology would be akin to telling my former music-major self, “No, you cannot sing or play piano. You must learn how to play violin and oboe.” But I already know how to sing and I tried to learn violin but my fingers fumble on the strings and double reeds, really? I would have been heartcrushed. And that’s how I feel about Jungian theory. I already know it—I live it and I breathe it. It’s already enmeshed in my blood and my bones. And luckily, schools exist that promote a Jungian-based education. So there I will go, and there I will thrive.

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