Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Notes From The President and Editor

Dear Friends of The C.G. Jung Society of Vermont,

This issue of Jung in Vermont focuses on some of the questions many of us ponder as we reflect on the deeper meaning of our lives and the import of our thoughts, feelings and actions during those quieter moments away from the hustle and bustle busy-ness of the work-a-day world.

We open with the question “why do we do what we do despite our best intentions?” addressed via an exploration of the negatively experienced complex in the Clinical Perspectives paper entitled, Grappling with the Devil: Understanding the Complex.

In Essays the paper, American Exceptionalism from a Jungian Perspective, tackles the issue of “American Exceptionalism” as in “why do we Americans believe we’re so special?” by tracing the roots of this belief in the history and governing documents of this still quite young democratic republic.

Also appearing in Essays is the paper The Psychotherapeutic Relationship and the Healing Archetype with a Special Focus on Michael Conforti’s Archetypal Field Theory, a paper dealing with the intertwined questions “what makes psychotherapy healing?” and “what differentiates Jungian psychotherapy from other psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic approaches?”

New this month is our Profiles section which profiles Vermonters - and non-Vermonters too - who are contributing to the life and vitality of the Jungian community in this state and beyond through their efforts in disseminating information on Jung’s life and work as well as continuing his explorations into psyche and soma.

To balance out the headier pieces in this month’s journal, we include the poems Spirit in Matter and Enchantment in The Arts section.

Our final section, This Month, posts information on Jungian and Jungian-related events happening in Vermont during the month of April. Highlighted this month is the society’s spring presentation in Burlington on April 19th, Psyche and Wilderness: Journeying into the Depths, presented by Dr. Teresa Arendell, Professor of Sociology at Colby College and Diploma Candidate at The C.G. Jung Institute – Boston. Be sure to click on This Month for more information on this presentation. The event is free and open to the public. Looking ahead to May, be sure to check out the Calendar of Events page on our web site at for information (to be posted shortly) on Psyche & Soma: Healing the Mind-Body Split, a presentation being given by Luanne Sberna at The Fletcher Free Library in Burlington on May 27th.

We’d like to remind our readership that we invite member submissions for the e-journal so, if you’re a member and are inspired by your muse to pen an article, poem, etc., we’d be interested in publishing it. Our submission guidelines are simple and can be found on the Calendar of Events/Society Offerings page of our website. If you’re not as yet a member, please consider becoming one - The C.G. Jung Society of Vermont is a non-profit, volunteer organization and relies on membership fees to maintain and build our programming for future events. Membership information can be accessed on the Membership Application page of our website. Don’t have access to the internet or an email address? Call me at 802-860-4921, I’d love to speak with you!

Best regards,

Stephanie Buck, President and Editor

Clinical Perspectives

Grappling with the Devil: Understanding the Complex

Complex Defined
The struggle to grasp the meaning of a complex is a challenge, as it has a way of overtaking an individual without conscious awareness. As Jung said, “Everyone knows nowadays that people ‘have complexes.’ What is not so well known … is that complexes can have us” (Jung, 1960 p.96). Not all complexes are negative; falling in love, for example, can be a positive complex. Being possessed by a complex which produces harmful, sabotaging behavior, an embarrassing slip of the tongue, noisy stumbling in a quiet setting, the sudden appearance of unexpected, disproportionate, overwhelming emotion in response to a person, statement, situation, etc., is the focus of this paper.

Jung believed that it is complexes and not dreams, as Freud postulated, that are the “royal road to the unconscious” (Jacobi, 1959, p. 6). Embedded in these deep-seated patterns often lies great pain which, as hard as one might try, insists on manifesting itself unbidden. Jacobi explains that complexes “are of an intrapsychic nature and originate in a realm which is beyond the objective control of the conscious mind” (p.7). Conforti makes the analysis to the concept of the chaotic attractor in chaos theory: “In psychology, the attractor is the complex. … The complex, as defined by Yoram Kaufmann, a Jungian analyst, is a quanta of energy organized around a certain theme, for instance a mother complex, a father complex, or a sexual complex, etc. The complex, like the attractor, functions much like a magnetic epicenter creating the convergence of archetypal potentialities into a singularity, a highly patterned behavioral tendency, drawing to it one specific face of an archetype” (Conforti, 1999). Simply put, complexes are behavioral symptoms that dwell in the realm of the unconscious, are feeling-toned, emotionally-charged behaviors that usually originate due to painful, and even more often traumatic experiences, which take on a personality of their own. They are a conglomeration of ideas and images linked together in common affect (Stevens, 1982).

Attachment and Complexes
Jung recognized that complexes begin to form early on in life and referenced that what a parent thinks she has kept hidden from the child often affects the child most deeply (Knox, in Cambray & Carter, 2004). An inhibited or disinhibited attachment to a parental figure can contribute to the formation of, for example, a mother or father complex. Attachment theory explains how we cultivate an enduring internalized pattern of relationships across the lifespan. Attachment is a reciprocal, profound, emotional and physical relationship between a child and the parent that sets the stage for all future intimate, trusting relationships, including the individual’s relationship with him or her Self –- the regulating core of the psyche, “… that center of being which the ego circumambulates” (Singer, 1972, p.210). In a secure attachment, the child normally and regularly turns to the parent for help, comfort and nurturance. Simple physical proximity to the parent reassures a stressed child and he enjoys and responds to the mutual, intimate, loving connection. The child develops curiosity about his environment and the desire and ability to explore increases. It is through exploration that the child gains a sense of competence and mastery, securely knowing that the parent will be present when exploration becomes overpowering (Bowlby, 1988). Knowing that the parent is maintaining awareness of the child helps the child’s sense of identity and self concept develop, as well as teaches the child emotional self-regulation.

How this pattern develops affects the realm of the interpersonal. In inhibited or disinhibited attachment, the assurance of a secure base, as Bowlby described, the attentive parent, is not present; thus the child not only becomes inured to the lack of comfort, but begins to introject that he is not worthy of consistent care and comfort. Here lies the fertile soil for the seeding of the complex.

Fertility of complex seeding is demonstrated well in an old joke: a mother gives her adult successful son two ties as a gift. Later, meeting for lunch, the son wears one of the ties, and the mother says, “What’s the matter? You didn’t like the other tie?” When the son reacts angrily or with whiny protestations, the feeling of powerlessness, it is likely that the negative mother complex has, as Jung would put it, been constellated. The son is not aware that the complex now possesses him. It erodes not only the son’s independence, self confidence, identity and worthiness, but the health of the parent/child relationship; for this type of comment is one that has been heard throughout life and has manifested itself in many other debilitating actions. The bee has stung and the reaction begins. Jung would describe the son’s response thus: “…an active complex puts us momentarily under a state of duress, of compulsive thinking and acting, for which under certain conditions the only appropriate term would be the judicial concept of diminished responsibility” (Jung, 1960 p.96). That responsibility would include not only acknowledging that the son does not have to respond in a childlike manner, but identifying that it is the mother’s needs, not the son’s, that elicited the comment.

But complexes, once unleashed, have a way of eclipsing one’s usual attitude; the inner voices of self-doubt and repudiation gain great volume, so much so that the conscious mind recedes as the complex establishes control: “I cannot ever do anything that will please her. I am not good enough and therefore she does not love me. I never do anything right in any part of my life; therefore I am a failure.” This is the language of the complex, indicative of when its personality has hold of its victim.

Gregory Bateson’s double bind hypothesis is another way of describing the effects of being trapped in the throes of a complex. In a double bind, two messages are given simultaneously, one conflicting with and negating the other. An example is a young man is recovering in hospital from a psychotic episode. His mother comes to visit him. When he puts his arms around her, she stiffens coldly. When he then withdraws, the mother says, “Now, dear, you must not be so easily embarrassed or sensitive and afraid of your feelings.” After the mother leaves, the young man becomes upset and assaults an aide, resulting in being placed in restraints. He was bound not only physically but psychologically. Unable to express the feeling of rejection or desire for an empathic connection with the mother, he could not convey the confusion nor gain maternal love. He had learned that he could not believe in or trust emotions that were transmitted to him or his perception of them. His only escape was into psychosis. The complex now had full control (Schultz, 1993).

Complexes do not have to be triggered by its originator. Once established, statements and actions of other people and situations can trigger a complex. In the case of the son mentioned above, a comment from a friend, co-worker, or situation can release the complex devil. A complex, according to Singer, is made up of two components. One is “a nuclear element,” (Singer, 1972, p.43), acting very much like a magnet or a chaotic attractor (Conforti, 1999). The second part of the complex is a cluster of associations that are drawn to the nucleus. The nuclear element is determined by personal experience; the cluster of associations is related to the person’s innate disposition, both basic to the foundation of the structure of the psyche (Singer, 1972). The result is the same feelings that overcame either of the sons discussed above while with their mothers: fear of failure, worthlessness and rejection. Uncomfortable physical symptoms accompany the complex: increased heart rate, breathing, a tension in the muscles, etc. These are also symptoms of anxiety. The nuclear element that Singer speaks of is analogous to the chaotic attractor Conforti describes. Until the person becomes aware of the symptomatic reflexes to the constellated complex, little control will be available.

The chaotic attractor or nuclear element of a complex is constantly scanning the environment, seeking the person or situation that will perpetuate the pattern. This is why there are so many stories of, for example, women who get into abusive relationship after abusive relationship. Having mistakenly learned in childhood that this is love, psyche immediately identifies the mate who will keep this pattern of disrespect going, even when the initial connection seems rosy. “The complex creates a type of antenna around individuals tuning them in and aligning them with the specific frequency … This tuning mechanism of the psyche … works by creating alignments and entrainments with only those segments of life which match the constant of the constellated [complex]” (Conforti, 1999).

Exorcising the Devil
Complexes often appear symbolically in dreams, as described in this writer’s earlier article on dream interpretation. It is through these images, as well as projection, regressive behavior, and other manifestations of the client that awareness of and control over complexes can be attained. Complexes never go away, but instead of them “having us,” as Jung said, one can become aware of when a complex is activated and make a choice about how to handle the embedded emotions. They are hard habits to break. The more aware of the knee jerk reaction elicited by the complex, the less the reaction occurs, but learning to be aware of that jerking knee takes great care and practice. When a client speaks of issues in relationships that replicate developmental struggles, I identify them as the mother or father complex, for example, and that the client is reacting in the habitual way. By going over this again and again through stories, emotional reactions, dreams etc., I impress upon the client that it is the complex at work and that unlike when he or she was a child, there is now a choice as to how to respond. This idea is often received with great surprise by the client, so established is the complex and its pull. The accompanied visceral responses must also be attended; I encourage the client to notice his breathing, pressure in the body, clenching jaws or fists, heart rate and to attempt to release the tension as a way of choosing not to succumb to the complex’s grip. Often intense anger or rage overcomes a client when the complex takes hold. Rage is a forceful emotion and often is mistaken for true power; in fact, it is the manipulation of the complex controlling the conscious mind and is destructive. “An adult’s longings for omnipotence and omniscience will have been profoundly, but unknowingly, shaped by the conditions in which she or he grew into a conscious person (Young-Eisendrath, 2004, p. 166). True power is gained through understanding what has been triggered and making the choice to address the reaction in a novel and more mature manner. The tricky work here is to differentiate that which has been stimulated (a conditioned response) and that which truly is, identifying that the projection entrenched in a complex is only that: projection of our self doubt, fear, old behavioral patterns and reactions and with practice and awareness, this reaction extinguishes.

“The transformation of suffering, through a psychoanalytic treatment, should lead to gains in psychological well-being that last a lifetime. … The goals of alleviating suffering and increasing compassion [for self and others] depend on the ability to recognize one’s own habitual impulses to dissociate, project and/or identify with some alien emotional meaning, and then to sidestep or hold open that impulse so that something new (that is not part of the old emotional script) can emerge” (p. 164 - 165). Young-Eisendrath equates this to Jung’s term of potential space. She explains that when a psychoanalytic work is successful, the client gains the ability to transcend and change his suffering by gaining the skill of using the transcendent function.

In the Final Analysis
When an analysis is successfully completed, much has been learned including that the client emerges with control over his reactions to that which triggers complexes. The complexes are still alive, but they have lost their place in the client’s psyche, reassigned to the back of the line. The client has learned to recognize the tickling of a complex and has also learned to choose not to react to it. “Once this distinction is even somewhat clarified, the patient has a new freedom: the freedom of personal accountability” (p. 167). The choice is obvious and available: the client now possesses the freedom to acknowledge old habitually destructive ways of reacting when complexes are evoked, recognizes that tickling, its source, and utilizes healthy alternative behaviors, disabling the complex’s self-defeating lure. This is the responsibility that comes with freedom in this particular awareness, liberating the client so cleanly, a feeling of transcendence as well as solidity is experienced. Self awareness, empathy and compassion for one’s Self, others and for world experiences are now firmly implanted, leaving minimal space for the complexes to thrive.

Bowlby, J. (1988) A Secure Base. Routledge, New York.

Conforti, M. (1999). December, 1999 newsletter archive: Oregon Friends of C.G.Jung. In Field, form and fate: patterns in mind, nature and psyche. Spring Publications, Connecticut.

Jacobi, J. (1959). Complex, archetype, symbol in the psychology of C.G.Jung. Princeton University Press, New York.

Jung, C. G. (1960). The structure and dynamics of the psyche. In (R.F.C. Hull, Trans.) Collected works (Vol. 8, pp. 92-104). Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Knox, J. (2004). Developmental aspects of analytical psychology. In Cambray, J. & Carter, L. (Eds). Analytical psychology: contemporary perspectives in Jungian analysis; Brunner, Routledge, New York.

Singer, J. (1972). Boundaries of the Soul: the practice of Jung’s psychology. Doubleday, New York.

Schultz, S. (1993). Family systems thinking. Aronson, New Jersey.

Stevens, A. (1982) Archetypes; a natural history of the self. Routledge & Kegan, United Kingdom.

Young-Eisendrath, P. (2004). Subject to change: Jung, gender and subjectivity in psychoanalysis. Brunner-Routledge, New York.

- Submitted by Barbara Darshan


American Exceptionalism from a Jungian Perspective

“America is an exceptional country.”
Sarah Palin

“I do believe in American exceptionalism”
John McCain

The topic of this essay—American exceptionalism—may not be familiar to many readers of this blog as it is not something taught in schools,[1] but in the last Presidential election both Sarah Palin and John McCain mentioned it.[2] As we look ahead to the future, and particularly the future of the United States, the concept of American exceptionalism is important to understand, and we will mention it in the two essays that follow this one. In this essay we will define “American exceptionalism,” then examine how it has shown up in American history, consider some of its implications and then offer a Jungian “take” on it.

What does “American exceptionalism” mean?
A concise, as well as easily accessible definition is provided by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
American exceptionalism ... refers to the belief that the United States differs qualitatively from other developed nations, because of its national credo, historical evolution, distinctive political and religious institutions, ethnic origins and composition, or national ideals.[3]

To understand what “differs qualitatively” means, we’ll consider each part of the definition:
“historical evolution” refers to the founding myth[4] of the Puritan colonists, who felt they were charged with a special spiritual and political destiny to create in the New World a church and society that would be a model for the rest of the world. John Winthrop expressed this in his statement that he and his fellow colonists were creating a “city on a hill” that others in the future would be able to look to for inspiration on how to live an exemplary life.[5] Believing they were chosen by God to be moral exemplars, the Puritans felt they were “blessed by Providence.”[6] Later generations developed and extended this idea, as we shall see later, when we consider how American exceptionalism has manifested in our history.

“National credo” has been embodied or expressed in several ways: It appears in documents, particularly the Declaration of Independence (“...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...”), the Constitution (“We, the people of the United States... do ordain and establish this Constitution...”) and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“... this nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal....”). It frequently shows up in Presidential speeches (The United States is “mankind’s last, best hope,” a “beacon on a hill,” “God’s own country,” “the indispensable nation” and a “shining city on a hill.”).[7] Finally, American exceptionalism as a national credo got carved in stone—on the Statue of Liberty, in a stirring poem by Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:/I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Written, spoken or carved, words like these reflect the United States’ unique nature.[8]

“Ethnic origin and composition:” Mention of the Statue of Liberty and the message carved on its base reflects another component of the definition of American exceptionalism. More perhaps than any other country in the world, the United States draws its population from everywhere. There is no single predominant cultural origin here, and America for centuries has provided “upward mobility” without rigid castes or an official noble class. Its open social structure makes it unique.

“Distinctive political and religious institutions and practices:” The official documents that established the United States separated church and state. There is no state religion in this country and such secularism is not the norm elsewhere.[9] The absence of socialism and the failure of labor unions to organize into labor parties are also unusual.[10] The most remarkable form of American exceptionalism is found in our diplomatic and foreign policies, in our isolationism, with our mistrust of entangling foreign commitments and the refusal of our federal judges to submit to the rulings of other jurisdictions; in our tradition of deprecating power politics and old-fashioned diplomacy; in the assumption we make that American values and practices are universally valid and appropriate for the rest of the world; and in our “exemptionalism,” in which U.S. courts exempt America from adherence to international treaties.[11]

“National ideals:” We express our ideals in such statements as “America, land of liberty,” “The United States is the land of opportunity,” and “America, beacon of freedom.”
Clearly, American exceptionalism is a complex concept, including many aspects of our history and culture, with many facets and components. Some of these facets are positive, others negative. On the positive side, scholars of American history point to the following statements or claims:
· The United States has a special role in the world.
· The U.S. has a special destiny and mission.
· The U.S. is the only nation founded on an ideal.[12]
· The U.S. is different from other nations in its underlying values.
· The U.S. sees diversity as a strength.
· The United States is distinctive.[13]
· The U.S. stands outside of history.
· The U.S. is more patriotic than other lands.

American conservatives go farther in their claims, to offer a form of American exceptionalism that exalts the United States as superior to other nations, being richer, more democratic, more religious, and with the best values and institutions yet devised.[14]

In reaction to this “triumphalism”[15] other scholars remind us of the negative face, in such statements as:
· The United States believes the rest of the world should adapt to American ways.
· The U.S. thinks it can, and should, force its version of democracy on to others (e.g. Iraq).
· The United States is ethnocentric.
· The U.S. is hyper-nationalistic.
· The U.S. is an arrogant bully.
· The U.S. fails to listen to other countries.
· The U.S. falls into a “double standard:” criticizing others while ignoring its critics.
· The United States suffers from a “disease of conceit.”[16]
· The U.S. is blind to the misery its global crusades have caused others (e.g. Vietnam, Iraq).[17]

The Vietnam and Iraq wars are only two of the many ways American exceptionalism has manifested in our history. We turn now to consider others.

How American Exceptionalism has manifested in U.S. history
From the 17th to the 21st centuries, American exceptionalism has appeared in every era of U.S. history. The Puritans in the 1630’s brought an “exceptionalist logic”[18] to the New World. Feeling they were making a clear break with the corruption of Europe, they saw themselves in a covenantal relationship with God, charged with the special spiritual duty to lead other nations.

While the tradition of republicanism died out in Britain, it was taken up by the revolutionaries in America in 1776. The revolutionary pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, spoke of America as a “new land” with nearly unlimited potential. The Declaration of Independence abrogated the power of monarchy and described human beings as having inalienable rights. Twenty years later, the Constitution vested sovereignty in the people and put strict limits on ecclesiastical power in separating church and state. All of these served to make the United States unusual.[19]

Fifty years later, the country’s uniqueness was obvious to foreign visitors. The astute Alexis de Tocqueville was the first to use the term “exceptional” in describing America and its society:[20]

The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly occurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven. Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people, and attempt to survey them at length with their own features.[21]

With his French background, inquiring mind and perspicacity, Tocqueville was well placed to observe the American experience with more objectivity than any native. In this succinct summary he identifies several ways in which America was/is exceptional: our Puritanical origins; our focus on commerce (i.e. our penchant for making money—a quality that Jung also noted a century later); the practical bent of the American mind; our educational tradition oriented to problem-solving (praxis, not theory); and the “transient” diversion of religion. He concluded that America was incomparable and had to be taken on its own terms.

A few years after Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, an American journalist, John O’Sullivan, coined another key term in the history of American exceptionalism: “Manifest Destiny.”[22] Soon taken up by Jacksonian Democrats, the concept of manifest destiny was used as a rationale to acquire Texas, the Gadsen Purchase and the Mexican cession.[23] What does “manifest destiny” mean? Essentially it was an extension of the Puritans’ original idea of being destined by God to create a better world in the new land. Now that they were here, with a growing population, there was a clear (i.e. obvious or “manifest”) destiny to expand geographically into the rest of the American continent. Some scholars suggested that the American spirit was created by the frontier,[24] so it was divinely ordained that we were meant to push westward and bring the blessings of Providence to the “wilderness.”

In 1899 the Republican Party took up the idea of manifest destiny to justify the Spanish American War and the annexation of Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines and Panama. President William McKinley claimed that he had been told by God to go to war to free these lands from the yoke of Spain.[25] The Secretary of War, Elihu Root, reflected the idea of American exceptionalism in his touting of the American soldier as the “advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness.”[26]

All this while, millions of immigrants were on the move. From the 1860’s on, the United States had become the goal for many of them. It was the land of freedom—freedom to choose an occupation; freedom to move around and relocate wherever one wanted; freedom to rise in social status; freedom to aspire socially, politically, economically. Successful immigrants like Carl Schurz and Andrew Carnegie offered examples of how America fostered social mobility.[27] In gifting the United States with the Statue of Liberty France was recognizing how this country had become a magnet for dissidents, malcontents, persecuted, oppressed, beleaguered and restive peoples.

World War I and its aftermath revealed the streak of isolationism inherent in American exceptionalism. It took the sinking of American ships to get the country into the war,[28] and afterwards the U.S. Senate refused to support Wilson’s internationalism, in its repudiation of the League of Nations.[29] In the interwar years a growing “America First” movement sought to keep the United States out of involvement with Europe.[30] Once again, it was only Pearl Harbor that overcame the isolationists’ reluctance to get involved in World War II. American exceptionalism became the subject of scholarly studies in the interwar years, and the focus of academic controversy between conservatives (who touted the country’s special nature) and liberals (who pointed up the darker side of the American experience).[31]

After World War II, when the United States had emerged as the clear global leader, men like Henry Luce (the publisher of Time, Life and other major periodicals) declared the 20th century the “American century.”[32] Luce suggested that the United States had the right to use its influence however it saw fit. Colleges and universities set up American Studies programs and the term “American exceptionalism” emerged, to reflect the uniqueness of the American experience and American culture.[33]

The Cold War of the 1950’s-1980’s provoked lots of rhetoric about the freedom of the American way of life, in contrast to the tyranny of Communism.[34] Many scholars and social analysts described the “American dream” of owning a home and becoming well off. During the Reagan/Bush years of the 1980’s American exceptionalism got more polished. Reagan, for example, added to the Puritans’ claim, talking in speeches of “the shining city on a hill.”[35] By the 1990’s American exceptionalism had become a popular subject in scholarly circles,[36] with more than 10 books on the subject appearing in that decade.[37]

Which brings us to our own era. The election of 2000 saw another conservative in the Oval Office. Chosen by the Supreme Court, George W. Bush sparked a resurgence of the conservative form of American exceptionalism. The “neo-cons” trumpeted the United States “going it alone” in foreign policy.[38] Following the principle of exemptionalism, we refused to join other nations in a host of treaties.[39] We refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. The Bush Administration articulated the doctrine of preemptive war, in the name of safeguarding our way of life and the spreading of liberty and democracy around the world[40]—all with the unspoken assumption that the “American way” is better and appropriate for everyone in the world. The experience of 9/11 produced rampant hyper-nationalism,[41] with a surge in sales of American flags, men joining the military to fight for our freedom, and ubiquitous bumper stickers extolling “pride in America,” “support the troops” etc.

In sum, American exceptionalism has manifested historically as:
· national pride, with a sense of being chosen by God
· a strong moral strain in the American character and political rhetoric
· a colonizing attitude, in our expansion into the interior of North America
· imperialism, in our overseas adventures in various wars chauvinism, in the belief that ours is the best nation
· attempts to remake the world in our image

Over the 400 years of our history the various facets of American exceptionalism have grown and developed. Now we will shift our focus from history to analysis, to consider what American exceptionalism implies.

The implications of American exceptionalism
For the sake of clarity, we can distinguish two types or classes of implications: domestic and international. Let’s consider the international implications first.

Ethnocentricism: national chauvinism, with a strong sense of the superiority of our values and way of life, along with claims of the universality of our values and moralistic judgments of other nations.

Imperialism: Teddy Roosevelt said “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”[42] And we have often carried our “big stick” into other countries in the name of liberating them from dictators, Communists, tyranny—the list is long, the rhetoric always the same.

Exemptionalism: we claim the right to opt out of treaties and conventions and, in our “legal isolationism,” our judges refuse to recognize the decisions of other courts.[43]
unilateralism: the U.S. is willing to “go it alone” and invokes its divine mission to justify its actions, while, at the same time, wanting to have it both ways: we want to be able to drive our gas-guzzling cars with cheap gas, even though that gas comes from other countries.[44]

The domestic implications are those internal habits, practices and behaviors that mark our country in an unusual way. These include: character traits, e.g. optimism, self-reliance, independence, egalitarianism and individualism (which, in its stress on individual rights, breeds a tendency toward litigiousness).[45]

A set of myths, e.g. that the United States lacks a class system: this is a “myth,” in that, while classes are not as obvious as in Europe, Americans certainly recognize social distinctions in background, education, tastes and lifestyle).

Greater religiosity than in other nations: our Presidents invoke God as the guide for their actions; “God bless America” signs appear on buildings and the Kate Smith recording of the song plays at Yankee games, and polls consistently indicate that more Americans are regular church-goers than in most other countries.[46]

Normative assumptions and judgments: commentators regularly note the moralistic streak in American values, the moralistic judgments we make of other nations, the double standard and hypocrisy in the disconnect between what we do and what we say.[47]
materialism: Tocqueville noted this nearly 200 years ago; it is no less a feature of our way of life now. We interpret the “American dream” in material terms. We have, as a society, a strong sense of entitlement. Our economy is built on consumerism and there is massive inequality in the distribution of our national wealth.[48]

Perceptual problems: We have a self-perception of uniqueness and moral superiority, along with “willful nationalistic ignorance of the faults committed by the American government.”[49] Conservatives feel nostalgia for earlier times, while some analysts of the American character note how we deceive ourselves, blinded by our “conceit.”[50]

A Jungian Perspective on American Exceptionalism
In our survey so far, we have spoken of pride, a sense of superiority, a sense of specialness, moralism, materialism, ethnocentricism, a sense of divine mission, blindness to our faults, deception and conceit. What do all these point to, from a Jungian point of view? Inflation.

What do Jungians mean by “inflation”? Daryl Sharp defines “inflation” as “a state of mind characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, often compensated by feelings of inferiority.”[51] Jung spoke of inflation as “a puffed-up attitude.”[52] Certainly when our political leaders appeal to our patriotism, speak of our specialness, call upon our unique responsibilities, refuse to cooperate with other countries, and ignore treaty responsibilities, we are displaying a collective attitude of inflation.

Why such inflation? The Jungian analyst Edward Edinger provides us with an insightful list of causes: The American mind has been shaped by the American past, a past in which all but the indigenous natives have been immigrants. The experience of being uprooted is part of the psychic experience of all Americans. Most of us, in other words, go back to dissidents, malcontents, outcasts, or the rejected, persecuted and enslaved. The result in our deep unconscious psyche? We all have feelings of cultural inferiority, with a lack of the deep rootedness to a place that Europeans have. Edinger feels we compensate for these feelings of inferiority with arrogance, especially technological arrogance.[53] This arrogance is a form of pride.

What follows pride? The Bible reminds us that “Pride goeth before a fall.”[54] In collective terms, a “fall” would be “... a violent breakdown of the social order.”[55]

Jungians would regard American exceptionalism, or at least the conservatives’ triumphalist form of it, as a dangerous feature of American life. It, and its implications, are things we must become aware of now. Jung was quite explicit about this:
An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own presence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.[56]

Our situation sounds pretty grim. But Jung was not a fatalist: he offered a way to avoid the destruction of the American polity:
... this state of unconscious possession will continue undeterred until we...become scared of our “god-almightiness.” Such a change can begin only with individuals, for the masses are blind brutes, as we know to our cost. It seems to me of some importance, therefore, that a few individuals, or people individually, should begin to understand that there are contents which do not belong to the ego-personality, but must be ascribed to a psychic non-ego.... Very few people care to know anything about this; it is so much easier to preach the universal panacea to everybody else than to take it oneself, and, as we all know, things are never so bad when everybody is in the same boat. No doubts can exist in the herd; the bigger the crowd the better the truth—and the greater the catastrophe.[57]

The way out is through us: the “very few.” Jung is speaking to us. If you are reading this blog essay, you are hereby put on notice that you are one of the “few” he is speaking about. The change has to begin with us, with you. You need to be aware of American exceptionalism and the dangers it holds. You need to take up the task of creating more consciousness in the world.[58] And Jung warns us that we must not, cannot look to political leaders (however much we might like and have high hopes for Obama). Our leaders are caught up in the mass movement; they have to be, to get elected. So we cannot expect them to see the reality of our situation. If we are to have a cooperative, humble, viable society, we have to take up the task of becoming conscious ourselves, working on ourselves, so we can be the “makeweight” that will tip the scales into a future world that works for everyone.


Anderson, Ron (2008), “Taking Exception to American Exceptionalism,” Tag Archives; available on the Web: URL: exceptionalism/

Bacevich, Andrew (2008), The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. New York: Henry Holt.

Carman, Harry, Harold Syrett & Bernard Wishy (1961), A History of the American People, 2nd ed., 2 v. New York: Alfred Knopf.

Economist, The (2008), ”Only in America;” available on the Web: URL:

Edinger, Edward (1984), The Creation of Consciousness. Toronto: Inner City Books.

________ (1995), Melville’s Moby-Dick: An American Nekyia. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Eland, Ivan (2004), “American Exceptionalism,” The Independent Institute (October 26, 2004); available on the Web; URL:

Frel, Jan (2006), “Could Bush Be Prosecuted for War Crimes?” (July 10, 2006); available on the Web: URL:

Ignatieff, Michael, ed. (2005), American Exceptionalism and Human Rights; abstract available on the Web: URL:

Jacobs, Ron (2004), “American Exceptionalism: A Disease of Conceit,” Counterpunch (July20,2004);availableontheWeb:URL:

Jung, C.G. (1953), ”Psychology and Alchemy,” Collected Works, 12. Princeton: Princeton University Press (identified in the notes as CW 12)

________ (1966), “Two Essays on Analytical Psychology,” Collected Works, 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press (identified in the notes as CW 7).

Kohut, Andrew & Bruce Stokes (2008), “The Problem of American Exceptionalism,” Pew Research Center Publications (May 9, 2008); available on the Web: URL:

Lipset, Seymour Martin (2000), “Book Review of American Exceptionalism by Deborah
Madsen,” The Journal of American History, 87, 3; available on the Web: URL:

Monkerud, Don (2008), “Isn’t It Time for the U.S. to Rejoin the World?,” Counterpunch Weekend Edition (October 17/20, 2008); available on the Web: URL:­_exceptionalism


Sharp, Daryl (1991), C.G. Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms & Concepts. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Spiro, Peter (2000), “The New Sovereignists: American Exceptionalism and Its Fall Prophets,” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2000), available on the Web: URL:

Thimm, Johannes (n.d.), “American Exceptionalism—Conceptual Thoughts and Empirical Evidence,” available online.

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1945), Democracy in America, 2 v., ed. Phillips Bradley. New York: Vintage Books.
Turner, Frederick Jackson (1890/1920), The Frontier in American History. New York: Henry Holt; also available in digital form on the Internet


Zinn, Howard (1993-2006), “The Power and the Glory: Myths of American exceptionalism,” Boston Review; available on the Web: URL:

[1] Zinn (1993-2006), 6 (in my print-out of the Web site).
[2] Both are quoted in Monkerud (2008), 1 (in my print-out of the Web site)
[3] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, quoting Koh (2005), 225.
[4] “Myth,” in the sense of a story that has become part of a nation’s collective experience.
[5] Cf. Zinn (1993-2006), 1; Jacobs (2004), 2 (in my print-out of the Web site); Wikipedia, 3; and Seis (2003), 3 (in my print-out of the Web site).
[6] Lipset (2000), 1 (in my print-out of the Web site).
[7] Thimm (n.d.), 3 note. This last was Ronald Reagan’s embellishment of John Winthrop’s original 1630 statement; Zinn (1993-2006), 1.
[8] Cf. Lipset (2000), 1; and Wikipedia, 3.
[9] All the nations of Europe have a history of state churches. Colonized by Spain and Portugal, Latin America is Roman Catholic. The countries of Asia have been Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian and Shinto.
[10] Seis (2003), 1.
[11] Cf. ibid., 2; Monkerud (2008), 2; Zinn (1993-2006), 7; and Ignatieff (2005), 3.
[12] Quoted in Eland (2004), 1 (in my print-out of the Web site).
[13] Seis (2003), 1.
[14]Jacobs (2004), 1.
[15] The Economist (2008), 2.
[16] Jacobs (2004), 1.
[17] For all these statements, see Wikipedia, 2; Jacobs (2004), 1-2; Anderson (2008), 1; Seis (2003), 3; and Monkerud (2008), 2.
[18] Lipset (2000), 1.
[19] Wikipedia, 2.
[20] Ibid., 1.
[21] Tocqueville (1945), II, 38.
[22] Zinn (1993-2006), 2.
[23] Wikipedia, 1.
[24] E.g. Frederick Jackson Turner produced a seminal work in 1890 reporting on the “closing” of the American frontier and analyzing the impact the concept on a open frontier had on the American psyche; his The Frontier in American History is now available on the Web.
[25] Zinn (1993-2006), 2.
[26] Quoted in ibid., 3.
[27] Wikipedia, 4.
[28] E.g. the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor, 1898.
[29] Carman, Syrett & Wishy (1961), II, 517.
[30] Ibid., 677-678.
[31] The historiography on American exceptionalism is reviewed by Seis (2003), 3-8.
[32] Zinn (1993-2006), 2.
[33] Seis (2003), 4.
[34] Zinn (1993-2006), 4; cf. Wikipedia, 2.
[35] Zinn (1993-2006), 1.
[36] Cf. Seis (2003), 4-7 and Lipset (2000), 1.
[37] Lipset (2000), 1.
[38] Monkerud (2008), 2.
[39] E.g. the Kyoto protocol on climate change; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the Land Mines Convention; the Rome Treaty; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Spiro (2000), 1; cf. Monkerud (2008), 2; and Zinn (1993-2006), 7.
[40] Bacevich (2008), 119-121, 163-165.
[41]Monkerud (2008), 2.
[42] Ibid., 1.
[43] Ignatieff (2005), 1.
[44] Kohut & Stokes (2006), 5.
[45] Seis (2003), 2.
[46] Zinn (1993-2006), 2.
[47] Cf. Thimm (n.d.), 2 and note 7; and Eland (2004), 1.
[48] Cf. Monkerud (2008), 2; and Bacevich (2008), 15-66.
[49] Wikipedia, 1, quoting Frel (2006-2007), 10.
[50] Jacobs (2004), 1.
[51] Sharp (1991), 72.
[52] CW 7, ¶110.
[53] Edinger (1995), 28.
[54] Proverbs 16:18.
[55] Edinger (1995), 68.
[56] CW 12, ¶563.
[57] Ibid.
[58] For what the process of creating more consciousness entails, see Edinger (1984).


The Psychotherapeutic Relationship and the Healing Archetype With a Special Focus on Michael Conforti’s Archetypal Field Theory

This essay explores the psychotherapeutic frame as a concept intrinsic to the psychotherapy field. Based on a review of relevant literature, it draws the distinction between the common understanding and use of the frame in most psychotherapies and the more traditional view held by practitioners of analytical psychology. Based on new developments in analytical psychology concerning archetypal fields, the need for re-evaluation of both conceptualizations is identified.

Oftentimes during routine business transactions, while at social functions, and even with family and friends at hometown gatherings, at some point in the process of social chitchat I am invariably asked what I do for a living. I used to simply reply that I am a therapist, to which my questioner would say “oh yes, a physical therapist, I went to one once” or, alternately, respond with “really, a massage therapist? I don’t think I could ever get a massage.” After enough times of this, I added the “psycho” to therapist and now the responses are more in keeping with what I do. Now, though, the shadow of the old question reappears when I sometimes am asked “what is it that you do exactly, as a Jungian psychotherapist?” This question surprises me, since psychotherapy is such a widely practiced and common part of contemporary society. Perhaps this is because, as Zeig and Munion (1990) point out, “psychotherapy is a rather idiosyncratic endeavor that is practiced in many guises” (p. 9). The answer to this question is both as simple as saying that I help those who seek help and as complex as Zeig and Munion’s.

Helping or healing is the mandate of psychotherapy, as the name makes clear. Just what constitutes help or healing, however, is not clear. Psychology has a long history that stretches back to the oracles of ancient Greece, and beyond that to the Assyrians and early Egyptians (Ehrenwald,1991; Meier, 1989; Robinson, 1986). But it is only in modern times, from the mid-nineteenth century on, that psychology as we know it, along with psychotherapy as applied psychology, developed into a human science distinct from philosophy and religion. Thus, the roots of psychotherapy draw deeply from many different understandings of the psyche and approaches to healing it. Not all psychotherapies are the same, and although they all share the goal of healing, the understanding and practice of that healing will vary slightly or dramatically dependent upon the theoretical orientation of the therapist as well as on the therapist’s training and personality.

There are anywhere from 240 to over 400 forms of psychotherapy practiced in the United States today (Corey, 1996). Some of the more familiar psychotherapeutic approaches are: the depth psychotherapies developed by Freud, Jung, Adler, Klein, and Fairbairn; the humanistic psychotherapies of Perls, Rogers, Frankl, Yallom, and Glasser; the behavioral approaches of Skinner, Bandura, and Lazarus; the cognitive-behavioral approaches of Ellis and Beck; the family systems approaches of Minuchin, Haley, and Satir, among others; the medically-based therapies of drug intervention; and, finally, the eclectic approach wherein the practitioner combines a number of different theoretical orientations and methods to effect healing.

Research suggests that all psychotherapies are effective with “all cohorts of patients improv[ing] on the average over time” (Frank cited, Sahakian, 1986, p. 392). This is an interesting finding since psychotherapies are distinguished one from the other by an underlying philosophy, a theory, and a method. Since psychotherapies are applied psychologies with each having its own particular system and thus all different to some degree, the question of how they can be equally effective is an intriguing one. One explanation for this, it is hypothesized, is that all psychotherapies, regardless of their theoretical underpinnings, share four basic components: a supportive and confidential relationship; a reason given for the patient’s symptoms; a special healing setting; and a structure (Sahakian, 1986, p. 392). The way in which each of these framing components is understood, implemented, and managed over time within the therapeutic situation, however, varies markedly across the various psychotherapies as well as from therapist to therapist. Thus, the suggestion that these shared framing elements account for the equal effectiveness of psychotherapies is not convincing, since there is such variability in their application. Alternative research and anecdotal information suggest that it is really the relationship established between the therapist and patient that is the most important factor in treatment outcome. In other words, this suggests that the extent to which the therapist is able to foster a good working alliance with the patient is the primary determining factor in the success or failure of the therapy (Strupp & Binder, 1986).

That the psychotherapeutic relationship may be key to the patient’s healing should be of little surprise since the therapist-patient relationship, based as it is on the relational dynamics of the caregiver-healer, mirrors the first relationship that we humans have, the mother-infant or primary caregiver-infant relationship. As Conforti (1988, intro.) points out, “the mother-infant relationship…is the individual’s first experience of dependency and of having to respond to another’s psyche.” The psychic or archetypal roots of this “maternal aspect of the therapeutic relationship” are so deep, in fact, that they “can be seen in accounts of healing rites from the Asklepieions” (Conforti, 1988, intro.), particularly those associated with the goddess-centered mystery religion of Eleusis (Kerenyi, 1967; Meier, 1989). From a Jungian perspective, the therapist becomes “an indispensable figure absolutely necessary for [the patient’s] life” (Jung, 1969a, p. 74). This dependence, therefore, is not to be taken lightly. Neither is it to be taken literally. Jung (1969b) stresses that it is a demand concealed within the dyadic interaction and metaphorically represents the patient’s “ not consciously realized need for help in a crisis” and equally important, for “protection” from the upsurges of activated unconscious forces (p. 74). For Jung (1976) and his adherents, who focus on the symbol as psyche’s guide to healing, the emphasis is not just on the personalisitic quality of the psychotherapeutic relationship (Jacoby, 1999), as is the case in all other psychotherapies which are concerned only with the personalistic-subjectivity of ego-consciousness and its workings, but on the “metaphorical layer of the work” expressed through archetypal representations (Sullivan, 1989, p. 149). “The essential idea behind this insight,” writes Sullivan (1989), “is that psyche is always trying to transcend its immaterial nature” (p. 149), and does this through matter. In other words, psyche is there to be seen if one has the eyes to see. Although they came to different conclusions about psyche, both Jung (1961) and Freud (1989) understood this fundamental fact, one that many depth psychotherapists either don’t take seriously enough or have difficulty maintaining a connection to (Sullivan, 1989).

In Jungian or analytical psychology, it is the phenomena embodied in the deeper layer of communication below the surface layer of communication and originating in the unconscious which informs and directs consciousness by way of the symbol. Thus more important and central in analytical psychology is the symbolic significance of the therapist-patient interaction, that is, the archetypal configuration that is made manifest in the therapeutic field created by the mutually influenced therapist-patient encounter (Conforti, 1999; Jacoby, 1999; Jung, 1982). Thus Jung’s understanding of the infant-like dependency of the patient is based on the energetic process of therapy itself, and the relationship that develops within the container of therapy is recognized as the vehicle or instrument for the unfolding work (Conforti, 1988; Jacoby, 1999; Jung, 1969a; 1976; 1982). In other words, the parental dynamic active in the therapist-patient dyad is a functional part of the therapy relationship, rather than a mere artifact, and is not to be dismissed by reducing it as Freud does to a final cause such as sexuality or by labeling it as maladaptive (Jung, 1969a; 1976). The challenge for the therapist as “instrument” is in providing the space or “facilitating environment” in Winnicottian (1965) terms in which the work can unfold (Jacoby, 1999). This facilitating environment operates when the therapist makes himself or herself “available to the inner process” of the patient (Jacoby, 1999, p. 134). This in turn is dependent on the therapist’s ability to create and maintain a stable and secure container in which to observe the therapist’s and patient’s mutually interacting psyches within the therapy dyad. The therapeutic dyad mirrors the mother-child relationship in that, just as the mother fosters the child’s development through her care and attention to its needs, so does the therapist foster the patient’s psychological maturation in the analysis of psychic material (Jung & Kerenyi, 1978).

The parental dynamic of mother and child active in the patient-therapist coupling is an archetypal reality knowable through its symbolic representation in dream material, fantasies, thoughts, and behavior. It is, however, only the most immediate expression of the central archetype, the Self, the “primacy uniting the many” and “the continuum of everything” (Tougas, 1996, p. 72), which supports the potential for change, transformation, and growth in the patient – in a word, healing. This archetypal reality, experienced as an inner psychological force and observable in projected psychic phenomena, irrevocably moves the patient along his or her developmental path whether actively aided or not. The experience-based phenomenological stance of analytical psychology with its focus on the reality of psychic material as archetypal idea “with its multitude of meanings, all presenting different facets of a single, simple truth” (Tougas, 1996, p. 72) discernable to a perceiving consciousness – and for Jung consciousness means self-reflecting - makes analytical psychology the ideal approach for working with the many-layered unity that is psyche. Analytical psychology, as Jung (1969c; 1976) made clear when discussing his psychology in relation to other psychological approaches, however, is but one path to health or wholeness. Because all fields of knowledge are archetypally structured, all provide an avenue from which to gain insight into individual behavior and its relation to a greater reality. The unitary basis of knowledge, writes Jung (Jung cited, Assisi Conference Bulletin, n.d.):

has always claimed my greatest interest: the manifestation of archetypes or archetypal forms in all phenomena of life: in biology, physics…theology…and in dreams…The intimation of forms hovering in the background not in itself knowable gives life…depth” (n.p.).

Certain temperaments gravitate to certain psychologies, religions, or philosophical systems based on how the world is understood, and this is as it should be (Jung, 1982). No discipline has a corner on truth; one either agrees with the Jungian approach or does not. What makes analytical psychology distinct from other psychologies as well as from other disciplines is its basis in experience rather than absolute truth. Thus Jung (1969b) writes that “the psychological archetype differs from parallels in other fields in only in one respect: it refers to a living and ubiquitous psychic fact, [italics added] and this naturally shows the whole situation in a rather different light” (p. 68). Concerning psychology explicitly, Jung writes:

the fundamental error persists in the public that there are definite answers, ‘solutions,’ or views which need only be uttered in order to spread the necessary light. But the most useful truth…is no use at all unless it has become an innermost experience and possession of the individual…. Nothing is more fruitless than talking of how things must or should be, and nothing is more important than finding the way to these far-off goals (cited, Jacobi, 1953, p. 265, 266).

Analytical psychology offers one path to healing, wholeness, and self-discovery, among many. For the Jungian psychotherapist or analyst, healing comes about through a transformation of consciousness through its relationship to the unconscious. Healing in this way is not about “wellness” in the accepted meaning of the term, but about healing the split between ego-consciousness and the well spring of the unconscious so that psychological growth may continue.

To return to the question of why psychotherapies are equally effective, from an analytical psychology perspective, the equal effectiveness of therapies is not solely the result of the empathic and caring relationship of therapist for patient, although the therapist-patient bond established within the therapy situation is the axial point around which the work of therapy revolves (Jung, 1976; 1982), nor is it solely because all psychotherapies share basic frame components, although the establishment and maintenance of the therapy frame is essential for discerning the psychical dynamics alive in the therapy relationship (Conforti, 1988; 1997; Langs, 1985); the extent to which the psychotherapeutic frame truly becomes a container for the work will, in fact, determine treatment outcome as both Langs’ (1985; 1979) and Conforti’s work demonstrates (1988). Both the therapy relationship and the other frame components are factors intrinsic to the healing work of psychotherapy, but their function is not just the result of professional mandates or personalistic concerns. When the psychotherapeutic frame is approached differently, that is phenomenologically, it is seen for what it is - the expression of the archetype of Self - not what it seems to be, a matter of business transactions or the degree of rapport between therapist and patient. Thus, at the most fundamental level, psychotherapies are equally effective because of the influence of the archetype of Self, the inner, innate drive to health and wholeness active within all of us, which becomes manifest within the psychotherapy relationship as expressed through the containing function of the psychotherapeutic frame. Whether or not the patient, or anyone for that matter, wants to change and grow psychically, the process is inevitable; conscious of it or not, like it or not, we are each caught up in an inevitable movement to psychic health and wholeness guided by the archetype of Self. Normally paralleling and complementing the natural process of physical development, psychic growth can become diverted or even stalled due to certain of life’s variables such as genetic factors, family concerns, and social influences. When this occurs, psychotherapy is one avenue of redress. When the psychotherapist intervenes in the patient’s interrupted development by actively engaging and reinforcing the energetic field of the Self, the natural healing process is served.

Psyche is a unified field of dynamic interaction in which everything is always in the process of becoming, even in death (von Franz, 1986). Thus the Self supports our engagement with life throughout its course, while also preparing us for the inevitability of our death (Jung, 1969e). Death, one of the two great mysteries of the life process – the second “bookend” which culminates life - is its natural partner (Jung, 1965). Whereas “consciousness moves within [life’s] narrow confines, within the brief span of time between its beginning and its end,” the far greater unconscious underlies the whole process of how one lives and “in how one dies” (Jung, 1969a, pp. 411, 412). Because both life and death are processes structured by the archetype of Self, “dying,” Jung (1969a) writes, “has its onset long before actual death” (p. 411); it is an ever-present partner to life that is visited each time one opens up to the unconscious, in sleep, fantasy, creativity, or in the psychotherapy process (Giannini, 2002). Death is the benchmark by which life is measured or, put another way, death is the acceptance of life’s fulfillment (Jung, 1969a). It is in dying that we achieve life’s goal, its completion. The purposefulness of Self to wholeness, that is, the innate process of unification “of distinct yet inseparable parts” (Tougas, 1996, p. 58) of psyche that begins at birth, possibly before (Fordham, 1994; Jacoby, 1999; Sidoli, 1996) and ends in death, is a tenet fundamental to analytical psychology. It may be restated as the belief that each individual progresses inevitably toward conscious connection with a transcendent dimension, toward a meaning derived not only from one's life, but from a religious dimension that directs life to its natural completion, to “Wholeness and Oneness” (Jung cited, Tougas, 1996, p. 61). Analytical psychology is not about the individual’s achievement of perfection, a humanly impossible task, but is concerned instead with helping along the natural psychic process to wholeness or completeness – individuation - which is the realization of the Self (Jung, 1969b). “The ideal of completeness is the circle or sphere, but its natural minimal division is a quaternity” (Jung, 1969d, p. 167), symbols of enclosure and psychic centering representing the archetype of Self and central to the healing process. The analytical psychology stance draws upon the deep roots of psychology, from a time before it was uprooted from the fertile commingled soil of philosophy and religion and transplanted into the more sterile field of science (Jung, 1976).

An example of the differences between analytical psychology and other psychologies is the current medicalization of mental illness - that is, the treating of psychological issues within the conceptual framework of medicine. In our contemporary Western allopathic model, all mental illness is treated as symptomatic of neurological malfunction or disease, and is to be eradicated, fixed, or managed. Psyche is viewed as no more than an epiphenomenon, a mere byproduct of biological processes. In contrast to this is the dis-ease model of psychology, shared by a number of different psychological approaches including analytical psychology, in which the symptom is seen not as disease (which is not knowable), but as a symbolic expression of inner-outer conflict between the individual’s need for self-expression and fulfillment and society’s demand on the individual for adaptation and conformity to social mores. Within a dis-ease approach to psychology, the symptom carries a moral dimension (Albee, 1986; Jung, 1969d; 1982; Szasz, 1986). In other words, the symptom becomes the key that unlocks the meaning contained within it. That is, the “problem” itself points the way to healing (Jung, 1965). On the other hand, when symptoms are seen as signs of disease and treated as such, their meaning is ignored and the “problem” that gave expression to a particular symptom continues. The “old” symptom is gone, but other symptoms will manifest until the meaning of the symptom is understood for what it is (Jung, 1960; 1969d; 1982). The dis-ease model is based on the dialectic of healing within the dyadic relationship of patient-therapist, the disease model on psychopathology and medically administered treatment (Szasz, 1974).

Dis-ease and disease are disparate ways of thinking about and working with psychic disturbance; the viewpoint one holds regarding mental illness (disease) versus psychic unrest (dis-ease) depends upon whether one views psyche as “nothing but” an epiphenomenon of physio-chemical brain processes or whether one views psyche as something more than neurons and neural connectors, that is, as having a religious function. “At bottom,” Jung (1969c) writes, “psyche is simply ‘world’ ” (p. 173); the individual psyche “is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious” (1965, p. 209) by way of the symbol. The individual moves beyond the personalistic sphere to that of “world,” the transpersonal, and through this connection comes to new meaning about his or her life. As Kerenyi states, “in the symbol the world itself is speaking” (cited, Jung, 1969c, p. 173). In this dialectical relationship of individual self and transpersonal Self, the individual connects with something greater, the religious dimension (Jung, 1961).

The division of psychology into two basic perspectives is to a certain extent an arbitrary one since there are models of psychotherapy that include both viewpoints. In addition, it is important to note that the distinction made between psyche and matter is in reality an artificial one, since body and mind are inseparable components that interact to make the human being - Jung used the term “psychoid” to denote the unity of psyche and matter – just as the unconscious and consciousness are inseparable components of psyche that act together to form personality. Physiochemical imbalance may be a factor in psychological disturbances, but it is not the only one. The age-old question, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” reworked for psychology, is “is psychological disturbance the consequence of physiochemical imbalance or is physiochemical imbalance the consequence of psychological disturbance?" From the perspective of unitary reality, both have a part to play. That said, whatever psyche is, it, suggests Jung (1982), makes little difference to psychology, in so far as the psyche knows itself to exist and behaves as such an existent, having its own phenomenology which can be replaced by no other (p. 89). “The psyche” Jung (1982) continues “reflects, and knows, the whole of existence, and everything works in and through the psyche” (p. 90). For this reason, psyche is ultimately unknowable, and Jung (1968a), therefore, accepted that absolute knowledge was beyond the limits of psychology. It is not, however, beyond the limits of his interest which reach beyond medical science to other fields, “the practical importance…[of which] is generally difficult to explain” (Jung, 1982, p. 84). At its essence, analytical psychology is an approach rooted in the understanding that psyche has a religious function of supporting the search for meaning in our lives. Regarding this, Jung (1965) writes,

The decisive question for man is: is he related to something or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid our fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance….In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted….Man’s task is…to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious (pp. 325, 326).

Analytical psychology is first and foremost a depth psychology, meaning that its emphasis is on the unconscious and its influence on consciousness. It is a psychodynamic approach as well. It emphasizes the processes of change and development that occur in psyche through the effect of the unconscious on consciousness and of the active interaction between the two. Analytical psychology is an emphatically interdisciplinary approach. Knowledge gained from other disciplines contributes to the understanding of psyche, thus informing, deepening, and expanding our knowledge of ourselves and of the world we live in.

The psychic issues with which Jung concerned himself tend to be those of mid-life and beyond - the “closing years” of life - rather than life’s beginning phases. Jung’s approach to psyche is known as the “classical analytical approach” which is distinct from other variations of Jung’s psychology in that its focus is the central archetype of Self, and the symbols that guide the development of personality (Kaufmann, 1996; 1999; Samuels, 1985). There are other Jungian approaches to psyche. In order to understand more fully the symmetry of mother-infant and therapist-patient dynamics active in the therapy relationship, one needs to turn elsewhere - to the work of the classically-oriented Jungians, Neumann and Wicks; the object relations school of psychoanalysis; and the developmental school of analytical psychology, which has been strongly influenced by the clinical research of the object relations school of psychoanalysis (Jacoby, 1999). While each of these schools and approaches within schools has a particular focus, when studied together, they present a fuller understanding of the therapist-patient dyad. For example, Jung was interested in the archetypal basis of the psyche and the parallels to the development of the adult personality that he discovered in the mythologies and philosophical-religious systems of the world. Adherents of Jung’s classical approach, Neumann (1973) and Wickes (1978), concerned themselves specifically with the archetypal processes governing the unfolding of the unconscious during the beginning years of life. For Neumann (1954), the mythological symbolism of the mother-child relationship was paramount, while for Wickes (1978) it was the way in which the parental psyche influences and shapes the child. The developmentalists, while still Jungians, do not focus on the archetypal-mythological basis of psyche. Instead, their concern is with the “clinically reconstructed child” observed within the therapy relationship as well as with empirical research of the observed infant which supports it (Jacoby, 1999, p.13). Developmentalists seek to understand the formative years of psychic development or the past in order to then understand later behavior and the present (Sidoli, 1996). As mentioned earlier, the Jungian developmentalists are influenced by psychoanalysis and the mother-child clinical work of the object relationists.

Michael Conforti, a Jungian psychoanalyst, bridges the gulf that separates classical analytical psychology (a synthetic-phenomenological-hermeneutical approach) from traditional psychoanalysis (a more theoretical approach), thereby providing the structure traditionally absent in analytical psychology for the therapist’s identifying, understanding, and working with both the patient’s and his or her own psychic material within the dynamic of the therapist-patient dyad. In this way, Conforti (1988; 1999) not only builds upon Jung’s (1969a; 1976; 1982) researches on energetic processes and the “confluence of psyche and matter” (Conforti, personal communication), but also provides through the Assisi Conferences and Seminars, of which he is the founder and director, an interdisciplinary forum for sharing ideas and current research in the new sciences. (The Assisi Conferences and Seminars is similar in many ways to the Eranos Seminars that Jung was instrumental in shaping during their formative years.) Conforti (1988) presents a particular way of thinking about and working within the inter-subjective field of the therapy relationship. He suggests that the patient-therapist relationship involves not only two spheres of interaction - the manifest layer of subjective psychic material and the latent layer of objective or archetypal material as is traditionally conceptualized - but is constituted of at least six interacting psychic fields of energy (field referring to the force or effect of the archetype). One way to think about these fields is to visualize them as radiating in concentric circles with the beginning circle as the patient’s field and each subsequent field becoming consecutively larger as it moves out from the core. These fields are as follows: 1) the morphogenetic field that generates form; 2) the archetypal field in which the patient is embedded; 3) that of the therapist; 4) the archetypal configuration of the therapist-patient coupling; 5) the therapy situation; 6) the field of the collective or larger world outside of therapy; and 7) the field of the collective unconscious; and below or beyond all these fields, an eighth field which Neumann (1989) identifies as the Self-field, “regulatory and superior to the archetypal field” (p. 20) of the collective unconscious, which both encompasses all the other fields and is the self/Self that we experience as the center of psyche.

What archetypal field theory suggests is that all knowledge is “present or emergent in the living field” (Neumann, 1989, p.15) which encloses the participants. More specifically, each field is governed by an archetypal dominant which constellates or expresses itself in a way particular to it and its mandate. The therapist’s job, writes Kaufmann (1996) is “to get to the point of seeing what is there, rather than imposing an objective reading of the situation” (p. 1) - in other words, reading the archetypal pattern alive within the field of the therapist-patient coupling and forming interpretations based on this phenomenological data. This field-generated information is crucial to forming an accurate understanding of the archetypal field in which the patient is embedded and the patient’s subjective psychic alignment to the archetype, and for crafting finely-tuned interventions that are needed to promote psychic change (Conforti, 2001; Kaufmann, 1999). This reading of archetypal patterns within the therapy relationship is possible because of the self-organizing tendency of psyche. This means that psyche functions to a purpose and is consistent in its functioning. Thus behavior manifested within the therapeutic field is consistent with the mandates of the archetype which underlies and structures it. An apt analogy to this is the hologram wherein each part contains the whole so that in order to know the whole, in this case the archetypal dominant, all that is necessary is to understand a piece which stands for the whole (Conforti, personal communication). Neumann (1989) writes, there is a

transgressive unitary structure of the archetypal field…[which is] the basis for an abundance of similar phenomena, in which the boundaries between inner and outer, psychic and physical melt away (p. 24).

An important point needs to be made, however, concerning archetypal representations - although the archetype is multivalent and expresses itself in countless forms, ergo the hologram analogy, the particular archetypal representation or symbol through which the archetype shows itself is always evocative of a specific psychic situation. For this reason, the symbol which forms a message bridge from the unconscious psyche to consciousness must be understood for the specificity of its expression, for at the moment of its appearance in consciousness this symbol alone and no other is the perfect conveyer of psychic truth necessary for attitudinal change and meaning-making (Conforti, personal communication; Jung, 1964; 1982; Kaufmann, 1999). That the archetypal symbol always stands for something more than its obvious and immediate meaning, the universal or transcendent dimension, is a given in analytical psychology - the way to connection with this greater supporting realm is always through the subjectively tuned image (or behavior) which itself becomes magnified within the field of the therapist-patient dyad (Jung, 1964).

Conforti suggests a number of things with this archetypal field model of psychic process within the psychotherapeutic relationship. First, and more generally, he suggests that the patient-therapist relationship that develops is not a straightforward affair, but a highly complex one that operates at different levels simultaneously. Thus the therapeutic relationship is not simply a matter of the degree of empathy and care that the therapist shows for the patient, nor is it solely about a good “fit” between the therapist and his or her patient, although both these aspects of relational attunement are important, as has been discussed earlier. The psychotherapeutic relationship also is not simply a matter of the therapist developing enough of an affective alliance with the patient early on in the therapy so that the patient is more likely to continue the therapy, which is often a long process, to its natural termination. Both of these things, the quality of relationship and the length of time that it takes for the therapist to establish a working alliance with the patient, are useful variables to consider among others, but are not necessarily the conditions of treatment that make or break the therapy, contrary to accepted belief (Jung, 1976). Conforti (1988; 1999) suggests instead that the patient-therapist relationship is governed by an archetypal dominant configured by the interaction of the therapist’s and patient’s individual fields. This understanding is not new; Jung (1982) called the bond that linked patient to therapist and therapist to patient, the transference bond, a mixatum compositum of the therapist’s “own mental health and the patient’s maladjustment” (p. 171). Conforti’s conceptualization of archetypal fields is, however, a fine-tuning of Jung’s original intuitive understanding of the dynamic inter-psychic relationship binding the patient and therapist together in the embrace of the therapeutic endeavor. The patient-therapist dyad or coupling formed by this third field of archetypal phenomena must be understood and properly worked with for therapy to proceed (Conforti, 1999; Jung, 1976). This archetypally configured coupling is enacted at the initial contact, for example, the request for an appointment, and is active throughout the psychotherapeutic relationship (Conforti, 1988), contrary to accepted belief (Guggenbuhl-Craig, 1971; Jung, 1982). The work of the therapy is to bring out the meaning which this archetype carries for the patient. In other words, the therapist brings the patient to the threshold of change and a new understanding of his or her situation based on the phenomenological reading, if you will, of the archetypal pattern of the psychic data emergent within the therapeutic interaction. It is this interpretation of the unfolding archetypal reality which assists the patient's movement toward individuation, that is, the realization of the transcendent reality active in his or her life. Because this careful work is only possible within the secure container of therapy, the psychotherapeutic relationship does not develop apart from the other therapy components - setting, theoretical orientation and method - but is understood because of them, and is itself archetypally structured. Thus, all the framing elements of the therapy function together as a whole to contain, support and further the patient’s healing.

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- Submitted by Stephanie Buck