Updated: Sep 27, 2021
A weekly blog about my experience of training as an Analyst during the Autumn 2021 semester at ISAPZurich and which also acts as an introduction to Jungian concepts and ideas which I hope inspire you in whatever way works for you.
It's Friday. Another week of training, studying and working is over. Well, just about. I'm participating in an experiential seminar this weekend Saturday and Sunday entitled Exploring Our Many Selves by Penelope Yungblut. I was looking forward to a weekend of running, cycling and exploring the nearby mountains near Zurich but looks like I'll be in class for most of the weekend. There are a handful of weekend training seminars which usually involves some kind of practical or experiential learning. Jungian psychology sees the psyche as containing several personalities, some of which are conscious and some are unconscious. The unconscious aspects of ourselves are autonomous and can literally possess the conscious personality with behaviours that are out of the ordinary for the individual. This weekend's seminar is focused on the idea of 'active imagination'; a way to engage these unconscious aspects of ourselves or personalities through dialogue, drawing, painting, images or another creative endeavour.
The seminar will use various modes of 'active imagination' to work with images arising from the unconscious. The aim is to recognise the expression of the inner figures and energies in our psyche and to integrate the insights they offer us. Active Imagination is a core Jungian concept and a very useful tool for engaging the unconscious both therapeutically and as a creative endeavour. Jung coined the term in 1935 to describe a process of dreaming with open eyes [Jung's Collected Works 6, para.723]. The process starts by focusing on a particular point, image, scenario, picture or event that has arisen spontaneously in your mind. You then allow a series of associations to emerge which then take on a dramatic turn; a story or narrative in your mind unfolds, you might draw or paint something. Essentially, you allow the image, scenario etc to develop without any conscious thought. The developing situation then takes a life of its own, you're like an observer, watching it unfold in your mind, in a drawing or painting. The associations are unconscious contents which become clearer and more articulate as you carry out the process active imagination.
The unconscious is a bedrock of activity, most of which is completely unknown to us. But the process of active imagination allows you to let some of the fantasies that reside in our unconscious minds to emerge without conscious doubt or resistance. It may sound like day dreaming but the difference is that day dreaming involves conscious thought whereby active imagination is like a uncontrolled drama that compels the individual to participate. A new psychological situation is created when the unconscious contents are exposed in the waking state [Jung's, Collected Works 14, para.706]. This means the process of active imagination can be incredibly therapeutic or healing for those afflicted by emotional or mental distress.
I'm looking forward to exposing my unconscious contents at this weekend's seminar! There are 12 of us attending the session, a mix of Training Candidates, Matriculated Auditors and Diploma Candidates. When you start training as a Jungian Analyst, you're assigned the label of Training Candidate. Some people choose to attend a semester as part of their continuing professional development and are labelled Matriculated Auditors. Once you complete certain task i.e. submit a Symbol paper, complete exams and part of a mandatory psychiatric internship you become a Diploma Candidate. I took two leaves of absence due to the pandemic so I'm still labelled a Training Candidate but I hope to become a Diploma Candidate at some point next year.
The week was fairly quiet compared to last week. I attended the next lecture in the series of Insights and Myths Across Cultures also presented by Penelope Yungblut. This time we focused on the mythological story of Odysseus and his quest or even yearning to return to the love of his life, Penelope. I'm not sure how I feel about Greek Mythology. I'm not a fan and I suspect it has a lot to do with my own upbringing, culture and even unconscious mind.
Greek Mythology greatly influenced the western world. Myths can be a great way to elaborate on the unconscious dynamics of the psyche. Their stories and narrative are seen, psychologically, as energies in an individual's psyche so when you read a myth, you might see your own thoughts, feelings, strains and pressures accurately described or expressed in the story. I grew up in the western world so I understand Greek Myths from an intellectual perspective but I find that my own unconscious does not fully engage the stories and by that I mean, I'm just not enthusiastic about Greek Myths. I suspect my east African background is a contributing factor.
Our unconscious is very closely linked to our native heritage. I find myself more drawn to Ancient Egyptian Mythology which is very closely linked to wider African myths. Not withstanding my lack of interest in Greek Myths, I took some take aways from this seminar. In particular the idea of moving from omnipotence to vulnerability and humanness. The quality of having unlimited or very great power 'I take what I want' so to speak to becoming a person who has the capacity to accept pain, loss, conflict, hardship. This is an important lesson for the therapy room but I also think an important one for the workplace, particularly in organisations where there is a lot of conflict and staff discontent.
I also attended the next seminar in a series called Fear, Anxiety and Panic Attacks by Gary Hayes. In this seminar we explored the dreams of American writer, Siri Hustvedt, who wrote a book called The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves in which she described her sudden experience of a panic attack. The panic attack left her curious about why it happened and it's meaning or significance rather than a medical diagnosis. This was good material to explore the physiological symptoms of a panic attack using a documented example.
Hustvedt gave a eulogy at her father's funeral when she started 'shaking'. In the book she says:
'Confident and armed with index cards, I looked out at the fifty or so friends and colleagues of my father's who had gathered around the memorial Norway spruce, launched into my first sentence, and began to shudder violently from the neck down. My arms flapped. My knees knocked. I shook as if I were having a seizure. Weirdly, my voice wasn't affected. It didn't change at all. Astounded by what was happening to me and terrified I would fall over, I managed to keep my balance and continue, despite the fact the the cards in my hands were flying back and forth in front of me. When the speech ended, the shaking stopped. I looked down at my legs. They had turned a deep red with a bluish cast'.
These are some of the symptoms of fear, anxiety and panic attacks. Panic attacks, in particular, are related to the unconscious. You can read its vivid description in the above passage. We explored the significance of the panic attack from the narrative about her relationship with her father and from a couple of her dreams. She described herself as a very rational, intellectual, thinking type modelled by her father who she looked up to but it came at her price. The other side of her, the less rational, more spiritual and intuitive side was repressed.
Early on in my career, I considered myself as an extraverted thinking type. I went along with this type cast for many years but there were clues that indicated this was not the case. As a management consultant, I often have to give presentations and take Q&A's at the end. I dreaded giving presentations. It filled me with so much anxiety but I noticed that as soon as I started presenting, my anxiety just disappeared. I loved presenting in front of a lot of people, presenting the topic in an entertaining and creative way, I really enjoyed the experience of presenting but I hated the Q&A sessions. I did not prepare enough for possible questions. This limited my breadth and depth of knowledge. I could just about explain the breadth of facts but I needed to prepare more to explain the depth of the topic being presented. Now don't get me wrong. I have extraverted thinking but it isn't a lead function in my psyche. I realised or shall I say remembered that I was more of an extraverted sensation type. I enjoyed the experience of presenting but the extraverted thinking side of me was not as fully developed as I thought it was hence the reason I did not like taking Q&As. I had to dig deep to find answers to the spontaneous questions. When I realised that I was more of a sensation rather than thinking type, I began to prepare much more readily for any questions and immediately felt the anxiety lift. I repressed sensation for the sake of creating a management consultant Persona and therefore sensation temporarily resided in my unconscious where it created states of anxiety in me ahead of a presentation.
My favourite seminar this week 'Basic Jungian Developmental Theory; Development of Personality' was great. I was sat in class just over half an hour before the presentation begun, a sure sign of my enthusiasm and motivation for the subject. #JungianBitsofInformation is based on the theory of Personality by Jung. This course is more about the development theory and comparing it to other Jungian and non Jungian personality developmental theorists. We have been split into groups to explore some of the different theories more closely. My group is an eclectical mix of individuals from Basel, Santa Barbara, New York and Moscow. I am really looking forward to working with them on Erich Neumann and Anna Freud's personality developmental theories.
The lecture was led by ISAP's President, Deborah Egger. One of the many definitions of Personality or rather Personality Development is 'a well rounded psychic whole that is capable of resistance and abounding in energy'. The definition pertains to the 'inner child' in the adult, that transformational change of the personality comes from within ourselves, that personality is a seed that develops slowly throughout life, only adults can achieve personality and it is the optimum development of the whole individual human being. Now, this is not quite a definition of Personality but it gives you a flavour of what we mean by personality development. Jung's Collected Works Personality Development [CW17] and Psychological Types [CW6] are the seminal works in the Jungian idea of Personality. I highly recommend these essays if you would like a deep dive into Jungian Personality Theory.
Although the term ‘Personality’ is widely used in everyday conversation, defining its meaning is not a simple task. Even typing in ‘Personality’ into a thesaurus brings up several other words; charisma, identity, makeup, nature, psyche, self, temperament, disposition, individuality, emotions, likableness, selfhood, magnetism etc. People often talk about television ‘personalities’ or describe someone as ‘being a personality’, or as ‘having a lot of personality’. These descriptions suggest the kind of person who is typically lively, talkative and tends not to be ignored. We also use the term ‘Personality’ in relation to a person’s most striking characteristics, for example, we may describe someone as having a jovial personality, or an aggressive personality, meaning that these are their most salient characteristics and that they tend to respond to a variety of situations in that particular way. It is difficult to imagine, for example, someone who is usually shy suddenly becoming the life and soul of the party, or someone who is easily angered, not rising to the occasion where insulted. Therefore when we describe the personality of someone we know, we assume their characteristics to be fairly stable, not only in different situations, but also over time. Although the term ‘Personality’ has different meanings in different contexts, it is a term that is generally well understood in everyday language. It may seem surprising, therefore that psychologists cannot agree on a definition. Here are few of the many that have been put forward.
Almost adequate conceptualisation of a person's behaviour in all its detail
A persons unique pattern of traits
The dynamic organisation within the individual of those psycho physical systems that determine his characteristic behaviour and thought
Those structural and dynamic properties of an individual, as the reflect themselves and characteristic responses to situations
The distinctive patterns of behaviour, including thoughts and emotions that characterise each individuals adaptation to the situations in his or her life
A constant set of intrapsychic or internal characteristics and predispositions that directly determine psychological behaviour.
With respect to psychological testing, the following definition of personality functions well.
Those relatively stable and enduring aspects of individuals which distinguish them from other people, making them unique, but which at the same time allow people to be compared with each other.
The Jungian approach to a theory of personality is set out in Jung’s seminal book, Psychological Types, published in 1921. Jung considers ‘Personality’ as resulting from a dynamic interaction between the conscious and unconscious mind, the totality of which is known as the Psyche. Psyche is the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as consciousness. Jung delineated the two realms as an area of interest for Analytical Psychology, arguing that the Personality can develop as an individual matures, however, the transformation can only take place when the individual develops an awareness of their conscious and unconscious mind and the emergent dynamics between both realms. Is Personality genetically or environmentally determined? This remains an unresolved question that continues to be hotly debated by psychologists.
We all have a Personality and what I try to do is to show you how the functions or energies in your Personality work collaboratively or in opposition to create the personality that you present to the world. By understanding these collaborative and opposing dynamics, you begin to get a real sense of who you are, you start to gain a better understanding of yourself and at the same time you will see a maturation in your conscious and unconscious attitude towards life and to yourself.
You can find out more about the psyche's functions in the Personality Transformation page on my website https://www.nicholastoko.com/personality-transformation or check out the books in my recommended reading list https://www.nicholastoko.com/motivational-reading or find out more about Jungian Psychology and the structure of the psyche here https://www.nicholastoko.com/what-is-jungian-psychology
I'll cover the experiential seminar in my next weekly blog due out next Friday or Saturday. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.