Archive for the ‘analyst’ tag
For those following my latest version of “journey,” today was my first session in a return to analysis. Of course I will not talk about the content of any analytical session as what happens in any session involves both the analyst and the analysand. The session happens in a container that I can best describe as being a sacred and safe container – temenos. But I will speak about what I learn from the process and about feelings so that anyone reading this will have some sense of the value as well as the process.
Before I begin, I want to be clear with you as to why I have re-entered analysis. The truth is, what I was doing stopped working for me. I was in analysis almost fifteen years ago following the suicide of one of my brothers, an event that acted as a trigger or catalyst for stuff I had long repressed, bits and pieces of my life I had forgotten about as I went about my life as a husband, father, teacher, and coach. My life back then began to come apart at the seams and I found myself entertaining suicidal thoughts in an attempt to escape the flood of images and memories. Those images and memories revealed a lot of childhood abuse which included an incident of being sexually abused as a teenager, several incidences of physical abuse, and a fair bit of emotional/mental abuse. It seemed like a lot to deal with but after a semester off from teaching, I was able to return to teaching with a decent level of balance.
With the death of my mother last fall, the floodgates opened further revealing significantly more incidences of sexual abuse, from different people beginning somewhere around the age of six or seven. Some of the sexual abuse happened over an extended period of time. Overwhelmed, I decided to return to analysis in order to deal with all the memories that were presenting themselves in a way which would allow me to avoid becoming a victim of the memories. The work of analysis isn’t about erasing the abuse, it is about responding to the knowledge of the abuse in a way that allows one to grow passed the abuse, becoming stronger in the process.
As I engaged in this morning’s analytical session I was surprised by the process. I have counselled as a therapist for a long time and I have been through the process of being counselled, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Regardless of whether one has been counselled in the past, each time one enters into a new counselling (therapeutic) relationship, some basic work needs to take place, work that is about getting information flowing in both directions. You have to do all the foundational work before heading into the work of analysis (depth psychology). I had already skipped this part in my mind since this was a not a new process as a person being counselled or as counsellor; I was skipping the foundational work assuming that I would be diving head first off the 10 metre diving board as soon as the first session started. When my analyst then began with the beginning I was surprised, and relieved. My guide knew what he was doing and I began to relax and become more present in the moment.
I want to bring something here that I hope will be of some use – in the days and hours leading up to this first session, I was worried by quite a few things: Would the analyst want to continue working with me? Would I give him the right answers to his questions? Will I become silent and hide my words because of my shame? Will the analyst think less of me because of what he hears? These questions and more tortured me and sleep was hard to come by and never long enough to be actually restful. My body was in revolt and every part of me began to ache. Of course, all of this was in my head and had nothing to do with the reality of being in an analytical session.
As a therapist, it was good for me to re-experience the angst of a person entering into therapy so as remind me of what each of the people who begin their work with me would be experiencing. That knowledge allows the therapist to effectively create the therapeutic container that will keep both the therapist and the client safe. Doing the work of building that container is a joint effort that grows out of the initial dialogues between the analysand and the analyst. And now, looking back at this morning’s session, I see that our beginning work has done just exactly that. And so, I find myself relieved that I have chosen my guide wisely and have good hopes for the analytical journey that has just begun.
On the shores of the Tarcoles River, not too distant from where I live here in Costa Rica, I found quite a few Black-Necked Stilts. Interesting to me is the bird’s head which reminds me of the Yin-Yang symbol, a symbol that represents a few polarities; and, that of consciousness and the unconscious, the masculine and the feminine. I am bringing this photo here as it symbolises for me the shift from nigredo to albedo, from the confrontation of the shadow.
The second stage in the alchemical process is called “albedo.” It is important to note that this is a “whitening” process, not necessarily the “white” stage. Thus, the reason for this photo which shows both black and white. I will return back to Marie-Louise von Franz for a good description of this stage in the alchemical process.
In the alchemical work of the nigredo is followed by the albedo. This phase corresponds in the individuation process to the integration of the inner contrasexual components, the anima in the case of a man, the animus with a woman. (von Franz, C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time, p. 223; cited in Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, p 50)
Marie-Louise von Franz here uses this information while talking about the psychoanalytic process and the relationship between the analyst and the analysand. But, if we look at this stage in a bigger picture, we can extend it to be more than the integration of the animus or anima; we can see it to be the integration of complexes in general. Remembering that the nigredo was about confronting the shadow, the albedo becomes dealing with what one learns in that confrontation. Hopefully, we learn enough to accept that we own the shadow thus allowing ourselves to withdraw projections. In doing this, we own our complexes and in turn lessen the power of the unconscious to act for us without our awareness. Of course, we know that we can’t master all of this unconscious contents as enough of it is tied into a larger, collective unconsciousness.
I am beginning to see that alchemy is not so esoteric and has become just a way of understanding what is happening to me as I consciously engage with the uncovering of my shadow side. There is no doubt in my mind that in following this path I will become a healthier person, more whole. It’s not perfect, but it is better than what was.
Las grutas de Tzabnah at the edges of a Mexican village called Tecoh in the Yucatan. Grutas are caves, dark places under the surface. In these places one would be well advised to travel with a guide. In the photo that I took displayed above, I used what little natural light I could find, light that filtered through one of the natural openings to the surface above. As I travelled about in this cave, I was limited in how far I could wander as I entered without a source of light or without a guide. My only light was the laser beam from the camera that would flash before I depressed the shutter button completely. Even with this light source, it was a risky business. I walked with one hand above and in front of my head as there were many outcrops of rock hidden in the darkness. Stepping forward was tentative not knowing what would be encountered. In many ways, this is the journey one takes into the under/innerworld of one’s ‘self’.
Often with the advent of midlife, one is forced to come to terms with the realisation that life must be more than what one has encountered. There must be a deeper aspect, something that gives meaning. It can’t all be about the stuff we collect or the status or sense of presence we craft in our collective encounters. One feels an emptiness, a darkness, a cavern. For those willing and able to risk the unknown, it is the time to find a guide in order to make the descent become about discovery rather than of self-destruction. It is too easy to get lost in the underworld.