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

A blog about my experiences 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 inspires you in whatever way works for you.

Why am I training as an Analyst? Why did I decide to train as an Analyst? What motivated me to become an Analyst? In my latest blog, I want to explore these questions which came to mind when I attended ISAPZurich’s Chats with Analysts, Initiation into Becoming an Analyst by Bernard Sartorius. In these casual talks each semester, ISAP analysts offer glimpses into their personal approaches to Jungian analysis. The analyst explores the following question ‘How does our professional identify as analysts develop, and what does it mean to be a Jungian analyst, in contrast to being a psychotherapist, a psychiatrist or a psychologist?’. It was an interesting lecture lasting about an hour with a period of up to 45 minutes for questions. During the lecture we explored the relationship between the analyst and patient. I’ll explain the relationship in a bit more detail later on but first of all, I want to respond to my earlier questions.

So, why am I training as an Analyst? My decision to train as an Analyst originates from a specific childhood event. This event was, needless to say, traumatic. Trauma is often a defining moment which propels individuals to go on to train in the helping professions, for example, counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. These individuals are often called ‘Wounded Healers’ individuals who have experienced a trauma and have done some inner work to heal themselves from the wounding event and it has inspired them to help others. The institution of training analysis is an acknowledgement of the fact that, as a profession, analysis attracts ‘Wounded Healers’. There is growing evidence that this is a common phenomenon in the helping or therapeutic profession and some have argued that it may even be a qualification for doing such work. Jung himself emphasised that an analyst can only take a person as far as he or she has gone him or herself. I cannot agree with this more. An analyst can only help an individual as far as they have gone themselves in healing their own personal trauma. The road to recovering or healing is long, arduous, difficult and uncharted. However, if you have been on that road and reached a point of recovery then you have a map of that road which you can use to help someone else reach a point of recovery.

I went into analysis after two stints in psychotherapy. My first stint was unsuccessful. I worked with a therapist who was not a great fit for me and perhaps I was not a great fit for her. But during that short period of psychotherapy, she gave me a book to read which influenced my decision to train as an Analyst. I was experiencing a lot of difficult challenges in the workplace. I also felt depressed and incredibly bored with my life. I spent most of the therapeutic hour complaining about my life. She would listen but not say much until one day she handed me a book. I looked at the book and wondered why she had given it to me. I put it down and went on to complain about my life. Travel between my home and the therapist’s practice was an hour and half so I had nothing to do but read this book on my way home. It was a book written by a Jungian Analyst. I read this book from start to finish within a couple of days. I simply couldn’t put the book down. The author mentioned lots of Jungian ideas and concepts against a backdrop of depression and for the first time in my life, I began to make some sort of sense of my feelings and mood. At the time I had never even heard of Car Jung. I googled him and found even more books to read mostly written by Jungian Analysts. I now have a fairly large collection of Jungian books, this one book peaked my interest so much that I wanted to learn more.

I terminated the psychotherapy I was undertaking after a few weeks. Things were not progressing at all and I sensed that I needed a different kind of therapist. Almost two years later, I found another therapist who I worked with for a much longer period than the first and which turned out to be very effective. Therapy is not an easy process to go through. It evokes memories which can be painful, distressing or difficult to handle but the whole point is to enter some kind of supportive alliance with your analyst to talk through the emotional problem and find a way to heal. It was during the second bout of therapy that I eventually recalled the event which was the source of my depression. It came as a complete surprise to me because it was clear I had chosen to forget this event. I was born in Uganda but I grew up in Pittsburgh, US and London, UK. I spent some of my early childhood in Uganda where I experienced this particular event. I woke up one day to hear my dogs yelping. It was around 7.30-8am in the morning. I was just about to wake up to go to school. There were 5 dogs in our family home whom I was very close to, I absolutely loved them. I got out of bed, walked past my sisters who were still fast asleep, out into the corridor, into the kitchen, the laundry room and out into the back garden. We had a big house so it was quite a walk for me as a young child to get to our outside garden. I walked a little bit further towards the back of our house, past the dogs’ kennels and into he back yard. There I could see the dogs were in the spot where they usually have their morning feed. But to my horror, they were not eating, they were yelping. I walked closer and could see they were in some distress, frothing at the mouth and in excruciating pain. I stood there helpless not quite sure what was happening. It was long before they all died right in front of me. It was the most shocking thing that I have ever witnessed. I ran back to my room, went back to bed and covered myself with my bedsheet. I was very upset. I couldn’t even go to school that day. It transpired that the dogs had been poisoned. Their food was laced with rat poison. The experience changed me. I must have been aged 8 or 9 at the time. I became incredibly conscious. I recall the day so vividly and being very aware of myself and my surroundings. It was like I was thrown out of some childhood paradise, a childhood state of mind and became an adult. I was no longer a child.

This event rocked my world for a couple more years. The death of my dogs was so traumatic that eventually, I decided to put it behind me and forget it ever happened and indeed this is exactly what I did until I found myself in therapy. The memories came flooding back but I was not in therapy with a highly skilled psychotherapist who helped me to process the trauma, come to terms with it and move on. I chose this therapist specifically because of the types of emotional problems that he said he could help individuals with. That was a sign for me that he had been there himself and therefore he could help others too. By healing my trauma, my life literally transformed. The experience of witnessing my dogs die was stuck and by this I mean it was lodged in my memory but I had not processed it. It is a bit like what happens prior to an earthquake, two opposing plates get stuck and with time the tension becomes untenable which leads to an earthquake. The tension leads to a sudden release, the impact of which is an earthquake. Tremors are a sign of an impending earthquake. I was experiencing tremors. The depression was like a tremor. It took several sessions of psychotherapy to release the tension. The release felt like an earthquake but I felt much better afterwards, the tension was finally released. During this time, I continued to read Jungian books. The experience of psychotherapy although it was not successful the first time round, it was hugely successful the second time around. I became fascinated by the process of psychotherapy and marvelled at the transformation that ensues if you fully immerse yourself in the process.

My life took a very sudden change after my therapy came to an end. I would like to write a book about what it is like to experience psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. The patient is called an Analysand and my working title for the book is ‘Jungian Analysand’. But for now what I can tell you is that this childhood experience was the source of my decision to train as an Analyst. The process of identifying the cause of my emotional problems, participating in the therapeutic process and entering an alliance of trust and safety with the therapist were the contributing factors to my decision. I am grateful to the therapist for his work with me and for encouraging me to see my exploration of my inner world as an adventure and to embrace the transformation that resulted from all my investment in the psychotherapeutic process.

Jung often used the term ‘healing’ to refer to the intent of analysis. The end result of analysis is more than just a medical cure. ‘The goal or end-product is defined in terms of the individual concerned and whatever form his or her potential wholeness might take’ [Samuels A, A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis, 1986]. Jung emphasised the personality of the Analyst as critical to the effectiveness of an analysis. Jung saw it as an art, linked with compassion and empathy. The Analyst’s warmth, genuineness and empathy are vital to creating the therapeutic alliance between the Analyst and the Patient [Analysand].

The image of the ‘Wounder Healer’ is often used to illuminate these personal qualities. Analysis also takes place within a closed setting, an analytic setting which fosters psychological safety and permits the Analysand to talk openly about their emotional problems. As an Analyst it is also important that you do not allow yourself to be seen by the Analysand as all-powerful, strong, healthy and able whereas the Analysand takes up the passive, dependent patient. ‘If all Analysts have an inner wound, then for an Analyst to present themselves as ‘healthy’ is to cut off from part of the inner world. Likewise, if the patient is only seen as ‘ill’, then he or she is also cut off from his or her own inner health or his or her capacity to heal him or herself. Ideally, though the Analysand may initially project his or her self-healing capacities onto the Analyst, later he or she will take them back. The Analyst projects their own experience of being wounded into the Analysand in order to know the patient in an emotional sense’ [Samuels A, A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis, 1986].

The Analyst and Analysand relationship is a two-way street, a dialectical process which means that both participants are equally involved, there is a two-way interaction between them. ‘The Analyst cannot simply use whatever authority he or she might possess, for he or she is ‘in’ the treatment just as much as the Analysand and it will be his development as a person rather than his knowledge that will be decisive’ [Samuels A, A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis, 1986]. There is an analytic mutuality between both the Analyst and Analysand, both are emotionally involved and it is the Analyst’s healing, their depth and scale of healing, their compassion and empathy, their ability to listen intently to the Analyst, and to handle their own emotional responses to the Analysand’s experiences that are critical to helping the Analysand move towards self-healing. The Analyst must take a flexible attitude towards the progress of the treatment and the evolution of the analytical relationship [Samuels A, A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis, 1986]. The psychotherapist who I initially worked with, attempted to control the agenda ad outcome of our sessions which I found obstructive, lacking in compassion and massively assumptive. My second bout of psychotherapy was much more involved and engaging, there were clear ground rules, he listened intently to my concerns, brought out his expertise and experience and worked with me at my own pace to resolve my issues.

The Analysand and Analyst’s emotional responses to each other when unchecked or unconscious are known psychologically as Transference and Countertransference respectively. Bernard Sartorius discussed these two concepts during this talk and their relevance to the therapeutic or analytic process. Jung described the Analysand’s transference as aspects of their relationship to figures from the past such as parents which he or she projects onto the Analyst but also his or her individual potential and shadow. ‘That is the Analyst represents and holds for the Analysand parts of his or her psyche which have not yet developed as fully as they might and also aspects of the Analysand’s personality he or she would rather disown’ [Samuels A, A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis, 1986]. Countertransference is the Analyst’s own emotional history which are projected onto the Analysand.

The Analyst’s own emotions and behaviour should not interfere with the relationship with the Analysand. Analysts are required to train or practice with regular mentoring or coaching provided by a training supervisor. The Analyst can explore whatever comes up inside them as a result of providing analysis or therapy to an individual by discussing it with their supervisor to explore their significance and meaning. The end result may be that the Analyst has to work on some ongoing emotional issue or that there is something in their own response which has significant meaning for the Analysand. Jung regarded countertransference as 'a highly important organ of information' for an Analyst [Collected Works 16, para.163]. For some Analysts, the emotional problems of their patients will activate the ‘Wounded Healer’ in themselves whereas in others it may trigger their own unresolved emotional problems. Therefore, it is important that if you want to go into psychotherapy or psychoanalysis that you find someone who is objective, shows compassion, empathy and listens, and expertise in helping others resolve the issues that you are facing. If they are professional and ethical, then they will be practicing under supervision or ongoing professional development. But most importantly, I think they must be a ‘Wounded Healer’ in order to be an effective Analyst.

Not everyone will be open about their trauma. It is a personal decision but I like to think that Analysts should be able to take their patients as far as they have gone and that means being balanced, centred and relatively healthy from a psychological perspective. I have come across Analysts who are prickly, irritable, unreliable, unapproachable and seem to oscillate between varying and sudden emotions, one has to wonder whether they can help facilitate the process of self-healing to an individual. But that is another story for another time. As I said I hope to write a book one day about the experiences of an Analysand. It is a very different perspective from the usual run of the mill Jungian books and it is often a vantage point that is rarely talked about. We often read about analysis from the all-powerful, healthy and strong Jungian Analyst and their descriptions of the weak, unhealthy, neurotic or psychotic patient. I would like to turn things on their head and bring some light to the experiences of the patient as they go through a healing process in both the positive and negative aspects. Remember, Analysts are not and should not be considered as idealised figures, they are ‘Wounded Healers’, they were Analysands at some point and have gone on to become Analysts. They were once troubled and suffering from emotional angst but they underwent their own journey to heal and transform. No one is perfect, it is simply a matter of being balanced.

So to conclude, I think that my own self-healing facilitated in psychotherapy and analysis has put me in a stable, balanced and centred position which enables me to train as an Analyst with competence, compassion, empathy and the ability to listen. I am not sure to what extent my own analyst work will extend. I would like to think that I can work with children who have experienced trauma, and adults too who are also experiencing emotional problems, however, with some years left before I am finish my training, I will leave this particular question for another time. Jungian Analysis is a long-term dialectical relationship between two people, the Analysand and the Analyst. The purpose of the relationship is to investigate the Analysand's unconscious, its contents and processes, in order to alleviate emotional problems or psychic disturbance. The emotional problem or disturbance may be neurotic in character or of a more deap-seated psychotic nature.

If you would like to find out more about the analytic process from a Jungian perspective, I highly recommend reading 'Jungian Analysis' edited by Murray Stein. In the book, a number of Jungian Analysts provide a commentary on the approach in particular Jean Kirsch who discusses the concept of Transference and Harriet Gordeon Machtiger who discusses Countertransference. If you're interested in Psychological Types, there is also useful chapter entitled 'The Art of Practicing Jung's Psychological Types in Analysis' by Thomas Patrick Lavin. A great read for those interested in understanding or growing their awareness of the approach to psychotherapy and analysis.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Please do get in touch if you have any questions. I'll be back next week with another edition of 'What's it like to train as an Analyst? What is Jungian Psychology?


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