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  • Sunday, December 17, 2017 10:24 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    “As the reader may be aware, one of the most important sources for symbolical ideas in the past is alchemy. From this I take, first and foremost, the idea of the scintillae—sparks [luminosities hidden in the original substance]…It is clear that certain of the alchemists had already divined the psychic nature of these luminosities. They were seeds of light broadcast in the chaos, which [the alchemist] Khunrath calls ‘mundi futuri seminarium’(the seed plot of a world to come).”

    - C.G. Jung, CW Vol. 8, para. 388

    Traditionally, as the longest night of the year approaches, our thoughts turn toward the symbolic interplay of dark and light. This year, the darkening mirrors back to us the moral travails of our time as our collective feeling falls under the shadows of fear and greed. And once again, as we have done since we were children, we look toward the winter solstice as a call to hope, a sign that the cyclical triumph of the light is embedded in the nature of things.

    Meaningful anticipation of the winter solstice--or the time of Advent, the time of holy waiting in the Christian calendar—encourages the spirit and nurtures the soul. Nonetheless, I find myself wishing that the dark days linger for a while and that the light return slowly, gently.

    There is more in these dark days than waiting. The night has its own integrity. Without the dark, the stars and planets would be invisible to us, silent presences, influencing us in hidden but powerful ways. The stellar sky mirrors back to us the luminous darkness that steers the course of individuation. Just as ancient mariners depended upon the night sky to traverse great distances, so too do we depend upon subtle sparks of light hidden in the unconscious psyche to guide our life’s passage. These points of light—image, idea, sensation, intuition—meet us as we release ourselves to the darkness of sleep, to the pain of grief or to the will’s defeat in the face of realities and happenings outside our control.

    We belong to a world—and a self—that is ever in a state of becoming. The night sky is the soul’s mirror, a reminder that light is embedded even in the deepest darkening, a “seed plot of a world to come.”

    Melanie Starr Costello, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, historian, and senior Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute-Zurich and earned her doctorate in the History and Literature of Religions from Northwestern University. She formerly served as Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, was a Trustee for the Consortium for Psychoanalytic Research in Washington, D.C. and is currently Director of Education for the Jungian Analysts of Washington, a member of the Board of the C.G. Jung Foundation of New York and a training analyst for the C.G. Jung Institute-Zurich.  Dr. Costello has taught and published on the topics of psychology and religion, medieval spirituality, aging and clinical practice. Her study of the link between illness and insight, entitled Imagination, Illness and Injury: Jungian Psychology and the Somatic Dimensions of Perception, is published by Routledge Press.

  • Wednesday, November 15, 2017 9:30 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    A key to recovery from oppressive and repressive compulsions and complexes induced by familial, social and cultural norms and influences lies in the deliberate and consistent engagement and processing of signs, images, fantasies and symbols that appear over one’s lifetime. Reckoning with and movement away from the edge of the spectrum to include the feminine perspective and the enlightenment that soothes, requires the agency found in running water.

    During the last ten years, the resurgence, prominence and acceptance of the value of the expressive arts in psychotherapy reveals a worldwide orientation towards the feminine and its strengths of relatedness, compassion and empathy. The evolving spontaneity of play in the expressive arts inspires the participant with confidence, courage and the joy of discovery, thus enriching a life.

    ...I have succeeded, or so I believe, in finding at least an indirect way of approach to the instinctual image.  ...observed patients whose dreams pointed to a rich store of fantasy-material.  ...they were stuffed full of fantasies, without being able to tell me just where the inner pressure lay.  ...I suspected these configurations of harboring a certain purposefulness...     (Vol. 8, 202)

    When one suspends thinking and allows the body and hands free rein, one can witness and participate in a state of curious observation of “the inner pressure,”  ...”never stepping beyond the bounds of the picture lying before me.”  The child archetype of the collective unconscious exists at all stages of life.  Validating the reoccurring patterns of dysfunction and problematic behavior, that can recapitulate the experiences of childhood, allows a confrontation and engagement at the roots of issues and conflicts. The darkness restores truths that life can not repair, a rescue from meaninglessness, informing an “individuation process.” Initially a blur, amplification restores clarity and color.

    Sandplay, an expressive art, uses a shallow tray of sand with a collection of miniature figures representing all facets of life from many cultures, to create a safe and protected space for this “free rein of fantasy.”   A form of active imagination in which a dialectical relationship develops between the interior world and the exterior presence i.e. the unconscious and ego consciousness.  Sandplay is a buffer against the suffering of painful, angry and confusing elements that surface to communicate what has been locked inside.  The process of individuation yields to the mystery, magic and miracles of discovery.

     As a bridge, the connectivity, established and honored, engages the realm of the Self with the original potential of wholeness and a home of spirit.  Three-dimensional worlds created in the sand, with the miniature images contribute over time, “harboring a certain purposefulness.”  Thus, the transforming and healing nature in creative play and the journey through an unfolding myth allay “the inner pressure.”

    Photo: Ometepe, Nicaragua, August, 2017

    Lynda Joslyn, LCSW-C, Jungian Analyst, trained at the C.G. Jung Institute of New York and is a Teaching Member of Sandplay Therapists of America (STA). She is in private practice in Silver Spring, Maryland.

  • Sunday, October 15, 2017 11:20 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    A specific kind of organizing energy or pattern may be called “archetypal” when it appears in multiple cultures, however differently disguised, appareled, or enacted. One such recurrent energy is what Jung called “the trickster” archetype. On the personal level, we all know about Die Schelm at work in our daily lives, the little devil that moves our keys from where we know we left them, which causes us to forget what we intended to remember, that disrupts the flow of daily life as we would have it.

    We might say that the “trickster” is the personification of the absolute autonomy of nature. We gain a provisional recognition of trickster energy when we personify it as coyote, fox, hare, imp, devil, Kokopelli, “Murphy’s Law,” and the like. If we can image it, we can then begin to establish some conscious relationship to it. It is most autonomous, most likely disruptive to the expected order of things, when it operates unconsciously in our lives.

    A personal example of the trickster at work occurred to me, decades ago, when I was teaching at a university. In a course on myth, we had been examining Buddhist perspectives on the relationship of the ego, with its various management scripts, to the autonomy of nature, noting how we are so often invested in micro-managing what we cannot control, and then being frustrated at reminders of our existential limitations. That particular class, to save time, I carried my car keys in my pocket rather than return to the office to retrieve them. When I rushed to my car, en route to several patient appointments in a distant city, my keys were missing. To make this long story very short, I had left them in the classroom, a passing administrator picked them up and forgetfully carried them in his coat pocket the rest of the day. After hours of frustration, having blown all those appointments, I finally had my keys returned by the “Lost and Found” department. The next class I began by recalling our discussion of hyper-control and its estranging effects in our live. I had to confess to the class how to save five minutes, I had lost a day. The trickster had done his reminding, humbling work in me.

    On the collective level, the trickster appears in our public pathologies just as well. In his essay on the trickster, Jung writes, “As soon as people get together in masses and submerge the individual, the shadow is mobilized and, as history shows, may even be personified and incarnated.”

    The classic example of how the trickster can take hold of a group’s psyche is found in the Austrian corporal who 1) found simplistic “reasons” for the nation’s distress, 2) identified scapegoats, those who must be excluded from the society, and 3) offered grandiose promises of full employment, restoration of the old values, and a return to national greatness. This Know-Nothing, ignorant, and deeply troubled man mobilized a nation, gained millions of votes, and led them to ruin. In seeking to account for this troubled figure’s capacity to reach within the souls of so many individuals, the trickster energy is evident. We do not fall for public tricksters unless and until our inner trickster has already over-thrown our good sense, our reason, and our grounding.

    The health of the commonwealth is never any better than the health of its individuals. Where we are unconscious, or unaccountable, the trickster has free rein. This is why Jung concluded, “In the history of the collective, everything depends on the development of consciousness.”

    James Hollis, Ph.D. is a Zurich-trained Jungian analyst in practice in Washington, D. C. where he is also Executive Director of the Jung Society of Washington. He is also author of fourteen books translated into nineteen languages. 

  • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 3:15 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    In writing about “The Aims of Psychotherapy” in 1929, Jung observed that the therapeutic project is less about “cure,” for life is not a disease, but an on-going experiment to be lived through. So, the common work, he asserts, “is less a question of treatment than of developing the creative possibilities latent within the patient.” (CW 16, para.82)

    As projects of nature, we are infinitely adaptable, resilient, and resourceful. Without these attributes, this animal species we are would not have been able to survive the perils of this planet. Just as we adapt to the various powers around us, adaptations that often distort, even violate our own souls, so we manage to wedge ourselves into the narrow slots where external forces so often maneuver us. While these adaptations allow us to fit into our family structures, or social environments, they also tend to cost us a great deal. Every adaptation, however obliged by outer pressures, risks a further injury to the psyche which will not go unaddressed by the soul. So, bombarded as we are by the cacophonous claims of contemporary culture, we find ways to fit in; and the hidden cost of doing so shows up in our disturbing dreams, our anaesthetizing addictions, or our sundry forms of denial or distraction.  How many of us, for example, have tried to do “the right thing,” as defined by our family messages, our cultural imperatives and prohibitions, or by succumbing to the pressures of the hour, and then felt empty within, used, exploited, betrayed somehow? The perverse irony is that these same adaptations that often allow us to “fit in,” become traps, constraints which also contain or deform the developmental desires that course through us as well.

    When we understand psychopathology as the quite legitimate protest of the psyche, a summons to take seriously a wider range of life’s choices, we realize that we do have an internal guidance system. If I am doing all “the right things,” why is it I have to keep forcing the energy, fighting off the doubts, depressions, and keep trying to stay ahead of whatever is pursuing me?   

    Jung speaks to this common phenomenon quite clearly and powerfully. He notes that so many of his cases “are not suffering from any clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and aimlessness of their lives. I should not object if this were called the general neurosis of our age.” (Ibid. para. 83).

    Most of us really “know” what is right for us, though we may be frightened or intimidated to know what we already know. As Jung put it, “Most of my patients knew the deeper truth, but did not live it.  And why did they not live it? Because of that bias which makes us all live from the ego, a bias which comes from overvaluation of the conscious mind.” (Ibid., para 108). And by “conscious mind,” generally Jung means the mind that is occupied by the complex triggered in that moment. So, seldom are we “in our right mind.” Most of the time we are subsumed by, and serving, the invisible text of a “message,” which means we serve the received authority rather than our own deepest promptings.

    So much of the self-help genre prattles on about “happiness.” “Thirty Days to this or That...”. “Five Easy Steps to…”. You fill in the blanks. But this Pablum does not feed the soul, fire the spirit, create the new world. The pursuit of “happiness” is delusory. It is a by-product of those rare moments of détente, of concordance between our external choices and our internal reality. As he writes in another essay, “Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life,” “the principle aim of psychotherapy is not to transport the patient to an impossible state of happiness but to help him acquire steadfastness and philosophic patience in the face of suffering. Life demands for its completion and fulfillment a balance between joy and sorrow.” (Ibid., para 185).

    In the end, we prove to be more than just social animals; we are meaning-seeking, meaning-creating creatures. As Jung notes, “The least of things with a meaning is always worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.” (op. cit., para 45).

    James Hollis, Ph.D., was born in Springfield, Illinois, graduated from Manchester University in 1962 and Drew University in 1967.  He taught Humanities 26 years in various colleges and universities before retraining as a Jungian analyst at the Jung Institute of Zurich, Switzerland (1977-82). 

    He is presently a licensed Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D.C. He served as Executive Director of the Jung Educational Center in Houston, Texas for many years and now is Executive Director of the Washington Jung Society. He is a retired Senior Training Analyst for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, was first Director of Training of the Philadelphia Jung Institute, and is Vice-President Emeritus of the Philemon Foundation.
    Additionally, he is a Professor of Jungian Studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston.

    He lives with his wife Jill, an artist and retired therapist, in Washington, DC.  Together they have three living children and eight grand-children. 

    He has written a total of fifteen books and over fifty articles.
    The books have been translated into Swedish, Russian, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian, Korean, Finnish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Farsi, Japanese, Greek, Chinese, and Czech

  • Wednesday, February 15, 2017 3:11 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    Jung states in all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order. Within this perspective a stillpoint is elucidated at the crossroads. A stillpoint of connection is play when a substantial amount of energy is released creating feelings of worth and well being which one longs for. It all begins through the face to face, eye to eye contact between caregiver and infant.  Social skills develop for a lifetime of connection through this process. Play lay at the roots of discovery of many of Jung’s ideas and he found solace and comfort in this bounty of nature throughout his lifetime.

    Jung’s discovery in his study of alchemy that “the unconscious is a process and that the psyche is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious” is profound for the opus or journey that one encounters. The orientation of play between these entities insures the development of patterns of meaning which  determine attitudes and behavior for future struggles and success.

    Alchemy contains a model of the individuation process in the image called The Mountain of the Adepts.  Jung writes in Psychology and Alchemy (CW 12) that the image contains “the temple of the wise, lit by the sun and moon, stands on seven stages, surmounted by the phoenix.  The temple is hidden in the mountain - a hint that the philosophers’ stone (supreme object of alchemy) lies buried in the earth and must be extracted and cleansed.  The zodiac in the background symbolizes the duration of the opus, while the four elements indicate wholeness.  In the foreground are a blindfolded man and the investigator who follows his natural instinct.”

    An anatomy of individuation, the seven stages in the model concretize the experiences of a lifetime that can cumulate in restoration and transformation. This process occurs whether one stumbles along like the blindfolded man searching for truth or the more productive path represented by the investigator who follows the natural instincts.  The knowledge of these operations can be a stabilizing force in daily life as these alchemical  forces manifest throughout the individuation process.

    A vivid example of these operations at work in the middle age of a person involved a cyber affair where the usual coping skill of intellectualization was useless. The standards of society met head to head with family shadow complexes.  This one-sidedness of a personality took its toll as life as usual became meaningless and despair set in to deregulate the affective state of being.  Save for the grace of play in the dreams and expressive arts modalities, total chaos was held in check.  In another situation a symphony, Firebird by Stravinsky, provoked the memory of a dream, in which the phoenix concretized a place at the head table. This stillpoint restored feelings of self worth and well being. Stillpoints are numinous.  

    Lynda Joslyn, LCSW-C, is a Jungian Analyst, graduate of the CG Jung Institute of New York and a teaching member of Sandplay Therapists of America (STA).  She has a private practice in Silver Spring, Maryland.

    Lynda Joslyn, LCSW-C, is a Jungian Analyst, graduate of the CG Jung Institute of New York and a teaching member of Sandplay Therapists of America (STA).  She has a private practice in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

  • Sunday, January 15, 2017 7:06 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    Somewhere in this peculiar journey we call our life we all will find ourselves needing to make very difficult decisions. Quite apart from our expectations, plans, hopes, and will, we arrive at junctures where no matter what we do there is a considerable price to pay. As I reflected on what to write for this blog, I determined to allow chance, or synchronicity, or the gods who operate in such matters to dictate the subject matter and the approach. And so I pulled two volumes at random from the Collected Works of Jung which, not surprisingly, are at my elbow. I turned to the back jackets and looked at quotes I had noted in earlier readings, some going back as far as the seventies in Zürich when I studied at the Jung Institute. And here are the two which emerged for me, and, seemingly, dictated the content and direction of this blog.

    First, from Volume 14, Mysterium Coninuctionis, on the possibility of finding the right path for ourselves.  

    We are often gripped by fear, by the comforting powers of the old adaptations whose chief virtues were anxiety management and protection, or, alternatively, the path ahead is blocked by familiar apprehensions about stepping into the unknown on our own. No wonder we tend to abide the familiar, stultifying as it may be. Yet something within us always knows, always protests, always begins to withdraw approval and support and we ratify our old inner divisions. Ego consciousness, tasked with making it all work, labors to satisfy the Anxiety Party clamoring in the back benches of the inner Parliament for surcease, for return to the old order. The insurgent Soul Party agitates for growth, renewal, risk, and enlargement, and the Honorable Ego Prime Minister is beset with the impossible task of keeping these belligerents happy. No wonder this shaky Government is overthrown each night by troubling dreams filled with brigands and guerillas stirring revolt in the provinces. No wonder so many resign this struggle for personal authority and consign their value choices to tradition, to external leaders, to others, thinking it easier to get along by going along. And if only those internal brigands and guerillas would cooperate it would all work out. But every night, in the sugar cane brakes, they agitate anew, and the insurrection within bubbles.

    So, how can we find our way, make the right choices? Sometimes we just can’t, and we have to live in the midst of the very uncomfortable for a very long time, until something unexpected appears from within. As Jung writes, “you can only feel yourself on the right road when the conflicts of duty seem to have resolved themselves, and you have become the victim of a decision made over your head or in defiance of the heart. From this we can see the numinous power of the Self, which can hardly be experienced in any other way. For this reason, the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.”  (CW 14, para. 778).

    In other words, the ultimate decisions of our lives are made by some higher agency than the ego, however important ego consciousness is in the governance of daily life. When ego consciousness can accord itself with the will of the Self, there is a profound sense of the rightness, the peace, the accord which comes from a moment of wholeness when we are at one with ourselves, and not this split, divided, warring assemblage of fractious parties.

    The second citation which leapt out at me is from Psychology and Alchemy, wherein Jung writes that sometimes one simply has to be “alone if [one] is to find out what it is that supports [us] when [we] no longer can support ourselves. Only this experience can give [us] an indestructible foundation.”  (CW 12, para. 32.)

    Both of these citations did in fact leap out at me because I had underlined them, and I had underlined them many years before because they had leapt out at me in the first place. Both of these ideas speak urgently to the Western phantasy of ego sovereignty in which we have all deeply invested, myself included, namely, the phantasy of conscious management of our lives. Such consciousness has brought us many gifts, many rewards, and larger lives, to be sure; it has also brought us considerable internal division, self-alienation, no little inflation, hubris, narcissism, and self-delusion. Both of the volumes I pulled off the shelf are among Jung’s most arcane, but both speak directly to the pathology of the Western mind and its one-sidedness.   

    Jung challenges us to consider that within each of us is a center which is wiser than our knowledge, deeper than our learning, older than our chronology, and more durable than our calcified convictions. From time to time, life humbles us, calls us to account, leads us back to the drawing board, and asks us to start over.  Isn’t it nice to think there might also be some resources available there to help us when we think we are bereft, when we have exhausted our conscious tools, when we have lost our way?

    In 1939, when he addressed the Guild for Pastoral Psychology in London Jung noted that we all need to re-member what our ancestors knew, that if we wait upon the silence, it speaks, and wait upon the darkness, it illumines. Ours is a frenetic epoch. We are ego driven, time-bound, impatient. The idea of waiting, listening, attending is inimical to the tenor of our time. This is why we are so lost, and adrift, so distracted, and so much at the mercy of any folly of the moment.  The timeless part of ourselves is the only compass which may be found in this troubled hour. Poet Emily Dickinson intuited this in the 1860s when she wrote, “The sailor cannot see the North, but knows the needle can.” She knew she had a compass. She knew a compass would be needed for the night sea journey of the modernist voyage. Jung knew we have a compass, and he provided tools to consult, to interpret, to trust, to embody that compass in this world. When the day arrives in the life of any of us that we can remember this invitation, then the encounter with the Self will not be defeat but resource, not overthrow but transformation.

    James Hollis, Ph.D. is a Zurich-trained Jungian analyst in practice in Washington, D. C. where he is also Executive Director of the Jung Society of Washington. He is also author of fourteen books translated into nineteen languages. 

  • Thursday, December 15, 2016 10:10 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    In his historic interview with BBC’s John Freeman (1959), C.G. Jung stated, “…we are not of today or of yesterday. We are of an immense age.” Jung was alluding to the dimensions of the unconscious psyche that he considered historically preconditioned and that gain expression through a symbol-making function general to humankind. The unassailable human need for symbolic formulations of meaning (the “religious function of the psyche”) had become the central tenant of Jung’s life work.

    Jung had lived through two world wars. His work on the religious instinct shed much needed light upon the phenomenon of mass ideological contamination. He attributed both the destructive mass movements of his age and many modern neuroses to “loss of soul." In Jung’s view, the iconoclasm of the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment emphasis upon rationality had effectively barred the western soul from fluid access to the enlivening, symbolic functions in the depths of the psyche. He observed how modern neuroses arise out of the resulting gap between the conscious mind and the deep, unconscious ground of mental and emotional functioning. This gap, he believed, makes us vulnerable to collective ideologies as substitutes for communally formulated religious expressions of meaning.  As he famously put it,

    The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world (in CW Vol. 13, para. 54).

    Of course, social and political crises arise out of the convergence of multiple factors at any given point in history. But Jung's formulation contributed significantly to an understanding of Western European experience in the 20th century and retains its relevance for understanding core dynamics at play in present time.  We hear echoes of the social and political conditions Jung sought to explain in alarming collective movements of today.  

    Constrictions of the psyche’s symbolic function makes individuals and groups vulnerable to possession by unconscious archetypal contents, particularly under conditions of rapid change or economic uncertainty. Let's consider stress responses currently at play in the West: resurgent nationalism, the rise of rigid ideologies, a reversion to an “us or them” mentality and authoritarianism.  Leading up to this, and as a reaction against global influences that overshadow local cultures and destroy local economies, we witnessed an escalation of fundamentalism and scriptural literalism within sectors of Christian and Muslim community--phenomena signifying the petrification of the symbolic function.

    The longing for return to a golden age of unified belief and unified identity extends beyond religious circles. Indeed, the call to go back, to "make America great again,” captures a general sentiment that helped mobilize millions during the US presidential election. But in our rapidly shrinking, multi-cultural world, the drive toward recovery of a symbolically unified collective condition will perpetuate conflict and divisiveness so long as it operates outside of our awareness. Under current conditions, it is essential that we come to an understanding of the unconscious forces at play.  At the same time, we might place some hope in the constructive compensations the psyche also provides. Do you sight emergent symbolic forms that might help us constructively mediate political and social fragmentation?

    Melanie Starr Costello, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, historian, and Zurich-trained Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D.C. since 1999.  She earned her doctorate in the History and Literature of Religions from Northwestern University. A former Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Dr. Costello has taught and published on the topics of psychology and religion, medieval spirituality, aging and spirituality, and clinical practice. Her study of the link between illness and insight entitled, Imagination, Illness and Injury: Jungian Psychology and the Somatic Dimensions of Perception, is published by Routledge press.

    Dr. Costello serves on the Board of the C.G. Jung Foundation of New York, is the Director of Education for the Jungian Analysts of Washington Association, and has served as Trustee for the Consortium for Psychoanalytic Research in Washington, DC. 

    ​She lives with her husband, Phil, and her dog, Jack, on the northwest branch of the Anacostia River. 

  • Thursday, September 15, 2016 12:44 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    C. G. Jung states in his essay The Psychology of the Child Archetype:

    …we are confronted at every new stage in the differentiation of consciousness to which civilization attains, with the task of finding a new “interpretation” appropriate to this stage, in order to connect the life of the past that still exists in us with the life of the present, which threatens to slip away from it.  If this link-up does not take place, a kind of rootless consciousness comes into being no longer oriented to the past, a consciousness which succumbs helplessly to all manner of suggestions and, in practice, is susceptible to psychic epidemics.  (1959/1977, para. 267)

    Our culture has succumbed to the psychic epidemic of narcissism (an alienation from the self) which simply perpetuates itself as it is handed down from one generation to another.  Where did it all start?  How did we get to this place?  By the use of will,  civilized man’s consciousness has become more and more differentiated, more one-sided. He has lost touch with his roots, both the compensating feminine principle and the experiencing realm of the young child.

    Our Western, masculine-dominated culture, with its emphasis on progress, shuns anything that may resemble a regressive movement.  Innately, we are driven toward the light, toward a differentiated consciousness of the masculine principle.  Jung’s theory of the psyche is based on the idea that consciousness arises out of the unconscious (generally associated with the feminine, the irrational, the undifferentiated, the body, the instinctual, relating to, experiential knowledge,  completion and darkness). This is illustrated in both the phylogenetic and ontogenetic development of the human brain.  In both the historical and individual brain development, the last part to develop is the cortex region — known as the executive center and biased toward the rational, the differentiated, the mind, the spiritual, controlling of, abstract knowledge, perfection and light— all are considered aspects of the masculine principle and associated with the conscious realm.  We as a people needed this developing movement to advance our civilization via the scientific discoveries and new technology. However, our culture’s psyche appears to have a malfunctioning self-regulator which has resulted in an increasingly greater imbalance between the masculine and feminine principles — between the collective consciousness and its compensating unconscious.

    Carl Jung indicated in the above statement that our past still exists inside of us (the unconscious psyche which encompasses our subjective nature of emotions, bodily sensations, perceptions, and images) and that we need to find a way to “connect the life of the past” to “the life of the present”.  Failure to do so will result in a “rootless consciousness” that is “no longer oriented to the past.” This means that we would no longer be grounded in our subjective experiences (in a sense of an embodied, experiencing self as a culture).  I describe this state of rootless consciousness as having no sense of self and would call it a narcissistic disturbance.  Without our embodied/feeling/subjective experiences to ground us in who we are as individuals, we are prey to all sorts of suggestions from outside ourselves as to what we perceive, what we experience, what we feel, how we should respond, what we need, and what we want.

    According to Jung, it appears that the “new interpretation appropriate to this stage of differentiation of consciousness” needs to include the linking of the present state of differentiation (masculine aspects) with the past (aspects of the feminine realm and the state of early childhood). This linking would only come if we can overcome our propensity for the light and soaring heights of consciousness and dare turn inward toward the deep and darkened realm of the unconscious. 

    I suggest that it is the devaluation and depotentiation of the unconscious, irrational feminine realm by our patriarchal culture that has resulted in our current psychic epidemic of narcissism— a culture that breeds emptiness and souless-ness.  We are currently in the midst of a psychic epidemic.  Is the enantiodromia in view?  Can we as a culture meet the task Jung mentions above  of “finding a new interpretation appropriate of this stage in order to connect the past that still exists in us to the life of the present which threatens to slip away from it”?  Can we hold onto both realms — and let them inform each other?

    Cathryn Polonchak is a certified Jungian Analyst and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of West Virginia. She has a private practice in the Shepherdstown and the Charles Town/Harpers Ferry areas of West Virginia. In addition to her membership in JAWA, Cathryn is the Director of Seminar for the Philadelphia Association of Jungian Analysts (PAJA), and a member of IRSJA, IAAP, and NASW. She is particularly interested in the interface between body and mind, particularly at the psyche-soma level of trauma. 

  • Sunday, May 15, 2016 9:20 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    In Memories, Dreams, Reflections in Chapter VI, Confrontation with the Unconscious, Jung writes of the great disorientation he experienced following his break with Freud. He explains that he lost his grounding, his very understanding of who he was and how he might practice. In his efforts to regain his footing he paid close attention to his dreams and fantasies including memories from childhood.  He remembered playing with little building blocks with which he constructed small houses and castles. He was impassioned by this play as a child. As he reflected upon it he experienced a great deal of emotion, which puzzled him. He concluded that these memories were still alive in him; the child was still accessible and had no doubt come to inform Jung, the grown man. Following this and still at loose ends as a result of the break with Freud, he made the decision to return to his childhood building game. He gathered small stones from the lake and every day weather permitting, he would go out after lunch and build; cottages, a church, a whole village. He came to realize that as he did so his thoughts cleared and his grip on the unconscious contents of Psyche became known to him.

    "Naturally, I thought about the significance of what I was doing, and asked myself, ‘Now, really, what are you about?’ You are building a small town, and doing it as if it were a rite!” I had no answer to my question, only the inner certainty that I was on the way to discovering my own myth. For the building game was only a beginning. It released a stream of fantasies which I later carefully wrote down." pp 174-75.

    The question that Jung asked himself that day, “Now, really, what are you about?” has informed my analytic work with my clients for many years.  It is at the very core of my being as an analyst and in my everyday life. There is a synchronicity associated with the quote which I will share to help you appreciate the depth of it’s meaning to me.

    Near the end of my training I was struggling to find a topic for the required diploma thesis. Jungian study, as you know, is so broad and deep; so many compelling topics one might chose. I wanted to find a topic that would seize me. One night in the midst of my heated search, I had the following dream.

    I had gone to see my supervisor. I entered her consulting room and her sand tray miniatures were set out all about on shelves. There was another supervisee with her so while I waited for my appointment I walked about the room selecting a few of the miniatures. One looked like a Russian onion dome church turned upside down. Inside the dome were tiny receptacles for birthday cake sized candles, next to the onion dome was a bowl of tiny braided candles, the kind that are used in the Havdalah service in celebration of the close of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown on Saturdays. It is that moment when the Sabbath ends and we are called to return to the mundane everyday workweek. The candle is braided and has multiple wicks to symbolically represent the need for additional light so that one avoids staying too long in the bliss of the Sabbath. A return to consciousness is required.

    In the dream I took some of the candles and fixed them into the little receptacles.  I was puzzled by what I configured. I didn’t understand. At that moment, a small, old, white haired man appeared in the middle of the room and in a voice that sounded far away he spoke to me. He said, “Sandy, what are you about?”  That was the end of the dream.

    I was left with the mystery---the onion dome, the little braided candles and the haunting voice of the white haired man.  For days I repeated his question to me over and over again. “What are you about?”  Many hours of personal analysis, active imaginations and paintings and then I had it! The braided candles represented my dual training as an art therapist and a Jungian analyst. Two burning as one. How did they stand-alone and yet enhance each other? My thesis would be about how I combine the two disciplines.  Some weeks later, I picked up Memories, Dreams, Reflections for no reason and randomly opened it. It automatically opened to pages 174-75 and there, underlined in several bright colors, was Jung’s description of his return to his childhood game and his haunting question.  I was flabbergasted. I honestly had no memory of having read that passage before and here I was having dreamed Jung’s very words.  “…What are you about?”

    I read on, further Jung wrote, “This sort of thing has been consistent with me, and at any time in my later life when I came up against a blank wall, I painted a picture or hewed stone. Each such experience proved to be a rite d’entrée for the ideas and works that followed hard upon it.”

    The question for me is like a key that opens the door to the archetypal journey of individuation. It is an invitation to enter the work of analysis, to open to the dance between conscious and unconscious. It is the question that creates the framework for the analytic relationship. The guide and the seeker.  The analyst/guide has among other roles, the job of witness. In Jung’s play with the building blocks and in my dream, the question, “What are you about?” evokes a creative response. It makes room for the “other”. One is invited “to wonder.” I see it as a caring question. We all want to be seen and to be met. Here the questioner is pointedly noticing us and taking the time to ask. She is creating a space for us to come to know our self.

    I invite you to spend some time with this question and see what you discover. You will have an experience of Jung.

    Sandy Geller, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, is a Jungian analyst and a Board Certified Licensed Art Therapist.  She is in private practice in Washington, DC where she sees analytic clients and does ongoing Jungian Art Therapy groups.  Sandy lectures and gives workshops about Jungian Art Therapy and Creativity. The workshops always provide an experience of Jung and a deep connection with the symbolic.  She has taught at the CG Jung Institute in Kusnacht, Switzerland, The Philadelphia Jung Institute, The Jung Society of Washington, The George Washington University Art Therapy Program and elsewhere.  She gives workshops in her new office just off of Connecticut Ave on the Red Line.  Some recent classes have focused on Dream Drawing, Personal Myth and Fairytale, Personal Creation Myths and Stories.  Many of her clients are artists, poets and writers stuck in their creative process. Working intensely with dreams, art expressions and the symbolic is helpful in the process of awakening the creative spirit.

  • Friday, April 15, 2016 9:25 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    In the “Psychology of the Transference”, Jung said, “The goal is important only as an idea; the essential thing is the opus which leads to the goal: that is the goal of a lifetime.  In its attainment “left and right” are united, and conscious and unconscious work in harmony.” (para. 400).

    Life is messy and wonderful. There is no doubt that the first half of life is hectic. Early life is an outer-oriented process in service of learning and adapting to social norms in the family and in the culture, becoming educated, defining oneself, and adding achievements and awards to be able to say, “This is me!” This is my persona. And, this is necessary in order to go out into the world with confidence and be productive.  All those childhood wonderings about what will I do when I grow up, who will I marry, and how many children will I have start to become answered in one’s twenties when one begins a job or career, gets married, buys a house and starts a family. Again, all of these landmarks define me and define who I am.   And, life goes on without skipping a beat. Life becomes busier than ever in one’s thirties and forties. The children are growing up, jobs are more demanding, and there is less time for oneself and one’s significant other.  We are running at a faster pace, working longer, parenting more intensely, and dealing with aging parents.  As stressful as this is, this is “normal” development and process. This is life’s work as a process.

    It is usually at this point, at mid-life, that one comes into the consulting room to deal with life stresses and to sort out one’s life. This is where life becomes an inner-oriented process. One believes that one’s stresses and problems are due to other people and external factors but not oneself.  However, it is the relationship with the analyst and psyche that allows the patient to see that these conflicts and “issues” (complexes) that have haunted him/her since childhood and are now persistent, entrenched, and repetitive. The patient then begins to shift focus and has the dawning awareness that the problems “out there” are really “in here”. There is reluctance and shame in this uncomfortable discovery that one has participated unconsciously in these problems. One chokes at the admittance of it. There is the realization that the adaptive behaviors and coping skills used in childhood that helped the patient adapt and survive have become the behaviors and coping skills that are not helpful in relationships and work in adulthood.  The real question is, “What aspects of me did I have to hide and repress in childhood in order to adapt?”  Let’s look at assertiveness as an example.  Perhaps one was not allowed to be assertive in childhood resulting in behaviors that could be described as demurring, falling back, shutting down, and not speaking up for oneself. In this instance, the patient has become too one-sidedly diffident. And, since assertiveness hides in the shadow, it comes out sideways as overly confident and dictatorial when activated.  It is through the work between the analyst and the analysand that allows for the dialogue with the unconscious that brings consciousness.  This realization creates the “opposites” for consciousness to bear and the opportunity for a shift and change in attitude.  The question now changes from who did I become to what more can I become? The one-sidedness created in the first half of life is met with the unconscious awakening in the second half of life.  This creates the opportunity to “see” one’s shadow for integration resulting in balance and wholeness. This is life’s work as a process.

    But, there is more.  While the first half of life is met with “getting” and achieving, the second half of life is met with loss. Jung stated the task of the second half of life is dealing with one’s death.  My experience in the consulting room has been that at around age 50 patients begin to have the realization of their own death.  These thoughts seem to percolate in the back of the mind and creep quietly into consciousness. Careers come to an end and children grow up and have families of their own. One ends up dealing with end of life questions and issues of oneself and one’s significant other.  Facing one’s death is indeed a daunting task and fraught with unexpected twists and turns in unchartered waters. One is better able to withstand these waters when one continues to unite the “left and right” and when “conscious and unconscious work in harmony”.  It is through this process that allows for the opportunity to engage the outer world with wisdom and generativity. This is life’s work as a process.

    Rosanne Shepler, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Psychoanalyst, received her Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute of New York in 2002. She also holds masters degrees in Health Education and Counseling. She is the past President of JAWA and the past Treasurer of JAWA and NYAAP. She is on the Curriculum Committee and Teaching Faculty of the C.G. Jung Institute of New York. She is a member of JAWA, the New York Association for Analytical Psychology (NYAAP), the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts (IRSJA), and the International Association of Analytical Psychology (IAAP). 


"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." – C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Welcome to the Jung Society of Washington's blog. Here you'll find posts by our speakers on topics ranging from interpretations of Jung's works to comments on events from a Jungian perspective, and so much more.

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