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Tomorrow is the last day of my first quarter of graduate school. The last ten weeks have been an interesting journey. The first three weeks were stressful and I began to question if I was truly cut out for grad school. Luckily, things fell into place and I felt like my old self. I was curious to see what life would be like in a clinical program devoid of depth psychology classes. I had a rough time at first. I was constantly arguing with and criticizing my textbooks. Many reading sessions involved me yelling at my book, slamming it shut, and then walking away to do something else to calm down. I swore I was going to write letters to all of the publishing companies and authors to let them know about their oversights. In retrospect, I can laugh at my frustration because it made me realize something important: Jung is my treble clef.

I have been playing piano for over 20 years. I rarely read music anymore, but when I do, I still struggle with reading the bass clef. The treble clef is easy because it’s the first one I learned. In fact, it’s probably the first one that most budding musicians learn. You know, the one where the spaces spell F-A-C-E and the lines are where Every Good Boy Does Fine. I can read the notes on a treble clef like I can read the words on this page. But the bass clef? Not so much.

The bass clef seems deceptively similar to the treble clef, but it’s not. Playing the bass line as a treble line is the recipe for a cacophonous disaster. The only way for me to navigate the fraternal twin bass clef is to transpose what I see. For instance, every note on the bass clef is three tones lower than it’s twin on the treble clef. What looks like an A is really a C, an F is really an A, and so on. In order to play properly, I have to use the treble clef that I know and love as my starting point. Every note I read on a bass clef is relative to my knowledge of the treble clef. Are you confused? (I’m hoping that I am not the only person who reads bass clef this way 😉

So what does this have to do with my graduate psychology program? Well, I am passionate about depth psychology, and, most specifically, analytical psychology, which most people call Jungian psychology. In my undergraduate program, I was very lucky to be able to take a multitude of depth psychology classes. It’s very, very rare to be able to study depth psychology in an undergrad program. As a result, I took as many depth psychology classes as I could. After all, my plan was to go on to Pacifica Graduate Institute, which is a school dedicated to depth psychological studies. But then my plans changed and I decided to stay in Seattle and do my masters degree here. The only problem was that my chosen program does not teach depth psychology. Luckily, I have a trick to help me make sense of all the new theories I am learning because I have discerned that Jung is my treble clef.

Each time I learn a new theory (and in my program it’s all family systems theory) I compare it with Jung’s ideas and see if I can find something approximate. If I can, and usually I do, then I catalog it in my mind’s eye. For example, what the object relations folks call “projective identification” is just plain ol’ “projection” as far as I’m concerned. And good and bad introjects are just the polarities of archetypes. At least, that’s how I see it. And, for now, it’s working for me.

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The Pacific Northwest is experiencing the first heat wave of summer. As a result, my small un-air-conditioned home has become the antithesis of a comfortable, relaxing abode. Therefore, I have reverted to my favorite childhood summertime activity: reading on the floor in front of the box fan.

Growing up, I lived less than a block away from the local library. I would go there at least once a week and load up on all kinds of literature, from Francine Pascals’ Sweet Valley High novels to Charles Dickens’ classics to John Jakes’ North & South. I would pile my borrowed treasures on my bedroom floor and dive in for hours at a time while the blast from the fan whipped against my face.

Twenty-five years later, the books belong to my personal library but the scenario is the same. Today, I scanned my bookshelves for the books I’ve proverbially saved for a rainy day. The selections were C.G. Jung’s Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, James Hillman’s Re-Visioning Psychology, Lucy Goodison’s  The Dreams of Women, and Joseph Chilton Pearce’s The Biology of Transcendence. They are not the varied tomes of my youth, but just as satisfying. I scattered them in a semi-circle around me and read a few pages of one, put it down, and scooped up another.

Usually, when I read books such as these, some type of academic intent is behind the enterprise. But today, I read for pleasure and fun. Jung made me laugh hysterically. Pearce put me on the verge of tears. And somehow my annoyance at the sweltering heat dissipated. Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter, but who cares? I have books to read.

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My whole life, I’ve considered myself to be an introvert of the card-carrying-you-can-tattoo-it-on-my-forehead-it’s-never-going-to-change variety. I never questioned my introvert status. In fact, in some ways it was like a security blanket I always carried around with me. Other times, I would use it as an excuse to not pursue more social activities. I was a hard-core introvert and nothing would ever change that. Or so I thought.

I recently completed a course in developmental psychology, in which my instructor mentioned that one’s personality is set by age three. Intrigued, I asked her if traumatic experiences could affect one’s personality. She replied that trauma could change one’s displayed personality; however, if the individual underwent psychotherapy, then the original personality would be restored. I was fascinated with this bit of information, especially because at recent Jung group meetings, we had discussed the differences between introverted personalities and extroverted personalities.

Our Jungian expert and facilitator explained that introvertism and extrovertism run on a continuum. Therefore, one could be an introvert but fall on the spectrum closer to the extrovert side. And in truth, the middle is the best place to be, because in traditional Jungian parlance, one-sidedness leads to neurosis. I began to think maybe the time had come to rethink my loyalty to the introvert club, but then the facilitator said something that really piqued my interest: we feel fatigued when we go against type. As such, social activities should make me feel tired or drained of energy. And this had been true in the past; however, I realized that recent social activities made me feel energized, rather than depleted. In fact, I had been preparing to give a 45-minute senior synthesis presentation—a feat that should have filled me fear and apprehension. Instead, I was excited about the public speaking engagement and was hoping to have a large audience. Clearly, I was working against my introvert nature, but I was not feeling fatigued. I felt as though I had made a definite shift on the introvert-extrovert continuum that had placed me closer to the extrovert side.

Another example of this shift came in my decision to apply for the Couple & Family Therapy graduate program instead of Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The Jung group facilitator says that CFT is about being a “Sage on a Stage,” whereas CMHC is for those wishing to be a “Guide on the Side.” I had always planned on applying for the CMHC program because I didn’t want to deal with a bunch of people in the room. But that was my hard-core introvert doing the thinking for me. I ultimately decided to do CFT because I want to work with children, especially those surviving violent home environments. Which brings me back to what my developmental psychology professor told me in class and the way I connected it to my history with agoraphobia.

Individuals are not born with agoraphobia. Agoraphobia typically develops in one’s early 20s, or the age when people start moving away from home and becoming independent. Jung said, “The more intensively the family has stamped its character upon the child, the more [the child] will tend to feel and see its earlier miniature world again in the bigger world of adult life.” Therefore, if home were a place where I was hurt as a child, then as an adult, I would perceive the world-at-large as a place where I could also be hurt. And so began the downward spiral of agoraphobia. In the same vein, what if I wasn’t always someone who avoided social situations? Many family members have told me I was always a happy, smiling child. What if my life experience turned my naturally extroverted-self into a person who displayed an introverted personality for over three decades? The math certainly adds up and while I still believe I am an introvert (and my Myers-Briggs type of INFJ would agree,) I have made a concerted effort to practice being an extrovert. After all, the way I ultimately overcame agoraphobia was to practice acting like someone who wasn’t afraid.

My senior synthesis presentation was an overwhelming success. Many people said that I looked like a natural public speaker and that I belonged leading a group. When I served jury duty last week, if selected to be on a jury, I was going to offer to be the foreman. My previous introvert-identified persona would never have dreamed of doing such things. And most importantly, these activities did not drain me of my energy. At the conclusion of my symposium, I wanted to do it all over again! For my final project for my lifespan development class, I opted to do a presentation and had a lot of fun sharing my topic with the class and enjoyed answering their questions.

I know many books and articles have come out recently to defend introverts. Certainly, being an introvert (or extrovert) is not bad or evil. But I encourage other card-carrying introverts to think about where they fall on the continuum and practice holding the opposite. When we can master holding the tension of the opposites, only then can we have wholeness.

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Staging the Dream

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I recently reached a milestone in my life with the completion of my bachelor’s degree. Incidentally, the occasion coincides with my 5 year “anniversary” as an analysand in Jungian psychotherapy. At my recent session, BTW (Best Therapist in the World) and I discussed the transformations that have taken place in the last five years. Most notable was that going back to school was never one of my original goals, but one that surfaced after years of inner work. Yet, my education has become the center of my existence. Everything that I do is somehow related to my academic goals and/or my future work as a psychotherapist. And my desire to do all of it is a direct result of my experience in BTW’s consulting suite.

BTW shared that she knew I was going to “perform” based on the first dream I shared in therapy many years ago. Keep in mind, that at the beginning, I knew nearly nothing about Jung or analytical psychology or what it meant to see a Jungian psychotherapist. I knew that Jung was “old school” and I think that was part of the draw. But part of that old school flavor was doing dream work, which I thought was pretty archaic at the time. BTW told me that the answers to all of our problems are located in the unconscious and a way to access that information was to pay attention to my dreams. I didn’t buy it at the time, but she seemed nice, so I kept going back. I didn’t share a dream for quite some time—at least six months. And when I did finally share a dream, I was surprised at the way she took apart the dream and put it back together again using my own words in a new and meaningful way. The dream focused on the image of a ballerina, which has been a theme in my inner work ever since.

At the time, I didn’t know (and didn’t have the ability to comprehend, if I did know) the way that the dream spotlighted a part of my personal psychology. Five years later, after completing my undergraduate degree and giving my senior symposium on the significance of dreams, I was privy to BTW’s revelation of her early insight: she knew I was going to attempt daring and complex things and I was going to succeed. Had she told me then, I would not have believed her. Just like if someone told me then that I would go back to school in order to become a psychotherapist, I would have laughed. Or that dreams would become such an important facet of my life that I would feel obligated to give my synthesis presentation on the topic. That was my frame of mind at the time—unable to grasp the bounty of growth and experience that awaited me. But one of the hallmarks of a good therapist is the ability to recognize where I find myself in stories and in my personal mythology, all of which is easier to do when I share my dreams. As a result, the therapist can hold the space for the client to grow into. And that’s exactly what BTW did for me.

After years of inner work and a rigorous academic curriculum, this past Monday I finally walked the stage at McCaw Hall to receive my diploma. As far as I know, this is the first year commencement has been held at that venue–the same place where the Pacific Northwest Ballet performs season after season. And no, the significance was not lost on me. I was very well aware of the synchronicity of receiving my degree on that stage where the ballerinas dance lithely and gracefully with strength few people will ever know. They make their moves seem easy, when years of practice and training are required beforehand. I realized this on my own, after years of studying Jung and depth psychology. And the next day, BTW told me that she knew I was going to do something great all along. She knew that I was strong and capable of doing that which seemed impossible. And my dream came true. The dream from my unconscious, my true Self, that knew it was true all along.

As I move forward toward my goal of becoming a psychotherapist, I know that these last five years in psychotherapy are as important as my next two years in graduate school. The personal therapy is where I experience the work working for me and through me. It’s where I see the example modeled for me week after week—when to move forward, when to pull back—how to be a guide on the circumambulatory spiral. The work has been difficult and visceral, but also joyous and enlightening and I wouldn’t change a single moment of it. I have learned to align my outer goals with my inner Self, and in the process I set the stage to live my dreams.

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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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The Asheville Jung Center has published a suggested reading list for the June 24th lecture on “The Creation of Symbolic Meaning on the Path to Individuation.”  A chapter of Warren Coleman’s will also be available for download when you register. I will be viewing the lecture but I can’t say I’ll be able to complete this reading list:

Bovensiepen, G (2002) Symbolic attitude and reverie: problems of symbolization in

children and adolescents. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol 47:2, 241-257

Colman, W. (2010) Dream Interpretation and the Creation of Symbolic Meaning.

In Jungian Psychoanalysis (ed. M. Stein), pp. 94-108.

Jung, C.G. The transcendent function. In CW 8, paras. 131-193.

________. The Tavistock Lectures, Lectures 3 and 4. In CW.18. Paras. 145-303.

________. The Symbolic Life. In CW 18, paras. 608-696.

________. “Symbol” in Definitions. In CW 6, paras. 814-829.

Ronnenberg, A. (ed.) (2010) The Book of Symbols.

Stein, M. (2009) Symbol as Psychic Transformer.  In Symbolic Life 2009 (ed. M. Stein),pp. 1-12.

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