Updated: Oct 20, 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.
As I write this week's blog, I'm sat outside Restaurant Chuchi am Wasser which is situated on the Limmat https://www.dynamo.ch/restaurant-bar. The name of the restaurant translates to the Chuchi restaurant by the water. The Limmat is a river which flows out of Lake Zurich heading north west towards Baden. The area around the restaurant is a popular swimming spot in the summer. I've been meaning to swim here for some time but never quite made the effort. Perhaps I'll try it next summer!
The restaurant is a popular place to hang out post-ISAP lectures. I've found myself here on two occasions this week, cocktail in hand, with some ISAP students in between lectures and after one of our lectures The Shadow Within Us and Narcissism was cancelled at very short notice i.e. ten minutes before the start of the lecture due to health reasons by the lecturer. We suddenly found ourselves with four free hours so what better way to spend it than a lunchtime drink and a good chat with some fellow students. I was pleased that some of my fellow students were willing to have an unexpected lunchtime drink. It was a great opportunity to get to know some of the other students outside of the ISAP building.
We were all very excited to hear the lecture about narcissism. We spent time talking about what narcissism means to us. Narcissism is a term that is so widely used that it can quite difficult to define what narcissism means, to pin down what we mean by it. In Greek Mythology, Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was a hunter from Thespiae or modern day Izmir, Turkey and known for his incredible beauty. In the myth, it is said that he rejected all romantic advances, eventually falling in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, staring at it for the remainder of his life. The character of Narcissus is the origin of the psychological term narcissism, an unhealthy fixation with oneself. This quality, in turn, defines narcissism, a condition marked by grandiosity, an excessive need for attention and admiration from others, and an inability to empathize.
I think it can be easier to understand or define narcissism when you have personal experience of it. As one of the students aptly put it ‘when you become a narcissistic supply’ meaning you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist as a partner, sibling or even the child of a narcissist. My own interest in Jungian Psychology developed out of my own interest in the behaviour of certain family and friends who, when I look back at with a psychological lens, I can see narcissistic behaviours. I hope the lecture is rescheduled. We were all very excited to learn more about narcissism. Narcissists rarely go to therapy or at least that is my understanding so I’m interested to hear what the lecture has to say about this mental condition.
When I came to Restaurant Chuchi am Wasser earlier this week, I ordered myself a Negroni and a sandwich. A Negroni is a classic pre-dinner Aperitif. I was served my Negroni in a very small glass. I asked the barperson to fill it up and that I was prepared to pay for it, 'it has been a long week' I said to her. I've been feeling very uncomfortable with the number of people attending lectures at ISAP. Whilst ISAP is following Swiss Public Health guidelines, I'm not entirely comfortable with the large crowds particularly at the postlude lectures. It was a welcome treat for me to have a drink and cut through my anxiety about the lectures. I've been wondering why I feel so anxious about the number of people attending lectures at ISAP. Well, there are the natural concerns about catching Covid but I’m more concerned about ending up in a Swiss hospital with Covid. I don’t speak German, I’m clearly a ‘foreigner’ so I feel a little distrustful of the health system in Switzerland. I don’t have family or a lot of friends here so I dread the scenario of ending up sick with Covid in Switzerland. I was pleasantly surprised that a fellow student said they speak German and would give me their number for me to use in case anything happens to me. It was a really nice gesture and even reassuring that if I do get ill I can rely on others to assist me with communication if necessary.
Thankfully, the remaining lectures are available to watch online so I decided to take a break from in person lectures and register to attend online. This released my anxiety somewhat and I felt a lot more comfortable. I spent the early part of the week working and attending online lectures. I also attended the last lecture of the series ‘Anxiety, Fear and Panic Attacks’ with Gary R Hayes. I reflected on my anxiety about Covid after the lecture. I really wanted to understand what was behind my anxiety. Initially, I explained to myself that it was purely health and safety related but as I pushed myself to consider it even more, I realised that it was also about being a foreigner, even more so a black man in a predominantly white society, a black man who doesn’t speak German. Switzerland can be incredibly racist much to the surprise of people I say this to. It is very subtle and can be an almost daily occurrence which makes you wonder whether I will be treated well in a Swiss hospital. This is one of the origins of my anxiety, being different in a homogenous society, expecting to be treated differently and receiving less care because I’m different.
Anxiety is often rooted in an unconscious fear, this was an interesting insight from the lecture series. In the last couple of lectures we looked at a fairy tale The Goose Girl to examine the impact of anxiety. Analytical Psychology or Jungian Psychology argues that fairy tales show us how to manage life’s difficulties and challenges. In fairy tales you see universal patterns of behaviour that tell us a lot about human behaviour. We spent the last lecture analysing The Goose Girl fairy tale. It is an interesting tale of a ‘princess’ coming to know herself, her grandiosity and accepting herself for who she is rather than who she thinks or wants to be. It was a challenging lecture for me. Analysing fairy tales does not come naturally or easy to me. The analysis of a fairy tale is psychological, you look at the symbolism in the fairy tale and attempt to examine its psychological significance. Fairy tales are often full of epic journeys, the battle between the forces of good and evil, archetypal characters, sadness and happiness, a vast array of the human experience, but there is always a path to resolution being played out throughout the tale. It is the path of resolution that analysis attempts to identify from the tale. The path can be therapeutic for individuals or help an analyst better understand the psychological significance of a patient’s situation.
What I learned this week, personally at least, is that the dynamics between black and white is still very much alive for me, even in 2021. That racism still hums in the background wherever I am and that it plays a huge role in my life. I have a constant if not dull sense of anxiety because of racism, you never know when or how you will encounter it. I took a Covid test later in the week because I developed a sore throat and I’m due to fly back to the UK next week for four days. Thankfully, the test was negative so I’ve averted the dreaded trip to a Swiss hospital. I suppose my fear and anxiety is unwarranted but to me it is a real and present danger.
I also attended a lecture Complementarity Creatively Relates Diversity and Unity by Brigitte Egger. Brigitte is one of my favourite ISAP lecturers. I like her style of presentation, her enthusiasm for her subject and psychological insight. I liked Brigitte even more because she used examples from dance to talk about unity. She referred to the dynamics of Tango which originated in Argentina. She described how the two partners in a Tango work together to create a shared unity. I lived in Buenos Aires a few years ago. I stopped working, took my savings and moved to Buenos Aires to re-learn Spanish and see where life would take me. Tango is still alive and well in Argentina. The gathering of a group of people to ‘tango’ is called a Milonga. It takes place in the early hours of the morning just after midnight. Men and woman literally cruise each other to find a partner to ‘tango’. I would go just to observe these dynamics and watch the beautiful dance and rhythms on the dance floor. Brigitte used Tango as a metaphor to describe the dynamics between masculine and feminine to create a sense of wholeness in an individual. When I refer to masculine and feminine I’m not referring to the physiological reality of masculine and feminine but the psychic energies within all of us. It sounds like a cliché but men often discard their feminine psyche because well men aren’t meant to be feminine or to show their femininity. However, to achieve wholeness, the fullest expression of you in relation to oneself, other people or the environment requires a synthesis of both masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves.
This idea was explored in a Panel Discussion The Self: Centre and Circumference with Dariane Pictet, Nathalie Boethius-de Bethune, Paul Brutsche and moderated by Murray Stein. According to Jung, wholeness is equated with health. It is both a potential and a capacity. We are born fundamentally whole, conscious and unconscious integrated as one, but as our ego develops we lose our natural connection to the unconscious, become one-sided. Conscious wholeness is the goal of a Jungian analysis. Interaction with others, the environment and within ourselvesfacilitates the process of becoming whole. It is connected with creativity and is not to be confused with ‘perfection’, it is more about ‘completeness’. The idea of wholeness is linked to the Jungian theory of opposites. If two conflicting opposites come together and synthesise, it result partakes of a greater wholeness, like Brigitte Egger argued, masculine and feminine in a tango creates a shared unity, where the smaller parts of a whole work together. Jung was concerned that Western culture in general have ignored the two elements which are vital to wholeness.
You can see this in our political arena, the Democrats v Republicans in the US and the Conservatives and Labour in the UK, polar opposites, with very little in common, and particularly in the US, there are no other political parties to represent the wider continuum of political beliefs. The wholeness of politics is more than just two political parties. Politics is a sliding scale of beliefs and values. Our psyche is a complex mix of energies, masculine and feminine, which seek expression in the individual personality. When we repress these energies we become neurotic. As a result our personalities become troublesome for us and others. The Panel Discussion was really interesting and good to hear the analysts’ differing descriptions of the Jungian term ‘wholeness’. Wholeness is a process that leads to an individual reconnecting with who they are, a much greater personality than the one typically shown to others. This greater personality is a synthesis of both the conscious mind and unconscious also referred to as The Self in Jungian psychology.
My interest in the concept of the Self is enduring. I became interested in the idea when I started to read Jungian Psychology. The goal of a Jungian analysis is to help individuals reconnect with the Self, resolving personal conflict, emotional problems and depression. But it takes time. The process can be lengthy, painful and expensive! A Jungian analysis lasts an hour on a weekly basis for months or years on end. Depending on the individual and the problem being explored, it can take years before an individual starts to feel the therapeutic benefits of an analysis or the emergence of the Self. The Self can bring a tremendous amount of healing and rehabilitation but it takes time.
I read an article this week about a woman with severe depression who has been successfully treated with an experimental brain implant in a neuroscience advance that offers hope to those with severe intractable mental illness.
Woman successfully treated for depression with electrical brain implant [source: Guardian Newspaper]
The device works by detecting patterns of brain activity linked to depression and automatically interrupting them using tiny pulses of electrical stimulation delivered deep inside the brain. The woman said the therapy had returned her to “a life worth living”, allowing her to laugh spontaneously for the first time in five years. The therapy has been tested in only one patient but its success is seen as significant. It is the first credible demonstration that the brain activity underlying the symptoms of mental illness can be reliably detected and reveals that these brain circuits can be nudged back into a healthy state, even in a patient who has been unwell for years.
This potentially new type of therapy takes a matter of hours. The patient does not need to sit with an analyst for an hour each week for an indefinite period of time in order to feel better. The results are instantaneous whereas analytic results can take months or even years to emerge. Neuroscience is a fascinating area of development, and I also think a risk to the analytic community. Analysis simply takes too long, can be expensive and time consuming. Why spend hours with an analyst when you can have a medical procedure and see immediate benefits? The article is really interesting. I want to train as an analyst who has a critical eye or remains objective despite the training regime and pedagogy. The development of neuroscience is definitely one area to keep a close eye on.
It has been another good week - some anxiety, some cocktails, some new friends. Overall, I’ve enjoyed this week’s lectures and seminars. Next week, I attend an experiential seminar Authentic Body Movement which lasts two days with a short pre-meet the day before. I’m very excited about this seminar. As an Extraverted Sensing type. This training should play to my strengths. I'm more extraverted than the average Analyst and I have a preference for the psychological function, sensation, the polar opposite of most Analysts who typically have a preference for intuition. Dream analysis can be very challenging for me. It requires use of the intuition function which means my fellow students tend to be in their element when analysing dreams. For me dream analysis can be a slow process, often irritating and uncomfortable and not particularly enjoyable. But I've learnt to develop my intuition so it isn't so uncomfortable to work with. But working with the body is one of my strengths. The tables will be turned as some of my fellow students work with their least preferred function, sensation, which I'm sure it will be expressed as challenging, difficult and uncomfortable. The function we least prefer to use is called the Inferior Function. It can be source of profound difficult but it can also be the source of transformation. Getting to grips with your inferior function can have a revitalising effect on your personality, a part of you becomes integrated and you become more whole. My next blog will be devoted entirely to this seminar, an opportunity for me to find out more about the body and psyche.
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