Posts Tagged ‘unconscious’
Seven years ago, I enrolled in a college math class at UNC Asheville. I had been unable to crack the code and learn Fractal Geometry on my own (click on this link for a fascinating page on Fractals). Twice each week for an entire semester I scheduled myself out of my office and trekked to the campus of my in order to immerse myself in the study of this quirky field of mathematics.
A short list of some of the topics the course covered (and some images that illustrate the topic) provide a good segue to at least one of the presenters for the Asheville Jung Center’s conference “Jung and Neuroscience”.
Attractor (a set towards which a variable evolves in a dynamical system)
Fractal Dimension (a measure of detail in a pattern [strictly speaking, a fractal pattern] that changes with the scale at which it is measured
Self-similar sets (sets that look the same up close and from far away)
Stable Attractors (points of equilibrium into which systems settle until disrupted)
Strange Attractors (points in a system where the graphic display of equations bifurcate)
Chaotic Attractors (in chaos theory an attractor that displays marked sensitivity to initial conditions)
Julia Sets (consists of values such that an arbitrarily small perturbation can cause drastic changes in the sequence of iterated function values and thereby the graph)
Self Organizing System (denotes a system of synergistically cooperative elements whose patterns of global behavior are distributed (i.e., no single element coordinates the activity) and self-limiting in nature)
DNA self replicates and self assembles (electron microscope on the right)
Social self orgainizing in international drug routes
Consider several broad phenomena we all engage in our work as therapists.
- There are motifs that seem to recur in some people’s lives whose particular manifestations evolve depending in the phase of the person’s life.
- Consciousness arises as a complex, emergent phenomenon out of the prima materia of an organ weighing about 3 lbs, the physical body that sustains it, and the soical/interpersonal milieu in which these dynamical systems are nurtured.
- When we sleep, self-organizing phenomenon emerge using the stuff of our daily lives. The intricacy of such phenomena seem to demonstrate exquisite sensitivity to the set of initial conditions (think about Chaos Theory).
- Therapy and analysis involves two complex systems interacting. The language of transference and countertransference could be overlaid upon certain ideas related to dynamical systems.
- The nodes of electronic communication that permit a conference like “Jung and Neuroscience” to weave together a half dozen presenters and hundreds of attendees from dozens of countries.
There is an eerie beauty to the images and ideas mentioned above. I find myself contemplating the ageless ideas proposed by Hermes Trismegistus, ideas like “As above, so below”. That is for me the linguistic representation of self similarity. What does it mean to propose that God made man in His own image? What do we find so intriguing in movies like “Sliding Doors” or “Crash” in which we recognize the power of certain initial conditions.
“Jung and Neuroscience” is an exploration of the interface between the burgeoning field of neuroscience and the field of Jungian psychology. It is too easy to approach these as though they are divergent paths but we are likely to be better served to make our approach like the particle physicists have done when contending with light’s dual, complementary nature as both a wave and a particle.
The mathematics that undergirds the fields of dynamical systems, fractal geometry, and chaotic theory emerged from the work of Henri Poincaré, a late 19th century mathematician. With the advent of modern computing capacity that permitted “iterative” functions to be calculated ( and plotted) after hundreds or thousands of cycles. (an iterative function takes the output or solutions of a system of equations and uses them as the inputs for the next cycle of computation.) The beauty and elegance of the images appearing above can be produced because of the insights Poincaré introduced and the ability to use today’s computational capacity to graphically display the results of thousands of iterative calculations.
Poincaré’s Recurrence Theorem is one of the many intriguing things he posited. He stated that certain systems (nonlinear dynamical systems) will, after a sufficiently long time, return to a state very close to its initial conditions. The notion that a system of equations can “forget” for very long times yet somehow return to its initial conditions, is a profoundly attractive idea. This evokes reminiscences of a sphinx like journey of exodus and return.
Dr. Murray Stein quoted from CW 10 para 318 in his effort to characterize the lunar mind “It is not our ego-consciousness reflecting on itself, rather it turns its attention to the objective actuality of the dream as a communication or message from the unconscious, unitary soul of humanity. It reflects not on the ego but on the self, it recollects that that self, alien to the ego which was ours from the beginning, the trunk from which the go grew.” The lunar mind knows things that the solar mind does not know or does not yet know, or that have not been taken into consideration. Our solar mind can be fast but in its speed it may miss certain vital dimensions. The solar mind and the lunar mind conceived as strange attractors of the dynamical system that comprises our psyche. Consider the idea of personal and collective unconscious as strange attractors of the dynamical system we know as unus mundus.
Dr. Margaret Wilkinson explores the rich metaphoric realm of the dream. Dream analysis is a co-constructive process. As implicit speaks to implicit in the analysis, dreams are a shared, emergent process. Emergent phenomenon, the appearance of patterns that arise from relatively simple interactions, cannot be predicted from the simple rules of interactions. Just as analysis, a process that at some level involves simple rules (appointments, rituals like engaging dreams, active imagination, etc) produces unpredictable results.
In part, the dream may function in part to assemble dissociated self states that are disconnected. The voice of these self states can be discerned in the dream and its images. Through metaphor, unconscious states of the mind are exposed to conscious. Dr. Wilkinson’s comments about the dream images being organized around affective patterns, these patterns that are born of our personal experience provide the elements from which we assemble and organize our selves.
There is no destination to these musings. Instead, I hope this blog serves as an invitation to the reader to further exploration. I intentionally posted this blog during the Asheville Jung Center’s conference “Jung and Neuroscience”. There was an aspect of this post that was experimental, testing if my hypothesis about how the small amount of information I have about Dr. Kahn might have presaged some of his contributions. If these ideas do not emerge during the conference, so be it.
There is something about posting these reflections and the possibility that they might resonate with or evoke in another some useful effect that redeems anew the countless hours I offered to the project of learning fractal geometry. The cycles of life, the iterations involved in remembering my fractal geometry class, the sharing of these thoughts as a blog resemble an iterative function. First I enrolled and completed a class in fractal geometry as a way of answering a deep call within. Anticipating the “Jung and Neuroscience” conference, I take the results of that class from seven years ago and plug it back in like entering results of an iterative equation back into the original equation again and again. The posting of this blog like the plotting of solutions to an iterative function, is a display of the working and reworking of psychic material. My sense about such processes and the emergent results is that given enough time, the process of my psychic unfolding might eventually prove consistent with Poincaré’s Recurrence Theorem so that I may find myself returning to something very close to my original state.
By Len Cruz, MD
“The psychic is a phenomenal world which can be reduced neither to the brain or metaphysics.” Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par. 667
The White Man’s Burden
Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?”
Take up the White Man’s burden–
Ye dare not stoop to less–
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
Have done with childish days–
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!
The Future of Analytical Psychology and the World
During the last decade of the twentieth century there arose a chorus praising free trade and almost deifying globalization. During the first decade of the twentieth first century, while the West waged war on two fronts, a different chorus emerged to praise the democratizing effect the West was having on other nations and cultures. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial titled “Why the World Needs America” rejects the notion of a “post-American” era. It exposes widely accepted assumptions that sound eerily like Rudyard Kipling’s published in 1899. (see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203646004577213262856669448.html ) One of these assumptions that is easily overlooked by North Americans is that “America” denotes the region encompassing North America, Central America, and South America (unless you are an English-speaking inhabitant of the “United States of America”).
On Saturday, February 25, from 12:30 to 4:30 PM (EST) we are privileged to host a Webinar titled “The Future of Analytical Psychology and the World” with two extraordinary presenter, Tom Singer, MD and Craig San Roque, Ph.D. Singer is the editor of a recently released book, “Placing Psyche: Exploring Cultural Complexes in Australia” and San Roque contributes to the Introduction and two chapters. This is the first in a series of books that Spring Journal, Inc plans to publish as explorations of the notion of cultural complexes. It manages to strike a balance between the unique and particular aspects of Australia and the universal, archetypal patterns associated with place. Singer defines a cultural complex as “an autonomous, largely unconscious, emotionally charged aggregate of memories, affects, ideas, and behaviors that tend to cluster around an archetypal core and are shared by individuals in a group.”
The authors focus upon the regions “in-between” where tension emerges. This is one feature of their examination of cultural complexes. The in-between space can refer to in-between ethnic, racial, religious, gender, and linguistic groups. Consider the hotly debated issues of immigration across the southern border of the United States of America or immigration and fee passage across borders within the European Union, tow issues that highlight the tension that exists at the in-between spaces of national borders. Even among groups some might perceive as uniform we observe in-between spaces fraught with tension. To the Judeo-Christian Western individual, Islam may seem uniform but the space in-between Sunni and Shiite Muslims is overflowing with tension and unconscious cultural complex.
What is so compelling about this exploration of cultural complexes is that a dialogue about such complexes might free us from over-identifying with them or acting them out. The individual complexes that a person fails to engage tend to usurp power and produce a constant interfering (neurotic) background for the psyche. Conscious contact with a complex releases us from bondage, a bondage we scarcely recognize exists. A fish may be unable to consider itself as a fish in water but a human being can endeavor to examine herself in the watery milieu of her cultural complexes. (Take note if the change of pronoun to the feminine gender had any effect.)
Jung suggests that unconscious complexes produce a sort of automatism whereas when they become conscious “… they can be corrected.” (The Nature of the Psyche) A parallel is easily drawn for the cultural complex. While it remains unconscious, it is capable of exerting a sort of automatic influence over the individual member of a group. As it comes into consciousness, it can be corrected. What we mean by “corrected” in this context is a fertile area of exploration as well.
An individual is less likely to identify with consciously engaged cultural. Consciously engaged complexes are not as readily acted. We are capable of being possessed by unconscious complexes and likewise, unconscious cultural complexes are capable of “possessing” large numbers of individual members of a group. While I do not think a whole group is possessed, when sufficient numbers of individual members become possessed by a cultural complex it appears the group itself is possessed.
During the twentieth century, analytical psychology provided almost inexhaustible tools for the individuation process. Individuation, that process of psychological integration that flowers in the fullness of an individual personality (psyche), can be extended to include the integration of our individual self with the group, humanity, and the natural world. A psyche disconnected from the ecological, interconnected biosphere has further to go. A psyche that is incapable of enduring the tension of the many in-between spaces it encounters will tend adopt a default position identified with one polarity or another; this is an inherently less integrated state. “Placing Psyche” and tomorrow’s conference is an invitation to the next stage in the individuation process, one that transcends individual psychology through a new lens of cultural complexes..
Singer and San Roque have chosen a fitting title for their conference, The Future of Analytical Psychology and the World, It is being presented at the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. Anyone fortunate enough to be within commuting distance to the institute may want to consider registering at http://thefutureofanalyticalpsychology.eventbrite.com/
The Asheville Jung Center is honored to be able to participate in this conference as a Webinar and registration for the Webinar is available at http://ashevillejungcenter.org/webinars/sanfransisc/registration/ limited seating is still available for this conference that can be heard over the internet, by telephone, and through subsequent download. Continuing education credits are also available for this conference.
by Len Cruz, MD
What, if anything, can the psychoanalyst or psychotherapist do to contend with the shadow aspects of their professional persona? This is by no means a universal concern among psychotherapists for several reasons. Certainly there are many persons practicing forms of psychotherapy that do not regard the unconscious as their concern at all. Behavioral, cognitive, and solutions-oriented therapies, to name a few, have no need of the unconscious. I am reminded of one of my supervisors in residency who attempted to encourage me to face facts squarely about a certain repeated conflict I was experiencing.
He pointed out:
“It’s entirely up to you whether or not you choose to ignore reality; the question is, will reality ignore you?”.
Likewise, modern therapies that emphasize ego adaptation are free to ignore the unconscious; the question remains; however, will the unconscious ignore the therapy?
A psychotherapist in training is more likely to remain in contact with their unconscious. Formal supervision may provide a measure of scrutiny to the psychotherapist’s unconscious process. Ideally, supervision imparts to the psychotherapist a praxis and a habit for such examination. This may then develop into a continuing process of self-examination that will serve both therapist and clients in the future. This is, however, where reality frequently diverges from the ideal objectives of training.
There are no formal requirements that the psychotherapist remain in supervision. Instead, there is a tacit implication that a figure has arisen in the psychotherapist whose function becomes supervisor in absentia. It seems highly unlikely that if this figure ever really coalesced that it will be preserved. There are many reasons why such an interior figure is likely to atrophy or die. Chief among the reasons for this figure either never fully developing or atrophying is what I shall call the Croesus Syndrome.
Croesus was King of Lyda from 560 BC to 547 BC until his defeat by the Persians. He is credited with being the first to introduce gold coinage of a standard weight and purity. His wealth and power was vast and before setting out on his campaign against Cyrus of Persia, he consulted the Delphic Oracle.
The message provided by the Oracle took its usual cryptic form. Croesus was told that if he campaigned against Cyrus of Persia a great empire would fall and he was further advised to align himself with the most powerful Greek state. He struck alliances with Sparta among others and set off. As was the custom, Croesus disbanded his army when winter arrived. Cyrus did not and he attacked Croesus in Sardis. Croesus then understood the great empire that the oracle foretold would be destroyed was his own empire. Such is often the fate of the psychotherapist who endeavors to cultivate an interior figure that serve as supervisor in absentia.
Like Croesus, that psychotherapist seeks the oracle’s message but the psychotherapist’s dreams, associations, and active imagination yield their mysteries in cryptic form. And also like Croesus, the psychotherapist suffers a predictable inclination toward interpreting his or her unconscious material in accord with their conscious, more acceptable understanding. Notice that the psychotherapist’s shadow need not be included in this process. In fact, the shadow elements of the psychotherapist will further resemble Croesus’s tale in that its unacknowledged state may be credited with the failures of the campaign, the psychotherapy or psychoanalysis itself.
I have some ideas of what may be done about this predicament but I am interested in knowing what other therapists think about this dilemma and how others endeavor to address it.
Please share the methods you employ to not only remain in contact with your unconscious and also share the strategies you have found useful in engaging the inherent blind spots that Croesus so dramatically illustrated in antiquity.
I used to teach psychotherapy to therapists in training. I drew some conclusions that coalesced into a sort of Special Relativity of Psychotherapy. The recent excerpt from Dr. Stein’s “Individuation” concerning first visits from a Jungian perspective got me thinking about Einstein’s theory and the work of therapy.
In 1905, Einstein “On the Electro dynamics of Moving Bodies” described that the frame of reference of an observer determines what is observed. For example, an observer moving at a speed close to the speed of light will encounter drastic effects upon their perception of objects in different inertial frames. Your inertial frame governs what you observe. This is strikingly like psychotherapy. To the Freudian and Neo-Freudian analyst, the analysis of resistance and will help expose libidinal impulses that have been obstructed by conflicts with a strict super-ego resulting in neurotic structures employed by the ego. A Self-psychologist may seek to illuminate the connection between early relationships (and their representation as internal structures of introjects, object representations, self-object representations, etc). The Cognitive-Behaviorally oriented therapist will apply herself to identifying negative, unproductive cognitive schemas that contribute to symptoms. It begins to appear that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I could go on with other examples. One thing I concluded about schools of psychotherapy is that like Einstein’s inertial frames of reference, they determine what a therapist will observe. (No problem provided we understand that is the nature of our discursive thinking is always constrained by our frame of reference).
Another thing I concluded when teaching psychotherapy was that any model of therapy helps the therapist feel secured and anchored. The result is often that the therapist can provide a non-anxious presence to the client. In so far as the relationship is the critical element of healing in therapy, a non-anxious therapist allows the client to explore their interior life with less contamination. In this regard, almost any philosophic stance will do. Acknowledging this generic feature of therapy can help therapist in training (and all of us are truly therapist in training) to embrace the value of being well schooled in at least one frame of reference about how therapy ought to be conducted.
Not all schools of psychotherapy are created equal. In addition, the therapeutic approach that proves well-suited to one person may be ill-suited to another. Psychotherapy is not an exact science; it is nothing like testing for antibiotic sensitivity or resistance with acute infections. Instead, a therapist is guided by some amalgam of evidenced based science and deep intuition. An excessive reliance on either often proves detrimental to a client. There is something about the numinous quality of the therapeutic experience that does not lend itself to being reduced to simple, predictable formulas.
There is a natural inclination toward being purist in public while being far less dogmatic in our consulting room. This is reminiscent of the difference between those poets who can write metered or rhyming verse who choose to compose free verse and those who cloak themselves in the mantel of vers libre simply because they have neither the gifts or discipline to cultivate metered or rhymed verse. We suspect one another of being less dogmatic behind closed doors. And why shouldn’t we; we know what we do?
While we are striving to maintain a suitable stance with clients it is our duty to notice when we deviate. We strive to remain alert to those deviations, to be alert for those moments when our process adversely influences the work of the client (and vice versa). But we are never impeccable. Instead, we endlessly seek to remove ourselves in service of the other.
In the process of monitoring our process and its potential impact upon the other we honor Einstein’s discoveries in our own way. We begin by reconciling ourselves to the fact that we cannot extricate ourselves from some frame of reference. We can acknowledge that any system of ideas supports the illusion of certainty and this, it turns our, fosters in us a non-anxious presence. We end up focusing less on defending dogma and more on present moment, mutual discernment. We admit that in the midst of our striving toward a relatively pure theoretical stance we encounter detours; we allow others to know that the mystery of therapy can never be circumscribed by a theory, no matter how sound that theory appears.
Ask yourself the following three questions.
- How would I articulate my personal theoretical/philosophic stance about the work I do with clients?
- Where do I see evidence that having a stance helps me relax enough to really be with my clients?
- When I depart from my theoretical/philosophical stance, what causes can I recognize?
I have found the following to be true about the last question. Sometimes, my deviations from a coherent stance occurs because I am slothful, I do not always maintain highest degree of vigilance when conducting therapy. Mostly, these tend to be minor deviations, worthy of note but hardly exploitive or destructive. Sometimes, I am visited by my own complexes that insert themselves in the process. This is fertile ground for me and especially fertile ground for my client when I attend to it. Sometimes, the client’s process is so intense that it warps the fabric of our relationship like a massive object warps the space-time continuum. I may deviate because there seems to be no recourse for the moment but these are the most fertile realms of exploration.
As I seek to balance all these forces I am reminded of the closing lines of Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses”
…Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.