Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Profile: Sue Mehrtens

Sue Mehrtens is Vice President of The C.G. Jung Society of Vermont
and founder of The Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences, based in Waterbury VT.

Q: To begin, perhaps you could tell us how you first got interested in Jung.

A: The way I discovered Jung bespeaks just how small a box I was living in at the time. I started out as a college professor and in 1983 I was teaching at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor Maine. I was a real Cartesian—left-brained, rational, very grounded and contemptuous of anything that smacked of “New Age fluff”—what I called “California woo-woo.” Now I realize that Jung would have said I was terribly one-sided! It was such a small box! So, of course, the psyche was compensating and I think that is why the dreams began, what I have come to call my “voice-over” dreams—dreams that are just words, no action. The first was on November 25th, 1983 and it was said “Friends will die, relatives will die. You will give up everything and your life will be transformed.” In my closed-minded state at the time I told this to my husband and then forgot all about it, because I regarded dreams as just more of that New Age nonsense. Five days later I learned of the death of a friend and my life began to come apart. Within six months I felt like I was going crazy and finally turned to a group that previously I had held in contempt: psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors. There were not many in eastern Maine in 1983 and I think I saw all of them. I would go into these sessions with pages and pages of dreams—the dreams kept coming—and every one of the shrinks would say, “Oh, if you want to work with dreams you should see a union.” That’s what I heard: U-N-I-O-N. The size of my ego was such that I didn’t want to reveal to any of them that I had no clue what union they were referring to. But after hearing this from a slew of therapists I finally asked one about it. As I recall, the man was puzzled at first but then he began to laugh and told me what he said was not “union” but “Jungian.” And he spelled Jung’s name and that was the first I had ever heard of Carl Gustav Jung! I immediately took myself off to the college’s library and found an entire bookcase of Jung’s work and the minute I began reading I knew I had found someone who understood what I was going through. Since mine was the typical “mid-life crisis”—one of the major archetypal phases of life—I easily found myself in Jung’s descriptions. It took another 15 months to locate a Jungian analyst—as synchronicity would have it, just as I determined there were no Jungian analysts in Maine, the first one moved into the state, just 45 minutes’ drive from where I lived, and I have worked with Lynda Schmidt since July 17, 1985.

Q: So for you Jung has been more than just something to read about and study.

A: Oh yes, it would be no exaggeration at all to say that I think Jung saved my life. I got into my analysis with the same enthusiasm that a drowning man has for a life preserver, and that enthusiasm has never left me. At the same time that I’ve worked with Lynda all these years I have also worked with 3 male analysts. Analysis is a central part of my life and I love it. At the same time I recognize it is not for everyone, but I think Jung’s message is for everyone, even if they don’t get into analysis itself.

Q: Is that what led you to create The Jungian Center?

A: The Center began like all things in my life in the last 2 decades: from a series of the “voice-over” dreams that tell me what is going to happen and what I should do. I had a series of dreams in July 2005 that created the Center, laid out the organization of the curriculum and identified many of the courses. I regard myself as the conduit for what the Self wanted to see manifest. I don’t take credit for anything more than showing up and doing what I was told. That’s how I have come to live.

Q: By dreams.

A: Yes, but not in the way Marie-Louise von Franz found so irresponsible. In her Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales (pp. 114-5) she speaks of the “mistake” that students of Jungian psychology make in failing to consider ego consciousness when undertaking to live out a dream. I can distinguish quite clearly between my “voice-over” dreams—which Montague Ullman, in The Journal of Exceptional Human Experiences, described as “auditory hallucinations”—and the more “normal” dreams with characters, plot, scene and lysis. The “voice-over” dreams are rare but unmistakable and, after 25+ years of experience, I have developed a track record with them. I know they come from the Self; they help me to carry out my mission in life; and I know I can trust them.

Q: Your “mission in life”?

A: I had a voice-over dream in 1985, as I gave up my identity as a college professor and left teaching, that told me I would eventually return to teaching, but I would teach not what I know but who I had become. That made no sense to me then, but now I understand: we teach most effectively when it’s not a “head trip” but comes from our lived experience, and everything I teach at the Jungian Center comes out of my personal experience. I think of my mission in life now being to share Jung’s wisdom with lay people—that is, with people not likely to go into analysis. Jung recognized that the majority of people would never go into analysis but he didn’t despair about this. Rather he recognized that it would be the “simple people” who “will carry on my [i.e. Jung’s] psychology—the people who read my books and let me silently change their lives. It will not be carried on by the people on top, for they mostly give up Jungian psychology and take to prestige psychology instead.” (Hannah, Jung: His Life and Work, 323). I take Jung’s word to heart: that his message is not for some “elite” but is meant for everyone who is interested in growing and tending the soul.

Q: So you never wanted to become an analyst yourself?

A: I never had any desire to go the route of mental health counseling or being a therapist and it still annoys me that all the Jung Institutes go that route. They all insist on that medical model. I investigated several institutes just to learn more about Jung and his ideas but every one of them expected all sorts of clinical experience or clinical activities working with clients, and I am only interested in learning more about Jung’s ideas so I can be better equipped to get Jung’s message out to the general public. More specifically, at the moment, my focus is on sharing Jung’s concern about the “impending world catastrophe” [Jung, Letters, 239] and his understanding of the archetype of the apocalypse, for he was always seeing the larger picture, and how personal change could help to stave off global disaster. It seems to me that we need such personal change now more than ever. But that is a subject for an essay that I will be posting to the Society’s blog in the near future.

We’ll look forward to that.

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