Some thoughts about being a Jungian psychoanalyst

My job is to help people – not only with their “problems” but with themselves!  The kind of growth that can happen in this way requires a trusting working relationship built on caring, warmth, support, consistency, reliability, and genuineness.  While these personal qualities are important, the ability to guide someone through a change process also requires education and skill.  However, the main thing needed is for the helping person to have experienced making meaning out of life’s difficulties.  When these pieces are in place, it is possible to facilitate a healing dialogue that brings together emotion and thought, recognizes the urge toward growth and holds it tenderly yet firmly so that it can find its way.   My approach to this work is grounded in my own journey of self-exploration and education that taught me not only how past experience influences, shapes, and even creates, our life situations but how the soul seeks its own expression as we move toward our future.

It is my experience that the best psychotherapists and psychoanalysts are those who have lived fully and who have done the hard work of reflecting on their lives and suffering to see what had been hidden from them and what they had hidden from themselves.  They have learned also to trust in the psyche’s ability to emerge through art, music, dreams, encounters with nature and animals, and in close intimate relationships both in terms of their “good” and their “bad” aspects  In the long period of personal analysis one undergoes prior to being able to even begin the process of becoming a psychoanalyst, the connections with the inner life and relationships with others undergo profound changes. These include developing the capacities to be a witness to emotions rather than being in them (what in contemporary neuroscience is called “mentalization”) and to understand how repetitive patterns are calling for action so that one can be aware of them rather than driven by them.  A shift in consciousness makes all the difference in terms of the ability to live and to be helpful to others.  Jung wrote about this phenomenon, pointing out how huge the difference is between being “in” an experience and being conscious of it. In his Introduction to the Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower, an ancient Taoist text, he likened it to the difference between being in a valley during a rainstorm as compared to being on the mountaintop looking down on the storm in the valley below.

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