Jung At Heart

Everything Old is New Again

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 --

On Being a Patient

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.

Millennials and 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. 

Her Best Body

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. 

Moving forward

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!

Trauma in every day life

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:

A funny thing happened...

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:

The Haunting Image

Since July I have been haunted by this image:

Baby Doe - NCMEC Composite660b

This computer generated image of a little girl whose body washed up on the shore of Boston Harbor has been on the news again and again as the search for her identity went on. We knew she was a toddler, a beautiful little girl. Surely someone missed her, someone knew her, someone would come forward to identify her. Three months passed. Fifty million people saw her image — online, on the news, on the billboards in the Boston area. But no one said anything. No one could tell us who she was..

Every time I saw that little face — and because I live in Maine, just a few hours north of Boston, I saw her often — I felt a deep sadness for this lost and nameless child, a most profoundly abandoned child. 

Yesterday we learned who she was. Her name was Bella. She was not quite 3. Her mother was arrested as an accomplice in her murder. Her mother’s boyfriend arrested for causing her death. Neighbors were interviewed and expressed puzzlement that they had not heard or seen her, yet they did not contact the police, even though her image was all but impossible to escape. They chose to believe the mother’s story that she had lost custody of Bella, because that was easier than believing that Bella was dead, that her mother knew that and was implicated in her death. We know she had grandparents, that they adopted one of her siblings yet they remained silent. Because no one wants to believe that a mother would not protect her child.


In the last post, I told you about the wonderful book, The Last Asylum, by Barbara Thomas. It’s one of those books that has stayed with me and leads me to think more deeply about the things she writes about — madness, analysis, healing. Today I am thinking about surrender.

Thomas came to analysis wanting her analyst to take care of her, much as she wanted and got friends to take care of her. She wanted him to give her answers, to tell her what to do to feel better. It took a number of years for her to come to the place of accepting that he could not and would not tell her what to do or give her answers or take care of her. What he could do was help her to find her own answers but in order to do that she had to surrender.

This brings to mind a day when my daughter was 4 and had an epic tantrum. The kind of tantrum where I sat on the floor holding her, careful to keep my head out of the way of her flailing and hurling of her own head and let her be in that state, let her cry and yell and flail and just lovingly hold her so that she did not hurt herself or me. Finally she stopped yelling and the storm subsided into tears and then calm. I let go of her and she turned and said ”Mommy, why did I do that?” Just as Thomas railed her analyst until she finally let go, my little girl had to do the same. Though of course there were many times in her childhood that she got angry with me or her father or brother, many times she felt us thwarting her desires, she found words to express those feelings and there were no more epic tantrums. In a way this is what Thomas describes. She had to go through that long struggle to get her way, to get what she wanted in order to get what she actually needed. She had to reach the pint of surrender in order for her to get that.

The Last Asylum

Every twice in a while I read a book that really touches something in me and sometimes even better, such a book touches me both personally and professionally. Recently I had the good fortune of encountering and reading Barbara Taylor’s The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our TimesI found it via a reference to it in an article in a Jungian journal. I am always intrigued by patient accounts of psychoanalysis so I immediately got the book. And it certainly did not disappoint. Both her account of her analysis and her discussion of the place of the asylum and the consequences of its loss are very well written and engaging. I recommend this book to anyone interest in analysis or the mental health system.

 Barbara Thomas is an excellent writer. She tells of her personal experience in a spare but very evocative way, making it possible to understand a great deal about her analysis without getting bogged down in a lot of personal detail — indeed a rare feat. I literally found it hard to put down. I continue to reflect on things I gleaned from this book and have enthusiastically recommended it to many people.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2016. All  rights reserved.