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What's it like to train as an Analyst? What is Jungian Psychology?

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

A 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.

Trying to find 'balance'

It has been a while since my last blog. This seems to be a common ‘opening line’ to my blog over the last few editions. I have simply been overwhelmed with my consulting work and attending training lectures and seminars. It is not an easy schedule to manage. I have a lot of work commitments which compete with my training commitments. I am especially disappointed that I haven’t made as much progress with my Symbol paper as I had planned. But it is all good. There is no right or wrong way to train. I'm simply going with the flow and trying not to get too worked up about my training progress.

Symbol Paper

The Symbol paper is the first essay we need to write before we take exams. I have a topic in mind and discussed it with an analyst who will read and mark the paper. However, my work commitments have been taking a huge amount of my time. One of my biggest pieces of work is to draft a workforce planning strategy for a client. It is a huge piece of work, exciting too, that requires a lot of stakeholder engagement and a good understanding of the organisation. I will write a blog about this work in the new year entitled ‘Introverted Intuition and Strategic Workforce Planning’, an exploration of the psychological functional attitude required as a leader to devise a vision for workforce planning in the context of the organisation’s mission, strategic goals and challenges. This will be a good way to return to blogging about Jungian psychology and organisational effectiveness because I have been so focused on blogging about my experiences of 'What's it like to train as an Analyst' blog series.

What is involved in writing a Symbol paper? The basic task is to demonstrate an ability to understand an image or motif on a symbolic level and to distinguish between concrete and symbolic levels. The paper should show familiarity with the methods of association, amplification (archetypal and cultural aspects) and interpretation. Viewed psychologically, the paper should also explain how symbols further consciousness and transcend the rational. The paper should also illustrate this with examples, include personal experience of the symbol under discussion and written in a paper totalling 10 to 20 pages.

What was it like to blog about training as an Analyst?

I really enjoyed blogging about my experience of training as an Analyst. It was a new idea for a blog and I'm glad I went ahead with it. It gives me the time and space to reflect on my training, the training material and to consider how I want to develop as an analyst. I found that certain psychological insights come to me through reflection and some interesting coincidences from my own thoughts and the topics or subjects discussed at the lectures or seminars. I also enjoy writing. Writing gives you a sense of personal freedom, independence and clarity about your personal values.

I plan to continue the blog series into the next semester which starts in the Spring of 2022. The current Autumn semester has come to an end and this is a final nod to the experience and a summary of my thoughts about it. The semester has been really interesting. I’ve realised that training as an Analyst is a part of what I do but it is not everything I do or even want to do. I'm doing a lot of things outside of training which attract my interest and if I don’t get the balance right, I will spend far too much time in the training arena. It is difficult to get the balance right or even to maintain it but in my opinion, it is important to have a life outside of the training arena and not to get totally immersed in Jungian training at the expense of your own personal life and independence. There is a danger of seeing the world entirely through a Jungian lens in which case you lose a sense of balance, reality and engagement in the real world. Of course, this is my choice and not everyone's choice but for me, it is important to maintain a balance and not to take my training so seriously that I lose connection to the realities of the world.

I met some amazing people this semester who will not be back for the next one. They were matriculated auditors who typically join for a semester as part of their professional development. Training can be a bit transitory in terms of the people you meet. Many people will come and go. Some stay to train as analysts. It is great to meet like minded people who are looking to expand their knowledge and perhaps better understand themselves. I’ve had some great chats and late evening drinks with these individuals who’ve headed home. They will be sorely missed. Matriculated training is available for those who want to learn more about Jungian psychology without undergoing a formal training programme.

I've started to expand my social network in Zurich and I'm still travelling back to London on a regular basis to see family and friends. I'm always very excited to see my friends and family back home. Zurich is a nice place but it is a very homogenous, subdued, slightly dull and not the most friendliest of places so it is always great and frankly a huge relief to go back to London with its diverse communities, liberal values, vibrant life and food! I literally gorge myself on the type of food I like whenever I head back to London because it is simply not available in Zurich. The jury is still out for me whether living and training in Switzerland is right for me. Perhaps over time, I'll feel differently but right now, I'm happy to focus on writing my Symbol paper, preparing for the exams and settling into my new life in Switzerland.

The challenge of training as a black man in Jungian psychology

Training as a black man in Jungian psychology and living in Zurich is also very interesting, challenging and one hell of an eye opener. I’ve been asked all sorts of strange, weird and wonderful questions about my background including, ‘Is your name really Nicholas?’, a question which completely surprised me. To this individual, they couldn’t quite reconcile my name as 'Nicholas' and having an African background. They asked me what my ‘African’ name is. I said ‘Nicholas’. It was an interesting encounter with someone who has never spoken to, or met someone like me - black, Londoner, east African origins. There is an assumption that psychotherapists and psychoanalysts are non-prejudicial and non-discriminatory on account of the nature of their profession. However, I can tell you that is not entirely true. The profession in Europe is predominantly, overwhelmingly white and therefore as a black or even brown man you can fully expect to experience the same dynamics you would typically experience in the wider social environment.

The content of training material in the analyst training institutions is mostly seen from a western eye, gaze or perspective - based on western ideals, ethics, conventions, heritage, history and experiences. Nothing wrong with that. That is exactly what I would expect. As a individual from a non-western heritage, I have to make my own efforts to find training material that resonates with me and to find ways to integrate it into my training and psychological development. There are a lot of students from non-western countries so there is a growing or at least a potential new cohort of Jungian analysts who come from non-western countries. Personally, I intend to practice as a Jungian analyst in Africa, the Middle East, US and to work specifically with marginalised or communities on the fringes of mainstream society. I'm also open to providing analysis to anyone who approaches me. It will be a challenge but also an opportunity, to bring analysis to my own community. I know many people who struggle to find analysts or therapists from their own cultural backgrounds, so I see it as a great opportunity to meet an unmet need in specific communities. If you're interested in hearing more about the challenges faced by black psychotherapists and psychoanalysts here are links to a past conference about the issue and to a network of psychotherapists for individuals from black or Asian backgrounds.

The African Amercian Jungian Analysts: On Culture, Clinical Training/Practice and Racism or check out a fantastic network of Black and Asian Psychotherapists.

I attended a lot of lectures and seminars this semester but I didn’t go to many ‘dream’ or ‘fairy tale’ seminars. As an extraverted sensation type, dreams and fairy tales are not my favourite pastime. I’ve reached a stage in my life where I can integrate dream work into my training but given a choice, I much prefer bodywork, sand play and active imagination. However, dream work is integral to work as an Analyst so I know I need to do as much training in that arena. Dreams and fairy tales take my psyche to the functional attitude of introverted intuition. This is the inferior part of my psyche so I have to work hard to engage that type of training. I'm not entirely sure whether I will incorporate fairy tales into my work as an analyst but I want to do enough seminars and lectures in this topic to enable me to pass the exams.

I really enjoyed the seminar series on Psychopathology and Psychiatry. These seminars played to my strengths. I'm very practical which lends itself very well to this type of work, understanding a patient’s symptoms and documenting them through an interview process. I felt so comfortable with the material that I feel confident that I can get through the exams with no problems.

Overall, it has been a good semester, some high points and some low points. These varying points are helpful because you get an idea of what interests you and what doesn’t, and to use that to frame how your training develops. My main goal is to complete my Symbol paper so that’s my homework for the next few weeks until I return for the Spring semester. It is hard to train and work at the same time if you don’t have the financial means to train exclusively. However, I think it is important to have a life outside of training so I fully intend to continue working and pursue other interests while I train.

The latest edition of my blog is slightly different from my previous blogs. I’ve had to condense my thoughts from the last four weeks in an attempt to close off the series of ‘What’s it like to train as an Analyst? What is Jungian Psychology?’ from the Autumn 2021 semester. I’ll be back with a new blog series next Spring. In the meantime look out for my next blog ‘Introverted Intuition and Strategic Workforce Planning’ due out in the new year where I will explore the functional attitude of introverted intuition in drafting a workforce planning strategy based on my recent work with a client in the UK. The role of introverted intuition is also an important one for the training analyst. I'll explain more in the next blog!

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