Eventually every therapist will make a mistake -- forget something important, be late, forget to return a call -- something. It will happen because it must, because we are human and part of the therapeutic process is learning to accept both one's own and the other's humanness. Some patients will stubbornly hold on to demands for perfection and not forgive even the most minor slips. As the therapist, I have to be willing to stay with it and apologize for the mistake and listen to the patient's hurt and anger while also trying to help them see that life has gone on, that the relationship is not over and that there is room for forgiveness. It helps that I remember my own feelings when I discovered my analyst was not perfect. It's never easy to be caught in one's own errors and lapses, though with practice, over the years, it does get less anxiety provoking to listen to and deal with a patient's anger and disappointment.
As a therapist, it is important that I not act out any hurt or anger caused by the patient. This means that the patient can say what happened and that the effect was that she were hurt or inconvenienced or whatever. And that there will not be retaliation. I have to sit on my own all-too human urges to defend myself, not always an easy task.
I found myself getting irritated a couple of times recently about casually dismissive remarks I have heard about therapy and therapists. That therapy is just good listening and if friends could learn good listening skills, then therapy wouldn't be necessary. That and the usual fantasy about therapists getting rich off people's suffering.
Listening empathically can and does provide catharsis and catharsis is an element of therapy. But it is only an element, not the whole thing.
The inferior and even the worthless belongs to me as my shadow and give me substance and mass. How can I be substantial without casting a shadow? I must have a dark side too if I am to be whole; and by becoming conscious of my shadow I remember once more that I am a human being like any other. At any rate, if this rediscovery of my own wholeness remains private, it will only restore the earlier condition from which the neurosis, i.e., the split-off complex, sprang. Privacy prolongs my isolation and the damage is only partially mended. But through confession I throw myself into the arms of humanity again, freed at last from the burden of moral exile. The goal ... is not merely the intellectual recognition of the facts with the head, but their confirmation by the heart and the actual release of suppressed emotion (Jung, CW 16, p134)
When I enter a session with a patient I endeavor to do so without memory or desire -- which is to say that any day as I meet with my patient, I put away thoughts about this blog, about my husband's latest project, about other patients, and about our last session with each other and I prepare to meet her in the moment and without an agenda. I wait for her to begin and allow her to set the agenda for our time together. I follow the thread of her concerns and as I do so, bits and pieces of the other times we have met come to mind. I hear more of her themes and as we go along I am relating them to themes I have heard from others and what I know about such themes. I am aware of issues in her life that have led to her personality being structured as it is -- this is a clinical piece where I touch into my database of experience with people who have similar histories and who have had the constellation of issues in their lives that she has has and what I know from more theoretical material, mythology and even fairy tales. I challenge a bit here, ask a question there, offer a suggestion, share a personal experience. I watch as we do our dance of speaking and listening and I see when an interpretive arrow hits the mark and when it misses.
Jung At Heart is now 9 years old! I never thought when I first started posting in February of 2007 that nine years later I would still be doing this, albeit less often than in the early years. But here I am. I still have things I want to say and I am working on an exciting new project too.
Alert readers will notice I have made some changes here. Three years ago, I deactivated my other blog, TheFatChronicles, because I wanted to integrate that kind of content into this blog as symbolic of embracing those issues as part of who and what I am. In this three years I have worked on and now finished the manuscript for what I hope will be my book. And as that book is centered on issues surrounding fat, it seems this is an important time to separate out that blog again. You can find it by clicking on the link in my link list which is in the sidebar of every page here.
Eight years ago during the campaign season, i took a look at some of the issues around sexism that were coming to the fore and I related some of it to the negative other complex, because after all, I am a Jungian and I like to look at how archetypal themes and issues wind heir way through our lives. Here we are again with the same issues, updated to a new intensity so it seems worthwhile to revisit them. Today a dive into Jungian theory and the mother complex.
The mother complex is a potentially active component of everyone's psyche, informed first of all by experience of the personal mother, then by significant contact with other women and by collective assumptions. The constellation of a mother complex has differing effects according to whether it appears in a son or a daughter.(The Jung Lexicon)
It isn't possible to escape the influence of mother in the development of any and all of us.
Jung tells us of several forms the mother complex can take in a woman --
The exaggeration of the feminine side means an intensification of all female instincts, above all the maternal instinct. The negative aspect is seen in the woman whose only goal is childbirth. To her the husband is . . . first and foremost the instrument of procreation, and she regards him merely as an object to be looked after, along with children, poor relations, cats, dogs, and household furniture.(Jung, CW 9i., par. 167.)
and in another variation, what Jung calls the feminine instinct is inhibited or wiped out --
Internationalpsychoanalysis.net posted the link to this video last week. Do take a look as it is one of the best looks at what it is to be a patient in depth psychotherapy.
A Tweet about this article caught my eye before the holidays: Millennials and the false allure of online psychotherapy. Just the term “online psychotherapy” can mean anything from Skype or FaceTime sessions to email. Not all therapists are comfortable with or accepting of therapy except when done face to face in the consulting room. So I am used to seeing articles here and there decrying therapy which occurs via telephone or Skype. And that is what I expected to read about in this article. To a degree, that is indeed what I found.
After describing factors that seem to make millennials “the most stressed out group in the country”, there is this brief bit:
With Talkspace, for just $25 per week, clients can purchase “Unlimited Messaging Therapy” that allows them to text with a therapist whenever emotional problems arise. The Web site for the app states, “just like texting with a close friend, you can now message your therapist every day, for an entire week, writing as many times as you want.” Initial sessions for In Your Corner cost as little as $25 dollars for “instant expert support when you need it.” That might include online therapy, written coaching plans and stress-reduction techniques from a meditation instructor.
I had only recently heard of these quick response options from my son, who is just starting out in private practice and considering what he might offer. When he asked my opinion, I asked him if he really wanted to work with anyone on that kind of uncommitted catch as catch can sort of basis, because in my mind, it is not therapy but more like a stop at a first aid station for a band-aid now and again. He tried to make a case for it, thinking maybe some people would want to convert over to more regular scheduled therapy. I told him that when therapy starts with such a haphazard frame and very little commitment, it doesn’t seem likely to change because in accepting it, the therapist is colluding with the patient in his or her belief that a quick fix, an encouraging word as needed is sufficient to actually deal with ongoing issues and problems.
The new year always brings a rush of ads, news pieces, magazine articles on dieting, the assumption being that we will have been gluttonous over the holidays and now feel shame which will motivate us to correct the error of our ways — or should that be “weighs”? This year, of course is no exception.
In 2015 Oprah Winfrey bought 10% of Weight Watchers for $40 million. And because she likely expects her investment to yield healthy returns, it lends additional weight to her perennial quest to find a body she can love.
So Oprah opens 2016 with a long commercial about what she claims all fat women feel — that is her dissatisfaction with her body — and says that she wants this year to be the year of her “best body”. And it was this phrase that caught my attention.
What is one’s “best body” anyway? Recently I saw a series of photos of ballerinas’ feet — like this:
The dancer’s body looks so ethereal, so lovely — is that her best body? But look at the price her feet must pay to be able to present that graceful line that so defines classical ballet.
Here we are, the last day f the year and my good intentions for regular posts have fallen by the wayside yet again. Clearly these days I write as something moves me and not on a schedule. So it seems wisest to commit myself to paying attention and when something catches my interest, build on that and post. Let’s see how that works. So here is to 2016 and a wish that whatever faithful followers among you will find food for thought in the year ahead.
Coming up this week, several posts about fat, fat shaming, and about psychotherapy. Happy New Year!
As any of you who have been following me know, I have been working on and am in the process of finishing a book about fat. Rooted in analytical psychology, in it I challenge the notion that it is the fat patient who must be changed to fit into a thin world. I also look at fat and our culture, about the fat complex our culture is gripped by and how to respond to it. It grows out of my life as a fat woman, my work as a Jungian psychotherapist, and my experience as a patient in analysis.
Almost every approach to working with the fat patient in psychotherapy involves somewhere the notion that problems she brings will improve immeasurably if and when she loses weight, becomes less fat or even better stops being fat at all. But what happens if we begin to think instead that her fat, rather than being a response to trauma, what if her fat is itself a source of trauma? What if we begin to look at the effect on the psyche of being visibly different, visibly part of a stigmatized group?
Recently the following appeared as part of an article, 5 Baffling Lies Society Told You About Fat People:
I was about to write a new post last weekend when I got lost in yet another revision of my book manuscript — just how do other writers decide they are finally finished and satisfied with what they have done anyway? And then the next day, a request that I make some changes go the chapter I have submitted for a book on Jung and feminism. The next thing I knew the week was gone.
It’s like that these days. I blink, turn around and poof! another week, another month, another year gone so quickly. Remember when you were 5 or 10 and summer lasted forever? Or Sundays when you were in college - Sunday the day that could be interminable? But as we get older, time seems to speed up and — well, you know how that goes.
Meanwhile, after a very warm September — the warmest on record — and a very slow start to our autumn color, at last the glorious reds and golds have appeared, and right on schedule as this weekend is the usual peak foliage time in my part of Maine.
As we move through fall into winter and savor the warm colors we see now, keep in mind what Jung reminded us of: