I often hear patients apologize for complaining about things in their lives, as if complaints are invalid and unnecessary. I carry in mind something I remember from a book I read about 30 years ago, Sylvia Brinton Perera’s Descent to the Goddess. I probably ought to read it again as I don’t remember too much else from the book. Anyway, here is this one very memorable quote:
Complaining is one voice of the dark goddess. It is a way of expressing life, valid and deep in the feminine soul. It does not, first and foremost, seek alleviation, but simply to state the existence of things as they are felt to be to a sensitive and vulnerable being. It is one of the bases of the feeling function, not to be seen and judged from the stoic-heroic superego perspective as foolish and passive whining, but just as autonomous fact -- ‘that’s the way it is.’ Enki’s wisdom teaches us that suffering is part of reverencing.
What a terrific antidote to the chipper face so many of us put on in an effort to avoid being seen as even momentarily negative.
I have written before about how long therapy takes because it is a question that comes up fairly often. Recently a patient wrote this to me and I think it captures very well the impossibility of answering that question with any certainty. In fact, “It depends.” is probably the best answer.
I thought today that the effect of therapy sessions is akin to the effect of water dripping slowly on a rock. Any individual drip on the rock may seem to have no impact. Any individual therapy session may seem to similarly have had no or only superficial impact. But add time and repetition and the cumulative impact of all those drips create a channel in the rock and remove layers of sediment, uncovering hidden depths and textures in the rock. Similarly, the cumulative effect of all the therapy sessions creates a channel into the soul, revealing depths of the personality that weren't visible before. But, one session or even dozens of sessions probably isn't going to reveal much by themselves. It's time and repetition it seems to me.
If you are a believer in evidence based treatment in mental health, here are a couple of links that likely will raise some doubts for you:
Surprise! I am back. Chapter written. Finishing work on book in progress. Time and inclination to write back.
I came of age when second wave feminism was actively raising awareness of the sexism that was, and sadly still is, rampant in the culture. I got married the first time just weeks before the very first issue of Ms.magazine appeared. The idea of dividing household chores, that all of that should not be my sole province was new and the notion that I could retain my own name was a new one, though that one didn’t come until after I married. It really seemed like we women would arrive at true equality in those heady days. Roe v. Wade and reliable contraception meant reproductive choice was ours. The EEOC meant we could have redress when we experienced discrimination in employment. Heady times.
Sigh. We failed, for the most part, to reckon with the forces that worked against us. So we found ourselves in 2015 having to fight to retain the gains we made over 40 years ago.
The GOP primary debate this past week made it clear that misogyny is alive and well in the wake of Donald Trump’s remarks about Rosie O’Donnell and one of the moderators, Megan Kelly. And the focus of all of the candidates on Hillary Clinton rather than their own vision of what they would bring to the presidency.
That is a question I engage with every day — with patients, with things I am thinking and writing about, with my personal work. What does it mean?
So what does it mean that I have not posted here in 4 months? Because it means something.
Well, i continued to work on my book. And did a bunch of knitting. Reflected a lot on the joy and beauty of my new granddaughter. Watched the snow fall — and fall and fall, all 130+ inches that we got this past winter. With all the snow, we hunkered down and mostly stayed home, binge watched different series on Netflix, read a lot of books and dreamed of spring. Which finally came.
But mostly it means that I was in one of those deeply introverted times that happen now and again. Time when writing just didn’t feel right. Time to reflect and look within, to work on dreams, to be with myself.
And now with the turn to spring and soon summer, I emerge and Jung At Heart returns to life.
In the days ahead I want to muse a bit on embodiment and identity. On the quest for perfection. On identity politics. And whatever else comes along. I hope you’ll join in.
Most of us like to believe we are rational and that any superstitions we have are humorous because we would not take such things seriously. This past week Jonathan Shedler had a really good post on how wrong we are, at least when it comes to antidepressants. Take a look — it is well worth the time.
This week has brought a couple of reminders that weight is the most important thing about any of us.
First, when Colleen Mccullough died, her obituary did not lead with a list of her remarkable accomplishments. As Regan Chastain described them, she
created the department of neurophysiology at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, she served as head of the department for five years. She worked at the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street. She taught neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurological electronics at Yale. She wrote the best selling novels Tim and The Thorn Birds and 23 other books including cookbooks, a biography, romance, family history, crime and seven-book Roman series. She was awarded the Scanno Prize for literature and several of her books have been made into films.
but these things were not deemed worthy of the lede in her obituary. Oh no. What really mattered was this:
COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”
And yes, this paragraph was in bold. Because her looks trump anything she did during her life.
If only this were uncommon, but it is not. Last fall the NY Times magazine did a profile piece on Chris Christie. Here are a few choice items from that piece:
The governor then sat back down to his nachos, which were dripping grease and piled prodigiously with three scoops of sour cream and guacamole over melted cheese. Diced tomatoes spilled onto the table. Christie, who has lost about 100 pounds since undergoing lap-band surgery last year, stopped drinking soda and rarely drinks alcohol, except for an occasional vodka “to take the edge off.” But he hasn’t relinquished some old delights. He surveyed the nachos and grabbed a large deck hewed together by coagulated Cheddar. “We don’t mess around,” he said, bringing the cluster to his lips. “I didn’t have breakfast today,” he added, as if by way of explanation. And then: “I had a little bit of ice cream around lunchtime.” When I asked if he felt better after his weight loss, Christie replied that he felt much the same physically but “much better psychologically.”
That was the third paragraph in a long article about a man who is a governor, the chair of the Republican Governor’s Association and widely believed to be a major contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. And his nachos were deemed worthy of this much attention — and they are mentioned again in the article too. In fact the word “nacho” appears 8 times in the article!
Later in the piece there is this:
I happily return to Jung. I am reminded of this quote:
It is generally assumed in medical circles that the examination of the patient should lead to a diagnosis of his illness, so far as this is possible at all, and that with the establishment of the diagnosis an important decision has been arrived at as regards prognosis and therapy. Psychotherapy forms a startling exception to this rule: the diagnosis is a highly irrelevant affair since, apart from afixing a more or less lucky label to a neurotic condition, nothing is gained by it, at least as regards prognosis and therapy...
The content of a neurosis can never be established by a single examination, or even by several. It manifests itself only in the course of treatment. Hence the paradox that the true psychological diagnosis becomes apparent only at the end. (C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 16, pp.86-87)
Jung argues that initially one must make an assessment of whether or not organic brain disease is present and I would add that it is important to assess for psychosis. But given that the vast majority of patients who show up for psychotherapy have already prescreened themselves along those lines so that it is rare for a therapist to see either in a new patient, most of the people we see are what Jung called neurotic. And isn't it interesting that despite the fact that psychiatry discarded neurosis with the DSM III, the term persists in common usage?
How different Jung's perspective is from what dominates today -- a fixation on diagnosis. In fact, if one is not assigned, then there is no third party payment. We may have rather hugely increased the number of potential diagnoses, but to think the process is actually precise or scientific is to labor under serious delusion. Following Jung's path takes patient and therapist to meaning of symptoms in the context of that patient's life.
You may have heard we had a blizzard here in Maine yesterday. A by-the-book definition of the term blizzard with large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours). We didn’t lose power at all so we stayed snug and warm in our house and enjoyed watching the snow and listening to the winds which howled around the house.
Looks like we ended up with something around 20-24” of snow. And more forecast for Friday. Ahh, winter in Maine!
There used to be a restaurant in Waterville, Maine called The Silent Woman.They had a large sign which depicted a decapitated woman serving refreshments on a tray. It was a terrible image, one I am happy to see is no longer there as both restaurant and sign are long gone.
In the garden in front of my house I have the figure above. She stands there year round, hair flying, dancing and in my mind celebrating life and herself. She is in her exuberance the very antithesis of the Silent Woman.
I was quiet about what it is like being fat and how I felt and what I thought for a very long time. It isn’t say to go against tide and speak up and speak out. So I began writing several years ago. And then as I became bolder, I submitted my essay to Spring and became a bit more public than I am here in my cozy blog.
I have a great passion for the work I do. Doing psychotherapy is far more than a job for me. I love doing the work, talking about it, reading more deeply in the field, listening and learning from others in my part of the therapy universe and from other parts that also look in depth.